Tory lies, Lib Dem lies, Phil Woolas and a mystical shaman of truth

by Tom Watson

Truth, for some politicians, is a percentages game. There is the platonic “noble lie”. There is the outright denial in the face of facts. There is the Nick Clegg pledge. And now the judges have added a new category. They’ve added the Woolas campaign leaflet to the taxonomy of political truths and lies. It’s a decision we will all regret.

The wikileaks debacle says a lot about truth and lies. None of the words published on the Wikileaks website belonged to Julian Assange. They were the secret communications of the elites of our international political system. They didn’t want you to know what they really thought. And when Assange published the documents that exposed elites to scorn and ridicule, somebody somewhere tried to stop you reading their candid words.

The powerful have gone to extraordinary lengths to stop you reading on wikileaks what three million security cleared Americans can read whenever they like. With state department operatives allegedly parked outside the home of his lawyer, can we politicians really be surprised to witness the morphogenesis of Assange into a mystical shaman of truth with a global following?

When the governor of the Bank of England welcomed George Osborne to Number 11, what he really meant was that George was a shallow dunce. When US ambassador Tuttle praised Gordon Brown’s international leadership, what the ambassador really meant was that Gordon was toast. The ambassador publicly said things he didn’t believe because it was in the national interest of the United States of America. It says it in the memos. So now we know. When it comes to international diplomacy, the truth is what the national interest says it is.

I’ve lost sleep thinking about poor old Phil Woolas and his leaflets. And though the ruling has profound constitutional implications for freedom of speech and the relationship between Parliament and the courts, this is not the reason it feels like a piano has been dropped on my head. It is the most brutal truth of all – the realisation that you are on your own in politics. When the shit storm hits, you have no allies. Being a member of Parliament is a lonely, solitary, dangerous life.

MPs have found different ways of dealing with this. The first, practised by many, is to stay camouflaged in the jungle, creeping around Westminster in relative obscurity. The other way is to live every Parliamentary day like it is your last. And when that piano with your name on it strikes, die a glorious death. Neither of these alternatives is attractive, though if forced to choose, I’ll take the Steinway option.

It’s hard to shake off the Phil incident. He’s a bright working class lad done well. His entire life from adolescence had been given to the service of the Labour movement. And now he’s a political leper. And seeing that sniveling wretch they call a Liberal candidate, Elwyn Watkins, demand an apology from Labour doesn’t half stick in the throat. My advice to whoever wins the Labour nomination this Sunday is to throw every word spoken by Watkins back at the Lib Dems – on police cuts, on tuition fees, on honesty in politics.

And as Phil, with customary grace, said last week – if you are his friend, you’ll make sure that Labour wins the by-election, whenever it is called.

Truth and Lies. They said Phil lied on a leaflet. He lost his job because of it.

The recent leaked document from the Lib Dems shows that they knowingly lied about tuition fees at the election. They campaigned on a policy they knew they were going to scrap. They lied to you. And their lies have exposed people to the truth: that the Lib Dems are everything – and more – that they said they despised about Labour.

And David Cameron. He is promulgating a lie to justify everything his coalition government does. And little Nick Clegg is standing by as his alibi.

Every interview they give, Tory ministers say the deficit is down to Labour profligacy. We know that is not true.

We know there was structural debt. We also know the Tories supported Labour’s spending plans. Income fell because the banks nearly destroyed the global economy.

The Tories show extraordinary discipline in perpetuating their lie. It was Goebbels who said, “any lie constantly repeated eventually becomes the truth”.

Whenever a minister gets within shouting distance of a microphone, they repeat the big lie. They lie and lie and lie and lie, over and over again. There is nothing noble it. In defiance of all the evidence, they knowingly lie. Their lie is amplified in a number of daily newspapers. It has seeped into broadcasts and onto the radio and television. They’re lying so much they’d make Goebbels blush.

It is an unscrupulous and shameless act of deceit and bravado by the Conservatives. Their lie is becoming a truth.

And their tactic may work. The Tories may win the next general election because their lie is believed. That’s right: David Cameron might win a second term in government on a lie.

And what do you think Elwyn Watkins will say about that?

Phone Labour’s campaign office in Saddleworth on 07872 417249. Volunteer. Make sure Watkins never gets the chance.

Tom Watson is Labour MP for West Bromwich East.

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19 Responses to “Tory lies, Lib Dem lies, Phil Woolas and a mystical shaman of truth”

  1. zahidf says:

    Poor Wollass. All he wanted to do was smear his oppenent personally and play dog whistle politics with race. Damm courts.

