Category Archives: Liberal Democrat

Cat Flap, Red Ed and the Political Party really running the country

Well the Party Conference season is over and, for those that nodded off, it is time to wake up and see the new politics term take its course.

As usual the conference season was a largely pointless and boring few weeks where leaders make speeches thinking the world is watching, when actually, other than an awful lot of BBC and SKY journalists, nobody is taking a blind bit of notice.

The first conference by the Liberal Democrats even had their own supporters staying away, with seats empty throughout the conference, even in the leaders speech.  It was a drab affair with those bothering to turn up being in complete denial at their predicament.

You would never think that they were a party of government from the low key atmosphere and empty seats, but in government they are.  The funniest moment without doubt was the suggestion by one person in the “ask Nick” sessions that actually it was the Liberal Democrats running the government.  This got a good laugh in the hall and a round of applause – it certainly got a laugh outside the hall!

Then came Labour’s conference.  Oh how journalists must hanker for the good old days when a good punch up would ensue, with walk outs, open hostility and the certainty of a little drawing of  blood.

We have none of that these days, they are all too civilised you know.  Again the conference was largely unremarkable except for the Ed Miliband speech.  His delivery is not great, but at times he did look as though he meant what he was saying.

Unfortunately for Ed, he rekindled the “Red Ed” tag that had all but disappeared.

I actually thought the rhetoric of his speech was quite good with the point being we should encourage good business practice and not bad ones.  However, somehow the Tory press picked this up as being “anti business”.

This is somewhat worrying because this surely assumes that most British companies are actually asset strippers and have no social responsibility.  I would have thought that if companies work hard and create wealth that they would be in the “good” category rather than the vilified one.  Maybe I missed the point?

Anyway, whichever way you take the speech, the rhetoric is all very well but the reality is as yet the Labour Party has no policies to implement such high stated moral values on business or the economy, and frankly is unlikely to have. But at least he seemed to be questioning the general ethos and over riding ideology of the past 30 years, and he is the first of the main parties to do this.

Then we had the Conservative party.  This ended up being by far the most entertaining of the conferences.  Feeling very pleased with themselves for  .  .  err .  .  .  .  not winning the last election, they proceeded to bash the Europhiles, ditch their green credentials, spend £250 million on bin collections, and have an argument between themselves about a cat!  All most amusing.

Cat gate was truly ridiculous.  I have no idea what planet Theresa May lives on these days, but it is not within this universe.  There are obviously important arguments regarding the human rights act, but by choosing such a ridiculous story, that has little, or no basis of truth in it whatsoever, just made her look desperate and pretty silly.  Kenneth Clarke, being the plain spoken person he is, pretty much said so straight away much to the annoyance of his boss David.

It also doesn’t help that it is now being reported that she “lifted” cat gate from a UKIP speech!

Oh how amusing.  Even as I write this, arguments still ensue over the said cat as the immigrant in question plans to join his gay partner in a civil partnership next summer.  Surely this will please the Conservative Party and David Cameron in particular. After all they believe in Gay Marriage, not despite being Conservatives, but because they are Conservatives.   It all fits surely with their belief in family values!

Well, now the party is over, and cat gate rumbles on, I smell a bit of sleaze on the horizon  .   .   .   .   or is that a fox?



How the world see’s what it wants to see and the narrative continues with the ever large backdrop of the deficit focussing our minds.

So as it was recently on Channel 4 news with Francis Maude debating with Union leader Mark Serwotka. The ever altruistic Maude sought to muddy the waters of debate over these damned pesky unions, run by evil commie union barons and tried to make out the unions had NO mandate to strike because of the low turn out of the membership for the vote.

Now, I have some sympathy for the wider argument of democratic accountability and legitimacy being affected by low turn outs.  However, as a believer in “real” democracy as opposed to the “Westminster Bubble” version of it, surely we need to look at the wider context.

The argument goes, from Francis Maude, that the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) only had a turn out of 32%, of which 61% voted to go on strike over the proposed government changes.  Please note that 61% is higher than any government has maintained in its support since WWII.

