Very disturbing news for all democrats in the conduct of Hackney Council over elections in the borough for a directly elected Mayor. The election address of the Conservative candidate for Mayor, Andrew Boff, has been excluded from the booklet being sent ou by the Council to all residents.
Criticism of other candidates is not permitted in the election addresses. Andrew included the following reference in his draft:
“The Mayor and his cabinet pay themselves £335,000 a year."
Andrew himself asked if the reference was acceptable and initially the Interim Electoral Services Manager told him that, as the passage referred to the post rather than to the person, that it was. Then, last Friday, Andrew was asked to attend another meeting to discuss "typographical corrections." In fact they also raised the offending sentence they had earlier approved. Andrew suggested changing the wording to:
“Along with the pay of the Cabinet, the position of Mayor costs £335,000."
This amendment was rejected. Yet this is one of Andrew's key messages in his campaign. The election address was banned. On Monday , Andrew was sent the following email:
“The election address submitted by yourself on Thursday 8 April is invalid and is rejected…The payment of £750 is forfeited and can only be returned if you should withdraw your candidature by the last time allowed for the withdrawal of candidature.”
“How fair is Hackney’s election going to be if they are denying the right of a candidate to state how much the Mayor and his cabinet are costing taxpayers?
“First of all they banned the author Iain Sinclair from Council properties for daring to say something that the Mayor found uncomfortable, now my right to freedom of expression is being taken away by these control freaks.
“It seems like it’s a 'future fair for all' – but not if you disagree with them."
Doesn't this story illustrate the insidious loss of freedom when the state takes over party political activity? We might find it rather convenient not to have to bother delivering the leaflets for ourselves. But here we see the price of the alternative.
"I'm from the Government, I'm here to help you," was reckoned to be one of the three great lies of the 20th century. (The other two being: "The cheque's in the post." And: "Yes, darling, of course, I will still respect you in the morning.") The state printing and sending off censored election addresses is "help" that should not be available in a fair, robust democracy.