Labour and the ‘smear gone wrong’

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  In November 2010, this fledgling site published an explosive story.  A senior advisor with the Labour party, who has links to Scottish Labour MP Jim Murphy, had sent an email to at least three Scottish journalists.  The email targeted a member of the public, contained false information and a case of mistaken identity.

The intended victim of what looked like a smear attempt, had been pursuing a Freedom of Information request with the Electoral Commission on a matter relating to former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander. 

His story was never reported by any media outlet.  Until now only the small number of people who visited Newsnet Scotland in 2010 are aware of the shocking attack on an ordinary person by a Labour party official. 

On the day an email from an advisor to the First Minister makes national headlines, we have reproduced as originally published, the story this same media refused to report … and will probably still refuse to report.

Newsnet Scotland has seen the email in question and knows the identity of the journalists to whom it was sent.

Labour and the ‘smear gone wrong’…

My name is David Ferguson. For almost three years now I have been pursuing a Freedom of Information request against the Electoral Commission concerning its investigation into the illegal Paul Green donation that was received by Wendy Alexander during her campaign for leadership of the Scottish Labour party, and the fact that this donation was reported to the Commission as having come from a Glasgow company called Combined Property Services.

An English High Court judge yesterday ruled in favour of Ms Alexander and The Electoral Commission. However, the events leading up to yesterday’s decision contained one particularly unsavoury episode that I feel deserves to be made public.

At the time when the FoI request was still at the appeal stage a date for appeal was set during a telephone review on Tuesday 27th July. I was subsequently contacted by David Leask of The Herald, and a short article appeared on Wednesday 28th July. On Thursday an article appeared in The Scotsman, although I did not speak to anybody there, and Newsnet Scotland also picked up the story. All very routine and all very matter of fact.

However on Saturday 31st July the Labour Party launched what appeared to be a smear campaign against me. An email was sent out to a number of senior Scottish mainstream political journalists by someone called Rami Okasha, an employee of The Labour Party who works as a Special Advisor to Jim Murphy MP, then Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland and now Shadow UK Defence Secretary.

It was sent from Mr Okasha’s official Labour Party email address and was footnoted with the words: “Sent by email from the Labour Party, promoted by Ray Collins on behalf of The Labour Party, both at 39 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0HA”.

It therefore seemed to me reasonable to assume that Mr Okasha was speaking for Mr Murphy, Mr Collins, and the Labour Party, and that the email’s contents were officially endorsed by all three.

The first thing the email contained was a series of quotes from comments that I am alleged to have made on various internet forums. I stand by all the statements that are mine, otherwise I would not have posted them under my own name to start with, and I refute the ones that are not.

Most of them are utterly anodyne – in one I even noted that I had danced with joy as the results of Labour’s 1997 election victory came through – although one that was posted on the Caledonian Mercury might have caused offence due to its graphic nature, which was done in order to emphasise a point.

Mr Okasha then went on to state:

“This guy David Ferguson claimed to David Leask that he is not an SNP supporter or member and is just a disinterested member of the public who is interested in Wendy… But a quick google shows him up to be a hard-core cybernat…”

Labour MP Willie Bain then added:

“These comments are shocking and the onus is now on the SNP to clarify whether this forms part of their notorious ‘black ops’ campaign to smear people from other parties. When it comes to his Information Commissioner case, he claims to national newspapers that he is not an SNP supporter or activist, but his online profile tells a different story. He should explain which version of events is true. The SNP have a real problem with cybernats…”

The assertion that I claimed to David Leask that I am not an SNP supporter is a flat-out lie. In fact, when Mr Leask asked me, I told him that I was an SNP supporter. However, neither Mr Leask nor I felt that I should be under any obligation to disclose my political leanings simply because I had filed a Freedom of Information request.

The insinuation that I am some kind of hard-core undercover SNP cybernat ‘black-ops’ agent is similarly a flat-out lie. I explained to Mr Leask, when he asked, that I have no link or association, formal or informal, with any political party or organisation, and never have had. Over the past three years I have specifically refrained from doing anything that may have given the impression that my Freedom of Information case was party political. I have also never discussed it with any member, or any other kind of representative of the SNP, or any of the other political parties, or sought to do so.

However, there is a rather more serious aspect to this. At the end of the email, following the allegations and comments, Mr Okasha helpfully appended a link to the facebook details of ‘David Ferguson’, along with the names of five of my facebook friends. The naming of my friends, presumably in order to smear them by nothing more than association with me, would be odious to anyone with a shred of decency in them.

