Lynne Featherstone on Labour’s “lies and desperate smears”

A couple of weeks ago, we featured the Labour candidate in Leeds North West who had a bit of a problem with the, you know, facts. Greg Mulholland rightly called him out for it.

Now Lynne Featherstone’s Labour opponent has told a pretty outrageous untruth about her. They will now have to print and distribute a retraction.  From Lynne’s blog:

The letter to residents contained the false statement: “Lynne Featherstone…was even a minister in the Home Office when the disgraceful “Go Home” vans were sent out.”

At the time the vans went out (July 2013), Lynne Featherstone was in the Department for International Development, kick-starting the campaign to end FGM and fighting to protect the aid budget. Lynne Featherstone was a minister at DFID from September 2012 – November 2014.

Labour have been advised to immediately cease delivering the letters, and issue a retraction to all residents who’ve received the letter.

Lynne said:

Today, many residents received a letter from the Labour party – which contains false information.

In it they say I was the Home Office minister at the time of the ‘go home’ vans. This is not true.

My team and I are very upset with the lies and the desperate smears, which are being sent out by the local Labour campaign.

Just to be clear – at the time the vans went out (July 2013) I was in the Department for International Development, kick-starting the campaign to end FGM and fighting to protect the aid budget. Had I been in the Home Office at this time – those awful vans would not have happened.

As you know, I have been running a unity campaign here in Haringey, and have always been relentlessly positive about the benefits of immigration.

Contrast this to Labour – sending out leaflets about their ‘tough new approach to immigration’ to the most diverse parts of this constituency, pledging to freeze immigrants out of welfare for 2 years, and that‘control on immigration’ mug.

We’re so upset by the lies, that we’ve decided we have to take action. I don’t believe politics and elections should be conducted like this. That’s why we’ve asked Labour to stop delivering the letter and issue a retraction to everyone who received it.

That Labour resort to such tactics is presumably a sign that they know that they are behind in Hornsey and Wood Green. Let’s hope that Lynne is still the MP on Friday morning. She’s been one of the Liberal Democrats’ top performers in Government and we wouldn’t want to have a Parliament without her. If you are appalled by Labour’s tactics, help Lynne keep her seat by volunteering or donating here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Caron, you said the other week re. the NUS “Liar Liar” campaign:

    “Nobody lied. If you tell a lie, you are saying something that you know to be untrue… It was a misjudgement, a mistake, an error, but not a lie.”

    So what evidence does anybody have that this letter was a “lie” rather than just a colossal screw-up?

    That’s not to minimise the seriousness of this – even if it was just a mistake it’s very grave, but please let’s have the same standards for all.

  • Tuition fees aside, Lynne has been fantastic during this parliament and doesn’t deserve this smear. Sadly there was a Lib Dem in the Home Office who should, and according to Lynne’s statement above could, have stoped the vans…

  • Malcolm Todd 3rd May '15 - 10:45pm

    Of course there was a Lib Dem MP at the time. — Of course it wasn’t Lynne Featherstone and it’s right to point that out; but I’m not comfortable with the idea that you can simply disown something that your party, in effect, signed up to on the grounds that it wasn’t actually you in that job. Yes, you vote for an individual as an MP; but in the end,, the most important thing you know about that individual is their party label. If that weren’t true there wouldn’t be much point in a site like this, would there?

  • Malcolm Todd 3rd May '15 - 10:46pm

    Meant to say (oh for an edit button!) “Of course there was a Lib Dem MP in the Home Office at the time.”

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 3rd May '15 - 11:03pm

    You are missing the point, Malcolm Todd. Lynne was accused of having something to do with those vans. She did not. She would not. The party never signed up to the vans, either and, in fact, once they came to light, we made sure that they were stopped.

  • Malcolm Todd 3rd May '15 - 11:25pm

    No, I’m not. I absolutely get that the argument of this article is about whether Lynne Featherstone herself was within touching distance of the decision to run that awful advert, and I said that it was quite right to point that out. I also said that the party “effectively” signed up to it, by which I mean only that a Lib Dem government minister was implicated and wasn’t disowned. (I know he was sacked eventually, but not over this.)
    I just think it’s making too much of a rather marginal distinction to say that it wasn’t this Lib Dem who was involved, it was some other Lib Dem. It’s not unreasonable, in my view, for Lynne Featherstone to suffer for the consequences of decisions (or neglect) by other Lib Dem ministers. The party label matters.

