back to article Labour candidate tweets postal votes

The Labour Party's New Media Campaigns Spokesperson and candidate for Bristol East is in hot water this morning after Tweeting postal vote results last night. Kerry McCarthy's post was immediately re-tweeted by a Tory blogger with the suggestion that 'someone call the police'. Revealing postal votes could have an impact on …


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  1. Asiren


    If it was a straw poll, then it wasn't actual information and therefore wouldn't be illegal to re-post.

    If it's illegal to repost, it would be the real deal, and she's in trouble.

    So which is it??

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not exactly either

      The candidates' agents get to watch the postal votes be opened and the number of postal votes received is counted, The actual ballots are not counted at this point: they are added to the ballots cast in the ballot boxes at the full count on Thursday night. (This is why the candidates agents' can be present at the opening of the postal votes, so that they can independently verify the numbers received to guard against someone trying to introduce fake postal ballots at the count.)

      During the opening process, although the actual votes cast are not counted, it's possible for those present to see the votes cast on at least some of the ballots being processed, which is the source of the numbers in the tweet. The agents aren't really supposed to do this, and if there's lots of postal votes won't be able to see them all, which is why its at best a straw poll. It is, as this candidate has found out, illegal to communicate any information gleaned in this way, but in practice candidates agents often do so with their candidate.

    2. Bitsucker

      The whole thing is a sorry saga...

      I (sadly) am a political anorak. The sequence of events appears to be

      1) Postal votes allegedly opened and counted. (Under election law when opened in the presence of party agents they have to be kept face down, although agents are entitled to turn over individual votes to verify their authenticity).

      2) Kerry McCarthy tweets '1st postal votes counted', presumably to cheer up the Labour party & followers.

      3)The tweet is rebroadcast by the Labour Party & at least one prominent union official.

      4) Guido Fawkes alerts the Bristol East Returning officer.

      5) McCarthy deletes her own tweet, but the original tweet continues to propagate. It remains on the LabourParty tweet account for at least four hours.

      6) McCarthy apologises and say that she is a 'penitent sinner'. Later she says that the whole thing was 'just a joke'.

      So if the data is false, why did she apologise, delete her tweet & advise anyone who retweeted it that they had also broken the law? If the data is true, why did McCarthy allege that the Returning Officer was relaxed about it, and 'these things happen all the time'?

  2. Bo Pedersen

    Ha! politicians and technology

    Be it long range wireless microphones


    or passing a bill through parliament they don't truly understand

    its a wrong mix isn't it?

    El Reg should start a 'Techno Party' , they will get voted in by sensible I.T. types

    but also get the raving chav vote as they will miss the point but want to fire the manifesto through their Saxo's Bass bins. :)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A lot of sites...

    ...haven't posted the actual numbers, but **'d them out. However, they all seem to leave the "gameON!" at the end. Hardly a revelation I guess as she wouldn't have posted it if the results were bad news for her! Doesn't sound like it means anything anyway- only a tiny sample. Silly moo.

  4. Mike Shepherd
    Thumb Down

    Why now?

    Why are postal votes opened before the conventional papers are in? is it to spread the counting workload? That seems a small benefit for the cost of interfering with an election by feeding to the candidates solid information about actual voting (which they might then use to adjust their campaign).

    1. Vulch
      Big Brother


      There's a lot of extra verification goes on with the postal votes. As well as the basic check in the electoral register done in the polling station for ordinary votes there are other checks needed for things like the ballot paper actually being one that was sent out, the sender being someone who applied for a postal vote and so on. It's hard enough to get enough people willing to stay up all night to count anyway, especially when there's national and local elections the same day, so they don't want to add to the load.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The opposite here...

        "It's hard enough to get enough people willing to stay up all night to count anyway..." There's a waiting list here for volunteers to do the counting!?! Haven't checked to see how many are from the beancounter dept, it's probably like the social hobby event of the year for them.

  5. My Alter Ego

    I especially like her new handle: kerry4HMP

    There are several points of interest here:

    The returning officer decided not to inform the police, that was left to the public. Does the returning officer not understand his job?

    She seems to believe that saying "Mea Cupla" & "I'm neither the first nor the last" absolves her of any wrong doing.

    She happy with the fact that she gets away with revealing ballot counts prematurely, but anyone who publishes the numbers is flouting the law.

    It's "for the police to decide what action to take.", WTF, It's obvious what action to take, refer it to the CPS immediately.

