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8 May 2015
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Updated 12 May 2015 #1

Labour Council bars UKIP's agent, candidates and vote scrutineers

More election shambles from Slough Council's Returning Officer Kevin Gordon

Report and photographs: Paul Janik

Slough Parliamentary results

After a day of utter election chaos including:

  • voters prevented from entering a polling station,
  • disabled voters unable to enter a polling station,
  • 45 minute queueing times with some voters walking away in disgust,
  • voters being refused ballot forms,
  • Labour council refusing to admit UKIP's election agent and UKIP vote checkers into the counting hall.

Slough's notorious white-elephant building in Farnham Road - another tribute to Labour's shameful financial mismanagement - was the scene for this year's counting of votes. Keen to demonstrate 'openness, transparency and accountability' Labour banned the public.

Before Slough Labour introduced their Islamic ban against alcohol in council buildings, The Centre always had a licensed bar providing soft drinks, tea, coffee and food. The bar always made a profit for the Council Tax payers. Labour's pitiful substitute defies comparison.

Bewildered and fed-up opposition electioneers are calling for Returning Officer Kevin Gordon to be replaced with a genuinely competent person. They blame him for this year's disasters. Some expressed surprise he was still employed at the Council. Others thought he is being made redundant and waiting for a generous £300,000 pay-off.

Mild mannered Conservatives told the Slough Times this year's disorganised election mess was less awful than last year's but still:

An embarrassing demonstration of poor planning and execution. What else can the public hope for from Slough's one-party state?

Conversely Labour candidates and election officials said the council's election organisation had been a great success.

Election Pictures

Instead of pictures of politicians, here are the Slough Times alternatives.

Parked as near to the Goodman Park polling station as possible.
Did Labour removed the Tory poster on this side of the van?
London Road polling station : Too close ?
Wellington Street, broken window and beds in shed - invisible to Labour and Conservatives

Labour bans UKIP representatives

UKIP's problems started 15 minutes before the polls closed. It was inevitable Slough's Labour-run council would demonstrate its biased control of everything.

Arriving UKIP personnel were refused entry to the counting hall. The door staff did not know UKIP would be attending. Kevin 'Flash' Gordon's unrehearsed plans had failed again.

15 minutes later, when postal vote checking began, UKIP personnel were still refused entry yet Labour personnel 'waltzed-in' without the slightest difficulty. A cynic might mutter incompetence and political bias - trademarks of a failing and corrupt local authority.

Half an hour after Labour started blocking UKIP, along came UKIP's impressive new Election Agent, Lea Trainer. The doorman told him You are not on the list. That was a shock. Mr Trainer was also a local election candidate and entitled to inspect the counting of postal votes in his own ward.

Many polite requests were made to the doorman to summon the Returning Officer's deputy to sort-out the latest council disaster. The doorman remained unmoved and arrogantly decided the top election officials can not be disturbed.

Addressing the growing line of UKIP candidates and counting agents, the doorman reiterated UKIP can't go in. Two tall policemen, dressed in military-style combat uniforms with batons and gas cylinders on their belts, appeared. Menacingly they blocked the entrance.

UKIP Election Agent Lea Trainer

Mr Trainer told the Slough Times:-

UKIP have a parliamentary candidate and 13 borough candidates.

We are legally allowed into the counting hall. This Labour-run council have stopped us, after letting-in Labour people. I dislike this council's double standards.

How can this election be Free and Fair when the council prevents UKIP's election team scrutinising the vote counting ?

Its another disgraceful council shambles.

A witness told the Slough Times Labour councillors and Labour supporters were allowed into the hall when they were neither candidates nor counting agents and were not on the council's official list.

Returning Officer Kevin Gordon popped-up. He was met by protests about his failure to properly organise the election. Mr Gordon seemed confused why UKIP were banned from witnessing the vote counting.

It soon became apparent Mr Gordon had not bothered to check the list of approved persons. Although legally responsible for organising the whole event, 'Flash' Gordon did not have a clue what was going-on.

Mr Gordon dismissively told the doorman to admit UKIP. He did not apologise to UKIP.

Despite council claims of 'improved security' everyone near the door, including non-UKIP people, was given a pass. Not a single name or even a count of the issued passes were taken. 'Shambles' was conspicuous.

Official UKIP representatives had been denied access for almost an hour.

A few hours later, all forms of Security evaporated. For the last 4.1/2 hours of the count anyone could wander-in off-the-street unchallenged. And Labour people did.

Kevin Gordon's    You can't sit down

Kevin Gordon, the council's Monitoring Officer and Returning Officer, is disliked by opposition figures. In their opinion Mr Gordon is often smug, lacks ability and is always too willing to please what the opposition describe as his 'Labour masters'.

Slough Council's top management claim Mr Gordon has previous Returning Officer experience, gained at another council, before he was appointed to the job at Slough. If this was true, then Mr Gordon will have known in advance that vote counting at parliamentary elections, especially when local elections are held on the same day, can be long and tiring.

The vote counting process began at 22:00 on Thursday,7 May 2015 and continued until after 05:00 on Friday, 8 May. It was a very long day for party workers and candidates - most of whom had been working all day.

