Thursday, 26 April 2012

Chucking Stones in Glass Houses

The Conservatives seem to be getting their knickers in a bit of a twist as the once sure footed Richard Willis [Are you sure? Ed] loses his grip on events.

In case anyone missed it, Rob Wilson made sure that Richard Willis's plea to Peppard residents to check the addresses of their candidates was not going to be ignored by retweeting it.

Anyone following official Reading East Conservative Association advice will, thanks to him, discover that the Tory former Labour supporting candidate, er, doesn't live in Peppard - she lives in Thames ward. Yep, instructing residents to check addresses was spectacularly dumb.

Now you might think that was as dumb as it could get but it seems that the rarefied air north of the river is seriously affecting our Reading East MP's judgement. Fresh from giving his boss a full vote of confidence (duh!) Rob Wilson then tweeted about the Tories' Thames ward candidate.

"local conservative"? Really? Ed Hopper so loves Thames ward that he has relocated to Park ward. You can't get more local than that! Well, apart from the Tory candidate who lives in Sonning.

Now there is nothing wrong with a candidate not living in the ward they represent, as whatever the politics involved it is impossible to say that Tony Page and Daisy Benson have not been effective ward councillors. The problem arises if you predicate your ward campaign on having a local candidate and they ain't. Local Tories must have a screw loose!

[However, no party compares to the "Common Sense" party who has put up a Arborfield resident as their candidate in Church ward. Now that really is disrespecting the electorate].

But this is just indicative of the local Tories own little omni-shambles.

The cancelling of the ward surgery Readibus was a particular giggle. The one remaining Tory in the now Independent Republic of Peppard presumably would have been severely embarrassed if it had gone ahead given his record of turning up for previous surgeries. Far better for it to be cancelled than have no Tory councillor present, eh?

And then there's the war breaking out about who did what and when. The remaining rump of Peppard Tories have now claimed credit for the "Budgen's Tidy Up" scandal. Except it's quite clear from reading the history of it on the various web sites that the people who actually did the work last May were the now independent councillors!

Of course, the current Tory fiasco is firmly the responsibility of Rob Wilson who is the prime mover behind the series of unfortunate events.

Interfering in the local election campaign might just be a welcome distraction for Rob to take his mind of events at Westminster. He's been trying to climb the greasy pole since first being elected but seems to have hitched his fortunes to a dead donkey.

The next question will be after one high profile casualty will he drop the dead donkey or try to stick it out.

This week Rob Wilson launched another jobs fair. What are the chances that he'll be a visitor next time?


Keen followers of Reading politics would have been listening to the election debate on The Andrew Peach Show so the majority of those who aren't keen followers of Reading politics may have missed this...

"As a cyclist myself. I cycled here this morning..." Rob White, The Andrew Peach Show 23/04/2012

Or maybe not!

Perhaps it was a completely different Rob White to the one who left his bike at the bottom of Peppard Hill and got a lift back from the studio to it in Jo Lovelock's car.

Ah, the price of the Lab/Green pact. Rob needs to learn the biggest lesson in politics is not to get caught!

Sounds suspiciously like reports from Park residents who mentioned a rather odd occurance in 2010 where Green deliverers got out of a car picked up some cycle helmets and then went round the corner to start delivering leaflets.

Don't mention the car!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Bringing Expense to Account

Here's an interesting thing... whilst out delivering Lib Dem election leaflets in an unnamed ward today we came across a dedicated set of deliverers shipped in from Oxford who told us that they'd been paid to deliver local election leaflets for one of the parties.

Now I couldn't possibly comment on who it might have been... but here's the thing, we know and we asked for the name of the company they were working for. I'll be informing the Returning Officer and I will be expecting this expense to be itemised and declared on this year's election returns.

To be above the minimum wage the cost of delivery must be above £45 per 1,000 and that's without adding a profit margin. A ward is about 3,000-5,000 households so a single whole ward leaflet delivery would cost at least 20% of the allowable election expenditure.

I would suggest that all candidates of whatever party check with their supporters across town and ask politely as we did anyone delivering an election leaflet to see if this is a widespread practice and get an idea of how much is actually going on. A genuine supporter would be more than happy to tell you that they are doing if in their own time for nowt.

