Monday, May 19, 2014

When in uniform, be careful what you do

There has been some degree of amusement in the Lib Dem camp here in Gateshead about a leaflet the Labour party has put out in Whickham North ward. This Lib Dem held marginal ward (our majority is only 4%) has attracted a Labour candidate who spectacularly lost neighbouring Dunston Hill and Whickham East ward in the last local elections. In 2012 he was defending a Labour majority of 600 from the previous year though we were defending our one seat in the ward. Lib Dem Councillor Peter Maughan came out the winner, turning round the 600 deficit into a 200 vote majority.

I think I have only met the Labour candidate, Chris McHugh, once - when he tried to gatecrash the councillors' section of the Remembrance Day parade in November 2011, feebly assisted by Yvonne McNichol, one of the two Labour councillors for Dunston Hill and Whickham East. When I brought to Mrs McNichol's attention the potential problems of turning Remembrance Day into a political stunt, she sent Mr McHugh packing.

Anyway, back to the current election. The leaflet delivered this weekend contains photos of three people, each with Mr McHugh (one of the pictures reminds me of Laurel and Hardy!). Presumably these people are purporting to be ordinary local residents. Except.....

Jim Hewson was Labour candidate in the ward in 2004. Billy Wigham is a Labour activist. And Nora Earl is the wife of Frank, who was himself Labour candidate in Whickham North a few years ago and who worked for the Labour MP here (David Call-Me-Dave Anderson). Furthermore, Nora Earl doesn't even live in the ward. So unlike Mr Hewson, Nora Earl is unable to say she is voting for Mr McHugh. Instead she is "endorsing" him.

And there lies a problem. Nora Earl is a school crossing patrol person - a lollipop lady. And in the photo she is in uniform, issued by Gateshead Council, along with her crossing patrol sign (the "lollipop"). Now then, endorsing a political party as a private individual is one thing, even if you do have to be imported into the ward as Labour aren't able to persuade anyone there to back Mr McHugh publicly). Endorsing a party political candidate whilst in one's official council capacity is something else. I understand on the grapevine that at least one complaint may be crossing the road right now on its way to the Council's chief executive.


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