According to the Guidance issued to candidates and agents, at City of London elections candidates can be considered ‘joint candidates’ if they do any of the following:
- employ the same election agent
- use the services of the same clerk or messengers
- hire or use the same committee rooms at an election
- publish joint addresses, circulars or notices at elections.
Such joint candidature is colloquially known as a ‘slate’, and candidates are running as slates in several Wards in the current City elections. Reasons for doing so may include wishing to share the workload of delivering leaflets and communicating with electors, wanting to spare the electors a deluge of flyers through their letterboxes or e-mails in their in-trays, or because a group of candidates believe they genuinely have something to offer collectively which they could not necessarily offer as individuals. Or maybe, for some, the slate represents, as suggested to me recently by one voter, ‘a cynical electoral vehicle’ – i.e., they hope to get elected almost by default, by presenting themselves as part of a ‘team’.
It has been suggested (by, for instance, Peter Kenyon, standing as the Labour Party candidate in the Ward of Aldersgate) that such groupings ought to register as political parties. But people standing as slates in the City are clear that they are not political parties but merely, as described above, ‘joint candidates’. The election material for some slates makes this very clear, with each individual member being given space to summarise their own past contributions, concerns, and aspirations if elected. On some election material, however, there is less space for this individual slant, and this may give rise to confusion and to a sense that the slate is less transparent than a political party would be, that there is perhaps an underlying dogma or ideology of which the electors are unaware. At least with a political party you know what the manifesto is, the argument goes, whereas with a slate, you see only what the organisers of the slate choose to show you. Such suspicions may appear to be bolstered when electors see that individual members of a slate are closely involved with, for instance, the Young Britons Foundation or, for that matter, Freemasonry.
So why have I decided, unlike most of my colleagues in Farringdon Within, not to stand as part of a slate? For one thing, I want to be able to stand on my personal record of my first two years as a Common Councilman (I was elected in a by-election in March 2011). Secondly, I was very mindful of the reaction of some of the electors I met during my campaign for that by-election, who expressed precisely the view I have mentioned above – that a ‘slate’ is less transparent than a party-political programme, and undermines the very concept of the ‘independent’ candidate. I want electors to see clearly what they are getting if they vote for me. I don’t want to appear even tangentially connected with groups and ideologies that are very far from my own convictions (which are, for the record, left of centre, passionately pro-European, with a bias towards the poor, and very far removed from the right-wing young hopefuls of the YBF). I want to retain my independence in how I present myself, as well as in what I stand for, and so for me not being part of the slate was the obvious choice.
[Promoted by Virginia Rounding of Flat 3, 136-138 Hoxton Street, London. N1 6SH]