Dead Men Left

Friday, August 13, 2004

It's that man again

This - from The Times, via Guacamoleville - sounded strangely familiar:

THE Hartlepool by-election has already become so rancorous that the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats has formally complained to the chairman of the Labour party about dirty tricks.

The two parties are waging a fierce battle in the contest triggered by the departure of Peter Mandelson. Sir Menzies Campbell has taken the unusual step of writing to Ian McCartney asking for Labour’s “personalised and misguided” attacks to stop.

Sir Menzies said it was unacceptable for Labour to accuse their candidate, Jody Dunn, of “making excuses for junkies” just because, as a barrister, she represented them in court.

"Making excuses for junkies." That elegant turn of phrase. That careful, well-considered attack. It all pointed to one man...

Tom Watson, the Labour MP, who has been acting as the campaign manager in Hartlepool, has accused Ms Dunn of being “soft on drugs” because she represented a heroin addict in court four years ago. “How many other junkies has she made excuses for in court?” said Mr Watson.

Yes, it's Tom Watson, fighting a hard and valiant battle for the title of Britain's Most Unpleasant MP. The campaign manager responsible for a 27% swing against Labour in the Hodge Hill by-election has been despatched to work a little of that same old magic in Hartlepool. Currently, he is expressing his faith in the criminal justice system by subscribing to an odd belief in guilt-by-association for barristers. On previous occasions this deep concern for justice has manifested itself in the view that old-fashioned worries about guilt or innocence are of little worth in creating "yob-free streets", and its worth recalling some of the pithier statements for which he bears responsibility:

From Watson's blog:

[The Lib Dems] should stick to the issues - like why they don't want crack heads and junkies to go to jail.

The blog again:

Here's what Simon Hughes said in the House when explaining why the Liberal Democrats intended to oppose the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill:

[we should] “stick up for people’s rights to behave normally, as they choose and with their own freedom of expression, even if sometimes their presence causes other people some distress or alarm.”

...So why don't the Lib Dems come clean and admit that they are soft on yobs and tough on Birmingham?

An inadvertently revealing moment, discussing Hodge Hill:

Just got back after a busy, busy day. Three cabinet ministers, a dozen ministers and another dozen MPs helped our hardy band of campaigners with leafleting and canvassing.

(Three Cabinet ministers and a dozen ministers taken canvassing and leafletting in an exceptionally safe Labour seat... the mind boggles.)

And, of course, from the Hodge Hill campaign:

Labour is on your side—the Lib Dems are on the side of failed asylum seekers...

We have taken tough action against those who abuse the system as a cover for economic migration.

While Labour were tough the Lib Dems were wimps—they tried to stop us taking away benefits from failed asylum seekers and they voted against plans to speed up deportations.

Between Mandelson and Watson, it is possible to see all that is so wrong with New Labour. Never mind the complaints from Renewal magazine: Tom Watson is a corruption of everything we might once have thought Labour stood for. Decidedly Old Labour Cllr Bob Piper (whose blog, naturally, is vastly superior to Watson's) would disagree, but having plumbed such depths it is difficult to see how the Labour Party could ever recover to even the minimal standards it used to hold.