Conservative Party leadership race: Members to receive delayed ballots over security fears
The Conservative Party has delayed sending out ballot papers ahead of its upcoming leadership election over security concerns.
On the advice of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of GCHQ, the party has made changes to its process, following warnings that hackers could change members’ votes.
Under the party’s original system, members would be able to vote but change their decision while the ballot remained open.
Now, a unique code will be provided which will only allow one, unchangeable vote.
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The ballots had been due to be sent out from Monday, but could now arrive as late as Thursday, August 11.
A Conservative Party spokesman said: “We have consulted with the NCSC throughout this process and have decided to enhance security around the ballot process.
“Eligible members will start receiving ballot packs this week.”
A message sent to members said if they wish to vote online they will have to enter their single-use code and fill in security questions.
Alternatively, members can opt to vote by sending in their ballot via post. Once their entry has been received their online codes will be deactivated, reducing the risk of any fraud.
The message also warned that "it is an offence to vote more than once", and that "any member found to have voted more than once will have their Party membership withdrawn".
“Defending UK democratic and electoral processes is a priority for the NCSC and we work closely with all parliamentary political parties, local authorities and MPs to provide cyber security guidance and support," an NCSC spokesman added.
“As you would expect from the UK’s national cyber security authority, we provided advice to the Conservative Party on security considerations for online leadership voting.”
Former Conservative Party treasurer, Lord Cruddas of Shoreditch, who has been campaigning to keep Boris Johnson in as prime minister, said the leadership contest should be suspended as a result of the cyber security concerns.
In a letter to the party’s board, he said members should then be given a vote on whether to accept Mr Johnson’s resignation.
“If the members vote to keep Boris then there is no need for a leadership campaign and no more cyber security threats,” he said.
The development comes as Rishi Sunak appears to have conceded ground in the Tory leadership battle.
A new poll by YouGov has seen Liz Truss increase her lead over Mr Sunak to 34 points.
Its survey - conducted between July 29 and August 2 - found that 60% of the party members polled intend to vote for the Foreign Secretary.
Her figures are up from 49% since the period July 20 to 21, while support for Mr Sunak has dropped from 31% to 26% in the same period.
The remainder of the 1,043 Conservative party members polled say they are undecided or will not vote.