Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Greenwich Labour on the side of Greenwich Labour


When I first saw this election leaflet from the Greenwich branch of the Labour party I was immediately suspicious, because:

  1. How many people do you know who speak like this?
  2. Miranda looked familiar.
  3. Why does Mark look so glum?

So who is Mr. Glum? Could this be him:












And his partner? Could this be Mrs. Glum?














Well what does Miranda say about herself?

Name: Miranda Williams
Bio: Knitter and Socialist, living in London working for an MP

Working for an MP eh? I wonder which one.

And what does she do in her spare time?













Leaflets eh?









So she's raising funds for Labour? Anything else?






Now when I first saw this leaflet I immediately thought that I had seen Miranda somewhere before, specifically that I had seen her at a meeting held by the Greenwich Labour party on the Olympics.

At that meeting, a woman who looked very similar to Miranda told the other Greenwich residents that:

"I'd just like to say that I moved to the borough two and a half years ago. I'm very excited that we have got the Olympics here in London and in Greenwich as well and I can't believe how narrow minded and short sighted and nimbyist so many people are being..."

She went on to say that she was 26 and found it 'sad' that there was so many older people complaining about (Labour's) plans for the Olympic legacy in the borough.

She did not say what, if any political interest she had in the matter.

So is this woman and Miranda one and the same person? Well here's Miranda's tweet from the day of the debate:








Unfortunately Richard never replied, but I do wonder just how close Miranda is to the party she says is "on our side"

And if Miranda is as close as her Twitter accounts suggest, then is it really okay for her to be portrayed as just another contented resident of Greenwich?


-Update- Miranda is now a Labour councillor in Greenwich.

61 comments:

John B said...

Hehe. Still, at least she really exists and really supports Labour, that's a step up from the Nazis' pamphlets...

AdamB said...

Indeed. Although "Vote Labour in Greenwich, we're a step up from the Nazis" is hardly a great rallying call...

Anonymous said...

I thought the Labour party in Greenwich were out of touch with people in the borough but this is just ridiculous. You couldn't make it up!

AdamB said...

-Update- Mark and Miranda's Twitter profiles have now been protected but not before Mark tweeted that he: "is apparently the worlds glummest man at 6.30 am!" in reference to Darryl's original post.

Mark Lee said...

I'm not a Labour supporter, but I wouldn't be surprised if all parties do something similar when they quote constituents on campaign leaflets.

Let's face it, you're hardly going to consent to your face and real name to be used on a party's campaign material if you don't have strong sympathies with the party, and to be honest, if you are prepared to do this, then you're probably already a member of the local party, or a good friend of the candidate.

I don't personally agree with the tactic, but I would be genuinely surprised if any party uses vox pops that are entirely independent. That's no excuse of course (better not use vox pops in the first place) but you can't really single Labour out for this.

Mark Lee said...

Also:

You'd have thought in this day in age if parties were going to use people in their local publicity, they'd make sure that they teach them how to have a 'secure' online presence.

AdamB said...

I thought that I could remember someone else being caught out for this a while back but I couldn't find any links.

Yes I'm sure it's a fairly common tactic, but that doesn't make it right, and it doesn't mean that they should get away with it.

Greenwich (Labour) Council have got a bad record for communicating with residents. Maybe they should try talking with them a bit more (instead of talking to themselves).

And I'm not a Labour, Conservative or any other supporter either.

Victoria said...

Not exactly a big scoop- I hardly think you are likely to allow your picture and a quote to be used in the campaign of a party you don't support...

AdamB said...

Welcome to the blog Victoria.

There's a difference between supporting a party and being an activist/employee/fundraiser/ or canvasser for that party. Especially when you're one of the people handing out the leaflets. Hardly very honest is it?

Tom said...

I think if you don't like Labour and Greenwich Labour in particular, this is huge story. Most people that know how the political process limps on find it sadly the norm.

But at least there are no prominent anti-Olympics Greenwich journalists that sock-puppet opinions to justify their bile. Oh, my mistake.

AdamB said...

Welcome to the blog Tom

It's not a huge story, but it is worth telling.

"But at least there are no prominent anti-Olympics Greenwich journalists that sock-puppet opinions to justify their bile. Oh, my mistake."

I'm not sure what your point is (sockpuppeting is bad?) but the Gilligan story was first broken on this very blog:

http://torytroll.blogspot.com/2008/10/andrew-gilligan-caught-sockpuppeting.html

Daniel said...

Seriously? Is she not a resident of Greenwich and therefore entirely qualified to comment in such a capacity?

