By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
THE Labour Party has rejected an accusation that its members have sought to intimidate voters during elections.
It follows the setting up of a confidential telephone hotline in the Batley & Spen constituency to prevent “illegal election practice” in the run-up to the general election on December 12.
The Press reported last week that Independent candidate Paul Halloran said he took the step following reports of people being threatened or intimidated at polling stations to vote for a certain party “against their own instincts”, which he blamed on Labour.
A Yorkshire and the Humber Labour Party source dismissed his comments as “a malicious slur by a man desperate for attention” who was “willing to engage in dirty, underhand tactics”.
Mr Halloran’s claims came just days after he and his fellow five candidates signed a pledge to run a “decent” campaign in Batley & Spen.
The phone line was set up to report threats and intimidation as well as other illegal activity such as postal vote fraud and vote harvesting. It will be manned by a member of Mr Halloran’s team.
Mr Halloran has urged West Yorkshire Police and Kirklees Council election officials – including Returning Officer Jacqui Gedman – to clamp down on such matters over the next three weeks.
He added that some individuals had been “prepared to compromise the integrity of the ballot” by committing postal vote fraud and used examples of the names of dead people being used in ballots as well as postal votes being sent from empty properties.
He warned that if the authorities did not act promptly, he and his team would upload recordings of “suspicious activity” outside and inside the grounds of polling stations to social media.
“The authorities are on notice,” he said.
The Yorkshire and the Humber Labour Party source said: “Labour candidates and campaigners abide by and respect the law and guidance issued by the returning officer. We hope Mr Halloran will clean up his act.”
Batley & Spen is being contested by Ty Akram (Green Party), Tracy Brabin (Labour), Mark Brooks (Conservative), John Lawson (Liberal Democrat), Clive Minihan (Brexit Party) and Mr Halloran.
Together they became the first candidates in the country to sign an agreement to run an election campaign “free of abuse and intimidation”.