“An election could happen at any time – electoral law needs to be urgently updated”

Owl says: recalling the mess EDDC’s CEO made of past elections (where he “lost” 6,000 voters), and when he was later forced to explain himself (not all that well) to a parliamentary committee:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/10/14/official-transcript-of-eddc-ceo-evidence-to-parliamentary-committee-on-voter-engagement/

this is LONG overdue!

“Last week, the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee published its response to the government’s Online Harms White Paper, where it called for urgent legislation to safeguard future elections. Echoing the ERS’s calls, the committee noted that ‘[w]ere an election or referendum to take place later this year, campaigns would be fought using electoral law that is wholly inadequate for the digital age.’

The government’s long-awaited white paper on online harms was published in April 2019 and offered a package of measures to tackle online harms (e.g. cyberbullying and disinformation) and to regulate internet companies who do not adequately protect their users. This would be achieved by establishing a new statutory duty of care towards users, which would make tech companies responsible for users’ safety online and tackle harm caused by content or activity on their services. Compliance with this duty would be overseen by a new independent regulator. Both the duty of care requirement and the establishment of a regulator were proposals included in the DCMS committee’s Final Report on Disinformation and ‘fake news’.

While it welcomed the (limited) measures proposed to tackle disinformation, in its response the DCMS committee said it was ‘disappointed’ with the ‘scant focus’ the white paper paid to the urgent changes that are needed around electoral interference and online political advertising.

In particular, the committee said that the measures included in the white paper to tackle digital campaigning were limited and did not address the committee’s recommendations on creating a category for digital spending on campaigns (currently parties and campaigners do not need to provide a breakdown of online spend) and a searchable public repository where information on political advertising material would be available.

The committee also lamented the fact that white paper did not acknowledge the risks of foreign investments in elections or the role and power of unpaid campaigns and Facebook groups in influencing elections and referendums. Regarding the first point, the committee will be taking further evidence this month on how anti-money laundering regulations may be adapted to digital campaigning, particularly given the use of online payment systems such as PayPal.

Despite the government’s commitment to extending imprints (disclosures stating who paid for and promoted campaign material) to online election material, the committee voiced concern about ‘how long it may take in practice for digital imprints to be enshrined in legislation’ given the government’s lack of urgency in addressing the committee’s other proposals.

The committee is therefore calling for ‘urgent legislation’ to be brought forward at once so as to bring electoral law in line with digital campaigning techniques, particularly with regards to digital imprints, and has asked the government to respond by 24 July with a commitment on this.

Most of the calls reiterated by the DCMS committee in their report on the online harms white paper have also been made by the ERS and our contributors in our report on online campaign regulation, Reining in the Political ‘Wild West’: Campaign Rules for the 21st Century, namely:

  • Extending the imprint requirement to online campaign materials and improving how campaigners report funding and spending.
  • Creating a single online database of political adverts, which would be publicly available and easily searchable.
  • Ensuring that those charged with enforcing the rules have sufficient enforcement powers and resources that act as a meaningful deterrent against wrongdoing.
  • Establishing a statutory code of practice for political parties and campaignersaround online campaigning and the use of personal data.
  • Comprehensively reviewing our electoral law, ensuring that it is updated and future-proofed for the digital age.

Protecting the integrity of our elections and referendums is vital to ensuring public confidence in our democratic processes, and we welcome the DCMS committee’s calls for updating our outdated campaign rules. We hope the government will tackle this unregulated online Wild West with the urgency it deserves.”

An election could happen at any time – electoral law needs to be urgently updated

“The way in which East Devon District Council is run could be changing” [HURRAH!]

Owl promises to stop using the phrase TiggerTories (the close working relationship between current and past Tories and The Independent Group led by Ben Ingham and which excludes the East Devon Alliance and Lib Dens) if this ever happens!!!

And note that officers are already suggesting “hybrid systems” – gosh, they MUST be scared that a committee system will weaken their powers!

“A review into the governance arrangements of East Devon District Council is set to take place.

The leader of the council, Cllr Ben Ingham, had promised to fully consider alternative arrangements to the current leader and cabinet system as a condition of the support from the East Devon Alliance when they seconded his nomination to become leader at the annual council meeting in May.

Wednesday night’s cabinet meeting saw them unanimously agree that the overview committee should carry out that review.

Cllr Paul Arnott, leader of the East Devon Alliance, told Wednesday’s meeting it was a very welcome development.

He said: “This idea didn’t come from me but came from Ben who in 2015 made it a principal of his manifesto when he was the East Devon Alliance leader to abolish the cabinet and bring in the committee system. The proposals are potentially excellent but the devil is in the detail.”

“When the governance arrangements changed it was with the quid pro quo that the scrutiny function worked. But the scrutiny function has been a eunuch function in East Devon as many suggestions and motions have been refused or ignored by officers. In my view, the cabinet system is not working because scrutiny is not working.”

He said there were two winkles of the recommendation that concerned him though, as one was that the report from overview would come back to the cabinet, so it would be like ‘turkeys voting for Christmas’. He was also worried about the ‘due course’ wording as any decision on governance changes can only be made at the annual council meeting.

Cllr Paul Millar, portfolio holder for transformation, said that it was important that the recommendations did come back in time for the next annual council in May 2020. He added: “This review needs to be done fairly and to establish the rationale for change and if the preferred solution will deliver a satisfactory outcome and, if so, at what cost would it do so.”

The report of Henry Gordon Lennox, Strategic Lead Governance & Licensing & Monitoring Officer, said that if the council did agree to change to either an elected Mayor and Cabinet system, or committee structure, then they would be forced to stick with the change for the next five years.

