In January 1970 the voting age was lowered to 18. In April I was 18 (yes that means I'm 65 now) and in June there was a general election. I lived in rural Cheshire in what was the Knutsford constituency but the boundaries have long since changed. I went to hustings in the village hall, only the Tories bothered to hold one. The sitting MP (Bromley-Davenport) was retiring and the chair had tried to find something interesting to say about him. Apparently in 1940-something he once asked the speaker if it was possible to open the windows as it was rather stuffy in the chamber. Ted Heath rather fancied beating Wilson's 'white heat of technology' guff by parachuting an oil industry exec with a science degree into a safe seat then making him minister of Science & Industry (I might have the department title wrong after 47 years). So the local Tories duly accepted him as candidate and the local farmers duly elected him and I went away to college. We have had a lot of elections since then and I've voted in every one. We've moved house many times and lived in many different constituencies. Every one a safe seat. Mostly Tory but a couple Labour. In a mirror of my first election experience we moved to Blackburn just before Barbara Castle retired and at the next election Jack Straw was parachuted in, and elected. When we lived in Wales for 17 years there was a little opposition from Plaid, but the sitting Labour MP was pretty safe. Which way I voted in each election doesn't really matter now, what matters to me is that it never really did matter then either. If I voted for the incumbent he/she got a majority of 20,001 if I voted for the opposition the majority might fall to 19,999. Over the years I've been moderately politically active, founder member of the SDP, campaigned for the Lib Dems, school governor, town councillor (Independent). I hoped the Lib Dems would eventually get PR through but Cameron's coalition screwed that one up for a generation. All I have left is despair.
It appears that several recently elected MPs overspent on their electoral expenses but declared that they had stayed within the limit. It is being dismissed as a technical error, a misunderstanding of the rules and their party is going to pay a £70k fine. In everyday life ignorance of the law is no defence, and in the case of MPs many of whom had previous parliamentary experience, claiming ignorance of electoral law is really not good enough. As the ruling stands, any political party that can afford to overspend on its campaign will be let off providing they spend a little bit more. This seriously disadvantages independents and smaller parties that cannot afford to be so profligate. Members found to have broken electoral law during an election should be sacked and barred from standing in the subsequent by-election (or other by-elections) at least until the next general election.
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