Burnley Tory candidate reported to police

Coun. Paul White
Coun. Paul White

The Conservative Party candidate for Burnley is being investigated by the police.

Paul White, who will be standing for the Tories in Thursday's General Election, has been accused of breaching electoral law after discussing the possible outcome of postal votes in an online interview.

Coun. Mark Townsend, the leader of Burnley Borough Council and election agent for Labour candidate Julie Cooper, reported Mr White to the police in relation to a quote he gave to the BuzzFeed News website.

Mr White, who sits on Pendle Borough Council, had said: "When you go to things like postal vote openings you get a good gauge for things."

Coun. Townsend said: "At best, Paul White is being incredibly naive, and at worst this is a blatant attempt by him to try to influence local people who vote. Naivety is no excuse for breaking the law."

Mr White had been talking about what he believed had been the drop in support for Liberal Democrats in Burnley, and how the Tories could capitalise on that.

He told BuzzFeed News: "It’s (Burnley) traditionally been a Labour/Lib Dem marginal, but what we have seen is that the Lib Dem vote has completely collapsed in Burnley.

“Gordon Birtwistle was a popular MP, a pretty active MP. I’ve been surprised at the depth of the drop in the Liberal Democrat vote. When you go to things like postal vote openings you get a good gauge for things."

It is that last sentence which Coun. Townsend believes contravened electoral law, in particular the Representation of the People Act, 1983 Section 66. This relates to "an attempt to ascertain at the proceedings in connection with the receipt of the ballot papers the candidate for whom any vote is given in any particular ballot paper or communicate any information with respect thereto obtained at those proceedings."

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: "We have been made aware of the complaint and are currently looking into it to assess whether any criminal offences have been committed.”

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