'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Sunday, 24 May 2015

So. Alistair Carmichael. Time for me to bite the blogging bullet

I feel very sorry for Alistair. He is an incredibly hard working MP and a lovely man who has been nothing but polite to me.

No doubt that sways my judgement. But...

Here’s my two pennies worth

1.     If MPs resign every time they are proved to have old untruths we’ll have none left. Which is a pretty depressing state of affairs but a fact. So Alistair shouldn’t need to resign. Unless everyone who's ever told a journalist a great big porkie is going to do the same (more of that anon).

2.     That isn’t to say Alistair shouldn’t be reprimanded (punished is a crap word in this context). The decision of the party to take no action is quite wrong and leaves a very bad impression

3.     The argument that Alistair has been punished because he gave up his severance pay is not really accurate (even though it is a good gesture and the right thing to do). You shouldn’t get to choose your own punishment. I would rather he had kept the money until someone else had decided what an appropriate reprimand would be.

4.     Ditto the ‘he would have resigned’ argument. He didn’t. So that’s not a reprimand either.

5.     The main victim here is not Nicola Sturgeon. It’s the poor civil servant who wrote the original memo who got dropped right in it and could have got in all sorts of trouble. The stress they will no doubt have been placed under should not be overlooked

6.     The SNP have set a very high bar. Every time we catch one of their MPs telling great big fibs they can expect a whole load of folk calling for their resignations. As Michael White says –

7.     8 Lib Dems served in the cabinet in the last government. 3 of them did things worthy of resignations. That’s not a great record for the party of the new politics. This makes me sad. 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Um. I really think, with hindsight, we would change our General Election campaign. Wouldn't we?

While I think Ryan Coetzee's analysis of the Lib Dems #GE2015 campaign is often right,  one  paragraph stands out for me

"Should we have run the campaign differently, given what we knew? I don’t think so. We correctly identified the threats facing us on each front, and did our best to counter them. We made a coherent, liberal case to the voters, offering both a strong economy and a fair society. There are of course improvements that could have been made to the design and execution of the campaign, as there always are, but in retrospect it is difficult to imagine a different campaign producing a significantly better result"

Now of course its easy to be clever after the event. But it seems, frankly bizarre, that Ryan doesn't think we should have done anything differently. It's those 4 words. "I don't think so".

It seems self evident to me that, given the results, OF COURSE we should have run the campaign differently.

I happily accept that, given the evidence available, decisions were taken in good faith that seemed completely sensible at the time. But those decisions were evidently wrong. And we should have taken different action.

Let me give you one facile example. Ryan correctly (in my view) observes that we fought the campaign on 3 different fronts - anti SNP, anti, Labour, anti Tory. And adopted 3 separate strategies as a result.

To any party with frankly limited resources, that's madness. Remember, the Tories largely didn't do that - even with their huge resources. They concentrated on one core strategy in the campaign - emphasising the bogeyman of a Labour SNP coalition. They knew this would hurt the SNP, Labour and us. It wouldn't especially hurt UKIP - but they didn't let that get in the way.

Many will no doubt say we had no choice - am I saying I would have abandoned 2/3 of our sitting MPs to adopt a strategy that would save 1/3? Difficult, I agree.

But if we had done we would now have more like 18 0r 19 MPs than 8. 

So to suggest our strategy was the best it could possibly be and with the benefit of hindsight we would still have done the same thing, is, frankly, nuts.

Or of course we could have adopted Plan B. We joined in with scaremongering about the SNP, basically ruling out any perceived possibility of a coalition with Labour in voters minds as a result.

Supposing we'd done the opposite? Said we would work with the SNP? Not on nationalism of course - but on general domestic policy? Wouldn't many soft SNP voters have come back to us in Scotland? Wouldn't soft Labour have come back to us in England and Wales?

I don't know they would. But I'm reasonably sure our election results wouldn't have been any worse

So to answer the question Ryan posed. "Should we have run the campaign differently, given what we knew?" I'm afraid given where we ended up - it's a big YES from me.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Protect The Human Rights Act....

and sign the petition here......

And find out why you should protect it here

And while we're at it - I'm still not clear which of the rights below the Tories find objectionable

  • the right to life;
  • the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • the prohibition of slavery and forced labour;
  • the right to liberty and security of the person;
  • the right to a fair trial;
  • prohibition of punishment without law;
  • the right to respect for private and family life;
  • the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
  • the right to freedom of expression;
  • the right to freedom of assembly and association;
  • the right for men and women to marry and found a family;
  • the right to peaceful enjoyment of personal property;
  • the right to education;
  • the right to free elections;
  • and the prohibition of discrimination.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Nominate Tim Farron

If you're a member f the Lib Dems, you can nominate your preferred candidate for leader (in fact candidates need at least 200 nominations from a minimum of 20 local parties)

So click on this link and you too can nominate Tim Farron to be leader - as I've just done.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Even the Labour Party agrees that having the Lib Dems in government is a good thing


The New Statesman agrees that having Lib Dems in government is a good thing - a brake on the Tories

The Guardian agrees that having Lib Dems in government is a good thing - a brake on the Tories

And now...

