'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

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Blogging's not dead

There have been quite a few pieces written about why Blogging is not dead in response to Stephen's article at Lib Dem Voice

One of them is from... Stephen Tall; and it's a very fair assessment of what's been written. And you have to admire Stephen's use of the Paul Dacre defence :-)

Others include...

Why you have to love blogging by @flipchartRick. Loved this

The demise of LibCon and the future of political blogging by Alex Marsh.

A Place for Amateurs by Chris Dillow

All reaffirm my faith in the power of blogging
The demise of LibCon and the future of political blogging (Alex Marsh)
Farewell, Liberal Conspriracy, I for one will miss you. (Richard Morris)
A place for amateurs (Chris Dillow)
- See more at: http://stephentall.org/2013/10/28/death-of-the-amateur-blogger-replies/#sthash.sbgJZ1nM.dpuf
The demise of LibCon and the future of political blogging (Alex Marsh)
Farewell, Liberal Conspriracy, I for one will miss you. (Richard Morris)
A place for amateurs (Chris Dillow)
- See more at: http://stephentall.org/2013/10/28/death-of-the-amateur-blogger-replies/#sthash.sbgJZ1nM.dpuf

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Standing firm on Green Taxes

Since I wrote it is has emerged that if green taxes are cut from energy bills, the costs will be passed on in general taxation, most likely by bringing more people into the 40% tax band by lowering the threshold, an amazingly progressive move.

If Nick and co can get a Tory Chancellor to bring in a progressive tax move to support the environment (shall we call it the #huskytax) I will take my hat off...

ConservativeHome thinks the Lib Dems are going to cave in to the Prime Minister after his rash policy-on-the-hoof announcement at PMQs yesterday – and start taking the green costs out of energy bills.

To quote the Tory blogger Mark Wallace, "they [the Lib Dems] know their position as the people preventing energy bills from being cut will not be tenable for long."

I think Mr Wallace is wrong.

Firstly, he forgets that this isn’t 2010 or even 2011. We’ve now crossed the rubicon and the differentiation strategy, so long promised, is in full swing. Hence the reversal on secret courts, clarification on Free Schools, the lists of Tory 'initiatives' we’ve stopped (the 'racist vans' campaign being the latest). That process is going to accelerate and the chance to expose the paucity of thinking from the Tories on energy is too good to miss. When David Cameron encouraged everyone to hug a husky, I had no idea he was actually outlining his whole energy policy.

Secondly, 75% of folk don’t blame green taxes for their energy bills. I suspect the 25% of people who do already vote Tory or have fled to UKIP. This doesn’t seem like much of a Lib Dem vote winner, so the politics don’t work. And thirdly, its a bad idea anyway. Around half the money raised in green energy taxes goes on schemes to help those in fuel poverty to minimise waste. I’d have said that making the poorest in society choose between heating or eating was a rather more "untenable policy position".

But that’s not really why the Lib Dems won’t be rolling over to get the Prime Minister out of a hole. It’s because just 36 days ago, Lib Dem conference was told:

"And if there’s one area where we’ve had to put our foot down more than any other, have a guess. Yep, the environment.
"It’s an endless battle; we’ve had to fight tooth and nail; it was the same just this week with the decision to introduce a small levy to help Britain radically cut down on plastic bags.
"They wanted to scrap Natural England, hold back green energy. They even wanted geography teachers to stop teaching children about how we can tackle climate change. No, no and no – the Liberal Democrats will keep this government green."

Nick Clegg’s words. No U-turning from there.

Mr Cameron, it might be time to pull on an extra hoodie. It’s the only energy policy you’ve got left.

Farewell, Liberal Conspriracy, I for one will miss you.

Sunny Hundal announced on Friday that Liberal Conspiracy will come to an end in its present form with immediate effect.

I, for one, was sorry to hear this news. Whatever you think of Liberal Conspiracy's politics, Sunny was a passionate blogger, an innovator in the field of blogging (as he points out himself, when it launched You Tube didn't even exist) and got some remarkable stories as exclusives. Plus he afforded a great platform for aspiring bloggers who wanted to get their message out. Like me

I wish Sunny all the best in his future endeavours.

Stephen Tall has attributed the demise of Liberal Conspiracy largely to the success of other multi author platforms like the Guardian's 'Comment is Free' The New Statesman's 'The Staggers' and the Spectators 'Coffee House' (and interest to declare here, I write a weekly piece for The Staggers). It is certainly true that these sites are offering the chance for amateur bloggers like me to reach a much wider audience than perhaps our own sites could reach, and they are getting some amazing readership figures.

