CAMDEN’S Labour Party has often complained of dirty tricks by opponents at recent by-elections. Swamped under the Lib Dem leaflet operation, Labour has struggled to win these one-off polls. It can all get a little tetchy, When Nick Russell (LD) beat Awale Olad (Lab) in Kentish Town in 2008, there were reports of slanging matches in the streets and misdirection on the doorstep. (It’s funny how things turn out.. Awale is currently a councillor in Holborn and Nick lost his seat at May’s boroughwides)
But, with another by-election in Kentish Town to be held on Thursday, who’s playing the stinker this time?
The latest Labour leaflet – see the smallprint below, by electoral law the party has to admit that it was published from their offices in Gloucester Avenue – is camouflaged in Tory desktop publishing. A quick glance at this counterfeit, a barrage of assaults on the Lib Dems, and most voters would assume it has come out of Conservative candidate Will Blair’s campaign.
Not only is there this unsubtle atttempt at deception, the leaflet is a feast of negative campaigning which local politicians always say – publicly – they detest. It returns to that hoary old zzzzzzz subject over whether it is important or not that a councillor lives within the precise ward boundaries. When you think of the hard work completed by someone like Roger Robinson, who lives in Highgate but gets up in the middle of the night to aid constituents in Somers Town, the debate looks pretty irrelevant.
It’s a bit different when they choose to live in another part of London – or, say, Arizona – but surely having a home just up the road isn’t so criminal. Surely people simply want somebody who will work hard to represent them and their patch of the borough.
Plus, plus.. didn’t Labour cry foul when their opponents moaned incessantly that Glenda Jackson didn’t live in the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency at the General Election earlier this year. It would be interesting to know who sanctioned this leaflet. I can’t believe the whole group approves of this tactic. Some might be worried it can only backfire.
This is a common tactic of the lib dems – look at the recent haverstock by-election in May and the one in 2007, where was the moral outrage there? Or are they allowed to do ‘go local’ and no one else?
Shanker: “but Miss, he started it…”
Look Fot the press have always treated Lib Dems softly wehn they do this kind of thing. Now they are in power surely that’s got to change, surely?
One for you Albert:
“Camoflaged in tory DTP”! What do you mean? I don’t see any Conservative branding (tree, torch etc.) anywhere on the flyer, nor anything in the text that might lead one to a ‘natural and ordinary’ conclusion that the flyer came from the Conservatives. In fact, if one reads the text it is clearly attacking many of the coalition government’s main policies – albeit primarily from the perspective of the u-turns made by the junior partner, but it’s hardly the kind of thing you’d expect to read from the Tories!
So some of the text is blue. So what? Since when did the Conservatives have a copyright over a colour? If Holborn St Pancras CLP happen to have a tube of blue risograph ink leftover (surely you don’t believe Frank signed all those direct mail letters with his own felt tip pen), why not use it.
Normally I might deprecate deploying the local card in such fashion, but as you allude, ‘Nasty’ Nick Russell and his flatmate Ed Fordham have form of their own in this field, sometimes with barely concealed undercurrents – when you accuse Awale of not being from here, although you may be highlighting his precise Camden location, plenty of voters hear the dog whistle loud and clear!
Finally, I have no recollection whatever of ‘crying foul’ over the eminently predicatable, if tedious and prolonged, carping from the Lib Dems over the fact that Glenda Jackson lives in Blackheath. It has never been a secret and was in fact clearly stated on each and every ballot paper. In fact in some ways it played into the distinction Labour were looking to draw with the Lib Dem effort to pitch their candidate as a glorified councillor obsessed with potholes and dog fouling, whereas Glenda was a veteran parliamentarian, running as always on her, and Labour’s, record.
Thanks for the comments David, although I can’t agree with you that there is nothing in this leaflet that suggests it might have been printed by the Conservatives – rather than the Labour Party. If you saw any of the election fliers put out by the Tories in Camden ahead of the boroughwide elections in May, then you will know that the style and layout is almost identical to this. Fair-minded Labour supporters I have spoken to today have defended its distribution but concede it is a crude trick. Their general defence is that other parties have resorted to similar tactics in the past.
But my point is that Labour has very recently won back Camden and in doing so swept Kentish Town. The local party should have more confidence in itself. It could win without this. I’d like to know if Jenny Headlam-Wells, the candidate, is happy to be sending this stuff out in the name of her campaign. Surely she would rather be talking about the things that helped Labour get elected in May, rather than scrawling a silly blue map showing where Nick Russell lives..?
