In 1918 a deposit for Parliamentary elections was introduced in the UK to prevent spurious candidates cluttering up the ballot paper. Currently £500 must be deposited at the same time as the Parliamentary nomination papers are delivered. It is returned after the election if the candidate secures 5% of the votes cast.
As Treasurer for the North Norfolk Labour Party I set up ‘Fast Transfer’ arrangement (the successor system to BACS) on the Party’s Co-operative Bank Account. I use this to pay our regular bills; it is an easy system to operate.
On Wednesday 25th March (a week before I had arranged to deliver the nomination papers), North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) informed me that they would not accept Fast Transfer for the election deposit. They insist on cash or Banker’s Drafts. The arrangements to secure a Banker’s Draft from the Cooperative Bank are complex. They require a written letter (using snail mail!) with full details and at least two signatories; this is bound to result in delays and anxiety. The Labour Party nationally had announced that it would establish a Bankers Draft service but by the time we had heard from NNDC the deadline for joining this service had passed. . My own Bank, First Direct is a subsidiary of HSBC. It was one of the first banks to take full advantage of electronic banking – which is why I joined it – no longer offers Banker’s Drafts at all.
Accordingly what I was obliged to do was to go to the HSBC Bank in Cromer on 1st April and withdraw £500 from my own account and pay it in cash. This can be done using a password agreed with them in advance: I suggested ‘Putin’ or ‘Abramovich’.
I asked Noel Gant our Constituency auditor to accompany me and act as my guard and shotgun protector. A big man and an ex RAF physical instructor Noel still looks the part, although he now well into his 70s. He is also good company and together we can both count up to ten so we asked for £50 notes.
After an anxious walk up the hill from the Bank to the Council Offices we were able to deliver on that aspect of the democratic process and went and had a cup of tea to calm our nerves.