This is the leaflet the Labour Party is delivering through letter-boxes in a ward where the sitting Conservative councillor — Cllr Azam Janjua, a Reading resident for half a century — is facing a Labour opponent, Eileen McElligott. See if you can notice the oh-so-subtle way in which Labour puts its lips together to dog-whistle:
You read that right:
“Eileen McElligott … was born and bred in Reading … She will fight for us here … because she is one of us.”
Nor is this simply the case of generic wording being applied to all candidates across Reading. As Gareth Epps, a former Lib Dem councillor in Reading, points out on his blog here:
It’s striking that the equivalent Labour leaflet for Abbey ward promoting Tony Page does not make the same claim. Why does the first line talk about the candidate being ‘born and bred in Reading’? The Labour candidate’s address is listed as being in Tilehurst, in what I think is Norcot ward. Why should Labour only be making this claim in a ward where the incumbent is of Pakistani origin? …
It is a deliberate contrast drawn on lines of race alone. I challenge Reading Labour Party to come up with a reason for the contents of this leaflet that is not to pander to racism, to point to the fact that their candidate is white, and the incumbent is not. I wonder whether the procession of senior Labour politicians, from Ed Balls downwards (upwards?) and including several Shadow Cabinet members, have delivered this leaflet or approve of it?
Absolutely shameful and disgusting on Labour’s part. … The leaflet should withdrawn and Labour should apologise in public. Everyone who, like me, utterly abhors racism and the use of politics to pander to prejudice, should speak out against this.
Quite. Will Labour’s leadership choose to stay quiet? Or will they do the right thing?
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.