'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

Thursday 30 June 2011

Have I mentioned that I used to write for the Daily Mail?

I am an advocate for the right of teachers to strike. I realise this is not a popular position in the party - but there we are. My first overtly political act was when aged 14, I wrote a letter to the Daily Mail (incensed by a series of pieces they wrote attacking teachers for threatening industrial action) defending teachers right to strike, which (on reflection, slightly surprisingly), they published under the headline 'Stand Up Teacher'. They also sent me a postal order for £10 (younger readers will be shaking their heads in puzzlement at this reference) and thus my professional career in journalism started and ended ( for now at least).

Over the years my position has remained resolutely unchanged, and even though I am now a Dad with kids affected by the strike ( and they are livid about the whole thing - apart from anything else, the Year 4 sleepover has been cancelled), I see no reason why a group of people with a grievance about a change to their terms and conditions of employment shouldn't be free to withdraw their labour.

I have no truck with the three arguments I hear about why teachers shouldn't be allowed to strike. These appear to be:

1. 'Teachers want to be treated as professionals, so they should act like professionals. Lawyers and Doctors don't strike'.

I've a funny feeling if they paid teachers at the same rate they pay, say, GP's, then they wouldn't be on strike. Pay them like professionals if you want them to act like professionals.

2. 'Teaching strikes hurt the children. They should think of the kids before themselves'.

Sorry, but anyone who doesn't think teachers do what they do because above all else, they love children, is an idiot. Of course they don't want to hurt the children. They don't like doing this. So imagine how strongly they must feel. Funnily enough, if you paid teachers as well as you paid lawyers, you'd have a point here - because there would be a lot of people doing it for the money. But we don't pay them like that - so the people doing it choose teaching because of the children. Don't patronise them by saying they don't care.

3. 'Teachers shouldn't be allowed to strike - they hurt children and inconvenience parents'.

Fine - legislate to withdraw teachers right to strike - but to do that you'll need to pay them differently, like police officers. If you don't want a group of people to be allowed to strike, then you need to ensure their terms and conditions reflect the loss of that right. Anyone willing to do that? No, thought not.

Pay them better. Don't change their terms and conditions. Stop patronising them. And then teachers won't need to strike.

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Johann Hari: You've not let me down, you've not let the left down, you've let blimey how patronising do I sound?

I expect everyone has heard about the Johann Hari and the 'plagiarism ' row. In a nutshell, he stands accused of cutting and pasting quotes from old articles into pieces he has written to'clarify' his interviewees point of view. What's more, he's putting his hand up and admitting to it - though not conceding in any way that what he did was wrong (Please see addendum - this has now changed...).

There's a fairly comprehensive piece on the affair over at Andrew Emmersons blog which includes links to Brian Whelan and then Toby Young's 'expose' and 'analysis' of the issue. There's also a fairly comprehensive piece abiout the affair over at The Telegraph proper which includes Johann's piece defending his actions.

Now, interest to declare. I am a huge fan of Johann and have quoted him or linked to pieces he has written many times. Even when I disagree with him, I enjoy his pieces enormously. And I think he's a wonderful writer. The trouble is, he doesn't position himself as a writer. He positions himself as a journalist.

Which is why I do have a real problem with this. It's the added 'reactions' to his quotes that really gets me - the nods and the smiles. It gives an entirely false picture to actual events. I simply believe you can't do that.

Much has written about all this, but there are three points I haven't read anywhere else (at least, not yet - before anyone accuses me of plagiarism).

1. Plenty of people are seeing this as an attack by the right wing press on the left. It is true there is plenty of bile coming from the right, and Guido is having a field day. But that doesn't make what Johann did correct in any way. And to be fair, even @pennyred has acknowledged there is an issue for Johann to answer here.

2. The excuse of 'common journalistic practice' just doesn't wash. 'Everybody does it' was the defence put forward by several parliamentarians, just before they were found guilyy and sent down. Sure lots of journalists may be thinking this morning 'there but for the Grace of God...' . That doesn't make it right.

3. The Simon Kelner excuse that 'no one has complained about Johann before'. This is a bit like letting a guilty criminal off the hook on the basis that he's been doing it for 10 years and no one's ever caught him. And I bet Simon Kellner's had one or two complaints now...

And finally: Lord Bonkers tweeted yesterday that he'd heard Johann used to be a researcher for Jeffrey Archer. Oh, how I hope that's true....


Johann has apologied for his error of judgement. Not sure that's quite enough, but for what it's worth, here it is...

"I've thought carefully about whether I have been wrong here. It's clearly not plagiarism or churnalism - but was it an error in another way? Yes. I now see it was wrong, and I wouldn't do it again.

"Why? Because an interview is not just an essayistic representation of what a person thinks; it is a report on an encounter between the interviewer and the interviewee."

Tuesday 28 June 2011

How come David Miliband has a better grasp of our problems than Nick's mates?

Thanks to Paul Walter (@paulwalteruk) for posting David Miliband's speech in The House in favour of Lord's Reform. It's a corker and well worth a read. I suspect there will be a few members of the Labour Party reading it with their heads in their hands, wondering if they picked the right brother.

However, when you read it, you'll notice that he spends some little time at the start giving Nick a right old kicking. As per my post yesterday, It would seem the elder Miliband understands well that our unpopularity has little to do with our association with the Tories (as the papers were quoting friends of Nick saying this weekend), and rather more to do with our own actions.

To quote him in The House:

'When the right hon. Gentleman said before the election that he wanted to unite the nation, he could scarcely have imagined that people of all shades of opinion would come together so quickly to agree that he is not a very lovable rogue.'


Now this isn't a 'let's kick Nick' post (nor a 'let's kick Nick out' post). It's a plea to stop pretending that it's the Tories fault that we're so unpopular (although the farcical 'not a cigarette paper between us' approach to coalition government certainly didn't help) and face up to the fact that it's our mess and our responsibility - and start enacting a plan of attack to put things right.


Great piece here about how we might start putting things right...

Monday 27 June 2011

Surely they hate us for our own self, not on behalf of anyone else?

