My, British politics is becoming litigious. First Shami Chakrabarti threatens to sue over “smears” about her and David Davis, and now David Cameron is talking about suing the Liberal Democrats over the contents of their Henley literature.
There is an instinct to say ‘grow up, it’s only politics’ but its about time the Tories started getting muscular about the lies told about them. Gordon Brown lied his way through the 2005 election campaign, saying the Tories would make £35bn of “cuts” when they (alas) promised not just to outspend Labour but to raise the tax burden too. If Brown repeated these claims in a document regulated by the London Stock Exchange he would go to jail. It’s literally an offence for a company to claim in listing particulars that it is “cutting”, spending when it fact it intends to raise it by a lower trajectory. But the Tories have generally laid back and let Brown’s lies be repeated by the press. Time and time again.
The rules that billboard adverts must tell the truth are actually suspended for political campaigns. This should not be. If the public cannot be misled about the quality of a toothpaste, nor should they be about the propositions of a government. Stuart Wheeler is heroically trying to make this case now over Brown reneging on his manifesto pledge to hold a referendum on the renamed EU Constitution. I doubt Cameron will get very far suing the LibDems, but his action will show Labour that – like Wheeler – he will use the law as far as he can.