Libeler Iain Dale’s Sour Grapes of Victory 69

I was in some danger of falling into the slough of despond, but I have been rescued by the need to defend myself against the ludicrous attacks of Dorries Dale. That anybody can be quite so graceless in victory is something I find hard to comprehend.

Following his statesmanlike “Craig Murray lost his deposit. Ha ha double ha!” posting, Iain Dale has come out with this one:

Perhaps if he had done anything worth reporting, he might have got some media space, but the fact is that the “honest man’s” sole noteworthy contribution to the campaign was to put out a virtually libellous leaflet about Chloe Smith.

I am not sure what the new Dale concept of “virtual libel” is, precisely. Iain is of course an expert on libel, having recently cost the Mail on Sunday a major amount of money as a result of one of his wild and unfounded articles. Having never libeled anybody, I do not need the proven libeler Iain Dale to give me any lessons.

But “virtual libel” seems to be Dale speak for “Truths the Tories do not want want you to know.”

The facts about Ms Smith in the leaflet in question are these:

She was born in Ashford in Kent

She works for Deloitte Touche

Deloitte Touche were accountants and auditors to RBS/Natwest before the crash

Chloe Smith tried to be selected as candidte for Ipswich before being selected for Norwich

Iain Dale does not think you should know any of this – and all of these facts were totally absent from the Tory literature and from Ms Smith’s own website. It is apparently “Virtual libel” to tell inconvenient truths about Tories.

There was a time when Dale’s blog was worth reading, but sadly it has degenerated into the dullest of party propaganda.

Dale has also published an attack on me in the Eastern Daily Press. It is very brave of that paper to run columns by a notorious libeler. He calls me “scurrilous”, again in relation to my truth telling about Ms Smith.

As a believer in free speech, I have never pursued anybody for libel, or threatened anybody with a libel suit. But I am pondering the moral question of whether, in these particular circumstances, it would be good to pursue the case and recover my election expenses? Dale of course is a known and proven libeler already, so I should not be damaging anybody’s reputation. I should be grateful for your views.

I suspect that Dorries Dale’s ire was stoked by the fact that my article on the by-election was published by the Mail on Sunday.–result-losers.html

The Mail on Sunday is of course the very newspaper who are more careful in their dealings with Iain nowadays, after he cost them a lot of money with his libel. I do understand Iain’s resentment that I am writing on the by-election for the biggest selling national Sunday newspaper, while he is confined to a quiet corner of the regional press, but nontheless I do think he is unwise to allow his jealousy to get the better of him.

Another fascinating point is that it turns out that Ms Smith’s “Job” at Deloitte Touche was to be on secondment to the Conservative Party. Is this a disguised form of political donation to get round disclosure rules? It certainly shows how ludicrous it is to belive that the Tories will control the financial services industry. It’s the other way round, I fear.

The blog will emerge from Norwich North mode and start concentrating on world events again, soon. It is taking me a few days to get over it. I cannot get over the feeling that I let down rather badly the wonderful volunteers who came and gave so much.

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69 thoughts on “Libeler Iain Dale’s Sour Grapes of Victory

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  • Jon

    @McKenzie – wouldn’t it be best to criticise Iain Dale on his manifest political flaws, or his petty comments on Craig’s electoral losses, or his policy of preferring adequate Tory candidates over excellent independent ones, rather than resorting to homophobic abuse?

  • ingo

    hang on, lets have a think about this coalition idea.

    First things first. My thanks to all of the team in Norwich North, you all have been magic. We covered the ground twice and managed to change Royal Mail history forever, the price of beating the BNP was a bonus. Norwich North now knows off Craig and we have to keep this alive, because he wmight want to have another bite at the cherry, next time we’ll jump higher.

    Now do we want to be seen with self publicists who do not care much about politics and only want to be in it if they are assured winning? I do not, celebrity politicis is not por moir, unless it is genuine and not vanity.

    Secondly, to achieve a green coalition one would have to agree on were to stand and were not to stand. That decision is up to local Green Parties first and is then sanctioned by the Executive and regional council reps.

    The Green Party can expect to get coverage at the GE and will not want to share any of it. Decades of craving for coverage and acceptance of a central leadership against its basic philosophical principles, all to placate and support the BBC’s choices and pre perceptions, have shaped their thinking about the media.

    The latest two hustings barring Craig were just symptomatic of it.

    A coalition of Independents and parties that are shut out, approaching the media is a start, a good idea.