But the real scandal is that the David Ferguson whose facebook details were contained in the email wasn’t me. He has nothing to do with me, with my conversations with David Leask, with the Freedom of Information case, or with my online comments, nothing at all. And very obviously, neither have those friends of his who were also named.

As I pointed out in a brief email I subsequently sent to Mr Okasha, he was busy assiduously smearing the wrong people.

After he received my email, I understand that Mr Okasha began to phone around the journalists he had initially contacted – not, it seems, to apologise for misleading them so badly, or to excuse himself for the ugly attempt to smear a group of entirely innocent people, but to demand to know who had leaked his email.

It’s quite telling that none of them chose to write up the story of “the Labour Party smear campaign gone wrong…”

In fact, following Mr Okasha’s initial email it very quickly became apparent to the recipients that the allegations were a mixture of lies, innuendo and some online comments. But above all it had become clear that Mr Okasha was trying to smear a group of people who had nothing whatsoever to do with the whole thing in the first place.

In one sense, the smear campaign worked. I had intended to call Ms Alexander as a witness in the FoI Appeal hearing – she would have been able to provide some very pertinent information whilst under oath – sadly I allowed myself to be intimidated out of doing this.

I have written to Rami Okasha, to Jim Murphy, and to Wendy Alexander, to ask them for some kind of explanation of these events. None of them had the courtesy to reply to me, or even to acknowledge my communications. I have not yet written to Mr Ray Collins, the General Secretary of the Labour Party or to Mr Willie Bain, who demanded an ‘explanation’ from me, but I will do so shortly.

The episode does not reflect well on today’s Labour Party, a party I was once delighted to see win a general election.

They seem to believe that anyone who has the temerity to make an FoI request that may inconvenience their party should be forced to divulge their political affiliations to the public through the media.

They also seem to think that an ordinary member of the public who, by dint of choosing to pursue a valid concern through the appropriate legal channels, has become a legitimate target for a smear campaign. In this episode they have indicated a complete and utter contempt for the public.

The irony is that whilst Wendy Alexander is protected by the Electoral Commission, which has been arguing for three years that the public should know nothing of their investigation because her privacy is sacrosanct, her Labour party colleagues are busy organising a smear campaign against the other party to the FoI case.

To date no-one from the Labour party has had the integrity to offer an apology.

 

Notes:
Mr Ferguson has asked that we reproduce the comments that the email references as he does not want to give the impression that he has anything to hide. Mr Ferguson accepts that the first may have caused some offence, but insists that the two in bold were not written by him.

http://politics.caledonianmercury.com/2010/05/07/election-update-a-tale-of-two-countries/

The fact that the SNP might do a bit better under PR is of minor relevance. As is the potential increase in support under a UK Tory government.
The fact is that there is a massive and apparently irretrievable core Labour vote that simply will not change. If they are prepared to vote in hundreds of thousands for this disastrous, dishonest, corrupt, incompetent, murderous administration, then what would they conceivably consider to be ‘unacceptable’?
If Labour activists formed a gauntlet along the roads to the polling stations armed with shit-smeared knobkerries and bludgeoned the skulls of their supporters to a bloody pulp as they passed, those who managed to crawl as far as the polling station would still vote Labour.

http://www.labourlist.org/why_the_party_isnt_over

As for China, what a great advert for socialism, after killing millions and millions in failed socialist experiments, suppressing democracy demonstrations… they embrace… capitalism.
If that’s the best you can do to defend your political philosophy to us proles… good luck because you will need it.

My sentiments exactly. Although a long-term SNP supporter, I too danced as the results of the 1997 election came through.
The only difference now between the scum that is Labour in Westminster and the scum that is Labour in Scotland is that the North British version is even more corrupt and incompetent, and it grasps the Scottish media even more firmly in the loathesome tentacles of its Scottish McBrides.

http://www.snp.org/node/13751

I have just registered as a user and am trying to access the forums. Every time I try to access the forums I am being told that to access this part of the site I need to enter my user name and password, and every time I enter my user name and password the same screen simply repeats.

Thank you SNP for obliterating the Labour Party. This is just the beginning.
May you enjoy continued success at the expense of the corrupt, inept Labour Party, contributing to its extinction. The sooner, the better!
Whoopee!