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Letter: Students in Stoughton and Westborough Were Told to Vote Tory

Published on: 14 Mar, 2016
Updated on: 14 Mar, 2016

Ballot boxFrom Brian Holt

It is wrong that a person who should have been sent to prison for her crime is allowed to organise a petition that could change the way our council operates and is getting signatures from students.

It should be the residents of Guildford  and not university students who vote, or not, for whether we have an elected mayor.

At the last general and local elections I was a Lib Dem teller at Stoughton Emmanual Church, where voters were voting for candidates in both both the Stoughton and Westborough wards.

All evening long there were scores of students, I would estimate two hundred, who came in and asked what to do, as they had been told to vote for Conservatives in both the local and general elections.

I wondered who had been to the university to tell the students to vote Conservative, when each person should be making their own decisions? I did not feel that as a teller I should be asking voters questions so did not ask who had been instructing them, I only felt able to advise them that there was a list of candidates on the wall.

I was very annoyed with the result. Two Conservatives who had not canvassed, or been heard of in our area, were elected.

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Responses to Letter: Students in Stoughton and Westborough Were Told to Vote Tory

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    March 14, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    This is outrageous! I assume someone is looking into how, when, why and by whom the students were instructed and whether any financial incentive was given?

  2. George Potter Reply

    March 14, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    I can imagine that the students in question had either been told to vote by the university Conservative society or had received targeted letters from the Conservative national campaign.

    There’s nothing wrong with students voting, they do live here most of the year after all, but the fact that the Conservatives did convince so many people to vote on the basis of dishonest promises and scaremongering does leave rather a bad taste in the mouth.

    As for the petition, I think it’s worth noting that some students were paid to collect signatures for the petition. There’s been no suggestion that its students who have disproportionately signed the petition.

    Given how expensive being a student is these days I can’t really begrudge a few students deciding to accept money for doing a few hours signature collecting for a cause which they may or may not have agreed with.

  3. Mary Bedforth Reply

    March 14, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Are we living in a ‘rotten borough’?

    I was under the impression those days were past.

  4. Alan Sutherland Reply

    March 14, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    I would like to hear what Brian Holt’s residency test would be in order to gain a place on the electoral roll.

    • Paul Robinson Reply

      March 17, 2016 at 12:02 pm

      You’ve missed the point. It is not their right to vote that is being questioned but rather they fact they have been told who to vote for rather them making their own mind up.

  5. George Dokimakis Reply

    March 14, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    If such is the case I would advise Mr Holt (if he has not done so already) to lodge a formal complain to the electoral commission.

    What is alluded to in this letter is that there has been some form of electoral arm-wrestling or some other form of coercion. I think a formal complaint to allow for an investigation should be made.

    Also, living and studying in Guildford does rightly entitles one to vote for the elections or sign a petition. The issue at hand is offering money for signature collection.

    Money should never have the ability to influence and decide politics and such acts should be illegal lest we become like the USA where lobbying is legal and the vested interests have a foothold in their politics. We already suffer from such acts let alone when money comes into play.

  6. Brian Holt Reply

    March 14, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Its not about where the students live, the point is they were all saying that they been told to vote for the Conservative candidates. If someone has been to the students to get them all to vote for a party who have caused so much scandal at the council, its a disgrace. The only people who should be asking them to vote for a party are the councillors who are standing in the ward in which the students are living.

    • Jeremy Pattison Reply

      March 15, 2016 at 9:01 am

      Perhaps it is where you say “it should be the residents of Guildford and not university students” that has led some readers to think you think that residents of Guildford who are students are lesser citizens that residents of Guildford who are not.

      The council website helpfully tells us how that 1245 ballot papers were issued at the polling stations at Emmanuel Parish Centre. From your estimation, nearly 1 in 6 of these voters were students saying they’d been told to vote Conservative. Has a complaint been made so this can be investigated properly?

    • Alan Sutherland Reply

      March 15, 2016 at 11:13 am

      Mr Holt’s letter specifically says: “It should be the residents of Guildford and not university students who vote”. It is therefore fair to ask you what is his test to be a ‘resident of Guildford’.