    But why argue with the BBC, when other broadcasters and european TV stations are equally accessable, I’m sure that Al Jazeera, FR24 and Sky would try their best to even out election coverage, unles Machialvelli’s start using dirty tricks.

    If the BBC does not want to be democratic and wants to promote apathy, then it will carry on with their distorted reasoning, but it will show them up for what they are, so they make their own nest.

  • Jon

    @Tinter, your criticism of Craig’s campaign is tainted by your opposition to his candidacy, as you have made clear elsewhere. It is fine for you to have these views of course, and fine for you to put them here, but I’d suggest that if your preferred candidate made the same mistakes, or was subject to the same media blackout, then you would not dismiss the efforts as ‘awful’ or ‘sanctimonious’.

    We will have to disagree on the media angle, and I mean you no offence when I suggest your analysis of that topic is somewhat insubstantial. For example, UKIP may have done better than expected because of the media coverage they have received nationally. They were regarded as ‘of media interest’ (whether serious or novelty) due to the celebrity involvement of Kilkoy-Silk and are so (rightly or wrongly) a “trusted brand” for some people.

    The BNP get some coverage for similar reasons – their extremism gives them a “novelty” angle in the press (admittedly one based on fascism). So they would have picked up votes almost exclusively based on their national reputation, in my view.

    I agree that both the UKIP and BNP candidates (plus all the independents) were poorly covered in both local and national media at the time of the election. This put the independents at a distinct disadvantage – without any long-term “party brand” they relied on leafleting and media coverage. The former was an electoral turnoff, especially since the Tories could afford to deluge the area with 27 leaflets each. For Craig and others, without media coverage, the only other means of reaching voters was through hustings and public meetings, which were not well attended.

    And for the record, it is generally thought that Craig out-performed the other candidates in the public meetings he spoke at, with good public responses to the Green candidate also. The other candidates were poor speakers, or hampered by inexperience or – in the case of Ostrowski – weighted down by the government’s badly damaged reputation.

    One final thought. There is a train of thought – in evidence on the political left, especially amongst Chomsky and Media Lens readers – that the palatability of a candidacy is determined, subconsciously at least, by how far they stray from establishment views. Accordingly, UKIP with a conservative/anti-EU message will get coverage just fine, because there is plenty of anti-EU sentiment in this country (and whether that is based on sound political analysis or xenophobia is besides the point). On the other hand, an independent who:

    * strongly supports the Palestinian cause,

    * condemns Zionism,

    * condemns the Western invasion of Iraq as a war of aggression,

    * says that we should withdraw from the occupation of Afghanistan,

    * suggests that the casino banking sector should have been allowed to go bust

    — will get short shrift from the media, who regard him/her as too radical. Sure, there are exceptions, and the rule is not perfect, but it is my view that a strong bias exists, and this has been shown to be true in Western media generally for quite some time.

    Food for thought, I hope!

  • George Laird

    Dear Who cares

    “Sour grapes from the brothel user. You shamed your country, you shamed your family. Yet you have no shame”.

    Have you been watching the Bridge on the River Kawi?

    “Shame on you”.

    That’ a lot of shame you are throwing about the place, did you buy a load in a car boot sale?

    “Norwich deserved better than a Scottish Nationalist Male Whore”.

    You’re mental son!

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird

    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  • Tinter

    Jon: To an extent, but I wouldn’t be being nearly so constructive if I felt like being a drive by wrecker. I am just trying to insert some realism. I note you only actually rebutted one of my points, which I tend to take as acknowlegment that the rest are correct, which I think is obvious.

    Right- UKIP and the BNP have an established brand even with a lack of media coverage. Thats an *advantage* of party structures, *not* something that justifies complaints that independents should get more coverage. Craig *could* build a local brand name and profile if he so wished, and as say Esther may well do; it was Craigs decision to stand in a seat with weeks to go until the elections. Thats rarely a good move and so it proved. Working a seat from now till the general election would at least allow a proper test of a candidacy.

    Obviously thats a personal view on hustings, but at at least one public meeting I know some of the attendees were a little put out by 10 very overenthusiastic Murray supporters planting themselves scattered about the room. I know its easy to be enthused by a campaign and candidate, but a turning up and clapping over eagerly at public hustings as an activist actually doesn’t go down so well.

    But all the “establishment” parties support staying in the EU. The issue isn’t the radical nature of the views, its the fact that they are neither key nor popular to the electorate- foreign policy is rarely a key issue at the polls, as both Craig and Reg Keys have found.

