By Steven Downes, Editor, InsideCroydon.com
Lee Jasper, after admitting that he has been using fake Twitter accounts to boost his by-election campaign, showed today that if elected as an MP he could struggle to keep pace with the volume of paperwork coming his way at Westminster when he admitted it had taken him more than a week to get round to reading a detailed questionnaire about his biggest election rival.
And even then, Jasper revealed that he had failed to read the whole of the Inside Croydon post through.
The Croydon North by-election takes place on Thursday, with Labour’s Steve Reed expected to hold on to most of the 16,000 majority he inherited from the late Malcolm Wicks. The battle for second place in what is expected to be a low turnout seems to be between the Conservatives’ Andy Stranack and Jasper, who is standing for the Respect (George Galloway) party.
But bookmakers this week suspended betting on the by-election as they had to slash the odds on Jasper.
On the ground, Jasper’s campaign does not appear to have garnered significant support. Atop his “battle bus” Jasper has cut a very lonely figure – especially when the driver has taken him across the borough boundary into Streatham or parked up outside the Fairfield Halls, which is also outside the Croydon North constituency.
Jasper has confirmed repeatedly that he has been making use of social media to publicise his campaign, even resorting to using “Twitter bots” – computer robots that automatically retweet relevant content, creating the impression of wider support.
He has also maintained that despite his strong record on equality issues, he would not be “targeting” black and minority ethnic voters, in a potentially divisive manner.
Yet on the eve of the election, Jasper opted to Tweet: “Asked by @insideCroydon Do EM & faith groups face discrimination? @Steve4Croydon refused 2 answer #croydon no commitment 2 anti racism” (where @steve4Croydon is the campaign Twitter handle for Reed).
Flattering as it is to be cited as a primary source by a parliamentary candidate, we were somewhat taken aback that it had taken Jasper quite so long to latch on to the Labour candidate’s initial failure to answer all the questions in our form questionnaire.
When Harold Wilson said “a week’s a long time in politics”, the world had only just entered the satellite age, and twitter was something only garden birds did. In this 24/7 multi-media age, politicians, especially those in the midst of an election campaign, are expected to be up to speed with their brief at all times.
It was interesting, also, that Jasper – the man who said he would not be using divisive racial issues in the campaign – should home-in on that particular, unanswered question.
But it soon became apparent that Jasper had failed to read the article in full. Either that, or he was guilty of doing just the sort of political trickery that he has often accused the “mainstream” parties of doing: selective quoting.
Because on the same day that Reed submitted his questionnaire answers, with some notable gaps, he also sent through a supplementary set of answers, which we posted on this website later that day. Jasper – conveniently? deliberately? – overlooked this, despite the post being next in sequence to Reed’s original questionnaire, and despite, in bold type, “7pm UPDATE: Click here for more on this questionnaire” appearing on the article from which he selectively quoted. Later Tweets from Jasper suggested strongly that he had not seen this.
Many people are wary of Respect, apparently with good reason.
Despite Respect making much of their “outsider” status, as being not of the mainstream of national politics and so untainted by the expenses scandals and other less attractive traits of the Westminster village, some people raise serious questions about the party and its leader.
They look at Galloway’s egotistic attitude (what other party has the party leader’s name on the ballot papers, as is happening here in Croydon?); Galloway’s record in parliament; his relationship with Press TV, the Iran-owned television station; his statements about women and rape; his fawning to Saddam Hussein… the list goes on.
But Respect sets itself up as being “better” than the other, what it regards as “tawdry” parties. They are intolerant of the short-comings and human aspects of Labour, Tory and Liberal supporters. Therefore, the expectations of Respect and its candidates, such as Jasper, are higher.
You can imagine how disappointing it must be, therefore, when Respect candidates such as Jasper mislead the electorate – whether deliberately or through incompetence – and behave in a hypocritical manner.
Because when it came to Lee Jasper completing the Inside Croydon questionnaire, he needed to have the questions sent to him on three occasions.And even then, Lee Jasper left some questions unanswered.
And politicians wonder why they have issues on trust and credibility with the public.
Click on any of the links below to read responses to questionnaires sent to candidates in the by-election:
- Ben Stevenson, Communist party
- Marisha Ray, Liberal Democrats
- John Loony, OMRLP
- Andy Stranack, Conservative
- Steve Reed, Labour
- Shasha Khan, Green
- Lee Jasper, Respect
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon
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- Jasper admits to using Twitter bots to drive election bid (insidecroydon.com)
- Low turnout looms at Croydon North as just 26 watch by-election film promoting Andrew Stranack (standard.co.uk)
- Croydon North’s sense of neglect holds key to byelection (guardian.co.uk)