A brief Google search turns up all the usual claims and counter-claims, with various Officers at Association and branch level at each other's throats. The agent has honourably resigned, though I understand he is the agent for the neighbouring constituencies, and was only there to help out in the first place! The tragedy here is the incumbent County Member, who only won his seat in a by-election two years ago, is now out of the running, and one of Surrey's safest Conservative divisions (majority at by-election 2,500) will not have a Conservative county member on 3 May.
I don't know the agent concerned, but I read he has been around for 15 years, so he clearly knows what should be done. I understand he was brought in to sort out the nominations. Three sets of papers were missing following his original visit to the Returning Officer, so he arranged to go back. When he recollected the file from the Association Office a few days later, the nomination paper for the ward in question was in the file but marked COPY. He assumed that as they were copies that the originals were already deposited, so took no further action. Sadly, the originals had not been deposited with the ERO and no Conservative candidate was therefore nominated.
A couple of questions spring to mind:
- I would never assume; a simple phone call to the ERO would have confirmed the situation one way or the other.
- Does the Association have no relationship with the ERO ? I am confident that in any of my local councils (and I cover four in total) if a nomination paper was missing, the ERO or his/her deputy would call and check, as I hope they would with any of the other parties. As one of my EROs is fond of saying, "we are all participants in the democratic process and it's in our vested interests to work together to ensure the election runs smoothly."
My sympathies go to the disenfranchised county member, who by all accounts is a good man, and who has now lost his seat through no fault of his own. His Division is actually Shalford, which I know well, as it is where Steve and I used to moor Barleywood on the River Wey before we moved her to Rochester.
The real lesson of this story, however, is this is what can happen when an Association loses it's staff and local knowledge. As the old saying goes,
"There is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody would do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done."