Labour vote axed over tampering

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THE Labour Party last night called off a candidate selection hustings after discovering a ballot box had been tampered with.

The process for choosing a prospective parliamentary candidate for Erith and Thamesmead, in London, had already been the subject of allegations of "irregularities".

A London Labour spokesman said today's hustings had been postponed and an investigation instigated by Ray Collins, the party's general secretary.

The selection contest, which has also received attention for featuring Georgia Gould, 22, the daughter of New Labour polling guru Lord Gould, had been set to culminate in a vote today. But it has been mired in controversy after being taken over by the central party machine, sparking complaints of interference in favour of non "local" candidates.

Sitting MP John Austin, who is retiring, lodged a formal complaint with Mr Collins over alleged rule breaches by campaigners encouraging local members to sign up for postal votes.

In a statement released last night, a London Labour spokesman said: "At 6:45pm, it was discovered that the seal on a ballot box containing previously received ballot papers for the selection of Labour's parliamentary candidate for Erith and Thamesmead was broken.

"In order to maintain the integrity of the process, tomorrow's hustings meeting has been immediately postponed.

"Ray Collins, general secretary, and Ken Clark, director London region, have jointly instigated an investigation, which will include themselves and members of the National Executive Committee."