A Labour councillor who took an “unwinnable” seat from the Liberal Democrats did so by using smear campaign against her opponent, a court has heard.
Miranda Grell, a 29-year-old aide to the Deputy Mayor of London, appeared to have a glittering political career ahead of her.
A rising star in the Labour ranks, she had been photographed with high-profile figures, including Cherie Blair and Jesse Jackson, and many saw her election to Waltham Forest Borough Council, East London, as the first step on her road to high office.
But yesterday, the Manchester and LSE graduate appeared at Waltham Forest magistrates’ court accused of labelling her rival a paedophile to win the seat. The court heard that Ms Grell told voters that Barry Smith, an incumbent Liberal Democrat councillor, slept with underage Thai boys and was “dirty”.
Mr Smith, 56, a high-profile member of the council cabinet who has a long-term, 39-year-old Malaysian partner, lost his seat by 28 votes. He broke down in tears yesterday as he told of the impact that Ms Grell’s alleged lies had on him.
Gareth Branston, prosecuting, said that during her election campaign Ms Grell, whose parents came to England from Dominica in 1973, told voters: “Don’t vote for Barry because he’s a paedophile.” She led a “whispering campaign” designed to play on constituents’ “fears and aversion to paedophiles”, he claimed.
Ms Grell, who cites Barbara Castle and the suffragettes among her political heroes, is charged under the Representation of the People Act 1983 with four counts of making false statements about another candidate in order to gain an electoral advantage.
She denies all the allegations. Paul Williams, for the defence, said that the accusations against her were “some sort of a Liberal Democrat group conspiracy” and that the court case was now being used as “a political weapon” to attack Ms Grell.
So, if she's guilty, then a relatively senior Labour official and councillor has been caught spreading obscene lies about a political opponent. Lies, indeed, which could potentially have put him in quite serious danger; Mr Smith said in his evidence that after the lies were allegedly spread, he was threatened and spat at in the street.
Or, if Grell is innocent, then the Lib Dems would appear to have brought about a court case in a bid to smear an opponent, and individual Lib Dem supporters might even have committed perjury.Either way, it doesn't look good, does it?