People have a lot to distract them at the moment. But Covid, Euro 2020, the date of the end of lockdowns, a Lions Tour and a financial crisis that’s knocking on the door are not the only games in town.
Hidden in plain sight by the way that the media currently focuses its attention, The Electoral Commission has come into view not just once, but twice in recent weeks and in ways that really should be drawing a very big spotlight across everything they are in place to do.
First of all, we had the Prime Minister talking about a review of the Commissions powers. This followed a series of decisions The Electoral Commission has taken, such the prosecution of Darren Grimes following his input within the European Referendum Campaign and his relationship with Vote Leave in 2016.
Then, in recent days, we have seen newly appointed Commission Chair John Pullinger publicly state that the Electoral Commission could agree to SNP demands for an Independence Referendum without Boris Johnson’s approval first.
You really couldn’t write this stuff even if it was all made up. If ever there was the need to toss a coin to decide whether it was the mine or the miner that killed the canary, this must surely be it.
Despite the many troubling decisions that Boris Johnson and his government have made since the 2019 General Election, I have considerable sympathy with the suggestion that the Electoral Commission has been abusing its position. Anyone looking on with an objective eye will agree that the efforts made by The Electoral Commission against high profile Brexiteers following the Referendum, whiffed of sour grapes at best and looked maliciously partisan at its worst.
You might hope that the questions that the Commissions failure to secure the intended results raised would have resulted in some soul searching and reflective analysis about the role of its Board and Commissioners. Questions such as what they were appointed for. What they were expected to do. What The Electoral Commission really exists for.
This is what we might rightly expect. What we wouldn’t have expected however, would be for a new Chair to take over and then in what is probably their first public act, make a public declaration of possible action that through its very implementation would result in a range of consequences that would at their core reflect a politically biased result – whether intended or not.
Be under no illusion. Facilitating any kind of plebiscite that has not been legally sanctioned by the Government or by standing orders of any kind that relate directly to it would arguably be a deliberate and wilfully political act by those who make that decision or are responsible for it being made.
Nicola Sturgeons unilateral attempt at a demolition derby by extricating Scotland from the UK without fear of the consequences should not be aided and abetted by the establishment- no matter how worthy this impartially biased group of ‘we know besters’ might unwittingly believe the case for Scottish Independence might be.
Through not just one, but a series of decisions that bring the impartiality of the body which is supposed to endure the propriety of the UKs democratic Electoral Processes into serious question, the board of the Electoral Commission has demonstrated that it is not for purpose. Indeed, its actions demonstrate that it does not currently work in the best interests of the British Electorate – which it is there first and foremost to serve.
This problematic reality could not have hit the UK at a more inappropriate time, given the ongoing assault upon democracy that the Johnson Government and all of the political parties have been waging upon our democracy.
Whilst the Prime Ministers’ concerns may be overtly justified, there is significant danger for all of us if the work of The Electoral Commission should succumb to Boris’ self-serving buffoonery as a result of what is a wholly undemocratic and therefore suicidal cause on the part of its Board.
The question of how the problem should be addressed becomes interesting, as the Electoral Commission is far from being alone when it comes to suffering what is now an endemic problem with public appointments: Just like all of our political system today, there are simply too many of the wrong people in post.
Boris, his Government nor the majority of the MPs who are sitting today are themselves part of the problem.
Both the political and Public Appointments system is rotten and full of people who cannot differentiate between what is right for them and what is right for the people they were either elected or appointed to serve.
Like politics itself, The Electoral Commission simply has the wrong people leading it.
We need the Electoral Commission now more than ever. But we need The Electoral Commission to run impartially and free of any kind of political or malign influences.
It doesn’t matter if the cause of bias and improper decision making is overt and visible for all to see, or simply based upon the innate prejudices of people in positions of power who either lack the ability to be self-aware or know that they are favouring their own ideas above what’s good for others, simply because they can.
We must find a way to get the right people into all Public Appointments. Yet this cannot be achieved for as long as people who have a vested interest in the system continuing to run and perform in the same way that has been are left in charge of it or able to influence it in any meaningful way.