  2. Jonah says:

    “they said he lied” – and by they you mean 5 high court judges of course.

    This post is astonishing. Phil Woolas made a series of very serious allegations. He had received death threats from muslims (a lie with no basis in fact); the Liberal had entered “a pact” with these murderous and “mad” muslims (a lie with no basis in fact); the liberal was taking illegal donations from foreign powers (a lie with no basis in fact); the liberal was smuggling money into the country and laundering it (a lie with no basis in fact); and more besides.

    It also emerged in the case that Woolas’s agent had worked with a disgruntled ex-liberal supporter to make false allegations of further financial irregularities. Again, the judges ruled that it was a lie with no basis in fact. The document that Woolas’s agent and the malcontent produced in court was judged to be a fake – I shall leave the legal and moral implications of that fact for you to work out.

    Woolas’s team had also made or helped the malcontent to make allegations from corruption in planning applications for a mosque (a lie with no basis in fact) to sexual assault (a lie with no basis in fact).

    This was not a one off. This was Woolas’s entire campaign. It does not have a place in a democracy.

    To compare Woolas’s methods for campaigning with the tuition fees debacle is a nonsense. We must fight against rises in tuition fees. It is wrong and it will harm social mobility and fairness and productivity. It must not pass.

    But let’s do it with a little circumspection. I went to university in 1998. I paid fees introduced by Labour after they had pledged not to before the 97 election. Labour did the same with top up fees.

    Let’s keep our eye on the prize of getting a just result for students and stop this hypocritical squawking.

  3. Richard says:

    And why has the big Tory lie got such a strong foothold? Because it has not been refuted robustly enough nor often enough by Labour MPs. The number of times I have watched and listened in dismay as Labour MPs sit in acquiescent silence while Tory MPs propagate their lie, and signally fail to refute it in their replies. The best local MP Kerry McCarthy ever comes up with is “the cuts are ideologically driven”. Address the lie woman, not what it is being used to justify, construct an argument with the economic evidence, you are after all a lawyer and part of the shadow treasury team.

  4. Mr_Fraud says:

    “sniveling wretch they call a Liberal candidate, Elwyn Watkins” You could replace that with the name Phil Woolas what a pitiful odious individual he was and still is. As for truth most MPs would not know the truth if it kicked them up the arse, a pox on all of you.

  5. Praguetory says:

    No, Tom. The official £150 billion deficit bequeathed by a party led by a man who invented the ‘golden rule’ of a balanced budget is a point of fact. And that figure is before we take into account the financial jiggery-pokery that keeps PFI/public sector pensions etc etc off balance sheet.

    Unlike some competitors, Labour went into a predicted and predictable recession running a deficit for reasons of political expediency.

    In their campaign Labour lied about Tory plans (re withdrawal of tax credits, heating allowances, free bus passes) and now Labour repeatedly lie that they have a set of unspecified but pain-free cuts up their sleeve and argue (against all the evidence) that the emergency steps the Tories have taken haven’t rescued us from the brink of economic collapse.

    We shouldn’t be surprised because even when a court has made his judgment you can’t admit that Phil Woolas did lie on his leaflet.

    In a nutshell, you wouldn’t recognise the truth if it sat on your face.

  6. mugclass says:

    So Wikileak’s is publishing the `secret communications of the elites’? Would Tom Watson consent to having all his e mails, pub briefings of the media, telephone conversations re the coup against Blair, published on line? I doubt it.

    As to Phil Woollas, he didn’t just lie in his campaign leaflet, he lied on tv to the general public about the levels of immigration. He was a little creep then, he’s a little creep now, and he’ll continue to be a little creep well into his dotage.

  7. Praguetory says:

    Tom Watson’s moral code

    Wikileak revelations – good
    Tabloid newspapers phone hacking – bad
    Labour lies – good
    Other party lies – bad

  8. sinosimon says:

    no great surprise you should be so familiar with the thinking processes of Goebbels….but let’s just try a little experiment shall we…? you quote…..
    “any lie constantly repeated eventually becomes the truth”

    so…..’no one will lose out over the abolition of the ten pence rate’
    ‘ labour investment versus tory cuts’
    ‘no more boom and bust’

    nah…doesn’t work does it tom?
    lies when you and gordon were insulting our intelligence with them, still lies now.
    you really shouldn’t try and claim any high ground here, really, it’s just embarassing.

