'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

Saturday 30 April 2011

Wish I'd had this to hand yesterday

A load of my friends asked me yesterday why I was voting 'Yes to AV'. They were worried that a YES vote would make it easier for the BNP to get elected. I explained how the BNP was campaigning for a 'NO' vote, that they were more likely to be elected under FPTP. I hope I convinced them. Then I came across this video.

It makes the point simply and clearly. I've just sent it to them. Hope it does the trick.

Mind you, I think they could have chosen a slightly more positive voice over..

Friday 29 April 2011

Discussion Point Magazine: Anyone have a strong opinion either way?

The good people of on line magazine Discussion Point have asked me if I'd consider contributing stuff to them?

On the face of it, they look like a worthy and respectable bunch. But I know little of them having not run across them before. Anyone experienced them, or care to proffer an opinion?

All advice gratefully received.

Thursday 28 April 2011

Lib Dems on the Mall: It's like a 3D version of 'Where's Wally?'

I see of the 500 odd members who responded to the Lib Dem Voice survey, just 1% (ie 5) are planning on lining the streets to cheer on the happy couple tomorrow.

I am one of them. My daughters have insisted, and to be honest, I think we'll have a right old laugh. Until it rains.

Anyway, if the other 4 Lib Dems attending are reading this, look out for 3 kids probably dressed as Disney princesses and two parents carrying a lot of support gear. That'll be us.

See you at Horseguards....

Dan Snow explains AV

Best I've seen so far. brilliant.

Osborne: slightly less socially aware than Cameron?

As a follow up to my last 'Cameron - the mask slips' post, here's a great quote from Osborne and accompanying comment from Johann Hari

'He said recently that his school, St. Paul’s (annual fees: £30,000 a year) was “incredibly liberal. It didn't matter who your parents were. Your mother could be the head of a giant corporation - or a solicitor in Kew.” That’s his internal vision of the social spectrum in Britain, with those pauper solicitors in Kew begging at the bottom.'


They don't get it, do they? Or at least, George doesn't...

I've warned in the past about how good David Cameron is with words. I'm big enough to admit that I may have been wrong about that....


I've blogged in the past about how David Cameron uses language very well, in order to mask his 'not-from-our-world' ness by using both the words and the phrases of everyday folk.

He was at it again today. Using a familiar phrase, one that his spokesman has defended by saying 'I think you will find it is a popular advert'. Cameron wasn't just trying to put down his opponent, he was also subliminally trying to send out a message to the public, 'look, I understand the language of everyday culture, I watch the TV, I even know the adverts.'

But this time (ha! ha!) he got it wrong. Patronising. Sexist. Supercilious. He sounded, to coin that phrase, less like a man who owned the place, more like a man who didn't care who owned the place. And we probably saw his true colours.

Liberal Conspiracy had a good insight into the world of David Cameron the other day (You'll have to swallow a lot of anti Nick Clegg bile, but hold your nose and have a gander anyway).

And Johann Hari (in a much longer piece about Ed Miliband) highlighted a few other examples...

'It only happens for a second – but once every few months, Cameron's spin-mask slips, and his real assumptions about Britain and its class system seep out. You could see it when he said his multimillionaire aristocratic wife is "highly unconventional" because "she went to a day school". You could see it when he called himself part of "the sharp-elbowed middle class", as if being worth £30m and getting your first job by getting the Queen's equerry to call up and demand to know why they didn't let you past the interview stage is "the middle" of British society. And it was there in a recent factory visit, when he defended the trebling of university fees to the workers he met by asking: "Do you think it's right that your taxes are going to educate my children and your boss's children?"

Think about the assumptions behind that. So nobody in that factory would have kids who go to university – but irrespective of their abilities, Cameron's kids definitely will, and so will their bosses '.

So while Cameron definitely knows what he's doing with language; and while he's very deliberately doing it to play like the man in the street (here's a few other choice examples) - you can take the boy out of Eton - but you can't take the Etonian out of the Prime Minister...

PS. Take another look at Nick Clegg's reaction to Camerons words. Straight lipped, no laughing. Good response. He could see Cameron played it wrong. He got it right.

Good is the enemy of great...

The latest Lib Dem Voice survey poses a series of adjectives and ask us which we are happy to describe ourselves as.

To be honest I was blithely ticking loads of them when suddenly I got pulled up short by one in particular.


Now I've blogged on this before. In adland we say that good is the enemy of great. That you shouldn't just settle, you should always fight for the very best.

