Claims that UKIP is just a wing of the Conservative Party intended to distract Labour voters away from their natural constituency are correct, it seems.
The UKIP candidate in this story had known the Conservative candidate for 30 years and was clearly on extremely good terms with him. The suggestion that they were sharing information in order to beat Labour is an offence against democracy.
If the allegations are true, is this an isolated case? If not, then the election result is thrown into doubt.
However: We have a Conservative Government. Even if half the seats in the country were won by illegitimate means, nothing would be done about it.
Hampshire constabulary are looking into claims that Royston Smith, the new Conservative MP for Southampton Itchen, handed the constituency’s Ukip candidate intelligence and a specially designed leaflet to help him target potential Labour/Ukip swing voters.
Former Ukip candidate Kim Rose claims that two months before polling day Smith handed him an envelope marked confidential containing about 55 pages with maps, local election results broken down by area and addresses for traditional Labour voters who had indicated to Tory canvassers they were likely to support Ukip.
Labour lost the seat to the Conservatives by 2,316 votes after holding it for 23 years. Rose says he used the detailed information to instruct his campaign and claims he can thank it for many of the 4,000 votes he took from Labour.
The former Ukip candidate also claims that the new Conservative MP, whom he has known for about 30 years, handed him a leaflet template attacking Labour’s record on immigration that he recommended Rose distribute in the areas of the constituency he highlighted as being home to potential Labour/Ukip swing voters.
Smith admits to giving Rose documents and advice for his campaign, but denies giving him canvassing data. He also denies giving the Ukip candidate the anti-Labour leaflet, though the Conservative party admits that the leaflet came from somebody working in the constituency’s Conservative campaign and said they were investigating.
Does she prefer him to Miliband? It would help her cause to have a government to fight against, but there are too many unknowns about the Telegraph’s story for anybody to be certain – yet.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has been quietly telling other people that while she outwardly says Ed Miliband should be the next Prime Minister, she secretly supports David Cameron – or has she?
The details are in a memo allegedly “seen” by reporters for the Daily Torygraph. The story broke the day after Ms Sturgeon struck a chord with the British public in the televised leader debate with support for many of Mr Miliband’s policies, and on the same day that it was claimed the Conservative Party was putting together a deal with the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
SNP cultists (the rabid members of that party’s following who refuse to see any wrong in what its leaders do) instantly leapt on the story, demanding that it was not true, that its writers should resign and its publishers apologise, and all the usual things they say.
The basic details of the story are that Ms Sturgeon told the French Ambassador, Sylvie Bermann, in February that she would “rather see” David Cameron win the general election because Ed Miliband is not “prime minister material. The comment forms part of a leaked memorandum written by “a senior British civil servant” and dated March 6.
The story states: “It is a common diplomatic courtesy if an ambassador to the UK visits one of the three devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland for the British Government to be given an official readout of the conversation although the SNP leader, who has only been in position since the autumn, may have been unaware of this formality… The disclosure of her private comments may undermine Miss Sturgeon’s new-found popularity.”
Spokespeople for Ms Sturgeon and the French Embassy have stated forcibly that the story is not true. The Foreign Office has denied the existence of such a memo and the Scotland Office… well, the Scotland Office says it doesn’t give out information about them. Hmm.
In response to repeated calls to show proof that the memo exists, the Torygraph published what it described as the “full text of Nicola Sturgeon memo” – but failed to show photographic evidence that would indicate that it was an official government document (not that the SNP cultists would have accepted this – they have already said they would not).
As a reporter, the situation disturbs This Writer. The libel laws of this country are extremely robust and it would be the height of foolishness for any newspaper to risk prosecution under those laws, just to drive the ‘Crosby wedge’ between two political parties (Conservative strategist Lynton Crosby campaigns on a ‘divide and conquer’ basis, meaning that he will seek to end alliances by any means).