In Andrews Rawnsley's excellent analysis of the coalitions lack of support in the North, there was one stand out point right at the end that gave me serious pause for thought. It was this:

'Nick Clegg has confided to friends that he was slow to realise how much visceral hostility towards the Tories there was in the north, nor had he foreseen how it would be displaced on to his own party through guilt by association.'

What, really?

Andrew Rawnsley is extremely well connected so I presume one of Nick's, ahem, 'friends', has decided to brief this to a journalist.

Now, I'm sure there are wheels within wheels spinning here, as you'd have to have had your head in a bucket for the last 32 years to not have realised that the Tories are about as popular in the North as a Spurs fan at the Arsenal AGM. It's such a nonsense you can't worry too long about that.

No, it's the second part that worries me. The part that implies we're only unpopular because of association with the Tories.

I hope the leadership aren't convincing themselves of that. Sure lots of Labour supporters who voted tactically for us to keep the Tories out are still livid. But that's not the real problem.

We have to accept that people are mad with us for things we've done. Most of all, tuition fees. And their problem, funnily enough isn't with tuition fees per se ( although they are not exactly popular). It's that they think we were dishonest. And that's why they hate us. And that's the thing we have to put right.

I am reminded me of an acceptance speech I saw Spike Milligan give once for a Lifetime Achievement Award. 'I'd like to thank all the people who helped me, so I could win this award', he intoned, paused, and then added 'but the truth is I did it all on my own'.


A divorce from the Tories won't solve anything. It's our own fault we have the reputation we do, and it's for us to sort out.

Sunday 26 June 2011

Are the Tories at war?

Thanks to @ollygrender who tweeted this link to an astonishing attack on David Cameron - from his own side.

It must be by an anonymous Tory MP and it goes to show how the unrest on the Tory backbenches is, as predicted, getting worse.

Here's a quote about the Pritchard affair:

'Cameron’s quasi-Machiavellian later response, laughing off accusations of bullying and dismissing the debate as a storm in a tea cup, is a mark of his contempt for MPs and the public. Flashman has no time for the little people. He spins a glib line, thrashes a few fags (sorry, whips) and thinks he’s got away with it'

They are a very unhappy bunch indeed.

Hence I suspect David Camerons plea the other day on immigration policy that (and I paraphrase), 'it's not his fault' (and how pathetic is that). As Mark Pack pointed out, it's great to hear from the PM publicly that we are having a marked effect on preventing the worst excesses of what a majority Tory government would have achieved. But of course Cameron was talking, I suspect, less to the country and more to his backbenchers.He's in trouble.

There's a great story on Conservative Home about Osborne telling Cameron what might happen if he lost the AV referendum.

'Cameron walked into George Osborne’s office to tell him that he’d just been told that he’d lose the leadership if AV passed. Cameron thought it funny that MPs could be so melodramatic. Osborne’s face didn’t move. We can’t rule it out, he said, staring at Cameron in a moment where the gravity of the situation dawned on the Prime Minister.'

No wonder Cameron reneged on the agreement not to get involved, and went in all guns blazing. (It's also worth reading the whole article - it shows the depth of concern in the Tories - and look at the name that crops up in the second sentence - no concidence, I suspect....).

So what does this all mean for us? Three things.

1. We need to keep poking the Tories and watch them implode.
2. The Tory leadership is going to keep moving to the right to appease the backbenches. We need to stop them - morally as well as for political expediency.
3. As the Tories move right, so will Labour, as it tries to take the centre ground the Tories vacate. We need to stop that too.

Exciting times ahead.

Friday 24 June 2011

The Etonian Strikes Back

We've all been enjoying Mark Pritchard's attack on David Cameron haven't we? Go on, you've all been looking up the video and sniggering in your sleeves, haven't you....(I know you have, I do have the stats...).

But it would seem David Cameron is neither inclined to let it lie, nor indeed believes that revenge is a dish served cold. As this report from Cathy Neman at C4 News Fact Check makes clear.

The even weirder thing is No. 10 are claiming that David Cameron isn't in any way interested in the actual issue of wild animals in circuses. 'The PM is not personally motivated on this subject' according to his official spokeswoman.

From which you can only presume that the reason he's not letting it drop is...revenge.

Which is all a bit schoolboyish. I think we all know which school I mean.

Want to see a video of David Cameron getting a mauling? Oh go on then..

Honestly, this blog gets more like a tabloid every day...

Anyway, follow this link (or if your device supports it, the video below) to see Conservative MP Mark Pritchard laying into David Cameron and the whips office on the floor of The House yesterday. Extraordinary stuff.

If you follow the link you might also enjoy the comments section below the video. As a Lib Dem, they made me giggle.

There has obviously been a lot of internal muttering within the Parliamentary Conservative Party about David Cameron for a while now. I predicted last week we'd see more and more of it coming to the surface. Even I thought it would take longer than a week though.

Anyway - enjoy. It's a proper bit of Parliamentary Theatre.


Great piece in The Telegraph (YES I KNOW !!!! ) about this.

Addendum 2

I forgot - he's got form for this sort of thing...

Thursday 23 June 2011

Stephen Williams & the banks. Right in March. Still right now. Please tell the world he's spot on.

I blogged a few months ago that I rather liked Stephen Williams plan for the nationalised banks.

I still do.

And I'm thrilled that Nick Clegg is now proposing a variation on that scheme should be put forward.

You can vote on whether you think it's a good idea or not over on this line at The Guardian. Please do.

And say Yes!

Is it me?

It probably is. And this isn't a finger wagging exercise having a go at any group in the party. I've just blogged how we don't do that. I'd genuinely like some feedback.

In all the commentary I've read about the excellent Social Liberal Forum, one thing I keep seeing was that the event was a marker demonstrating the strength of social liberals in the party versus 'The Orange Bookers'. Fair enough. But then I also have read several times that the support of two cabinet ministers at the event - Chris Huhne and Vince Cable - was a physical demonstration of that.

Yes, Chris and Vince are/were both contributing authors to The Orange Book?

So my question is: if writing the Orange Book doesn't make you part of 'that club' - then what does?

Let me reiterate. I'm not taking sides here. I would genuinely like to know. Have Chris and Vince renounced their writing? Yes I know Vince comes from Labour originally - he still contributed to the Orange Book. Am I missing a subtlety of internal Lib Dem politics?

