OR ANOTHER TITLE – VOTE LABOUR TO HONOUR PRINCE ANDREW’S BIRTHDAY?
The Guardian’s London blogger Dave Hill has covered the Lewisham Downham by-election under the thread Labour, Lewisham and the BNP here, here and asked me some questions here.
I had covered this campaign before and after the election. I am clear that Labour did not play the race card in Downham, and this is why:
I worked with Pauline Morrison throughout the 1990s when I was a member of Lewisham Deptford Labour Party. That’s why I was so pleased to see her fighting the Downham by-election. I blogged about her and in the comments I had a good debate with Liberal Democrat activist John Grieves.
I was determined to support Pauline’s campaign but I was only able to attend the by-election on voting day. That’s because as a London wide representative in the previous weeks of the Downham by-election campaign, I was working in by-elections in Croydon, Enfield and Haringey.
On the issue of flying the Union Jack that’s fine by me, and it is particularly appropriate when we remember those who have given their lives for our country. I think whether we are monarchists or not, we should also honour the Head of State on appropriate days. I do find it surprising that one of the dates that Lewisham Council most recently flew the flag over the Town Hall was Prince Andrew’s birthday, but that’s for somebody else to explain.
I saw no suggestion of implicitly using the Union Jack in a racist fashion when I campaigned in Downham. Having known Pauline for decades I know she did not endorse such a strategy. However, like any other campaign by any Party I cannot guarantee the conduct of every single activist on the doorstep.
After being in Downham on election day I commented on my experiences.
This paragraph seemed to be misinterpreted by a Liberal Democrat:
“On the streets it was sad to encounter young voters talking about voting BNP, we need to tackle this and their vote of 10% seems to have come mostly from the Liberal Democrats. As I posted in my comments previously, my experience had been that Liberal Democrats in this part of Lewisham had been quite happy to quietly pick up racist support. Good to see they ditched this approach in Downham by selecting Duwayne Brooks. I hope that principled Liberal Democrats like John Grieves can influence his colleagues who still turn a blind eye to this. Elsewhere in London the Lib Dems still play fast and loose with race for the sake of a few votes.”
I’m a little disappointed Dave Hill has not gone through the comments carefully, and just reported some assertions. So here’s a fisking of what his source Acer2007 has said:
“I find it appalling that you consider the liberal democrats to have been “quietly pick up racist support” (which is not true in the slightest)”
Sounds good doesn’t it? Here’s the full quote:
“my experience had been that Liberal Democrats in this part of Lewisham had been quite happy to quietly pick up racist support. Good to see they ditched this approach in Downham by selecting Duwayne Brooks.”
Just change had to have and you have a (false) story.
As to the truth of my assertion, there was a swing in this by-election from the Lib-Dems to BNP of 11.5%. Clearly some Lib Dem votes switched to the BNP. I also know from previous campaigning in this area, and through checking with Party colleagues that racists have voted Lib Dem over the last 2 decades, opposing Labour as the more multicultural party. Yes racists can vote tactically just like the rest of us!
“a labour campaign in Downham which sole purpose and aim was to take advantage of the racial tension in the area”
Utter nonsense. That’s what the BNP did.
“There are rumours circulating that the local Labour party, on the election night before polls had closed, had circulated leaflets stating that your exit polls had it that the BNP where going to win. You were blateney were trying to scaremonger voters, with complete and utter lies.”
Rubbish, I was there knocking up the Labour vote and getting people to polling stations. I saw no such leaflets. What Acer2007 says is a made up rumour. Ask any of those pictured in my blog, many of these people have decades fighting racism, this is scurrilous nonsense, all that can be bad about the blogosphere. Why Acer2007 makes up such things is up to him/her.
“It quite clearly gained you so much success, even though you percentage of the vote went down (query – how can you have a swing of votes, when your vote goes down????).
I suggested Acer2007 google to better understand swings, Acer2007 did not. The swing is 6% to Labour because the Liberal Democrats lost a greater proportion of their votes than Labour. The Party the Lib Dems mostly lost votes to was the BNP, even though Acer2007 claims no Lib Dem could have switched to the BNP, the figures are impossible to argue with this is not a 1 or 2% margin of error. 11.5% switched Lib Dem to BNP.
With such a poorly thought out comment I asked Acer2007 a series of questions which were ignored and Acer2007 came back with more assertions.
Acer2007 refused to acknowledge this disgraceful leaflet put out in Redbridge, because it shows shameful campaigning by the Liberal Democrats in an area with substantial Muslim and Jewish populations. Have a look at it Acer2007. I wasn’t there, you weren’t there, but it was leaflet put out to get people to vote on race and religion. Luke Akehurst has also commented on the Redbridge campaign.
“However you DID deliever in Downham – you did knock on doors in Downham – you did push letters and literature which was motivated to stir up racial motivations in the area”
Untrue and libellous (I won’t be suing). I delivered no literature, only sorry you were out cards. That’s the problem with most of Acer2007’s comments they are being made up as Acer2007 goes along. The idea that I or any other Labour member I was working with would do so is grossly offensive. Many have decades of anti-racist activity.
In summary. The Lib Dems had allowed racist votes to support them in previous elections, they challenged that this time and lost votes as a result, all credit to them for this. Labour fought a solid campaign. I do question the idea that flying the flag over a Town Hall on Prince Andrew’s birthday is a key issue. I found this out after the campaign by the way.
Vote Labour to honour Prince Andrew’s birthday has to be one of the more bizarre campaign strategies I have come across.
I fought a clean campaign, and the other 12 people I saw fighting this campaign, fought a clean campaign. One Labour candidate has a long and distinguished record of fighting racism personally known to me. One Liberal Democrat activist who hides behind anonymity to make false statements has tried to stir up things by selective quoting, stating rumours as fact, and deliberate invention.
Acer2007 could have consulted Dr.Matthew Huntbach, Liberal Democrat councillor for this ward 1994-2006 and a former Leader of the Lewisham Liberal Democrats.
Here’s his view of Downham:
“Also, of course, there is racial resentment. I can state quite clearly that the Liberal Democrats never used anything which “pandered to racism”, but one has to acknowledge that the sort of resentment which leads elsewhere to BNP voting here led to LibDem voting.”
Matthew Huntbach fought at least 5 campaigns in Downham (probably more he’s an inveterate activist) against Acer2007’s apparent one campaign. My analysis is with Matthew who does not hide behind anonymity. For the previous 5 elections racists voted tactically Liberal Democrat in Downham. To their credit this time the Liberal Democrats stood a black candidate and their racist voters switched to the BNP.
So Acer2007 if you say Lib Dems are the honourable victims here why will you not provide your name?