Fringe Box



Letter: I Stand By My Criticism of Lib Dem Campaign Literature

Published on: 13 Aug, 2021
Updated on: 14 Aug, 2021

From: Brian Creese

Chair, Guildford Labour

Catherine Houston, Lib Dem chair, has asked me to justify my claim that the Lib Dems produce an “unremitting barrage of misleading, dubious and lying leaflets and bar charts”. I will be very restrained so as not to take up too much space, but I am sure many others may like to contribute their own favourite examples of dubious Lib Dem bar charts.

Let’s start with the Lib Dem leaflet in the 2019 general election (pictured below) where the Lib Dems state that only the Lib Dems, “Will give you the final say” on Brexit. This was a lie. In fact, Lib Dem policy was not to give people the final say but to revoke Article 50 regardless of the referendum result, while Labour’s policy (thanks to Keir Starmer) was to hold a second referendum, specifically to ensure the people did have the final say.

We actually wrote to the Electoral Commission about this leaflet, but they told us they don’t get involved with local campaigns. It is by far the most misleading leaflet I have ever seen in many years of campaigning and the Guildford Lib Dems should hang their head in shame.

Ironically, of course, the only chance we ever had of a second referendum was a Labour victory in that election – voting Lib Dem was never going to make any difference to the Brexit debate. Across that entire election the local Lib Dems tried to re-write history and present themselves as the only party opposing Brexit, despite the fact that Guildford Labour figures such as myself and most notable Sue Hackman were among the most active leaders in the Remain campaign.

The most common complaint about Lib Dem leaflets is their selective, misleading and statistically illiterate use of bar charts. Here is an example from the 2017 general election.

In this chart, the Lib Dems are using election results from borough elections and suggest they predict the parliamentary election result. Most people are not aware – and why should they be? – that the boundary of Guildford’s parliamentary constituency is significantly different from that of Guildford borough.

In fact, the borough covers parts of four constituencies (Surrey Heath, Woking, Mole Valley and Guildford) while Guildford parliamentary constituency extends south right to the Sussex border and includes Cranleigh, Ewhurst and Alfold. Only 26 out of 48 Guildford Borough councillors represent wards that are in the Guildford parliamentary constituency.

For the record, the actual results of the subsequent 2017 election can be seen in this accurate and honest graph:

Moving forward to 2019 again, here is how those results were reported by the Lib Dems during the general election campaign:

This doesn’t look much like the real result of the 2019 election, does it? The Lib Dems used the  borough council result but they have cherry-picked a local election outcome, manipulated it, and called it “Votes cast in Guildford Westminster Constituency”. Of course, the big winners in May 2019 were R4GV but they are not mentioned on this chart.

Then, of course, as noted above, Guildford Borough is nothing like Guildford “Westminster” constituency. It is certainly possible to go through each individual ward that makes up the Guildford constituency, discard all parties except Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour and total them up. Is that what they have done? But if so, what exactly does that tell you? They represent different councils, different campaigns, different local priorities.

We are on more solid ground when we move to the text: “Elections here are always a clear choice between Lib Dems and Tories”. No, they are not! In 2017 Lib Dem and Labour were neck and neck – but a long, long way behind, the then Conservative winning candidate, Anne Milton.

The objective for the Lib Dems is to find a way of creating their favourite bar chart, one showing Lib Dems and Tories close together while Labour flounders with “Not Winning Here” written over it. This is actually a very rare situation, but that never gets in the way of the Lib Dems. We can see here examples from all over the country of how they manipulate figures to create this myth:

When we knock on doors and find people who say they are voting Lib Dem it is almost always because “Labour can’t win here”. People are taken in by these lies and the way they are endlessly repeated. If we ask people what their favourite Lib Dem policy is, the usual response is silence – because no one knows what their policies are. On the rare occasions when they have one – nationally we may think of scrapping tuition fees for students, or locally building 3,000 council houses – these policies disappear without trace once they have power.

Lib Dem tactics are to exploit tactical voting by repeatedly publishing misleading statistics and charts which distort the truth and, frankly, it is time they put an end to this dishonest campaigning and campaigned for their policies, beliefs and values.

