Tag Archives: byelections

Iain Dale calls Lib Dem candidate a “whore”

Iain Dale has taken the unusual decision to take Lib Dem candidate for Norwich North April Pond to task for putting herself forward after already being the candidate for Broadland constituency.

He likens this to him abandoning Norfolk North constituency in the run up to the 2005 General Election to fight a by-election in Tunbridge Wells, and accuses her of “whoring herself across Norfolk.”

The 'old' Norwich North ConstituencyThe 'new' Broadland ConstituencyAside from the blatant misogyny, there is just one other flaw in this argument: Broadland – being a new constituency to be created at the next General Election – encapsulates part of Norwich North constituency which is about to be abolished. You can see how by comparing the above images courtesy of Wikipedia.

Is this sort of sexist talk and blatant disinformation spreading really the sort of thing we should tolerate in political discourse? It looks as if Iain is auditioning to be David Cameron’s own Damien McBride.

Cheap. And talking of cheap shots, do you think we should explain to him that Tunbridge Wells isn’t in Norfolk?

Hat tip: Liberal England

Why didn’t Clegg visit H&H?

Please disregard the football-related metaphor in the heading (not my choice of words), but here is my CiF piece on the Haltemprice and Howden by-election.

It would appear that my analysis is pretty much the same as Stephen Tall’s – i.e. Clegg was right to back Davis but failed to press his advantage home:

However unjustified, the sad fact of the matter is that by not ensuring a platform alongside Davis’s other supporters, including Tony Benn and Bob Marshall-Andrews, Clegg has left the party vulnerable to this line of attack. He put principle before party, but we should be mindful of the fact that giving the Conservatives an open goal to reposition themselves as the party of civil liberties will ultimately be wholly counter-productive.

This isn’t the first time I’ve come across this self-destructive impulse within the Lib Dems to be leery of sharing a platform on the basis that it might dillute our (non-existent) brand as the One True Voice on a given issue. It goes back to the very heart of “community politics“, i.e. we need to be building a movement rather than concentrating on the party. Clegg needs to do what his predeccessors have consistently failed to do and get into the movement business. And fast.

Two Ds, Two faces?

I spotted this quote from David Davis this morning but LDV beat me to it:

“I’m sorry that Labour and the Liberal Democrats funked it, but we’re still having a good argument and getting the issue raised.”

Both personally and professionally I’ve spent quite a lot of time defending Davis’ actions, at least up to a point. I’m still not convinced this was necessarily the best strategy but on the basis that the real problem is locking the Tory party into opposing the extension of pre-charge detention and that I can see how this by-election might have achieved that, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Many of the objections to Nick Clegg’s decision not to contest the by-election – including David Mortons’ here – are very valid, but only from the party’s POV. From the POV of national interest, I’m prepared to accept that the party had to take one for the team.

But the quid pro quo to all that is that Davis himself doesn’t then act in bad faith and seek to present our decision not to contest this by-election as anything other than what it was – a show of unity in exceptional circumstances. It is frankly outrageous for him to stab us in the back in this way. If he had been misquoted, then surely a correction would already have been issued on his website?

Any Tories out there willing to join us in condemning him for this blatant act of treachery? If he can’t be trusted on this, what can he be trusted on?

UPDATE (11 July): As Iain Dale mentions below, Davis has got the Guardian to issue a correction on this. That is much appreciated, but it seems the damage has been done. As Justin notes below, other Tories have been adopting this line and now Rosemary Bechler on Our Kingdom is having a pop. Clearly we can’t win either way in this debate.

To be David Davis’ Sancho Panza?

I still haven’t made up my mind as to whether David Davis’ resignation is some sort of mad genius or just plain mad and I suspect this debate will rage for years to come. Over the weekend, my respect for him has increased as it became clear that part of the reason he did it was out of a fear that the Tory opposition to internment without charge was lukewarm at best and that Cameron was powerless to stop his backbenchers from rebelling as the general election loomed closer (as I’ve said so many times before, Cameron does not lead the Conservatives as much as chair their internal debates). The fact that this is a stand against his own party as much as it is one in opposition to Labour makes it a noble gesture indeed.

But there is a danger that, with even the smallest of windmills refusing to put up a fight, Davis may start to look less like a Don Quixote figure and more like Ozymandias. He’s done a terrific job as scaring off the opposition – Brown, Murdoch, Kelvin Mackenzie – but it will be a Pyrrhic victory if his only opponents are the OMLRP, a former beauty queen and John “set aboot you” Smeaton.