The Labour Party seems to agree too

They have put out a press release concerning news that George Osborne is about to have a new budget, saying

"Two Budgets in four months from the same Chancellor raises questions about what he’s planning. The country cannot afford a sharp turn to the right"


We did say.

As indeed did David Cameron..

Saturday, 16 May 2015

It Could be You (but it probably won't be). Or why I don't like the phrase "Social Mobility"

Social Mobility

It seems such a harmless phrase doesn’t it? It so fits with our ambition that folk can progress free from the shackles of poverty, ignorance or conformity. So we use it often.

I don’t like it and I want us to stop using it.

Why so.

Partly because mobility goes both ways. Up and down. I don’t want people moving up and down the escalator of life. I want them only to move up. I want everyone in the first class seats.

But more because the phrase ‘social mobility’ has become the language of winners and losers.

It’s become associated with tales of folk with what is now called a fabulous back story (another phrase I detest). ‘He was the only the son of an immigrant shopkeeper/bus driver/office cleaner who attended an inner city comprehensive school but went to Oxbridge and became a millionaire banker before dedicating his life (and enormous bank account) to public service’ goes the usual schtick…

It’s the lottery winner strategy – it could be you (but it probably wont be).

It’s the argument used in America that means inheritance tax there effectively starts at…wait for it… $10m. There’s a tiny tiny tiny proportion of Americans who ever have to pay it but try and reduce it to say, $9m – and folks are up in arms, even thought they’ll almost certainly never have to pay it, because you never know – they might win the lottery and they would have to (except they wouldn’t – their relatives would…oh let’s not get into that. Watch this brilliant video from John Oliver who makes that point much better than I will).

But anyway – I’m not interested in social mobility for the winners.

Which is why I’ve started to use the term Social Progression instead. I think it says more about a general wish for society as a whole to move forward. And it hints at a more progressive society as well (none too subtley).

So no more Social Mobility please. Just Social Progression.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Why I'm supporting Tim Farron to be the next Leader of the Liberal Democrats

We're incredibly lucky in the Lib Dems that even when we have just 8 MPs, we still end up with 2 fantastic leadership candidates like Tim and Norman. Pity the poor Labour members, who are struggling to find any enthusiasm for the names currently appearing.

Norman would be a wonderful leader for the party - intelligent, well informed, incredibly hard working, terrific experience, steeped in liberalism and I hugely admire his work on mental health. If he wins, I will gladly follow him.

But I am supporting Tim Farron for the leadership.

There are 3 broad reasons.

1. Tim represents my own views

We justify the the last 5 years by crying (and endlessly listing) "look at all the brilliant things we've done". And that's fair enough. We have done many many fantastic things. But like the errant husband, betrayal is a bitter pill to swallow, no matter how many times you say you're sorry and point out that you've mowed the lawn beautifully and taken the bins out on time every day for 5 years. And many people still feel betrayed - and not just outside the party - by Lib Dem MPs supporting tuition fees, signing off on the original NHS white paper, secret courts, the bedroom tax...

I think to some degree, I'm one of them. I love that we're a party where members dictate policy - and I still can't shake off my disappointment, despite everything else, that too many times our MPs trooped through the wrong lobby, against party policy.

Tim largely did not do that. He largely voted the way I hope I would have done. Not every time by any means. But enough to make me feel he best represents my views.

2. Tim is not a conventional politician

I suspect he's had a lot of media training. I'm sure he chooses his words carefully. But there is a sense with Tim that what you see is what you get, that what you hear is really what he thinks. That there is no hidden side to him. He is distinctive , different, unusual even - and I want that in a leader. He is cut from a different cloth to most political leaders. And we need that.

3. He can unite the membership

I doubt there are many folk reading this blog who haven't either met Tim, seen him talk, had a direct e mail or a tweet from him. He's even had a pint with me in my local. He feels like one of us. He's a natural communicator. That's why so many members love him. And the country will love him too.

And then I have a fourth reason.

And it's this speech. Which outlines Tim's philosophical and intellectual position on liberalism. I believe him, it's what I believe. And imagine how dull Ed Miliband would have been making the same sort of speech

And in a nutshell - that speech is why I am supporting Tim Farron to be the next leader of the Lib Dems.