Five Conservative Party supporters in Bradford, including two former councillors, have been jailed for a combined total of nearly eight years for attempting to rig the voting system in the run-up to a General Election.

Former Tory councillors Reis Khan and Jamshed Khan, together with Mohammed Sultan, Mohammed Rafiq and Alyas Khan conspired in a plot to use fraudulent postal votes with the aim of getting “their man”, Haroon Rashid, elected to the marginal Bradford West seat in the 2005 General Election.

Mr Rashid, who was beaten by 3,026 votes by winning candidate Labour’s Marsha Singh, was cleared in February last year of conspiring to defraud Bradford Council’s registration officer over applications to vote by post.

But yesterday at Leeds Crown Court five other men were imprisoned for electoral offences that, in Judge Robert Bartfield’s view, threatened to “contaminate” the country’s democratic foundations and render those principles “worthless.”

Jamshed Khan, 65, of Russell Street, and Reis Khan, 40, of Whetley Hill, both received 21-month prison sentences, as did Mohammed Sultan, 52, of Toller Lane, and Mohammed Rafiq, 70, of Cecil Avenue, Great Horton.

Alyas Khan, 51, of Hilton Road, who was described in court as a treasurer for the local Conservative association, was given a reduced prison sentence of 11 months in recognition of his guilty plea.

Addressing the conspirators directly, Judge Bartfield said: “Each of you joined an organised campaign to rig the voting system so as to enable false votes to be cast.”

He said the “harvesting” of votes took various different forms, including the registration of people as voters who in some cases did not even exist, the submission of Postal Voting Applications for people who no longer lived at premises and the use of empty premises as false addresses.

Judge Bartfield said the five conspirators had been involved in 213 false postal vote applications as part of a “greater enterprise” involving more than 900 false applications from at least 50 different authors in the run up to the 2005 election.

Judge Bartfield said: “If the press had not intervened in May 2005, the scheme would have continued to the submission of the votes themselves. It was a conspiracy cut off before its serious consequence could be achieved.”

The Judge told Rafiq he should be “ashamed of himself” for “inducing” his 18-year-old daughter to assist him in filling out some of the 114 postal vote applications he forged.

In mitigation, legal representatives for the five men put forward a range of arguments as to why sentences should be reduced or suspended, including previous good character and their roles as heads of their respective families and the fact the case had taken five years, with the “exceptional delay” putting massive strain on the men.

But Judge Bartfield concluded: “This case is so serious that, whatever has been said about you as individuals, there has to be an immediate custodial sentence.

“Our way of life in this country is based on democracy. If the electoral system is contaminated by corruption and fraud, it would be rendered worthless.”