However I don't believe that the death of Liberal Conspracy heralds the death of the independent blogger, as Stephen suggests.

Or at least, I think it depends on your motivation to blog.

 I started blogging because I wanted to express my thoughts and be part of the political debate.

Sure I love seeing my stats grow ( this blog get over 10k hits a month now), enjoy seeing what's popular and what's not, and love  it when things I write either get referenced or linked to by the more mainstream blogs and newspapers.

But it's the act of writing, of thinking things to write, of having an outlet to disagree with views I see expressed that I think are incorrect (like the predicted death of amateur blogging) that I like best.

I also like that on my blog I can write a thousand words on a serious policy issue, or 10 words on a cartoon I like, and each is equally valid. I can't do that on The Staggers.

And of course, I am my own editor here. My blog, my rules.

Sure, the blogosphere is getting bigger and the people leading the growth may well be the blogs run by the mainstream press. and sure, small independent blogs fall by the wayside all the time as people get bored, move on, choose to do something different or even just run out of time.

But we'll always be here.

And as Jennie Rigg points out there's one other reason to keep doing it.

Friday, 25 October 2013

David Laws has dropped me a line...

...and I expect he's dropped you one too.

But in case not - he'd like everyone to pile in with their thoughts on the manifesto. Which sounds like an excellent plan.

If you don't submit - you can't say you weren't asked...

So here's the letter and the links you need.

Lets get submitting!

Dear Richard,

As you know, as a Liberal Democrat member you play a key role
in deciding our policy.

We’re unique, no other party does this, and I want to make sure
that every member has the chance to make their voice heard as
we develop our 2015 manifesto.

Following the approval of our Manifesto Themes Paper by party 
conference we’re now moving onto the next stage of the consultation.

Firstly, we’re launching our new Manifesto Website, where every 
member can join the debate and shape the next manifesto.

Secondly we’re providing material to help local parties hold their 
own local discussions and running a regional manifesto roadshow 
which will visit:

o   Leeds – 12th November
o   Yeovil – 14th November
o   Tregynon – 16th November
o   London – 4th December
o   Birmingham – January (tbc)
o   Aberdeen – 30th March
o   Welsh Spring Conference (tbc)

Before 2010 it might have seemed fanciful for anyone to say that our 
manifesto would end up as Government policy. Now we’ve all seen 
the very real difference we have made by putting that plan into action 
in the last three years

Our 2015 manifesto is perhaps the most exciting in the party’s history, 
please do join in and make sure your voice is heard.

Best wishes,

David Laws MP

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Remember this, David Cameron?

Surely this tweet says it all

Presumably Hoody manufacturers are also waiting for the PM to turn on them? Although of course, that is the other half of Cameron's energy strategy (put on an extra jumper)....

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Pointless Lib Dem MPs

If you are not familiar with the popular BBC game Show, Pointless, the rules are very straightforward. 100 members of the public are asked a question and given one minute to give as many correct answers as they can to the question posed. Contestants are then asked to give correct answers which no one guessed, or in other words are 'pointless'

To quote the host, Alexander Armstrong, 'We're looking for the obscure answers they didn’t get'.

Remember that. Obscure answers. There is a serious point to all this...

So, to tonight's programme, and the question the final pair of contestants were posed. Here it is...

 Now of course, we would do well at this. But how did the folk on the programme do?

Well, to begin they were given a minute to give 3 potentially 'pointless' answers, correctly naming 3 Lib Dem MPs who no member of the public had ever heard of.

Here's who they went for.

Yes, I know.

How do you think they did?

Well, first off, how many members of the public named Vince Cable as a Lib Dem MP?

Yes. Just 19%. Not a pointless and therefore winning answer. But still..

Next up: Andrew Alexander...

 Of course: incorrect. They meant Danny Alexander, member of the Cabinet and Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Such is fame, eh.

And finally, Chris Huhne

Now, when the survey was done, Chris Huhne was still an MP; but not when they recorded the programme.

So given the chance, the finalists failed to name 3 Lib Dem MPs; they named just 1.

They then revealed who the pointless answers were; I suspect there were rather more than this, but time didn't allow...

Some surprising names there are there not? 2 cabinet ministers, the party President, the chief whip, another former minister, our longest serving MP...

Now, of course this is all a bit if fun.