His report added that there are also hybrid options where elements of the cabinet and committee system could be combined that the council could adopt, but it is the view of officers that it is for Members to determine why the necessity for change and to establish what the objective of the governance arrangements should be.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/way-east-devon-district-council-3082739

“Tory leadership chaos as party members may not be able to vote for their next leader”

Owl says: if they can’t get this simple thing right, what hope for the country!

And will the Electoral Commission intervene?

“The Conservative leadership election has descended into chaos as furious members were told they face the prospect of being unable to vote for their next leader due to problems at the party’s headquarters.

Membership issues at Conservative Central Headquarters have meant hundreds of members have not received their ballot papers to cast their votes in the battle between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

It comes just days after it emerged around 1,000 voters had been sent two ballot papers meaning they would be able to vote twice, raising doubts over the legitimacy of the election process.

Voting chaos

i has been told CCHQ staff have been forced to set up an Appeals Committee, which is holding meetings twice daily and working weekends, in a bid to work through the backlog of complaints.

According to John Hutchinson, a Tory member from Colchester who has not received a ballot paper, officials are struggling to manage having received 20,000 unique calls from members complaining about the handling of the leadership contest in just three weeks.

Mr Hutchinson, 75, who worked in the financial services before retiring, said he was told members’ details were lost after the party headquarters centralised their membership database.

“As a member I am pretty pissed off. Not only have we been told we will not receive a ballot paper, there is also the issue of the party losing members’ details, which is a major breach of new GDPR rules,” he said.

“It makes the legitimacy of the ballot very dodgy. How many more members have not got their ballot paper if the database is in such a mess?”

He was told there were more than 100 complaints from members who had not received ballot papers ahead of his own. It is unclear how many members have not received their voting slips.

Mr Hutchinson said he had written to the Information Commissioner about the handling of his and his wife’s personal details.

Another member said party officials were referring to today as the “date of high concern” as it is the latest that ballot papers could arrive in time for members to vote.

Senior party officials had expected around 60 per cent of voters to have sent back their ballot papers by Monday, but one Tory MP told i the number is much lower, suggesting members are holding back on voting.

‘You have to wonder what takes so long’

Kevin Edger, 31, was forced to contact his local constituency office in Bridgend and the Tory party HQ after his ballot paper failed to arrive.

He said he was told by party officials that 11 July is the “absolute cut-off for when it should be with me”.

The party said this date was several days after when it “should” have arrived and after this it would be a matter of “high concern”.

“You do have to wonder what takes so long,” he said. “I am going away soon so I need that ballot.”

Dillon Brown, 24, a student from Wakefield, was looking forward to voting for Boris Johnson to be the next leader but, without his ballot paper, he will be unable to do so.

“I am tempted to say this ballot could have been organised better,” he said. “It would be really quite concerning if they [ballot papers] aren’t getting out to everybody.”

Alison Morton, a 67-year-old author who lives in a village near Thouars, western France, said she is concerned the French postal system could be partly to blame for her lack of voting card.

“I’ve commented on Conservatives Abroad Facebook page and emailed the chair and the membership department,” she said. “I expect they are all very busy, but I want to make sure I participate.”

Some former members have received ballot papers despite cancelling their subscription to the party before the leadership race began.
Tory MP David Morris, who is a Jeremy Hunt supporter, told i: “There seems to be a glitch in the system at CCHQ. We have already seen some members being sent ballot papers twice, but I don’t think it’s a conspiracy.”

It follows news revealed by i in May that CCHQ is struggling to pay its rent with the party’s chief executive Sir Mick Davis bankrolling day to day operations after donors fled due to Theresa May’s handling of Brexit.

Ballot papers were sent to around 160,000 Conservative Party members around the UK to choose between Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt as their next leader as well as the country’s next prime minister.

Voting closes on 22 July, with the result announced the following day.

CCHQ has been contacted for comment.”

Tory leadership chaos as party members may not be able to vote for their next leader

Both our MPs backed “also rans” for PM – what now?

Swire was Raab’s campaign manager – Raab was knocked out of the race.
Parish backed old coke-snorter Gove, who is also out of the race.

So who will they back now?

Both started off as Remainers and switched to Brexit (they can change their minds, we can’t).

Johnson and Swire are both Old Etonians, so that looks a pretty likely match.

Parish left school at 16 to work on the family farm so Bojo AND Hunt, who have no interest in agriculture, will patronise him, if they notice him at all.

Neither of them says anything (much at all) on their websites.

Probably still trying to extricate themselves from the tangled voting webs.

EDDC Ceremonial roles … and naughty councillors

Leader Ben Ingham is on record as saying of his choice of Tory Stuart Hughes as Chairman of the council:

“The Tories are not in our Cabinet whatsoever. They hold the Chair because we felt we needed an experienced Chair to make sure Full Council is run properly. This is a civic appointment only.”

Apparently, there wasn’t a suitable independent (of either faction), including those who have already served for 4+ years in previous councils, that he felt would be able to take on the role of representing the council and chairing some of its meetings. So, it seems like a Catch 22 – you can’t get get the role if you don’t have experience – and you can’t get experience because it needs someone who already has experience, not even watching someone in the role for years and learning from it, so it seems the role might remain Tory forever!

But it ISN’T a purely ceremonial role – the Chairman of the Council also chairs the Standards Committee – the one that taps the wrists of naughty councillors.

Surely that isn’t a “ceremonial role”?

Or maybe now it is!