'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 31 December 2011

Happy New Year Everybody

Sir Paul Ruddock, Tory donor and newly enobled knight of the realm, has a website. Check it out.

Hmm. So a multi millionnaire Tory donor who made a fortune short selling Northern Rock shares shortly before it crashed, has been given a knighthood for his philanathropic contribution to the arts.

Having read the headlines, I thought it sounded a bit of classic cash-for-honours type scenario. But I thought I'd do the decent thing and find out just what Sir Paul had done.

Helpfully, he has his own website, containing all his contributions in one place. This must have made it much easier for the honours committee to make their judgement. How thoughtful of him to provide it.

Do take a look. You can draw your own conclusions as to whether his work deserves a knighthood. I'd make a few observations mind...

1. He is chair of the V&A and spends (I quote) at least 10 hours a week working for them. This seems a relatively small amount of time in exchange for a knighthood.
2. He is a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is in America. Therefore, in my mind, doesn't count, Knighthood wise
3. He donates to the Walters Art Museum. Doesn't say how much. But anyway - this is based in America - doesn't count in my book for a UK honour.
4. He is the major donor to the new performing arts centre at King Edwards School in Birmingham. This is a private school. Worthy - but for a public honour, shouldn't count. If only he'd built the arts centre for his local academy, eh...you know, benefitting the kids on the local estate.
5. He got a First at Mansfield. This is listed on his philanthropy page, but I can't quite see why that's a philanthropic gesture. Certainly in the 'why I deserve a Knighthood' stakes - doesn't count..

Finally, Sir Paul does donate regularly to Afrikids, a charity working for African children. This does seem an entirely worthwhile cause and I take my hat off to him. Unfortunately, the knighthood hadn't been given for charity work - its for philanthropy to the arts. So for the purposes of making a judgement on how worthy Sir Paul is of his new honour - doesn't count.

So basically, I think he's been given a Knighthood for doing 500 hours a year at the V&A

I quite fancy that myself. Where do I apply?

Nick Clegg's New Year Message on Video

Or you can read the written version here

For 2012, I'd like Lib Dem backbenchers to start using some new words. Like 'Lickspittle'.

Over the last year, the Parliamentary Party has understood better that if we are to stand any chance electorally going forward, we have to be seen as principled, distinctive - and liberal.

Hence we have moved away from the idea of coalition government meaning ourselves and the Tories speaking as one on all issues - which was always a nonsense. We have adopted a new approach - with a modicum of success, at least in Tory eyes - of being seen as a break on the worst excesses of the Tories. And it is now rumoured that we will go even further in the differentiation strategy. - check out this piece in The New Statesman. I so hope this is true.

And as part of that, I'd like to see our backbenchers saying what they think rather more assertively.

A classic example of this was the pre Christmas statement on Europe (the one Nick didn't turn up for - which I still think was a huge mistake - he should have been there, shaking his head vigorously). In that session Jo Swinson did receive plaudits for her measured and sensible questionning of the PM, and got some coverage to boot. But the headlines went to the considerably more aggressive attacks from the Tory right on the backbenches - the Nadine Dorries and Philip Davies types (the latter calling us lickspittles).

We still, I think, as a party in parliament cling to a notion that we're all in this together. We still wrestle with the principles of collective responsibility in cabinet - an idea that I think should be often redundant in a coalition government anyway. But there's certainly no reason why we shouldn't be altogether more straightforward in expressing our views about the Tories from the backbenches.

It's not like we're brothers or anything.

Thursday 29 December 2011

I may have got it wrong about Mary Portas

The end of the year is always a good time to right a few wrongs...so can I say 'sorry' to Mary Portas?

I wondered about the decision to commission her to rejuvinate our High Streets earlier this year - and said so on here.

But since then I've seen David Mitchell put his hands up and say he may have got this wrong...

And since then her report has come out, making numerous sensible and progressive suggestions, to general applause all round.

While she may not have all the answers, she has produced a detailed, well thought through and excellent report.

So sorry Mary.