But it does raise some interesting points?

First of all, even Vince Cable, probably our highest profile MP after Nick, gained just 19% points. Our MPs, even those in the cabinet, have a very low profile.

This is not a huge surprise. I have seen the results of research groups where when shown pictures, 1/3 respondents have failed to name the PM, and  less than half have correctly named the leader of the opposition. People are really far less interested in the characters and personalities who make up our political life than we think

Secondly, will this play well in the incumbency game? We set great store by the fact that our MPs are far more popular than the party is nationally (BTW, anyone noticed that You Gov has been giving us 9% for almost a week now...). But we mustn't overplay this. Of course local MPs will be better known in their own constituency than in a national straw poll - but not as popular as you might think. I've been told most people can't name their MP or any local councillor...

And thirdly -  we all need to get out more :-).

Sunday, 20 October 2013

A few thoughts on Nick Cleggs thoughts on Free Schools

Given Nick's pronouncements in the last 24 hours on Free Schools, a few things strike me...

1. As Stephen Tall has pointed out, this really shouldn't be news, in that Nick has just restated existing party policy.

2. The fact that lots of journalists think it IS news should give folk at Great George Street food for thought. As there are only 2 explanations. Either they haven't briefed journalists up until now too well on the party position - or it is so unusual for the leadership to think the same as the rest of the party in this area, that it's worthy of comment.

3. The latter is of course the more likely explanation - given that only in the last few days, the Lib Dem Minister for Education has been saying the opposite to what Nick said today, at least on teaching qualifications.

'Mr Laws: We want to ensure that teachers in schools have good qualifications and the capacity to teach. The hon. Lady [Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab)] will know, however, that there are plenty of teachers who may not have formal qualifications but who still do a superb job. We are ensuring, through the Ofsted inspection process, that every single teacher has the capability to teach. All classes are assessed for quality, and that is the right way to ensure a backstop of high standards'.

4. This is also the second time in the week that Nick has been publicly seen to take the opposite view from what many (I think a tad lazily) call the 'Orange Bookers'; today he contradicts the view of David Laws, last Monday he was sacking Jeremy Browne.

As has been recorded previously, both Laws and Browne  have been approached in the fairly recent past by the Tories with an invitation to defect. It will be interesting to see if they redouble their efforts to do so now.

But more to the point - this is probably the first significant move against the 'Liberal reform' wing of the party. How will this play out internally?

5. Presumably this move to differentiate ourselves from high profile Tory Policy is the latest installment of the differentiation strategy, outlined by Richard Reeves back in May 2010, and apparently still being pursued. You have to admire Nick's determination to hatch a plan and follow it through.

6. The big issue with '5' is of course - will the voters find it credible? Remember Nick has spoken in favour of Free Schools  and voted for them albeit with very clear conditions attached.

The first wave of free schools will open this week. The idea is that parent groups, charities and other organisations can open schools where they are not happy with the existing choice. It is controversial with many, and there are risks – but I am confident we have mitigated those risks to make sure this is now a policy which will promote higher standards, better integration, and fairer chances especially for children from the most deprived backgrounds.

'Let me be clear what I want to see from free schools. I want them to be available to the whole community – open to all children and not just the privileged few. I want them to be part of a school system that releases opportunity, rather than entrenching it. They must not be the preserve of the privileged few - creaming off the best pupils while leaving the rest to fend for themselves. Causing problems for and draining resources from other nearby schools. So let me give you my assurance: I would never tolerate that.
The Coalition has made it clear that our overriding social policy objective is improving social mobility. Reducing social segregation; making sure what counts in our society are ability and drive, not privilege and good connections.
Free Schools will only be acceptable so long as they promote those goals.'

(September 2011)

 I don't think anything Nick has said today contradicts that - but will the press allow it to be played like that? 

7. Finally - there is now doubt that Labour have been banking on keeping those 2010 Lib Dem voters who left the party, as this conversation illustrates rather well..

Are statements like today's a signal that the Lib Dems are now actively after those votes once again? Let's not forget what Tim Farron was saying just before conference...

'the people who are most likely to vote for you next time are the people who voted for you last time...You don’t write people off, they’re there to be persuaded to come back, or rather stay with us'.

Have I got too much time on my hands?

Everyone see the photo of Russell Brand and the editorial team at The New Statesman putting together this weeks magazine? Here it is... (click to enlarge)

Now, can I suggest  two theories as to the staging of this shot?

