'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 31 May 2012

Yes Campaign in Scotland not quite as popular as they'd like you to think...

Oh dear. More woe from the ‘Yes for Scotland ‘ Campaign.

Their Twitter biography is rather peculiar. Here it is.

Why the health warning? Well it’s because the campaign has been displaying the pictures of ‘supporters’ of the Yes campaign who, it turns out, are not supporters. In fact – they are active opponents of Scottish Independence.

As the wonderful Caron Lindsay, who’s face adorned the front page of the Yes campaign website on Tuesday, put it...

“I mean, I follow lots of people on Twitter that I don’t agree with: Mitt Romney, Larry the Downing Street Cat,  Ed Miliband…..I even follow some people I absolutely can’t stand. That’ll be you, Lewis Hamilton and Daily Mail. Following on Twitter should never be taken as an indication of support.”

And I imagine the slightly odd Twitter biography that is now appearing means they can’t alter the website easily to stop it posting Twitter avatars. Or else they really don’t want their opponents to find out what they are saying, and are trying to stop them following on Twitter.

But that can’t be right. Can it?

Bigged up by the boss

In the latest letter to the troops (a note from a senior Lib Dem, not sent out mid crisis - there must be something TERRIBLE happening we don't know about), Nick is kind enough to big up our Facebook page 'Liberal Democrats for Lords Reform'.

So I'll return the favour and big up his letter to the troops.

That's the sort of democratic organisation we are.

Dear Richard,

We are reaching an important phase in our challenge to reform the British establishment.

David Cameron, Ed Miliband and I all have to step up, and make sure we don’t let this moment pass us by.

One by one, some of the pillars of the establishment - Parliament, the media, the banking sector - have been disgraced. So there has never been a more urgent time to fix our broken establishment.

That is why I hosted a summit yesterday with some fantastic democracy campaigners, including 38 Degrees, the Electoral Reform Society, Compass, the Fabian Society and Unlock Democracy.

We are in the final stages of cross-party talks on party funding, we are about to publish a Bill for Lords Reform, we are enacting major reforms of our banking sector, and the Leveson Inquiry is opening a lid on politics, the media and the police.  

It is important that we all work together to deliver long lasting reform.

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

PS Some of our party activists have set up a Facebook page in support of Lords Reform – click here to like the page and keep up to date.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Craig Oliver vs Malcom Tucker. FIGHT

I expect we all saw the film of Craig Oliver having a go at Norman Smith of the BBC yesterday over a report he didn't like, blissfully unaware of the cameras still rolling. But if you missed it, here it is..

And there's a good analysis (and some more 'behind the scenes' tales) in this report from Mark Damazer in The Guardian.

Oliver has taken some flak over this.But I'm not sure why. He's just doing his job and he's pretty polite and straightforward.

But you know. Wouldn't it be so much better if in real life, the spin doctors were just a tad more Tuckeresque...


Well. That caused a stir.

My latest piece in the New Statesman.

Louise Mensch said this (and tweeted it)

Occupy London said this (they didn't RT it)

Plenty of people on the left did like it.

Though quite a few didn't like it...

And even proper journalists felt it had something to say.

So thanks everyone. It felt like I really had something to say.

Friday 25 May 2012

Thursday 24 May 2012

IPOs made of Sand.

In a departure for this blog, a piece I wrote for the New Statesman earlier this week ended up, not on The Staggers, but in their business blog. Goodness, what next, The Economist?

Anyway, here it is in all its glory...

