The Casual Vacancy – Excerpts

Thanks so much to all the new followers, and to all those people that liked my final The Casual Vacancy post, I really appreciate it, and welcome! Special thanks to the two people who reblogged! The Writingale at (beautiful looking blog!) and Annette J Dunlea Irish Author’s Literary Blog at

As I said yesterday I wanted to go through all the excerpts of the Local Council Administration that we are presented at each of the sections. I want to do this because clearly they have a purpose, and I didn’t really understand their purpose at the beginning. And of course, how could I know what an excerpt was there for if I hadn’t actually read the chapter and knew the context. So I thought it would be best to go through them all. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to extract from them, but I hope I can help clarify my own and other people’s confusion. So if you do have any questions or your own theories, please share! This will be the last post on The Casual Vacancy, and I’ll be continuing The Keeping Place (part of the Obernewtyn Chronicles) tomorrow. Once that is done, I will be updating you on some of the other books I have been reading (I haven’t done that in a while), before continuing the Obernewtyn Chronicles with The Stone Key. But right now let’s look at Part One.

So Part One is pretty straight forward. 6.11 A casual vacancy is deemed to have occurred:

a) when a local councillor fails to make his declaration of acceptance of office within the proper time; or
b) when his notice of resignation is received; or
c) on the day of his death

Well as we all know Barry dies in the following scene opening up a vacancy (a casual one in fact) in Pagford’s local council. I don’t think this needs too much analysis. I do find it interesting however that they say ‘on the day of HIS death’. Now I know that clearly there was a time when councillor’s would have only been men, I don’t know whether the seventh edition would have fallen during that time. It is just an interesting inclusion. I also wonder what ‘the proper time’ is, is it a day, a week, doesn’t really say. I do also assume that councillors aren’t stuck in the council forever unless they do one of these three things, and that people are elected on a bi-, tri-, quad-, quin- teniall basis for however long the terms are. Moving on.

The next ‘part’ is (Olden Days), now quickly I want to comment on the title. I find it interesting that JK didn’t just write Olden Days. I think she is hinting at the fact that when parenthesis () are used, it usually means they are having a flash back, and you are getting back story. She does this quite a lot, and there are whole pages that are contained within brackets, which is very unusual. But I do find it interesting. This excerpt is about ‘Trespassers’:

12.43 As against trespassers (who, in principle, must take other people’s premises and their occupiers as they find them)…

Really in this next section we learn about Pagford’s history and its relationship with Yarvil. We find out about The Fields. I can’t help but feel that maybe they are saying that Aubrey Fawley senior, somehow trespassed on Pagford, or really Yarvil trespassed on Pagford. I didn’t quite understand this until now. Yarvil, in way of the Fields, is trespassing into Pagford. Somehow, and this is something I find hard to believe, Yarvilians have different accents to Pagfordians, even though they are so close to one another. But Pagford see this as an egregious trespass, so I guess it makes sense. I do wonder what else the Trespassers clause in the book means, cause that excerpt doesn’t really tell us too much.

It is very strange that the first Part and (Olden Days) goes for over a third of the novel, and then the last two thirds is broken up into the last six parts, unusual. Now this section is about ‘Fair Comment’

7.33 Fair comment on a matter of public interest is not actionable.

Now this doesn’t really make sense unless you understand what actionable means. I’m not a lawyer or a law student, so I don’t have a comprehensive understanding of such legal terms, but I do understand that actionable is referring to defamation. If you make a ‘fair comment’ then you won’t be up for defamation charges or being sued. It is fairly complex, and ‘fair comment’ relates to more about making claims based on facts that turn out to be untrue. I don’t fully understand, but apparently those in public office like councillors and famous people can basically say whatever they like, as long as it isn’t intended to be malicious, and they can’t be sued. As for why this relates to The Casual Vacancy well in the next few scenes we have Andrew hacking into the Council website and making comments about Simon. It is most definitely ‘fair comment’ because it is true, even if it has malicious intent. Now clearly Andrew is not a person of public office, but the Council website facilitates the comment, so I don’t know if that makes it a fair comment or not. But it is a matter of public interest, since Simon was running for the Council, and so the public deserve to know who they were voting in.

Part Three is about ‘Duplicity’

7.25 A resolution should not deal with more than one subject … Disregard of this rule usually leads to confused discussion and may lead to confused action…

As for what this excerpt is about things start to get more difficult. This section deals with Nana Cath’s death, but also has Kay moving into the warzone and trying to save Bellchapel. The only resolution I can see is Kay and Colin’s discussion. They are trying to solve the issue of Bellchapel, but also the Fields. The discussion doesn’t go too well, and I can see how this would be called confused. But it also lead to poor action, since nothing much really happened. In the end they started talking about Krystal and the Weedon’s, which though connected to Bellchapel isn’t the same subject. All they decide to do is really take the statistics to Parminder, for her to then bring up. But as we know that doesn’t end well, and the action isn’t productive. So that’s what I think the duplicity is referring to.

