Volunteer observers at the UK election.

What I was doing in London in the days before the UK General Election.
Delighted to join the briefing for some of the SDAI international & British election observers, volunteer professional independent observers for the UK General Election. This Canadian based NGO, Sustainable Development Assistance International, has US, Canadian and British directors. SDAI is made up of experienced international election observers. Impromptu venue the Sussex Arms, near Paddington, looked after us well. Even if the back room looked like the rather glitzy nightclub type function rooms of Ukrainian bars or model tv playing breakfast rooms often used for briefings in other countries where we work.
Informative presentations on the election by Dr Frands Pedersen of the University of Westminster (we were delighted three of his year 3 students joined us for the briefing); Alfred Dubs, Lord Dubs, an honour & pleasure to meet the inspirational campaigner Alf Dubs who gave up an hour of his very busy schedule campaigning and clearly enjoyed communicating and informing. Plus Paul Wesson, Anthony Robinson, Chris Cuninghame, Megan McKenzie, Paul Simon & our coordinator, Karen Reinhardt. Along with excellent clear handbooks, codes and guidance by the UK Electoral Commission. As I agreed with my friend Paul Salter it was worth coming to London just to hear Lord Dubs, but also to see professional friends & new colleagues. A principled campaigner in support of refugees, like Liverpool’s own Eleanor Rathbone was in the 1930s and 1940s, Dubs is a very engaging, fair, speaker and pleasure to listen to. A real twinkle in his eye despite all the serious matters to deal with.

SDAI: https://www.sdai-aidd.ca/ (SDAI-AIDD in English & French Canadian)
A year ago, when I wrote about this subject on my website and in fairly critical comments, there were 250 observers registered with the Electoral Commission, including from Government departments, some dozens of international ones (including a Ukrainian NGO I hadn’t then heard of but did since), individuals, academics, Stowe school reps, and the largest UK group, Democracy Volunteers. Now there are over 1100 on the Commission’s register of accredited observers. So more of a chance, albeit a slight one, that election staff, party workers and volunteers, and members of the public might see people engaged in election observation. Of course with professional international missions a focus is on long term observation, not only polling day, but it is still good to have people taking the trouble to look out for democratic standards.
Postscript, after the election. 31 December. Catching up having returned from observing the election in Uzbekistan. A few days earlier, on our UK E-Day I accompanied a US observer from Canadian based civil society organisation, SDAI-AIDD to observe at polling stations in Liverpool & Sefton & the Liverpool counts. While I’m critical of the UK electoral system I’m happy to say that all the polling station staff at 15 polling stations Sam Burgess, of California, & I visited were friendly, cooperative and professional. And the counts were well run. Electoral services at Sefton Council (Sefton MBC) & Liverpool City Council did a great job.

How much money have British households spent stocking up on food and consumer goods because of the previous abortive Brexit deadlines?

‘How much money have British households spent stocking up on food and consumer goods because of the previous abortive Brexit deadlines?’ https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/how_much_money_have_british_hous via @whatdotheyknow to @DExEUgov

 

We’re keeping our Brexit box and cupboard stocked as we have done for more than a year as we don’t trust this dishonest and incompetent Government one bit.

How many British citizens will likely lose their jobs in European Union institutions & agencies because of Brexit?

‘How many British citizens will likely lose their jobs in European Union institutions & agencies because of Brexit?’ https://whatdotheyknow.com/request/how_many_british_citizens_will_l via @whatdotheyknow
Latest request to @DExEUgov
Will they be able to answer this one? (a first)

It seems clear that our Farage / Boris Conservative Party politicians, and the 43.5% that voted for them do not care about the effect of leaving the EU on British citizens who live or work in Europe and want to be able to continue having the freedom to do so. Here are my latest questions to the Quitters and Quislings’ thankless department, the poor slaves of the Department for Exiting the European Union.

An encounter with non-European wide standardisation & regulation.

So all this European standardisation that is forced on us :-). In the UK if I apply for a refund from a company on my card, physically or online, they automotically make the refund. From a French company – a form, two pieces of paperwork, & up to 28 days for them to make the refund of €48 which was charged by their mistake. (Ignoring the several phone calls & emails to work out the system & why they needed the paperwork, which was mainly down to my lack of French).

