“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

Electoral Reform: time for big changes

Some interesting articles:

Punch and Judy politics:

Ending the Punch and Judy show: How to get a more cooperative politics

Make Parliament grow up:

Ending the Politics of Division – How We Can Build a New Democracy after Brexit

Ensure fairness for female politicians:

Euro elections show how Westminster’s first past the post holds back women

Tories for Trumpery? Drafting new law to protect MPs on party overspending

Tories draft law to protect MPs if parties overspend

Conservative ministers are drawing up a new law to protect MPs and party officials from prosecution if their national parties overspend during elections, leaked documents disclose.

It follows the conviction in January of Marion Little, a Tory party organiser from head office, and the acquittal of the MP Craig Mackinlay after they were accused of breaking electoral law as the party fought off a challenge from Nigel Farage in Thanet South. …

Transparency campaigners believe the government’s latest move is an attempt to avoid future prosecutions and would overturn a ruling by the supreme court.

Alexandra Runswick, the director of Unlock Democracy, said a “test of authorisation” would give candidates and party officials another level of defence from prosecution. “Such a move would not appear to be about reinforcing and strengthening electoral law. This would instead protect party candidates and open up the possibility of outspending rivals.”

Plans for a new law have emerged in correspondence seen by the Guardian and sent to cabinet ministers by Kevin Foster, the minister for the constitution.

“Legislation currently requires candidates to account for free or discounted goods or services that are made use of by or on behalf of the candidate. There have been calls to amend this legislation to include a test of authorisation by or on behalf of the candidate,” he wrote.

Foster told members of a cabinet subcommittee that the law on notional expenditure was tested in July when the supreme court ruled that the statutory requirement for an election candidate is to declare notional expenditure incurred on their behalf during a campaign. This might arise where a national party provided additional campaigning support in the constituency and was not limited to authorised campaigning.

Foster wrote: “There is a concern that candidates, their electoral agents and others acting on their behalf could be operating under legal risk. I am seeking the committee’s agreement to announce at an appropriate time that the government is exploring options to clarify the law on notional expenditure to alleviate the concerns highlighted. Any amendments in this area of law would require primary legislation,” he wrote.

Little, who had been employed by Tory campaign headquarters since 1974, was charged with three counts of encouraging or assisting an offence related to the filing of election expenses. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/21/tories-draft-law-protect-mps-party-overspend

Corruption ad poor police investigatillon of it in local elections

The 2014 election victory by Lutfur Rahman in the contest for Mayor of Tower of Hamlets was eventually over-turned for electoral corruption, but police investigations did not result in criminal convictions. The resulting controversy over the police’s actions resulted in Operation Lynemouth: an investigation into what the police did and why.

The final report from Operation Lynemouth is now out, and it is pretty damning:

The policing of the election and the subsequent investigation were deficient in too many areas. There was a lack of corporate responsibility, a lack of training and insufficient resources for the MPS’s special enquiry team’s investigation. We were also concerned that, when another MPS department investigated allegations other than electoral fraud, potential lines of enquiry were disregarded. Furthermore, there was an otherwise uncoordinated approach to all the investigations, with little oversight at a senior officer level for the first year, which meant that opportunities might have been missed.

Scope has also been identified for a new police investigation:

Operation Lynemouth’s investigators have identified avenues of enquiry that can still be explored, and City of London Police has agreed to undertake an independent criminal investigation.”

Operation Lynemouth: final report

Here is the full report”

Click to access Operation-Lynemouth-review-of-police-handling-of-electoral-corruption-allegations-in-Tower-Hamlets.pdf

https://www.markpack.org.uk/157907/operation-lynemouth-tower-hamlets/

Electoral Commission – unfit due to modern loopholes

“Craig Mackinlay, the Conservative MP who was cleared while a senior Conservative official was convicted over election expenses, has some very critical things to say about the Electoral Commission.

Writing for PoliticsHome after his acquittal, the Conservative MP said:

“It is their responsibility to interpret the law into understandable guidance for candidates and agents and have extra-statutory authority to produce guidance and rules to assist the electoral process. During the trial, the prosecution spent days considering the status of personalised and party generic Correx boards. Conservative Party guidance recommends a 4x potential use. If such plastic posters survive defacement or vandalism that characterises many election campaigns, they could last for many years. The Prosecution and Electoral Commission disputed that view, long held by the party. The Electoral Commission publishes not one word of guidance as to how to account for such boards, how to deal with criminal damage and replacements, relying on the vacuous phrase ‘honest assessment’. To face potential criminal conviction with life-changing consequences on the back of scant guidance cannot be right.”

