New government should act on bogus candidates, says lawyer

One of Labour's first moves in power may be to change Britain's electoral laws, according to solicitor Gerald Shamash, who acted for the party in getting a trio of bogus Labour candidates struck out before the elections.

Shamash, of Steel & Shamash, who advises the party on electoral law, said Labour had been frustrated by disaffected supporters standing as “New Labour” candidates.

Shamash took four cases against such candidates in the days before last week's election under section 115 of the Representation of People Act.

“The argument is that the attempt by individuals to stand as New Labour was intended to deceive the electorate,” said Shamash. “In other words, the ballot paper became a fraud because it was trying to confuse people.”

He was successful in three of the cases, one of which included a male candidate changing his name by deed poll on 1 April to Alice Mahon – the name of the female Labour Party candidate.

Despite its success in the courts, Shamash said Labour would look at changing the law to make it more difficult for people to stand under banners designed deliberately to confuse the electorate.

“I think there will certainly be a review. Senior people in the Labour Party are aware of this problem,” he said.

A High Court decision in 1992 in favour of candidate Richard Huggett, who stood for a party he called the “Literal Democrats” appeared to open the way for bogus official party candidates.

But a successful injunction on 16 April this year by the then Attorney General and Conservative candidate Sir Nicholas Lyell QC, against a man calling himself Sir Nicholas Walter Lyell, signalled a tougher line from the courts.

Shamash said one of the difficulties in dealing with such cases was the short time the parties had to fight the court cases.