Somerset Poll degenerates into farce
On Wednesday we noted that councillors from all four districts voted for the poll to take place between 18 May and 4 June. Despite that, ballot papers were not even posted out until the afternoon of the 18 May. This meant no-one would be able to vote until 19 May at the earliest. The Leveller has heard from a number of residents who only received their ballot papers this morning, the 21 May.
Where that leaves the vote of the councillors and the legal status of the poll, heaven only knows.
But now that ballot papers have arrived, it gets worse. The district councils delivered two leaflets with the ballot paper. One for each case – Stronger Somerset and One Somerset. The districts are running the poll and the county council refuse to take part. The districts claim that “The text for these leaflets was drafted independently by a firm of solicitors, Sharpe Pritchard, drawn from the executive summaries included in the respective submissions to the Government.“
This apparently was such a hands off exercise that nobody thought it was a good idea to proof them. Either that or more sinister machinations are at work. Because the leaflet for One Somerset advertises a link that takes you to a spoof website.
This really is incompetence of the highest order. It may make Ian Liddell Grainger laugh. The spoof website https://onesomerset.org/ is full of the sort or material he will find hilarious. In terms of the fairness of the poll, it is closer to farce.
Can you hear a scurrying sound? It is the sound of hurried footsteps as those involved try to distance themselves from responsibility.
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the four district councils suggested the Police should be involved. The spoof website taken down. Which is surely missing the point. The spoof website has not appeared to coincide with the poll. It is a bit of satire. It is arguably rather funny.
The issue here is surely not that the spoof site should be hounded out of existence. The issue is how did the districts produce a leaflet that had such an embarrassing error. They point out that they sent the leaflet to One Somerset. But One Somerset had made it plain it would not take part in the referendum. The fact they did not respond should surprise no-one. The duty of care is on the councils that proposed the referendum, not the council that refused to take part.
Of course not everybody sees it this way. In a press release today MP Ian Liddell Grainger suggested “Needless to say the One Somerset campaign is blaming everyone else except themselves. But it is their own incompetence responsible for this mess. Their supporters, including some of my Parliamentary colleagues, are now demanding that the Referendum is scrapped. That is ridiculous.”