Monday, April 07, 2008

Bright Sparks

On The Stirrer, John Hemming innocently asks if it is proper for the Respect candidate in Sparkbrook to be a council employee - as it has been rumoured. A good rule in politics is never to ask a question unless you are sure of the answer.

My sources suggest that the gentleman in question has handed in his resignation, but the rules state that you have to have served your 30 days notice AND cleared the council payroll by the time nominations closed - which takes a further 30 days. His consent to nomination form includes paragraphs confirming that he is a valid candidate.

Just to explain for civilians - you cannot stand for a council that employs you, although you can run for a different council. A Birmingham City Council employee could run for Solihull council. Anyone can run for parliamentary or European election - with an exception. The exception would be a politically restricted post - a council employee of significant seniority is prohibited from holding posts within a political party or running for any election. That's a complex piece of legislation simplified, but you get the general idea.

Now, here's the clever bit. John Hemming knows the rules exceptionally well and knew about this some weeks ago.

Leaving it until now means that the candidate has a choice. He can withdraw before Wednesday, but Respect can't nominate a replacement as nominations closed last Friday, leaving a run off in Sparkbrook between the Lib Dems, Labour and Talib Hussain (the former Bond baddie, turned Liberal, turned Independent). I know other parties are standing, but I'm not going to bet the ranch on the BNP, the Tories or the Greens coming through the gap and winning.

The alternative is even more entertaining - say the candidate decides to tough it out and goes into the poll and IS ineligible. He doesn't have to win, he just has to get enough votes to potentially make a difference to the result. In that case, the patented John Hemming Acme Election Petition Generator will whirr into action and produce a legal document. When this gets to the election commissioner, he - or she - can not only void the election but can also demand that the party fielding the ineligible candidate covers the costs of the rerun.

Anyone know how deep George Galloway's pockets are? We could be about to find out.


Latest story here on the Birmingham Post.

The candidate in question has stated that he left the council formally on the 23 March, having given notice in January. It has also been suggested that this is yet another Lib Dem smear tactic and I appear to have landed in the middle as a co-conspirator according to Paul Dale in the Post. Anyone who has read this blog for any period of time will know just how big a load of cobblers that idea is. My sources could be wrong and I may have made a genuine error in my understanding of the law - I'm not a lawyer (although I know a few). Anyway, as with all internet postings, your mileage may vary.


samsonofarthur said...

Have you just ensured the withdrawal?

Tim Swift said...


If your facts are correct, it does seem that the Respect party has an unfortunate tendency to make mistakes with their candidates. However, whilst Cllr Hemmings MP can raise an election petition, it is not certain that the election will be over-turned - the election court would need to decide that there was a reasonable likelihood that the presence of the Respect candidate did influence the outcome, and if the actual winner were able to suggest that there was some element of strategy in the timing of the release of the information which led to the election petition, then I believe this could be taken into account.

In Calderdale (Halifax) last year, it turned out that the only Respect candidate was ineligible to stand due to having a criminal record; he had finished 3rd, behind Labour and the Lib Dems. An Independent who finished fourth (and appears to be motivated largely by dislike of the local Labour cllrs) tried to raise an election petition but failed. However this is not a particularly good parallel!

PoliticalHack said...

Cheers Tim.

As always with anything involving a court, then things depend on the whim of the judge on the day.

It would be unlikely that, say, the BNP candidate could argue that Respect had taken votes that would enable them to win, but it is more likely that a second-placed Liberal or Labour candidate could argue the same.

Anonymous said...

This story really ought to be put to bed now.

There is no mistake with the Respect candidate. His contract of employment with the city council ended before he submitted his nomination papers. He has the letters to prove it.

You vaguely recalled some advice about being 'clear of the payroll' to avoid being disqualified. Nothing wrong with passing on this information. But it is clear that no such provision is contained in the electoral commission guidelines. They simply state a candidate has to have resigned AND worked their notice before the nomination date. The operative point is that, on the date of the nomination (and thereafter), you cannot be an employee of the council for which you are standing. The Respect candidate was not an employee because his contract had ended.

Hemming and Mullaney are busy digging themselves a hole. Best to leave them to it.