In politics we say something rather different.

Yes, we'd rather have PR - but we'll settle for AV if that's the best on offer

Yes, we want to abolish tuition fees - but we'll settle for a fairer way of paying for tertiary education

Yes, we'd like to abandon nuclear power - but we'll settle for a mix of options that reduces our overall carbon footprint.

Now, as a result of this pragmatism, we hope that the world is a better place after we have acted than before - even if it isn't quite as good a place as we'd like it to be.

But then something else happens.

Because we settle - we get criticised.

Why are you supporting a 'miserable little compromise'?
Why did you sign a pledge against fees?
Why did you say no to nuclear - and then allow new stations to be built.

This is the conundrum all politicians face.

Be radical, pure and principled - but get little done. Indeed, when I've advocated a principled approach I've been hammered on LDV as for being impractical.

Be pragmatic, cautious and (small c) conservative, and get hammered for being a hypocrite.

Yet it's a choice all of us in politics have to make. And I find it very tough.

Which is why I still don't know if I did the right thing around that box on the survey marked 'pragmatic'.

PS Of course, it would help if all politicians didn't try and make everything into a black and white issue all the time. 'An ethical foreign policy' is an example that readily springs to mind...

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Thank you Mark Pack...

..for adding me to your blog roll. Genuinely chuffed.


I found these 5 great blog posts all my phone, all on my train trip home yesterday. The Lib Dem blogosphere's hot right now!

Enjoy them.

1. 'An Unexpected Inheritance' from Mark Valladares at The View from Creeting St. Peter.

While I really want the House of Lords abolished and a fully elected Upper House - I can't deny I'll miss stuff like this...

By the way - Mark - sorry, I had no idea about your blog when I named this one. Honest! ! Hope you don't feel I've been camping out on your territory.

2. 'Election for new Parliamentarian starts this week – by AV', from Mark Pack at Mark Pack's blog

Mark Pack highlights a curious election going on in..The House of lords. Who would have thought it...

3. 'Gag removed. Job Done' by John Hemming

John Hemming rights a wrong, with no help from the Speaker. Great work by him, but is this really the way democracy works? Blimey.

4. 'Will Nick Clegg now get a proper Office of the Deputy Prime Minister?' from Jonathan Calder on Liberal England.

Afraid you'll have to scroll down to find it, but worth the effort.

5. 'What is Nick Clegg trying to say about Cameron?' from Paul Cotterill on Liberal Conspiracy.

Well yes, of course its very irritating, but if you skirt over the Nick Clegg bile , what it says about Cameron is very thought provoking.

Isn't this the best opening to an article you've read all week?

'By a quirk of the calendar, the next eight days will bring two defining national events. One will give the people of Britain a chance to express themselves on the system under which the country has been run for longer than anyone can remember. And the other is the AV referendum'

Read the whole thing here. Hats off to Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian

The Mid Week Collection

The 5 best things I've run across this week...

1. From John Lewis to workers' co-ops: these Tories love wrongfooting the left.

John Harris in The Guardian. Great piece. Very thought provoking. And full of ideas we should be nicking, pronto.

2. Death of Tul Bahadur Pun
Alex Folkes on 'A Lanson Boy'. Too easy to forget the people behind the campaigns. Alex keeps it real.

3. The Lib Dems no longer have interns…they have volunteers
The Virtually Naked blog once again makes a winning point. Charlotte and the crew are on fire at the moment. They are required reading...

4. A general election this year? It's no longer impossible.

Jackie Ashley. It will make you spit. But it will make you think...

5. Larry the No 10 cat catches first mouse ... finally
The Guardians poltical correspondent with the best story of the week. Well, frankly it's more interesting than most of the AV stuff around...

And as a bonus:that Baroness Warsi car crash interview again. Sorry. I can't just see it enough times.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Well of course Nick's a bit grumpy. He's probably suffering from a touch of 'Paul McCartney Syndrome'.

Imagine this. You're the best paid actor on US televison - despite the considerable handicap that you are British and play an American character. You are also one of the best selling novelists in France. An excellent sportsman, you were a Cambridge rowing blue. Last year, you played piano on Meatloaf's new album, this year you've launched your own blues guitar album, to wide critical aclaim. You are, by anyone's standards, a high achiever.

And yet, as you lie awake at night staring at the ceiling, you know back at home, everyone still thinks of you as the less talented half of Fry and Laurie. And that must hurt. And it makes you just a tad of a grump.

