Those FibDems…


5:25 pm - June 17th 2009

by Rupert Read    


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Earlier this month, I was narrowly beaten in my quest for a seat representing Eastern England in the European Parliament. The Green Party vote rose massively, by 60,000, to 140,000 (9%) – but this was still 1% short of what was needed to win a seat.

This was obviously very disappointing; but what made it worse was the knowledge that a systematic campaign by the LibDems to stop me from winning may have been what made the difference between me winning and not. Of course, there is nothing wrong with one Party trying to stop another Party from winning; to some extent, one might even say that that is what Parties are for (though it is unfortunate, to say the least, that the ‘FibDems’ did this when they had little prospect either of losing their seat nor of gaining a second seat – and when the all-too-predictable consequence of what they did was letting in a second kooky climate-denying UKIP MEP, instead of a Green…). But what is wrong is to stop another Party from winning by systematically misrepresenting the facts about the electoral arithmetic…

The FibDems may well have defeated me simply by spreading via 3 million leaflets the untruth that the Green Party allegedly ‘couldn’t’ win in Eastern Region.
What happened was this: The FibDem ‘freepost’ leaflet, delivered to all households in my Region, included passages such as this:

  • “It takes about 150,000 votes to elect an MEP in the East of England. The Greens only got 25,000 votes across the whole of the East at the last General election.” Yes, you read right. They cite the Green voting figures at the last General election – when we didn’t stand in lots of seats; and anyway, Euro elections, unlike General elections, are by proportional representation! So naturally, we get a much higher vote in Euro-elections: the fact is that we got 84,000 votes last time the Euro-elections were held. Unmentioned, of course, by the FibDems. (I thought that FibDems LIKED proportional representation. Funny how they didn’t even mention in most of their recent leaflets that the electoral system in the Euro-elections is a form of proportional representation… For fear that doing so would benefit the Greens, as people would then see through the FibDems’ weird pretence in their leaflets that only a FibDem vote would stop a Conservative from being elected. …When in actual fact voting Green was the best way of stopping another Conservative/UKIP person from being elected).
  • “The Green Party has no chance of electing a European MP for the East of England.” Simply false. Obviously we had a chance – in fact, we very nearly did it. The media recognised that we were serious players: for instance, before the constraining election-period broadcast-media regulations kicked in, the Beeb afforded us a slot to air our ‘manifesto’ on an equal footing with the other four main Parties in the Region. We had/have grown enormously in strength across the Region since 2004.
  • “[The Green Party] will not come close to getting the votes they need to elect an MEP across the East of England.” Wrong. We came very close – far, far closer than the FibDems came to getting a 2nd MEP. And this was predictable; media commentators and others had been predicting it for some time. …We came this close, despite the FibDem campaign of disinformation.
  • Sadly, we know that the FibDem disinformation campaign worked. We heard reports from across the Region of people saying that they weren’t going to vote for us because they had read a leaflet saying we could not win. Other people, more gallingly, came to us after they had voted saying that they were sad that – according to the FibDems – we lacked the strength to win a Euro-seat, and so they had voted FibDem. When we told these people the truth they were gutted/furious.

    How many people have been influenced in this way? We can’t know; but the number of anecdotal reports was significant; and if just one in 300 recipients of the 3 million FibDem misinformation leaflets voted FibDem rather than Green as a result, then that makes the difference between my having been elected or not.

    It might be said, in the FibDems’ defence, that maybe they simply judged that we were not going to perform as well as in fact occurred, and that they were making an innocent mistake. This possible exculpation is ruled out by what happened in the final few weeks of the campaign. By then, national opinion polls were repeatedly showing the Green Party running at between 9 and 15% – as usual, we had risen in the polls in the run-up to the Euro-election itself. Yet the FibDems continued to pump out exactly the same misinformation, regardless (here is a prime example). They continued to use the very phrases quoted above in their leaflets. They systematically misrepresented the situation. They ignored the opinion poll evidence that in one case even put us ahead of them nationally (and regionally), and that repeatedly showed that we were in very real contention.

    To many observers of or participants in the British electoral scene, these tactics will be depressingly familiar. It is a well-known fact across the Parties that, by and large, FibDems are systematically the worst liars and manipulators of all. This sits oddly with their somewhat cuddly and fluffy national image. The latter is sustained I think by their distance from power; on the local level, on the ground, most FibDems fight dirty.

    I know this from personal experience both as a victim and as a former perpetrator: I used to be in the FibDems… As young FibDems, we were trained in the ‘best’ ways to do things such as these: Create dodgy graphs that showed our support as stronger than it really was; Select irrelevant statistics to make our case for being in the race and the best tactical option sound as strong as possible, and; Pull opponents’ leaflets out of letter-boxes without being caught, among other things.

    Why are the FibDems so dirty? I think the underlying reason is that they are more a vote-seeking franchise than a party with any real convictions. They lack consistent policies around the country; what FibDems do share with each other in my experience is an insatiable desire to pile up votes, no matter what the cost to others or to their own consciences.

    Why have I written this article? Out of anger at the injustice that I have just suffered, of course; but, actually, I was determined to write this article anyway, whether or not I was elected. Because I just cannot bear any longer the harm that the FibDems are doing to our political system. And at this time, above all others, it simply appals me that they might get away with it… I consider running a clean campaign every bit as important a part of the ‘clean up politics’ agenda as having a clean expenses sheet. The people of this country are earnestly and desperately looking to politicians to clean up politics, in the wake of the dreadful MPs’ expenses scandal, which has so badly implicated many trusted ‘honourable members’ from all three main Parties.

    The FibDems, at this election just gone, have therefore betrayed the voters’ trust at the worst possible time. This was a pre-determined, deliberate attempt to undermine the Green campaign using indefensible statistics all across the Region (And they waged similar campaigns elsewhere in the country – e.g. in West Midlands Region, and even in London where, absurdly, they insisted that ‘the Greens can’t win’ even when we HAD already won! Jean Lambert has been a Green MEP for London for 10 years). Rather than compete with us on policy, they chose, deliberately, to misrepresent the voting system and our prospects.

    Such a betrayal of trust will not easily be forgiven; at least, not without an expression of contrition and a sincere promise not to re-offend.

    I throw down this gauntlet to the FibDems: Please mend you ways, and make clear now your intention to do so… If you do not, then we will never let you – nor the public – forget the wrong that you perpetrate, each time you draw a misleading graph, cite an irrelevant statistic, deliberately mislead readers about another Party’s chances…

    And, as part of the reforms that politicians are hoping to make to start to restore badly-damaged public trust in the political system, we need I believe some kind of system of regulation of what Parties say in their election leaflets. A start would be for political parties at least to have to meet the minimal standards demanded by the Advertising Standards Authority.

    In the meantime: Who now would trust the claims in a LibDem election leaflet… ever again?

    UPDATE…

    The election leaflet referred to in this article has been uploaded to ‘The Straight Choice’ and can be viewed in its entirety here – please feel free to judge for yourself [Unity].

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    About the author
    This is a guest post. Rupert Read is a Green Party councillor and ran as a MEP candidate in Eastern region in 2009. He blogs at Rupert's Read and Comment is free
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    Reader comments


    It’s a sad reflection on any party that they devote their enegies to stopping another winning a seat rather than doing their best to win it for themselves. But that, I’m afraid. is what politics is about in so many cases. Campaign positively on what it is that YOU have to offer and win votes as best you can and leave other candidates to do the same!

    Thanks, Mike; agreed. That is the great majority of what we [Greens] do in election campaigns. But after the campaign is over, it seems useful to reflect on it.
    Ergo this piece.

    More information on the Fib Dems’ lying leaflets:

    ‘With lies like these I’d rather the LibDems fiddled their expenses’: http://adrianshort.co.uk/2009/05/15/418/

    ‘Lib Dems’ leaflets: Legal, indecent, dishonest, untruthful’: http://adrianshort.co.uk/2009/06/04/434/

    FibDems is as pathetic a term as ZaNuLieBore – whatever the merits of your case, using that kind of juvenile namecalling makes you look like a crank. Shame, as the article otherwise is quite interesting.

    I am a member of the LibDems, though I cannot speak for our Eastern colleagues (what’s that, different policies in different areas….)

    I gather the leaflets took the General Election results as a guide to performance, which is misleading, but still all parties can take statistics from elections past to indicate performance. It is not always nice and not always acceptable. but any potential voter confusion can be easily sorted with nice cold hard figures. Statistics verses statistics, just what this time of anti-politics needs.

    Of course the Greens could easily have been defeated by the number of candidates on the ballot paper, or specifically Animals Count, or any other factors. If there’s an issue with the LibDem leaflets, then yes it’s a point, but not the complete story.

    Welcome to the world of politics.

    FibDems is as pathetic a term as ZaNuLieBore – whatever the merits of your case, using that kind of juvenile namecalling makes you look like a crank. Shame, as the article otherwise is quite interesting.

    You sort of have a point. Subbing the piece I was a bit uneasy with the term. But then the piece is written in frustration and disillusionment, so there was an element of anger in the usage.

    John B, Fib Dems is a play on words based solely on their reputation for misleading electoral communications. It makes sense, given that they are loathed by campaigners from the other parties. This blog speculates if such tactics will be rescinded now that Rennard has stepped down because of his expenses fraud, err, ‘health reasons”, and the comment on it from someone in the Eastern region is interesting:

    http://kerroncross.blogspot.com/2009/06/lib-dems-havent-changed-part-2.html

    Comparing Labour to Zanu PF is ridiculous – at least Zanu PF don’t call themselves progressive.

    *That last sentence was meant ironically*

    10. Richard (the original)

    Don’t the Lib Dems have a reputation for this sort of behaviour though?

    Ooh – someone calling for grown-up politics and calling opponents the FibDems. You’ve got my complete respect now.

    All parties use statistics to portray themselves as more likely to win and their opponents as more likely to lose. The Lib Dems are no worse than any others and, in some cases, much better. I’ve seem some shocking misuses of the statistics from the other parties.

    If anyone wants to single out the Lib Dems as being worse than Labour, Conservatives or Greens I’d suggest they try actually looking at some of their own literature sometime.

    Richard – the Lib Dem’s opponents would certainly like to pretend that the Lib Dems are worse that the others. The trouble is, they’ve never produced any evidence. Anecdotes and slurs.

    I am not sure if the Greens are in a principled position to call UKIP cranks until they get their position on woo-mongery sorted.

    We do, it is true, have people in our party and even whole local parties which engage in this kind of thing. It does not logically follow, however, that all of us are like that. As i’ve said on this site before, that kind of thing actually pisses off Lib Dem members too! We get just as irritated with party members who undermine the party’s message and claim to be above the old dirty tricks of the main two parties as those who fight the party.

    That said, it’s virtually inevitable that a minority within each party takes these things too far. My uncle is a Lib Dem councillor in Brent, in London. There, the local Labor party ruthlessly smears local Lib Dem councillors and candidates. Miranda Grell anybody (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miranda_Grell)? So i accept what you’re saying, Rupert, but that doesn’t justify a) descending into frankly pathetic namecalling which, as has already been said, undermines your perfectly legitimate point, or b) generalizing about the entire party. It’s analogous to the attitude the public take to MPs’ expenses -> “a few have been reported as having fiddled things, ergo they must all be at it.

    As for the Lib Dems being “a vote-seeking franchise”, that claim is practically self-refuting. Iraq war anyone? Vince Cable on the economy? Nick Clegg’s recent announcement of the party decision to ditch Trident? There are lots of issues on which not only to we have worked-out, coherent and liberal policy, but which we have been ahead the major parties on too.

    15. Matt Hanley

    In a recent by-election in north London, in a ward where the Greens had been a close 2nd to Labour for many many years, the LibDems produced and repeatedly used a graph on their leaflets showing the results for the whole Parliamentary constituency at the 2005 general election, in which they were 2nd to Labour. The accompanying writing, telling the reader that these were results from the last General Election, were conveniently smudged, blurred and unreadable.

    The end result was a graph alluding to the Lib Dems being in 2nd place to Labour in this particular ward (an absolute lie) with the old “Only LibDems can beat Labour here” plastered around.

    Despite the massive amounts of Green posters around the borough, and historically high Green vote in the ward, they persisted with the manipulation and obfuscation.

    These were put out on 50,000 leaflets in that by-election (2 addressed direct mails, 5 Focuses, 3 polling day leaflets).

    The weird and rather sad thing is, I think that they believe it themselves. On a Flock Together (the LibDems elections portal) post, one campaigner wrote “Current canvassing data has the Lib Dems ahead of the race, but within 2% of Labour. The Greens (who seem to think they can win for some reason) are way behind and don’t stand a chance with just a few percentage of the vote.

    http://www.flocktogether.org.uk/showMeetingPage.php?Meeting=4422

    The end result of all of their ‘Only Lib Dems can beat Labour here’ histrionics:

    Lab 1162 (47.8%, +2.5),
    Green 783 (32.2%, +3.3),
    LD 297 (12.2%, -4.6),
    Con 169 (6.9%, -2.1),
    Communist 20 (0.8%, +0.8).

    Swing of 0.4% from Lab to Green since 2006.

    Which worked out as 168 leaflets per vote for the Lib Dems. The consistent level of manipulation, and the contempt that the Dems have for voters, just amazes me. I hope they’re proud of themselves.

    LibDems use misleading statistics but they all do, innit!!

    Jeez.

    17. Richard MA

    This article demonstrates very nicely why I’m not a fan of the Green Party. You’re not one of hundreds of local councillors saying something daft, you were the leading Green candidate in Eastern England. How can you expect to be taken seriously when you write an entire article like this?

    #12 Of course there isn’t any evidence other than anecdotes – there is no organisation which does systematic comparisons of political leaflets, and any activist wasting their time doing such instead of interacting with actual voters is a few bar charts short of a Focus leaflet.

    Yes, all parties do this to some extent, but the Lib Dems are the worst by a long way. “It’s a two-horse race – only the Lib Dems can beat Party X here” is their most consistently applied local policy.

    This article demonstrates very nicely why I’m not a fan of the Green Party.

    Really? And how does it do that, exactly? Help us along a bit, matey, with some erm, you know, actual crticism.

    If you publish something you know to be misleading, regardless of what others may choose to do, you are quite simply A BUNCH OF LIARS. That applies whether you are the BNP, the LibDems or the Jesus Loves You Party!

    It gets worse, in my area their European Election leaflet claimed “Labour can’t win”, becuase of their poor general election performance in my constituency.

    Ironic that Labour ended up winning more seats than them in our region, but there was no need for it to be printed at all. I can understand at a GE when they don’t want the “left” vote split, but to say for the Euro elections which are PR was just a lie.

    Every so slightly confused by this post. The complaint seems to be that a political party used its own literature to try and garner as many votes for itself at the expense of its main competitor. In doing so, it used spurious figures. Hmmm. What Will said @6.

    Rupert, plant you bollocks in some organic fertiliser and get them to grow a little. Did you have a chance of getting elected? Yep, just as everyone on the ballot had a chance, but you failed to convince enough people to vote for you, so you didn’t get elected. If you want to blame someone, feel free to blame the Lib Dems, but I would look more at the Animals Count brigade as thieves of ‘your’ vote. Or you could just suck it up.

    People who vote Liberal Democrat are presumably also going to rate the greens quite highly as well (well some would, personally due to your ‘kooky’ policies on homeopathy and animal research any cross I put against your name would have to be written in vomit) so as a prime threat to their vote they need to paint you as no-hopers. What did you expect them to put in their leaflets?

    “Vote Lib Dem. Or Green. Or hey, go crazy and vote for the English Democrats, we don’t mind. We just hope you have an excellent day today”.

    You should be flattered that they see you as such a threat. Or perhaps they have some secret polling data that shows that everybody in Essex actually hates Colchester Zoo and desperately wants to see it closed down, or that the people of Stowmarket think that water actually is magical, so they had to destroy you!

    The stupid bar charts make me cringe, as does the “Only the Lib Dems can win here” crap. Would I prefer it if the party didn’t do this and everyone told the truth? Yep. But that just ain’t how the wonderful world of politics works.

    that just ain’t how the wonderful world of politics works.

    Hence the bloody post for chrisesakes!

    You want MPs to be truthful and honest about expenses?

    Hay! that just ain’t how the wonderful world of politics works.

    You don’t want to be led into a war through lies and dodgy dossiers?

    Hey! that just ain’t how the wonderful world of politics works.

    Rinse and repeat…

    Well bloody well CHANGE the way it does work! FFS!

