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Amber Rudd’s agent for the 2017 election is Terri Lock, not James Dee, whose name features on this election poster. Displaying an election poster with the wrong agent’s name on it is a criminal offence.

When electioneering gets edgy

HOT’s Erica Smith investigates the police investigating general election practices.

It might seem a whole lot longer, but it really was only a couple of months ago that the General Election was announced for 8 June. At that time, there was still an ongoing inquiry into election fraud from the 2015 General Election. No major criminal offences were deemed to have occurred, but electoral expenses claims from 29 Conservative candidates, including Amber Rudd, were questioned in court.
Breaking news: Craig Mackinlay, who beat Nigel Farage to the South Thanet seat, and two of his aides, have just been charged with electoral fraud (2 June 2017).

There was often a confusion between what had been put down as a national rather than a local election expense. An example is the wrap around ‘Vote Conservative’ cover on Hastings Observer which led to many locals boycotting the newspaper. That’s the kind of advertising that seems local, but actually was part of a regional campaign – the Conservatives took those cover ‘adverts’ out for several newspapers in the Johnson Press stable. Whilst it may have seemed a good idea at the time, the Observer is still wincing from the drop in sales that followed, and Hastings Independent Press (HIP) might have benefitted from the ‘blanket advertising’ because Hastings Borough Council has since chosen HIP as the local newspaper of choice for its advertising budget.

This year’s general election has had politicians calling in the cops in a more direct way. There had been a campaign of political graffiti – anti-Amber Rudd slogans sprayed in angry red capital letters across town – from the wall at Pelham Arcade (near St Mary in the Castle) all the way out to the Link Road. Some people took offence at the criminal damage being caused, and Sussex Police released Facebook and Twitter messages appealing for any information which would lead to the arrest of the perpetrators of ‘political criminal damage’.


The appeal generated an awful lot of responses, primarily stating that the police investigation was a waste of tax-payers’ money. However, I was surprised to read, see and hear how most Labour Party members were strongly vocal about their disapproval of the graffiti campaign. Labour Party member Kay Green posted an interesting blog article about it.

It is a sensible policy to be squeaky clean and accountable in all practices. Not only does it help when you are accused of bad practice, it means that you are in a position where you can call the cops in if your opponents are not following such good practice.

In 2015, the number of Vote Labour posters around town outnumbered Conservative posters by 3:1. This year, I’ve hardly seen a Conservative poster other than a few on The Ridge and the A259 to Rye. This might be because of ‘Shy Tory Syndrome’ – or maybe because the Party has had to withdraw posters recycled from the 2015 election, where a different electoral agent was used.

Electoral law insists that all election materials have to be honest, clear and transparent. They must all include the imprint of the Party Agent, the Candidate, their official address, and the name and address of the company that printed the materials. Terri Lock is Amber Rudd’s electoral agent for the current election, so any Conservative posters that don’t name her as the agent are not strictly speaking legal.

It’s arguably a petty point, but it is breaking electoral law, and the police have been informed. HOT doesn’t recommend calling 999 to report electoral fraud, but the officious amongst you may want to contact the non-emergency police number rather than taking the law into your own hands.


And look here! More graffiti! This Peter Chowney poster has become the platform for an ongoing graffiti war. First off, Peter Chowney has been accused of being ‘Responsible for closing the Town Toilets’, and another hand has added “The Conservatives are…” Another hand has added “Don’t Vote”, and someone has scribbled a heart over the “Don’t”. It’s hard to tell who the “More cuts please?” message is directed to. This poster is in the garden of a St Leonards property.

Graffiti-ing the poster is an act of trespass and criminal damage. So far, the resident has been philosophical about the crime. She would rather the police spent their time dealing with “the prolific, seedy drug dealing” that goes on near her home. She has since taken the time to clean the sign up herself with a little nail-polish remover. But be warned, potential saboteurs, if there’s another graffiti attack, she will be reporting it to the police.

Who said that the art of political debate is dead and buried? It’s alive and kicking here in Hastings and Rye, even if it’s all getting a little toilet-humoured and trivial.

Roll on Friday 9 June – just don’t forget to vote the day before!

Posted 17:42 Thursday, Jun 1, 2017 In: Election 2017

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