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#rdg Conservatives are desperately smearing Labour to distract from their problems- letter from Labour agent to Conservative agent

On 28th March I wrote of the local Conservatives:

“This is a sign of a party that is focused on what happens in the council chamber and not on people’s neighbourhoods  A sign of a party out of fresh ideas.   A sign of a party that is out of touch with the real concerns of Reading’s residents.

If they hope to fight an election on this basis I am sorry for their activists.  I suspect however that what some in the party plan is to resort to smears against Labour.  Don’t be surprised if you get a leaflet through your door – especially if you live in Kentwood, Caversham or Church wards – in the next few weeks from the Conservatives with outlandish allegations against our candidates, policies and record.” (emphasis added)

Outlandish allegations?  Well no shock then that in the same week that a second member of the Conservative group resigns our Church ward candidate has been smeared by the Conservatives.  Others have blogged on this already, I’ve had family commitments over the Easter weekend so haven’t been blogging “live” (you may have noticed my posts have been pre-scheduled!) but I would like to add my voice.  
My personal view is that it’s disgusting to see a decent, principled candidate like Eileen being treated in this way by the Conservatives because they are so desperate to distract from the chaos in their own ranks.  In contrast the Labour group have been very careful to avoid allegations of racism about the Conservative group’s behaviour over recent weeks and months.  The Conservatives need retract what is a lie without foundation.  
The letter from our agent to the Conservative party agent is below:
Dear Ms Swaddle

Reading Labour Party utterly rejects your clumsy attempts to smear our candidates in this campaign. Should you repeat publicly any suggestion that our campaign is racist in its intent we will have no hesitation in taking legal action against you. 

Given the infighting that has consumed Reading East Conservatives following your deselection of a senior councillor of Asian origin, and ensuing legal action, it is not surprising that you should be seeking to distract attention from political problems with your own candidates by ascribing false and entirely baseless motives to ours.

Whereas the Conservatives in Reading have elected Tories now fighting one another in the forthcoming local election, Labour by contrast is a united party and we are particularly keen to demonstrate this fact to the electorate. Nowhere is this more important to us than in Church and Redlands wards, which is where the ‘one of us’ statement has been used in our literature.

In Church, your candidate Azam Janjua is a political turncoat who previously represented the ward as a Labour councillor until he was disowned by the Labour Group following allegations of misconduct. We want to make it absolutely clear that our candidate, Eileen McElligot, is Labour through and through, with strong ties to Reading, born, bred and in fact still living on a Reading Council estate, and with a real commitment both to the town and to her political principles. Labour voters in Church Ward are entitled to know that
their candidate is not likely to abandon her party and that she understands the issues that matter to them. In other words, she is  ‘one of us’, who understands just what damage the Conservative led government is doing to hard working families – particularly this week as their cuts in tax credits hit people, while the wealthy look forward to massive tax benefits. 

At no point has our literature made any reference to the  Church Ward Conservative candidate’s race or to where he lives. By contrast you have attacked our candidate for living in west Reading. 

In Redlands we are fully expecting our political opponents to draw attention to the fact that our candidate, Tony Jones, did resign from the party over his disagreement with the leadership of Gordon Brown and served out the remainder of his term as a Battle ward councillor as an independent. He has subsequently rejoined the Labour Party and we are delighted that his considerable skills and experience will once again be available to Reading Labour Party. However, we did feel it was important to emphasise that Tony is, once again, ‘one of us’. You will note that there are no ethnic minority candidates in Redlands Ward.

There are several other wards where we have also, in different ways, drawn attention to our candidates’ local roots, which is naturally part of their appeal to the electorate. 

You have however alleged a racial connotation in our literature, which is not and never has been there. I hope you will now withdraw this slur and resume a civilised and sensible campaign. Labour has never sought to make the race of any candidate an issue in the past and we are not doing so in this campaign. We are proud of our wide range of councillors and candidates and will always highlight their local links and commitment to Labour principles of equality and social justice.

I trust you will acknowledge that no other meaning was intended in the words we used in our literature in either Church or Redlands wards and that this matter is now closed.

Yours etc…

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