The judge who once compared Birmingham to a “banana republic” has warned that voting fraud is still rife - and accused politicians of failing to tackle the problem.
Deputy High Court judge Richard Mawrey said almost nothing had changed since his landmark ruling in 2005.
In that case, he found there had been a Birmingham-wide campaign by parts of the local Labour Party to use bogus postal votes to counter the adverse impact of the Iraq war on the party’s support.
Postmen were intimidated into handing over sacks full of postal votes, ballot papers were changed once votes had been cast, using correction fluid, and police discovered six men in a warehouse with 274 unsealed postal votes.
But speaking in response to fresh allegations of fraud in London, he said: “A very small reform was introduced in 2006, and of the 14 varieties of fraud I identified at Birmingham it just about tackled one.”
The judge, who also ruled that fraud had been committed in Slough in a 2007 case, said: “The problem we face is that attempts to tinker with the problem, the sticking plaster approach simply hasn’t worked. The opportunities for fraud are now the same as they were at Birmingham, as they were at Slough.”
And he added: “In local elections, a small number of votes will make a considerable difference. The opportunities for fraud are enormous, the chances of detection very small, and a relatively modest amount of fraud will guarantee you win the election.”
The only solution was to scrap rules introduced in 2001 which allowed voters to request a postal voting form without giving a reason. Before then, voters had to make their way to the polling station to vote in person, unless they could prove they had a good reason not to.
Mr Mawrey said it was wrong to imagine voting fraud was a problem for particular ethnic groups.
“It’s not confined to any particular racial group or even to inner city areas. It’s a game anyone can and does play.