Opinion: Calling time on Labour for their nasty campaigning

I occasionally get very angry when Labour’s sympathisers in the media talk about Labour’s liberalising of Britain.

Quite apart from the fact that it will soon be illegal to go to the shops without an ID card in your pocket, the Labour party is deeply illiberal in its campaigns. I’m sure many of you will have experienced campaigning at local level that demonises asylum seekers, gays or gypsies. We should be more willing to attack Labour for their disgusting campaigns – and make an issue of the character of the people who run them.

Anyone who has read The Political Brain (a study of the neuroscience of politics – the best political book of this year in my opinion) will remember that smears work because they are semi-conscious. Drew Western, the book’s author, makes the point that if you want to beat a smear (assuming it’s worth mentioning) then you have to take it head on and make an issue of the person doing the smear.

We successfully did this in the Cheadle by election when the Conservatives used some outrageous smears against our candidate, now MP, Mark Hunter. We should do it more.

I challenged a Labour activist friend on this recently, and he said that while this might have happened in the past he was sure it didn’t happen these days. Well here are some examples from the last couple of years:

Waltham Forest – Labour councillor accuses gay politician of being a paedophile – May 2006
Recently written about in The Times here.

Ealing Southall by election – Labour campaign implies Conservative candidate is promiscuous – July 2007
Labour leaflet implies that a Conservative candidate is promiscuous – by quoting a dictionary definition of ‘playboy’ which includes the word.

Lambeth – Gay politician accused of being paedophile – May 2006
Here’s a sequence of events:
· Anonymous person finds a gay male Lib Dem councillor posing nude on a dating website and sends the link to The Voice and the South London Press
· The South London Press publishes the front page on the ‘story’ quoting a Labour councillor commenting on this that ‘posing naked on a website is surprising conduct for an elected representative’
· The Lambeth Labour party press released the story pushing it further
· Anonymous leaflets appear accusing the councillor of being a paedophile – but only in his ward – not in any safe Lib Dem wards with incumbent gay councillors, nor in any marginal Labour wards with incumbent gay councillors
At best the Lambeth Labour party pandered to homophobia. At worst…
See here, here and here.

– Labour anti gypsy campaigns – 2007 and 2004
Labour was censured by the CRE for anti-gypsy campaigns in 2004 and a 2007 campaign is currently under investigation.
The CRE in Wales called the Labour 2004 leaflet on gypsies ‘a disgrace’ – see here and here.

Cornwall – Labour MP asks researcher to dig dirt on gay rival – 2004
Well known.

And a few more:

Leicester South
by-election 2004 – anonymous leaflets appear on the morning of the election picturing the Lib Dem candidate with a transexual and the headline ‘Is this the sort of man you want as your MP?’

Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election 2004 – virulently anti-asylum seeker letters and leaflets from (now MP) Liam Byrne – but only in the predominantly white areas.

There are in fact many more I could mention from the last four years alone. Which have readers of Lib Dem Voice seen?

Read more by .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • “Anonymous leaflets appear accusing the councillor of being a paedophile – but only in his ward – not in any safe Lib Dem wards with incumbent gay councillors, nor in any marginal Labour wards with incumbent gay councillors
    At best the Lambeth Labour party pandered to homophobia”

    Do you have proofs that the anonymous leaflets were from Labour? Or are you making just assumptions??

    “Cornwall – Labour MP asks researcher to dig dirt on gay rival – 2004
    Well known.”

    well, it’s actually “Researcher accuses Labour MP to have asked hom to dig the dirt on gay rival” as it’s just his version against her (but I see you are not giving her the benefit of the doubt).

