“Consultation on new offence of intimidating Parliamentary candidates and campaigners”

What happened to the “rough and tumble” of electioneering?

Owl fears we are going the way of the USA where no criticism of the ruling party (sorry, person) is tolerated. And where some politicians only seem to have thin skins when their rivals challenge them …..


One thought on ““Consultation on new offence of intimidating Parliamentary candidates and campaigners”

  1. Having read the consultation document, I find it incredibly worrying because of its ability to stifle debate.

    Indeed, the Owl and myself were both accused by Hugo Swire immediately after the 2017 election of “being vile and libellous”. Our assertion is that we were using a combination of facts and on-the-record statements made by Mr Swire to demonstrate contradictions between his words and deed and ask him to justify them. At no time do I believe that we were either vile or libellous. Instead I believe that we were simply attempting to hold him to account for his words and deeds – accountability being a core principle of democracy.

    Indeed, at the time I challenged Hugo Swire to put-up or shut-up by taking me to court for libel if he genuinely felt that I had libelled him – but apparently he did not have the evidence to allow him to do that and presumably felt that my justification of my words in open court would simply bring them even more to the public’s attention.

    In the absence of Hugo providing any evidence of me being libellous, his accusations themselves may have been potentially libellous against me. How ironic is that?


    My point is this:

    1. The recommendations of the Committee for Standards in Public Life were absolute that no new offences should be created, but instead that the law should be slightly strengthened during elections so that anyone who would be found guilty of intimidation under existing laws during an election would be barred from standing themselves for 5 years. This seems reasonable, though perhaps not a genuine deterrent except to stop the more extreme statements of other political candidates.

    2. Unfortunately the government’s proposed response is completely draconian – to create a new offence with extremely woolly touchy-feely definitions (““words and/or behaviour intended or likely to block or deter participation, which could reasonably lead to an individual wanting to withdraw from public life.”) that would criminalise robust attempts to hold politicians to account using factual information.

    Under this definition, all it will take for a candidate to silence his critics is to say it is deterring him from public life, and that would immediately criminalise his critics. Under this legislation, calling me “vile and libellous” (regardless of whether it was true or not) would make me automatically guilty. (Ironically, it also seems to be to be quite likely that Hugo’s whinging comments have significantly influenced the government to take this stance. Having called me “vile and libellous” he was apparently too cowardly to try to prove it in court, but instead went whingeing to his friends-in-high-places who have now created this proposal to gag political critics in case they hurt politicians feelings.)

    If accountability is a core principle of democracy, and the Government Proposals in this document are going to stifle accountability, then these proposals are fundamentally anti-democratic and wrong, and should be resisted.

    IMO there needs to be a far more objective and robust definition of intimidation which allows robust factual criticism regardless of whether politicians like it or not. If being held accountable deters politicians from being in public life, then I think that is actually a good thing – because being held accountable is a fundamental part of public life, and if you don’t want to to be held accountable then you shouldn’t be there. (Hugo Swire please take note.)


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