How on earth do you get two weeks away from an election before you realise you weren’t eligible to stand? That’s the question Lee Barron - and the Labour Party – must answer today, after Labour’s candidate for Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner was forced to stand down.
Part of me almost feels sympathy for him – after all, the rules that have excluded two Labour PCC candidates (and threatened others) for ’convictions’ that took place a lifetime ago are clearly ridiculous. I’ve railed against them before here on numerous occasions. They ban candidates from being PCCs for “offences” that wouldn’t bar the same people from becoming Prime Minister or Home Secretary. They make a mockery of the whole idea of Police and Crime Commissioners. They call the legitimacy of the whole process into question. They’ve become an Omnishambles.
And yet Barron will have known about these problems with other candidates for months. All candidates had – presumably – been warned as to the risks of youthful misadventures on their candidacies. And yet Barron has remained as Labour’s candidate despite having been “guilty” of the same kind of “offence” that caused other candidates to stand down.
Of course this is made doubly embarrassing by the fact that Corby, where Labour has a by-election on the same day as the PCC elections, is in Northamptonshire. Surely the Labour Party can’t have dropped the ball this badly when it comes to carrying out due dilligence on Labour candidates? My understanding was that the party had been clear with candidates about the need to disclose anything that might bar them from standing. The statement from the party suggests that today was the first they knew of Barron’s conviction. So what went on? When did it become clear that Barron was ineligible, and how? And did Barron manage to carry on under the impression that he was still an eligible candidate? If so, how?
In short – who knew what when?
The people of Northamptonshire – including Corby – will now be unable to vote for a Labour candidate for PCC. That’s completely unforgivable.A full and thorough explanation of how that came to pass is needed.