Kemi Badenoch attacks council over unsent postal ballots

Kemi Badenoch has attacked the local council in her North West Essex seat for having “potentially disenfranchised” thousands of postal voters who have not received their ballots.

The Cabinet minister said up to 2,600 voters were affected by Uttlesford District Council “forgetting” to send them their postal votes.

Writing on X on polling day, Ms Badenoch said: “Five years ago, all but four Conservatives on Uttlesford council were voted out. People wanted ‘Change’. Instead, they got ‘Change for the WORSE’, electing an independent residents group who ran a blame-the-Tories campaign.

“The community is now saddled with a council leadership unable to carry out basic functions competently…

“Now they’ve potentially disenfranchised up to 2,600 postal voters by FORGETTING to send them their ballot papers.”

On Thursday, the council said packs had been sent out by the end of last week and a majority of 2,688 postal votes had been successfully returned.

The exact number of ballots returned will be published by the council after the count in the interests of transparency, it said.

The council’s chief executive, Peter Holt, had last week said he was “mortified” and apologised for the error.

He said the council had been delivering postal ballots by hand in a bid to resolve the matter, but warned a close result on election night could be challenged if a large proportion are not returned.

There is speculation this could thwart any bid by Ms Badenoch to stand in a Tory leadership contest.

If she wins her seat by a narrow margin, Labour could challenge the result and demand a re-run.

This could result in a by-election, with Ms Badenoch not considered an MP until its conclusion and therefore prevented from running in a Conservative Party leadership race.

Ms Badenoch is seen as a frontrunner to replace Rishi Sunak should he lead the Conservatives to defeat.

Having won a 27,594 majority in Saffron Walden in 2019, she is fighting for re-election in the redrawn North West Essex seat.