Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Unacceptable Face of Politics

When the Ian Oakley story first emerged a few weeks ago I found it difficult to believe that any candidate could be so stupid as to conduct a vicious campaign of intimidation against their political opponents. I'd say that whichever party he belonged to. Today he appeared in court and pleaded guilty and asked for 68 - yes, 68! - offences to be taken into consideration. How on earth he managed to get away with it for so long is anybody's guess.

I hope the Conservative Party will now launch an inquiry into how this was allowed to happen. Oakley has besmirched the good name of the Party in one of the most shameful ways imagineable. On other websites lots of accusations are being thrown around, with LibDem Voice commenters in full throttle as one might expect. Let's be clear. There is no defence. There is no explanation for what he did, and there is no excuse. The only thing one can say in his favour is that he pleaded guilty.

What we do need to understand, however, was how on earth he got selected in the first place (see Danny Finkelstein), and how no one apparently realised locally what he was up to. Only a full party inquiry will determine this.

Watford Conservatives now have a devil of a job on their hands to restore their credibility locally in what is a key marginal seat. They must be given all the help they need.

No one in politics - least of all his political opponents - should crow about what happened today. Every party attracts the odd 'wrong 'un'. When Labour Councillor Miranda Grell was found guilty of harrassment last year I didn't join the lynch mob. I wrote: "Let's just recognise that all parties have their bad apples, shall we?"

Incidents like this damage politics per se. I'm sure I speak for all Conservatives who are sickened by what has happened and hope Mr Oakley gets what is undoubtedly coming to him.

UPDATE: More on ConHome, Watford LibDem candidate Sal Brinton, Eaten by Missionaries.


Anonymous said...

Oh dear, Iain, Iain, you will persist in the silly pretense that politicians ought are and ought to be honest and decent. Have you learned nothing since 1997? Here in China the government is regarded as a corrupt, inefficient, self serving oligarchy, best ignored as long as it keeps out of the way. The Chinese have 4000 years of experience, they know. Learn fron them. All politicians either start corrupt or become corrupted.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, Iain, and at least Oakley has admitted his wrongdoing. Miranda Grell still seems to think that her behaviour was reasonable.

Anonymous said...

I suppose we should just be thankful he never sat next to Ms Brinton on a bus.

Anonymous said...

He is a nasty Tory. Period.

Laurence Boyce said...

Wouldn't the honourable thing be to stand down the Conservative candidate at the next election? After all, we stood down for you in H&H (for some reason).

Richard Nabavi said...

I am sure everyone in the Conservative Party will be appalled by the horrendous campaign of harassament which the LibDems have suffered in Watford.

I hope the Party treats this with the seriousness it deserves and reviews procedures to see what lessons can be learnt and what can be done to tighten up the vetting of candidates.

Richard Nabavi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Glenn said...

Interesting comment there Iain considering a cursory search of your blog (any many others from the other parties) for a certain well known 'bad apple' donor produces a whole plethora of postings.

Stu said...

Watford Conservatives need to get their act into gear, fire their selection committee, replace the majority of their campaign team and start from the start as quickly as possible. Oh, and replace the banner on their website - so far they've removed the 'Ian Oakley' page, but not the banner that says "Ian Oakley: A Strong Voice For Watford".

I don't see how Ian Oakley could have acted alone and without the knowledge of others in committing this vast array of offences. The people of Watford (those who care enough to know about this - who are also the ones who care enough to vote) won't believe that he acted alone, so there needs to be a clear message that heads have rolled and that the people involved are no longer part of the Conservative Party in Watford.

Of course, it looks like they're just going to get a new candidate and pretend it was all Ian Oakley all along, and that none of them were involved. Much easier to just lie and hope no one finds out.

There's one new seat for the Lib Dems, then...

Iain Sharpe said...

Iain, I agree that no one should crow and that all parties contain wrong 'uns.

Yet this is a story that deserves to be told, if only because it highlights the fragility of the democratic process and the need for all parties to be vigilant in ensuring that they stay within the law.

Three years ago, I wouldn't have believed that someone could mount a criminal campaign of this kind and get away with it for so long.

It has actually been quite scary to feel unable to ask people to display election posters, because you can't be sure what criminal damage might result; to have to consider when asking somebody to stand for election how they might cope with being anonymously denounced as a pervert.

So it does need to be investigated properly, as you say. Fortunately, as far as I am aware this is entirely unprecedented in British politics, as far as I am aware.

Most of all it highlights the danger of getting into a mindset of thinking all Tories/Lib Dems/Labourites are bad people - no matter how hot under the collar we might all get about individual leaflets, campaigns etc.

