Fringe Box



Letter: The Behaviour We Saw in the Last Election Should Not be Allowed to Become the Norm

Published on: 6 Sep, 2023
Updated on: 6 Sep, 2023

From: Julian Lyon

R4GV candidate at the May 2023 GBC election

In response to: Social Media Attacks Did Affect Election Result

I lost count of the number of times I was asked (on the doorstep when canvassing and amongst friends in my local area) what the truth was behind (1) the North Street development (in the wake of the heavily-funded social-media-boosting campaign waged by Robin Horsley, full of smear, innuendo and inaccuracy); and (2) the proposed Congestion Charge following the deeply fictitious and ruinous leaflet campaign produced and distributed by the Conservatives.

Conservative election pamphlet warning of congestion charging if the Lib Dems or R4GV won the 2023 borough election.

“I have since heard a recording of a Conservative candidate apparently explicitly deceiving a potential borough council election voter by saying there was a significant risk of a congestion charge being introduced in Guildford. This, even though it was only one of many options in a consultation report and even though the candidate would have known that such a decision would have to be taken by a Conservative-controlled Surrey County Council.”

Then there was Robin Horsley’s campaign being promulgated via a so-called Worplesdon Newsletter (see image below).

I set out, in a series of letters to The Dragon, the facts behind the claims made by Mr Horsley – the background to the Planning Hierarchy and the background to North Street [click here to see relevant letters] to try to set the factual record straight.

I also pointed out that Mr Horsley sought to influence the outcome of the planning decision on North Street by threatening the councillors (except, curiously, the chair of the Planning Committee – see: Is This the Way We Want Councillors To Be Influenced?) with severe electoral consequences if they voted in favour of the North Street application, recommended for approval by the council’s professional planning officers.I would, however, urge caution against a blanket assumption that these fake news stories (which almost certainly breached the spirit, if not the letter, of undue influence provisions in the Election Act 2022) were the reason for all of the election results – I did not fail to get elected as a result only of these activities albeit they left a rather nasty taste in my mouth.

Other issues included the boundary changes which did not help the situation, and the campaigns the Conservatives and Lib Dems fought on national lines, playing for political ground ahead of next year’s inevitable general election.

It is highly likely, however, that the excellent and effective former local councillor, John Redpath lost his seat (now Castle Ward) as a result of the campaign lies and the deceitful behaviour of others.

It is also reasonable to assume that the personal attacks on John Rigg in the form of fake news, spread by boosted Social Media posts (to the tune of several thousand pounds according to Meta) led to a reduction in his vote tally and loss of his seat (also now Castle Ward).

This is all yesterday’s news but it is essential that this is not allowed to become the norm in elections, whether locally or nationally.

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