  • “Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election 2004 – virulently anti-asylum seeker letters and leaflets from (now MP) Liam Byrne – but only in the predominantly white areas”

    Some of the leaflets were also pretty nasty. I recall to have seen a “Nokia Davies-Not Wanted one” and when I first saw it, I thought it was a BNP leaflet 😕

    The problem of nasty campaigns is indeed a serious one, especially in hard fought battles where it can be easy to be carried away and pass the legitimate line. I don’t think it’s just a Labour problem, but it probably concerns all parties

  • Daniel Bowen 23rd Sep '07 - 10:59am

    The problem with Labour is that they leave no prejudice unpandered to. The Hodge Hill literature was sub-BNP (as is the MP they got elected in the end).

    I could add to the list – am aware of a few examples in South Central in the few places they have any strength. When we started laying into the smearer personally, our vote went up. Coincidence?

  • Andrea – re 2 – no but it seems odd that there were no homophobic leaflets attacking gay Tory or Labour candidates. The Tories were in coalition with the Lib Dems in Lambeth and had no two way fights with them (though there was a three way fight in one ward). So politically the only party to gain from an LD candidate being smeared was Labour, the only party to make an issue of any candidates sexuality was Labour.

    In that ward the only political imprinted leaflets that went out were from Labour and the Lib Dems as far as I’m aware.

    Interestingly in another ward there was a Labour candidate who could have easily be misrepresented by anyone wanting to do a nasty campaign (and the local paper did run a story – without any other party commenting) – and nobody did that.

    Candy Atherton – fair point – I can’t actually find how the case was resolved from a quick look around.

  • Stuart Bonar 23rd Sep '07 - 11:29am

    Rob, you said that we successfully took on a smear in Cheadle. How did we do that? I don’t know the details. I’d like to know as there are times when that’s needed in campaigning and I am never sure what the best approach is. If you want to explain this in the password-protected part of this site then just say.

    Or message me through facebook. We exchanged messages about another issue recently.

  • “Candy Atherton – fair point – I can’t actually find how the case was resolved from a quick look around.”

    IIRC she won it, but it was due also because his researcher claim was made too late compared to events

  • Liberal Neil 23rd Sep '07 - 2:51pm

    5 – A leaflet was produced with the headline ‘Mark Hunter’s Criminal Record’ next to a press cutting about a rape case.

  • Grammar Police 23rd Sep '07 - 7:03pm

    Anonymous leaflets in my area in 2006 stating that if the Tories won they would open up all the cul-de-sacs so that residential roads would become rat-runs. Never came to light who it was, but odd – especially as it wasn’t (obviously) Tory policy to do so. Most likely beneficiaries were Labour – although I’ll accept that there was no evidence to say it was them. Interesting that this anonymous leafletting stuff happens quite a lot.

  • Hywel Morgan 23rd Sep '07 - 8:48pm

    Whilst I agree with the above – and I could add at least one worse example – I can’t say I always think we avoid such tactics ourselves.

    For example we criticised – at least in internal party training sessions – Labour’s use of photos of candidates looking less than credible in both Eastleigh and Littleborough and Saddleworth.

    By Bromley we had started to use the same tricks ourselves – actually well before that – eg against Rosie Cooper in Liverpool a few years back.

    Likewise the same criticism can be levelled at our decision in Ealing to highlight the ages of the relevant candidates (inaccurately as it turned out).

    I’ve also seen some equally bad leaflets from Lib Dems about gypsy’s over the years.

    There was a leaflet in Ealing attacking the Tories over “plans” to introduce alternate weekly collections which as far as I know they were pretty clear they wouldn’t. Certainly there was no credible evidence referred to that they were planning this locally but was based on a claim than so many Tory run councils had gone down this route. Particularly silly as a number of Lib Dem ones have done just the same.

    Are we as bad as Labour have been over the years? Absolutely not but our hands are certainly not clean.

    We are also pretty slow to make anything of attacks on the opposition for doing this. Cheadle was very much the exception IMO. No-one in the party hierarchy would to anything to criticise some absolutely disgraceful Labour leaflets in one ward in Oldham in 2006.

  • Lib Dem member 23rd Sep '07 - 9:33pm

    Mr Morgan:- it is rather odd for you to both complain about Liberal Democrats pointing out the faults in others by quibbling over other events, and also at the same time complain that the party doesn’t do enough to point out the faults in others. Perhaps you could start by setting everyone else a good example yourself of how you think we should behave.

  • The scurrilous Labour campaign in the 1994 Littleborough & Saddleworth byelection announced with a fanfare that the “New” Labour Party of Blair-Mandelson would be one of authoritarian paternalism, as it remains today under Brown.

    Combine Lenin’s dictum that there is no morality in the class struggle with Mandelson’s quip that “New” Labour is “incredibly relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, and you have Blair-Mandelsonism in a nutshell.

  • Hywel Morgan 23rd Sep '07 - 11:25pm

    “Perhaps you could start by setting everyone else a good example yourself of how you think we should behave.”

    Broadly – don’t do what we criticise others for doing. I don’t think it is inconsistent to criticise some of the things we have done in the recent past and also to complain when we didn’t attack Labour for putting out a leaflet from a white candidate in a largely asian area where he pictured the two Asian Lib Dem councillors and described himself as “not like these two”. To my knowledge we’ve not done anything so overtly racist and I’d be happy to criticise it if we have.

    As to setting an example I have to a limited extent attempted to do that over the years – eg not using scaremongering crime mailings and meaningless “more police now” petitions.

    Whatever I say I do post everything under my own name and don’t respond to points with ad hominem attacks from the cosy security blanket of anonymity.

  • Of course Fib-Dems are whiter than white aren’t you, A case here of the pot calling the kettle black.

  • Grammar Police 26th Sep '07 - 1:41pm

    Tooting Labour publishing pictures of a Lib Dem opponent’s house to stir up resentment because he lived on “millionaire’s row”. There’s obviously no morality in the class struggle!

  • David Morton 26th Sep '07 - 3:30pm

    I’ve considerable sympathy with the points Hywell Morgan raises. I don’t think we are anywhere near as bad as the other two parties but we can use all sorts of tactics that we moan about in others. This in evitably justified as “well the others are doing it and we need to fight back “.

  • Yasmin Zalzala 26th Sep '07 - 6:08pm

    When I was still active in the Liberal Democrats, and Labour were using the race card, I complained and even wrote an article for Lib Dem news. I got a sympathetic letter from Lord Dholakia at the time but that was it.

    The Liberal Democrats are just as bad as Labour.

    And I would add that they are worse than Labour based on my experience.

    My former colleagues in the Party even started to spread romours of bad conduct about me in the community.

    I suppose this is going to be censored by the moderator.

  • Grammar Police 26th Sep '07 - 10:25pm

    I’m not sure how only getting a sympathetic letter from Lord Dholokia proves that the Lib Dems are just as bad as Labour? Seems a bit of a non sequitur to me.
    As someone who’s very publicly fallen out with the Party I’m not surprised that there were some who said things about your conduct – it’s pretty much par for the course – whether it was justified or not. In my experience, across three or so constituencies, all the thoroughly nasty and personal campaigning has been by Labour.

  • Yasmin Zalzala 26th Sep '07 - 11:19pm

    Hello Grammar Police:

    I meant that the nastiness of the campaigning against me was much worse from my own Party when I refused to go away quietly after I was told I should go to leave the way clear for a white man as my race is a liability(see details on chris paul LoL, ethnic cleansing) was much much nastier than when I was competing against Labour with their racist innuendo.

    The reference to the letter from Lord Dhlokia was not meant to show that the Lib Dems as much worse than Labour. It was meant to highlight the feeble support that I got from the Liberal Democrats.

    I appreciate that your experience is different. Well are you a female muslim from an ethnic minority competing for a promising seat with a white Liberal Democrat councilor?

  • Lib Dem member 26th Sep '07 - 11:31pm

    Ms. Zalzala:- I am not sure that your repeated making of the same comments is compatible with your previous comment that you had put events behind you and are moving on.

