By Jonathan Walker Political Editor
The deputy leader of Birmingham City Council has lost his legal battle against Britain's voting system after a High Court judge threw out his claim that the General Election could not be fair.
Coun John Hemming, who is also Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Yardley, wanted the courts to rule the May 5 poll was a breach of his human rights.
It followed a court ruling earlier this month which overturned local election results in two Birmingham wards, and found six councillors guilty of postal vote fraud.
Coun Hemming claimed the General Election was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, in which states guarantee "free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballots".
But the claim was rejected in a preliminary hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice.
Mr Justice Collins ruled he had no case, and ordered him to pay £4,000 in costs.
Coun Hemming's barrister, former MP Jerry Hayes, told the court his client was not trying to delay the May 5 poll.
He said: "It is not a question of trying to stall the General Election. It just can't be done."
But a court judgement could force the Government to stamp out corruption, he said.
Politicians "could not be trusted" to introduce safeguards without pressure from the courts, said Mr Hayes.
However, the judge said it was impossible to argue the election was unfair before it had taken place.
The judge also said Coun Hemming was arguing the law was "insufficient" to prevent fraud, but a challenge under the Convention could only succeed if the law actually infringed human rights, or was "repugnant" to them.
He said: "These proceedings are, at this stage certainly, entirely premature." Speaking afterwards, Coun Hemming insisted he had no regrets. He said: "What price democracy?
"I have lost this battle but the war for free and fair elections must continue."
Meanwhile, Coun Hemming could also face an investigation after Labour accused him of abusing his position as a councillor in the election.
Khalid Mahmood, Labour candidate for Perry Barr, has levelled the allegation at John Hunt, the Perry Barr councillor and Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate for Perry Barr, and Coun Hemming.
He accused the pair of using offices provided for them by the city council during the General Election campaign.
He also claimed that spending decisions made by the city council, which is run by a Conservative and Lib Dem coalition, were designed to help the Lib Dem Parliamentary candidates.
Mr Mahmood said: "I have written to the Standards Board, which oversees standards in local government, and to the Electoral Commission, asking them to investigate."
The court case was heard yesterday as police chiefs were meeting civil servants to discuss the threat of ballotrigging in the General Election.
The Association of Chief Police Officers took part in talks in Whitehall with senior civil servants and election officials, to identify problems in the run-up to polling day.