Apr 22, 2010

Letter to a constituent in Mid Bedfordshire

The graphic below shows the conversation I had yesterday with Rachel Lewis [fireflylive], a voter in Mid Bedfordshire (the constituency Nadine Dorries is campaigning to retain for the Conservatives). Below that is my wider reply, which I've posted as an open letter here for two reasons:

a) Rachel is not the only person I wish to reach with this message

b) If she or anyone else wants to continue the conversation, comments are open, and they offer a little more elbow room than Twitter allows.

Dear Rachel,

It is not my intention to tell you who to vote for. I don't intervene on behalf of any party or candidate. Rather, like many people, I'm so alarmed at the depth of Nadine's dishonesty that, given the chance, I would seek to inform any voter in her constituency of her stunning deceits and shameless duplicity.

Also, I doubt very much that I can recommend any candidate who matches your description. All politicians lie. It comes with the job, and starts with the half-truths one is compelled to rely on when representing tens of thousands of people with competing/conflicting interests on matters that are often confidential. It's a fine line to walk that eventually leads to lies, often because there is little choice and/or because as human beings we are fallible (and I would hope the latter point also addresses any expectations you may have about a candidate who won't ever put a foot wrong).

But there's a world of difference between this natural hazard of politics and deliberately using falsehoods to win a debate, or (worse) telling malicious lies about your opponents in order to silence critics and gain political advantage. Nadine Dorries does the latter especially... repeatedly.

If you do your research, you'll encounter many people who speak in defence of Dorries with assurances that she is a wonderful person and claims/implications that the people criticising her (they will say 'attacking' her) are doing so for personal or party-political reasons. What none of these people will do is address the substance of those criticisms ('attacks') but, sadly, showmanship wins over substance all too often.

You will also encounter some who have so lost patience with Dorries that their tone becomes angry, and sometimes even abusive. I'll admit to losing my temper in this way myself, but I try to avoid the error when I can, as it draws attention away from the substance. In fact, defenders of Dorries (and Dorries herself) will often seek to blur lines to such an extraordinary extent that with they portray all criticism of Dorries as abuse without substance.

As you may have guessed, I'm kind of keen on the substance myself, so let's get to it now that the preliminaries are taken care of. I have many examples I can offer you of Dorries' duplicity, but I've chosen the following three examples from the campaign she headed to lower the abortion time limit for reasons of simplicity and (hopefully) clarity;


1. During the main debate before the House voted, Nadine Dorries claimed that three quarters of women specified a preference to lower the time limit to her preferred target; 20 weeks. But "three quarters of women" did not specify 20 weeks. Nadine Dorries either completely misunderstood the data or (more likely in my experience) deliberately misrepresented it in order to give the false impression that she enjoyed a popular mandate. As the raw poll data showed, it wasn't 75% of women specifying 20 weeks, but 15%, and then only because it was fed to them as an option.

I've included this example because it is the kind of lie that most people expect from politicians, in a setting where we expect them to do most of their lying (when not on the campaign trail). But differences begin with what happens after... or, rather, what does not.

After literally inviting scrutiny of her assertions in the House, Dorries has never returned to this point, despite her being challenged publicly and repeatedly on it. If this 'attack' is baseless, then why can't/won't Dorries defend the claim she was happy to make on the record in the House?

This is where uncertainty about a possible misunderstanding dissipates and it becomes clearer that what we are looking at is a calculated lie, even if it only became one after the fact.

2. Before the debate, there was a committee, but Dorries split off from that committee when it wasn't going the way she wanted and she produced her own 'minority report'. When doing so, she accused Dr Ben Goldacre, a journalist, of behaving improperly with regards to evidence passed to the committee.

Not only was this accusation false, but it showed a complete ignorance of Parliamentary procedure (the evidence was not shared improperly as she alleged; it was in the public domain).

I'd like to think that, put in a similar position, you or I would admit to the error and apologise for the false accusation. As a fellow blogger, you've probably experienced some error in the past that's been pointed out to you in comments that you have had to address in comments and/or by updating your post.

Nadine Dorries a has a 'blog', too... but she actually chose to close comments rather than face any discussion about her false accusation, and they stayed closed for months afterwards*.

(*They eventually re-opened, but closed again after her 'suicide' outburst regarding expenses.)

What is notable about this lie is that it completely avoided the substance of Dr Ben Goldacre's criticisms about evidence Dorries was relying on, and instead called into question the honesty and integrity of a man whose only allegiance is to honesty in science and medicine.