  • I think it is entirely wrong that Lynne gets singled out in this way and the suggestion that she was the home office minister responsible was a bare faced lie. Jeremy Browne was sacked by Nick Clegg on this issue and he is standing down as a result and the policy did not go ahead afterwards anyway, so the party dealt with this decisively anyway. It has nothing to do with us.

  • Ryan McAlister 3rd May '15 - 11:53pm

    Geoffrey, that is nonsense about Jeremy. Complete and utter fabrication, insofar as his reasons for standing down go.

  • It was wrong and the Labour candidate should admit that a mistake was made. However, if we are talking about dishonesty, the main reason Lynne Featherstone is way behind in the polls and an outsider at the bookies is because of tuition fees. She made a pledge not to raise them and then voted to triple them. I think a lot of voters would consider that dishonest.

  • She also voted for NHS re-organisation, privatisation of Royal Mail (admittedly a manifesto commitment, but very unpopular with the general public, and it was not widely known the Lib Dems supported this), the bedroom tax, legal aid cuts and the DRIP bill, and was absent for the secret courts bill. It’s not a good voting record.

  • Malc wrote:

    “It was wrong and the Labour candidate should admit that a mistake was made.”

    How do you know it was a mistake? The evidence points to the act being intentional, or at the very least reckless (which is a dishonesty standard). And it is the election agent who is liable, not the candidate.

    ” the main reason Lynne Featherstone is way behind in the polls and an outsider at the bookies is because of tuition fees. ”

    Do you have any evidence to support these assertions? If she was way behind in the polls, why would the party be flooding her constituency with activists?

    “She made a pledge not to raise them and then voted to triple them. I think a lot of voters would consider that dishonest.”

    A lot of voters might consider that dishonest. But they would be wrong. The House of Lords made clear in Bromley v GLC more than 30 years ago that elected representatives are not irrevocably bound by election promises.

    Don’t forget that David Cameron promised the electorate that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS at the very moment that Andrew Lansley was planning one. Has that made David Cameron an outsider in this election?

    Then the leader of the Labour Party took Britain into an illegal war on the basis of false claims about weapons of mass destruction (an issue of somewhat greater moment than student tuition fees, I might add). Yet he went on to win a third term.

    The student tuition fees issue has been blown out of all proportion. Promises were made that simply could not be delivered. And it was the Labour Party that introduced student tuition fees in the first place.

  • I like Lynne Featherstone, but the sad fact is that the racist van is symptomatic of the way the coalition was conducted, and all the ministers with possible exceptions of Norman Baker and Vince Cable made it too easy and too comfortable for the Tories, our MEPs paid the price and now half of our MPs will. That is the true meaning of collective responsibility.

  • If Moggy is correct – and I’ve seen the allegation made elsewhere – then Lynne would have a strong case for an election court to have the result thrown out and her opponent disqualified from office. The law leaves no wriggle room for printing a deliberate untruth about an opponent which you have no grounds for believing to be true. We are in Phil Woolas territory.

    Of course no guarantee about winning any by-election, the electorate do not usually thank anyone for forcing another election. However if it removes a candidate who would stoop to this, as it did in Oldham, then arguably worthwhile even if the by-election is lost.

    Hopeful that this will all be academic when Lynne wins this week

  • Tpfkar is absolutely right…a lie (as has been said on these pages before) is where you make a statement knowing it to be false.
    This should encourage Lynn as it appears Labour are losing the debate in Hornsey and are having to resort to these tactics. Personalised attacks are used extensively in all parties campaigns but they must be true

  • Rebecca Taylor 4th May '15 - 9:07am

    Lynne’s Labour opponent made the same claim at a hustings I believe 2 weeks ago and was corrected by Lynne. The letters were received on Saturday (perhaps some on Friday), so probably printed a few days before (can’t even imagine they were printed 3 weeks before). I think therefore it’s pretty safe to say Labour knowingly sent out a letter lying about Lynne. The Labour candidate incidentally has not even tried to defend herself.

