The British electoral system is notorious for its endemic unfairness, starting with the Boundaries Commission, a quango noted for its wilful failure to tackle the Labour Party's unfair advantage in terms of the number of votes needed to put a candidate into parliament.
This is one candidate's experience from the 2010 general election:
PRESS STATEMENT 21st Sept. 2010
THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION IS DEMANDING £500 FROM A FORMER INDEPENDENT PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE BECAUSE HE WAS JUST SEVEN HOURS LATE IN RETURNING A "NIL RETURN" TO THE COMMISSION, described by the candidate as an EXTORTION RACKET!
The candidate, Brendan Murphy who stood as an Independent for Macclesfield in this year's general election, describes the Commission's demand as "… a virtual extortion racket. It obviously emanates from a pen pusher's paradise with nothing better to do than read blank forms."
He explains: "To stand as a Macclesfield Independent, I had to pay £150 to register the name with the Electoral Commission. Immediately after the election, I delivered the statutory statement of my election expenses to the Returning Officer. I had some donations from well-wishers but the bulk of the cost came from own pocket.
"However, on August 4th, the Electoral Commission demanded that an additional "NIL RETURN" form must be completed and sent to the Commission by the following day, August 5th. The form was duly completed with "nil" in every box and e-mailed at 7am on August 6th - 7 hours after the Commission deadline." (copies of email exchange attached)
"Apparently, this 'nil return' was required because I had not run a campaign prior to the calling of the election. It seems a wasteful duplication of the returns already made to the Returning Ofiicer.
"The Commission has now imposed a £500 "fine" and given me 10 working days to pay. It did say I could appeal but when I tried to do that, I was told the adjudicator was on holiday.
"I call it "virtual extortion" because there is no mention of NIL RETURNS in the Commission's official guide for candidates and their agents. The Commission does not prosecute the 'mainsteam parties' for similar breaches of the rules. It deliberately discriminate against "independents and protest groups."
Email correspondence attached See also: Official Guide for Candidates (page 83 refers to election returns): http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/ 0006/83337/UKPGE-C-and-A-Final-web.pdf [519.3 Kb]
p.s. The Commission announced on 20th Sept that the Conservative Party had unlawfully accepted political donations. Instead of fining the Party for breach of the rules the Commission said: "The party has agreed to forfeit the donations and therefore legal action in not necessary".
COPIES OF EMAIL EXCHANGE re THE 'NIL'RETURN"
From: John Franks <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: Wed, 4 August, 2010 18:19:30 Subject: Campaign Expenditure Return for the May 2010 General Election
Dear Treasurer/Campaigns Officer
From: Amanda Grandison Sent: 04 August 2010 21:17 To: John Franks Subject: RE: Campaign Expenditure Return for the May 2010 General Election
Dear Mr Franks
From: John Franks <email@example.com> Sent: 05 August 2010 10:01 To: Amanda Grandison Subject: RE: Campaign Expenditure Return for the May 2010 General Election
Dear Amanda Grandison