Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Knowing the boundaries

Early last week, I had a nice little letter from the MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, seeking support for his re-election.  It was delivered through the Royal Mail – that’s an expensive method of distributing leaflets, but it arrived (just) before the deadline for counting expenditure towards election expenses, so probably doesn’t count towards his re-election expenses for the constituency.  Getting it in early shows that he’s probably keen not to add his name to the list of Tory MPs currently still waiting to hear whether they will be charged for election offences following the submission of some ‘interesting’ expenses returns at the last election in 2015.
And fair play, it’s completely bilingual as well (not something one can always count on from the Tories, even in heavily Welsh-speaking areas like this), although something got lost in the translation of “continue to champion the Armed Forces in Parliament” which ended up as “Yn cefnogi ein holl drigolion, p’un ai ydynt yn fy nghefnogi neu beidio, neu yn wir, os byddant yn pleidleisio o gwbl”.  Still, mistakes can happen to all of us, and that looks like a simple case of changing the wording after the original had been sent for translation and hoping that no-one would notice.
However, talking of mistakes, an accidental mistranslation isn’t the biggest one with the leaflet.  The much bigger error is that I don’t live or vote in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.  I live in border country, true enough – I can’t leave my drive without entering the Carmarthen West constituency.  But I don’t live in that constituency, which means that he really didn’t need to worry about getting it to me before the deadline after all.  On my understanding of electoral law, he doesn’t have to declare expenditure on writing to random people who don’t live in his constituency.  The question which arises isn’t about the cost, it’s about the rationale.
If the leaflet had been hand-delivered by one of the Tories’ volunteers, it would be an easily understandable mistake.  I’ll admit that it’s a mistake which I’ve made myself in the past when leafletting in rural areas where boundaries can occur in seemingly strange places.  But it wasn’t hand-delivered - it came through the post, and the address has been printed from a database.  It raises a few interesting questions about which database is being used and why: it’s clearly not one which is limited to the constituency boundaries.  Still, I suppose that it helps to keep printers, postmen and those involved in recycling paper in gainful employment.

No comments: