“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

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

Thanks to all who voted, talks of the future and takes the weekend off!

Owl says thank you to EVERYONE who voted, however you voted. Those who did not vote cannot now moan!

It may surprise some to know that Owl will continue to hold the new council to account in the same way as the old one! Rest assured!

In the meantime, an exhausted Owl is flying away to pastures different for the weekend – back on Monday refreshed and beady-eyed bright!

FINAL RESULT Sidford Sidmouth – East Devon Alliance 2, Conservative 1

Sidmouth Sidford (three seats)
Stuart Hughes (Conservative) – 1,089 ELECTED
Dawn Manley (East Devon Alliance) – 1,303 ELECTED
Zachary Marsh (Conservative) – 721
Colin Mills (Labour) – 381
Marrianne Rixson (East Devon Alliance) – 1,326 ELECTED
Jenny Ware (Conservative) – 757
Ken Warren (UKIP) – 369