'Sparpling' tactics run deep within Conservative Party

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries

'Sparpling' was referenced in relation to Nadine Dorries - Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire/PA Images

A personal view from East Devon Council leader Paul Arnott.

East Devon District Council leader, Councilor Paul Arnott. Picture: Paul Arnott

East Devon District Council leader, Councilor Paul Arnott. Picture: Paul Arnott - Credit: Archant

Some readers may recall my thanking Susie Dent in January for disinterring the 14th century term “to Sparple”, meaning 'to deflect unwanted attention from one thing by making a big deal of another'.

At the time, the excellent lexicographer from Countdown was thinking of Nadine Dorries’ first meddlings with the BBC, which happened to come at a time when Partygate was reaching the boil.

Since then, Ms Dorries has meted out more sparpling against Channel Four as Partygate continues on a high simmer.

Local people might think we had an advantage in influencing the thoughts of Ms Dorries, as Simon Jupp, the MP for the western part of East Devon, sits on her Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

Surely an old broadcast hand like him will be explaining to her kindly the self-destructive idiocy of her proposals? Presumably we can rely on his voting all this down?

Then, just last month, I wrote about the local East Devon Conservatives fondness through their recent MP, Sir Hugo Swire, for raising party funds at exclusive auctions from close associates and family of Russian oligarchs. I posed the local party a couple of questions.

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Can they confirm none of their past local campaigning has drawn on their Russian-sourced HQ funding, and confirm that future elections and campaigns will be wholly free of that dirty money? And will they join me in an appeal to the PM that all Russian cash in their bulging funding pot is returned?

Curiously, no reply has been made to any of these questions, even though Mr Jupp, like me, is lucky enough to have a weekly column in the Herald/Journal newspapers. We look forward to his clearing this up next week.

Little did I know that the timing of these questions was inadvertently right on the money. For no sooner had I asked them, than the East Devon Conservatives advertised a full time job for someone to spearhead their local election campaigns in the coming year.

Taken with the basic salary, employer’s contributions, expenses and so forth your local Tories have somehow managed to rustle up £40-50,000 for this role.

In some ways, Independents such as me should take this as a compliment. The Tories have obviously lost all confidence in their local ability on the ground to run any kind of campaign.

Lucky them, though. People like me standing have to raise every penny for leaflets on our own, with a tiny amount of help in my case from my group, the East Devon Alliance, with the odd sign or placard.

Yet during the worsening Cost of Living crisis, rather than donating to a food bank, Mr Jupp and Mr Parish have authorised their pictures to be on a massive, full colour leaflet pushed through letterboxes across East Devon.

So, Simon and Neil, who is funding these leaflets, and who is funding your soon to be employed campaign manager?

The leaflet itself is, of course, such a fine specimen of Sparple that it should be saved for posterity.

My administration inherited from 45 years of Conservative rule a) unmaintained toilets b) car park charges from 2010 c) an external sports provider they had invented which despite its best efforts has taken a thumping in the pandemic.

Therefore, we have had to launch an entire new operation to save, restore or hand over local loos. We have sorted out car parking charges.

We have kept LED going on the basis of a promise from the Chancellor that he’d back us. As Messrs Jupp and Parish well know, their government has welched on the deal.

You wouldn’t know that from their Soviet-era propaganda as they misdirect the public on all these topics like Nigel Farage spouting in a saloon bar.

They even invite local people to swell the ranks of their councillors. Worth having look at the photo, though, for the all-male welcome awaiting you.