Clearly the result is emphatic and is an overwhelming majority in favour of strike action.  The other unions also taking action on June 30th are the National Union of Teachers (NUT), and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), who had higher turnouts with even higher majorities in favour of strike action but still a lower turn out than 50%.  In short the turnouts were 40% for the NUT with a 92% vote for strike action and a 35% turnout for the ATL with 83% voting for strike action.

Clearly, of those that voted there is severe discontent over the issues and there was certainly an emphatic support for strike action. However, is the legitimacy of the vote diminished by the low turnout?

Francis Maude argues that the low turn out means that the unions lack any authority to hold strike action, almost equating the low turn out with those that don’t vote actually wanting not to strike.

In part I have to say I have some sympathy with the argument put forward.  Low turn out for me represents apathy, disinterest or worse, disenfranchisement from the political process.

However, unlike Francis Maude I do not believe this only when it suits me; when it supports my argument on a particular day of the week.  I believe it when it affects the heart of our political system.  When a government can get a majority with less than 36% of the vote, that allows more power to be exerted than in almost any other democratic country on earth and ride rough shot over other members of society who they do not represent, I find this reprehensible.

Francis Maude on the other hand does not.  He only see’s it as a problem when he wants to exert HIS power over someone else.  Our esteemed Mayor of London Boris Johnson has a similar point of view.  He who was elected on less than a 42% turn out.

If we look at the great and the good in our country, European elections have a turnout of around 35% for an institution that has a substantial say in the laws of this land.  The recent AV referendum had a derisory turnout of around 42%     while the local elections had a low turnout generally, with some wards having turnouts as low as 20%.  Some MP’s in our House of Commons also get elected with a voter turnout of less than 50% while the voter turnout in general elections has gradually declined since WWII to around 65% today.

However, what falls crashing down in the arguments of Francis Maude and co is that if we have a problem with democracy in this country it is throughout our democratic system and not with the Unions. Each Union is one democratic organisation within a complex post industrial society.  It adheres to the strictest union laws of any country in Western Europe, and carries out it’s ballots based on laws brought in by previous Conservative governments.

The Unions, at least in terms of the ballot itself, have acted within the law and completely democratically within the rules laid down by the Conservative party.

In addition, Francis Maude and others seem to forget the reason low turnouts are permitted.  In this country we rightly or wrongly believe that people have the right to exercise their vote or to not use their vote in any democratic election held.  This has been a tradition in our democracy.

Some would argue that people should become compelled by law to vote.  I have some sympathy for this stance, however, if this is the way our democracy is going to evolve, it should evolve for ALL democratic elections and not for just the ones that it seems would be politically advantageous to impose it on.

The simple fact is that the Unions have an overwhelming mandate from it’s members to go on strike whatever the rights or wrongs of the actual issues are.  If people do not wish to exercise their vote that is their right to do so and in doing so they agree to abide by the decision of those who do vote.  The issue of democratic legitimacy is completely bogus and and cynical .  What makes it worse is that those within the Liberal Democrats like Vince Cable have also been trudging out the same line, threatening the Unions with yet more union legislation.  Blackmail never looks good, especially when it is those in power who are doing it.

What Francis Maude et al should be doing is concentrating on the issue at hand and arguing their case.  The pathetic rhetoric of this government never ceases to dismay and sicken me as time goes by.  The vindictive nature of vilifying the disabled, unions, public sector workers and those on benefits is perhaps something to be expected by a Conservative government, but less so by a coalition.

But as I have said in previous posts, we live in interesting times.

ED MILIBAND’S LEADERSHIP: and so the Labour Party rumour mill begins

The papers are full of it, the rumour mill begins, and questions are asked over Ed Miliband’s leadership.  It was only a matter of time, but the left wing commentators and liberal elite are now beginning to ask the same questions the right wing press have been asking for some time – Is Ed Miliband up to the job?

It was inevitable as the weeks went by without a policy in sight and his apparent lack lustre performance in the commons that questions would be asked over his leadership.

Now whispers are being aired behind his back in an almost Tory like way, where the name of the game is to keep switching leader until you get one palatable enough for the electorate to want to vote for you.

