Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Conservative parliamentary candidate guilty of harrassment and criminal damage

The Watford Observer is reporting that Ian Oakley, who until recently was Conservative parliamentary candidate for Watford, has pleaded guilty to two counts of harrassment and five of criminal damage. He has asked for 68 other offences to be taken into consideration.

This follows a three-and-a-half year campaign of criminal activity in Watford directed against Liberal Democrat candidates, councillors, members and supporters in Watford. Many of the victims were not even party activists but merely people who displayed posters at election time.

Although this case has triggered national coverage, I have resisted commenting in public until now to allow the court case to proceed unhindered. However it is disappointing that there have been at least some Conservative activists, including one parliamentary candidate, who after Mr Oakley's arrest have sought to play down what has happened or imply that somehow Liberal Democrats have brought this on themselves (see here and here. In fairness, I should say that others have taken a very different line.

Criminal activity should have no part in political campaigning in a democracy. I may well post on this at greater length soon, but my initial reaction is that the Conservatives now need to hold a full enquiry into this case and the conduct of Watford Conservative Association, with the findings made public. Mr Oakley has held two very senior positions in Watford Conservatives - general election campaign manager and parliamentary candidate. The intimidation campaign began during the 2005 general election campaign. We need to know how Mr Oakley was allowed to carry out so many offences without arousing the suspicion of his Conservative colleagues; whether any other Conservative activists were involved and what steps will be taken to stop this happening here or anywhere else.

I should perhaps add that I don't believe for a second that the local Conservative Association as a body would have condoned such activities. But we need to know whether or not other individuals were in any way complicit.

This was not just a case of a single act carried out in anger or a practical joke gone wrong (not that those things would be acceptable either). It has been a sustained campaign of intimidation, aimed at subverting the democratic process - and which arguably has made the difference to the results of elections in Watford - we have failed to win seats by margins of 2, 3 and 47 votes in wards where our candidates and supporters have suffered criminal damage during the election campaign.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

What on earth is the point in having an enquiry except to waste much needed resources. The guilty party has been found and brought to justice. To claim that his actions in Watford has resulted in the loss of Lib Dem seats is stretching the imagination a little. Please remember that the Lib Dems have, in the past, been shown to use questionable (all be it not criminal) tactics in the past!

Iain Dale said...

Iain, I cannot possibly see how you can interpret the post you have linked to in that way. I am horrified by what has happened. I said in the post "Perhaps we can all agree that any form of harrassment of political opponents is wrong, cannot be tolerated, and should be condemned."

Perhaps you were referring to comments in the post, in which case I hope you will clarify that.

Iain said...

Yes, of course, Iain. Your original posting was quite clear, and I didn't for a second think anyone would imagine I meant anything other than (some of the) comments. Hope this clarifies things.

Anonymous said...

Of course the Conservative Party must conduct an internal enquiry on this matter.

It would seem surprising (not impossible but surprising) if there was absolutely no knowledge within the local party of a very sustained campaign of harrassment. There are also serious allegations which Oakley has not admitted to, suggesting others may have been involved.

The Party has to make sure there can be no chance of repetition and that the selection process and campaign of any future Watford candidate is beyond reproach.

They also need to ensure that there were no warning signs that ought to have been picked up in the vetting process.

It is true this can happen in any party - but when it happens, the party involved must take it very seriously.

cymrumark said...

quite astonishing...never knew Watford politics could be so interesting :)

Andy Wylie said...

The job of any local party officer is to see that the party conducts itself in the correct manner.
If incidents start happening to opponents you cannot just say "Oh dear, what a shame, never mind". You have to say to yourself "who gains, why now and who could have done it".
It is a very hard process if it is likely to involve one of your own but it has to be done.
There were obvious & early signs that it was a person (or persons)with a "conservative view" and who was (were)very well versed in the political process and yet nothing seems to have been done.
That's why Cameron should send the heavy mob in and have an enquiry into what was (not) going on in the local party.
As an aside the lack of an apology to the people of Watford is going to cost Cameron dear. He could have looked quite statesman like on this but the offical "nothing to do with us, Guv" attitude is grating with ordinary Mr & Mrs Watford.

corrupt camden council said...

This sort of intimidation and outright thuggery and criminality happens in camden within housing 'politics'and has been allowed to go on for years. It really is a disgraceful state of affairs. I'm glad that this person has been exposed for the thug he is and punished accordingly. Its a shame no such justice exists in camden.

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