Sunday, July 01, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Tories Accuse LibDems of By Election Dirty Tricks

It's long been a mystery how the LibDem's are capable of moving into a by-election area where they've previously had little or no support and suddenly the place is completely plastered with posters. Tonight a row has broken out between the Conservatives and the the LibDems after the Tories accused the yellow peril of dirty tricks.

The Conservatives alleged that the LibDems have been illegally paying residents, through a corrupt prize draw system, to display their posters. The LibDems are accused or organising a £50 draw for a poster seen in a window and £250 when that poster is on a stake outside a home. Apparently in the first week of a by-election campaign their payouts are deliberately very generous with numerous winners. Word then spreads and everyone wants a LibDem poster up in the hope of cashing in. The only problem is that the practice is explicitly illegal.

Tory Vice Chairman in charge of campaigning Grant Shapps MP wrote last week to Lord Rennard, the LibDem by-election guru to ask him whether he had any knowledge of the practice.

I am sure that you will be as concerned as I was to hear about a practice
whereby residents are offered cash incentives, via means of a prize draw, to
display political posters during by-elections. This practice is of course illegal and the section of the relevant election offence reads as follows:
It is an illegal practice knowingly to make any payment, or contract for a payment to be made to an elector or a proxy for an elector on account of the exhibition of, or the use of any house, land, building or premises for the exhibition of, any address, bill, or notice for the purpose of promoting or procuring the election of a candidate at an election, unless it is the ordinary business of the elector or proxy as an advertising agent to exhibit for payment bills and advertisements and the payment or contract is made in the ordinary course of that business. The offence extends to payments or contracts before during or after an election. A person receiving a payment or being a party to such a contract, if he knew it to be in contravention of the statute, is also guilty of an illegal practice.

I intend to alert the relevant authorities to this practice and with the above in mind I would be grateful if you could confirm whether the Liberal Democrats have ever knowingly used such incentives during by-elections in either this or the previous
Parliament. I await your response.
Yours sincerely
Grant Shapps MP

Lord Rennard has since emailed back what looks like a carefully worded denial.

Thanks for your letter. I have never heard of this practice and have certainly never been responsible for it.
Best wishes,
Chris Rennard

Shapps has now written to the Electoral Commission asking them to confirm that the practice is illegal and what sanctions would be appropriate if evidence and a witness was brought forward.

Grant Shapps told me this evening: 'Democracy thrives when there's a good clean battle between the parties during by-elections, but there's simply no excuse for breaking the law. Everyone has to play by the same rules and these allegation that one Party may have been using dirty tricks for years to get their posters displayed will definitely disappoint and shock the vast majority of voters who expect better.'

I have to say I have never heard of this particular practice. There must be some rather compelling evidence for Grant Shapps to make this direct accusation.

It is also very strange that neither the LibDems nor Labour has selected their candidates for the by-election yet. From the way they have hit the ground running in Ealing Southall it's fair to say that the Tories look like they mean business. Melissa Kite's article in the Sunday Telegraph shows what the consequences may be for Ming if the LibDems come third.
Sir Menzies Campbell is facing a leadership challenge within weeks of taking his
party to a record low in the polls and entering into talks with Gordon Brown. A
group of Liberal Democrat MPs and peers have resolved to call for Sir Menzies to
stand down this month if the party finishes in third place in two forthcoming
by-elections, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. Sir Menzies has been struggling to maintain his authority for months amid rising unhappiness over his poor public performances and lack of impact in the opinion polls. Tensions in the party boiled over at a private meeting of the party at Westminster last week at which one senior Lib Dem peer openly called him a "liar" for failing to inform the party of his talks with Mr Brown. "There is now outright rebellion," one senior Lib Dem said. "We are absolutely livid." Sir Menzies faced an explosion of criticism from within his party for holding secret talks with Mr Brown, a long-standing friend and -neighbour in Scotland, about possible cabinet roles for a number of senior colleagues, including the former party leader Lord Ashdown. Senior MPs and peers have expressed their unhappiness to Sir Menzies in person. Those voicing dismay at the negotiations with Mr Brown include Vince Cable, the Treasury spokesman, and Lord McNally, the
constitutional affairs spokesman. "If we come third he will have to go. We are hoping he will go off on his summer holidays with a pearl handled revolver in his suitcase," said one senior Lib Dem parliamentarian.

