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News / 12 April, 2010

Hackney Council rejects mayoral candidate’s election address

Conservative hopeful Andrew Boff’s page to be cut from booklet sent to all voters

Andrew Boff, London Assembly Member and Conservative candidate for Mayor of Hackney

Andrew Boff, London Assembly Member and Conservative candidate for Mayor of Hackney

Andrew Boff, Conservative mayoral candidate for Hackney, claims his freedom of expression and political rights are being denied by Hackney Council, following its decision to exclude his election address from the mayoral booklet that will be sent out to all Hackney voters in advance of the elections on Thursday 6 May.

“How fair is Hackney’s election going to be if they are denying the right of a candidate to state how much the Mayor and his cabinet are
costing taxpayers?

“First of all they banned [Hackney author] Iain Sinclair from Council properties for daring to say something that the Mayor found uncomfortable, now my right to freedom of expression is being taken away by these control freaks.

“It seems like it’s a “future fair for all” – but not if you disagree with them,” said Mr Boff.

Mr Boff received an email today, Monday 12 April 2010, stating that:

“The election address submitted by yourself on Thursday 8 April is invalid and is rejected…The payment of £750 is forfeited and can only be returned if you should withdraw your candidature by the last time allowed for the withdrawal of candidature.”

This decision was made following a meeting between Mr Boff and the Council at Hackney Town Hall on the afternoon of Friday 9 April.

When he submitted his draft election address to the Council on the morning of Thursday 8 April, Mr Boff drew attention to and circled the particular phrase, “The Mayor and his cabinet pay themselves £335,000 a year.” and asked if that was acceptable.

Criticism of other candidates is not permitted in the mayoral election address.

Mr Boff says that the Interim Electoral Services Manager told him that, as the passage referred to the post rather than to the person, it would be fine.

He then went home and refined his draft election address, as he had been told just beforehand that he would be able to make changes by close of play or at least before the booklet was sent to the printers.

But later that same day, he was then told that the deadline for changes had passed, and so none could be made.

The next day, Friday 9 April, Mr Boff had a meeting with the Council’s Interim Electoral Services Manager and Corporate Director for Legal and Democratic Services to discuss ‘typographical corrections’, though the discussion also arguably included discussion of substantive changes.

According to Mr Boff, the Council raised concerns with him at about the sentence, “The Mayor and his Cabinet pay themselves £335,000 a year”.

Mr Boff proposed to re-write the passage to read: “Along with the pay of the Cabinet, the position of Mayor costs £335,000”, but says this amendment was rejected.

“In holding the meeting to discuss ‘typographical corrections’, there is an implicit acceptance by Hackney Council that the original sentence is unproblematic, because if the statement is enough to disallow the entire document, why was the Council willing to discuss other amendments?” said Mr Boff.

A suggestion by Mr Boff that a phrase referring to the “dead hand of the Learning Trust bureaucrats” be deleted was accepted.

Mr Boff is arguing that the Council is at the very least being inconsistent in its application of the regulations regarding corrections to typographical errors.

Hackney Council has been asked to comment but has yet to do so.

More here: Andrew Boff to be listed in Hackney mayoral booklet

/ 12 April, 2010
  • Hackney’s decision is crying out for a judicial review. I hope Andrew Boff and the Conservatives seek counsel’s advice.

    As for “The Mayor and his Cabinet pay themselves £350K” – it’s not an ad hom attack – it’s fact.

  • We see the real face of Hackney Labour council.

    We not only have to pay for their lifestyle, we’re not allowed to read about it in opposition candidate addresses either. …

    How long before only the ruling party are allowed to field candidates?

    They *must* be made to overturn this antidemocratic decision.

    They disgust me.

  • Oliver

    This is absolutely pathetic – the Council is at best making itself look idiotic, at worst trying to muzzle a respected local politician and community activist who is a thorn in their side – and, it sounds, trying to rob him of £750!

  • This is my favorite part:

    “The payment of £750 is forfeited and can only be returned if you should withdraw your candidature by the last time allowed for the withdrawal of candidature.”

    You have got to be kidding.

  • Pingback: Andrew Boff (C) Excluded From Candidate Booklet Sent To All Voters « This Is Stoke Newington()

  • Just for the record, I’m Jules Pipe’s Agent and his leaflet had to go through exactly the same approval process and be compliant with the same rules.