    I hope it is not the case that someone is forging comments from you in order to discredit you by having you make repeated complaints, ones which are also always lacking in evidence.

    That combination does not leave a good impression.

  • Yasmin Zalzala 26th Sep '07 - 11:48pm

    Dear Lib Dem Member

    Are you a member of the Liberal Democrats?

    Is that why you are getting so hot under the collar?

    It is not for you or others to tell me what to do however I respect your right to your opinions

  • Grammar Police 27th Sep '07 - 8:03am

    “In Cheadle I’m told that every Tory trick was lifted off a Lib Dem leaflet. Every one of them.”

    Even if I did believe that was true, it wouldn’t really justify the Tories’ behaviour in Cheadle now would it.
    I don’t doubt there are some in the Lib Dems who use dirty tricks – and no doubt a number of those justify it in the same way you justify the Tories’ conduct above – ie “well, they do it to us”.

    And of course, claiming that all Lib Dems are chancers, opportunists who’d do anything to get elected is a well-known Labour and Tory smear to keep people voting for red or blue authoritarianism. Mate, it would be a hell of a lot easier for us all to get elected if we joined one of your lot!!

  • Hywel Morgan 27th Sep '07 - 10:04am

    “An example from Oldham Saddleworth as you have raised it:”

    Have you got a copy of this?

  • Or how about that great trick of the someone supercluing the doors shut in Cheadle the day of the Byelection. come four in the morning and we can’t get into the office but strangley enough a Lib dem poster splashed car is seen next to the tory club very early at about two but cameras weren’t recording the back enterance (which was the main enterance which you had to travel down the side road to get to).

    Oh or how about one prominant member when seeing me and some older female helpers. Followed the ladies as they were delievering, filming them and taking photos on his phone talking loudly on his phone to his so called agents to come down here and get them sorted, very classy.

  • Yasmin Zalzala 27th Sep '07 - 12:10pm

    Lib Dem Member

    Evidence is being presented on the following link


  • Gareth Williams 27th Sep '07 - 1:39pm

    Don’t make me laugh – Liberal Democraps are quite happy to use the black/poofta/kiddydidler/crook smear whenever they wish to.

    I am happy to see that they are prepared to hand it out but can’t take it back.

    It should be very interesting in South Wales next year.

  • John Hacking 27th Sep '07 - 1:56pm

    Lib dems complaining about negative campaigning when John leech Mp still refuses to apologise for his vile and disgusting use of cancer patients as political footballs in his (world famous) Christie Hospital is going to close hoax of May 2005.

    You are a bunch of jokers.

  • John Hacking 27th Sep '07 - 1:59pm

    Oh not to mention Leech (and his side kicks) use of recently bereaved familes to fuel his spurious “Southern cemetery is going to close and the Labour Council are going to leave open graves for you to fall down” outrage.

  • John Hacking 27th Sep '07 - 2:00pm

    Oh and of course the leaflets with rats wearing Labour Rosettes to promote their daft “bins only being emptied once a fortnight” scam.

  • John Hacking 27th Sep '07 - 2:03pm

    Any more Manchester examples anyone. How about the “absentee” Cllr is the only local candidate in Gorton during the Gorton South by-election (which he won in Oct 2006 and no-one has seen hide nor hair of him since) This despite the Labour candidate had been born in Gorton , lived in Gorton, married a man from Gorton, sent all her children to schools in Gorton, whilst “cllr” Glover had until a week before polling day lived on the other side of the city where he had moved to try and be the local candidate there.

    Shocking, they really are shocking.

  • John Hacking 28th Sep '07 - 11:26am


    Stop living in La La Land. You want evidence I’ll send you evidence if you tell me where to.

    I have leaflet after leaflet with this shit on. You lot play the cuddly “we’re not like the other lot” crap all the time but in reality at least in the urban centres you are like a bunch of rat boys. Smearing, lying, negative, bullying. You need to wake up to the bunch of arseholes that you have in your party and grow up.

