'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 26 May 2015

That odd moment when you see your thinking end up on the front page of The Guardian

So, on Sunday I said...

"If MPs resign every time they are proved to have told untruths we’ll have none left. Which is a pretty depressing state of affairs but a fact. So Alistair shouldn’t need to resign. Unless everyone who's ever told a journalist a great big porkie is going to do the same (more of that anon)"

And then today I see Sir Malcolm Bruce has said:

"Asked on BBC Radio 4 whether he was alleging that lying was widespread in public life, Bruce, who stood down at the election, replied: “No, well, yes. Lots of people have told lies and you know perfectly well that to be true.”
He suggested MPs could not be excluded for telling a lie: “If you are suggesting every MP who has never quite told the truth or even told a brazen lie, including cabinet ministers, including prime ministers, we would clear out the House of Commons very fast, I would suggest,” he said "
A sad state of affairs. But nice to see the party now has a better line than just 'forgiveness'.

Sunday 24 May 2015

So. Alistair Carmichael. Time for me to bite the blogging bullet

I feel very sorry for Alistair. He is an incredibly hard working MP and a lovely man who has been nothing but polite to me.

No doubt that sways my judgement. But...

Here’s my two pennies worth

1.     If MPs resign every time they are proved to have told untruths we’ll have none left. Which is a pretty depressing state of affairs but a fact. So Alistair shouldn’t need to resign. Unless everyone who's ever told a journalist a great big porkie is going to do the same (more of that anon).

2.     That isn’t to say Alistair shouldn’t be reprimanded (punished is a crap word in this context). The decision of the party to take no action is quite wrong and leaves a very bad impression

3.     The argument that Alistair has been punished because he gave up his severance pay is not really accurate (even though it is a good gesture and the right thing to do). You shouldn’t get to choose your own punishment. I would rather he had kept the money until someone else had decided what an appropriate reprimand would be.

4.     Ditto the ‘he would have resigned’ argument. He didn’t. So that’s not a reprimand either.

5.     The main victim here is not Nicola Sturgeon. It’s the poor civil servant who wrote the original memo who got dropped right in it and could have got in all sorts of trouble. The stress they will no doubt have been placed under should not be overlooked

6.     The SNP have set a very high bar. Every time we catch one of their MPs telling great big fibs they can expect a whole load of folk calling for their resignations. As Michael White says –

7.     8 Lib Dems served in the cabinet in the last government. 3 of them did things worthy of resignations. That’s not a great record for the party of the new politics. This makes me sad. 

Saturday 23 May 2015

Um. I really think, with hindsight, we would change our General Election campaign. Wouldn't we?

While I think Ryan Coetzee's analysis of the Lib Dems #GE2015 campaign is often right,  one  paragraph stands out for me

"Should we have run the campaign differently, given what we knew? I don’t think so. We correctly identified the threats facing us on each front, and did our best to counter them. We made a coherent, liberal case to the voters, offering both a strong economy and a fair society. There are of course improvements that could have been made to the design and execution of the campaign, as there always are, but in retrospect it is difficult to imagine a different campaign producing a significantly better result"

Now of course its easy to be clever after the event. But it seems, frankly bizarre, that Ryan doesn't think we should have done anything differently. It's those 4 words. "I don't think so".

It seems self evident to me that, given the results, OF COURSE we should have run the campaign differently.

I happily accept that, given the evidence available, decisions were taken in good faith that seemed completely sensible at the time. But those decisions were evidently wrong. And we should have taken different action.

Let me give you one facile example. Ryan correctly (in my view) observes that we fought the campaign on 3 different fronts - anti SNP, anti, Labour, anti Tory. And adopted 3 separate strategies as a result.

To any party with frankly limited resources, that's madness. Remember, the Tories largely didn't do that - even with their huge resources. They concentrated on one core strategy in the campaign - emphasising the bogeyman of a Labour SNP coalition. They knew this would hurt the SNP, Labour and us. It wouldn't especially hurt UKIP - but they didn't let that get in the way.

Many will no doubt say we had no choice - am I saying I would have abandoned 2/3 of our sitting MPs to adopt a strategy that would save 1/3? Difficult, I agree.

But if we had done we would now have more like 18 0r 19 MPs than 8. 

So to suggest our strategy was the best it could possibly be and with the benefit of hindsight we would still have done the same thing, is, frankly, nuts.

Or of course we could have adopted Plan B. We joined in with scaremongering about the SNP, basically ruling out any perceived possibility of a coalition with Labour in voters minds as a result.

Supposing we'd done the opposite? Said we would work with the SNP? Not on nationalism of course - but on general domestic policy? Wouldn't many soft SNP voters have come back to us in Scotland? Wouldn't soft Labour have come back to us in England and Wales?

I don't know they would. But I'm reasonably sure our election results wouldn't have been any worse

So to answer the question Ryan posed. "Should we have run the campaign differently, given what we knew?" I'm afraid given where we ended up - it's a big YES from me.