    Electoral services officers are strictly non-political – the guys currently running the service are not even permanent Hackney staff.

    They ruled out 3 of the Labour candidates’ nomination papers on a technicality but luckily we had put them in early enough to go back and sort out a replacement set. This hardly suggests bias.

  • Jed Keenan

    ‘submitted by yourself on Thursday 8 April’

    A DAY before the deadline! On purpose?

    At least Hackney’s people deserve is to have submissions made with foresight that technicalities get you into trouble and need time and a good run-up to overcome successfully.

    Too difficult for Council candidate, sometimes maybe, such as in Hackney Downs where a Conservative failed to jump the nomination criteria and isn’t on the ballot paper, but for a Mayoral candidate, of my son’s Borough?

    I really do hope that this was on purpose, and in fact well done if it is on purpose because in my book all publicity about municipal elections is good publicity.

  • Nice try, Luke.

    Do you really want to run “wildly incompetent” rather than bias?

    Jules as Mayor of Hackney, must be aware of the gravity of one of his officers, temp or not, leaving his arch rival off the publicly funded candidates’ election brochure.

    In such circumstances, a prudent would take counsel’s urgent advice and post-pone the printing until the matter is resolved.

    Be we really don’t need a barrister – we can work this out for ourselves.

    One sentence kills the entire entry? Are you serious, Luke? If you […] had any sense, you would have run the rest of the ad.

    But let’s get real. The offfending sentence was: “The Mayor and his cabinet pay themselves £335,000 a year.”

    That is a fact. Even your interim Electoral Services Manager worked that out.

    But over-night, the interim Electoral Services Manager appears to have been overruled by the Head of Legal.

    Reasons, anyone, Bueller? Hello! (tapping on screen for signs of brain-activity at Hackney).

    Anyone care to come up with a REASON why the Electoral Services Manager was over-ruled?

    Don’t insult my effing intelligence, Luke.

  • Luke Akehurst don’t make me laugh.

    Did Mr Pipe’s leaflet mention the £350k figure that [the Council] used as an excuse to ban Andrew?

    Thought not.

    This council is run by Labour for their benefit- we knew that.

    What’s new is the barefaced gerrymandering cheek of antidemocratic bans on people like Andrew who fight you.

    Shame on you.

  • My understanding is that the Returning Officer did seek Counsel’s advice.

    The Tory Party has huge legal resources available.

    If this question was in any way open to doubt or interpretation they would already have resorted to law. It isn’t.

    Mr Boff has demonstrated he isn’t competent to be Mayor because he isn’t even able to submit a manifesto in the required format.

    Your activists must privately be incredibly angry with your candidate for messing this up.

    If Mr Boff’s message is so important he can do what political parties have always done and get volunteers to deliver it door-to-door.

    But then maybe there aren’t enough Tories in Hackney to do that.

  • Vincent Stops

    An Acting Returning Officer acts in their own right and not as an officer of the Council. He / She is accountable to the court.

  • Jed Keenan

    I know an apology is difficult to make to the electorate in Hackney for letting us all down, but having a pop at officers and opponents isn’t manly.

    I do sympathise with the public embarrassment being endured but then mistakes are human, so try not to be annoyed with any one individual for too long.

    Do also consider, if it helps the process of forgiveness, that the publicity is going to be very much worth the £750 price.

  • I’d be amazed if counsel advised that mention of how much the mayor and the cabinet receive in pay merits the exclusion of the entire ad – given the Mayor’s and Cabinet’s pay is a matter of the public record.

    Surely, if counsel thought thought the statement was “illegal” in any form, s/he would have suggested the statement simply redacted?

    Disclose this counsel’s advice you rely on and we can see for ourselves.

    I’m not angry at Boff – I’m fuming at the as per usual, Hackney Labour glory in dissembling.

    I’m fuming that Hackney Labour thinks it’s hilarious to waste my Council Tax in officer time and counsel’s fees.

  • Kris

    Electoral Services is the one bit of any council that members of whatever party is in charge have no control over.

    You are basically suggesting the referees of the electoral system are biased.

    I think that is both an outrageous slur and a stupid thing to say.

    If you want the counsel’s advice then do an FOI request to the Returning Officer or better still just ask him for it.

    I really resent Labour being dragged into a row about the ruling of a neutral official over the incompetence and attempted negative campaigning of a Tory.

