Friday, 23 May 2014

Politics: Brighouse election leaflet row

A row has broken out in Brighouse after an independent political candidate accused a rival candidate and councillor of stealing his election leaflets and asking a shopkeeper to take down his poster.

Danny Murphy has alleged that Conservative candidate for Brighouse, Howard Blagborough, along with councillor Scott Benton (Brighouse, Con) removed his campaign leaflets from a convenience store and told an independent newsagent to remove to take down a poster.

Mr Murphy explained that Mr Blagborough had taken the leaflets from the One Stop Shop.

Mr Blagborough said: “I had gone into the One Stop Shop in Brighouse and noticed a display of election leaflets for a rival candidate on the counter.

“I asked about these leaflets to be fair to all people standing for the election.

“The shopkeeper passed me the leaflets so I could have them as evidence, so I could take them to the electoral officer in Calderdale.

“In my view I was defending the integrity of the election.”

However, Mr Murphy claims that Mr Blagborough was asked by election officials to return the leaflets and only returned them after the police were called.

Mr Murphy said: “All I was told by the deputy returning officer was that there wasn’t an issue, but that I shouldn’t put them out there again.

“I told her that Howard had taken them and she told me he had no right to do that and the police have ended up having to get involved.

“The leaflets were returned eventually, but he ignored calls and emails from the returning officer and it took the police phone call for him to return them - it’s really petty to be honest.”

Mr Blagborough said: “I was given no timescale as to when to return the leaflets to the One Stop Shop, so I was going to return them at my earlierst convenience.

“The guy contacted the police and the police contacted me.

“It quite ridiculous when I’m defending the electoral process.”

Mr Murphy also alleges that Coun Benton asked the newsagent at Hove Edge to take down on his election posters, claiming the Coun Benton told the newsagent he was an electoral officer.

He said: “I’ve checked with Linda Clarkson and the Electoral Commission, and they’ve told me he had no right to do that whatsoever.

“When I went to the shop to find out why the poster had been taken down, councillor Scott Benton was coming out of the shop - he said hello, I said hello back and that was that.

“The lady from the shop said someone from the Electoral Service has just been in.

“I asked if she meant Scott and told her he was an elected councillor for the Conservatives.

“She said ‘oh right, well he’s just told me he was from Electoral Services.

“I asked if she was sure and she said she was a hundred per cent sure.

“He was asking about the displaying of leaflets, so obviously I reported that to the returning officer.”

Coun Benton denies that he posed as an officer, and said he’d introduced himself to the newsagent as an officer.

He said: “I’m aware an allegation has been made.

“My understanding is that it was passed to Calderdale Council and also the police - both of whom have fully investigated it.

“Somebody at Calderdale Council has had a word with me following the allegation.

“As far as Calderdale Council are concerned it was purely a mix-up and are taking no further action.

“They are completely satisfied with my response regarding the allegation, which I may say was completely unfounded.

It seems a misunderstanding has transpired because the lady thought I’d said I was from the council, when I said I was a councillor.”

A spokesperson from Calderdale Council confirmed that a complaint had been made by Mr Murphy, she said: “This issue has been raised through the Council’s standards procedure and councillor Benton has personally assured the Council’s Monitoring Officer that at all times he described himself as being a Councillor.

“The issues around leaflets and posters is an election matter and has, we understand, been referred to and dealt with by West Yorkshire Police.”

Detective Inspector Ian Lawrie, of Protective Services (Crime) at West Yorkshire Police, said: “We were made aware of an allegation relating to the theft of campaign material in Brighouse.

“The issue was resolved amicably with the campaign material returned and words of advice given.”

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