Terry O'Connor

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Secondary Canvassing?

As you may have noticed, the UK is going through yet another election campaign, this time for the snap General Election that the Prime Minister assured us she would not call. As with any such campaign, unsolicited literature arrives, usually addressed along the lines of “Dear Neighbour; Dear Voter; Dear <insert name here>”. This morning, I received a plain white envelope that appears to be election literature in disguise. The letter it contained has caused me a great deal of bewilderment and amusement, so I thought I should share it more widely. Here it is.

BRAG letter

When is a personal letter actually political canvassing?  When it is promoted ‘on behalf of’ the candidate?

As you can see, the letter is written “in a personal capacity” on the headed notepaper of an action group that has “no political allegiance” and yet it urges the reader to vote for a specific candidate in the forthcoming Election. Being a simple-minded chap, I find that baffling. Why is someone who evidently wishes to influence voters to support a specific candidate doing so under the cover of an unaligned action group, rather than from his home address? After all, he is writing “in a personal capacity”. The small print at the bottom of the letter just compounds the bafflement: “Promoted and printed …. on behalf of P. Davies….”. So it’s not on behalf of the signatory of the letter, nor on behalf of the action group? Who is this P. Davies, on whose behalf this has been circulated? The address will be a clue … well, fancy that, it’s the address of the Shipley constituency Conservative Association and P. Davies must be Philip Davies, the very man for whom the letter wants us to vote!
So to summarise this farrago, a letter that effectively admits to being canvassing literature on behalf of election candidate Philip Davies has been camouflaged as a letter “in a personal capacity” from a supporter of Mr Davies, who has then gone further by using a local action group as a front. I wonder how much this cost to print and circulate, and whether those costs will appear on Mr Davies’ constituency election spending accounts? I do hope so.
Philip Davies is obviously fully entitled to canvass for votes. Some people will vote for him because of his supportive constituency record: he was prompt, polite and thorough when I wrote to him about grouse moor management a while back. Others will look at his Commons voting record and obstructive filibustering and place their votes elsewhere. In the end, he will probably win the seat, so why did he or any of his supporters think such a cack-handed and ineptly-disguised piece of canvassing was either necessary or advisable?

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