Inevitably, endorsers are going to know the candidate. Either it's going to be a party member, a personal friend of the candidate or someone they've had previous links with as a candidate/elected representative. Are you suggesting all these are illegitimate? In which case, who exactly would you expect to appear on a leaflet? "I've never met the candidate before, but someone dragged me in off the street so I'll vote for them"?

A Labour Activist

AdamB said...

Welcome to the blog Daniel.

This is set out as a vox pop style endosement of the Labour party in Greenwich from two 'Greenwich residents.'It is not set out as a personal endorsement from a friend or colleague. It's an important distinction.

Of course they are entitled to say what they like about Labour. I just think that we're also entitled to know why they're saying it. If you know all the facts then you can make your own choice.

Daniel said...

But therein lies the point. They are (as far as I am aware?) Greenwich residents - and indeed, what they're saying is pretty straightforward stuff. Can one person or couple not have two roles?

Personally, I think the quote is badly written. It should make a single point and be relevant to the individuals concerned - so for instance, on the Y&H Labour leaflet the family on the front comment about help for hard working families. But it seems overly petty to be criticisng Labour leaflets for quoting from actual Labour supporters, when others have been guilty of completely fabricating them...

Victoria said...

Good morning! Thank you for the welcome, I am normally a lurker. I suppose I don't think it is dishonest. It wouldn't occur to me, on receiving such a leaflet, that they were anything other than party supporters, and at such a local level it is not surprising that this would spill over into actively helping the party- these are normally voluntary activities and I guess if you like something enough to put your name and face to it you are probably happy to deliver some leaflets.
Am interested in the Councillor training- I thought you just had to be a miserable old man with a personal agenda!
Back to lurking...

AdamB said...

Good morning Victoria. Didn't realise you were a lurker. Happy to have you commenting or lurking here any time as you please.

Daniel- I get the feeling you wouldn't be saying this was petty if it was about the Conservatives (or the BNP). I live in Greenwich, so it's probably of slightly more importance to me than it will be to you. It's not singling out Labour. As I said, I'm sure others have done the same and if I catch them I will write about it.

Isn't the real problem that you're a Labour activist* and this is a post criticising Labour activists?

*Thanks for being honest about this by the way.

Tom said...

AdamB - well done on keeping up a dialogue with your commenters! I am not party political so have no skin in this game but I do find people's enduring cynicism depressing. Politics is by necessity an imperfect business; pointing out small imperfections can sometimes smear the whole process. Your post implies - but obviously doesn't say - dishonesty on behalf of those involved; there is none.

Personally, it probably only shows that local party politics is in a sad state of affairs, and those involved struggle to get people enthused sufficiently to support politics, let alone politicians. I know that the onus then is on those seeking power to justify why, I just wish we lived in an environment that at any point supported those that seek to improve our lives.

AdamB said...

Tom - I think we will have to agree to disagree about this.

Labeling activists as residents in the way this leaflet does is dishonesty by omission. Is it a terrible scandal? No. Is it one symptom of the detachment of political parties in general (and Greenwich Labour in particular) from the people? I think it is.

Politicians have been very quick to criticise the media and bloggers for eroding public trust (see Brian Coleman) without realising quite how detached they've become.

That said, I agree with you that change needs to come from the grassroots. Unfortunately these are the grassroots that the Labour party has spent the past decade ignoring and then alienating. If you want to look for a source of that cynicism then look there, not here.

Tom said...

I'm not sure if I follow your logic Adam - putting together a leaflet and choosing to use the word "resident" rather than "supporter" is nothing more than a bit of poorly chosen marketing spin in a leaflet. Detachment of political parties - particularly in urban areas - derives from wider factors, some internal to politics (the rise of careerism in parties, the decline of mass parties); and some external (the collapse of institutions in Britain, fashionable cynicism and anti-politics).

Curiously, the Greens in Brockley (where I used to live) have done a great job at showing what local politicians can do, by focusing almost exclusively on hyper-local issues and putting the national stuff to one side. They provide an interesting template that others might do well to follow.

Daniel said...

To be honest, I'd be saying it was pointless and petty whichever party was saing it. I think it's a reasonable assumption that anyone who believes in a party/candidate enough to put their name and face on a leaflet is likely to be someone who would turn out and campaign for them. It's the same message that all parties are trying to make - "people like you voting for Labour/Conservative/Lib Dem/BNP/Green"

I assume that any endorsers people trot out are acquaintances or friends of the party or candidate, whether Labour, Tory or BNP. I think to describe it as dishonesty by ommission is very harsh; they are Greenwich residents and, one would assume, they genuinely believe in the quote that is being attrbuted to them.

