Election fraud has been allowed to take place in Muslim communities because of “political correctness”, a major report finds as it calls for unprecedented reforms to the British voting system.
In a report commissioned by the Government, Sir Eric Pickles, the former Conservative Cabinet minister, today warns that the authorities are in a “state of denial” and are “turning a blind eye” to election fraud.
He said that there is evidence of voter fraud “especially in communities of Pakistani and Bangladeshi background” but that the cases have been ignored because of “over-sensitivities about ethnicity and religion”.
Sir Eric warns that “challenging issues” over community cohesion should never be an “excuse” for failing to “uphold the rule of law and protect British liberties”.
Sir Eric’s report makes a series of recommendations to Theresa May, the Prime Minister, and calls for people to require identification when they are voting and for police cordons around polling stations to prevent intimidation.
He also calls for officials at polling stations to be banned from speaking any language other than English and says that it should be made a criminal offense to attempt to influence someone to vote for a candidate because of their religion.
The former local government secretary began his investigation in the wake of the scandal in Tower Hamlets, London, where the mayor Lutfur Rahman was removed and his election declared void after he was found by a court to have committed corrupt electoral practices including vote-rigging.
Sir Eric said that Rahman had used religion to push Muslims into backing him. Sir Eric said that never again in Britain should people be told that they will “burn in hell” if they do not back a particular candidate.
Sir Eric also sharply criticises the Metropolitan Police for failing to follow up the election court’s ruling with any criminal charges.
He says that the force’s inaction “sends a worrying signal that the police are soft on tackling and prosecuting electoral fraud, when faced with competing operational demands”.
Writing in The Telegraph, Sir Eric says that following his investigation, he now believes “electoral malpractice is far more common than just one isolated London borough thanks to the state’s collective state of denial”.
He adds: “We should never be frightened to look under the rock when what is crawling underneath threatens us all. It is time to take action to take on the electoral crooks and defend Britain’s free and fair elections.”
In what would be a major shake-up of Britain’s voting rules, Sir Eric calls on Mrs May to create new rules requiring people to have identification when they vote.
To stop cases of fraud, Sir Eric, who says that there were 665 alleged cases of electoral fraud last year, says that voters should “have to produce personal identification before voting at polling stations”.
He says that a driving licence, passport or utility bill would have to be shown in order for someone to vote.
He also suggests that the Government could create photographic “electoral cards” for all registered voters but concedes that such a move would cost millions of pounds every year.
The report warns that the Electoral Commission, the voting watchdog, has been “promoting the use of non-English languages could disguise coercion or influence within the polling station”.
He accuses the commission of encouraging people in polling stations to use “community languages” and says English should be “required at all times”.
“Such an approach undermines integration and leaves the door open to fraud,” the report says. “These are not ‘community languages’ – they are foreign languages.”
The report states: “Abuses of postal voting on demand were noted too often be carried out in communities where an individual’s right to vote in secret and exercise free choice may not be fully valued. Evidence was presented of pressure being put on vulnerable members of some ethnic minority communities, particularly women and young people, to vote according to the will of the elders, especially in communities of Pakistani and Bangladeshi background.
“There were concerns that influence and intimidation within households may not be reported, and that state institutions had turned a blind eye to such behaviour because of ‘politically correct’ over-sensitivities about ethnicity and religion.”
Sir Eric also calls for a ban on political activists handling postal ballots to stop “vote harvesting”, when people offer to take people’s ballots to the station for them but encourage them to back a particular candidate.
He also calls for individual postal votes to be reviewed every three years so that “absent voting” is no longer “institutionalised”.
Sir Eric adds: “Last year’s court ruling in Tower Hamlets was a wake-up call that state bodies need to do far more to stamp out corruption and restore public confidence. It was local residents who lost out from the unscrupulous politicians who bullied them and wasted their money.
“Our nation has a proud heritage as the ‘mother of Parliaments’, yet the worrying and covert spread of electoral fraud and state of denial by some bodies threatens that good reputation. It is time to take action to take on the electoral crooks and defend Britain’s free and fair elections.”