COMPLAINTS have been lodged over the ballot which saw a London barrister chosen to defend Dr Brian Iddon's Bolton South-east seat at the next general election.

And Kevin Meagher, the man beaten into second place by winning candidate Yasmin Qureshi, wants a re-run of the election to replace Dr Iddon, who will step down before the next election.

Ms Qureshi, who would become the first Muslim woman in Parliament if elected, won 104 votes, in the ballot at the end of August, with Mr Meagher on 84.

But the Harper Green, Little Lever and Kearsley Labour Party branches complained to the regional office over alleged problems with the postal vote.

Dixon Green, and Farnworth and Kearsley Labour clubs have also complained.

Mr Meagher claims that because ballot papers went out a week late, some members who went on holiday may have been denied a vote.

Of the constituency's 242 members, Mr Meagher said 119 had applied for a postal vote, while at least another 10 were issued with an emergency postal vote. But he said 144 ballot papers were printed and wants to know what happened to the "spare" forms.

Mr Meagher said: "There are many unanswered questions about the selection process, particularly the way in which the postal vote was conducted.

"The system was, frankly, a disaster with ballot papers going out a week late, members being systematically missed off the list and more ballot papers produced than there were actual members. The whole thing was a mess."

Mr Meagher said he had been pursuing the matter internally for three months but that the party had been "sticking its head in the sand".

He said: "Members, other candidates and not least the voting public have a right to know that everything was transparent and in good order."

Jim Cottam, chairman of the party's Harper Green branch and treasurer of the Dixon Green Labour Club, said: "We are not happy with the way the postal ballot was run. There are four people I know of who did not get ballot papers."

A Labour Party spokesman said the regional officials would meet organisers of the ballot, including procedures secretary Cllr Ismael Ibrahim, later this week.

He said that if they had "major concerns" the matter would be passed to the party's National Executive Committee.

Ms Qureshi said the issue was an "internal party matter" and did not wish to comment.