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Gangster politics claim denied.

Claims Labour supporters intimidated voters at polling stations in marginal inner city wards at last week's Birmingham council elections have been rejected by the party's senior West Midlands official.

Ian Reilly, the regional director, said allegations by Tariq Khan, deputy leader of the city council Liberal Democrat group, were unsubstantiated.

Councillor Khan (Lib Dem Washwood Heath) hit out this week at what he called "gangster politics", with widespread use of the Asian biraderi clan system to put pressure on family members to vote Labour.

He accused Labour of placing up to 10 supporters at polling stations, contravening a council code of conduct stating no more than two members of a political party should canvass electors as they go to vote.

But Mr Reilly hit back, pointing out no complaints from the Lib Dems about misbehaviour in Washwood Heath were received.

He added: "The latest Lib Dem allegations can't be serious. If there were problems at polling stations in Washwood Heath on polling day why didn't they report them at the time?

There is no record of such complaints because they didn't make them. One of our staff even spoke to the Lib Dem full-time organiser on polling day and he raised no concerns with us of any sort at any point during the whole day."

Mr Reilly accused the Liberal Democrats of inventing a "smokescreen" to disguise the party's shortcomings.

Coun Khan's intervention was designed to draw attention away from the recent Aston election court hearing in which a judge severely criticised the behaviour of Liberal Democrat councillor Ayoub Khan and candidate Saeed Aehmed, Mr Reilly claimed.

Mr Reilly said: "Birmingham Post readers can doubtless see through the smokescreen put up by the Lib-Dems over the numerous questions that have arisen about Ayoub Khan. After the Aston election court case in March, the Lib Dems said they would appoint a panel of inquiry. Weeks have passed and there's been no action."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 10, 2008
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