Wednesday, July 04, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Labour Breach Electoral Law in Ealing Southall

Tom Watson, Labour blogger and MP, is running the Ealing Southall By-Election campaign for the Labour Party. Later on this evening, he'll be forced to make a very humiliating apology for this blog entry. He wrote...
There is no Tony Lit [the Conservative candidate] registered to vote in Chiswick. I know he only joined the Conservatives last week but running a candidate who isn’t registered to vote strikes me as just peculiar.

Joan Ryan MP, the ex Home Office minister and now vice chair of the Labour Party wrote to George Osborne earlier today alleging the same thing - that the Conservative Candidate is not on any electoral register. In her letter, she said...

How can Tony Lit credibly ask anyone in Ealing Southall to vote for him when
he has not bothered to register to vote himself? Can you please tell me when
Tony Lit intends to register to vote? When local residents in Ealing Southall
realise that the Tony who wants their vote does not have a vote of his own they
too will soon be asking - Who is Tony Lit? I would welcome a speedy response to
my questions. As this is a matter of major public interesy, I am releasing this
letter to the media.

Sadly for Ms Ryan and Tom Watson they haven't done their homework. In fact Tony Lit is on the register under his full family name (Labour recently changed the rules so that you can stand under your common name). He has voted in every election since he was 18. Tory by-election supremo Grant Shapps has now written a stinging resposte to Joan Ryan (who was axed from her Home Office job last week) pointing out that it is in fact illegal to publish false statements about candidates under electoral law.

Dear Joan,
I'm writing in response to your letter to George Osborne with reference to our candidate in the Ealing Southall by-election. In your letter you claim that Mr Lit is not on the electoral register.You are wrong. Tony's full name is Surinderpal Singh Lit. He has voted in every single general election since he was 18 years of age. As you will be aware, it is an illegal practice under electoral law to publish a false statement regarding a candidate, and now that you've been made aware of your error, please confirm that you will now issue a public apology for mistakenly inferring that our candidate is not on the electoral register. I will of course be releasing this letter to the media.

Grant Shapps MP

So it looks as if Labour has committed a bit of a clanger here. Let's see how long it takes Tom Watson to delete his blog entry or apologise. If I were Grant Shapps and I didn't get an apology, I might well be speaking to M'Learned Friend in the morning.

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

And another for the next NL Book of Sleaze

Unknown said...

Presumably Grant Shapps will be apologising for smearing the Lib Dems then providing no evidence ot back up his smears ?

Anonymous said...

Except, he's right. There is no Tony Lit registered to vote, is there?

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think if Labour threw a rock at the ground they'd miss.

Unity said...

Thanks for the clarification, Iain. I'm sure Tom will appreciate the quick response.

Now, while we're on the subject of, shall we be diplomatic and say statements of uncertain provenance, perhaps you could clarify exactly why it was necessary for Tony to step down as a director of Sunrise Radio in order, so Tory Home claimed, simply to join the Conservative Party, let alone stand as a candidate.

Search as I have, I can't quite find the bit in either broadcasting or electoral law that requires that, and I'm sure if such provisions exist they'd be news to Jonathan Aitken, who I recall managed to combine being the MD of TVam with his role as an MP.

Or does this business about publishing terminological inexactitudes only apply to comments about opponents and not about you own candidates?

Anonymous said...

Grant Shapps is kicking ass here!

Iain, there's a Tory reshuffle underway - junior ministers - Tim M is at a party - Tory blogosphere, let us know what's happening!

Anonymous said...

bit of a storm in an eggcup if you ask me - TW is only saying it is 'peculiar', which indeed it would be if it were proved true - so now that an explanation has been forthcoming I am sure that this will be cleared up quickly.

still, as the old saying goes, never let the facts get in the way of a mediocre blog post, sorry, good story

Anonymous said...

joan ryan was always an utterly incompetent liar at the home office. wasnt she the one that lied to parliament over the foreign prisoner scandal? and got off via a secret inquiry?

Anonymous said...

The old fashioned term "fathead" describes Tom Watson to perfection.

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

Hang on, Tom Watson says there is no "Tony Lit" registered, you admit there is no "Tony Lit" registered, and then you demand an apology?

I fear the Tory grip on reality is getting more tenuous by the minute...

Unknown said...

If it's illegal, why is an apology sufficient?

Can I get away with an apology if I do something illegal?

Anonymous said...

If Grant Shapps can provide evidence in this case, why can't he provide evidence for his claims about the Liberal Democrats?

Anonymous said...

Yes yes anonymong we can all play with words, but both TW and JR refer to the candidate - under whatever name - and accuse the candidate of not being on the register or unable to vote. A blog article and letters to the media sounds like publishing a false statement to me, an open and shut case your honour

dizzy said...