Journalists are warned to make sure every detail of a potentially contentious story is supported by hard evidence – and also to get ‘balancing’ comments from the people named in the story if possible. If not, they should have the right of reply. The Torygraph story did not contain any such remarks from Ms Sturgeon when it came out, but does carry the claim that it is untrue at the time of writing.
Scottish Labour leapt on the story as evidence that Ms Sturgeon is not to be trusted; the argument is that, obviously, if you want independence, it is easier for your cause to have a government you can actively fight – witness this tweet from ScotLab: “Devastating: @Telegraph reporting Nicola Sturgeon secretly backs Cameron #voteSNPgetTories”
And this one, from Frances Hinde: “Sturgeon has calculated that a Tory gov. is best for her aim of breaking up UK- course she wants a Tory government.”
Scottish Labour followed up the tweet with this image:
Mark Ferguson of LabourList took a more balanced view: “For many of the SNP’s online hardcore base, this Sturgeon story will be viewed as conspiracy. Pause for thought for undecided voters though.”
The Guardian’s Scotland correspondent Severin Carrell tweeted: “French consul general tells @GdnScotland no such views given by @NicolaSturgeon ‘absolutely no preference was expressed’ on #GE2015 outcome.” But then, the French consul general would say that, in order to prevent ill-feeling against France itself.
Simon Johnson, the story’s co-author, responded: “The man said what he said in private to the UK Government. It’s in black and white,” and then stopped tweeting for the evening – which some may also have viewed with suspicion.
Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK fame, tweeted: “Try as I might I just can’t imagine Nicola Sturgeon discussing possible election outcomes the way that is being suggested.” He continued: “The Sturgeon / French story is a non-eye witness London civil servant version of events that all participants say did not occur. Odd that.”
Perhaps we would be best-served by asking what this achieves. Mhairi Grealis tweeted: “The question here is who stands 2 benefit from trashing Sturgeon. No SNP voter will buy this so..?”
Is this true? Certainly no SNP cultist would, but they are only a certain percentage of the Scottish population. Many are planning to vote SNP because they have been persuaded to; this could persuade them back…
… but only back to Labour. What does the Conservative Party have to gain from this?
You see, the bottom-line assumption has to be that the aim of the story is to benefit the Conservatives. The paper responsible for all this isn’t called the Torygraph for nothing!
The SNP’s Angus McNeil tweeted the following image:
The trouble with this cartoon is that it claims an innate racism in the Labour Party that isn’t there. “That’s the Scots telt!!” says the Labour apparatchik, as though Labour thinks all the Scottish people need somehow to be put in their place. It’s a gross assumption from the SNP cultists, and one that does them no services at all.
“The Telegraph provided Labour with a gun – they duly obliged,” he tweeted. But this claim that Labour shot itself in the foot by seizing on the story only works if the majority of people who were persuaded to vote SNP aren’t persuaded against the SNP again by this story. And that is by no means certain.
Certainly, as a maxim, it is true that Labour would be ill-advised to put too much credence in a Tory-supporting newspaper’s story, without a lot more evidence; there remain too many uncertainties about this story to predict the likely outcome.
Perhaps Eoin Clarke is right: “Labour & SNP have both ruled out a Coalition. UKIP & the Tory Party have not. Torygraph smear is to divert attention.
Maybe. But at the time of writing the story is still the Torygraph‘s lead, and we have a possible source for it in the Scotland Office.
The rabid SNP supporters will do their cause no favours by denying it outright and pointing the finger at Labour; Scottish Labour will do its cause no good by blindly supporting it and pointing the finger at the SNP.
Perhaps we should all look to the Torygraph and its reporter Simon Johnson – and pile on the pressure for hard facts.
Considering the facts of the Coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats*, perhaps we should be asking if a deal has already been struck between the Conservative Party and UKIP.
It would explain why David Cameron’s performance in yesterday’s leader debate was so lacklustre – maybe he doesn’t think he needs to sell himself.