Theory One

A great deal of care, thought  and attention has been put into this. Here's the original

6 in from left, at the right hand of Jesus, Helen Lewis is playing John - but this figure is also often attributed to Mary Magdelene, who is mentioned as being at The Last Supper. Is Helen making a statement about the role of women in politics, airbrushed from the scene or even replaced by a man?

3 from the right, pointing and looking away, we have George Eaton playing Matthew - a tax collector. Should we interpret this as a statement about George's view on the role of tax, perhaps an implied criticism of the lack of attention on tax avoidance in the coalition government?

2 to the right of Jesus (as we look) we see Jason Cowley, editor of The New Statesman, playing, who else, but James the Greater. With a title like that, no co-incidence there I would have thought. Perhaps also Jason is aware that James was the first apostle (and generally is thought of as the first Christian) to be martyred - perhaps he's concerned this photo isn't such a good idea after all? He also has doubting Thomas whispering in his ear...

Rafael Behr (3 from the left) is playing St Andrew; Does this tell us he is he a closet supporter of Scottish Independence? Or does the fact that he is looking THE OTHER WAY from St Andrew in the original painting tell us the opposite?

And of course who is missing, from the photo? - why, no one is playing Judas? Is this a dig at Dan Hodges? 

All this can't be coincidence...

on the other hand...

Theory 2

...perhaps they just all thought it would be funny

Of course, there may be another reason entirely....

Retoxifying the Tories

My latest piece at the New Statesman is reprinted below, suggesting that the Tories have retoxified themselves. It's getting a lot of traction and I'd encourage people to pop over and see the comments in the original piece. Of course there is a lot of the normal trolling - but several commentators have also weighed in, defending the Lib Dems. This has happened a couple of times in recent months - is it the green shoots of Lib Dem recovery amongst the progressive vote?

Anyway, here's the piece...

Oh dear, I think the normally inestimable (for a Tory) Tim Montgomerie has had a bit of a senior moment. Writing in the Times yesterday, Tim laid the blame for the news that voters believe the Tories would have been very much nastier if they were governing on their own firmly at the feet of the Lib Dems. Apparently a few jibes from Vince and a list of the things we’ve stopped them doing in government have recontaminated the Tory brand.

Now, while there may be an element of truth to this, and I’m pretty sure Tim is now on top of Ryan Coetzee’s Christmas card list, I’m afraid the real reason lies closer to home; The Tories have done it to themselves.

Partly this is because of an endless stream of Conservatives who keep telling the world in general how we in the Lib Dems stop them doing what they really want to do. Eric Pickles is especially good at this. Maybe he’s the portrait in the attic to Tim Montgomerie’s Dorian Gray?

But it’s more than that. It’s also because they then tell the world just what they’ve got in mind. It wasn’t the Lib Dems who persuaded Theresa 'safe hands' May to announce that she wanted to launch an immigration bill that would  "create a really hostile environment for illegal migrants", leading the Institute of Directors to declare in response "It is pure sophistry to manipulate immigration figures by shooing to the door highly-trained international students with MBAs to make way for unskilled migrants from the EU."

Nor was it the Lib Dems who ran the 'racist van’ posters. The Tories didn’t even bother to tell us that was happening. Nor did we suggest they should be using words like 'scroungers' and 'skivers'. And it’s not all one-way traffic on the jibes front either - is it Mr Shapps?

But of course, there is a reason why the Tories have reverted to type and started dishing out the tough talk. It’s not the Lib Dems they’re worried about. It’s UKIP. Which is presumably why their hug-a-hoodie oak tree logo has metamorphosed into a Union Jack Bouffant, circa Thatcher 1983. And as long as the Tories are directing their fire at UKIP and trying to attract their core vote back, they will continue to remind everyone that they are the nasty party.

Frankly Tim, that's a lot more of a problem for you than a few Vince Cable jokes.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

A Party of Government or a Party of Protest?

I remain as bemused as ever by the use of the expression ‘ a party of government, not a party of protest’ by our Westminster representatives.

It is generally used to criticize the grassroots, when they kick up a fuss about MPs (or indeed Peers) actively supporting legislation which appears to deliver the opposite of party policy (although not, as we shall see, exclusively so).

The latest MP to use the term is of course Jeremy Browne in his interview in The Times, and ironically enough, the target of his ire on this occasion is not the membership but Nick Clegg. Apparently Jeremy’s sacking was a direct result of his trying to make the party look like a ‘Party of Government’ and his removal represents a swerve to the left, which is apparently where the Party of Protest lives…

I’d make a number of points about all this.