The question is, what should us liberal-minded folk do? We didn’t pick this fight or choose Davis to be our champion, but can we really afford to sit back and watch? I’ve lost count of the number of blog posts and facebook groups I’ve skimmed past denouncing Davis for being a hypocrite on the issue of civil liberties. That may be so, but what is more hypocritical? A hang ’em, flog ’em politician standing up for fundamental civil liberties or a smart arse who claims to care about the drip-drip erosion of our rights while sitting on the fence because the one person taking a stand doesn’t pass a “purity” test. Some of the attacks are even worse and appear to be partisan Labour attacks masquerading as crocodile tears for those very rights that Labour has been spending its time trashing. If Stonewall really have been actively briefing against Davis, they will have lost all credibility with me. If Stonewall is allowed to question Davis’ commitment to civil liberties on the basis of his commitment to gay rights, aren’t we free to question Stonewall’s commitment to civil liberties outside of the comparatively narrow interests of lesbians and gay men? I didn’t ask for this to become some kind of libertarian pissing contest, but there are plenty of people out there who want it to become precisely that. If they succeed, Brown, Murdoch and the other Forces of Darkness will have had a meaningful victory indeed, regardless of the vote in Haltemprice and Howden.

To say “only Nixon could go to China” is a cliche, but cliche’s have the irritating tendency to be true. There is a real question mark over whether there is actually a fight here to be fought, but refusing to fight it out of some sniffiness about Davis’ principles would be despicable.

Cunning stunt? Buy a calculator

A few days late on this one, but I have been meaning to follow up on this article about Grant Shapp’s cunning stunt over the Christmas holidays:

“Our plan would build more houses than the Government. But the way to do it is not to do it in a centrally planned way. That has always failed.

“The way to do it is to incentivise communities to want to build houses. It works by saying, ‘build these houses and you get a new town centre or other services like a hospital or school.’ The existing community gets the gain, not just those people who move there.

“If people knew that council tax receipts were kept for five or 10 years if they took houses and therefore council tax was lower, they would often be in favour. This way you are building up an array of benefits from being a Yimby, not a Nimby.”

No-one is disputing that if communities had incentives to develop, all things being equal they probably would. But perhaps Mr Shapps ought to buy himself a calculator if he intends to make this incentive reliant on council tax receipts. Because while only a fraction (a quarter to be precise) of local authority revenue is raised from council tax, new developments will continue to have net costs associated with them, not net benefits.

If the Tory policy is for council tax to shoulder a bigger burden of local tax revenue, it’s news to me, and I’m sure it will be news to the millions of people who are unlikely to welcome a massive tax hike to the tune of thousands of pounds. And it must be news to Caroline Spelman and Eric Pickles who have spent the past two-plus years denouncing any attempt of government to even contemplate revaluation by coming up with scare stories about taxing “nice views“.

If Shapps truly wants his dream of creating incentives for new build to become a reality, he’s going to have to be a bit more radical than that. It won’t happen without a significant tax shift onto land values. That isn’t something that David Cameron, Gideon Osborne and the other members of the Tufty Club behind the New Model Tories are likely to contemplate, no matter how many times Grant sleeps in a cardboard box.

Shapps of course must know this; he’s seen how Osborne has been inflated to the point of being hailed the new messiah by the Right for suggesting (modest) cuts in wealth taxes after all, which makes his stunt seem all the more hollow. Almost as hollow, in fact, as this claim:

Mr Shapps points out that the real losers were the Lib Dems whose second place was a foretaste of the disarray that eventually claimed their leader.

W-O-W – this is amazing stuff coming from the man who claimed he had proof that the Lib Dems were running a “poster lottery” (which has subsequently earned Iain Dale the immortal nickname Pravdale) and whose hands appeared to be caught stuck in the YouTube cookie jar. Cunning stunts indeed. Without wanting to revisit old battles, let’s just make one thing clear: just as the Lib Dem’s victory in Dunfermline and West Fife in 2006 had nothing to do with our lack of a leader at the time, winning Ealing Southall would have done nothing to save Menzies Campbell’s job. He would still have quit this autumn. For Shapps to claim that one of the greatest Tory fuckups of 2007 was in fact a bold act of regicide on his part is immodest even by his standards.

It’s nice to see him begin his political rehabilitation however. It is clear he has learned nothing, which suggests that we will have a second chance to have some more fun at the expense of this legend in his own lunchtime before too long.