A deal with UKIP makes perfect sense to those of us who have watched politics carefully over the last few years – the ease with which Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless transferred from one party to the other, keeping their Parliamentary seats in the process, shows how interchangeable the two parties really are.
He wrote: “During last night’s debate you proved that you cannot defend your record, which is why you cannot win a majority. It is now clear that you are preparing to do a deal with UKIP.
“As someone who follows rather than leads their party, you will know that a deal with UKIP is what the Tory Party wants. A growing number of your MPs and up to half of Conservative activists are arguing for it. Local Tory parties are already striking deals with UKIP up and down the country and, of course, two of your MPs have already crossed the floor.
“We know the terms of such a deal. Nigel Farage has said he would work with you in exchange for ‘a full and fair referendum to be held in 2015’. You have said you would be ‘delighted’ to offer this.
“But the real terms of a deal would see the end of the NHS as we know it.
“Your Health and Social Care Act has increased NHS privatisation, and UKIP want to go even further.
“Private providers have won a third of NHS contracts to provide clinical services since your reforms. Nigel Farage has said he supports ‘an insurance-based system of healthcare’, while his deputy has warned that ‘the very existence of the NHS stifles competition’. UKIP’s ex-Tory MP, Douglas Carswell, has called for an ‘open market’ in healthcare contracts.
“This shared agenda will be the real basis for your decision to work together. Your deal with UKIP is a poisonous proposition that would deny working people the care they rely on from a service they cherish.”
Of course, it may well be that Cameron’s Tories and Farage’s Kippers will be unable to muster up a Parliamentary majority together – even in combination with the Liberal Democrats, if that party survives electoral annihilation. Only your vote can decide that.
What will you do?
Will you let these slick operators kill the NHS on the sly?
The leader debate in a nutshell [Image: Lizzie Harvey on Twitter.]
What did people want from the televised political leaders’ debate?
It’s a question that has troubled this writer ever since it ended and the reactions started coming in.
The spin doctors and the hacks in the right-wing press claimed victory for the parties they support – of course. That’s why the front pages of The Sun and the Daily Torygraph proclaimed victory for David Cameron. They had been prepared before the debate had even finished because those rags were always going to make that claim.
A significant number came out in support of Nigel Farage – the UKIP party faithful and those who believed his anti-immigration, anti-Europe spiel. Of course, they might have felt differently, had they known he only plans to reduce immigration by around 28,000 a year, but it’s easy to deceive someone who doesn’t want to know the facts.
Extreme: The signed version of the debate provided this interpretation of a Nigel Farage comment.
There seemed to be a swell of support for the three female leaders. A knee-jerk reaction might be to suggest that this was simply because they weren’t men; this writer does not subscribe to that view. It is far more likely that people warmed to Natalie Bennett, Leanne Wood and especially Nicola Sturgeon because this was their first mass exposure to the British viewing (and voting) public. They head the so-called ‘minority’ parties and are often excluded from the national conversation by reason of their size.
Not only that, but they had a message that people wanted to hear: No More Austerity. It was pleasantly surprising to see all three pounding the message home against a defensive David Cameron – and it is in this context that we should measure the public’s reaction to them. This blog has stated previously that the larger parties cannot hope to gain popular support if they are offering only what they want, rather than what the people want. Now the people have found organisations that are offering what they want. This Writer feared that they would take votes from Labour, rather than the Conservatives; now that outcome seems less likely.
Nicola Sturgeon, in particular, is to be congratulated for her performance which has eased, somewhat, This Writer’s concerns about her party gaining influence in Westminster. She came across very well and seemed to be offering an olive branch to Ed Miliband in her opening statement, which included support for at least three Labour policies. However, there remains the question of how far she may be trusted; she repeated the lie that Labour had voted to support £30 billion of Tory austerity cuts when Labour did nothing of the sort (Miliband put her straight but the accusation always receives more attention than the rebuttal). And what of the rumour that the SNP is planning a Unilateral Declaration of Independence for Scotland – whether the majority of its people want it or not – after the election?