This is a modern phenomenon for the Labour Party, encouraged by the Blair/Brown years of back biting that may yet scupper any potential for a Labour Party revival.

In years gone by, the Labour machine was very loyal to it’s leaders, even after disastrous election defeats. The Tories on the other hand would never forgive such a poor showing.

Ed Miliband now has a job to do on two fronts.  To create an effective opposition to the Tory led coalition and to unite and convince the labour party, an almost impossible task.

However, his job is made easier by the fact that too many candidates who want his job are tainted with the Blair /Brown legacy, and that he can fight the Tories AND Liberal Democrats on a united front – there is only ONE opposition party these days.

But are the back biters showing their discontent  too soon?  The elections in May were hardly disastrous, there are few sensible commentators who would argue that the SNP would obtain a similar landslide victory in a general election.  In addition, is the Miliband parliamentary performance actually that bad?

On many occasions I have seen what I consider to be lacklustre performances by Ed Miliband at Prime Ministers questions only to be proved wrong a few days later when the topic over which he has pressed the prime minister leads to a policy u-turn or a resignation.

One problem in him asserting his authority over the  coalition government is that David Cameron and co make so many U-turns how do you capitalise on them?  The Tories have an opposition within their own government now that the Lib Dems were given a thrashing in the May elections.  Every policy change or U-turn is being pounced upon by Nick Clegg as an offering to the people or his own party while Cameron desperately tries to convince people he is “listening” to either his own back benchers or the public.

There are however, several games to be played here.  The first is the need for the Labour Party to win the next election or at least prevent the Tories from winning.  This will be a tough task with only 29% of the vote at the last election. However, this is a long game.  Five years to get it right.  The idea that they will lay their cards on the table within the first 3 years is ridiculous.  All this would do is play in to the government hands who will be able to gather  enough ammunition to blow them apart with the right wing press on side, or they will take the policies like a thieving magpie and use them for their own ends in the way New labour did.

However, by delaying a roll out of a policy direction, it is hard to be an effective and coherent opposition.  Just what is the alternative will be the cry, and with good reason.

It is a tough nut to crack but one the labour Party needs to be patient in its deliberations.  A hasty session of navel gazing will only play into the hands of the coalition – a divided party will never be elected by a British electorate.

There of course is a “third way”, that is to produce a vision without the policy detail.  Gordon Brown never had a vision and lacked coherence.  Tony Blair had a fantastic vision that the public bought hook line and sinker, but just did not have the policies or delivery and was found wanting in many areas.  Ed Miliband needs to provide a true alternative vision, and the type of radicalism that looks to the future while learning the mistakes of the past.

There is no point having policies for today, when in 4 years time when the general election will be fought the country and the world will be different and will require new policies.  The Conservative party found this out when their economic policy fell apart following the party conference in 2008.  Something many like to forget, as a course of voluntary amnesia.

I still believe that Ed Miliband will benefit by the somewhat mistaken Labour Party belief in loyalty to it’s leaders and will fight the next general election.  But maybe, with the Blair/Brown years, the Labour party machine is becoming even more like the Tories, not just in policy, but in it’s cut throat need for success.

In the end, the question must be asked “does it matter”? What we are likely to get is another quasi Tory agenda, dressed up in labour clothes, lurching further to the right, with outdated economic mainstream policies.  But I would like to be proved wrong.

The New Dynamics of the Coalition Government: David Cameron and Nick Clegg have a New Relationship

Digesting the real outcomes of the recent elections takes time.  A lot of commenting in the media has speculated wildly in a predictable pattern.  The right saying Cameron is now stronger than ever; others saying Nick Clegg and the LibDems are done for; while some point to a new strategy for Nick Clegg and others point to a return to “old politics”.

If we did not know it already, the rhetoric of a “new politics” so often quoted by the leading members of the government is complete nonsense.  What the Tory led No to AV campaign showed is that cynicism and negative campaigning with personal attacks are at the forefront of British politics and at the heart of government.

