Claims of widespread vote-rigging at a Birmingham City Council by-election, which was called after identical allegations were upheld, have been thrown out by the High Court.
An election petition brought by a Labour activist accusing Liberal Democrats of taking part in postal vote fraud at last July's Aston byelection was dismissed by a judge yesterday as "inadequate".
The ballot was held after the ward's three previous Labour councillors were forced to resign their seats last year following an inquiry into postal vote fraud at the 2004 local elections.
The latest petition was brought by Aston resident and Labour activist Walayat Hussain after the by-election saw Liberal Democrats take all three seats - one of them by a margin of just nine votes - in the traditional Labour stronghold.
The case was thrown out yesterday after the judges became impatient with delays in presenting the full case of the petition, which was first brought to court 21 days after last year's July 28 election.
The petitioners were refused attempts to secure more time to "lodge new particulars". Previous delays were largely due to their attempts to secure funding.
Mr Justice Ouseley, who was presiding with Mr Justice Tugendhat, said solicitors acting for the petitioners had told the court "the time has not yet come for what would in effect be a strike out".
He said: "I do not agree. I am not persuaded that they should be given more time in view of the amount of time which they have already had since August 2005, and the almost complete inadequacy of what has been produced."
Judge Ouseley also said the petitioners' solicitors had made no application, as instructed to do so by the court seeking an extension of time for serving and filing their draft amended petition.
He added: "I recognise that a refusal of (the petitioners') application for an extension of time for lodging the new particulars would lead to the petition being struck out because, in its original form, it is wholly inadequate and the Order that particulars be provided within a set time has not been complied with."
Councillor Ayoub Khan (Lib Dem Aston) claimed the petition was brought by Mr Hussain as part of a Labour Party "smear campaign" based on "revenge" for the Lib Dems uncovering the 2004 vote-rigging.
He also claimed Labour activists had planned to continue their claim through the High Court to generate bad publicity for the Lib Dems at the May 2006 local elections.
"It was a smear tactic based on revenge for the vote-rigging we had uncovered," he said.
"However, it has badly backfired on the Labour Party because we have done nothing wrong. We are very pleased with the result of this case. We are not surprised, but we are very pleased."
Coun Khan said the case had caused him great distress as he had just qualified as a barrister but could not obtain his pupilage until his name was cleared.
The petitioners alleged votes counted on the "absent voters" list had been fabricated by Lib Dem activists.
Claims were also made that "irregular electoral activity" took place, which involved Lib Dem supporters visiting voters' homes to "help" fill out postal ballot forms.
An election court held in Birmingham last year ordered the elections in the Aston and Bordesley Green wards to be re-run after it found vote-rigging that would have "disgraced a banana republic".
Sir Albert Bore (Lab Ladywood), leader of the Labour Group at Birmingham City Council, last night said: "I am disappointed at the result."