Jack Straw Corrupt Practices 92


I was frankly astonished by commenters on the last thread who claimed not to understand that it was an offence to distribute free food and drink at an election rally. For the avoidance of further doubt, here is the law in question, from the Representation of the People Act 1983:

114.-(1) A person shall be guilty of a corrupt practice if he .

is guilty of treating.

(2) A person shall be guilty of treating if he corruptly, by

himself or by any other person, either before, during or after an

election, directly or indirectly gives or provides, or pays wholly

or in part the expense of giving or providing, any meat, drink,

entertainment or provision to or for any person-

(a) for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or

any other person to vote or refrain from voting ; or

(b) on account of that person or any other person having

voted or refrained from voting, or being about to vote

or refrain from voting.

(3) Every elector or his proxy who corruptly accepts or takes

any such meat, drink, entertainment or provision shall also be

guilty of treating.

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1983/pdf/ukpga_19830002_en.pdf

This provision was first contained in the1832 Reform Act specifically to outlaw the practice of giving food and drink at election meetings. It has been reaffirmed in every Representation of the People Act since 1832.

This is an imprisonable criminal offence. It is not just an electoral regulation.

Tomorrow I will deliver several affidavits sworn before solicitors to Blackburn police. This is one example:

I,,,,, OF ,,,,,,, BLACKBURN DO HEREBY AFFIRM AS FOLLOWS:

THAT

1, I attended an event in Audley yesterday on Sunday 25 April 2010 at Jan’s Conference Centre in Blackburn.

2. I heard that Mohammad Sarwar MP and the ex Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Sultan Mahmood were going to be present.

3. I can confirm that the people on the stage were Mohammed Sarwar MP, Barrister Sultan Mahmood, Jack Straw MP, the ex Mayor Salas Kiyani, Lord Adam Patel and others.

4. They all gave speeches to support and ask us to vote for Jack Straw in the MP elections.

5. We were given free food consisting of roti, meat curry, sweet rice and coke.

I CONFIRM THAT THE CONTENTS OF THIS AFFADAVIT ARE TRUE AND TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE AND BELIEF

Affirmed this 26th day of April 2010

By the within named …… at

BLACKBURN in the County of Lancashire

Before me

M Wrendall,

Solicitor and Commissioner for Oaths

The question raised is a stark one. Are New Labour ministers above the law? I have absolutely no doubt that if I, when an independent parliamentary candidate, had provided food for several hundred electors at a rally, I would have been jailed for it.

STOP PRESS

The blog is infested by a number of commenters who are trying to argue that Jack Straw was not in breach of the law in just giving a meal. This is however precisely what the law was to outlaw. This Hansard extract on a discussion of an amendment to set a value limit is instructive – the amendment was defeated.

|| MR. WARTON said, the Amendment he now proposed to move was one which provided some kind of limit. Ho moved the insertion, at the end of the clause, of the words?” Provided always, That such meat, drink entertainment, or provisions shall exceed in value the sum of one shilling. He thought that, on the principle de minimis non curat lex, they should not legislate with regard to what a high authority had called “trivial expenditure,” and that the giving to a voter of a small quantity of meat or bread not exceeding in value 1s., should not subject persons to severe pains and penalties. Ho hoped that the hon. and learned Gentleman would accept the Amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman had very kindly accepted other Amendments, and he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would continue the same conciliatory course. He understood that the regular Birmingham breakfast provided for the electors of the borough cost 1s. 6d. a head. He did not wish to be so corrupt as they 578 were in Birmingham; but he thought there could be no harm in providing refreshments which should not cost more than 1s. He knew the price of beer, and they could get tolerable beer for 8d. or 10d. a pot.

|| MR. ONSLOW And for half that price.

|| MR. WARTON said, he saw no reason why a drink of beer and a crust of bread, which cost less than 1s., should be regarded as a corrupt expenditure. He hoped the Committee would not deem it desirable to increase the expenditure of Election Petitions by trying every case in which a man had received less than 1s. worth of refreshment.

|| Amendment proposed, In line 1, page 23, at end, to add “Provided always, That such meat, drink, entertainment or provision shall exceed in value the sum of one shilling.”?”(Mr. Warton.)

|| Question proposed, “That those words be there added.”

|| SIR CHARLES W. DILKE said, he could not accept the Amendment, which would simply have the effect of legalizing an improper expenditure for drink and. treating, providing that the treating did not exceed the value of 1s. He could not think the Committee would feel inclined to accept such an Amendment.

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1883/jun/14/parliamentary-elections-corrupt-and#S3V0280P0_18830614_HOC_159

It could not be more clear that what Jack Straw did is a criminal offence.


92 thoughts on “Jack Straw Corrupt Practices

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  • writerman

    Craig,

    I appriciate your horror at the sight of Jack Straw treating in Blackburn; but doens’t it hinge on whether or not the intent was to corrupt the coming election result or not?

    The law against treating doesn’t say that providing a free meal for voters at an election meeting is illegal, in itself, does it? It’s only treating if the purpose, or intent, is to corruptly influence the result in one’s favour, and proving that in a court of law is going to be very difficult indeed.

