Could Labour voter fraud steal the election?
Thousands of postal votes handed en masse to polling stations. Student housing trawled for discarded registration cards... all to cynically take advantage of our worryingly lax election system. And a prime target? The PM’s own crunch seat
THE wrestling match between the two fierce-looking young men is about to start. Up in the ring, bearded Ali Milani, in black shorts, faces his opposite number wearing salmon pink, as spectators cheer in a sports hall.
The referee asks them to shake hands to get the battle under way when, suddenly, Ali’s fist flies out, slamming into the chin of his opponent who staggers back, nearly falling to the floor. Ali is playing dirty because he likes to win.
And his critics fear that supporters of this 26-year-old Labour candidate and former bigwig of the National Union of Students may do the same, as he takes on the Prime Minister in Boris Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency in West London, where thousands of student votes are up for grabs.
Already the foot-soldiers of the grassroots hard-Left Labour movement Momentum are on the ground here for one of the closest-fought contests of the election. They and other Corbyn-supporting activists are campaigning on the huge campus of Brunel University and the suburban streets outside, waving banners and putting up posters with the slogan Unseat Boris and a ruder epithet ‘F**k Boris’.
Mobilising the students is crucial if Ali is to topple Boris, whose majority halved in 2017 to just 5,034 — the smallest of any premier since 1924. If successful, Ali could cause the first British prime minister in office to lose his seat in more than a century.
On Thursday afternoon, a 27-year-old software engineer and Labour campaigner Phil McMahon was dishing out leaflets at Brunel, telling students to register to vote by next Tuesday’s 5pm deadline. ‘Nine out of ten here support our calls to vote Boris out of his seat,’ he told the Mail. ‘Most didn’t know they could vote at their student address until we told them.’
Another, freelance writer Aranyo Aarjan, 29, said none of the ‘registration squad’ eyeing up students were from Uxbridge. ‘We are targeting this area to strategically remove Boris,’ she said. ‘If I knew the student I was talking to was a Tory supporter, I probably wouldn’t encourage them to register.’
AND Ali himself added: ‘The student vote is super-important here. There are 15,000 in the constituency. The Tory Party would never set foot on campus. They don’t knock on doors like we do. The bookies’ odds have shortened the odds on a Labour win here.’
The whole issue of student votes is a hot election topic. Shocking stories of gerrymandering in some of the 130 UK university towns and cities during Theresa May’s ill-fated 2017 campaign have been revealed by the Mail. And this week it emerged that this time round, students have been registered to vote ‘by mistake’ and without their knowledge.
In an unnerving debacle, it is claimed that polling cards arrived unexpectedly at their addresses in council areas of Plymouth, Lancaster, Nottingham
and Hendon, North London — all marginal seats.
Potentially, this would allow students to vote twice — both at home and at university — which is illegal.
An inquiry by the Electoral Commission voting watchdog has been demanded after Plymouth Council admitted an error had been made, with 247 under-18s who are too young to vote receiving polling cards.
In all, 850 students and youngsters have been incorrectly added to the register in this tightly contested part of the country.
It would not be the first time people under 18 had voted.
The political gossip website Guido Fawkes reported how James Mills, a former Senior Strategic Adviser to Jeremy Corbyn and former Director of Communications to shadow Chancellor John McDonnell admitted previously voting when under age. On the podcast of political interviewer and satirist Matt Forde, he said: ‘I don’t know if I should admit this...but the first time I ever voted was actually illegally.’
Mills claimed he pretended to be his brother, who was at university at the time, and voted in a local election when he was in his mid-teens. He added that the council knew who he was but let him vote anyway: ‘What’s more Labour than electoral fraud, eh?’
Amid the confusion over student votes, one parent whose daughter is at university in Hendon — where the spotlight fell this week — told a national newspaper: ‘She never registered at her university address but surprise, surprise got a polling card delivered as well as one at our home address (in Luton, Bedfordshire). It’s a disgrace. Hendon has a slim Conservative majority of only 1,000. Strange, that.’
Universities are associated with voting for Left-wing parties, and in the 2017 election 60 per cent of those aged 16-24 backed Jeremy Corbyn. The Momentum movement helped Labour win 32 new seats back then and this time it is specifically targeting five constituencies where there is a sitting Tory MP and a high youth population.
Momentum has worked out that if 19,000 young voters register in the seats of Uxbridge, Walsall North, Truro and Falmouth, Loughborough and the cities of London and Westminster, they could all get a Labour win. David Morris, the Conservative candidate campaigning for re-election in Morecambe and Lunesdale — an area that neighbours a Labour-held constituency including student-filled Lancaster — has given evidence at a parliamentary inquiry into
the Electoral Commission. He warned this week that ‘irregularities have gone on and are going on in all our university towns and cities.’
Campus scams include doublevoting — registering to vote in two different constituencies (home and university, for instance) then going on to vote in both. This is thought to be widespread.
Last month, the Mail revealed how a Bournemouth University student posted a Twitter message saying she was planning to break the law by voting in both constituencies and told others to ‘be brave’ and do the same.
Controversial student vote frauds also include using a postal vote in a home constituency as well as voting in person at the polling stations at university.
There have been suspected cases of ‘personation’, where a student votes, pretending to be another constituent. This is an easy scam because at polling stations you only have to give a name and address and do not have to produce your polling card.
The most prevalent fraud is thought to be multiple voting. It involves using the registered polling details of other people on a mass scale. Universities are vulnerable to this because polling cards for thousands of registered students are distributed to campuses and halls of residence.
