Do you want me to explain precisely why I am on Peter Tatchell’s mailing list?
Nah, thought not. Now Tatch is a rum bugger. He often has good points but mires them by a descent into equality politricks that takes up 2,000 words. I reckon I wrote three essays in my entire post-16 puff and then no more. Thank God. Fuck essays.
Anyway, Pter Tatchell stood in the Bermonsey by-election of ’83 for Labour. He lost and we got Simon Hughes instead (am I the only one who thinks e is morphing into Tony Benn?)
Anyway the Tatch stood as the first openly gay parliamentary candidate in this country. Now that is and of itself notable but what is really noteworthy is the Lib-Dem campaign against him. Oh, yes. Simon Hughes is second in that party. Indeed when Nick Clegg has to drain a single malt and swallow a Mauser he could become deputy PM. He is of course a wanker, a half-wit and a well-cunticulated twatter of the first water but he is also bisexual and has been since his University days (though who looked at an arsehole like that and felt lurve is beyond me). Now I don’t have an issue with this.
Except I do. Because during the ’83 election Mr Hughes sexual orientation was forgotten and running against the Tatch his leaflets bore the slogan, “Vote Hughes – the straight choice”. That is what is technically called Keith O’Brien-ing it.
Well until Sunday that is what I knew – viley hypocritical though it was but there is more…
A now top Liberal Democrat politician was involved in a secret Liberal Party dirty tricks unit that organised an anonymous, illegal smear campaign against the Labour candidate in the 1983 Bermondsey by-election, Peter Tatchell.
The allegation comes from a former Liberal Party insider, Liverpool city councillor, Steve Radford. Appalled by his party’s tactics, he is willing to name names.
His revelations come ahead of this Sunday’s 30th anniversary of the dirtiest, most violent and homophobic by-election, which took place on 24 February 1983.
“If it is true that the leaflet was produced by the Liberals, it may call into question the legality of Simon Hughes’s election to parliament in 1983. Anonymous election leaflets are illegal. They are serious infringements of electoral law,” said Peter Tatchell.
“The notorious leaflet, distributed during the election campaign, was headed: ‘Which queen will you vote for?’. It featured an image of The Queen and myself and denounced me as a left-wing traitor. Originally assumed to have been circulated by the National Front, it listed my home address and phone number and invited local people to have a go at me.
“The result was a deluge of threats and attacks on my flat. I had to board up my home and sleep with a fire extinguisher and rope ladder beside my bed; plus an assortment of carving knives and sticks for self-defence.
“The Liberals pitched for the homophobic vote. It is well known that they published leaflets which stated there was a ‘straight choice’ between myself and Simon Hughes.
“Less well known is the tactic of male Liberal canvassers knocking on doors wearing lapel stickers emblazoned with the words ‘I’ve been kissed by Peter Tatchell’. They constantly reminded voters that I was gay and supported gay rights, in an apparent appeal to anti-gay electors.
“The Bermondsey by-election was the lowest point in modern election campaigning: the most violent and scurrilous election in Britain in the 20th century and the most homophobic election in British history.
“I was subjected to the most sustained press and public vilification experienced by any parliamentary candidate since the nineteenth century.
“It was a pivotal moment in Labour Party history. I was a left-wing Labour candidate, condemned for policies that are now mainstream: a national minimum wage, comprehensive anti-discrimination laws, LGBT equality, a negotiated political settlement in northern Ireland and much more.
“I was pilloried for my defence of the local working class communities, in particular my opposition to the carve up by property developers of the North Southwark, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe riversides, to make way for office blocks and luxury flats for the rich.
“When I warned about the rip-off redevelopment of the riverside back in 1983 I was called a scaremonger and liar, but all of my predictions later came true – most local working class people lost out. Many were priced out of their own community.
“This gentrification at the expense of local people is still continuing with the plans to redevelop the mega Heygate Estate site at the Elephant and Castle, adjacent to where I still live in the same one bedroom council flat as in 1983.