I think I may have to change tackm slightly and start a the SAVE MING CAMPBELL campaign!


Ted Foan said...

Nothing would surprise me about the low skullduggery that the LibDems (or the New Talent Show Party) will resort to anymore.

Don't to forget to watch the Thick of It follow up on Tuesday evening at 9.00pm on BBC4

Mog said...

I am very impressed indeed at the way we are conducting the by election in Southall. It appears that in Grant Shapps (who ran a top campaign to win his own seat) we have a guy who actually makes things happen instead of just talking about it.

He may have upset people with his choice of candidate, but it is bold and innovative. I like politics to be like this. In theory we should have no chance in this seat. However, we have stolen a march on the oppo and whatever the result seem to be running an agressive (and clean) campaign.

We could do with more like him. I wish him well and hope to see more of his ilk at the forefront of our party.

Anonymous said...

Went for a curry in Southall today and saw my first election posters - two 'Tony Lit Conservative Party' posters in the window of this restaurant:

jailhouselawyer said...

Don't worry Iain, I covered the story about the Tory MP, James Gray, who fiddled his expenses and dumped his wife for another man's wife because she got breast cancer.

Anonymous said...

I certainly would not put the alleged tactic beyond them, but if they have been at it for years, then I find it odd that evidence has not surfaced previously. All it would have taken is for the prize draw offer to reach the ears of a Tory or Liebour activist, who had the nouse to check it out with a party agent. If the Tories have the evidence now I suspect it is a relatively new scam.

Letterman said...

I blame Ming as usual, what a stupid thing to do if its true - not only is it anti-democratic but its also incredibly easy to get caught doing. If it is true I can't imagine that its something we've done before, I've never heard of it and our opponents would have got wind of it much sooner than this - its idiotic!

Anonymous said...

Iain - I know you have had a "thing" with Melissa Kite in the past and want to give her fair hearing but I still have doubts about her real motivations. Is she really a good source?

Anonymous said...

Let's get this clear:

(a) Tory attacks Lib Dems
(b) Tory presents no evidence to justify it
(c) You too admit there's no evidence been made available

Crude Tory smear campaign anyone?

Anonymous said...

'Liberal Democrats select Nigel Bakhai for Ealing Southall: Nigel Bakhai doubled the Lib Dem vote at the 2005 General Election. The Liberal Democrats are the main challengers to Labour in the seat. They were second at the last General Election.'

The interesting thing [like the dog that didn't bark] is that Labour STILL have no candidate: what's the betting they won't have a candidate before nominations close?

Anonymous said...

rob's uncle said (1.23am) said:
"what's the betting they won't have a candidate before nominations close?"

Didn't you hear that John Prescott has decided to come back? He's got a thing about Asian babes and this would provide amazing opportunities. It's just another Clause IV moment for him.

Ross said...

'Don't worry Iain, I covered the story about the Tory MP, James Gray, who fiddled his expenses'

Thank goodness we have a moral titan like yourself to highlight wrongdoing.

Ted Foan said...

Iain - what the hell are we going to do about Janet Daley? (Or Heffer for that matter?)

They are stuck in the past and don't really understand. Can't you shut them up for a while so Cameron & co can just get on with creating the policies of the future? I am getting sick of their sort of journalism - it just keeps harping back to some golden paradise that never existed anyway.

If 18DS or your blog can't stop them I think I might give up.

Anonymous said...

the LDs will throw everything including the kitchen sink into this campaign.They need a win in this by election more than they've ever needed a win.If they fail to take the seat it will simply confirm their current crapness and give momentum to both their slide in the polls and the call for Ming to be axed.

