Kent

Photo shows Thanet councillor Iris Johnston 'helping' voter

Iris Johnston (right) standing beside a constituent in a polling booth Image copyright PAul messenger
Image caption Iris Johnston (right) can be seen standing next to a voter in a polling booth in Margate

A former council leader photographed standing next to an elderly constituent in a polling booth during the election insists she "did nothing wrong".

The picture of Thanet Labour councillor Iris Johnston was taken in Margate by her defeated Conservative rival candidate Paul Messenger.

"It concerned me that Iris was actually going into the voting area, right up to the booth, with this lady," he said.

Mrs Johnston said she had been given permission to help the frail lady vote.

"I did nothing wrong. The presiding officer and the staff nodded me through, and the only comment made was that I shouldn't mark the papers, and of course I wouldn't.

"I have really strict rules for myself and others about this," she said.

Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption Iris Johnston said she had done nothing wrong and had the permission of polling staff

But Mr Messenger, who was also standing in the North Thanet ward of Margate Central, said he believed Mrs Johnston's actions were wrong "regardless of how the lady may be voting".

The voter pictured has told the BBC that the Labour councillor did not influence her vote or interfere in any way.

There has been no comment from Thanet District Council.

The Electoral Commission said anyone was allowed to assist a voter at the polling booth as long as they have the permission of the person and the presiding officer, and they are an elector. They must also sign a written declaration.

However, the commission has previously said it "strongly advises against any form of photography taken inside a polling station".

Mrs Johnston was leader of Thanet District Council up until last week's local elections, which saw it lose control to UKIP.

UKIP won 33 seats, Conservatives 18, Labour four, and independents one - 29 seats were needed for a majority.

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