How Should We VOTE? (Pt.2)
DIRTY TRICKS and DIRTY DEEDS
- – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD – following on from “How Should We VOTE on 5th May? (Pt.1)”, in which seven ‘hot favourites’ were identified. Some of the more fiercely-contested Divisions have attracted some seriously DIRTY TRICKS and DIRTY DEEDS.
Readers may recall that I have identified SEVEN Candidates as ‘hot favourites’ for election at the 5th May NYCC elections. They are:
CAYTON Division, Roberta SWIERS [Con.]; DANBY & MULGRAVE Division, David CHANCE [Con.]; DERWENT VALLEY & MOOR Division, David JEFFELS [Con.]; EASTFIELD Division, Tony RANDERSON [Lab.]; ESK VALLEY & COAST Division, Clive PEARSON [Con.] FALSGRAVE & STEPNEY Division, Liz COLLING [Lab.Co-Op.]; WOODLANDS Division, Bill Chatt [C.I.M.].
There are, of course, Divisions which one could characterise as fiercely-contested – I have identified SEVEN of these, too – and it is these seven which I will examine in this article, before revealing some of the DIRTY TRICKS and DIRTY DEEDS that have come to my attention. (If it is the DIRTY TRICKS and DIRTY DEEDS that grab your attention, please just scroll down, skipping my analysis of which are likely to be the seven most fiercely-contested Divisions).
One might expect a three-horse race here, between the encumbent, Janet JEFFERSON; the Labour Candidate, Colin CHALLEN ( former MO and Scarborough Labour Council and Group leader (SIDDONS’ predecessor); and Guy SMITH, the popular and much-respected ‘Donkey Man’.
It is fair to say that Janet JEFFERSON’s electability has taken a sharp hit since she opted to join forces with SIDDON’s Labour administration – particularly in the light of her support (to the great consteranation of her core electors) of the despised ARGOS project and (perhaps worse) the West Pier ‘touristification’ project. The SBC version of Castle Ward presently sports two Labour members, neither of whom has made an impact over the past three years. It does suggest, though, that there may have been good slice of Labour voters in Castle – at least before the betrayals of the SIDDONS’ administration, which Colin CHALLEN (to his credit) has criticised, though some say he had an eye on election.
The third serious contender, Guy SMITH, has stood apart from the majority of members by virtue of his local knowledge and deep commitment not only to his residents, but also to honourable conduct and respect for his office. Interestingly, SMITH’s Nomination Papers read like a “Who’s Who?” of Castle heavy-hitters – Tom FOX, Fred NORMANDALE, Peter LEE, Stephen and Thelma AYCKBOURN, James CORRIGAN, Andrew HAYES, Ros FOX, Denise CORRIGAN, Karen ROBERTS – all of whom may be regarded by janet JEFFERSON as ‘deserters’. Such is the price she has paid for metaphorically jumping into bed with SIDDONS.
With the withdrawal of Jacqui HOULDEN-BANKS, Filey DIVISION has been reduced to three Candidates.
Sam CROSS [Y.L.C.A.] lives in the Division and is genuinely embedded in the local community. Graham SCOTT [Lab.] is widely regard as a ‘paper’ Candidate (like the Tories, local Labour branches are always called upon to field a Candidate in every Division, whether or not they have any realistic prospect of election. Labour is not strong in Filey. That does not negate the possibility that even a ‘paper’ Candidate can disturb the balance of any election. But the present incumbent, Helen SWIERS [Con.], though never having managed to transcend her ‘out-of-towner’ status may nevertheless, with the full force of the Conservative Party promoting her campaign, run a strong race – without, perhaps, actually winning.
Charlie ALLANSON [Con.] has been described to me as “barely out of short trousers”. He may also falls into the ‘paper’ Candidate category – not expected to put up much of a showing, beyond flying the Tory flag. Sarah West FENANDER [Grn.] is a name new to me and I suspect is another ‘paper’ Candidate.
Vanda Lee INMAN [Ind.] will be remembered as the then- Labour Councillor who resigned from the Group rather than be expelled for having ignored the Party Whip by voting FOR the demolition of the Futurist Theatre – not a decision which endeared her to Scarborough residents.
