'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Less interesting than UKIP....

Here's my latest piece from the New Statesman, which was meant to be all about why right wing Tory Eurosceptics may have done their party a favour in the run up to the 2015 election, but appears (if the headline is anything to go by) to also suggest that we need to get a little more radical...

If anyone thought the best way to herd Tory backbenchers back into line was a stiff telling off from Nick Clegg, then they were always destined to be disappointed. But I don’t suppose that was ever the real intention. It was probably more about two other things – ensuring the junior member of the coalition looked more adult (and more disciplined) than the senior side – and winding Tory MPs up to such an extent they go off on one and make a bit of a show of themselves. Again.
The latter hope seemed doomed to failure – surely Nick of all people waving the red rag at those Conservative backbench bulls was just too obvious a strategy, and they wouldn’t fall for it. But no, I’m wrong. John Redwood has manfully stepped up to the plate, pawing the ground, snorting with fury – and blaming all the woes of the world on the Lib Dems  - all this time wasted on boundary revisions, House of Lords reform, the AV referendum - our fault apparently.
Seeing as the political shenanigans of the last fortnight have been Tory-inspired (Euro referendums and splits on equal marriage), this seems a bit rich. But it also points to something else. That the Conservative backbenches remain fiercely unhappy with being in coalition and resent Lib Dem-inspired policy just as much as they resent not getting their own way on what they view as core Tory themes.
Now, while at present this makes them look a tad like the swivel-eyed half of the coalition, I don’t wonder if, come a general election, it won’t begin to play well. While the Tories may be responding to the UKIP threat more than anything else, I am beginning to wonder if, entirely by accident, it’s the Tories who are moving towards a coherent position for 2015, while we in the Lib Dems look like the straight laced, steady as you go, slightly conformist middle men.
In this age of rejection of the identikit politician, could it be that, in looking like a slightly more coherent version of the fastest growing political force in the country, the Tory right are getting into a position where they can pull all sorts of rabbits from hats?

Thursday 16 May 2013

Private Eye agrees with me...

A few weeks ago I asked the Question

If David Cameron only entered politics now, would he even be a Tory?

And now it would appear Private Eye thinks the same...

You spend years writing a blog and building a profile; then this arrives...

Today I had a VERY nice note from Zac...

Dear Resident,

A big part of the job of being an MP involves cooperating and liaising with your local Councillors. These men and women do a hugely important job representing their residents and running Richmond borough. Without their energy and competence, my job would be a great deal more difficult.

With the 2014 Council elections now less than a year way, I am writing to ask you whether you have ever considered running as a Conservative council candidate? The Richmond Borough Conservatives would like to hear from committed local people who are interested in standing for election across the borough. 

You don't need any political experience. We are looking for people who have an affinity with local Conservative ideals and who love their local community and want to serve their neighbours on the council.

If you are interested or would like to learn more, please email us at candidates@rpnkconservatives.co.uk with your contact details and someone will get in touch. 

Best wishes,

Zac Goldsmith 
MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston

I guess he doesn't read this blog nor my stuff at The New Statesman :-) Honestly, it's not like I don't write to him all the time...

Anyway, we had a nice e mail exchange over it...

You see Nick. you'll have to be nicer to me.... hahahahahahahahahahahahahah......

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Shouldn't largest, in Lib Dem Land, mean share of vote?

I wrote a piece for the New Statesman yesterday asking what the word 'largest'  means, when Andrew Stunnell says that we will talk to the largest party after the next general election first if a coalition is necessary/a possibility. Do we mean 'most seats' or 'largest share of the vote' as a split of something like 34% Labour, 36% Tories would make Labour largest in seats, but not vote share.

By common consensus, I think its understood that by largest we mean 'seats' as this is the most likely party to form a government. But I'd like to pose a slightly different question - as a party that wishes to replace FPTP with PR, shouldn't we automatically talk to the party who have the largest share of vote before anyone else?

Now of course, for us to have to make this call, requires a fairly unique set of circumstances to come about. But as Labour's poll numbers slip, the economy improves, our support in incumbent seats solidifies and potentially some of that UKIP support goes back to the Tories for a general election - it could all fall into place.

This then begs another question; already the current coalition government is increasingly fractious; some of the key Tory election promises, most obviously a referendum on the EU, are not on our agenda (I'm not sure it shouldn't be, I'm not afraid of a referendum, but that's a whole different story...) - could we actually do a deal with the Tories? As things stand, I can't really imagine it - not least because would the Tory back benches really wear it?

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Why do people keep asking when will UKIP have it's first MP? They've already had one...

I keep reading speculation about who will be UKIP's first MP - from  very well respected commentators as well. Cathy Newman was up to it again in The Telegraph today, suggesting it may well be Nadine Dorries...

"Now the Tory high command is in the crazy position of being held to ransom by a backbencher - terrified of the prospect that UKIP might claim its first Commons scalp. "

...and of course there is frequent speculation that Nigel Frage - who of course was UKIPs first ever by election candidate, in Eastleigh in 1994, could 'take the title' of first UKIP MP.

But actually he can't; nor can Nadine, nor can Diane James, nor can Neil Hamilton. They can only be second. Because there has already been a UKIP MP.

