Who ate all the sausage rolls? Was it the young people who do not have a vote in this general election, or was it the adults who do have a vote? These are the questions being asked by Hampshire Constabulary following a complaint against UKIP by a rival political party. The facts as reported are not disputed. A UKIP parliamentary candidate in Southampton organised an event in February, well before the official election campaign period that started at the end of March. Kim Rose had invited snooker player Jimmy White to play pool with children at a community centre. He charged adults £2.00. He provided refreshments at the event comprising tea, coffee and sandwiches, in addition to the sausage rolls.
Kim Rose is accused of treating, which is the giving or providing of any food, drink, entertainment or provision to corruptly influence any voter to vote or refrain from voting. Treating requires a corrupt intent and does not apply to ordinary hospitality. The offence can be committed before, during or after the official campaign period. Kim Rose stated, “I am sure people are not going to change their mind for a sausage roll” and “Thank God they didn’t find out about the Jaffa Cakes”.
In the 2009 European Parliament election it was reported that in one of the newly acceded Black Sea countries voters had been offered a barbecued chicken and the equivalent of twenty Euro if they voted for a particular candidate. There was outrage in the western media at this corrupt practice in the backward country. No further reports were published so we do not know what the outcome was, or even if it really did happen. If it was true it would indicate that rather than being backward, those voters were canny and knew not to rely on the promises of politicians. As they say in Romania – a barbecued chicken in the hand is better than two uncooked chickens in the hands of a politician.
What would you accept for your vote? Bear in mind that you as a voter are not guilty of any offence for selling your vote, it is the politician trying to bribe you who is the criminal. Obviously a sausage roll or a cooked chicken will not be enough of an enticement. So what value do you put on your vote? £500, £1000, £2000 or £5000? The market will dictate the value of your vote, depending where you live. If you are in a marginal constituency and a swing voter then your vote could be very valuable. That value could increase if the politicians get into a bidding war.
Of course that will not happen, but is it any different from the bribes offered by political parties in their election manifesto? They are all outbidding each other about how many GPs, nurses, midwives and police officers they are going to provide; how much money they are going to spend on the NHS; how high they are going to increase the income tax personal allowance; and by how much they are going to restrict the cost of train travel. These inducements are targeted at the voters they have identified as making a difference to the election result, be it Essex Mondeo man, middle-class working mums, reliable voting pensioners, or university students.
These inducements are like the two uncooked chickens, there is no certainty that they will be delivered, or they might turn out to be a turkey. The Courts have decided that a political manifesto is not legally binding. It is merely a declaration of intent. Nick Clegg has prematurely announced the end of two-party politics, with the consequence that a political manifesto is now nothing more than a negotiating document for coalition talks.
Then there are the policies pushed through Parliament that were never in any manifesto, such as Labour’s introduction of university fees, Conservative’s reorganisation of the NHS, LibDem increase of university fees, and all of them conspiring to introduce Same Sex Marriage. The fact is that politicians are not trusted. The LibDem promise to introduce a Help to Rent scheme, enabling young people to borrow £1500-£2000 for a rental deposit on somewhere to live, is the most dubious of the current inducements. Given their broken promise on university fees no sane person should believe anything they say.
How are we going to restore confidence in the political process? The Christian Democratic Party has a cunning plan based on honesty and integrity. That and trusting the common sense of the British people. Instead of hood-winking people with a manifesto of a hundred pages that no one ever reads, we believe in producing a legally binding contract with the people that is clear, short and to the point. This would set out the party programme for government and would restrict any extraneous matters to be included in the next programme placed before the people or decided by a referendum. If it is not mandated it will not happen. Secondly, we would ensure that every vote counted and was of equal value by having direct elections for the executive/government that treated the UK as a single constituency. This would be complemented by the inclusion on the ballot paper for people to vote for ‘none of the above’.
Only when these two concepts are implemented can every view be considered, every voter provided for, and there be no excuse for not voting. There would be no tricks and no treating.