With Keir Starmer, Angela Rayner and all other Labour party workers now completely cleared of breaking Covid rules during the Hartlepool election, the grubby politics behind the accusations are clear. Both the Labour Leader and the Deputy Leader had stated that they would resign if found to have broken the rules, unlike Johnson and Sunak who felt that being convicted of an offence should be no impediment to holding the highest office in the land.
The unabashed political campaign to discredit the Labour Leadership was led by the Mail brand newspapers, as devastatingly laid out by James O’Brien on his LBC radio phone-in programme.
The claims that Covid rules were broken had been investigated by the police months before and were found to have no basis, so why were they resurfacing? An attempt to dilute criticism of Boris Johnson over his lockdown breaking parties and deflect attention in the run-up to local elections was evidently the barely concealed reason.
The Tories needed a distraction
The Mail led the national gaslighting campaign, but were aided and abetted by the apparently publicly minded Richard Holden, Tory MP for North West Durham, who pressured the police to re-open the investigation on the basis that he didn’t believe that they had understood the law they were supposed to be upholding.
To support his ‘legal assessment’ of Police ignorance of the Law he drew a comparison with fines issued to politicians in Westminster, which he seemed to deduce were issued as a result of “the presence of cake in a Tupperware box”. In addition to his ‘legal analysis’, Holden also accused the City of Durham Labour Party of advertising an ‘in person’ quiz and social event with encouragement to attend and engage in heavy drinking – linking this to the picture of Keir Starmer with his dinner time beer, and implying that he was attending the event.
The accusations were utterly false, as the event was by Zoom and the claim of invitations to heavy drinking based on a Facebook typo ‘greasy’ instead of ‘great’. Holden must have known this, but it did not stop the Mail from gleefully reporting his accusations as part of the distraction campaign. Mr Holden claimed the ‘Urban Dictionary’ defined ‘greasy night’ as a night of heavy drinking. There are numerous suggestions for the meaning of ‘greasy night’ in the Dictionary, the latest being ‘When you need to make up a phrase to discredit your political opponents to the police.’
The local Labour Party was horrified at this barefaced manipulation of facts and demanded an immediate apology. In her letter to Holden, Labour Party Chair, Ms Williams accused him of wasting police time and having “unjustly and unfairly accused me and others of knowingly organising an unlawful in person event in breach of the Covid regulations”.
Do as you would be done by
Knowingly false accusations, the resulting waste of police time and resources and the devastating impacts the accusations may have on the innocent falsely accused, are something we can all speculate on, but Richard Holden has actual personal and devastating experience of just such events. In a piece written for the magazine Conservative Home:
‘The horrifying tale of how I was baselessly charged with sexual assault – and what it says about the police and CPS’,
he describes the terrible personal effects over 15 months of being falsely accused, before being finally acquitted by a jury. Holden highlights the huge public cost of the police investigations and the significant financial costs for the falsely accused. He is also very critical of the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.
How is it that someone who has lived through that, resurrected their lives and their career, and is now responsible for upholding the values and direction of the Nation in Parliament, lightly and apparently cavalierly throws false accusations and smears at others for what would appear to be only grubby political advantage? He knows where such avenues lead. One would only hope Mr Holden re-reads his own article and seeks to own again the values that he felt were under threat from his accuser and the Police during his own prosecution. Maybe with Boris Johnson now quitting (hopefully – though the greased piglet may yet make a move to hang on), Mr Holden might have found that journey a little easier, but his recent ironic tweet suggests perhaps not:
“After protestations from some of my team, I want to reassure my constituents that my staff have been told that curry and beer are not “reasonably necessary for work” and anyone thinking of turning up intoxicated & smelling like a “greasy night” out will get short shrift. RH”