In Depth

Tory leadership race: what’s behind latest ballot paper ‘cock-up’?

Activists fear some Conservative Party members could miss out on chance to vote

The Conservative Party has set up an emergency hotline for its members amid reports that a significant number have not received their postal ballots for the ongoing leadership election.

The embarrassing mix-up comes shortly after it emerged that some Conservative members have been sent more than one ballot paper. Members have until 22 July to cast their vote on whether Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt should be the next Conservative leader and prime minister, with the result due to be announced the following day.

But according to The Daily Telegraph, the grass-roots Campaign for Conservative Democracy (CDC) is claiming that some Tory members have “inadvertently lost their right to vote” after being denied ballots as a result of an administrative “cock-up” over party membership fees.

CDC chair John Strafford says his group raised concerns after hearing of “a number of problems regarding credit card renewals and standing orders”.

A source from within the Conservative Party told the newspaper: “The main issue has been people getting in touch to say, ‘My membership has lapsed and I have not noticed’, because we don't automatically renew memberships - they have to opt into that. Another problem has been that members failed to update their regular standing order.”

The party has set up a “membership hotline”, with a “special team working round the clock to resolve where there have been issues”, the source said.

Earlier this month, the BBC reported that party insiders estimated that more than 1,000 people could have received multiple voting forms by error. Those affected are believed to include people who live and work in different constituencies and have joined local Conservative Associations in both, or others who have changed their name.

Senior Tories have “called for action” to prevent members sent more than one ballot paper from voting multiple times, reports the Aol. news site. The party has warned that any members caught voting more than once will be expelled.

Former cabinet minister Sir Patrick McLoughlin, who is chairing Hunt’s leadership campaign,  admitted to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he had received two ballot papers, as he is on two separate registers. 

But he added: “It’s made very clear on the ballot paper that you are only allowed to vote once. I expect Conservative members to follow that.”

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