A quick political quiz for you

There are two political parties, let’s call them A and B.

Both of them distribute magazines in a by-election promoting their candidate.

Party A’s magazine says on it that it is publised by party A. Party B’s magazine doesn’t say anything similar.

The BBC’s verdict on party A’s magazine is that “It’s not designed to make you think that it’s not from a political party” (Peter Henley, TV news, Thursday evening) .

So which party and its leader do you think has complained about the other party’s magazine?

Yup, that would be David Cameron and the Conservatives saying how disgraceful it is for the Liberal Democrats to be distributing a magazine which says it is from the party, whilst their own party’s magazine, er…, doesn’t.

Of course these inconsistencies are nothing new.

Remember the Ealing Southall by-election for exmaple? That’d be when the Conservatives threatened to sue the Liberal Democrats for a photo in a leaflet saying it broke all manner of laws … on the very same day that the Conservatives themselves were delivering a leaflet which would have been guilty of all the same offences too if their interpretation of the law is to be believed.

P.S. Headline from ThameNews.Net: “Tory’s withdraw lawsuit threat” (20 June 2008)

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This entry was posted in Parliamentary by-elections.


  • Maybe it would be time to make an official complaint about BBC and Peter Henley? Maybe they then would be more carefull when making “journalism” and taking anything Cameron says as the truth?

  • Er, what’s where the party name got to do with anything, really?

    Why don’t I pose you another quiz: let’s say Party B put out a magazine which doesn’t say it’s published by them (I don’t actually know what you’re getting at here. If the Tory mag doesn’t have an imprint then why not say that outright, seeing as it’s an election offence).

    Party A however go on to put out a magazine which strongly implies that the ex-MP, now the Party B mayor of X-town, backs the Party A candidate and excoriates the Party B candidate in classic-Rennard Bromley & Chislehurst-esque tones.

    Which of these is worthy of a libel case?

    Or perhaps the time it takes Mark Pack to think up an answer would take him away from his urgent and unceasing task of thinking up some dreary Tory-bashing for just too long.

  • So who is the publisher of the Tory magazine?

  • It was probably a Tory stunt from the beginning, in order to create an impression that Lib Dems had done something illegal. They knew all time, that if they would indeed sue Lib Dems, they would lose in the court. God they are desperate!

    I recall that they have used the same stunt before, and never actually really carried out their threat.

  • please, please Sir can I add my name to the list of “threatened-with-legal-action-by-Tories-during-a-byelection” ??

    My offence was to ask (note, ask) the appropriate authority whether a piece of Tory behaviour was in breach of parliamentary rules ?

  • Dave Hennigan 20th Jun '08 - 8:27pm

    Can I add my name to a seperate list of people who have been threatened with legal action (several times) by Labour. I have got a template response!

  • Mark Pack

    Just curious as to why you think that picture of Boris, with his name by it, was there at the top of the column, if it wasn’t meant to give people that impression.

  • The Tories are always full of this sort of bullying bu****it.

  • passing tory 20th Jun '08 - 8:55pm

    Stuart, the strange thing is that the Lib Dems are the ones who are infamous amongst the political community for being the ones who play dirty. I myself have been subject of some quite horrendously misleading Lib Dem leaflets – some just misleading wording, but some just downright lies – purely because I am seen as “the enemy” and therefore considered fair game for this sort of behaviour. It is a rather nasty aspect of the Lib Dem approach to politics.

  • Cheltenham Robin 20th Jun '08 - 9:15pm

    “It is a rather nasty aspect of the Lib Dem approach to politics.”

    But fun all the same!

  • Cheltenham Robin 20th Jun '08 - 9:17pm

    The day that Boris spent campaigning in Henley – I hope he booked as annual leave.

    Otherwise the taxpayers of London are being sold short.

  • Oh, dear dear dear – Is this the best you Lib Dems can do ?? After your disgraceful approach to the Lisbon treaty in the Lords, I for one shall never be voting for you again..

  • Anom, you can’t vote for the Lords!not yet anyway.