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Responses to Letter: I Stand By My Criticism of Lib Dem Campaign Literature

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    August 14, 2021 at 7:48 am

    It’s easy to criticise those who would like to be in power when not in power.

    Perhaps pulling together and solving problems within the community would be a better use of manpower than attempting to re-run past elections.

  2. Howard Smith Reply

    August 14, 2021 at 9:17 am

    I congratulate my colleague for responding to the request of the chair of Guildford Liberal Democrats, Catherine Houston for examples of incorrect and misleading information in their literature. Let’s not forget she said quite plainly in The Guildford Dragon that she would like to “correct any errors we may have made over anything we have printed as fact”.

    So I look forward to her coming good on this promise, being as good as her word, and remedying these errors, perhaps even apologising for them too.

    Furthermore, I hope she will commit her local party to finally cleaning up their act. It is ironic that it’s this Boris Johnson “mixing fact with fiction” type behaviour that the Liberal Democrats so often complain about yet they are so desperately guilty of themselves here in Guildford.

    Howard Smith is the vice-chair Guildford Labour

  3. Jacob Allen Reply

    August 14, 2021 at 1:20 pm

    It’s the Lib Dem fake newspapers devoid of party branding for me, the “Guildford Gazette” etc. I think I’ll stick with The Dragon.

    Jacob Allen is a Guildford Labour activist.

  4. George Potter Reply

    August 15, 2021 at 10:05 am

    That is an awful lot of angry verbiage by Mr Creese only to say, in essence: “We can’t find any actual lies in Lib Dem leaflets like we claimed, but we don’t like that their bar charts always show Labour in third place.”

    For my part, I thank Mr Creese for reminding all of us that Labour has consistently done poorly in elections at all levels in Guildford for many, many years and that the Lib Dems are the only national party able to beat the Tories in Guildford.

    George Potter is a Lib Dem borough and county councillor.

    • Jules Cranwell Reply

      August 16, 2021 at 6:05 am

      George Potter is kidding himself if he believes the Lib Dems “beat” the Tories. They emphatically did not. The Tories beat themselves with Cllr Spooner’s disastrous Local Plan.

      Because of the ruin that is now being wrought on the borough by their Plan, it became a case of “anyone but the Tories”.

      • Adam Aaronson Reply

        August 18, 2021 at 7:57 am

        “The Tories beat themselves with Cllr Spooner’s disastrous Local Plan.” which was supported by the leader (at the time) of the Lib Dems.

  5. Brian Creese Reply

    August 15, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    George Potter really should read my first paragraph again. The leaflet pictured says: “Will give you the final say [on Brexit]. Zoe Franklin YES, Conservates, Labour and Brexit Party NO.” This was a lie on two counts. First, it was Labour Policy at that election to have a second referendum on Brexit to give the people the final say. So Labour should not have been grouped with the Conservatives and Brexit party. Second, it was Lib Dem policy to revoke Article 50 regardless of the result of any second referendum.

    So the only party actually promising to give the people the final say was Labour. In that one tiny section of one leaflet there are two clear, lies.

    If Cllr Potter would like me to, I will go through every untruthful Lib Dem leaflet and itemise the actual lies if that is what you want. Perhaps the Dragon could make this a regular column, as it could run for some time…

    Editor’s response: No thanks.

    Brian Creese is chair of the Guildford Labour Party

    • Wayne Smith Reply

      August 16, 2021 at 8:26 pm

      Thank you, editor.

      The ongoing ping-pong spats between the local political parties are becoming quite tiresome these past few weeks.

      As the link above shows, misleading Lib Dem leaflets are a well known national problem, not just local.

      And then there were Conservatives “protecting the green belt”. We all know how that turned out.

      The Conservatives like to quote that R4GV promised to amend the disastrous Local Plan that the Conservatives pushed through in the death throes of their regime. There is never any mention that the R4GV leaflets actually said “They will fight” to amend the Local Plan.

      Pledging to fight is not the same thing at all as pledging to amend, as the Conservatives claim.

      Hidebound by the legal grounds on which amendment of the Plan is possible, I find it a little odd that R4GV have never defended their position by mentioning that.

      In the meantime, perhaps all parties could desist from their petty spats, at least until there’s another election, and instead, put their energy into working together to improve the many problems around Guildford.

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