Labour Party candidate Vicky Foxcroft, the Green Party’s John Coughlin and UKIP’s Massimo DiMambro were all absent from a Lewisham Deptford hustings on Tuesday night, leaving the field open for alternative candidates.
Residents wanted to discuss issues of democratic reform, creeping privatisation and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with prospective candidates.
David Harvey, standing as the only independent candidate, discussed the option for the electorate to spoil their ballots – even at the expense of his own deposit, which he has tried but failed to crowdfund.
When asked whether he would vote for himself, Harvey replied: “No. Where it says ‘you may only vote for one candidate’, I’m going to draw a line through it because I don’t believe that it’s an appropriate instruction to be putting on a ballot paper.”
Harvey believes there is a lack of education on the electoral process and no clear guidance for voters about the option to spoil their ballot paper.
Eastlondonlines asked Harvey whether he had any affiliation with the recent unsuccessful “None Of The Above” campaign, but he was quick to distance himself.
“They claim that any attempt to spoil your ballot paper will not affect the outcome of the result, which is technically correct. But when a ballot is spoiled, it is then categorised by the returning officer as ‘rejected’ and included in the statistics for that constituency.”
Candidates were asked whether the current voting system should be changed in order to increase voter turnout.
Phillip Badger, 26, candidate for the Democratic Reform Party and a graduate of Goldsmiths, University of London, talked about his party’s policy of introducing an “online parliament” to improve both the electoral and democratic process.
“The model we are proposing is a consultative process, which allows constituents to have their input on policy at a local level. Their representative can then see the discussions taking place around the issue and vote accordingly.”
“This is just one tool to provide access, but it’s up to the representative to be accessible as frequently as possible”, said Badger, the first candidate to be fielded by the Democratic Reform Party.
The debate was lively despite the modest numbers, with Conservative candidate Bim Afolami and Liberal Democrat candidate Michael Bukola being heckled on a number of occasions over their dismissals of suggestions that TTIP would pose a threat to the NHS.