Well, speaking to Steve this weekend, it seems that the campaign by Caroline Righton (the Conservative candidate for the seat) has got nasty. She has misrepresented Steve - either deliberately or stupidly - in an email she has sent to local residents and also appears to have told a porky pie about her ability to check the facts of her story too.
Last Wednesday, both Steve and his Tory opponent had been invited to two different events - one a question time sort of radio debate, broadcast live on Radio Devon, the other a last-minute invite to a meeting about the regeneration of St.Columb, a key town in the constituency.
Now, Steve had been down to ask a question to the panel at the radio debate but took the view that the local issue was more important than getting a bit of exposure on the radio - so withdrew from that to go to the St.Columb meeting. The Conservative took the opposite view, getting herself on radio and just giving apologies to the local regeneration forum. I'll leave it to local residents in Cornwall to decide which approach they think is best.
But here's what Caroline did next. Like lots of PPCs, Steve uses both Facebook and Twitter to keep his friends and supporters posted on what he's doing. After that night's meeting he Twittered:
The next morning, Caroline Righton sent an email to local residents saying she had been forwarded Steve's Twitter update and including it... but look how it changed between actually being on Twitter and appearing in the Tory's email:
"stephen_gilbert was at meeting about regeneration of major town (declined by Tory PPC); Tory PPC at a publicity stunt (declined by me).... D***h***d!!!"
Now, that puts a rather different complexion on it. She goes on to say:
I was sent the comment below by a constituent who is privy to my opposition's Twitter emissions, which I am not. Apparently his asterisk'd comment is highly abusive.
She might not have liked Steve highlighting their different priorities when it comes to helping local residents or getting on the radio, but it is obviously an outrageous smear that she is telling people that Steve made an offensive comment on his Twitter - which is open for anyone to look at!
She also suggests that she couldn't see what Steve wrote herself, although the screenshot here shows that she has an account and that Steve is in fact one of six people she is 'following'. She has even Twittered herself about the radio debate that night. So it wouldn't have been hard for her to check her facts before she sent out this underhanded smear to residents.
So, what I think Caroline needs to tell us is if she knowingly lied as part of a very deliberate smear campaign - or was it just stupidity in adding in the rude word which presumably a fellow Tory and supporter added to Steve's Tweet (either as their own offensive comment or as part of a deliberate smear campaign)?
Steve's office has asked her to set the record straight with the local residents she sent this email to and to apologise for it - as, four days later, they have had no response, I think this deserves a wider audience! We'll hopefully get an explanation from the St.Austell & Newquay Conservatives at some point...
Just to be absolutely clear - you can see Steve's actual Tweet, timestamped, still there for all to see on his Twitter page here. No offensive language - that was added in by the Tories.