Or more likely - has 'Orange Book' just become a handy but inaccurate/inappropriate descriptor of the right of the party?

Is it me who is confused? Or is the term a confusion in itself?

Is the answer to Olly Grender's question, 'Lib Dems are not hateful enough?'

In her blog on the New Stateman a few weeks back, Olly Grender posed the question 'Where are all the Lib Dem journalists?' Her conclusion was (and I am paraphrasing here, apologies Olly) that because it seemed unlikely that we would have a hand in government, editors had not bothered to cultivate relationships with Lib Dem orientated journalists; and furthermore journalists who supported the party were disinclined to position themselves as flag waving Liberals in case managing editors saw them as 'irrelevant'.

When I read the article I thought that was probably right. But 2 recent events have made me think there's probably another reason.

Firstly, Matthew Barratt at Conservative Home wrote this article entitled 'the hateful left' citing what he saw as the tendancy of the majority of left leaning journalists to write hate filled polemics against anything and anyone right of centre.

Not to be outdone, Liberal Conspiracy retaliated with (guess what) : an article entitled 'The Hateful Right', with bountiful examples of similarly distasteful diatribes from some of the right wing commentariat.

My first thought (and my second) was 'a plague on both your houses'.

And then I began to wonder if this was why there were so few Liberal columnists. For we are different from the Left and Right, not just because we occupy the centre ground and not just becasue of our philosophy. We also act differently.

We revel and welcome adult debate. Could the Labour or Conservative Party have organised an event like last weekend's Social Liberal Forum conference without it descending into finger pointing, rows and accusations of betrayal? Yet we can hold a serious minded conference,have civilised debate, even agree to differ on some issues and still stand toe to toe defending our common ground.

This is admirable. And I don't want to change it.

But reasoned adult debate doesn't sell newspapers. And I suspect that's why we don't have many Lib Dem columnists. Too much reason. Not enough hate.

Personally, I think that's a price worth paying.


After writing this post I found a great piece on the ever excellent blog of Mark Valladares and it struck me that the fact can we debate this issues so openly, freely and without (much) bile is a testament to the maturity of the party.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

John Redwood was right this morning. Just for all the wrong reasons.

Well, there's a headline I wouldn't have thought I'd write (though I'll have to go some way to beat Charlotte Henry with this one...).

But John Redwood was on breakfast TV this morning advocating that the Eurozone countries should giving, not lending, the money they need to bail out their economy. Ostensibly he said that this was because, as there was no prospect of the Greeks ever being able to pay back the loans, the pain of the extreme severity cuts were an unnecessary evil. He then of course revealed his real reasoning. To paraphrase him, if the members of the Eurozone wanted a single country, then they should act like it - just as we would give money to poor areas in the UK when they are struggling ( you can argue wether we do enough of this but it is true we don't lend within our own economic area).

Now of course Redwood is just stirring the pot as he doesn't like the Eurozone and he's making the point about 'see how awful the Euro is'. No change there. But while I don't agree with that line of argument, I do think he's got a point about giving, not lending Greece the money. While this should still be tied to strict conditions of fiscal governance, there is little point in putting onerous payback conditions onto a population with little prospect of paying the whole lot back.

This is exactly the same principle as advocated for the Third World debt by the fabulous Jubilee 2000 (now the Jubilee Debt Camapign) ( and hats off to Gordon Brown who campaigned tirelessly to deliver many of this organisations aims). (Blimey I've agreed with John Redwood and Gordon brown in the same post - you can't say this blog hasn't got range, can you...)

And a good start would be ( Mr Redwood, if you're reading this, you'll be needing a lie down now): we should cancel our government debt from the bail out first.

Why? we're not in the Eurozone.

No. But we are in the EU, and the Greeks are neighbours and allies. This is clearly in Britain's interest. No, they're not our closest trading partner, but there's a principle here, and they are an important trading partner none the less.

What's more, the Greek government's debt to us from the bail out is not especially large - a little over a £billion from backing we gave through the IMF loan.

Which is of course a still a large sum in the age of austerity, but a fraction of what we are exposed to through our banks, should the Greek economy fail. It is also exactly the sort of sum we spend on gaining British influence with foreign governments. An example of which lies just across the Med.

For if the military campaign against Libya continues into the Autumn - as seems probable - then the cost to the UK taxpayer will be approximately the same as Greek debt to the UK government. In contrast to the tens of millions that George Osborne originally said.

I know how I'd rather be spending that money, which is anyway coming from 'our reserves'. Lets give it to the Greeks. And then just enforce the original UN resolution in Libya. I support the defending of civilians but not the extended remit we seem to be giving ourselves on a daily basis.

Seems common sense really. Doesn't it?

Tuesday 21 June 2011


The above tweet was all it took me to click on the wonderful Alice Pyne's website. Alice is the amazing 15 year old girl with terminal cancer who was mentioned in PMQ's a while back

Unbelievably, some nasty piece of pond life has hacked into a website she supports, added in a Paypal button, and is now stealing donations. The mind boggles, doesn't it?

Also you will see on the site that people are also leaving abusive messages. Unbelievable.

So I thought the very least I could do was reblog about Alice, encourage everyone to visit her website, and also to visit the Anthony Nolan Trust website to see how they can help.

And to say: Alice, I think you're fantastic.

Monday 20 June 2011

Brian Haw

I was very sad hear of the death of Brian Haw yesterday.

I've blogged previously that I think the way in which the establishment treated Brian and the other Parliament Square protestors was very badly thought through, and often quite wrong.

But whatever you thought of Brian's beliefs, you surely cannot deny or do anything but admire the sincerity with which he held them, nor the dedication of Brian to his cause. We should all be grateful that there are people in the world with the passion of Brian Haw.

There is a good obituary piece about Brian in The Telegraph (yes, I'm surprised too) and a life in pictures in The Guardian. I'd urge everyone to have a look at both.


There's a terrific piece now in The Guardian from Tony Benn about why he had so much respect for Brian Haw.

Blimey. Again

Thanks everyone who helped make this post top of this weeks Lib Dem Voice Golden Dozen.