    Strangely enough, there are no comments on her blog, I'm waiting for mine to be published, though it's probably not a good idea to hold my breath. I'd also like to know of who else has made a similar mistake, ie. telling the world rather than a couple of mates. Methinks nobody.

  6. It wasnt me

    Really ?

    How in the world can someone so mind numbingly fucking idiotic even make it as far as getting their name on the ballot paper? Really, who would want them as an MP? Fucking pond life. Oh, I see, the labour party. The party that actively encourages and pays people with pond life IQs to breed and supports them with my money.

    Fuck off into your hole.

    If theres any truth at all to this story, then I hope the person is expelled from the labour party, the result contested and a by election called without the corrupt crap that is postal voting. Why the fuck are they even opened before polling day?

    Time for a chill pill.

  7. Steven Jones

    Fast and loose with postal votes

    Sadly the Labour party have had problems with postal votes before which they heavily pushed with scant regard for avoiding fraud. The Joseph Rowntree trust (hardly a reactionary organisation) produced a report on the vulnerability of the abuse of the electoral system

    Here are a couple of bullet points

    • There have been at least 42 convictions for electoral fraud in the UK in the period


    • Greater use of postal voting has made UK elections far more vulnerable to fraud and

    resulted in several instances of large-scale fraud.

    Convictions for electoral fraud haven't been confined to the Labour party alone, but they have certainly presided over a regime where this has become more common.

    A judge famously described the UK's postal voting system would "disgrace a banana republic”.

    There is a suspicion that compromises are being made in the integrity of the voting system where this is advantageous to the party in power. This contempt for security and the integrity of the electoral system is symptomatic of many career politicians predicated on winning at almost all costs rather than working on representative systems.

    I sincerely hope this isn't just swept under the carpet and that it is investigated as the serious matter it is. The electoral system isn't there for the benefit of politicians and their spinmasters, but for the population at large.

  8. Tom Cook

    "Tweet in haste, repent at leisure..."

    At here Majesty's (p)leisure, if there's any justice.

  9. irish donkey

    Just another example of the Politico's

    Doing whatever the £uck they want and bugger the consequences.

    With this big labour turn around remember all they Elephants in the Room which haven't been discussed.

    The War in Iraq

    The RIPA Anti-terrorist Laws (LOL)


    The Expenses

    The ID Cards

    Government Data Leaks

    THE BT/PHORM Broadband fiasco

    The list goes on and on. but we have better memories than that don't we?

    Don't let the Politicians dictate how the election should be won or lost on their false promises and figures plucked from the sky. Gordon Brown/Lord Mandy promises if they get voted in again everything will be all right we it hasn't been all right for a while why should that change if you get back in again?

    And Dave! Seriously I don't trust you. Nothing against you but I just don't trust you.

    I'm going to vote for somebody. Are you?

    1. It wasnt me
      Thumb Down


      Yes, I am going to voet for somebody.

      But if Nick Clegg and his uncosted socialist claptrap want my vote theyll have to prise it from my cold dead hand.

      As you said, labour have diverted away from the real issues. Dont fall for the shiny Apple branded party though.

    2. Martin Gregorie

      ..and another few

      ...and another few reasons to throw NuLabour out:

      Gordon's Great Pension Theft

      Allowing the banks to charge borrowers the usual interest rates but pay savers bugger all

      Reneging on their promise to fix military housing by the repair budget

  10. Number6

    Postal Procedures

    It's been many years since I had a postal vote (in the days when you needed a good reason to have one) but surely the procedure should be to have two envelopes. Mark your ballot paper and put inside envelope #1 which has a serial number on it (which may or may not match the one on the ballot itself). Place envelope #1 inside envelope #2, seal it and fill in your identifying details on the back. Put in the post.

    At the receiving end, the up-front work consists of checking the details on each envelope #2 and if OK, remove envelope #1, make sure its serial number is correct and the envelope is sealed and place it unopened in a secure ballot box. On the night, open the box in the counting hall and remove the ballots from the envelopes, having first noticed that they are still sealed and include them in the count.

    Perfectly secure, no chance of a leak provided the procedures are followed. No easy way of identifying individual votes either, apart from the mechanism built in with the ballot serial numbers that is common to all of them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The Envelope 1 is NOT sealed!

      I know, I've just posted mine!

      1. David Kirkwood

        I've just posted mine.

        and I licked the sticky flap on the inner envelope and stuck it down.

        Maybe things are different here in Scotland.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You did it wrong then....

        Envelope one should have a tear off flap you sign and put your DOB on but leave attached, under that flap is an adheasive strip, you take the cover-strip off the glue and stick it down.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't want to follow Kerry to chokey

    Not much chance of that. The police will either refuse to charge her or the CPS will decline to prosecute.

    That report posted above shows that only TWO people have been convicted in a general election, the rest are all local council elections - and out of the two who were convicted, one was BNP and the other sounds like a random nutter.

    Nothing will happen. The police/CPS will see to that.

    Councillors are expendable. High profile PPCs are not.

    1. The Other Steve

      Au contraire

      "Councillors are expendable. High profile PPCs are not."

      Kerry Mccarthy is _entirely_ expendable.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    140 characters

    Twittering twat tweets shortest suicide note in political history.

  13. Robert Govier


    It was also re-tweeted on the official Labour twitter feed, and then removed a few hours later.

  14. Chris Harden
    Thumb Up

    @irish donkey

    While I don't quite aling myself to the harsh kicking you give politicians


  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    if you need convincing.........

    Dont bother tweeting or facebooking.

    if you really want to talk to your FRIENDS, do so in the normal way.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    "Too many tweets make a tw*t"

    This has to be the new definition for irony. Remember when Cameron made his comment about Twitter and politicians? It was Kerry McCarthy, as the New Media "czar", who said "He just doesn't get it".

    But just like Brown, she thinks a simple "I'm a sinner", and it's all forgotten.

    She says she's been told it happens all the time. Maybe between mates, but this has to be first time it's gone national!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Small correction..

      "But just like Brown, she thinks a simple "I'm a sinner", and it's all forgotten"

      It's not just like Brown, it's the whole sorry gang of crooks that seem to have that idea, IMHO it's time a few are given a hand to remember why they ought to fall on their swords instead (or, in Mandelson's case, a wooden stake).

      What totally baffles me is that despite everything they have do TO the UK rather than FOR the UK they still manage idiots to support and vote for them. Who said the educational system wasn't broken?

      Anon, because I want them to serve a RIPA order first.

  17. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    The future's bright ...

    Electronic, email and 'red button' voting will reduce the chance of election fraud. Twitter-voting should also boost the numbers participating. Perhaps the election should be thrown open to anyone with a hotmail account to maximise turnout ?

    On the serious side ...

    The political system doesn't really care about fraud, more in maximising turnout to justify its existence to prove it has validity and is not the corrupt shambolic mess it is. Political parties, leaders and policy can come and go; it's the system which has to be protected. The last thing it wants is zero turnout which shows it has no mandate, no legitimacy.

    The only real way to protest at the flawed 'democracy' we have is to not vote, but some other bugger still will.

  18. Aidan Samuel


    "could have an impact on voting intentions on the day and is therefore a breach of electoral law"

    So party political broadcasts and debates should be banned too?

    That aside, I agree with Bo! El Reg should start a "Technocracy"!

    All decisions could be voted for online by the people; finally, a true democracy!

  19. Anonymous Coward

    get rid of her

    This Kerry seems as clueless and corrupt as some of the present lot of MPs - only after her own glory and ignorant of the law.

    she should be got rid of and removed from standing like any other corrupt and dodgy MP

    she is all that is wrong with a lot of politicians these days

  20. Steven Jones

    Why pre-release is banned

    @Aidan Samuel

    Your implication that somehow early and selective release of information about the current state of postal voting is on the same level as party political broadcasts and debates is ridiculous. Political debate is the very basis of our electoral processes. It's one of the primary sources that we use for choosing who to vote for.

    In contrast, early release of actual voting behaviour carries a major risk of introducing distortions in voting patterns based on incomplete information. There are plenty of reasons why votes cast through the postal system might not be representative of the constituency overall - postal voters are often a self selected group, or more affluent and likely to be on holiday, or working away from home or any number of other reasons. many of these factors will mean that the voting patterns are not representative. Early release of these figures may well cause people to decide not to vote as they think the outcome is already decided, or to vote tactically based on partial and distorted information. In this case, a "sample" taken by a representative of a political party of actual results and presented in their favour could have very considerable influence - let's say it might discourage a voter from voting for the party in third place on the basis that it would be "wasted" when that position might have been different on the full poll.

    In many countries polls are banned in the run-up to elections for precisely these sort of reasons. That is voting patterns start reflecting band-wagon effects rather than decisions made on the merits of political cases.