    I will note that, while its obvious I am a supporter of a party and wish all of my parties candidates to win everywhere (!) I don’t think Craig standing in a seat that is otherwise safe in 2010 and offering some competition necessarily be a bad thing, though I share Hemmings views he should probably join a party (the greens seem to suit best (not a green!)). I am just trying to point out the large amount of naivety on show here.

  • Jon

    Tinter, thanks for corresponding. I responded to the main point of discussion, which was about media coverage and whether it was fair or not. I didn’t come back to the others as I didn’t want to dilute what I felt was, and should be, the main focus. (But for the record, on leaflets: You felt they were awful, well OK. I agree that they could be reviewed and improved upon. On negative campaigning: I felt that the majority of criticisms made about the Conservative candidate were entirely relevant to voters, but there was one leaflet that made some unkind remarks, and I think that was a mistake. On whether the fascists should have received a fair proportion of media coverage: no, they have a racist and illegal membership criteria, and so are not a legal party in the normal sense. I would be happy to come back to any of your other points if you explicitly raise them but would like to focus on the media angle, as this was the main item you were rebutting and in my view a major reason why Craig’s campaign did not do better).

    You have an error of logic in your second para. Whilst it is true that electoral success that comes from having an established party/brand does not itself provide justification for increased media coverage for independents, that does not mean there are no other reasons why independents should get fair media coverage. And the primary reason is so trivial it should not need to be stated: to have an equal chance at electoral success, each candidate should be given approximately equal exposure by all forms of media. In fact, I think that attention should be given to making this a legal requirement, if only for publicly-funded bodies. In any case, outlets that call themselves part of the “democratic media” ought to pride themselves on a pull-out section looking at each candidate in detail, or TV interviews with each candidate and hustings involving all of them. But this does not happen, and I am troubled that you do not see this as a problem.

    I agree that “planted cheerers” in public debates is off-putting, though I don’t know if this happened in support of Craig (it pays to be suspicious of third-hand internet reports!). However the point I was making about Craig’s excellent speaking performance was meant to be what I felt the consensus was (despite my obvious bias). Did you really prefer April Pond’s responses? Take a look at YouTube and watch a selection, if you’ve not already done so.

    OK, now to the key issue. Sure, the establishment parties favour EU membership. But the establishment extends to the fourth estate, and we should remember that the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and The Sun are hostile to the EU, with the conservative broadsheets taking a more nuanced, but often sceptical, view. And it is entirely fair to say that the idea of “Brussels laws interfering with British laws” is common currency amongst the public, whatever the merits of that position. So, I would strongly re-iterate that the establishment do not find anti-EU positions radical, despite the Whitehall consensus.

    We are somewhat in agreement that foreign policy is not often a key issue in the polls (though Afghanistan may change that at some point down the line, if it is allowed to go on long enough to turn into another Vietnam). But I do disagree with your casual statement that “the issue isn’t the radical nature of the views” – I strongly think it is. Indeed, the causes of the economic crash and the baling out of the banks is a major public issue, given the scale of the job losses we have seen recently, but Craig’s input on that (indeed his entirely candidacy) was largely ignored by the MSM. I am of the view that Afghanistan is becoming important not for foreign policy reasons, but because our troops are coming back dead in increasing numbers, and doubt is being expressed about strategy and purpose in some high-up military echelons. Craig’s brave position differs from the Tories, LibDems and Labour, who AFAIK are all still pro-war.

    Accordingly, I think the ‘media consensus’ on what is reportable or of ‘public interest’ represents a bias that represents a huge barrier to radical candidates, and that it should be challenged. However I take your wider point that it’s not the whole problem, and that there are sure to be things that Craig’s campaign could do better if he were to run again.

  • Tinter

    Well firstly, I continue to hold that the good performance of UKIP does show that the media blackout was not the primary reason for Craigs faliure- regardless of any of his campaigns merits it did not connect with people, and thats the real problem.

    On all parties getting coverage, I don’t really think this is a defensible position. Should the Libertarians have gotten an equal share? Its very clear nobody cares about them or agrees with what they have to offer, so why should they get media time? The medias job is to try and cover candidates whom the public finds of interest, not to try and force the story by covering everyone who stands. I can only imagine how many more groups like “Britains Beauties” would crop up then.

    Indeed, the phrase “have an equal chance of success” still contains the view that the media is a larger factor than it is for small parties. In places like Kiddiminster and Blaenau Gent the media wasn’t especially all over it on a national level- and why should they be? Its only one constituency. Everyone has an equal opportunity to campaign locally and win votes- its only at by-elections where the mainstream media may seem a normal way of doing that.

