Waiting for the results…

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.  If nothing else, at least I have Schadenfreude.


  1. Negativity? Reading this has made me less pissed off with the whole thing; the negativity, the “two jobs” bollox, etc. Yes, we want to win, but not by playing their game. Marketing is one thing, dirty is another, and the whole thing looked dirty from my perspective.

    It’s good to see that the party I joined does have people who dislike that stuff as well. “Winning here” and the bar charts are fine. Cheap publicity stunts devalue politics, and create apathy. Better someone votes for a different party than doesn’t vote at all, at least they’re engaged.

  2. I know that there was a leaflet that went out during polling day at Leicester South that allowed me to make my mind up whether delivering whilst feeling a bit ill or going home to bed was an easy choice.
    I want to see truthful leaflets that don’t keep going on and on about the same thing (although mentioning a criticism about an opponent a couple of times is fine).

  3. I\’d like a bit more policy in our leaflets (though there was some good *local* policy in the Bromley tabloids) eg the recent tax stuff would be well worth publicising. Thus far I would most certainly agree with you.

    But I can\’t get at all upset about the graffiti thing – not least because the Guido story is a dud (it\’s clearly a different piece of graffiti by the same tagger).

    Crime survey – take it or leave it, really. I agree that in areas like Bromley crime is hardly the issue it is in the inner city. But fear of crime clearly is. No doubt that\’s why Lab & Con put out virtually identical leaflets on knife crime in Bromley – I found it amusing seeing those stuffed in letterboxes at the end of half-mile long driveways in Keston Park.

  4. it’s clearly a different piece of graffiti by the same tagger

    Are you serious? Here’s the blog those photos were originally posted on: http://jajblog.blogspot.com/2006/06/vote.html. I’m not going to do a forensic analysis here, but both photos show a tag that is 5 bricks high and if you look at the bottom right hand side, both are clearly half a brick in in exactly the same position. The bricks are identical. Are you claiming there is some robot Phantom Scrawler out there tagging digitally identical tags on identical looking walls out there?

    Re: fear of crime. It exists largely because we ram it down their throats, day after day. I have no problem with tackling the rational fear of crime, but encouraging the irrational fear of crime is irresponsible, and leads to more crime as people clear the streets and make opportunity robbery that much easier to get away with.

  5. James,
    Agreed. In every party there is a creative tension between policy and campaigning and I reckon we have gone too far to the latter.

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