I'm happy to describe myself as a Labour activist, because that's what I am; I do think it's a bit cynical to suggest that I am a hypocrite simply on that basis though. Like you say, change needs to come from the grassroots - but what chance does the grassroots have if we're going to get accused of hypocrisy without justification?

AdamB said...

Daniel - "To be honest, I'd be saying it was pointless and petty whichever party was saing it."

Easy to say, although you've never leapt to the defence of any other party on this blog before (or commented at all) so I guess I'll have to take your word for it.

"I do think it's a bit cynical to suggest that I am a hypocrite simply on that basis though. Like you say, change needs to come from the grassroots - but what chance does the grassroots have if we're going to get accused of hypocrisy without justification?"

Oh come on. So I'm squashing the grassroots now? I think you might have got things a bit out of perspective.

Greenwich Labour tried a bit of astroturfing. I caught them out. I blogged it. Lots of new faces come on to say its unimportant (although important enough to respond several times to) and now I'm denying the grassroots a chance as well? Weird.

Tom said...

You should stop replying Adam and then we'd stop commenting! Personally, I'm often on blogs getting riled at others' fashionable cynicism. That, to me, is worse than a bit of well-labelled marketing spin. Shoddy journalism - which I am not accusing you of, BTW - irritates me more than predictable marketing (partly this is because I am one). As such, a belated congrats on your exposure of Gilligan, the worst journalist in London.

AdamB said...

'Stop replying'? But. I. must. have. the. last. word.

What's all this 'fashionable cynicism' about anyway? You're starting to sound like Brian Coleman.

Believe me, there's nothing fashionable about being a political blogger.

And there's nothing that makes people more cynical than 'marketing spin'.

Tom said...

In the past people tended to do stuff for others and get annoyed at others that didn't.

Now, few people spend time helping others, but a lot of people get very angry at those that try to help others when they fail or not behaving like saints.

It's as if taking the critical pose replaces the need to do anything. As such, it's no wonder it's fashionable. It's also the thing that stops me that keeps me trying harder to be a better journalist.

Tom said...

Sorry for not proofing my comments BTW.

sbalb said...

@Daniel: "I think it's a reasonable assumption that anyone who believes in a party/candidate enough to put their name and face on a leaflet is likely to be someone who would turn out and campaign for them."

You're stating that as if it's an excuse for this behaviour, whereas I think it's exactly Adam's point. We're so inured to the idea that a political party is incapable of resisting a little bit of spin here and there, and we're also meant to accept that a party's only friends are bound to be this detached clique of campaigners rather than local disinterested citizens.

These two ideas are so implicit in our political process that you consider it reasonable for lies of omission to be pushed through our letterboxes by people who are asking us to vote for them as our representatives in local government.

Of course the magnitude of the fabrication is far less here than the fascist BNP managed in their laughably moronic literature. But they're both clearly on the same sliding scale. I've seen similar arguments - generally not as well spelt - put forward to try and defuse the BNP's recent atrocities against honesty. By being underhand in a similar way, mainstream parties are validating the principle behind such methods, and handing the BNP all the excuses they need.

We should hold potential and actual representatives to a high standard of transparency towards those who might elect them. Would I expect a similar standard of adherence to advertising codes of practice from, say, a local builder? No. But a local builder would fix some pointing or lay some bricks (any more than that and I would expect his qualifications to be confirmed by a reputable trade body, so the argument is moot.)

A local politician, on the other hand, is trying to convince me that he can faithfully represent my interests in government. Declaration of other interests then becomes of vital importance. In this way, although political literature is partly a form of advertising, it's also far more than that. Not only does it have a different legal status, which means we ought not to dismiss its excesses as par for the course, but it has a different moral status, which means we dismiss them at our peril.

(Declaration: I'm a dark-green, broadly liberal voter from a Labour family.)

AdamB said...

Thank you sbalb. You've put it better than I have.

Andrew Brown said...

Looking at the discussion here it seems to me that what we've got is the different way that people engaged in party politics see things from those interested in the political process but not members of a party.

Personally I'm not sure that this leaflet is a big deal, and as others say I'm sure it's done often by all shades of opinion. But...

The problem for parties is two fold; we (and I declare my interest as Labour Party member)want to to show support from local people, but usually have deadlines that are too tight for the (increasingly) small band of activists involved in keeping local parties alive.