Going back to my original article however, I still don't want Graham Norton to do a review of the arts

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Nick Clegg's New Year Message (slightly less cheerier than Tim Farron's...).

Dear Richard,

This time last year I spoke about how the most important job for Liberal Democrats was dealing with the economic problems we inherited. 12 months on, that task remains the number one priority for our party and the Coalition.

We have had to make some very difficult decisions, but they've been the right ones for the long term good of our country.

But that economic rescue mission is not over yet. That's why, thanks to the Liberal Democrats, the Coalition has been helping people get through these difficult times with measures to make life fairer and easier.

2011 was the year we lifted nearly a million low paid workers out of paying income tax altogether and cut taxes for 23m people - because I believe putting money back into peoples pockets makes all the difference.

It was the year more than a million children got a fairer start in life, with extra support at school through our Pupil Premium and free early years education for toddlers - because I believe that helping the youngest take their first steps in life makes all the difference.

It was the year we guaranteed pensioners a decent increase in their pension - because I believe dignity in retirement makes all the difference.

Throughout, we have taken big long-term decisions that will change the way our economy works for the better - rebalancing it away from the City of London towards stronger, more sustainable growth.

And next year we will do more. The world's first Green Investment Bank putting millions into green jobs and growth; our youth contract to get every young person out of work earning or learning; more apprenticeships than this country has ever had before; and we will take further steps to make our tax system fairer too.

What we're doing as a party, and as a Coalition, it's not easy, but it's right. We are putting the interests of the country first, and we have taken the first steps towards building a fairer, greener and more liberal country.

The next year will be one that poses many great challenges for everyone in Britain, but I know we must continue to do what's right for our country.

And with that, I wish you all a very happy New Year.

Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Please Vote one more time in the Channel Four News poll for 'who changed the world in 2011'

Mohammad Al Bouazizi has now featured heavily in 2 "Person of the Year' awards - through Time Magazine and the Financial Times.

Channel Four News will announce the results if their poll of who changed the world the most in 2011 - please read here why Mohamed Al Bouazizi should win this poll, and then vote for him here


More Praise for Mohamed Al Bouazizi - this time in The Financial Times

Many thanks to @robblackie who let me know that the Financial Times 'Person of the Year' is the angry Arab protestor, led by Mohamed Al Bouazizi.

The FT paywall prevents me making the link directly, but if you are a subscriber, do pay them a visit to read the excellent piece.

Friday 23 December 2011

Louise Mensch - Oh dear.

I know it's Christmas so I should resist...but Louise Mensch. Honestly.

I guess we shouldn't be at all surprised that she is cheerleading for Lady Thatcher to get a State Funeral. And there is a case she should, as our first Woman Prime Minister - though I subscribe rather more to the Peter Oborne stance on this, that she is too divisive a character to get the honour. So I can forgive this first tweet (though I don't think anyone who thinks differently is the idiot Louise Mensch says they are..)

But then, she follows it up with this corker...

Now, I suspect the whole world immediately tweeted back 'Angela Merkel'. And you'd think she'd hold her hand up, say 'whoops' and we'd all move on..

Not Louise Mensch though....

So Angela Merkel doesn't count!!

Others have been suggested - and similarly dismissed. Here's a shocking reply...

I myself have suggested Helen Thorning-Schmidt, current PM (technically Minister of State) of Denmark, Iveta Radicva, President of Slovakia, Christine Fernandez de Kerchner, President of Argentina and Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil. I forgot Dalia Grybauskaite, President of Lithuania (apologies Dalia).

I suspect Lousie Mensch dismissed them all...either not Western enough or not elected with an absolute majority..which apparently makes them losers...

Or else, La Mensch is subscribing to the Hermain Cain school of foreign policy thinking..

"When they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan I'm going to say you know, I don't know. Do you know?"

Right, that's enough about Louise Mensch. It's Christmas.

Tim Farron's Christmas message to Lib Dem members has just landed in my in box..