They are often sent to students who have already left university for the holidays — a particular problem with this election given that polling day coincides with Christmas end of term — or to those who have already graduated, sometimes years before.
After they have been collected by campus campaigners, the polling cards are redistributed to other like-minded students.
On University social media sites there is even talk of students registering to get a polling card then selling it on to Left-wing activists who then use it.
All this is a worry to Karl McCartney, Lincoln’s Tory candidate and former MP, who was trounced by Labour in 2017 and finds himself having to convince 18,000 students at two universities in the city to vote Conservative.
He has voiced concerns about mysterious goings-on in the last national poll. During the last 24 hours before vote registration closed, he discovered a bumper 3,600 applications were made through the internet in Lincoln.
There were so many the local council electoral team boasted to the local media that they had done a fine job by managing to process them all before the looming deadline. However, the diligent team found as many as 600 of those applying at this 11th hour were already registered.
Mr McCartney reported the matter to the police (who found nothing amiss), but he’s not so sure. He said this week: ‘Though some of these last-minute registrations will have been genuine, I think activists, perhaps linked to Momentum, were working away on laptops somewhere . . . using people’s data to make mass registrations and swamp the website in the hope of bouncing the council team into processing them without adequate checks.’
David Morris, the Tory candidate in Morecambe and Lunesdale, has suspicions, too. He told the Electoral Commission parliamentary inquiry that activists knock on doors in some university towns asking residents if they have unused postal votes which they take away and use.
He also says his own son, in a university town, found campaigners at his door wanting the voting cards of eight students who had once lived there and since graduated, so they could be used by other students.
Among his worries is that Lancaster City Council received 9,001 postal votes before polling took place in the 2015 election when the Tories were returned to power with a majority. yet on election day, 10,315 were counted.
Morris believes the extra 1,314 must have been delivered directly and in bulk to the polling stations — which is unorthodox but perfectly legal — and queries if there was then time for officials to verify the owners, as is required.
The Electoral Commission admitted there are concerns over such discrepancies. Last year, Claire Bassett, chief executive of the organisation, told the parliamentary inquiry of the problem of ‘postal vote harvesting’.
she warned: ‘The classic scenario would be a campaigner for a particular party . . . collecting up (postal votes) from door knocking and taking them to a polling station on the actual day. The folklore is of a plastic bag full of postal votes.’
The student voting controversy is not going away. One telling message from a reader on the pages of an online newspaper, The Lincolnite — which covers the city of Lincoln with its plethora of student voters — said recently: ‘Perhaps the police should find the students who bragged openly on Tv about voting twice. Once at university and once at home. They stated openly on air that lots of students were doing this because of Labour’s promise to get rid of tuition fees. Guaranteed to get the student vote.’
Our own exposé a fortnight ago of student voting scams garnered nearly 6,000 comments from readers. One said of the 2017 election: ‘Our youngest is at drama school and contacted me to tell me she had been registered — through the university — and had been given a voting card. she also had a voting card here at home waiting for her. We informed our local polling station which checked it out and lo and behold she would have been able to vote twice. A few raised eyebrows.
‘she also told us that tutors were drumming on about voting for Labour. Thank God she can think for herself and didn’t take advantage of the situation, but she knew far too many students that did.’
Another comment warned of guiding students to double-vote: ‘My idiot Momentum-supporting sister (a union employee) has been encouraging students to do this on social media for a while.’
And a third from Canterbury, where there are 40,000 students at two universities and the Tory sir Julian Brazier lost his seat by just 187 votes in the 2017 election, said despairingly: ‘The student population here is now so large that it decides who will be our MP.
‘We have a Labour MP who was voted in by a bunch of students who (having since graduated) don’t even live here any more.’
All this, of course, is just seen as sour grapes by Momentum which is working all hours to secure the students’ votes from a shabby computer-filled office in Finsbury Park, north London.
A sign pinned to the wall displays a countdown to the December 12 election. Earlier this month it read: ‘30 days until socialism.’
some of the slick videos, overseen by the team there and targeting the youth vote, have topped 19 million views, compared — so Momentum claims — to 1m chalked up by those from the Tories.
Momentum has denied to the Mail that it is involved in encouraging irregularities among student voters, saying that Tories who lost their seats in university towns in 2017 were beaten ‘fair and square’.
A spokesperson for Momentum said: ‘Our targeted Facebook advertising is paying off — so far over 1.36 million people aged under 35 have registered to vote, nearly twice as many than at this point in the 2017 election.
CErTAInLy, in Uxbridge it is Momentum and other Left-wing activists who are at work all hours. In a recent speech live-streamed via Facebook to Brunel University’s students’ union, the president of the national Union of students, Zamzam Ibrahim, said her members were ‘hungry for change’.
no doubt, Boris’s opponent, Ali Milani, brought up on a council estate nearby, agrees, as he tries to oust the Prime Minister from his seat.
But how did he get on in that dirty wrestling match back in 2013 in Chingford, Essex?
Well, it’s not clear. For as he explains, it was a scripted comedy contest for a youTube video. ‘I have been a wrestler since I was 15,’ he says. ‘But that wrestling match on youTube was all fake, just fun. The Press has since wrongly tried to paint me as the villain politically.’
This week, he told the Mail he couldn’t remember if he was a member of Momentum, but he supported them. Although he said he thought the chances of student double-voting in Uxbridge were next to zero, he predicts: ‘At the last election, the number of students voting here was in the hundreds. This time it should be in the thousands.’
And that bodes well for this Iranian-born son of a single mother as he enters the ring to battle with Boris Johnson.