Blackburn Labour council election candidate arrested ‘on suspicion of electoral fraud and integrity issues’
QUESTIONED: Quesir Mahmood was held by police for seven hours
LABOUR council election candidate Quesir Mahmood has been arrested and bailed ‘on suspicion of electoral fraud and integrity issues’.
The 38-year-old, who was held by police for seven hours on Monday, is contesting the Wensley Fold ward in Blackburn previously represented by the party’s general election candidate for the town Kate Hollern.
He has now been suspended from the Labour Party pending the outcome of the police investigation.
A 48-year-old man was also arrested, and both have now been released on police bail until June 4.
A police spokeswoman confirmed that the Monday arrests were made in connection with postal voting. Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Pendle and Hyndburn boroughs are on a list of 15 areas subject to strict monitoring by the UK’s Electoral Commission over fears of election fraud, particularly involving postal voting.
A Lancashire police spokesman said: “At around 2.30pm on Monday a 38-year-old Blackburn man was arrested on suspicion of electoral fraud and integrity issues in the Wensley Fold area of the town.
“He has been released on police bail until June 4 pending further investigations.”
Yesterday a spokesman for the Labour Party North West said: “The Labour Party takes adherence to the Electoral Commission’s code of conduct very seriously.
“The individual has been suspended pending the outcome of any police investigation.”
Labour’s Blackburn agent Phil Riley said: “The Labour North-West statement is the statement. There will be no other statement.”
Mr Mahmood was unavailable for comment.
Although the Labour Party declined to officially name Mr Mahmood as the man arrested, several sources confirmed his identity.
In 2014, interim borough leader Cllr Mohammed Khan won the seat from Tory Ghulam Sabir by 1,246 votes.
Mr Mahmood’s only opponent on May 7 is Conservative Mr Sabir.
Tory general election candidate for Blackburn Bob Eastwood said: “Clearly the man in question has not been convicted of anything but this arrest has brought a cloud of suspicion over elections in Blackburn.”
As nominations have now been received and confirmed Mr Mahmood will remain the official Labour candidate despite his suspension from Party office but if elected he will immediately become an independent councillor until police and Labour Party investigations have been concluded.
His biography on Blackburn Labour Party’s website reads: “I am married with four children who are all at schools/university. I attended Beardwood High school, and gained my BTEC National Diploma at Blackburn College.
“Since graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University with a degree in Applied Sciences I have worked in the pharmaceutical industry, and my current role is as a project manager for MSD UK Ltd. I have been active within the voluntary sector for over 15 years, and I am a member of the East Lancashire Hospitals Trust.
“Having grown up in the Wensley Fold area, I have a real passion to give something back to the community. I already know a lot of people in Wensley Fold and have a good understanding of the needs of the whole community.”
Blackburn with Darwen council had no comment to make on behalf of borough chief executive Harry Catherall, who is returning officer for both parliamentary and local elections in Blackburn.