Watch out for a local hospital to be 'under threat' all of a sudden...

Anonymous said...

Given dave's love of Lib/Dems couldn't there be a joint save Ming/Dave campaign?

Anonymous said...

Brilliant article in D/T by Janet Daley.Nothing in there that isn't being said down on the ground.

Anonymous said...

"EXCLUSIVE: Tories Accuse LibDems of By Election Dirty Tricks"

Stopped watch headline Iain. You get the allegation at every by-election. Bound to be right sometime or other if you carry on long enough.

I remember Ribble Valley by-election where the dirty tricks against Nigel Evans were carried out by Tories! They couldn't keep it up till the General Election unfortunately.

Hughes Views said...

Grant Shapps's letter might have had more impact if (a) he'd used fewer words & (b) he'd given details of where this alleged outrage occurred.

In the circumstances the curt response seems reasonable.

'Democracy thrives when there's a good clean battle between the parties during by-elections, but there's simply no excuse for breaking the law...etc...' must be a strong contender for the extended pompous prattle of the month award...

Anonymous said...

How do these scumbags always get away with this sh1t?

If noone will take any action the answer (unofficial) is simple - get our boys to take their posters down at night.

Yes, it's not entirely ethical, but if noone else gives a crap, it's the only way to ensure a fair fight.

Anonymous said...

It seems that all parties are pandering to Asian racists who will only vote for Asian candidates.

Joe Taylor said...

Sources please Iain - otherwise cynical people like me will just assume you're making this stuff up...

I have never heard of this sort of thing happening during *any* Lib Dem campaign, and frankly I laughed out loud at the idea of shelling out £50 a poster - we'd be bankrupt by the end of the first week!

Not only is your accusation pretty low, it would be a ludicrous thing for us to do with our money - if we had that sort of cash lying about, we'd be far better off spending it on more leaflets!

Pure 100% triple distilled nonsense, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

Kite is talking cr*p. Plus, her facts are wrong whenever she uses them!

Anonymous said...

In the 2001 GE in our constituency, the LibDems went round during the night prior to election day fixing yellow posters to street lamps, road railings, traffic lights etc, and plastering every parked car with yellow stickers. All this is flagrantly illegal.

Neither the Labour Party (the winners then), nor the lily-livered Tory councillors, made any formal complaint.

Andrew Ian Dodge said...

Oh come on Iain: Dirty tricks Lib Dems is news? Is there any election where they don't try dirty tricks?

Anonymous said...

"plastering every parked car with yellow stickers"

Plastering cars with stickers from any party is going to put people off voting for that party. So do you really think it was Lib Dems doing the plastering, or really people from another party? (That would explain why no complaint was made!)

Newmania said...

That is of course eminently plausible . It has also long been astonishing quite how unpleasant the Lib Dems are by far the worst of the party’s when it comes to low cunning and local mud slinging. I have always ascribed this to a pervasive absence of any discernible principles reducing the Political sphere to a playground squabble .

The reason at the Lib Dems are able to target by elections better than anyone else is because they are usually teachers if indeed they work at all . For this reason caravan loads of the loafers are free to turn up at the drop of a hate and cause trouble. It is a related rent a mob to the hunt saboteurs and anti capitalists . There is also some of the enthusiasm of the hobbyist or football supporter about them. Having no actual beliefs except a vague sense of superiority Liberalism has become a largely emotional and regional attachment and such things like football teams often produce vandalistic behaviour . If it is a game then why not do anything to win , they have no other raison d`etre. I do pity the the few Libertarian Liberals left who must wonder where their party went

