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Category Archives: Lib Dems

Forgiving LibDems Give Far-Left Paddick a Second Chance

Brian Leonard Paddick (born 24 April 1958), th...

He's Back: 'Very Red' Brian Runs Again

The Lib Dems have selected Brian Paddick to run as their candidate for Mayor of London. Again. As David Cameron might say, everyone deserves a second chance.

What this also means is that, apart from the 2012 election being a re-run of the 2008 contest (at least among the three ‘main’ parties), the LibDems have either a short collective memory, are very forgiving, are actually further to the left than their leader (which we know anyway), or a combination of the above.

Those who recall the weeks following the 2008 election might recall that Brian Paddick, by that time a battered and dissillusioned former political innocent with limited campaign experience, had vented his frustrations with his own party in his London Mayoral campaign diary.

More tellingly, Brian revealed that he had voted, as his second preference, for the far left ‘Left List‘.

The 2008 election had not been a happy one for the Lib Dems, who had been in danger of becoming a single issue party with their (consistent) opposition to the Iraq war. Brian complained that he and they had been squeezed between Labour and Conservatives. For the Lib Dems as a party nationally, they had to cling to their eternal hope of some unlikely General Election result giving them a place in a coalition.

Well, who have thought it? Strange things do happen, and so here is Brian again … and the far Left in London can count on at least one more second preference vote.


No Question, Vince Is Worth It

Vince Cable and Martin Tod talk with local res...

Gratuities are at your own discretion

I don’t know if there’s any sort of market index for the “cash for access” value of MPs and ministers; the Telegraph last week got huffy about the dinner at this year’s Conservative party conference “Business Dinner” where you could pay £5,000 to share a table with a Conservative MP. The tickets, incidentally, are now sold out.

The shameless Guido pointed out, via Rachel Younger, that …

For the princely sum of just £40 you can dine with Business Secretary Vince Cable at the Quay Hotel in Deganwy.

The implication that Vince can be bought for just £40 surely cannot be right, and so I am pleased to note, via this month’s members’ magazine from South London Business, that they are offering tickets to an “exclusive” dinner event with Vince Cable as the guest of honour, for the bargain price of £145 plus VAT*.

(I note the print version kindly omits the rather cruel question mark and “One of” qualifier from the statement “South London’s most influential MP”.)

There is no suggestion that the Secretary of State for Business and President of the Board of Trade will knock the VAT off for cash. So, no “cash for access” then.

* Though in what circumstances an inspector would be happy to see that VAT reclaimed is a question unanswered.

(Photo credit: Alick Cotterill)

So What Is A “Social Mobility Czar”?

Does he sell electric buggies until he upsets some lefties and gets taken down to a basement and shot?

Fortunately, as far as I can see, the “Czar” (or should I say “Tsar”) label is an invention of parts the media; Alan Milburn is to be an unpaid adviser to the coalition.

For the record, I’ve nothing against a wish to enhance social mobility and it would be rather cynical of me to suggest that his appointment, far from upsetting lefties, may have the effect of appeasing the left of the Lib Dems.

Now let’s see what he comes up with.

They’re All Tories Now

Right then, cards on the table: I would rather we had done a supply and confidence deal. I’d rather we’d had a Commons majority, of course, but I’m not in charge, so we’re stuck with it and will have to deal with it.

Now that the details of the agreement between my party and the LibDems are emerging, it is becoming clear that we could well be in day two of the long slow death of the Lib Dems as we know them. Those that will be sitting with the Conservatives in the cabinet room are  by and large the Orange Bookers on the right of the party, who tend to align themselves (I think, albeit it in the vague and flexible way that we’ve come to expect) with the classically liberal/libertarian tendency.

We will see a stop to ID cards and, as Harry Phibbs points out, genuine moves towards localism seem inevitable – and this local councillor is quite happy with that, though I will wait to see if the LibDem “fair votes” push reaches as far as the Town Halls before adding a third cheer to that.

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Are The LibDems In The Big Game … Or Their Own Endgame?

It’s difficult to see how things will work out well for the LibDems.

Whether there’s a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement or a full coalition (yeah, right) with the Conservatives, Clegg will have alienated or disillusioned most of his activists and half his voters. If he gets in with Labour, in a coalition of the losers, he’ll just disillusion the other half of his voters.

