Do the Liberal Democrats take the people of Birmingham for fools? That’s the obvious question to ask about the latest squirming of party officials over the Ayoub Khan affair.
When an internal party inquiry was announced a year ago, into the Election Commissioner’s findings that Coun Khan had behaved “scurrilously” by attempting to smear a Labour councillor, few people had much faith that the probe would turn out to be anything more than a whitewash – suspicions further fuelled when the party refused to give any details about the parameters of the inquiry, or indeed any commitment to publish the findings.
As to whether the inquiry has concluded and cleared Khan, which is the case according to Paul Tilsley, the deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, or is still continuing, which is the official explanation by a spokeswoman for Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, does it really matter?
Coun Tilsley, it would seem, has let the cat out of the bag by conceding that suspension of the inquiry pending Coun Khan’s failed attempt to clear his name was merely a “technicality”. We can expect to hear soon that the inquiry has, miraculously, cleared Coun Khan.
Well, that’s all right then.
Except, it isn’t. The Liberal Democrats continue to prop up in public office a man who was prepared to falsely accuse his Labour opponent of witness intimidation, an offence for which a jail sentence would surely have followed if there was a shred of truth in the claim.
If Nick Clegg’s claims to be cleaning up politics mean anything at all, he must start by sacking Coun Khan as parliamentary candidate and member of the city council cabinet.