That leaves the three ‘main’ parties. Nick Clegg was a joke. Nobody agreed with Nick this time.
David Cameron also lost traction. He did manage to crowbar into the debate the messages this blog reported yesterday but nobody seemed impressed by them; Ed Miliband debunked the claims about Labour pretty sharpish and the public wanted to believe the ladies when it came to the economy. He scraped the bottom of the barrel several times – yet again quoting Liam Byrne’s ill-advised note about there being no money in 2010 as the reason austerity cuts had to happen (in fact, the UK was never in danger of bankruptcy but Cameron likes to make that claim, even though he knows better); and once more using his late son Ivan as his ‘human shield’ against attacks about the state of the NHS. The audience didn’t groan, but the country did. Asked where the £12 billion of ‘welfare’ cuts would be made, he again refused to answer, meaning the Tories are planning something extremely unpleasant for you, if they win. And – amazingly – he thinks ‘Free’ (in fact they are exorbitantly expensive) schools are a good idea!
That leaves Ed Miliband. whose confident, fact-filled performance ensured he won the ‘snap’ poll conducted online immediately after the debate – if only by a whisker. He had plans; he described them. He apologised for the mistakes Labour has previously acknowledged; he didn’t apologise for the party’s current plans. He stared down Cameron when the Tory leader tried to accuse him of financial irresponsibility, and he had the country on his side when he did so, because Cameron’s party has doubled the national debt and failed to balance the books while inflicting a huge human cost on their fellow citizens. His narrow victory this week followed a narrow defeat last week, meaning his stature amongst the public is growing. People are starting to like this man. The more he mentions what he would do “if I am Prime Minister”, the easier it is for them to see him in that role.
So we return to the question at the top of this piece: What did people want from this debate?
Judging from the reactions as they developed, it seems people wanted something fresh and new-looking, that corresponded with their own desire – not just for an end to the oppression of the last five years, but for a reversal of it.
That’s all very well, but those aren’t the qualities that are needed to run a country successfully. A national leader needs a cool head and the stamina to see long-term matters to their conclusion, for the sake of the whole nation.
The evidence on display yesterday suggests that Ed Miliband has what it takes. Slow and steady may win the race after all.
But will the public be too dazzled by the others to realise this?
Conservatives will do anything to hold onto power.
Most commonly, they try to pretend they aren’t the Nasty Party at all, attempting to emulate whatever’s popular at the moment.
So we have Michael Fallon with his UKIP impression yesterday (October 26), saying an “emergency brake” should be applied to immigration between EU countries.
He went on to say: “”That is still being worked on at the moment to see what we can do to prevent whole towns and communities being swamped by huge numbers of migrant workers.”
His words echoed those of UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who said in February: “In scores of our cities and market towns, this country in a short space of time has frankly become unrecognisable… Having whole areas taken over is difficult… it’s happened on a scale that nobody could ever have imagined.”
Oh, but don’t worry – it turns out that Fallon didn’t mean to say “swamped” at all! He meant “under pressure”. That makes it perfectly acceptable! Right?
It’s another UKIP tactic, of course – the swift apology. How many Kippers have been caught making much more abusive comments than Fallon’s, only to have to retract them later? (We’ll leave that question open in the hope that UKIP supporters will read this and try to pretend this never happens. It’ll be funny.)
Eoin Clarke had it right when he tweeted: “Tories’ ‘swamped’ comment & then retraction follow the UKIP pattern. Minimise the damage, maximise the appeal. Racism is a vote winner, sadly.”
Meanwhile, The Guardian has reported an even more bizarre transformation – Tories who claim to be followers of Labour icon Tony Benn!
“The right-wing Bennites do not look to their leadership for guidance. Like Benn used to do, they follow other lines of democratic accountability. Due to a matter of deeply held principle, the leader can never count on their support, even when he seeks to appease them,” writes Steve Richards.
