Wednesday, October 31, 2007


It's a one horse race - only Nick Clegg can win in this Himalayan monastery

Before anybody asks - no, this isn't a staged stunt and the Clegg campaign team are as surprised about this as anyone. ;-)

(See also: Director's Cut with added monks.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The threat to two party democracy is averted (for now)

BBC: Parties' funding talks suspended

I'm aware that we have a spokesman quoted in this story (which is better than we usually do) but the Liberal Democrats should be all over this story like a rash, for as long as it takes for people to take notice.

There has been a lot of chatter in the media recently wondering what actual differences remain between the three parties; what policies of each other's they wouldn't adopt if they thought it would make them more popular.

A commitment to real reform what sets the Liberal Democrats apart from Labour and the Conservatives, and nowhere is that more stark than reforming our democracy.

Labour are terrified of losing their union funding. The Tories are terrified of losing their funding from big business.

One criticism of our stance stands out though.

We were right to criticise the Tories for walking away from these talks, but they have at least shown willing to cap both union and corporate donations.

Where is our criticism for Labour for refusing to compromise on the union donations?

We should slap them hard and we should do it now - for the truth is Broon's Labour is only interested in "reform" when it suits them.

There's a word for that: hypocrite.


Decision time - who to back?

So, the time has come to me to make my mind up and tell the planet who I think should lead the Liberal Democrats. In fact, I made my mind up as soon as I knew who was standing, and anyone who knows me at all, has read my comments on other blogs, knows where I live, or is friends with me on Facebook will know exactly who I'm backing. But let me spin it out for a bit. If you're anything like me you'll need a bit of suspense in your life.

I think we all agree that Liberal Democrats are generally consistent regarding our core values. In fact, we and the Liberal Party and SDP before us been a great deal more consistent than both Labour and the Tories, although they will (and do) protest otherwise. It shouldn't be a surprise therefore that our two likely candidates have so much common ground between them. This will not be a sober battle of ideas or a titanic struggle for the soul of the party - ultimately, I suspect most members will be perfectly happy whichever of the two candidates ultimately wins.

However, that's not to say that there aren't ideas in play here, and important ones. As President of ALTER, Chris Huhne is one of the standard-bearers for land value tax, a policy of which I'm a big fan. I don't go nearly as far as those who say it's the only tax we need, and I'm skeptical of a lot of the currency reform ideas that also tend to be espoused by members of ALTER, but this factor ought to be a draw. Huhne's clever packaging of these principles into the "Green Tax Switch" has also impressed me, as has his ambition - both for himself and for the party.

But despite all that, I have to confess the truth - I am an unabashed Clegg fan. I have to declare some interests here: Nick is my local MP, his constituency office is about 100 yards from my front door, and his was the first campaign I ever worked on. But on top of those admittedly rather facile factors, there are plenty of serious reasons why I think he should lead our party.

In Nick I see an outspoken leader who can not only reach out to ordinary people and grasp their worries about modern life, but also communicate to them what we all firmly believe - that liberalism has the answers.

Nick is a citizen of Britain first and Westminster second. He is a politician who genuinely wants get power to give it away, and above all he is an inspirational leader while remaining a genuine human being.

His appeal to the electorate should be obvious. One of his backers (I heard it was Jeremy Browne) memorably referred to him as the "Carlsberg candidate" - able to reach parts of the country that others can't reach.

Keeping with that theme, I'd also rate him as the candidate most likely to sew up the John Smith's vote - he is firmly in the "no nonsense politics" camp. A team of researchers at Manchester University gave Clegg the dubious-sounding honour of being one of the "least evasive" politicians they had studied - what they meant was that he ducked only 1 in 10 direct questions aimed at him.

Still, it is nice to have the benefit of knowing one of our leadership contenders personally, and I'm pleased to be able to report that Nick is a pleasure to know and a genuine people person. He is decidedly chatty and surprisingly funny. A friend remembers the Clegg and Allan double act regaling the crowd with a series of Bremner, Bird and Fortune sketches at a local folk festival. Richard has stuck with him to the extent that he is part of his campiaign team as we speak.

Nick is also surprisingly humble and has a talent for self-deprecating humour. I recall a story he told us during his 2005 election campaign where it slowly dawned on him that people on the campaign trail were in fact smiling and waving at outgoing Hallam MP Richard Allan and not at the grinning candidate standing beside him - the anecdote was later recycled and used in his maiden speech.

He has even offered to deliver some of my leaflets in the Council elections next year. If he becomes leader I think I will waive that obligation as I accept he will have more important things to do...

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Three days on The Moon

If anyone's just got an e-mail from Flock Together advertising a 3-day drinking session in Sheffield - don't worry, it WAS just a typo.

Maybe after the leadership election... ;-)

Anyway, Liberal Drinks is visiting The Moon in Sheffield on Tuesday 6th November at 8pm - all are welcome.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Good work Lembit

Lembit Öpik was just on the Today programme, talking about the news that MPs can now jump the queue for all sorts of House of Commons facilities, including lifts, telephones, shops and restaurants.

He was punchy, confident and - dare I say it - rather charming. He made some good jokes: particularly "the 'do you know who I am' brigade" and "having to wait two years for a General Election when we can't wait 2 minutes for dinner."

Lembit is seen as something of a comedy character sometimes, but this was a top-class performance - well done.

I'm delighted that Lembit has grasped the bull by the horns and immediately put the Liberal Democrats on the right side of this issue. This story is bound to reinforce the public's perception of MPs as arrogant, self-important, and contemptuous of the ordinary people who after all pay for Parliament to exist - it's important that they don't include Liberal Democrat MPs in that perception!

Lembit has introduced an EDM on this matter (hat-tip Iain Dale) - I suggest you all urge your MPs to sign it.

UPDATE: On the BBC News website now.

Monday, October 01, 2007



Just in case I've been keeping anyone in suspense for two and a half months - no, we didn't win the Ealing Southall by-election...

Oh, and now that the busy period for my day job is over, hopefully this blog will return to a more regular posting schedule - I'm aiming for something less than 105 days this time!

And after all (say it softly) we might have the thrills and spills of a General Election to look forward too before too long...


How to get a head - Yorkshire carving mystery solved?

Those who have been following the news recently may have noticed a story that appeared on BBC News about a clutch of mysterious carved heads that have been left on doorsteps in Yorkshire villages.

The Beeb picks up the story:
Despite CCTV film showing a man leaving three heads outside a post office, their origin remains unknown.

So far, 12 have appeared in Goathland and Kilburn, North Yorkshire; four in Arthington, West Yorkshire and three in Braithwell in South Yorkshire.

Each of the heads, which are up to a foot tall, looks different but all feature the same carving - which appears to spell out the word "paradox" - and a note bearing the riddle: "Twinkle twinkle like a star does love blaze less from afar?"
Fortunately for those with short attention spans, those are the only clues that are required. A quick google for "paradox carving" reveals - wait for it -, the website of Yorkshire-based sculptor Billy Johnson, whose speciality happens to be stone heads.

And as is customary these days, said googling also reveals a bevy of bloggers deriding the BBC's sleuthing abilities. Good for them.

Mystery solved, I feel.

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