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Friday, March 30, 2007

Dirty tricks

This morning's Western Mail reports on a scurrilious leaflet, which was widely cirulated around the South Wales West region earlier this week. The paper reports that Welsh Conservatives have referred the malicious pamphlet about one of its National Assembly candidates to the Electoral Commission and to the police.

The paper tells us that an anonymously-produced leaflet, sent to AMs, councillors and journalists, makes unfounded personal allegations about Chris Smart, who is second on the party's regional list in South Wales West:

The leaflet claims it will be distributed to nearly 400,000 voters in the region.

A spokesman for the Welsh Conservative Party said, "We are referring a malicious, anonymous leaflet regarding one of our candidates to South Wales Police and the Electoral Commission, and are asking them to investigate the source of its defamatory content."

Mr Smart, a broadcaster who runs a Bridgend news agency, said he was appalled that details of a court appearance he made 34 years ago had been distorted.

The leaflet suggests Mr Smart was investigated for alleged offences involving young boys.

In fact, he was bound over to keep the peace after a series of bizarre incidents where he was said to have posed as a school inspector.

Port Talbot magistrates were told Mr Smart stopped children in streets at Margam, Aberavon and Sandfields and asked them why they were not in school.

In each instance the children had full authority to be out of school.

On one occasion Mr Smart was alleged to have made children bend and touch their toes and threatened to spank them with a cricket bat.

Mr Smart, who at the time was 22, was bound over in the sum of £100 to keep the peace for two years.

In December 1998 similar false allegations were made in anonymous letters in the run-up to the first Assembly election, when Mr Smart was also a candidate.

Yesterday he said, "The leaflet contains a series of lies and bears no relation to what actually happened. I am appalled that this minor matter has been resurrected after all these years.

"I was over-zealous at the time and I don't deny that.

"But there was absolutely no sexual element in what I did - I was motivated purely by a desire to stop truancy."

It is an offence to distribute untruthful or anonymous leaflets during an election campaign.

Everybody was shocked at the contents of this publication. This sort of tactic has no place in an election campaign, it undermines the whole political process. I am happy therefore, to help by putting the record straight for anybody who has received the leaflet but may not have seen the newspaper report.
The Western Mail wrote "It is an offence to distribute untruthful or anonymous leaflets during an election campaign."

Let us be clear - it is an offence to distribute anonymous printed material *at any time*. The anonymous defamer obviously thought he was being clever by sending his stuff out before the election campaign started, but he or she is in for a surprise if the police catch up with him or her.
As Captain Mainwaring used to say!

"A shabby Nazi trick"
Very clever Peter. Now the whole world has knowledge of the story. Anyone who has been involved in politics in the area would have known about the conviction. The only strange part about it was the lenient attitude of the Aberavon magistrates at the time. Today the case would have gone to the Crown Court. The person who sent out the leaflet has achieved their aim of trying to influence voters's attitudes towards the Tory list candidates. The real elction in South Wales West is for that fourth list seat which is now held by Plaid. Labour wouldn't win a list seat but it is a three horse race between the other parties for this fourth seat. Although it will be quite interesting to see how many votes the BNP get.
Fairly easy to spot someone (more than one?) distributing these leaflets given that 400,000 is an awful lot to distribute surreptitously.

Said person/people may of course now realise their position and desist.
Yep. You're being naughty Peter. Now even I know about Mr Whatsizname and this strange -almost Wodehousian- tale of the bizarre things he did as an adult with schoolchildren.
Er..the whole world will only know about the story if the whole world reads Peter's blog. More people will have read the Glamorgan Gazette and WM stories. However, the more people who condemn this kind of intervention in the electoral process the better if you ask me.
A former councillor maybe?
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