Watching the Facebook IPO launch on Friday struck me as a typical example of Emperors New Clothes syndrome. Mainly because I’ve lived through it before.
In March 1999 my agency picked up the global ad account for a new dotcom that was going to revolutionise the world of clothes retailing. It was called boo.com. Started by three twenty something Swedish entrepreneurs operating out of glamorous offices on Carnaby Street (which were soon replaced by bigger and even more glamorous offices on Regent Street), we stood on the sidelines and watched as investors in the company were swept along on a tidal wave of enthusiasm, lavish spending and unbridled and unquenchable ambition.
Throughout the process we kept asking ourselves questions about the company. Why was all this funding, delivered from the some of the world’s wealthiest individuals and large merchant banks, arriving in a seemingly never ending supply, when there seemed so many flaws in the business model. There was no clear positioning for the company, indeed no clear definition of what the company was going to sell, the technological ambitions for the site far outstripped what was apparently feasible back then, systems seemed flawed and everything appeared very hand to mouth.
Yet, we reasoned, these big merchant banks weren’t stupid. No one would pile all this money into a start up without a clear vision for how they were going to get their money back. Would they? We concluded over and over again, that it must be us – we simply didn’t understand the machinations of high finance.
Well, we quickly found out differently (as has been well documented) and a valuable lesson was learnt. Things can be too good to be true, merchant banks do apparently gamble vast sums on hunches, and our Finance Director, who said from the word go that it was all built on sand and would end in tears, really did know what she was talking about (hats off, Shirley).
And of course, what was true of the dotcom bubble was true for many other areas which the merchant banks were, ahem, investing in - with no one brave enough to shout ‘look, they’ve got no clothes on’.
Which is why I shudder when, despite all that has happened in the last 5 years, with the worlds wealth apparently built upon a mountain of doubt like some giant ponzi scheme, the banks – yes, the banks again – can decide that an 8 year old company with negligible assets is worth 200 times its annual profits, in a sector that saw its predecessor collapse from market leader to junk in a matter of months. And while there a few people shouting ‘Emperors New Clothes’, the banks carry on propping up their investment – because they can’t be seen to be gambling again…..
But until we all start acknowledging that perhaps investments should be based on things like assets, guaranteed income, historical precedent and sensible(rather than high risk) growth, then nothing in the global economy is going to sort itself out.
Meantime, if you run into a banker today who has invested in Facebook, just say one thing to them. Boo.


Great explanation of WHY Facebook is worth less than the banks thought can be found here

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Would we do a deal with Labour?

Rather flatteringly my piece yesterday for the New Statesman was most read on their website (perhaps not surprisingly given its subject matter) and has attracted plenty of less than flattering comment (do pop over there to see them in all their glory!)

Meantime, here it is...

"Lickspittle". It’s a great word to use as an insult, rolling deliciously off the tongue in all its onomatopoeic glory. The sort of thing New Statesman readers write about me in the comments section on a weekly basis. And I’m sure it reflects how many Labour supporters genuinely feel about the Lib Dems, collaborators with the evil Tories.
Only it wasn’t a Labour member who threw that particular bon mot in our direction from the green benches. It was a Tory. With friends like that, eh?
So when I get asked, should the electoral arithmetic in 2015 end up suggesting a Lib Dem coalition with Labour, would we consider it, it’s a bit of an eyes to heaven, and deep sighs all round moment
Of course we would.
Does anyone really think after everything the Tories have thrown at us – including just the other week the Prime Minister telling his PPCs that he has effectively dealt with us  - that the odd insulting speech or overture to our support would block us dealing with Labour? And for all the "Yellow Tories" insults, we’re not Conservatives. Nor are we Labour. We’re Liberals.
This is not to say that there wouldn’t be some hurdles to overcome. We’d have to be convinced that we would genuinely get more Liberal policies in place, like taking 2 million workers out of tax altogether (let’s not forget, Labour MPs voted against that – what were they thinking?). We’d probably take a view on how progressive Labour had been over supposedly shared ambitions – Lords reform being an obvious example.
And this time, ahead of any negotiations, we’d have to rethink our strategy in government.
Having maintained from the word go that the "not a cigarette paper between us" strategy in government was the road to disaster (however short term a tactic it may have been) I believe any negotiations with potential partners in government must include some safeguards about what areas of policy we would own – perhaps giving us responsibility for single departments rather than shared responsibility across all. (Tim Montgomerie was suggesting the opposite yesterday, indicating he felt an end to the current differentiation strategy is a good idea. Maybe for the Conservatives. Not for us, thanks).
And of course, there is the danger that, having gone into coalition with the Tories, jumping into bed with Labour will lead to the accusation that "they’ll sleep with anyone". Which will only be avoided by setting up some pretty clear criteria for who’ll we’ll talk to up front, before a vote is cast. And honestly, if that’s the worst of it, I think we’d cope.
I know Labour doesn’t want to talk to us. Of course you don’t and you’re probably already trolling "dream on" remarks in the comments section. You want to win a majority off your own back. I don’t blame you. For what its worth, I want the same for us.
But if you the good people of Britain decide that a Lib-Lab pact is the way forward in 2015, I’m not going to turn my face away in a sulk. And neither, frankly, is Ed Miliband.
We’ll see you in 70 Whitehall.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Today, the role of Shirley Williams will be played by Tim Farron