    24. Richard MA

    Mike, I think the continuous use of ‘Fib Dems’ makes it rather apparent why I don’t like the Greens. It’s pretty typical of my experience with them over the years. The fact the article places blame on the Lib Dems for the failings of our political system is hilarious and divorced from reality. Lib Dems have been pushing for reform & overhaul for decades. Voting Green isn’t going to change the system.

    Hence the bloody post for chrisesakes!

    I don’t know who Chris is or what this has to do with his Japanese wines, but actually I thought this post was more about Mr Reed crying about his non-election than trying to change the human condition.

    You want MPs to be truthful and honest about expenses?

    You don’t want to be led into a war through lies and dodgy dossiers?

    Yep, that’s not the way the wonderful world of politics works. Shit, it isn’t. When you’ve worked out how to stop people telling porkies, do give me a call. Then we can CHANGE it.

    The Lib Dems misrepresent stats, so do other parties, but the Lib Dems are very good ar it, but whinging is not the answer. If the Greens point out what the Lib Dems are up to, you might have done better. It is sad, but politics is nasty. The Greens and Lib Dems compete for a lot of the same voters, in Brighton, the Greens are winning, the Lib Dem vote is collapsing despite pumping out a mountain of propaganda leaflets. The truth does win in the end, stop whinging and get campaigning.

    Other parties may indulge in what is known as ‘spin’, but how is that any kind of absolution for the total and utter lies perpetrated in their leaflets during the election campaign? What a weak defence: “others also do it sometimes so get off our backs for being such experts at it”

    Another really weak defence is that “Lib Dem members are against this sort of thing too” – hello, ever heard of trying to do something about it? You still have some kind of internal democracy don’t you? Find whoever is responsible for these leaflets, and sack them.

    If significant numbers of Lib Dem members had already done this, you would have cited some evidence rather than suggesting this was the case.

    Feeling bitter, Rupert?

    For a moment I thought I’d wandered into the depths of the comments on pb.com what with all this talk of Fib Dems. I had to do a double take at the byline to make sure it wasn’t one of the Tory/bloggertarian claque over there doing a spot of moonlighting.

    Face it, you lost fair and square to, inter alia, the Lib Dems and UKIP. Hey ho, that’s politics. Accept it like a man, much as it may stick in the craw, and come back better prepared next time. Oh by the way, “kooky” is a dangerous adjective to throw around, looking at your party’s science and technology policies.

    No-one objects to hard politics and even accurate negative campaigning, but the Lib Dems are undoubtedly the worst for this. Citing results in arbitrarily unrelated elections, distorting bar charts, making false accusations against other parties: no-one else does it all.

    I’ve seen Lib Dem leaflets here in Scotland which grossly traduce other parties, but none from the others which are actually dishonest, and that includes a lot of parties I don’t have a lot of time for (although I did get a letter back from my Labour MP which did something similar).

    Ask Tory, Labour, Nat or Green activists whose leaflets lie about them and you’ll get a single answer. Lib Dems. Why is that? Don’t dare suggest it’s coincidence (and the Lib Dem member above unhappy with it is good counter-evidence for that). It’s in the Focus manual.

    30. Shatterface

    Maybe ‘only the LibDems can beat Labour’ is pure spin but since every other party seemed to be running on the ‘only we can beat the BNP ticket’ that’s a slightly less pungent kind of horseshit; and I notice even your winge alludes to coming in behind the BNP like you think the LibDems should have given you an easy ride to keep the Nazi’s out.

    Talk about shooting the messenger.

    Maybe, considering the number of people who feel the LibDems are the worst, the LibDems should revise their tactics. It’s not the first, second, third… time I’ve read similar.

    Put aside partisan hats and address the issue. Whether Lib Dem’rs like it or not, the tactics used by their party are questionable.

    Just screaming “it’s just politics” is bullshit. Be better than that.

    I agree with Aaron. It really pissed me off seeing Nick Clegg go on and on about ‘cleaning up politics’, wanting to make it more ‘honest and fair’, and then he sits as Leader of a party that does produce questionable evidence as a reason for voting for them.

    Saying, ‘just take it like a man’, is not only sexist, but I could turn round to the Lib Dems and say ‘Shut up about PR, you lost in a FPTP election fair and square, quit your whinging and campaign harder’, but I don’t because the Lib Dems (like the Greens) are right about PR.

    Because everyone else is swearing I might as well join in (because this is mature discussion after all), the Lib Dems are a load of gob shites (with exceptions). There we go, I said it.

    So even with a big late swing to the Greens, you still didn’t win a seat. Sounds like it was all true then. At the time the leaflets were probably printed, some of the polls were predicting the Greens would be losing both their seats, never mind gaining any. Whereas Labour showed every sign of collapsing, and there was every reason to expect much of that vote to come to the Lib Dems. So, without the benefits of hindsight, why shouldn’t a 2nd Lib Dem be more likely than a 1st Green?

    Add to that the basic unsoundness of the Greens’ environmental policies (never mind the other policies) compared to the Lib Dems, it was absolutely our duty to win over those green votes.

    But to be fair, I don’t like this sort of message either, and I have said so.

    I dropped a link to the full leaflet on the end of the main post – feel free to judge for yourselves whether Rupert’s complaint has any merit.

    Unity,

    Thanks.

    I voted Green in the Euros, and have previously voted Lib Dem, but seriously, “FibDem?” Are you fucking serious? Being a sore loser is one thing – as a previous poster said, there are a number of things that could have cost the Green vote 1%, not just a specific Lib Dem leaflet – repeatedly making a pun worthy of a seven year old is quite another.

    The only reason the other parties haven’t made similar claims about the Green Party is because the Lib Dems are the only party whose policy towards the Greens isn’t “never ever mention them ever.” As a small party, ‘they’ll never win’ is one of the lines of attack we’re going to face. A well reasoned response to this is going to do a lot more to deflect that criticism than haphazardly whining that some other party mentioned us in a negative light.

    In politics, when another party mentions you they will generally only ever mention you in a negative light, so if we want the Greens to be mentioned, then you’re going to have to start getting used to it.

    Bloody ‘ell! I have to come up with a method for stopping the entire human race telling lies before we can begin to get the LibDems (or any other party, come to that) to just tell the bloody truth in an election pamphlet! This politics lark is clearly much harder than I imagined.

    I’m not asking you to change the WORLD just ensure that when you support a political party you do everything you can to ensure you and others within it conduct themselves in an honourable, truthful fashion. If you aren’t prepared to even try doing that but are happy to post very silly replies here, then you don’t really deserve anyone’s support, do you?

    “Of course, there is nothing wrong with one Party trying to stop another Party from winning; to some extent, one might even say that that is what Parties are for”

    After all, the Green Party’s refusal to disband and join a proper party – of which it probably shares all its ideals now with – means that many voters waste their votes on nothing more than a moneyed pressure group. Get to bed.

    I’ve said before that I object to dishonest leaflets. I object to dishonest barcharts.

    I object to dishonests posts even more.

    The words quoted by Richard “sour grapes” Reid aren’t on the leaflet linked to. He hasn’t bothered to provide us with a scan himself.

    Either he’s lying, or he’s talking about a different leaflet. I have copies of all the leaflets I received stored in my literature file, and I’m merely a branch chair. If the lead candidate wants to either misquote or lie rather than provide facts, that’s his choice.

    What the leaflet actually said:

    Just 2% of voters in this region will come from Norwich, but the greens are weak in the East outside of Norwich. They have no chance of getting enough votes across the East to elect an MEP and last time were 64 THOUSAND votes short. The Greens only got 25,000 votes across the whole of the East at the last General election

    Those are statements of fact. The low turnout caused almost entirely by the collapse in the Labour vote meant that smaller parties got closer to threshold than any psephologist worth their salt predicted.

    I believe in honesty in politics. IF the linked leaflet is the leaflet Richard is complaining about, he needs to grow a spine, as I’d be very happy for that to go out in my name in my branch.

    If it’s a different leaflet, he needs to provide evidence (I obviously have no clue being based in Yorkshire). Without evidence, this article is a pile of misleading crap unworthy of this site.

    Duff is a good MEP, and does champion environmental causes (even going so far as to vote for that stupid patio heater ban idea IIRC, joys of a broad church).

    That leaflet is accurate and honest. Richard, if it’s a different leaflet, give us a scan of it, otherwise stop blowing smoke, told you months ago I thought you had no chance of winning, I stand by that assesment.

    The fact is that the Green party and the Liberal Democrats share a lot of swing voters, due to the stupid voting system imposed by Blair using the Parlt Act instead of the one used in NI that the Lib Dems and others (including the Greens IIRC) proposed this sort of negative leaflet wouldn’t be needed.

    As it is, the voting system requires as much negative campaigning and tactical guesswork as FPTP.

    What we’ve seen in this election in London and the Eastern region was an attempt by the Lib Dems to shave support off the Greens by deliberately claiming the Greens couldn’t win. It was an electoral tactic and the question now is how we as the Greens will respond.

    Should we in anger stand in every Lib Dem / Tory marginal putting out a freepost leaflet that attacks the Lib Dems? Do we stand in Labour held seats which the Lib Dems are targeting, with a policy of attacking the Lib Dems record nationally / locally? There will be a response, but I expect it to be measured, tactical and long term.

    Such a response will likely be based on regional considerations. I don’t know how many seats the Lib Dems are hoping to hold / gain in Eastern, but I imagine they haven’t done their prospects at the General Election there much good at all. Given the closeness of Eastern Greens this time at a European election, I wouldn’t be surprised if the decision is to return the favour in kind in 11 months time. In London the Greens will be standing in every constituency, but a lot will depend how much investment goes into the freepost and campaigning in Lib Dem held seats.

    Now in the North West I have a lot of time for the Lib Dem MEP, Chris Davies. He is a cut above their usual standard of representation. Here in Liverpool, the literature in their target constituency of Wavertree (yes, we Greens are going to stand) has been very, “its us versus Labour”, throughout the campaign. I do think that might put off some people from bothering to vote at a PR election, but not many. It might swing some voters that otherwise support the Greens to switch to the Lib Dems (or Labour), which might happen to benefit the Lib Dem Euro effort.

    However, the Lib Dems didn’t come close to the Labour claim that, “only a vote for Labour can stop the BNP”. Given that 5000 more votes for the Greens (or about 3000 for UKIP) would have stopped the BNP, and Labour would have needed an additional 60,000 votes, this is the worst and obviously most damaging claim that was circulated in the North West. Using a message like this to play on people’s fears without even acknowledging it is a PR system is appalling.

    We are going to canvass and door knock over the next year, as we do, and we’ll record the number of people who voted Labour who did so to try and stop the BNP. There was a real cost to Labour’s claims and it is exactly this type of self interest politics that puts off so many voters. I hope someone is inspired to write exactly how we make such awful tactics no longer acceptable or appealing – it’s something I’d very much look forward to reading.

    Also?

    The Lib Dem vote went up by 10,000 compared to 2004. That’s it, so if the Lib Dems did take votes from poor Dr Read, they didn’t actually impact the result in any way, Animals First (whoever they are) did more damage to his prospects.

    Carl: Love that comment, very true, very true indeed. Of course, IIRC, Read used to be a Lib Dem, and left when Paddy rejected his brand of extremism from what I recall him saying before. There’s no one more bitter than someone told they’re wrong.

    Costigan says: “All parties use statistics to portray themselves as more likely to win and their opponents as more likely to lose. The Lib Dems are no worse than any others and, in some cases, much better. I’ve seem some shocking misuses of the statistics from the other parties.
    If anyone wants to single out the Lib Dems as being worse than Labour, Conservatives or Greens I’d suggest they try actually looking at some of their own literature sometime.”
    Indeed, the Tories sometimes behave pretty badly on this front, too. See http://www.libdemvoice.org/death-by-bar-chart-tories-plotting-to-kill-in-norwich-north-15375.html#comment-93149 , for example…
    But I challenge you Costigan or any other reader to find examples of the Green Party doing the things indicated in my article, such as using completely irrelevant election stats, or indeed using distorted bar charts as the LibDems standardly do. Anywhere in this country. I predict that you will not succeed. Because we don’t. We actually believe in PRACTICING clean politics, not just preaching about it.

    Carrion mentions the Iraq war, as alleged evidence against the LibDems being a vote-seeking franchise and little more. I wonder if s/he has read http://www.greenparty.org.uk/files/reports/2004/1LibDems%20and%20Iraq.htm
    If not, then s/he should.

    MatGB, look at you with your gossip on Read. But what of this imagined LibDem-Green coalition, dreamed up by Nick Cohen (“The Horrible Truth is that Cowards Prosper in Britain”). If I get my way, Green activist may start flocking (back) to Paddy. Perhaps Read might even brush that chip off of his shoulder and run back too. But this is way to futuristic. I didn’t know what IIRC was before tonight, cheers.

    Ah yes Animals First, when I saw that on my ballot paper I figured it was a drinks sponsor (Bad joke, exit stage left).

    “We actually believe in PRACTICING clean politics, not just preaching about it.”

    This, from the author of this article?

    * dies laughing *

    I’m not a Christian, but I seem to recall something about planks and specks and eyeballs…

    Still, not my problem any more.

    Aaron, I assume to have editor privs in Sunny’s absence? Please delete my name from the contributors list, remove my account, take me off the mailing lists, and do all the other necessary stuff. I signed up to a progressive cross party blog, not a mudslinging party.

    Bye.

    Okay, having seen the leaflet, I have to say that’s one of the most honest Lib Dem leaflets I’ve ever seen. No misleading bar charts; a range of stats used rather than only the most inappropriate ones; an admission that the elections cover a whole region and not just an area where Lib Dems do better than average.

    In response to Joe Otten: Please read my post more carefully. I pointed out explicitly that the LibDems continued to claim that the Greens couldn’t win even after polls showed us consistently running at between 9 and 15%. That was what really took the biscuit (and possibly the seat) for (from) me.

    48. Richard MA

    I’ll agree that the Lib Dem leaflet is rather clear on where the statistics it uses comes from.

    Having just read the link to the Green Party website, on Lib Dems & Iraq War, it seems an awefully written document. It keeps repeating “the Lib Dems supported it anyway”, with nothing behind this statement. It accuses the Lib Dems of taking a reasoned and measured approach in their opposition to the war. I’m seriously meant to take a party thinking through, and giving reasons for what it does as a *bad* thing?

    Continuing on to declare that the Lib Dems support for our troops equals support for the war is frankly disgusting. Equating the two is insane.

    MatGB:
    What actually happened (if you were interested in the truth, you could check it up first) was imply that I tried to persuade Ashdown to position the LibDems explicitly to the left of New Labour (not exactly difficult to do); but he wasn’t interested. When Kennedy won the Leadership election over Hughes, that was the last straw for me, and I left.
    [If anyone is interested, you can read more here: http://www.rupertread.fastmail.co.uk/From%20Limehouse%20to%20Campbell,%20and%20beyond.doc ]

    In response to MatGB’s important comment number 39, which makes a serious allegation against my piece: please read the piece more carefully, Mat. If you do so, you will see that I do not claim that all the statements I quoted were in the leaflet that I linked to a scanned copy of. The trouble is, if I had to scan in all the leaflets from the LibDems in the Euro-campaign that had dodgy statements, graphs etc in them, I would be at it all day… There were so many. I have a hard copy file of a good number of them.
    The quotes I gave are all genuine bona fide quotes from LibDem leaflets from various parts of the Region, from letters to postal voters, from freepost leaflets, from ward newsletters, etc – and there are loads more where they came from.
    The quote that Mat highlights was of course systematically misleading especially in that it cited irrelevant general election figures, as previously noted.

    “We actually believe in PRACTICING clean politics, not just preaching about it.”

    Not in Oxford, where a Green Party activist distributed a leaflet called ‘Green Socialist’ which urged a vote for the Green Party and smeared the Labour candidate (the line of attack seemed mostly to be about the fact that the Labour candidates were Asian taxi drivers, plus a load of abuse directed at the local MP) in the county elections. This leaflet had no imprint. They then followed up on polling day with at least one of their tellers sitting at the polling station telling Asian voters that they had two votes in the European elections and one in the county council elections, presumably to try and reduce the Labour vote in the county elections and help their candidates get re-elected. Classy, eh?

    Happily, the net result was that while the Greens got many more votes in the parts of the city where they didn’t campaign, they lost three of their five county council seats to excellent and principled Labour candidates who ran a clean and positive campaign. (Particularly pleasing was the Green candidate who was gloating on election day and asked us “how does it feel to get beaten again?” who then ended up finishing 4th).

