Lib Dem councillor denies tactical vote slur

by Stephen Tall on July 11, 2007

The Lib Dem Voice posting on Monday, ‘Five Labour councillors switch to the Tories in Ealing’, provoked a large response – 54 comments at the last count.

Four of these comments (Nos 16, 20, 23 and 24) purported to be from Cllr Abid Latif Chohan, a Lib Dem city councillor in Manchester, claiming he would be supporting the Tory candidate in the Ealing by-election: “I have many friends in Southall, mainly muslim, who plan to vote for Mr Lit. I really hate Labour. Could we withdraw at this stage to give Lit a free run? We could devide the anti-Labour vote and let them back in. I don’t normally endorse tactical voting, but this time its right to do it. Have looked at the 2006 results and its clear that we’re not going to take it. As a liberal democrat councillor, I wish Mr Lit well.”

This was picked up by a couple of Tory blogs, and given wider circulation.

But all this has come as news to Cllr Chohan himself, who has written a letter to Simon Ashley (a fellow Manchester Lib Dem councillor) – which he has given permission to LDV to publish – categorically denying that he made the comments posted in his name:

Dear Simon,

Thanks for your E-mail regarding the Ealing Southall By-election.

I was disgusted to read these postings, which clearly were not done by me. I’ve never met this Tory, and would not urge Liberal Democrats to vote tactically for the Tories.

We were in second place at the General Election and have the best chance of beating Labour in the By-election.

Please forward this letter to our campaign team in Ealing, and let them know that they can use it to rebut these Tory dirty tricks in any literature they like.

I am proud to be a Liberal Democrat, and will be actively supporting Nigel Bakhai in Ealing Southall.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Abid Latif Chohan
Longsight Liberal Democrat councillor
Manchester City Council

So, once again, someone has decided to impersonate a Lib Dem in an attempt to belittle the party’s chances in the Ealing by-election, and big-up the Tories’. This is now the third occasion on which LDV has reported what appear to be dirty tricks, and follows Mark Pack’s exclusive yesterday, Grant Shapps says “realistically we’re not going to win” in Ealing, which was picked-up by today’s Times and Guardian.

However, this one is more serious, as it was not simply a question of impersonating an anonymous activist – this was an attempt to suggest a named Lib Dem councillor was openly backing a Tory opponent, with all the potential embarrassment that could cause Cllr Chohan. It’s high time some folks just grew up.

I’ve edited Cllr Chohan’s comments in the original posting to make clear that he has denied being their author. They will remain up for a couple more days to help put this article in context, and then they will be removed.