THE LIB DEM PORK PIE FACTORY

Although I don’t always agree with him, Geoff Reid who writes for Talk Swindon has the tenacity of a terrier for pursuing political bullshit. Here is his forensic case study of Lib Dem councillors in action, which he wrote on April 11th:

We’re just a few weeks away from the 2011 local elections in Swindon and, as usual, the political rhetoric between opposing candidates is making for some interesting reading but, unlike previous years, Swindon’s residents can keep themselves better informed of the various claims and counter claims being made by election candidates via Talkswindon’s Political Leaflet Library.

What I find particularly useful about having so many of Swindon’s political leaflets easily accessible in one place is the ability to read what’s been claimed by one candidate or councillor and then wander around the internet looking for evidence which either backs up or contradicts the claim. With modern search engines, freedom of information services and easier-than-ever access to council officers getting at the truth gets easier, and quicker, all the time. Which is why I find it so surprising that some politicians are still prepared to lie with impunity. Perhaps they think their lies won’t be noticed, or if they are, no one will investigate and comment on them.

Although there are Borough-wide incidents of political-porkies being told by all parties, one Swindon ward in particular is being subjected to a concentrated bombardment of political lies. Eastcott Ward. The last bastion of the Liberal Democrat Party in Swindon.

Eastcott ward has long been known as the Liberal Democrat stronghold in Swindon and, until recently, the 3 Eastcott seats in the Council Chamber were considered so ‘safe’ that other parties fielded ‘paper candidates’ in Eastcott at elections. Outside of Eastcott ward Swindon’s Lib Dems hold only one other council seat – Andy Harrison in Penhill ward. Eastcott’s current crop of Lib Dem councillors are: Cllr Dave Wood, Cllr Martin Wiltshire and Cllr Stand Pajak. Cllr Wiltshire is standing down this May but we’ll return to the Lib Dems choice of replacement candidate later in the blog.

I spend some time talking to residents of Eastcott and although it is true to say that many of the people I’ve spoken to said that they felt the Lib Dems have been ‘doing a good job’ and that they felt well represented, when questioned as to why they believed that to be the case, and asked if they had any personal experience of the Lib Dems doing something for them, almost all of them said that they thought it to be true based on what the Lib Dems themselves had been telling them via leaflets and doorstep canvassing.

But what would Eastcott residents think if they were to learn that the Lib Dems haven’t been exactly honest with them on their own doorsteps, have lied deliberately in their leaflets and even, (in at least one instance I can identify), lied about who they are in an attempt to ‘knobble’ a rival candidate? If the Eastcott Lib Dems ‘reputation’ within the ward, and records of ‘delivery’ for the ward are as good as they claim, why do they feel the need resort to such shitty tactics and what does it say about their moral compasses once they have done so?

I think ‘Political Fear’ of Chris Watts, this years Labour candidate for Eastcott, is one reason the Lib Dems have lied and another would be: ‘This is how we’ve always done things’. Neither of these is easy to prove to a sceptical readership, but I’ll spit out a few easy-to-verify tit-bits and readers will be able to draw their own conclusions from them.

So lets start with Chris Watts: Chris first ‘appeared’ on Swindon’s political radar in late 2009 when he put his analytical mind and determined temperament to good use scrutinising Swindon’s now infamous ‘Wifi’ scheme. It is no exaggeration to say that Chris’s investigative efforts exposed several serving Borough Councillors as abject and habitual liars, uncovered systemic incompetence at Directorship levels within the Borough Council and last, but definitely not least, that his own Liberal Democrat ward Councillors, were nowhere near as good at representing their residents as they say they were. Chris didn’t go out of his way to make the Lib Dems look bad, it just became obvious in passing that they were really not as good as they look in their own leaflets.

A bitter-sweet day arrived for the Eastcott Lib Dems in 2010 when Chris announced he had joined the labour party. Bitter for the Lib Dems in that they realised that Chris, an Eastcott resident of 14 years, was no longer just a well informed and well intentioned member of the public intent on exposing and talking about various public issues, but now seemed likely to take the next step towards seeking a mandate from his fellow residents to represent them formally in council. Sweet for the Lib Dems in that they could now begin ‘officially’ attacking and undermining the person that had, just by doing what they should of been doing, exposed them as ineffectual by comparison. For the first time, the publicity suits worn by Eastcotts three ‘Emperors’ were seen for what they are – transparent.