As Conservatives we have to think about what lies ahead . Brown is darkly plotting with his Orcs to remove democracy if he is able to scrape him with some sort of deal for the Liberals on PR. It has never been truer that a vote Liberal is a vote Labour and the “Constitutional Reform “ to come will quite obviously be advantageous only to those who are in a position to allow it to proceed. They are doing this because they see that the old Labour Strongholds will; eventually be impossible to retain by benefits policy and sheer wealth will destroy the urban Strongholds. Brown will try to put together a “Progressive” Socialist, alliance and use the fact the Liberals tend to dislike Conservatives more than the Labour Party. All this is driven by the shrivelling of the Labour core vote and the end of the Union and in the knowledge that England is predominantly and increasingly right of Centre

By this ,means he wishes not only to beat the Conservative Party but to destroy it forever. The weapons are regionalisation, devolution , double counting and a version of PR designed to marginalise the largest Party in England . . We can have little hope that the high idealism of the Liberals Party will be any obstacle to his plans. .

Anonymous said...

"For this reason caravan loads of the loafers are free to turn up at the drop of a hate "

Great Freudian Newmania :-)

All of the rest of what you say is, of course, spot on.

No-one should be in any doubt about how unprincipled these sick f**ks are.

I have spoken to old ladies in the past who have been bullied to put up one of their sh1tty yellow diamonds AND TAKE DOWN the Conservative/Labour ones by a rent-a-mob of 4/5 of them hassling the poor dears on the doorstep until they give in.

I caught a couple of the little sh1ts taking down some Tory posters once too.

They should be dealt with no mercy.

Liberal Neil said...

Presumably you will be apologising with equal vehemence if it turns out there there is absolutely no evidence to back up these allegations at all?

Unsworth said...


Rennard "Thanks for your letter. I have never heard of this practice and have certainly never been responsible for it.
Best wishes,
Chris Rennard"

So, he's 'never heard of' this practice - but at the same time admits that it might exist whilst simultaneously denying any personal responsibility if it did exist? I do love the clarity Rennard manages to bring to this debate.

Elegant informality, too. A man of some style and intellect, clearly. Quite how much, is, of course, the real question.

Anonymous said...

"Now when the rumor comes to your town,
It grows and grows, where it started no one knows.

Some of your neighbors will invite it right in,
Maybe it's a lie, even if it's a sin,
They'll repeat the rumor again."

Anonymous said...

The LibDems have selected a candidate: Nigel Bakhai. He is the man who pushed the Tory candidate into third place last time. And he lives in the constituency, unlike the Tory, who lives in Chiswick.

Iain Dale said...

Can I make clear, even though if you had actually read the article, it is not me that is making the accusations. Grant Shapps is. I have merely reported the fact he has made them. Clear enough?

Chris Paul said...

Thanks Iain. This is an excellent story. Blogged here with links to some of our travails with a Lib Dem cuckoo in the nest.

Anonymous said...

"Big men, little men turned into dust,
Maybe it was all in fun, they didn't mean to ruin no one.
Could there be someone, someone here among this crowd
Who's been accused, had his name so misused
And his privacy refused ?

Close your eyes, hang your head
Until the fog blows away, let it roll away,
Open up your arms and feel the good,
It's a-comin', a brand new day,
Hmm.. no, no, no."

Anonymous said...

If illegally raising 14m to fight the 2005 general election takes 2 years to resolve I wouldnt hold yer breath on "poster-lotto"

Newmania said...

Cheers V as a V V.Is Chris Paul really a salaried Brown catamite then? I thought he was just a standard issue gobby social worker.
Confess CP are you or are you not a New Labour Orc

Iain I cannot see your picture it is really too cruel of you to withhold this vision of "human perfection"( cough cough splutter) ...from the slavering multitude.

Nich Starling said...

Iain, it is utter rubbish. It is what is called a smear iain, intended to gain credence and allow the Torie to put it in a leaflet.

It's like Lord Rennard writing to the Tories to ask them to confirm that they are not whipping small children in teh HQ. it doesn't make it true, but the next leaflet you put out includes the story "Tories asked about whipping children at their HQ".

Already on the Tories are calling for lies to be spread about the lib Dems and this appears to be one of them.

