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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April, 2005, 22:47 GMT 23:47 UK
Blunkett urges vote fraud action
Postal voting
Mr Blunkett has called for action to prevent fraud
David Blunkett has called for urgent action on electoral fraud following the Birmingham vote-rigging scandal.

The former home secretary described the case in which six Labour councillors were found guilty of postal vote fraud as "totally outrageous".

He called for individual rather than household voter registration - backed up by a national ID card scheme.

Tory Michael Ancram said politicians should seek to boost turnout by engaging with voters not postal votes.

'Banana Republic'

Richard Mawrey QC presided as election commissioner over the Birmingham case involving allegations of postal voting fraud in local elections last year. Six Labour councillors were found guilty.

The judge ruled on Monday there was evidence of "massive, systemic and organised fraud".

Echoing the judge's words, Mr Blunkett told BBC One's Question Time: "In these two wards they were behaving like a Banana Republic."

Quoting other examples of vote fraud he had come across, he said: "It is totally outrageous and it needs to be dealt with."

He said the answer was individual rather than household voter registration backed up a national identity card scheme.

And he called for cross-party co-operation to tackle the problem.

New guidelines

Mr Blunkett's words follow the publication of new guidelines on tackling electoral fraud that are being sent to police and returning officers after Mr Mawrey said ministers were in denial on the issue.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke vowed everything would be done to prevent fraud after talks with senior police.

The new guidelines were drawn up by Association of Chief Police Officers and the Electoral Commission, the elections watchdog.

They urge returning officers to take allegations of electoral fraud seriously.

The guidance adds: "The police will make an assessment as to the level of investigation required and ensure that it is proportionate to the allegation and to the potential effect of the alleged offence in the election process.

"The nature and scope of any investigation will be at the discretion of the chief constable."

The Tories said new guidelines were not enough to restore voter confidence, while the Lib Dems called for a halt to further expansion of postal voting.



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