Though I have to confess that the success of this particular post makes me rather nervous that perhaps my stewardship of the blog is heading rather more in the direction of Kelvin Mackenzie than Harold Evans.

So do have a look at the other 11 rather more worthy entries to the dozen. Especially no. 12. That's much more like it...

Sunday 19 June 2011

Sticking lipstick on a pig. Or how Peter Mandelson became royalty

I blogged yesterday about the power of projection; why working out that Gordon Brown was seen as a Volvo and David Cameron as a BMW was in itself nonsense, but working out why people think that and taking appropriate action was a valuable tool.

However, the mistake people make in projection is that, having spotted that everyone thinks you're a skunk, you then start trying to dress yourself up as as something altogether more cuddly and attractive. Because the world spots that you're stll a skunk, you're just wearing ridiculous bunny ears. Or as Mark Ritson puts it in his excellent piece, Don't fall for the myth of repositioning, (Clegg warning: he has a dig at Nick in the actual piece..)

'If there is one picture that captures the futility of repositioning Brown - and repositioning in general - it is the painful sight of him trudging around Hyde Park on the first of a series of shortlived and ill-conceived jogging sessions. Brown was no jogger, and the media presented the image with his pained expression, ancient running shoes and baggy old jogging pants as evidence that Brown was not quite up to it.

Project Volvo had an enviable grasp of research design, but it had a flawed vision of brand strategy because you cannot turn a Volvo into a BMW. Like too many marketers, (Labour) fell for the myth of repositioning.

Brown was a dour, genuine, dedicated, fastidious, untidy man. The only way to get him re-elected was to play those associations, not attempt to reverse them'

Now at first site, that sounds both very sensible, and yet completely depressing. How can you possibly make a positive out of such negative attributions.

Readers, I give you Peter Mandelson.

It's easy to forget how long the Labour leadership tried to make the party, and the world, love Peter Mandelson. He was, apparently, misunderstood. He was brilliant. His reputation was a conconction put about by the media. Never forget Blair saying that '' the New Labour project would only be complete when the Labour Party learned to love Peter Mandelson.'

But at some point, the penny dropped.

And instead Mandelson stopped trying to be liked or loved. But instead started to trade on being rather feared - and admired for his Machiavellian ways. Remember the incident when Osborne alledgedly leaked about Mandelson holidaying on a Russian oligarchs yacht - and the media camapign orchestratd, again, alledgedly, by Mandelson against him. His ruthlessness, his power, his skill. We all secretly thought 'blimey, thats a man against a boy scenario' if ever we saw one didn't we?

There's a reason why Mandelson named his autobiography The Third Man - it's not just because of his Brown and Blair relationship. It's because The Third Man is a film shot in the shadows. And he's glorying in that environment.

He may be the Prince of Darkness. But he's still a Prince.

So why should we care?

Well, I guess the lesson is this. I'm not suggesting for a moment that we position Nick as the Lib Dem version of Peter Mandelson. But we have a leader who seems to have got stuck with a repuation that neither he nor we particularly like. And we spend a lot of time debating how we can get the world to love Nick again.

And I wonder - would be better off stopping trying to make the world like him? and get the world admiring him or fearing him instead?

Just a thought.

Saturday 18 June 2011

I don't care if you think Nick Clegg is a skunk or a squid. However, I am faintly bothered why you think it.

Having worked in advertising, branding and marketing for more years than I care to count, I am well placed to state that you do hear a lot of old, ahem, nonsense spouted in my business. I am fortunate enough to be in a position to be able to shout 'you've got no clothes on', Emperors-New-Clothes-style, whenever I hear it nowadays. And I say it quite a lot. But I also hope that just once in a while I can spot the glint of gold when it crops up.

Fortunately, the world and his wife also delights in exposing our nonsense when they see it. Hence the widespread pointing and laughing at the 'Gordon Browns a Volvo, David Cameron's a BMW' elements to the anti Blair putsch in 2005/6 by the Brownites. And at face value, this is fair enough. As Mark Ritson puts it, in a rather good piece last week, (be warned it contains a Nick Clegg dig...)

'Many modern marketers misunderstand projection. They ask consumers: "If our brand was an animal what kind of animal would it be?" and then dutifully report back that 22% of consumers think we are a squid while 14% believed we were a tiger. This is not projection, this is being a moron.'

However, there is an inkling of sense in projection. As the important thing about it is not what people say - but why they say it. Why do they think David Cameron is a BMW, a spritzer or a big cat, whereas Brown was a Volvo, glass of whisky or a bear? And having worked out why, then do something about it. Again, to quote Ritson,

' these projections were used as a starting point for the discussion that followed. And it was here that Project Volvo laid out the problems ahead for Brown and his election campaign.

The PowerPoint slides of Project Volvo lay out an even more barren assessment of Brand Brown - one dimensional, few interests outside work, uncomfortable communicator and untidy appearance. The honest and unspun perceptions that helped Brown to supplant an increasingly unpopular Tony Blair were predicted to fall short against Cameron, who was widely seen by the sample as youthful, in touch and likeable.

And here we should pause to reflect on the power of projective research. These observations might seem obvious now, but Project Volvo was completed in February 2006 - half a decade ago. And yet the prescription was, unfortunately for Labour, bang on the money.'

So we need to know know, not just what personalities the electorate project on to our leaders - and especially Nick. We need to know why they do it.

And then we need to know what to do about it. Because in the Brownites case, they got the analysis right, they got the problems, right - but they got the solution to the problems very badly wrong. As I'll discuss tomorrow.


If you've read all this, checked out Mark Ritson's piece, and still think the whole things rubbish (and you won't be alone) - then do pop over and visit 'The Ad Contrarian', a brilliant blog that delights in pointing out all the nonsense that goes on in my business, in an erudite, highly intelligent and extremely readable way. I love it.

Friday 17 June 2011

I got Olympic tickets & I'm still livid about the whole thing.

I realise that compared to most, I haven't got anything to whinge about - indeed, I'm, still reeling at the news that I'm in a minority having received an allocation of tickets for the Olympics - just 36% of people who applied got anything. Gobsmacking.