How gobsmackingly disappointing it is that accreditation has been approved once again for Conference, in the face of vociferous opposition.

I wont go through all the arguments again about why accreditation is wrong - do feel free to visit this link (and the others it mentions) if you are interested. But I would like to make some other points.

1. The piece 'justifying' the decision, which includes the implication that if you are against accreditation then you are less interested in the safety of others visiting the conference than those who are for it, comes with Tim Farrons name attached. This is the 'Shirley Williams Motion' defence, which now seems to be a tactic adopted by the leadership when they want to get their own way - append the name of a much loved liberal figure to the motion to make everyone feel bad about being against the idea. Seeing Tim's tweets last night, it was not at all clear that he had even seen the note he 'wrote'.

We're wise to this tactic, I don't like it and it should cease. What next - 'A CCTV camera in every home - the David Lloyd George motion'.

Either win your case with your argument or accept you're on the wrong side - and back off.

2. The policy committee with responsibility for this area is the FCC. Only they didn't make the decision. They passed it on to FFAC for review (the money folk) who decided accreditation would be allowed, a decision endorsed by FE (the great and the good).

So, what was the point of the consultation exercise which FCC ran. and why put out a statement saying that:

'We have therefore decided to delay opening registration for Party members (and only Party members) whilst further negotiation takes place with the police, other Party Committees, the owners of the conference venue and our insurers.  If we possibly can avoid using accreditation though, we will.  We will provide further information as soon as we are able to do so'

and then getting the decision agreed on the nod at a single FE meeting?

This is a disgrace.and begs the question, what is the point of FCC if it ducks the big decisions?

3. Many people have tweeted today that we should be worrying about more important things. I concur. I wanted to find time today to blog about Social Mobility. Unfortunately, the party hierarchy, in its wisdom, has decided to take an illiberal (and possibly unconstitutional) decision on the day this has been announced. I guess this was possibly in an attempt to limit comment on this issue. In which case it has failed.

I am very unhappy indeed about all this.

Monday 21 May 2012

Facebook IPO. Oh Dear

Just for a change the New Statesman have published me in the business blog today, banging on about the fact that Facebook probably isn't worth $108 billion.

Reassuringly, it seems the US Stock Market agrees with me.


Sunday 20 May 2012

Torch relay Comes to Ham Common

Yes, it's true. The Olympic Torch will be starting it's journey on 24 July from Ham Parade and running directly across ham Common. here's a map and details.

(click image to enlarge)


Every Monarch in the World...

...n one handy infographic.

Funny, I thought there would be more. Although one rules not just the UK and 15 other realms to boot....

(click on the image to enlarge)

Hat tip to the Beeb (where there is lots more info if you're REALLY interested...

Saturday 19 May 2012

Oh Dear. Nick and Dave having a falling out in The House

H/T to @Callumjonesblog for this brilliant reaction from Nick to something he didn't really like from the PM last week...

And actually - while we're at LOL moments...

And less we forget just why that's funny...

Lovely Richmond Fair...

...was last Saturday. Does it get any better than this?

May Pole Dancing, steam organs, coconut shy's, merry-go-rounds, a helterskleter and OF COURSE THERE WERE MORRIS DANCERS

Goodness. Here's a week old New Statesman article...

