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.