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Erith and Thamesmead MP: "Ballot box tampering would never have happened if Labour chiefs did not snatch selection process off the constituency."

PUBLISHED: 10:37 07 October 2010

The chosen candidate Teresa Pearce

The chosen candidate Teresa Pearce

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A Labour MP claims the ballot box tampering during her selection would never have happened if the party's London bosses had not taken the process away from the constituency.

Now a Camden Labour councillor

Erith and Thamesmead MP Teresa Pearce was not even told that Labour’s National Executive Committee had called an end to the investigation into the ballot tampering during her selection, despite not finding out who ripped up the papers or why.

In April 2009, 10 postal votes to decide who would be the candidate for Erith and Thamesmead were found ripped up in unlocked but paper sealed ballot box at Labour offices in Victoria, central London, on the eve of the candidates’ final hustings. This resulted in the postal votes having to be recast.

Bosses at the London Labour Group took over the selection process from the local officers in Erith and Thamesmead after controversy over the inclusion of Georgia Gould – the then 22-year-old daughter of Tony Blair’s millionaire pollster Lord Philip Gould.

Ms Pearce told the Times: “It would have been nice if they had bothered to write to me and tell me the conclusion. It galls me as, if it was handled by the constituency, the ballot box would never have been left unattended when unlocked.

“I am disappointed they didn’t find out who did it or why they did it. I am sure it was a thorough investigation as it took so long. A thumb print was found and it was believed to be male and that it must have been a member of staff. But they only way of discovering who it was, was to fingerprint all employees but they did not have the authority to do that as it was not a criminal investigation.

“The main thing is that they learn a lesson and that no other constituency is treated like that. The local officers were dragged through the muck and nobody from the party protected them, which I think is appalling.”

London Labour party bosses never told members in Erith and Thamesmead why they were taking the process off their hands and ignored letters from the chair asking why, causing the then MP John Austin to speak out against his party chiefs.

Ms Pearce added: “I was the first chair of Erith and Thamesmead Labour party and I know these officers are as honest as the day is long and to have their reputation dragged through the mud like that was galling. And I couldn’t say anything because I was a candidate.

“For local officers who are all volunteers it was really embarrassing to have all this speculation about them.”

A spokesperson for the London Labour party insisted the investigation was ‘concluded’ and not abandoned.

They said: “The investigation was concluded.

“The NEC met last week and received reports into what had happened and decided it was best to close it.”

Ms Gould refused to comment.

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