I stated after the elections in May that the real winners were most certainly the Conservative party, and I stand by that assessment.  The wider effect though is more complicated.

Those that have sought to talk up the demise of the LibDems are being premature.  The LibDem vote has indeed reduced to 15%, which could be seen to now be their core vote.  Although, I do not think they will reach the 24% watermark seen at the last general election, I think they will recover some of their support, largely because the dynamics of government have now changed, and many will not have anywhere else to go in some constituencies.

Some have said that the demise of the coalition is now more likely, but in reality I think this is far from the truth.  If Nick Clegg calls time on the coalition his political career is over and so is his leadership of the Lib Dems.  He has only one option to him, and that is to get more out of the coalition.

Whereas Cameron’s political strategy has worked well, Nick Clegg’s has been diabolical.  He put up a united front, not a a coalition but a partnership in the national interest.  Thrashing out policies in private to have a consensual approach and a united policy front.  This has worked into the hands of the Tories, as the differences have been masked and the Tories take the plaudits for policy and the Liberals take the flack from their supporters.

The change in electoral fortunes will see, and is already seeing, a significant change to the way the Coalition and the Libe Dems in particular present themselves.

Ironically, the outcome of the election that was excellent for David Cameron, will actually make his life harder and increase the power and influence of the Liberals.

We have already seen the flexing of muscles by Nick Clegg in recent days, this is largely a knee jerk reaction though.  Over time we will see far more of the differences between the two parties and more spats in public as the Liberals try take credit for the Liberal side of cameron’s policies and where they have genuinely watered down Tory ideology.

Electoral fortunes of all the political parties are in the balance as the public are increasingly sceptical of anyone who asks for their vote.  Some commentators like to claim if Cameron went for a snap election he would win a majority.  But he needs the changing of the boundaries to help him get elected.  Indeed if labour polled their 38% of the vote seen in May they could end up winning.

The truth however, is that the council elections are a snapshot in time and a chance to protest.  This will continue for another 2 years as the cuts bite.  Any percentages gained in the last election will not manifest itself at a general election.  Labour would be unlikely to be able to get 38% if we had a general election tomorrow, and the Lib Dems may well do better than expected in the seats where there is no alternative to the Tory candidates.

In truth the most likely outcome of a snap election would be a dogs dinner and another coalition, much like we have now.

In the face of a 5 year parliament, the Lib Dems have an opportunity to really hold the Tories to account and show their metal.  They now have nothing to lose.

The Labour Party has nothing to offer and their policies are increasingly moving to the right, so the only party who can really hold the Tories to account is the LibDems.  Only now they have to show, more than ever, exactly what they are unhappy with.  Gone is the consensus united approach, this will just not work.

The first casualty will have to be the NHS reforms.  However, the astute amongst the electorate will note that it was Nick Clegg who tried to claim credit for the NHS reforms earlier this year, stating they were actually in the LibDem manifesto. How times change!!

The dynamics are extremely complicated as the government’s strategy among the liberals and conservatives is being put under scrutiny by events dear boy.   Yesterday we heard that the 1922 committee gave un-wavering support to Andrew Lansley over NHS reform and how these reforms must go ahead.

This appears to be a direct challenge not just to Nick Clegg but also to David Cameron, and give him little room for manoeuvre.  The NHS policy is a massive indication over the confusion within government as to how to formulate policy.

David Cameron has run his government based on a decentralised approach, without micro management.  This has led to uturns and embarrassing problems with Forests; sure start, EMA and law and order policies.

Allowing ministers to go off and do their own thing is turning out to be a bit of a disaster for Cameron.  One of his biggest problems is his fixation on the failures of the Blair government.  He wants to get things done quickly while he can after Blair squandered his majority.  The problem is that Cameron neither has the necessary mandate or majority and rushing through badly thought out policies is a recipe for disaster.

He also saw the special advisor culture as corrosive, which he is now back tracking on and employing more advisers.

David Cameron is a shrewd politician, but he is so often let down by the people he has around him, and the ideology, within wings of his party which will undermine him.  Today we see that the right wing is attacking Ken Clarke after his inept performance yesterday.  Perversely it is the left within the newspapers and commentators who are more sympathetic to Ken Clarke.