Anonymous said...

Still NO response to Grant Shapps accusation about the LibbyDem 'campaign' on LDV! Quelle surprise! Again , they show they are a pretty vile bunch of F'wicks. The 'nasty' party strikes again.

Scipio said...

This wouldn;t surprise me - but someone needs to stand the story up. Find a resident with a cheque from Cowley Street!

Anonymous said...

"all parties are pandering to Asian racists who will only vote for Asian candidates."

Not that they've ever pandered to white racists who will only vote for white candidates? Oh No.

hatfield girl said...

Grant Shapps is of course, member of parliament for Welwyn and Hatfield.
While I no longer live in the town from whence I came, many family do, and as there should be there is another Hatfield Girl posting from there in real time.

He's a much admired and voted for MP. And he'll know about trikki behaviour better than most.

Hatfield Girl of Angels in Marble.

Anonymous said...

Just tell Campbell that if he doesn't resign,you'll hide his teeth?(Or put them in Broon's pocket where they'll get all sticky and nasty...)

Anonymous said...

Iain in all honesty I find this very difficult to believe.

Is there any tagible evidence.

In all the years I been campaigning I've NEVER heard of such a thing. The LibDems don't have that kind of money for a start. Every penny goes into leaflets.

Anonymous said...

When Chris Rennard was David Alton's agent, wasn't there some - ahem - confusion over his electoral expenses?

Anonymous said...

Rennard's 'never heard' of this 'practice' - of course he hasn't, officially, anyway - strictly on a need to know basis I woulda thought.

The Lib Dems are beneath contempt during elections - they draw the line precisely nowhere, anything's acceptable and it wouldn't surprise me if Grant is right about this.

I've caught them taking down Tory and Labour posters in the middle of the night; they fly post, esp on farms which run up to busy roads and on lamp posts and turn up en masse at people's doors to 'ask' if they can put posters and stakes up. They also take tools out in the night and chop other people's stakes in half (how I would love to have the cops stop em and find em 'going equipped to steal') and destroy other big banners.

This, of course, is in addition to sending breeze blocks, fish and packets of shite using other parties' freepost addresses; stealing opponents' leaflets from letterboxes; spreading all kinds of lives round communities and villages and generally telling one side of the street one thing, and something completely different to the other.

Shameless has nothing on them. They are a bunch of museli chowing, sock-&-sandal wearing, childless loafers who wouldn't know a proper political debate if it bit them on the behind.

Anonymous said...

I meant LIES, of course, and not lives!! Doh!

Anonymous said...

Anon@9.28 - the LibDem candidate admitted later that they had done the posting and the sticking, the posters had been attached by those plastic ties that have to be cut, and as Council workers were going round the constituency removing them, known LibDem campaigners were putting up new ones.

Anonymous said...

"The Lib Dems are beneath contempt during elections."

By which you actually mean: they are annoying because they keep beating Tories.

The Tories are now doing what Labour does to fight the LibDems - they make stuff up. LibDems at least are honest fighters.

Anonymous said...

"LibDems at least are honest fighters. "


Sorry. That's the funniest thing I've heard in ages :-)

(you c0ck)

Hywel said...

When is this alleged to have happened? As someone who was involved in the poster operation at Kincardine & Deeside, Newbury, Christchurch, and in charge of it in Eastleigh I was never involved in such activities. For the record I'd be grateful if you could make it clear that you aren't referring to those particular elections.

Anonymous said...

the tory lives in Wood Lane, Osterley, about 1 mile outside the constituency. Hardly Chiswick...

Porridge Oatens said...

Why is anyone surprised.

I do hope Dave got my memo.

Anonymous said...