    1. Al Jones

      Opinion Polls

      But Opinion Polls aren't banned in Britain in the few days before an election, are they? Even the most rudimentary opinion polls is likely to be more accurate than a partial count of postal ballots a week before the actual election.

      Personally, I'd be all in favour of banning the publication of opinion polls in 4 or 5 days before an election - they don't actually serve any useful purpose from the voters point of view, and they can serve to distort the outcome of the poll if voters believe that the result is a foregone conclusion. But we all know that profit is far more important than the actual outcome of an election (just look at the state of elections in the US), so there won't be any interference with the media's right to publish them.

  21. Кевин
    Paris Hilton

    Paris, because it's a fail.

    We're not doing too well in Bristol at this whole postal vote thing. First thing they sent the incorrect postal ballot papers in my area (Bristol West) and now the Bristol East Labour candidate is tweeting what should be kept out of the public eye for now (or did she not realise that Social Media tends to be, well social?).

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no title

    you think people dont get paid to count votes. think again.

    i got offered back in erm 2002/2003 (locals) i think, you get paid a decent rate and time off work. shame i didnt take them up on the offer.

  23. Russ Williams

    Re: Opinion Polls

    It's not an Opinion Poll, which aren't banned, it's an Exit Poll - which are. The contents of postal votes are, undeniably, the accurate voting intentions of the people involved. Which makes this a (prima facie) breach of section 66A of the Representation of the People Act (1983).

    Exit Polls have been proven to affect the result so, even though they may be conducted, the results can't be revealed until after the polls close. That's traditionally how the BBC attempt to make the first few hours of Election Night less boring - discussing how people have said they voted, until the results start coming in after midnight.

    Also, some people above have claimed Kerry McCarthy is just a PPC - she isn't, she was (until the dissolution of parliament) the MP for Bristol East, and Labour's "Twitter Tsar" in charge of digital engagement. With the new boundaries for 2010, Adeela Shafi (the Conservative PPC) should have a good chance, so let's hope the Tory bloggers get what they want: #kerryout

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Distorted figures

    Last election McCarthy got 20k votes libdem 10k cons 9k

    If the postal votes number vary significantly from those ratios (as "Game On!" indicates - and I've see the numbers she twitted.) one must question the integrity of the PV mechanism.

    Did McCarthy's agent really see the figures? If the tweeted figures had been rounded to the nearest 10 I would have thought they were an estimate on glanced samples. If the staff involved in counting were local to Bristol East then there's a 50% chance that they were labour supporters last time round so may be sympathetic. In any case they are mostly drawn from local authority staff - and we know just what party affiliations and high standards of ethics they have.

    It would be interesting to hear the opinions of the other candidates' agents - were they present too? If so they could tell us whether they believe there was a possibility that actual figures could have been disclosed on that occasion - and if not it raises the question of how else theyu may have been disclosed.

    Few would disagree that labour will score lower this time round.

    I understand that Labour voters are on the whole harder to mobilise - and the smarts necessary to organise themselves to get a PV may elude them. That's why NuLabour hasbeen so keen to and relax the restrictions and controls on PVs and widen it's usage .

    On the other hand there are instances at previous elections of people offering to "help" those unlikely to vote in person.

    IMHO PV figures suggesting a vote split approaching the kind of electoral results seen in Soviet Russia before they kicked socialism into touch suggests that the veracity of those votes is questionable.

    With a 10k majority Bristol East isn't likely to be lost by Labour (however hard McCarthy tries) and so a few hundred postal votes either way are an irrelevance - but in marginal seats it could mean everything. For that reason I believe PVs should not be issued on request but supported by compelling justification as used to be the case. They should NOT be opened or counted unless the winner's majority is smaller than the number of unopened PVs. (Otherwise, after the main count the PVs could be opened at leisure and used to adjust the final figures just so the voters don't feel disenfranchised). In 2005 12% of votes were postal. That's too many - the best interpretation one can put on that is that it's a personal choice - can't be bothered to vote in person. (think about it - do more than one in 10 of your friends and family _need_ a PV?). Interestingly one would expect the total PVs for Bristol East to be four or five thousand but the tweeted figures are an order of magnitude fewer.

    I also think every individual who turns up in person to vote at the polling station should be required to prove identity and be rewarded with a free lottery scratch card to underline the randomness of the process (that would get the "can't be bothered" voters less likely to let someone else vote on their behalf and get them out in person in far greater numbers!)

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