    Jack Straw isn’t going to admit that he was seeking to treat, or “buy” votes, and I imagine it would be difficult to find anyone involved in the feast that was willing to say that they were going to vote for Straw because they received a free lunch.

    In our day, when food is so plentiful and cheap, as opposed to the nineteeth century, getting a court to accept that a meal was going to sway people into voting for a particular candidate, seems unlikely. Especially a high-profile candidate like Straw, who it will be argued, doens’t need to buy votes by treating.

    The Law, like so much else in society, isn’t really, in practice, a neutral. It favours, and always has, it’s part of the structure of “justice” after all; the rich and powerful disproportionally. This is the kind of society we live in. A society where wealth and power… matter, and give one access to justice in a way the poor can only dream about. To call this system “unfair”, is, I would contend, to grossly misunderstand the fundamental nature of our democracy.

  • Tom Welsh

    Writerman has a point, Craig. Thanks for bringing this issue to the light, which it obviously needs. It seems to me that the letter of the law, as you quoted it, is that no offence has been committed unless there was an intention to corrupt. But how on earth can you prove such an intention? To you, with your opinion of Straw’s character (which I must admit I share) there can be no shadow of a doubt. But how can you prove it objectively? Only by finding people who were treated and who will testify that, in return for the food and drink, Mr Straw personally asked them to vote or not vote in a particular way. That seems most unlikely.

    It looks like yet another law deliberately drafted to be obscure and subject to interpretation. The authorities can and will deploy it when it suits them, but they are impervious to it themselves.

    Democracy? Ptui!

  • Matt

    Have you made any of the national press aware of this Craig? If there really was anything here, someone would surely have picked up on it?

    I agree with you, by the way.

  • writerman

    This is probably arcane; but actually proving that Straw provided free food, for the purpose of corruptly influencing the election, is going to be impossible, and is a waste of time and effort, though I suppose if some newspaper jumped on the bandwagon in an attempt to embarass Straw it might have some effect, though I doubt it.

    Is providing free food corrupt, or is the emphasis on the “corrupt” purpose behind providing free food the central issue here?

  • Craig

    Writerman,

    No, you are plain wrong. There is 170 years of case law on treating. If the purpose of the meeting is to persuade electors to vote, and the food is given at that meeting, that is already corrupt inducement – in exactly the same way as if it was ten quid notes you were giving.

    If you say “Please vore for me and here is a ten quid note in your pocket my man” it does not require any further act to prove corrupt intent.

  • brian

    Anyone who thinks that there is any defense of Jack Straw in this case has had their sense of right and wrong warped by 13 years of Labour government. You’ll be telling us it was legal to invade Irag next.

  • writerman

    Craig,

    Fine. Now you’re bringing in case law, and 170 years of precedent, which clearly backs your interpretation of the law on treating; in your opinion. And I stand corrected. You seem to have an open and shut case against Straw.

    It would be nice to see him fined and jailed for treating in Blackburn, when he escaped justice for his other, more serious, war crimes. That would be rather ironic.

    It’s interesting, at least for me, that where I see confusion in the law and room for interpertation and wiggle-room, the stuff that keeps lawyers working overtime; you see things so clearly and in perfect black and white. I suppose this may have something to do with the difference between the idealist and the cynic.

  • Craig

    Writerman,

    Oh, I think the lawyers will wiggle like hell. But the meaning and intent of the law is very plain indeed. Criminal law should always be construed in everyday English and a reasonable way – strained interpretations don’t really wash in criminal defence.

    But I don’t expect Straw will ever be prosecuted – this is New Labour’s Britain, and deeply corrupt.

  • david halpin frcs

    I share your astonishment at the legal wriggles offered up in this column. One might imagine that Straw himself was leading the chamber orchestra. You have seen too much of the unprincipled and lawless behaviour in our country not to question whether some contributors are what I call ‘inserts’. All about there are people who are there to sap our resolve. Your site is unique in several ways, not least for its detailed insights and knowledge.

    Crack on Craig. Straw is a good symbol of the rottenness in this isle.

  • Tony

    There could only be one possible reason for Jack Straw treating in Blackburn – to corrupt the coming election result.

    Jack Straw’s love for Muslims except during election time was clearly defined when he authorised the unlawful merciless slaughter of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians in the illegal war Miliband wants us to forget about.

  • Doug Allanson

    Writerman says:

    ‘It’s interesting, at least for me, that where I see confusion in the law and room for interpertation and wiggle-room, the stuff that keeps lawyers working overtime; you see things so clearly and in perfect black and white. I suppose this may have something to do with the difference between the idealist and the cynic.’

    If I may be forgiven an academic interlude, this is interesting to me too. It seems to me that in the sixties and seventies we were taught to see things in black and white, to look for right and wrong. Then along came post-modernism, and it is now politically incorrect to take a definite stand on anything. OJ Simpson is the ultimate example, but post-modernism is a culture of alternative narratives, a multiplicity of viewpoints, no absolute truths, and while we can all learn a lot from this, it especially enables to understand the different positions people take in more depth, it is also important to remember that we all have the right to take a definite position and act on that basis. Post-modernism just means we have to think a bit harder.

