Controversial online voting system was bought by Labour Party without any competitive tendering
An online voting system used by the Labour Party was bought from a Croydon-based business with no proper tendering process, it is alleged.
“Anonyvoter” has been subject of a series of criticisms from CLPs – Constituency Labour Parties – across the country, according to a report on left-leaning website Skwawkbox. The software was developed by Henson IT Solutions, a company run by Croydon councillor Maddie Henson and her husband, Mark.
Maddie Henson is the current Mayor of Croydon.
Skawkbox’s report suggests that the decision to award the contract to the Hensons may be linked to David Evans, the party’s General Secretary. It also reports that members of the ruling National Executive Committee say that they had almost no information about the decision to switch to Anonyvoter.
As previously reported by Inside Croydon, Evans’ own Croydon-based business, The Campaign Company, benefited from contracts worth hundreds of thousands of pounds awarded by his mates at the local council following their win in the 2014 local elections – in which Evans, a former adviser to Tony Blair, had helped the campaign. TCC was also often hired for its consultancy work by the council-owned house-builders, Brick by Brick.
Maddie Henson, the sales director of Henson IT Solutions, was approached by Skawkbox over her company’s deal with the Labour Party. They report that she said that “the process was Labour’s business and was the party’s ‘normal procurement’.”
But she confirmed that there had been no competitive tender process:
“We had conversations, we proposed a contract and they accepted it, that’s how it works,” Henson is reported to have said.
Skwawkbox reports that there have been a series of problems for CLP officials using Anonyvoter, which it says requires multiple attempts to get ballots to members and appears to limit the number of members who can take part.
“These problems have forced some CLPs to resort to after-meeting voting because of the extra time it takes to get ballots out and votes cast,” Skwakbox reports. “The system was introduced in September 2020, without much explanation as to why the previous voting platform had been replaced.”
In nearby Streatham CLP, nearly 70 members have written a letter of complaint to Evans over the way in which their local party’s annual meeting was handled earlier this month. Dozens of members – many of them black – were blocked from participating in the votes taking place at the meeting, using the Anonyvoter system, “which has disenfranchised local members”.
Maddie Henson has been a firm supporter of Tony Newman, the discredited former council leader who has been suspended from the party because of allegations over his part in the council’s financial collapse.
It was Newman whose influence would have been strong in 2019 when the decision was taken to make Henson deputy mayor with a view to becoming Mayor of Croydon for 2020-2021, receiving £21,435 “special responsibility allowance” for what is a largely ceremonial role.
Henson’s loyalty towards Newman and his mates appeared unwavering, even after he resigned as council leader. Henson took part in a recent Croydon Central CLP meeting, held before Newman’s suspension, to vote with the ex-leader against a motion of no confidence in party leader Sir Keir Starmer and his hand-picked appointee, Evans.
Having first been elected to the council in 2014 for what was then Ashburton ward, in 2018 Henson helped to lose Labour one council seat, in the reconfigured two-seat Addiscombe East ward, where Jeet Bains was elected for the Tories.
According to local Labour sources, Maddie Henson, 33, has made little secret that she would like to stand for re-election to the council in 2022 with husband and business partner Mark Henson, 50, as her Labour running mate in the Addiscombe East ward. They must hope that no Labour members are “disenfranchised” when it comes to their selection meeting later this year.
Read more: Newman and Hall resign as councillors claiming a ‘witchhunt’
Read more: Evans appointment to Labour top job ‘could tear party apart’
Read more: Grassroots Labour Party members in calls to sack David Evans
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