  9. sinosimon says:

    oh yes…and my favourite politcal truth of our times..
    ‘I was just dropping off a present for Fraser.’
    hilarious, truly mirth making

  10. Stephen says:

    Accusing everyone else of lying when you party almost invented it is very Goebbelsesque – then again he was a National SOCIALIST.

  11. Paul McKeown says:

    Dear Mr. Watson,

    I have often admired the stance you regularly take on transparency in government.

    However, I feel that you have allowed your personal feelings for Mr. Woolas and, dare I say it, Labour tribalism, to persuade you to support the tactics used by said Woolas.

    They were despicable: racist sh.te deliberately aimed at stoking tensions in a constituency which has had a long history of racial tensions. Furthermore they were baldfaced lies, knowingly told, to discredit the character of his chief political opponent. Woolas deserves opprobrium, not sympathy.

    Oldham and Saddlesworth will be better served with a honest MP who would not dream of stooping to racist slander, whatever political persuasion that eventual MP will have. Parliament and, indeed the political culture in the country as a whole, will benefit from this salutary lesson.

    As for your constitutional concerns, that is arrant drivel, and, in your heart, you know it too. The law hasn’t changed in any iota. Woolas is simply the 14th MP to have been unseated for breaching that electoral law; that he is the first for nigh on ninety years is irrelevant to the whole matter. And the law applies to all elected officials: have you forgotten the Miranda Grell affair, for instance?

    The Internet is burdened with overwrought emotional garbage. This piece of yours has merely added to that burden.

  12. Stewart Roper says:

    Dear Mr Watson,
    Frankly most of the electorate think all politicians are complete shits. None of you move me to vote for any of you. So I just do not bother.

  13. Stewart Roper says:

    Dear Mr Watson,
    Frankly most of the electorate think all politicians are complete shits – to use your expression. None of you move me to vote for any of you. So I just do not bother.

  14. The Red Digger says:

    Call me a sad old traditionalist if you like but I grew up in a country where voters decided election results and we laughed at failed states where the judiciary chose who ruled.

    Phil Woolas’ misfortune was to be up against a man who could afford the 100s of 1000s of pounds needed to bring the court case. Most losing candidates of all parties simply admit they lost and move on. But then again look back at the LSE and you’ll see Watkins has form as a bad loser…

  15. Jonah says:

    Red Digger: there are lots of laws around elections and if you breach many of them, the election is ruled invalid.

    You don’t seem to think that Woolas should have been kicked out.

    What about the candidate who overspends on elections?

    What about if you are shown to have made a mistake on the nomination papers?

    What if one of your helpers is “overenthusiastic” with postal voted?

    Woolas was found to have cheated the electorate.

    Are other forms of electoral fraud ok too?

  16. SJM says:

    “I paid fees introduced by Labour after they had pledged not to before the 97 election.”

    Er, did they? Labour’s 1997 manifesto says this:

    Higher education
    The improvement and expansion needed cannot be funded out of general taxation. Our proposals for funding have been made to the Dearing Committee, in line with successful policies abroad.

    The costs of student maintenance should be repaid by graduates on an income-related basis, from the career success to which higher education has contributed. The current system is badly administered and payback periods are too short. We will provide efficient administration, with fairness ensured by longer payback periods where required.

  17. Jonah says:

    Evening Standard, 14 April 2007.

    “Will Labour introduce tuition fees for higher education?”
    Tony Blair: “Labour has no plans to introduce tuition fees for higher education.”

    I genuinely don’t see that this is any better than a minority partner in a coalition having to break their pledge.

    I support tuition from general taxation. But kids breaking windows in parliament square isn’t much of a coherent argument.

  18. Numpty spotter says:

    Unbelievable, Mr Watson.

    Woolas knowingly lied, lied and lied again about his opponent. He tried to fit him up on several criminal charges, he manufactured evidence to do so. He deliberately set out to inflame racial tensions in an area that has witnessed riots.

    Yet you portray him as a victim and a working class hero. You are no better than he is, and believe me that’s no compliment.

  19. Alan says:

    In 1964 a Conservative M.P. who had run a racist campaign in Smethwick was denounced by Harold Wilson as a “parliamentary leper”. In 2010 the campaign of a Labour M.P., designed to “make the white folks (of Oldham) angry”, is defended and supported financially by Labour M.P.s like Tom Watson. How sad that the Labour Party I supported in 1964 has lost so much of its idealism. And how pleasing that over 68% of those who voted in Oldham East voted AGAINST Phil Woolas. So much for the argument that the courts have overturned the wishes of the electorate!

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