With grateful thanks to famous human rights lawyers Birnberg Peirce, (who advised I had a complete legal right) the Royal Mail have now at the last possible second relented and accepted that I can send out a DVD as an Electoral Communication. So we are going full blast to get it out!!
This has so far been a rollocking campaign of small victories, all achieved because of the friends I have made in my civil rights work over the years. I am both buoyed and humbled.
Every candidate in a parliamentary election has the right to have one “election communication” delivered free of charge by the Post Office.
These are normally rather dull leaflets, so I decided to put my election address on a DVD. It’s rather picturesque and entitled “A Norfolk Journey”. 80,000 copies are being made.
The Post Office is so far refusing to deliver it. The “election communication” must meet the Post Office’s “Reasonable Terms And Conditions” for such communications. These are published. The main ones are that it:
Must weigh less than 60gm – mine is less than 40gm
Must be less than 5mm thick – mine is 2mm thick
Must meet length and width criteria – mine is well inside
Must be securely folded or in a sealed envelope – mine is the latter
Must marked “electoral communication” amd carry printed and published info – mine does
Must be sorted by postcode and address – mine is.
Extraordinarily, the Post Office must also vet the content for libel, incitement to violence or incitement to racial hatred. That is a strange bit of censorship – they don’t check the content of normal mail theydeliver – but my DVD passes that test too.
There is nothing in the criteria at all that says the communication must be in the 14th century medium of printed ink on paper. The regulations are silent on the medium of communication. If you took a DVD in an envelope to any Post Office, you would have no difficulty posting it as a letter.
Yet the Post Office refuses to give permission for the delivery, apparently on the grounds that nobody has ever sent a DVD before as their election communication. They have not actually refused, but have delayed beyond the stage where it is logistically possible to get it out.
They are acting, they say, on legal advice from the Ministry of Justice – prop. Jack Straw! The man who brought you the dodgy dossier on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction.
At the moment, it looks like the voters of Norwich North will be denied my electoral address before they vote – unless we can get a real flood of volunteers in to deliver them ourselves.
Even more sleazy is the BBC’s response to the many complaints about their decision to exclude me from all election coverage. They have started to send out standard replies saying:
one of the key factors they look for is “evidence of past and/or current electoral support” in that electoral area.
Note the BBC’s own quotation marks within that quote. They have tacked on “In that area” to their formal criterion.
When the BBC banned me from all coverage at the last General Election when I stood in Blackburn against Jack Straw, who is blocking my electoral address now, the BBC explained it was because I had no “evidence of past and/or current electoral support”.
I gained 5% in that election – which is a lot better than the 3% the Greens got in the same election in Norwich North. That 5% may have been modest, but it does meet the BBC’s criterion. So the BBC have now moved the goalposts to exclude me, by adding a brand new stipulation “in that area” to their criterion, so the electoral support in Blackburn does not count – despite the fact I might reasonably expect to do a lot better in my own county.
Finally, despite numerous representations from within their own union, the Universities and Colleges Union have still banned me from this evenings candidates’ education debate, despite the fact that I am the Rector of a Univeristy and a great deal more interesting on the subject than the rest of the candidates put together.