Representation of the People Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 29th February 2000.

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Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative 5:30 pm, 29th February 2000

My Lords, some time ago the word "Kensington" was mentioned, which brought me to the front of my seat. A little while later the word "Chelsea" was mentioned which brought me almost to my feet. And, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, mentioned the by-election in his speech last week.

We had an excellent result in Kensington and Chelsea. But it would be fair to say also that there were several frivolous candidates. There was a Daily Sport candidate; there was a Lucy Lovebucket; and on a previous occasion there was a Miss Whiplash. It all added to the joy of the occasion and the election. Such candidates add to the occasion but they do not add to the occasion of what we are talking about today.

I want to reinforce the proposal that this free mail should go to each member of the electorate. I am conscious that each elector must have an electoral poll card. Indeed, that is mentioned in the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Mackay. Everybody will receive a poll card and, therefore, by right, everybody should know who the candidates are.

When I spoke previously I pointed out that all of us who are involved in politics believe that this mayoralty race will grip London by the throat and that everybody will be enchanted and rushing around, waiting for the moment to vote. Probably we delude ourselves if that is what we believe. Some people will understand about the election and will be raring to go and vote while others simply do not know and will be minded and perhaps encouraged to vote if they know something about the candidates.

That seems to me to be what democracy is about. It is about ensuring that people who are entitled to vote know who they are entitled to vote for and what those candidates stand for. Even if they are frivolous, they are still entitled to be voted for. Indeed, the Daily Sport lady received 15 votes in all in Kensington and Chelsea, which must have pleased her enormously, even if it did not please the Government.