    On a wider point, though, I do have some sympathy with what Rupert is saying (the Oxford campaign this time apart, the Greens do tend to run positive and principled campaigns and the Lib Dems clearly and obviously weren’t doing so in this case).

    But Paskini’s first law of elections is that if you lose an election, you should spend your time figuring out what you did wrong and what to do better next time, and that time spent whining about what the opposition did is at best a waste and at worst a distraction. I heartily endorse Peter’s idea, though, of retaliating by messing up the Lib Dems in a load of elections next year.

    I do not claim that all the statements I quoted were in the leaflet that I linked to a scanned copy of.

    yet

    The FibDem ‘freepost’ leaflet, delivered to all households in my Region, included passages such as this

    So the second statement suggests that all the quotes were from a single ‘leaflet’, singular, not ‘leaflets’, plural. So presumably, among this plethora of propaganda that the Lib Dems have been bombarding the great people of the Eastern counties with, there is a Freepost leaflet, singular, with all quotes in it? Or was I misled?

    If you aren’t prepared to even try doing that but are happy to post very silly replies here, then you don’t really deserve anyone’s support, do you?

    Sorry Mike, saw that you were a stand-up comic and thought you’d enjoy the ribaldry.

    @ Richard MA – comment 48 – further, the Green claim that the Liberals supporting the troops (practically that would mean wanting for the war to be over quickly and as few people as possible to die) was wrong, does imply that the Greens wanted a long and bloody war with many deaths on each side.

    As the Green document timeline reflects, the statement quoted is from after the invasion began, so the “no war” option that the Liberals and the Greens had agreed on up to that point was no longer in play: only how that war would go from there. The Liberals wanted a short conflict with the minimum of killing, the Greens condemn them for that…

    Look, Andrew; there were several different versions of the LibDem freepost. Some of them contained one of the statements I quoted. Others contained others of them. Other identical or similar statements [and accompanying deliberately misleading graphs] were in the plethora of other leaflets that I have in my possession; and some can be seen at the The Straight Choice. ((Unity, can you please modify your ‘Update’. It is misleading. The statements that I quoted are all from LibDem leaflets from this campaign – they are not all from the one leaflet uploaded at the place you have linked to, and I never claimed they were.))
    Let’s please stay focussed on the real issue here. My quotes are all accurate: …Some commenters have in effect defended them on the grounds that all’s fair in politics and war. That’s a point of view. An indefensible one, in my view; but a more defensible one than launching into wild criticisms of me on the ground that I haven’t scanned in all the leaflets containing the dodgy sentences etc.

    @Carl

    “After all, the Green Party’s refusal to disband and join a proper party – of which it probably shares all its ideals now with – means that many voters waste their votes on nothing more than a moneyed pressure group.”

    That’s funny, because it is precisely what the old Liberal Party said to those among it who left to establish the Labour Party – and it’s incidentally what people say about the Lib Dems now. One could say that for most elections since 1997 the Lib Dems and Labour use almost the same language in their manifestos and promise the same things, and that this was proof that it is pointless to vote for the Lib Dems when they are essentially a sidekick to Labour who oppose certain Labour policies out of sheer opportunism.

    But it is up to the voters to decide who to vote for, and not really your place, Carl, to sneer at them simply because they don’t like the Lib Dems. Maybe you should take some of the advice being doled out here by defenders of misleading leaflets – instead of pouring scorn upon Green voters, try to work out why the Lib Dem vote is collapsing in areas where Greens are on the rise?

    “just take it like a man” – my, how big your balls are.

    “They have no chance of getting enough votes across the East to elect an MEP” – the fact that the closed party list system used in the Euros means it is impossible to state without any uncertainty (and saying someone has “no chance” is doing just that) which party will get what share of the votes, makes this statement an outright lie. The fact that the Greens came very close to electing an MEP further shows that “no chance” is a lie.

    Jen; the point is that as soon as the war became popular (i.e. as soon as it began), the LibDems backed it. The very thing one would expect of a vote-winning franchise.
    Imagine if the same thing had happened in relation to Vietnam. Then there could never have BEEN an anti-war movement – because, in that case, the movement began only after the war had begun.
    If the LibDems had been around in early 60s America, and if they had followed the same ‘principles’ then, then the anti-war movement there would have been stillborn. Because they wouldn’t have embarked on opposing what was at that point a popular war.
    The Green Party (and the Scottish Socialists and SNP) consistently opposed the war, even while it was going on and was popular. Even after our fair weather LibDem friends had retreated into the enclave of ‘supporting our troops’ ((by sending them (and far greater numbers of Iraqis) to their deaths)).

    58. NorwichGreenie

    @42: “But I challenge you Costigan or any other reader to find examples of the Green Party doing the things indicated in my article, such as using completely irrelevant election stats, or indeed using distorted bar charts as the LibDems standardly do. Anywhere in this country. I predict that you will not succeed. Because we don’t. We actually believe in PRACTICING clean politics, not just preaching about it.”

    I agree that the Greens have a good reputation when it comes to clean party political propaganda. At least in Norwich their leaflets are hardly ever negative; instead they focus on policies and campaigns (see the ‘In Your Ward’ section on http://www.norwichgreenparty.org). However, whenever a General or European election is looming the Green Party will publish readers graphs showing how many people vote Green in _local_ elections.

    Now, Rupert, will the Greens tell voters in Norwich North that they only gained 2.7% of the vote in the last General Election? If not, please stop claiming superiority.

    59. Andrew Freeman

    I am in an area where Lab Libs and Greens have councillors and the Conservatives have none. This does not stop the local Labour party putting out barcharts which use the results of the London Mayor elections to suggest that the area is a two horse race between Labour and Conservatives. Funnily enough the Conservatives do the same. The Libs ignore the Mayor election and repeat the last General Election when they came a close second. The Greens came second in the Euros so now they have their story to tell. Of course, parties pick the statistics that work for them. Most of us are not fooled by bar charts that do not ring true. The article is sour grapes and playground names and makes me less inclined to vote Green if anything.

    Rupert, baby, why the tension.

    I wasn’t actually having a go at you for your lacking of scanning ability. It was a more an extremely subtle – obviously slightly too subtle – point that it seemed, to me and possibly others, that you had misrepresented something to strengthen your case. If you write “FibDem ‘freepost’ leaflet” it does suggest that there is only one leaflet with all these dastardly lies contained therein, therefore you would only have to scan and link to one individual leaflet. If the quotes come from an amalgamation of leaflets, then that’s fine, I still see your point about the FibDums, but why structure the sentence as to suggest that they all came from this one mythical leaflet?

    Of course, parties pick the statistics that work for them. Most of us are not fooled by bar charts that do not ring true.

    So everyone just stop using the bloody things then! Jeez.

    The Lib Dems seem to have made a number of defences of their party’s record of lying in leaflets:

    1) This is politics, “take it like a man”

    2) Other parties do it

    3) We don’t agree with the lying leaflets

    4) Balls to you for pointing it out because it makes you as bad as us

    As to 1), it is one thing to be negative about other parties: it is another to openly lie and say “the Greens can’t win here” when in London they had already elected an MEP and in the case of Eastern region and any other region, the closed list system of the Euros means it is not about the classic Lib Dem “two-horse race” in which the Lib Dems are always one of the horses. It is funny that such proponents of PR seem not to be able to understand it when telling the voters why they should not vote for other parties.

    As to 2), so what? If you robbed a bank and got caught, would your defence in court rest upon the fact that others do it?

    As to 3), show me some evidence that there has been a concerted effort by LD members, over the last fifteen years that Chris Rennard was at the helm of the party, to eradicate the dishonesty of Lib Dem bar charts and all the stuff about “two-horse races”. It’s telling that even after he stood down for “health reasons”, the Lib Dems continued to plow the dishonest line in the Euros: http://kerroncross.blogspot.com/2009/06/lib-dems-havent-changed-part-1.html

    As to 4), Rupert has exposed where negative campaigning by another party has degenerated into outright lies. He has quoted material from Lib Dem leaflets used in his region, and people have said to the Eastern Greens that they would have voted Green were it not for the fact that they’d been told that “only” the Lib Dems can “win” there. This is a serious matter in and of itself, his own election notwithstanding, that progressives within the Lib Dems should take whoever is in their party to task over it. Yes, this article is negative campaigning, in that it is portraying an aspect of the Lib Dems in a negative light. But who says they are above criticism, especially when they accuse other parties of lying?

    There are, I believe, many groups within the Lib Dems. Liberal Youth, Liberal Vision, the Social Liberal Forum, Green Liberal Democrats – can someone tell me if there is one set up to promote honest local campaigning? Or did Lib Dems simply grumble then continue dishing out those lovely Focus leaflets, because it helped them win seats?

    Heh, Rupert in comment 57 seems to think that the war was popular when it started. Can anyone else remember that being true? I can’t.

    I also seem to recall the Lib Dems never backed it, as Jen makes clear, once you’ve crossed the Rubicon you can’t just decide that it was all a mistake, if you invade someone you invade them, and if you objected to the invasion taking place you still have to face the world as is, hence the change in Lib Dem line (admittedly botched by Kennedy) to supporting the troops but regretting it happening.

    I wasn’t a member at the time but my memory isn’t that fauly, unlike Rupert’s. If anyone else enjoys reading his witterings, the google cache version of the MS .doc file he links to about why he’s not a Lib Dem any more is here. I especially like the bits where he praises Huhne for his work in the SDP but then calls him an awful right winger when he beat Hughes in the leadership campaign (it was just after that campaign that I joined the LDs actually, the sound defeat of the nice-but-crap Hughes was encouraging).

    Rupert does seem to subscribe to the “if you don’t agree with me on everything you’re an evil right-winger” school of though though, but then this is the guy who also thinks liberty is “fundamentally a right-wing idea”.

    Thanks, NorwichGreenie; good question.
    My answer: We will certainly tell voters at the Norwich North byelection that we took x% votes in the recent County Council (and Euro) elections: BECAUSE THOSE WERE THE MOST RECENT ELECTIONS, AND THEY INDICATE HOW MUCH OUR SUPPORT HAS GROWN SINCE THE LAST GENERAL ELECTION. At the time of the last general election, we were scoring between 5 and 10% in the Norwich City area Norwich North County Council seats. On June 4, we TOOK two of those seats…
    (There is no potential similar justification for the LibDems citing the figures from the last general election in their leaflet for the Euros. We all know why they did it: because they unscrupulously looked simply for the figures that served their cause of short-term advantage in fooling the voters, best.)
    BUT, if I have anything to do with it we will also let voters and the media know that we have a long way to go in Norwich North. That we are indeed starting from a low base at the last general election. That it will therefore be an amazing achievement if we win in Norwich North – …but that that – achieving something amazing – is exactly what we are aiming and intending to do…

    By the way, here is a wonderful brand new Norwich North specimen of LibDemmery: http://www.thestraightchoice.org/leaflet.php?q=416 Check out the graph, top right hand side. It is completely meaningless. No way of telling from that that (for example) the LibDems won no County Council seats at all in the entire Norwich North area on June 4, and were miles away from doing so in every single case. And that their vote is in free fall in Norwich North, compared to last year.

    ooh I’m enjoying this thread!

    @4 I quite like ZanuLiebour, being at the same time both totally silly yet somehow accurate

    No way of telling from that that (for example) the LibDems won no County Council seats at all in the entire Norwich North area on June 4, and were miles away from doing so in every single case. And that their vote is in free fall in Norwich North, compared to last year.

    But if it did say that, I would wonder on the sanity of the local LIb Dem team!

    Why don’t you say that in your leaflets?

    To me, this seems like a classic, albeit N > 2, prisoner’s dilemma. If Labour always lie and say that we can have the moon on a stick, while blaming Thatcher for everything, the tories will always say they have changed and blame immigrants for everything, the Lib Dems will always say everything while blaming everyone for everything, then the greens will always say water is magic while blaming capitalists for everything. The only way for each to change is for all to change. While your opponents don’t change, it doesn’t make sense to change yourself. Unless your strategy is hurting yourself, which I doubt there is much evidence that the Lib Dem’s strategy is. Saying “be better” is just a platitude. The tester isn’t really in the Lib Dems here saying that we should change, we vote for the party anyway, the test would be if changing this strategy would make the others vote LD?

    67. Stuart White

    Jennie@45: what Rupert is engaged in is not ‘mudslinging’, it is legitimate cross-party criticism.

    Liberal Conspiracy surely exists to allow people of different parties and none, but with some shared values, to talk to each other, and, as part of this, to point out the weaknesses and flaws in one another’s policies and approaches. Rupert’s post fits into this category.

    ‘Fib Dems’ is, frankly, lighthearted, a rather gentle way of voicing a criticism. Though I can’t quote chapter and verse, Rupert’s basic point about misleading use of election stats on Lib Dem leaflets rings true with me. I have often had that thought on looking at a Lib Dem leaflet in local city and council elections in Oxford, and I do not recall having had that reaction to, say, Tory or Green leaflets (or Labour leaflets, but as a Labour party member I might not be a reliable judge of this).

    Your response to Rupert’s post – characterising it as ‘mudslinging’ – suggests you just don’t want to entertain serious criticism of your party. If the tendrils of party tribalism really do have you that much in their grasp, then that’s shame. I hope you will reconsider your decision to leave LC.

    “Not in Oxford, where a Green Party activist distributed a leaflet called ‘Green Socialist’ which urged a vote for the Green Party and smeared the Labour candidate (the line of attack seemed mostly to be about the fact that the Labour candidates were Asian taxi drivers, plus a load of abuse directed at the local MP) in the county elections. This leaflet had no imprint”

    Don, this doesn’t really befit your normally fair minded approach to things. As you know full well (because I remember having several discussions about it when we were both in Oxford politics), the guy in question is not, and never has been, a Green Party member. He has leafletted for us, for sure, but he’s also done the same for IWCA and Lib Dem candidates that he backs in various other places in the city. The Greens certainly don’t have any editorial control over his independently produced leaflets, nor are they funded by the Party. So why they should have an imprint on them is beyond me. We can’t stop someone funding, printing and distributing a leaflet, even if it does have ‘Green’ in the title. We don’t own copyright on the colour!

    Matt

    69. NorwichGreenie

    @64: Maybe the Greens should have explained in their Euro election leaflet (did they have one?) that the Green Party did need a large swing but that it was entirely possible to win a seat in the East of England. I think we can all agree that the Lib Dem have a history of misrepresening election results (the graph at http://www.thestraightchoice.org/leaflet.php?q=416 is a good example of the sort of lies Lib Dems spread indeed). Wasn’t it predictable they would be at it again?

    I see you point, but can’t help but feel that having a go at negative campaigning by other parties defeats the very point you are trying to make. Learn your lessons, keep at clean campaigning and win that extra 1% of the vote next time round.

    Hi Matt,

    I did say that this incident was not typical of the Green Party. But recently there has been rather greater co-ordination between some Green councillors and the “editor” of “Green Socialist” – I suspect that the results in the county elections will have shown the foolishness of this tactic.

    For example, you wouldn’t be that impressed if you discovered in Hackney that someone had produced and delivered copies of a leaflet two weeks before an election which said ‘Vote Labour’ and which contained loads of personal abuse about you, particuarly if you then found out that Labour’s response was to say that it was produced by a supporter but was nothing to do with the party.

    When we’re talking about campaign tactics which “Luke the Nuke” would think were a bit out of order, I think it’s right to criticise – and I think your former comrades in Oxford would benefit from your good sense – Hackney’s gain is their loss :)

    I’m not going to defend this leaflet and agree that some of it is misleading (quoting facts that are inconvenient for Mr Read however is hard cheese – there is a line between uttering inconvenient truths and being disingenouous and much of this leaflet is the former), but if we are going to go around calling each other liars, what about the Green campaign in the North West?

    The generous interpretation of the Stop Nick Griffin campaign was that it was merely psephologically wrong-headed. With 20/20 hindsight, the tactical vote to beat the BNP was not to vote Green but to vote UKIP, but the eighth seat was an incredibly close run thing between UKIP, the Greens and the Lib Dems and there were so many variables no-one could claim that a vote for one would have been any more effective than a vote for anyone else. However, it isn’t that much of a stretch for me to suggest that the handy YouTube video, etc. amounted to a tissue of lies.

    The main lesson for me is that no party can claim to be purer than pure here (I notice the Tories’ leaflets in Norwich North is also misleading) and that tactical vote messages in PR elections are inevitably problematic. I’d love to replace the system with STV – thereby wiping out any tactical vote messages. But of course the Greens are opposed to that.

    In short Rupert, I will accept your title of FibDems if you assert that Peter Cranie is a big fat liar. If not, then get off your high horse and stop behaving like a petulant little baby.

