KEN LEE reports from another battleground seat, where accusations over a ‘dirty’ campaign have been flying among the bluebottles around the unemptied bins of Sutton
It’s all gone a bit Monty Python in the Carshalton and Wallington marginal seat, where Nick Mattey, the independent candidate who has made it his mission to ensure that FibDem Tom Brake does not get re-elected as MP next week, has been accused of breaking strict rules ahead of the General Election.
Meanwhile, Brake seems to have been channelling Kenneth Williams in another British comedy, Carry On Cleo, with his desperate last-ditch plea to Labour and Green voters to “Lend me your votes”.
Stormzy’s Croydon election poster is not the only one to have stirred up some interest in south London voters, as a flyer has been doing the rounds in Sutton which is said to have been produced by a shady group calling itself the The People’s Liberation Front of St Helier, Hackbridge and Beddington – or TPLFSHHB for not-so-short; not to be confused with The Popular Front of Beddington, St Helier and Hackbridge.
It is understood that a complaint has been made to Sutton Council offices, home of the local returning officer, over the anonymous leaflets.
The leaflet has no election imprint – the small print that every election leaflet is supposed to carry to identify which party has produced, and paid for it. This is an essential part of the accountability process to ensure candidates do not overspend on election expenses.
Breaking election law can result in a court appearance and hefty fines of offenders are found guilty (which is never an easy shout), or even see the election re-staged (gawd help us).
The complaint is believed to be a pretty pathetic attempt from one of Brake’s loyal LibDem lickspittles, possibly someone who has been on the pay roll of one of the “environmental” charities which the MP has endorsed.
Brake has been indulging in his own desperate efforts in the past couple of days, as he tries to defend his wafer-thin 1,500-vote majority from 2015 by appealing to supporters of other parties to shore up his position.
“Lend me your votes”, Brake has written in the past couple of days to Labour and Green supporters, asking them to keep the Tories out. This from a man who spent five years enabling Tory austerity, the Bedroom Tax and tuition fees while holding senior positions in David Cameron’s Conservative-led government.
Brake has been challenged on social media by his Labour Party rival, Emina Ibrahim. “Hey, what’s with the ‘lend me your vote’? You’re asking to borrow Labour and Green votes? What are repayment terms and interest?” she tweeted at Brake somewhat spikily, doubtless buoyed by the encouraging poll results for her party, especially in London where YouGov reports Labour taking a 50 per cent vote share.
Brake was the only LibDem MP in London to be re-elected at the last General Election, but after 20 years at Westminster his time could be coming to an end, if the polling by YouGov this week is proved to be accurate.
YouGov suggests that all the candidates in this seat are tossers.
We’re not making this up: the pollsters say the outcome on June 8 is a “Toss Up”, indicating that they really don’t have a clue how it will turn out, while suggesting that the Old Etonian heir presumptive to an ancient baronetcy, Matthew Maxwell-Scott (hyphen optional), of the Conservative Party, could be leading the people’s uprising against incumbent Brake.
Intriguingly, the fate of independent candidate Mattey is predicted by YouGov to be anywhere between 0 per cent of the vote next Thursday, and 6 per cent, beating UKIP (which is just as well – they’re not actually fielding a candidate), and Shasha Khan of the Greens.
It is difficult to assess what impact a satirical flyer might have on the eventual outcome next week, though Mattey, for one, appears to be taking the allegations against him very seriously.
The leaflet, now claimed by the Carshalton, Wallington and St Helier People’s Front (some splitters have set up a rival group during the course of this news report), does carry some of the hallmarks of the sort of memes which anti-incinerator campaigner Mattey has used on social media over the past few years.
Over images of the Beddington Lane incinerator and Theresa Mayhem with a fag on and a can of high-strength lager, the leaflet has the unelected Prime Minister saying “Vote anyone but LibDems you muppets”.
“LibDems have had a safe seat in Carshalton and Wallington for too long. A safe seat means complacency, falling standards and corruption.”
And conflating national, General Election issues with the goings-on among Sutton’s LibDem-run council, the leaflet goes on to allege: “Since the last General Election the Liberal Democrats have been involved in scandal after scandal and have been selling off the local area to waste management companies to develop Carshalton and Wallington as ‘The A**hole of Sutton’.”
It is believed that the authors, whoever they might be, have used asterisks to disguise the word “ashhole”.
Mattey, who was elected as a LibDem councillor for Beddington North in 2014 but was expelled from the party after acting as a whistle-blower over a string of well-founded allegations against Brake, Ruth Dombey, the Sutton Council leader, and other Liberal Democrats, denies all involvement with the leaflet, describing any suggestion that he is behind the scurrilous sheet as “a base lie”.
“People know it’s not me because there are no spelling mistakes,” Mattey told Inside Croydon. “Also Theresa May is a Type 1 diabetic, so she cannot drink Special Brew.”
Mattey has also written a letter on behalf of himself and his election agent, Paul Pickering, and sent it to the deputy returning officer in Sutton, containing a copy of the leaflet.
In his letter, Mattey has written: “This is the leaflet that Mr Bob Steel claims I have printed. I have copied in Martha as the deputy returning officer to put this on record that this is not one of my leaflets.
“I very much regret this crude attempt to discredit me by political opponents. I want to make it clear that if I want to say something, I put my name to it.
“I understand that people have been taking this leaflet to voters, saying that this is my work and implying that I have been using this to undermine the Liberal Democrat campaign.
“This is a base lie.”
Inside Croydon approached the election managers of other groups contesting the Carshalton and Wallington seat, and none claimed responsibility for the leaflet, nor any knowledge of who might be responsible.
“It might be a splitter,” one suggested.
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