One of the problems all 3 of the main parties have is that the electorate increasingly sees them to all be the same. There was a time (up to around May 2010) when the Lib Dems were seen as rather different to the other 2 big parties, in terms of position, approach and tone. Indeed, we promised a different type of politics. People seemed to like it – which was why we gradually built a share of the vote. We have now lost that differentiation, largely as a result of our desire to be seen as a ‘Party of Government’ (like Labour and the Tories). The ‘not like the rest’ mantle seems to have been taken up, ironically, by UKIP. In polling at least, it seems to be working rather well for them.

Secondly, what is the point in being in government if you don’t deliver policies that reflect your central beliefs. There is of course a long list of stuff we have delivered in government – may I suggest that this is what will stand us in good stead come the next election, as will the long list of Tory initiatives we have stopped. Those things we have largely swallowed against our will are not going to benefit us, however much some may think we look like a ‘ Party of Government’. Sure, we may have HAD to do some of them to get some of the things we wanted to happen – but to pretend we’re glad of that would make us look like a bunch of hypocrites.

Thirdly, there is a touch of irony is there not that Jeremy, as a result of his fight to make us look like a party of government, finds himself removed from government. Surely there is a lesson there? I guess he didn’t get the differentiation strategy memo?

Finally, if we are to be seen as a Party of Government, I wonder if Jeremy (and others who use the Party of Government tag) will be as consistent should we find ourselves in coalition again, only with Labour? There is a tendency to regard the folk who populate the ‘Party of Protest’ as those from the SLF wing of the party, where the Liberal Reformers seem more comfortable with the Party of Government. Time may show us if this argument is more to do with political positioning than it is the good governance of Britain

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

How many formal investigations are there now into Plebgate. Go on, have a guess...

It's a little over a year since Andrew Mitchell resigned.

Not long after this, the story presented by the Police began to unravel, questions were asked about who leaked what, and investigations began. A lot of investigations..

Let's count them.

Investigation 1. Not a formal investigation - but representatives of the Police Federation met with Andrew Mitchell to try and get to the bottom of things - and emerged claiming that his position was untenable.

Here's a clip from the FT

Investigation 2. The Met police set up Operation Alice to investigate the original incident. No news yet on how this will turn out - although its certainly expensive.

Investigation 3. West Mercia Police then investigated the conduct of officers who had interviewed Mitchell, submitting a draft report in July and a final report in August

Investigation 4. The IPPC then investigated the West Mercia investigation, concluding that the conclusions of West Mercia Police were wrong - and (as reported in the Telegraph) "She (Deborah Glass of the IPCC) recommended that the three face a panel to decide whether they misrepresented what happened in the meeting and whether they had lied over what Mr Mitchell had said." In other words, there's going to be...

Investigation 5. A police investigation into the conduct of the officers. Another police investigation.

Meantime, it has emerged that someone changed the findings and recommendations between the draft report and the final report. No one seems to know who. But the PCC for Warwickshire knows the answer...

Investigation 6.

So, I make that 6 formal investigations.

There seems more than a touch of irony that the only investigation that has got anywhere close to revealing the truth is no 7 - the one carried out by Michael Crick for Channel 4

Meantime, Andrew Mitchell still waits for the apology he is surely due.

Thanks to the Daily Mail I had my most amusing Twitter exchange for some time yesterday

(If you're reading this on Lib Dem Blogs, you'll need to click on the link as its all pictures)

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Raising the Threshold on Income Tax; is it worth fighting the Tories over?

Raising the Threshold on Income Tax is a proud Lib Dem achievement, and one we rightly trumpet  - especially given the fact that David Cameron said it wasn't possible.

Now the Tories seems set to try and pinch it as a theme and Danny is going all out to stop them.

I'm just having a ponder about whether that's the right thing to do or not. and wondering if there isn't a better option.

You see, as this rather good article in the New Statesman points out, while raising the income tax threshold is good, it is not a panacea for all evils, nor does it really benefit the poorest in society (who already fall under the threshold) or many part time workers.