  • Paul Griffiths 20th Jun '08 - 10:21pm

    Passing Tory @ 8:55: “… the strange thing is that the Lib Dems are the ones who are infamous amongst the political community for being the ones who play dirty.”

    Of course by “the political community” you really mean our political opponents who hate our guts anyway. If you had written (and could back it up) “amongst impartial observers” I might actually give a damn.

  • Grammar PCSO 20th Jun '08 - 11:04pm

    I agree with Paul – our local Tories (and Labour) love to slate us as the ones that “play dirty”.

    It’s part of the whole strategy to make out we’re opportunists who will say and do anything to get elected. Implicit in such mud-slinging is the shock and indignation that anyone could hold any views other than Labour or Conservative. I’ve yet to see any real basis for any claims that the Lib Dems generally campaign unfairly – indeed the dirtiest campaigners I tend to come across are Labour, who can be truly foul.

    [If I was an opportunist, only interested in getting elected, I’ll tell you something, I wouldn’t be a Liberal Democrat in my neck of the woods.]

    Given the timing of the Tory complaints, I can’t help but feel that this is to distract people from the news that a Tory leaflet claiming support for a local campaign is largely nonsense.

  • Passing Tory, how about the Tory literature in the Cheadle by-election?

  • Paul Griffiths 21st Jun '08 - 12:43am

    Anonymous, perhaps you mean well but “You’re no better than us” needlessly concedes the premise.

  • passing tory 21st Jun '08 - 7:05am

    Paul, why should political opponents “hate our guts”? Just because you seem to see the world that way doesn’t mean that everyone else has to. In fact, the “hating of guts” seems to be a particularly strong feature of Lib Dem politics and underlies why normally perfectly rational people think that the sort of behaviour being displayed by the Lib Dems in Henley are acceptable.

    Here’s a tip; there is no constitutional obligation to hate politicians from other parties. It is sad that people who are motivated by such hate seem to be so attracted to the Lib Dems.

  • passing tory 21st Jun '08 - 7:23am

    >> “It is a rather nasty aspect of the Lib Dem approach to politics.”

    > “But fun all the same!”

    I know what you mean (all’s fair in love and war, etc.) but at the risk of coming over as a killjoy there is a more serious side to this. Negative campaigning is undoubtedly very effective but is also a negative sum game. Once one group starts doing it, it hard for others not to join in and in the end the electorate just sees politicians in a bad light.

    As I mentioned above, I have been the target of some extremely misleading Lib Dem leafleting in the past. At one point I was extremely tempted to retaliate in kind but was talked out of it by a very wise agent who strongly advocated concentrating on making the case for myself rather than dissing opponents. If we want politicans to be seen as a constructive element within society then such an approach is necessary.

    This does not mean that I don’t understand _why_ the Lib Dems campaign this way. It is hard being the third party and the temptation is always to jump at every chance you have. But employing the level of mendacity that you do is not good for politics, and ultimately is not good for the liberal agenda either. How can you pursue a higher level of truth if you have got there through lies and duplicity?

  • Iain Roberts 21st Jun '08 - 8:34am

    Passing Tory:

    Sorry, but I find it very difficult to take criticisms of the Lib Dems seriously when, time and again, I’ve seen Tories and Labour do the same or worse.

    Don’t you think this “if we do it we’ll turn a blind eye, but if you do it we’ll scream and stamp our feet” approach from the Tories is just a little pathetic?

  • passing tory 21st Jun '08 - 8:46am

    Ian, do I turn a blind eye? Where? I disapprove of this sort of behaviour wherever it comes from. Can you point to where I indicated otherwise?

    I am sure there are Tories who are just as bad as Lib Dems in these matters, but the difference here is that the Henley approach is central to Rennardism; it is institutionalised within the Lib Dems in a way that is simply not the case with the Tories.

  • Martin Land 21st Jun '08 - 8:53am

    Passing Tory ‘I don’t understand why the Lib Dems campaign this way’.

