UPDATE (30 July): The election petition has been rejected by the court, on the grounds that notice was served to the wrong location. Notice was delivered to Dorries’ constituency office, which was the official address given on her election materials (aside from the one leaflet which, illegally, did not have any address).
The best account so far is an article by Chris Green in the Independent. It includes the detail that:
Gavin Millar QC, acting for Ms Dorries, told the court that Mr Ireland’s solicitors had been labouring under the “misapprehension” that the election petition could be served on a place of work. “It seems to us that a straightforward error was made by the petitioner’s solicitor,” he said.
Dorries’ lawyers also argued that this address is usually unmanned.
It should be noted that (a) her “address for service” in relation to her company, Averbrook, is a virtual office in London, indicating that she does not want to be served at home; and (b) that although she maintains a residence in her constituency, she has also been reported as living with her partner in Surrey. It seems that the two judges – Mr Justices Baker and Popplewell – were unswayed by these considerations, and others.
Of course, Dorries and her associates (including her lawyers, Clifford Chance) are misleadingly attempting to portray the outcome as evidence that Tim’s complaint had no merit, when in fact it was not tested by the court.
Barrister Greg Callus announces on Twitter:
Two parliamentary election petitions have been issued in England & Wales, challenging Tory victories in (1) Mid Bedfordshire; and (2) Woking / The respective MPs are Nadine Dorries and Jonathan Lord. The petitioners (both candidates) are Tim Ireland and Ruth Temple respectively. [1, 2]
The petition relating to Dorries is a subject of some interest to me, for reasons that I previously explained here.
In response to the news, Dorries has pointed to the fact that she won the election with a majority of 23,000, whereas Tim received just “a few hundred votes”. In the same Tweet, she has mocked “bitter losers”. Meanwhile, Tim has drawn attention to Section 159 of the Representations of the People’s Act, which is concerned with “any corrupt or illegal practice in reference to the election”.
Candidates who stand for election are required to follow certain rules designed to protect the integrity of the electoral process. Voters should not be misled by disinformation about candidates; and those who wish to stand for election ought to be able to do so without being intimidated by the threat of vilification based on lies. There is no exemption from these rules for candidates whose success is virtually guaranteed because they are running for a particular party in a safe seat; nor is “open season” allowed on independent candidates who are unlikely to win or affect the final outcome.
Dorries’ behaviour during the election
As I have written previously, Dorries did not respond well when Tim announced his decision to stand for election earlier this year. It should be noted that this wasn’t a campaign fixated on Dorries – his theme was against corruption in politics, as manifested, for example, by the failure of the Conservative Party to remove activists who had smeared a Liberal Democrat as a paedophile in earlier election, and by the dishonesty of the Conservative Party chair, Grant Shapps.
However, Dorries claimed that Tim was standing in order to stalk her: she laid out a series of allegations on her blog, in which she named me as Tim’s “accomplice”. Much of her post consisted of claims made by other individuals, although nothing was documented properly and these other accusers remain anonymous (those of us in the know, though, are aware that the accusations are without substance).
She also lobbied for him to be excluded from hustings events, and when she was rebuffed by Churches Together in Shefford she declined to take part in one event. She did, though, send supporters (including two of her adult daughters), who made a scene and attempted to distribute a scurrilous leaflet lacking contact details (a breach of electoral law) – this extraordinary disruption has been described by Tim’s partner Sue, who blogs and Tweets as Humphrey Cushion, here. One of those involved in the stunt (a former intern who had worked for Dorries in Parliament) published a justification on Twitter, although he later deleted his Tweet, during a police investigation into the matter.
The police investigation (updated)
News of the on-going investigation was reported a few days ahead of the election by the Sunday Mirror, although the article was quickly deleted; Dorries said that it had been taken down because it contained “mis information” (sic), although she didn’t make clear what was meant by that exactly. It turned out that she had lodged a complaint with IPSO, the press regulator, which was in due course thrown out – full details here.
The Sunday Mirror later reported the outcome:
Tory MP Nadine Dorries has settled a row over her election campaign after a complaint against her was rejected by the Crown Prosecution Service.
The complaint was referred to the CPS, who this week decided there was not sufficient evidence to proceed.
Dorries has referred to this outcome as evidence that the petition does not have merit, despite previously having lamented the CPS’s failure to bring prosecutions. She has also stated, in reference to the second Sunday Mirror article, that she “didn’t even know until SM told me”, which again is a rather ambiguous comment.
Tim has lodged the petition despite having a received an anonymous threatening message warning him not to so, as he explains here.
I know nothing of Ruth Temple or why she has filed complaint against Jonathan Lord; however, Lord has featured on this blog previously, in relation to his failure in 2006 to deal with two activists who he knew had smeared a Liberal Democrat election candidate as a paedophile. Coincidentally, that was also a matter that Tim first brought to light.
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