That is but one of a range of details over which the Electoral Commission’s guidance is indeed unhelpful. Sometimes the Electoral Commission has played with being weirdly prescriptive. (I still remember the discussion I had with them about depreciation rules for party rosettes.) Often however it has also – as the above example illustrates – super-cautiously vague.

Part of the problem, I suspect, is that lack of detailed knowledge in the Electoral Commission, an absence of knowledge bizarrely illustrated by its mistakes over pencils:

https://www.markpack.org.uk/143476/indelible-pencils/

A much bigger problem, however, is one that MPs such as Craig Mackinlay share with the Electoral Commission. Even if no-one breaks the law, the rules limiting constituency expenditure have collapsed because so much can now be done that is charged against the much more generous national limit.

What used to be a tight limit on constituency expenditure set by the law is now in effect a massively generous limit set by the size of your bank account. See the full details here:

https://www.markpack.org.uk/130283/internet-speeds-up-the-killing-off-of-expense-controls-in-marginal-seats/

Neither MPs nor regulators have done anything so far other than sit on the sidelines, often apparently oblivious and always unresponsive to this collapse.”

https://www.markpack.org.uk/157315/craig-mackinlay-electoral-commission/

“The government’s voter ID plans are ‘rearranging the deckchairs’ in the face of new threats to our democracy”

“On May 3rd 2018, 350 people were denied a vote in their local council elections. Their crime? Not possessing the right ID. The minister hailed these trials of mandatory voter ID as a ‘success’. The government must have a strange definition of success.

The scheme disenfranchised far more ordinary voters than potential wrongdoers: in a single day across the five councils, twice as many people didn’t vote due to having incorrect ID as have been accused of personation in eight years across the whole of the UK.

Out of 45 million votes last year, there were just 28 allegations of ‘personation’ (only one was solid enough to result in conviction). And yet the government seems determined to pursue voter ID, a policy we now know could cost up to £20 million per general election. This change to how we vote is a marked departure from the trust-based British way of running elections, and with little evidence to justify it.

It’s claimed that mandatory voter ID could boost faith in the democratic process. Yet according to academic research, 99 percent of election staff do not think fraud has occurred in their polling stations. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of the public say they think our polling stations are safe. And studies show that more accessible elections have greater electoral integrity – not the other way round.

The policy of mandatory strict ID presents a significant risk to democratic access and equality. Millions of people lack the strictest forms of required documentation. Documentation that is costly to acquire. It’s one of the reasons why organisations from the Runnymede Trust to the Salvation Army and Stonewall are concerned about these plans. The Windrush scandal earlier this year highlighted exactly the difficulties some legitimate voters could have in accessing identity documents – through no fault of their own.

If mandatory ID were to be rolled out nationally, it could potentially result in tens of thousands of voters being denied a say. And it would hit the already marginalised hardest: poorer C2DE social grade voters were half as likely to say they were aware of the ID requirements before the trials this May. And despite the costly publicity campaign this time, after election day, an average of around a quarter of residents were not aware of the pilots in four of the council areas – around four in 10 were not aware in Watford.

Imposing ID could have a significant impact on election outcomes, too. Thirteen seats were won at the 2017 Parliamentary election with a majority less than the number of people denied a vote in Bromley alone this May.

Yet still the government insists on running more trials of mandatory ID despite a broader commitment to improve democratic engagement and access. It is clear that much work needs to be done to remove barriers to voting, not to construct new ones. The most widespread problem poll staff have highlighted is voters turning up and not being on the register. Access for voters with disabilities is also a frequently cited problem.

We’ve learnt a lot this year, with our election and information regulators and parliamentarians highlighting the shocking state of the unregulated ‘wild west’ that is online campaigning. From the spread of disinformation, to secret political donations and ‘dark ads’, the real threats to our democracy are becoming clear.

In the face of these challenges, imposing voter ID is like rearranging the deckchairs of our democracy while we head towards an iceberg. The crucial task for government now is to focus on the real problems – we need to get to work solving them.”

Full report here:
https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/publications/a-sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut-the-2018-voter-id-trials/

https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/the-governments-voter-id-plans-are-rearranging-the-deckchairs-in-the-face-of-new-threats-to-our-democracy/

“DUP fined £1,000 over ‘inaccurate’ loan reporting”

Owl says: remarkable how this article gives no details of EXACTLY what the DUP did wrong, how much money was involved and borrowed from whom, for how long and at what rate of interest! Transparency my …..!