    I never have in my life. But my candidates and I have been the object year after year of nothing but unbelievable filth from your ever so innocent Tory Party. In fairness, like you the local Tories accuse us of issuing misleading leaflets. Like saying that a particular candidate was no longer living in the Town was a lie, because they still had a house there. True, but it doesn’t alter the fact that they were living in Utah! Or pointing out that the Tory Council had plans to build on a local park when it was in their own council minutes. Aren’t we awful!

    But what do the Tories say about us? Very little on paper. But on the phone and on the doorstep, a torrent of lies and abuse is a consistent pattern that cannot be explained away. This years examples:

    ‘The Lib Dems want to give all the affordable housing to immigrants.’

    ‘The reason the sitting LD councillor wants to win is because he gets £50,000 a year (actually, £3,800)’

    ‘Oh, you’re thinking of voting for the SCOUTMASTER?’

    ‘It’s the LD’s who asked Tesco to start stocking Polish products.’

    I could go on, but why?

    The arrogance of the Tory Party subsided for a few years, ground down by failure, but recent opinion polls and local government successes (though not on my patch!) have just served to bring back the nasty party. I don’t know why the Tories even seek to deny this? Surely the party is there to reinforce privledge, represent those who would wish to become stronger at the expense of others and promote the virtues of greed and self-aggrandisement? Why not just admit it? Is it because, deep down, you know that the majority of the electorate are not like you, so it’s only by trying to appear reasonable that you can persuade enough people to support you?

    Come on, be honest – it’s much more comfortable to walk around without having to wear a mask. That way you could replace the proto-liberal/green leader you have today with someone who really represents what Tory members think and believe. The problem is that such a leader could never succeed in winning an election.

  • passing tory 21st Jun '08 - 9:34am

    “Surely the party is there to reinforce privledge, represent those who would wish to become stronger at the expense of others and promote the virtues of greed and self-aggrandisement? Why not just admit it?”

    Because it isn’t. I realise it is easy to demonise adversaries because then you don’t need to feel morally dubious about being nasty about them but you are fighting a phantom that isn’t there. Do you think that all the work the CSJ does is angled towards privilege? That the likes of Shaun Bailey and Ray Lewis are doing what they are doing to feather their own pockets? There are huge social and economics questions that need adressing in the country right now which the Lib Dems in Henley seem to be completely ignoring in favour of a negative, personality-driven campaign. If you want to wallow in such muck then who am I to stop you, but don’t then complain about Tories hogging the intellectual debate while you were off mud-slinging.

  • passing tory 21st Jun '08 - 10:05am

    In fact, Martin, here’s a nice little test for you. The following quote comes from a rather famous interview, much derided by Lib Dems. Which bit of it do you disagree with?

    “There is living tapestry of men and women and people, and the beauty of that tapestry and the quality of our lives will depend upon how much each of us is prepared to take responsibility for ourselves and each of us prepared to turn round and help by our own efforts those who are unfortunate.”

  • Passing Tory wrote: “Ian, do I turn a blind eye? Where? I disapprove of this sort of behaviour wherever it comes from. Can you point to where I indicated otherwise?”

    You didn’t comment on the Tory Cheadle by-election literature in any way.

  • Mark Pack

    That wasn’t a rhetorical question about why there was a picture of Boris Johnson at the top of the column, if it wasn’t intended to mislead.

    It’s not as though the Lib Dems normally adorn their literature with portraits of their political opponents – certainly not when those opponents are popular!

  • passing tory 21st Jun '08 - 10:49am

    Anon, as I said above, I don’t like it. It rather looks as though Stephen Day found a copy of the Lib Dem campaigning manual and implemented it enthusiastically. I can understand why he did it (in much the same way as I can understand why the Lib Dem have this as SOP) but no, I don’t approve. As I said above, this sort of campaigning is a negative sum game.

  • Paul Griffiths 21st Jun '08 - 10:52am

    Passing Tory, you ask why our political opponents, particularly Conservatives, hate us so much. Believe me I’ve often wondered about that myself. Of course, one manifestation of that hatred is regular accusations of dirty campaign tactics.

  • Iain Roberts 21st Jun '08 - 11:19am

    Passing Tory:

    I notice that when I suggest the Tories do the same as the Lib Dems and then criticise us for it, you turn that into “well I personally haven’t done those things.”

