“Dog whistle politics” and allegations of racist campaigning by the Tories have seen this week’s London elections described as among the dirtiest ever fought. And it’s not just WALTER CRONXITE reporting that, but the Green Party, a Conservative peer and even a columnist from the Daily Mail.
So why won’t Tory Assembly Member “Silent Steve” O’Connell speak out against the nastier elements of the Goldsmith campaign?
Marina Ahmad, Labour’s candidate in Croydon and Sutton in the London Assembly elections this Thursday, has challenged her Tory rival Steve O’Connell to condemn the racist approach of his Conservative colleague, Zac Goldsmith, and his increasingly desperate efforts to discredit Sadiq Khan in order to become the third Mayor of London.
Goldsmith put his name to a column in the Mail on Sunday yesterday, which was accompanied by a picture from the 7/7 terror attacks on London, and which has been condemned as “offensive” by Sayeeda Warsi, the former chair of the Conservative Party.
Goldsmith’s Mayoral campaign has repeatedly attempted to link Khan, a Muslim and, by profession, a human rights lawyer, with terrorist extremists.
Speaking on BBC London’s Sunday Politics, Sian Berry, the Green Party candidate for London Mayor, said of the attacks on Khan that, “They’re coming from the Tory campaign… they’re not respectful to London. They’re seeking to divide us.”
And Peter Oborne, the widely respected and principled Tory commentator, now for the Mail, formerly of the Daily Torygraph, called the Conservative Mayoral campaign “disgusting”.
“It’s very important that Londoners vote out Zac Goldsmith and his disgusting campaign,” Oborne told the regional politics programme.
Previously, after “Dodgy Dave” Cameron sought to make the same links between Khan and extremists when answering questions in the House of Commons, Oborne wrote a coruscating critique: “The Conservatives are today nastier by some distance than when he took over as leader.”
Yet meanwhile, Steve O’Connell, the do-nothing Conservative London Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton who has trousered more than £500,000 in allowances over the last eight years, has remained silent on the issue.
Marina Ahmad confronted O’Connell a week ago, at a debate in Old Coulsdon.
Towards the end of the event, she turned to O’Connell and said, “The negative and divisive campaign run by Zac Goldsmith has no place in a place like London. The Prime Minister’s use of the despatch box to attack Sadiq Khan was a disgraceful abuse of his power.”
The largely conservative (small “c”) audience seemed to agree with this point, and applauded loudly, before Ahmad continued: “Steve, I know you’re basically a decent bloke. I’m giving you this opportunity to publicly distance yourself from Zac Goldsmith’s disgusting campaign which you know is one of desperation.”
Although O’Connell looked uncomfortable at this prospect, the format of the debating evening did not provide him with an immediate opportunity to respond.Or it offered him an easy excuse to remain silent.
But a week later, and despite representing one of the most ethnically diverse parts of the country, and O’Connell has still failed to make any statement seeking to distance himself from the “offensive” campaign being run by Lynton Crosby on behalf of #BackZacAndCrack.
O’Connell may be under pressure to ensure he grabs another four years at City Hall at vast public expense. He has told local Tory activists that his majority may be down to just 1,000 votes (in 2012, he won by nearly 10,000 votes from Labour’s Louisa Woodley), though that may be a ploy against complacency among his supporters. He has let slip at other public meetings his own doubts, by saying “if I’m still here after May”.
Marina Ahmad needs a 3 per cent swing to unseat do-nothing O’Connell.
One Labour activist, after a Bank Holiday weekend of canvassing, said today of O’Connell’s continuing failure to condemn the “disgusting” campaigning of his Nasty Party, “He’s presumably hoping to ride on the coat tails of Goldsmith back to City Hall for another four-year term of trousering his very generous allowances, coupled with little action for the people he’s supposed to serve, and regular free tickets to the directors’ box at Selhurst Park.
“Steve wasn’t named Britain’s most over-paid councillor without good reason. Now, it seems he can’t even be bothered to say a few words and do the decent thing. That speaks eloquently of where his priorities are.”
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