    @NorwichGreenie, like I’ve said at 56 and 62, there is a distinction between negative campaigning and outright lying. Selective use of statistics is commonpractice but when it veers into dishonesty, i.e. to suggest that a party that already has an MEP “can’t win” in that same region, a line has been crossed.

    Negative campaigning is an important part of electioneering: lying is what puts people off politics. Rupert is having a go at the lying Lib Dem leaflets. If the Lib Dems want to be considered progressive, and the fact that activists from Labour and the Tories also criticise the Lib Dems for their leaflets is really rather telling, they need to stop the lies.

    This isn’t mudslinging: if anything, Rupert is doing progressive-minded Lib Dems a favour by putting pressure on whoever sanctions this dodgy leafleting practice to stop doing it. Like Greens admitted we had some bad science in one or two of our policies and will soon be rectifying them, the Lib Dems objecting to this post should show a bit of humility – they’ve messed up, and have been doing this for fifteen years at least. Don’t shoot the messenger.

    @James Graham

    “I’d love to replace the system with STV – thereby wiping out any tactical vote messages”

    Why then, has Nick Clegg called for adoption of AV+?

    http://www.theliberati.net/quaequamblog/2009/05/28/av-eleven-year-old-reheated-westminster-leftovers-will-do-nothing-to-restore-trust-in-politics/

    I think it was Jennie who talked about planks, specks and eyes.

    @Rayyan

    Last time I looked I wasn’t Nick Clegg. Perhaps you know better?

    If you’d actually read that blog post that you are pointing at, you might find that I don’t actually agree with Nick Clegg either.

    For the record, he has repeatedly restated support for STV, merely calling for AV+ for House of Commons elections for – mistaken – pragmatic reasons. There is absolutely no suggestion that the Lib Dems support AV+ for European Elections.

    Jeez – and these people are seeking to lecture me about being misleading?!

    “what Rupert is engaged in is not ‘mudslinging’, it is legitimate cross-party criticism”

    If it was legitimate cross-party criticism he would not need to engage in misleading (which he has admitted to) statements in a post complaining about misleading statements, nor would he need to resort to name-calling, light-hearted or otherwise.

    “Liberal Conspiracy surely exists to allow people of different parties and none, but with some shared values, to talk to each other, and, as part of this, to point out the weaknesses and flaws in one another’s policies and approaches”

    That’s the site I signed up to, yes. That’s not the site as is. Rupert’s post is just a part of this. But to see this post published on a site whose editor has regularly told me off for being too MEAN to Labour posters rankles rather a lot. And for you to accuse me of partisanship, when that’s what I’m objecting to? LOL yes. Thanks for that. I think that’s EXACTLY what’ll change my mind.

    “I hope you will reconsider your decision to leave LC.”

    Nope, I don’t think I will. Thanks all the same.

    76. NorwichGreenie

    Rayyan, I take your point that there’s a distinction between negative campaigning and outright lying. Rupert is making a fair point and yes, it would be great if as a result of this discussion some people in the Lib Dems would speak up and get rid of the PR idiots who spread lies.

    Still, the Green Party had the opportunity to counter the lies. Without wanting to shoot the messenger, there is an element of being realistic about election campaigns (@66 sums it up pretty well). Rupert’s article would have been more convincing if it had also acknowledged that the Greens failed to deal effectively with attacks from other parties.

    @James Graham

    The point I was attempting to make, was that you were attacking the Greens for not supporting STV – current policy, IIRC, is to support AMS but I know there are moves to change that, as I too support STV – when the Lib Dem leader himself is using the opportunity to call for electoral reform to support AV+ (electoral reform and AV+ being oxymorons), and using your own criticism of your leader to show that attacking the Greens for not supporting STV is hypocritical.

    Way to waste a national platform!

    You have a strange definition of hypocritical. I criticise the Greens for not supporting STV and I criticise Nick Clegg for not supporting STV (enough – again, I have to point out that Clegg has never called for AV+ to be introduced for European Elections and continues to insist that STV would be best for the House of Commons) – in what way is that inconsistent?

    Go on – please explain. This sounds like it might be interesting. Does it have something to do with homeopathy (I find it usually boils down to homeopathy when it comes to the Greens)?

    “I’d love to replace the system with STV – thereby wiping out any tactical vote messages. But of course the Greens are opposed to that.”

    And so is Nick Clegg, at least when it comes to the most important elections of all. So it seems an odd thing to attack us for it – or are you simply trying to use anything and everything you can in an attempt to distract from the criticism made of your campaigning tactics in this post?

    Lol, homeopathy. So now we’re into crass stereotypes? Must make sure I don’t choke on my oatmeal and strangle myself with my beard as I chortle at the irony. I suppose I should pity you: so many years of plowing the same territory, and now the Greens take your votes. Is this why the reaction has been so vitriolic? Come on, I’m sure the voters and the readers of this site have something better to do than see the Lib Dems bare their fangs at a much smaller party that’s got them running scared.

    I won’t defend the bad science on that bit of policy towards homeopathy but will say we will deal with it soon. It’s a shame you couldn’t do anything about the lies in your leaflets, despite saying you are against it and won’t defend them. How many years have members supposedly against all the bar chart lies had to deal with them? Even now that Rennard has gone, you still won’t give up the game, because when the chips are down and other parties are on the up, you’re desperate enough to whip out the old Focus manual on how to lie to the voters.

    Show me some evidence that you or any significant number of members have stood up to this practice.

    Rayyan, James has already said that this:

    so is Nick Clegg

    is incorrect, I agree with James that I think Clegg’s tactics are faulty, but he’s made it clear repeatedly that he prefers STV.

    As to the rest, how the hell can I give you evidence that I haven’t printed misleading leaflets? Asking us if we oppose it is fine, asking us to prove we’ve done something that’s impossible to prove? Give me a break.

    Oh, and bar charts aren’t always wrong, I use them, will continue to use them, and support their use as long as they’re accurate, sourced and relevant.

    The reason being I like to actually win elections, and bar charts are pretty much essential under FPTP, this is one of the first things any psephologist will be able to explain—look up “Duverger’s Law” if you’re not already aware of it.

    Not asking you to prove that you haven’t done it – what I would like to know, and have repeatedly asked to know, for the sake of yourself and the others saying you disagreed with the practice of outright lying on leaflets, is that collectively your disagreement was not kept quiet and that a sizeable number of members have demanded over the fifteen (correct me if I’m wrong) years Rennard has been in charge that this be stopped. It not only damages the party, it damages the body politic. This is not about who is whiter than white and who is not – I’m just trying to get some sort of commitment that this isn’t going to happen again.

    Rayyan:

    It is a LIE to say that Nick Clegg “opposes” STV. To quote the Take Back Power website:

    “There is growing consensus that a new electoral system is needed in the UK. The Liberal Democrats believe the best system would be multi-member constituencies elected by Single Transferable Vote, but it is unlikely that agreement could be reached on such a system in the timescale necessary. Roy Jenkins’ review of electoral systems in 1997 recommended the Alternative Vote + system; Labour committed in their 1997 manifesto to a referendum on this; and there are an increasing number of people, including cabinet members, supporting the move now. We therefore recommend that the Jenkins AV+ recommendation be put to the country immediately at the end of this 100 Day Reform Programme.”

    Now I disagree with that assessment, but it makes it quite clear that Clegg’s reasons for supporting AV+ are entirely rooted on what he considers to be achievable, not what the best option would be. He is being pragmatic. I think he is wrong, but he is being pragmatic.

    If you are going to go around calling Lib Dems liars, you really shouldn’t indulge in barefaced lies yourself in the same thread.

    Again, it’s not the use of bar charts I object to – try speaking to actual voters rather than psephologists and they’ll tell you they’re a bit sick of the way the Lib Dems manipulate the size of bar charts to make it look like the only two-horse race is the one where they’re either first or second horse.

    yeah I know a bit about Duverger’s Law – FPTP where only one party/candidate wins leads to a two-party system. Again, not a problem to point this out to votes – but the use of them in the Euro leaflets was completely dishonest and I’m glad you and James agree on that point.

    Rayyan,

    How about a deal.

    When I see that the Green Party has stopped advocating death, disease and poverty through its health, scientific and economic policies, I’ll write a very stern letter to Liberal Democrat News showing my displeasure at the use of misleading bar charts.

    Sound good? I mean it will be very stern.

    Again, it’s not the use of bar charts I object to – try speaking to actual voters rather than psephologists and they’ll tell you they’re a bit sick of the way the Lib Dems manipulate the size of bar charts to make it look like the only two-horse race is the one where they’re either first or second horse.

    Then surely it’s good for you? If they are not voting for the Lib Dems, then they might be voting for you.

    Let me get this straight, James: someone says some people in your party (well, whoever does your leaflets, so not just any old member) have been lying, you come and call them liars, then someone else points out that your criticism that Greens “oppose” STV is hypocritical, and they are a liar too. Greens don’t oppose STV – for reasons that remain arcane to those more steeped in the vagaries of conference policy decision-making, and who could explain how we came up with duff policies on homeopathy, current policy is to back AMS. So if I’m a liar for saying Clegg opposes the adoption of STV for Westminster, what does that make you? Is this really what the Lib Dems have been reduced to? Bullying people from much smaller parties after doing nothing to stop their party machine from churning out lies at election time?

    Whoever was big in the old Liberal party or the Lib Dems of the past must be turning in their grave, bless their woollen socks

    “the Green Party has stopped advocating death, disease and poverty through its health, scientific and economic policies”

    That’s a bit like saying Lib Dems are weak, unpatriotic cowards and traitors for not fully backing the war in Iraq from the start, although I suppose it was fear of such criticism that led to their u-turn on that issue as outlined elsewhere. Next, please.

    “Then surely it’s good for you?”

    What’s good for one party over another is less important than what is good for the health of our democratic system – and misleading people about how PR elections work by shoving stats and slogans centred around FPTP elections in Euro leaflets is good for no one, really.

    It’s been fun seeing the barely disguised hostility the Greens garner from a party that really shouldn’t have to worry about us. After all, you’ve got your magic bar charts to tell the voters that we can’t win, anywhere, ever, so I am amused at all this vitriol!

    Have fun arguing the toss over whether or not this or that bar chart really represents anything other than your fevered imaginations – I’m off to do something infinitely more interesting and constructive than fending off attacks from a pack of very partisan Lib Dems: sleep! And in the spirit of fraternal progressive unity, I suggest you either come clean and admit no collective action was taken to stop Rennard’s wonderful pro-democratic strategy from your rulebooks, or do the same and call it a night.

    It’s been fun seeing the barely disguised hostility the Greens garner from a party that really shouldn’t have to worry about us.

    I can’t speak for the party, but personally I am terrified of you. And although I have tried to be jovial above, this time I not joking.

    Jen; the point is that as soon as the war became popular (i.e. as soon as it began), the LibDems backed it. The very thing one would expect of a vote-winning franchise.

    Jeez, the more I read this thread the more bare-faced lies I’m finding.

    This simply is not true. The Lib Dems never backed the Iraq War. What Charles Kennedy did do was make a series of rather craven, water-muddying comments at the start of the conflict about the party supporting the ‘troops.’ Plenty of us were appalled at the time, it lead to resignations, frankly I don’t believe it changed anything, but at no point did the party ever support the war.

    Neither was the decision rooted by the war suddenly becoming popular. Rather, it was rooted in a fear that when bodies started coming back from the Middle East that the party wasn’t seen to be celebrating their deaths in the way that.

    Frankly, if Kennedy hadn’t been so ham-fisted over the whole exercise and concerned about looking “respectable”, I’d concede he had a point. Significant numbers of people in the anti-war movement seemed to think that the best way to increase pressure on the government on the war was to run around calling members of the armed forces murderers and the resolve amongst the general public in opposition to the war quickly dissipated. It was a major error.

    I’ve written more about this here.

    Normally, I’d brush claims like this aside as typical politicking. But if you are going around calling the Lib Dems “fibbers” you really shouldn’t spread blatant lies around yourself.

    Rayyan:

    It is a LIE to claim that Clegg does not support STV.

    It is a LIE to claim that the Green Party do not oppose STV. To quote:

    PA304 The most appropriate system for elections to the Westminster Parliament is the Additional Member System (AMS). Electors would vote on two ballots: one for the party of their first choice and the other for their constituency MP. MPs would be elected from constituencies as at present, but each party’s representation would be topped up on a regional basis by additional members to bring its number of seats up to its proportion of votes polled, provided that proportion was above a minimum qualifying level of 3% of votes polled. There would be a requirement that each party’s list has to be elected by a system of ‘one member one vote’ of the party’s membership.

    PA305 The most appropriate system for elections to local Government is the Additional Member System (AMS). Electors would vote on two ballots: one for the party of their first choice and the other for their ward councillor(s). Councillors would be elected from wards as under first past the post, but each party’s representation would be topped up on a council-wide basis to bring its number of seats up to its proportion of votes polled, provided that proportion was above a minimum qualifying level of 3% of votes polled. AMS would result in more proportional outcomes than STV and would enable smaller, more localised!wards to be used. AMS could either work through electing the whole council at once or by electing half the council at each election to enable elections to take place more frequently. Final decisions on these matters should reflect local circumstances. The Constitutional Commission will oversee the establishment of AMS voting systems for local authorities across the country and work out the exact details. It will need to consider what proportion of members should be elected from the top-up list in order to achieve proportional outcomes.

    Bottom line: If Nick Clegg were given a choice between FPTP, AMS, AV+ and STV, he’d choose STV. If the Green Party were given a choice between FPTP, AMS, AV+ and STV, they’d choose AMS. You know this. You know it is misleading to suggest otherwise.

    Just stop your lies. Please. It’s getting embarrassing.

    I’ve already written at some length on this subject with particular reference to the London region in the European elections:

    ‘With lies like these I’d rather the LibDems fiddled their expenses’: http://adrianshort.co.uk/2009/05/15/418/

    ‘Lib Dems’ leaflets: Legal, indecent, dishonest, untruthful’: http://adrianshort.co.uk/2009/06/04/434/

    While I agree with the general sentiments of the article, I think the case is made weaker by making specific reference to the fortunes of the Green Party. As the author is a Green candidate this is understandable but the Lib Dems’ leaflet tactics are aimed at whichever parties appear vulnerable to a distorted campaign of tactical encouragement. In my borough, Sutton, it was Labour and the Greens that “couldn’t win” and therefore were “wasted votes”.

    Given that the Lib Dems (and possibly others; evidence awaited) have grossly misled the public on purely factual matters concerning how their political aspirations might best be expressed at the ballot box, I concur with the author that there should be some kind of improved regulation of political leaflets.

    A leaflet circulated by Simon Hughes MP for the Euros said that, “every Tory vote helps Labour win”. I asked for an explanation of this statement before the election. I wonder if he could now give one with particular reference to the results.

    “I have often had that thought on looking at a Lib Dem leaflet in local city and council elections in Oxford, and I do not recall having had that reaction to, say, Tory or Green leaflets (or Labour leaflets, but as a Labour party member I might not be a reliable judge of this).”

    You can’t have seen the Tory one I got in Oxford for the EU elections, which said that the Tories are the only party against the EU constitution.

    1. No such thing in existence any more.
    2. Even if you say they’re just talking about the Lisbon treaty, there are other parties opposed to that treaty anyway.
    3. The Tories aren’t opposed to it, they only want a referendum, and as Ken Clarke recently said, if it’s been ratified by all other countries before they got into power, then there would be no referendum.

    It is a well-known fact across the Parties that, by and large, FibDems are systematically the worst liars and manipulators of all.

    That’s not my experience — the others are just as bad.

    Hmm, having jumped into this thread I see:

    a) Greens complaining that Lib Dems published the (true) facts that they missed out by 64,000 votes in 2004 and got only 25,000 votes in 2005;
    b) Greens complaining about Lib Dems drawing the reasonable (and as it turned out correct) inference from those facts that the Greens would not win a seat;
    c) Greens making other assertions, unsupported by actual evidence, about Lib Dem leaflets;
    d) Greens making manifestly incorrect assertions about Lib Dem policy on the Iraq war;
    e) Greens making manifestly incorrect assertions about Lib Dem positions on electoral reform.

    Who is fibbing?

    Lib Dems all, I think you should probably back out of this conversation – it’s not a debate it’s a 2 minute hate. Plenty of you have said you can’t abide dodgy bar charts, don’t use them, wish others wouldn’t use them etc etc but that’s obviously not enough.

    Rayyan said: “the Lib Dems objecting to this post should show a bit of humility – they’ve messed up, and have been doing this for fifteen years at least.”