Dear Richard,

Well that was quite a year, wasn’t it? It was a good one too!

I know, I know, after the referendum and the horrible results in May you’d be forgiven for believing we were sinking faster than Blackburn Rovers (how it pains me to write that), but you know what, it’s not true.

This year we did some amazing things, things you and I have wanted to do for years but never had the power to actually get done.

For one, we put an end to the horrific practice of locking up innocent kids behind bars for months on end in immigration removal centres.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, one of our brilliant MSP candidates who missed out on a seat in May, said that if his loss was in some way a down-payment on ending child detention then “I accept it with all my heart”.

But that was just one of many ways Liberal Democrats in the Coalition put our principles into practice this year.

We took nearly a million of the poorest workers out of paying tax altogether and gave a £200 tax cut not to the rich but to 23m working people.

We gave children extra support to stop them falling behind in school.

We gave pensioners the first meaningful rise in the state pension since Thatcher abolished the earnings link.

Nick Clegg stood up to defend human rights after the riots and for Europe against the Tory right-wingers.

You stood up for the NHS and forced real change.

Would all of that have happened if we let the Tories run the country on their own? I hardly need to answer that.

And we’ve really turned a corner in council by-elections in the last six months, with seven gains, eight holds and just three losses.

So I’m proud of our year and I hope you are too.

Next year will be hard too. We need to carry on doing difficult things and we need to work with our traditional opponents to clear up Labour’s mess and put the country back on track. As Nick said at conference, it’s not easy, but it is right.

So 2012 is a big year for us. A very big year. But our prospects are better than Blackburn Rovers’!

Happy Christmas.

Tim Farron

Liberal Democrat Party President

Infographics fun for Lib Dems geeks everywhere. Thanks Mark Pack!

I'll hold my hand up. I love info graphics. If you do too you should spend some quality time on this website....

But if you're both an infographics geek AND a Lib Dem, it really doesn't get any better than this.

(Click the image to enlarge).

Thanks Mark. (who put it together).

Thursday 22 December 2011

3195 reasons why Aidan Burley won't be sacked by the Tories.

It's been reported that the French authorities have now launched a criminal investigation into Conservative MP Aidan Burley and fellow guests who attended that notorious Stag Night in Val Thorens with all its Nazi overtones.

You'd like to think if he was truly sorry, Aidan Burley would now resign. But I bet he won't.

And if the Conservatives were truly sorry - they'd sack him. But I bet they won't.

Why not?

Because Cannock Chase is...a Tory marginal. Here's the results from the last general election:

(The vote share change in 2010 comes from the notional, not actual, 2005 results because of the boundary change (loss of Huntington).)

What's more - this was a switch from Labour to the Tories - who had held the seat fairly comfortably until last year:

(source: Wikipedia)

So much as I'd like to think in the era of 'a new kind of politics' the Tories would put the inherent dangers of a marginal by election to one side for doing the right thing - the realist in me is pretty certain they won't. I guess if Burley is charged and prosecuted - then this may become moot anyway...

Economists get it wrong again. Then explain how it's not their fault. Yawn.

So, in the third quarter, the UK economy grew slightly faster than economists were predicting. They predicted 0.5%, it actually grew at 0.6%. So they were out by 20%.

Cue lots of quotes from City Economists about how this was entirely predicatable and easily explained - even though they neither predicted it, nor apparently were away of the reasons why this would happen at 09.29 this morning. Here's a typical example I've lifted from the Telegraph.

I must get round to writing a longer post at some point about the madness by which the bankers and economists are clearly not in control of events - yet are being put in charge of countries (Italy, Greece) and the Euro Zone as a whole (ECB) - as they are 'the best people to sort this out.

But in the meantime, I'm just going to bang my head on the desk for a while...

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Monday 19 December 2011

Ed Miliband Spilling Tea

I know, I know, I said I'd stop doing this...but it's TOO good not to.