  • It is evident to me, having kept a watching brief on this topic for a few days now, that most of you know each other, if only by online presence, and have engaged in some nose bloodying in the past, none of which has been forgiven judging by the violence of some of the vitriol above.

    I wonder – while I still can, as a recent recruit and therefore a comparative innocent – if you ever consider how your postings look to outsiders? Fair enough that this is an activists’ site – would you post like this in a more generalist forum? Would you talk like this in real life, in fact?

    [looks down nose and over glasses]

  • John Hacking 28th Sep '07 - 3:43pm

    Oh Yes.

  • Yes to which question? If “do you ever consider how your postings look to outsiders?”, please expand.

  • John: are you willing to condemn what Miranda Grell did?

  • John Hacking 28th Sep '07 - 4:17pm

    Never heard of her.

  • Bad excuse John, bad excuse – her story is mentioned in this very posting you’ve been making so many comments on 🙂 And it says something pretty unsavoury that both you and Chris as so absolutely desparate to avoid codemning homphobic campaigning by a leading Labour figure.

  • You were good enough to be the first person to answer my initial question, John, albeit rather briefly, now perhaps you might address my follow-up @ 36? You have answered everyone else at some length and I begin to feel rather left out.

    And surely you might be able to google Miranda Grell?

  • John Hacking 28th Sep '07 - 5:17pm

    With regard to Miranda Grell I agree with Chris Paul and what he said here:

    I have blogged this now. I don’t think she has actually been found guilty of claiming he was a paedophile. Will you please check that and update your coverage if appropriate?

    I think she has been found guilty of the lesser matters of for example saying he was gay and getting his partner’s age wrong. Which she admitted.

    Certainly if one reads the extended Times report I link to that seems to be the case. But they take the opportunity to run out all the allegations she WAS NOT found guilty of. So it’s hidden.

    The judge has presumably decided this (gay plus age mistake) is a punishable smear within the meaning of this law and if I’m right about this I think that sets a fairly low test precedent. Obviously wrong to out him etc but quite different from the stronger allegations.

    The reports e.g. at The Times rehearse all the more serious allegations but I don’t think those – hearsay and not admitted – are the basis of the verdict.

    The Times are being especially shoddy and linking MG with Cherie Blair, again.

    I am finding such coverage shocking. Despite Lib Dem interest in the case I cannot see any virtue in exaggerating what Ms Grell has been convicted of.

    If the judge has found on the paedophilia HEARSAY then whatever the underlying truth that is unsafe. So I think he’s just taken a hard line on what a smear is. Saying someone is gay and getting an age wrong can lead to fines and bars from office.

  • John Hacking 28th Sep '07 - 5:20pm

    With regard to answering your question

    “do you ever consider how your postings look to outsiders?”,

    Not much point really since they are outsiders and therefore not looking at what we post that is why we call them outsiders.

    Blogs are different from spoken speech, but then so is writing a letter or sending and email.

    I am only intereted in making the point that Lib Dems have a pretty shit record on negative campaigning and for them to get all bloody highe and moral might on blogs like this is bollocks.

  • Crikey, you’ve moved very quickly from claiming you’ve never heard of Miranda Grell to now claiming to have a detailed view of the conduct of the court case. Doesn’t quite ring true somehow.

    And of course the blog post you quoted is full of supositions and assumptions and wishful thinking – none of which are backed up by the evidence.

    I ask again: why are you so unwilling to crticise homophobia in the Labour party?

  • James Graham 28th Sep '07 - 6:26pm

    As I wrote on my own blog, Labour activists’ capacity for self-delusion is breathtaking. I don’t think that anyone is pretending that no Lib Dem campaigner has ever resorted to below-the-belt tactics. The only thing we take issue with is that we are worse than the party of Militant (many veterans of which are still active in the party and still adopting similar tactics), Tom Watson, Fraser Kemp and Miranda Grell. Even then, I don’t think anyone is even trying to claim the moral high ground: just an acceptance that Labour isn’t whiter than white itself.

