So this morning Helen Michael, coordinator for Finchley traders and owner of Cafe Buzz is nipping around to her local police station for "a chat" about a poster displayed by a few local traders as part of their campaign to restore pay and display parking. So far, Helen has had two visits from the police, several exchanges of emails & telephone calls with the police. It is also clear that the Police will have had to seek legal advice on the matter as the infringement seems to be a rather technical issue. It appears that thus far, the investigation has lasted three months.
It seems to me to be extremely unlikely that the Police would have chosen to persue this beyond the initial visit to tell Helen she'd made a mistake without intense pressure from someone. When Helen was originally informed of the problem, she complied with the request of the police to desist from distributing the posters and to get any further ones amended. Everyone assumed that that was the end of the matter. The Policeman who visited Helen seemed to think that as it was a simple and genuine mistake, that would be the end of the matter, so long as she complied.
The question has to be, why has this dragged on. Who has decided that Helen must "be made an example of"? Who thinks it is in the public interest to drag the Police away from jobs protecting the people of Barnet to persue a local resident who made a genuine mistake, because they weren't familiar with electoral law? Is that same person going to press the police to take similar action against the Conservatives in Brunswick Park for issuing a leaflet which broke the same law? If the Police are forced into persuing this case, then everyone in Barnet will insist that they also take action against the local Conservatives, who have agents who have undergone training in the law to ensure that such cock ups don't happen.
Now I sincerely hope that "the chat" is just that and it is the end of the matter. I am sure that the police hate getting dragged into political rows. I am sure that they are less than pleased to be wasting their time on something which is so completely trivial. As to whoever made the complaint. The GLA election of Andrew Dismore had a margin of 20,000 voters. Boris Johnson had an even bigger margin in Barnet as Mayor. As I understand it, the traders put up about 20 copies of the poster for a couple of days, before they were advised to remove them. That means that each poster would have had to have changed the voting intention of a thousand people to have any impact at all. The truth of the matter is that the poster did not change a single persons intention to vote for Boris or Brian. This was done by Brian Coleman's policy of abolishing Pay and Display and Boris and Ken's relative records in Barnet. People don't see posters in shop windows and change their mind. All the poster will do is show the local politicians, that their policies are highly unpopular.
I was under the impression that "wasting Police time" was an offence. Rather than persuing Helen Michael and anyone else who put the poster up, maybe the police should be having a word the person who is insisting that they carry on this ridiculous investigation. Common sense really has to prevail.