Friday, 5 June 2015

Results from deferred by-elections and my thoughts on 2015's three election petitions

Yesterday, the first by-elections and deferred elections (deferred elections are caused by the deaths of candidates after the close of nominations) since the 2015 general election were polled, and the results were as follows:

Cambridgeshire CC, Wisbech South: Conservative 1020 (63.8%, +22.4%), UKIP 298 (18.6%, -19.8%), Labour 219 (13.7%, -2.7%), Liberal Democrat 61 (3.8%, -10.1%). Conservative gain from UKIP.

Kettering BC, Rothwell: Lab 951/623/614 (41.5%, +5.9%), Con 871/777/771 (37.2%, +0.7%), UKIP 370 (16.1%, +16.1%), Green 119/89/82 (5.2%, +5.2%).

Although we sadly had no candidate for the Wisbech South by-election, the heavy swing from UKIP to Conservative is noteworthy nevertheless. The strong support UKIP gained in the county council elections of 2013, directly preceding its win of the European elections and even more council seats in 2014, is likely to erode relatively easily in the next few years, especially if the spotlight ends up being shone on Thanet again whilst UKIP is running the borough council there. Even in places not well suited to Green gains such as Kettering (like much of the East Midlands, fought keenly between the Conservatives and Labour, and UKIP to some extent as well), we are nevertheless showing that Green support exists even in places that look supposedly barren of it.

Since the general election ended, three election petitions have been lodged, although George Galloway's often-talked about petition in Bradford West was never lodged, and the deadline has now passed.

The first is from Tim Ireland, an independent who was standing against Nadine Dorries in Mid-Bedfordshire, claiming that Nadine engaged in corrupt and illegal practices during the election campaign. Nadine would have had no logical reason to do this at all, given her 15,152 majority in 2010-the losses she would have incurred from engaging in such practices would have clearly outweighed any further progress she could have made in a seat that was already very safely Conservative. Although there is some evidence of her unacceptable behaviour during election hustings, this may not be enough to amount to corrupt and illegal practices-a complaint against her was made by someone else but the Crown Prosecution Service dismissed it because of insufficient evidence. Nadine's behaviour towards Tim at times does cause me some concern, but I still do not believe there is enough evidence to prove it amounted to corrupt and illegal practices, and would ultimately dismiss the claim if I was an election court judge

The second is from Ruth Temple, the Magna Carta Party candidate who stood against Jonathan Lord in Woking, claiming that Jonathan was not eligible to stand for election in the first place and should be disqualified from office. I can find no evidence whatsoever of him being ineligible for election (he is not in prison, he is a UK citizen, he had served legally as an MP during the last Parliament, he is not about to inherit a peerage of any kind, he does not hold another occupation disqualifying him from election etc.), and his nomination was approved by the returning officer of Woking. I therefore find Ruth's petition to be completely without merit and would dismiss it if I was an election court judge.

The third and most interesting is from Timothy Morrison, Euphemia Matheson, Fiona Grahame and Carolyn Welling, electors in Orkney and Shetland against Alistair Carmichael, the only remaining Lib Dem MP in Scotland. Alistair was responsible for leaking a false memo about Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader, really wanting David Cameron as PM, rather than Ed Miliband, just before the election campaign started. The French ambassador has stated several times that this memo was false, and Alistair has admitted he knew the contents of the memo were false but spread word around the media anyway. However, making false statements about yourself as opposed to your opponent actually damages your chances of being elected or re-elected rather than improving them (which is what is stated in the petition). This petition has at least some notable merit, unlike the first two, but I will leave it to the real election judges since the case is not that straightforward.

UPDATE: In light of new evidence relating to Tim Ireland's election petition (which was not available to me when I originally wrote this blog post), and the claims made by Nadine Dorries about him, I would probably uphold the election petition in question, which would force a by-election in Mid Bedfordshire if it is upheld in reality. The three election petitions mentioned here are likely to be concluded by November this year, going on past records.

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