      If he is looking for a reason why students did not vote for any Lib Dem candidates in the last election, he could look here


      Alan Sutherland is the chief executive officer at the University of Surrey Students’ Union.

  7. Bernard Parke Reply

    March 15, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Students have two votes in local elections. They can vote here and also in their home towns.

    Unlike the general election which is just one election, local elections are separate.

  8. Nigel Trellis Reply

    March 15, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    The question to be asked is were the students given money to vote Conservative?

  9. Brian Holt Reply

    March 16, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    The Guildford public deserve to know what is going on in elections held within our borough and constituency. Who was it that was telling the local students to vote a certain way and why? I know what they told me and I believe what they told me, it was not just one or two.

    We now know of the secret relationship between Stephen Mansbridge and Monika Juneja with the Students’ Union. That the union should have associated themselves with someone already, at the time, charged with such dishonesty reflects on them very badly.

    Can Alan Sutherland assure us that they did not tell the students which way to vote. I wonder what he knows about what went on?

    If students wished to protest against tuition fees, a central government issue, this should not been a reason for voting any particular way in our local election.

    In any case, it is we residents of Guildford Borough who pay for our services through our Council Tax, not students.

  10. Terry Stevenson Reply

    March 17, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Politicians telling people how to vote – shocking news!

  11. Claire Morris Reply

    March 17, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    This letter raises two questions in my mind:

    Firstly, if this was a concern then why weren’t complaints made to the council at the time or the issue raised with the election supervisors who regularly visited each polling station during the day?

    Secondly, given that the University of Surrey itself, including the Manor Park campus sits in Onslow ward, presumably far more students live in Onslow ward than anywhere else in the borough.

    If that is so it is noteworthy that the result in Onslow was the other way round to Westborough i.e. two Lib Dems and one Conservative elected. Surely that wouldn’t have happened if someone was telling students how to vote?

  12. Alan Sutherland Reply

    March 22, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    To respond to the specific questions, and some of the other points raised.

    The Students’ Union has never held any secret meetings. If we did, Dragon readers would not have been able to read the minutes of those meetings on our publicly accessible website. I do not know anything of these allegations that Brian Holt are raising, and I can categorically assure you the Students’ Union (nor the University, although I do not speak for them) did not tell, instruct, or insinuate which way to vote. The only campaign we ran was long before the election and that was to encourage students to register to vote. We ran this campaign in partnership with staff at GBC.

    Paul Robinson believes I have ‘missed the point’, no – in Brian Holt’s original letter he states: “It should be the residents of Guildford and not university students who vote, or not, for whether we have an elected mayor”. I asked what his test of residency would be for this. Brian Holt later replied that he feels it should be “residents of Guildford Borough who pay for our services through our Council Tax, not students” which is actually closer to the ‘rotten borough’ that Mary Bedforth sarcastically commented existed, than what we have now.

    I believe this last statement casts a light on the underlying prejudice, the continuing belief that those who pay residential council tax alone pay for Surrey County, and Guildford Borough Councils. This is not the case. However, even if it were – is Mr Holt really suggesting that only those who pay a certain tax should be allowed to vote?

    Finally, upon re-reading and reflecting on your original letter I find myself asking what is the point of this? Mr Holt seems to be trying to create the illusion of electoral fraud or impropriety however this is nearly a year after the election itself. He speaks of ‘two hundred’ students, then later it is ‘more than 1 or 2’. He didn’t feel he should be asking voters questions, but was happy enough to accuse them nearly a year later.

    Perhaps if he has similar misgivings in future he will voice them at the time and not ten months later in a local blog.

  13. Brian Holt Reply

    March 28, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    In reply to Mr Alan Sutherland, I did report it to a councillor at the polling station that evening, and her reply was, “Yes I know.”

    I was with three other people the whole time, and everyone heard what the students were saying. It is not something that I have made up.

  14. Mary Bedforth Reply

    March 30, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    We still await an answer as to who told the students how to vote.

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