This latest incident concerning ALDC campaign handbooks is bizarre, on several levels. Firstly, it should be said that it is a different order of issue than the ridiculous “be wicked, act shamelessly, stir endlessly” in which wicked, shameless, Labour and Tory stirrers queued around the block to express “shock” at how any politician would behave in an opportunistic manner. In short, there is absolutely no question that political parties should not offer children they don’t know on council estates sweets to deliver leaflets. It isn’t even good advice – in fact it is possibly the worst advice I’ve ever read. In fact, it barely qualifies as advice – just some obscure anecdote with an even more obscure in-joke (who or what is Freitag anyway?).
I’m sure most activists have found themselves in the position whereby a swarm of bored local kids decide to take an interest in them and the least troublesome thing to do is to give them a few leaflets to deliver just so they’ll go away and pester someone else. But to go out of your way to encourage it? Offer sweets? Would it even work? I suspect you’d get beaten up for being a nonce.
What I find totally bizarre however is why this is coming up now. This campaign guide came out 12 years ago. I dimly remember having a copy but it has since been superceded by not one but two new editions, neither of which contain the offending advice. The rebuttal should be simple: it was a stupid, irresponsible paragraph and we unreservedly disassociate ourselves from it. Instead, we seem to have a bizarre pantomime in which Rennard seems to be falling over himself to defend it. There is no rebuttal on the party website, nor was anything issued in today’s briefing from the communications unit – local activists are being left on the dangle. To be blindsided on such a marginal issue, particularly after such a successful campaign launch yesterday, is just ridiculous.
UPDATE: As Will alludes, it is unfortunate that Lord Rennard is so quick to defend ALDC publishing advice on copying the techniques of kiddie fiddlers, while at the same time taking such a hard line against LDYS for its LibDemsOnDrugs campaign which was altogether far more principled and morally defensible.