But apart from a community minded sense of indignation at the ridiculous situation we find ourselves in, I've still got lots to moan about...and it would be nice if Jeremy Hunt & Hugh Robertson got off their arses and did something about it.

The entire process of ticket allocation has been designed to suit, not the paying public (and let's not forget, the tax paying public - we're paying for our tickets twice) but for the benefit of the organisers. Hence the encouragement to apply for multiple tickets 'to ensure you don't miss out'; and the advice to apply for less popular sports for the same reason (which means people have targeted events expected to be less popular, and still missed out - Archery being a great example). The encouragement to pursue these strategies was entirely for the benefit of the organisers to maximise sales - to get people to apply for more expensive tickets so they had a better chance of 'winning' tickets for the events they wanted most, and the fact that people had to apply for far more tickets than they could possibly afford, to increase their chances. I applied for £1700 worth ( to get an allocation of £300 or so of tickets). If I'd won all of my allocation, I'd have been in real trouble. The line I've been told 'there was no chance of you getting them all so there was no need to worry' - just doesn't wash. How many should I have expected to get ? 10%? 90%?

But that's not the worst thing.

No, the worst thing is, I still don't know - over a month after tickets were allocated - what I've got tickets for. I applied for groups of 5 tickets for the whole family for 5 different events (except in gymnastics where you could only apply for 4 - sod you if your whole family wants to go to that, seemed to be LOCOG attitude).

But have I got a single block of tickets to one event for all the family?

Or 5 single tickets to 5 single events so we all have to go on our own (which won't be happening as the kids are too young).

Or a mixture?

And will I learn what I've got tickets to before sales re open? So I can judge whether to have another go?

None of this of course matters to LOCOG. They've got my money.

It also seems I can't call them; or e mail them; or ask them anything. Because they don't really care what I think. They just think I should be grateful.

Don't get me wrong - I am thrilled I've got tickets. I really am. And I feel desperately sorry for everyone who hasn't been allocated any.

I just wish I was being treated like a customer; or at least a human. Rather than just a convenient source of revenue.


Apparently I should have received an e mail today from LOCOG telling me that I won Olympic tickets. I haven't. I've just had a bill from VISA. This whole thing is a disgrace.

Further Addendum

In the spirit of openness and fairness it seems I was sent an e mail today confirming that I had been allocated some tickets (though not which ones); ironically - my firewall classed it as spam. Says it all really.

I apologise; this is a cheap dig at the Milibands. But it's the most brilliant photo, isn't it....

Hats off to Paul Waugh yesterday at Politics Home.

First he tweeted this:

Then he tweeted a photo of the moment:

I've also linked here to the picture. Isn't it brilliant?

Thursday 16 June 2011

Thank You Matthew Lambert

Thanks to Matthew Lambert at iradar (@_iradar_ on twiiter) for adding me to his blog roll. As ever, greatly appreciated.

Ah. It appears the benefits policy has been based on, at best, a half truth...

I always think the sign of a brilliant blog post is one that tells me something I didn't know, something that really makes me think (or indeed, blink), and something that's terribly well researched.

This great article from Tim Leunig, over at Lib Dem Voice does all three. Tim is Reader in Economic History at the London School of Economics and Chief Economist at Centreforum.

It exposes the untruth that people on benefits earn more than the average family. And demonstrates why capping benefits at £26000 will hammer the poorest in society.

It's really got me thinking. Do go and have a gander. It will do the same for you.

Here are some pictures of people running the world. I know I didn't vote for any of them.

One of the favourite arguments for defending an unelected House of Lords is that the current system allows you to gather experts in every field in one place, allowing for an altogether better debate of the issues. Mark Pack has written an excellent piece pointing out the flaw in that argument - but I'd like take things a stage further and point out the terrible place that thinking takes you to. For if certain people in the Lords think that it's such a good idea for our nationally elected politicians to have the rule run over their work by an unelected group of self selected experts, why not apply the same thinking at a global level.

Oh hang on. It already happens....

For the last few days a group of people have been gathered in a room in St Moritz, Switzerland, 120 or so like minded souls, discussing the great issues of the day. The global economy, deficit reduction, international security, war, poverty, global trade. Debating theory, policy, and potential action. Although we can't be sure of exactly what they have been discussing. Because traditionally the agenda for this annual gathering is secret. No minutes are disclosed. Attendance is by strict invitation only, decided by the group itself. Until this year, no attendee list was available. And even this year, the list of attendees that has been given out is inaccurate.

Welcome to the Bliderberg Group, an annual gathering of the great and the good. As defined by...the great and the good.

Look at the following pictures of attendees. Recognise any faces?

I suspect not. And certainly not all of them. None of them are politicians.

Why should we care though. They have no power, no real authority or influence. It's just a debating society, isn't it. What care we if the Chairman of Google, the CEO of Telecom Italia, the CEO of Airbus, and a Global non Exec Director of Ernst & Young all want to gather and chew the fat ( the pictures are of Eric Schmidt, Franco Bernabe, Thomas Enders, & Sir Richard Lambert).

Well partly it's because they are discussing policy with some fairly hefty, unelected politicians. Here are two examples....

(the one you don't recognise is the Chinese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Fu Ying).

Again, does it really matter? It's just a talking shop isn't?

OK. Here's an elected politician who attended this year.

And The Treasury is clear that George Osborne attended this closed meeting of secret agendas and non published minutes in his official capacity as Chancellor of the Exchequer (contradicting a claim otherwise by the Bilderberg organisers).

Now does it really matter that unelected politicians and business folk get to have unfettered, secret access to the elected representatives of the world's nation states? (I seem to have answered my own question there, dont I ?).

'But surely', I hear you cry, 'this is a long way from our publicly accountable, recorded and audited unelected representatives in The House of Lords'?

Not really. Once you accept the principle that one group of unelected people should decide that they are best placed to judge the policy and legislation initiatives of the elected representatives, then it's quite a short step to the Bilderberg Group doing rather more than talking about policy , and starting to set policy.

Which is why I will always fight for policy makers to be elected. Not selected by the establishment.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

This fact should make Gordon Brown, Alastair Darling and Ed Balls hang their heads in shame.

I saw this story on @politicshome yesterday. Hats off to them for picking it up.

