Back in May, I posted this about the electoral irregularities of Labour's 'Twitter Tsar' Kerry McCarthy:
Old news now, but Labour's 'Twitter Tsar' (Gawd help us) as made a bit of a boob. On Thursday, she sent out a tweet, reading: "First PVs opened in east Bristol, our sample (numbers of votes cast against candidate names), #gameON!"
This is clearly illegal, as the Representation of the People Act 1983 forbids the publication or communication of any polling data before the close of the polls on election day. Publication of early returns may, of course, influence the result, which may be done routinely by countries like Zimbabwe, but is frowned upon here.
The Returning Officer has now handed the matter over to the Police, but I have a deep suspicion that this will be kicked into the long grass until well after the election. Anything we can do to express our concern is worth doing, so I wrote last night to the Returning Officer.
I quoted my letter to Stephen McNamara, the Returning Officer, and also his reply. I was right, of course, and the matter was kicked so far beyond Third Man and into the stands that it has only just been found by a spectator and lobbed back. But re-emerged it has, and Kerry has been severely dealt with. The sitting MP for Bristol East has been found guilty of interfering with the electoral process and ... given a caution. I know, because DS Terry Greenhow has written to me and told me:
Dear Mr NAME IN CAPITALS BECAUSE I AM MERGING THIS LETTER FROM A DATABASE
Your communication regarding Ms Kerry McCarthy MP
I understand that you have expressed concerns or made a complaint about Ms McCarthy prematurely posting the results of a General Election postal ballot on Twitter. I hope you will accept our apologies for the delay in our response to you. As you would expect we had to carry out a thorough and complete investigation into this matter and it was further complicated by the need for it to be referred to a Special Case Team of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in London who have specific responsibility for deciding on investigations involving the electoral process and operate completely independently of the police.
However, the case is now concluded and the CPS have advised that Ms McCarthy should receive a caution from Avon and Somerset Police. This took place at a Bristol Police Station today 25th October 2010.
DS Terry GREENHOW
Economic Crime Team
Avon & Somerset Constabulary
Well, a reply is better than no reply, and at least it shows that the system is working to some extent. Only two questions remain:
- Our electoral process is possibly the most precious thing (apart from the thousand-year-old Common Law) that we as a nation possess. How come a blatant interference with its workings by one of the electoral candidates, which could have resulted in swinging the result her way, is punished by a mere caution?
- As a sitting MP has now received a Police caution for interfering with the democratic process, which may have benefited her candidacy, how come she is still sitting as an MP?