H?T to Ryan Farrell, @LittleMarxist on twitter

Anyway, I do feel like I've let myself down :-)

I still don’t feel that sense of urgency…

Back in March, after the Barnsley By Election and after reading a series of tweets and blog posts about the disastrous result, telling me not to panic and things were not that bad, I wrote a blog post espousing the notion that actually they were every bit as bad as they looked.

I think I was right. And I think the May local election results (more than the AV referendum) indicated that I got that spot on. And there has definitely, since May, been a sense of shifting strategy and attempting to differentiate ourselves a little more. But it’s not exactly been a runaway train, has it.

Since then, there have been two more by election results. And similar reactions from the party. Some of it has been eminently sensible and reasoned. Mark Pack has written a great piece suggesting that Feltham was the by election in which nothing happened…and I read it and nodded along to every word. And yet….

Looking at the by election results this year, Oldham – which seemed so disappointing at the time – looks like a miracle.

Oldham: second, +0.3 increased Share of Vote (SOV)
Barnsley: sixth, -13.1 drop in SOV
Leicester South :second, -4.4 drop in SOV
Feltham: third, -7.8 drop in SOV

And Feltham was a narrow squeak for third to boot.

Now, I am detecting more signs of a shift in tone and strategy again – Rafael Behr has a piece in The New Statesman today suggesting the differentiation strategy is about to be dialled up.

But – you know something. I don’t really feel that there is enough wailing, shouting, renting of clothes, gnashing of teeth and dead eyed fury about the situation we find ourselves in.

So I ask the question in all humilty.

When do we press the panic button?

There’s a great ‘Yes Prime Minster sketch (I’ll load it below) when Hacker gets asked what the nuclear deterrent is for – when would he press the button?

And I kind of feel we’re in the same place - aren’t we? When would we press the button?

PS: Obviously, not advocating conscription.....:-)

Thursday 15 December 2011

The BBC have written to me...

This is the BBC's response to my complaint about the Sports Personality of the Year all male shortlist. Click on the image to enlarge.

I suppose I'm quite impressed they replied so promptly. But I sense the volume of complaints led them to develop a set response....

Anyway, when you click on the first link, here's what BARBARA SLATER (yes, it's a woman in charge of this debacle) has to say. The 'why Nuts and not a woman's magazine' section is particularly weak...

But make your own minds up.


We received complaints about the lack of women nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2011.

Our response

We recognise that the all-male line-up has created much debate amongst viewers of the programme, sports-lovers in general and those that champion the cause of Women’s sport in this country. We have had many different points made in the reaction we receive which informs our editorial discussions and we do value it. We have reported all this feedback widely across the BBC and in order to ensure we use the licence fee as efficiently as possible we are sending this response to the issues from our Director of Sport, Barbara Slater to everyone who has contacted us which addresses as many of the detailed points raised by everyone as we are able to:

"The shortlist comprises some of the finest sports stars on the planet. Everyone is rightly proud of their achievements over the last year, the role they play in inspiring younger generations and the credit they deliver back for the UK. I share the disappointment that the independently determined shortlist does not include any British Sportswomen. There were some worthy female candidates and I should recap how the selection process works.

"The shortlist of the ten British sports stars is determined by the combined votes of a panel of industry experts based on their assessment of relative sporting achievements during the year. The panel consists of the sport editors of the national newspapers, selected regionals and magazines. These are chosen because of their expertise in the area, their coverage of a wide range of sports throughout the year and the extent of their readership. In total, we received 27 responses from the 35 invitations that were issued this year. The panel included publications such as the Sunday Times, the Daily Mail, the Irish News, the Mirror, the Daily Telegraph, Sport Magazine and the Herald. It is worth noting that most of the publications did include at least one sportswoman in their shortlist.

"The inclusion of publications such as Nuts and Zoo in the shortlisting panel is for a variety of reasons. These magazines have a dedicated sports section which every week covers a range of sports including Women's sport and minority sports. They also have a readership profile which reaches younger audiences and helps contribute to a balanced panel which is representative of all the BBC's audiences. There are very few other widely-read publications that cover such a breadth of sporting news, features and reports on a regular basis. We do not include specialist sporting publications given their potential inherent bias to one particular sport nor do we canvas the views of non-sporting publications.

