Yet more on Dixon and Roberts

I suppose it is a bit of an indulgence on my part, but I must admit to being fascinated by the issues in this case. One thing that I've just looked at in more detail is the wording of the relevant legislation itself and, so far as I can see, there is nothing in the wording of the legislation that prohibits a someone from standing as a candidate if they are a member of one of the prohibited organizations.

Section 7 of the GoWA 2006 deals with who can stand as a candidate for election to be an AM, but says nothing about membership of a prohibited organization being an impediment to standing.

Section 16 of the GoWA 2006 deals with disqualification. However it specifically says "a person is disqualified from being an Assembly member if ... " It does not say that any such person may not stand for election, but Section 18 then makes it clear that their return would be void unless the Assembly resolves to disregard the disqualification as provided for in Section 17.

This is actually quite crucial. For although it is true that candidates were asked in the Consent to Nomination Form to declare that they were "not disqualified for membership of the Assembly" there appears to be no legal basis for them to be required to make such a statement. If so, the Electoral Commission has misinterpreted the law (although perhaps with the best of intentions) and John Dixon and Aled Roberts would be able to argue that they had not committed the offence of making a false declaration, because they were not legally required to make a declaration on that issue. They were only legally required to make a declaration about the matters contained in Section 7 of the GoWA 2006, namely that they were not standing for election in more than one region, nor on more than one party list, nor for a constituency.

This would mean that the pair cannot have committed any offence in law. The most that they can be accused of is potentially wasting their own time and effort in standing for election.

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However, even if there is now no case of wrongdoing to answer, their return as elected AMs is void because they were members of the prohibited organizations when elected ... unless, of course, the Assembly chooses to vote to disregard the disqualification. This has always been the central issue.

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As I was doing some research on this, I came across an interesting story which goes a long way to explain why it was Sir John Bufton of UKIP that was so anxious to complain that the two had committed electoral fraud. As we can read here, two potential UKIP candidates for the English local elections in Lichfield this month were disqualified from standing on the flimsiest of pretexts. In one case, the reason given was that they had missed the letter Y from the end of the word Party on their nomination forms, even though the forms had been checked and accepted when handed in.

I have very little time for UKIP as a political party, but this strikes me as petty officialdom at its very worst. No candidate should be disqualified on such trivial technicalities. It was grossly and obviously unfair on them, and I'm sure that this is why UKIP now want other parties to suffer the same severe treatment. But an eye for an eye makes everybody blind.

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8 comments:

Dewi Harries said...

It's taken you a while but you've finally got there!. If the eighth placed candidate on the communist party list in North Wles has to resign from that Land registry thiing then the law is a total nonsense, If not the LibDem two are in the clear.

Syd Morgan said...

The more I see and hear about what the Electoral Commission does and how it gets things wrong (your point about the consent to nomination form) or exercises plain bad judgement, the greater the case for its abolition. In my opinion, elections were much simpler and better run before their massive bureaucracy became involved. Of course, Labour set it up. Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

I'd be suprised if courts would buy your argument; otherwise people who are barred from standing due to electoral fraud, or standing as Lords in UK general elections would be allowed.... just they wouldn't be able to take their seats.

glynbeddau said...

It seems to me that what we need is a beefing up of the role of Returning Officer.

He or she should preside over an electoral court from the date an election is called and should meet to decide on any problems that arise from this date to a week after the election when the candidate for any office who has been elected take their seat.

Clearly the current system discriminates against smaller parties and Independents who do not have the resources to go through nomination forms looking for potential legal problems.

But even so as in the case of Dixon and Robers this can happen

SO:

There should be a period of grace of between the final day that nomination are allowed to be handed in and the acceptance of nominations.

This would allow candidates to be contacted and any corrections to be made and the forms re summited

Candidates should be asked to list any membership of public bodies and those who are members of of such bodies which would make themselves ineligible to stand should be warned that if elected they have a week to reign from such bodies.

Siônnyn said...

It appears that the information the Electoral Commission sent out to candidates (and which appeared on its website till this week) was based on the 2006 list, not the 2011 list which included the bodies involved in this case, so as far as I can see, that is an absolute defence, and the men should be allowed to take up their seats as soon as possible so that the WG can get on with governing Wales.

But, as has already been remarked, this is Labour choosing to behave as bullies at the start of term, so that everybody else in the Assembly knows they cannot afford to get too upity.

Gwilym said...

No there's no bullying from Labour. They're being remarkably patient on the matter.

UKIP are exploiting the error, of course!

Anonymous said...

Gwilym, you are either naive or you are being utterly disingenuous.

Here's are two questions for you: if it transpires that any Labour candidates are guilty of the same oversights as the LibDem Two would you favour calling in the police?

And if any elected Labour members have been in (recent) trouble with the law would you favour their disqualification from office on the basis that they have no role to play in a law-making parliament?

A final question to everyone else: noticed the interesting ammendments made to Labour's website in recent days? They surely couldn't be seeking to hide anything could they?

Cant and hypocrisy all the way... Remarkably patient my a*se

MH said...

What one person calls "patience", Gwilym, other people might call indecision, prevarication ... or even a deliberate attempt to spin things out so as to cause maximum embarrassment to their political opponents, perhaps secretly hoping that they will fall on their swords and spare them the trouble of having to make a decision at all.

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