Two Simple Questions, How Hard Can It Be?

  1. Could you please provide me with the estimated/anticipated cost of
    providing a Candidate Leaflet or ‘Mailshot’ for the 2016 Mayoral
  2. Could you please provide me with the estimated/anticipated cost of
    providing a Candidate Leaflet or ‘Mailshot’ for the 2016 Local
    Authority Elections?

And the answer from our illustrious Cabinet Office?

I am writing to advise you that following a search of our paper and electronic records, I
have established that the information you requested is  not held by the Cabinet Office.

It might be helpful if I explained that funding for Candidate Leaflets or ‘Mailshots’ does
not come from the Cabinet Office, so we don’t hold the information requested.

You may wish to try the Electoral Commission which holds information on how much 
candidates have spent on campaigns. 

And the issue that prompted my question in the first place?

Voters will not be sent impartial information about candidates for next year’s police and crime commissioner elections, the BBC understands.

The Cabinet Office is understood to have ruled out sending free mail-shots to households – despite criticism about the low turn-out for the 2012 poll.

Candidate information for the local and mayoral elections will be sent free of charge to each household.

However, the BBC understands the information will not be sent out for the PCC poll.

If that is not an excellent example of Government and Civil Servants colluding to fudge the issue and feed the voting mushrooms bullshit I have yet to see one.

And The Melton Mowbray 2015 Award Goes To…..

Mr David Cameron and his Cabinet Office

(Other brands of Pork Pie are most certainly available).

Who are the Cabinet Office and who has eaten all the pies?

The PieAnd what was this terrible Pork Pie?   pork pie

At the risk of ‘banging on about it’ the alleged Pork Pie is the withholding of funding for candidates in next year’s Police and Crime Commissioner election.  For the 2012 Elections the government decided not to fund a mail-shot for those elections (at an estimated cost of £25-£30 million) because, as our old friend Nick Herbert put it, “it was not justifiable in the current climate”.  Instead they funded a central website at a cost of about £100,000.

I assume that nothing has changed and that is the position of Cabinet Office now, I have yet to see an announcement from Cabinet Office themselves but they have certainly not contradicted that view.

I have no idea what the figure is for England and Wales, but, certainly, where I live in DeadBadgerShire a significant proportion of the population do not have access to the internet, mainly by choice.  A large proportion of the population here choose not to have internet and emails, preferring to receive their information, on any number of topics, on paper.  I suspect that may well be true of many of the ‘Grey Voters’ across the land, certainly my mother is one, she wouldn’t know how to get an email never mind order her shopping from the supermarket online.

Do you think that the candidates for Conservatives, Lib-Dem and Labour will manage their campaigns without leaflets?  I don’t think so, and those leaflets will be paid for out of Party Funds, leaving Independent Candidates at an immediate disadvantage, and possibly thousands of pounds poorer.  Even the quickest search on Google would suggest that Mailshot leaflets are costing about £25 per thousand without the cost of delivering them.  Multiply that figure by the number of households in your Force area and it is starting to mount up.  Even if you get reimbursed for your campaign expenses you still have to stump up the money and get the leaflets printed in the first place.

Some Independent candidates in the 2012 election claimed to have spent £20,000-£30,000 of their own money on their campaigns.  I would be interested to hear how much the Labour/Conservative/Lib-Dem candidates actually contributed to their own campaigns.

I suppose it’s possible to campaign without spending a small fortune, but why should they be disadvantage in comparison to the ‘official’ candidates?

Then there is the £5,000 deposit, do the ‘official’ candidates pay that themselves, or do the Party pay it?  Poll less than 5% of the poll and you lose your 5 grand.  Independent candidates again, potentially, disadvantaged.

The second factor to be considered is that the Election is scheduled for 5th May 2016.  Unsurprisingly this is the same date as Local Elections in England and Wales, together with Mayoral Elections in 4 cities, London, Bristol, Liverpool and Salford.  What might surprise you is the fact that the government are apparently funding a Mailshot for these elections, despite the fact that only 4 cities are having Mayoral elections and the Local Elections don’t include every single a Council in England and Wales, so many areas will ONLY be having. PCC election on that date, just like 2012, giving the electorate no added incentive to turn out again.

The final straw came when I got a phone call from my friend Dai (you remember him, his girlfriend Bronwen works in the Police Canteen) and Dai said “You do realise it’s not really about the money don’t you.  There’s plenty of money splashing about, it’s more about ‘Control’, government trying to influence the outcome of the elections before the campaigns have even started”

So I got to thinking about it.  They’re going to fund leaflets for the Mayoral and Local Elections, there seems to be enough money for that, and those elections are on the same date.  Hmmmmm.

With Dai’s phone call still fresh in my ears, I remembered that there was plenty of money lying around when Cabinet Office were throwing millions of pounds at Kids Company.  Just how many £3 Million donations did government give them and for what?

In my stumblings around the Interweb I came across this, taken from a document by National Council for Voluntaryt Organisations.

At the start of the month, the Cabinet Office unveiled a consultation for a “new fund to support the sustainability of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector”.

The fund, which is believed to be worth around £40m, will be open for bids from April 2015 and will run for one year.

As the fund will be quite small, resources need to be targeted at those organisations that need it most.

Hmmmm, so a £40 Million fund is deemed to be ‘quite small’, which I presume it is in the greater scheme of things, so I really don’t see the argument for a £30 Million funding for PCC Elections is ‘not justifiable

We can justify throwing Millions at Kids Company, we can set up a multi million pound fund for Voluntary Organisations but we can’t invest money into the Democratic Process?   Really Dave?

Finally I came across a rather excellent piece this morning by Jeffrey Harris, Deputy PCC of Surrey in his blog Ask The Question Why, he seems to be asking the same questions and making the same points as me, but he does it far more succinctly and diplomatically than I ever could or do.

meltonConsidering all the evidence, on the Balance of Probabilities, I find you Guilty, Dave, of fibbing, either by act or by omission, to the great British Public in general and to the Independent Candidates specifically, and here is your award.