Having decided that he might run stand for election to Swindon Borough Council, Chris turned his attention to several long running issues within Eastcott ward, and a couple more which are of concern to the entire town, and it didn’t take long before the observational skills he’d honed scrutinising wifi detected that things in Eastcott were often not quite, if at all, as the Lib Dems described them and, even more surprising to him, it quickly became apparent that the Lib Dems, worried that Chris might succeed where they have so long failed to make any progress, had begun saying things about Chris which were, and are, demonstrably untrue.

One instance of Eastcott’s Lib Dems promoting a deliberate lie is the curious case of the 2nd Kingshill Crossing. Cllr’s Pajak and Woods have long used the prospect of a 2nd pedestrian crossing on Kingshill Road as a convenient campaigning device. They know that, (as things stand now), the case for a second crossing on Kingshill Road is thin – in fact it was rejected again by the Council cabinet as recently as 2009 – but that did not stop Cllr Woods giving residents false-hope, (and the impression he was actually doing something useful), by asking them to sign his petition during his election campaign which, once he had been elected, didn’t seem to be submitted to the council. In fact I’ve never heard of it again.

Later, when it became apparent to them that Chris Watts was also having a realistic and holistic look at the chronology and geography of the 2nd Kingshill Crossing, the Lib Dems realised that Kingshill residents were about to learn that, despite 13 years of Liberal Democrat campaign ‘noise’ on the issue, they had nothing to show for it apart from 3 very polished seats in the council chamber. Urgent action would be needed to limit the potential damage to Eastcotts lib dems and, by copying what the Conservatives do elsewhere in Swindon, they quickly formed KARA, the Kingshill Residents Association, thus moving themselves expediently away from the specific issue of the 2nd Kingshill Road crossing and stealthily trying to widen their political influence within the community.

KARA was created in September 2010 and its ‘About’ page, written by Nicky Sewell, chair of the Association, says:

Quote

In August 2010 a group of a dozen residents met together to discuss the possibility of forming a Residents’ Association to represent the Kingshill area in Swindon. At that meeting we talked about an organisation that can campaign and lobby on behalf of local residents, an organisation that can strive to enhance local community cohesion and an organisation made up of neighbours who care about the Kingshill area and want to make it an even better area in which to live. Following that meeting, we leafleted local streets and held a meeting at the Clifton Inn (thank you!) in September where we formally adopted our constitution and elected our Committee and Road Representatives. It was suggested at that meeting that we should expand to include Radnor Street, Shelley Street and Fairview and they were adopted into KARA – welcome! At that meeting was a representative from Swindon Borough Council, a local ward Councillor, Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator and members of the Neighbourhood Policing Team. Around 40 local residents attended and raised issues effecting them at a very local level. We look forward to KARA growing bigger and stronger and really making a difference for the local Kingshill area. Thank you for your ongoing support and we look forward to working with you!Nicky Sewell, Chair

The ward councillor present at this meeting was none other than Nicky’s boyfriend – Cllr Dave Wood. Their relationship is never mentioned in lib dem leaflets, which shouldn’t be an issue in itself, except that they seem to go to particular trouble to omit ever mentioning it in their printed literature or on the doorstep and, readers of Lib Dem leaflets will notice, how Nicky is described varies between leaflets – sometimes she is Nicky Sewell Chair of KARA and sometimes Nicky Sewell is a ‘Local campaigner’ – it all depends what ‘image’ they hope to project to residents. Just to be clear here though, Nicky Sewell is the Chair of KARA and her boyfriend is Cllr Dave Wood, who also happens to be the vice chair of KARA.

This is all well and good I hear some readers say, ‘but when are we going to get to the lies?’ – so here they are. Once the Eastcott Lib Dems had set up KARA, they turned their attention to dealing with Cllr Martin Wiltshire’s decision to step down from council, and who might replace him. It didn’t come as any real surprise when Cllr Stan Pajak introduced Nicky Sewell, Cllr Wood’s girlfriend and Chair of the newly formed KARA as the Lib Dem 2011 candidate for Eastcott, and the first lie we’re going to discuss wasn’t long in coming .