EXCLUSIVE: The meaning behind Mark Oaten’s cryptic comments

Lib Dem Voice has the skinny on Mark Oaten ruminating on the possibility that he might quit early and force a byelection. Stephen Tall has quoted from the Hampshire Chronicle Oaten’s views, but I can exclusively reveal the subtext:

He said it was “me me me”.

Mr Oaten said he did not intend to trigger a by-election but “me me me”.

He said if the “me me me” came up for him and his wife, he would “me me me”.

The father-of-two said: “I hope people understand.

“Me me me me me me me me me me me me me.”

People may recall that the good people of Winchester are not known for their forgiving nature when it comes to having unnecessary byelections foisted on them. Nice as it would be for us to increase our majority by one million per cent a second time, I feel it may be asking a little too much.

Community Politics Today: be wolves not bees!

Another article from the archives. This one was written in Summer 2006 for Community Politics Today, a collection of essays revisiting community politics. Again, I would encourage you to buy the full book and read all the other contributions.

The original Theory and Practice of Community Politics by Bernard Greaves and Gordon Lishman is available on Colin Rosenstiel’s website.

The party has failed to heed the principles underpinning community politics, both in the way it campaigns and the way it treats its own community. If we are to be more than “just another party” we will need to become the change we want to see.

Greaves and Lishman are quite explicit about what they think community politics is not: “Community Politics is not a technique for the winning of local government elections. It… is not a technique … not local … not government … not about elections.” It is clear that they were quite preoccupied with the sense that as Community Politics was being more widely adopted within the party, many of its proponents wildly misunderstood the principles that underpinned it.

Almost a quarter of a century on, it does seem as if this battle has been largely lost. While I have had the pleasure to get to know and work with dozens of gut community politicians over the past decade, the status of Community Politics as anything other than a means to winning elected office has diminished before my eyes. Focus leaflets have become ever more ubiquitous – but as marketing tools, not as community newsletters. Surveys are used not to learn about public opinion, but to harvest data that can be used for targeting and to come up with scare-statistics to suit the party’s agenda.

One politician I worked with once rebuked me for putting a helpline in a leaflet on the basis that “the public should come to me.” So much for helping people to take power for themselves. It is now standard practice in by-elections to send people out with disposable cameras to find “grotspots” in order to portray a totally distorted view of how run down the local area is. In the recent Bromley by-election, the candidate was prominently shown cleaning up graffiti on election material – only for it to be discovered that that graffiti was still in place on polling day. At its extreme, this ambulance chasing is just plain weird: one Lib Dem campaigner recently gleefully published page upon page of photos of rubbish on his website – it would have taken him just as much effort to pick the stuff up himself.

All of this is designed to portray the party as strong campaigners who take local issues seriously, but treats the public as passive consumers – choosing political parties as they might washing powder – not as active citizens. It is extremely effective marketing – particularly in target seats and by-elections when we have sufficient resources to overwhelm the public with our messages. But it is hard to see what it does to challenge power, which is at the heart of Community Politics.

However, what is Community Politics’ loss seems to have been the Liberal Democrats’ gain. What Greaves and Lishman disparage as the “ALC Method” has been refined and reproduced across the country and has gone on to inform Campaigns Department best practice that has seen us increase our number of Parliamentary seats by such a large degree over the past decade. It is a legitimate question, worthy of investigation, to ask whether Community Politics was all that important anyway?

We should ask ourselves two things however. Firstly, by abandoning Community Politics in this way, how do we respond to the charge that we are just another opportunist party concerned with gaining power at all cost?

This is not what many of us signed up for. We are expected to content ourselves with the notion that the more politicians we help get elected, the more we can get the body politic to work on our terms, but how much are we changing the body politic, and how much is the body politic changing us?

Secondly, is this actually getting us tangible power, or is it leading us into a cul-de-sac? Since 1992 we have gained 42 Parliamentary seats – roughly 14 per session. At that rate, we will gain a majority after 18 General Elections – roll on 2090. What is even more likely however – and I would suggest we started to see evidence of this in 2005 – is that we will start to spread ourselves too thinly and encounter diminishing returns or even go in reverse. Let us be clear: while this strategy may ensure we have significant representation in the Commons for years to come is not going to win us a general election.

If we are content with the prospect of being the junior partner in a coalition, that may be fine. Historically however, the party has not done well in a balance-of-power situation. There is also a democratic problem with us relying on horse-trading to push our agenda forward rather than public support, not to mention the fact that we would be expected to prop up a minority government on a whole range of issues that go against our principles.