The real fight is between Norman MURPHY [Ind.], the out-spoken Alderman and columnist, and Subash SHARMA [Lab.] who may be hoping that the outcome of the four-month-long investigation into his failure (whilst Chair of the Planning & Development Committee) to disclose an interest in the Planning Application to demolish 1a St. Helen’s Square (having apparently forgotten that he had previously declared his interest eighteen months beforehand) will not be made public until after the election.
SCALBY & THE COAST Division
In my view, Deborah Helen BORE [Lib.Dem.], Des LANGMEAD [Ind.] and Denise Ann SANGSTER [Lab.] constitute the ‘under-card’ on one of the real ‘heavyweight’ clashes of these elections.
The real battle is between two leading figures of the past three administrations – Derek BASTIMAN [Con.], who as Leader of the 2015-19 administration, almost single-handedly bore the brunt of electors’ wrath over the Futurist demolition, and Andrew BACKHOUSE [Ind.], the former Conservative who left the Party after failing to achieve Nomination but has since done sterling work attempting to hold Officers to account. Electors in the Division tell me they see this as a real ‘needle’ match.
WEAPONNESS & RAMSHILL Division
Eric BATTS [Con.] and Charlotte Lucinda BONNER [Grn.] strike me as unlikely to challenge the main protagonists – Jim GRIEVE [Ind.], currently a member of the SIDDONS Cabinet, and Rich MAW [Lab.] who, like Subash SHARMA, is presently awaiting the outcome of a Standards investigation regarding alleged non-disclosure of interests. Pitting one labour acolyte against another may end in tears.
WHITBY STREONSHALH Division
This Division looks to be the tightest in the entire Borough – all Candidates are waging a robust campaign and only Jonathan HARSTON [Lib.Dem.] can be considered an outsider. Guy COULSON [Con.] an ‘out-of-towner’; Neil SWANNICK [Lab.], who formerly served as a Councillor in Manchester; Sandra TURNER [W.A.I.], long-serving SBC Councillor and former Cabinet Portfolio Holder; and Linda Diane WILD [Ind.], incumbent Mayor of Whitby, are contesting what could be the toughest Division in the Borough.
This is my own Division and I will be analysing it in a separate article.
WHITBY WEST Division
This Division looks to be tight between Glenn GOODBERRY [W.A.I.], formerly Conservative and now a member of the newly-formed Whitby Area Independent Party; Phil TRUMPER [Con.] the well-known local postman; and Asa Joe Benjamin JONES [Lab.]. I regard it as unfortunate that a Candidate of quality of Lee DERRICK [Yrk.Pty.] will be overlooked by many. Mathew BROWN [Lib.Dem.] may struggle to emulate former Town, Borough and County Councillor Rob BROADLEY of that Party.
And now for the section many readers have been waiting for:
It is a an unfortunate fact of most electoral campaigns that attempts will be made either to bring about the disqualification of opposing Candidates or to discredit them to such degree as to fatally damage their electoral prospects.
This particular election has brought more DIRTY TRICKS and DIRTY DEEDS to my attention than any other during my 13 years of scrutiny – and by far the most heinous.
I have already commented on the last-minute withdrawal of Phil KERSHAW [Ind.] in the Woodlands Division, and Jacqui HOULDEN-BANKS [Ind.] in the Filey Division. In Phil KERSHAW’s case, I am informed that objections had been raised in respect of a number of potential irregularities found on his election leaflets.
Certainly, it would have been advisable to identify the election correctly (NYCC elections, not ‘Scarborough Council’). And it is not permissible to campaign identifying oneself as a sitting Councillor.
Nor is it permissible to use Council resources (including IT facilities, and including email services) within Candidates’ campaign literature.
I have not had sight of Jacqui HOULDEN-BANKS leaflet, so I cannot comment on whether or not similar potential irregularities existed.
There have, however, also been a number of other attempts to disadvantage Candidates for even more minor errors. These would appear to have failed.
The BIG One
I come now to a far more serious case which, for legal reasons, I will outline without identifying the protagonists at the present time.
Here follows a punctiliously cautious description of the allegations, in writing, which came into my hands over the Easter weekend.
It is alleged, by a long-serving Councillor – a Candidate in the forthcoming election – that, at a formal meeting of one of the SBC Political Groups, another long-serving Councillor – also a Candidate in the forthcoming election – likened a senior Officer of Paid Service, in language both defamatory and Islamophobic/racist, to a “Moslem bomber”.