...that I wrote last week and forget to post on my own website.


The Lib Dems must not accept the snoopers' charter

If the bill increases interference in our everyday lives, the party must walk away.

Seeing as it's only seven short days since the worst set of election results since, well, last year, it’s been a pretty good week for the Lib Dems, thanks to a Queen's speech that’s not so much yellow-tinged as basking in an all-encompassing golden hue.

And while Conservative commentators may not like it much, there is an apparent acceptance that for the next year at least, we will see a programme in government very much driven by a Lib Dem agenda.
Which is why so many Lib Dems are feeling quite chipper, already embracing the prospect of the 2015 general election campaign, now that the Daily Mail has written our campaign  poster for us. And as a Lib Dem activist who has called for a distinction to be drawn between the separate policies of the two parties in government from day one – I never wanted us to be seen as "Tory Lite" – I can be nothing but delighted about this.
But can I wave a warning flag?
Over all others, there is one very obviously Tory bill in The Queen's speech. It’s the Communications Capability Development Programme (CCPD) - or the snoopers' charter to you and me.
It’s only a draft bill rather than a full bill because of the almighty fuss Lib Dem activists made when this first came up. And I can’t say that I hate the proposals as they stand – because I’m told they haven’t even been re-written yet. But I’m also told that when we see them in draft form, we’ll most likely detest them.
Which is why, led by the inestimable Julian Huppert, we’ll fight them, amend them, twist them, change them and turn what’s likely to be RIPA Double Plus on first publication into RIPA lite by the time we’ve finished.
At which point we’ll need to make a decision.
This is exactly the process we went through with tuition fees and the NHS reforms. And we made bad proposals better. By which time we were to seen to own them, and thus got the blame for some pretty unpopular policies – that truth be told, we still didn’t like, but for some reason felt we had to support. If it wasn’t for the omnishambles Budget hitting Conservative support, the local election results this year would not have been noticeably different to last year, with NHS reforms playing the role of tuition fees and the Tories sailing blithely on.
So I’m not going through that again. This time we’ll fight, amend and twist the CCPD proposals. And when we’re done we must take a step back. And if the legislation rolls back interference in our everyday lives, then we’ll pass it with a glad heart. And if it doesn’t, regardless of how many hoops we’ve jumped through, we must walk away.
I don’t need a snoopers' charter hung round my neck

Friday 18 May 2012

Lord Ashdown: Lords reform. Smackdown

Can't upload this video of Lord Ashdown putting Lord Philips in his place over Lords reform earlier this week. So do click on this link. It's a treat.

Hollande. Not a good dancer.

Just seen this Tweet from the Economist:

Whoever wrote it either hasn't seen this video - or has a brilliant sense of humour...

Oh dear. Who to believe. What a quandry

According to the Guardian...

It's a tough job working for a bailed-out bank that owes the taxpayer about £20bn – so exhausting, indeed, that Lloyds Banking Group dispatched a dozen top bosses on a luxury spa break at Champneys designed to teach them to eat like an executive and learn how to be more effective "hunter-gatherers in the corporate jungle". 
The celebrity spa resort created a "bespoke programme" to prevent the executives from "bail out, burn out or being booted out". The bank is just under 40% owned by the UK taxpayer.
Now, there are two lines on this and who paid for it. According to Lloyds:
"It is important to stress that this was a free one-off event that a small group attended last year at the request of a customer who wanted feedback on a new programme they planned to launch. It was arranged by a senior executive who no longer works for the group."
But then there's the view of the CEO of Champneys, quoted in The Guardian
However, the chief executive of Champneys, Stephen Purdew, said: "Of course they bloody paid for it." 
I wonder who is more likely to be correct...

Do details matter?

I don't know. Am I being petty now? I think I probably am. 

But I do find it irritating when elected politicians choose to make public statements, and in doing do make mistakes that betray the fact that they don't know what they are talking about.

For example Louise Mensch tweeted this earlier...