“At the time of the by-election, I became a symbol of struggle between the left and the right in the battle for Labour’s soul. My defeat was a symbolic defeat for the whole left.
“I told the inside story in my book, The Battle for Bermondsey (Heretic Books, 1983).
“The public revulsion against the homophobic abuse that I suffered ensured that when Chris Smith MP came out the following year few people dared attack him. He received a mostly sympathetic public response.
“After Bermondsey, mainstream parties dared not use homophobia as a campaign weapon.
“Likewise, the backlash against the tabloid smears, intrusions and outright fabrications resulted in a diminution in the use of such tactics against later parliamentary candidates, at least by some journalists and editors.
“For me, the run-up to the by-election was like living through a low-level civil war.
“I was assaulted over 100 times in the street and while canvassing.
“There were 30 attacks on my flat, two attempts by car drivers to run me down and a bullet was posted through my letterbox in the middle of the night.
“I received hundreds of hate letters, including 30 threats to kill me or petrol bomb my flat.
“There were many moments when I feared for my life.
“Anti-Tatchell slogans were painted throughout the constituency, on dozens of walls, hoardings and bridges, including:
“Tatchell is queer”, “Tatchell is a communist poof” and “Tatchell is a n*gger-lover”.
“Tabloid reporters rifled through my rubbish bins, put my flat under 24-hour long lens surveillance, sent young boys to my door and posed as a cousin of mine to win the confidence of neighbours and pry information from them.
“The Sun published a fabricated story that I had deserted local constituents to attend the Gay Olympics in San Francisco.
“A photo of me was published by the News of the World which made me look like I had plucked eyebrows and was wearing lipstick.
“The Press Complaints Council was useless. They sat on my complaints for weeks and months,” said Mr Tatchell.
Now, OK that is the Tatch at his long-winded best and much of his politics I disagree with. But that is hideous. It is often opined that the LDs are very good locally. Indeed they can be. I personally knew 2/3 of the local Lib Dem Councillors in the area I grew up in and they were good folk with a real grasp on local issues. But it goes both ways does it not? When I lived in Levenshulme, Manchester we had a councillor just up the road by the name of Liaquat (paraquat?) Ali. He was (I am not making this up) a fencing contractor from Pakistan who sought asylum here over a fencing contract gone wrong. It was unmittigated bulshit but meant that unlike the Blaydon area (where I was born and middle-class and white – so they acted like “nice” Tories) in multi-culti Longsight they had a Pakistani who didn’t speak a word of English but that’s the point bout the LDs. They have no moral compass. They cut their cloth according to how it suits them. In middle-class commuter-belt Gateshead in the ’80s-’90s they were “compassionate conservatives”, in the last decade in working-class, heavily Muslim areas of Manchester they are the “Labour Party that didn’t vote for he Iraq Adventure”. They will do anything to get elected and that dear reader is why I shall never vote for them.
But that is the LDs all over. Hypocrits and scumbags the lot of ‘em. Whether it is having a dog shot or groping lasses or being “nice Tories” or “not so nasty Labour” or getting the National Front on board it never changes. They are all things to all men which means they are nothing to themselves.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Paraquat Ali in Longsight was elected after the LDs employed an off-shoot of Al-Queda to door-stop folk. Well, why not? They had used the National Front?
Now think for a while. The Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems, Mr Simon Hughes MP for Bermondsey, is in favour of gay and lesbian marriage. So maybe he changed his mind? Because he wasn’t in ’83 when he won his seat via a horrendous torrent of abuse against his prime contender who was openly gay. (Mr Hughes preferred to stash that stuff well in the closet – unless of course he’d been running in Brighton when he would have appeared as all five “Village People”*)
And that is the LDs for you. All kinds of everything but not in a good way…
My Dad always said the Tories would be found out for having their hands down your pants and Labour with their hands in the till. God alone knows where Lib Dem hands are.
*Obscure fact. Only one of the “Village People” was gay. Which one? Even more obscure fact, the USN considered the song “In the Navy” for recruitment purposes… This was even before “Don’t ask, don’t tell”.