Claims that Labour supporters intimidated voters at polling stations in marginal inner city wards at last week’s Birmingham council elections have been rejected by a senior party official.
Ian Reilly, the regional director for the West Midlands, said allegations levelled by Tariq Khan, deputy leader of the city council Liberal Democrat group, were unsubstantiated.
Councillor Khan (Lib Dem Washwood Heath) hit out earlier this week at what he said were "gangster politics", with widespread use of the Asian biraderi clan system to put pressure on family members to vote Labour.
He accused Labour of placing up to 10 supporters at the entrance to polling stations, contravening a council code of conduct stating that no more than two members of a political party should canvass electors as they go to vote.
But Mr Reilly hit back, pointing out that no complaints from the Lib Dems about misbehaviour in Washwood Heath were received by the council.
He added: "The latest Lib Dem allegations can’t be serious. If there were problems at polling stations in Washwood Heath on polling day why didn’t they report them at the time?
" There is no record of such complaints because they didn’t make them. One of our staff even spoke to the Lib Dem full-time organiser on polling day and he raised no concerns with us of any sort at any point during the whole day."
Mr Reilly accused the Liberal Democrats of inventing a "smokescreen" to disguise the party’s own shortcomings. Coun Khan’s intervention was designed to draw attention away from the recent Aston election court hearing in which a judge severely criticised the behaviour of Liberal Democrat councillor Ayoub Khan and candidate Saeed Aehmed, Mr Reilly claimed.
Mr Reilly said: "Birmingham Post readers can doubtless see through the smokescreen that’s being put up by the Lib-Dems over the numerous questions that have arisen about Ayoub Khan.
"After the Aston election court case in March, the Lib Dems said they would appoint a panel of inquiry. Weeks have passed and there’s been no action.
"We don’t think that anyone will be fooled by the Lib Dem’s rearguard attempts to defend the indefensible. They need to face the facts and take strong and decisive action before it’s too late to save their party’s reputation in Birmingham."
Mr Reilly insisted Liberal Democrats broke the rules in Washwood Heath by having too many supporters at the entrance to polling stations.
He added: "Labour’s Washwood Heath election agent complained to the Lib Dem candidate about this problem at no less than six polling stations and logged formal complaints with the presiding officers at three of them. To our knowledge these were the only complaints about this issue made on the day by any party in Washwood Heath."