Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I can't let this lie

I think watching Martin Bright comes under what this blog is supposed to do.

As so often, I'm ambivalent about this. Bright makes some decent (no pun intended) points.

I'll point you to fellow-Decent John Rentoul for some background.

However, I managed to take the elementary precaution of reading the judgment – or at least its conclusions. I am afraid that I had no idea that there was a law against telling lies in election campaigns. But there is, and, now that I have looked at it, it is a good law. It is section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, which says that anyone who "for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at the election, makes or publishes any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate's personal character or conduct shall be guilty of an illegal practice, unless he can show that he had reasonable grounds for believing, and did believe, that statement to be true".

It is a limited and specific law, designed as a fail-safe for extreme cases. It is intended to prevent candidates publishing factual assertions about their opponents that they know, or should know, to be untrue, and which are likely to affect the outcome of the election. In such cases, the law of defamation offers insufficient remedy, because the successful candidate might simply pay damages while continuing to serve as an MP, which would be a reward for "illegal practice".

Indeed, there is such a law, and it was passed under a Tory government (indeed under Mrs Thatch herself, not under one of those wibbly-wobbly pseudo-leftie Tories like Heath or Macmillan).

Politics is a dirty business and general election campaigning is politics at its dirtiest.

That's Martin Bright. But, if I may make a suggestion, perhaps politics could be cleaner. The Marquis of Queensbury cleaned up boxing. It's still thuggish and about breaking jaws, but not the sci-fi death sport it once was. Does this have to be an eternal truth? I don't think the voters really want dirt. Laws making general elections less dirty, passed, perhaps ironically enough, by elected MPs, may be a good start.

I was not comfortable with Phil Woolas's "robust" approach to immigration policy. And I cringed at his election leaflets. His attempt to scare white working class voters was distasteful to this north London liberal.

And to me. See: Martin Bright and I agree on some things.

But the gleeful way in which he has been hung out to dry by the Labour Party has been more so. How quick were Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman to reject him – and how slow to condemn Ken Livingstone for backing a non-Labour candidate in the Tower Hamlets mayoral election in London.

But not on everything. Woolas broke the law. A sensible law, passed by his (ex-) peers. Livingstone didn't. He's a loose cannon and a bete-noire of Martin Bright, but he also has a power base - and in this case he stayed on the right side of the law.

I called Martin Bright's prose "over-caffienated" (have lost the link, sorry) once, and it's his adjectives I object to as much as anything here. I think Miliband was very slow to reject Woolas. He should have realised this was coming, and at least looked at those election leaflets as Bright did. And 'gleeful'? No, I really don't see any evidence for that, other than the celerity of their reaction. And, of course, they'd have been torn apart had it been slower.


Blogger AndyB said...

"I was not comfortable with Phil Woolas's "robust" approach to immigration policy. And I cringed at his election leaflets. His attempt to scare white working class voters was distasteful to this north London liberal."

This is just mealy-mouthed crap, isn't it? The Decent M.O. is to call people Islamists, allies of Islamists, or 'objective' allies of Islamists. That's why he's only uncomfortable, he only cringes, when he sees a member of a 'left-wing' party campaign for election using racist lies?

11/24/2010 09:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Cian said...

Is Woolas their mate, or is this some kind of tribal New Labour thing.

I do like the complaint from many MPs that this will have a chilling affect on free speech. Good, politicians shouldn't be able to tell lies in political campaigns. As lines in the sand go, its a good 'un.

11/24/2010 09:27:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

The first. Woolas was well liked in his media career before politics. He's a classic example of what can happen to a decent guy when he gets addicted to politics.

11/24/2010 09:40:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

I do find it really weird just how easy a ride journos give their fellow journos who migrate to the world of politics.

See also every media outlet pretty much letting Bo-Jo get away with anything, despite his clear ineptitide at running London; see the way that Cohen et al fuken love Michael Gove, who is serially incompetent; and see this Woolas love. Journalism blood evidently runs deep...

also afaict Woolas first ot elected using, shall we say, questionable methods...

11/24/2010 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Woolas was president of the NUS before he worked in media. The politics came first.

He was NUS President when I was a student: I don't recall thinking much of him. Though then again, I don't recall thinking much of anybody. NOLS though, wasn't he? Wankers.

11/24/2010 09:40:00 PM  
Anonymous belle le triste said...

Isn't it a weird but true fact that many more boxers actually die since gloves were introduced than in the old savage bareknuckle days? Because before gloves the head was a very hard and painful place to punch, for the puncher?

Though now I've written this I'm not sure that Queensberry actually introduced gloves...

11/24/2010 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I looked up the Queensbury Rules (portrait of Jimmy Wales). I'd guess from rules 8 and 9 that gloves pre-existed, but can't be sure.

However, "you must not fight simply to win; no holds barred is not the way; you must win by the rules" fits what I was trying to say much better than I anticipated.

11/25/2010 10:33:00 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

I think it's not true, simply because the Queensbury rules (or rather the general gradual codification of the sport) introduced limits on the number of rounds and weight classes. Some people do think that bare-knuckle boxing would be safer today for that reason though (although I doubt it personally since boxers would presumably still wear gloves for training and sparring)

11/25/2010 01:47:00 PM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

More on Martin Bright, who is very opposed to the arrest of Israeli war criminals.

Here he seems to support the arrest of Bangladeshi war crimes suspects.


Probably because they would be members of Jamaat-e-Islami - public enemy number one for the Decents, especially in Tower Hamlets.

Unfortunately Bright has illustrated his piece with a photo which shows a member of parliament from the ruling Awami League - Decent good guys - bayoneting prisoners.

Epic Decent fail!

12/01/2010 12:37:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home