In the eyes of the ‘man in the street’ – the normal sort of person who thinks about politics seriously about once every four years – the LibDems have been a proxy for either a “none of the above” or “don’t know” option. The party has successfully duped many into thinking the party is somehow in the centre of the political spectrum, while a goodly number of Lib Dem activists would happily admit to being left of centre (or further). Whichever party they tie up with, that apparent equidistance will have disappeared.

Already there is no shortage of voices who, having been urged to vote LibDem to stop the Tories, are now spitting feathers at the prospect of a LibDem/Conservative deal. Even if Clegg does the dirty and ties up with Labour, a less distasteful prospect for many LibDems, any trust in the LibDems will have gone – and with it any chance of a credible claim to represent a new direction or honesty in politics.

Yet if he gets PR does all this matter? Yes, because a deeply divided – or even terminally split – Lib Dem party will not be able to compete against the likes of the Greens or UKIP in getting the attention of the electorate.

A referendum on PR will have to be won. Polls may presently show a majority in favour, but that is without any prominent campaign in favour of the current system. Bear in mind also that the longer the current negotiations drag on, the less the appetite for more of the same every couple of years.

Before he gets that far, of course, he has to actually get electoral reform. Whatever Cameron or Labour promise, it will have to come down to a vote in the Commons. How many MPs, having done the maths, would feel there is nothing to lose by defying the whips and not voting for Christmas?

Of course, before he gets that far, the coalition/support deal will have to survive the course; bear in mind any PR referendum will be unlikely to take place within a year (quite possibly longer) once the myriad of systems have been examined and the actual question decided on – and every decision in a coalition will be a long negotiating process.

So just what are the chances of the Lib Dems coming through the whole process still able to achieve as much as 23% in any election – PR or not – or even existing as a single party?

Coalition and PR: The Sunlight That Kills The Lib Dem Vampire?

Two weeks to go and everyone seems convinced we’re heading for a hung parliament with some polls showing the Lib Dems in the lead … and then up pops ComRes with Conservatives on a 9 point lead.

Anyway, for ‘just a bit of fun’ let us look into the near future and the possibility of a coalition government. We’ll make a safe bet and assume that it’ll be a Lib/Lab pact of some description, either as a proper coalition or by way of practical support for a minority Labour government.

One certain condition of Clegg’s will, of course, be electoral reform. It’s been mooted before both here and elsewhere that Brown’s sudden conversion to reform was a move to hedge his bets in future coalition conversations. But for the Lib Dems there will be a number of problems.

First, is the timing of a referendum on electoral reform. Coalition governments rarely end well (forget the wartime coalition – we are nowhere near that situation). No-one can be sure when the cracks will begin to show, but none of the proponents of reform are going to want even a moribund coalition colouring the public perception of life under PR, with the resulting series of more coalition governments that invariably result.

So, why not hold the referendum quickly? The trouble there is that, once PR is in place, what of Brown’s government? The Lib Dems may think that they can then walk away at any time and get a better deal from the electorate for the next session of horse-trading behind closed doors.

The fly in the Lib Dem ointment will be the fact that they will have been seriously tainted – nay wounded? – by their involvement in a coalition government, or even simply shoring up a minority Labour government that will undoubtedly fail to live up to expectations. That would then combine with the next problem, and it’s a biggie.

Let’s be clear: PR may well kill the Lib Dems. It will give many minor parties a boost, and the Lib Dems could end up being just another minnow, yet unlike UKIP, Greens or BNP, they will have no ‘unique selling point’ – after all, what do they really stand for, apart from not being Conservative or (quite) Labour?

Vampire Clegg was having a bad morning

The combined effects of PR and the contamination of coalition could prove to be the sunlight that kills the Lib Dem vampire.

(For the real geeks out there, I appreciate that there is another issue in all this: what form will the change in the voting system take? Lib Dems prefer ‘proper’ PR, whereas we could see a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system put in place. As we have seen from the London Mayoral elections, the benefits to the parties in third place or lower are limited under STV. However, let us assume for now that it would still result in more Lib Dem seats in Parliament, though that might not necessarily be the net result.)

From the Political Wind Tunnel To Lib Dem Lemons

Just as most car manufacturers make use of wind tunnel testing in the design of their products, so political parties use their equivalent – the focus group – in formulating either their policies, presentation, or both. So we shouldn’t be surprised that these days the average voter sees less and less difference between the parties.

Then along come the Lib Dems. Actually, that’s not strictly true, as those of us who have been fighting the Lib Dems for years know, we have been operating in a three party system for three decades now, and are probably a little pleased that CCHQ is now joining us in our world.