"The current system was introduced in 2006 and at least two women have always previously been shortlisted for the main award. Having considered a wide range of alternative mechanisms, we remain convinced that the current system is fair, independent and robust. Previous top 10 candidates included in 2010 Jessica Ennis (3rd) and Amy Williams whilst 2009 saw Jessica Ennis (3rd) and Beth Tweddle. In 2008 Rebecca Adlington (3rd), Nicole Cooke, Christine Ohuruogu and Rebecca Romero all made the Top 10 as did Paula Radcliffe and Christine Ohuruogu in 2007. In 2006 Nicole Cooke, Beth Tweddle and Zara Phillips were nominated with Zara winning the award. This is therefore the first time there has been no female representation since the current system was put in place five years ago. The ultimate winner of the award is determined solely by a public telephone vote during the show itself.

"We stand by the current voting process but have committed to take on board what has happened this year and we will review the shortlisting process for next year's show. It is too early to say what, if any changes will be made to the process but please rest assured that we will seek the opinions of people both within and outside of the BBC before deciding on the appropriate methodology for 2012.

"The current focus on the shortlist for the Sports Personality of the Year Award has shone a bright light on the wider issues surrounding the media coverage and profile of Women's sport in the UK. As I'm sure you are aware, the BBC is committed to covering a broad range of sports and events and this includes a significant commitment to Women's sport. The BBC is proud to have followed the achievements of many successful sportswomen through our coverage of events such as the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, Wimbledon and the Women's Football World Cup.

"I trust that I have addressed your questions satisfactorily and made clear the BBC's commitment to a fair selection process. This year's shortlist for the main award represents six very different sports and has candidates from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is disappointing that the independent process did not result in the shortlisting of a female candidate; but we believe it does not detract from the incredible array of British talent that will compete for the 58th Sports Personality of the Year Award.“

Barbara Slater, Director of Sport

The 1 Billion Pound Bargain

Hidden away at the end of the Telegraph story today, speculating that Sir Fred Goodwin could end up facing criminal charges, is this little gem.

Peter Sands, Chief Executive of Standard Chartered, was up before the Treasury Select committee yesterday. In his evidence he was asked about new rules governing bank regulation. To quote The Telegraph..

Mr Sands also warned that the bank faces a $500m (£323m) a year cost from the "avalanche" of new rules. Speaking later, Bob Diamond of Barclays said new regulations could cost the bank "north of £1bn"

Apparently for the sector as a whole, regulation could cost £7billion. Which sounds like a lot. Until you take a look at the risk the British Taxpayer was exposed to in bailing out the financial services sector not so long ago. Here's 'fact check' from The Guardian...

• Since 2007 the UK has committed to spending £1.162 trillion at various points on bailing out the banks. This figure has however fluctuated wildly during the period and by March 2011 it was £456.33bn. That total outstanding support was equivalent to 31% of GDP in March.

• The £456.33bn figure breaks down into £123.93bn in loan or share purchases, which required a cash injection from the government to the banks, and £332.4bn in guarantees and indemnities which haven't actually been paid, but were offered to shore up the failing bank system.

• Of the £123.93bn, the Royal Bank of Scotland received £45.80bn, Lloyds £20.54bn, Northern Rock a total of £22.99bn, Bradford and Bingley £8.55bn and a further £26.05bn went on "loans to support deposit".

Now there are lots of other ways of assessing both the costs and the risks. But at the end of the day the exposure is enormous.

Not to mention the costs in human terms. 2.64m unemployed for example

Which makes £323m, £1billion or even £7billion sound like peanuts to me.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Fantastic News. 'The Protestor', personified by Mohammad Al Bouazizi is Time 'Person of the Year" We did it

Of course its not all down to this blogs campaign - we'll have had a marginal effect - but the petition, the letters, the Facebook page and the endless Tweets all seem to have made a difference.

