THE election is causing strain in the Handy household, where, as predicted by the Eye, Mike “Handy” Hancock, sitting MP for Portsmouth South, is running against his former Lib Dem party as an independent. Meanwhile his wife Jacqui is standing as a Lib Dem candidate in the Portsmouth council elections on the same day.
Local Lib Dems are furious at Handy’s ingratitude. Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Liberal leader of Portsmouth city council, defended Hancock for longer than was decent or politically expedient as the scandal grew about Handy’s sexual harassment of a mentally ill constituent (Eyes passim). When the scandal finally became too great, the Lib Dems forced him to resign the party whip.
Handy has destroyed Vernon-Jackson’s dream of succeeding him as MP, first, by compelling the Lib Dems to defend him for so long that he tainted the whole local party, and now by splitting any remaining Liberal vote by running against him.
If Handy had quietly retired, of course, he would only be entitled to an MPs’ pension; by standing again, he will also receive a generous redundancy payment from the Commons when he loses.
And what of Mrs Handy, the Eye asked Portsmouth Lib Dems’ press spokesman: will she vote for Vernon-Jackson, as a loyal Lib Dem, or hubby Mike, as a loyal wife? The spokesman had that one covered. “She doesn’t actually live in Portsmouth South, so won’t be able to vote for him or Vernon-Jackson.”
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Isle of Wight: It’s the Turner prize!
CONSTITUENTS in the Isle of Wight, the biggest single electorate in the country, are in desperate need of an effective representative in parliament. They won’t get one; but what they can expect as a consolation prize is plenty of bleak amusement from Andrew Turner, the MP who has somehow clung on as the Tory candidate.
Turner has been a bad joke for years. As an MP, he claimed more than £103,000 expenses on a five-bedroomed Georgian house which he said was his second home as opposed to his “main” home of a one-bedroomed flat. His personal life has made him a laughing stock as he continues to rely on his ex-fiancée Carole “Lady Macbeth” Dennett, who ran off with his transport adviser before Christmas (see Eye 1383).
He only survived a vote of no-confidence at a meeting of the Island’s Conservative party executive because his office manager disobeyed her local branch’s instruction and voted to keep him. He was incoherent at his campaign launch, wrongly claiming to have been in the shadow cabinet. In a reluctant interview with the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee last week, he had to be “cautiously chaperoned”.
Following the mass resignation of Tories who thought Turner unfit to be the island’s MP, the party has recruited an entirely new campaign team, whose first bright idea was to send a blanket email appealing for support to hundreds of constituents who had merely contacted his office on various issues.
This clearly contravenes the advice given by the Commons to MPs about the Data Protection Act: "A constituent contacting their Member about an issue will not necessarily want their details used for any purpose other than that stated in their letter. It is unlikely to be lawful to use this information for other purposes, for example political canvassing, campaigning or promotion of a political party.” Recipients, many of them non-Tory supporters, were outraged by Turner’s request that they help by “driving me around between appointments”.
The Turnerites’ next wheeze was a campaign website, KeepAndrew2015.co.uk. Alas, it was filled with recycled junk from the 2010 campaign, including attacks on Gordon Brown. (Who he? – Ed.) Down it came, to reappear several days later with a suggestion that islanders should ensure Turner’s reelection by manning Tory stalls at “events such as the Garlic Festival” – which takes place in August, rather late for polling day.
For an encore, the Turnerites charged down to the ferry terminals to hassle waiting passengers and dish out leaflets. The ferry company Wightlink promptly announced that it had not given permission for such shenanigans on its property and all promotional material would be removed.
The biggest joke of all is that Turner will almost certainly to be returned as the Isle of Wight’s MP: not because he’s any good, but because many islanders would vote for a three-toed sloth so long as it wore a blue rosette – as they are about to prove.
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Twickenham: He knows all about borders!
IT ISN’T only George Galloway who can issue legal threats against electors who displease him. The Ukip candidate standing against Vince Cable is reporting voters in his Twickenham constituency to the police – for the “criminal offence” of wondering whether he is a landscape gardener.
The row began when Ukip candidate Barry Edwards barged into an election discussion on local online forum Twickerati. “As an expert in population dynamics and resource management,” he wrote, “I find most of the comment here ill-informed and very dangerous for the future of the UK.” He also claimed: "I am an environmental scientist, an analyst and believe in the rigorous scrutiny of information.”
A noble calling
Since the CV on his election statement doesn’t say much about what he actually does for a living – “I am a family man and run a business within the borough” – some Twickerati began Googling. Writing as “Dr NHS”, a hospital consultant posted: "I have had a little search around and as far as I can make out (and I accept I might be wrong) he is a landscape gardener based in St Margarets. A noble enough calling, to be sure, but the way he talks I was imagining him in either a lab or with a team of statisticians at his disposal.”
To which Edwards replied: "Landscape gardener – wrong – very poor research.”
Since he still didn’t say what his real job was, Twickerati commenters tried to research more diligently. They found that in 2006, when he stood as an independent in the local elections, his manifesto described him as “Business owner – St Margarets Landscaping – 15 years in St Margarets”. Sure enough, they also found the website for St Margarets Landscaping, which claims to have been founded “20 years ago”.
This evidence, Dr NHS wrote, suggested that perhaps Barry Edwards was a landscape gardener after all – whereupon the Ukip man went berserk. He accused the doctor of committing a serious criminal offence by making “a false statement of fact about the personal character or conduct of an election candidate”.
Edwards demanded physical proof of his landscape gardening to be “posted here tomorrow, or a complete apology and retraction, or I am going to the police”. He warned other commenters to “think very carefully” before making any further remarks about landscape gardening, or he’d shop them to the police as well.
“As a future legislator,” he explained, “I am very keen on the rule of law and to ensure people follow it.” Future what? Shome mishtake, shurely.