  • MJ

    “I was frankly astonished by commenters on the last thread who claimed not to understand that it was an offence to distribute free food and drink at an election rally”

    It’s called playing devil’s advocate. I don’t think anyone claimed not to understand that it is an offence, only that the wording of the Electoral Commission’s guidance offers too many get-out clauses for it to be enforceable.

  • Johan van Rooyen

    It is axiomatic that one has to obey both the letter and the spirit of the law. Otherwise there would be no need for wizined old judges and case law would be made by grammarians!

  • Jonathan

    The affidavit should say Jack Straw and Mohammed Sarwar, not Jack Straw MP and Mohammed Sarwar MP.

    Since parliament was dissolved, they are no longer MPs, and will not become MPs again unless they are re-elected. As far as I’m aware Mohammed Sarwar isn’t standing for election this time.

  • Abe Rene

    (a) How do you know that the provision was contained in the Reform Act specifically to outlaw the practice of giving food and drink at election meetings, even to one’s supporters?

    (b) Are there case law references on the internet which would confirm that to give food and drink to one’s own supporters counts as treating? I ask because I suspect that giving food and drink to one’s own supporters does not count as treating. That would exempt what Straw was doing.

    (c) If you’re right, how come the Lib Dems in Blackburn aren’t making a fuss about this matter?

  • Craig

    Abe –

    This is the last time I am going to be patient with you. I seriously question your motives in defending the indefensible like this.

    I have already told you that the people were by no means all New Labour supporters. But it is not a defence to say “They were alll my supporters”.

    I do not have time to write a treatise on the subject. Some simple google searches on “Treating” and “provisions of the 1832 reform act” will answer your questions. Any serious standard history of the 19th Century will explain this – try Trevelyan.

    This really is every schoolboy knows stuff.

  • Steve

    Abe

    Sorry but you are plain wrong firstly if he gives food to his own supporters it would still be treating unless it was in private and they were directly under his control i.e. leaflet droppers etc. And even then if they were local voters he would have to be very careful. And if they are all supporters why did everyone on stage tell them to vote straw? The legislation is very simple in legal terms and in these circumstances it is virtualy an absolute offence. Food/drink + telling people vote for me is corrupt. I am guessing he will claim that the event was organised by a local Muslim group who traditionally provide food at all community meetings. And he wasnt aware that food was provided. He will say it is a cultural thing and when he is re elected he will make allowances in the law. Which is a bit flawed because I think it is culturaly normal all over the UK to provide food at meetings and rallies regardless of culture thats why we have laws. The last part would be covered by directly or indirectly. Maybe Cameron should set up a soup kitchen with blue rossettes and posters all over it saying vote conservative get a free lunch?? The big prob is that I think it is DPp advice for the CPS to prosecute so one call from Straw will bosh that unless he loses of course.

  • Steve

    159 Candidate reported guilty of corrupt or illegal practice

    (1) If a candidate who has been elected is reported by an election court personally guilty or guilty by his agents of any corrupt or illegal practice his election shall be void.

    Lets hope 🙂

  • Craig

    Oh, he’s going to lose anyway. But let’s try to get justice served and the criminal law applied.

  • Arsalan

    He must be getting desperate, he has just apologised for his anti-Niqab articles.

    This has really upset Murdock owned papers.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    “Then along came post-modernism, and it is now politically incorrect to take a definite stand on anything.”

    For the Postmodern there are no distinctives, there is no black or white, everything is in tones of grey.

    So the trick is to take a holistic view so that words are followed by deeds – Craig is delivering affidavits.

    In post-modern society the churches are empty or sparesly filled with generation-x. Inspiration must come from within ourselves…

    Why has it taken 8 years to inquire into the killing fields of Iraq. A ‘war’ founded on lies?

    Why has it taken 30 years to expose the cover-up behind the death of Blair Peach or demand an inquiry into the death of Ian Tomlinson or to demand the true facts of 7/7 where conflicting evidence exists?

    Why Why Why

    Because we are too content with words and statements, instead of getting off our arses and doing something more.

    …and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them – thus virtually holding forth these men as His future ministers.

    Jamieson-Fausset-Brown

  • angrysoba

    Craig,

    I have no idea why the commenters are against you on this but think it weird that most of them are your regular commenters.

    One of the others is David Halpin who is one of the loons who think David Kelly was murdered.

    Ordinarily these people are on your side.

    What in blazes is going on?

  • Abe Rene

    Craig

    I shall disregard the implied threat in your comment. I don’t have to agree with you, whether you like it or not, and I’m still not convinced that feeding one’s own supporters is an offence. You have still not explained why, if this is not a criminal offence, your own Lib Dem party in Blackburn, nor the Tories, are doing anything about it.

    Therefore, you are mistaken and I find Jack Straw Not Guilty.

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