SMALLER PARTIES BEING ‘SQUEEZED OUT’ OF MAY ELECTIONS BY CONFUSING COVID RULES AND OVER-ZEALOUS POLICING
Ambiguous lockdown rules and over-zealous policing are ‘squeezing smaller parties out of the democratic process’, independent candidates for upcoming elections in May are warning.
In London, mayoral candidate Brian Rose – second-favourite in the race – is engaged in a war of words with police chiefs after he and his team were fined while using a ‘Covid-secure’ campaign bus, to which the public had no access.
And in Wales, Member of the Welsh Parliament Neil McEvoy has accused police of ‘subverting the democratic process’ after officers turned up at his house to warn him about leafleting.
Rose, a New York-born ex-Wall Street banker who’s lived in London for 20 years, was stopped and fined £200 by police in Southwark, central London, last month, along with four team members, after being told campaigning was ‘not a necessary reason to be out of your homes’.
A video of the incident has since been viewed on social media platforms nearly one million times.
Rose, 49, said: “The police stopped, detained and fined me and four of my crew, and banned us from campaigning. They’ve now told us it’s ok to leaflet but only if a private company is doing the leafleting – volunteers can’t leaflet, which by definition seems to imply that if you’re an independent candidate or smaller party, and don’t have the funds, then you can’t campaign.
“This seems to be a major violation of the democratic process. How can you hold free and fair elections if you can’t educate the public who the candidates are?”
Earlier this week, Senedd Member Neil McEvoy was ‘cautioned’ by police after 2021 election leaflets were delivered door-to-door in Cardiff. According to the Welsh Government’s alert level 4 coronavirus guidelines, political campaigning is not considered a ‘reasonable excuse to leave home’.
McEvoy, who is the leader of Propel party, said: “I think it’s clear to the public that when it comes to me, and my party Propel, policing is done very differently.
“If the law is there then the law has to apply equally to everybody. Mark Drakeford is having his leaflets delivered, paying a private company to do so, yet the chief constable is seeking to stop my leaflets being delivered by volunteers who are taking Covid precautions. Everyone has gloves, everybody has sanitiser, myself included.”
The incident with London mayoral candidate Brian Rose took place at the start of a tour of all 32 London boroughs in what he describes as the world’s first Covid-secure, fully digital battle bus, complete with on-board TV studio facilities for live streaming – which resulted in 3.5 million unique visitors to the Digital Battle Bus Tour site, 65% of which are from Greater London.
And after writing to both City of London and Metropolitan police forces to seek guidance on why he was fined, Rose has now hit out at the response.
Rose added: “I was walking down the middle of the road and live streaming on my phone when I was surrounded by ten City of London police officers who had approached in five police vans.
“I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with criminalising the right to campaign. I know the police have a very difficult job but I told them I thought it was political.
“I went back to my legal team and we created a five-page letter which we sent it to the London police commissioners, and we got back out on the road.
“We were stopped two days later by the Met police but I wasn’t on the bus and they let us continue, and since then we’ve been ready to be pulled over, stopped and arrested any moment – but we haven’t been.
“This felt very political – why come after us? The police had been watching what we’d been doing for two days, as they told us when they fined us.
“We received a reply from the police and they clarified the issue of leafleting – which was interesting because I wasn’t leafleting and they still fined us.
“We’re moving forward with our digital campaign and I think these laws need to be looked at – this latest statement by the police does not seem fair.”
The 22-day tour of London has covered 2,028 miles, and also led to over one million shares of the Brian For Mayor site.