    That tells you all you need to know. The pack is in full cry on this thread. You’ll be wrong – and partisan – whatever you say.

    @NorwichGreenie, comment 69: I think that terms like ‘negative campaigning’ tend to need unpacking. I think that it is important for instance to distinguish between drawing attention to facts about other parties practices (what I aimed to do in my piece) and systematically misleading voters about other parties standing/practices etc. (what LibDems often aim to do in their leaflets). That seems a reasonable distinction to me.
    Me doing the former doesn’t legitimate LibDems (or whoever) doing the latter.
    Comment 76: I would _accept_ that to some extent the Green Party “failed to deal effectively with [LibDem] attacks” and misrepresentations during the election campaign, in my and other Regions. One reason why is that it is difficult to effectively deal with such misrepresentations without tarring oneself with the brush of being ‘negative campaigners’! Another reason is that it is difficult to respond effectively to such unscrupulous attacks when one lacks the resources of a larger Party: the LibDems have more activists on the ground to put around leaflets, in most parts of the Region, than we do.
    As I said at the end of my piece, I think that it is high-time for what political parties say and put out to be held up to higher standards. We attempted to do this during the recent campaign with our ‘Clean campaign pledge’, asking other Parties to buy in to a voluntary code of conduct, in effect: http://www.clean-campaign-pledge.net/ . Martin Bell backed our pledge, but sadly the other Parties refused to sign up. I think now that government should act. Commercial corporations cannot say whatever the hell they like in their ads and get away with it: the Advertising Standards Authority, weak as it is, has some power over them. If LibCon readers are serious about cleaning up British politics, I hope that they will consider the arguments in favour of regulating political speech to exclude patently misleading claims, graphs etc., and to help instead to inform our citizenry and begin the hard task of getting people to believe that politicians are not just shysters and cynics who believe that all’s fair in politics…

    I agree wholeheartedly with your dissapointment in the inaccurate claims made by other parties in election leaflets, but it is not just the Liberal Democrats that do it. The problem that is faced by most parties is that they fear that if they don’t attack other parties they will suffer by other parties’ attacks on them.

    I’ve complained before about the leaflets used by the Liberal Democrats (whilst being a member of the party) in attempting to manipulate people’s psychology in voting behaviour. The worst leaflet that I saw was a copy replicating an OK magazine, and that had a star sign section – what the hell do star signs have to do with serious policies?!! The reply I received was that they wanted to get the sort of people that would read OK (but not a political leaflet) interested in politics. Unfortunately, the bottom line is that these types of strategies work – much to the sadness of many of us. Of course, I would like to see a radical honesty in electioneering but I doubt very much any serious party would risk trying it.

    100. Liberal Neil

    Rupert,

    On the basis of this article I assume we can look forward to Green Party General Election literature in Norwich South, Oxford East and Brighton Pavillion which only includes bar charts based on the previous General Election result, and not on aggregated local election results?

    If any of your party colleagues use results from the ‘wrong’ elections to suggest that they can win in the General presumably we can look forward to an equally vitriolic article about the Green Party?

    @Jennie Rigg, comment 75:
    “misleading (which he has admitted to) statements”… That’s not true. I have made no such admission. I think that the attempts to catch me out by focussing on which leaflets have and have not been scanned in and on the turns of phrase used to characterise what was in which leaflets is really a pretty desperate attempt by LibDem partisans to avoid facing up to the real issue: of how we are going to clean up politics together, if some Parties continue to campaign in a dirty and systematically misleading way.

    @ Alix #97

    No, it’s not enough for Lib Dem members to regret or deplore these tactics.

    They must make their best efforts to prevail upon their party to stop lying to the electorate or do the decent thing and not participate in circulating these leaflets.

    I know at least one party member that has already done so. How many others are prepared to do likewise and say publicly that they will do likewise?

    103. Liberal Neil

    This is a BLATANT LIE:

    “Jen; the point is that as soon as the war became popular (i.e. as soon as it began), the LibDems backed it.”

    Rupert Read is a liar and a hyprocrite.

    Dear Rupert Reid,

    you are a whining shit. I have known toddlers with more emotional maturity than you. You lost the election, not because of Lib Dem dirty tricks, but because the voters simply didly like you very much.

    May I suggest you grow up before getting involved with politics again?

    Rupert@47, clearly you know more about the Lib Dem printing schedules than I do. Are you saying a leaflet reporting General Election figures and a prediction, should be pulped rather than delivered, on the basis of the latest opinion polls? Clearly not, as the prediction was correct.

    Although of course we were right to ignore the one poll putting the Greens at 15%, way ahead of all the other polls, commissioned by the, er, Green Party. Do you want to share how you did that at all? Surely it wasn’t a base attempt to influence voters with a fabricated message of higher support than was actually the case? Shocking.

    But now I have read your briefing on the Iraq war, and I am outraged. How dare you complain about some truthful – if not the most relevant – statistics – when you are putting out this kind of outright lie. Karl Rove would be proud of you.

    Jennie, well done for trying, but this is clearly a partisan pro-Labour anti-Lib Dem site these days. It would never carry an article like this about Labour, despite everything Labour is doing in government.

    “They must make their best efforts to prevail upon their party to stop lying to the electorate or do the decent thing and not participate in circulating these leaflets.”

    Adrian, that caused me to laugh in a hollow manner.

    You seriously think we don’t all inveigh, publicly and privately, against dodgy leaflets? You seriously think I wouldn’t refuse to deliver a rubbish leaflet? I’d have no hesitation in refusing. And I’ve had plenty of screaming arguments, online and off, with the idiots in the party who assert “it works” and expect that to be the end of the matter. You very recently yourself had the disconcerting experience of coming on to Lib Dem Voice and abusing the whole lot of us over our leaflets and finding that… we all agreed with you.

    I’m one of those who is TRYING to change all this, in whatever way I can, though frankly I think it’s hopeless, as I don’t have any real on the ground influence whatsoever. The point I was making in my comment was that it doesn’t matter how virtuous I am, or anyone else here who’s a Lib Dem who says similar things. I’ll still be in the wrong in the eyes of this thread, just for being a Lib Dem. What’s the point in talking to you guys? Like I say, it’s a two-minute hate.

    “It would never carry an article like this about Labour, despite everything Labour is doing in government.”

    Except I myself have written articles for this site, and have seen many more, that slam the lies and misinformation of Labour. I believe very recently we have Unity going in to great depth about the scam James Purnell was trying to pull with Lie Detector Tests.

    This site does have an issue with a pro-labour stance, but it is not utterly devoid of criticism of Labour. It just seems to be right now that there are more people like Rupert willing to write pot shots at the Lib Dems than Lib Dems willing to write pot shots about other liberal/left parties. To me the greater shame is that Lib Dems would rather roll over and sulk about the content of Liberal Conspiracy, certain members such as Jen and Mat not included there, than actively try and engage in it.

    I’ve, however, stated to Sunny before that this sort of post shouldn’t be bothered with, it’s a crying shame that we have to spend so much time alienating each other while the main issue of the day has to be reducing a Tory majority by as much as is possible. It’s doubly a shame when the article itself is a whine piece such as this that does target only one party for the sins of all.

    99. Style your leaflets how you like, as long as the message isn’t untrue or deliberately misleading.

    “Jennie, well done for trying, but this is clearly a partisan pro-Labour anti-Lib Dem site these days. It would never carry an article like this about Labour, despite everything Labour is doing in government.”

    Rupert’s article was ridiculous because of the high levels of whining in it. It is as nothing, however, compared to the whiny complaint that this site is biased to Labour and against the Lib Dems.

    There are articles attacking Labour for their policies, for enabling the rise of fascism and for having no principles, but clearly an article by a member of the Green Party saying that the Lib Dems use dodgy bar charts is in a whole different league of grievous insult.

    Anyway, it would be hard to write an article slagging off Labour’s strategy and message in the European elections, because there was no strategy and no message :)

    @ Alix,

    No, I don’t think you do _all_ complain about dodgy leaflets or refuse to deliver them. For those that do you have my support and admiration — that includes you.

    I don’t remember “abusing” anyone on Lib Dem voice but I do of course remember the discussions in which some Lib Dems agreed that the leaflets were wrong and others didn’t. By all means post links to this alleged abuse so everyone can make their own judgements.

    Not being an activist or supporter of any particular party I don’t have any animosity towards the Lib Dems as a party or their members. But I’ve been quite categorical in my views about these leaflets and saying that the elected representatives and candidates that promote them aren’t fit to hold public office.

    If you’d like to change Lib Dem campaiging policy from the inside I expect it would need a more co-ordinated approach. Try to get together some kind of group or campaign that can have a bigger collective voice to make your case rather than fighting the battle piecemeal in your individual constituencies.

    As I said earlier, an article like this from a party candidate isn’t really the best way to approach the subject as it just leads to claims and counterclaims by various parties’ supporters. The aim should be for parties to try to get their own houses in order first rather than just pointing the finger at others.

    On the debate on PR systems: a bit more heat than light here, I think, and I don’t agree for once with everything that Rayyan says. . .
    The AMS vs STV argument is a tricky one. While the Green Party likes STV a lot in principle, we recognise that it has certain practical disadvantages, principally:
    1) Constituencies need to be very large indeed, if one is to get a proportional result (D’hondt constituenices are large, but not large enough to ensure proportionality – Greens got less than 3% of the seats in England, for over 9% of the vote);
    2) For those used to FPTP, STV can be complex and hard to understand;
    3) There is a danger that lower preferences are ‘donkey’ preferences (to use the technical term…);
    4) There is scope for tactical voting by more intelligent / better informed voters, who can make their vote count much more than less well-informed voters by casting their higher preference(s) for (a) candidate(s) who are likely to be very near the threshold, rather than clearly over it.
    >>AMS has the great advantage of being comparatively simple, of assuring national proportionality (so long as the number of ‘additional’ seats is sufficient), and preserving the constituency link nearly intact – a feature which is very important to British voters.
    I’ve always been a big fan of STV; but I am coming around to the view, which is Green Party policy, that on balance AMS may well in practice be the better choice.

    IN response to Joe Otten: Your criticism of the ComRes poll comissioned by the Green Party is wholly baseless and without substance. It is a slur on the good name of ComRes. There was nothing whatsoever underhand in the question that was asked, and the flak against the poll has been in some cases merely ignorant, in other cases a partisan disgrace. The question asked was a completely standard voter-intention question.
    Polls commissioned by political parties in this country are perfectly normal, and no reputable polling company will ask a dodgy voter-intention question in such a poll.

    @LiberalNeil, comment 100: Like some earlier commenters, you seem unable or unwilling to distinguish between choosing not to cite every single stat and choosing deliberately to cite irrelevant stats.
    I am not of course claiming that the Green Party is full of angels or that we are perfect. I am not claiming that we do not include stats that are favourable to us on our leaflets, and omit some that are not so favourable. What I am claiming is this:
    That we do not distort the heights of bars on bar-charts.
    That we do not cite irrelevant or meaningless or deliberately misleading stats.
    That we do not make false claims about who is in contention in a given seat.
    That we fight primarily on policy etc grounds, and not primarily on tactical arguments. [If the LibDem freeposts had challenged Green Party policy, as some commenters here have, then that would have been much preferable to what they in fact did.]

    I would be grateful if commenters could address these points of substance, rather than going on about me allegedly ‘whining’ or whathaveyou.

    111. who cares, there are many many articles about the issues of PR around the web. I hope no STV advocates rise to your bait here and rehash old tired discussions. I particularly do like that you, as a Green, insult the intelligence of the electorate on point 2, however.

    Personally, I don’t think the LibDem leaflets changed the outcome because I strongly suspect – against the Greens (with whom they are basically fighting for the “thinking” voter) – their tactics are generally counterproductive. I also agree with those above who caution against getting into the mire with them by overusing the “FibDem” label.

    It is important that their lies are exposed (albeit with courtesy) for what they are, but it is probably better that they are not actually outlawed. I sure as hell would not want to be governed or represented by people who consider it normal and acceptable to systematically try to mislead me. It is only because their leaflets are allowed that I have discovered LibDems (locally, at least) to be precisely such people.

    People always have an idea of who they are going to vote for, even if they claim they are keeping an open mind. If you see such error that you could suddenly never vote for a party based on their leaflet material…material which is almost always truthful even if it is not the whole truth…then you were never really going to vote for them anyway, Ben.

    You have a point though that negative campaigning is a turn off, and we all know this. But to pretend also that everyone that got Lib Dem leaflets that had intended to vote green or were thinking about voting green would suddenly read that negative campaigning and say “well, hell, I’m going to throw away my gut feeling and vote Lib Dem!”, well that’s just a bit fantastical. Greens didn’t win because THE GREENS did not convince enough people that they were a viable vote, and *maybe* the Lib Dem literature confirmed those gut feelings.

    Well done to the Greens for increasing the vote, next election you’ll probably do much better…legitimacy grows exponentially to success I believe. But look internally before you childishly point your finger at others, especially when those others aren’t outright lying about you, merely carefully choosing their facts (bar charts excluded).

    Note: I’m non-aligned, I just think this sort of article is pathetic.

    Just a digression, now we’re into STV vs AMS..

    Here in Scotland we live with both. STV works at local level, and although we’ve only had one election under it there was little evidence of confusion with it. AMS has also worked relatively well, although Labour’s buggering about with the ballot paper caused massive confusion in 2007.

    Neither are particularly proportional (for instance, in the most recent AMS election we Greens got 4% of the vote but only 1.5% of the seats, while Labour and the SNP were both over-represented), but obviously both are superior to FPTP.

    A case from self-interest can be made for either sort of election, but the Scottish Green Party backs large multi-member STV constituencies as a more accurate way to reflect the nuanced preferences of the electorate. It also (unlike AMS) makes all elected members equal, in the sense that all were elected the same way, even if under STV you can tell which candidates topped their local poll.

    I even heard the Tory deputy leader in Scotland tell an FPTP campaign group recently that STV worked well for Council elections. Strange times.

    @Lee Griffen (116.)

    I’m not sure about the absence of “outright lies”. On election day, in the Eastern region, I received a leaflet colored entirely dark green with big white typeface: “Greens now out from the European Election”. I had to look quite carefully to find that it was produced by the LibDems. The Greens had not, of course, withdrawn from the European Election, nor were they in any sense out of contention but I only knew these things because I follow local politics more closely than most.

    I admit that I am biased – I align myself with the Greens – but I do think that Read’s article makes an important contribution to this site. LibDems’ relentless negativity is, I think, a major obstacle to the progress of thoughtful and participatory centre-left politics in the UK.

    Ben: I’ll take your word for the leaflet, but the point still stands, especially given that such a headline falls under misleading than “lies”…if you were a green you’d read on and work out what the hell this was about…find it was a spin leaflet, and your choice to vote greens wouldn’t be changed. If you didn’t really intend to vote greens it would reinforce that view. In reality what does it change in terms of voter preferences? Very little I would argue.

    Furthermore the point still stands that all parties do this. I got a Labour leaflet all coloured in Gold that stated quite clear misleading statements (equating certain votes in parliament, unqualified, with other statements such as Lib Dems want to make your streets less safe). I’d be amazingly surprised if the Tories and others didn’t do it too. I’d also be surprised if people reading them didn’t see through them.

    Again…what is it with people aligned to greens treating people like imbeciles? Do you honestly think that the electorate can’t work out for themselves when one party is simply attacking another, and that they believe without question what has been said?

    Rupert@112, wow you seem even angrier about criticism of the ComRes poll than you are about the leaflets. Do you have any idea at all why it might have been 6.4 %age points out?

    donpasinki@109, I’m not basing the conclusion on this one article, although it does illustrate a preference in editorial policy. LibCon wouldn’t use ZaNuLabour in a headline. But prove me wrong by all means.

    There is plenty of good criticism of government (i.e. Labour) policy here, and, recently plenty of criticism of Green policy.

    But I do have a feeling that the choice of stories reflect Labour’s fascinations, and that big stories that would reflect well on the Lib Dems get ignored – eg Clegg’s announcement to oppose the renewal of Trident. Whereas Labour’s decision to hold a secret enquiry into the Iraq war. That’s worth praising.

    121. Andrew Freeman

    @107 I’ve, however, stated to Sunny before that this sort of post shouldn’t be bothered with, it’s a crying shame that we have to spend so much time alienating each other while the main issue of the day has to be reducing a Tory majority by as much as is possible. It’s doubly a shame when the article itself is a whine piece such as this that does target only one party for the sins of all.