With this in mind, I find it quite incredible at how the rhetoric within the party – even in confidential meetings at a senior level – remains along the lines of “one last heave.” We are wedded to the idea is that if only the party was more “professional” / had slightly more money / more active members / better market research then we would reach a critical mass and charge home. Yet this invariably leads to concentrating our resources even more on target seats and coming up with a basket of policy-bites that are designed to appeal to swing voters. The result is our public support is extraordinarily shallow with a large proportion of our vote backing us for tactical reasons or because of one or two policy commitments.

Greaves and Lishman’s vision was far wider. Inspired by Jo Grimond’s call for the establishment of “a coalition of different groups putting different emphases on different parts of the same basic idea,” they call on the party to dedicate itself to building a political movement, rather than solely concentrating on winning elections. For them, the goal of Community Politics was to create this movement by “stimulating action by communities to take and use power.”

We should not blind ourselves to the fact that this is exactly what New Labour achieved in the mid-nineties. Tony Blair and his allies recognised that the Labour Party itself couldn’t both win power and beat its opponents into submission long enough to implement a programme of action. They were extremely effective at getting a wide range of groups and communities to buy into their vision for change. The key difference between Tony Blair’s approach and the one spelled out by Greaves and Lishman is that for him building such a movement was first and foremost about getting him into Number 10 Downing Street; for Greaves and Lishman the creation of such a movement is an end in itself.

People are unlikely to be fooled twice however; if the Liberal Democrats were to go into the movement building business they would have to be able to demonstrate what Blair now demonstrably lacks: integrity. We would have to walk the talk. That would mean a major culture shift within the party. We would have to step back from focusing on becoming an election-winning machine and instead truly internalise the values of Community Politics.

How could we go about doing this? To start with, I believe we need to improve how the party itself functions as a community. Are we wolves or bees? Do we run together in packs as equals, or do we organise in hives – a strictly hierarchical structure with workers diligently serving the Queen? Many will look at our constitution and our famous rows on the conference floor and assume we must be wolves (or for that matter, cats, as in “herding…”).

But look deeper. Democratic constitutions are not the same thing as democratic cultures – ask anyone who has lived in a communist state. For all the rows we have at conference, the central party invariably manages to get its policy papers passed. The Conference Committee frequently complains that so few local parties actually submit conference motions. Meanwhile, the non-policy business of our conferences is rubber stamped by almost empty debating halls to the complete indifference of most conference representatives.

At a local level, the level of participation in the party is even lower. We do very little to help themselves in this respect. The New Politics Network surveyed the local parties of the three main parties this summer (now available as part of the Unlock Democracy publication Party Funding – Supporting the Grassroots). It found that the Lib Dem local parties held a fraction of the number of social and fundraising events that Conservative Associations did and significantly fewer policy discussion meetings than either the Conservatives or Labour. In short, our members have more rights than the members of our rival parties, yet aside from campaigning we have much lower levels of participation. Ours’ not to reason why, ours’ but to do and die.

The party needs to stop flattering itself that because we have a vibrant activist hierarchy, we are democratic. We should be worried about the stark distinction between activist and “armchair member” and set ourselves the task of doing something about it. For me, that means more informal meetings, from policy discussion (“pizza and politics”) through to simply inviting people to the pub. It was a desire to encourage such meetings that has driven Martin Tod and myself to develop the website Flock Together (http://www.flocktogether.org.uk) and its offshoot Liberal Drinks (http://theliberati.net/drink).

To maximise levels of participation however, we need to look to skilling our membership. Again, activists are already well served in this respect, with ever increasing numbers of training events taking place at conferences. This programme needs to be taken to a lower level however. Local and regional parties should start holding “welcome days” for new members designed to feed them with ideas about what sort of things they might want to do in the party, from coming to help in a by-election through to joining the Green Liberal Democrats. On and off, LDYS has for many years run similar events (including its residential “Activate!” weekends) and they have supplied us with a stream of involved and informed members (including at least one MP).

In his essay After Community Politics (Passports to Liberty IV, Liberator Publications, 2000), David Boyle takes this one step further and proposes local parties running self-help workshops on a wide range of areas from local campaigning through to changing your work-life balance. I strongly endorse this proposal and would love to see more experimentation in this area.

Indeed, everything we do should be concerned with providing people with a toolkit to challenge power themselves. Our national campaigns should be about more than “us too!” petitions – they should be concerned with reaching out to people who are directly affected and advising them on what to do themselves.