Friday 22 May 2015

Protect The Human Rights Act....

and sign the petition here......

And find out why you should protect it here

And while we're at it - I'm still not clear which of the rights below the Tories find objectionable

  • the right to life;
  • the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • the prohibition of slavery and forced labour;
  • the right to liberty and security of the person;
  • the right to a fair trial;
  • prohibition of punishment without law;
  • the right to respect for private and family life;
  • the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
  • the right to freedom of expression;
  • the right to freedom of assembly and association;
  • the right for men and women to marry and found a family;
  • the right to peaceful enjoyment of personal property;
  • the right to education;
  • the right to free elections;
  • and the prohibition of discrimination.

Thursday 21 May 2015

Nominate Tim Farron

If you're a member f the Lib Dems, you can nominate your preferred candidate for leader (in fact candidates need at least 200 nominations from a minimum of 20 local parties)

So click on this link and you too can nominate Tim Farron to be leader - as I've just done.

Sunday 17 May 2015

Even the Labour Party agrees that having the Lib Dems in government is a good thing


The New Statesman agrees that having Lib Dems in government is a good thing - a brake on the Tories

The Guardian agrees that having Lib Dems in government is a good thing - a brake on the Tories

And now...

The Labour Party seems to agree too

They have put out a press release concerning news that George Osborne is about to have a new budget, saying

"Two Budgets in four months from the same Chancellor raises questions about what he’s planning. The country cannot afford a sharp turn to the right"


We did say.

As indeed did David Cameron..

Saturday 16 May 2015

It Could be You (but it probably won't be). Or why I don't like the phrase "Social Mobility"

Social Mobility

It seems such a harmless phrase doesn’t it? It so fits with our ambition that folk can progress free from the shackles of poverty, ignorance or conformity. So we use it often.

I don’t like it and I want us to stop using it.

Why so.

Partly because mobility goes both ways. Up and down. I don’t want people moving up and down the escalator of life. I want them only to move up. I want everyone in the first class seats.

But more because the phrase ‘social mobility’ has become the language of winners and losers.

It’s become associated with tales of folk with what is now called a fabulous back story (another phrase I detest). ‘He was the only the son of an immigrant shopkeeper/bus driver/office cleaner who attended an inner city comprehensive school but went to Oxbridge and became a millionaire banker before dedicating his life (and enormous bank account) to public service’ goes the usual schtick…

It’s the lottery winner strategy – it could be you (but it probably wont be).

It’s the argument used in America that means inheritance tax there effectively starts at…wait for it… $10m. There’s a tiny tiny tiny proportion of Americans who ever have to pay it but try and reduce it to say, $9m – and folks are up in arms, even thought they’ll almost certainly never have to pay it, because you never know – they might win the lottery and they would have to (except they wouldn’t – their relatives would…oh let’s not get into that. Watch this brilliant video from John Oliver who makes that point much better than I will).

But anyway – I’m not interested in social mobility for the winners.

Which is why I’ve started to use the term Social Progression instead. I think it says more about a general wish for society as a whole to move forward. And it hints at a more progressive society as well (none too subtley).

So no more Social Mobility please. Just Social Progression.

Friday 15 May 2015

Why I'm supporting Tim Farron to be the next Leader of the Liberal Democrats

We're incredibly lucky in the Lib Dems that even when we have just 8 MPs, we still end up with 2 fantastic leadership candidates like Tim and Norman. Pity the poor Labour members, who are struggling to find any enthusiasm for the names currently appearing.

Norman would be a wonderful leader for the party - intelligent, well informed, incredibly hard working, terrific experience, steeped in liberalism and I hugely admire his work on mental health. If he wins, I will gladly follow him.

But I am supporting Tim Farron for the leadership.

There are 3 broad reasons.

1. Tim represents my own views

We justify the the last 5 years by crying (and endlessly listing) "look at all the brilliant things we've done". And that's fair enough. We have done many many fantastic things. But like the errant husband, betrayal is a bitter pill to swallow, no matter how many times you say you're sorry and point out that you've mowed the lawn beautifully and taken the bins out on time every day for 5 years. And many people still feel betrayed - and not just outside the party - by Lib Dem MPs supporting tuition fees, signing off on the original NHS white paper, secret courts, the bedroom tax...

I think to some degree, I'm one of them. I love that we're a party where members dictate policy - and I still can't shake off my disappointment, despite everything else, that too many times our MPs trooped through the wrong lobby, against party policy.

Tim largely did not do that. He largely voted the way I hope I would have done. Not every time by any means. But enough to make me feel he best represents my views.

2. Tim is not a conventional politician

I suspect he's had a lot of media training. I'm sure he chooses his words carefully. But there is a sense with Tim that what you see is what you get, that what you hear is really what he thinks. That there is no hidden side to him. He is distinctive , different, unusual even - and I want that in a leader. He is cut from a different cloth to most political leaders. And we need that.

