When Labour selected their candidate for the Wickersley Ward of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council they knew straight away that they had a problem, they had selected, not a local Wickersley resident, but a resident of Swinton, Mexborough and if that were not difficulty enough he doesn’t even own a car nor drive!
Why was this a problem for Labour? Swinton lies a stones throw from both Barnsley and Doncaster! Not exactly local then! The issue of lack of personal transport will make it very difficult, if not impossible, for him to represent Wickersley as well as he should.
This is a rapidly increasing problem for Labour in Rotherham, as they have many ‘bussed in’ councillors liberally sprinkled around Rotherham. Wouldn’t it be useful if they could simply keep this information from voters in the future?
That is exactly what Rotherham Labour Party decided to do, conceal the truth from the voters of Wickersley Ward, quite outrageous!
I got an inkling of the issues ahead, when upon my arrival at the count at Magna at 10 pm, Councillor Alan Atkin from Wath Ward, without being in fact asked, couldn’t restrain himself from giving me an explanation, that bore much more than a striking resemblance to the official answer, I was given later by Maggs Evers, the Council’s Elections Officer?
Others I spoke to at the count, freely acknowledged that much discussion had taken place about this within Labour circles, and involving I understand, both the Chief Executive and Assistant Chief Executive, Martin Kimber and Tim Mumford respectively. Martin Kimber, it should not be overlooked, was acting as Returning Officer for the elections held on May 5th. If Martin Kimber or Tim Mumford were involved, the conflict of interest issues might well prove problematic.
How did they do it? The issue of how to conceal the inconvenient fact of his domicile on election literature was easily achieved, nothing in the text of the leaflets from Labour mentioned that Chris Read lived elsewhere than within the Ward. The imprint also is not required to have the address of the candidate, only their name, provided that the promoter and publisher were properly identified. A deception indeed! But at least perfectly legal.
How about the Ballot Paper? Surely his full address should be stated there? Apparently not, according to the opinion of RMBC! This is of course where most of the discussion and debate was focussed, how to procure a ballot paper that was essentially deceptive by confusing the issue of where he lives and effectively conceal the facts from Wickersley voters by manipulation.
What goes on the ballot paper is the address information given on the nomination paper. That’s when a bright idea came to them, if the candidate was nominated using the following address 2A Church Street, Rotherham, S64 8QA, then that is what would appear on the Notice of Poll, displayed at Polling Stations and on the ballot paper. Read Wickersley Notice of Poll here Wickersley.
I am advised that the correct full postal address for Chris Read is in fact; 2A Church Street, Swinton, Mexborough, S64 8QA, quite a difference!
A result for Labour you might think? As this stunt will, no doubt. be pulled across the Borough next year by Labour Candidates wishing to conceal their often distant domicile fearing their electorates won’t like it.
Will it work? Unfortunately for Labour, one of the other candidates Rob Foulds, the Rotherham Independent candidate, he is not happy about this and will not rest until every avenue of this disgraceful and deceptive episode is explored and any wrongdoing exposed! They may have scored a spectacular ‘own goal’ on this one as Rob Foulds is a doughty fighter for what is right, if ever there was one!
Another potential problem for Tim Mumford to ponder upon is that this ruse may well turn out not to have been such a good idea once all facts are known. The ballot paper may well be ‘legal’ but the legality of the original nomination is quite a different matter.
As a Full Postal Address is required by law for the nomination to be valid, this does not look to be a valid nomination to me, because the address is deficient and believe it should not have in fact been accepted!
A final point. This trick goes against the advice contained in Labour’s own ‘Keep it Legal‘ election manual! The Labour Party devotes considerable attention to issues such as this and I am confident that if this was such a good idea Labour would have advised so.