Unity, I realise you have you're conspiracy aluminium foil hat on (alternatively known as partisan hat - which is udnerstandable).

But surely it makes sense for Tony Lit to take such action after what you know happened previously with OFCOM? If he hadn't quit, you'd be posting about his old man and suggesting that the same was about to happen, rather the angle you;re now taking suggesting opportunism.

Obviously you'll say that that is not true because of aforementioned aluminium foil hat, but you and I know, really, honestly, that it is.

Anonymous said...

James - it is the phrase "running a candidate who isn't registered to vote" where Tom Watson maligns Tony Lit. Labour trying to be clever and it backfiring - we should sue and get the cash that the head of private equity firm Apax Partners & Co have just handed over to Labour. Joan Ryan's comments are even more litigious.

Anonymous said...

Looks as though Watson is going to have to grovel.

Brilliant.

Auntie Flo'

Anonymous said...

Unity @ 8:18pm

As far as I am aware, it is OFCOM's code that prohibits a candidate for elected office from presenting on TV or radio.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Tom should delete his post. Everybody should see what he wrote. Everybody should see the way he responds to this latest information. Surely that is the essence of true blogging. We can all make mistakes - but they should not be deleted, the link will remain in blogosphere for ever anyway even if it is deleted.

Anonymous said...

Well done Grant Shapps. Let them know you're not standing for any of their dirty tricks!

Hughes Views said...

So under which name was he a member of the Conservative Party?

Mog said...

It is a joy and a pleasure to see a Conservative MP (Grant Shapps) getting on to the front foot and dishing some dirt on the oppo.

Much power to his elbow, more like him please!

Richard Elliot said...

That's too funny.

Anonymous said...

Christ, are we about to have two weeks of the sort of petty politics that only by-elections can throw up? I'm going to go and find a rock to hide under

Anonymous said...

two things:
1. Grant Shapps needs to mug up on his grammar if he wants to get on. He meant to write "imply" when he said "infer" - a schoolboy error.
2: Isn't there something a bit shifty about people who are register to vote under one name, but stand under another?
Just why would Lit not want to use the name he is proud enough to vote under?
3: Anyone know anymore about Mr Lit?

Anonymous said...

I think Mr Lit's father is a very interesting character with some fascinating "previous"...worth digging all you sad hacks out there

Unity said...

Dizzy:

Lit's decision to step down from the radio station in light of his father's past problem with OFCOM on becoming a candidate is a sensible move.

Using that to blow off questions about why he never quite got around to joining the Tory Party until 5 minutes before he was parachuted into Ealing is load of bovine excrement.

Context, Dizzy. Context...

Mike:

OFCOM's code applies to the content of broadcasts not to sitting on the board of a radio station and, again, the question is not about Lit's candidacy but about putting up his position at the radio station as a cover story against question about why he only got around to joining the party when offered a seat and not before.

Anonymous said...

Tom Watson's statement that

There is no Tony Lit [the Conservative candidate] registered to vote in Chiswick.

is perfectly true.

Therefore, no apology is necessary.

Anonymous said...

So is Tony Blair's real name Surinderpal Singh Blair? That would explain that weird plum-coloured Nehru suit he once wore.

Clothilde Simon

Anonymous said...

As at 11.45pm the blog entry is still there on Tom Watson's blog. Plus, comment moderation is enabled and so one cannot even post a correction. Take note, Iain, don't use comment "moderation" (aka blocking the views of my opponents); the moment you do this blog takes a nosedive.

Anonymous said...

So, is it illegal to make false allegations against a party, rather than just a candidate? For example, would it be illegal to say that another party paid people to erect posters? Or is that an easy, free allegation that one can make without any legal repercussions?

Tony said...

I needed cheering up tonight and this was the perfect tonic.

I am not sure which is the more amusing, Watson and Ryan looking like a pair of plums for the way their smartarse comments have been shot down by Grant Shapps; or the reaction of the anguished Labourites on here trying to play it down, obfuscate or completely change the subject.

Interesting to see Norfolk Blogger rushing in to attack the Tories again. Nothing like helping out your pact-partners is there? :) Interesting to see a Lib Dem being on the other side of asking for evidence to justify a (supposed) smear. Oh the irony.

Anonymous said...

'Labour’s implosion in Southall by Sunny on 4th July, 2007 at 5:37 pm

It is now almost a given that Cllr Virendra Sharma will be the Labour party candidate running for the Ealing Southall seat. This is a huge shame because, as one party member told me earlier this morning, they have traded one old and out-of-touch fogey for another. My view is that Sharma will win not because he avoided the factionalism or most likely to get the party votes, but because he managed to woo all the cronies that previously backed Piara Khabra. And guess what, Keith bloody Vaz was on the selection panel . . ' Read all about it at: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1232

Good news for the well established and well liked Liberal Democrat, I say!

