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."
"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...