An ordinary person would have thought that political party representatives sitting down in the counting hall, particularly whilst waiting for a new stage of the counting to begin, was reasonable. However not Returning Officer Kevin Gordon.

Mr Gordon was responsible for the removal of almost all the chairs except for about 7 despite the presence of over 60 people from different political parties officially monitoring the integrity of the vote counting.

When Mr Gordon was asked by a 'counting agent' if he might bring-in to the hall a few chairs for people to sit on, Mr Gordon, in a manner described as 'arrogant and dictatorial', refused saying:

  • the person could bring one chair only and no more;
  • that chair must be placed against the hall's boundary wall; and
  • the chair must not be placed near a counting table for an observer to sit whilst monitoring the vote checking.

The Slough Times believes Mr Gordon is likely to have infringed disability laws that impose on him and Slough Council an 'anticipatory duty' to make arrangement before an event and without having to be asked.

Ironically, Kevin Gordon was regularly seen sitting down and chatting with colleagues.

Long queues of voters

Some polling stations had long queues of voters. Polling station staff privately blamed Kevin Gordon's lack of organisation and his failure to provide adequate staffing.

Voters queueing at Claycots, Britwell.

At 20:30 hours Britwell's Claycots School queue wound around inside the gym, bunched near the door and extended outside the building and along the entrance path. The Slough Times asked 6 random voters how long they had waited to vote. All of them said at least 30 minutes.

Inside Claycots the queue wound around to the left.

Britwell resident Olly Isernia told the Slough Times:

I've never seen it this bad. The queueing started about half-past four. When I went to vote at 5:30 I have to wait for about 35 to 40 minutes.

The council knew there were 2 elections on the same day. They didn't care how long parents with young children had to queue. There are no seats for the elderly and disabled.

It is a disgraceful mess. It is no way to run an election.

A tired-looking UKIP borough candidate Neil Hodgson

Langley St Mary's candidate Neil Hodgson described to the Slough Times:

  • a 40 minute wait in St Mary's ward,
  • polling station staff issuing queue tickets and
  • the police being summoned in case of voter unrest.

The police were not needed. Slough's long suffering public meekly tolerated the latest manifestation of council incompetence.

Haymill Polling Station closed to voters

Keen to prove beyond any doubt, that Slough Council strives to maintain its reputation as a failing local authority, Kevin Gordon and Slough Council arranged a Portacabin for voters.

On election day, when the polling station should had been open to voters, it was closed because of Health and Safety risks. The polling station's entrance door was, according to one candidate, between 26" and 30" (66-75 cm) above ground level.

Slough Council organised a temporary ramp from the ground to the polling station door. It was in position at 07:45 - that is 45 minutes after voting officially began. However witnesses claimed the ramp was shaky and unsuitable for use by disabled and frail voters. Consequently frail and disabled voters could not enter the Whittaker Road polling station.

Long standing voters labelled as 'new' voters

When things could not get worse, voters claim the council stopped them voting.

The Slough Times can not get Slough Council's version of events or even the council's excuse because Council bosses loath the Slough Times for exposing council failures.

According to Slough Council's press office only publications that hack other people's mobile phones are worthy of a council response. The Slough Times does not have the gutter standards so admired by Labour Party run Slough Council.

The letterhead of the strange Council letters

On election day, 7 May, long established voters - who have lived at the same address for many years - received a council letter dated 30 April 2015.

Recipients of this letter have told the Slough Times they did NOT complete any form - not even an application form.

Some successfully voted. Others, with the same letter in their hand, were denied a vote at their polling station. The Slough Times will attempt to investigate this and, if successful, will publish a separate article.

Does anyone recognise the unfamiliar signature on the anonymous Council letter ?

Reports later emerged that an unspecified number of voters were turned away because polling station officials demanded presentation of a polling card. The Slough Times understands this was later corrected. This amazing and easily avoidable failure in the voting system demonstrates Mr Gordon's failure - some say 'inability' - to properly instruct his polling station staff.

Despite being the Council's statutory Monitoring Officer Mr Gordon has no legal credentials and little legal awareness. Critics claim Mr Gordon fully satisfied the Labour-run Council's requirement for a yes man.

Parliamentary candidates - only 2 turned-up

This year Slough had 5 parliamentary candidates:

  • Diana Coad, from Slough, Conservative
  • Julian Edmonds, from Slough, Green
  • Fiona MacTaggart, from London, Labour
  • Thomas McCann, from Reading, Lib Dems
  • Gurcharan Singh, from Southall Middlesex, Conservative

The 3 male candidates did not bother to turn-up.

  • Julian Edmonds, Green
  • Thomas McCann, Lib Dems
  • Gurcharan Singh, Conservative

The Slough Times wonders whether McCann from Reading and Singh from Southall found the journey to Slough too onerous and less appealing than watching their telly at home then peacefully snoring in their beds. Meanwhile, the women candidates, Diana Coad and Fiona MacTaggart, both suffering from M.E., had the courage and tenacity to attend 'the count'. Well done ladies.

There was talk, yet again, that Labour had bussed-in supporters from Swindon as in previous years. That Tories had attracted Sikh supporters from tens of miles away. Locally UKIP fought the election with slender resources all from inside Slough. It deserves credit for being the only genuinely local campaigner at this year's Slough elections.