Over two years later, she had not apologised for any of it, and probably never will.

3. During the debate, Dorries presented as a key part of her evidence an image titled 'Hand of Hope'

The photographer who took this image claims the foetus reached out and grabbed the surgeon's finger.

The surgeon maintains that it was him manipulating the arm (IIRC, in order to gain access to a part of a foetus that was behind it)

What is most notable about the photographer's story is that he describes it as a miracle and speaks of it being the work of God. Regardless of where you stand on Christianity specifically or religion generally, an honest person should not present his testimony (based, as it is, on faith) as part a scientific argument, but that's exactly what Nadine Dorries did.

Further, when confronted with the conflicting account by the surgeon, she implied that he had changed his story out of fear of violence**.

(**In doing so, she further implied that the pro-choice lobby is inherently violent, when it is their opponents in this debate who have a track record of targeting doctors and other staff members attached to abortion clinics. While trying to further defend the claim, Dorries also showed a startling level of ignorance about foetal development and human biology that calls into question her claims to have worked as a fully qualified nurse.)

To claim that the surgeon would falsify his account of a life-or-death surgical procedure for any reason is a smear that calls into question their honesty and integrity, and I would hope that by now you can detect an emerging pattern.


If you wish, I can show you many different examples of Nadine Dorries doing this to many different people. She has a long track record not only of attempting to deceive the electorate, but of spreading malicious lies and falsehoods about those who dare to confront or oppose her.

To bring this letter to a close, I'd like to touch on the matter of the incinerator (and invite you to furnish me with any relevant specifics);

I don't wish to belittle your concerns, but the thing about projects like incinerators is that they always end up becoming political footballs, as they're easy to object to while seeming a bit green, and we generate so much garbage that there's nearly always a landfill/recycling/incinerator proposal on the table come election time (much like there are always potholes to be filled, and mobile phone masts to object to). Even Nick Herbert, the shadow cabinet Environment Secretary, is objecting to a recycling centre in his own constituency.

Also, even if Nadine Dorries presents herself as the only candidate who opposes this incinerator, or the only candidate capable of stopping it, I doubt very much if she is as sincere about it as she appears, especially in light of this tweet from a fellow constituent of yours that appeared during our conversation:

"re: a claim dorries made about opposing an incinerator; when public meeting was held on this she arrived 15 mins after the end" - Sandra Robinson

If you're interested, I would very much like to continue this chat, and I look forward to any reply, especially if you would do me the honour of trusting me to host our conversation (i.e. if you choose to respond here, under 'comments').


Tim Ireland

Over to you, Rachel. No rush. We have a couple of weeks.


UPDATE (23 April) - Rachel would like us to know that engaging with her on this point (and I suspect any other) is a waste of time. She says so quite explicitly...

Lie back and think of Ireland...
Sadly for you I am not one for a fight. I do not specialise in being very political and I am not going to take your blog apart piece by piece and argue the toss about what you have said. When it comes to politics I'm sure you know what you're talking about. Well, I hope you know what you're talking about or else you really need to get out more, dear. That's quite an obsession you have with Mrs Dorries. Other blonde ladies are available; not me sadly, although you're welcome to get in the queue... I want to say thank you for all the work you have put in to your blog post. As a seasoned blogger myself, although not doing even a gnats chuff of the research you do (I haven't the time, I work, I'm a Mum, I have a life); I think it's a truly special and wonderful thing you do, to sit in your mansion / house / flat / bedsit / parent's back room, in Guildford, Slurrey and work so hard and care so much about us poor people here in Middle Narnia; cruelly afflicted by having Satan's Handmaiden... [etc. etc. etc.]

... and to be honest I suspected as much when I saw this tweet that immediately followed our earlier conversation:

Speaking in defence of Dorries, she's reduced to making it personal and (it must be noted) creepily sexual in places. For the record, I've got nothing against her* personally but it's always disappointing when people go to this much effort to waste your time (and theirs) while simultaneously lecturing you for wasting your time.

Obviously, Rachel is not going to appreciate that Dorries is different because of the personal attacks she engages in (she spends the whole time ignoring Dorries' attacks, while portraying criticism of her as a personal attack, and engaging in one herself while she's about it ) so I think we're done here.

[*Or the people of Mid Bedfordshire, for that matter, but I can't say that I speak for all of us here in Slurrey.]

