This was not new news to anyone familiar with these things: that a petition had been issued on behalf of unsuccessful independent candidate Tim Ireland had been announced by barrister Greg Callus nine days ago via Twitter. This news was picked up by the ever-alert Mark Pack, who posted on it two days ago. Now the Indy has the story, and it has also been covered by the Guardian. Exactly what is at stake should prove instructive.
As the Indy says, Ireland “lodged an election petition claiming [Ms Dorries] had accused him of being a stalker and a ‘dangerous criminal’ … The Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire could lose her seat if the smear allegations contained in the election petition, which has been lodged at the High Court by the unsuccessful independent candidate Tim Ireland, are accepted by judges”. There’s more.
The petition “claims that in the run-up to the general election on 7 May, Ms Dorries attacked the ‘personal character and conduct’ of Mr Ireland by levelling 14 separate ‘false accusations’ against him through her Twitter account, internet blog and comments in the media … Under section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, it is illegal for anyone to make a ‘false statement of fact’ in relation to an election candidate’s ‘personal character or conduct’ – unless they can show they had ‘reasonable grounds’ for believing it to be true”. What might happen if the petition were to be accepted is also outlined.
“If Ms Dorries is found guilty of ‘illegal practices’, the election result would be declared void and she would be removed from her seat, triggering a by-election”. The case of former Labour MP Phil Woolas is then given as an example. He suffered disqualification.