Volunteers delivering is free and doesn't need to be declared. Paid delivery does.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

When in a Hole... Stop Digging!

Oh dear... the growing list of Labour councillors and candidates who have repeated what appears on the face of it to be a breach of Section 106 of the Representation of the People's Act 1983 seems to be growing rather than diminishing. I make it that the following have reprinted their agent's letter defaming the Church Tory candidate:
  • Tony Jones - now deleted
  • Jan Gavin
  • Rachel Eden
[ If anyone would like screen prints or to report more, drop me a line :) ]

And of course... there is always their Peppard candidate who doubles as their agent, who actually wrote the letter and who would be the person to face the full might of the law (actually if I'm honest, I don't think he did... it has all the hallmarks of Pete Ruhemann who I know from a leaked email wrote the libel about my candidate in 2010).

That is if the Tories aren't too busy slitting each other's throats to inform the police.

What could someone guilty of conviction of an illegal practice face?

(5) Subject to the provisions of section 174, a candidate or other person reported by an election court personally guilty of an illegal practice shall for five years from the date of the report be incapable of being registered as an elector or voting at any parliamentary election or at any election to a public office held— .
(b)if the offence was committed in reference to an election under the local government Act, for or within the local government area for which the election was held or for or within any constituency or local government area wholly or partly within the area of the first-mentioned local government area as constituted for the purposes of the election.

Then there is the fine and a criminal record for those found guilty.

What is especially amusing is that no-one has accused anyone of being racist, yet we've seen twitter alive with Labour's chums leaping to the defence of an imaginary accusation... e.g:
@muckspReading @CllrSarahHacker is no racist, she's the amazing godmum to my beautiful mixed race children and also my dear friend #rdg
No-one ever said she was... or indeed any member of the local Labour party. What they have been accused of as a local party and not individually is employing dog whistle tactics. You don't need to be a user of incontinence pads to create an advert to market them.

As I've said before, it all faux horreur. They've been caught. They don't like it.

One of... Who Exactly?

Tonty Jines is one of the two Labour candidates claiming on Labour's dog whistling leaflet to be "one of us".

But ignoring that particularly dubious aspect of Labour's local election campaign, it made me wonder just how much the self-proclaimed man of the people can justify that claim. As the South East Regional Manager for Unison, just how much does he feel the pain of the working class?

I have no idea what his actual salary is or his domestic arrangements and nor do I claim to know but these are publically available figures for similar job roles at Unison.

The advertised salary for a Unison regional manager, £49,151[1]
Annual Subsistance Allowance, £2,429[2]
Company Car Benefit, £3,360[3]

I don't know if being Regional Head of Local Government for the South East of England carries additional salary or whether it counts as being part of the job. However, the methodolgy used for arriving at a ball-park figure is not unfair or unreasonable. It gives a notional salary of £55k which is more than twice the national average earning figure.

Perhaps the "one of us" he uses refers to the poor oppressed paying the 40% tax rate. It would explain a lot.

[1] Regional Manager Wales
[2] Figure quoted is for a junior role because there is no amount given in Regional Manager job specs.
[3] £14,000 list price

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Not One of Us?

Yet more evidence that the Labour Church leaflets were a "special" edition. Spot the missing phrase....

Or are Labour suggesting that Tony Page is also not worthy of being classed as "one of us"?

Tony Jones appears to be frit. For some reason he has deleted the letter sent by Labour to Alison Swaddle that he proudly posted on the 8th April. Of course, nothing truly disappears from the internet. For those of you who missed it, here it is:

A strong voice in Redlands and Reading.pdf (146.55 kb)

This file is reproduced purely in the interest of reporting the news.

Defame, I Want to Live Forever

It would seem that Labour have stuck themselves with a liability this election after a letter between the Labour agent for Church Ward and Alison Swaddle was published on a candidate's blog.

It contains the usual outrage and bluster you expect from Labour. In it they appear to deliberately ignore the fact that you cannot libel a political party. We have a House of Lords decision in 1993 to thank for that. You would have thought that was a topic covered on Labour's agent training sessions.

