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Friday, July 16, 2004


Congratulations to Parmjit Singh Gill on an outstanding result in Leicester South. He now becomes the Liberal Democrats' 55th MP and our first from an ethnic minority. Commiserations to Nicola Davies, who narrowly missed out in Birmingham Hodge Hill in an otherwise excellent result. I have to say that Labour did not deserve to win this particular by-election. Notwithstanding Oliver Kamm's views below, Labour's negative, personal and, at times, near-racist campaign was a disgrace and plumbed new depths in British political campaigning by a mainstream party. All those Labour activists around the Country who like to enjoy the moral high ground on campaigning issues, especially in relation to asylum seekers, have had it washed away from underneath their feet by their party's behaviour in Hodge Hill.

Those are very serious accusations to be throwing around Peter. I can understand your frustration at losing the by-election, but don't blame our campaign.

The campaign was well-managed by Tom Watson, and the so called "negative, personal" campaigning was more evident from the Lib Dems. I spent two weeks full time on the campaign and saw for myself exactly what went on.

Before you and Nichola "Nokia" Davies start throwing your mobile phones out of the pram, and accusing the Labour campaign of being "a disgrace" - you should look a little closer to home.

David Taylor 20 July 2004
Actually, these "accusations" accurately sum up Labour's campaign. David cannot excuse the way that Labour fought this election by trying to spread the blame around. I have copies of most of the literature and it is my view that the Liberal Democrats campaigned positively and robustly on the issues. By comparison Labour personalised their entire campaign (as indeed David has in his comment, underlining my point). They devoted a huge proportion of their literature to denigrating the Liberal Democrat candidate personally and the Liberal Democrats, often inventing policies on which to attack us when they bothered to refer to policy at all.

Labour played on the right wing media's portrayal of Asylum Seekers to create an issue in such a way that could only be described as pandering to racism and they actively courted the BNP vote in areas where that party is strong. The sort of stuff Labour was putting out on Asylum seekers has been condemned as racist by Labour Councillors elsewhere when other parties said similar things in leaflets on their patch. This is not sour grapes. I accept that we lost the by-election, however there is nothing for Labour to be triumphant about. There was a 27% swing against them and they clung onto a previously safe seat by their finger nails. As far as we are concerned this was a victory for us.

Just to underline the point on sour grapes there is also a clear case of racist campaigning by Labour in Leicester South. Here they put out a personal letter in which the Labour candidate was described as "the only truly local candidate". Given that Parmjit Gill was born and raised in Leicester and went to school in the Constituency, this reference could only have been to the fact that the Labour candidate was white - disgraceful!
The Lib Dem literature was disgraceful! - Sending out a fake handwritten letter as a last ditch desperate attempt to win. Sending out the flyer: "The Labour campaign - An Apology" in our standard font - with no reference to your party whatsoever - with a tiny, barely legal inprint. And sending out leaflets in red and blue to try and trick voters into voting for you. Obviously your dirty tricks didn't work though, so I suppose it's easy to blame our campaign.

also.... to accuse the Labour campaign of "racism" - that's a very serious accusation, one I would ask you to withdraw. That's what I call stooping to new all-time-low levels of campaigning.

David Taylor 21 June 2004
Actually, my original accusation was of a "near-racist campaign", but if the cap fits! I have no intention of withdrawing this comment. Just because it is the Labour Party does not mean it cannot be racist. I have even posted examples on this blog. With regards to the literature, all of these types of leaflet are standard practice and are used by other parties as well - e.g. the bogus FOCUS put out by Labour. In fact the blue ink letters are so effective that Labour did one in Leicester South. As for "The Labour Campaign - An Apology", it was perfectly justified to respond to the outrageous and personal literature put out by Labour in this way. It seems that you believe that it is OK for Labour to put out hard-hitting and misleading leaflets but not for your opponents to respond. In this by-election Labour re-wrote the book of dirty tricks.
"a clear case of racist campaigning by Labour" - that was the quote by you I was referring to.

"The Labour campaign - An Apology" cannot be justified, it was clearly trying to trick voters, it was devious. The bogus Focus was satirical, witty, tounge-in-cheek pamphlet - everyone I spoke to saw the funny side.

Also, I was wondering if you had any comments on the Lib Dem Campaign Handbook which advises grassroots activists to: ‘Be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly, and embarrass the administration… If it is a Labour council you can secure support from voters who normally vote Tory by being effectively anti-Labour and similarly in a Tory area secure Labour votes by being anti-Tory.

David Taylor 22 June 2004
Whatever! I still stand by the remark. I don't think that you or any other Labour activist are in any position to assume the moral high ground after your disgraceful campaign in Hodge Hill. Your attempts to divert attention from it do not wash. How about if I tell you that the leaflet "The Labour campaign - An Apology" was satirical, witty, tongue-in-cheek and effective campaigning. Compared to some of your literature it was positively sparkling and it was totally justified.

As I have allowed myself to be diverted I would say that the advice to "Be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly, and embarrass the administration", is precisely what every opposition does of whatever party. It is certainly what Labour seek to do in Swansea and elsewhere. Perhaps we have been too honest but if you talk to voters many of them want their politicians to do just that because it helps hold the adminstration to account and amounts to effective scrutiny. I would not endorse the rest of the quotation as actually I think it is more productive to campaign on the issues to persuade Tory and Labour voters to switch to us.
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