Dale blows a gasket…

If the last couple of days have convinced me of anything, its that I am deeply grateful that Iain Dale failed in his efforts to become a member of parliament at the last general election because, quite frankly and on his strength of hysterical efforts to smear Tom Watson on a trumped up charge of breaching electoral law, Dale’s presence in the House would have only visited further degradation on the already declining intellectual standard of the legislature.

Let’s start at the beginning with the post of Tom Watson’s that triggered off Dale’s latest hissy fit.

Who is Tony Lit?

This by-election is getting very surreal. So much so, that I’m beginning to think that the Tories are running a fictional candidate. Yesterday, Andrew Gilligan, in a two page Evening Standard spread on the Conservative candidate wrote “[Tony] Lit does not live in Southall…preferring the leafier environs of the Chiswick-Isleworth border for himself and his young family”. There’s one small political problem with this. There is no Tony Lit registered to vote in Chiswick. I know he only joined the Conservatives last week but running a candidate who isn’t registered to vote strikes me as just peculiar.

Its a simple enough scenario.

1. The hastily parachuted-in Tory candidate in Ealing Southall gives his name as ‘Tony Lit’ on his election paperwork.

2. Andrew Gilligan notes in the Evening Standard that Lit doesn’t live in the constituency but resides, instead somehow on the Chiswick-Isleworth border.

3. Tom. or someone working for the party in Ealing Southall checks the electoral roll for the area and finds no sign of a ‘Tony Lit’ – and one would presume also no ‘Anthony Lit’ either.

4. There is, therefore, no one by the name of ‘Tony Lit’ registered to vote in area given as the place of residence of Tony Lit, the Tory Party candidate in the Ealing Southall by-election.

And this is precisely the information related by Tom is his first post.

By way of response, Iain Dale ran with one of his usual overheated ‘exclusives’:

EXCLUSIVE: Labour Breach Electoral Law in Ealing Southall

Tom Watson, Labour blogger and MP, is running the Ealing Southall By-Election campaign for the Labour Party. Later on this evening, he’ll be forced to make a very humiliating apology for this blog entry. He wrote…

There is no Tony Lit [the Conservative candidate] registered to vote in Chiswick. I know he only joined the Conservatives last week but running a candidate who isn’t registered to vote strikes me as just peculiar.

As usual Dale is off on his favourite ‘there must be an apology’ hobby horse – even if he never did quite get around to apologising to three of the journalists who challenged him over a completely unsubstantiated claim that the press had been leant on by Gordon Brown’s PR team – and even further enraged by Joan Ryan’s temerity in putting the question of Lit’s seeming non-appearance on the electoral roll straight to Gideon George Osborne:

Sadly for Ms Ryan and Tom Watson they haven’t done their homework. In fact Tony Lit is on the register under his full family name (Labour recently changed the rules so that you can stand under your common name). He has voted in every election since he was 18. Tory by-election supremo Grant Shapps has now written a stinging resposte [sic] to Joan Ryan (who was axed from her Home Office job last week) pointing out that it is in fact illegal to publish false statements about candidates under electoral law.

Dale’s referring to section 106 of the Representation of the People Act which does, indeed make it unlawful to make false statements about the personal character of an election candidate, and which states:

“A person who, or any director of any body or association corporate which–

(a) before or during an election,

(b) for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at the election,

makes or publishes any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate’s personal character or conduct shall be guilty of an illegal practice, unless he can show that he had reasonable grounds for believing, and did believe, the statement to be true.”

For an offence to have been committed. should a case be brought against Tom, the prosecution would have to show not only that this information given was false but that:

a) That Tom has deliberately lied about Lit,

b) That Tom could have no reasonable belief that the information given was true, and

c) That Tom intended to affect the outcome of the election with his statement.

I showed Iain’s comments, and the letter written by the Tories campaign manager, Grant Shapps, to a friend, who also happens to be a barrister, and his response was:

You have got to be kidding… A prosecution based on that? What a complete waste of time.

