In solidarity with FITWATCH please read, digest and act on.
Apparently the post below attempts to ‘pervert the course of justice’ and the Fitwatch blog was subsequently suspended on request of one Acting Detective Inspector Will Hodgeson from CO11 as part of Operation Malone.
Most people in this country are still under the illusion that it would take ‘the due process of law’ such as an order from a court to shut a blog down rather than a request by a lowly ‘Acting Detective Inspector’..but there you go, sign of the times.
South Norfolk planning meetings in spotlight
Calls for councillors to ban the holding of political briefings immediately before planning meetings fell on deaf ears yesterday after members unanimously rejected officer advice on the issue.
Members of South Norfolk district council’s scrutiny meeting yesterday voted 12-0 against a report from the authority’s monitoring officer Tim Mobbs recommending that holding political ‘pre-meetings’ before planning committee sessions should be banned “in order to remove a potential obstacle to public confidence in the planning system”.
The report followed a complaint by members of the Carleton Rode Community Support Group last year following two planning meetings where applications for a gipsy traveller site in the area were considered.
Jim Wilson, from the Carleton Rode community support group and former chairman of Norfolk Police Authority, complained to the council following the second meeting which approved the plans last August about the “secret” political meetings taking place before the planning committee.
Mr Wilson said while there was no evidence the decision had been pre-judged, it was equally impossible to prove that it had not been and the meetings were not in the public interest. In the complaint submitted to the authority, he said that at worst they provide a “covert opportunity for pre-determination, bias, even hidden whipping of members’ votes”.
Mr Wilson said: “We asked the chief executive of the council to what the purpose of these meetings were and she said it was an exchange of information. But what information could be exchanged that couldn’t be exchanged in an open and public hearing?
“I’m disappointed that the main recommendation of the monitoring officer on councillors holding these before planning hearings has been overturned,” Mr Wilson added.
Though political pre-meetings are not illegal, the local government association has advised that the use of political whips to influence the outcome of a planning application is likely to be regarded as maladminstration.
No other district council in Norfolk holds them before planning committee meetings, while Norfolk County Council, stopped them following the election of the new council last year and concerns raised by a member of the public.
At yesterday’s meeting, Christopher Kemp, scrutiny committee chairman, temporarily stood down from the post so he could speak out in favour of the current system.
“Our group rules make it quite clear there can be no pre-planning discussions, however the main planning committee has to do other things as well such as determine policy issues,” Mr Kemp said. “There is a danger that it is open to misguided interpretations, but you do not know about what private conversations there might have been, whether it is at a group meeting in someone’s house of down the pub.
“We are not open in the sense the public can come, but we are open in the sense we are telling the public we are having these meetings.”
Murray Gray, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, said the monitoring officer’s report was quite finely balanced.
He said the purpose of the pre-meetings was not for members to be whipped on which way to vote, but to provide an opportunity to share information and raise policy questions.
“If we didn’t have group meetings, you wouldn’t necessarily stop members discussing it by phone or by email,” Dr Gray said. “The main planning committee is the guardian of policy and it’s important to understand what the policy is and what the argument is for overturning it. Some times you can clarify issues like that.”
Councillors instead agreed that future agenda papers will make it clear that the way members intend to vote should not be discussed at pre-meetings.
A Norfolk Euro MP is facing calls for his conduct to be investigated amid claims he spelled out ways that potential supporters could bypass election rules and keep details of large donations secret.
The Sunday Times claimed Stuart Agnew and Ukip party leader Lord Pearson of Rannoch suggested ways to flout Electoral Commission rules to give cash to its general election campaign fund.
Mr Agnew, a farmer from Helhoughton, near Fakenham, who was elected to Brussels last year, reportedly told an undercover reporter a person could remain anonymous by channelling funds through an unincorporated association called Global Britain, which was set up by Lord Pearson in 1997.
Electoral Commission rules state unincorporated associations, which do not have to file accounts, can make donations to political parties but the money must not be channelled from an individual who is seeking to remain anonymous.
In the Sunday Times, Mr Agnew was recorded as saying: “I’ve spoken to Nigel Farage (Ukip MEP and former party leader) and he says at the moment you can put £25,000 into Global Britain and you will remain anonymous.”
Mr Agnew suggested that other ways of keeping a potential donor’s identity secret included giving money as a gift to another person who then donated it.