Bob Spink, A Tory MP, defected to UKIP in April 2008. Now, it wasn't a happy state of affairs. He left UKIP in November 2008 having disagreed with the leadership on a number of issues, and continued to sit as an Independent before losing at the 2010 General Election. I believe he even disputes if he took the UKIP whip now.

But none the less, he maintains the record of being the first UKIP MP. But sadly (for him at least) he appears to be something of a forgotten man of politics.

Saturday 4 May 2013

The green shoots of Lib Dem recovery are appearing

I was all set for a bit of spleen venting this morning when I woke up to be greeted with the South Shields by-election result. And let’s not pretend that any result in which your vote share drops by 13 percentage points, you’re beaten into seventh by (among others) the BNP, your coalition partner loses masses of support to the new girl in town and still loses less of its share of the vote than you do, and you finish just 155 votes ahead of the Monster Raving Loony Party, is nothing less than appalling. South Shields was a terrible result for the Lib Dems by any measure.
But actually, I can’t quite bring myself to give it both barrels. Because whisper it gently, but so far, the other council election results indicate the green shoots of recovery in the Lib Dems' support.
Now, those green shoots may have a certain straw-like quality as I clutch at them but so far, we seem set to lose only around half the number of seats suggested by the Rallings and Thrasher forecasts. And more to the point, we’re doing well in areas that reflect where we hold Parliamentary seats – taking around 33 per cent of the vote (to the Tories' 31 per cent and UKIP's 22 per cent).  Given the party looks set to adopt a ‘keep what we’ve got’ strategy for 2015, we look on track to achieve just that. And so far we’re taking around 16 per cent of the overall vote, which, given recent polls, many in the party would bite your hand off to achieve.
Plus there’s more good news for the Lib Dems - the success of UKIP. If UKIP were to take 25 per cent of the vote across the country in a general election, the chances are they’d take… 0 seats. The lowest winning vote share in 2010 was 29.4 per cent, higher than UKIP has ever achieved in a Westminster poll. Which says two things if you’re a Lib Dem. Firstly, UKIP (not a party which we have much in common with) may reduce the Tory vote, helping us to beat them, but are unlikely to win themselves. And were UKIP and the Lib Dems to jointly achieve 40 per cent in a general election and end up with a handful of seats,  the pressure to reopen the electoral reform debate would be almost irresistible…
There are plenty of results still to come in yet and lots of opportunities for it all to go pear shaped. And even if it doesn’t, losing another swathe of council seats to a party that bets the house on the grassroots ground machine is no laughing matter.
But so far things are looking ok. Though I won't be wearing orange if I’m in South Shields any time soon.

Thursday 2 May 2013

The Tory Posh School problem in a nutshell

I blogged yesterday about the oddity that the current Tory Party seems obsessed with promoting public schoolboys in general, and Eton alumni in particular, up the greasy pole; odd, because no privately schooled Tory has won a general election since Macmillan in 1959.

The problem was fairly neatly illustrated on 10 O'clock Live last night, when Janet Street Porter berated the 'Eton educated Ian Duncan Smith' for encouraging pensioners who didn't need their benefits to give them back. Her suggestion was how dare this posh bloke tell us we need to give our money back.

Now there's no denying IDS is posh; but he didn't go to Eton. he didn't go to public school at all. He went to a RC Comprehensive in Solihull.

But therein lies the problem for the Tories.  The posh boy public school not-one-of-us narrative has stuck. And the 'one of us' Tory voters who so venerated Mrs Thatcher, (Basildon man et al) are searching for a new home - and have found one in UKIP.

The Tories a bit stuffed.

Ho hum. What a shame

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Why on earth do the current Tories keep promoting public schoolboys...?

Here's a list of Tory leaders. Spot the odd one out

David Cameron
Michael Howard
Ian Duncan Smith
William Hague
John Major
Margaret Thatcher
Ted Heath
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Harold Macmillan

Can you spot the odd one out?

It's Harold Macmillan. He's the only privately educated one that actually won a General Election.

Of course Major, Thatcher and Heath all won majorities - but were all State educated.

Which kind of begs the question - why on earth do the Tories think a privately educated leader will win a general election for them?

Of course, Hague, Howard and IDS were also State educated. Which means Cameron is the first Tory leader to be privately educated since Douglas-Home.

Quite a thought...

I can't help but think if they could run posters like this, they'd be in a rather better position to say 'we're all in this together...'

I'd love to play you Ed Davey's speech from last Saturdays Mega rally against Heathrow expansion...

...but it does indeed seem beyond the wit of man to get blogger to load it; so instead here are some pictures of  the event which featured Ed (Lib Dem), Boris, Zac Goldsmith, Justine Greening (Tories), John McDonnal and Andy Slaughter (Labour), Jean Lambert MEP (Green), John Stewart (HACAN) amongst others.

If you'd like to express an opinion on the issue, do follow this link to the Richmond Council referendum

Best line was when Giles Brandreth introduced Ed - noting that he was following Zac and Boris, and being closely associated with either is not necessarily a brilliant career move.

5 Presidents

It is quite a picture this, isn't it?