Still, the whole episode, thus far, did yield up one useful piece of information, ‘Tony’ Lit’s actual name, as it appears on the electoral register is, in fact, Surinderpal Singh Lit, which obviously shortens to ‘Tony Lit’ doesn’t it?

Still, armed with this new piece of information, Tom appears to have done a bit more digging into Mr Lit’s background, which I guess means that both Dale and Shapps can whistle for their apology:

Who is Tony Lit?

It remains the case, that there is no Tony Lit registered to vote in either Chiswick or Richmond (and certainly not in Ealing or Southall). It is true that a Surinderpal Singh Lit is registered to vote in Chiswick, just as he was previously in Richmond. Though not in Ealing or Southall. I do not think it unreasonable to have assumed that the man the Conservatives are telling the voters of Ealing Southall is Tony Lit is, in fact, called Tony Lit.

The fact that “Tony Lit”’s six company directorships are not only held at three different addresses but in three different names does not add clarity to the questions I raised yesterday.

It appears that almost the only time that the Conservative candidate is Tony Lit is when he is campaigning in Ealing and Southall.

In Chiswick, where he claims to live, as in Richmond, where he used to live, it appears that he is Surinderpal Singh Lit. In his business directorships, he is sometimes Tony Surinderpal Lit, usually Surinderpal Singh Lit, and only occasionally (when working with Himalaya Shows, Events and Exhibitions Ltd) is he Tony Lit.

“Tony Lit” is the first by-election candidate I have encountered whose claims about not living in the constituency seem to lack verisimilitude.

The Conservatives will not be surprised that voters all over Ealing and Southall are asking “Who is Tony Lit?”. One of the few things we know about Tony Lit, as I said yesterday, is that no such person is listed as registered to vote in Chiswick, where he claims to live. Another is that of the different addresses associated with “Tony Lit”, under his various guises, spread out all over West London though they are, none seems to be in Ealing or Southall.

For the rest, we remain as baffled as are the people of Ealing about what is becoming the question of this campaign; perhaps you would care to shed some light on it: who is Tony Lit?

Quite.

And this bring Dale back into the fray with yet another demonstration of his own stellar ignorance:

Tom Watson Sinks to the Depths (Again)

Am I alone in thinking that Tom Watson’s* latest post on the Conservative Candidate in Ealing Southall is, well, borderline racist?

So, simply posing the question as to why a Tory candidate is using two aliases, one of which happens to be the name under which he’s standing for election, in addition to his legally registered name is racist, is it?

Why?

It seems a reasonable question to ask of anyone standing for election irrespective of their ethnic origins. Its not as if Tom’s quibbling over a matter of transliteration from Panjabi to English or a literal Anglicisation of a Panjabi name.

So far as I can tell, the name ‘Surinderpal’ is some kind of reference to ‘god’ (‘Sur’) although quite what exactly is unclear, while the name Anthony, of which Tony is a diminutive form, comes from the Latin family name ‘Antonius’ – as in Mark Anthony – the exact origins and meaning of which are unknown but thought to be Estruscan.

It seems to me that if anyone is sinking into the depths here its Iain for trying to deploy such an obvious, transparent and ill-conceived smear and giving the appearance of having resorted to playing the race card when he doesn’t get his own way.

It’s also complete rubbish. He’s no raising a canard about Tony Lit’s directorships being registered at different addresses. Big ****ing deal. Mine probably are/were too. Ooooh. Big conspiracy.

Well, if Iain does suspect that he may have any current directorships in which the registration details are incorrect, then he really ought to look into it a little more thoroughly, as if he has and any change in registration details occurred more than 14 days ago then he’s committing an offence under section 288 of the Companies Act 1985:

288. Register of directors and secretaries.

(1) Every company shall keep at its registered office a register of its directors and secretaries; and the register shall, with respect to the particulars to be contained in it of those persons, comply with sections 289 and 290 below.

