I was in Birmingham yesterday in a Starbucks on the university campus with Radio 5 Live and their invited audience to watch the final leaders' debate. Then afterwards I was on a panel on air until after midnight discussing how things had gone.
Friday, 30 April 2010
Thursday, 29 April 2010
Following the final leaders' debate, the #bbcqt Live Chat starts on this blog at 10:40pm (show starts at 10:45pm on BBC1). The same as the last two weeks, the show is being broadcast live this week so that the panel and audience can watch the leader debates (this week on BBC1) and then respond to how they have gone on the programme.
This week I am again unavailable during the programme but Lib Dem blogger Matt Raven (known on Twitter as @El_Cuervo) is again standing in.
The panel includes the Schools Secretary Ed Balls, the Liberal Democrats' treasury spokesman Vince Cable, the SNP leader Alex Salmond and the broadcaster and journalist Janet Street Porter.
Join Matt below from 10:40pm:
I have been invited to be on Tony Livesey's Radio 5 Live show following the final pre-election leaders' debate tonight. I think the start time is a bit dependent on what time the football finishes but it should be from not long after the debate ends until 1:00am.
- Don't vote Lib Dem here, you'll let the Tories in.
- You can't vote Labour here, they've got no chance, you'll let the Lib Dems in.
- Tories can't win here.
- Vote Conservative to keep Labour out.
- SNP are the only ones in this seat who can keep the Tories out.
- A vote for Plaid Cymru is a vote for Labour.
- You do realise don't you that if you vote Lib Dem you could let Labour in here?
- Vote tactically for us to keep them out.
- Only Lib Dems can keep Labour out.
- Only the Conservatives can keep Labour out.
- Only the SNP can keep Labour out.
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
We'll have to wait and see how the TV news covers it at tonight and the continued fallout from Bigotgate but as I blogged earlier, here are what will likely go down in history as the worst 5 minutes of Brown's 2010 election attempt:
With the polls as they have been for the last couple of weeks one thing I have been wondering is what the effect would be if something historic happened and the Lib Dems did not come third in the vote share.
Tuesday, 27 April 2010
Monday, 26 April 2010
I only saw a headline for this yesterday but David Cameron has announced that he wants there to be a six month limit for new Prime Ministers who come to office without having been subject to a General Election. After this limit they would be forced to dissolve parliament and go to the country.
- I cannot find any mention of this policy in the Conservative Manifesto. They only published it two weeks ago. Why is it not in there?
- We have a parliamentary system, not a presidential system. Although I think it is probably better that a PM gets their own mandate it is not necessary and it would seem odd to compel this to happen in isolation without other reforms.
- For example, what is to happen if a PM dies in office? I don't think it is a good idea under these circumstances for a successor PM to be forced to go to the country. In a properly Presidential system we might see something like a Vice President who runs on the same ticket as the Presidential candidate and in effect inherits the mandate upon the death of the President. Would we have something like that here? A Vice Prime Minister? And if so, what powers would that person have whilst the PM was still alive? We would also need to think about how a successor Vice PM could be chosen under these circumstances too.
- Incoming PMs usually have a honeymoon period. They vary in length but an effect of this would probably be for a PM who accedes outside of an election to go to the country within a few weeks to capitalise on their likely high ratings. They would have little to lose given that they would be forced to do so in a few months' time anyway.
- For a party that bangs on about stability in government all the time this seems like a potential recipe for a less stable situation.
- If we go down this road, we are making our system more and more presidential. There will be unforeseen consequences to this as our unwritten constitution adapts to accommodate it. Now these consequences may not necessarily be bad but surely it would be better to plan out things like this properly rather than just fiddling with little bits of the constitution without any broader idea of the likely effects.
So what was Nick Clegg playing at yesterday morning on Andrew Marr's show? This is exactly what he said:
"It is just preposterous the idea that if a party comes third in the number of votes, it still has somehow the right to carry on squatting in No 10.""A party which has come third - and so millions of people have decided to abandon them - has lost the election spectacularly (and) cannot then lay claim to providing the prime minister of this country."
Sunday, 25 April 2010
- Alex Massie thinks that Cameron's "six month rule" idea is a daft gimmick.
- John Rentoul draws our attention to something that keeps getting forgotten. Labour are pretty consistently in third place in the polls.
- And in fact as Mark Pack write on LDV, Labour might actually get their worst share of the vote not just since 1983, but 1918!
- Ewan Hoyle points out that the Telegraph's "expose" of Nick Clegg's previous eminently sensible comments on drugs policy simply echo what their own political darling David Cameron said around the same time.