Anyway, the Lib Dems, it may seem to the ordinary punter, might represent something different; like the Fiat 500 has stormed the small car market as something new, stylish and trendy.

Yet just like the Fiat, the Lib Dems are not all that new. The 500 traces its ancestry back to the little runabout of the same name from the Fifties. The Lib Dems, two faced as ever, are happy when it suits them to boast of their Gladstonian history.

More like a Lada

However, the Lib Dems are not a Fiat 500. Old fashioned reds under the skin, they are more akin to a lemon – perhaps a clapped out Lada with a dodgy respray that’s not intended to last beyond the next polling day corner. Ask anyone who has tried to keep one for a whole term – sorry, few thousand miles – and they’ll tell you to steer well clear and buy something that may be more mundane but is safe and reliable.

Leaders’ Debate: And The Winner Is … None Of The Above

So there’s much apparent (faux?) surprise that Nick Thingy did well at the Leaders’ Debate last night. Cameron had the highest expectations to live up to – and so even last night’s competent performance meant that his “score” would never be astounding. Brown had the lowest expectations and his typically clunky, uncomfortable, box ticking progress through the debate didn’t disappoint.

Clegg’s result personalises the usual bounce that the Lib Dems always get at the General Election, when they get increased public exposure. Few people vote for the Lib Dems, rather they vote against the incumbent – in effect, the Lib Dems act as a proxy for the phantom “none of the above” box. Add to that the fact that last night would have been the first time that many voters would even have seen or realised who Nick Clegg actually was, and the scores from the instant polling are hardly surprising.

Yet the Lib Dems have a problem. With the inevitable increase in chatter about a hung parliament, their policies will come under scrutiny. I have long held the view that the best way to scare people off voting Lib Dem isn’t just the “vote Lib Dem get Labour” mantra, but simply putting the Lib Dem manifesto through every voters’ door. That’ll soon do the trick, especially if there is a feeling – real or imagined – that the manifesto will include the red lines for their participation in a Lib/Lab coalition; and a Lib/Lab tie-up is the only sort which their left-of-Labour activist base will accept and, for that matter, many in the Labour party (didn’t the phrase “I agree with Nick” come more often from Brown’s lips than Cameron’s?).

Shock: Lib Dem Apologises for Stretching Truth

It’s still three days until April 1st, so it looks like this one is genuine:

Vince Cable apologises for Treasury boast

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, has been forced into an embarrassing apology after exaggerating his own economic importance.

Mr Cable earlier this month claimed to have been consulted by the Treasury about his party’s policies and suggested the talks were a prelude to his becoming Chancellor in the event of a hung parliament.

Mr Cable’s presentation of the event angered Treasury officials, and the Lib Dem has now written to Sir Nicholas to apologise.

The PM Who (Doesn’t) Like To Say Yes

To be more precise, I expect he will say yes to Sky’s Leaders’ Debate, but he won’t like doing it. Then again, since I doubt either Cameron or the other one will be asking him, Andrew Marr style, about the contents of his bathroom cabinet, he might feel now that it won’t be all that bad.

Brown will say yes because he has no other choice. The trouble is, like a guilty person who has taken too long to answer a straight question, the real issue is why he didn’t just accept the invitation when the other two leaders did. One reason might be that it took this long for Labour strategists to come up with the strategy that was being rumoured last night: that Labour will suggest that there should also be debates between the top front-benchers as well.

So, in the Treasury debate, we will have Darling, Osborne and Cable.

Without fawning interviewers on the other side of the microphone, Vince Cable will probably see his media sainthood finally revoked.

Darling’s strategy will surely be to perform competently enough to keep himself in the running for the subsequent Labour bloodbath leadership race. His greatest difficulty will probably be to refrain from pointing out that it was all Gordon’s fault and that, like a Crimean battlefield nurse, there was little else he could have done. That line will, presumably, come after May (or March, depending on where you’ve put your money).

In fact, Osborne should be the only one who can really benefit – he already has to face jibes about his suitability for chancellor, based on his youth (and as he is only two days older than me, I am bound to defend him!). So with his stock already thus discounted, it would be the ideal arena for him to prove the sceptics wrong, and with Labour also now helpfully floating the unpalatable probability of tax rises and spending cuts, doing much of George’s expectations management for him, there will be little that he can really do wrong come the night.