    My personal view is that the Labour Party hoped that smearing Lynne so close to the election might mean that at least some of the mud might stick and that there either wouldn’t be time to distribute a correction before polling day or that enough voters wouldn’t read the correction.

    As for the despicable Go Home vans, I had understood that Jeremy Browne didn’t even know about them and certainly never agreed to them ie the Tories went ahead with them without consulting or even informing us. As soon as they were discovered, we condemned them without hesitation.

  • Is it just me or does anyone else think it’s a bit rich the LDs accusing other parties of lying.

  • Sesenco

    I have seen only one poll where Lynne has any chance of holding her seat and that poll was carried out on behalf of the LibDems and showed her just 1% behind Labour. The Ashcroft poll has her miles behind, the bookies make her a big outsider and local elections covering her area have been dreadful for the LibDems. The LibDems are of course flooding her constituency with activists – they are desperate to save her seat. She has possibly the highest profile of any female LibDem MP and it will be a mini disaster if Labour take Hornsey and Wood Green. However, the LibDems are still in single figures in the national polls and we are only a few days away from the election, like it or not many of their MP’s will lose on thursday.

  • @malc
    “The LibDems are of course flooding her constituency with activists – they are desperate to save her seat.”

    If the Lib Dem activists had any sense they would be concentrating their efforts on helping those MPs who kept their pledges. In the long run, I genuinely believe that the removal of the likes of Featherstone, Clegg, Alexander and Swinson will be a good thing for your party.

  • Jackson 4th May ’15 – 10:25am …..Is it just me or does anyone else think it’s a bit rich the LDs accusing other parties of lying…….

    Shame on you! LibDems only make ‘understandable mistakes’..

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 4th May '15 - 5:13pm

    Yes, yes, yes, with Malcolm Todd’s ‘oh for an edit button!’ Lynne Featherstone is fighting for something which doesn’t ring bells in UK as it applies mostly to foreign-born women and girls. But FGM is seriously sexist and as a party of equality we want Lynne in parliament to focus on equality in all its variations. The Labour party should be ashamed to promote any incorrect information which is likely to swing a tight contest for this seat. The problem is that wrong information tends to stick and retractions don’t.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 4th May '15 - 5:14pm

    Don’t bother moderating my comments. I’m leaving.

  • David Phillips 4th May '15 - 7:01pm

    This is absolutely typical of Labour. They will knowingly use every possible lie and smear just before polling day confident that if they are caught out, it will be too late to correct their propaganda. ‘Misunderstanding’ – who are you trying to kid?There are some very sick people in that lot. The best answer is to see their faces on polling day when they know they’ve lost.

  • Malc wrote:

    “I have seen only one poll where Lynne has any chance of holding her seat and that poll was carried out on behalf of the LibDems and showed her just 1% behind Labour. ”

    Yes, that is correct. A poll that named the candidates showed Lynne 1% behind Labour. Polls that did not name the candidates have shown her much further behind.

    The party has done several things wrong in the way that it is running this campaign, but it has done one very key thing right. It has used internal polling as a guide for allocating resources. If the internal polling did not show Lynne with a realistic chance of winning, resources would be allocated elsewhere. If she was really as far behind as you suggest, then her constituency would have been shut down and activists told to go elsewhere. But the opposite has happened. Moreover, the campaign team will know by this stage how Lynne has done in the postal vote.

    Similarly, if Labour was confident of beating Lynne, would they bother to publish untrue statements about her? Telling lies about a candidate is a sign of desperation. It is also an offence under the ROPA and could lead to the prosecution of the Labour candidate’s agent. It is a very big risk to take.

    If you want to know which seats are in contention for the Liberal Democrats, follow Nick Clegg. There are certain constituencies that Nick has not visited during the campaign. Hornsey & Wood Green is not one of them.

  • Malcolm Todd 5th May '15 - 5:12pm

    Malcolm Redfellow
    I’m pretty sure it was Jeremy Browne, not Norman Baker.

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