Thursday, August 07, 2008

Fallout from Watford - the perils of Dr Rachel Joyce

A number of my colleagues have already covered the story of Ian Oakley's ongoing campaign against various Watford Liberal Democrats. I won't comment further on his vile behaviour, except to say that it takes a particular level of commitment to stay in the public arena under such assaults, and local voters will, I trust, reflect on that when casting their votes.

I thought, instead, that I might turn the spotlight onto Dr Rachel Joyce, the Conservative PPC for the neighbouring constituency of Harrow West, who takes a very strong view on anti-social behaviour... and here are some of the highlights.

"One thing I really want to do if I get to be an MP is to sort out the unfair, disempowering nuisance laws that actually encourage anti-social behaviour. It is about time there was root and branch reform. One of the issues we get on the doorstep from time to time is very distressed people living a nightmare with neighbours from hell or repeat nuisance"

"The few successful prosecutions usually result from years of painstaking evidence collection, and then the penalties for the infliction of real suffering on other people are usually derisory."

"I believe that by changing these laws and clamping down on all forms of nuisance and anti-social behaviour hard we can start to turn around many neighbourhoods."

Meanwhile, she had this to say on the subject of Ian Oakley...

"Ian was nothing other than supportive, helpful and kind as a fellow candidate. The last few times I saw him he complained that he was having trouble with dirty LibDem campaigns. I would be amazed if he was really guilty of this but if it is true then I presume the stress of a nasty campaign would have got to him."

and this

"However, the Ian Oakley I know is a nice guy. IF he did do this then it must have been because of intense pressure. Nasty politics and untruths in leaflets can get out of control on all sides which is not constructive in the long term for the people that we serve, and is psychologically harmful for those involved. More needs to be done (eg by the electoral commission) to ensure that leaflets and other political messages properly represent the truth and that politicians keep their promises, and if they can't there is openness as to why. This might go some way to reducing the amount of nasty partisan politics that can lead to this kind of behaviour and upset."

In fairness, one should not criticise someone for hypocrisy based on two sets of comments made months or even years apart. On the other hand, Rachel made her comments about Ian Oakley on 21 July on Conservative Home, after news of his arrest had broken. Her comments about anti-social behaviour were made just eleven days later, on 1 August.

So, if there is anyone in Harrow West reading this, they might like to ask Rachel why, when a Conservative PPC commits a series of vile acts of harassment and criminal damage against innocent political opponents, he must have been under intense pressure and must therefore be sympathised with, whereas if anyone else commits anti-social behaviour, the full weight of the law should be brought to bear on them without hesitation. I live in the neighbouring borough, and will be putting the question to her. I'll let you have her response, if I get one...

As for Conservative Party members in Harrow, they might want to question whether Rachel's judgement is sufficiently good to enable her to be an effective parliamentarian. Once an arrest had been made, it would have been perhaps wiser to await an outcome rather than rush to his defence, although I can fully understand the temptation to do so. On the other hand, I don't want to be a Member of Parliament...


Jennie Rigg said...

She sounds like she'll go far in either one of the Big Two with an attitude like that... Oh dear, am I being cynical again?

Duncan Borrowman said...

I am pretty sure I recognise Ian Oakley from the picture here He was wearing a blue rosette last time I saw him, he was with a few others and was churning out abuse when he passed Grace and I at the 2006 Harrow Weald by-election

Anonymous said...

I would also question the judgement of someone in my party who claims Tower Hamlets was a couple of unfortunate incidents.

Mark Valladares said...

Dear Anonymous,

I don't normally allow anonymous attack comments, on the quite reasonable grounds that moral and ethical cowardice shouldn't be encouraged - you are, whoever you are, a coward if you hide behind the anonymity of the internet.

People commit all sorts of crimes, regardless of their political beliefs, activities or positions. The fact that they are crimes is indisputable, and a penalty should be paid, as decided by those we elect and appoint to represent us as a society.

However, my dear troll (I understand that this is the terminology for one such as you), your failure to understand that merely pointing out that someone else has committed a foul crime, completely unrelated to their political activity, does not an argument make.

I used the word 'unfortunate' in relation to Tower Hamlets because my true feelings on the subject are fairly unprintable. Note to troll - learn the difference between irony, understatement and fantasy.

If the only shot in your locker is a lack of moral relativism, might I suggest that you give up politics and try mud wrestling instead? It would at least be intellectually honest...

Mark Valladares said...

Let's try that third paragraph again...

However, my dear troll (I understand that this is the terminology for one such as you), you fail to understand that merely pointing out that someone else has committed a foul crime, completely unrelated to their political activity, does not an argument make.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps as a candidate in a neighbouring seat and possibly as a friend, Dr. Joyce has some personal or professional insight into the Oakley's state of mind or his personal circumstances while he was committing these crimes. This is considerably more than you or indeed I have at this time.

What Ian Oakley did was bizarre, unprecidented and unjustifiable. It must have been a horrible experience for his victims. However I can point to a number of comments on the blogoshere from non-Conservative friends (from University and elsewhere) confirming his pleasantness, common sense and moderation. I'll cite them if required. What pushed him over the edge was frustration and dispair, not wickedness or cruelty.

Mark Valladares said...


Whilst I appreciate your willingness to engage, I can only suggest two things in response;

i) Read the whole blog before reacting - you'll see that I published Rachel's response yesterday where she distances herself from Ian.

ii) Don't contradict yourself - admitting that you have little insight into his state of mind and then claiming that he acted out of frustration and despair rather than wickedness or cruelty makes you look a little vulnerable to a charge of blind partisanship.

Your colleague in Tower Hamlets, Peter Golds, wouldn't be that foolhardy, and you could learn a lot from his grace under pressure in Brent in the early nineties.

I've done my politics in Brent, Southwark and Lambeth, and seen some unpleasantries in my time - the Labour campaign in my ward in 1990 was the first of many eye-openers, but what happened in Watford went way beyond anything that I've seen in twenty-four years as a political party member.