Yesterday, I signed a petition to support a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition local election candidate.
It’s unlikely to happen too often, I remain committed to UKIP. However, the matter at hand is not their policies, but democracy. Specifically, that we in a democratic society should be able to trust when the votes are declared that the result is accurate.
When Neil Davies, the Returning Officer, was announcing the number of votes cast for each candidate in the Rainham North ward, it should have been a routine matter, and it was treated as being a routine matter:
David John Carr, Conservative, 2,247
John Edward Castle, Liberal Democrat, 272
Paul Andrew Dennis, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition … 0
Cue gasps from those assembled at Medway Park, physically exhausted and mentally drained from a hard day’s campaigning, long night’s general election count and long evening’s local election count.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The story of Rainham North in 2015 was supposed to be the unseating of former Mayor of Medway, Vaughan Hewett, after his defection to UKIP. A candidate polling 0 votes – a first in Medway Council’s short history – was never in the script.
But there the story takes a sinister turn. Because, although the Returning Officer declared 0 votes, the candidate declared that he had voted for himself. So, apparently, did his family. So where did their votes go?
It is a question for which Mr Dennis is eager to receive an answer:
This is impossible. The result sticks out like a sore thumb. I know people who have voted for me. I live in the ward and definitely voted for myself! Since the result was announced others have been on touch to say they also voted for me. So why have our votes not been counted? The council needs to answer this.
On that last point, I couldn’t agree more. The council does need to answer this. Not because it will have any material effect on the outcome (it is extremely unlikely that over 1,900 TUSC votes went awry, which is what it would have taken to win a seat). The mere fact that there is a question mark hanging over this one ward means that there is, in many people’s minds, a question mark hanging over every result that was declared at Medway Park.
Most people who believe in democracy believe in a free and fair democracy. Whilst there is no suggestion that the election wasn’t free, how can it be assessed to be fair if a candidate’s votes appear to have gone missing? How can any impartial observer have faith in the remainder of the results if one of them appears to be inaccurate?
Unlikely though it may appear on the surface, there may be a rational explanation for the missing votes. But we don’t know – and we won’t know all the while Medway Council remains disinterested. Their reaction so far is one of apathy. The matter is not being treated with the seriousness it should merit – or, indeed, any seriousness at all. That is, frankly, unacceptable.
That is why I signed the petition – and I would urge each one of you to do the same. Because no matter where you lie on the political spectrum, you should be concerned that votes appear to have gone missing. It undermines democracy and damages faith in the electoral process.
Medway Council must investigate what has happened to these votes – and assure voters that such confusion can never arise again.