I’ve been a bit slow on the uptake writing this as I’ve been away in Belgium for the last 5 days. Contrary to what I had so much hoped Miranda Grell was found guilty of 2 charges of claiming a Lib Dem opponent was a paedophile in a court ruling on Friday last week. The news story from the Waltham Forest Guardian tells more, there’s an opinion piece from Black Information Link, and a good post from Paul Burgin at the Mars Hill blog.

What can we make of that? First of all it’s scary and strange to have a friend facing that situation – I simply cannot imagine Miranda said those things. Either the judge was wrong, or I’ve been wrong for years about how she is as a person. I don’t know quite what I can do to help, but whatever I can do I will do. I will back her throughout, and I hope plenty of other people that know her will do so too.

Secondly the wheels of the law turn very slowly in comparison to everyday politics, so even if (as I hope) Miranda will appeal this is going to rumble on for ages.

Thirdly, and most importantly, this shines the light once more on the very grim and nasty way that local politics goes, especially in London councils. Everyone is ready to start baying about how gruesome the others are, rather than getting on with the job of sorting out local services, often with the Liberal Democrats muck-stirring viciously as well. Why would you want to bother being a local councillor as the atmosphere is so sour?

[UPDATE] Miranda’s appeal is now confirmed.

10 Comments

  1. The first important aspect of this matter is Miranda is not the first and she won’t be the last politician breaking the law.

    Its a shame she couldn’t win an election solely based on her personal commitment to the local residents.

    She is not the only, predominantly Labour, councillor to be accused of dirty tricks at election time.

    Councillors should be the champions of the people they claim to represent but they often sell their soul to their political party and concentrate on their own self-aggrandisement to the detriment of the local residents who trusted them and who also need them to articulate the concerns of the voiceless populous.

    Miranda’s pride got hurt and her sentence was light despite the damage she did. She should learn from this and the next time fight solely on what she can do for the public rather than on promoting herr own self-interests – as evidenced by the ‘I Love Myself’ web site.

    I would ban all national political parties from local government elections and concentrate solely on local issues free of all the national political crap.

    I would also ban Euro and national elections occurring within 6 weeks of a local election because the unlimited political spending nationally does influence the results of local elections.

  2. I don’t want to add to the argument, if there is one! However, there are two factual clarifications.
    First, Smith did not say that the Tango incident had been made up, he said that it had been so trivial that he’d forgotten about it (in response to a defense prompt) and had never presumed that the thrown orange drink was a personal attack, merely the stupid behaviour from youths in a passing car.
    Second, Smith must have reported the follow-up incidents to the police, and presumably in his statement, otherwise questions about them could not have been put in court.
    Finally – and maybe this will quell the differing views (!) – Smith made it clear in his press statement that he did not see this as political, and that the result should not be seen as reflecting negatively upon Labour or Labour campaigning, generally.

  3. The very idea that the Lib Dems (or anyone else for that matter) are sweetness and light, and Labour is more gruesome than anyone else, is just ludicrous.

  4. Mark Senior

    Let’s remind you of Lambeth Labour’s recommendations for local campaigns an internal briefing paper “Beating the LibDems : lessons from Lambeth ” ” Find one flaw and smear them all , Go negative until swamped by complaints ,then do it again ” .
    The law exists to put a stop to this sort of illegal action by Labour activists and I hope the Miranda Grell case is the first of many to rid British politics of this sort of campaigning .

  5. If proven guilty after appeal, then yes. Until that point then no, unless Labour carries out its own investigation into the matter. You could perhaps make a case for the latter happening, but as far as Miranda is concerned this matter is far from closed.

    As for ‘being abused’ on the street – none of those incidents were ever reported to the police by Barry Smith, if indeed they ever did actually occur. He admitted in court that the story that he had been tangoed in 2003 (see this from the Waltham Forest Guardian) never actually happened.

    Further, even if there was abuse, was whatever might have been said to him any worse than a Lib Dem would be called when knocking on doors in Faraday Ward?

  6. Jon,

    The implicaiton of what she said is that she used homophobia as a campaign weapon rather than that she was herself homophobic.

    In many respects that sort of manipulation, bringing out the worst in others in a way that led to Mr. Smith being abused in the street, is worse than actually being prejudiced yourself, particularly when it comes from someone putting themselves forward to be a community leader.

    Grounds for explusion from any political party I would hope, appeal or not.

  7. Persist as you wish Andy, but I do not see it this way.

    For goodness sake one of the two Labour candidates Miranda was running with was openly gay – I went out campaigning with both of them and I did not detect any problem or animosity at all.

    I have known Miranda for many years, and simply cannot countenance the idea that she is homophobic in this way.

    I suppose you just think I’m grim and corrupt too as I’m a member of the Labour Party and in your view of the world anyone that is a member of that party is part of some evil plot to bring down the sweetness-and-light Lib Dems.

    There will be an appeal in the case – let’s see what happens there.

  8. Jon,

    I’m pretty appalled by this post, even if you still believe that it more plausible that local residents, some of whom were Labour supporters and her own running mate conspired with a shadowy cabal of unamed Liberal Democrats to bring down St. Grell, than the simple explanation that she made a very stupid mistake for which she deserves to reap the whirlwind there is still the issue of her admission of playing on gay-hate as a campaign tactic.

    She claimed in the case that rather than suggest that Barry Smith slept with 14-16 year old Thai boys the man in question was 19.

    This was both a lie (He was 38 and Malaysian) and very nasty, with a clear implication towards the stereotyping her opponent as a predatory older man interested in youth.

    What explanation did she give for this behaviour that still leads you to believe she incapable of going that extra mile (or should that be two years) from playing on gay-hate to playing on paedo-smears?

  9. I don’t see it all as black and white as you state it. To claim this is Miranda plotting some evil plan against the Lib Dems is not right, and I am confident this will be shown if there is an appeal. Let’s face it: there are Labour councillors that don’t like Miranda much because she demonstrates how crap they are – no late fifties man who has been there for too long is going to like a young, dynamic woman who works harder and does more.

    As for the comment about why anyone should bother being a councillor – it’s absolutely appropriate. It can be just as grim for Lib Dems, Tories, anyone. I did not mean it was just grim for Miranda.

  10. humblescholar

    I have to say that your question who would want to bother to be a local councillor as the atmosphere is so sour is inappropriate in the circumstances. I appreciate that she is your friend and its difficult to face up to the facts, but a district judge has been convinced beyond reasonable doubt that Ms Grell was the one viciously lies. She isn’t the victim here – she is the perpetrator.

    As regards your suggestion that everyone would have been better off getting on with the job sorting our local services, this case was never a distraction from that to either party, though Ms Grell pretended in court the matter was purely a party political conspiracy to attack her- Waltham Forest is not as polarized as she tried to portray – it is actually a council in which Labour and the LibDems share power. There were apparently local Labour activists who had found her conduct abhorrent. The local party has, probably correctly, suspended her.

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