And Regular reminder, all that health & safety ‘from Europe’. In Northern Ireland (surprisingly), the Republic of Ireland (the bit further north), Spain & France Aug – Nov none of the British health & safety culture. I appreciate our and EU health & safety when I see the shocking absence of it in non-EU countries. But maybe again it’s the UK not the EU responsible for over cautious bureaucracy. And each of those countries I visited were distinctively (Northern) Irish, Spanish and French, very different from England and Wales. No sign of being merged into a European culture

A few snippets for international election observers at the UK election.

Next week a few international independent election observers, and a small number of British ones, will observe the UK General Election. I shared a few points that I thought might be of interest for – lighthearted or serious – background with the team from SDAI, Sustainable Development Assistance International – Aidde International Developpment Durable.
“SDAI-AIDD is a small, independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), based in eastern Canada.” https://www.sdai-aidd.ca/

I post some of the points here for easy reading.
At the end I add links explaining the role of tellers – party supporters who sit outside polling stations and ask voters if they have voted. These are not common in other countries I have visited for elections. Those countries also have a 24 hour campaign silence period before E-Day to allow voters peaceful reflection, which we do not have in the UK.

1). Matt election cartoons in the Daily Telegraph.

2). An example of election local news coverage from one constituency – Wrexham.

3). Last minute Voter registration rush.

4). Facebook ads, the BBC and the digital campaign.

5). The role of tellers at polling stations.

Hello everyone,

I look forward to seeing some of you next week and also meeting a few of the team for the first time.

1). I thought you might like the Matt cartoon that I saw on the front page of my Mum’s Daily Telegraph. It’s a very biased Conservative paper (not a tabloid though with as much gossip and scandal, as well as ‘Society’ and business news) but the cartoons are very good
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/11/30/matt-cartoons-december-2019/matt-cartoon-dec-4/

You will probably need to register for a free account to view the links.

2). In addition, while looking at another news story entirely I happened upon an advert for the election coverage by one local news site. I just thought it was a good example of localised election candidate and constituency information, in a public service type way.
http://www.wrexham.com/election2019/

This is just for two constituencies around one town, Wrexham, in North West Wales, so gives you a little local picture.

3). As you may know, the UK does not have automatic and continuous election registration. Before each election there is a rush to encourage people to register to vote. Many who want to vote miss the deadline – which is earlier than in the Eastern European countries that I’ve visited on EOMs.
This year more people registered on the last day than ever before. There was much coverage of this on Twitter. E.g. this tweet from the Electoral Reform Society highlights how 1 million more people registered during the election period this time than last time:


2.8m applications to #RegisterToVote since the election was called.

On November 25 they wrote:
There were an estimated 9m missing from the electoral roll as of December 2018 – so there’s still a long way to go to close the gap.

Tuesday is the last day to register before the election – deadline MIDNIGHT. Keep spreading the word #RegisterToVote

4). I’m also attaching a scan from the New European newspaper, from the end of August, which is the only article that I’ve seen before the election analysising the political parties’ spend on social media. This election the BBC is doing a lot of work analysing the digital campaign, more than before. See: https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2019/election

and some more information below.

I’ll also pop these links in the OSCE election observers Facebook group that many of us belong to.

Best wishes,

Kiron, Liverpool.

PS you can set many of the Matt cartoons here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/matt/

Unsurprisingly many of the recent ones are political and I don’t think you need to be British to get the jokes. The picture on yesterday’s front page of Donald and Melania outside 10 Downing Street seemed like a joke Christmas card but that one was real.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/technology-50375293

Online election ads – who is targeting whom?

By Rory Cellan-Jones

Technology correspondent

11 November 2019

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/election-2019-50388879

https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2019/election

Huw Edwards to lead BBC’s Election 2019 coverage
Date: 04.11.2019 Last updated: 08.11.2019 at 14.41

Making sense of the election

..

The BBC will have its first Digital Election Reporter, Joe Tidy, who will work alongside the BBC’s Media Editor Amol Rajan, focusing on the all-important digital campaigns being run by the parties and the vital role social media will play in the election.

