- Labour will win the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election but the Lib Dems will be a close second.
- All 3 main party leaders (Cameron, Clegg and Miliband_E) will still be in post by the end of the year.
- The AV referendum will be (narrowly) won.
- Sarah Palin will do something that will effectively end her chances of being a serious candidate for the 2012 US presidential election.
- A Lib Dem MP will resign the party whip to either sit as an independent or join another party.
- England will win the Rugby World Cup.
- For the third year running I predict that Eddie Mair will become the new host of BBC Question Time.
- Liam Fox will no longer be a cabinet minister by the end of the year.
- Including Old and Sad there will be 3 by-elections during the year.
- A petition signed by more than 100,000 people will trigger a debate in parliament about legalising cannabis.
Friday, 31 December 2010
Thursday, 30 December 2010
Here are my predictions from this time last year about 2010 and how I did:
Wednesday, 29 December 2010
So nearly half of Labour MPs are against a change in the voting system for the House of Commons to the Alternative Vote. When this is combined with most Tory MPs it is looking like well over half and perhaps more than two thirds of MPs want to stick with the status quo rather than move to a preferential system.
I'm not sure that this is particularly interesting or important news. What it essentially boils down to is that the majority of people whose jobs depend (to a greater or lesser extent) on the current electoral system want to keep that electoral system. I'd be very surprised if the majority of MPs did back the change. At the same time, that is precisely the reason why their views should hold little sway and it should be the debate in the country that informs the referendum decision. It is the same reason why I am glad that Nick Clegg and other senior Lib Dem MPs are taking a back-seat in the Yes to AV campaign as the opposite charge can be levelled against them too.
By the way, I am sure that many (perhaps most) of the MPs who are against change hold their views as a matter of principle. The problem is that there is such a fundamental conflict of interest that it is impossible to disentangle it. It is the same sort of situation that MPs who lobby for a particular industry and are then discovered to have business interests in that same industry find themselves compromised by. They may be completely innocent but they have all now (largely) realised that they are better off avoiding the conflict of interest in the first place.
Instead of focusing on who backs what we should be looking at the arguments for and against. And I am afraid that "Caroline Flint is against it" is not an argument.
I have been largely silent on this blog since mid-August when I announced that I would no longer be blogging. There was one exception earlier this month when I blogged about tuition fees (I felt like I *had* to say something!) and I have done a couple of guest posts for other blogs too in that period. Apart from that though it has been a nice break for me to be able to watch the news and follow politics without always thinking about how I am going to blog the latest story. After almost two years of pretty intense blogging (several times a day at its height) I must admit it was a relief not to feel compelled to do this.
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
Well what a bloody mess this is! I stop blogging for a few months and in my absence the party almost tears itself apart over tuition fees.
Tuesday, 17 August 2010
Monday, 9 August 2010
One of the things that sometimes gets lost in all the talk about drug laws, harm reduction, classification etc. is the sheer amount of time that the police spend on activity relating to the existing drug laws.
Sunday, 8 August 2010
I cannot believe what I have just witnessed in a video taken by police during a pursuit of a disabled pensioner motorist who they suspected of not wearing a seatbelt last September in South Wales. You can watch it below:
Footage captured on a police dashboard camera shows one officer striking the driver’s seat window with a baton up to 15 times and another officer jumping on the bonnet of the car and kicking the windscreen in an apparent attempt to crack it.Police pulled over Robert Whatley, 70, for not wearing a seat belt as he drove through country lanes in South Wales. The 8-mile chase started after officers tried to give Mr Whatley a fixed penalty notice but he drove off.The retired businessman, who is recovering from a stroke, was covered in glass when officers from Gwent police surrounded his Range Rover on a country lane following a 17-minute chase.Mr Whatley, who was expecting officers to gently knock on the window of his £60,000 car, said: “I couldn’t believe what was happening. The police went completely over the top – you would have thought I had robbed a bank.
“I was terrified when they started smashing in the window and trying to kick in the windscreen. I tried to shield myself but I was showered with glass which could easily have gone into my eyes. “It’s something you might expect in America but not in the quiet of the British countryside.”
Mr Whatley, who never broke the speed limit during the chase, said he had become confused during the pursuit.He said he thought that the blue lights and siren of the pursuing car meant the officer was giving him a police escort home.But he finally pulled over when he was confronted by a police “stinger” device on the road into Usk.Mr Whatley, who has a heart condition, was later charged with several motoring offences.
Lloyds TSB announced an unexpected profit of £1.6 billion for the first half of 2010 this week.
After all, we do not elect governments to speculate with our money in the banking market.