Simon Wilson said...

How did this person get approved let alone selected?
Did he do all this alone?
Did not one member of the Conservavtive party locally suspect anything?
Bad political judgement or what?
Sal Brinton, her family and colleagues have been put through hell- just because she dared to put herself forward for public service.
Samo old Tories? I hope not but need convincing now

Anonymous said...

"What we do need to understand, however, was how on earth he got selected in the first place"

Er...no, what we do need to do is stop talking about it and bringing people's attention to it. Let LibDem Voice make a noise about it if they like, but it will only "besmirch the good name of the Party," as you put it if we bring it to a wider attention.

Oakley was a one-off - and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was a plant by another party anyway.

Anonymous said...

He sounds to be a bit of a saddo.

Two steps short of a conference dinner-dance type.

Anonymous said...

Interesting bit of maths.
Lib Dems claim they were victims of this for three-and-a-half years.

Oakley was made PPC in Nov 2006.

By admitting guilt to the offences, does it mean he committing the offences prior to his selection?

Carl Eve
Stupid? No Iain, not stupid. I think this is an ideal candidate for the term "psychologically flawed". A sociopath perhaps?

How the hell did he slip through the net, eh?

Anonymous said...

Iain, they've responded to you on this over at Coffee House:


Anonymous said...

In court today the local Conservatives seemed apparently not to realise the shame and responsibility they should feel. And the genuine sympathy they should be expressing (publicly and privately) for what innocent members of the local Liberals have had to put up with over an extended period.

I, myself, am a Conservative; but it doesn't blind me to the good intentions of others of a different political stripe. Nor to the failings of some of my own.

Anonymous said...

Sehr geEhrter Iain

Welcome back

Gut geSagt nochmals

You are RIGHT to expect AND REQUIRE that politicians ought to be honest and decent

I remain your obedient servant etc


Anonymous said...

oliver arthurs

"...I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was a plant by another party anyway."

I don't want to fan flames, but this comment leaves me gobsmacked. If you really have such a low opinion of the other parties, I'm seriously worried about your contribution to political life. Some go too far and play the man instead of the ball in every party. Believing that your party is the incapable of error is the highroad to a seriously deformed view of the (political) world and, dare I say it, some pretty ambigious boundaries as to what is justified in winning. If the Conservatives are going to avoid Oakleys in the future then this attitude has got to subject to some serious revision. (In fairness, I think this problem resides in parts of all parties and ought to be dealt with there too).

Said in peace, not malice...

Etienne du Clé said...

One of the odd things about politics is that it is a field that over-attracts people of certain types.

Both homosexuals and the mentally 'less-well': the call for a psychiatric assessment in this case may suggest a sadder underlying cause at play (I can write that 'cos he pleaded guilty and therefore Contempt is no longer an issue).

Now - before 'author deletes this comment' for equating homosexuality with mental illness (which would be a yawnful-and-wrong observation on my part if I were making it) - I would posit:

- traditionally 'excluded' perhaps in earlier times, homosexuals may have been drawn to be 'insiders' of influence, in contrast to their developmental societal experience (just a hunch);
- conversely, for patients with Narcissistic or bi-polar-type disorders (noting that the admitted-Guilty party in this case has not been shown to have either), politics may represent 'strength', 'revenge' and satisfy the delusions of grandeur their illness craves...

...have re-read that and think its libel-proof.

Just an obervation-like.

Who was it that said: "Anyone who wants to be President shouldn't be" as a personality-type diagnosis?

No wonder a lot of people, who want to do public work, are reluctant to be identified as 'politicians'.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on Ian.

You are old enough and ugly enough not to be surprised and shocked at this news.

It has little to do with politics and all to do with human failings.

David Boothroyd said...

To anonymous @ 6:28, Ian Oakley's first connection with Watford was when he was campaign manager at the 2005 election; he then kept up his contact in the hope of winning the next Parliamentary selection.

Anonymous said...

Every party has it's own resident nutter........need I say more?

Anonymous said...

This is an unintelligent piece. It should be fairly obvious that Oakley's dysfunctional behaviour is due to some psycho-social illness (which is not to excuse it). He was not 'allowed' to get away with it: clearly no-one understood that he was behaving in this way.

There is absolutely no matter to comment upon here. This is simply a sad case of a man gone wrong; period.

Steve Horgan said...

'Oakley's dysfunctional behaviour is due to some psycho-social illness (which is not to excuse it)'

Yes it is. Unless you know that this chap is ill then it is entirely possible that he is simply a criminal. That he is also an idiot only serves to put him in common with most criminals.

