An ill-advised photo

PCollinsblogI have been to a few counts, quite a few. Photos are taken, usually by the press, although some party workers take the occasional snap. Always, always always, these are of candidates either giving declaration speeches or being surrounded by joyous supporters celebrating success. Never are photos taken of the council staff who conduct the count, or of the count itself, which is why I was so surprised to see that Cllr Paul Collins (Westborough, Liberal Democrat) chose to put a picture of the West Leigh count taking place on his blog. I accept that the ballot papers themselves are indistinct, but you can see them. You also see council staff conducting the count.

Admission to the count is strictly controlled – tickets are issued to the candidates’ partners and count scrutinizers only, although councillors do gain admittance. Never is it open to the general public. We have a secret ballot, and its integrity is sacrosanct. Taking photographs of ballot papers being counted does undermine this.

I do not recall seeing Cllr Collins at the count, and I presume the photo was either grabbed from a news site, or taken by one of his acquaintances. Whatever its source it is a lapse of judgement to reproduce it. It also disregards the rules, rules that are there to protect local democracy.

(I have included a screen grab here, but I have lowered the resolution so as to make it as fuzzy as possible without losing the capacity see what it actually is. I did think of including a link to the photo on Cllr Collins’ blog, but then decided that this would only compound this error.)

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8 Responses to An ill-advised photo

  1. The photo is from Southend Borough Council themselves. So point your ire at them.

  2. Well, that certainly opens a can of worms. Do you have a link?

  3. Yes. https://twitter.com/SouthendBC/status/426478289310744576/photo/1

    However the photo does not break any rules. The only rule it could have broken is if the person taking the photo had not got the OK from the Returning Officer to take photos. I presume they had considering they too were working for the council.

    You can take photos at the count and you can take photos of ballot papers. Also those who count the ballot papers can be photographed unless the returning officer has ordered them not to be.

    Basically at counts the returning officer decides pretty much what is on and off limits for the press. I would be extremely surprised if the returning officer put any limitations on the press at this count.

  4. Paul Collins says:

    Well, it is nice to see my little old blog being noticed. The picture was taken by the Council and placed as an attachment on Twitter. I do not believe it contravenes any rules, but I will ping your webpage over to the Chief Executive Officer, who is clearly seen in the photo, to be clear.

  5. There is an interesting story behind this post. I read Cllr Collins’ post when it was published, and was very surprised to see the photograph. I then made inquiries about the rules and whether the Liberal Democrats had been given dispensation to use photos like this. The rules, as specified to me, seemed to suggest that these types of photos were not permissable. To then find out that the origin of this photograph was from the very body that I had received contrary advice has left me perplexed.

  6. It’s not like there are TV cameras in counts that are broadcast the to nation or anything is it….

  7. iangilbert says:

    Every time I’ve seen a count being televised it’s been long distance, wide angle shots. I’ve never seen a photo taken so close up to counters. It’s not a big issue, but in my experience returning officers usually err on the side of caution so I’m a little surprised if this was allowed.

  8. Pingback: Candidates and Agents Briefing | Julian's musings

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