    How come the Greens, LDs, Christians and Commies managed to submit valid manifestoes?

    Perhaps if Boff or his Agent had bothered to attend the briefing meeting for Agents run by the Returning Officer they might have understood the rules.

  • Paul J

    Luke

    Perhaps you could explain why Hackney Council thinks it appropriate to dictate what should or shouldn’t appear in an election address?

    As a Labour party agent do you think that it is appropriate for Hackney to have done so?

    Clearly there are laws dealing with the content of any publication but the sentence in question doesn’t even come close to breaching them.

    The Town Hall diktat bans attacks on other candidates. Why? Why shouldn’t opposition candidates be able to attack the incumbent? In part this is what elections are all about.

    Hackney’s approach is anti-democratic, Stalinist and is likely to prove very counter-productive,.

  • Hi Paul

    It’s not a “Town Hall diktat” or “Hackney’s approach” – these rules are not set by Hackney Council they are in the legislation that set up elected Mayors. The Council didn’t have any discretion to bend the rules and got a very clear ruling from a QC that they could not.

    This is the only level of election where the council itself sends out a booklet of election addresses so the only one where such restrictions on content apply.

    Candidates can still say what they like (within laws of libel etc) in leaflets they post or deliver themselves – it’s only the booklet sent out by the election authorities that is governed by the legislation.

    We (Labour) don’t even consider this booklet of election addresses to be a very significant aspect of the election because we have party volunteers hand-delivering far more extensive literature.

  • Cllr Akehurst should learn when to stop digging.

    Firstly, your Head of Legal would have obtained counsel’s advice, as the Hackney Council’s solicitor, not the Returning Officer. Counsel is not authorised to accept instructions from local authority lay clients direct.

    Secondly, are you seriously suggesting your Legal Department instructed counsel on Friday, 9 April and received that advice on Monday, 12 April in time to send the email to Boff?

    Pull the other one.

    And you wonder why nobody believes one word coming out of Hackney Labour spin command.

  • Kris

    My source for this is another article on this website that says:

    “Throughout, the Returning Officer and Deputy Returning Officer consulted a Queen’s Counsel who is an expert in election law. His advice to Hackney Council was that Mr Boff’s election address was invalid and that, in any event, the law does not allow for the extensive changes he wished to make.”

    Are you saying that is a lie?

    Why not just FOI all the relevant advice and emails?

  • Lord Ashcroft’s tax adviser

    What a load of old hollyhocks.

  • Council Employee

    As an employee of Hackney Council and long time resident of Hackney I am once again appalled by the organization I work for.

    Not only have they shown the incompetency I have come to expect through working here, but there has been blatant campaigning for Jules and his little mafia on Council Posters.

    They are not supposed to use Council funds to fund their election campaign. I refer to the “No Council Tax Rises For The Last 5 Years” posters. As a resident I am not happy Jules spent my council tax in this way.

    Also do you not think that if there has been an irregularity on Jules Pipe’s address, they would have bent the rules for him. I think they would. They bend the rules all the time here, but only when it suits them.

    And don’t get me started on the employees (some at directorate level) who have been “sent home to spend more time with their families” on full pay out, just so the council does not have to admit that financial irregularities have occurred in the past.

  • @Luke

    If you are so happy to be transparent, why don’t you simply disclose the advice?

    You can disclose it without making the public go through the hoop of FOI.

    You can disclose it now, if you wanted.

    I’m calling your bluff, Luke. Disclose it. At least tell us the name of the QC.

    @Council employee Brother, I used to be in your shoes. They are all the same. I jumped off the LA crazy train and I can tell you what it feels like in one word: liberating.

  • HackneyCitizen

    We understand that Returning Officers are not subject to the FoI Act 2000 – they are independent ministerial officers of the Crown. – Ed.

  • Jim

    None of the above explains why council staff were telling the public that Andrew Boff wasn’t standing and hadn’t submitted his nomination papers in time. This was completely untrue and is the nub of the issue, which the likes of Luke Akehurst are anxious to duck.

    This is much more important than the inclusion or otherwise of a candidate in an expensive booklet which was destined straight for the recyling in most Hackney homes. Well, I hope people recycled them anyway.

    Just shows what a farce the whole business is. Real politics is more effective and relevant than the election kindergarten any day.

  • The Stuckists manifesto has actually become well known, though most others have attained
    little individual track record or impact.

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