I probably won’t stay up for much longer waiting for the by-election results, but while waiting, I did come across this bizarre story about one of the more pointless candidates standing in Bromley and Chislehurst.
Apparently the BBC is riddled with gay sex, which is news to me. Concrete slab sex on children’s programmes maybe, but clearly Mr Hemming-Clark has been looking hard – certainly rather too hard to be accusing one of his opponents of being a closet homosexual.
Now that the polls have closed, I can get away with saying that Hemming-Clark comes across to me like the typical Bromley resident. I can’t remember who it was who said to me after a day’s campaigning that Bromley was stuffed with “rich chavs” but it is a very accurate description.
Bromley is mainly famous for being the place that lots of talented people leave, the first chance they get. David Bowie, Hanif Kureshi, Siouxsie Sioux (we’ll forget about fellow Bromley Contingent member Billy Idol), H.G. Wells… for over 100 years the inane, casually cruel suburbia has inspired a loathing that few other places even begin to reach.
You may have guessed by now that I too am a Bromley escapee. Going back to help in the by-election for me was very painful. Just as I thought I was giving the old place too hard a time, some brainless wanker starts trying it on in the queue leaving the train station. It all came flooding back.
Fortunately for me, the Bromley campaign team made it impossible for me to go back. They published the results of a “crime survey” which “proved” that 2/3rds of residents don’t feel safe going out at night. Regular readers will know how my bete-noire is Lib Dems playing silly games with crime statistics and choosing between going to help the campaign and spending a day with my girlfriend suddenly became very easy indeed. The fact that so many Bromley residents seem to think they’re living in a war zone rather than one of the most affluent parts of the country just made me realise I don’t actually want a Lib Dem in Parliament representing the morons.
This too, is frankly unacceptable. I can happily justify a lot of Lib Dem campaigning, most of which is simply effective marketing. Rival party activists who get precious about the use of “misleading” bar charts in our literature strangely don’t get upset about Labour spending millions of pounds on advertising in the last general election making misleading claims about how a Lib Dem vote would help get Tories elected. Putting out literature that notionally looks like a local tabloid or a handwritten letter is about getting people’s attention. I don’t see the same outcry over TV adverts that “look” like TV programmes or newspaper adverts that “look” like articles. It is a gross insult to the public to claim they are so stupid they can’t tell the difference. What’s more, to pretend we are any worse than the other parties is simply a lie.
But merely being as bad as the others is not good enough. I draw the line at dishonesty, I dislike ambulance chasing and I detest scaremongering. The photos of Ben Abbotts “cleaning up” graffiti that is then left is a disgrace. It is similarly a disgrace to go around taking photographs of every single piece of litter on every single street in the constituency in order to present a misleading picture of a constituency drowning in grot, as is now a standard by-election tactic.
I’m sorry if such negativity annoys some of my Lib Dem coleagues, but I am absolutely sick of it. It puts me off wanting to help in by-elections and I’m sure others feel the same. Is it too much to ask for us to follow a basic code of conduct? I’m sure we were better at not crossing the line five years ago. Perhaps I’ve just been blind to it all these years, but I can honestly say I’ve never done the same sort of thing myself in elections, with some modest success.
What do fellow Lib Dem activists think? Am I just whinging about nothing, or is it time we got our shit together? I’d like to think the former, but I’ve gone from loving campaigning to dreading it and I’m quite sure something’s changed.
UPDATE: Labour have conceded defeat in both the Blaenau Gwent Assembly and Parliament seats.Â If nothing else, at least I have Schadenfreude.