Which makes Ed Miliband aligned with the right rather than the left on law and order, more than ever before.

We live in interesting times and anyone who makes predictions over the fate of this government or who will win the next election are simply fools.  The dynamics of government are intriguing.  One thing is for certain, Nick Clegg and his Liberals have nothing to lose and must show their political nouse by talking up the differences and fighting for the people who actually voted for them.  At worst they will get trounced in the next election, but if they don’t flex their muscles they will anyway.  At best they may just save their political futures.

NHS REFORM: The Penny is Dropping for David Cameron

The ideological madness that are the NHS reforms, has suddenly hit the top of the Coalition Agenda and Andrew Lansley could be ready take the biggest fall from grace in British politics.

Even in the right wing press, and those of who are the most ideological opponents of the ethos of the NHS are beginning the ground work for an acceptable U-turn on NHS policy.

First David Cameron put a well publicised pause on proceedings, while Andrew Lansley did his tour of the media insisting that he would listen but essentially the reforms would proceed.

Wheeling out the big guns of David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Andrew Lansley in a three pronged attack and charm offensive was thought to be a good strategy.  However, in reality the intellectual arguments against the reforms have simply not changed.

However, the irony of the overwhelming victory of the Tories in the local elections and the decimation of the Liberal Democrat vote has now galvanised the LibDems into fighting their corner.  After all, they have little to lose.

It is true that in one way they are in a weak position if a snap election was called, however, the Tories could not guarantee an overall majority and may end up in a worse position than they are now if they take the gamble.

The Coalition has set out its stall for a 5 year Parliament and the whole strategy, which incidentally, I think will succeed, is to ride the storm, wait for the economy to pick up and go to the polls ready for a Tory majority.

Now, however, the LibDems have nothing to lose now the debacle of he AV referendum is well and truly behind us, they have to show how they can affect the policies of the government.  The next important target on the horizon is the NHS reforms.

The LibDems have to show they are able to change policy for the better, and Nick Clegg appears to have found a small part of his back bone and is changing strategy to disagree in public and to show the differences between the LibDems and the Tories rather than have a show like a national unity government.

Even the likes of Fraser Nelson are saying it would not be the end of the world if the NHS reforms were thrown out.

Andrew Lansley is now trying to defy the laws of gravity by arguing against the Labour party on the basis that their reforms are more left wing than labour! Defying all the coalitions arguments and policy rhetoric of the past 12 months.

Andrew Lansley has been arguing that Labour would cut more money from the NHS than the coalition intends and this would lead to less nurses, doctors, beds etc.  However, when the left argue this we are told it CAN be done by not affecting front line services and by efficiency savings.

So, as usual, it is one rule for one, and another rule for others.

The truth is that the public do not and will not trust the Tories with the NHS.  They WILL NOT win this argument, so the right is arguing they could still re arrange the NHS, bring in privatisation, without a large unwieldy bill.

More stealth and less rhetoric is the order of the day.

Andrew Lansley has been working on this for the past 7 years, and is seeing his ridiculous ideological madness falling into the abyss of failed political careers.  He must be in line for an award for the most years spent in politics without achieving any outcomes whatsoever.  If I was cutting waste in government I know where I would start, and I think David Cameron may be having the same idea.

Meanwhile this is the first week of a new look Lib Dem coalition partner.  The NHS bill will either be severely changed or ditched all together.  There is no other way, and there is no other direction for the Lib Dems than to insist on this.  Whether that will be enough to save them from annihilation is unclear.


The NO to AV campaign have it: The end of constitutional reform for a generation

So the official result is nearly in, but the NO VOTE has already now officially passed the 50% mark.  The Yes to AV camp had given up and gone home some hours ago, and the first gloating has begun in the largely right wing press.

The Spectator was one of the first off the mark and the inane commentary has begun.  Narrow mindedness and self preservation of the 2 main parties has won out and many are now saying openly that thankfully that will be the end of constitutional reform for a generation.