“THE DUP has been fined £1,000 by the Electoral Commission for “inaccurate” loan reporting.

The watchdog imposed two fines worth £500 each, which were paid earlier this month, its latest report disclosed.

In a statement it said: “The Commission considered, in accordance with the enforcement policy, that sanctions were appropriate in this case.”

Ann Watt, head of the Electoral Commission in Northern Ireland, added: “The reporting requirements are clear, so it is always disappointing when parties fail to comply.

“It’s vital that voters are given an opportunity to see accurate and full reportable data on what parties spend money on in order to influence them at elections and referendums.

“This provides transparency in the political finance system and is open for anyone to scrutinise.

“The Commission will continue to enforce these requirements on all parties and campaigners to ensure voters have the information they need.”

The Traditional Unionist Voice was also fined £1,000 for late delivery of a spending return for last year’s general election. The fine was due to be paid earlier this month.”

http://www.irishnews.com/news/politicalnews/2018/08/21/news/dup-fined-1-000-over-inaccurate-loan-reporting-1412808/

So many problems worrying the Electoral Reform Society …

Why it’s time to shine a light on ‘dark ads’ online:
https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/why-its-time-to-shine-a-light-on-dark-ads-online/

In these divided times, a new consensus is emerging around our broken election laws:
https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/in-these-divided-times-a-new-consensus-is-emerging-around-our-broken-election-laws/

Our democracy faces many threats – but the government has picked the wrong priority:
https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/our-democracy-faces-many-threats-but-the-government-has-picked-the-wrong-priority/

Campaign regulation is needed now before all trust is gone:
https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/campaign-regulation-is-needed-now-before-all-trust-is-gone/

“UK democracy under threat and reform is urgent, says electoral regulator”

“The Electoral Commission has called for urgent reforms to electoral law after a series of online political campaign scandals, acknowledging concerns that British democracy “may be under threat”.

Following a series of revelations involving the likes of Cambridge Analytica, the elections regulator has asked Westminster and the devolved governments to change the law in order to combat misinformation, misuse of personal data and overseas interference in elections.

Among other recommendations, the Electoral Commission has called for:

A change in the law to require all digital political campaign material to state who paid for it, bringing online adverts in line with physical leaflets and adverts.

New legislation to make it clear that spending in UK elections and referendums by foreign organisations and individuals is not allowed.
An increase in the maximum fine, currently £20,000 per offence, that the Electoral Commission can impose on organisations and individuals who break the rules.

Tougher requirements for political campaigns to declare their spending soon after or during a campaign, rather than months later.

A requirement for all campaigners to provide more detailed paperwork on how they spent money online.

The intervention follows years of debate about the largely unregulated world of online political campaigning in the aftermath of the 2016 EU referendum and Donald Trump’s election as US president.

“Urgent action must be taken by the UK’s governments to ensure that the tools used to regulate political campaigning online continue to be fit for purpose in a digital age,” said Sir John Holmes, chair of the Electoral Commission.

“Implementing our package of recommendations will significantly increase transparency about who is seeking to influence voters online, and the money spent on this at UK elections and referendums.”

His organisation also backed proposals to publish a database of political advertisements that will enable the public “to see what adverts a campaigner has taken out and how much they paid”. Facebook is already due to launch such a facility for UK political adverts within the coming months.

The regulator, alluding to foreign governments such as Russia, also raised concerns that there is currently no explicit ban on overseas organisations buying online political ads aimed at a British audience. …

… A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The government is committed to increasing transparency in digital campaigning in order to maintain a fair and proportionate democratic process, and we will be consulting on proposals for new imprint requirements on electronic campaigning in due course.”

The Electoral Commission has also asked for the power to investigate individual political candidates if they have broken constituency spending limits in general elections. At the moment only the police can investigate such allegations, resulting in the long-running investigation into Tory candidates’ spending on battle buses, which was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service due to insufficient evidence.

Other proposals include pushing political parties to count online advertising targeted at local constituencies within individual candidate spending limits – which can be as low as £10,000 – rather than as part of national campaigns which are allowed to spend up to £19.5m. During the 2017 general election the Conservatives were able to target Facebook ads regarding local issues at individuals in specific constituencies and count it as national spending – just so long as they didn’t mention the name of the local Tory candidate.

Both Labour and the Conservatives spent substantial sums of money on online promotions during the last general election, with digital spending accounting for more than 40% of all advertising spending by political parties in 2017. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/jun/26/uk-democracy-under-threat-and-reform-is-urgent-says-electoral-regulator