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Welsh Labour MP Beth Winter calls for inquiry into her deselection as police probe ‘voter fraud’

24 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Beth Winter MP

Martin Shipton

A criminal investigation into attempted “voter fraud” involving a Constituency Labour Party (CLP) in London has prompted a Welsh MP to renew her call for an independent inquiry into a candidate selection contest she lost last year.

Scotland Yard’s cyber crime unit has confirmed it is looking into irregularities involving the use of an online voting system called Anonyvoter in Croydon East CLP. Anonyvoter was also used in the contest between sitting Welsh MPs Gerald Jones and Beth Winter to stand in the general election in the new seat of Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon. Mr Jones won narrowly.

The Labour Party has admitted there was an attempt at electoral fraud conducted in its parliamentary selection in Croydon East, involving the compromising of the personal data of more than 500 members.

In a message sent to CLP members, reported the news website Inside Croydon, Labour said it has reported the serious data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office – an admission that the party had failed in its data protection duties.

Labour also admits that “some of the personal details of Labour members in the Croydon East constituency were altered on the Labour Party membership database without authorisation”, and that there was evidence that email addresses, telephone numbers and postal addresses were interfered with – probably to provide advantage to one of the candidates seeking a “job for life” by being Labour’s general election candidate in the new seat, regarded as ultra safe for the party.

Independent investigation

Last September Ms Winter called publicly for an independent investigation into the selection process that she lost because of votes cast by party members using the Anonyvoter system. She won a majority of votes among party members who used traditional ballot papers. In a report sent to Welsh Labour at the time, Ms Winter stated: “Concerns were raised with me prior to this selection process about the Anonyvoter software used by the party for parliamentary selections.

“I understand that it is possible for anyone with administrator access to Anonyvoter to ‘generate a new code’ for each voter. There are legitimate reasons to do that, for instance to re-send a ballot to somebody who hasn’t received it. However, suspicions have been raised with me about the software and about unexpectedly high turnouts involving the software. In recent selection contests no independent electronic tellers have been allowed to access Anonyvoter, creating further distrust in the process.

“I wrote to the party requesting that independent oversight be permitted. This request was rejected. I also requested that we be provided a list of the votes reallocated using a code, and the reason for the reallocation of votes. This request has been ignored.”

She included two questions in the report relating to Anonyvoter:

* How many additional codes were generated in Anonyvoter during this process?

* Will the Welsh Executive Committee agree that Anonyvoter should not be used in future selections until there is an independent review of the software’s reliability?

Breakdown

Furthermore, Ms Winter stated in her report: “The Procedures Secretary confirmed at the count that within 24 hours of completion of the count he would supply candidates with a PDF of the breakdown of the vote including a full list of all participating voters’ names, identifying those who returned their ballot, whether on Anonyvoter or using a postal proxy vote. In addition, the Procedures Secretary clarified that this would include the number of codes generated.

“This has not been provided. Correspondence has been exchanged between my lawyer and the Labour Party’s legal and governance unit since June 9 2023. The Labour Party is now refusing to supply this data on the grounds of GDPR. My understanding is that the party has the power to release it in the same way as happens during Local Authority (LA) administered elections when it is possible to request a copy of the ‘marked register’.

“This is common practice that is used by the Labour Party. Indeed, the general secretary of UK Labour recently wrote to MPs encouraging us to gain access to the marked register for recent LA elections.”

‘Lack of trust’

In light of the developments at Croydon East, Ms Winter has issued a new statement which says: “The ongoing controversy around Anonyvoter voting software understandably leads to a lack of trust and confidence in Labour Party procedures. Continued use of the software risks bringing the party into disrepute.

“In order to restore some trust in the party, there must be an independent review of the use of Anonyvoter in internal selection campaigns, including the selection process in Merthyr Tydfil and Upper Cynon.

“In addition, Labour should end its use of Anonyvoter and commission a trusted independent balloting administrator, whose ballots stand up to scrutiny, such as Civica (formerly Electoral Reform Services) – as the trades unions do – to conduct its internal ballots including parliamentary selections, in future.”

It is understood that Ms Winter has concerns about difficulties encountered by her campaign team during the selection contest when seeking to contact CLP members from the Merthyr Tydfil part of the new CLP currently represented by Mr Jones.

Sam Tarry, the MP for the London seat of Ilford South, is also seeking an investigation into the circumstances of his deselection in October 2022 following a closely run contest against local council leader Jas Athwal. As with Ms Winter, Mr Tarry led among those who used traditional ballot papers, but was overhauled by Mr Athwal with votes cast using Anonyvoter.

Ms Winter is awaiting a response from Welsh Labour general secretary Jo McIntyre to her latest call for an investigation.

Both Ms Winter and Mr Tarry are members of the Socialist Campaign Group of left wing Labour MPs and some of their supporters believe they have been targeted for deselection because their position in the party is not to the taste of the Starmer leadership.


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Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
16 days ago

Another example of misuse of the GDP and confidentiality to cover up lies or misdeeds. This should be referred to the police and investigated properly by external agencies with prosecution of any perpetrators as necessary. It is in the general public interest that if this particular balloting system is defective and open to abuse it should be stopped from use. There are parallels here with the post office – it looks like vested interests in the software are covering up its defects.

Mr Williams
Mr Williams
16 days ago

Can somebody please, please clean up politics?

Elaine
Elaine
16 days ago

Was this system used for the First Minister election?
Either way, the problems regarding contacting the selectorate have a loud echo of the FM contest.

Swn Y Mor
Swn Y Mor
16 days ago

Much more attention needs to be brought to this story. It is great you mention Inside Croydon. What is happening in Croydon is a farce and a disgrace. Recently a councillor was selected to represent Croydon and Sutton. She is the co-owner of Henson IT solutions Ltd with her husband which supplies the Anonyvoter system to the Labour party. This system was used in her selection! As the article notes it seems to always happens to left wing candidates.

max wallis
max wallis
15 days ago

Unsurprising from Labour, who’ve gradually built up their abuse of postal-voting, to now adopt an electronic voting system that can be fudged by central staff. “Managed elections” not “free and fair”. That they brazenly deny openness and scrutiny by candidates.is half-way to admitting guilt.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
15 days ago

It’s the Labour party in the Valleys, don’t be surprised – it’s bound to be dodgy.

Last edited 15 days ago by Cwm Rhondda

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