To take two recent examples, if we run a campaign on saving school bus services anyone interested could be able to download a campaign pack informing local people about what they can do about the issue. If we run a campaign against homophobic bullying, we should provide both information about the issue, but also meaningful advice for both parents and children about what to do about it. The party is getting very good at producing campaign packs for local parties; it should be equally concerned at providing detailed information for the target audience.

There are electoral gains to be made from such an approach. While it would be less effective than our target seat strategy in terms of maximising votes in the places where they can do the most good, this approach would win us more activists and the sort of goodwill that any party serious about government needs. But if we make New Labour’s mistake of simply co-opting such support for our own ends, then as has been their experience, it is likely to come back and bite us in the arse. The true value is not in simple electoral gain, but in improving the national polity as a whole.

Unless we become the change we want to see, we can’t hope to build the wider movement that we will need in order to truly challenge power, at all levels. If we fail to do this, our only course of action will be to ape our opponents, which will prove ultimately self-defeating.

Tory vote COLLAPSES!!!

Since the Tories were making such a big deal about the by-elections last week, here are a couple of results that happened within hours of David Cameron’s conference speech:

Leicestershire CC, Shepshed
Lab 1217 (30.2; -12.7), Con 1074 (26.6; -10.2), LD John Popley 933 (23.1;
+2.8), BNP 807 (20.0; +20.0).
Majority 143. Turnout 37.3%. Lab hold. Last fought 2005.

Windsor and Maidenhead UA, Datchet
Con 799 (63.8; -8.6), LD Tim O’Flynn 352 (28.1; +12.0), Ind 102 (8.1; +8.1),
[Lab (0.0; -11.5)].
Majority 447. Turnout 35.8%. Con hold. Last fought 2007.

I’ve singled out the Tories here, but it isn’t such good news for Labour either. The only party to have raised their share of the vote in both seats are the Lib Dems. Congratulations in particular should go to Lib Dem Cllr Andrew Nisbet in Helensburgh and Lomond South, Argyll and Bute who gained a seat from an independent.

Make of that what you will.

Labour’s capacity for self-delusion

Back from Labour conference and in a bit of a mess if truth be told. The problem with cheap B&Bs that haven’t been dusted in decades is that they can turn a mild cold into a nasty cough that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I’ve got two days to recover before doing it all again with the Tories in Blackpool. I’m sure the B&Bs there can’t be as chintzy and grotty as the ones in Bournemouth. Er…

Anyway, it’s been an interesting week. Labour conferences – I’ve been to 3 now – are so completely different from Lib Dem ones its hard to know where to begin. Obviously, there is the security, although compared to 2004 where they wouldn’t let you bring fluids into the conference centre and insisted you prove your mobile phone was genuine before letting you through, this one was relatively low key. The beards and sandals combo – largely mythical these days – is replaced by the rather more sartorially challenged baseball cap and crumpled suit. Indeed, everyone who isn’t wearing a trade union approved t-shirt wears suits, making me stand out in my standard attire of jeans and a short sleeved shirt.

The psychology of the two conferences couldn’t be more different either. In Labour, collectivism is all. The mindset, even among relatively sensible people, is that you are either one of us, or you’re the enemy. Back in my student and BYC days I used to encounter this on a regular basis and it would drive me insane; you simply could not reason with these people who would back anyone who was a card carrying member in an instant, no matter how reprehensible they were. Back when I was a student, the Labour membership card was a passport which guaranteed you votes at NUS conference even if you publically denounced Labour and claimed to be an independent. On the other side of the coin, former IDS adviser Quentin Davies can rely on the party faithful to give him a standing ovation.

Labour is quite unapologetic about this mindset. Indeed, Brown’s emphasis on shared values and national identity seems to be a calculated attempt to sell collectivism to the wider public. Around the conference centre there were posters everywhere emphasising the “strength” to make Britain better.

At the Fabian / Centre For Um fringe, both Angela Eagle and Michael Wills readily cited it as the crucial difference between the Lib Dems and Labour and parodied the Lib Dems for flirting with libertarianism. I suspect that my friend Tristan Mills would have responded by saying “if only”.

The simple fact is, collectivism is in many ways a strength of the Labour party. It is what has made them electable over the past decade, and what has made the Conservatives so woefully unelectable. It is this key difference more than anything else which currently appears to be guaranteeing Gordon Brown a win whenever he chooses to call the next election.

