The investigation, carried out by Hampshire Constabulary, arose after it was discovered that Cllrs Richard Priest (Shanklin South ward candidate) and Jonathan Gilbey (Shanklin Central ward candidate), as well as John Fleming (Lake South ward candidate), had distributed leaflets and posters with an inaccurate imprint.
This happened not once, but twice (see detail).
Lack of transparency
To ensure transparency about who is campaigning, electoral law states that any printed campaign material must include the printer’s name and address, as well as the agent’s name and address and who they are promoting.
In this case, leaflets and posters had been distributed without details of who had printed the material.
The breach was thoroughly investigated and reviewed by senior police within Gold Command and Hampshire Constabulary’s force-wide Tactical lead and found there “certainly has been a breach”.
Some might consider this a trivial matter, but where election leaflets have been printed has become a talking point on the Isle of Wight, with some residents wanting to see candidates supporting local businesses.
For example, in Ryde, Cllr Wayne Whittle has been criticised for not supporting local business after having his leaflets printed on the mainland. Labour and the Greens have both confirmed their election material has been printed on the Island.
David Pugh, who reported the breach, told OnTheWight,
“It only took a cursory glance at the relevant legislation to realise that Cllrs Priest and Gilbey were committing an electoral offence by failing to include the name and address of the printer on their election material.
“Given that other parties and candidates were subject to public scrutiny for their choice of printers (made possible because of the legal requirement for the imprint), I felt that it was improper for Cllrs Priest and Gilbey to have effectively exempted themselves from this scrutiny by not complying with the statutory imprint obligations.”
Wrong not once, but twice
Following informal advice being given to the candidates on Tuesday afternoon by the Returning Officer of the Isle of Wight council, a revised leaflet was uploaded to their campaign Website that evening.
Unfortunately for the candidates and their Agent, they managed to get the imprint wrong once again. This time suggesting it had been printed at an address in Newport (this was actually the address of the designer not the printer).
It was only when police formally intervened on Wednesday that Cllrs Priest and Gilbey finally managed to get the imprint right, revealing they’d used a printer based in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.
Action by police
Police say they have secured a commitment from Cllrs Priest, Gilbey and Fleming to destroy their existing leaflets and issue a formal apology for the leaflets which have already been distributed.
An apology can now be found on their Website.
Their agent, Keith Fagan, was also formally served an advisory letter by Hampshire Constabulary.
Speaking this afternoon, Mr Fagan issued a statement to “clarify and confirm, and apologise for any unintended misunderstanding or confusion caused by the imprint on the election leaflets of prospective councillors Jon Gilbey, Richard Priest and John Fleming”.
“We commissioned a design and print service on the Island, but did not appreciate the actual printing was undertaken off Island, once made aware of this we corrected the imprint and reissued.”
Pugh: Residents believed leaflets printed on the Island
David Pugh, who lost his seat to Richard Priest in the 2013 local election by ten votes, went on to say,
“I have recently been contacted by a number of Shanklin residents who indicated that they decided to vote for Cllrs Gilbey and Priest on the basis that they believed their leaflets to have been printed on the Isle of Wight – which is the conclusion they reached after seeing the published imprint.
“These voters indicated that they would be much less likely to vote for candidates who printed their election literature on the mainland, given that this was (in their view) not supportive of local businesses, and said that a number of other voters they knew had reached a similar view.”
“These are not amateur campaigners who can play the ignorance card; they are seasoned local politicians / campaigners who should know better, especially when such shortcomings are brought to their attention – but they still fail to act in a straightforward manner, instead further obfuscating in an attempt to cover their tracks.”
Comment from the candidates
OnTheWight emailed Priest, Gilbey and Fleming this afternoon and invited them to comment but at time of publishing we’d not heard back.
We were keen to also find out how Cllrs Priest and Gilbey had been responsible for “helped secure £6m+ grant for social care and £9m+ transport grant for the Island” as quoted at the bottom of their most recent flyer.
We’re waiting with baited breath for the answer to that one.
Image: © Richard Priest and Jon Gilbey