Ever since the Lib Dem surge started nearly two weeks ago, David Cameron and any other Tory within hearing distance of a microphone has done their best to try and scare the bejaysus out of anyone listening that a "hung parliament" (I prefer to use the less pejorative balanced parliament) would be dreadful for this country. "It would be calamitous for the economy!". "It would lead to weak ineffectual government!". "It would be politicians behind closed doors stitching it up for themselves!". Etc. etc. etc.
Martin Bright suggests over on The Spectator that Gordon Brown needs to manage the next 12 days with dignity given that Labour may well end up third in terms of vote share. He also says that this is an election that Labour should not have lost, and that given the mountain Cameron has to climb he likely expected it would actually take two elections.
Saturday, 24 April 2010
Just one today:
- In a post which is surely destined for the shortlist for Lib Dem Blogpost of the Year, James Graham utterly destroys Polly Toynbee's argument for tactical voting in order to achieve the ultimate goal of electoral reform.
Friday, 23 April 2010
I am going to be doing the newspaper review on Radio 5 Live this evening at midnight tonight on Stephen Nolan's show.
- Both Brown and Cameron were careful to not explicitly state that they agreed with Nick (at least in any way that could easily be mocked afterwards) but there were a number of times when they basically did agree. They just didn't draw attention to it. An example that jumped out was respite for carers. Cameron's answer was almost identical to Clegg's on this but no indication of this was made.
- Brown was much, much better than last week. He actually came across as a bit human which he usually fails to do. He also actually managed to make some good points in a few places and was quite deft at turning things back onto both of his opponents. Even the "get real" line he used against Clegg was well delivered (although I of course don't agree with the sentiment).
- Cameron was also better than last week. He looked at the camera a lot more which was a help. I thought the way he slapped down Clegg on expenses was well done. I actually do think Clegg has a good story to tell on this and that Lib Dem MPs were not as bad as Labour or Tories but it is a difficult sell and I think it might be time to relegate that line now. It just gave Cameron the opportunity to appear more statesmanlike by claiming nobody was a saint which is of course true. Clegg was then on the back-foot expressing agreement with Cameron's riposte which I expect will not have played so well.
- I also thought that in the segment in the middle, Cameron, finally made a good-ish job of defining what his "big society" theme is now. I still think the policy is quite wishy-washy and would probably not come to very much in practise but I think the way he sold it would may come across well to some undecideds (if they don't think it through too much!).
- I thought Clegg's closing speech was masterful. It touched upon the feeling that really does seem to be growing in the country that this time, at last, something extraordinary could happen and a truly mould-breaking change could be on its way. He also implicitly addressed how he has been treated by the media in the last couple of days but in a very matter of fact "of course people with a vested interest are going to try and stop change". I even scribbled down the last two sentences as they were pitch perfect: "Don't let anyone tell you that this time it can't be different. It can!". That is about as neat a riposte to all the negativity as you can get I think.
Thursday, 22 April 2010
It's that time of the week again and the #bbcqt Live Chat starts on this blog at 10:40pm (show starts at 10:45pm on BBC1). The same as last week, the show is being broadcast live this week so that the panel and audience can watch the leader debates (this week on Sky) and then respond to how they have gone on the programme.
I like Peter Oborne. He is partially responsible for my decision to get involved in active politics. I read his books "The rise of political lying" and "The triumph of the political class" a while ago and both books helped nudge me a bit further along the road to making the leap from interested of observer to participant. I told him so when I met him the The Convention on Modern Liberty last year.
"It is almost certain therefore, that the next great political movement will come from outside the Political Class. Just as the Political Class has emerged from the wreckage of the party system so it is certain to produce its own antithesis. At some stage a British politician may well discover a new language of public discourse and methodology of political engagement which communicates simply and plainly to voters."
It is quite astonishing to look at the front pages of some of the press this morning. They are really going for Nick Clegg, especially the Telegraph and the Mail, both of which has very flimsy "stories" that really do not stand up to scrutiny and are blatant smear jobs not warranting even page 17 status let alone splashed across the front page. I'm not linking to them, you can find them if you wish. Tom Bradby, Nick Robinson and Jeremy Paxman all suggested last night that the Telegraph story is a smear or something and nothing.