This is guerrilla warfare so get used to it. There’s been a substantive change in Camden politics and electioneering, so the next time there’s a closely contested by-election (in the case of Camden, which is every other week); expect more ‘ambushes, sabotage, raids, and element of surprise.’
But can you criticise what other parties have done in the past if you just mimic the same tricks now? Labour can win here without the tricks. It showed that in May. So why surrender the moral high ground Labour has claimed before in by-elections in a race to the bottom?
Yes to the first question. The only way to successfully combat the Fib Dems is to match them on the ground and be as ruthless as they are – but perhaps not quite as shameless!
“Labour can win here without the tricks. It showed that in May.” but that was in a general election where nigh on two-thirds of the population voted. Turnout this time will be less than half that, and with such a low turnout the LibDems have indeed won several times in the recent past. If they do so again, Nick Clegg will doubtless hail it as an endorsement of his policies.
“race to the bottom” glad you acknowledge that the Fib Dems are already there.
In opposition pointing out the fact that the so-called left Lib dems have ditched their previous stances isn’t a sign of lack of confidence, nor is going in hard to point this out.
Labour activist might point out that when they were subject to nasty fib dem attacks and pointed them out the the press, it was rarely picked up. You point to one artcile up there but that wasnt in Camden and didnt cover their worst ones in various by-elections, the Ham + High was very uncritical, but then again they aren’t to hot on the old politics.
They are big boys now, which is probably why they are not complaining – but the press should treat them at that level now, rather than a soft pass.
A couple more for you Albie:
It is precisely because of the credibility of the CNJ – an independent title with proud history and which presciently pioneered the free model over a decade ahead of the Standard, and is well placed to weather the crisis for local media – that I’m taking issue with you Richard.
I appreciate it’s tough to stay neutral when you’re embedded in the bowels of Rosslyn Hill chapel, and you probably , semi-conciously, swallow a lot of the rationalisations away that the activists swop around to reassure themselves they are still on the side of the angels. You (the CNJ) did a decent job all in all last April, but you only really got an insight into one side of a 3 part story – and the losing side at that!
I am very confident that Jenny will win. If I could find odds I’d back her (using some of my winnings from buying Gle nda Jackson’s at five to one thanks in part to your timely tip)!
I still fail to comprehend what aspect of the leaflet you’ve published you consider to be untrue.
By-elections are all peculiar in individual ways. May’s elections demonstrated conclusively that in a decent turnout, Labour wins. Haverstock showed that if less than one in three voters turnout, the Lib Dems still have a shout, despite their lies and hypocrisy now coming home to roost. Labour have put out a flyer nailing that hypocrisy and highlighting the FACT that ‘Nasty’ Nick Russell lives in NW6. Sure they have gone with the blue ink, but so what?
All’s fair in love and by-elections!
The LDs do imply on their leaflets that NW6 nick lives in Kentish town. He did – he just loved the area so much he moved to West Hampstead
Albert Shanker would probably be turning in his grave given his views on democracy and engagement.
None of the parties in Camden or elsewhere are pure but this one goes a fair bit further.
It’s not just the use of blue, which clearly would make most voters think at first and second glance it was a Conservative leaflet (and how many more glances do most leaflets get), it’s a leaflet which is purely negative, it doesn’t give you any recommendation who to vote for or who it’s from, only the imprint does that. In that sense it’s different from virtually everything we’ve seen in Camden, even Ed Fordham’s specials in blue…
How would Labour like a BNP or EDL leaflet using red ink without anything but the imprint making it clear who had distributed it?
Comparing Labour to the BNP and EDL?
That’s a bit rich coming from you. Have you seen your candidate, Will (I want to be Tony) Blair’s literature? And I quote, “vote for your neighbour not Labour”. Lets go back 30 years, what was the old slogan?
Regardless of all of this, it’s a fitting result that the new councillor for Kentish Town is a hard working, knowledgeable local activist.
A respectful tribute to Dave Horan, who is missed.
Ah, how different from the red-top publication called “Labour News” I saw poking out of letterboxes as I delivered our eve-of-poll five or so years ago. On liberating a copy, I saw that the “Labour News” was that ‘today is your chance to support Tony Blair and George Bush’s foreign policy!’. Looking more closely at the imprint, I saw that it was that of my local lib dems.