Local elections are often dismissed as a peripheral sideshow to the main political event of a general election despite the fact that they offer an indicator to how well a party is doing nationally. A good showing here is a far more authoritative endorsement than any ICM or YouGov poll ever could be. And it was for this reason that David Cameron was in Birmingham on Monday to rally the troops ahead of the May local elections.
At the closed event there was a buzz of excitement as he spoke of his optimism and confidence for the coming elections and reacted well to reports from the councillors present that the message they are receiving on the streets is a positive one.
And here in Birmingham the Conservative party should have reason to be confident about the coming local elections. For one the credibility of the City’s Liberal Democrat party lies in tatters after the Elections Commissioner Timothy Stalker threw their electoral fraud case out of court last week. Though the party shares a coalition with the Conservative’s in the city they are still our opponents in some target wards.
The Lib Dems had charged Labour with running a smear campaign against Aehmed during the 2007 local elections. As the two sides tried to discredit each other in court using character assassination techniques some rather grubby details were uncovered regarding ‘questionable’ disability grant applications originating from the Claimant during the 1990’s.
As a result neither came out of this looking good.
Following a recent judicial trend judges to openly rip in to some of the protagonists in the case (Re the McCartney divorce and Diana inquest ) the judge showed the trial up for the laughable farce it was if it hadn’t cost the taxpayer half a million quid.
Ayoub Khan, a Lib Dem councillor and prominent party figure in the city, felt the full wrath of the commissioner when he said that Khan’s evidence comprised of a ‘sordid story’ and in parts ‘unpleasant, unsupported and unsubstantiated’. This is particularly damaging for Khan as he’s a barrister (though oddly there is no mention of him in the Bar directory when I checked. Must be an oversight..)
Despite the Lib Dem Westminster party’s desire to distance themselves from the ‘sordid’ affair they did manage to role out an official response. They pointed to the salient fact that Mr Khan had not broken any laws. However to this the Lib Dem spokesman rather worryingly added the word ‘yet’ to the end of his sentence. Odd for a party that have claimed to be fully behind the councillor.
The trial was truly unedifying and damaged both Labour and the Lib Dems. It also, remembering the postal vote fraud of a few years ago, further casts Birmingham and its politics in a rather bad light.
Though Labour won the day in court, and rightfully if the papers reports are followed, the trial of public opinion, always a fickle affair, calls no evidence, and weighs nothing in the balance. They pass down their judgement in only a few short weeks time.