This is what a very talented planner called James Hillhouse once described to me as 'Paul McCartney syndrome'. Sure you wrote 'Yesterday' and 'the Long and Winding Road'; and of course you were part of the greatest band the world has ever seen. But you're still thought of as the slightly less talented half of that songwriting team and get the Frog Chorus hung round your neck at every turn. And despite the multiple nice houses and fast cars, and even though you know you're still one of the luckiest people alive - it still rankles.

Of course its even worse if - like Hugh Laurie and Paul McCartney, you have similar backgrounds and experience as your 'other half '. Which brings us on to Nick.

People keep saying Nick looks tired, that he's struggling with the pace, that's he's disenchanted with leadership. All of which I think is nonsense. But I do think he's a bit grumpy. Here's why.

Nick was elected Leader of our party in his early forties - and led us into government for the first time in 80 odd years. While there, in the first year, we've introduced the Pupil Premium, a Freedom Act and we're weeks away from a referendum on a major step change in the way our government is elected. Lib Dems litter the cabinet and every government department. By any standards, Nick Clegg has achieved an awful lot.

And yet. And yet..

Every day he must stare at David Cameron - a man elected to lead his party at the same age he was. A man in the top job, not the deputy top job. A man who's riding high in the opinion polls on his performance, while you get the blame for everything that goes wrong. And there's only one of you getting dog poo shoved though your letterbox.

Despite everything he's managed to achieve, that must be hard. And Nick wouldn't be human if it didn't hurt, nor if, try as he might, once in a while he let it show.

He's suffering from Paul McCartney syndrome.

Thursday 21 April 2011

Always good to see the other side getting a proper kicking

I think this interview with Baroness Warsi is going to be featuring on my 'mid week collection' for about the next 10 years. It's brilliant. If you're Yes to AV, click on the link , sit back and enjoy. Hats off to Liberal Conspiracy for blogging it and Adam Boulton for doing the interview!

People of Britain: Listen to me!!

Except they’re not listening to me. In fact they are not listening to any of us. That's why the AV turnout is going to be disturbingly low...

I’ve blogged previously about my frustrations at getting anyone to pay attention to the good things the Lib Dems are doing; it’s basically because so many people have lost their faith in us (thanks to both real and perceived u-turns) that while we may be doing an awful lot right, no-one is willing to engage.

I’m afraid much the same is true about the AV referendum.

My friend Peter – who is a very bright soul and an excellent historian – said to me the other week (and I’m paraphrasing here) that the AV Referendum was probably the most important constitutional (and therefore political) event in 100 years – and yet he was struggling to get excited about it.

Various of the great and the good have tried to explain why no one’s very interested in the AV campaign. This ranges from it generally being dull, mendacious (No campaign, I’m looking at you), confusing, and uninspiring all round.

I don’t think so.

I think it’s down to trust.

People haven’t lost interest in politics – look at the support people like 38 Degrees get for their campaigns or the attendance at the TUC March a few weeks about – people haven’t stopped caring.

But they have lost faith in national politics.

They lost faith in Labour and the Tories some time ago (the former more than the latter – as memories fade of past Tory misdemeanours)

Now they’ve seen us in power – and truth to tell, despite many of the great things we’ve done, an awful lot of people don’t trust us any more either.

Hence turn out will be lower. If people are feeling let down by the three big national parties, they are not going to hurry over deciding how a load of national politicians should be elected.

I suspect they would rather go on a march. Or indeed, eat a bag of soot.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

The Purple Book makes me think about Quality Street, but still...

...May I recommend this TERRIFIC article from Charlotte at Virtually Naked Blog about Blairite rumblings in the labour party? It's rather excellent.

The Midweek Collection - AN AV REFERENDUM SPECIAL

5 things I’ve discovered written about the AV Referendum that have brightened my week. As always, they’re here because they are interesting, not because I agree with every word…

1. ‘Many Conservatives will be demented with rage if they are defeated in the referendum on electoral reform’ writes Andrew Rawnsley in the Guardian.

Surely that headline alone makes you want to read it…

2. ‘Never has a duller issue caused so many to sound insane with rage’ writes Jackie Ashley

Ms. Ashley stirs the Tory pot….

3. 'A very odd political campaign’ by Bagehot in The Economist.

Bagehot takes a very dim view of both sides campaigning.

