Simon Hart.

The independent Committee on Standards in Public Life launched an inquiry into the intimidation of parliamentary candidates, MPs and other public office holders yesterday (July 24).

Today, the government announced it has appointed Tory MP Simon Hart to a position on the committee.

Mr Hart came under public scrutiny less than two weeks ago, when he tried (and failed) to sell a claim that “left-wing” activists were responsible for most of the abuse alleged to have taken place against MPs during the general election.

With this man on the committee, which has only eight other members, what conclusions are we to reach about its deliberations?

Will this inquiry be a stitch-up, intended to vilify the activist Left that supports Jeremy Corbyn?

I think it may.

The committee’s Labour Party member, Dame Margaret Beckett, nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour Party leadership in 2015 but has since declared she was a “moron” to do it – so it seems unlikely that she will defend left-wing activists against false claims.

Also on the committee is a Liberal Democrat, Lord Andrew Stunell. The other members are appointed on a non-political basis.

The investigation has been ordered by Theresa May, who said she was “horrified by stories from colleagues about the scale and nature of the intimidation, bullying and harassment they suffered during the general election”.

Where did she hear these tales? In a Commons debate called by Simon Hart, who believes left-wingers were behind it and that left-wing MPs and candidates have not suffered abuse (he was proved wrong in that, as well).

I’m right to doubt the impartiality of this investigation, don’t you think?

It occurs to me that the only way to ensure a decent outcome is to make sure the committee receives as much solid evidence of the intimidation of left-wing candidates and MPs as possible.

I will be submitting my own experiences of the successful attempt to prevent me from being elected to Powys County Council by malcontents who falsely accused me of anti-Semitism, and of some of the vile messages that were sent to me online as part of that compaign. I feel justified in doing this as the committee will also consider the broader implications for other candidates for public office and other public office holders.

All the details you need are included below.

Evidence must be submitted to the committee before 5pm on September 8, 2017. The terms of reference are as follows:

The Committee on Standards in Public Life is undertaking a review of intimidation experienced by Parliamentary candidates, including those who stood at the 2017 General Election. We will also consider the broader implications for other candidates for public office and other public office holders.

This review will:

•Examine the nature of the problem and consider whether measures already in place to address such behaviour are satisfactory to protect the integrity of public service; and whether such measures are (a) effective, especially given the rise of social media, and (b) enforceable;

•Produce a report for the Prime Minister, including recommendations for action focused on what could be done in the short- and long-term and identifying examples of good practice.

The review will recognise the important role of legitimate scrutiny of those standing for public office by the public and the press.

We welcome contributions from anyone interested in this issue. The call for evidence will be open until 5pm on Friday 8 September.

Review Questions

The Committee invites evidence and comments on the following themes:
1.What is the nature and degree of intimidation experienced by Parliamentary candidates, in particular at the 2017 General Election?
2.Does the issue of the intimidation of Parliamentary candidates reflect a wider change in the relationship and discourse between public office holders and the public?
3.Has the media or social media significantly changed the nature, scale, or effect of intimidation of Parliamentary candidates? If so, what measures would you suggest to help address these issues?
4.Is existing legislation sufficient to address intimidation of Parliamentary candidates?
5.What role should political parties play in preventing the intimidation of Parliamentary candidates and encouraging constructive debate?
6.What other measures might be effective in addressing the intimidation of Parliamentary candidates, and candidates for public offices more broadly?
7.Could the experience of intimidation by Parliamentary candidates discourage people from standing for elected or appointed public offices?
8.Has the intimidation of Parliamentary candidates led to a change in the way in which public office holders interact with the public in correspondence, on social media, or at in-person events?

Please note that not all questions will be relevant to all respondents and that submissions do not need to respond to every question.

The Committee’s standard practice for handling public submissions is that they will be published online alongside our final report with all personal data removed. However, given the sensitive nature of some evidence, the Committee is willing to accept confidential submissions which will not be published. If your submission contains sensitive information, and you would like it to be considered on a confidential basis, please state this explicitly in your response. If you mark your submission as private, we shall deem any communication with us to be subject to a duty of confidence and shall not release such except insofar as we are obliged to by law. Information received will be held in compliance with our obligations under the Data Protection Act.

Submissions must:
State clearly who the submission is from, i.e. whether from yourself or sent on behalf of an organisation;
Include a brief introduction about yourself/your organisation and your reason for submitting evidence;
Be in doc, docx, rtf, txt ooxml or odt format, not PDF;
Be concise – we recommend no more than 2,000 words in length; and
Contain a contact email address if you are submitting by email.

Submissions should:
Have numbered paragraphs; and
Comprise a single document. If there are any annexes or appendices, these should be included in the same document.

It would be helpful if your submission included any factual information you have to offer from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses for their reactions, and any recommendations for action which you would like the Committee to consider.

The Committee may choose not to accept a submission as evidence, or not to publish a public submission even if it is accepted as evidence. This may occur where a submission is very long or contains material which is inappropriate.

Submissions sent to the Committee after the deadline of 5pm on Friday 8 September will not be considered.

Submissions can be sent:
1. Via email to: [email protected]
2. Via post to:
Review of Intimidation of Parliamentary Candidates
Committee on Standards in Public Life
GC:05
1 Horse Guards Road
London
SW1A 2HQ

If you have any questions, please contact the Committee’s Secretariat by email ([email protected]) or phone (0207 271 2948).


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