Or maybe they know about the ruling but deliberately ignore that inconvenient fact for the purposes of perpetuating their bullying tactics.

Likewise, genuinely held opinions and comments during an election are perfectly permissible and guidance from the Electoral Commission reinforces that. If someone thinks the local Labour party has put out a dog whistle leaflet, then they are entitled to hold that opinion. If Labour supporters are of the opinion it's a smear, they are entitled to that opinion. It is not libelous to hold either of those opinions. On the other hand, accusing an individual of racism would be a different matter. As far as I can see, no-one has. Labour's threat to sue the Tories for libel est donc un canard mort.

But Labour couldn't help themselves and not only crossed the line in their reply but took a long running jump to clear it. You see, whilst libel is a civil matter, deliberately defaming a candidate by making a false statement is a criminal act, can result in a criminal record for the agent and those making the false statements, fines and see the results of an election being voided.

This is the point where they went too far:

"In Church, your candidate Azam Janjua is a political turncoat who previously represented the ward as a Labour councillor until he was disowned by the Labour Group following allegations of misconduct."

The sequence of events is wrong. In their letter it's Member-Disowned-Defected when actually it was Member-Defected-Disowned. It's an important distinction because it provides a reason for them to wish to attack him personally with unproven allegations.

Even so, maybe it is true to say that Cllr Janjua was "disowned" by the Labour group, because you would expect a party to disown a defecting member. Where they seem on the face of it to have broken the law is by linking it directly to allegations of misconduct, allegations which only surfaced after his defection. By linking it with unproven allegations they are implying guilt with the sole aim of defaming him to the electorate.

Except Labour have never presented any evidence to back up their whispering campaign. They have only ever spoken about it in the council chamber where reporting is covered by qualified privilege. Vikki Lloyd has not to my knowledge made any public statement or reported anything to the police, neither has the Labour Party.

So we are left with:

1) Something did happen and Labour covered up a criminal act in their offices by someone who was then a member.
2) They required something to smear Cllr Janjua with after his defection and cobbled together a bogus story which explains why they never went to the police.

In the absence of any report to the police and the failure to provide even a shred of evidence to back up their accusation, we are left with only the one conclusion that this is a clear attempt to defame an election candidate which is contrary to section 106 of the Representation of the People's Act 1983.

106 False statements as to candidates.
(1)A person who, or any director of any body or association corporate which— .
(a)before or during an election, .
(b)for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at the election, .

makes or publishes any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate's personal character or conduct shall be guilty of an illegal practice, unless he can show that he had reasonable grounds for believing, and did believe, the statement to be true.

Reasonable grounds would not be demonstrated by "Such-and-such told me" because that would make Mr. Such-and-such guilty of defamation and himself the subject of criminal proceedings by spreading the defamation in the first place. To uphold the assertion they have made by seeking to link disowning with misconduct would require actual evidence to be produced. They have said on many occasions that they have it.

So let's see it.

The act of publishing their agent's letter now leaves the Labour agent and members repeating it open to criminal action. The question is then raised as to whether their candidates were aware of this apparent lie. One of them by publishing it seems to think it is true.

For years the Reading Labour Party have been guilty of lying to the electorate on their leaflets. They published a knowingly false statement about my candidate in 2010 and relied on knowing that I didn't have the money to pursue them. On that occasion it was a civil matter constituting libel. However, this time they have ventured into criminal territory. Not a smart move.

In 2010 my candidate, along with the Tories and Greens signed a clean campaign pledge. Only one party refused to sign it... no prizes for guessing. After the election Naz Sarkar personally apologised for the nasty nature of his campaign. He wasn't steeped in the traditions of the Reading and District Labour Party so I think it is fair to say that he was a decent person duped by the local nasties and was genuinely embarrassed by what was being said in his name.

As I understand the law, the Conservatives need to inform the returning officer and report the committing of an offence under Section 106 of the Representation of the People's Act 1983 to the police for investigation.

