A particularly vitriolic campaign been been launched today by prominent Tories to replace Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy with the aspiring conservative Adeela Shafi. The LibDems appear to have been taken in, and want to clamber aboard.
What singles this campaign out from both the local and the national party sparring (increasingly irrelevant to most of us, given that there's next to nothing to choose between them) is its personally vindictive nature and its very dodgy relationship to electoral law.
Kerry McCarthy makes no secret of her passion for blogging and twittering, and we know from her record that she's the compleat Labour loyalist. Many of us would like to see a better MP representing Bristol East. But if she's to be challenged, let it be on performance and policy. By contrast, this new campaign appears to have been sparked by tweeter Kerry 'blocking' responses from senior Tory twitterer and blogger Iain Dale. Big deal. Result... the #KerryOut campaign hosted by Dale's fellow blogger Harry Cole
Back in the dark days of Southville 2007, something similar happened. The issue was more serious than a tantrum over the loss of a tweet ration, it was a privatisation of the council's Home Care service, and the third party was the T&G union. The T&G distributed (highly misleading) leaflets in Southville with the slogan "Don't Vote Green" (in other wards, where the fight was between Labour and LibDem, the same leaflet bore the slogan "Don't Vote LibDem"). Southville's Green candidate Tess Green was defeated by a mere 6 votes by Labour. Labour and the T&G got away with it because, apparently, it's OK for a third party to campaign AGAINST a candidate, provided the electorate isn't urged to vote for a particular rival. The case law is based on a key decision (R v BOWMAN 1998) where a 'pro-life' campaigner put her energy - and money - into opposing particular pro-abortion candidates. By no means the same thing as the T&G got up to, but enough to make litigation an unacceptable risk!
In an attempt to avoid a similar charge, the #KerryOut campaign claims to be "not officially endorsed by Adeela Shafi and completely independent of the Conservative Party machine". You don't have to look far to find what it's really about, though. Click the 'Donate' button, and you're taken straight to a site appealing for cash and help for the Tory cause in Bristol East. Not the Green candidate, not the LibDem. This is campaigning by a third party to secure the election of a particular candidate.
I HOPE the conservative candidate will show the wisdom and the courage to persuade these 'supporters' to pull their vicious campaign, which at best will serve only to put ordinary people off the whole business of politics, politicians, and elections.
I feel sure that the Green Party candidate, Glenn Vowles, will keep well away from any association with the #KerryOut campaign. But it's easy for him... he's got a set of sane and distinctive policies to offer the voters that mark him out from Labour, Tory, and LibDem.
Course, I would say that ......
Finally, a sign of real Tory principles re-emerging? The 'green tree' is the logo under which they've been disguising themselves as green progressives. The Union Flag one (unless that's a plastic bag caught up in the tree) is the new one, to appeal to activists... it comes from the official 'myconservatives.com' site.