Here's the full story.

And here's an interview Mohammad's mother in Time and a review of his actions, again from Time

Thank you to everyone who has helped, including MPs from all parties, friends and contacts from Twitter and Facebook, The New Statesman, Lib Dem Voice and even Michael Winner. It's fantastic news - a true tribute to the man who in 2011 really did change the world.

Mohammad Al Bouazizi

How Ed Miliband could be PM by Christmas. ish.

Lots of quotes from Nick last night at the Parliamentary meeting - including this notable one (which I've taken from the Telegraph):

"The Deputy Prime Minister told a private meeting of more than 100 MPs and peers that he would not play "Russian roulette" with the Conservatives over David Cameron's rejection of a new European treaty.

He said: "I don't want to be the last leader of the Liberal Democrats by provoking a general election today." His speech, which was applauded by the meeting, came as a poll put the Lib Dems on just 12 per cent, just ahead of the UK Independence Party"

In other words, Nick believes that by withdrawing from the coalition, a General Election would be called.

This is not what the Fixed Term Parliament Act (sponsored incidentally, by Nick) says at all - as Mark Pack pointed out on Monday.

If we were to withdraw, the most likely course of events is that a Vote of No Confidence would be called. Should this be lost, - as would happen if Labour, our good selves, the SNP and the Alliance all voted against - then in fact, The Queen would invite Ed Miliband to try and form a government. And who knows - maybe he could...

Which, as I've written in the New Statesman, is why Ed Miliband was making overtures to us on Sunday. And why a couple of hours after I posted my piece, Douglas Alexander made 'one of those' offers to us...

And it's been coming for a while. Everyone seems to have missed this quote from Ed Balls last month...

"The only coalition which actually could sort out our economic problems at the moment is a coalition between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, because we are the only ones who understand together what needs to be done.".

Hang on to your hats folks.

I'm not saying any of this is the right thing to do. But it's being talked about...

Tuesday 13 December 2011

7% Interest on 10 year Bonds = Economic Meltdown. It wasn't always the case you know...

And another thing on the Vicky Pryce graph...

For lots of good reasons, it is now generally accepted that if the markets want you to pay more then 7% interest on 10 year sovereign bonds when you try and sell them, you're screwed. Hence the point of no return when Ireland and Portugal asked for bail outs, and the panic ensuing since Italy hovered around that mark (which it still is by the way...)

But as this chart shows (click to enlarge) - pre the 2008 recession, all the countries of The Eurozone were paying more than that - even Germany.

Of course a lot else has changed since. But shows the danger of thinking a 'golden rule' is always, and always will be, a'golden rule'...

Maths can be fun

Well, I bet that title's killed this blog post. So lets add a few other words that might tempt you in. Vicky Pryce (formerly Mrs Huhne), the BBC, Eurogeddon.

Look at this screen grab - it shows Vicky Pryce's selection as the best graph of the year 2011. And you must admit - it's a wowser!! (click to enlarge)

There are several more corkers on this BBC story, where they have asked top economists to choose their 'charts of the year'

You see Maths and economic global meltdown really CAN be fun!!

PS if you like this sort of stuff, do try and get hold of 'Information is Beautiful' by David McCandless. It's terrific.

And if you like that - check out this brilliant website.

May 2010 - all over again

Full text from yesterday's piece in The New Statesman. As ever, would welcome comments here or on The NS comments thread.

It appears to be May 2010 all over again.

A Labour leader is throwing come hither looks at the Nick Clegg. And after celebrating what looked like a victory in the small hours of a Friday morning, one long weekend later and Tory MPs are realising that there may be an orange obstacle preventing them doing anything and everything they want.

Meanwhile, a quirk in the coalition agreement -- that everyone bar Ed Miliband seems to have missed -- is about to take effect.

Let's deal with the Tories first. A certain amount of self-indulgent giggling on Friday at Cameron's "coup" has turned into sorrowful headshaking now that the Lib Dems have (belatedly) called foul.

