Sunday, 3 May 2015

East Devon District Council elections: and 'misinformation' >>> Conservatives and East Devon Alliance

There is a disappointing disparity when it comes to a presence on-line, between the current dominant force at the District Council and its main challenger:
Futures Forum: East Devon District Council elections: what the websites say >>> Conservatives and East Devon Alliance on-line

There is now controversy brewing over the relative status of these groups - and their relationship to the parallel parliamentary election campaign.

This is part of a piece from yesterday's Western Morning News - with the main points in bold:

West 'free spirits' challenge old order in race for Westminster

By WMN_PGoodwin | Posted: May 01, 2015

Claire Wright at the Cranbrook hustings with Hugo Swire

Comments (1)

The House of Commons is no place for free spirits.... Records show that only 13 minor party and independent MPs have been elected to Parliament since 1950... Claire Wright, one of the surprises of this campaign and the bookies’ favourite “indie” in the UK, says the inner “urge” is too strong to resist...

But what of Hugo, a heavyweight candidate almost from Tory central casting who arrived at the Commons via Eton, Sandhurst and the Grenadier Guards. In 2010, he was elected with a 9,114 majority, a massive 48% of the vote. Overturning this is a tall order. But it wouldn’t be the first shock.

In 2011 as a town councillor, Claire ousted local Tory district council leader Sara Randall Johnson from her Ottery St Mary seat, a victory that secured her status among the local ruling elite as “public enemy number one”. Two years later she claimed the biggest majority in the South West - 74% - in the election to the county authority.

If the three-time veteran Hugo is rattled, as many say, then it is not apparent from his performance at the stump. During the 90-minute Q&A session, the former Sothebys auctioneer - now famous for overseeing Tory fundraisers - never misses a chance to remind the audience of his credentials...

The following day, on the campaign trail in Sidford, Hugo views the new challenge as part of an orchestrated anti-Tory movement in the area.

The newly formed East Devon Alliance (EDA) to which he refers, is is backing 37 candidates in the district election poll, 15 of them independents and has registered with the Electoral Commission this year.

Hugo claims that Claire Wright and the EDA are "one and the same", an assertion it vehemently denies. “She is very good at PR and spin and is always going on about her odds being 6/1 but you can manipulate these just by getting 20 people to put on a tenner," Hugo tels the WMN. “This is a serious election to see who will be the governing party in Westminster. I am more than happy to be judged on my record and what we have achieved over the past five years.”

EDA chairman Paul Arnott says this "eleventh hour swat" at the independent candidates reveals fear in the Tory ranks. He adds: "His facts are wrong. Neither I, our vice chairman, treasurer or communications director can even vote for Clare Wright, much as some of us may want to. We don't even live in her constituency. And our umbrella group for Independents is compelled by law to be registered as a party precisely because Mr Swire's Parliamentary colleagues have failed to pass the proposed reform for local campaigning groups not to have to do so."

Rebellion against the system has always been the more romantic route, even if experience shows it is the solid, reliable men and women who toe the line who tend to win seats. Hugo Swire, who during his time in the Commons has also been an opposition whip - the feared Westminster enforcers of part diktat - is happy to let the polls have the final say on the true level of support for the independents. The numbers will show whether it is the heart or the head that wins the day. “We shall see in a few days’ time,” he added.


Paul-F | May 02 2015, 9:32AM

Hugo Swire manages to mix a bit of truth with some outright lie when he says, "There is no doubt that Claire Wright and the EDA are one and the same – I don't know how they manage to say they are independent when it is a registered party." 

Firstly, the East Devon Alliance is NOT a party in the usual sense - they needed to register with the Electoral Commission in order to get a shared group name on the ballot paper. This has been stated on the home-page of their web site for several months, so Hugo has no excuse for lying about it (which by the way is against the rules set by the Electoral Commission who require candidates to be truthful). 

It is also a lie to associate Claire Wright with the East Devon Alliance - again their home page makes it clear that their registration with the Electoral Commission is only for local government and not central government elections. Indeed a quick search for Claire Wright on the EDA website shows only two mentions which are not in quotes from the press - where she endorses the EDA candidates standing to replace her as Councillor in Ottery Rural, and pictured with their candidate for Budleigh, Les Cotton. So, by failing to check his facts before opening his mouth, Hugo has has lied again. 

That said, there are obviously some connections between Claire Wright and the EDA. Both are standing as Independents. Both believe in open and transparent local government, both are fearless in exposing the secrecy and poor quality decisions made by the Conservative leadership at EDDC, a leadership which Hugh Swire has himself criticised for their plans to relocate from the Knowle, originally to Skypark, and now to Honiton and Exmouth. 

But the most obvious connection between Claire Wright and the EDA is that they are both looking very electable, and that the local Conservative party is both so scared of losing and so lacking in their own policies for East Devon that they are panicked into making wild accusations which are easily provable as lies. Shame on them!

West 'free spirits' challenge old order in race for Westminster - Western Morning News

Here is the full statement from the chair of the EDA:


2nd May 2015

Dear Hugo Swire

In a Western Morning News interview with Phil Goodwin, published online on 1st May 2015, you state, “There is no doubt that Claire Wright and the EDA are one and the same – I don’t know how they manage to say they are independent when it is a registered party”.

We would be grateful if you now desist in attempting to influence the District Council election with this misinformation. I am Chairman of the East Devon Alliance and whether you are or are not returned as the member for East Devon to Parliament is of no matter to me, my vice chairman, treasurer or communications director. None of us live in your former constituency.

If you visit our website and read our extensive literature – indeed, watch our videos – your name does not occur once. We have taken great pains to defend ourselves from the moment when someone such as you casually concocts the canard that Mrs Wright and we are co-campaigners with the intent of denigrating both her and us.

It would be worth your taking the time to properly research your subject. As Independents we have allied under an umbrella because many of your operatives in the local Conservative party in East Devon are unfit to wear the national rosette. Standing as an Independent in very many of the towns and villages is to be the subject of tactics unfit for our nation’s political life. In the self-evident lack of public faith in East Devon District Council – well-known matters which you have disdained to engage with – is the epitome of our failing democracy. Our alliance is precisely how it will be rebuilt, and it is at moments such as this that we can defend ourselves from untruths such as yours. What is the East Devon Alliance but a manifestation of the Localism your party professes to support?

Your sources should have told you – as could the Electoral Commission – that we specifically chose to register with them in the category of groups precluded from campaigning in national elections. I have not spoken for Mrs Wright or even seen her campaign literature; I live in Colyton, on the eastern edge of Neil Parish’s patch. I have not attended any of your joint hustings, being too busy with the district election.

I am aware, however, that she has consistently tried to address the well-recorded problems at EDDC with courage and determination. If you had bothered to attend any of the meetings at which she was shouted down by the sexist goons on the Conservative side I like to think you may have been alerted to the public disgust with them – and with your party in the District – rather sooner, and that you would have been man enough to intervene.

To conclude, we are not “one and the same”, and we are registered as a party because despite 5 years to do so your government has not found the time to move on with recommendations emerging from select committees that local campaigning groups such as us should not, of course, have to register centrally at the Electoral Commission. Please desist from making false statements about us and fight your own battles rather than those of your district underlings who, you must surely realise, have done so much to have created your current predicament.

Signed Paul Arnott

East Devon Alliance responds to Hugo Swire “misinformation” | East Devon Watch
Independents working for you | East Devon Alliance

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