Jonathan Lord MP Admits Activists Engaged in Smearing

The above image comes from a pseudonymous attack blog which was used ahead of a 2007 council election* to smear a candidate as a paedophile. Tim Ireland determined it to be the work of two activists working for his local MP, Anne Milton, and he blogged about it at the time; as a result, he was himself smeared for his troubles. Tim contacted Jonathan Lord, MP for Woking and at that time Chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association. Lord’s duty was to investigate any activity that might bring the party into disrepute, but he declined to act on Tim’s evidence on the grounds that the target of the “paedophile” smear had not himself complained, that no criminal law had been broken, and because Tim had contacted him by email rather than on paper. As Tim writes:

because Jonathan Lord swept this under the carpet, those who were involved… were able to excuse/disguise their disgraceful behaviour with entirely false implications if not specific allegations that I imagined or invented the whole thing as part of what they contend to be a harassment campaign against Anne Milton.

Since then, bogus accusations of “harassment” have become a convenient strategy for various persons who don’t like Tim finding and highlighting information that might interfere with their attempts to manipulate public perceptions about themselves or particular subjects. The list of those who have jumped on the bandwagon ranges from a couple of MPs (here and here), through to certain on-line commentators, and on to some particularly vicious cyber-bullies. The full background (including why this subject is of interest to me) is provided here.

Tim recently encountered Lord at a public event, and asked him about his failure to act. He also covertly recorded Lord’s “off the record” response, in which he admits that the two activists were acting irresponsibly, but that because they had themselves been selected as candidates for the local council election he had decided not to do anything beyond some stern words in private:

You thought that [the two activists] Chambers and Paul were completely out of order and beyond control or whatever… By the time you raised it with me Mike Chambers was already a candidate, and if he hadn’t been a candidate then…

I told them, stop being childish. You know, if you want to do a blog about national politics, or even, you know, clean stuff about local policy, that’s fine, I said. But cut out any personal stuff, I don’t want to hear, I don’t want to know about it. I said, you know, basically, you know, it’s lucky you guys have already been selected, because otherwise, you know, and we’re in the middle of a campaign now…

So this is all off the record, OK? In the middle of an election, you know, you don’t obviously want to give succour to your opponent or, you know, someone who, you know, who might twist your words in ways that you have on other little things, you know. And, do you know what I mean? And so I was very straight with those guys in telling them to cut it out, and, you know, if we hadn’t already been in the middle of an election campaign, and I think they were already both nominated and so on, you know, then it might have been a slightly different story.

You would think that the activists had been guilty of some unfortunate private indiscretion, rather than of orchestrating a thoroughly malicious campaign to use inflammatory lies to discredit – and perhaps physically endanger – a political opponent. If Lord had cared a jot for standards in public life, he would have done his duty to ensure that two such disgraceful individuals should never have had any chance to stand for public office – and he would stepped up to his responsibility  to put right the wrong done to those who had been smeared by activists within his political party.

*Amended: I had originally written “the 2005 UK election campaign”

7 Responses

  1. […] I blogged on the background to this last month: the smear had been made on an anonymous blog, but Tim Ireland worked out where it had come from and attempted to alert Milton and the Conservative Party to the evidence. However, his efforts were not appreciated: Jonathan Lord, MP for Woking and at that time Chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association, declined to act on the grounds that the target of the “paedophile” smear had not himself complained, that no criminal law had been broken, and because Tim had contacted him by email rather than on paper. Anne Milton, meanwhile, began to put it around that Tim’s critical interest in her campaign was a form of stalking – an accusation which has since been used by others as a convenient way to deflect attention (see here). […]

  2. […] and at that time Chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association, decided to deal with it with a discrete word to them in private rather than by dismissing them for bringing the party into […]

  3. […] Milton did not like Tim’s critical scrutiny of her election campaign in 2005 (which included appalling conduct by a couple of her campaign workers), while Mercer did not want to have to admit that his […]

  4. […] If anyone wants to see what on-line harassment really looks like, I outline some genuine examples here, here, and here. […]

  5. […] and Anne Milton MP, who was embarrassed when Tim discovered that two of her activists were smearing a political opponent in 2005. More on all […]

  6. […] at that time Chairman of the Guildford Conservative Association, decided to deal with it with a discrete word to them in private rather than by dismissing them for bringing the party into disrepute. That seems to be the default […]

  7. […] paedophile smear was also used by two Conservative activists associated with Anne Milton in 2005, against a local opposition candidate. Tim identified the culprits, and just last year Jonathan […]

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