As the latest opinion poll shows that all the mud slung at Ken Livingstone has caused Bozza’s lead over him to, er, shrink to just two percentage points, those hacks who have been slavishly promoting London’s occasional Mayor have begun to unearth their contingency plans, in case the result does not meet with their approval. And in the vanguard of this movement is Andrew Gilligan.
Less than ten days to go
The Maily Telegraph’s so-called “London Editor”, for which read “peddling his unique brand of terminally dodgy journalism but only on subjects that affect the capital”, has returned to one of his favourite subjects, the borough of Tower Hamlets. Here, as I observed previously, Tories and their supporters have decided that significant electoral fraud is under way and have set out to prove their case.
His latest report from the borough appears promising at the start, as he tells that the returning officer is making enquiries, and then makes the unequivocal statement “Mr Livingstone’s supporters have been ‘harvesting’ ballot papers”. He identifies three individuals whose testimony gives some support to his allegation. But further down the piece he has to row back.
“There is no suggestion that [Livingstone’s] campaign or the Labour Party knew of the apparent [my emphasis] vote-harvesting” he cautions. Putting the H-word in quotes the first time, together with stressing the lack of proven knowledge, is what the Telegraph’s legal team will have demanded from Gilligan before his copy was allowed into print.
But it hasn’t stopped Gilligan from returning to the subject in a blog post yesterday, where he alleges that someone who voted recently didn’t, and that someone else who voted may have been dead, although he can’t be certain (Gilligan watchers will by now have noted a similarity between this line of attack and the one that got him binned from the BBC for good).
While Telegraph readers and those who drift around the comments sewer at Telegraph Blogs may lap this up, others may note that the population of Tower Hamlets is around 220,000, and that, even if all of Gilligan’s allegations can be stood up, the supposed fraud won’t cover one hundredth of one per cent of that, or perhaps one fiftieth of one per cent of the electorate.
And that’s a pretty big “if”. Returning officers make enquiries about elections that happen on their watch on a regular basis, and there is a world of difference between that and proven fraud. But just in case Bozza fails to get re-elected, it’s good to see that his cheerleaders are getting their retaliation in first, so they can explain why they couldn’t persuade Londoners to back their chosen candidate.
But as an exercise in journalism, Gilligan doesn’t cut it. No change there, then.