One short cut, as this leaflet shows, is to use someone you know is unlikely to go flakey, have a criminal record they didn't disclose, or withdraw their support publicly at an inoportune moment, and so you turn to your activists. The other, as the recent BNP one illustrated, is to use stock imagery.

The bit that needs thinking through is how you label the photos. And this is where the party's desire to be down with the local population needs to go through a bit of a reality check. So while "local resident" trumps "party supporter" which beats "party member", and all may be true, it seems to me that we in political parties should be a little clearer about who is endorsing us.

AdamB said...

Thanks for a reasoned and thoughtful response Andrew. This has turned into quite an interesting debate. How did that happen?

Appealing of Ealing said...

Victoria said...

"I suppose I don't think it is dishonest."

It is patently dishonest. When this Labour nightmare is finally swept away, we could fill the entire V&A with their lies. This one, of course, will make only a tiny exhibit.

Appealing of Ealing said...

Tom said...

"I do find people's enduring cynicism depressing."

People are cynical with good reason -- you ought to consider that to understand the true cause of your depression. The point isn't whether or not cynicism is fashionable, but whether or not it is justified.

AdamB said...

"When this Labour nightmare is finally swept away, we could fill the entire V&A with their lies."

Interesting choice of museum. And where do they keep the Tory lies AofE?

Appealing of Ealing said...

27 May 2009 12:07
sbalb said...

"We're so inured to the idea that a political party is incapable of resisting a little bit of spin...."

Yep, bulls eye. We've such a low opinion of our politicians, and standards have fallen so low, that we hardly notice the smaller misdemeanours.

Appealing of Ealing said...

"Interesting choice of museum. And where do they keep the Tory lies AofE?"

We'll keep them in the basement until after the election. Or maybe stick a few of them in the "Jack Straw Room" -- there's so many in there, no one would notice.

AdamB said...

I would have thought the Black Museum would have been more appropriate, although maybe that's a more cross-party thing. < /fashionablecynicism>

Tom said...

AoE, I lack cynicism because I have spent a fair amount of time studying history and the British political system, and can see what a positive difference collective political action has done.

The 1880s in London, for example, were an amazing time for British politics, with the establishment of Toynbee Hall leading ultimately to many of the state protections we currently enjoy.

Meanwhile, life expectancy in the capital over the last century has doubled. And if that's not an excuse for a moment of wonder, I'm not sure what is.

So be cynical if you like, but I can't see what difference those standing on the sidelines carping have made.

AdamB said...

"So be cynical if you like, but I can't see what difference those standing on the sidelines carping have made."

He says, carping from the sidelines.

Tom said...

Indeed Adam, which is why you got a bit of history in there, and I'm getting back to my more worthy day job!

AdamB said...

I'm sure you are far worthier than we.

Appealing of Ealing said...

Tom said...

"AoE, I lack cynicism because I have spent a fair amount of time studying history and the British political system..."

...then you'll appreciate what a long tradition we have of carping from the sidelines. And I suggest it does make a difference. Only recently Gordon Brown lost his right-hand man (Mr. Damien McBride) when a fellow called Paul Staines did a bit of carping from the sidelines. Now I hear Brown's own people are openly laughing at the whips.

...

"...with the establishment of Toynbee Hall..."

Why does that name send a shiver up my spine?

Appealing of Ealing said...

AdamB said...
"I would have thought the Black Museum would have been more appropriate, although maybe that's a more cross-party thing."

Wouldn't be big enough for the great Tony Blair Iraq Exhibition

Anonymous said...

Can I suggest something radical? Why not give the photos of "real poeple" a miss? Why not write a leaflet with a summary of why Party X thinks that course of action Q is a good idea? Why not include a few responses to real doubts and objections that have been made? Is that too difficult?

AdamB said...

AofE - "Wouldn't be big enough for the great Tony Blair Iraq Exhibition"

Indeed. As sponsored by the Conservatives Wholeharted Support Foundation (current Director David 'Heir to Blair' Cameron)

Are we off the point enough yet do you think?

Anonymous- Agree totally. Nobody trusts these endorsements any more (and for good reason.) Tell us what you've done and what you will do and back it up with evidence.

I got a Green leaflet today as it happens which was pretty straightforward and didn't have a 'resident' in sight. I might even vote for them.

Andrew Brown said...

Anon @14:54

It's a good question.

The average life of a leaflet is somewhere in the region of 15 seconds; and I guess that it's been tested and shown that pictures and endorsements beat policy discussion.

Certainly when I had anything to do with writing leaflets it was the Lib Dems who had the strictest guidelines. As I recall that got down to not using sentences with more than 7 words, which speaks of a tabloidisation of political discourse which we also should feel some shame about.

