LETTER: Is by-election a real show of democracy?

I write as the only local candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election.

Wednesday, 12th October 2016, 4:49 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 8:34 pm

I write as the only local candidate in the Batley and Spen by-election.

The campaign ends soon, and by the early hours of October 21 we will know the result.

The votes haven’t been counted, so we don’t know for sure, but it would be the biggest political shock in living memory if Labour didn’t win by a huge margin.

My concern is the lack of a competitive democratic contest.

By-elections are won by spending a lot of money and having lots of foot soldiers on the ground.

You could add up the people hours available and money spent by the nine non-Labour candidates, and I suspect it would not even be 10 per cent of that available to the Labour party. To try to balance the situation, I and other candidates contacted the Labour campaign to try to arrange a hustings, but I received no response to the request.

This prevented the people of Batley and Spen from hearing all the candidates respond to voter’s questions fairly.

I don’t blame Labour because the current situation was created by the other mainstream parties wishing to gift the seat to Labour.

At the time I was an Officer of the North Kirklees Green Party, that within 24 hours of Jo Cox’s death was subject to heavy pressure from the national party to not stand a candidate, and from the national press demanding a quick decision.

We were all raw from the shock from of Jo’s death, and quite frankly being pushed for a decision was indecently hasty.

I know the other parties faced the same pressures.

Giving one party a free run following the killing of a sitting candidate is clear breach of established conventions.

A constituency votes for the person, not the party, and on every previous occasion a sitting MP has been killed in the last 90 years, a full contest has occurred. A deceased MP’s mandate does not carry onto the next candidate of the same party.

Given this democatic deficit, it quite obvious the void would be filled by other candidates.

It is unfortunate that a number of far-right extremist candidates, none of whom are connected to the area, have taken their chance.

These people seek only to bring division to Batley and Spen, something the community I am proud to live in does not need.

Thankfully, the tragedy that struck Jo Cox is a very rare type of incident.

I can only hope that this type of incident never happens again.

Also, I hope the mainstream parties that did not stand think very hard about their well-meant gesture and realise that if they shortcut clear and well understood democratic principles, there can be terrible unintended consequences. Holding firmly onto our democratic principles is vital, and we should never give them up.

Sent by Garry Kitchin, Batley