    Hear, hear

    Joe: Maybe you should write something about Trident? Or do you know someone that has that wouldn’t mind cross posting from the Lib Dems?

    I have no wish to revisit the STV/AMS debate other than to say that I disagree with Rupert’s analysis but respect the position.

    Unlike some of my fellow Lib Dems I also don’t have a particular beef with Liberal Conspiracy here. I do think this article, and articles like it, generate more heat than light (I’m only taking part to set the record straight) but accept that LC has been critical of both Labour and the Greens in the past.

    In #113, Rupert cites a number of Green Party campaign principles:

    1 That we do not distort the heights of bars on bar-charts.
    2 That we do not cite irrelevant or meaningless or deliberately misleading stats.
    3 That we do not make false claims about who is in contention in a given seat.
    4 That we fight primarily on policy etc grounds, and not primarily on tactical arguments.

    In the case of Stop Nick Griffin, points 2, 3 and 4 were not abided by. It was grossly misleading to make a tactical vote argument when so many factors were variable. It explicitly claimed that a Lib Dem, Tory, Labour or UKIP vote was wasted because they had very little chance of getting an extra seat (I’ve only just noticed their handy YouTube video doesn’t even recognise UKIP’s existence, despite the fact that they very nearly got 2 MEPs). And it was a whole website dedicated solely to fighting the election using tactical arguments. I’m sure that if I took a ruler to the website I could find some bar chart inaccuracies as well.

    Given that Stop Nick Griffin was a more high profile campaign than anything done in the Eastern Region, it would appear that the North West Greens don’t meet your high minded ideals, Rupert. Again I ask (you sidestepped this last time): are you prepared to denounce Peter Cranie’s campaign, or do your criticisms really amount to little more than Lib Dem exceptionalism?

    In response to Lee: As I stated in my piece, we know for a fact that some people WERE convinced by the LibDem leaflets in question, because they told us so. A minority of these people were in fact under the impression that we had ourselves endorsed the view that we had no chance in the Euro elections – they thought that they were obeying OUR request, in voting LibDem in the Euros!
    Please don’t say in reply to this that such people are just dumb / poor readers. The fact is that at least one of these leaflets was _designed_ to look at a superficial glance as if it was Greens telling voters that we (Greens) were out of the race. I consider that extremely underhand; Greens would never produce such a leaflet.
    The LibDems have produced other even wose leaflets in the past, more carefully designed to appear as if they were by Greens rather than by LibDems. Isn’t this just wrong?

    Several people have criticised me on the grounds that I am only attacking the LibDems over this, not also attacking Labour and the Tories. Well, I have specifically mentioned that the Tories do sometimes do this stuff too – e.g. their leaflet referred to above, in Norwich North, which has a dodgy graph on it. But it seems an odd criticism of my post – which is partly quite deliberately autobiographical – that it doesn’t consider bad things done by the other old Parties too. My post was already long; I am happy to leave it to others to question dirty campaigning tactics by the Tories and Labour in other posts. At this election, I personally did not suffer such dirty campaigning at their hands.
    Indeed, a local Tory Councillor in Norwich has been public-spirited enough to write to the EVENING NEWS here complaining about the LibDem distortion of the Greens’ chances in the Euro-elections… that is an even-handedness to which we can all aspire (Though I will be questioning him about the Tory Norwich North bar-graph distortion…).
    I repeat the generalisation made earlier, which others have agreed with: There is sometimes bad behaviour along these lines in the Tories and in Labour (a classic example of the latter being what Peter Cranie has mentioned: the Labour lie in the NorthWest that the ‘only’ way to stop the BNP was to vote Labour; Peter never made comparable claims about voting Green to stop the BNP, but rather he argued the case in some detail that it was likely to be the case that a Green vote was more effective in stopping the BNP at the margin than a LibDem or Labour vote, and he was proved clearly correct in this argument)… But on balance the LibDems are the worst offenders. Time and again, all over the country, systematically, they engage in this behaviour. This was one of the reasons that I become disenchanted with the LibDems. I first-saw it from the inside long long ago in the Fulham byelection. It worried me then. It got to worry me much more in the 90s, as the reign of Rennard et al began. I became involved with the Green Party partly because I thought that I had at last found a more decent (on balance – there are some rogues even within our ranks, but they are a minority kept in check, not rulers of the roost) bunch of politicos. I think that that judgement is now timelier than ever.

    #124:

    Peter never made comparable claims about voting Green to stop the BNP, but rather he argued the case in some detail that it was likely to be the case that a Green vote was more effective in stopping the BNP at the margin than a LibDem or Labour vote, and he was proved clearly correct in this argument)

    This is bogus disinformation.

    It was UKIP – a party Cranie didn’t even recognise the existence of – that were closest to denying the BNP their seat. The Greens had the second best chance, being 5,000 votes away from beating Griffin, but the Lib Dems only needed 10,000 votes. In percentage terms, the Lib Dems needed a 0.3% swing from the Greens to gain that seat.

    How many Lib Dem voters were persuaded by Green literature to switch their vote and are now ruing that they did so?

    Any tactical vote argument (with the possible exception for arguing that a vote for one of the micro-vanity parties like NO2EU or Jury Team is a wasted vote) is bogus in a list-PR election. Either have a consistent line on this or discredit yourself: your choice.

    I’m withdrawing from the pissing match on this one, I’ve said my piece on the accuracy of Rupert’s article, and broadly agree with James and Joe on the rest (as two of the people whose blogs persuaded me to consider joining the party, that shouldn’t surprise anyone). I am surprised to find that ComRes is supposed to have a good reputation though, I filed their polls under “ignore, crap methodology” a long time ago and have seen no reason to change that judgement.

    Adrian, as it happens, Alix and I are actually, when we can, working to set up a group campaigning for a variety of issues, including better quality information in political campaigns, but it’s very nascent right now and not ready to launch, when it is ready people will know.

    There is one point I’m going to raise though, and it’s a point I’ve already raised with some campaigners locally and will be raising in a lot of places over the next few years, and it addresses one of Adrian and Rayyan’s principle concerns, namely the weird way the Lib Dem Euro leaflets concentrated on General Election results over Euro/PR election likely numbers. They’re both assuming this was an attempt to deceive the electorate in the Euro elections. I actually now, having spoken to a number of people across the country, suspect something completely different—and from an internal Lib Dem perspective, this reason, if true, is actually worse.

    The Lib Dem Euro campaign strategy sucked great big monkey balls. Essentially, the strategy was to ignore it almost completely. Only Fryer’s campaigners in London and Davies’ team in the NW had anything really worth it. Everywhere else, it was taken as a good excuse to go out and do more campaigning in the Westminster target/held seats. Essentially, in virtually every region, it would take a very weird event to lose the one sitting Lib Dem MEP, and outside London and the NW, it would take an equally similar event to gain one.

    So the strategy was to ignore the Euro elections, concentrate on Westminster target seats, and target all the message on that, in order to improve chances at the next General Election. I am, openly, furious about this strategy within Yorkshire, and will be raising it at every level over the next few years—in a PR election, where every vote counts, campaigning efforts should be put in to work in areas which would be demographically good for the LDs within constituencies but where there would be little chance of a win across the whole constituency.

    It should be used to develop seats and parties in area that, ten years down the line, might have Lib Dem potential. This is, largely, what has been done in Burnley in the NW, where the BNP have pretty much been chased out of local politics and their Euro vote went down—contrast this with Barnsley in Yorkshire, where the demographics are similar but the LDs are barely present.

    I suspect that the LD Euro leaflets that ignored the Euro elections that Adrian has highlighted weren’t actually about deceiving voters (although maximising vote in those areas was wanted), but in fact about reinforcing the local party’s campaigning message for the next General Election.

    If true, then this also explains why the LDs traditionally do a lot worse in PR based elections—they’re only bothering to fight in areas where they traditionally fight, leaving other areas to other parties, including both the Greens and the BNP.

    127. Dave Schwab

    Hi Rupert, American Green here. I found your article informative and well-argued, and I think the LibDem apologists who defend their party’s behavior by pretending that all politicians are like that will continue to lose votes to the Greens’ positive message. That being said, it did distract from your points that you consistently referred to them as the FibDems. Without the name-calling, you’ll convince more people (especially LibDem voters who didn’t know how shady that party’s electioneering is).

    128. Stuart White

    Alex@94: I am not saying that Tory (or Labour, or Green) leaflets never contain dodgy claims. My point – which I didn’t express clearly enough – was that the use of irrelevant stats, usually in the form of bar charts, to create misleading impressions that a given electoral contest is a ‘two-horse race’ between the Lib Dems and some other party and/or that some party (Tory, Green, whatever) ‘can’t win here’ are things I regularly see on Lib Dem leaflets in Oxford but am much less conscious of having seen on other parties’ leaflets.

    Jennie@75: for better or worse, light-hearted name-calling is, in practice, a normal part of the cut and thrust of robust debate. To want to insulate yourself from it is really to turn your back on any realistic prospects of such debate. It is surely a small price to pay for engaging in such debate. And why is it wrong for me to charge you with partisanship – actually, I said ‘tribalism’, which is much worse than partisanship – simply because that is what you are charging Rupert with? Your accusation of partisanship against Rupert in no way exempts you from being unduly partisan – or worse, tribalistic. If you dismiss Rupert’s arguments as ‘mudslinging’ instead of engaging with the serious point he is making, then that indicates ‘tribalism’.

    The strategy was to ignore the Euro elections, concentrate on Westminster target seats, and target all the message on that, in order to improve chances at the next General Election.

    Yep, that is my understanding too. I understand the logic behind it, I just think it is incredibly short termist and helps to perpetuate an anti-EU sentiment that gets left unchallenged.

    Stuart White:

    My point – which I didn’t express clearly enough – was that the use of irrelevant stats, usually in the form of bar charts, to create misleading impressions that a given electoral contest is a ‘two-horse race’ between the Lib Dems and some other party and/or that some party (Tory, Green, whatever) ‘can’t win here’ are things I regularly see on Lib Dem leaflets in Oxford but am much less conscious of having seen on other parties’ leaflets.

    “X can’t win here” and “its a two-horse race” are perfectly legitimate tactics if it happens to be true. Ditton bar charts. Given that this is in the face of a mainstream media that perpetuates the idea that all elections are merely Labour/Tory contests, this is simply challenging a misconception.

    The problem arises when those techniques are abused. Unfortunately, a lot of Labour and Tory people insist that putting across a factually accurate squeeze message is as bad as putting across a bogus one (except when they do it of course) and conflate the two. You seem to be doing this here, citing Oxford which is a place where the Lib Dems are the main contenders/defenders in numerous places.

    The real outrage here is an electoral system which actively encourages tactical voting, not the tactics of a party attempting to work around it. If you are really concerned about the problem then you should be working to change the system.

    Are Lib Dems capable of campaigning in any other way, under different electoral systems? Sadly, I think that in a large number of cases we simply aren’t. But ultimately that is our problem. We have consistently underperformed in PR elections, be it the Euros, Scotland, Wales or London (London 2008 being a particularly notorious example). Instead of moaning about it, our opponents would be better off leaving the party to its delusions.

    131. councilhousetory

    Looks like even the Green Party are subject to the machinations of the yellow peril. Welcome to the wonderful of the Lib Dem barchart Mr Read.

    James @71 makes the assertion earlier in the comments that I’m a big fat liar and challenged our NW campaign. Given that I shed 12 lbs as part of our fundraising efforts during the campaign, less of the fat please James, but this is an important debate, so let’s have it.

    Was our http://www.stopnickgriffin.org.uk campaign justified in the North West? We made the claim that voting Green was the best tactical option to the stop the BNP. The Liberal Democrats also claimed that [apologies for any slight paraphrasing as the leaflet isn’t in front of me], “…election experts agree that voting Lib Dem is the best way to stop the BNP” on their literature. I don’t see any difference between the two claims – both are assertions to be the best tactical option to stop the BNP. I’m sure the NW Lib Dems had their reasons for making that claim, as we did. I just think we presented it in a better way, and that actually we were proven to be more accurate than you were.

    Our case was put on the best info we had available, tactical anti-racist support from other parties like Community Action in Wigan, Respect across the North West, and the progress we’d made locally over five years. The YouTube was indeed slightly out of date by the time it was released, because UKIP had done nothing in the region for five years, and we hadn’t accurately predicted the UKIP surge or expenses scandals in advance. But we actually updated our site with static content to show how the UKIP surge scenario would impact – something about us Greens trying to be honest with the voters – it is still up there if you want to look.

    Even on the night of the count, I don’t think anyone was expecting UKIP to be so close to winning a second seat (in the end they needed 2448 more votes). You have it on record here that I’d much rather have seen Michael McManus elected than Nick Griffin. However James, it’s a bit cheeky to suggest that the final seat was very close with the Lib Dems. You were exactly 28,549 votes away from taking that second seat ahead of the BNP so let’s nip that “the Lib Dems only needed 10,000 votes” notion in the bud right now.

    We said that if we beat the BNP, we would keep them out. We got our analysis right. It might not have guaranteed us a seat if UKIP had got double our vote, but it would have kept Griffin out of Europe. Given that we largely compete with Labour and the Lib Dems for votes, are you saying that a Labour or Lib Dem vote was actually a better tactical option? Do you really think that 28,549 Lib Dem voters switched to the Greens because of StopNickGriffin?

    I don’t have much of an axe to grind with the NW Lib Dems, and in our region we won’t be selecting a candidate to stand against Tim Farron, and we are looking at where best to stand the rest of our likely 36 General Election candidates (19 in place at the moment). As I’ve said, it was the appalling “only a vote for Labour can stop the BNP” that I think was most counterproductive in the efforts to keep Griffin out.

    Quaequam is a good blog btw and always worth a read. You are entitled to put the alternative case but surely by your own standards, the Lib Dems must also be liars in the NW having also made the tactical vote assertion? I am clear that saying that you are the “only” vote to stop the BNP is a lie because the intent is to mislead, and if you are going to call someone a liar, you need to look at the intention.

    Err, this is politics – right?

    Well everything in politics is a matter of opinion. Period. So nothing anyone says is a ‘lie’ is anything more than a simple expression of their opinion that it is a ‘lie’.

    Frankly I’m shocked (but not surprised) at the naivety demonstrated in such a public way by a leading light of the Green Party. Why Dr Read is complaining at such length and with such repetitiveness at his own deficiencies possibly justifies the public decision to leave him with his much earned desserts – he should he grateful to the public that so many people were prepared to put their faith in him rather than venting so undiplomatically and ungraciously.

    To suggest that even one vote was unfairly gained without binding proof of legally enforceable fraud is evidence of unreliable reasoning and a lack of political skills and to make public any complaints shows a lack of understanding of what democracy is – precisely by it’s nature it is not what any of us want it to be!

    I also think Dr Read’s broad generalisation about his opponents is a clear demonstration of his own prejudice against them, and it bemuses me that someone who is visibly willing to engage in slapdash condemnation could survive in academia (though that obviously only speaks for the UEA philosophy department).

    As a former Green party member I can recall only too well the constant negativism which forced me out, and this article only pushes me further away from considering voting for them. The potential benefit to our society of a viable new political force would be welcome, but it seems the only addition to the diverse nature of debate the Greens here offer is to lower the standard of it.

    Meantime I’m waiting for someone to raise mention of the slur I most commonly hear used by Greens – ie that all the other parties are ‘grey’ and only the Greens offer anything different. Or is nobody prepared to defend their claim that there is no clear policy differences on subjects as diverse as Iraq or Europe, or on everything from taxation to spending?

    And that is my opinion.

    Join the new green Conservative party?

    What a dreadful article. Can you seriously imagine a leading Lib Dem politicians referring to Labour as “New Liebour”? This article simply shows how juvenile the Green Party remains, and exactly why the Lib Dems are right to do what they can to prevent people voting for anti-science fanatics like the Green Party.

    Peter, rereading James’ comment at 71, to me it’s clear that he’s comparing your campaign in the NW with Rupert’s complaint about the LD campaign in the East. From what I’ve seen of the campaigning literature, I have no problem with the tactical squeeze message in the East, and both linked to and promoted your site in the NW, the video was a good explanation of the voting system.

    James isn’t calling you a lier—he’s saying that if the LD East campaign is dishonest, so is yours, if yours isn’t, then neither is the LD East campaign. I agree with him.

    FWIW, if I lived 10 miles to the west, I’d have voted for you; as it is, I voted for the LDs in Yorkshire—your lead candidate managed to annoy me in many many ways with his misleading letters to the local papers. I can’t be arsed to bring that all out, but Rupert’s claim that your party is whiter than white, makes perfect psephological predictions and doesn’t runa tactical squeeze campaign simply isn’t true.