The mainstream press has concentrated on the story that inflation has stayed level this month, albeit at an eye watering 4.5%.

But the IFS has been analysing the data over a rather longer period - the last 10 years - and discovered that the rate of inflation for the poor has far outstripped that for the rich.

For example, they have discovered that between 2008 and 2010, inflation for the poor grew at an average rate of 4.3%, but for the rich it ran at just 2.7%. The difference is because the poor spend more proportionally on food and fuel, on which inflation grew disporportionally fast.

The full IFS report can be found here

This happened on Labour's watch. Shame on them.

Update: @libdemlife have been pointing out to me that there wasn't much Labour could do about fuel and food inflation - which is of course demonstrably true. But they could have done plenty to offset the effects, either directly (fuel vouchers for the unemployed for example) or indirectly (through taxation); instead, they cut the 10p tax band . Which is my real point.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Apparently, we've started irritating some senior Tories. Bless.

I've just received the tweet illustrated above and here's the link to the full story at Total Politics.

Now, I don't mind admitting that when I first saw it, I felt a flash of irritation, at the accusation of playing 'bad politics' by the Tories. After all, I've been advocating this sort of approach to 'owning initiatives' for some time now (he says modestly). And its bloody patronising too.

And then I started to laugh at them.

After all, why should we be taking lessons in how to maintain a good coalition relationship from a party who supported campaigns like this?

No, sorry, Conservatives. As I said, only yesterday, you can't have it both ways. You can't run an AV campaign that attempts to target Nick Clegg, and then expect everything in the garden to be rosy straight afterwards.

Labour is already embarking on a period of eating itself. The Tories are about to start to do the same. I suspect Ed Miliband may well be Labour leader at the next election (they don't do regicide - it's actually quite an admirable trait of Labour). I suspect Tory backbench fury at their inability to deliver 'Pure Tory' policies from now on - barred very visibly by the Lib Dems - mean it's a lot less likely that David Cameron will do the same.

Keep up the good work Nick. And keep taking the credit. We're getting to them....

Thanks Everyone

Yesterday was the most viewed my blog has ever been so many thanks to everyone who clicked in for a look. Special thanks to Helen Duffett for "allowing" me (translation: has not yet sued) to ahem, borrow, one of her favourite phrases for a post title. Do feel free to try and spot it. It's proved very popular!

Also thanks to Charlotte Henry for the RT.

& Thanks again one and all.

Monday 13 June 2011

Oh, for crying in a bucket.....

.... The Tories can't have it both ways.

This from The Guardian this morning :

Then this from The Telegraph this afternoon:

Come on Tory spin doctors? Are you really calling David Cameron juvenile? Looks like it from here....

The Members of Bilderberg could learn a thing or two about security from West Midlands Police....

If you were a top secret organisation of the great and the good, dedicated to debating the important issues of the day in top secret away from the eyes of the world, then you would probably assemble any meeting of that group on a remote Swiss Alp behind intense security.

You'd have important meetings around a big round table in posh reclining chairs looking at video screens which appear out of hidden recesses in walls, while the chairman sits pensively listening to the debate stroking a white, fluffy cat.

And you'd definitely go for a ramble in the countryside. What? You wouldn't?

Well that's why you don't get to go to Bilderberg

Fantastic video; hats off to Paul Watson for posting the film; read more about the debacle at The Guardian

I wonder if Mandelson had to register his Passport number and National Insurance details to get through security there?

Let's keep poking the Tories. Labour will happily poke itself.

David says he stands fully behind Ed. This is of course the best place to stand if you're going to stab him in the back...

And given all the press over the weekend - and there clearly is an orchestrated attack under way within the Labour Party against Ed Miliband - it would be easy for us to start focussing on who they are likely to choose to take over from him, what it might mean for Labour policies vs. our own (not least, that Labour might actually have some...) and then start thinking about how we should defeat the new (small 'n' ) Labour position.

And this would be a mistake. Because Ed Miliband is going to lead Labour into the next general election.

How can I be so sure? Because every Labour leader in my lifetime bar one has been permitted to lead his party into at least one general election. Two have lost general elections - and been permitted to have another go. And the one exception - John Smith - would have led Labour into an election but for his untimely death.

In my 44 years there have been 8 Labour leaders and their party has not conducted a successful putsch against any if them - something neither ourselves or the Tories can claim. I see Fraser Nelson At The Spectator has been blogging along similar lines.

(As an aside it's a quirk that despite this, in the same period there have been more Labour leaders than the serial-leader-killer Tories (7) or Liberal/Lib Dem (6). But I digress...).

This does not mean that Labour are going to simmer down. So long as Labour don't have a clear and unassailable lead in the polls, and so long as both David Miliband and Ed Balls think they would be doing a better job than Ed, then the civil war inside the Labour party will continue. And we should rejoice and be glad because it means we can concentrate on the other issue for us: how can we defeat the Tories in 2015.

For just as Labour is about to become rife with splits and internal battles that will take their focus, we need to ensure the Tories do the same. I blogged last week that I felt the stirrings in the Tories of mutterings and unhappiness from the right at their failure to deliver an unadulterated Tory agenda. Peter Hitchens then launched into a tirade against the Tory leadership on QT on Thursday. Today the Telegraph has kicked off about the NHS.

There's no doubt about it. There's a storm brewing there too...

What a chance for us to set out a full, unadulterated, liberal agenda! Both of the other major parties in turmoil and disarray, fighting amongst themselves

Labour is doing it to itself. The Tories will too provided we keep claiming credit for Lib Dem initiatives, and where we force Tory U turns. And if we refuse to support Conservative policies that are counter to a liberal philosophy.

So can we never utter the phrase 'not a cigarette paper between us' ever again?

Thank you.

Thursday 9 June 2011


Caron over at Caron's Musings has blogged far more eloquently than I will about the moving exchange at PMQ's yesterday about the bucket list of wishes of 15 year old Alice Pyne, a terminally ill cancer patient.

Please visit Alice's website at alicepyne.blogspot.com to see if you can help fulfill any of her wishes. And visit the Anthony Nolan website to see if you could consider applying to their register of potential bone marrow donors. Getting everyone on the bone marrow list is very high on Alice's wish list.

