Friday, June 27, 2008

The Tories: the dirtiest trick of all

The other main parties really don't like us. What, in particular, they don't like is the image of the LibDems as the 'nice party', a party of which there is no need to be frightened.

Both Tories and Labour in the past have attempted to dent that, but it's been half-hearted compared with the Conservative campaign which is now on show.

The Witney Wonder, delighted to have John Howell as his newest MP, made a point of saying that the LibDems had been nasty during the by-election. Our campaign had pointed out that this self-proclaimed saviour of the Green Belt could have taught lessons to Judas in taking money from the other side -- though they put it in much more temperate language. Personally, I would have liked us to go further and alert people to how this developers' friend seems to imagine there is no housing crisis in Oxfordshire. Be that as it may, apparently Tory high command felt hard-done-by that anyone should imagine Mr Howell's employment to be relevant to his bid to be in Westminster. It was, they cried, a 'dirty trick.'

In the local elections, in my own ward, the Tories similarly ran a campaign on not liking the LibDems. In our leaflets, we always put the bar-chart of the last General Election, to remind people how close it was between Labour and ourselves. In Headington, where the Conservatives are in second place, the Tories pointed to that bar-chart to claim we were lying, since they surely were in a chance. Well, they missed their best shot (with all credit to their candidate, who was far better than such a mean-spirited party deserved). The irony, of course, is that it was in our interest for people to know that the Tories were in second place and fighting hard: it can only help us, in a ward where the vast majority are liberal-minded. I remember the campaign when I got elected, in which the Conservatives stood on an anti-immigration stance ('Oxford is full') -- an attitude which does not go down well with the enlightened people of Headington.

I mention these two instances because they are not disjointed incidents, but surely a mark of a larger campaign, intended not to help our democracy but simply to add to the cynicism which is already there. It's a simple, but sadly effective, technique: lie by calling others liars. It's the most corrosive dirty trick.

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