Electoral changes that frustrate independents

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From: Jack Brown, Lamb Lane, Monk Bretton, Barnsley, South Yorkshire.

IN 1959, aged 20, I decided to join the Labour Party rather than the Communist Party. A year later, like Ian McMillan (Yorkshire Post, December 4), I was filled with awe as I cast my first vote in an English election. Having fought in most general elections and every local election in the half-century since, I have seen England’s constitution battered by political parties. The worst blow was delivered by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, 2000 (LPPER) and Local Government Act, 2000 (LGA).

Ian presents “The Corned Beef Party” as the metaphor for a freedom that has been lost. One could describe oneself thus before the LPPER. Since the LPPER, there is no possibility of a Corned Beef Party candidate, frustrated beyond measure, at the 11th hour in an election period. “Independent” is the only alternative to the name of a registered party on the ballot paper. To register one has to submit a party name and a constitution to the Electoral Commission (EC) that the Act created for a substantial sum; submit annual accounts with an administration fee and fines for delay; have literacy skills that enable one to plough through acres of EC “consultation”.

The EC has made election forms and expenses returns a nightmare, even for the well-educated. It is taking us down the road of reduced voting age and funding of political parties. Its mass postal voting has killed the sense of occasion and led to ever-present danger of fraud. The prime concern of an independent with little money and few workers is to deliver one election leaflet to postal voters. The leaflet is delivered far earlier than it used to be, with less impact. Political Party propaganda – funded by tithes on the salaries of councillors – is delivered all year round and at the last minute.