Obviously, this (if true) is a very serious breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, including the Seven NOLAN Principles of Public Life on which the Code is based:
Regular readers will know that the Standards Procedure, through which allegations against elected members are “tried”, has only infinitesimal powers to sanction offenders.
If true, the alleged conduct is also potentially a breach of SBC’s Officer/Member Protocol.
Far more seriously, if true, the alleged conduct is potentially a breach of the Equalities Act 2010 – a criminal matter.
It is further alleged that these remarks were indeed reported under SBC’s Standards Procedure – but never processed; instead the accuser was directed to the Chair of the Political Group meeting at which the alleged racial slur was uttered. It is also alleged that the Chair (named in the allegations) took no action. Thus, the Chair, too, may be implicated in wrongdoing.
Moreover, the allegations identify, by name, witnesses to the offensive remarks who are also Candidates in the elections.
If true, these witnesses also appear to have breached the NOLAN Principles, at least in respect of Article 7 Leadership, which states:
“They [those in public life] should actively promote and robustly support the priniciples and challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs”.
The allegations set out above certainly amount to “poor behaviour”.
On Tuesday 19th April 2022, I emailed Mr Mike GREENE who, as well as being Head of Paid Service (CEO) at SBC, is one of the seven Deputy Returning Officers for the election (one for each of the about-to-be-abolished Districts/Boroughs – Mr Richard FLINTON NYCC CEO is the prinicipal Returning Officer), apprising him of these allegations. Mr GREENE has received and read my email. But he has not responded to me and appears to have taken no action.
I asked Mr GREENE to make all Councillors (and, where possible) all Candidates aware of the allegations, with the intention of eliciting a denial, explanation or apology. If I do not hear anything from Mr GREENE by close-of-play on Tuesday 26th April 2022, I will have no choice but to lodge a Formal Corporate Complaint against him to the principle Returning Officer (Mr FLINTON) and to the Electoral Commission, on grounds of dereliction of duty likely to influence the outcome of the election.
On Wednesday 20th April 2022, I raised the matter with NYCC. There followed a lengthy and productive correspondence with the Deputy CEO and Director of Legal, Mr Barry KHAN, who has been very helpful and now has a comprehensive grasp of the enormity of the matter – which, as I will now explain, has a whole other (and opposite) side to the aspects which I have already set out above.
What if the allegations are false? In my view, it would be an extraordinarily stupid Candidate who was foolish enough to set down in writing such serious allegations without complete certainty as to the facts.
Firstly, this would also amount to a breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct and the Seven NOLAN Principals of Public Life.
Secondly, it would certainly amount to slander, a civil offence under the Defamation Act 2014, risking costs and damages running into tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds in the event of an adverse Judgment – as well as career-ending public ignominy.
Thirdly, there can be little doubt that propagating such serious allegations, if false, would amount to a criminal offence under the Malicious Communications Act 2003/2013, with the attendant risk of a heavy fine and/or a custodial sentence.
Fourthly, and even more seriously, emerging as they do within a fortnight of the elections, there is a real possibility that the allegations, if false, have been ‘leaked’ by the accuser for the specific purpose of damaging the accused’s electoral prospects. DIRTY TRICKS and DIRTY DEEDS do not come much dirtier than that. Mr KHAN informs me that this would constitute a criminal offence under the Representation of the People Act 1983.
Clearly, I do not have the investigatory resources to establish whether the allegations are true – or false.
Now that Mr KHAN has the details, I hope to see some immediate action.
I have reminded Mr KHAN that when a Councillor used the ‘N-Word’ in a Council meeting, several of the national newspapers covered the story. The present allegations go far beyond the ‘N-Word’. If they are untrue, even more so.
It would be very wrong if electors were to go to the polls on Thursday 5th May 2022 at risk of voting unawares for one or another Candidate, one of whom may be guilty of racist slurs or malicious manipulation of the electoral process.
To allow either Candidate to achieve election, knowing that criminal charges are likely, if not inevitable, would, in my view, be an unacceptable breach of the public trust. It would make a mockery of democracy, squander electoral budgets unnecessarily, and perhaps remove an honourable candidate from public service.
Therfore, I will pursue the matter and I appeal to any Councillors/Candidates with first-hand knowledge of this affair to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org – marking the Subject line:ELECTION ALLEGATIONS.