5). Tellers.
As I wrote “You need some explanation of what happens at polling stations – specifically the presence of party tellers, which observers might meet”. The voting, verification and counting procedures in the UK are all pretty simple but different to other countries in North America, Europe and the former Soviet Union where the OSCE observe and international observers with the OSCE (the organisation I work with from time to time) are often not familiar with party representatives being present outside polling stations.

C. The role of tellers.

I attach the guidance poster from the Electoral Commission, 2017 version.

Tellers’ dos and don’ts (PDF)
This document contains a summary of what tellers can and must not do and should be read in conjunction with any guidance issued locally by the Returning Officer

https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/sites/default/files/pdf_file/Tellers-dos-and-donts-generic.pdf

That is one page. I don’t think anyone needs to read the four page detailed guidance for tellers. Which is this one:
https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/sites/default/files/pdf_file/Tellers-guidance-generic.pdf

Political-ads-social-media-UK-TNE-29-Aug-2019.pdf (4461 downloads )

 

Tellers-dos-and-donts-generic-EC-2017-1.pdf (4501 downloads )

Catalan nationalists are wrong but crushing peaceful political dissent is not the answer.

I don’t sympathise with Catalan nationalists at all, and don’t buy all the ‘perfidious Spain’ nonsense. And it’s not Easter 1916. But on the day of the unofficial referendum I thought the heavy handedness (or rather the probably provoked filmed heavy handedness) of the national police would turn people over to the secessionists. Jailing democratically elected political leaders, forcing others into (self-imposed) exile for entirely peaceful political actions is not the way for a confident democratic State to behave. The extreme prison sentences of 14 October imposed on peaceful political leaders are making the same mistake that the British authorities made in Ireland in 1916 – short of killing people – overreacting and alienating the majority who did not sympathise with a minority of extremists or romantic (if violent) nationalists, instead relying on ridicule and horror to undermine the ‘radical’ cause. Though there was an actual war on and armed rebellion at that time, so the British failure to realise they were making a serious tactical error with public opinion was understandable. How the Spanish Supreme Court can think such sentences are justified for peaceful, political illegal acts, is flabbergasting.

 

Spanish nationalists are as bad as Catalan ones – many nationalists in Catalonia / Catalunya seem motivated only by financial self interest; and taking peace, democracy and quality of life for granted. Spanish nationalists promote intolerance and stifling conformity of thought, ferment nasty petty rivalries and stir hatred with hypocrisy. Their blinkered hatred of Gibraltarians’ self-determination reduces Spanish and Gibraltarian stability and economic prosperity when Spain and Britain, local and regional Spanish authorities and Gibraltar could all work together for the benefit of the whole region. Catalonians stirring secession should look at how disastrous for each statelet the break up of larger units in the last thirty years has been, the pain and suffering – personally, economically and culturally – that has occurred. This is no reason in principle for people not to have self-determination, but it is high high time to stop and be careful what you wish for, and to stop and think you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. A mistake that a majority of voting British public have made in destroying a key basis of our country’s cultural, economic, security and environmental progress over the last forty years, because they – many of the public – have believed lies, blamed others for their misfortunes, and taken a good life for granted.

 

Spain and Britain, Catalonia, London and Madrid, Barcelona, Gibraltar, we’re all better when we work cooperatively together in a fair and non-exploitative way. Easier said than done perhaps but remember as people we all get on. Politicians and youth who stir difference and divides should remember that. And judges are sometimes advised to use commonsense and judicial discretion rather than following the letter of an unjust law.

You can’t trust anything Boris Johnson’s Tories say. The choice in the election is clear.

The choice in the election is clear. You can’t trust anything Boris Johnson’s Tories say. The Prime Minister is a lying, dishonest trickster. Jeremy Corbyn is a danger to the security of Britain and Europe, ideologically dangerous for the economy, and has a blindspot when it comes to dictators and brutal corrupt leaders as long as they are not the ones that Governments in Britain, America and France usually support. Boris Johnson is far more dangerous to the security of Britain and Europe, utterly reckless & clueless on the economy, and as most Conservative leaders has few morals when it comes to dictators and brutal corrupt leaders as long as there’s a profit to be made. Jo Swinson would make a better Prime Minister than either of them but in our electoral system that is not how you vote. How can people vote against both extremes?