    Its perfectly reasonable to cover candidates based on their likely performance. While UKIP were badly done by, the fact is Craig was *not* well supported and so the decision not to give him much coverage wasn’t wrong.

    I didn’t see a hustings with Craig in personally so I can’t comment. I will say Read seemed the most able speaker, but often said unpopular things even without being drawn into doing so. Ostrowski was probably second, and Claire regularly stumbled. Who knows if that was the general perception? But it doesn’t suggest to me hustings are of central import.

    The greens agree with Craig on most of these issues, and recieved more media coverage than they deserved. So I think the point clearly falls- the mere fact of holding these views does not cause a lack of media coverage.

    The barrier isn’t to radical candidates, its to candidates without any public base of support. Thats a barrier that should be there (though the BBC’s test is not a good test for it, I agree). If Craig wants to run again then he should be choosing a seat now, and starting building support; and he should probably be doing so as a green.

  • Jon

    Apologies for the delay in replying. We are still in disagreement, I think! UKIP have in the past benefitted from plenty of media coverage – and so a lack of (local) media coverage this time around hurt them less. The central point I’ve been making is that their views are ‘perfectly acceptable’ in mainstream terms, and accordingly the media has kept their brand share in (relatively) good shape for some time. Meanwhile Craig was judged by independent sources to be a serious candidate (quite rightly of course) but the media failed to chase this up.

    We shall have to take diametrically opposing sides on whether all parties should get equal coverage: you say it is not defensible, and I say it is perfectly defensible. I don’t mean you any offence when I say you are trapped in the same mainstream/consensus mindset that we are complaining about here! (How would we deal with the fascists here? Honestly, I don’t know. I would be inclined to exclude them for reasons previously given.)

    Should the Libertarians get more coverage? Well, yes, they should. I think their policies are extraordinarily socially destructive, but it should not be up to the BBC (or any other establishment institution) to determine that the public are not interested in them. *Part* (but not all) of the reason for public disinterest is that they have never heard of them (so your confidence that “nobody agrees with them” is quite misplaced). And that brings us back – though I am in danger of repeating myself! – to the issue of fair media coverage.

    On the hustings, given that Read *is* an able speaker, it is quite reasonable to have preferred him to Craig. But I think you are being a bit evasive in not answering the point about the poor quality of the other candidates – you can view a selection on YouTube and I would suggest that you do so :-).

    But you are right that the hustings (a demonstration of intellect, or having ones own considered views) are not of significant import. That’s a shame, but the situation is what it is!

    We can agree to disagree, I suppose, especially given that you believe that the Greens got more coverage than you think they deserved. My view is that, since they got substantially less than the Conservatives, they therefore got less than they deserved.

    Should independents throw in the towel and join a party? Now, I suppose I am inclined to agree with you, with all the control and loss of autonomy that I regard that as representing. But maybe, given the clear impossibility of genuine, decent, radical candidates to get themselves elected as independents, it is the only way. And that is a damn shame.

  • Tinter

    Only happened to see this, but may as well put one last post since we seem close to settling up. As I said, the Greens hold views similar to Craig and even the BNP get coverage; I think holding that coverage relates to policies being “mainstream acceptable” is something you are pushing rather than something thats evident.

    Well, if I am an ordinary voter, and there is one channel covering parties equally and one covering candidates I and other actually care about, I know which I will watch. Sure, trying to determine things can go wrong- see the poor UKIP coverage; but giving coverage to a group like the libertarians, with no members, no support and no public interest is even worse. Thats simply the facts, I’m sorry but its clearly so and nobody wants equal coverage for what are effectivly nobodies. Its not the medias job to encourage interest in groups like that- media covers news and stories because they matter, not to make them matter.

    As I said I heard the hustings. I didn’t find even the conservative to be really notably awful.

    Ah, but the point was you said Craig couldn’t get coverage because of his views! However, the greens got a substantial portion of coverage- probably as much as anyone except the conservatives (and indeed more than they would have if everyone was equal) while holding the views listed! So I think that point really doesn’t work.

    I don’t think its tragic. A party has a brand that means voters believe they know how they will vote on a range of issues- theres no reason why voters shouldn’t value that. I think they value that parties candidates can work together as well, even if they don’t like it in every situation. Activists are happier to help parties, because by participating they can help set policy and run things in a way they just can’t with an independent- and thats something I certainly value. Independents tend to do badly at national level because of the limited nature of what they offer- and I don’t see that as a shame at all. Especially since there is at least one party close to Craigs positions.

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