Tom said...

You justification for carping is some Westminster Village silly story that made me yawn from a 1000 yards. Inside the beltway stories are dull except for wannabes unless sensation-seeking hacks see an angle they can sell to their desks. Ironically, I appear far more cynical about the media process than you. I guess it's experience.

AdamB said...

What's a beltway? And what has Westminster got to do with Greenwich?

Tom said...

That was a response to the more emotional AoE who cited the McBride story as a story of some worth. (It will hardly be remembered next week let alone next month.)

The Beltway is the Washington DC ring-road. It's ugly journalism jargon for stories that don't travel outside the chatterati.

Indigo said...

Well done, AdamB, great sleuthing. I see ZanuLabour were here in a flash, making out that it is perfectly OK to pass off two activists (one of work works for an MP, no less) as two pathetically grateful proles. You must be on their watchlist.

Is one of Miranda's personae, possibly, "SE7pixey"? This SE7pixey's comments on the London 2012 blog suggest that she is very against all this democracy stuff. She thinks that petitions against having the equestrian events in the Park should be "discouraged".

Hey Labourlosers, are you saying that no one but your activists could be persuaded to let their picture and personal stories be used in your leaflet? Women's magazines seem to manage this all the time, why can't you?

Andrew Brown said...

"Women's magazines seem to manage this all the time, why can't you?"Cause we don't pay £400 a pop.

AdamB said...

The Greenwich Greens have now put out a release about this:

http://greenwich.greenparty.org.uk/localsites/greenwich/news/2009-05-27_greenwich_labour.html

Indigo said...

Why don't you pay £400 a pop - after all, the subject of your photo is doing you a great favour, if s/he is an ordinary voter. Why should you expect to use their photo for nothing.

Indigo said...

Oh, by the way, see that bit on the leaflet about swimming for free? Greenwich Council, the Labour Party, and LOCOG did not initiate this - they hijacked it and passed it off as their own big idea. It isn't even part of the Olympics legacy, as the scheme runs out in 2011.

The Swim4Free scheme is part of a £75m Change4Life programme launched on 3 January 2009 and administered by the Department of Health to help prevent childhood obesity - local councils up and down the country are participating in the scheme - and it runs to March 2011. And then stops, long before the Olympics even start. It is axiomatic, anything that finishes before the Olympics cannot be part of the legacy.

In some councils, children have been able to swim for free since 2004 - their councillors did not have to justify it by making a spurious association with the Olympics. More at the Save Greenwich Park blog, entry for 23 April 2009.

Hey, Labourlosers, why does everything you do have to be contrived?

Rayyan said...

Great stuff, as usual Adam. Well done as well for responding to comments and keeping up a dialogue - you're one of the few bloggers I know who does! It's interesting how this post has brought all the Labour apologist worms out of the woodwork. Honestly, if it were the Tories who fiddled their leaflets, you'd see the likes of LabourLost et al up in arms about it! There's another party that's used fake "ordinary people" in its leaflets recently too...

AdamB said...

Thanks Rayyan. What leaflets were they then?

Rayyan said...

http://is.gd/Hr4b

AdamB said...

Oh sorry I thought you meant the Conservatives.

Helen said...

I got another election leaflet through the door today which, on first glance, I thought was BNP - it was Labour.

Daniel said...

I wrote a response which failed to post earlier. Anyways... @Indigo - No watchlist, just reader and first time poster. It's a banal and pointless criticism, as it applies to every party that ever puts anyone on a leaflet. Seriously, who is ever going to appear on a leaflet that is not a supporter of that particular party? And as for paying £400 per picture - you do know that the total allowable expenditure for a local election campaign is about £950 (£600 + 5p per elector).

The ridiculous thing is that none of you have got close to spotting the only thing about it that almost certainly is dishonest. The original article alluded to it - read the quote. No-one said that - the person writing the leaflet wrote the quote then found a photo to go with it; probably the only time either of them said that was to read it out when the leaflet writer emailed to let them know what was going on the leaflet.

AdamB said...

And this is your defence? That they probably didn't even say what the leaflet says they did anyway?

Daniel said...

Not a defence - just pointing out the pointlessness of it all!

Green Gordon said...

This defences for this are totally ludicrous. I'd be embarrassed if the Greens ever tried anything like this, which is why, I would hope, if we weren't approached by a member of the public, we wouldn't go anywhere near a lame stunt like this. On the other hand I have seen videos on the Green Party site where they are talking to voters on the doorstep. That seemed to work ok...