Anonymous said...

Me too, tediouspedant - it does rather detract from the force of his rhetoric when he cannot get the elementary infer and imply the right way round. The f**kwit.

Chris Paul said...

The last time I was a candidate and wished to use my shortened name I had to change my name on the electoral register. Or so I was told. That was 2006. I believe that Mr Lit will have to appear on the ballot itself with his registered name plus an also known as Tony Lit.

But I could be wrong.

I suppose they may now go on the attack on his using of aliases!!

Has Grant sorted out his evidence for his Lib dem corruption lottery payouts story yet?

Glass houses and all that?

I really doubt Watson will have to do any grovelling. And the use of aliases etc is always going to be a fun story to run with.

And all the swinging around between parties over the last half dozen years is going to look pretty grand also.

Anything to say about the Labour candidate yet? Ah, I see someone has got in with some sectarian bile from a rival camp. About time too. There's lots of it about if you only know where to look.

I've got a lovely story about Lit's dad ... without doing any digging. Exclusive and all. From a first hand witness of high calibre!!!

Tally ho! As half the Lib Dems say. The other half saying "Stop the Hunt". 26-26 tie.

dizzy said...

Unity, sorry to sound immensely thick, but what, in the wider scheme of things for the electorate does it actually matter? You'll have to excuse me a minute because I've only really been involved in this lark for a year on so in a practical way. I don't actually understand what the problem is if he has or hasn't parachuted in. And I'd say the same in any seat for any party frankly. I mean ok, it's a tidbit of news, but what's the significance of either (a) him getting chosen or (b) when he joined the party? Surely what matter is that he's a member of the party when he does finally stand right?

I mean, I'm assuming your beef is the age old "opportunism" pejorative label argument right? Purely as an aside I've always found it amusing how whenever anyone attacks someone for "opportunism" they always seem to do it opportunistically, and I include myself in that, but I digress. Where actually is the opportunism here? Is it the fact the party picked a semi-celebrity asian? Is that why? Or is it because they picked an asian to mask they're inbuilt racism? Opportunistic tokenism? Is that it? Of course we shouldn't forget that had the selection process picked a white middle class male we'd be being called sexist and racist and someone somewhere in the Labour Party would be saying how it was all evidence of how the Tories have failed to change.

So yeah, anyway Unity, you were saying something about "context". Did I manage to cover it all?

Anonymous said...

Unless the comment is printed on an election leaflet and distributed in Southall by the Labour Party,. no one has broken any election laws. Ms Ryan may have made a libellous statement, but not broken election law. If someone uses her "research" and publishes it in an election leaflet in Southall, then the law will be broken.

Registering. It is indeed illegal not to register to vote and if you have access or excress to more than one property, you may register twice. You cannot vote twice at the SAME election. If there are in different Districts/Boroughs, then you can vote twice if the elections are on the same day. I believe that the same still applies to parliamentary by elections, as they are moved by different writs. However, I do stand to be correct on the latter.

Legislation has been recently changed to allow people to stand under a different name than the one they are registered, but only if that is the name by which they are more commonly known.

The most famous case goes back to the 1970s when a Mr Greenaway-Stanley, who real name was just Mr Stanley had his nomination forms rejected by the Returning Officer. He had been a cllr under that name for many years, traded under that name as a shopkeeper.

The law on standing under your commonly known name, with the need to say commonly known as XX, changed a couple of years ago.

Unity said...

>>> what's the significance of either (a) him getting chosen or (b) when he joined the party?

Ask your own rank and file - they're the one's who've been raising complaints about Lit's extremely sudden rise to prominence and how's they've been denied a shot a becoming a PPC by CCHQ.

dizzy said...

And your point is what exactly? I'm still trying to get why you (a) care and (b) see it has some major issuing requiring one of your lengthy posts about and inquisitive holier than thou questioning in someone comments?

It seems to me that it's little more than the playground bickering of politicos that is exactly the kind of bollocks thats turns people off politics. I mean, who gives a shit?

When people go to the polling booths they don't look at the candidate and think "hmm was this candidate foisted on the local party they represent by their internal hierachy?" Basically I cannot see why it matters to anyone. You're not going to change any Tory minds with the argument, they'll still vote for him anyway, and the wider electorate frankly doesn't give a shit, and if you think they actually do you need to get out more.

Anonymous said...

That's not the only misinformation being floated about Ealing South constituency. Newspapers claim that the constituency is comprised of 79% British Asians. I've read elsewhere that the figure is 39%.

Unity said...

2001 census stats.

White (UK/Irish/Other) - 47%
Mixed - 3%
Asian - 39%
Black - 8%
Chinese/Other - 3%

There's one, maybe two wards, where the Asian population is up around or over 80%.