Apr 21, 2010

Dorries dittoheads on the doorstep

The following is an account of a doorstep visit enjoyed by Sandra Robinson, a voter in Mid Bedfordshire. Below her account are scans of the front and back of the leaflet she mentions.

Aside from pointing out that it appears that Nadine Dorries has been lying to her own campaign workers (and that they appear to be the type that will believe anything a fellow Tory tells them), I'll let it speak for itself:

Had a leaflet (attached) through the door for Nadine Dorries so I went outside to speak to the gentleman. I said that I was a "floating voter" but that no matter what the conservatives pledged I could not vote for Nadine Dorries. He seemed surprised and said that all he knew was that she was a "lovely woman"

He then went on the offensive to say that the "Lib Dem woman" (Linda Jacks) had made up stuff about Nadine. (The local paper Beds on Sunday goes into more detail on this.)

I said that I saw the "Tower Block of Commons" [1, 2, 3]and that Linda Jack was correct, The man refused to believe me, he said she was a kind woman who wanted to give the money to the children and how did I know that she didn't want to do that? I asked him what good appearing on the programme did for her constituents? He said " Every party was on the programme"

I mentioned her houses and the fact that she employs her daughters; "they all do that" was his answer. Convincing stuff so far. He then went on to say that Tories would cut waste in public services; and stop golden pensions BINGO!!!

Our local council, Central Beds is 95% Tory. They PROMISED to cut council tax when the proposal for a unitary authority was being debated (There were 3 councils in Bedfordshire, excluding Luton which makes 4) Bedford County Council lost the bid and Central Beds and Bedford Borough won, each of whom promised savings that would amount to a cut of 30% in council tax.

I challenged the canvasser on why a council that was almost entirely Conservative kept continuously increasing council tax when they said they would cut it. Why their chief exec is on £185k with a huge pension.

His answer, all councils put up council tax. I told him not in London nor in Essex; he claimed he didn't know about them. He said councils cut the grass and take our bins. I was getting very sarcastic at this stage, wow that's what they are supposed to do was my response.

He claimed that the council give pensioners free bus passes, he has one and he can afford to pay for the bus. I said free bus passes was a good thing, every council does it, that doesn't excuse high council tax. He then said he gets winter fuel allowance every year which he doesn't need, who brought that in? Labour. I asked him if the conservatives would scrap this? No.

Central Beds Council have recently been on BBC news boasting about how quickly they fill potholes. The truth is that on a stretch of road, if there are 20 potholes, they fill one up and go away. Our canvasser said that was bad workmen. I said that council staff were asked to monitor the work following complaints by residents, but none of them had done so.

He said that the Tories believe that businesses provide the money for the economy not politicians. I brought up the case of MR Simon Wolfson, head of Next who advises George Osbourne (canvasser had never heard of him) I said he opposed the NI increase because it hurt his pocket and that he had given himself a pay rise to over £1.2 million. Did he really think that Mr Wolfson was going to help public services by writing to the Daily Telegraph with his mates? I then mentioned Mr Ashcroft and asked him what has he done for this country. Lots apparently. I said he was a nondom tax dodger who was funding key marginal seats and that he contributed nothing to the country. Canvassers response was that Labour were jealous, and how much did the unions fund them? Not once did I mention voting Labour, I'm voting tactically to get rid of Dorries.

He asked me what I had ever done or achieved ; I said I work in the NHS to save lives, I have a lovely house that I've worked hard for and I've never been greedy unlike his friends in the banking industry. He then claimed that Brown should have controlled the banks. I said that in a global economy you cant act unilaterally, otherwise the bankers just move out; you have to act globally. He didn't like that

He went on to attack Gordon Brown for claiming an end to boom and bust which I couldn't argue with. He then said that Labour had gone to war more often than the conservatives because "Socialists want to take over the world; Pakistan, Ireland ....." At this point I laughed at him; Blair went to war alongside George Bush who was hardly a socialist. I cannot believe that he tried to quote Ireland in his argument, as it is fairly obvious from my accent that I'm from Northern Ireland. He then decided to move on to immigrants I said to him, don't try blaming them next and I shut the door in his face.

Hope this is interesting reading!!

Well, I think so. I love the idea that some guy has been motivated to support Dorries at a local level in order to stop a global conspiracy by socialist warmongers and assorted immigrants.

(Psst! When we do take over, I think we should go after this guy first, and make an example of him.)