He went on: “Your mother can make you a loan of £100,000 to buy a house … and you would then become a donor to the party for £100,000 and your name would go up on the Electoral Commission website.”
When the real donor died, she could state in her will the loan was now a gift. “You are seen to be the donor rather than her,” he added.
Another undercover reporter spoke to Lord Pearson who said the money given to Global Britain would be passed “straight on” to Ukip.
Asked if he could guarantee the donor’s name would not come out he said: “Yes, we did it in the European elections (in 2009). We passed on £80,000 from one person in effect … and that caused no difficulty at all.”
When confronted later Lord Pearson reportedly told the paper he would have given the donor’s name to the Electoral Commission.
Mr Agnew, who is standing as a general election candidate for Ukip in the Broadland constituency, could not be contacted by the EDP yesterday.
But Labour MEP Richard Howitt, last night called for a full investigation in to the issue.
“I will be raising it with the Electoral Commission first thing on Tuesday,” Mr Howitt said. “It’s always been true that of all the British parties in the European Parliament, Ukip has been the least open and transparent.
“I’m extremely concerned because Ukip has two seats in the East of England, which may have been based on donations which may in fact have been illegal.”
Lord Pearson also branded some Ukip members “Neanderthals” and said Mr Agnew, 60, was “one of our only really sane MEPs”.
It is not the first time that a Ukip MEP in the region has hit the headlines over financial matters.
Last year former Ukip MEP Tom Wise was jailed for two years for fraudulently claiming £39,000 of EU parliamentary expenses.
None of the Above (NOTA) or against all is a ballot choice in some jurisdictions or organizations, placed so as to allow the voter to indicate his disapproval with all of the candidates in any voting system. It is based on the principle that all legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold consent, allowing voters to withhold their consent in an election to office, just as they can by voting no on ballot questions.
NOTA was registered as a political party with the UK Electoral Commission on 2 March 2009. It is the intention of NOTA to field candidates in every UK parliamentary constituency. The respective NOTA candidates will not continue in office should they receive the most votes. It is merely a mechanism to facilitate a means of recording a NOTA vote. Under the Registration of Political Parties (Prohibited Words and Expressions) (Amendment) Order 2005 (S.I. 2005/147), “None of the above” is a prohibited expression regarding registration as a party name.
The aims of NOTA are:
a) to raise awareness of the fundamentally undemocratic nature of our current system of government
b) to provide information about what None Of The Above is, how it would work and why it is so central to the concept of democracy
c) to put pressure on the political establishment to include a None Of The Above box on the UK ballot paper.
THE FACTS ABOUT ‘NONE OF THE ABOVE’
Spoilt Ballots & Turnout Figures
With a general election around the corner, it seems that many people who support the NOTA-UK movement in principle are under the impression that spoiling the ballot paper is the same thing as None Of The Above. It isn’t, this is FALSE.
Spoilt ballot papers ARE counted but they are categorically NOT counted as PROTEST votes. If they were, there would be no need for the NOTA box.
When you spoil the ballot paper in protest it is counted and grouped with all the ballot papers spoiled in error. There is no distinction made between a vote creatively spoilt in protest and one that someone messed up. They are all lumped in together and defined collectively as the latter, not the former.
In addition, people who spoil ballots in protest, or in error, are added to the turnout figures just for walking into the polling station, even though their ‘vote’ is not actually counted in any way. So, aside from making you feel better, spoiling a ballot paper actually achieves nothing, in fact it only compounds the problem.
In contrast, voting NOTA in numbers (if we could), would have a profound impact on any election result.
Our ‘First Past The Post’ (FPTP) page has full details on our current system, in summary it is a two party system where no-else can ever get a look in. This is because of the many supposedly ‘safe’ seats that are traditionally always Labour or Conservative. These seats represent a minority of the UK population, yet they also represent a disproportionately large amount of seats in parliament, thus giving the two main parties a huge head start at election time.
In these ‘safe’ seats the turnout is always incredibly low, as most people know the result is a forgone conclusion. A NOTA box on the ballot paper would absolutely demolish this idea of a ‘safe’ seat as it would give the abstaining majority in those constituencies something tangible to vote for and by doing so, level the playing field nationwide.