I don't want Nick Clegg to win. I don't want him to be Prime Minister. But he is not the devil incarnate. He's a nice guy, doing a fair job of leading his party. I do not agree with many of his policies. I think many of them are misguided. But I am happy to accept that he believes they will be best for the country. I am happy to debate them with him or any other LibDem and that's what politics and this election should be about. It should be about debating ideas, arguing about policy. It shouldn't be about this sudden urge to denigrate Nick Clegg as a person. It will backfire on those who promulgate these attacks because most people can see with their own eyes that he is a transparently decent individual.Of course politicians should be scrutinised and questioned. But not like this
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
"Britain will change for the better when we all elect to take part, to take responsibility – if we all come together. Collective strength will overpower our problems"
"Any other outcome (than a Conservative overall majority), any other vote, could lead to a sort of stagnation, to a sort of haggling and a bickering amongst politicians and we won't get done what so badly needs to be done in our country. If we end up with a hung parliament, the world is going to look at us and say 'How are you going to sort out your problems?' We need decisive action to sort out those problems and that is what a Conservative government would bring."
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
- Alex Massie reports on the beginning of the Conservative backlash.
- Alix Mortimer on LDV asks who exactly are Vote for a Change?
- Bracknell Blog reports on the latest campaign from Don Haycocks, the man behind "Goodbye Mackay".
- And I wouldn't normally link to a comment on another blog but John Q. Publican has some very interesting ideas about what is happening with the Lib Dem/Clegg phenomenon in a comment he left on the "Though Cowards Flinch" blog which could be a blog post itself!
In the US Presidential system there is the phenomenon known as the "insurgent campaign". This is when people like Barack Obama or Bill Clinton can come almost out of nowhere at least in terms of national recognition and take the presidency. It can make the US primary races and the ensuing Presidential races very exciting as we saw recently in 2008.
I was just listening to the World at One and there was a piece about Goldman Sachs and banking in general. They discussed the situation with the legal proceedings against the bank and then they moved on to the political aspects to this.
Political Betting this morning draws our attention to something that I was aware but seems to be getting lost in the media Lib Dem surge narrative and how the leader debate has been a "game changer". The surge actually started before the leader debate last Thursday.
Then exactly a week later a ICM finalised a standard national poll and found a sharp move to Clegg’s party putting the share up to 27 points. The survey had gone on over two days and almost all of if had been completed before the session started in Manchester.Because that poll was published two days later it became part of the debate impact narrative.So by the time that Nick Clegg made his opening statement the yellows were on a roll anyway. His assured performance was the icing on the cake.Looking at the post debate polling as part of broad mood change amongst voters suggests that it might be more sustained than many are predicting.
As Mark Pack tweeted last night, that's the percentage of people who according to a question asked in a recent YouGov survey would vote Lib Dem if they thought we could form the next government:
'How would you vote if thought LibDems "had a significant chance of winning the election nationally": LD 49% Con 25% Lab 19% YouGov 18-19/4'
Monday, 19 April 2010
- Heresy Corner has a counterfactual exploring what could have happened had we have had a proportional electoral system in 2005. His main message is that we have nothing to fear from such a system. Amen.
- LDV explains how Linda Jack wants your help to defeat Nadine Dorries. Please Jeebus make it happen!
- Craig Murray asks if there's been something funny going on with recent polling.
- Political Betting has the figures that suggest the Lib Dem surge shows no sign of abating.
Andy Newman writing on Socialist Unity has questioned why I defended Devil's Kitchen blogger Chris Mounsey last week. As I blogged he had appeared on the Daily Politics and had not defended himself when Andrew Neil quoted some strong language he had used on his blog.
For example, this is what he says about trade unions:“We should utterly destroy them, and do it soon.”The language that Chris Mounsey uses to express that point of view is however extremely offensive, and you can read the original here:The real speciality of Chris Mounsey, an old-Etonian graphic designer, is the use of sexualised and racialised abuse, involving violent imagery of the humiliation and death of left of centre politicians and trade union leaders.The language that Chris used against NASUWT president Chris Keates is too extreme for me to publish on my blog, but you can read it here if you wish.Chris Mounsey revels in the idea of a respected woman trade union leader being violently sexually humiliated, and left to bleed to death; and he argues that she deserves this because she opposes the private sector having a role in education.Given that in many parts of the world, like Columbia, which has a government somewhat in accordance to Chris Mounsey’s political leanings, women really are raped and murdered for their trade union activity, then I think that Chris Mounsey comes close to glorifying terrorism, which is now a serious criminal offence. No one, least of all a woman trade unionist, should be harrangued by this bullying misogyny, with explicit threats of violent death.
