Friday, August 31, 2007

A frustrated Returning Officer writes…

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, there are mutterings about the European selections and, as one of the Returning Officers, perhaps I should comment (actually, I’m going to anyway…).

Yes, candidates aren’t allowed to attack each other, because we have anti-defamation rules. Frankly, I would be perfectly happy to see candidates attack each other’s records, especially if they have a record which merits it. I also see no difficulty with policy or strategy disagreements, in principle. Such an approach would make my life easier as Returning Officer, although I am leaning towards a concept of putting the candidates in an armoury, bolting the doors from the outside and then leaving them for a week or so…

There are four issues that make this less than desirable;

  • A more assertive dynamic requires the right to respond, and the limitations of cost and access make this less than viable, except on the e-hustings forum.
  • An aggressively fought selection provides ammunition to our opponents – this may be an internal process but you had better believe that, in particular the Tories, they are watching with interest.
  • We’re apparently a jolly nice bunch of people (apparently, we are - despite some of the evidence to the contrary).
  • People who seem like perfectly charming individuals become pedantic, nit-picking über-bureaucrats when faced with an opportunity to get elected (and I like to think that I know what I'm talking about here).

So far, I’ve had a rash of complaints about websites (and which part of ‘links are not allowed except for those specifically authorised’ is so difficult?), and about an Annual Report (yes, it was permissible, yes it did comply with the Selection Rules as far as they applied, and no, I didn’t have authority over it).

I’ve noted that, on one hand, the Rules are too restrictive, but on the other, we should have more rules about MEP communication. We've tried to free up campaigning as far as possible, and I propose to spend desperately little time staring endlessly at candidate websites unless forced to. That's what self-regulation is all about, after all.

Amidst all of the bickering, it would be really nice if a campaign broke out and so, on that note, I'm going to prepare for a weekend in Suffolk being a normal(ish) human being... and you never know, I might encounter one of East of England's potential candidates...

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