Thanks everyone

There's nothing special about Nick Clegg. Not like that nice David Cameron.

Ahem. It would probably be best if I clarified fairly quickly what I'm getting at with the title of this post. And do read both halves to get the whole picture - there is cheering news for us Lib Dems at the end!

There is no doubt that 'Cleggophobia' is running rife across the media - we can argue til the cows come home about whether this is reasonable or indeed reflects the sentiment of the country as a whole (and I've blogged on this before) but it's happening, no two ways about it.

However, there is a feeling amongst us that the level of vitriol is unusual, that its like has never been seen before. Charlotte at the VN blog posted a well thought through piece on this the other day. Trouble is - I don't think it is that unusual. I think it's the norm.

It seems to me that every government has one figure who is aggresively attacked and pilloried across both the political and mainstream media alike.

Gordon Brown may have several severe character faults, but I also heard numerous occasions where his disability was mercilessly mocked. How can you laugh at a man for being blind? But it happened.

John Major was grey and a little metronomic - but he was also regularly mocked as the son of a circus performer and garden gnome salesman. This of a man who left school at 16 and finished as Prime Minister.

Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair - well, there's an endless list, isn't there...

So I think Nick is fulfilling the fall guy role that every government seems to have to have. We don't like it, and we've never experienced it before. But that in itself doesn't make it unusual in itself.


There is something else unusual going on here, isn't there? You've got there already I expect. Normally the role of bĂȘte noire is fulfilled by the PM. Yes, Deputy PM's have been mocked before - Prescott springs to mind. But it's a different sort of mocking, more pitying and patronising than vitriolic and nasty. Generally it's the PM (Brown, Blair, Thatcher) who constantly gets it in the neck in that more aggressive way. And yet Teflon David Cameron, son of Blair, has ensured he avoids that flack. I think he's done it deliberately, I think he's been aided by a weak perfomance by Ed Miliband, and I think the tuition fees debacle made it easier for him. But I also think he's been very clever, associating himself with the right initiatives, avoiding the wrong ones until they go pear shaped and then stepping in to sort them out. His ownership of the NHS and Justice issues in the last two days has been a masterful piece of media manipulation. Watch him step away again now. It's the opposite of the Gordon Brown 'Macavity's not there' strategy, stepping into a crisis, not away from it. The Tories learnt from Labour's mistakes.

But I think it's all beginning to change. And it's the Tory press who are going to lead that narrative, fed up with what they see as weakness, prevarication and an inability to set their own agenda and deliver right wing policies, because we won't let them.

Whereas we see u turns as a sign of maturity, a willingness to listen, to amend and improve, every reversal for the Tory media is another reminder that they didn't win a majority, even though they were fighting the most unpopular government since, oh I don't know, the invention of voting.

And increasingly, I reckon they are after Cameron, with articles like one linked here becoming more and more commonplace.

And this our chance. We must continue to be seen as the Tories conscience, the brake on their ambitions. And as we do so, the Tory right will get more and more angry, more and more frustrated, and ( as they always, always do) this anger will be squarely aimed at their leader. And he will, slowly but surely, become the major focus of character assassination, vitriol and anger. Where Guido Fawkes has gone first, the rest will surely follow.

And the attention will be off Nick and on that nice David Cameron.

Let's pop back to this 2 years from today. I bet I'm right.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Thank you Stephen Glenn...

...for adding me to your blogroll. As ever, much appreciated.

Great blog too

Grand Prix Update: Its off. Hooray

Common Sense has indeed prevailed.

For all the wrong reasons, mind. But good.

Oh no Bernie. Not that old excuse again.

Plenty of people have joined in the condemnation of the decision to reinstate the Bahrain Grand Prix, one of the nuttier and shameful sporting decisions I've ever heard about, so I won't add to the weight of opinion shouting THIS IS JUST PLAIN WRONG. And it seems the teams are now refusing to take part anyway, so this issue may have been resolved (though I see the teams are refusing to race for logistical, not ethical, reasons. Which is a shame in itself)

But it does give me a chance to vent a little about that tired old cliche people keep trotting out that 'you shouldn't mix politics and sports'. Or as Bernie Ecclestone put it last week,

"We've never, ever, ever been involved in religion or politics, It's not for us to run a country."

That might come as a surprise to anyone who remembers this incident in the early part of the Blair government and finished with Tony Blair stating that he was ' a pretty straight kind of guy'. Which looking back is fairly ironic...

But OF COURSE sport and politics are inextricable linked

Let's not forgetl David Cameron in Switzerland touting for votes as England bid for the 2018 World Cup. Or Tony Blair in Singapore on the Olympic bid? How would the FA and the BOA have felt if are Prime Ministers had shaken their heads, and said, sorry, not our bag? When South Africa won the right to host the 2010 World Cup, FIFA asked them to change their country's constitution - and they duly obliged...

We have a Minister for Sport and the Olympics; we subsidise sports across the country. We are pouring money into the Olympics. Sport is used to exert a country's influence in the world - be it to promote pride in a nations achievements (Australia) or to justify a political regime (East Germany).

And you know something? I'm all for mixing politics and sport.

There are economic benefits, as this report demonstrates. And while we remain to see how it all shakes out, there are potentially huge legacy benefits to hosting The Olympics.

There are health benefits. The public subisdy we give organisations like Sport England get kids and adults more active, making them healthier, extending life expectancy, and if you really want everything to be about money, reducing healthcare costs in the long term.

Sport encourages a sense of self worth, of achievement, gives kids targets and goals, and encourages a sense of team work (in those playing it ) and community (in those watching it). I love it when the country comes together for a major sporting event.

Oh. And sport is fun. And life's just a bit too serious.

So I'm ALL for politics being part of sport.

I just get tired of sports men and women - who have often been in receipt at some point in their lives of public funding to support them - who now want to make a quick buck by, say, touring a a country with an appalling human rights record or a regime that is an affront to the world (South Africa under Apartheid springs to mind) telling me that sport and politics don't mix.

Because in fact they're inextricably linked.

Julia Donaldson is the new Children's Laureate


And how about this for a manifesto?

