Respect has been accused of hypocrisy in its condemnation of ballot-rigging, after it emerged one of its candidates has been jailed for it in the past.
All three major parties on Bradford Council have called for the law to be changed to ban anyone convicted of electoral fraud from ever standing for public office.
But the candidate himself, Arshad Ali, said he is open and honest about his past and now uses his experience to educate the public about the crime.
Mr Ali, a psychologist who is competing to be elected on to Bradford Council in the Bradford Moor ward, spent six weeks in jail after being convicted for electoral fraud in 1997.
Mr Ali said the conviction happened “half a lifetime ago” when he was a “naive” Labour activist in Halifax.
He said: “I believe things happen for a reason and the reason this happened to me was so I could open this debate up and use my own personal experience and influence to try to eradicate that. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and suffered the consequences of it.”
Mr Ali said he had spent the past ten years campaigning against electoral fraud. And he said in the run-up to this year’s election, he had been delivering leaflets door-to-door to homes in Bradford, warning people about the signs of fraud.
Respect has long condemned electoral fraud, and last month its leader, Bradford West MP George Galloway, again warned of its dangers. This prompted Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, leader of the Liberal Democrats, to accuse the party of “absolutely outrageous” hypocrisy.
She called for the law to be changed so those convicted of the crime were barred for life from public office.
This call was backed by both Council leader Councillor David Green (Lab) and Conservative leader Councillor Glen Miller. Coun Green said: “I would share Coun Sunderland’s view that it is somewhat hypocritical of a party running a campaign that raises the spectre of electoral fraud to then be running a candidate who has got a conviction for it.”
But Respect’s national secretary, Ron McKay, hit back, saying Mr Ali had “campaigned remorselessly against electoral fraud” in recent years.
The Electoral Commission confirmed that such a conviction would not prevent someone from standing for office, providing it was more than five years old. The other candidates fighting for the Bradford Moor seat on Bradford Council are Riaz Ahmed (Lib Dem), Mohammed Shafiq (Lab) and Mohammed Tunveer (Con).