Saturday 23 April 2016

Officials are officious - which is one reason why we have politicians


I know, I know. We're a shower. Useless. Self-seeking. Incompetent. But you really do need us. Really, you do. And here to illustrate is an example of what happens when politicians don't have a say:

"I fully understand that nowadays people are interested in what goes on at the count and those who attend would like to share their experiences on social media.

"However, I have a duty to uphold the national legislation, which is in place to ensure the confidentiality of the count process.

"This is why I am not allowing the use of electronic devices on the count floor.

"I do not want those responsible for counting to be distracted or intimidated by photography or filming. We all have a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the count.

"Electronic devices may be used in other areas at count venues, but at the discretion of local returning officers."

So let's unpick this. The Returning Officer has decided that she will ban us having 'electronic devices' in order to uphold the 'national legislation'. Now I can't imagine that it has changed much from the guidance at the 2015 General Election. Which says:

You should also decide on a policy for the use of mobile phones in the verification and count venue.

That's it. The guidance also says that the count is not 'confidential' as it should be conducted in full view of those 'entitled to ' watch the count. The Returning Officer and her officials already have the ability - again the guidance is pretty clear - to remove anyone from the counting floor who is interfering with the counting process or distracting those conducting the count.

The decision taken here is, frankly, overkill. Officials have all the powers needed to deal with any interference with the count and this decision is merely for the convenience of the Returning Officer. It is officials being officious.

And this is always the case. Public officials will always prefer blanket bans, restrictions and controls to accommodation and flexibility. In my experience much of this officiousness gets blocked by politicians applying common sense.


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