Thursday 22 November 2012

Meanwhile, in Newark...

A report in today’s Lincolnshire Echo has uncovered strange goings-on in the Liberal Democrats’ Euro-selection contest in the East Midlands.

The story is not (yet) available online, so is reproduced in full here:
E-mail reveals plan to bring in Lib Dem MEP by default
by Louise Wallace
A leaked e-mail which revealed a plan to ensure an aspiring Euro MP gained a seat as Lincolnshire’s representative in Brussels has been withdrawn.
The message to Lib Dem party members urged them to re-elect Bill Newton Dunn, who it said would then stand down to make way for a “party favourite”.
It has now been withdrawn because Mr Newton Dunn said he would not stand down if he was elected.
The message was circulated to more than 40 members by the chairman of the Newark branch of the Liberal Democrats, Peter Scorer.
It read: “Dear members, you should all be receiving ballot papers for our candidate for the Euro elections, mine arrived today. Issan Ghazni from Nottingham (who came to our lunch) has aspirations to be a Euro MP.
“Bill Newton Dunn had intended to stand down. However, it is considered that he has the best chance of becoming elected again as our MEP.
“He has been persuaded to stand again. He intends to sit for one year. Thereafter, he will stand down and our second preference will become our MEP.
“Please therefore vote for Bill Newton Dunn as your first choice and Issan Ghazni for your second choice.”
Mr Scorer told the Echo he later learned that the e-mail was incorrect and has asked all recipients to ignore it.
“I was advised at a meeting we had and subsequently I have been advised that the information was inaccurate, so I’ve sent a follow-up e-mail saying please ignore it,” said Mr Scorer.
“Someone told me the information and discussed it at the Newark meeting and it was suggested we should tell our members. I can’t remember who told me about it. I do not know whether they got the correct information or what but Bill is not standing down.
“Members can vote for who they want. There is no element of coercion.”
When asked if, in future, with the correct information, whether he would send out a similar e-mail, he said: “Knowing what I know now, I would certainly have grave reservations about it.”
Mr Newton Dunn, who represents the East Midlands in Europe, distanced himself from the message, saying the party disapproved of the e-mail and that it was the action of an individual.
Pressed on his views about the idea that members are asked to vote a particular way, he said: “Well, everybody makes mistakes, but there are more important questions in life than this, such as austerity, government finances, climate change and war in the Middle East.”
Voters in Lincoln said the e-mail seems to go against the principle of democracy.
Shaun Scott, 39, of St Botolph’s Crescent, Lincoln, said: “If you vote for someone you would expect them to do their full term in office, unless there was some serious medical reason why they could not.”
DJ Alvin Nixon, 34, of Hawthorn Chase, Lincoln, said he did not believe it was democratic.
He said: “You don’t want someone else you didn’t vote for coming in after a year and taking over from the person you voted for. That does not sound right to me.”
The decision to round off the story with two random vox pops on the streets of Lincoln is one of those bizarre things local newspapers do.

But the party’s powers that be have more political nous than the Echo’s reporter. They should be sensitive to this sort of allegation, particularly after the damaging episode in Yorkshire & Humber in January. They might care to investigate the activities of the mysterious person known in Newark only as ‘someone told me the information’.

POSTSCRIPT: The story eventually appeared on the Lincolnshire Echo’s website here.

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