Vote Liberal Democrat in any seat the Liberal Democrats can win and any safe Labour seat or Conservative seat. Vote Plaid Cymru or Green Party in any seat they can win where they are a challenger to Labour or the Conservatives. Vote independent pro-EU Conservative in seats they hold. Vote SNP if it is a choice in Scotland between SNP and Labour or Conservative. If it is a clear Labour v Conservative contest vote for whichever candidate is less extreme on Brexit – if in doubt the Labour Party policy is less destructive than the Boris Johnson party. Any vote for Johnson’s Tory Party is a vote for dishonesty and fraud on an industrial scale against the electorate. Jeremy Corbyn’s ideologically blinkered Labour want to take Britain back to the 1970s in many of their policies. This was a pretty terrible time for Britain. The current vampire Conservative Party wants to take Britain back to the 1930s which was a pretty terrible time for the whole World. They have to be stopped.

Brexit EU passport insurance and Brexit refugees.

How many British citizens have applied for passports of other EU countries since the Brexit vote and how many have moved to other EU countries?

I asked these questions for this important information last year to the UK Government department responsible for making arrangements for Britain to leave the European Union. In response to my request of 25 August 2018 the Department for Exiting the European Union did not have the information requested.

I have just asked the questions again to see if our highly clueless department care any more now about this disruption, cost and inconvenience to British citizens who will lose their rights as EU citizens, than they did a year ago. I don’t blame the civil servants, I blame the political masters who have given them this thankless task. The following request for information has been submitted via the admirable WhatDoTheyKnow site. https://www.whatdotheyknow.com Many thanks to them for the public service in assisting open government.

Dear Department for Exiting the European Union,

Please tell me how many British citizens have applied for passports of other EU countries since the Brexit vote and how many have moved to other EU countries?

Further to my request in August last year. Your department presumably is responsible for considering the effect of Britain leaving the EU on British citizens. Last year you said that you did not hold information on UK citizens applying for passports of other European Union countries or moving to other EU countries.

This must be a hugely important side effect of the vote in the referendum. I would like to know now what monitoring is the UK Government doing on this issue and what steps the Department for Exiting the European Union is taking to evaluate this effect on British citizens?

Yours faithfully,

Kiron Reid

20 West Albert Road,
Liverpool
UK

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/how_many_british_citizens_have_a_2

My article on the Ukraine elections, and new President, Zelenskyi.

My article on the Ukraine elections and new President was published here in the newsletter of Liberal International (British Group). At pages 13 – 15. With thanks to the editor, Stewart Rayment, and for editing the text to Mark Smulian of Liberator magazine, which is due to publish the article as well next month.
InterLib September 2019: https://libg.co.uk/en/document/interlib-september-2019#document

It is a .pdf file, which you can download, my article is at pages 13 – 15.

I have also put the unedited text of the Liberator magazine article, below.

In the space I didn’t have time to cover in any detail what the election observation involves, or what was and wasn’t done during the election that either broke election law or in inventive and imaginative ways got round the spirit of the election laws. I give some account of why I am sympathetic to former President Petro Poroshenko – I could give rather more reasons and concrete examples – but at the same time I didn’t have enough space to outline my criticisms of him, and more reasons why I am cautiously optimistic about President Zelenskyi. Nor was I able to talk about what living in Ukraine is actually like and the many normal and unusual things (for someone from Britain), huge number of extreme contrasts and paradoxes. I’m always happy to talk about these topics from my own experience to anyone interested.

For those who want some detail about the mechanics and outcome of the election I recommend this blog by my friend and Long Term Observer election colleague, Alex Folkes:
Ukraine’s President gets what he wants out of Parliamentary polls but wants more

July 27 ‘Ukraine’s president gets what he wants out of parliamentary polls but wants more’.

I have also put the unedited text of the Liberator magazine draft article, here:

Ukraine’s Comedian is no comic. Great hope & some chance on democracy’s eastern border.

 

Article for Liberator magazine (UK Liberal political magazine), published edited in the newsletter of Liberal International British Group. This is a Word .doc document.