...and of course, there isn't an interim Greek president. The President is the Head of State, he is currently called Karolos Papoulias, and it is he who has been trying to get the elected politicians to form a new government.

I think she almost certainly meant the interim Prime Minister, who is Panagiotis Pikrammenos.

This is a little like mixing up the Queen and David Cameron.

Does it really matter? Probably not. But if Louise Mensch really is going to go into government in the reshuffle, she ought to get that sort of thing correct. Especially if she ends up in the Foreign Office.

Like politicians who confuse 'debt' with 'deficit', it probably doesn't really matter, as long as they know what they mean.

But it is just a tad annoying...

Normal Service is being resumed now. And Border Controls.

Sorry: been away on Business. This is where I have been.

Do feel free to play 'Guess the City'

Now it is currently fashionable to mention 'how was the Border service?' when you re enter the country. I have to say ta Terminal 4 on Weds evening, the queue for EU citizens was not onerous (15 minutes) and the man at the desk was efficient.

But...I would have walked through the automatic chip recognition exits with no queue at all if it wasn't for the fact...

They were all shut :-)

Friday 11 May 2012

Zac. I still think you're off to UKIP...

I know. I'm getting a  touch obsessive.

But I've blogged that I think Zac Goldsmith may be off to UKIP. and I tweeted the blog to him. And he didn't respond.

But that's just my humble blog. So then I referenced it in The News Statesman last week. and again, he hasn't denied it.

And now there's something more.

After the Queen's Speech on Wednesday, Zac tweeted this:

Whereas UKIP policy on recall is rather more, I would think, to Zac's taste...

· Introduce a right of recall whereby electors can challenge an errant MP and force a by-election in exceptional circumstances, such as abuse of expense

And here are some other tweets from Weds which also sound a bit, well, UKIP orientated

Take another look at that last one - here's the UKIP policy...

· Introduce ‘Direct Democracy’ whereby 5% of the national or local electorate can demand a binding referendum on any issue. At national level, people will have to sign up for the referendum within six months, at local level, within three months


Anyway, Zac, all you have to do is say it's not true, and I'll move on to something else...

A Conference Call with Great George Street that didn't involve any shouting

Weds night saw another conference call for bloggers concerning the Communications Capability Development Programme (CCDP, aka Online Snooping Charter), following the announcement of a draft bill in the Queens speech.

On the receiving end this time were Julian Huppert MP, member of the Home Affairs Committee and a SpAd who asked to remain unnamed and off the record, which of course I will respect.

In marked contrast to the last such call the tone this time was of understanding, of reassurance and very clear. Julian (and the SpAD) were  excellent and it seemed clear to me that all the concerns that so many of us have been raising about CCDP have been heard and understood. I do still have one major concern which I will address in a moment, but to summarise the main points Julian made:

1. The draft proposals have not only not been seen by Julian, he suspects they have not even been written, such is the extent to the revisions that are being made following the explosion of outrage when this news was first leaked.
2. Unless the legislation is brought to a stage that acceptable to the Lib Dems - and he is fully aware of the motion passed at Conference - then it will not pass. The whips are also realistic about this. I asked if he could guarantee that the conference motion would be adhered to in full - and he very honestly said that this would be his aim, but that he could not guarantee every dotted i and crossed t would be in the new legislation - but unless there was considerable overlap between LD policy and the legislation, it would not pass. I found this a convincing and honourable line to take - especially as Julian has yet to see any draft.
3. The consultation process will be detailed, open and thorough. Julian knows a lot about this area - but was frank enough to say numerous times that he wanted people with more expertise to feed into him what he needed to know. One slight concern was Julians willingness to take on board the advice of big internet giants like Facebook and Google - but to panic about this now would I think be jumping the gun.

One phrase I especially liked was 'crowdsourcing policy development' on this one - a phrase in keeping with both the subject matter of the legislation and spirit of the call.

4. Julian was clear that we will almost certainly not like the draft legislation - it will be RIPA plus. His advice was, when you see it, don't panic - fight it. They have to show their hand first. If, after modification the legislation isn't a tightening in RIPA powers, it shall not pass.