Saturday, 7 August 2010
In my copy of PC Pro this month a leaflet dropped out offering a free £50 trial of Google AdWords. Although I had never really considered advertising for this blog before I thought if it's free I could give it a go, mainly as a test to see how effective £50 worth of advertising this way could be. I am a bit sceptical as to its value for something like this and certainly would not pay anything without evidence that it was worth it.
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The Daily Mail today has a story that William Hague is to address the Lib Dem conference next month:
The Foreign Secretary, widely seen as one of the best orators in the Commons, is expected to lead a Conservative charm offensive at the gathering in Liverpool in the hope of winning over disaffected LibDem activists.Tory sources suggest Mr Hague will give a 'witty' address, rather than focusing heavily on policy.
William Hague is not part of the conference agenda and I can confirm that he has not been asked to speak at the Liberal Democrat conference. No Conservative ministers have ever been approached to speak at our conference.Fringe events are still being finalised, and it is of course possible that an independent group may have invited Mr Hague to speak at their Fringe event. But this is no different to any other year and it is common for MPs of all parties to attend these events.
Friday, 6 August 2010
These are the 5 most read posts on this blog from the last 7 days:
Jeff Randall has a piece in the Telegraph today entitled "Hypocrites, lightweights and clones – can't Labour do better?" where he rips into the Labour leadership contenders. I am not going to comment on the entire piece and indeed he does make some interesting points. However the details in the fifth paragraph are not among them:
At the last election, David Miliband's share of his constituency vote fell by 8.8 per cent, Andy Burnham's was down by 6.5 per cent, and Ed Miliband's by 3.8 per cent. Even in seats where Labour could put up mannequins with red rosettes and still win, these would-be champions managed to go backwards. Ed Balls, whose constituency had its boundaries redrawn, suffered a fall of 8.4 per cent and just scraped in. Only Diane Abbott, defending Hackney North, was able to increase her share of the vote (by 6 per cent).
David Cameron made a mistake yesterday when he claimed that Iran has a nuclear weapon. This comes after a period in which he has done other things that some think are questionable, notably some remarks he made about Pakistan "exporting terror to India" whilst in Pakistan. Indeed he is holding talks with Pakistan's President Zadari today to try and patch up relations with him later today.
He should take the rest of the month off and come back fully refreshed in September.
Thursday, 5 August 2010
- Millennium tears Wedgie a new one.
- Anthony Barnett on the difference between "Fair votes" and "Fairer votes".
- Luke Akehurst cautions Labour that the pendulum will not swing back towards them on its own.
- Nick Lane writing on Lib Dem Voice suggests a cheeky idea for how Labour could cause real problems for the coalition on the electoral reform referendum.
- Emma Burnell writes an open letter to the Labour leadership candidates.
Steven Evans is calling for action after his 13-year-old son, Dean, was attacked by a Staff at Holy Cross Recreation Ground, in Church Road....Mr Evans believes dogs should be banned from anywhere children play.He added: “I have dogs myself, and I always muzzle them when I take them out.
David Cameron set the cat amongst the pigeons yesterday by seemingly off-the-cuff suggesting that the current situation where people can stay in council houses effectively for life may be reviewed during a Q&A session.
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Towards the end of the House of Comments podcast that we recorded yesterday, we discussed aspiring politicians who have controversial views on issues and the potential consequences of them being completely open about this.
If you are a political blogger and would like to participate in the future, please drop me an e-mail here.
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
Do you remember a few months ago, the dreadful case of the two babies who were mauled by the urban fox in London?
There was a great programme on Channel 4 last night "Our Drugs War", the first of a three part series by Angus Macqueen on why the war on drugs can never be won. Angus used to think that banning drugs was the best way but after having looked at the evidence he now says he was completely wrong.
That's right. Tom Harris, that stalwart of First Past the Post has a blogpost this morning which makes the case for the Alternative Vote. You should read the whole post as I have only included snippets below. He specifies the circumstances in which he thinks it can work well:
AV is a good system for filling a single position. If Britain had an elected president, for example, he or she would probably be elected by AV, or at least in a run-off ballot. That would make sense.Similarly, if a local party is choosing a parliamentary candidate, AV is the best system to secure the maximum amount of support for the victorious candidate from party members. And, yes, when electing the leader of a party, AV’s the system to use.
But when you’re electing 650 people from across the country, you’re not just electing 650 individual MPs – you’re electing a government....And that’s why FPTP remains the best system for the Commons and AV is the better system for electing party leaders. Horses for courses, see?
Monday, 2 August 2010
I am getting tired of having to highlight these cases but they keep on happening, despite the statements from senior police and politicians. This one happened at the weekend and is reported in full on the NUJ website:
Carmen Valino had images deleted from her camera by police and was threatened with arrest whilst photographing the scene of a shooting in Hackney, East London.
