After another round of internal Party elections where the Rules do everything in their power to prevent us from finding out more about the candidates, I really do think that it is time to do something about it.
Firstly, let me make it absolutely clear that this is not an attack on the Returning Officer, the Acting Returning Officer or David Allworthy (David, I can't remember exactly what your title was...). After all, the Rules as laid down must be applied to ensure equality of opportunity.
But the idea that I couldn't blog about my candidacy, send e-mails to my friends, or use Facebook or Twitter to advertise my virtues is absurd in its impact. And given the not unreasonable limit on manifestos (I know A5 is precious little, but think of your postman...), it seems only sensible to allow people to use free media to promote themselves and what they stand for.
There is an irony here. Twenty years ago, I was involved with a campaign to tighten up the internal party election rules. Then, candidates could spend money and, given that access to the Internet was nothing like what it is now, that meant that a wealthy candidate could contact Conference Representatives in a way that others couldn't. It wasn't fair, and the rules were changed to stop that.
However, times have changed, and campaigning has too. Given that, using Facebook, Twitter and blogs, a campaign can explode into life quickly, candidates can and should be able to respond to that, driving the agenda in the direction of their choosing if they are credible enough. Yes, the defamation rules should still apply, but other than that, we should apply our philosophy and principles, allowing an informed democracy.
And one other thing, now that I'm a disinterested party in all things Presidential. Why on Earth don't we allow candidates for the Presidency access to the membership list? After all, they're meant to represent the members, and the more able they are to reach them in the campaign phase (and don't worry, the £7,500 spending limit prevents anyone from going mad...), the better. That's a good thing, isn't it?...