Attempt to clean up Manx politics after Douglas East by-election scandal

Kevin Woodford during the campaign

Kevin Woodford during the campaign

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An attempt to clean up Manx politics after the Douglas East by-election scandal was launched this week.

The public are now being offered the chance to have a say on the law governing elections to the House of Keys before it is considered by to MHKs.

The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill includes proposals from an independent review following the East Douglas by-election in May 2010, some of which were incorporated in previous legislation, which ran out of time before the 2011 General Election.

The Bill requires candidates to declare publicly any campaign funding they receive, and to refuse donations made anonymously.

In 2010, television chef Kevin Woodford stood in the Douglas East by-election and was backed by a group described as the Manx Election Trust. The individuals behind it were never identified.

At the time Mr Woodford said he did not know the identities of its financial backers.

But it was reported to have paid for a glossy campaign, newspaper advertisements and a campaign office.

However, last year the Manx Independent revealed that the fund only ever had £100 in it.

On the eve of the election, police made arrests.

A trial for election fraud followed and Mr Woodford’s campaign manager, Charles ‘Buster’ Lewin, was jailed for conspiring dishonestly to secure proxy votes for Mr Woodford, conspiring to steal and conspiring to forge a document.

Mr Woodford’s election campaign did not succeed. He came third. Chris Robertshaw won and Kate Beecroft, who was subsequently elected MHK for Douglas South, came second.

The proposed new Bill provides for the registration of political parties intending to support or nominate candidates, and for a limit on the amount that can be spent on a candidate’s campaign (a maximum of £2,000, plus 50p per registered elector, in the 12 months prior to an election).

The Bill replaces the term ‘absent voting’ with ‘advance voting’ to make it clearer that this option is open to any elector, regardless of their ability to attend a polling station on polling day.

It restricts the availability of ‘proxy’ voting to those who cannot vote in person or by advance vote.

In addition the Bill extends the criteria that disqualify persons from standing for election, and provides for manifestos and election notices to be displayed on the government website.

The Cabinet Office, which is led by the victor in the Douglas East election, Mr Robertshaw, this week launched an eight-week public consultation on a Bill to update election law, and ‘to promote the transparency and integrity of the election process’.

The consultation on the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill 2014 runs until Friday, June 27.

The Council of Ministers says it would also welcome comments on detailed Representation of the People Regulations which would be made following Royal Assent for the Bill.

The consultation document and other documents can be found on the government’s website.

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