The incident happened on Saturday 31 July as Valino photographed a crime scene from outside the police cordon whilst on assignment from the Hackney Gazette.
She had identified herself as a journalist and showed her UK Press Card to the police.
A police Sergeant approached Valino telling her that she was disrupting a police investigation and to hand over her camera. After protesting to the Sergeant that she was in a public place, outside the cordon he had no right to take her camera, he grabbed her wrist and pulled out his handcuffs. Before he could put the cuffs on she handed him her camera. He then left for five minutes before coming back, bringing Valino inside the cordon and asking her to show him the images and deleting them. Valino was told that she could come back in a few hours to photograph the scene.
This incident highlights how police are not following the law or the agreed ACPO Media Guidelines which state:
Members of the media have a duty to take photographs and film incidents and we have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record. It is a matter for their editors to control what is published or broadcast, not the police. Once images are recorded, we have no power to delete or confiscate them without a court order, even if we think they contain damaging or useful evidence.
How many more times? This has to stop. See here for some previous examples I have covered recently.
I am starting to think that the only way this will ever stop is if members of the public to whom this happens launch private prosecutions against the police officers involved, perhaps with the support of an organisation like Liberty. The officers who do these things are clearly breaking the law by acting in this way and I suspect they would not have a leg to stand on.
It is clear that all the edicts from on high are having little effect on the actions of officers on the ground.
Following on from my post yesterday where I suggested that the Lib Dems should separate out the AV part of the constitutional reform bill in order to help Labour support a "yes" vote in the ensuing referendum I would like to expand a little on one of the points I made.
I highlighted how whoever wins the Labour leadership election will just have been elected using AV. This is not a trivial point. It actually goes to the heart of the mandate that they will have.
It would be incredible if, having just been elected using that method they then went on to oppose exactly that reform for the election of MPs. I expect the public would find it very hard to understand how it can be good enough for the election of political elites but not good enough for the rest of us. This is a particularly acute issue at the moment in the wake of the expenses scandal when one of the things that infuriated people was how there was one rule for MPs and another for everyone else.
So, frankly I cannot see how the new Labour leader would want to put themselves in that position. They would have enough of a job explaining why they were campaigning for a "no" vote in a referendum that was in their own manifesto, let alone the absolute hypocrisy of the election of their own position would expose.
And so if the new leader is not going to credibly be able to oppose the referendum, it would be far better for them to throw their full weight behind a "yes" vote rather than do it in a half-hearted way (which might be tempting). Otherwise, if the vote fails then it would reflect badly on them too.
After all, this will be the first big test of national opinion on an issue since the general election. Won't the new leader want to be on the winning side and to be seen to have visibly contributed towards this positive vote?
The Radiology Degree blog today has a list of 25 reasons to legalise cannabis and 25 reasons to keep it illegal.
Sunday, 1 August 2010
I am just back from a long weekend away and one of the things that I have been mulling over is how we can win the AV referendum next May. I expect my thoughts on this might prove a bit controversial but hey ho.
Thursday, 29 July 2010
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Will Straw has written a piece for Left Foot Forward today entitled "Electoral reformers should oppose the coalition’s gerrymandering" where he highlights four reasons why electoral reformers should oppose the proposed government bill to change the boundaries and put the AV to a referendum.
1) The Bill prevents equal representationWhile everyone accepts the principled case for equal-sized seats, time must be taken to ensure that the equalisation is of those entitled to vote rather than those already registered to vote.
2) The Bill gives the Liberal Democrats a partisan advantageTwo parliamentary seats – the Western Isles (SNP) and Orkney and Shetland Islands (Lib Dem) – have been exempted from the need to meet new quotas because of their low population density.
3) The Bill does not correct distortions in the electoral system
4) A smaller House of Commons will be be less representativeAs Sunder Katwala has outlined on Next Left, “a smaller Commons will almost certainly delay and slow down progress towards gender equality in the House of Commons.”
“...from Labour’s point of view, that element [cut in number of constituencies] of the legislative package will, in all likelihood pass whatever I’m afraid. It is AV that is up for grabs. Labour has the opportunity to show that it can embrace reform and pluralistic politics. It can show that it is not stuck in the past; a defensive party unable to confront the future. And it is the right thing to do from the perspective of democratic accountability.”
I read this post yesterday on the You've Been Cromwelled site in which the author recounts how they were pursued and questioned by a couple of Rail Enforcement Officers (who are charged with looking after people on the railways and checking their tickets) for taking photographs. They do not have any police-like powers, they are just civilians.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Something has been preying on my mind in the the last few weeks/months and I thought it was about time I shared it.