I hope they do. It's time these bullies were stopped.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Calling Your Name

Of course, one of Labour's defences over mounting evidence of their use of "dog whistle" tactics is that they are using common phraseology that they apply to all their candidates.

So compare and contrast, if that truly was the case, in what should be very similar leaflets, their candidate calling cards...

Church Ward

Battle Ward

One of them is about a candidate who lives on the other side of town from the ward they seek to represent, who has no track record in that ward and who is standing against an Asian candidate who does live in the ward and is far more entitled to use that phrase in its neutral form. It is why using "one of us" was so incongruous and stood out like a sore thumb.

The other Labour calling card is for an Asian candidate who actually lives in the ward and therefore its use would be perfectly natural and corroboration that people are whipping up a storm in a tea-cup. Except it is notable by its complete absence.

In fact Labour have also used it on the leaflets of another white candidate where they are targeting a council estate. Expect a panic use of the phrase on a rushed out leaflet to support their Battle candidate in a belated attempt to diffuse the situation and sweep it off the election agenda.

Now no-one is accusing Labour themselves of being either racist or homophobic. I'm also sure that we'll get the "but we have Asian and gay candidates" line parroted by their supporters. But this isn't about credentials, it is about a willingness to pander to prejudice. That has been demonstrated by their actions last year and their actions this year certainly on the balance of probabilities if not also beyond reasonable doubt.

For Labour, the end really does justify the means.

But it's too late. You've been caught. It is despicable.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

A New All Time Low

I'm amused by Labour denying their "One of us" leaflet is overt racism. I won't repeat it here because it has been well covered elsewhere. But their faux horreur is quite laughable.

Labour doth protest too much. The old walks like a duck, quacks like a duck axiom comes into play.

Labour's problem is that they have form when it comes to dog whistling. You see, last year their supporters spread slurs designed to damage Lib Dem candidates which were homophobic and prejudiced in the extreme and, although as you will see not confined to, they concentrated on spreading it the Asian community where they thought it would have the greatest effect.

How do I know? One of their supporters asked me whether what he had been told was true. I thought it was an isolated incident until I spoke to one of the Lib Dem candidates. This is his blog entry describing what happened to him:

1.  Someone knocked on the door of a person I know and whilst talking, they were asked if they realised that the Lib Dem Candidate was gay.  The person refuses to tell me which party knocked on their door.
 2.  Whilst delivering in Whitley, a resident informed me that she had something through the door and ‘knew all about me’ and showed me a limp wrist.  Rather meekly and embarrassed, I just turned away.
 3.  On two separate occasions, I have caught a taxi home and been told that the Lib Dem Candidate was gay.  On both occasions I found myself being unable to pass comment.
 4.  There were also comments made about me on the Get Reading website which gave web links to one of my Drag websites.  The interesting fact is that the URL used was one that pointed from my personal facebook page which also has privacy settings.  Needless to say, I removed all political
contacts from my friends to prevent further leakage.

In my case, I responded to their supporter by refusing to discuss it but I told him that making slurs like that against candidates was illegal and asked who was spreading these things... "Oh, all the taxi drivers are telling people."

So we are asked by Labour to believe that it is a complete co-incidence that two independent sources cited the taxi drivers as spreading homophobic comments about candidates. It was clearly a widespread tactic and only one party was set to benefit. Labour's links to the taxi association are well documented.

I remember last year saying that it was the most disgusting thing I'd come across in politics. Maybe I was too hasty. Reading Labour always seem to have the capacity to exceed expectations and plumb the depths.

I also have a question that needs to be answered by one of their candidates. However, I will wait until after the election before demanding an answer because I expect them to win their ward and it would so much more fun if we had a resignation before the annual meeting of the council.

The very best that Labour can hope to get away with is it being common knowledge that they turn a willing blind eye to the conduct of their supporters. Already I know of one case of untrue comments being made on the doorstep about a Lib Dem candidate. Dog whistling is their mode of operation. I just didn't think they'd be arrogant or stupid enough to actually put it on a leaflet.

I hope the Labour agent on the Church leaflet wasn't poor old Dun-Quay. I don't think he'll last long in prison.

[Yes, I've edited this. Don't blog when incensed!]