The Thick of It


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lies, lies and leaflets

The Phil Woolas furore reminded me that many election campaigns probably sail close to the wind but nothing gets done as the result isn't as close as his. First let me say that he was wrong to use the statements he did. All the same he is entitled to a full legal process before the world sweeps him away.

It wasn't that long ago that Elwyn Watkins' own Lib Dem party were forced to pay my neighbouring MP Emily Thornberry four figure compensation for making false claims in leaflets about her attendance in Parliament. That seems to have escaped many people.

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Simon Hughes also profited from a slanderous by-election campaign in 1983 when there were unsavoury and homophobic attacks on Labour candidate Peter Tatchell. The Guardian thought there was an "insistent level of vilification which infected the campaign." Hughes has held the seat ever since. 

What about Tory Peter Griffiths who in 1964 asked voters "if you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour"?

Phil Woolas is the first in 100 years to have been taken to task in this way but I do feel that if these rules were applied more strictly that there would have been others. Woolas was wrong and I hope we have moved on from 1964 and 1983, but the other examples are a fruit for thought.


Colm said...

There are two issues here.

1) Whether Woolas broke electoral law.
2) Whether, even if he didn't break electoral law, his behaviour is compatible with representing the Labour party.

In my opinion even if he wins his appeal on point 1) he should still be sent packing on point 2). There are many areas we have to be willing to compromise over, however grudgingly, in order to get the Labour party into power, but racism isn't one of them.

I don't care what candidates from other parties say or do, because I'm not a member of those parties. As a Labour party member I expect us to have a higher standards than the others. If that means making an example of Phil Woolas then that is fine by me.

Cllr Rupert Perry said...

I tweeted this the other day.
Re political liars, found lies the lib dems published ahead of my 2002 defeat. I will not ask for a rerun. 2006 and 2010 wins are enough

They were always going on about my kids being educated outside the borough, even though my son was at a secondary school in Islington.

Tim McLoughlin said...

I've always believed that you best answer your critics with results.

I feel desperately sorry for Woolas as I'm sure in the cold light of day he wouldn't have campaigned with those leaflets. The political atmosphere in Oldham East makes Mars look hospitable. Perhaps he doesn't regret it. Only he knows.

It does matter what candidates from all parties say as in the sense of good old British fair play we want the same, fair, standards for everyone.

I do wonder though whether any claims made on leaflets are really read by the electorate anyway. Sometimes I feel that it is only the other parties that take notice of what they say.