    Nice try – top marks for effort – but it won’t wash. What you or I have done personally isn’t relevant: you’re criticising the Liberal Democrat *party* for doing things that the Conservative *party* does time and again up and down the country and have done for many, many years.

    I can understand that you’ve chosen not to find out about dodgy Tory campaign tactics, but your own ignorance doesn’t mean they don’t exist, I’m afraid.

  • passing tory 21st Jun '08 - 11:20am

    Paul, where did I ask “why our political opponents, particularly Conservatives, hate us so much”. I think you are putting words into my mouth (again). I said they have a reputation for playing dirty, but as far as I can see the only one going down the route of hatred is you.

    The way that I see it is there are two aspects to politics – the process of governing and the political gaming. The former has inherrant merit, the latter does not (and indeed detracts from the political process as a whole). The sad thing is that the Lib Dems seem to spend a lot of energy and talent gaming, and very little governing, although you could claim this is a natural consequence of being a thrid party.

  • Grammar PCSO 21st Jun '08 - 11:23am

    Quite, Paul.

    Passing Tory, part of the narrative that your party and Labour like to weave about us is that we’re institutionally nastier campaigners than anyone else. Both parties attempt to use anything they can to add to this narrative. Does anyone remember the allegation that we were paying people displaying posters in Southhall? Whatever came of that? Cameron’s threats of legal action are just another aspect of this.

    I don’t doubt there have been members of my party who have done questionable things, but I don’t think either Labour or the Tories are any different – merely that it’s part of their strategy to have us labeled as the nasty party. That’s not to defend nasty and personal campaigning, but I suspect all the posters on this site have a list as long as their arm of awful things their opponents have done and said, whichever party they come from.

  • passing tory 21st Jun '08 - 11:25am

    Iain, you demonstrate precious little knowledge of the way that by-elections (which tend to be the worst in this regard) have been managed by the two parties. I don’t doubt that we will probably end up copying/adapting a lot of your techniques and management structure, although I do not consider this a great step formward for the body politic as a whole.

  • Grammar PCSO 21st Jun '08 - 11:29am

    PT: on the Governing/Gaming point – I agree, the Lib Dems are better at winning by-elections and campaigning generally than either the Tories or Labour, but on “Governing” – very hard in national politics for either of the opposition parties to do this, but in terms of adding to the intellectual debate, on issues such as Northern Rock, environmental politics and taxation policy, the 10p tax rate etc, who’s Party is it that has been holding the Govt to account and coming up with the ideas?

    Tip: it ain’t Cameron’s Conservatives, who’s strategy is to have no policies but to try to de-toxify the Tory brand through vague mood music. His strategy may be successful (or it may be that Brown is just so bad) but to me, this is not part of Governing, as you describe. It’s just playing the game.

  • Paul Griffiths 21st Jun '08 - 11:41am

    Passing Tory asked @7:05: “Paul, why should political opponents “hate our [i.e. Liberal Democrats’] guts”?”

    Apologies if the question was intended to be rhetorical.

  • passing tory 21st Jun '08 - 11:51am

    I agree, the Lib Dems are better at winning by-elections and campaigning generally than either the Tories or Labour

    That depends on whether you consider being good at the ability to manipulate and deceive the electorate (which is what political games tend to come down to) as “better”. You might. I don’t. It might be _more_effective_ but that doesn’t make it better. Totalitarianism is, by many metrics, very effective but that doesn’t make it good.

  • passing tory 21st Jun '08 - 11:56am

    Paul, not so much rhetorical as general (ie. you have substituted our == Lib Dem; it was intended as a general statmenet between members of different parties.)

  • @11.51am Haven’t you passed yet?

  • Paul Griffiths 21st Jun '08 - 11:59am

    This argument is getting tedious.

    (1) Passing Tory starts with the premise that Lib Dem campaigning techniques are systematically “dirty”.

    (2) This premise is denied, often quite explicitly, by every Lib Dem who responds.

    (3) Passing Tory simply restates the premise.