It is likely that I will be dead by the time real constitutional reform comes to the fore, which it surely will one day, it is just that in Britain we are always the last to drag our traditions kicking and screaming into the modern world.

The Alternative Vote was never the best system, everyone knew it, but we also knew that it was always the only reform any of the major players could consider stomaching. But they were able to fight off the challenge to their unfair advantages built into our system.

Nick Clegg made a massive gamble in his coalition agreement and sold his soul for AV.  In the end, much of the public could not stomach what he gave up for this.

The No campaign acted disgracefully and it will be hard for many to be able to look on some figures within that campaign in the same light.  Baroness Warsi playing at extremism was an absolute disgrace.  As was the way the Tories stabbed Nick Clegg in the back with the no campaign and the targeting of him personally.

The lies told over funding and people having more than one vote; and it helping extremism will go down in the political pages of history showing just how to run a cynical and negative campaign. If you repeat a lie often enough people believe it.

In the end, the vote for AV gave the chance for those who like FPTP; those that wanted PR; those that could not forgive Nick Clegg; and those wanting to put strain on the coalition, to all campaign for a no vote.

The Conservative Party, BNP and Communists, and the old guard of the Labour Party won out.

If this is the end of our constitutional reform, it is a sad end to the progress of pluralism seen over the past 15 years.  With the partial reform of the House of Lords, devolution and mayoral elections, the benefits of local democracy and a more proportional system can be seen, as with the Scottish elections tonight.

A country should never stand still in a false belief that the past is best.  We should be looking forward to see how we can improve.  A better more accountable and transparent political system will always improve the quality of govenorship   even if those clinging onto power do not think so.

Conservative Party Wins 2011 Council Elections

2011 could end up being a landmark year for UK politics.  The Conservative Party has done the equivalent of walking on water by taking all the praise of the voters and none of the blame for their austerity policies.

Although the next 2 years will be crucial, the way the Tory vote has held up in England suggests they could ride the storm while demolishing the Liberal Democrats and while Labour tread water.

The destruction of the Liberal Democrats where they have come behind even the BNP in some seats has the affect that the left vote will be split and the Tories will ride high.  One of the most interesting aspects of this election is the way the Liberal Democrats fortunes have reversed in such a way that other political parties are doing to them what the Liberal Democrats used to do to the Tories and Labour.

Whereas in years gone by the Liberal Democrats would play the two face card by taking votes from Labour in some seats and Tories in others.  Now Labour have been taking seats from the Lib Dems while the Conservatives are taking seats from the Lib Dems in other seats.  The nose dive of LibDem votes has lifted the Conservative Party not just to not lose too many seats, but to actually GAIN overall control of some councils.  This is a remarkable outcome.

There is no doubt, that the whipping boys for the past 12 months policies, even though they are Tory lead has been taken by the Liberal Democrats.

David Cameron will be popping champaign tonight as his coalition partners are now in a weaker position and cannot afford to go to the country earlier than the 5 year term, and Labour’s vote is inherently weak.  He couldn’t give a fig about the Tories being decimated in Scotland as he does not needthese seats to win national  elections.  Whereas Ed Miliband should be worried about the collapse of the Labour vote in Scotland, even though it is guess work how this would translate into UK wide elections.

The Nick Clegg question is one that the LibDems will have to consider.  They have to radically change their strategy and criticise Tory policy much more and indeed distinguish exactly how they are moderating Tory policy.  Some are calling for Nick Clegg’s head, but realistically could they survive a battle for the change in leader and keep the coalition going for another 4 years?

Nick Clegg has made a massive miscalculation with the way he has allowed the coalition to be portrayed.  Whereas before the 2010 election Nick Clegg had the advantage of people thinking he was a different politician who could be trusted.  that has now been lost, and there is no way he can regain that advantage.

Later, there is likely to be another devastating result with the AV referendum that will just add more demoralisation on the shoulders of Nick Clegg and his supporters.

If nothing else, David Cameron has proved to be a very astute politician and strategist.  There is not doubt that the May 5th elections belong to David Cameron.