Kiwi votes too late for UK election

Britain's beleaguered election officials face more criticism after it emerged eligible voters living in New Zealand missed out on casting their ballot.

The British High Commission has confirmed delays in air mail because of the Icelandic volcanic eruption meant voting papers did not arrive in New Zealand in time.

Anger is growing in the UK over the shambolic close to the election. Voters were unable to cast their votes when polling booths shut at 10pm.

Latest results show the Conservative Party with 306 seats, the governing Labour Party with 258 seats and the Liberal Democrats holding the balance of power with a critical 57 seats.

Conservative leader David Cameron approached the Liberal Democrats for a power-sharing meeting after falling 20 seats short of a majority.

After a one-hour discussion, a senior Conservative said: "We've had an initial meeting. That's all there is to say at the moment."

Cameron had promised an "all-party committee of inquiry on political and electoral reform".

However, he has not gone as far as meeting Liberal Democrat demands for a referendum on changing the voting system.

Labour leader Gordon Brown also said he was willing to talk to Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, although no meeting had taken place.

Clegg said the Conservatives had "first right" to attempt to form a Government.

The UK electoral commission has launched a major review following an outcry over the closure of polling booths with queues of people still waiting to cast their votes.

Among those who missed out were the 200,000-plus British adults living in New Zealand. British High Commission staff in New Zealand and Australia have confirmed a large number of registered voters were unable to vote.

Voting papers were printed by April 23 - and posted to those living abroad to vote and return by mail. But air mail to New Zealand was delayed after the closure of European airspace following the Icelandic volcano eruption.

Meanwhile, Britain's highest-ranking civil servant, Sir Gus O'Donnell, revealed that he had turned to New Zealand's Cabinet Manual for guidance as the prospect of a hung Parliament loomed.

O'Donnell has already been criticised by Cameron's Conservative Party after he offered advice that stemmed from the New Zealand rulebook.

He was accused of overstepping his legal bounds by stating that he accepted a delay in the return of Parliament might be necessary to allow coalition talks.

In an article, O'Donnell wrote that when seeking guidance on the function of central government "we are taking our lead from New Zealand, which published its Cabinet Manual in 2008".

- Herald on Sunday

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