    (4) And so on …

    This is not going to end until we run out of electricity, so I’m off to the pub.

  • passing tory 21st Jun '08 - 12:17pm


    1) I tender a hypothesis (based on personal observation) that the Lib Dem campaigning techniques are fundamentally dirty. It is not a presmise, or an axiom, or anything like that.

    2) By no means all Lib Dem posters disagree – there are at least a couple who say something along the lines of “we are only as bad as you” and there is absolutely no convincing opposing evidence put forward.

    3) of course I am going to back up my argument. What do you expect.

    But enjoy your trip to the pub. And keep off the politics, it can make the beer taste sour 🙂

  • Another Lib Dem leaflet has annoyed a local primary school, and the party is quoted as saying “Our figures stand up but the tone of the language in the leaflet is something we need to look at in the future”:

  • Nice to see them accepting some criticism and dealing with it.

  • Cheltenham Robin 21st Jun '08 - 5:50pm

    Whatever our disagreements, I’m sure many Lib Dem bloggers would join me in saying that “Passing Tory” is always welcome on these pages for his well thought out and reasoned posts – never a rant.

    A credit to political blogging.

  • I quite agree with Cheltenham Robin above about ‘Passing Tory’. I would like to say again that I have probably seen more Liberal Party/Liberal Democrat literature over the past 30 years than almost anyone else in the country. I am totally opposed to negative campaigning by any party, but the proportion of Lib Dem literature that I have seen that could be construed as employing dirty tactics towards our opponents is absolutely negligible.

  • Grammar PCSO 21st Jun '08 - 8:54pm

    Passing T: “better at winning” than X or Y means quite simply “more likely to win” than X or Y. Nothing more, nothing less.

    The fact that the Liberal Democrats are good at winning by-elections is a completely separate issue from whether they “manipulate and deceive” the electorate (ie deceit is not a necessary precondition of winning by-elections).

    Your premise is based on your personal experience, but why is your personal experience any more valid than mine? My personal experience tells me that the Liberal Democrats are not institutionally nasty campaigners, and that the other parties are by no means innocent. My personal experience also tells me that both Tory and Labour love to put about how opportunistic my party is, will say and do anything to get into power, because they think this is the best way to beat us.

    As for “games”, you fail to engage with the point about the Liberal Democrats’ rather more impressive contribution to intellectual and public debate than Cameron’s Tory party. This is in many ways because the whole Cameron project is about “playing the game” – setting the mood music, detoxifying the brand and not saying anything that people can disagree with. Where they have, they’ve fallen apart somewhat – eg grammar schools, leaving the EPP. Even their votes on 42 days seemed to have more to do with defeating the Government than principle; it’s well-known that there are those in the shadow cabinet that support 42 days and only went along with this to make sure Brown looked bad.

    You may never rant, Passing T, as Cheltenham Robin says – but I don’t agree with him that your posts are always “well thought out”.

  • passing tory 21st Jun '08 - 9:23pm

    Grammar PCSO, I apologise for not “engaging” with you on the subject of the contribution to the public debate because I have simply had too much on and wanted to try not to stray too far OT. Suffice to say I don’t buy into your analysis. The only point I wold make on this is that, from my position, I think that the Lib Dems _should_ be making a bigger contribution than they do, and one of the reasons for this deficit is the concenration on the sort of campaigning approaches I have been going on about.

    It sounds like a rehash of the debates with Orangepan where he maintains that the Lib Dems are in a wonderful position and Cameron is in a horrible hole. If you want to see the world that way then go for it, but at some stage reality will pop along and tap you on the shoulder.

  • Grammar PCSO 21st Jun '08 - 10:25pm

    Suffice it to say, PT, suffice it to say.

    I’m not maintaining that Cameron is in a horrible hole and the Lib Dems are in a wonderful position – nothing I’ve said above suggests that. I think Cameron’s strategy is quite successful; but I think he’s being quite successful because they’re “playing the game” not “governing”, which is the distinction you wanted to draw in the first place.

    I don’t think you need to act like a Government in waiting to go up in the polls: Cameron proves my point.

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