Others have raised some concerns with technical misunderstandings that Julian may have - but I prefer to accept that he is firmly on the side of the angels, and the fight is in good hands. 

(I couldn't make the Nick Clegg conference call today but reading twitter and some blogs suggests Nick may be less clear on the issues - which is a worry). 

So - my one concern.

When we saw the Brown proposals on tuition fees - we didn't like them. We compromised on a much better deal and in doing so were given 'ownership' of the legislation  - with disastrous results.

Ditto on Lansley NHS reforms. 

The process here - Tories launch draft legislation, we hate it, amend it, pass law that becomes 'owned' by the Lib Dems - is identical. And I do not want us to in any way own a #snooperscharter. 

I know the Spads think a lot about presentation. They might want to start thinking about this now. Thanks

But I don't want to sound mean spirited. It was a good call.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Has Zac Goldsmith been taken in by fake Lib Dem leaflets?

I think Zac Goldsmith may have been taken in by some fake Lib Dem literature.

On the night of the local elections last week, there was a by-election in North Richmond for a seat on the Council. In the last election the excellent Lib Dem candidate, Jane Dodds, lost by just 19 votes.

Jane, her agent Roger Hayes, and many local Lib Dems ran a fantastic campaign and worked very hard, plus of course helped the Lib Dem GLA candidate Munira Wilson with her campaign.  I too delivered a ton of stuff around Ham Common for Munira - so was surprised on election night to see this tweet from our local MP, Zac Goldsmith...

Certainly nothing I had delivered for Munira could remotely have caused a reaction like that

It was also clear that the Tories were very worried about the result...

...which is why I was very surprised to see later that not only had Jane lost - but the margin of losing was rather more than last time - 146 votes.

Now news has broken that a whole series of fake leaflets were being delivered in North Richmond, purporting to be from the Lib Dems but in fact, completely fake. The details have been published over at Lib Dem Voice and the matter is now in the hands of the police. Roger Hayes is convinced these leaflets made the difference between winning and losing.

Now, lets be 100% clear. I don't think for one second Zac Goldsmith had anything to do with those fake leaflets, nor do I believe that it is likely anyone connected to the major political parties would have done any such thing.

But if these were the leaflets that Zac refered to in his tweet, then he has - mistakenly - slurred the good name of Jane and Munira - and I think he should be big enough to apologise for that mistake.

Go on Zac. Do the right thing.

Update: 21:16

Someone who would know (ie not me) has been in touch to suggest...

'I think Zac's complaint was about us 'politicising' the issue of Osbourne and Cameron reopening the issue of Heathrow expansion. Apparently he thought it was underhand for us to campaign on an issue on which he felt so uncomfortable...!

I very much doubt he was referring to the fake leaflets'

In which case there is of course no need for him to apologise. Though if he thinks we shouldn't be politicising the third runway, he's got another thing coming...

And he might want to clarify which leaflets he's so hot under the collar about.

The Lords: How the Tories will fight us...

Thanks to the wondrous Helen Duffett I had the treat of appearing on Five News on Tuesday evening where i got to debate Lords Reform with Peter Bone MP. And what fun it was. And while I don't agree with a word that man says, its only fair to say that he was a courteous and good natured opponent.

What the debate did illustrate was some of the attack lines Tory opponents of Lords Reform are going to deploy - because he deployed them. So here a a few of them  - and my replies....

1. (The classic): 'The economy is what matters, we should be concentrating on this and nothing else'

Of course you're right - reducing the deficit is the governments priority above everything else, and the coalition document makes that clear. But governments are capable of doing more than one thing at a time - and no one honestly claim that our democratic institutions are working perfectly and with the full support of the people currently. Quite the opposite. 

2. This is a Lib Dem policy and no one else in the country wants it

Lords Reform is a Lib Dem policy. But it was also in the manifestos of the Tories, Labour, The Greens - and yes, even UKIP (this gave Peter a moments thought!). In fact 95% of people who voted in the last general election voted for a party who supported it. And the other 5% were mainly nationalist party's with a different constitutional fish to fry (for example the SNP support reform - but want Independence from Westminster rather more!).

