Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Politicians squeal over loss of their right to deceive the electorate

The fallout from the Phil Woolas ruling was never going to be long in coming.

Woolas himself, whilst not appearing to deny that he wilfully lied about an opponent in order to gain a political advantage, whined that the judgement "raised fundamental issues about the freedom to question politicians.

"Those who stand for election...must accept that their political character and conduct will be attacked.

"It is vital to our democracy that those who make statements about the political character and conduct of election candidates are not deterred from speaking freely for fear that they may be found in breach of election laws."

One needs to remember that "speaking freely" in this context means actually telling deliberate lies about the character of an opponent.

Some might be surprised that the Labour Party itself has not rallied round Woolas, indeed Deputy Leader Harriet Harman has stated in quite unambiguous terms that telling deliberate lies about opponents is not a part of the party's modus operandi (it would of course be very interesting to hear what she would have to say if she knew half of what her party members got up to in our little corner of the world).

It was "not part of Labour's politics for somebody to be telling lies to get themselves elected," she insisted.

Woolas not unreasonably complains that he has been hung out to dry. Clearly there are those in his party who exude an aura of relief at having been gifted such an opportunity to show him the door. One is reminded of the words of the late Alan Clark, who once famously observed: "There are no true friends in politics. We are all sharks circling, and waiting, for traces of blood to appear in the water".

Amusingly, Woolas bewails the fact that his party will not be funding his legal challenge to the ruling and that it will cost him some £50,000-£60,000 from his own pocket. I would guess the irony of the fact that that places him in the exact same boat as most of us victims of his party's routinely libellous campaigns will have been lost on him entirely!

Predictably other members of the political establishment have weighed in to his defence. Conservative MP Edward Leigh complained: "What worries me about this is that, if this is allowed to stand, it will be virtually impossible for there to be really robust debate during elections.

"People will be terrified of attacking their opponents."

No you moron, it means you will have to start considering whether the things you are saying to the electorate actually have a grain of truth in them!

The most telling comments of all however are those of former Labour Party General Secretary Peter Watt, who asked: "He was definitely found guilty of breaching electoral law by telling untruths about one of his opponents. But does that overwrite his history and contribution to the party of so many years?"

Not to the likes of you probably Mr. Watt, who seem to take it for granted that everyone in your party will put tribal loyalty before principle - party before people. But thankfully the days of creatures such as you exercising complete dominance over our body politic would seem to be drawing to a close at long last.

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