If I were Iain Dale, I’d be feeling either rather foolish or rather cross with Grant Shapps. Why? Well it’s because of the allegations about Liberal Democrats and election poster displays which Grant Shapps persuaded Iain Dale to run on his blog.
Iain wrote at the time:
There must be some rather compelling evidence for Grant Shapps to make this direct accusation.
However, no evidence has ever been provided – although numerous people personally involved in Liberal Democrat poster campaigns have denied the story (and, to be fair to Iain, several of these denials were published in comments on his blog).
But scratching under the surface the story gets murkier.
One former Liberal Democrat poster person (Hywel Morgan) emailed Grant Shapps, pointing out possible future employers would know of his involvement in poster campaigns and that there could be serious repercussions for his employment prospects if allegations about illegally postering were left hanging in the air.
How did Mr Shapps respond? He emailed on 4 July admitting that, well, he didn’t have any decent evidence:
I do not have a list of the by-election contests which were alleged to be involved in this practice
Nor did he go on to provide any evidence at all for the claims.
So, there are two possibilities here. Either (a) Iain published the story without asking Grant Shapps what the evidence was (which would be foolish, and surely not what a respected political commentator would do*) or (b) he asked and was assured that Grant Shapps did have good evidence, which would have been, err…, untrue.
Oh, and by the way – Grant Shapps did promise that an unnamed media organisation was researching a piece and was planning to run a “major package” in the next fourteen days. That deadline expired on July 19th, and no – no such package ever surfaced.
* If you are suffering apoplexy at this point, pause to consider that you may have missed a smattering of irony.