Election row erupts after ballot papers pulped

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Election bosses have been forced to reprint more than 2,000 ballot papers in Preston after a bizarre ruling over a political logo.

Preston Council has had to pull the postal voting packs in four wards after they were alerted to the mistake ahead of next week’s poll.

Four candidates standing for the Labour and Co-operative Party had hoped to use the official Labour emblem. But little known election rules mean only candidates standing for just the Labour Party can use the famous red rose.

But local party leaders are defiant, claiming they have done nothing wrong.

Coun John Collins, Labour leader on Preston Council, said: “This is nothing to do with us.

“In previous years we’ve always been allowed to print the Labour emblem on Labour and Co-Operative party papers but the Electoral Commission ruled this wasn’t allowed. It’s for the elections officer to deal with.”

But the Electoral Commission said Labour should have known about the rules, which were introduced four years ago. A spokesman told the Lancashire Evening Post: “As soon as we were aware candidates did not know about the change in rules, we sent around guidance. Unfortunately that was too late for people standing in the local elections.”

Now furious opposition leaders are calling for Labour to stump up the £2,500 cost.

Coun Ken Hudson, Conservative leader of the council, said: “The Labour Party ought to reimburse the council for these costs.

“This is totally unacceptable and the candidates should be disqualified. If they’ve put an incorrect emblem on there’s a cost to the council. I would expect Labour to pay.”

And Coun Danny Gallagher, leader of the Liberal Democrats, added: “It’s absolutely outrageous.

“What a shame for the returning officer and the staff in the election office. They’ve got enough to do without having to go through all that as well.

“It’s not cheap to re-print those ballots and the council shouldn’t have to pay.”

The wards affected are University, Tulketh, St Matthew’s and Riversway, where Couns Carl Crompton, Peter Rankin, Albert Richardson and Linda Crompton are standing respectively.

All 2,170 ballot papers for the postal vote were pulped and re-produced before they were sent out in time for the election on May 6. The resu

The gaffe follows Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s apology after calling a Labour supporter “a bigot” when she tackled him in Rochdale over immigration.

Now Preston Council will make representations to recoup the cost of the re-print.

Lorraine Norris, Preston Council’s returning officer for the local election said: “For many years, it has been custom and practice nationally to include party logos on ballot papers for dual party candidates.

“However, on April 16, the Electoral Commission issued advice that dual party candidates could not use a single party logo on ballot papers.

“Due to the timing of this advice, postal ballot papers had to be re-printed for four wards in the council elections.

“All postal ballot papers were subsequently issued correctly and in line with the rules set down by the Electoral Commission.”

Mrs Norris added that no other wards were affected.

The Co-operative party is the political arm of the co-operative movement, which stands “for ethical business and for people having a say in the running of their communities.”

It is the second largest centre-left party in British politics and is closely aligned with Labour. Mr Brown was the first Co-operative Party member to become Prime Minister.

Other high-profile Labour and Co-operative members include Preston MP Mark Hendrick, former Lancashire County Council leader Louise Ellman and Children’s Secretary Ed Balls.