What the fuck is going on in Brum?

Despite the local press carrying the story that Birmingham City Council remains BNP-free and the Council's website still carrying the follwoing statement from its Acting Chief Executive, Stephen Hughes:

I believe the result declared at the count in Kingstanding Ward was wrong. However, in law, I cannot declare the correct result without a court order. I will seek this order at the earliest opportunity so that the result can be corrected.

It appears that an error in the calculation resulted in the British National Party candidate being declared elected, when in fact she should have been placed third. The correct result was that both the Labour candidates should have been elected.

I have immediately launched an investigation in order to ascertain how this has occurred.

Reports coming from the BNP claim that the council have backed down in the face of a threat of legal action and will swear in the BNP candidate that was originally declared as having been elected in Kingstanding.

Even taking anything that emanates from the BNP with a hefty pinch of salt, their account of how this situation arose is pretty disturbing stuff – the original result was declared after two recounts, both of which the BNP claim saw their candidate elected with a 200 or so vote majority, only for a third recount to be conducted without, the BNP allege, any observers present – not even the Police – following which it was declared that there had been an 'administrative error' and that the Council would be going to court to overturn the previously declared result. 

If this is true then the question that has to be answered is was this a cock-up or conspiracy? Either way it does raise serious questions about whether Birmingham City Council is competent to conduct its own elections – and remember this has all taken place under a Tory/Lib Dem administration.

Either way, at the very least there need to be an independent inquiry to establish precisely what happened here and, in the mean time, it would seem prudent for the council to turn over the running of elections in the city to an independent body until the council can provide satisfactory evidence of its ability to do the job properly…

UPDATE

While writing this, a new statement has appeared on the Council's website, which appears to clarify matters, which suggest that a cock-up it is – non of which mitigates the comments above as regards whether the council is competent to run an election:

Kingstanding Result

Statement from Stephen Hughes, Acting Chief Executive and Returning Officer for Birmingham City Council:


I am today writing to all the candidates in the Kingstanding Ward elections on 4 May, to explain the error that was made in the declaration of the result.

The declaration at the count was that Sharon Ebanks (British National Party) and Zoe Hopkins (Labour Party) were elected. However in collating the paperwork it was clear that an error had been made, in that some of the votes had been counted twice.

A recalculation was then done that indicated that the correct result should have been that Zoe Hopkins (Labour Party) and Catharine Grundy (Labour Party) should have been elected.

I have taken legal advice on the matter. This indicates that the only way in which this result can be corrected is for one of the candidates to raise a petition to the courts.

We will support in any way we can any candidates who wish to raise such a petition.

On the declared result (Table 1) a total of 12,329 votes were recorded against all the candidates:

CandidatesPartyNo. of Votes
Candidates Party No. of Votes
Anne Rita Bennett Independent 328
Hubert Joseph Duffy Liberal Democrat 597
Sharon Elizabeth Ebanks British National Party 2310
Catharine Cecilia Grundy The Labour Party Candidate 1973
Mark Haddon Liberal Democrat 719
Mick Hawker The Conservative Party Candidate 1349
Robert John Higginson The Conservative Party Candidate 1043
Zoe Hopkins The Labour Party Candidate 2088
Mohammed Omar Malik Independent 109
Richard John William Pitt The Green Party 606
Terry Williams   1207
  Total votes 12329

As there were only 4,981 ballot papers, with two votes to be cast per ballot, this means that the maximum number of votes that could have been cast were 9,962.

Some votes had therefore been double counted. When these were removed the result should have been as per Table 2:

CandidatesPartyNo. of Votes
Anne Rita Bennett Independent 171
Hubert Joseph Duffy Liberal Democrat 446
Sharon Elizabeth Ebanks British National Party 1329
Catharine Cecilia Grundy The Labour Party Candidate 1823
Mark Haddon Liberal Democrat 514
Mick Hawker The Conservative Party Candidate 1134
Robert John Higginson The Conservative Party Candidate 966
Zoe Hopkins The Labour Party Candidate 1894
Mohammed Omar Malik Independent 58
Richard John William Pitt The Green Party 315
Terry Williams   615
  Total votes 9265

On the basis of this, Zoe Hopkins (Labour Party) and Catharine Grundy (Labour Party) should have been elected.

It would seem the right course of action is for Catherine and/or Zoe to put forward a petition with the full backing of the party – it'll be interesting to see how the BNP react to this.