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Shalford Conservative President ‘Absolutely Livid’ over Nomination ‘Fiasco’

Published on: 11 Apr, 2013
Updated on: 14 Apr, 2013
Clouds gather over Shalford consevatives whose members are said to be livid that no Conservative candidate has been nominated for the county council election

Clouds gather over Shalford Conservatives whose members are said to be livid that no Conservative candidate has been nominated for the county council election

Shalford Conservatives are said to be ‘absolutely livid’ over the ‘fiasco’ that has left thousands of Tory voters without a candidate to vote for at the forthcoming Surrey County Council election on May 2nd.

The Shalford division seat is considered to be one of the safest Conservative seats in the county council. In the last election, a by-election in 2011, Conservatives won with 3,602 votes, a majority of 2515 over the second placed Liberal Democrats.

The President of the Conservative Party in Shalford, Jim Dawkins, has gone on the record to criticise the Association Chairman, Alan Young, and his role in the failure to nominate Simon Gimson as the Conservative Party candidate for the Surrey County Council election.

Jim Dawkins, President of Shalford Conservatives

Jim Dawkins, President of Shalford Conservatives reading correspondence on the nomination ‘fiasco’

Mr Dawkins said: “Conservative party members in Shalford are absolutely livid.

“In my view, the problem was caused by a failure of the chairman, Alan Young, to go through the file with the agent and brief him properly. I have seen the file and it is an absolute mess.

“There where three outstanding sets of nomination papers [that had not been handed in with others]. The agent took them to submit to Guildford Borough Council but noticed that Simon Gimson’s papers were marked “Copy”. He assumed that as the top sheet was indeed a copy, as marked, that the originals had already been submitted. He did later confirm that all the nomination papers had been submitted.

“The agent, [Andrew Barrand], who is very highly thought of, came from Mole Valley to help us on a part time basis. He was not familiar with the wards or the candidates. He told me that the chairman had not gone through the file with him. As there was no check list in the file, it was difficult for him to ascertain what had and what had not been submitted.

“Had the chairman gone through the file with the agent this fiasco would not have occurred.

“Neither Alan Young or Christian Holliday had the courtesy to inform Simon Gimson of the what had happened. Simon had to ring Alan Young to discuss the matter but he has not heard from Christian Holliday the Vice Chairman [Political].

“My view represents at least 20 party members with whom I have discussed this matter. The agent, who in my opinion was not totally to blame, did the honourable thing and resigned. Others should consider their position.”

Alan Young is aware of Mr Dawkins critcisms but had declined to comment. The Guildford Dragon NEWS has been told, after speaking to Mr Dawkins, that Christian Holliday could not be contacted [but has subsequently commented below].

The nomination process for council elections is normally as follows:

  • The appointed election agent for a party, who is paid for their service, prepares all the nomination forms and should ensure that they have been completed correctly and properly countersigned by people qualified to act as nominators and seconders.
  • The papers are then taken to the authority organising the election, in this case, for the Guildford SCC divisions in the County Council elections, it is Guildford Borough Council. Forms for all a parties nominations do not have to be submitted at the same time.
  • The nomination papers are handed in to a nominated council official, in this case the Deputy Returning Officer, who checks that they have been completed correctly, informing the agent of any that have not been. The council official only checks that the papers submitted are correct. He/she is not responsible for checking whether there is a nomination from each party for each seat as parties may not wish to nominate candidates for all seats.
  • The election agent then reports back to the party to inform party officials that the nominations have been properly made and accepted.

There are three candidates standing in the Shalford division in the county council election to be held on May 2:

George Johnson
George Potter
Liberal Democrat
Rose Seber
The Labour Party

Please see also: Election Agent’s Error Means No Conservative Candidate for Shalford in County Elections and The Dragon Says: Depriving Shalford Voters A Full Choice Is A Serious Matter

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Responses to Shalford Conservative President ‘Absolutely Livid’ over Nomination ‘Fiasco’

  1. Cllr Christian Holliday Reply

    April 11, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    I am disappointed that Mr Dawkins believes he can speak, on my behalf, to The Guildford Dragon. Regarding the issue at hand, our agent, who was expressly employed to deal with nominations, made an oversight and immediately offered his resignation, which was accepted under the circumstances.

  2. Dennis Paul Reply

    April 11, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Surely the receptionist taking the papers at the council made a mistake? If the agent provided all the papers as required he may have errenously assumed the council’s cover story that they didn’t receive the Shalford nomination?

    These agent folk are pros, they dont make mistakes. The receptionist may have mislaid it.

    As a candidate some years back, I recall the gent getting receipts for papers lodged, so if this has not happened there may be a procedural flaw that merits moving the closing date surely.

    In today’s electronic age, nominations should be submitted online.