4. 'The AV Referendum discredits Referendums’ writes Alex Massie in The Spectator.

Makes Bagehot sound almost positive. Also, surely referenda? I stand to be corrected…

5. 'Digging for Victory'

Help needed for the YES campaign. Go on, you know you want to.



Tuesday 19 April 2011

Can it be true that my blog is read by The Prime Minister AND Mark Pack? Surely not...

My last blog post before I disappeared away for a week was on the DISGRACEFUL lack of resource allocated to the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) in ensuring that Universities who are charging over £6000 in tuition fees improve their access performance to all sectors of society.

For those who can’t be bothered to read it, here’s an arresting fact: If each of the Oxford Colleges who take undergraduates (I understand that’s 35) are allocated an ‘equal’ share of the University of Oxfords’ allocation of time (each English university would get 150 minutes of examination on a pro rata basis), then I calculate the Chief Exec of OFFA will spend the sum total of 243 seconds ensuring each college has a ‘robust’ programme in place to guarantee free access for all. Oh yes, very robust. And no one's come back to me to tell me those figures are wrong...

Anyway David Cameron has done the decent thing and pointed out one area where access is not working - the appallingly low number of black students offered places at Oxford, and various parts of the media have followed up with the facts and pieces since (not all of them have credited David Lammy with the original excellent research in exposing all this).

One of the most interesting observations however is from Mark Pack’s blog, who points out :

“The actual number of black students accepted to Oxford and Cambridge is – at 50 – lower than the number it would be if those universities were accepting the same proportion of black students as there are amongst those who get 3As at A-level.

That gap – between 50 and 65 – is, however, dwarfed by the much larger gap when you look instead at the proportion of people taking GCSEs who are black. If Oxbridge acceptances had the same proportion of blacks as GCSE exam sitters, there would be 219 acceptances each year, not 50. “

Now Mark makes the point that there should be some finger pointing at a school system that leads to young black people under performing at school – and he’s got a point.

But I’d make a different observation.

The fastest way to solve this unfair social differentiation would be to weight A level performance of an individual student against the overall performance of a school, to give students who do well at poorly performing schools more of an edge.

A policy I have seen mooted by both Simon Hughes and David Willetts.

Let’s hope they do a bit more than mooting though.

And fast.

Monday 18 April 2011

Hell's Teeth. Am I turning into Polly Toynbee?


No, I haven’t turned into a once fashionable left wing Guardianista commentator.

But having had a chance to consider my blog on my week off, I’m surprised to see how much easier I find it to write negative stuff than positive stuff.

How much easier it is to criticize rather than praise.

This is not to say I’m only writing negative stuff. I’m not – I think there are plenty of articles on my list when I’ve been positive. But there’s no doubt it’s easier to write copy attacking our political opponents, coalition partners or even (on occasion) our own side than it is to praise the good things I see we are doing.

And there is no doubt that bad news makes better copy than good news too.

So, best foot forward, I will attempt to maintain a balance going forward of both the positive and the negative.

Do let me know how you think I’m doing.

Monday 11 April 2011

I am slacking on holiday

Back on the 17th.

Do peruse a few old posts while you're here.


Friday 8 April 2011

150 minutes is not enough time to prove a university is doing all it can to widen access. I think this is scandalous

The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) is charged with ensuring that Further Education establishments charging more than £6000 are doing everything they can to ensure people from a wide range of backgrounds have access to higher education. So far, this is pretty much every FE organisation - with most charging the maximum.

So how rigorous can the good people of the Office of Fair Access be in ensuring this is the case?

Well, last year they agreed access agreements with 230 institutions.

This year, applications for enhanced fees and the access programmes to justify the extra money were due in by April 1st. Decision day is July 11th.

That's 72 working days.

On the basis that OFFA works an 8 hour day, that's a grand total of 2.5 hours per institution.

Now of course, the (small) number of staff(currently 5 rising to 9, 4 part time) will split their resource.

But still - the ultimate sign off from say, the leader of Offa, Sir Martin Harris, on every agreement will be after 2.5 hours scruitiny at the most. I suspect the reality is it will be far less.

Is this really enough for Oxford University to explain why it offered more places to pupils living in Richmond Upon Thames last year (population 170000) than the whole of Scotland (pop. 5 million)? I fear not. I live in Richmond, and even I think that's wrong.

Someone really should expose this.Perhaps some of the journalsist in the national press who I know read this blog might take it up?