"It is regularly, for instance, billed as a tax cut targeted at the lowest earners. And, to state the obvious, someone on say £12k – who would benefit - is clearly on a low wage. Yet it’s important to realise that the proposed hike in the PTA from £10k to £12.5k won’t give anything to the lowest-earning 5 million workers in the UK, all of whom will earn less than the £10k threshold come 2015.
More specifically, it’s said that the specific rationale for a further hike in the PTA is to help those on the minimum wage which has fallen sharply in real terms over recent years. Trouble is, more than 60% of those paid the minimum wage – predominantly women - work part-time. Again, they don’t gain. So rooting the whole argument for going to £12.5k in terms of those toiling on the minimum wage is a bit of a stretch."

Many of the same points were made previously  in this article in the Independent that graphically illustrates who benefits most from raising the income tax threshold.

Now, on the other hand, this is a tax cutting measure that is easily understood by the electorate (albeit perhaps misunderstood), is popular with the electorate and most would agree we'd be mad to chuck it away. It also is of course popular especially with the squeezed -the-alarm-clock-middle-income Britain. And lets not forget, even the New Statesman article acknowledged cutting the income tax threshold was a good thing.

But wouldn't it be fairer if for the next step in our bid to help the poorest, rather than further raising the income tax threshold, we raised the National Insurance threshold?

This would benefit more people, and more of the poorest people. Plus if it were timed with a further reduction in the level at which the current income tax threshold is tapered off (currently around £100k) it would be a progressive move. And finally it should be just as easy to communicate and understand as the income tax move.

Wouldn't that be better? and fairer?

Or am I missing a trick, not spotting that in fact this would be evil socialism writ large, and I'm throwing away our most popular policy  - good economics perhaps, but bad politics (a bit like an energy price freeze in reverse).

Do let me know.

Why Theresa May's feelings may not get her very far, very fast

As you may know I have many problems with the immigration bill put forward by Theresa May last week.

Nick Cohen wrote an excellent analysis of why Theresa May thinks it's a good idea (or in politicians speak - 'a vote winner') - because, despite a lack of hard evidence (like the actual costs of health tourism), she 'feels' it's the right thing to do and 'feels' voters (especially no doubt those voters casting glances in the direction of UKIP) will agree with her.

"Britain's home secretary announced that she was cracking down on the "health tourists" who were using Britain's hospitals for free. The interviewer pressed her. How much money were these health tourists stealing from our pockets? May did not know. The Royal College of GPs, which ought to know, puts the cost at 0.01% of Britain's health budget – or next to nothing. When the European Commission asked Britain for proof that sly continentals were sneaking into our hospital beds, Whitehall replied that its demand for hard facts was an affront. "We consider that these questions place too much emphasis on quantitative evidence," it huffed.
Far from being embarrassed, Mrs May was triumphant. Feelings mattered more than facts. Her job as a senior politician with ill-disguised ambitions to become prime minister was to pander to popular prejudice rather than tell the public the truth.
People feel it is unfair that illegal immigrants can use services, she said. They "feel it's too easy to stay here illegally". They had the "feeling that people who are here illegally were accessing services", she continued, before degenerating into a babble of random noise, from which I just about made out that the "people" who had these "feelings" were, of course "hard working". "

Now, as I have written in the past someone in Theresa May's office knows a thing or two about communications and has clearly now told her that emotional messaging is more powerful than rational messaging. Which indeed it is. But luckily for us, that's only half the story.

When I was reading Nick's piece, I was reminded of these words from Dave Trott - one of advertising's finest thinkers - on why emotional messaging only works when underpinned with a rational message. Do read the whole thing (It's short , easy to understand and as always with Dave very direct) - but here's an extract...

"If your emotional mind had to sum up Volkswagen quickly what would it come up with?
I’m betting: reliable, solid, safe.
Now imagine if Fiat ran an advertising campaign with lots of emotional triggers for reliable, solid, safe.
Would that instantly change your opinion of Fiat to the same as VW?
I don’t think so.
I think all that rational advertising about cars that are solid, reliable, safe did that for VW.
What brought it alive, what made it stick, was the way they did it."

Fortunately, all Theresa May is doing is the pretty pictures and the nice music.

But without any of the rational underpinning. It won't stick

Women in Westminster

Here's something I've been pondering. Perhaps you could help me out.

We clearly do not have enough women in the Westminster Party and especially The Commons - just 7 out of 57 MPs, with 2 of those set to step down in 2015. We have no women in the cabinet, nor does it look likely that we will before the next General Election. None of this is good, it's a problem for the party and needs addressing. I think we all agree with that.