Two months after Stan Pajak introduced Nicky Sewell as the Lib Dem candidate for Eastcott she appeared alongside him in a glossy A3 leaflet but is oddly referred to as “Local campaigner Nicky Sewell”. There is no mention that she is the Chair of KARA, presumably because as chair of KARA she would be expected to know that the following statement made in this, her introductory leaflet, was a deliberate lie:

Quote from: Cllr Stan Pajak

“You always know when there is an election coming up when Swindon Labour start coming to the door. Normally they harmlessly copy the FOCUS Team’s issues, but this time they nearly wrecked the campaign for a second Kingshill crossing”. Cllr Stan Pajak said: “Labour’s candidate went in like a bull in a china shop and likely made the Council dig its heels in, undoing months of influence and persuasion. We must not let Labour’s party politics point scoring wreck the Crossing Campaign for another generation.”

A freedom of information request to Gwillam Lloyd (Head of Highway Management at Swindon Borough Council), confirmed that Councillor Pajak was telling Eastcott residents something that was demonstrably untrue. Mr. Ceri Stephens, Performance Officer at Environment Regeneration & Community of Swindon Borough Council said:

Quote from: Ceri Stephens

“I can confirm that we can find no evidence of any correspondence or other communication with Christopher Watts on either the topic of Kingshill Crossing or any other topic”

In addition to publishing bare faced bullshit and confirming to residents that he had been running the Kingshill Crossing ‘campaign’ for an awfully long time with no result, (13 years), Cllr Pajak compounded his gaffe by accusing Chris Watt’s of “party politics point scoring”. I think the only point scored here was the own-goal scored by Stan when he decided that publishing a lie was preferable to telling the truth. Perhaps he thought he could just explain it away if challenged or, as he’s done at least once before, try to divert blame for his own untrue statements onto his intended target. Stan has ‘previous’ for this, and the public record shows that even when a priest objected to something Stan claimed about him in a May 2003 election , Stan simply implied that the priest was lying.

At the time the Swindon Advertiser reported:

Quote from: The Swindon Advertiser

In the Liberal Democrat publication, Focus, Coun Dickinson, who was elected as a Central ward councillor on May 1, used a picture of St Luke’s Parish Priest Father Leslie Pinfield under the headline “I’m backing Michael”.The publicity material quoted the priest praising the work of Coun Dickinson in the fight to clean up prostitution in the area. Father Pinfield denies saying this. But because Coun Dickinson was only a candidate at the time when the material was distributed, his agent is being held responsible.Les Horn, chairman of Broad Street Community Council, was so amazed at what he read that he wrote a letter to Father Pinfield.Part of the priest’s reply read: “We did indeed have a discussion about the problem of prostitution in the neighbourhood, as I have done with many other people of all political persuasions. I am afraid that the rest of it is made up.”But Coun Pajak said: “This is not something that worries me. I believe Father Leslie said what he did we met him on the corner of the street and he sanctioned Michael.”This is nothing untoward it’s just the interpretation and the fact we won the seat.
“As far as I’m concerned there is nothing to worry about because people are making a mountain out of a molehill.”

Stan may not be worried by a mere trifle like the truth, but even a molehill will occasionally trip the daintiest of fork-tongued political tap-dancers.

Almost inevitably though, we must now take a quick look at what Cllr Dave Wood, Nicky Sewell’s boyfriend and Vice Chairman of KARA, has been up to as he tries to hide his girlfriends election campaign activities, or lack of them, from the scrutiny of Chris Watts. It seems that late in 2010 the issue of replacing the long-gone post box in the wall of the long-gone Old Post Office in Clifton Street was raised by a Kingshill resident at a KARA meeting.

Oddly, (or maybe it’s only odd if you don’t already know who is pulling the strings at KARA), the subject of the Clifton Street Post Box then featured prominently in an Eastcott Liberal Democrat leaflet in which they claimed credit for lobbying the Royal Mail to have the post box re-instated. On the basis of this leaflet Eastcott residents were left in little doubt that the Lib Dems were already ‘fighting hard against tiers of institutionalised bureaucracy’ at the Royal Mail to make it happen. Unfortunately, it seems that the Lib Dems hadn’t bothered to actually bother contacting the Royal Mail and the Royal Mail therefore remained, (until Chris Watts contacted their Collections Delivery Manager to find out how the re-instatement was progressing), blissfully unaware that the issue even existed.

Political translation: The issue of the Clifton Street Post Box was being treated as a handy one for the Eastcott Lib Dems to whip out just prior to local elections, but was then to be left, unresolved, until it became electorally useful again. Just like the 13 year old Kingshill Crossing Campaign.

