This week’s Watford Observer states that the Chairman of Watford Conservative Association, Steve O’Brien, has refused to comment after former Conservative parliamentary candidate Ian Oakley received a suspended prison sentence having admitted 75 charges of harassment and criminal damage.
I have commented before about the bizarre silence of Watford Conservatives over the whole Oakley affair. The most charitable, albeit unlikely, explanation was that they were waiting for the whole legal process to be complete. Now there can be no excuse.
Just to be clear – there has been no official comment by Watford Conservatives on Oakley’s arrest, resignation, conviction or sentencing. They have not condemned Oakley’s offences, not expressed regret that these acts should have been committed by such a senior Conservative and not expressed sympathy with his victims.
There can now be no innocent explanation for the silence of Watford Conservatives. For avoidance of doubt, I refer to those who are in charge of the local Conservative Association. I am sure that ordinary Conservative supporters and members in Watford and elsewhere do indeed abhor what Oakley has done.
The official Watford Conservatives’ silence suggests ambivalence about the whole affair. It implies that they are not really sorry that Oakley did what he did, believe that at some level the Lib Dems deserved it and are not willing to condemn the criminal behaviour of a Conservative if there is any danger that this will give comfort to the Lib Dems.
The Conservatives no doubt believe, perhaps rightly, that the media attention has passed and the story will soon be forgotten about. But questions remain about Watford Conservatives, foremost among which are: what is their real attitude to using criminal methods for political advantage? and why do they feel unable to condemn Ian Oakley’s actions?
Until such questions are answered, Watford Conservatives will rightly remain tainted by the suspicion that they tacitly condone Oakley’s behaviour.