Election politics – Pakistani style!

Footage of a dinner held to support Labour candidate Afzal Khan has been reported to police.

Footage of a dinner held to support Labour candidate Afzal Khan has been reported to police.

Regular H&D readers will be familiar with the electoral saga of Manchester Gorton, where veteran Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman died on February 26th causing a parliamentary by-election which was abandoned at the 11th hour when Prime Minister Theresa May called a General Election.

The local Labour Party had been bitterly divided between ethnic powerbrokers from the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities (indigenous Mancunians don’t get much of a look-in these days).  Pakistani machine boss and solicitor Afzal Khan duly became the Labour candidate.

Today Mr Khan has been reported to police for alleged ‘treating‘ – an electoral malpractice involving provision of free food, drink or other gifts to voters.  If convicted, offenders can be disbarred from Parliament, fined or imprisoned.

According to today’s Daily Mail, Mr Khan is at the centre of “claims he bribed voters with a lavish dinner… Footage of the dinner posted online shows dozens of guests sat around tables laid with plates and folded napkins in wine glasses, as well as ‘Vote Labour’ leaflets.  A ‘Vote Afzal Khan’ banner is on display at the front of the room.”

The police complaint has been brought by the Liberal Democrats, who hope to gain the seat from Labour.  Also seeking to exploit Labour’s embarrassment is former MP George Galloway.

Afzal Khan, boss of Gorton's most powerful ethnic voting machine

Afzal Khan, boss of Gorton’s most powerful ethnic voting machine

One irony of course is that Mr Khan is himself a solicitor, so one might expect him to be familiar with electoral law, and even assuming he did not organise the dinner himself one might imagine he would have urged supporters to stay clearly on the right side of the ‘treating’ regulations.

A Liberal Democrat activist commented: “In my (admittedly limited) experience there is such an enormous expectation that candidates from some communities will host rallies with food provided that an agent from outside that community will be looked on with astonishment if he tries to explain that this can’t be done as it is an election offence.  The problem is that because nothing is ever done there is no back up for an agent trying to stay within the law.  A high profile case would probably be helpful in clarifying matters.”

In other words some “British Asian” communities expect to break the law with impunity.

 

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