Thursday, July 23, 2009

Will they put an honest man into parliament in Norwich North?

I doubt it. The Conservative candidate Chloe Smith is hoping to snatch seat and crush Labour’s five and a half thousand majority after sitting MP Ian Gibson resigned in the days following accusations of “claiming £80,000 of taxpayers' money on a London flat that he later sold to his daughter, below the market price that in the wake of the expenses scandals.”

The wheels of democracy are back in action in the North Norwich constituency today as it’s by-election day. As mentioned in a post at the end of June, Craig Murray - blogger, former (sacked) British ambassador to Uzbekistan, author (twice), and now politician - is standing as an independent candidate under an anti-sleaze banner for the Put An Honest Man Into Parliament party.

Craig Murray posing with a Dalek in BBC's Norwich offices

As a minority candidate, his own blog recounts the problems of being largely ignored by the media and hustings organisers along with his attempts to redress the balance (including by invading the local BBC offices). He also describes his difficulty in getting the Royal Mail to accept a DVD in an envelope as his election communication that they should deliver to households in the constituency. He explains:

Every candidate in a parliamentary election has the right to have one "election communication" delivered free of charge by the Post Office. These are normally rather dull leaflets, so I decided to put my election address on a DVD. It's rather picturesque and entitled "A Norfolk Journey". 80,000 copies are being made.

The Post Office is so far refusing to deliver it. The "election communication" must meet the Post Office's "Reasonable Terms And Conditions" for such communications. These are published. The main ones are that it:

Must weigh less than 60gm - mine is less than 40gm

Must be less than 5mm thick - mine is 2mm thick

Must meet length and width criteria - mine is well inside

Must be securely folded or in a sealed envelope - mine is the latter

Must marked "electoral communication" amd [sic] carry printed and published info - mine does

Must be sorted by postcode and address - mine is.

Extraordinarily, the Post Office must also vet the content for libel, incitement to violence or incitement to racial hatred. That is a strange bit of censorship - they don't check the content of normal mail theydeliver - but my DVD passes that test too.

There is nothing in the criteria at all that says the communication must be in the 14th century medium of printed ink on paper. The regulations are silent on the medium of communication. If you took a DVD in an envelope to any Post Office, you would have no difficulty posting it as a letter.

Yet the Post Office refuses to give permission for the delivery, apparently on the grounds that nobody has ever sent a DVD before as their election communication. They have not actually refused, but have delayed beyond the stage where it is logistically possible to get it out.

That particular saga ended well for Murray ...


With grateful thanks to famous human rights lawyers Birnberg Peirce, (who advised I had a complete legal right) the Royal Mail have now at the last possible second relented and accepted that I can send out a DVD as an Electoral Communication. So we are going full blast to get it out!!

Of course, as well as the patience of Job to overcome bureaucratic obstacles and obfuscation, every independent needs a gimmick. And Craig Murray was blessed with the talents of the Corrigan Brothers and The MP Expenses Song – the group who previously brought us the ditty There's No One As Irish As Barack Obama.

Incidentally, the Corrigan Brothers recently sent the gold disc (for the Obama song, not the Expenses one!) for international sales to President Obama and received a letter back from him a week or so ago saying “this will take pride of place in the White House”.

Unusually for England, the by-election is not being counted overnight, but will instead wait until Friday morning, with the result expected around noon.

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