When some Respect supporters claimed that the item we published last night regarding the attack on a pensioner in Bethnal Green was a ‘fabrication’, fellow Harry’s Place blogger David T stated that: If having looked into the details, it is clear that this story is false, then it will be retracted.
I have been looking into the story throughout the day and in the meantime have made avaliable the responses from Respect/SWP supporters and the official statement from Respect.
I have yet to find any information that indicates the post published last night is incorrect. I currently have no plans to retract the story.
I have however learnt that not everything in Respect’s response is true.
Respect say in their statement that:
The original argument was said to have occurred in Poplar. This is not within the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency – therefore canvassing on George Galloway’s behalf would seem unlikely. But anyway, we had no canvassers out at the time claimed.
This is not only evasive, it is incorrect. The attack happened in Bethnal Green and Bow Constituency not in Poplar. I am informed that it took place on Commercial Street south of Spitalfields Market. Respect’s mentioning of canvassers is odd – do Respect really claim to know what all their supporters were doing at the time of the attack?
Another problem with Respect’s ‘defence’:
They say: In his statement when interviewed by the police Mr Dobrovolski did not claim that he had been assaulted by a Respect supporter or that a leaflet had been left on his body. It was only seven days later, and through New Labour, that this allegation was made! The Metropolitan Police, in an advisory to the press, substantiate this.
I am informed that Bethnal Green Labour Party have been in touch with the police who informed them that in fact no such advisory has been issued and therefore there is no substantiation of Respect’s claim. The only statement issued by the police so far is an appeal for witnesses.
Then we have a very strangely worded comment from George Galloway himself which is the nearest we get to a denial from him:
George Galloway said that he would be calling on the police to re-interview Mr Dobrolovski. “I feel very sorry for him,” he said “but New Labour are cynically using his battering to assault our campaign. The attack simply cannot have occurred in the way New Labour are portraying it.”
Labour are not ‘using’ Les Dobrolovski. I understand that it was the victim himself who contacted the Labour Party.
In fact it is Mr Dobrolovski who has given the details of his attack, which were then made public. Galloway’s phrase is an evasion of the victim’s account not a denial of it.
As for the rather obscure argument about the particular kind of leaflet that the attacker was carrying, I’m afraid I cannot throw any light on that. In fact I am not aware of Labour claiming that it was any particular leaflet. At any rate, the report that we had on the site last night made no reference to the kind of leaflet at all.
It is instructive to compare the reaction of Galloway to this brutal attack on a 69-year-old with the response when threats were made against him.
I don’t recall anyone from the Labour Party, any one from any other party or any of the writers on this blog, questioning Galloway’s story. People took his word that it was a true account of what happened.
No one suggested that he was trying to make political capital out of the alleged incidents even though he received blanket press coverage as a result of the threats. Those who were alleged to have threatened the former MP were condemned and interestingly, when he was the one facing the heat, Galloway was all in favour of calming down the campaign.
But Respect are unable take the word of Les Dobrolovski and their supporters who have come on to this site making comments have effectively accused the man of lying. That is shameful. I see no reason to doubt this man’s word.
It does seem to be the case that Respect/SWP have lost control of their supporters. There have been other reports from a Brick Lane Shop keeper who has been threatened by Respect supporters for having Labour posters up in his shop. This has been reported to the police. Then there has been the egg throwing and verbal insults directed at Oona King herself.
No-one has suggested that this is a deliberate strategy of violence and intimidation from Respect’s leadership but Galloway needs to face up to his responsibilities. He needs to control his supporters and ensure that intimidation won’t be a part of this election campaign anymore. Yet the Respect statement contains not a word of condemnation of violence nor any call for calm.
On Thursday George Galloway pulled out of an agreement to keep the atmosphere calm and reduce the chances of intimidation at polling stations.
You have to ask why?