The Mayor of Oldham has said that more must be done to increase voter turnout following the local elections, despite criticism of the postal vote from UKIP.
Mayor Ateeque Ur-Rehman, who kept his Medlock Vale seat last Thursday, said that the council must work harder to get more people to the polling stations.
The Medlock Vale ward saw a turnout of 33.45%, an average figure for the town.
“We should be looking at measures to increase turnout,” Ateeque told MM.
“It could be a mixture of postal votes and, these days, technology.
“Perhaps trying to use email or mobile phones to enable people to use their vote would be something that is worth looking into.”
Such measures may prove controversial in the area however, after some very public criticism of the postal vote system by senior figures in UKIP, including Leader Nigel Farage and Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall.
Nuttall said that the postal vote allowed dominant members of households to vote more than once – using the votes of others in the house as their own.
Ateeque, however, believes that such allegations are ‘baseless’ and accused UKIP of trying to manipulate the voting system themselves.
“I don’t think they have done their research,” he said.
“We work every year to try to make it better.
“Although every system is open to some kind of fraud, but I don’t think believe that it is that wide in scale.
“UKIP is known for trying to blame any problems on one community to try to gain votes from another community.
“To use people’s languages or lack of English against them is very sinister.”
Ateeque, who moved to Oldham from Pakistan in 1978, was also upbeat about the performance of the Labour Party in Manchester, in spite of some doubts cast on the party nationally.
He insisted that the Labour Party’s continued strength in the Greater Manchester area, where they currently hold a majority in eight of the ten districts, is a positive sign and not – as some have claimed – a lack of diversity in representation.
“I think it represents the way people feel that Labour is their voice,” he said.
“They feel hard done to by the Conservative Party, who they feel are more interested in the south.”
The mayor also applauded Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the anti-Semitism row that has escalated within the Labour over the past weeks.
“I don’t think there is any room for this kind of thing in the Labour Party,” he said.
“The reason I joined the Labour Party was because it believed in equality and opportunity.
“I don’t think it’s as widespread as it’s been made out to be, but any form of anti-Semitism should be stamped out and I support Jeremy Corbyn and the party in the steps they have taken.”
Ateeque’s comfortable re-election will mean that he will continue working alongside his wife, Councillor Yasmin Toor – a prospect that he seemed very pleased with, joking that it was the only chance they got to spend together.
“She’s absolutely delighted, she’s been working very hard with me,” he said.
“She’s been really active in campaigning and yes, she will be delighted.
“When I was in politics and was working full time, it was always hit and miss because, mostly, meetings are in the evenings whereas this way we go to the meetings together.”
Image courtesy of IslamForTheUmmah, via YouTube, with thanks.