Some years ago when I was still a serving middle ranking police office in a southern county force an article in the local Lib-Dem pre General Election newsletter was brought to my attention. In it a a named 'trainee WPC in Xshire Constabulary' was singing the praises of Lib-Dem policing policy. As Police officers are forbidden by Police Regulations from membership of any political party and discouraged from making any public statement which might be construed as supportive or otherwise of a particular party or candidate I brought it to the attention of the Training School mentioned in the article. My intention was that a quiet word be had with the officer and suitable advice given. I was informed that no officer of that name was currently in training nor scheduled to be. So my next call was to the local election offices of the Lib-Dems who published the leaflet. Very courteous they were too, until I started asking questions regarding the veracity of the article. At that point they hung up on me! Of course I reported the matter to HQ where it disappeared into the 'too difficult' black hole. I have a very cynical view of all politicians borne of long personal experience but this struck me as particularly blatant.

Chris K said...

I didn't see any evidence of this in Brent East, Leicester S, Hartlepool, Cheadle or Bromley - particularly not Bromley, where I ran the Lib Dem poster operation.

Bollocks, methinks!

Martin Shapland said...

Wait, I'm a Lib Dem and I'm preety damn sure we don't have the money to pay people to put up banners...

bloody tories, lies, damn lies and thatcerites :p

Newmania said...

Nice one Global twister !!

Anonymous said...

" LibDems at least are honest fighters. "

Oh stop it, my aching sides...those honest about turns on congestion charging at Dunfermline, the invention of threats to local hospitals that seem to be the LDs 'campaign in a box' for by elections, the red top leaflets designed to looks like Labour leaflets or the local free newspaper that don't actually tell you they are from the Lib Dems-unless you own a microscope and can find the imprint...get stuffed, you're a disgrace and are the real sleaze merchants in politcs-bar none...R

Anonymous said...

Recently you mocked both Melissa Kite's judgements and sources when you "frisked" her assessment of the upcoming Tory reshuffle.

Lo and behold, you are now using her as a credible example of the consequences that will befall the LibDems if they put on a poor showing in this by-election.

Really, I expected better.

Consider yourself frisked, good sir.

Anonymous said...

The righteous indignation of the Tories always gets me.
They accuse the Lib Dems of self-righteousness but there's no self-awareness at all.
All to keen to jump on the bandwagon to explain Lib Dem electoral success as down to "dirty tricks" (and this from the party who pretty much accused a by-election candidate of being a rapist, and who produced local election guidance encouraging parties to spend, spend, spend before it's necessary to record election expenses).
I suppose it's part of the Tory (and Labour) mindset - can't believe there could be people who just don't think either socalism or conservatism is right.
The truly unprincipled join the Tories or Labour to get an easy route to power (and I'm not saying that all Tories or Labour party members are unprincipled, just pointing out that ALL Lib Dems have to work hard for their seats, which is not necessarily true of the reds and blues . . .)

Chris Paul said...

Not a salaried Brown catamite or a social worker. Sorry to disappoint. Suz's point about not having the money is irrelevant. If Manchester Lib Dems ran such a lottery - and they haven't yet AFAIK and nor would they given that barring Cancer Hospital and Cemetary Hoaxes they are straight as a die - they'd make sure that their own people 'won' the 'prizes'. As the Fib Dems are saying though some sort of proof would be very useful.

Toby Philpott said...

Iain, this is unfortunately an ill-founded lie.

I was significantly involved with the Bromley & Chislehurst by-election (I was living in Bromley at the time) and I can categorically assure you that at no point were ANY financial inducements offered to anyone to display a poster. After all, it is illegal to do so as well you know.

The harsh reality is that "4 Jobs" Bob Neill was perceived by many local voters to be simply not a good candidate to be their MP. They were very willing volunteers in many cases when I was out canvassing.

Anonymous said...

Surely with your excellent Tory sources you should have been able to find some evidence by now Iain?

Anonymous said...

Decades ago, I heard of a grizzled American political pro who suggested putting about a rumour that the opposing candidate was prone to close encounters with the livestock on his farm. "But it's not true" protested his candidate. "Sure" said the pro "but let's get him to deny it".