When TopOfTheCops launched a campaign in August to get PCC candidates to 'fess up' as to whether they had a problem by having the wrong type of criminal conviction over 40 candidates answered the call.
In Northamptonshire, of the candidates we knew about in August who made it to being nominated, only union official and Labour candidate Lee Barron did not make a declaration to this site, (UKIP's Jim MacArthur hasn't either, but he was not known as a candidate in August and so was not approached).
Now perhaps we know why. Today in an extraordinary development Barron is reported to have 'quit', and the Labour party has withdrawn its support of him as it has been revealed that Barron had a conviction, apparently for obstructing police, from an incident in a pub in 1990.
There are mixed messages in the report though.
1. A Labour spokesman said: “We are disappointed to learn from Lee today he has a previous conviction which bars him from standing as a candidate. He has been suspended with immediate effect and we have withdrawn our support pending an investigation.”
Compare this with
2. The Chron understands Mr Barron informed the Labour Party of the incident before he was selected
In order to be nominated Barron will have needed to make a statement regarding his qualification to be nominated. Making a false statement is a criminal offence. There will need to be an investigation. But this article suggests that officers may also need to investigate what the Labour party knew, to see whether anyone else aided, abetted, counseled or procured this statement from Barron. On a bad day for the Labour party that is some further news they may need to digest.
The reason being given for the 'mix up' is that the conviction didn't disqualify him until guidelines changed following last year's riots.
I cannot in mere words convey the stupidity of that statement. The Act says a conviction for an imprisonable offence is a disqualification. It defines an imprisonable offence as follows
(a)“imprisonable offence” means an offence—
(i)for which a person who has attained the age of 18 years may be sentenced to a term of imprisonment, or
(ii)for which, in the case of such a person, the sentence is fixed by law as life imprisonment;
Put simply, sentencing guidelines don't matter here – they determine what is likely to happen in any given case, not the limit of what may happen in all cases – the statute does that.
We can all feel for Barron, whose efforts to become a PCC will be unrewarded because of a £20 fine many years ago, but we are also entitled to expect better from candidates, political parties and their legal advisers.
The likelihood is that Northamptonshire residents will be deprived of a Labour choice. With the withdrawal date passed a week ago, and postal ballots going out immanently Mr Barron may still be on the ballot paper but cannot be elected, which will be particularly confusing. There was ample time to sort this out before nominations closed. One can only feel real pity for the returning officer, the election staff, the people of Northamptonshire and the remaining candidates. This is Labour's mess.
Makes the Northants race a bit more interesting now though, doesn't it?
The remaining candidates who could be elected are:-
I wonder how the info about this conviction and Barron's controversial speech on law-breaking came to be known, and how many other candidates have got a little secret conviction they hope we don't find out about.
Update – Tony Clarke says he knew about Barron's situation months ago and criticises the Labour party for dropping him. Is Clarke on the lst of witnesses for the Northamptonshire Police investigation? (Assuming they accept Barron does not have to be investigated by another force?)
Update Thursday 1 November
I have spoken to the Northants PARO team and note their Press Release following Lee Barron's 'withdrawal'.
The main points are:-
- Barron cannot withdraw – it's too late.
- Barron's name will be on the Ballot Paper
- The returning officer and PARO will not be advising electors what to do – so no notices in Polling Stations saying that he wants to withdraw or is disqualified.
- The Election Count will go on unaffected.
- The PARO isn't saying what will happen if Barron gets the most votes.
I tried to get a statement to say whether he is viewed as withdrawn or as disqualified. They only say that he cannot withdraw at this stage.
This has a bizarre impact on the election.
Labour activists will not be campaigning, but Labour supporters will still get postal ballots and polling cards. When they turn up at the polling station or otherwise cast their votes, whether they know about Barron's situation will depend on whether they follow local news or gossip. They will cast their votes.
If Barron wins the vote (now unlikely) it seems he is disqualified from taking office. Does the office move to whoever comes second, or does there need to be a fresh election?
If Barron comes second on the first ballot (still possible) he could benefit from second preferences which could help him win, but in so doing he will exclude the candidate who has come third, who is the candidate who 'should' be the real second, and have a chance in the run-off.
If he comes less than second his votes will move to whoever they have put as their Supplementary Votes. But you only get one Supplementary Vote – so effectively this situation deprives Labour voters of their second preference.
A real mess – how did we get to this place. It's nearly 3 months since I last raised the matter of whether anyone would check criminal convictions before nominations were accepted.
Yet another update
The BBC report the Home Office view in this report:-
“The Home Office said if a disqualified candidate won there would have to be a by-election.
The post would become vacant straight away and an acting PCC would be appointed by the Police and Crime Panel until the by-election was held, which would be within 35 days.”