Residents of Clifton Street might have faced a similar decade+ of ‘campaigning’ had Chris Watts not begun a phone and email conversation with the Royal Mail Collections Performance Manager in Reading and genuinely got the ball rolling and, in early March 2011, Chris received the following message from the Royal Mail:

Quote

Chris,I have had a call from Dave Ward who tells me he works from Swindon Borough Council and have arranged to meet him at the site Monday at 10:00. You are welcome to come along if you wish.Regards

Chris was pleased to announce in a leaflet that he had been invited to a site meeting in Clifton Street with the Collections manager and a ‘representative’ from Swindon Borough Council to discuss the re-instatement of the post box, but the good news was soon eclipsed by bad.

Chris then received another email from the Royal Mail which cancelled the site visit. He telephoned the collections manager and discovered that ‘Mr Ward’ was actually Councillor Dave Wood who had, after reading a copy of Chris Watt’s leaflet, contacted the Royal Mail manager and put the verbal boot into her, suggesting forcefully that she had nothing to do with Chris Watts because, “as the Labour candidate for Eastcott, his interest was purely political”. I believe that Cllr Woods, even at this stage of the game and whilst expending considerable effort in denouncing Chris Watts for being an election candidate, still omitted to mention that he was a serving Liberal Democrat Councillor for Eastcott. Bad boy Dave.

Thanks to Cllr Woods party political masquerade, the site meeting remains cancelled, and the issue of the Clifton Street Post Box is, for the time being, dead in the water. Royal Mail managers are notoriously wary of becoming embroiled in politic scandal, (for good reason), and when politicians start lying about who they are to get one up on each other, then a scandal is not going to be far behind.

In summary then, residents of Eastcott might wish to ask any Lib Dems who knock on their door prior to next months local elections the following questions:

Why is Kingshill Road still without a 2nd pedestrian crossing after 13 years of Lib Dem campaigning?Why haven’t the Eastcott Lib Dems come clean about who runs KARA?If Eastcott’s Lib Dems are so sure of their electoral support within the ward, why do they feel the need to lie about Chris Watts in their leaflets?Why did Lib Dem Cllr Dave Woods make the Royal Manager believe that he worked from Swindon Council but chose not to tell her that he was actually an Eastcott Lib Dem Councillor?What happened to the 200 signature ‘2nd Kingshill Crossing’ petition Cllr Wood was promoting during his 2009 election campaign? – it seems that it was never deposited with or presented to the Borough Council after Cllr Woods was re-elected.Personally, I would not reward a candidate with my vote if I knew, or thought that they had lied to me. Neither would I do so if I thought their colleagues had lied for their joint electoral benefit and I take particular exception to political lies being pushed through my letterbox and repeated to my face on my doorstep. I expect many residents of Eastcott might well feel the same way which is why I’m happy to spend a Sunday evening sharing my knowledge with them.
Having got to know Chris Watts a little whilst scrutinising the wifi, I know he is honest, thorough and determined. I have little doubt that he will do exactly what it says on the tin if given the chance and Eastcott would be well served by him if it chooses to elect him.

Having observed Eastcotts Lib Dems in action, through the media and the public record I find increasing amounts of evidence, (some of it even authored by them), which suggests that they’re nowhere near as good as they say they are and that their moral compass points towards ‘selfish’ instead of ‘selfless’. I’m of the opinion that a Lib Dem pledge in Eastcott is as trustworthy as one from their leader, Nick Clegg, and their claim that they are “Not in a coalition locally but are able to influence” is risible but, changing the position of just one word makes this phrase: “In a coalition locally but are not able to influence” – more believable.

I am not surprised that Eastcotts Lib Dems are terrified of residents getting a proper look at Chris Watts in action, because they might decide that they want a couple more just like him.

Make your own minds up. Have a look at Chris’s 600+ postings on the http://www.talkswindon.org forum, see what his own blog says and learn how he’s approaching the 2nd Kingshill Crossing issue on the Kingshill Area Road Safety Campaign website.

Whatever you do though, please don’t just take a liberal Democrats word at face value. Remember that these are exactly the same people who thought it was okay to tell lies about St Luke’s Parish Priest Father Leslie Pinfield and then call him a liar when he challenged what they’d said about him…

…so, if you feel inclined to believe what Eastcott Lib Dems say about Chris Watts, why not ask Chris directly so you can hear his answer for yourself.

It’s your vote, and you’re entitled to use it with a clear conscience.

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