Election chief reprimands Tory candidate and UK minister for electoral rule break
An election chief has reprimanded a Tory candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner and a UK government minister for breaking electoral rules.
Nation.Cymru can reveal North Wales Regional Returning Officer Colin Everett rebuked Pat Astbury, who is standing for North Wales PCC, for an “inaccurate” statement and for having “privileged access” to Police Minister Kit Malthouse MP.
Astbury shared a video on Facebook of a Q&A session with the Conservative minister, in which she described herself as “your local Police and Crime Commissioner”, even though the election doesn’t take place until May 6.
Welsh Conservative spokesperson told Nation.Cymru that “Pat made a genuine mistake and the video has now been edited to correct it”.
Everett, who is Chief Executive of Flintshire County Council, upheld a complaint by Arfon Jones, the outgoing North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner, that she used a “Government Minister for electioneering” and broke electoral rules in doing so.
During what’s known as the purdah period of an election, there are rules in place to make sure that no party can use the resources of the government or the civil service to gain an unfair advantage.
The Returning Officer said that Astbury, who is a former Ruthin town councillor and mayor, “misrepresents” her position by describing herself as Police and Crime Commissioner and said that the part of the video in which she does so should be “immediately” deleted.
He also advised that Police Minister Kit Malthouse “extend the opportunity for an interview to all other candidates” or otherwise ask for it to be withdrawn.
In the video Pat Astbury said: “Good evening. I’m here to talk about crime in North Wales as your local Police and Crime Commissioner, and today I have Police Minister Kit Malthouse.”
In his complaint to Colin Everett, Arfon Jones said: “I write to you as the PARO to lodge a formal complaint against Pat Astbury.
“She conducted a Facebook interview with Kit Malthouse MP the Policing Minister where she described herself as the PCC for North Wales, as this she is using a Government Minister for electioneering in clear contravention of Purdah.”
In response to the complaint, Colin Everett, said: “Pat Astbury presents herself as though the PPC which is off course inaccurate.
“Whether a slip of the tongue or not – it misrepresents her position. Stephen – could I ask that the PCC’s office instructs Pat to edit the video immediately to delete this part.
“I have not watched the whole video so do not know if this reference is made only the once.
“On the wider point, no candidate should have privileged access to Government Ministers as part of their campaigning.
“My advice is the Minister should either extend the opportunity for an interview to all other candidates or otherwise ask for the video to be withdrawn. Stephen – this needs taking up with the Minister’s office urgently.