Dizzy: The point, such as it is, is that neither the Tories or Labour have much call coming over all holier that thou on the manner of the candidate selection in Ealing Southall.

Lit's selection is blatantly opportunistic. What's been ridiculous has been the efforts on your side to try and pretend it isn't.

By the same token, there's the not unfamiliar stench of Tammany Hall around the selection 'contest' for our candidate, not that that will stop some on our side from swearing blind that not the case.

My objections to both practices are too numerous to list here, but in essence come down the view that if you're objective for minority communities is, for want of better term, 'integration' and peaceful co-existence then you have to start by supporting and fostering genuine democratic participation right through the political process, which you're not going to get while political parties continue to cynically exploit patronage, opportunism and machine politics as a means of getting votes.

dizzy said...

I understand your point, I just don't think anyone in the real world gives a flying toss about it.

Anonymous said...

Tom Watson's got comment moderation switched on. Shock.

Windsor Tripehound said...

Could someone explain to me why a parliamentary candidate has to be "local".

Isn't concern about emptying the dustbins and cleaning up graffiti the domain of coucillors?

Anonymous said...

There are posts in the comment section claiming that, since Tom Watson and Joan Ryan claim that "there is no Tony Lit registerd to vote in Chiswick", they are technically right.

No they're not. They're wrong. There is a Tony Lit registered to vote in Chiswick; he is registered under his full name, which is not Tony. The fact that he appears on the register under his full name not his common name is irrelevant to the fact that he is on the register. They did not claim that "the name Tony Lit does not appear on the register", they claim "Tony Lit isn't on the register" - the former is accurate, the latter is inaccurate.

I rest my case.

Anonymous said...

"Just call me Tony."

Anonymous said...

So does Tony Lit live in the constituency or does he not?

Windsor Tripehound said...

"So does Tony Lit live in the constituency or does he not?"

Who cares?

I'd be rather more concerned to know whether candidates had ever done a proper job in their life (i.e. had not spent their time since leaving university as a "researcher")

Tony Lit seems to pass this test.

Unity said...

Machiavelli:

If you're going to try and split hairs then the permitted defence on false statement is a reasonable belief that the statements were true.

So to make this stick an election court would have to decide that a reasonable person, on finding no sign of a Tony, or Anthony Lit, in Chiswick would think, 'Ah, I know, I'll just check under S for Surinderpal, oh look, there he is...'.

Anonymous said...

And a reasonable man would have asked the candidate before publishing such an allegation about him.

Athos said...

Unity...
Perhaps not, but a reasonable person who was paying attention to their rival would perhaps do the tiny modicum of research necessary to learn that "Tony" was not the entirity of his name and might think to investigate that.
For all the defenders here, that accusation was quite a blunder. At least he had sense enough not to compound it by removing the already well-logged comment and trying to pretend it didn't happen.

More unthinkable is that a professional, hired in the capacity to fight an ellection, would thoughtlessly repeat a slander issued by a flunky without bothering to research it themself. I mean, we are aware that Watson is otherwise busy with his 30-silver whip job, but the man on the ball at the Labour end was unaware that the opponent was running under a common name?
Allong with a final line that reads like a schoolboy's cry of "na-na, I'm telling on you"... to quote the Blue Raja: "Weak, at best."

Graeme Archer said...

There are a lot of nervous socialist losers on Dale today aren't there? Wossa matter Labourites? The grotesque car-crash of PMQs starting to sink in? (Yes, we know it doesn't affect anyone ... except the tone of the entire commentariat ... the Clunky Fister out-statesmanned by that Tory leader you love to hate). Or is the fiasco of the candidate selection in one of "your" seats grating a little? Or was the outrageous LibDem-type slur Watson made beyond the pale? Or just the fact than an efficient Tory machine exposed your lies in public view?

Whatever. A very bad start for the Clunky Fister. Perhaps Harriet will pull some rabbit from a hat? (Best not let new boy Quentin pull any rabbits; he'd probably break their necks).

Unity said...

Actually we're quite enjoying this week, thanks.

Ahead in the polls.

Warsi in post three days before she has to be given a minder.

Basher landed with Pauline Neville-Chamberlain to play with.

And Cameron left Lansley at health to face Johnson as well...

'Feels like Christmas has come early!'

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, this kind of nasty side-show swipe is just par for the course among Labour election nasties such as Tom Watson. In Oldham at the last election Labour attacked the Lib Dem for using the name he WAS on the electoral roll for because he actually WAS living in the constituency far more than the sitting MP, and WAS also paying for his own cottage and Council Tax, unlike the Labour man who got it all (and more!) paid for out of his mammoth allowances. Thiss whole labour ploy is not really serious, it's just like the sort of thing Cassius Clay used to do to try to destabilise his opponents before the fight proper started.