I'm in heaven.

Monday 6 June 2011

Shall we stop pulling each other's hair now?

Two things have dominated the Lib Dem blogosphere in recent days. The first should act as food for thought, following all the fall out from the second.

The first is of course the very sad news about the death of Andrew Reeves. I didn't know Andrew but you only have to see both the weight of tributes, the list of contributors to those tributes and read what has been said to know that Andrew must have been a very decent man of great integrity, holding all our Liberal ideals dear.

Now, the second issue. Registration requirements for the Lib Dem conference.

Now, this clearly matters. While I'm happy to stick my hand up and say I'm on the side of those concerned that the police appear to have a veto over who is a fit and proper person to attend conference, there are sound arguments on both sides of this debate.

But what makes me really sad is that two people who have been blogging - one on either side of the argument - have tweeted in recent days that the abuse they have been receiving makes them want to 'give up'.

Neither of them are shrinking violets so it's not that they are not tough enough. It's just that while they are happy to debate the issues sensibly and calmly, they don't see why they should have to put up with unreasonable levels of vitriol.

And I think they are right.

In the week we lost a good man like Andrew Reeves, isn't the least we can do is remember that ultimately we are on the same side - and play nicely together?

From everything I've read, I think that's what Andrew would have wanted.

Ryan Giggs, Nick Clegg and me

I was pondering my blog while I was away and found myself on the horns of a dilemma.

When I started this blog I did it to create a vehicle to express the views I hold about Lib Dem issues as and when they struck me as important. And of course as a place to blow off steam and engage in some shameless showing off.

But like a tabloid editor chasing readers I have quickly become enslaved to the tyranny of page views, a disciple to wikio scores and a constant crusader in pursuit of that Holy Grail of a mention in the Lib Dem Voice 'Golden Dozen'.

Now, I'm not writing posts that I wouldn't have written anyway. What's the point in having a blog if you can't spout off about what's on your own agenda?

But I have been fretting that I may been pulling in readers under false pretences. Posts with titles featuring the words 'constitutional amendments' or 'tertiary education reforms' may tell people what to expect in the piece, but they don't pull in the big numbers. Whereas the mention of Nick's name or that of a celeb (or both) pulls people in like nobody's business. I'll bet the spurious title of this post results in a fair few hits...

And of course, while a great title may mean the post does well in raw numbers, it may not do so well against a more targeted audience - good titles don't necessarily help with appropriate SEO scores.

I know I'm not the only person struggling with this. Neil Monnery wrote this terrific piece a few days back with a scorcher of a title - but one that clearly gave him some personal concerns and more than a tinge of regret. It's the debate I guess we all have with ourselves.

So where am I ending up? Well I know I am now meant to declare my intention to do the right thing and ensure every blog post I compose does a Ronseal and does exactly what is says in the title.


I'll be going for the big numbers. Next week, exclusive to this blog: me, several members of The House of Lords, and an all night sitting - The Truth!

See you all in the red tops.

Sunday 5 June 2011

We're back from holiday and the May numbers are in...

Here are the 5 most popular posts from this blog in May. You'll notice that there's a bit of a theme...

1. 3 ways to restore Nicks popularity. One he should do, one he won't, one that will turn your stomach but would work overnight.

It was also top of the Lib Dem Voice 'Golden Dozen' one week. I'm still blushing.

2. Olly Grender vs. Mark Pack FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT

Second in the week it was published in The Golden Dozen. Which shows that Mark and Olly are very popular, but not quite as popular as Nick...but more popular than...

3. Yes to AV rally: Last night Ashdown, Miliband, Eddie Izzard, Iannucci at al were all great. But Jonathan Bartley made the best point I heard all night.

Everybody loves shaky photos of celebs, don't they!

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

Yes, it's there for the second month in a row. It's the gift that keeps on giving. Though it's popularity is no doubt helped by the fact that I linked it to this article by Laurie Penny in The New Statesman.

5. Day 2: I don't like the new line we're spinning either.

Me being grumpy post the Election results. Sorry.

So the rules of the game appear to be - popular posts mention Nick, other popular Lib Dems, or celebs. Noted!!

Wednesday 1 June 2011

The Anti Lords Reform arguments seem facile and contradictory. They've got me worried.

The two central arguments that the opponents of a democratically elected House of Lords are putting forward are beginning to emerge and it seems to me they are essentially contradictory.

Argument one: you get smarter people in The House of Lords because the establishment pick the cream of the crop.

Yes, all hubris aside, they really are saying that. Unlike the House of Commons, their argument goes, the Lords is full of experts on everything under the sun, and it is only by a process of appointment and patronage that we can expect the great and the good to deign to consider the great matters of state. We can't expect them to stand for election, and if we did, they wouldn't bother, so an elected House of Lords would be intellectually inferior to the current one. By extension, they must believe of course that the House of Commons is less able to judge the weighty matters of State, as it is elected. Which curiously brings us on to Argument two...

Argument two: an elected House of Lords would threaten the primacy of The Commons

While argument one holds that its make up makes it the intellectual and superior house, argument 2 is that it mustn't undermine the primacy of the House of Commons and a democratically elected Lords might do that - because it's members actually had to make a case for being there, rather than just being granted tenure. Which is odd really. You'd expect a house full of superior talent to be the one threatening The Commons, wouldn't you?....

So, two weak and contradictory arguments which knocking back should be a doddle. You'd think, wouldn't you...


Let's cast our minds back to the AV referendum and the arguments made by the 'NO' campaign. AV will cost a fortune, vote YES and babies won't get incubators, AV is incredibly complicated, AV is undemocratic, AV allows losers to win et al. These arguments too were facile, false, often contradictory... But they were expressed simply, consistently, and frequently. And the message got through.

So let's not fall into the same trap again. We must take these two central arguments and refute them objectively, unemotionally (let's not compare the other side to the Nazis again) and simply.

And we need to make the central planks of our own argument just as straightforward and campaign for them in the same way.

Let's not make the 'they're liars and lunatics' mistakes of the AV referendum campaign all over again.

PS. If you're keen to help the grassroots campaign for Lords Reform then do follow this link to the campaign's Facebook page. Lots of good information to be gleaned.