Conservative leadership vote delayed as GCHQ warns of fraud risk

Plans to allow members to change their votes have been abandoned over security fears

 Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss in the BBC leadership debate at Victoria Hall, Stoke-on-Trent
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss in the BBC leadership debate at Victoria Hall, Stoke-on-Trent
(Image credit: Jeff Overs/BBC via Getty Images)

Ballot papers for the Conservative leadership election have been delayed after GCHQ warned that hackers could change people’s votes, according to a report.

Members were due to receive a postal ballot with a unique code. They would have been able to vote via post or online and then, if they had a change of heart, amend their vote later.

However, revealed The Telegraph, following advice from the National Cyber Security Centre, part of GCHQ, the Conservative Party has been forced to abandon that plan due to concerns that hackers could interfere with voting.

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In an email sent to party members, seen by the BBC, the Conservative Party said that once the ballot company receives a postal vote, they will deactivate the member’s online codes, “reducing the risk of any fraud”.

The delay in sending out postal ballots means they will arrive at the addresses of about 160,000 Tory members as late as 11 August. They were previously meant to be sent out from Monday.

The Independent noted that this means members will have less than a month to return their votes by the deadline of 2 September for counting before “Boris Johnson’s successor – foreign secretary Liz Truss or former chancellor Rishi Sunak – is announced on Monday 5 September”.

The change of plan comes after Truss extended her lead over Sunak in the Conservative leadership race to 34 points, with 60% of party members now saying they will vote for her. The YouGov poll for The Times and Times Radio found that 26% of members said they would support Sunak. The rest were undecided or said they would not vote.

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