Matthew Palmer is a councillor for St Charles Ward in Kensington and Chelsea.
In Peter Oborne’s excellent book, The Rise of Political Lying, he explains how Labour systematically lies about everything with the purpose of getting elected and re-elected. From Blair onwards they lied: education class numbers, NHS waiting times to be on waiting lists, Iraq, et cetera. This constant stream of lies has poisoned politics nationally, and locally they have taught their members to do exactly the same.
My present ward is 65 per cent social housing and I won it in 2006 with two Conservative colleagues. We worked the ward hard for four years and if the General Election had not been on the same day we would have won it outright again in 2010. Even the Labour party were not expecting to win it, but turnout went from 35 per cent to 53 per cent and only I just scraped in alongside two rookie Labour councillors.
I then had to think about a strategy for the next four years if I was to win the seat again: should I continue with my six-page newsletters twice a year, surgery, fast communications, and problem solving? If so, I would need a message to hit the local Labour party with, but what? Financial ruin caused by Labour (not very local), Labour want the council to spend £2,000 on monitoring the sexual orientation of their staff – true, but not a deal breaker.
Now it is one thing listening to Labour Councillors wittering on in the Council Chamber about what happens in their ward, eg “I have an [unnamed] constituent who has……..” or “many of my [unnamed and unnumbered] residents have expressed………”, but when this talk is about the ward you live in and represent, suddenly you realise they are telling massive lies. A case in point was the cap on Housing Benefit. Oh, how the local Labour Party howled and said they were getting “lots of letters” and how it would affect so many residents in their wards. It got them the headlines and painted the government as uncaring.
In my ward, however, the facts did not match the Labour rhetoric. I did not get a single communication from any resident about this issue. Council officers had briefed us that it was going to affect areas of the borough that had higher rent values (strong Tory wards) but certainly not the Labour areas as much.
At around this time, the Labour Party kindly delivered their newsletter to my doorstep. This might have been two pages of Pravda. I read it and started to take it apart for factual content.
One story got my immediate attention: a local garage with a side entrance was constantly being blocked by parked cars at weekends and evenings. The Labour Party said the previous Tory councillors had done nothing to resolve this situation in the past and that the new Labour councillors had got the Council to paint double yellow lines.
The truth: I was approached in December 2009 to do something about it. I wrote to an officer who in turn responded to my request and did all the necessary consultations and came to a decision by July, when the lines were painted. The Labour Party had written nothing close to the truth and was clearly seeking to taking false credit for something while saying the Conservatives were useless.
I decided to take the whole newsletter apart line by line and print it in my own newsletter: with one column of direct quotes from the Labour newsletter alongside what actually happened in the other column.
Here is the section on the double yellow lines issue:
Residents took this up with the previous Conservative Councillors to no effect
Cllr Matthew Palmer did act on it straight away. Writing to officers of the Council on the 1st December 2009. He got a response from them on the 16th. On the 24th March 2010 a key decision was proposed and implemented and after statutory consultation, the lines were painted in July.
In July, soon after they were elected, your Labour Councillors persuaded the Council to paint double yellow lines.
The decision had already been made. The Labour councillors had nothing to do with it.
If you want to see the whole two pages of lies and truth, I have posted the pages on Flickr.com
So Labour’s strategy was clear: tell lies, massive lies, either in print or on the doorstep.
From that day onwards I ran a campaign in my newsletters listing lies the Labour Party told and the truth. I conjured up the image of a backroom machine they were using to manufacture these lies – I referred to the ‘Labour Lie Machine’ with pictures of it. The message was slowly being absorbed by my residents and the honesty of Labour politicians was clearly being questioned. I would be stopped and asked questions about my newsletters and occasionally they might finish off their conversations with me by asking “…and the lying Labour Party, what are they up to?” I knew this message was hurting.
Four years on, I am facing the local election again and the Labour Party are keen to get me out of a seat that they think is theirs, (not so certain of winning the election campaign as I have busted their strategy and tarnished their appeal). The local Labour Party have fallen to any measure possible, in this case by asking the Boundary Commission to split up my ward, which it agreed to. So I am moving to a safer, Conservative-held seat. I note that to fill a vacancy in my old stomping ground, Labour have chosen a p riest – clearly they need to build a reputation for truth telling…