    People like Chris Paul and John Hacking meanwhile appear to be saying that because the Lib Dems have been caught out on occasion (and some of their examples are weaker than others), Labour is entirely justified to do whatever it pleases. Anything’s justifiable so long as they can think of an example where the Lib Dems have also behaved badly.

    It is this blindness to criticism that makes Labour such a nonsense and ultimately such an empty exercise. Without unity, they are nothing. Yet that unity itself can, at times, be utterly worthless and despicable.

    It would be nice to think that it was possible to make them wake up via a comments thread such as this, but sadly that is not the case.

  • Hywel Morgan 28th Sep '07 - 7:23pm

    “If the judge has found on the paedophilia HEARSAY”

    It was not hearsay.

  • Geoffrey Payne 30th Sep '07 - 9:10am

    The sad truth is that ALL political parties get up to dirty tricks, and in my opinion they should stop.
    As to the question of who is worst, unless someone independent does some proper research on this we will never know. Individual case studies prove nothing as far as the general situation is concerned.
    There is another question that often get missed which is whether dirty campaigning actually works. Even if it does, it only works in narrow terms – getting you elected. More generally it puts people off from voting or getting involved in politics, and once you are elected you still have to prove you are better than the previous person, who may well be using the same tactics against you.
    Politics is a competitive business and that can bring the best and the worst out of people.
    In my opinion anyone in the Lib Dems who claims to be someone who practices community politics should not be using power hungry dirty politics.
    As to Yasmin Zalzala, I do not know you but I am sorry to read of your experience. However plenty have moved in the opposite direction. Defections are part of political life and happen all the time in all directions. From an ideological point of view, no modern Liberal or “Socialist” – if we can call new Labour that – should be racist, and I would suggest that your defection is based more on the failings of individuals and their understanding of what they are meant to believe rather than an ideological conversion. There are racists in all political parties and always have been. I am curious to know what you think of New Labour snuggling up to the Sun newspaper and whether you agree with their policies on asylum seekers, or the invasion of Iraq?

  • Yasmin Zalzala 1st Oct '07 - 12:16am

    Geoffrey Payne

    I have not defected to Labour.

    Please read the whole facts about what the Liberal Democrats did to me on Chris Paul LoL ethnic cleansing

    I fear you might have got the wrong facts about my story.

  • “Cornwall – Labour MP asks researcher to dig dirt on gay rival – 2004
    Well known.”

    Case dismissed by Employment Tribunal.

  • OK Labourites. What about this document I have in front of me titled ‘Beating the Liberals – Lessons from Lambeth’. In it Labour activists are encouraged to ‘Find one flaw and smear them all. Go negative until swamped by complaints. Then do it again.’

    I guess this might explain Labour’s continued use of homophobia as a campaign tool. With the death of socialism and now without a ‘moral compass’ Labour campaigners clearly don’t know there’s a line.

    If anyone wants a copy…

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Jeff
    Michael BG 20th Feb '24 - 1:23am: The Brexiteers thought the EU would not stick to its rules regarding trading with the UK. No rule breaking w...
  • Martin Bennett
    Entering a coalition is inherently perilous for us. In 2010 our vote was divided between convinced Lib Dems, anti-Labour voters, anti-Tory voters and protest vo...
  • Alex Macfie
    Ian Patterson: We were never even in contention in most of the Blue Wall seats we are now targeting. Previously safe Tory seats are now ultra-marginal, and that...
  • Nonconformistradical
    @Mohammed Amin Believe it or not some local objections might actually be valid. Such as a proposal to build in an area which might increase flood risk. Do yo...
  • Mohammed Amin
    I think the journalist John Rentoul deserves a trademark on QTWTAIN (questions to which the answer is no.) I have no objection to self-build for those with t...