(2) The company shall, within the period of 14 days from the occurrence of:

(a) any change among its directors or in its secretary, or

(b) any change in the particulars contained in the register,

send to the registrar of companies a notification in the prescribed form of the change and of the date on which it occurred; and a notification of a person having become a director or secretary, or one of joint secretaries, of the company shall contain a consent, signed by that person, to act in the relevant capacity.

(3) The register shall be open to the inspection of any member of the company without charge and of any other person on payment of such fee as may be prescribed.

(4) If an inspection required under this section is refused, or if default is made in complying with subsection (1) or (2), the company and every officer of it who is in default is liable to a fine and, for continued contravention, to a daily default fine.

(5) In the case of a refusal of inspection of the register, the court may by order compel an immediate inspection of if.

(5A) Where a confidentiality order made under section 723B is in force in respect of a director or secretary of a company, subsections (3) and (5) shall not apply in relation to that part of the register of the company as contains particulars of the usual residential address of that individual.

(6) For purposes of this and the next section, a shadow director of a company is deemed a director and officer of it.

And Dale goes on to say…

And maybe I may have registered one in the name of Iain Dale and one in the name of Iain Campbell** Dale. Obviously I am a criminal.

I’d check that if I were you, Iain… just to be on the safe side. You know what they say about being careful what you wish for…

Actually, to be clear here, there may well be nothing wrong if Iain has registered companies with and without using his middle name, although that does depend rather on how Companies House view such things and whether they would consider that to be a change of name or not. In strict legal terms, if they did see that as a change of name, then Iain would have been required to register both ‘Iain Dale’ and ‘Iain Campbell Dale’ provided that both had been in use within the last 20 years.

That’s covered by section 289 of, yes, the Companies Act 1985.

Now, admittedly, Companies House has much better things to do that run around chasing people for minor screw-ups in their paperwork and tend not to enforce the whole fines business on these sections provided that the important documentation, the annual return and annual accounts, are filed correctly and on time, but that’s something of incidental matter because, as some Tories are very fond of saying, the law is the law and must be obeyed, and that doesn’t really leave much wriggle room for a response like ‘Big ***ing deal’.

So, getting back to ‘Tony’ Lit for a second, the name thing may or may not be a big deal, depending on whether or not he correctly disclosed past variations and aliases when registering his companies, but the address thing is a bit more of an issue as what the law requires is that he registers his usual place of residence with Companies House and that he notifies them of any change of address within 14 days of the change – and the same goes for a change of name, nationality, business occupation and any other directorships held by the director.

Mr Watson’s lawyers may have some extra communication tomorrow I suspect. What a prize arse he is making of himself.

Says the man who making allegations of illegal electoral practices that don’t stand up to scrutiny, displaying an entirely cavalier attitude to company law and casually lobbing in the race card for good measure.

Is this really Iain Dale, or is Dale on holiday somewhere having left Praguetory to ghost-write his blog for a few days?

And so, after some maundering inquiry about Tom’s middle name, we come to this:
And here’s a response which a reader has emailed which hasn’t yet appeared on Tom Watson’s blog….

Tom,
I think you’re digging yourself a bigger hole here and need to back out fast. The content of your first post was that the Conservative candidate Tony Lit was not registered to vote. Now you seem to be backtracking by using the exact name “Tony Lit” where-as before you were intimating that the candidate was not registered.

No, that’s not what Tom’s doing so far as I can see.

Having received information as to Tony Lit’s actual name, he’s clarified his earlier remarks and placed them in their proper context, which is, of course, only right and proper when one receives notice that one has made an inadvertent, if entirely understandable, error as a result of Lit choosing not to stand for election under his given name

The different pseudonyms that Tony uses in his different business directorships is a red herring.

Not necessarily – it does depend on whether or not one complies with sections 288/9 of the Companies Act.

Many professional people use different names for different purposes. For example, my wife’s name is Gayle Ould but she publishes academic papers under the title Dr Gayle Ritchie. This is because she published before we got married and now after changing her surname she doesn’t want to confuse people. If someone was to challenge her and say, “Dr Gayle Ould” has never published an academic paper”, then you would be incorrect. This is exactly the same situation with Tony Lit.

No it isn’t the same situation at all, unless the woman in question is required by law to register her particulars with a regulatory body in much the same way that Lit, and his businesses, are required to maintain accurate records and make notifications of changes to Companies House.

The use of a different name is irrelevant – the candidate Tony Lit is registered to vote (in the same way that the candidate “Tony Blair” at the last election was registered as “Anthony Blair” – different name but same person) and you need to back down gracefully. Just admit you were wrong – we all make mistakes from time to time.

Oh well, if bullying and running off at the mouth about legal action that’s never going to materialise fails, you could always try and wheedle an apology out of Tom – it isn’t going to work, but its amusing to watch.

And you know what the funniest part in all this is?

All the faux outrage from Tory bloggers has achieved nothing… well not quite nothing as it’s very successfully pushed Tom’s post up in to the top ten search result on a Google search for ‘Tony Lit’ and not far short of overtaking the Tories own announcement that he was to stand in Ealing Southall – it’s about now that Tory bloggers should be picturing the scene in the Bug Bunny cartoon where Elmer Fudd morphs briefly into a braying jackass.

UPDATE:

Couple of matters to clear up…

1. To the anonymous individual who emailed querying the title of this post can I just point out that a ‘gasket‘ is ‘a rubber, metal, or rope ring, for packing a piston or placing around a joint to make it watertight‘ – I suspect you may be thinking of a Gascon, which is a completely different thing and really no one’s business but Iain’s.

I would strongly advise that you avoid any public speculation on the particulars of the question you posed as you to seem to have got completely the wrong end of the stick and would suggest that you invest in a dictionary.

There are some filthy-minded sods out there, I tell you…

2. There are numerous reasons why accurate registration of the personal details of company directors matters, for all that Companies House don’t tend spend too much time chasing people over it. To give but one example, one of Companies House’s many statutory duties is the maintenance of a public register of disqualified directors, individuals who are prohibited from serving as a company director or company secretary for a defined period as a consequence of having been found to have been involved form of serious wrongdoing or unlawful trading.

Clearly, a requirement in law that directors and company secretaries must provide accurate and timely information and maintain their registration information in good order is essential to the enforcement of disqualifications.

That not to suggest, in the slightest, that this has any material bearing on this particular issue or on that of the majority of other directors whose registration details may be in error or out of date at any given time – the vast majority of such errors stem from mere oversights or a lack of knowledge of the full requirements of the Companies Act and are easily corrected once noted. As mentioned, Companies House are not particular proactive in enforcement of such matters and tend to confine their interests to the correct submission of annual returns and, particularly, annual accounts unless specific concerns are raised about a particular registration that gives them cause to look more closely.

15 thoughts on “Dale blows a gasket…

  1. Pingback: Bob Piper
  2. I shouldn’t laugh at someone’s misfortune, there is probably no connection between Mr Dale’s brain, assuming he has one, and his fingertips. It is all making what would otherwise be a rather dull and boring by-election quite interesting. I thought it used to be the case, that when a MP died in office, out of respect the other parties would not contest the election?

  3. Chuffin’ Nora, talk about clinical dissection..

    “So, simply posing the question as to why a Tory candidate is using two aliases, one of which happens to be the name under which he

  4. Pingback: Bloggerheads
  5. I think, Iain, that the pertinent question is; “Is that the best you can do for a rebuttal?”

    You’ll eaten alive if you ever reach the Commons.

    Thanks for responding to my polite email on this subject, BTW. Your time, effort, fairness and sincerity when dealing with criticism is always appreciated.

  6. It is quite common for Asians to adopt an Engish first name, especially when their actual first name is hard for English speakers to pronounce. As an example, a boy at my school was named “Steven Singh.” The name need not have any relation to their “real” first name. To not know this is ignorant and suggests insulation from ethnic minorities. To know this and to make a point about it, implying that it is in some way dodgy, *is* borderline racist.

    This reminds of how Labour activists treated Eddy Shah in the 80s. They always liked to make sure that everyone knew that “Eddy” wasn’t his “real” name.

  7. Charles.Pooter it depends, If there is no evidence that a ‘Tony Lit’ exists anywhere except as a candidate that it is not entirely unreasonable to identify exactly who this character actually is, what he does, what he is like, etc. To immediately suggest that they are being racist is just like when any criticism of Israel is immediately called ‘anti-Semite’ by some sections of the media. Labelling it so quickly without any evidence or rational reasoning degrades the real meaning of the word.

  8. “Labelling it so quickly without any evidence or rational reasoning degrades the real meaning of the word.”

    I would argue that the same could apply to the word ‘stalker’, which has been bandied about all-too-readily in recent months.

    Knowing someone’s real/full name can also help when doing research into their past. Often, just knowing their middle name can make all the difference.

  9. Sorry Charles, doesn’t sound any more of a convincing canard in your expanded version that it did when Dale posted it originally.

    You see the problem with your argument that it implies that what Tom is seeking to suggest is that Lit’s adoption of the name ‘Tony’ is either a deliberate artifice designed either to conceal his ethnic background or to present a favourable and largely benign image consistent with Cameron’s efforts to promote as ‘integration’ as a key theme in Tory social policy.

    In the absence of further information as to when and why Surinderpal metamorphosed into ‘Tony’ one cannot reach any judgements on the first point – it may well have been a name adopted in childhood in order to make life a little easier for his peers, or it may be originated as nickname amongst those same peers, or he well indeed have adopted the name on starting his business career, having reached the view that becoming Tony would open doors that might otherwise have been closed to Surinderpal.

    None of that, however, is of any relevance to a by-election campaign in which, for every obvious and visible reasons, it would be impossible to conceal his origins, at least in broad terms – the best he could do would be leave the matters of his religious identity, such as it might be, and the national origins of his family open to a degree of uncertainty.

    As for the latter possibility, that is ruled out simply by it being well established that Lit has an identity under the forename ‘Tony’ that long pre-dates his newly chosen political career.

    That said, one must also take into account which constituencies within the local electorate, if any, might be influenced in the voting intentions by knowledge of Lit’s ethnic background, which for the most part would come down to some traditionalist white Conservatives, who may find some reassurance in his Anglicised identity, and some orthodox religious Sikhs, for whom Lit’s adoption of an Anglicised name is of marginal to no importance when set against his decision not to project a specifically religious identity by wearing the 5Ks, the visible symbols of the Sikh faith. Against that, his choice of an Anglicised forename is an irrelevance.

    You see the problem with your argument is that it will appear convincing only if its addressed to an audience with, at best, a simplistic and un-nuanced appreciation of the complex social dynamics and religious/cultural mores of minority communities.

  10. “You see the problem with your argument is that it will appear convincing only if its addressed to an audience with, at best, a simplistic and un-nuanced appreciation of the complex social dynamics and religious/cultural mores of minority communities.”

    All very interesting but I don’t see how the “complex social dynamics and religious/cultural mores of minority communities” have any bearing on Tom’s intent. Either he didn’t know that the adoption of English names or nicknames is quite common amongst some ethnic minorities, which is ignorant but forgivable or he *did* know but wanted to imply that it was in some way dodgy. Well, actually, he didn’t imply it, he pretty much said it *was* suspect. Do you think it is suspect?

  11. Pedantry Time:

    “preferring the leafier environs of the Chiswick-Isleworth border for himself and his young family

  12. Give that the information appears in quotes in Tom’s blog post, I’d say it comes direct from Gilligan’s article in the Standard.

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