Tory scan­dal should prompt by­elec­tions

The Guardian - - JOURNAL -

The Elec­toral Com­mis­sion has con­firmed that the law was bro­ken by the Con­ser­va­tive Party in the 2015 gen­eral elec­tion (Con­ser­va­tives fined record £70,000 for cam­paign spend­ing fail­ures, 16 March). Per­mit­ted ex­penses were ex­ceeded in a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of mar­ginal con­stituen­cies. Who broke the law, the Tory party cen­trally or the lo­cal con­stituency can­di­dates and agents, is yet to be de­ter­mined. We have al­ready heard from some can­di­dates and agents that a visit from the dreaded “bat­tle bus” was im­posed on them. How­ever, whether or not those can­di­dates and agents are crim­i­nally li­able, the re­sults in those con­stituen­cies are un­sound, and the MPs “elected” must be re­moved im­me­di­ately and by­elec­tions called. Un­less there is ev­i­dence of lo­cal com­plic­ity, there would be no rea­son to block the sit­ting mem­ber from be­ing a can­di­date in a by­elec­tion.

Alan Rad­ford Leeds

• The last Labour gov­ern­ment leg­is­lated to try and pre­vent scan­dals over po­lit­i­cal dona­tions by re­quir­ing trans­parency. It also aimed to pro­vide for a level play­ing field in elec­tions by im­pos­ing a cap on na­tional ex­pen­di­ture. The Po­lit­i­cal Par­ties, Elec­tions and Ref­er­en­dums Act of 2000 has been shown by re­cent events to be un­fit for pur­pose. Too much power re­mains with a hand­ful of ma­jor donors. The po­ten­tial am­bi­gu­ity be­tween na­tional spend­ing and con­stituency spend­ing rules has fur­ther un­der­mined the prin­ci­ple passed into law in Glad­stone’s time that thou­sands of votes should be more im­por­tant in win­ning seats than thou­sands of pounds. The Com­mit­tee on Stan­dards in Pub­lic Life pro­duced an ex­cel­lent re­port in 2011 which would have largely ad­dressed the prob­lems. Lord Tyler in­tro­duced a pri­vate mem­bers bill last week up­dat­ing their pro­pos­als and pro­vid­ing a ba­sis for re­form. All those com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the health of our democ­racy should now agree that we can­not con­tinue al­low­ing elec­tions and ref­er­en­dums to take place un­der present rules.

Lord Ren­nard Lib­eral Demo­crat, House of Lords

• The present mess sug­gests there should at the very least be an in­quiry into the na­tional fund­ing of elec­tion cam­paigns. It would be much eas­ier to keep pol­i­tics clean if all ex­pen­di­ture was re­stricted to fund­ing lo­cal cam­paigns within agreed lim­its. It is also ques­tion­able whether cur­rent lo­cal spend­ing lim­its are too high. Cer­tainly here in Sut­ton Cold­field oppo- sition par­ties can never hope to spend up to the max­i­mum, whereas our Tory op­po­nents could cer­tainly af­ford to spend many times over the limit.

Roy Boffy Sut­ton Cold­field, West Mid­lands

• This is the very same Con­ser­va­tive party that qui­etly with­drew cen­tral fund­ing for elec­toral leaflets in the last po­lice and crime com­mis­sioner elec­tions in Eng­land and Wales. At the same time they in­creased the can­di­dates’ de­posit from £500 to £5,000. My own force area con­sists of three large coun­ties. I don’t know of any pri­vate in­di­vid­ual/can­di­date who could af­ford to fund a leaflet drop to ev­ery house­hold in an area that size. The net ef­fect of these two acts was to se­verely dis­ad­van­tage in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates, hence the small num­ber that were suc­cess­ful at the last elec­tion.

Alan Wright We­ston Rhyn, Shrop­shire

• As in the US, it is in­creas­ingly true that the win­ner of an elec­tion is usu­ally the one with the most money to throw at se­cur­ing it. Such bla­tant in­cen­tives to cor­rup­tion only serve to prove that gov­ern­ment in the UK is by the rich, for the rich and of the rich.

Dan Rainey Hull

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