Jury Team – the verdict

As I mentioned yesterday, I spent this morning at the launch of Jury Team. You can read my livetweeting of the event here.

There are a few points I’d like to emphasise:

Firstly, it is now clear that Jury Team is not another Your Party. It’s strength is the simplicity of the concept. In essence, anyone can put themselves forward as long as they sign a statement declaring that they will not discriminate against people on the basis of sex, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, etc. and sign up to the “Nolan principles.” I will credit them with the fact that this is a very simple organising principle and is likely to ensure they at least clear the first hurdle. What happens after that however, will be at least interesting.

Secondly, for an organisation that has launched itself as in favour of transparency and against sleaze, they have left themselves extremely wide open. The relatively lax vetting system (compared to the average political party) will mean that it should be quite simple for a crook to get on their books and not be exposed until after they have accepted their seats. More fundamentally – and the one thing I found absolutely gobsmacking – is that they are not imposing any transparency or capping rules on individuals putting themselves up for selection at all. The election campaign itself will of course have to abide by the PPERA 2000 and relevant subsequent acts, but if you want to get to the top of the Eurocandidate list, you can spend as much as you like and accept money from anyone you like.

The implications of this is potentially huge. It means that their candidate selection process is open to the highest bidder. And it won’t even be too hard to fix by the look of things. At the moment, the most activity is currently happening in their South East selection. At the time of writing there are four candidates, the most popular of which has twelve votes. The scope for abuse is huge and the best they can hope for is that either they get ignored (which will kill the concept stone dead) or that the various mobilising forces effectively cancel each other out.

Indeed, there is a grey area as to whether this situation is already covered by legislation or not. Does a putative parliamentary candidate, for example, count as a regulated donee for instance? I would have thought they were – and in any case would be suspicious of any candidate who didn’t abide by that minimal level of transparency. But is Jury Team highlighting this to their putative candidates?

Thirdly, while the puffery about “people before party” was all well and good at the start of the launch, by the end it had started to look dangerously like groupthink. The people on stage really did seem to think there was something magical in calling yourself an “independent” which instantly connected you to the mind of the millions of people you presume to represent. By contrast, anyone with a party label was incapable of working in the national interest. I won’t seek to repeat why this is such a nonsense again here, but there was something about it that was vaguely sinister – a communitarian notion that somehow legitimate differences of interest didn’t exist in society and that anyone who didn’t agree with this was divisive and a threat to be neutralised.

This was made quite explicit by Tony Eggington, the Mayor of Mansfield. He boldly announced that two of the reforms he had advocated were the reduction of councillors (= less scrutiny for him) and turning the “divisive” multi-member wards into single member ones. As I observed yesterday, one of the things you might expect to come out of an Independents movement would be electoral reform. Not a bit of it – what was being advocated this morning was something that resembled a paean to the the Rotten Borough. In his presentation, Sir Paul Judge talked wistfully about the era before political parties, ignoring the fact that they arose because of an extension of the franchise. This doesn’t ultimately surprise me – I’ve witnessed a similar disdain for democracy and a robust, vibrant, noisy political system from independents on numerous occasions in the past.

Fundamentally, I welcome the rise of the Independents movement. It’s time we had this debate. Let’s make it easier for them still, by introducing open lists or better still the single transferable vote. After today however I am more convinced than ever that at its heart is an anti-democratic notion of communitarianism which is ultimately a threat to progress and a free and open society. Let’s face it down in the ballot box.


  1. I’m inclined to agree with you on the PPERA point. It would seem illogical (and a huge loophole) otherwise.

    Schedule 7 Para 1(3) and (4) seem to be the relevant bits (assuming they haven’t been amended/repealed in the interim).

  2. If you are a member of a registered political party and you receive donations as a member of that party then you are a regulated donee.

    The loophole is that if you are an Independent you are not a regulated donee until you are a nominated candidate (in the sense of your nomination papers being accepted by the RO).

    A foreign government (for example) could give a billion pounds to a slate of Independent candidates tomorrow and never have to declare it. If the ex-KGB wanted to take over Britain that’s one way they could do it.

  3. “If the ex-KGB wanted to take over Britain that’s one way they could do it.”

    I’ll get onto my handler right away!

    Seriously though, as soon as you declare as a wannabe candidate for Jury Team (a registered political party) you legally come under the PPERA, no? Whether you call yourself an independent or not?

  4. If JT are registered than yes.

    Although I think the term used in PPERA is “a member of a registered political party”. Query: what does ‘member’ mean? Have the people on the JT website paid a fee and done the other things usually connected to membership?

    The complete loophole is for someone who is not a member of a registered party and not regulated by virtue of holding office or yet being nominated.

  5. All Jury Team candidates have to pay a £10 “administration fee” which includes membership, so yes.

  6. Another loophole is that you don’t have to declare donations made to your organisation before it became a registered political party.

    It’s as if the whole PPERA regime was predicated on politics consisting of the existing parties and assumed that any new parties will always be too small to matter.

    If the rules don’t improve then change is only ever one oligarch away.

  7. Oh I might as go the whole hog and give you ALL the sites I am responsible for

    Voice of Reason is my politics blog, so click on my name to go there, if you dare!

  8. The Battlefield of Love blg deals with gender relations. Very controversial, so be warned. Click on name to go there. I will just say that my readers and fans tend to be men because I dare to say the things they are not man enough to say …

  9. It may interest you to know that I have been disqualified by the Jury Team on the grounds of contravening the following rule:

    “I agree not to support any policies discriminating on the basis of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religious or other belief.”

    It came to the notice of Dillon Sharp the Press Officer that I was proposing to strike a bargain with the BNP. If they voted for me in sufficient numbers to secure me the nomination, I would vote for a BNP MEP on 4 June.

    You may also be interested to know that Bob Bailey the BNP MEP in question in fact agreed to ask his members to support me and indeed said he voted for me.

    If I am guilty of anything, it is of horse-trading, which is not in fact prohibited.

    Re-read the term that I am alleged to have contravened, and you would see that “other belief” could include National Socialism, voodoo, human sacrifice, etc.

    (The person who drafted this term is clearly not a lawyer, or unfit to practice law.)

    It is my contention that the whole thing is a nonsense from beginning to end.

    I have received neither an answer or an apology from Sir Paul after complaining about this to him, and you may wish to raise questions about this with other interested parties.

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