Thursday 7 April 2011

Simon Hughes has got a lot of work on his hands...

I came across this article the other day. It's a brilliant analysis of just how much outreach work Oxford University does amongst the top public schools - in contrast to everywhere else. It's quite an eye opener. Here's just a sample...

'You only need to look at what constitutes ‘outreach’ at these institutions to see the disdain they have for the idea they should be more open and inclusive. In 2008 and 2009, Oxford targeted 770 of its ‘outreach’ events at private schools, including 12 events for Marlborough College, 11 for St. Paul’s and 9 for Eton. Even Westminster School, who make up 2% of the entire undergraduate intake at Oxford, were blessed with 5 ‘outreach’ events. How many events have taken place at the 24 secondary schools in Sandwell, where Oxford has not accepted a single pupil from for the last five years? Or in Knowsley or Hartlepool?'

Yes, I know it's written by David Lammy and he's a Labour MP and yes I know it's on the Labour teachers website. But let's put party issues to one side. It's well researched, insightful and on the money. And it demonstrates the mountain many pupils have to climb in order to access the best universities. Everyone should read it.

And to make matters worse...

This article reveals that the Office for Fair Access is having to take on extra staff to judge the huge number of Univesties who wish to charge more than 'standard tuition fees'. This will take it on from 3 fulltime and 2 part time staff - to five full time and four part time people.

This still doesn't sound to me like an organisation geared up to policing every University in the land who wishes to charge over £6000 in fees. Plus they have to do it all by July 11...

Simon Hughes has got a lot of work on his hands.

I came across this article the other day. It's a brilliant analysis of just how much outreach work Oxford University does amongst the top public schools - in contrast to everywhere else. It's quite an eye opener. Here's just a sample...

'You only need to look at what constitutes ‘outreach’ at these institutions to see the disdain they have for the idea they should be more open and inclusive. In 2008 and 2009, Oxford targeted 770 of its ‘outreach’ events at private schools, including 12 events for Marlborough College, 11 for St. Paul’s and 9 for Eton. Even Westminster School, who make up 2% of the entire undergraduate intake at Oxford, were blessed with 5 ‘outreach’ events. How many events have taken place at the 24 secondary schools in Sandwell, where Oxford has not accepted a single pupil from for the last five years? Or in Knowsley or Hartlepool?'

Yes, I know it's written by David Lammy and he's a Labour MP and yes I know it's on the Labour teachers website. But let's put party issues to one side. It's well researched, insightful and on the money. And it demonstrates the mountain many pupils have to climb in order to access the best universities. Everyone should read it.

And to make matters worse...

This article reveals that the Office for Fair Access is having to take on extra staff to judge the huge number of Univesties who wish to charge more than 'standard tuition fees'. This will take it on from 3 fulltime and 2 part time staff - to five full time and four part time people.

This still doesn't sound to me like an organisation geared up to policing every University in the land who wishes to charge over £6000 in fees. Plus they have to do it all by July 11...

Simon Hughes has a mountain to climb to sort this out. How can we help him?

Wednesday 6 April 2011

What do Nick Clegg and I have in common? Well, for one thing, we're both hypocrites...

I am a man, have been all my life. Yet I would like women to share equal pay, enjoy equal opportunities and the same life chances as me. Indeed, as the father of three girls and husband to a fantastically brilliant Doctor, I think this is incredibly important. Apparently this makes me a hypocrite.

I am white. But I believe that your skin colour should be irrelevant to your life chances, and that everyone should enjoy the same opportunities to make the most of their lives. Hypocrite.

I am in excellent health and I am not disabled. But I think society should do all it can for those in less fortunate physical or mental health to maximize their life chances. Again, what a hypocrite I am.

No wonder everyone’s having a go at Nick Clegg for trying to change the status quo.

Have we been allowed off the naughty step? Do our school reports now just say 'Must Try Harder...?'

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed a change in the way the media are covering the Lib Dems right now?

Once not so long ago everything we did was wrong. Tuition fees, VAT rises, therate of the cuts, losing front line NHS staff – all our fault, nothing to do with anybody else.

But now, there’s a shift in tone. In two ways.

1. Try a bit harder.

The general tenor seems to be that we are doing the right thing – just not enough of it.

The Freedom Act and Police Reform and Social responsibility Act are good things – but don’t go far enough.

Nick Clegg’s and Ian Duncan Smiths plans for social mobility have their heart in the right place – but don’t go far enough.

