There is a danger to rushing to the barricades in defence of your man/woman/whatever, as a number of Labour activists in East London found out over Miranda Grell.
On Thursday, I highlighted an apparent contradiction between the positions taken by Dr Rachel Joyce, the Conservative PPC for Harrow West, on her blog and on Conservative Home. I e-mailed her to see what she had to say in response, little expecting a reply. And so, I must report that she has interrupted her holiday to provide this...
Thank you for your email. I am currently abroad on holiday so only have a limited internet access. Can you therefore reply to this email so I know you got it. Of course anti-social behaviour can be as a result of societal failure. If you read my other blog posts about anti-social behaviour you will see this along with poverty are important issues to me. Having worked with some very deprived communities as a doctor, and with people with mental illness, it is clear this is the case. That does not mean however that people should have to put up with bad behaviour.
I do not know you so I am not quite sure why you are raising the issue of Ian Oakley. However, this is my view:
I utterly condemn what Ian did (as he has now admitted it - which was not clear when the news first broke). As I also said in the ConservativeHome comments, the Association will need to offer a wholehearted apology.
I myself only know Ian as a fellow candidate, and not that well. However, he was a nice guy when I met him, with a very loyal group of friends. I am therefore utterly shocked that he could do this sort of thing. However, as I said, I probably didn't meet him more than 10-15 times.
I also have not spoken with him since this news broke so I don't know the details. I do however understand that Watford 3 party politics is very heated. The only explanation I can surmise for this behaviour which was apparently out of his usual character is the stress of that political position. I presume the pressure got to him.
He needs to be both punished and counselled, as does any other criminal who may be in need of professional help. Clearly Ian appears to have issues that need to be worked through. He still must suffer a formal penalty for the crimes. He is clearly suffering a significant effect in his life as a result of his actions, and I do feel sorry for him. However, I also feel very sorry for his victims and wish them well.
As I said, I don't know you but I would hope that we do not get into that type of politics in Harrow. By this I include misleading stories or lies about people or parties. If you read my blog, you will see that I am supportive of some Labour and LibDem politicians as politicians (not with all their policies) - such as Frank Field and Vince Cable.
I believe both parties and their supporters generally mean well, but I don't think their policies are the right ones for the economy, public services, poverty, inequality and for a free liberal democratic society. I used to be a LibDem myself but reached the conclusion based on evidence that their policies were too held down by politically correct dogma - very different to the Liberal tradition and the Whigs of the past.
I hope that clarifies things.
With best wishes
Dr Rachel Joyce
Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, Harrow West
Now call me old fashioned, but I think that this represents a pretty gutsy response, given the circumstances. Don't get me wrong, I think that she's pretty naive, but it is brave to make a written response to someone she doesn't know, and quite impressive that she should do so at all, especially given the excuse that she is on holiday.
One tip though, Rachel. Using the banner "Evidence-based, common sense politics" is likely to get you into trouble eventually, especially in a political party as policy light as the Conservatives still are.