Next section, Part Four – Lunacy

5.11 At common law, idiots are subject to a permanent legal incapacity to vote, but persons of unsound mind may vote during lucid intervals.

Getting past the fact that this is not very ‘politically correct’ and even if ‘idiot’ is a medical term, it is clear that this was written some time ago. As for what is ‘common law’, it is law based on previous court cases. So once a judge (especially ones from the highest levels of courts) makes a decision at one hearing, the legal precedence stands forever. In a future court case of a similar theme, a lawyer can use the first judge’s decision in their arguments and force the judge to make the same ‘decree’, ensuring that everyone is treated fairly. So this means that there was a court case on whether ‘idiots’ and people of unsound mind could vote. The outcome was that idiots could not vote, but if a person were lucid they could. The next section does deal with the election so I can immediately see that this is one piece of ‘Council Law’ that actually relates to elections and we also get the awful Council meeting where Parminder almost loses the plot herself. As to how the ‘idiot’ section relates, I don’t really see a connection. Unless they are referring to Colin with OCD, but that is not idiocy or having an ‘unsound mind’. The only other thing is that maybe someone thought Parminder wasn’t of sound mind, but that sort of thing is never mentioned.

For Part Five we get something that leads on from Part Two, this time about ‘privilege’

7.32 A person who has made a defamatory statement may claim privilege for it if he can show that he made it without malice and in pursuit of a public duty.

So this leads on from ‘Fair Comment’. Defamation is saying something that could damage a person’s character or image. So if I were to say that you stole that would be the beginning of defamation. But if that was true, I could claim fair comment, so long as I said it without intending to harm the person’s character, but so that the public would benefit from knowing that you were a thief. If I made the same accusation, but it wasn’t true. That would be defamation. If I had reason to believe that it was true, and it was again without malice and to benefit the public, I could claim privilege. That’s my understanding and most definitely NOT legal advice! As to why this relates to Part Five, here we have Howard Mollison’s party, where Andrew learns that Howard has had an affair. Clearly that accusation would be defamatory, and I don’t think Andrew could claim privilege because there was malice, and it doesn’t really help the community.

Part Six is about ‘Weaknesses of Voluntary Bodies’

22.23 The main weaknesses of such bodies are that they are hard to launch, liable to disintegrate…

Part Six deals with Robbie’s death, and ends with Krystal overdosing on drugs. I don’t really see any connection about any ‘voluntary bodies’. There is no such body in this section, but I think that maybe JK is referring to families. This isn’t about law any more. The voluntary body is a family. The Weedon family disintegrates in this section, as Terri finds out that Robbie is dead, and then Krystal overdoses. And family’s are usually hard to start, they don’t just appear. I think it is an interesting connection by JK, and it goes to show that this excerpts can have more than one or even two meanings.

Final Part: Part Seven – ‘Relief of Poverty’

13.5 Gifts to benefit the poor … are charitable, and a gift for the poor is charitable even if it happens incidentally to benefit the rich…

It’s a little annoying that after the first ‘poor’ there is a gap so we don’t know what it says there but clearly JK didn’t think it was important. Obviously in this last section Krystal and Robbie Weedon’s funerals are held. I’m guessing that the gift was holding the funeral at St Michael’s. It was fun-raised by Sukhvinder and the other members of the rowing team. I guess it benefited the poor since Terri would not have been able to afford a funeral and the coffins and flowers, especially not at St Michael’s. The incidental part about benefiting the rich, I guess could be that it was a healing process for Sukhvinder, it allowed her to do something and focus on something positive, whilst recovering from the ordeal. It doesn’t really benefit any of the other rich, except that charity can make people feel good, even if they are rotten on the inside. That’s the extent of the ‘double meaning’ that I can draw out for this expert. But I do wonder what the definition of charitable is, and why it is needed. Clearly there must be some gifts that are uncharitable (in this context), so I wonder what they mean by that.

That’s all on each of the excerpts, but just to finish off I’d like to talk about the Local Council Administration itself. The author, Charles Arnold-Baker, wrote the book back in 1975 which does explain the insensitive and oppressive nature of the wording. He was a veteran of World War Two, and was smart enough to start collecting information on the Nazis once the war was nearing its completion, so that they could use it against them. Apparently the book is now considered ‘the bible’ for every Parish, Town and District Council in England/UK area. That’s all I have to say, let me know what you think below! Tomorrow The Keeping Place continues! Finally!