If NOTA Wins
If the NOTA box were to carry the majority vote in any single constituency, there would have to be a re-run election in that constituency with the previous candidates disqualified and new candidates put forward. This is good for democracy, it would encourage and enable genuine candidates relying on truth and integrity rather than career politicians relying on spin and manipulation to come forward and have a go. It would not, as some have tried to suggest, create chaos or a power vacuum. It would be a simple case of staging a second election, which would take a matter of days, during which time the previous administration would obviously hold the fort.
If the NOTA box were to carry the majority vote nationwide (also known as the popular vote), as is highly likely, the same principle unfortunately doesn’t apply. Under any form of Proportional Representation (see PR page), it would. But under our current FPTP system, the party who won the most seats would still form the next government. But in those circumstances, that government would have no legitimacy, as the larger popular vote would be UNIFIED behind one thing – None Of The Above. Electoral reform would have to follow, it would be unavoidable as the government’s position would be completely untenable.
This is why NOTA has to be the first step on the road to reforming our system of government. No matter how much the two main parties talk about having referendum’s on the electoral process once they are elected (whilst electioneering, naturally), the truth is they have no intention of ever voluntarily scrapping FPTP as they know it would be the end of their dominance of the whole process.
Getting a NOTA box is achievable, however, for the reasons discussed on the About Us page. A NOTA box on the ballot paper could, and most likely would, create circumstances in which the political establishment would have no choice but to reform our electoral system. NOTA is therefore the seed from which all other electoral and political reform can grow.
The Re-open Nomination’s Issue
A lot of people have said to us things like “None OF The Above sounds a bit negative, wouldn’t Re-Open Nominations (RON) be better?”
In a by-election, or individual constituencies in a general election, RON is applicable but we would be in favour of ‘None Of The Above (re-open nominations)’ as a compromise for two reasons:
Firstly, a lot of people who would vote NOTA would do so out of pure protest and disillusionment with our entire system. They would therefore be unlikely to vote for ‘Re-Open Nominations’ if that were how the option were presented to them. None Of The Above is totally unambiguous and has infinitely more clout with these people, of which there are millions.
Secondly, at a national level in a general election, RON is completely inapplicable, because if it, or NOTA, were to carry the popular vote nationwide, under FPTP the party with the most seats would still form the next government. There would be no re-opening of nominations, so RON would make no sense. As stated above, in that scenario, the new government would have no legitimacy as the nationwide popular vote would be greater and unified behind one thing, electoral reform would have to follow. In which case, that one thing has to be NOTA, as that is in fact what people have voted for.
As for negativity, what we are campaigning for is the democratic right to say NO, so None Of The Above is completely appropriate. Being able to say NO to something unacceptable, or that isn’t working, is in fact inherently positive on account of what it represents in terms of liberty and democracy.
New Political Parties & Independents
Many people have also said to us things like: “Why get people to unite behind ‘no-one’, why not set up a new political party or get those people to vote for one of the other parties, or stand as independents?”
The answer to this is simple. In our current system, only Labour and the Conservatives have any realistic chance of forming a government, due to FPTP. All other parties are essentially irrelevant and merely reinforce the illusion-of-democracy. When a new party, or a fringe party or independent causes an upset and wins a seat, they actually have no real influence or power in Westminster because of the nature of our undemocratic disproportional system. These occurrences serve only to grab a few headlines and allow the likes of Cameron and Brown to crow about the virtues of our wonderful ‘democracy’, even though it isn’t one. As for mobilising our supporters to vote for an established party, this would obviously be counter productive to our aims for the same reasons.
NOTA is the only way to turn this scenario around and give other parties and independents any degree of relevance within our system of government.
(NB: The phrase ‘None Of The Above’ is prohibited from appearing on the UK ballot paper in the context of describing a new political party or candidate (for obvious reasons – people would think they were casting a vote for ‘none of the above’, when in fact it would be a vote for a registered party of that name). It is NOT, however, prohibited as a means to register a non-partisan positive abstention, which is what we are campaigning for).
Unfortunately, all the while we have this undemocratic two party system and no means of saying NO, the only way to positively impact upon it at election time is to not vote and try to engineer a ridiculously low turnout that calls into question the winning party’s legitimacy. As discussed on the homepage, this is, however, not the same as withholding consent and saying “NO”. It is merely not participating in the process.
But sadly, if you vote at all in our current system, you are merely reinforcing and propping up an undemocratic two party system and everything it represents, no matter who you vote for. So many feel they have no choice but to abstain.
That is why we need a NOTA box on the ballot paper as matter of urgency.