And I should also point out that with a few exceptions, I don’t see many Lib Dems who are opposed to collective action per se, so long as it is ultimately centred on the interests of individuals. But I struggled to find any Labour delegates at this conference who placed any emphasis on the individual at all. The bitter irony is that I doubt any of them believe it. Why else have people been leaving in droves? Why else do super-unions such as Unite campaign so hard to defend the interests of the relatively few Remploy workers?

Fundamentally, I don’t believe that the Labour Party believes its own hype about unity through strength. It knows where that leads. But the inability of its members to talk about collectivism as anything other than an unalloyed good does cause me deep concern. We have seen how this attitude causes them to struggle to criticise their superiors. The fact that Tony Blair remained in power – purely because of the lack of enthusiasm for Parliamentarians and members to conduct a coup – ought to worry us. I can imagine far worse people than Tony Blair finding themselves at the top of a political party; if they rose to power in Labour would we see little more than the determined foot-shuffling we’ve witnessed over the past four years? For the good of the country we must hope that Labour reconciles itself with liberalism again before too long.

Back to the Fabian / Centre For Um joint fringe, much of this debate was taken up with allegations about “dirty tricks”. Most of the attacks came from a contingent from the Colchester CLP. Now, I don’t doubt those delegates’ sincerity, nor am I naive enough to believe that no Lib Dem has ever indulged in dirty campaigning, but it is rather ironic that almost a year ago to the day, a Lib Dem councillor in Colchester was outed in a national newspaper.

I was pleased that Vince Cable and David Laws did a grand job at defending the party’s record under pressure, not resorting to crowd pleasing tactics by condemning alleged activities that they knew nothing about. Yet Michael Wills was keen to continue twisting the knife, making the “no smoke without fire” smear that because Labour and Tory MPs agree that Lib Dems are the dirtiest campaigners, it must be true.

To make such a statement, without providing one scintilla of evidence, is to indulge in the very same groupthink that Miranda Grell manipulated in Waltham Forest last year. He ought to know better. The Lib Dems threaten an order that both Labour and the Tories have an interest in defending, and it is extraordinary how they can be blind to both their own faults and each others. The recent by-elections showed both parties at their worst, yet that gets forgotten. Tom Watson‘s reliance on the rent-a-mob got him promoted. The Tories’ attempts to portray Mark Hunter as a rapist in the Cheadle by-election even gave ConservativeHome pause for thought, but it was quickly forgotten. I could go on, but Rob Blackie has already done much of the work for me.

When senior MPs make such allegations in public, it is unfortunate politicking. When they do it in the relative privacy of an audience of mainly Labour members (albeit were at least one journalist was present), it smacks of self-delusion. No-one is pretending that the Lib Dems are perfect, but when Labour have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar so many times, it is time to stop being so precious.

Overall, my advice to Labour friends is to be careful. Don’t believe your own hype. This week I saw an awful lot of that. The biggest problem with Labour is not that it’s evil but that it still believes it is whiter than white. With the scapegoat Blair now safely dispatched to the middle east, that delusion will only continue. A party that believes that is capable of anything, which is how it ended up invading Iraq, doling out peerages to people it was indebted to and marginalising human rights in the first place.

My favourite Ealing Southall leaflet

Tony Lit leafletThis is my favourite leaflet from the campaign (click on it to enlarge). It was being delivered on the morning of polling day in particularly leafy part of Southall near the Grand Union Canal (for the record, I picked these two examples up from the street).

Why is it in so-bad-its-good territory? Well, the message on it will mean nothing to non-Hindus; indeed I would imagine it would put a lot of their backs up. What’s more, I would have thought that a lot of Hindus themselves would feel patronised, being effectively advised that it is their religious duty to vote for Tony Lit (and not the Hindu Vivendra Sharma).

If you’re going to mix religion, ethnicity and politics up in this way, why not go the whole hog and include a Hindi translation? I’m sure there must be one or two individuals out there who would be receptive to the message but don’t read English.

But for everyone else, how is this leaflet worth delivering on polling day? What does it tell them? There isn’t a tactical message, information about polling, a phone number to request lifts… anything. I could come up with 101 things that you would be better off getting your activists to do on polling day.

In fact there was a better leaflet being delivered just a few streets away. Overall, the impression one gets is that the Tory campaign team were caught with their trousers down on polling day and were just flailing about in a vain attempt to keep people busy. A less generous person than myself would say that just about sums up their whole campaign.