Reform of the House of Lords is a good thing – but doesn’t go far enough

2. Dilute the Tories.

Paul Waugh had a whole list of things we’ve got the Tories to U turn on a few weeks ago.

Now a huge amount of the pressure on transforming the NHS Reforms is coming from us.

Plus there’s Nicks recent pronouncements on nuclear power and muliculturalsim (beautifully reviewed here by Allegra Stratton).

And it goes on...

Now, if we can have media coverage for the next 4 years saying we’re the handbrake that keeps the Tories on the straight and narrow and everything we do is right, can we just have a bit more of it please – well, I for one won’t be complaining…

The Midweek Collection

An eclectic mix this week from all sides of the political spectrum. I don't agree with all of it, but it did all make me think...

1. Norman Tebbit defends the NHS in the The Mirror

Notable because it's Tebbit in the Mirror - who'd have thought it - and because he talks a lot of sense about the NHS. I'm still reeling....

2. Mohammad Al Bouazizi makes the Time 100 Longlist

I beg you to click this link and vote Yes.

3. Speed Cameras work.

I don't know why but this really tickled me. I think its the duplicitous police pretending they'd turned the cameras off...

4. Simon Jenkins isn't impressed with Nick's plans on Internships.

While I don't like the Clegg knocking, his take on the in built social mobility brakes British society has locked us all into is very thought provoking.

5. It costs only about $2 to lay a land mine — but several thousand dollars to dig it out

The headline says it all.

Enjoy everybody.

My Time Person of the Year campaign is gaining traction but I need your help!!

A Tunisian street vendor, Muhammad Al Bouazizi, has now been nominated on the Longlist for Time Magazine's 100 most influential people of 2011. Please click on this link and vote Yes for Muhammad, who is currently running 12th in the world.

This is an important step in our campaign to have Muhammad Al Bouazizi named as Time Magazine's Person of the Year 2011, given to the person the editorial team at Time deems to have been the most influential person on world events in the past year. Muhammad committed an act of self immolation on Dec 17th, and died in early January. His act of protest led directly to the overthrow of the government in Tunisia, and all the other events in the Middle East - Egypt, Libya, Yemen et al - can be directly and unequivocally linked to his act of protest. Yet there is a fear that other rather less worthy individuals will get the award, thanks to their higher media profile.

Various notable individuals such as Jonathan Freedland and Christina Patterson have been kind enough to RT information about the campaign (even Michael Winner has sent me a good luck message!) and it seems we do have some traction.

Other ways in which you can help include:

1. Writing to Richard Stengal, Managing Editor of Time, by clicking here. A simple sentence saying 'Make Mohammad Al Bouazizi Person of the Year 2011' will be fine.

2. Sign our petition by clicking here

3. Visit our Facebook Page by clicking here. Please write a comment and tick the 'like' box.

4. Visit our website for more information,


Thank You

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Would you buy a used car from David Cameron?

Johann Hari gave Ed Miliband some suggestions the other day about to make himself more electable – and this included the advice that he should use more everyday language.

I have observed the opposite factor in David Cameron. He brilliantly understands how to use everyday words and phrases that ‘de-Etonise’ our Prime Minister very well.

We saw it the other day in Prime Ministers questions. While showing that Ed Balls had got to him was probably a tactical mistake, his criticism was couched using common language and phrases that chime with anyone that uses them. Consider the phrases ‘I wish the shadow chancellor would occasionally shut up’ and ‘the most annoying man in British politics’. Simple everyday language.

You see this over and over again. On the introduction of the no-fly-zone in Libya, Cameron didn’t say the motion was passed with judicious or propitious timing. He said it had been done in the ‘nick of time’.

Even when he gets it wrong, he gets it right – such as in this now notorious interview on Absolute Radio.

All this is very deliberate. It is to make him seem more in tune with the common man, more everyday, more one-of-us. It’s more than a tad cynical, but it’s very clever.

So next time you hear some everyday language from David Cameron, be on your toes. He’s probably trying to sell you something.

We didn't say we were Charlie Sheen. We said we were Mother Teresa

There has been an interesting debate over at Lib Dem Voice as to the reason why we languish in the polls compared to our coalition partners (see the ‘comments’ section). The argument seems to be that that we poll badly currently as we are blamed for the cuts and age of austerity – whereas cuts and attacks on public services are just what you expect the Tories to do, so they don’t lose ‘credit’ from the electorate. They are, after all, the ‘nasty party’.