    In response to Dave Schwab: Thanks. You and others may be right that use of the term ‘FibDems’ – intended to be a light-hearted way of drawing attention to the tendency of leaflet-writing Lib-Dems to fib – may be counter-productive. I hasten to point out of course that the term was not my invention – it’s out there, on the net.
    In response to Thomas: The reason why I have sometimes been ‘repetitive’ is that it appeared that a number of commenters had failed to actually read my post carefully. As for your main point: I do not accept it. I do not accept, that is, the idea that we should expect politics to be dirty. The terrible danger of dirty campaigning is that it can induce a kind of relativistic ‘Gresham’s Law’ of politics, that you and other commenters seem to be buying into: dirty campaigning drives out clean, if we reach the pretty pass where members of the public (and of the press) simply say ‘You are all as bad as each other’ and fail to make distinctions between those of us who use accurate graphs etc etc and those of us who don’t.
    So I honestly think that we are fighting for the soul of our polity, here. I praise the LibDems on this thread and elsewhere who are trying to hold their Party to account and change its dominant campaigning practices. I think it is vital for us all that they succeed. If dirty campaigning triumphs, if we reach the point where there is no point in even trying to give the electorate accurate information, because they won’t trust any of us and so one might just as well mislead them for short-term advantage, endlessly, then we might as well all give up and go home, and the ‘clean up politics’ agenda that rightly seems so vital now in the wake of the expenses scandal will just die.
    There is a better way: Let’s raise the standard of political campaigning, and challenge practices in our own Parties and in others that fall short. And I would add: let’s seek to institutionalise the need to responsibly inform the electorate, rather than to mislead them.
    Thanks everyone for your comments! I think it has been on balance a constructive debate, even if I haven’t particularly enjoyed being called a ‘shit’, a ‘whiner’, ‘pathetic’, etc etc. …

    Mat, 100% agree on PR election strategy. Count me in on this campaign of yours.

    Dear oh dear. I had started to think the green party had moved away from their image as cranks but this bizarre rant set my opinion right back. Compared with things like “Vote green to stop the BNP”… you’re on the moral low ground and a bad loser.

    Thank you for the reply Rupert, but I don’t accept that I ever made any point anywhere near suggesting that I expect politics to be played dirty.

    Of course if you can point out the part of my comment from which this conclusion could be fairly drawn I am willing to be proved wrong.

    On the subject of repetitiveness, perhaps it is precisely this which is causing people not to read quite as closely as they might otherwise. Saying something more often can easily lead to it being said too much in the available space, which inevitably leads to a lack of clarity and confusion – volume of argument simply does not compensate for a lack of weight or insight.

    I found your article annoying enough to make the effort to read it closely several times and I now challenge you to rewrite the actual content of it in more than one line.

    In fact I’ll do it for you: nobody is more scornful than they who feel betrayed.

    Peter Cranie:

    “[James Graham] makes the assertion earlier in the comments that I’m a big fat liar”

    No I didn’t. I said that if Rupert wants to be consistant, he needs to call you a ‘big fat liar’ – big difference.

    I think the reasoning on the site was somewhat bogus, and I do think leaving UKIP off completely was dodgy, but I don’t have a particular problem with it. That’s politics.

    I have deliberately – and satirically – ramped up the rhetoric on this thread, but only to point out the deep flaw and self-defeating consequence in the holier-than-thou tone in the original article and some of the subsequent comments.

    124. “The LibDems have produced other even wose leaflets in the past, more carefully designed to appear as if they were by Greens rather than by LibDems. Isn’t this just wrong?”

    What’s wrong is those people you cite not reading the literature before making their minds up. If they had fully read it and understood that it was not from the Greens then surely they would have been more inclined to vote Green than before, and less inclined to vote Lib Dem?

    144. Liberal Neil

    James et al – I think you are being a little unfair on the Lib Dem literature front. Here in the South East the European Election leaflets were definitely about European issues and material was also carried in many of the County leaflets too.

    And our second seat was VERY marginal, being won by the equivalent of 65 votes per westminster constituency!

    I am slightly amused by the general praise being heaped on Fryer’s London campaign. It may well have impressed the Eurphiles but to me it pretty much proved that his theory about running a pro-European campaign has been comprehensively disproved.

    “And our second seat was VERY marginal, being won by the equivalent of 65 votes per westminster constituency!”

    There’s your answer.

    By contrast here in the South West both Labour and the Lib Dems knew they were unlikely to lose or gain, and both their literature replicated this knowledge. Lib Dems through going on about our economy and why Labour are no good for the country, and Labour for smearing the Lib Dems.

    Incidently, I didn’t vote for the Lib Dems at the Euro’s, probably related.

    146. Stuart White

    James Graham@130: as I said in my initial comment on Jennie’s comment, I can’t quote chapter and verse on this as I haven’t kept the relevant Lib Dem leaflets. But I’m afraid the use of bar charts by the Oxford Lib Dems – at least those in my area – is by no means as benign and reasonable as you suggest.

    What I can say is this. In the past few months we have had two elections in my area of Oxford – a city council election and a county council election. During these elections I am pretty sure I received Lib Dem leaflets which contained bar charts with the ‘It’s a two horse race’ and/or ‘Tories can’t win here’ type headlines, and I distinctly recall noting how the relevant bar charts were of highly questionable relevance to the particular election at hand.

    I recall, in particular, two kinds of chart. First, a chart which presented party shares of the vote in the Oxford East constituency at the last general election. The Lib Dems come in second, close behind Labour, with the Tories not in sight. But in my area of Oxford East, the Tories are very much in play. In my city council ward, they beat the Lib Dems into third place in city council elections in 2008 and 2009. In my county council ward, they failed to elect a councillor, but they were nowhere near as far behind Labour or the Lib Dems as the bar chart showing support across the whole Oxford East constituency would suggest. Unfortunately I can’t recall whether the bar chart in question was put out under the city or council election, or both, but in either case – and especially so if it was in the former case – it is obviously very misleading to tell voters that the Tories are not in the race on the basis of a bar chart which shows support distributed across a much wider area than the area in which the election is taking place.

    I also recall a bar chart showing numbers of councillors in Oxford by party. Again, Labour comes in first, Lib Dems second, Greens trail a distant third, and there are no Tories. But, again, it is obviously misleading to suggest that because the Tories get no councillrors across Oxford as a whole, one is wasting one’s vote by supporting them in an election in a specific area of Oxford – particularly when they have beaten the Lib Dems in the recent past in the local city council elections.

    All this is from memory, and memory can be unreliable, so I stand to be corrected. But this is why I say that Rupert’s charge of misleading use of stats, bar charts, etc. rings true to me.

    147. Stuart White

    Stuart White@146: I should amend the second sentence to say: ‘But I’m afraid, if my memory serves me correctly, the use of bar charts by the Oxford Lib Dems – at least those in my area – is by no means as benign and reasonable as you suggest.’

    Stuart:

    You are referring to Oxford East constituency – a place where the Lib Dems came remarkably close in 2005 and where boundary changes have made the seat even more winnable.

    The most basic rule of campaigning is that you have to repeat your core message again, and again, and again. Deviate from that and you might as well not bother. So while I’m sorry if the squeeze message is tiresome for you but if the local Lib Dems are to win the seat they have to do this.

    There is nothing dishonest with challenging the notion that a vote for the Lib Dems is not a wasted one. I accept that it is inconvenient for our rivals who would prefer it if we filled our leaflets with complex psephological ponderings, but that is life.

    Labour doesn’t have to do any of this because it has an entire media out there reinforcing the notion, day in, day out, that the election is a simple contest between them and the Conservatives. We don’t have this in built advantage. Until we do, bemoaning “misleading” statements is a little rich.

    147/148 – Stuart is right about this. (It’s the Headington Hill and Northway ward, where the Tories were 2nd and the Lib Dems 3rd in both 2008 and 2009).

    The problem that the Lib Dems have got in Oxford is that they want to appeal both to left-leaning and to right-leaning voters at the same time, people who vote Green and who vote Tory in the local elections. So if they attacked Labour from a consistent stance (either from a left or right-wing perspective) it would alientate the people whose support they need to win the parliamentary constituency, and as a result all they are left with is the message of being a generic anti-Labour vote. Which is much less appealing than the Lib Dems appear to think it is.

    The results of this so far for the Lib Dems have between a disastrous and incompetent two years of running the council, followed by collapse at a local level, losing ground to Labour in both 2008 and 2009, and finishing 3rd across the city in the European elections. Ironically, the Greens are probably now better placed than the Lib Dems to be the main challengers to Labour in Oxford East (compared to the Lib Dems they’ve got a stronger candidate, as many councillors, more votes at the recent elections, and a wider base of support – there are whole chunks of the city where the Lib Dems are now the 4th biggest party).

    Also, which is a shame, the comedy Lib Dem campaign means that Evan Harris might get beat by the Tories in Oxford West and Abingdon.

    150. Stuart White

    James Graham@148: yes, James, I appreciate that if the LIb Dems are fighting a Parliamentary election, it is reasonable to go on and on and on about how close the Lib Dems were last time in the same election. I have no problem with that.

    But you have simply ignored the key point. This is that – if my memory serves – the Lib Dems were using data about Oxford East as a whole and/or Oxford council as a whole, to create an impression that the Tories were out of the running in a city and/or council election where the Tories were/are nowehere near as far behind as a quick glimpse at the bar charts would suggest. Your comment @148 simply ignores this point. I don’t begrudge you your ‘squeeze message’. What I – and others like Rupert – do begrudge you is squeeze messages that are irrelevant to the election in hand.

    The fact that you don’t seem able or willing to grasp this pretty basic point speaks volumes.

    Stuart—I do understand your point, and like I’ve said up thread I personally dislike it when dubious or irrelevent comparisons are made.

    However, I distinctly recall in the Ealing Southall by-election campaign the Conservative leaflets were using councillor counts to show they were in with a chance, despite all other evidence to the contrary. The problem with any election that doesn’t use a transferbale preferential vote is that you have to appeal to a tactical vote, most voters (as opposed to activists/commenters on political sites) want their vote to count and effect the outcome, and until we’ve got transferable preferential voting you’re going to continue to see squeeze messages and similar on leaflets, and some of them will involve comparing apples with oranges.

    In order to change the sucky system, you have to win, and continue to win, within it. That means using tactics that the system predicates are a requirement. Sometimes, campaigners and activists take that to an extreme. I’ve seen it from all parties, and the only evidence I have that the LDs do it more than others is from complaints from activists from other parties, many of whom look back to those halcyon days when their leaflets could be nice and simple as there were only 2 parties competing.

    Or, in the case of the Greens, candidates who haven’t got out of the mentality of attracting Expressive protest votes and thus don’t actually know enough about the system to win.

    There are, on occasions, legit criticisms of some LD leaflets. But the same can be said of all three parliamentary parties, and definitely from the Greens in some areas. The criticisms Rupert has put forward are perhaps partially justified. But the way he’s done it (including the “joking” use of the Tory slur) devalues any point he might have had.

    Preferential voting systems remove the need for such negativity. The LDs are the only party consistently in favour of such systems—Blair’s Labour blocked it for Europe in 1998 when they used the Parliament Act to force through closed lists, the Greens favour AMS and top-up lists, which doesn’t solve the main problem, and the Tories think FPTP is wonderful, then bitch about how the other nasty parties are voting tactically, despite that being a clear intentional affect of FPTP.

    I want to change the way we’re governed, that means I want to back candidates that actually want to win. I want them to win honestly, but if the message is accurate and they’re actually competing, I’m good with that. My local ward elected another Tory last time, we came within 80 votes, the Labour vote was 700ish. I know next time I need to go and grab more of those voters, honestly and openly. I will out campaign Labour and persuade people not to vote Tory. I don’t intend to complain that the nasty Labour candidate put out leaflets that implied she might actually win and that we wouldn’t. That doesn’t help anyone, we ran a good campaign, it wasn’t good enough.

    From the massive increase in votes, the Eastern Greens obviously ran a good campaign. It wasn’t good enough. Perhaps Rupert could learn from his colleagues in the NW who also ran a good campaign but didn’t quite pull off what they needed either instead of blaming an opponent for actually running a campaign and persuading people to vote for them.

    152. Liberal Neil

    “Ironically, the Greens are probably now better placed than the Lib Dems to be the main challengers to Labour in Oxford East”

    From their base of 4% last time? Don’t make me laugh!

    153. Liberal Neil

    Stuart@150 – but the Lib Dems are fighting a parliamentary election. They have been since they got so close in 2005. And, in any event, the County Council seat you live in was between the Lib Dems and Labour – in fact it split one seat each, with the Tories third again.

    154. Liberal Neil

    Dan@149 “The problem that the Lib Dems have got in Oxford is that they want to appeal both to left-leaning and to right-leaning voters at the same time, people who vote Green and who vote Tory in the local elections.”

    The problem is that your perspective on politics is that you think it is a bad thing to try to appeal to people across the spectrum and only see politics as a left-right axis.

    In fact the issues that motivates the massive rise in the Lib Dem vote last time – such as tuition fees and Iraq – don’t fit easily on a left-right view of politics.

    155. Liberal Neil

    @Rupert Read comment 113 – your argument seems to be that it is okay for the Green Party to push a tactical message based on a different election to the one at hand but it is wrong for the Lib Dems to do so.

    As to you list of things the Greens apparently don’t do, ask your Green friends in Oxford to show you their leaflets containing pie charts angled to make the Green share appear to much larger than it actually is.

    154 -” n fact the issues that motivates the massive rise in the Lib Dem vote last time – such as tuition fees and Iraq – don’t fit easily on a left-right view of politics.”

    Anti-top up fees and anti-Iraq war were both criticisms of Labour from the left and generally understood as such. Cutting public services for slightly lower rises in council tax was a criticism of Labour from the right, and contributed to the collapse of the Lib Dem vote. If you don’t like the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’, you can use ‘Green voter at local elections’ and ‘Tory voter at local elections’ – they don’t agree on much but the Lib Dems have to try to construct a message which appeals to both – at a time when both the Greens and Tories are on the up and the Lib Dems are falling in popularity.

    In the ward I used to represent, the Lib Dem vote went from 33% in 2004 and 44% in 2006 down to 9% in 2008 – they are now the fourth biggest party. In contrast, the Green vote has been growing steadily – they beat the Lib Dems in four of the seven county divisions in Oxford East.

    Wow. Just arrived at this thread (that timezone thing). What a storm in a teacup. I like the Greens but, honestly … man up! Politics is a dirty game.

    @Joshua, 157: You see, this is just the attitude that I think needs combatting: ‘Politics is a dirty game’. Not when we play it, it’s not. And saying ‘Politics is a dirty game’ is a get-out clause for every shyster and cynic to make it even dirtier.
    IT’S TIME FOR CLEANER POLITICS. People are crying out for it, and many voted for it on June 4. WE must try to deliver it.

    Responses to Liberal Neil:
    Post 152 Liberal Neil: ““Ironically, the Greens are probably now better placed than the Lib Dems to be the main challengers to Labour in Oxford East” From their base of 4% last time? Don’t make me laugh!”
    There is perhaps a confusion here. Don Paskini [former Labour Councillor] is talking about the Oxford East constituency. But Oxford East is also the name of the County Council Division that the Greens were campaigning in. The Green Party made it perfectly clear that the above statement or anything like it in our literature referred to the County election!

    Post 155 Liberal Neil: “As to you list of things the Greens apparently don’t do, ask your Green friends in Oxford to show you their leaflets containing pie charts angled to make the Green share appear to much larger than it actually is.”
    Actually the charts the Oxford Greens used were from the County Council official results for the last County elections (unlike the LibDem charts which all related to the last General Election! Since we were campaigning in the County elections, the previous County result was the honest result to use (especially as the County area is different to the Parliamentary Constituency). So Liberal Neil’s allegation is baseless.

    Finally, I’d like to point out that the claims made in my LibCon piece of last year http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2008/11/24/the-case-for-supporting-greens-at-euro-elections/ have been decisively vindicated by the election results on June 4. What I argued last year was that in Regions such as NW and Eastern, the last seat would probably come down to Tories/UKIP/BNP vs Greens. This is precisely what happened. In Eastern, the LibDem misrepresentations may have been what let in a second UKIP climate-denying anti-immigrant do-nothing MEP, rather than myself. In NW, Labour (and LibDem) misrepresentations probably did let in the BNP Leader.