Unsworth said...

@ David Boothroyd:

"he then kept up his contact in the hope of winning the next Parliamentary selection."

How do you know what his motivation was? Source?

David Boothroyd said...

Private information and reasonable supposition, Mr Unsworth.

neil craig said...

Mistakes happen & I cannot hand out to much blame for choosing this clearly plausible nutter. However I find it difficult to believe that nobody in the party knew anything about this before he was charged. If he was having a nervous breakdown it would have been in his own interest to dump him. Whatever the circumstances it would have been in the party's.

scotch said...

Iain, hi. Where is your disapproval of a homophobic hate site against a local government candidate, of which you are well aware? I can't seem to find it.

Anonymous said...

RE: "Private information and reasonable supposition"

How many other Conservatives are keeping quiet about this private information you claim to have on the Oakley situation?

Iain Dale said...

Scotch, or should I more correctly address you in your usual capacity as Tim Ireland's bitch?

I condemn homophobic attacks on anyone, whereever they occur. Funny that, isn't it?

What I don't do, unlike you, is jump to the tune of Tim Ireland.

The Chronic Gardener said...

Please don't refer to my husband as "Tim Ireland's bitch". He's MY bitch. ALL MINE.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice though, Iain, if you would live up to your own often stated standards & reply to what seems to be a perfectly valid question from Scotch?

Or are you going to claim the traditional politician's right of not practising what you preach.

Your original reply was gratuitously rude & goes a long way to explaining why many don't view you as a serious political figure or frankly as a serious blogger outside of the right wing.

Iain Dale said...

Ken, you obviously don't know the history to this. Suffice to say it is Tim ireland related. I condemned all homophobic attacks. Are you seriously suggesting as a gay man that I would condone them? The reply was indeed rude.It was meant to be.

It is immaterial to me whether you or others see me as a serious figure. I'm happy to be judged on what I write. But I will leave you with one question.

If I am not seen as a serious figure, how come it's me appearing on Any Questions next week and not Tim Ireland or one of his platoon of little helpers?

No doubt that even by asking that question it will set him off on another torrent of blogposts abusing me, to add to the 300 he has written in the last two years. Not that he is obsessed, of course. Oh no.

Dave Cross said...


I'm happy to believe that you don't condone the attacks that Scotch and Ken are talking about. However the point that they are making is that despite these attacks being well-documented you decided that they weren't interesting enough to blog about and to condemn publically.

I have little doubt that you would have carried the story had it been Tories who had been on the receiving end of the attacks. A cynic might be led to believe that you ignored the story because it was Tory activists who were perpetrating the attacks. Effectively you seem to be putting your party political agenda before your personal beliefs.

Iain Dale said...

Dave, Wrong. Am I supposed to blog about every single thing in British politics? Anyone who reads this blog knows that I regulalry write about things which are not comfortable for the party I support. This Ian Oakley post is a good example.

Tim Ireland tried to pressure me to follow his obsessive agenda on Anne Milton. I know nothing about the case he raised beyond what he wrote. Amd seeing as I have no respect for virtually anything he writes I declined to comment. He then turned his fire on me, and we all know what happened next.

I condemn ALL hompohobic attacks. The word ALL is important here. Pity you, Ken, Scotch and others seem blind to it.

Anonymous said...

Could we please postpone the handbags at dawn and get back to the Ian Oakley Affair.

Oliver Arthurs said: "Oakley was a one-off - and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was a plant by another party anyway."

I have no proof he was a ringer but I do know he had some very rum friends and supporters. Check out the comments on the blog of a Watford Labour activist following Oakleys selection in November 2006:

Incidentally I have been engaging in the debate on Liberal Democrat Voice. Whether this is fanning the flames or fighting the fire I leave you to decide.

Anonymous said...

Are comments closed?

Anonymous said...

apparently not!

Anonymous said...

Then Iain's censoring fair questions again. I think he wants to hint that someone is lying without actually saying it, which is a cop out.

Anonymous said...

Well, on the basis that Billy Bragg was on "any questions" this week I am suddenly, overwhelmingly impressed and do too consider you a "serious figure".

Saying that Ian Duncan Smith was on recently, so that brings it down a notch or two.

What does the BBC think it's doing with my hard earned licence fee, I ask you!

As for Mr Horgan's line about "idiots" - keep in mind Steve, he got away with it for over three years, in the face of (one would like to assume) was a diligant local Tory branch, local press and local plod. Not so "stupid", eh?

Carl Eve

Anonymous said...

"I condemn ALL hompohobic attacks."

So condemn this one.