A scandal on polling day: Have Stockport Labour broken election law?
A local official admits monitoring the postal votes - and using that information to send activists into a key ward
Dear Millers — it’s election day, with Labour hoping to turn strong national polling into massive council gains across the country. Polls close at 10pm and you can find your local polling station here if you haven’t voted yet.
Some of you may have voted by post already, which brings us to today’s story. On Tuesday, we ran a short update from the election campaign in Stockport. Someone had leaked us an email sent by the chair of Stockport’s Constituency Labour Party, in which he was rallying activists to go and campaign in Edgeley, where Labour faces a tough fight against a new independent party. “We are concerned at the strong showing of the Edgeley Community Association in the postal votes,” the email reads.
But hang on, how did he know about their strong showing? Or as Andy, one of our members, asked in the comments: “How do Stockport Labour know what’s in the postal votes in Edgeley? I didn’t think they were meant to be opened/counted until the count begins.”
Good question. We’ve been trying to work out what happened here, and it seems like the Labour official in Stockport may well have broken electoral law. Scroll down to find out more — and as always on a Thursday, this story is members-only.
Before we get to that, for some fantastic analysis of local politics in Stockport, Tameside, Oldham and Bolton, listen to our latest podcast. It features local journalist and longtime Miller Michael Taylor, who gives us his take on which council races you should be keeping an eye on when the results come through tomorrow. And as the editor of The Business Desk website, Michael tells us about two highly-feted Manchester companies that have run into trouble recently.
Our piece on Tuesday is blowing up on Twitter — it was a fantastic bit of data reporting by James Gilmour about how much denser Greater Manchester is becoming thanks to hundreds of thousands of new residents. Is housing density a good thing? And how is the city region’s growth changing how we live? Not only are the graphs and visualisations superb, there is also a fantastic discussion in the comments. It’s a members-only story, so do join up to read it and get that kind of reporting in your inbox if you’re not a member yet.
Your Mill briefing
The Guardian takes a closer look at the election in Bolton, where Labour are hoping to make serious inroads, using anger at the cost of living crisis as a rallying cry against the Conservative-run council. In the town centre, a local woman described the state of public services under austerity as “ridiculous” but added she will still be voting for her local Tory councillor. “Normally, I’d never vote Conservative. But, because she’s so personable, I’m not interested in what party she’s from,” she said. Nick Peel, leader of Bolton Council’s Labour Group, was realistic, saying: “I just get a feeling that we’re not seeing that seismic shift.”
£500m worth of counterfeit goods have been seized as part of Operation Vulcan, Greater Manchester Police’s crackdown on organised crime in Cheetham Hill. Andy Torkington, a GMP inspector, said: “The money generated from these items fund drugs and gang violence. There are 33 organised crime groups in Cheetham Hill operating in counterfeit crime, Operation Vulcan is about being present and keeping the pressure on. We're not taking our foot off the gas. We want this area to return to the thriving business area it was before this criminality took hold.”
Eleven men have been charged in connection with Operation Lytton, a major investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rochdale between 2000 and 2006. Early readers will remember our exclusive story from 2020, where the police confirmed the existence of Lytton and added “Due to the sensitivities associated with offences of this nature, victims are at the forefront of our investigation and it would be inappropriate to release any further information at this time.” The eleven men, from Rochdale, Oldham and Manchester, have been charged with 103 child sexual exploitation offences against three underage girls, and appeared in court yesterday.
And finally: Some lovely news out of Springfield Park, in Rochdale, where a group of volunteers are working to increase biodiversity and support the local bee population. Springfield Park Bees also sell jars of their own bees’ honey. Find out more here.
A postal vote scandal in Stockport: Have Labour broken election law?
By Jack Dulhanty
On Tuesday, two different people sent me an email that they thought I would find interesting. It was sent out to local Labour activists by the chair of the party’s constituency branch in Stockport, and it indicated that things weren’t going to plan in the Edgeley ward. The chair wanted more activists to head to Edgeley in the final days of campaigning ahead of today’s elections.
“We are concerned at the strong showing of the Edgeley Community Association in the postal votes,” the email from Chris Gleeson reads.
I reported the email in Tuesday’s Mill, mainly to draw attention to the dogfight going on in Edgeley. Regular readers will know about the new independent party — the Edgeley Community Association — founded by ex-Labour councillor Matt Wynne, whose falling out with Labour we have reported on regularly over the past six months.
But what I’ve been trying to work out since we sent out that newsletter is this: How on earth is Gleeson allowed to use postal vote results to direct activists before election day? Isn’t that against the law?
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