Today’s election count for the Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner will be interesting. The Conservative candidate, Jonathon Seed, has stepped down because he has a conviction for drink driving which means he is barred from standing. We pick up the story from the Liberal Democrats, whose candidate Liz Webster will be at the count. If the result is that Jonathon Seed would have been the winner, the whole election will have to be re-run.
“Like everyone we were stunned when the story about Conservative PCC candidate Jonathon Seed declaring having a previous conviction, which would have barred him from standing for office emerged. Jonathon Seed: Conservative PCC candidate barred after offence emerges – BBC News
It seems, however, that it raises more questions than it answers. Seed has stood down as a candidate for the Wiltshire PCC saying
“To the best of my knowledge and belief when I applied for and became the Police and Crime Commissioner candidate for the Conservative Party in Wiltshire and Swindon, I was an eligible candidate. I have declared my thirty-year-old driving conviction to the Party in my applications both to be a Parliamentary candidate and more recently a PCC candidate”.
But this raises further questions – an ITV reporter was asking Seed about former convictions eight days ago, prior to the vote, so why is the story breaking after the vote took place? Was this an attempt by Wiltshire Conservatives or even central Conservatives to minimise disruption to their chances in the other Wiltshire elections? If ITV were approaching Seed days before the election, he would no doubt have spoken to his local Conservative party and agent to seek advice.
Conservatives should surely know that the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 disqualifies a person from standing for election for a police and crime commissioner (PCC) if they have at any time been convicted of an offence for which a person could be sent to prison; whether they themselves were sent to prison for that offence. A previous example of a candidate stepping aside for similar reasons was Labour candidate Bob Ashford.
At the time, Bob Ashford said “To sign the declaration, knowing that I had committed an offence, would in itself be a criminal act which of course I am not prepared to countenance”.
So, it seems very likely that:
a) the Conservatives knew about the conviction as Seed asserts they did;
b) that they knowingly put forward a candidate who should be debarred from the PCC office;
c) that most likely Seed and, at the least his, Conservative agent if not the Conservative HQ knew about this story and deliberately chose to suppress it until after the local elections.
There needs to be a full investigation into the timeline of events and who knew about this revelation. We will be writing to local MP Andrew Murrison (Conservative) asking for a full explanation of these events.
Finally, should there need to be a by-election, the Wiltshire tax payer should NOT be footing the bill for Conservative messes.”