Tuesday, 5 August 2008

The Watford case - Cameron's failings

I am very glad that Ian Oakley has pleaded guilty to his criminal actions in support of his Conservative campaign in Watford. It is, perhaps, the first decent thing that he has done. The unbelievable level of abuse and criminal activity beggars belief in a major party. Full praise to Sal and the Lib Dems who have worked closely with the Police and never stooped to replying in kind. I am very sorry that some Tories (just some, but enough) just don't seem to get it - that this was far, far beyond the bounds of anything that might be considered politics.

My particular sympathy goes to the Lib Dems who suffered having anonymous letters and leaflets delivered to their neighbours accusing them of being paedophiles. Full marks to the Police for their actions to state publicly that this was not the case, but it must have been a very tough time.

I was in Watford during the last General and remember the beginnings of some of this hate campaign. I am disappointed that the actions from this far back do not seem to have been covered by the court case. I do not wish to imply guilt but it is clear that either Mr Oakley has not admitted to everything he did (but having asked for 68 other offences to be taken into consideration, I don't see what he would have to lose by admitting to more if he had done them), or other people were guilty of things and these still need to be cleared up.

I was again in Watford for a visit by Ming Campbell a couple of years ago. Mr Oakley and a large number of other Tories tried to disrupt the visit. So far, common enough - if regretable. But their actions that day went well beyond what might be considered fair game. Their yelling and screaming was massively abusive and had no place in our politics. They constantly tried to disrupt every media interview and were obnoxious beyond belief.

After that visit, Ming wrote to David Cameron asking him to take action about Watford Tories. Unfortunately, Cameron ducked that opportunity to investigate and simply replied that such behaviour was what party leaders should expect.

Of course, I do not believe that Cameron either knew about or condoned the illegal acts that Oakley has confessed to. But his fellow party leader wrote to him about behaviour that was clearly beyond the pale and which deserved to be looked into.

I genuinely believe that, if Cameron had taken that chance to look into Watford Tories, then he might have discovered that all was not right and some of what has happened since might (stress might) have been avoided.

I say again - David Cameron was not responsible for these illegal acts. But his slapdash attitude to genuine concerns expressed to him did him no favours. For all that Oakley is no longer a member of the Conservatives, he did what he did to further the Conservative cause and that needs to be remembered.

Perhaps it is time for a bit more care and control Mr Cameron.