I think this is nonsense.

The reason we languish in the polls compared to the Tories, when we are just a junior member of the coalition, is because before the election we – quite rightly – set ourselves against a higher moral standard. As demonstrated ably by the video below.

However, the danger with this is, that having set the benchmark by which you wish everyone to be judged, you have to live up to the expectation you have established.

This is hard enough to do when you pick just one or two areas. Look at the trouble Labour had when it said it was going to pursue ‘an ethical foreign policy’. Or John Major had when he took the moral high ground with ‘back to basics’.

When you set everything you do on this higher plane, it only takes one slip up and you will be deemed to have failed. We effectively have had two – tuition fees, and a general (if mistaken) belief that we’ve acquiesced to the Tories cuts programme. And we remain unforgiven.

That’s why we languish in the polls. We had further to fall from the moral high ground. And we are yet to bounce.

Friday 1 April 2011

Best Political April Fools?

At least I hope they are.

1. Lib Dem Voice to be renamed Lib Dem Home..

2. Arise. Lord Schwarzenegger

3. Red Flag Street parties for Labour's Royal Wedding

4. Iain Dale is back blogging...

5. UK UnCut launches Political Party.


David Willetts: an apology. But not to him...

Tory politicians. You can’t take your eyes off them for a minute.

I talked up David Willetts yesterday for his radical ideas about improving social mobility in higher education, by allowing pupils with lower grades from poorer performing schools to usurp pupils with better grades – but loads of advantages to getting them (generally because they are at private schools).

Maybe someone told him that he was being praised in the Lib Dem blogosphere and it spooked him.

Because he’s now gone all True Blue and Old Tory and blamed the travails of the world and in particular the failure in social mobility on…feminism.


So I take it all back. And I'm sorry.

He is, as Sue Perkins just put it, a complete Jeremy Hunt.

Plus my stats have shot up as loyal readers flock to find out why I think he's not talking complete nonsense. Thanks a lot Willetts

Normal service is now resumed.

PS Here's why he's wrong...

Ah. People keep asking me for something like this. Now I've found one.

How AV Works and why you should do it

And here's one from the alternative direction - what's wrong with FPTP..

If you're seeing this on Lib Dem Blogs, it will appear meaningless as the video doesn't show on the sampler - so best click for a proper look...

And here's a very funny video about us which has nothing to do with AV but makes you laugh at what the world actually thinks of us...

EXCLUSIVE! New evidence suggests Nick Clegg is, apparently, very popular amongst Lib Dems...

We’re a quarter of the way through the year and so I thought I’d list the most popular posts on the blog this year.

And I write one post in three months – just the one – defending Nick and it gets more readers than anything else. It would seem we’re still quite keen on our glorious leader, no matter what the media in general or the comments section on Lib Dem Voice would have you believe.

Anyway, here we go…

1. Nick Clegg bashing by the press is getting ludicrous now (24 Feb)

The Tories turn the NHS on its head. The Guardian illustrates the news with a picture of Nick. For goodness sake….

2. Help me persuade Time Magazine to make a Tunisian Street vendor their Person of the Year 2011 (14 Feb)

Thank you to everyone who has visited the site, signed the petition etc – but do keep visiting.

3. I promised myself I wouldn’t do this…(4 March)

My take on the Barnsley result. No, it’s not about football

4. It’s not the unpopularity; it’s the fingers-in-the-air-la-la-la-not-listening that’s getting to me…(11 March)

We’re going to change nobodies mind until we at least get them to listen again.

5. Someone threw an egg at my house; is this a political rite of passage? (15 March)

A frisson of excitement as I open the front room curtains.

6. Armando Iannucci’s message to us feels like ‘unforgiven’. (14 March)

He asked the question. We gave him the answer he wanted. It wasn’t enough.

7. This is the Conservatives tuition fee moment (18 Feb)

Except it wasn’t. Still, you all enjoyed reading it.

8. If there’s one thing we should be angry about, it’s this. (18 March)

The disgrace of what is happening around Brian Haw.

9. It would seem the NHS debate has our MP’s between a rock and a hard place. (17 March)

A call to (very supportively) keep the pressure on….

10. Why doesn’t Google analytics go up to 10?

I thought they were a digital company…

Finally, huge thanks to Olly Grender for #ff me and my blog today. Already several new followers. No pressure there then…