Just a few months ago, no Lib Dem MPs had any real political power outside of the party. Despite this they did manage sometimes to make a difference (notably for example with the Gurkhas) but largely they would discuss the party policies, attempt to influence a domestic audience and that was that.
Please note, in a change from previous years, the Leader's Speech will now take place on the afternoon of Monday 20 September. Nick Clegg, as Deputy Prime Minister, will be representing the country at a session of the United Nations in New York discussing the Millennium Development Goals on the Wednesday 22 September.
Things have changed very, very quickly and I suspect the dynamics at play at conference will be quite different from anything any of us there will have seen before.
Monday, 26 July 2010
A chap named Jason got in touch with me recently to draw my attention to an article that he had written where he explains how he has suffered for the majority of his life from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and that how the only drug he has found that allows him to live a relatively normal life without dreadful side-effects is cannabis.
Of course cannabis is a controlled substance under the law and there is no legal way to get hold of it so therefore he has had to regularly break the law in order to get the only medicine that he feels is of any real use for his condition.
It is well worth reading Jason's article in full to get an idea of just how pernicious our drugs laws are that somebody who has suffered with an awful condition for most of his life is forced to break the law to treat it and the intermittency of supply is such that he cannot always get access to it.
Amidst all the headlines of the "War on Drugs" and politicians trying to sound tough we need to remember that there are people like Jason caught in the crossfire. He is just trying to live his life the best way he can. The law is an ass when it comes to cases like his and the government has no business preventing him from getting the treatment he needs for his condition.
There have been all sorts of rumours flying around in the last few days that Ed Balls was about to pull out of the Labour leadership contest and throw his weight behind one of the two front runners (one of the Miliband brothers). He has denied this and insisted that he is fighting on.
Sunday, 25 July 2010
I recently read Shane Greer's book "So you want to be a politician" (published by Biteback). It claims to be a must-read for any first time political candidate and attempts to cover everything that somebody in that position would need to know. From personal presentation and speech writing through to fundraising, online campaigning and handling the media. It has contributions from various people involved with politics
The first thing I would say is that I found it very useful. The advice generally seems to be of a good quality and the contributors (people such as Shane himself, Sarah MacKinlay, Tom Harris, Jessica Asato, Mark Pack, Stephen Twigg and Hopi Sen to name but a few) are of a high calibre.
As somebody who has already run for a council seat once (and intends to keep trying), I noticed that in the subject areas where I already have some knowledge I could see that the contributions often chimed with my own experiences which gives me confidence that the book overall is likely to be useful in the areas where I need the most help!
The style of the chapters are fairly different from each other. I guess that is to be expected with a book that has so many different contributors but it has the effect of making it more suited to dipping in and out of rather than reading from cover to cover. There is some duplication of advice but more frustratingly there are also areas where I spotted some of the advice from different people contradicting each other which was a bit unhelpful. The most jarring example of this is that the book claims in one chapter that you should always assume that everything you say to a journalist is on-the-record and in a different one advises that it is wise to make the distinction with journalists between on and off-the-record.
The chapters that stuck with me most were Politics 2.0 by Mark Pack, Online fundraising by Jag Singh and Surviving in the Studio by Shane Greer. That last one was a mildly surreal experience as I have come up against Shane in various radio studios over the last few months on probably approaching a dozen occasions so to see him laying bare the tactics I have seen him deploy first hand was particularly interesting for me. Although he did not mention one of the most irritating skills he has (for an opponent) which is to structure his sentences in such a way as to make it almost impossible to interject without talking over him! I expect he wants to keep that one to himself or maybe he isn't even aware he does it so I thought I'd just pop that one on the record too!
I was also intrigued by the chapter Direct mail fundraising. I knew virtually nothing about this area and it certainly gives a comprehensive strategy for approaching it. So detailed in fact that it even describes the different fonts you should use for targeting different demographics! I'll leave you to read the book in order to find out which ones are recommended for whom.
I won't give the book a score as I think that is a bit invidious but I do think it fulfills its aim. Perhaps if there is a second edition it could be tightened up a bit further to eliminate the few areas of duplication and contradiction.
I think the acid test for this book is whether I put its suggestions into practise. I already have in a couple of areas and I fully expect as I progress down my own political path that I will be dipping in and out of this as a handy reference.
Here we go again.
I just received an email from Tangent PLC’s executive director threatening potential legal action for my Tweet earlier suggesting that Gordon’s Brown website wasn’t very well designed:I respectfully suggest you delete that tweet, issue no more similar ones and generally try to sell your products in a more professional way. I really don’t like the prospect of either a public slanting match or legal action, but if I need to protect my company’s business and reputation, I will.
My blog received over 5,000 unique visitors today. Completely mesmerised.