This blog is not going to win me any new friends. it may even lose me the few
I have but I am not going to stand idly by while misinformation about the
ill-fated Erith & Thamesmead hustings circulates.
If my sources dry up afterwards, so be it; I can get on with doing something more useful with the rest of my life.
It has been said that the hustings were wrecked by Teresa Pearce, aided and abetted by her supporters, this in my opinion is complete balderdash and I aim to set out the facts below so that you can judge for yourself.
I think she has been a first class local MP and Teresa has become a good friend of both me and Bexley-is-Bonkers over the last five years. Only via the net you must understand, I have not spoken to Teresa since last year’s Erith Fun Day.
I’ve seen more of Anna Firth and I like her too. Twice recently I have saved Anna from pursuing certain courses which would have caused her embarrassment. I don’t favour either candidate and you won’t read any criticism of Anna in what follows - apart perhaps of the company she keeps. Teresa knows I have always voted on national issues at General Elections and she knows which party attracts me most for that.
I applied the same logic at the local election which is why the Tories did not get my vote in May 2014. In writing these blogs the aim has always been to debunk the dishonesty of local politicians. I believe that a lot of that has been hovering over the hustings cancellation.
When this election campaign began I asked Teresa what she was hoping for. She said she would be happy with anything so long as it wasn’t “dirty”.
So back to the recent hustings issue. It was sponsored by Erith company Silon7 Limited and was to be chaired by Eliot Smith, Head Boy at Trinity School. So why was it cancelled?
There’s no one better to ask than the sponsor. Liam Connolly the company owner sent me the following email at 14:17 on Friday 1st May.
Erith & Thamesmead Hustings
03 May 2015
The Link Thamesmead
After a number of emails and comments posted on various social media platforms, it became necessary to take advice as to Silon7 sponsorship of the Erith & Thamesmead Hustings.
Silon7 has been advised that an official notification it received with regards to the process that was used to arrange this meeting could be viewed as a possible foundation for legal action against Silon7 if it continued with its sponsorship of this event.
It is with regret that Silon7 Limited will no longer be in a position to sponsor this meeting and hope that Erith & Thamesmead voters understand that Silon7 only intention through Erith.Link was to provide an opportunity for them to question candidates not become involved in possible legal proceedings from a political party.
Silon7 would like to thank Eliot Smith for his hard work and commend his restraint in the face of some very personal attacks in his role of trying to make this event happen. I can assure everyone Eliot’s only motive has been only to see voters have the opportunity to question candidates not to influence this event in anyway.
Silon7 has advised both Eliot Smith and ErithLink not to make any further comment on this matter and apologise once more to the voters for not being able to make this meeting happen.
That statement was published on the company’s website, at least I think it was. Eliot Smith sent me a link but I never got around to following it.
There is no suggestion anywhere that Liam Connolly was at fault although there are two very pertinent points in that email. One is the legal angle and the other is the reference to the “very personal attacks” on Eliot.
Now that this dispute is out in the open I asked Anna Firth and Eliot for evidence of abuse and Teresa Pearce to defend herself.
Anna says she was kept totally in the dark which may well be true, I know she only learned of the cancellation from me. Eliot has yet to come up with any evidence and the Facebook page has been taken down. I would have thought it would have been left on line if abuse by Labour members was clearly there because it would strengthen his complaint.
Teresa was not at all keen on releasing her email to Eliot but did so on condition I did not publish it which is not ideal but I can assure you it did not object to him being chairman, it merely drew on her past experience and pointed out what could happen if the chairmanship was subsequently seen to be partial. Like the sponsor, she was worried about possible legal challenges if things went wrong. I am breaking my promise to Teresa here but this extract may give you an inking of what was said…
If a hustings ‘looks’ as if it’s been run to favour one candidate then it affects that candidate’s election expenses.
Now I know that's not how it is but it could be perceived that way.
I wanted to help by pointing out that having a chair that is not seen as impartial could cause a complaint being raised after the event.
I am more concerned about how the questions are going to be handled. Will they be from the floor, written and picked at random or from the chair?
Looks to me as though Teresa was trying to be helpful. Nowhere does she say she was objecting but there was an expression of concern. It could easily be argued that she forecast what the sponsor eventually discovered for himself.
Eliot might well have been an excellent chairman but he has made no secret of his political leanings. He has been seen with Anna Firth innumerable times and been featured in her leaflets. He even posed with her outside Teresa’s house (adjacent Photo) which looks more than a little provocative to me.
I do not see how anyone interested enough in politics to chair a hustings is ever going to have no personal bias, the skill is in hiding it. On that score I am not absolutely convinced that Eliot would be the perfect chairman. There is not a lot to go on but one thing worried me.
I imagine Eliot was still at school when the sponsor sent out the cancellation notice but by late afternoon he was passing it on to each of the candidates.
Unfortunately for Eliot half the candidates passed on his note to me and they were not all the same. Eliot had seen fit to wish the minor party candidates and Anna Firth ‘Good Luck’ but Teresa and Ronie Johnson (UKIP) got something altogether more curt.
Worse in my opinion was that the favoured candidates got a 98 word explanation for the cancellation. Labour and UKIP did not.
Those 98 words included…
The Labour candidate has made this very difficult and both myself and Erith.link have been the subject of rude messages and personal attacks on social media and email from Labour councillors and supporters.
It was when that message started to appear on Twitter and on the Erith and Thamesmead Conservative Association’s website that I began to look for justification. Anna Firth could provide none, she had not visited Facebook herself and I think she just assumed that what she had been told must be true.
Eliot has not come up with any evidence either and Facebook and the evidence therein has gone. Well perhaps not quite. Nobody in this game fails to take screen shots so I have recreated Facebook to the best of my ability. I don’t see any abuse. It doesn’t even get especially heated. Some nobody calls the Conservatives scum. Councillor Endy Ezenwata calls Eliot Smith a Poster Boy and I suppose he is, given that he peers out of Anna’s leaflets. In any case Eliot says he likes the epithet. (See first image above.)
I think Anna Firth is almost certainly innocent of direct involvement in the smear campaign and if I had to guess it would be that councillor Philip Read will be behind it all. Him calling Teresa Pearce a bully is a supreme piece of irony.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if at least one Twitter account was created specially to spread falsehoods.
Click the one shown here. Brand new account. Only four followers. Suspicious don’t you think and claiming just like Philip Read that Teresa Pearce’s silence speaks a thousand words.
Well Teresa may be reluctant to engage in such a dirt war but no one on the Tory side can show me a single thing Teresa has done wrong. She agreed to attend the hustings, she gave a friendly warning about possible expense problems based on her past experience but rude and difficult she most definitely was not.
Why is Anna Firth’s team making up this nonsense? Ok I’m guessing, but it’s a pound to a penny it is masterminded by councillor Philip Read. Anna Firth still appears to be an innocent at large as far as I am concerned.
Do take time to read through the Facebook recreation if you didn’t see the original, and tell me if you think Teresa has been rude. Even her more enthusiastic supporters were quite mild mannered by social media standards.
There may not be a hustings at six o’clock this evening at The Link but if you go there you will meet a candidate or two. They will be apologising for not being provided with the opportunity to answer voters’ questions.