Monday, May 25, 2009

Dirty tricks? But it's all within the rules! Sound familiar?

The Leicester Mercury's front page article on Saturday outlined alleged dirty tricks involving the Tory administration at Leicestershire County Council ahead of next month's elections.

We have a whole series of emails between an independent Conservative candidate and the Tory leader and deputy leader of the council after which the independent candidate decides to withdraw from the election.

In a nutshell, the candidate, Simon Jones, put himself up to fight against the council's deputy leader because the community he lives in, Breedon on the Hill, is in the middle of a long-standing - and possibly very expensive - High Court battle with the council over a community hall in the village. In the emails, the leader of the council, Councillor David Parsons, promises that a new community hall will be built. The deputy leader, Councillor Nicholas Rushton, wrote to Mr Jones to say: 'I sincerely hope that you will now withdraw your candidacy.' Mr Jones withdrew.

In today's Mercury, the Tories' prospective parliamentary candidate for the area, Andrew Brigden, describes a police investigation into the matter as a complete wast of time. Mr Bridgen says the investigation is “something about nothing”... “To call it election dirty tricks is ridiculous. I think for a politician standing for election to pledge there will be a replacement of the facility if it is removed is quite legitimate.”

The paperwork leaked to the Mercury shows a trail of e-mails starting on May 11, following a conversation between the council's deputy leader, Councillor Nicholas Rushton, and Simon Jones, who are contesting the same Valley seat in the county council elections.
  • Mr Jones suggests to Coun Rushton that they should meet and writes: "You say that you are prepared to put your energies behind a campaign to get things brought to a conclusion, and that you will guarantee that a community building will be constructed whatever the outcome of legal proceedings.
  • "If we can achieve this together then fantastic."
  • Later that day, Coun Rushton replies: "Great news! Should get something to you this evening from David Parsons (the leader of the council). It will promise all you want."
  • Later on May 11, council leader David Parsons writes to Simon Jones and Coun Rushton: "I am happy to give my personal commitment and that of the administration at County Hall to the provision of new community facilities at Breedon within the lifetime of the next council."
  • Coun Rushton also writes to Simon Jones saying: "I sincerely hope that you will now withdraw your candidacy and we can all move forward united and together."
  • The next morning, Simon Jones writes to Coun Rushton saying that he is ready withdraw his candidacy.
  • Coun Rushton replied to Simon Jones saying: "You have a written guarantee from me and the leader that a new facility will be delivered."
I'm no election law specialist so I have no idea whether or not anything illegal has happened, but clearly somebody at the county council is not happy with what went on - according to the police, it wasn't an opposition councillor who reported the issue to them, it was 'the county council.'

And, in the middle of the MPs' expenses scandal where the public has been so outraged by the defence that claims were 'within the rules', it is hard not to reach the conclusion that whether or not the law has been broken in Breedon, what happened was not right.

1 comment:

  1. There are a number of projects in the Charnwood Constituency that the County Council could fund - The Birstall Park & Ride scheme and community centre, disabled facilities at Watermead Country Park, the new library for Leicester Forest East, and the National Forest Rail Line. Could the Mercury find out for us if funds could be made available in the event that we withdrew some our candidates for the County Council Elections.


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