    It would be nice if some of the commenters here admitted this, and maybe even showed a little sign of sorrow about it. Isn’t that what LibCon is supposed to be about, us working together to defeat the reactionaries? The Euro-elections were a great opportunity for this. A real shame, in my view, that dirty campaigning and systematic misrepresentation of the electoral arithmetic and/or narrow Party selfishness and/or a strong wish to strangle the Green Party (evident in some of the comments above, such as in the words of the ever-delightful Mr. Otten) meant that the opportunity was decisively and unpleasantly missed.

    I promise you Rupert, that UKIP and the BNP are higher on my to strangle list than you are. (Although when I was a member of the Greens, a large minority were entirely supportive of what is now UKIP’s position, to the point of winning some votes at conference.)

    The fact is, and I said this beforehand, everybody went round saying “vote for us to defeat the BNP”. Hindsight shows us who was right in each region (http://joeotten.blogspot.com/2009/06/what-you-should-have-voted-to-keep-bnp.html) but it is beyond the faintest shred of credibility to claim that you knew all along who it would be, and that it was the greens (which it wasn’t, anywhere).

    You suggest that we should be supportive of your efforts, that we’re all progressives here. Perhaps. Perhaps under a preferential voting system it would be more feasible. And perhaps by the same token you should be supportive of our efforts. A better kind of politics, right? It might work. But it is hypocritical to damn us for not leaping first.

    And anyway who says the Greens are progressive? Anti-trade, anti-science, Luddite. Yes I am saying the Luddites were wrong – I don’t begrudge them trying to defend their livelihoods, but on balance technology to improve productivity is a good thing. Greens still trumpet their new deal as delivering the most jobs (i.e. the lowest productivity) for the useful work achieved.

    Don Paskini
    “Anti-top up fees and anti-Iraq war were both criticisms of Labour from the left and generally understood as such.”

    From within the Labour party perhaps, but they are issues which people from across the political spectrum oppose, and it’s hard to argue from their voting tendencies that it is a left-wing criticism is borne out.

    Stop navel-gazing.

    Rupert,
    while you are calling for us to combat the attitude that dirty politics is acceptable, why did you not take your own advice when writing this article?

    162. Stuart White

    Replying to Liberal Neil @153:

    Liberal Neil says:

    ‘Stuart@150 – but the Lib Dems are fighting a parliamentary election. They have been since they got so close in 2005. And, in any event, the County Council seat you live in was between the Lib Dems and Labour – in fact it split one seat each, with the Tories third again.’

    First of all, the County Council seat was NOT ‘between the Lib Dems and Labour’. Yes, the Lib Dems and Labour each got one of the two seats, but the two Tory candidates were not all that far behind. The LIb Dem leaflets, using the bar charts described in my earlier posts, used irrelevant date to give the misleading impression that the Tories were far less in contention than they actually were.

    Second, the Lib Dems WILL BE fighting a Parlimanetary election sometime in the next 12 months. They were obviously not fighting a Parliamentary election in the city and county council elections this year. The use of bar charts pertaining to the Parliamentary constituency to give an impression of the distribution of support in a city or county councils each of which is much smaller than the Parliamentary constituency, and which has a very different distribution of party support to the Parliamentary constitutency as a whole, is what is misleading. If you are HONESTLY trying to inform voters in a given election about the likely relative state of party support in THAT election, then your data should be specific to the electoral constituency in question. Giving a snapshot of party support for council ward X on the basis of data for parliamentary constituency Y, where it is clear that the distribution of support in X is different from that in Y, is pretty obviously misleading. It is no less misleading than if a party were to produce a bar chart showing relative support for parties in Grimsby when the election is in Coventry.

    Once again, I am astonished that I have to spell this out. When I started commenting on this thread I expected the Lib Dem response to be on the lines of: ‘Yeah, sometimes we do this, and it is dodgy. Sorry. We’ll try harder.’ Some early responses in the thread were in this vein. But latterly the response – of James Graham and Liberal Neil – seems to be to deny that anything wrong is being done. IThe thread is an interesting exercise in seeing how people who are good-natured and well-meaning can nevertheless be utterly self-deceiving about the moral questionableness of their electoral tactics.

    #160

    Across the country, perhaps, but in Oxford East I think it’s fair to say they’re criticisms from the left (or at least from people who think they’re on the left).

    Second, the Lib Dems WILL BE fighting a Parlimanetary election sometime in the next 12 months. They were obviously not fighting a Parliamentary election in the city and county council elections this year.

    No, they very obviously were, and if they weren’t I’d want to know why.

    Successful General Election campaigns are typically fought for 3-4 year periods. You don’t just start fighting it a month before polling day. Everything up until that point is dedicated to reinforcing the tactical squeeze message.

    Are you saying that they put out leaflets passing off the GE figures as county council figures? Are you saying they explicitly stated that the Tories or Greens can’t win in X division because they are in third place in divisions where they weren’t? I will happily denounce any Lib Dem campaign that did but thus far you haven’t made this claim.

    What you are saying is that the Lib Dems persisted in putting out a broader squeeze message during the county elections. That is fair enough if your party has a broader objective in mind. In the case of Oxford East this is clearly the case.

    What is bizarre is that you claim this is misleading whilst gloating over the fact that we didn’t do particularly well in Oxfordshire this year. Clearly the public in Oxon are better at exercising their own judgement than you give them credit for.

    One of the fundamental problems with this whole bar chart row is the significance to which other parties (and indeed some Lib Dems) give to individual bar charts appearing on individual leaflets.

    No bar chart ever changed the course of an election campaign. The only thing they can do is reinforce a broader campaign that carries with it a sense of momentum.

    Putting out a single leaflet in a campaign with a misleading bar chart on it won’t achieve anything. It won’t fool anyone into voting for you and you’d be better off putting something else in its place. Putting out 20 leaflets is a very different matter, but it can’t magic you votes in places where you have no support and your squeeze message doesn’t ring true. I can cite you countless by-elections where this has been the case.

    This may startle some Green and Labour supporters, but the Lib Dems generally don’t put out 20 leaflets (or even 4) in constituencies where they don’t have any residual support. And where we do have residual support, the bar charts tend to be accurate.

    The bar chart itself is just the tip of the iceberg. Experienced Lib Dem campaigners understand this, which is why they tend to fail to get excited by all this nowtrage.

    Stuart White and Don Paskini:

    I presume that you will be the first in line to denounce Labour if they ever quote the “irrelevant and misleading” county council election results in the run up to the next General Election?

    167. Stuart White

    James Graham@165 and 166:

    I understand that any party sees local elections as integrated with its Parliamenray campaigns. But what you are in effect saying – and I wondered how long it would take for this to be made explicit – is that it is justifiable to present highly misleading information in the context of a local election in order to reinforce a ‘squeeze message’ for a forthcoming Parliamentary election.

    So here we are in Parliamentary constituency X where, at the last general election, Labour got (say) 40%, Lib Dems 37% and Tories got 10% (these are not the figures for Oxford East, but close enough for purposes of illustrating the general point). And here we are in council ward Y where, at the last ward election the split was (say) Labour 38%, Lib Dems 30% and Tories 35% – or, alternatively, imagine the split is Lib Dems 38%, Labour 36% and Tories 30%.

    Now imagine the Lib Dems put out a leaflet in the council ward election citing the figures for the Parliamentary election. The leaflet includes the bar chart and is topped with a message like ‘Tories can’t win here’ or ‘It’s a two horse race’ or ‘Only the Lib Dems can beat Labour here’.

    Yes, this reinforces the ‘squeeze message’ for the Parliamenray election that is around the corner.But it also, quite obviously, misleads voters as to the relative state of the parties in the particular council ward election the leaflet is addressed to. THIS is what the LIb Dems have been doing in my council ward in Oxford (if memory serves – all this is from memory, and I stand to be corrected).

    So, James, the logic of your position is: ‘Its OK to mislead voters in local elections for the greater good of shaping opinion ahead of a Parliamentary election.’

    It does not follow from what I have said, nor have I said, that it is always wrong to use data from one election context to inform voters of how parties are likely to stand in another election context. Its all a question of what the comparison is, and how relevant it is.

    For example, if the Greens can identify party shares of the vote in the European elections in the area bounded by the Oxford East constituency, then I think it would be fair game for them to draw voters’ attention to this in a Parliamentary campaign in Oxford East, just as it would be fair game for the Lib Dems to draw attention to party vote shares in Oxford East at the last Parliamentary election. In both cases, like is being compared with like insofar as the elections cover the same territory. The problem with what you are endorsing is that (a) the comparisons are being made across distinct territories, and (b) there is available data to show that the vote distribution in the two territories is quite different. This really does put the exercise on the same level as publishing a bar chart to Grimsby voters in a Parliamentary election based on voting shares at the last Parliamentary election in Coventry.

    If other parties do this, then they stand equally condemned. If Labour puts out leaflets with this kind of trickery I shall refuse to deliver them and voice criticism of the trickery within the party. I am willing to face up to morally questionable tactics by my party and criticise them when they arise. Are you? Readers will judge for themselves.

    168. Stephen Lawrence

    It seems that no party actually set out how the d’Hondt voting system works, and how the lower-order members would have been elected under it, using voting numbers from the 2004 election as an example. That would have seen off any ‘dodgy dossiers’ . Should we really assume that the public can’t understand it? No! present it clearly enough!

    Stuart (167): “I am willing to face up to morally questionable tactics by my party and criticise them when they arise. Are you?”

    You are asking me to condemn the Oxford East Lib Dems on the basis of some half-remembered leaflet you saw a month ago. I already stated above that there was a line that, if crossed, would result in me condemning it. I asked you if this was the case. Instead of answering my question you just continued putting out this vague innuendo-laden stuff (“from memory”, yeah, I get that).

    The bottom line is, if the literature attempted to pass off GE data as council data (either by stating it was or not stating what it actually was) or if the leaflet stated that figures show that X or Y “can’t win here” in a place where they were in the running, then I would happily condemn it. But you have been asked to confirm if this was the case and have notably sidestepped the issue.

    In all other cases, the electorate is clever enough to work it out themselves. The idea that the average voter is an empty vessel which uncritically assumes that any bar chart they see applies wholly to whatever election happens to be coming up is frankly insulting.

    As for criticising Lib Dem campaign techniques, I’m not exactly known for keeping my light under a bushel. But feel free to dismiss me as a toadying loyallist on the basis that I don’t share your curious obsession with bar charts. Personally, I happen to think the party has bigger things to sort out, but since they are on techniques which all the parties practice these days to some extent, I can see why you might prefer to focus on the peripheral.

    170. Stuart White

    James Graham@169: I have made it abundantly clear in the earlier comments that I was talking from memory, that memory is unreliable, and that I stand to be corrected. I pointed out that I have not kept the leaflets in question – I could hardly have been expected to anticipate that I would need to refer to them in this discussion. I have been careful to make clear that my criticism is qualified in all these ways. The issue is one of whether, if the Lib Dems did do this, it would be acceptable. I am pleased to hear that you agree it would not be.

    Rather than expecting me to produce leaflets I couldn’t have been expected to keep, perhaps you should ask your colleagues in Headington Hill and Northway, Oxford, what they think. Is my memory at fault? Or is my recollection correct? I am, as I say, happy to stand corrected.

    I am not obsessed with bar charts. I got into a discussion about them because some Lib Dem commenters on this thread refused to accept the integrity of what I initially said about Rupert’s post striking a chord without further explanation (which is reasonable to expect). I do not, in general, have an axe to grind against the LIb Dems, and while you feel able to make light of my ‘memory’, I can assure that what I have said is in earnest. I think you would do well to treat it as such, rather than dimissing what I have said as mere ‘innuendo’.

    171. Liberal Neil

    156 – “Anti-top up fees and anti-Iraq war were both criticisms of Labour from the left and generally understood as such … If you don’t like the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’, you can use ‘Green voter at local elections’ and ‘Tory voter at local elections’ – they don’t agree on much but the Lib Dems have to try to construct a message which appeals to both”

    I think you are wrong on this. A large proportion of Tory supporters oppose tuition fees and opposed the invasion of Iraq, as do a large proportion of Green supporters. They are not left/right issues. By promoting their position on these issues the Lib Dems can appeal to both Green and Tory supporters.

    172. Liberal Neil

    @ Rupert Read 158

    re. Oxford East constituency/East Oxford division. I understand the distinction.

    re. Oxford Green leaflets – you are missing my point – the Greens use pie charts which they design in such a way as to make the Green share look larger than it is – the figures are right but the size is distorted to make their position appear stronger than it is – exactly the point you make about the Lib Dems not using exactly the right sized bars in their bar charts.

    This article would be less laughable were Rupert Read not afraid to play “politics” himself.

    Isn’t this Rupert Read the same Rupert Read who tried to disrupt a Lib Dem event in Norwich at the last general election ? Clearly Rupert Read thinks that gatecrashing and disrupting events in fair game. Hypocrisy ? Well I think so.

    I could call him all sorts of names if I want to resort to his “Fib” level of argument, but like the lies told by Greens on doorsteps in campaigns in Norwich, I think we all have to accept that in elections people use the messages that best win them votes. For right and for wrong.

    Likewise though, people in glass houses shouldn’t thrown stones, even if they are Green houses.

    Mr Read might like to label all UKIP people as not caring for the environment, however, electing a second UKIP MEP in the East elected a famer to the EU parliament, which is perhaps no bad thing. I’ve crossed paths with the Green Mr Read and the UKIP Mr Agnew (the new MEP), and I know which one I would prefer to represent Norfolk and the East in parliament .

    We should all remember though that when it comes to Europe, the Greens are clearly closer to UKIP than they are to the Lib Dems.

    Having looked into the matter, Comment 172 appears to be simply false.
    Comment 173: Starling is notoriously unreliable, and this comment is no exception. The event in question was a visit by Charles Kennedy, which I ‘disrupted’ by asking Mr. Kennedy why he hadn’t consistently opposed the war on Iraq. If political argument is ‘disruption’, then I plead guilty. Meanwhile the Green posters that I was carrying were one after another ripped up by LibDem activists present at the event: So much for free speech. As for Starling’s comment that “I think we all have to accept that in elections people use the messages that best win them votes. For right and for wrong.”: This is just another attempt by a LibDem on this thread to justify unjustifiable behaviour. The Greens that I know in Norwich Green Party and elsewhere simply do not lie or systematically misrepresent on the doorstep or anywhere else.
    I think that this thread is exhausted. I humbly suggest we draw a line under it.

    175. Liberal Neil

    “Having looked into the matter, Comment 172 appears to be simply false”

    You didn’t look very hard then.

    I would refer you to the ‘Green View Election Special’ from Holywell Ward in April 2008 and the angled pie chart at the bottom right of the front page.

    The Greens in the Teign Estuary Division of Devon were forced to remove a poster illegally put on the polling station at Combeinteignhead, and police made them take down posters in car parked deliberately by the Bishopsteignton polling station. Then there is the mis use of the Transition Town logo on a Green Party poster (without imprint) put on the parish council noticeboard again illegally. Where is it your Dad lives Rupert?

    177. Marc Gascoigne

    I haven’t read all 176 other comments so apologies if this has already been said, but I remember a Green leaflet from a few years ago that said the Liberal Democrats *did not* oppose the Iraq war. And you accuse the Lib Dems of misinformation?
    On another point, the poll that showed the Greens ahead of the Lib Dems was commissioned by… the Greens. So hardly surprising it showed them up.

    What happened when the Green Party got into government in Eire? Opposition to incinerators and road-building disappeared overnight.

    The Department of the Environment, headed by a Green Party minister announced that the M3 road project, routed through the historic area of the Hill of Tara, would go ahead after all.

    During the election the Green Party was ardently demanding the complete abolition of the incinerator project; however, once in office the Greens took a somewhat different approach to the issue of incineration.

    179. LIberal Icon

    But you do misinterpret figures.

    This is from your blog:

    “Green support peaked strongly in their emerging stronghold of Norwich, where the Greens came out on top with about 25% of the vote, a tremendous achievement and one which shows that the Green Party and Dr Read will be a major force in the forthcoming coming by-election.”

    But these figures are from 9 Norwich South wards and 4 in the North. Is proves nothing in relation to Norwich North as if you bas it on the last local elections the Greens came 4th.

    I am at a loss to know why Greens think liberals would want to favour the extreme left over the anti-EU right.

    The Green Party is naive, statist and, judging by The Times reports of Read’s views on terrorists and terrorism, positively dangerous.

    181. Jeff Cumberland

    Umm… actually not ‘The Times’ reports, but simply blog-postings on ‘The Times’ site from a couple of genuinely dangerous neo-cons – Finkelstein and Kamm.


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