But then I read something like this from the LSE entitled 'Men only? The Parliamentary Liberal Democrats and gender representation'. Now, the piece  doesn't really say anything different from what I've just said above. But it really got my back up.


Because it's a very one eyed view of the issue. The author seems to have made no effort (or has conveniently forgotten) to find out what the party is doing to address the issue - for example, the nomination in key (and very winnable) seats of Julie Porken, Jane Dodds, Lisa Smart and Layla Moran.

So I took took to Twitter to bemoan the one eyed ness of the piece. But it's left me wondering. The article is clearly one sided - but I do concur with its central point: we may be making some progress but do we do still have a problem getting enough women into Westminster.

So should I just shut up and leave be? Or am I right to call the LSE up on it?

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Why I'm glad Norman Baker is in the Home Office

My latest from the New Statesman.  In the original I note many of the links didn't work. Naturally - I suspect a conspiracy...

Nick Clegg has been on something of a drive to rehabilitate his civil libertarian credentials in recent months after the Secret Courts debacle (my word, definitely not his), nuking the Communications Data Bill, reversing the party’s position on Secret Courts, and securing numerous compromises over the Lobbying Bill.
But the latest step – putting Norman 'conspiracy theory' Baker into the Home Office seemed, for many non-Liberal Democrats, a step too far. "Did the Freemasons stage the moon landings? If so, new Home Office minister Norman Baker will find out…" and "Norman Baker is a green-ink crank – Theresa May will be furious with Cameron and Clegg for appointing him" are two of my favourite reactions from recent days.
Leaving aside the fact that driving Theresa May to distraction seems a perfectly acceptable reason for appointing him, as many will testify, Norman Baker has been an effective and admired minister at Transport and he’ll do a brilliant job in the Home Office. But – and I’m going to be a touch 'conspiracy theorist' myself now – could there be another reason for Norman’s appointment?
There has been disquiet in recent weeks among the Lib Dem grassroots about the lack of vocal outrage in the parliamentary party about the Prism and Tempora revelations, which presumably went some way to 'helping' Nick make the decision to make a change at the Home Office. But could it also be that Nick knew that the security services were about to make another play to bring the Communications Data Bill (aka the Snooper's Charter) back to the table?
How else to interpret the words of the new head of MI5, Sir Andrew Parker, when he said last night?
"Retaining the capability to access such information is intrinsic to MI5's ability to protect the country. There are choices to be made including about how and whether communications data is retained. It is not, however, an option to disregard such shifts with an unspoken assumption that somehow security will anyway be sustained. It will not. We cannot work without tools."
It looks like the debate about the rights of the security services to retain data about UK citizens is going to start all over again. And if it is, I, for one, feel happier knowing I’ve got a green-ink using, card carrying conspiracy theorist sitting in the Home Office. And, I guess, so does Nick Clegg.
Good luck to you, Norman.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Quite the best thing I've read for ages on Civil Liberties, Snowden and the NSA

This piece from Robin Lustig, called 'When secrets mustn't be kept secret' is quite the best thing I have read on civil liberties, the NSA and the whole Snowden affair - well probably anywhere. It is a response to the speech by Sir Andrew Parker, Director General of MI5 to the United Services Institute earlier this week. I commend it to you wholeheartedly. Here are a few highlights but do go to Robins site and read the whole thing. It's absolutely worth it.

"At the centre of the mass of material that has emerged is not the allegation that the security people are monitoring everyone -- which would be patently absurd -- but that they have the capability to monitor anyone. It's not the same thing at all, as Mr Parker knows full well. He is, as you would expect, a master of the "non-denial denial", in other words, he is categorically denying something that hasn't been alleged"

"Let's pretend this discussion was taking place in a pre-internet world. Out of the woodwork comes a security service insider who tells us that MI5 have entered into a secret agreement with all the country's major key manufacturers that enables them to open the front door of any house in the land, to enter any home, and to rifle through any filing cabinet and desk drawer. No search warrant required, no oversight in place"

"I don't expect them to tell us every time they tap into the email account of a suspected jihadi bomber. I really don't need to know which websites they're monitoring, or which Google search terms set alarm bells ringing at GCHQ. What I do need to know is that someone, somewhere, outside the security bubble, does know, and has authorised the surveillance. In theory, that's what is meant to happen now. In practice, well, let's say there's room for doubt …"

 Do read the whole thing, it's great.

As a final addendum I noticed this statement from David Cameron yesterday - and tweeted my reply. here it is.