"Do they understand the concept of collective responsibility?" was the question 18 months ago and is being asked again now. To which the answer is yes, it's a two way street, it applies to governments who have won an outright majority (the Tories didn't), and anyway withdrawing to the margins of Europe isn't in the coalition agreement. This last point gives the Lib Dems carte blanche on the issue of Europe.

For any Tory Eurosceptics reading this, "carte blanche" is a French phrase, which roughly translates as "stuff you".

So what does Cameron do about this? Tories keen to push on from Friday's, ahem, "victory", think he should dissolve the coalition, ditch us pesky coalition non-partners (how quickly they forget) and start repatriating powers from Brussels pronto. They are happy for Cameron to call a general election if he needs to -- no British politician has ever lost out by sticking up two fingers to the French, have they?

Unfortunately for those Eurosceptics, David Cameron can't do that. And what's stopping him? Well, amusingly, it's the Queen. For on 15 September 2011, Her Majesty graciously gave royal assent to the Parliament Act (sponsor: N. Clegg).

This means there can only be a General Election before May 2015 under two circumstances. Either at least two thirds of the entire House of Commons have to agree that it's a jolly good idea, which is unlikely. Or the government has to lose a vote of no confidence.

Now, that could happen. I'm not sure David Cameron would want to call such a vote and end up having to vote against himself in order to bring down his own government, but the option is there for him. Or for Labour.

But that doesn't trigger an election. First Parliament must as examine if an alternative government can be formed from the existing make up of the House...

Hence we hear the clarion call of "I agree with Nick".

There will be plenty who say that won't happen. That it would make the Lib Dems look duplicitous to turn on their Tory partners and the electorate would never forgive them. Ah well, Plus ca change (translation - see above).

Ed Miliband knows that a vote of no confidence from Labour, Lib Dems, Green SNP and Alliance would end with him being Prime Minister without the need for a general election. Support of Plaid and others would make him more secure. The maths couldn't be made to work 18 months ago. But now the Tories have had time to annoy everyone - suddenly it looks a little more likely.

Like I said. It feels like May 2010 all over again...

Monday 12 December 2011

It's May 2010 all over again

My latest post in the New Statesman was published at lunchtime today.

Then 3 hours later Douglas Alexander made it true

They even nicked my picture caption and gave it to him.

What fun!!

Selfish, selfish, selfish

This EU business. The general reaction from these shores seems to be all about me, me, me. Or rather us, us, us.

For example, Cameron hasn’t signed the treaty because it’s not 'in Britain’s interests'. And there seems to be a general view from the right that with impending Eurozone disaster on the horizon, thank goodness we’re retiring to a safe distance to rubberneck at the accident. Or as Michael Portillo has put it:

“The euro is a burning building with locked doors, and it seems to be a pretty good idea to be out of that.”

But to me, that’s the real problem.

When your neighbour’s house is on fire, you don’t shrug and say ’thank goodness I live in a large detached house some way from the inferno’. You fight tooth and nail to get into the house to help save them, and then you do everything you can to put the fire out

Isn’t that the right thing to do? Won’t that mean they are more likely to reciprocate next time you find yourself in similar circumstances?

(And as David Cameron himself was pointing out not so long ago, that seems a pretty good way of making sure the fire doesn’t spread next door. I rather think he’s forgotten that).

And this seems to me to be the main problem with the narrative, not just over the last few hours and days, but weeks and months.

It’s all about what’s in my interests or our interests. And not what’s in everyone’s interests.

I’m not saying the Eurozone are any better. I don’t suppose the Frankfurt Group have lost many hours sleep wondering how they can make Britain’s life easier.

But at the end of the day, the European project is about making sure we do all we can for those members of the group who most need it, when they need it.

If I see the Titanic going down – I hope I send my life rafts in its direction. And not just thank God that I missed the boat

Friday 9 December 2011

A Handy 5 minute video guide to Europe in the last 24 hours

An excellent analysis of what's happened, why it's happened and what it means domestically, from the Guardian. This one will run and run...