Mid-Bedfordshire by-election “up in the air” amid calls for PCC to stand down during campaign

Former MP Nadine Dorries Image: TalkTV
Former MP Nadine Dorries Image: TalkTV

Campaigners have described preparations for the Mid-Bedfordshire by-election as being “in full swing”, despite no resignation from the current MP and no election date being set.

Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire, said she would resign “with immediate effect” on 9 June, but, according to Central Bedfordshire Council, has yet to officially tender her resignation.

The Electoral Commission told the Bedford Independent: “If an MP resigns, the Speaker of the House of Commons is responsible for issuing a writ to authorise the holding of a by-election.

“Once the warrant for the writ has been issued, it is up to the Acting Returning Officer (ARO) when polling day occurs, including if it occurs over the summer recess.”

A spokesperson for Central Bedfordshire Council said: “To date, we have not received notification of Nadine Dorries’ resignation and are therefore unable to advise you of the date of any by-election.”

Meanwhile, the Police and Crime Panel has written an open letter to the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Festus Akinbusoye, who has been named by Ms Dorries as the Conservative Party candidate.

Read: Nadine Dorries announces PCC Festus Akinbusoye is to stand as Tory candidate in Mid Beds by-election

The panel – writing as a “critical friend” – suggested that Mr Akinbusoye stand down as PCC until the by-election.

They have also suggested that to maintain transparency he should refrain from using any social media accounts connected to his police role and sought reassurance that he would not use any resources of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) on his campaign.

Responding on his Police and Crime Commissioner Facebook page, which is separate from the taxpayer-funded OPCC page, the PCC said: “In the spirit of absolute transparency and accountability, I can categorically state that no OPCC staff, resources are being used for campaigning purposes.

“My work continues on delivering my Police and Crime Plan, as is the work of my Deputy PCC and Chief Executive as head of paid services and monitoring officer.”

He also shared his response to the chair of the Police and Crime Panel.

In an email to the Bedford Independent, Paul Downing, chair of Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel, wrote: “What members of the Panel were mainly concerned about was, how the PCC for the whole of Bedfordshire, could effectively do that public-facing and paid job whilst clearly needing to personally concentrate his electioneering in one small part of the county in what would/could/will be high profile event.”

The panel suggested the PCC could take a sabbatical in the run-up to the election, “with his Deputy managing the work of the PCC temporarily”.

Mr Downing said that while there is no by-election planned, “I think that the Panel will be expecting the PCC to currently be concentrating his efforts on the policing of Bedfordshire.

“However, he has his own free time – and during that, we have little, or no say in what he does ‘off duty’. It is clear from his response that the PCC is creating private time and space for any canvassing.

“The Panel has guidance for how it scrutinises and supports the PCC, and we will continue to do both for the people of Bedfordshire during our regular interactions with the PCC and his office.”

Mr Akinbusoye was out campaigning last night (Tuesday), sharing progress on his ‘personal’ PCC social media accounts.

After the Bedford Independent shared images with the Conservative Party, a spokesperson said: “These are private social media accounts set up by Festus before he was elected as Police and Crime Commissioner.

“He has not used any account related to the office of the PCC to promote his campaign to become the next MP for Mid Bedfordshire.

“However, for the avoidance of any doubt, Festus will change the handles of his social media accounts as soon as practicable.”

At the time of publication, Mr Akinbusoye had changed his Facebook account to remove ‘PCC’ from the title. His Instagram account is still @fest4bedspcc.

“Throwing the kitchen sink at it”

Despite no date being set, political parties are “throwing the kitchen sink” at the campaign, said a spokesperson for the Liberal Demorats.

Bedford Borough residents in Wootton, Turvey and Wilhamstead will no doubt be inundated until the by-election by campaigners from all parties.

“We’re doing exactly what we did in Chesham and Amersham,” said the Lib Dem spokesperson, in reference to over-turning a near 50-year dominance by the Conservative Party in a by-election in 2022.

“This is the fastest-ever start we’ve had to a by-election campaign, with over 10,000 leaflets delivered in the first weekend.

“We think it’ll be a two-horse race between the Lib Dems and Conservatives.”

Sir Ed Davey and Emma Holland-Lindsay campaigning in Ampthill. Image: LDRS
Sir Ed Davey and Emma Holland-Lindsay campaigning in Ampthill. Image: LDRS

The Liberal Democrat candidate, Cllr Emma Holland-Lindsay said: “Mid-Bedfordshire is yet again being taken for granted by a Conservative MP.

“Nadine Dorries should do the right thing and step aside now. People are telling me they need urgent help with the cost of living crisis and a strong voice in Westminster demanding better health services for the constituency.

“As a Councillor here in Bedfordshire I understand the difference an elected politician can make. That is why it’s so important that this drama ends and Mid-Bedfordshire has the chance to elect a new MP as soon as possible.”

Alistair Strathern Labour's Candidate for Mid Beds MP. Image: The Labour Party
Alistair Strathern Labour’s Candidate for Mid Beds MP. Image: The Labour Party

Labour’s candidate, Alistair Strathern said Nadine Dorries and the Conservative Party had taken Mid Bedfordshire for granted.

“They may be content to play games, but I’m from Bedfordshire and I know that people here want and deserve a hard-working, full-time MP that puts their interests first.

“Our campaign is in full swing, and the more people I speak to, the clearer it becomes that this election will be a choice between Labour and the Conservatives.

“However long it takes to set a date for polling day, I am taking nothing for granted and will work tirelessly to earn the trust of the people of Mid Beds.”