Lawyers acting for the Labour Party have accused Shaun Bailey of a form of fraud ahead of the London Mayoral elections, after his campaign last month distributed leaflets headed with fake City Hall insignia.
The leaflets made the claim that the Mayor’s share of Council Tax is set to increase by 21 per cent. Yet Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, has made no such move to increase the Greater London Authority’s precept by that amount.
Bailey is the Conservative Party’s underwhelming candidate for London Mayor, in elections which were postponed from last year because of coronavirus and which are – for now at least – due to be staged on May 6.
Lagging a long way behind Khan in the polls, Bailey appears to have resorted to a desperate ploy straight out of Croydon Tories’ playbook.
Using logos and official devices on campaign material to which political candidate has no right, with the intention of adding some kind of authority to the election material, has been tried by Croydon Conservatives before.
Gavin Barwell, in 2014 when he was still MP for Croydon Central and had Mario Creatura, now a Coulsdon councillor, working in his Westminster office, received a rebuke from the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner for using the portcullis symbol on thinly-disguised party recruitment letters.
It seems that such dodgy practices are still alive and well in Tory campaigns in London.
Last month, Bailey’s failing campaign drew cross-party condemnation for leaflets, which said Londoners’ Council Tax would rise “if you do not take action” and vote against Sadiq Khan.
The leaflets carried an official-looking logo over the words “City Hall”, and a bit of cod Latin in an effort to add some kind of gravitas, which must be something Bailey picked up when he worked as an adviser to Boris Johnson during his mayoralty.
Like the Latin, the logo was bogus, too, having been nicked from the trademark of a Canadian homeware store.
And just as with the Barwell letters, Bailey’s leaflets carefully avoided any explicit mention of the Conservative Party, except in the small print.
Louisa Porritt, the LibDem’s candidate for Mayor, condemned the stunt as “a heartless cheap trick to play at a time so many Londoners are worried sick about making ends meet”.
Porritt demanded that Bailey should “apologise immediately for the distress your act of desperation will cause”.
She said, “This is inappropriate behaviour from someone standing for Mayor.”
There’s been no apology from Bailey, and now he faces an investigation from the director of public prosecutions, following Labour’s complaint that called the leaflets a “fraudulent device” to gain undue influence, under the 1983 Representation of the People Act.
Bailey’s campaign has faced repeated criticism for its tactics. In November, the campaign published leaflets and a website labelled as “Transport for London bailout facts”, which contained attacks on Khan’s policies. This fake news also avoided mentioning the Conservative Party, only including the legally required reference to Shaun Bailey at the bottom, and the address of the Conservative Party’s campaign headquarters.
In the submission by Labour’s lawyers, they claim that the leaflets were “preventing the free exercise of the franchise of electors”.
The leaflets were an “attempt to attract the reader’s attention with the pretence that it is issued from the headquarters of the London Mayor and the Greater London Authority, such that it is an official communication from a public authority with powers of taxation”.
According to a report in The Grauniad, Labour has also written to the British Polling Council calling for the Conservatives to publish evidence for a claim made in a separate email newsletter that “a majority of voters now believe Shaun Bailey will do a better job as Mayor” than Khan.
Most publicly available polling has shown leads of 20 points or more for Khan. Bookmakers have Bailey as a 10/1 outsider to win the election, making him only third-favourite, trailing a little-known independent, Brian Rose. Khan is the 1/10 favourite (stake £10 to win £1) to win.
A spokesman for Bailey’s campaign told the newspaper: “We published our leaflet because Londoners have a right to know when their Mayor is planning to hike Council Tax. The government have repeatedly said that Sadiq Khan does not have to raise council tax to fund [Transport for London]. So this is Sadiq Khan’s decision – and his alone.”
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One hopes that Bo-Jo calls Shaun into no. 10 for a friendly but firm conversation in the cleaning cupboard by the resident Classics SPAD about the abysmal standard of Latin on the logo.
Incompetenti civilibus ineptias dicere
Thank you, Google Translate and Eprevodilac.com for updating my schoolboy Latin.
It’s part of the Tory Party propaganda machine. Get something ‘out there’ at all costs because once it’s out, it can’t be recalled and they know that there won’t ever be any real sanction against spreading this sort of disinformation.
Our noble ‘Lord Gav’ and his local cronies engaged in plenty of these sorts of shenanigans during his numerous election campaigns and was quite rightly called out, but if we – the electorate – don’t complain vociferously enough, they’ll do it again. They can’t help themselves, they’re repeat offenders. As the ‘Wellingborough Newsletter’ promoted last year: “weaponise fake news”, “a lie can go round the world before the truth get’s its boots on”, and “if you make enough dubious claims, fast enough, then honest speakers are overwhelmed”.
And we know where that inevitably leads, don’t we?