Tories' legal fight after Labour declared the winner in local election
Tories’ legal fight after Labour is declared the winner in local election results gaffe — and the accidental victor is refusing to step down for the real Conservative champion
- Julie Green, Conservative councillor for Nelson, was robbed of her win
- Patricia Hannah-Wood, Labour, was mistakenly read out and won’t step down
- READ MORE: Britain could well be heading for seismic electoral reform
A local election result is set to be decided in court after officials accidentally announced victory for a Labour candidate, who now refuses to step down for the real Tory winner.
Julie Green, a Conservative councillor for the Lancashire town of Nelson, was robbed of her electoral win eight days ago after the name of her Labour rival, Patricia Hannah-Wood, was mistakenly read out.
Officials quickly realised their error and apologised – but a legal quirk meant the declaration could not be changed. And instead of acknowledging the mistake and standing down, Ms Hannah-Wood celebrated her fake victory.
Now only a legal challenge can reverse the result, which Tories say will take up to six months and cost local taxpayers more than £10,000.
‘You can’t make these things up. I am flabbergasted,’ said Mrs Green. ‘It’s not democracy when somebody steals your seat. I can’t understand why somebody would behave so immorally. If you know you’ve lost, you have to accept it.’
A local election result is set to be decided in court after officials accidentally announced victory for a Labour candidate, who now refuses to step down for the real Tory winner (File image)
Tory councillor Kieran McGladdery who witnessed the bungled announcement, said: ‘It was an extremely unfortunate mistake caused by fatigue and tiredness.
‘We could see the piles of paperwork as they were counting the votes, and the blue pile was visibly larger than the red pile,’ he said.
He told The Mail on Sunday that when officials declared a Labour victory, ‘somebody ran to the front and said [the announcement] was wrong. The incorrect results were written on the slip of paper.’
Rose Rouse, Pendle Borough Council’s chief executive who announced the result as returning officer, rushed off to get legal advice. ‘She came back and said the declaration was a legal statement and it was too late to reverse it,’ Mr McGladdery said.
Labour has the majority on Nelson Town Council and this ward, Marsden West, would not have changed that. But the Conservatives were still furious at Labour.
‘They didn’t give a monkey’s. They were whooping and hollering, celebrating wildly, as if they had actually won,’ McGladdery said. ‘Pat was there with other Labour members. They said: ‘We’re keeping the result, it’s your problem’.’
Julie Green, a Conservative councillor for the Lancashire town of Nelson, was robbed of her electoral win eight days ago after the name of her Labour rival, Patricia Hannah-Wood, was mistakenly read out. Pictured: Labour leader Keir Starmer (left) and Tory leaders Rishi Sunak (right)
Fury mounted last week when Ms Hannah-Wood attended a town council meeting and put herself forward for three committee roles. On social media, locals labelled the power grab as ‘Machiavellian’.
The Mail on Sunday tried to reach Ms Hannah-Wood but she was unavailable for comment. However, another Labour councillor, Yvonne Tennant, said: ‘All I know is that the returning officer made the announcement and apparently that is legally standing. As far as I know, nobody’s approached Pat.’
Ms Hannah-Wood, who is transgender, hit the headlines two years ago when she told Labour Party conference about being targeted with transphobic abuse in the women’s toilets while attending the event in Brighton.
Pendle Council admitted the mix-up was ‘a simple human error’ and apologised, but confirmed the result can now only be challenged with a court hearing. Electoral law says declarations are ‘final and cannot be amended’, but returning officers can correct any error in their announcement, ‘provided it is done immediately’.
Electoral Commission spokeswoman Orla Hennessy said: ‘The council would need to confirm why it wasn’t immediately corrected.’
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