The pressure group Unlock Democracy is generally pretty good at understanding that having a healthy democracy is more than simply about the narrow confines of casting and counting votes. Healthy democracy involves meaningful debate and choice between a range of views.
That makes the latest mailing I have received from them all the most disappointing. Good news – supporters are being asked to submit nominations for its governing council. Bad news – the highly restrictive campaigning rules that make even the old Liberal Democrat internal election rules seem rather generous:
Candidates may not produce any further promotional materials [in addition to the ballot mailing manifesto] … No candidate may pro-actively campaign for election online, or allow anyone else to campaign on their behalf … The Returning Officer may disqualify any candidate who they deem to have made a public statement to promote their candidacy.
As for that ballot mailing manifesto, it can only by 300 words. Not even an artworked piece of A5. Other than that: sssssh!
Imagine if the government were to propose such a stringent set of campaign restrictions for public elections. Would Unlock Democracy say, “You know what, that’s a darn good idea”? I hope not – but just as campaigning is healthy in public elections because it allows voters to make better informed choices, so it is too in internal contests.
It does at least make my voting in the Council elections easy when the ballots come round. If you’re in favour of these rules, you won’t be getting my vote.
For another reaction to these election rules see Mark Valladares: Throwing away the key … how not to run an internal election.