It is not a Lib Dem policy. It is a universal policy. Which incidentally means it should have universal support between the parties...

3. Why should a party polling the same as UKIP have any sort of policy initiative?

In the local elections last week we got around 15% of the vote - UKIP got 5-6%. So that's just not true.

And also irrelevant - it's the last general election that counts.

But it's also an odd argument for a Tory to make - because essentially it's saying your influence should be directly linked to the size of your support - which sounds like an argument for proportional representation to me...

4. It's an unnescary reform - the system isn't broken.

Isn't it? In the local elections here turnout was around 30%. In the French Presidential Election, turn out was 80%+. I'd say there was a problem with our system - and it needs fixing. We people to be re engaged with politics - and Lords Reform is a small step in that direction

Thursday 3 May 2012

I'd like to vote for Brian Paddick twice, although I'd like to...

My piece from yesterday's New Statesman. Proving quite popular. Do pop over to see the comments... And all the very best to all our candidates today, especially my local GLA candidate Munira Wilson, Leader of the Lib Dems on Richmond Council Stephen Knight (second on the GLA party list) and Jane Norman in the North Richmond ward By-election.

I love the ceremony of voting. I like the stroll down Lock Road to the polling station, the good natured hello’s to the party folk, friend and foe, at the door, the hushed librarian tones of the officials, the crispness of the blank ballot papers, the stubby pencils, the lot.
But I will enjoy it less than usual this time. Because I don’t know, with a day to go, who to vote for.
Don’t get me wrong. I will be voting Lib Dem. I shall happily support our local GLA candidate Munira Wilson, confident she will do a wonderful job. I will cross fingers as I vote Lib Dem in the party lists, hoping this time our local leader, Stephen Knight, gets over the line, as well as the inspirational Caroline Pidgeon. And I will happily put a great big cross against Brian Paddick’s name, who has run a brilliant campaign and shown a better grasp of core issues like housing or policing than any of the other candidates.
But at that point the misery kicks in. Because in the London Mayoral election I have the chance to express a second preference, on the off chance Brian doesn’t make it over the line. And for me and all Lib Dems, it’s a rotten choice.
Lots of fellow party members have been making warm noises about the independent candidate Siobhan Benita – but she’s pro-third runway, which is a red line issue for me and the good folk of Ham Common. The UK Independence Party are anti-third runway (it’s one of the reasons I’ve been tipping Zac Goldsmith as a potential Tory defector in their direction – been a couple of weeks now, he’s still not denying it). However , ‘no-third-runway’ is just about the only policy I have in common with Ukip, so they’re a no. When I answer blind policy questions to tell me who to vote for, I find I have much in common with the Green Party. But I’m voting for a Mayor, and do I want Jenny Jones to be the leader of this great city? Sorry Jenny, but no, I don’t. And anyway, everyone tells me that if a second preference is to count, I have to select either Ken or Boris.
My problem with Boris is not that he isn’t a likeable character – but I struggle to think of what he’s done. There’s the bikes – but that wasn’t his idea in the first place. There’s the new buses. Which look lovely but don’t seem to have been the most brilliant way of spending gazillions of pounds.  And that’s pretty much it. After 4 years I have no sense of radicalism, of excitement, of a crusade to make Londoners lives better.
Which to be fair to Ken, I do have.  But can I really vote for a candidate who is clearly making all sorts of promises that I just don’t believe he can keep – like the return of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). And who half of his own party wishes they hadn’t selected  (and no, I don’t just mean Dan Hodges).
So, a loveable rogue who doesn’t inspire me or the candidate Labour wishes they hadn’t chosen in the first place.
It’s not much of a choice is it? And this is to elect a politician with the largest electoral mandate in the country?
I shall probably find myself banging my head in frustration on the table on the voting booth.
I wish I could vote for Brian Paddick twice.