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ELECTORAL PETITION DISMISSED IN 'LITERAL DEMOCRAT' CASE

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'Literal Democrat' Richard Huggett was validly nominated for the Devon and East Plymouth European parliamentary ele...
'Literal Democrat' Richard Huggett was validly nominated for the Devon and East Plymouth European parliamentary election in June, the Election Court ruled in London today.

Mr Justice Dyson and Mr Justice Forbes declared that Conservative candidate, Giles Chichester, had been duly elected to his European parliamentary seat.

The court's decision was a bitter blow to Liberal Democrat candidate Adrian Sanders who lost the election to Mr Chichester by a mere 700 votes.

Mr Sanders claims many voters who intended to cast their ballots for him, voted for Mr Huggett in error.

The court heard he now has 505 signatures from voters who say they were confused by Mr Huggett's nomination.

But the election court ruled: 'the description 'Literal Democrat' was not an abuse of the right to nomination.

'There was no exclusive right in Mr Sanders to the description 'Liberal Democrat'.

The court declared that acting returning officer Frank Palmer had in no way breached his duties by accepting Mr Huggett's nomination.

In a 44-page written judgement, the court said that it might well be right that most people would say that they cast their votes for a particular candidate because of the political party he represented.

'Furthermore, it might be thought obvious that the description 'Literal Democrat' was calculated to confuse the voters and mislead supporters of Mr Sanders into thinking that Mr Huggett was Mr Sanders.'

But, on analysis of the statutory framework, the court said it was 'clear that contrary to what might be thought to be the popular view, parliament has focused on certain minimum criteria for identifying candidates which do not include references to political parties.

'It is also clear that the rules do not prohibit candidates (whether out of spite or a wicked sense of fun) from describing themselves in a confusing way or indulging in spoiling tactics.'

'Parliament was so anxious to avoid returning officers becoming involved in what might be called 'political controversy' that, as the Home Secretary said, it was prepared to take a risk that occasionally there would be misleading and confusing descriptions.

'It is not for us to say whether the political judgement of Parliament was wise'.

In other countries there existed electoral commissions or systems of registering political parties, but no such provisions existed in the UK.

'It may be in the light of the present case that parliament will wish to consider again whether a similar regime should be adopted for the conduct of elections in the United Kingdom.'

Mr Sanders had asked the court to declare that Mr Huggett's nomination should never have been accepted as valid by Mr Palmer.

But the judge's dismissed his electoral petition and ordered him to pay the legal costs incurred both by Mr Chichester and Mr Palmer.

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