    • Martin Giles Reply

      April 12, 2013 at 1:00 am

      No one involved has suggested that there is even a suspicion that the council official acted improperly in any way.

      As explained to the Guildford Dragon NEWS by more than one of the involved parties, the agent did not submit Simon Gimson’s nomination papers because the top sheet had been marked “Copy” causing the agent to mistakenly assume that the original papers had already been submitted (copies, in any case, would not be acceptable).

      His resignation appears to be an acknowledgement of his error.

      By the way, there is no particular qualification required to be an election agent. Although some are paid, as was the case here, this is not always the case.

  3. Sue Doughty Reply

    April 12, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Just for a little more clarification. The role of the electoral services staff is to receive nomination papers and, on behalf of the electorate, check that the are correctly filled in, for example the nominators are on the electoral register for the ward or division.

    Not all agents are paid but the main parties provide training for them and of course internal procedures vary within each party.

    The purpose of an agent is to ensure that candidates do not inadvertently or even intentionally break the law, and to administer and account for the finances of an election.

    It tends to be good practice to take the papers (which are more complicated year on year) in to Electoral Services before formally lodging them in case of errors (transcription of polling numbers, missing signature etc) so that there is time to remedy these. This is done informally and we have found Electoral Services to be helpful with any advice sought, but quite clearly it is in the end up to the candidate and the agent to ensure that they complete the nomination process correctly.

    I’m rather shocked that Dennis Paul is blaming Electoral Services or even reception. The fact is Electoral Services have no responsibility to the Political Parties other than those set out in electoral law. Their job is to conduct and manage an election and to uphold the integrity of the service.

  4. Sue Doughty Reply

    April 12, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    On a personal note, as a Shalford resident, although I’m not of the same party as Simon Gimson it is tragic that an active councillor should lose his seat in this way.

  5. Dennis Paul Reply

    April 12, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    I’m puzzled that anyone could be shocked at any inference of human error. It’s hardly a hanging offence, but I’m merely pointing out the agent thinking he made a mistake does not necessarily mean he did.

    The receptionist could have received the papers and mislaid them; its common that temps from Employment Agencies cover absence without proper training. Papers can get handed in and a paperclip can mean the difference between papers finding their way to different departments by mistake.

    Going back to my original point, why are receipts not issued for each nomination. I’m merely suggesting that such a basic improvement would ensure there is a tighter process in place so mistakes, whoever is involved is less likely to happen.

    Its not about blame, simply pointing out that processes could be tighter to avoid any potential confusion and conflict in future.

    • Martin Giles Reply

      April 13, 2013 at 12:16 am

      I reiterate, no one involved even suspects that council officials made any mistake in this matter.

      As it says in the article, and has been corroborated by several parties now, the agent, seeing that the top paper of the set of nomination for Simon Gimson was marked “Copy”, wrongly assumed that the set was a copy of those that had already been submitted, so the nomination papers for Cllr Gimson were simply not handed in.

      Whether the system could be improved is, of course, another matter but the system is not the responsibility of the council officials or individual councils.

  6. Andrew Barrand Reply

    April 13, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    I would like to start by apologising to Cllr Gimson and the electorate of Shalford for the error I made. It was human error on my part and I cannot tell you of the horrible feeling when told on Friday afternoon of this oversight.

    The bottom line is that this mistake was made “on my watch” and as Election Agent the buck stops with me and that is why I immediately offered my resignation to Guildford Conservatives.

    I have spent many hours over the last week thinking, if only I had done this differently or if only I had not taken it for granted those papers were copies, but I cannot change what has happened.

    This misunderstanding/oversight on my part will haunt me for a very long time but I wish Guildford Conservatives all the best in winning as many seats as possible on 2nd May so that residents get, what I feel, is the best governance offered by Conservative candidates.

    I hope that all Conservatives will pull together to achieve this. I offered my resignation quickly because it was my responsibility and wanted the team to get on with the rest of the campaign.

  7. Ngaire Wadman Reply

    April 14, 2013 at 10:51 am

    I have nothing but sympathy for Mr. Farrand. Having acted as election agent for some years now, I know how easy it is to assume ‘copy’ means ‘originals already submitted’, especially when dealing with a large number of candidates.

    Ms. Doughty is right about the nomination procedure. The electoral services team are scrupulously professional and very helpful, and early submission of nomination papers means they will check them over and point out any errors. They also held very informative meetings for election agents and candidates, before the nomination period started.

    No, there’s no qualification for being an election agent, other than being willing to do it. It’s up to the parties/individual candidates to choose someone with experience and ability, and even then, as in this case, mistakes can be made. We’ve used a team for that very reason, not taking anything for granted, and training sessions for future election agents.

    I hope the electorate of Shalford will feel able to look objectively at the remaining candidates, and cast their votes without excessive partisan bias.

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