3. He can unite the membership

I doubt there are many folk reading this blog who haven't either met Tim, seen him talk, had a direct e mail or a tweet from him. He's even had a pint with me in my local. He feels like one of us. He's a natural communicator. That's why so many members love him. And the country will love him too.

And then I have a fourth reason.

And it's this speech. Which outlines Tim's philosophical and intellectual position on liberalism. I believe him, it's what I believe. And imagine how dull Ed Miliband would have been making the same sort of speech

And in a nutshell - that speech is why I am supporting Tim Farron to be the next leader of the Lib Dems.

Thursday 14 May 2015

The Perfect Labour leadership candidate

1. Firmly held left wing viewpoint on life
2. Able to communicate their views effectively and persuasively
3. Respected and feared by opponents
4. Popular
5. Ideally not a white, middle class, Oxbridge educated man.
6. An election winner

There is an obvious candidate who ticks all those boxes. Can anyone see the problem?

Tim Farron is standing

... and has my support

I will be writing why shortly. But meantime - this is says pretty much what I think

Good luck Tim

Wednesday 13 May 2015

No. Not in my name.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is going to say this today. I think it’s the most depressing thing I have ever heard a leader of this country say.

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone”.

Words fail me.

Why I think I know better than some Times columnists

Those souls unfortunate enough to follow my Twitter feed (@richardmorrisuk , go on you know you want to) know that I was live tweeting from the News UK building yesterday, where 4 Times columnists – Tim Montgomerie (chairing), Lord Finkelstein, Jenni Russell and David Aaronovitch were debating the election.

It was grand in every sense

But there were 2 fundamental areas in which I disagreed with certain members of the august panel. And these were:

1.There is no future for the Lib Dems

Which I will spend the next 5 years debunking so no point going on about it it here.

2. The Conservatives are more likely than Labour to win the 2020 General Election.

(Update - Lord Finkelstein has tweeted me to say neither him nor Tim Montgomerie offered an opinion on this. Certainly Tim was chairing so was suitably neutral on all questions and if Lord Finkelstein says he didn't contribute to that issue, fair enough - happy to make that clear).

While of course I will spend the next 5 years fighting for an (unlikely) Lib Dem victory (!), I believe if either of the larger parties are to win in 2020 it's much more likely to be Labour.

Here’s why.

1.It’s very unlikely the Tories will increase their number of seats in 2020 (even with boundary commission changes). The party in government increasing its seats has happened just twice since 1945 (1983 and last week); never twice in a  row – and that’s a lot of history to contend with…

More than that – circumstances have changed. Last week it wasn’t a Conservative government increasing its seat share – it was a Tory Government replacing a Coalition government, so the convention or rule that you can’t increase your seats when your party is in government is not strictly in play anyway. Next time it will be.

Other factors also make the other time the rule was broken (1983) an anomaly. In 1983 the incumbent Government had just won a war – let’s hope that isn’t the case in 2020. It had a leader who, may have been hated by many but was admired with equal fervour by a roughly equivalent number. Cameron does not generate the same emotions and anyway will be gone by 2020, by his own hand most likely. And the Tories were fighting Michael Foot and the longest suicide note in history. I would contend that Labour has just had its ‘Michael Foot’ election – and it’s left them with roughly the same number of seats as Michael Foot won (as David Aaronovitch pointed out). A swing to the centre – whoever wins the Labour leadership – seems likely.

All of this means Labour will start eating away at Tory seats in 2020. And remember – they only need a net loss of 6 to lose their majority

2. Ed Miliband will not be leader of the Labour party next time. That’s got to help.

3. It’s unlikely Labour will lose all but one constituency in Scotland in 2020. There will almost certainly be some sort of recovery, however limited. This won’t eat into the Tory majority as those wins will be from the SNP – but it edges Labour closer to being the largest party.

4. The Lib Dems will do better next time. And take votes from the Tories in the South West and SW London. The argument goes that the party will become progressive again over the next few years, and this may well be true. Received thinking therefore is that this will hurt Labour. But whoever has been leader, we have had a traditional base in the SW and any revival of this will hurt the Tories not Labour.

And then there’s this:

5. The Tories may be riding high and feeling pretty good right now. But then, they did in 1992, just after John Major won a surprise victory. Then we had 5 years of Conservative rule with a tiny majority, bastards pissing in and out of tents, back me or sack me leadership votes and a party riven asunder by Europe.

History does have a habit of repeating itself. And let’s not forget John Major had a majority of 21. Not 12.

I think its very easy to back the Tories now – but actually, leadership aside, the cards are stacked on Labour’s side of the table.

It’s also worth remembering that yesterday was the 21st anniversary of John Smith’s death. It was several more months into the Major government before Tony Blair became leader, in 1994. This suggests that Labour have plenty of time on their side.

I’ll revisit this on May 7th 2020 (the first Thursday in May 2020 is again the 7th). We’ll see who’s right.