How ridiculous. A Tory could no more be Bennite than Yr Obdt Srvt could be Thatcherite. They don’t understand the meaning of the word but use surface similarities to claim that they have adopted him. The result: Tony Benn’s memory will be discredited.
For crying out loud – one of the pillars of Tony Benn’s philosophy was that the people should be able to get rid of bad politicians – and here they are trying to usurp his memory in order to cling on to power!
It’s a filthy, underhanded trick from a filthy, underhanded organisation and you shouldn’t believe it.
Mr Richards acknowledges the differences, although he doesn’t give them the emphasis they need: “He [Tony Benn] was a socialist and they most emphatically are not. Benn regarded the state as a benevolent force, and sought wider state ownership, while a lot of the Tory Bennites want government to play a much smaller role.” That’s a huge, irreconcilable difference. If the ideologies are opposed, any similarity of method is just window-dressing.
With UKIP, it’s different; the ideologies are not opposed. UKIP and the Tories might as well be the same political party and politicians like Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless have already indicated that they view the two as interchangeable.
They are – and the voting public needs to be aware of this.
But Tony Benn and the Conservative Party most certainly are not.
The abuse in Rotherham and other Northern towns is appalling.
It’s a failure of those in power to listen to and respect the voices of girls and their parents, the voices of people from largely deprived backgrounds. No one is denying that the abusers were mostly from a Pakistani background.
The report commissioned by Rotherham Council is very clear – there were systematic failures by all those we hold responsible for caring for our young people. No one can disagree with its conclusions. No one is trying to.
However the behaviour of UKIP has not added to the debate; it has not taken it forward, it has not said how they would help the voices of the unheard be listened to in the future. They have not put forward one policy or suggestion that will help young people who are abused, according to the A Liberal Life blog.
It states: As a party they have decided that this poster is the way forward:
To say that this politicking at its worst in an understatement. The response of their members has been far far worse:
So what do UKIP want to do to ensure that young people have the tools to protect them against abuse. Well, they voted with the tories to deny all young people the right to universal sexual and reproductive health at the EU. They have ignored these facts:
They decided that young people in primary school should learn about what is appropriate and what is not from their carers and parents, seemingly ignoring that 90% of abuse is at the hands of someone they know. In the case of the very young that means family or family friends.
James O’Brien of ‘Leading Britain’s Conversation’ (LBC) Radio is becoming quite the needle in the flesh of the UK Independence Party, writes Martin Odoni.
A few months ago, many will recall, he gave the party’s loathsome leader, Nigel Farage, an absolutely bruising grilling live on air, and triggered several rather telling xenophobic ‘slips’ from Farage. This week, he presented a phone-in in which he spoke to a UKIP supporter going by the name of ‘Jack’, and exposed rather easily just how little that ‘Jack’ knew about the party he supports with such unquestioning passion.
Now, it has been pointed out by a few people on social media that it is perhaps a little one-eyed to mock ‘Jack’ for his abject failure to make a case for UKIP, or even for his own support for them. One counter I have heard or read more than once is, “I doubt if you asked most supporters of any of the three main parties what their policy platform is, that they could give you a better answer than this.”
But even so, I don’t feel in any way sorry for ‘Jack’ that he has been given a bit of a public kicking over social media since, because he really brought the ridicule on himself… I fear that ‘Jack’ fits a wider pattern of UKIP-supporter behaviour. He is whiny and paranoid whenever confronted, not with propaganda, but with simple evidential facts about the party’s uglier characteristics, among both its membership and its policies. ‘Jack’ is very loud, and goes out of his way to make sure that everyone hears him, so when he says something stupid, everybody knows about it. He speaks up with impassioned certainty and love in defence of UKIP, while not really knowing anything much about the people running it, or what they aim to do. He almost seems to have a teenage ‘crush’ on UKIP.
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