Ilford South Labour candidate refutes vote-rigging accusations by deselected MP

Redbridge Council leader and Labour Parliamentary candidate Jas Athwal, has described claims of vote-rigging from the current MP as “baseless”.

The denial comes after Ilford South MP Sam Tarry lodged a formal complaint with the Labour Party over allegations of voter fraud in the candidate selection process for the Ilford South seat.

In October 2022, Cllr Athwal was selected by members as the party’s candidate in the next election by 499 votes to the Mr Tarry’s 361.

Now, the MP argues that discrepancies in the voting list suggest the internal election had been tampered with,

He claims that, while his campaign team was out canvassing door-to-door, they found that many Labour members were not living at addresses where they were listed.

The former trade union official alleged Cllr Athwal was among a number of Labour councillors who owned a property where members, who said they would vote for him, were listed.

But when his team canvassed the addresses, they were told by the current tenants those in question no longer lived there.

After comparing the electoral register with a membership list, they allegedly found a significant number of members’ addresses did not match up.

These findings, Mr Tarry said, “raised serious concerns about … members’ eligibility to vote in the ongoing selection.”

In a statement issued to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Athwal said the claims were emphatically untrue.

He said: “I completely refute the allegations. They are untrue and baseless.

“Ilford South members have made their choice and it must be respected.”

Additionally, a spokesperson for the party said it had “full confidence” in the integrity of the selection process and likewise rejected the claims.

He added: “We always investigate concerns that are raised in relation to candidate selections and we reject the allegations that have been made.”

As the row between the two politicians rumbles on, Tarry is reportedly considering seeking an injunction to stop Cllr Athwal standing.

He has also considered legal action to obtain records of the votes, which were cast via the Anonyvoter system.

Eighteen months on, the MP’s challenge to the Labour Party selection process remains unresolved.

In February, a source close to the Ilford South MP alleged to the LDRS the vote had been “rigged” and said the party had still not heard his appeal.

They added: “If proven, these allegations could lead to the suspension and expulsion from the Labour Party of those implicated.”

However, a senior Labour source accused him of resorting to “smear and innuendo,” adding: “If he has evidence of any rule-breaking, he should put up or shut up.”

With a constituency of about 147,000 residents, Ilford South has been a Labour safe seat since 1997.

Tarry, who directed Jeremy Corbyn’s successful leadership campaign in 2016, won with a majority of 24,000 in 2019.

He unseated Mike Gapes, incumbent since 1992, who had temporarily left Labour that year in protest of Corbyn’s handling of Brexit and allegations of antisemitism.

He was the first Labour MP in more than two decades to be deselected.


Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter