While campaigning in local elections elsewhere in the country focused on local issues, that for the London Mayoralty was turned into one where some of the nastiest dog-whistle tactics seen since the 1960s were deployed by the Tory Party to try and frighten voters off casting their ballots for Labour challenger Sadiq Khan. It was divisive and vicious. It crossed the defamation line more than once. And it was a complete failure.
deflected and smeared by telling voters about all those Scary Muslims (tm) who Khan allegedly backed.
Except he didn’t back any extremists: Sadiq Khan was the extremists’ worst nightmare, a modern and progressive Muslim voice who had supported same-sex marriage and thereby lost the support of his local Iman, Suliman Gani, who transferred his support to the Tories. For this, he was defamed - twice - in the Commons by the Prime Minister. Dead cat deployer supreme Michael Fallon was still defaming him this morning.
Goldsmith put his name to another vicious hatchet job on Khan in last weekend’s Mail On Sunday, whose message was “Vote for the Muslim and he’ll bring another 7/7 to London”. The perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, that well known deniable branch of CCHQ, constantly smeared Khan by telling time and again of those with whom he had “shared a platform”.
This lame attempt at “Guilt by association” was taken up by the likes of the loathsome Toby Young - still spinning yesterday afternoon - who protested that it wasn’t racist to say that Khan had, yes, “shared platforms” with some who held extreme views. It’s interesting to know that Staines and Young are so stupid that they think anyone would be convinced by this tactic. And in the end, very few were convinced.
All the smears, all the divisive rhetoric, all the dead cats, they came to nothing. Londoners overwhelmingly voted for Sadiq Khan ahead of Zac Goldsmith, the eventual margin of victory being a thumping 13.6%. And that was when the Tories’ nasty tactics of frightening voters into the polling booth hit the buffers. Because, as Owen Jones has pointed out, the racism and Islamophobia was not Goldsmith’s idea. It came from the top of his party.
It wasn’t just the cheaper end of the Fourth Estate and their boot boys in the blogosphere. It wasn’t just the musings of a political dilettante. It wasn’t just spraying the credibility of London’s own paper, the Standard, up the wall (will it ever recover?). It wasn’t just the importation of dog-whistle politics. It was a concerted, deliberate and co-ordinated campaign of division of hatred from the party of Government.
The Tories will have that hung round their necks for years to come. And rightly so.