It is somewhat surprising then to find a leading Lib Dem coming out in Chris Mounsey’s support, arguing that Chris has a right to use this inflammatory and violent language. (The Mark Reckons website was voted best new Lib Dem blog of 2009, and is one of the highest ranked Lib Dem blogs by wikkio.)Lib Dem Mark says:“I think he has every right to blog in the way that he sees fit. Many of his supporters and party members will agree with what he is saying. Lots of libertarian bloggers have a strongly worded style and many of them also make very good points and are very funny too. Why should these people be barred from trying to seek political support for their views even if their styles are not to everyone’s tastes?”Well Mark, this is quite simple they should not be allowed to seek political support for the violent degradation and abuse of women, and the violent death of prominent trade unionists. I don’t find the idea of a trade union leader bleeding to death after sexual violence very funny.Mark further regrets that Chris Mounsey did not make a better defence of his right to bully and harass people on the Internet when he was interviewed on the Politics Show by Andrew Neil.Lib Dem Mark says:I had hoped for a spirited and libertarian defence of his right to have an on-line persona that is close to the knuckle and still be involved in active politics. However he just seemed to cave in to what Neil was saying. Neil suggested that an apology to the Trades Union leader in question might be appropriate and Mounsey obliged. Neil also suggested that if he were a candidate in any other party he would have had to stand down to which Mounsey also assented. Then the interview was over.Ahh, yes the “on-line persona” defence. How does that work Mark? If I were a 57 year old man, should I be able to adopt an “on-line persona” of a 19 year old boy to talk to teenage girls on chat-room?In real life, should someone be able to adopt a “persona that is close to the knuckle” by dressing in white robes and burning crosses outside black peoples’ homes?
Boris Johnson has a fascinating article in the Telegraph today. Fascinating not because it's a well thought out or argued piece (as Boris is well capable of), but because it is a hopelessly muddled and poorly constructed transparent attack piece. The sense of entitlement just drips off the page. I can only assume it is "written for the troops" to keep up their morale because I am sure this will do little to persuade the waverers as indeed a brief glance at the comments below it from the readers will make clear.
It must have been a couple of years ago that I was having dinner with the great Max Hastings, former editor of this paper, and he was being so gloomy about Conservative prospects that I scented a financial opportunity. Tell you what, I said, let’s have a bet. A thousand pounds says the Tories will win the next election. How about that?
...My bet remains quite safe. I am certain that the Tories will win, and that the current fantasy of a Liberal Democrat resurgence is the biggest load of media-driven nonsense since the funeral of Diana.Watching that debate, I had the clear impression that Cameron aced every question. His answers were clear, concise and knowledgeable, and in my focus group of 12- to 16-year-olds he was the overwhelming winner. “David Cameron knows more than the others,” said the 12-year-old, “and everything he says is true!”
Gordon Brown seemed stale and deeply unconvincing in his core assertion, that it was necessary to keep wasting exactly the same amount of money in order not to stall the recovery.As for Clegg, I remember thinking that it was indeed a historic debate – the moment when the idea of a third force in British politics finally shrivelled under the Manchester TV lights. He was by far the worst, with many of his answers seeming to be semi-masticated versions of something Cameron had already said. And so you can imagine my amazement when those polls started to come in, and the news that the punters overwhelmingly scored it for Cleggie. It was one of those times when there seems to be only one solution to the problems of British politics, and that is to dissolve the electorate and summon a new one.
What has happened to us all, when serious papers can start raving about “Prime Minister Clegg”? Has someone put something in the water supply? Has some sulphur yellow cloud descended imperceptibly from Iceland and addled our brainsThese are Lib Dems we are talking about!
They say anything to anyone. They are not so much two-faced as positively polycephalous. They go around every university campus promising to abolish “Labour’s unfair tuition fees” – while dear Cleggie tells his party conference that this policy, this cardinal Lib Dem policy, would cost £12 billion and that the country can’t afford it.
In the north of England you will find plenty of Lib Dem literature extolling their “mansion tax”, a proposal on which they remain deafeningly silent in places like Richmond and Kingston, where it would mean a vast new tax on people who happen to live in overvalued houses.
Everybody treats Vince Cable as a semi-holy Mahatma Gandhi of British politics, because he is supposed in some way to have anticipated the financial crisis. Actually his most notable recommendation before the crisis was that Britain should join the euro – a move that would gravely have worsened our current position by leaving us in a Greek-style straitjacket.
What crouton of substance did Clegg offer last Thursday, in the opaque minestrone of waffle? He wants to get rid of Trident. Great! So Lib Dem foreign policy means voluntarily resigning from the UN Security Council, abandoning all pretensions to world influence, and sub-contracting our nuclear deterrent to France!
They are a bunch of euro-loving road-hump fetishists who are attempting like some defective vacuum cleaner to suck and blow at the same time; and the worst of it is that if you do vote Lib Dem in the demented belief that there could ever be such a thing as a Lib Dem government, you won’t get Prime Minister Clegg. You’ll get Prime Minister Gordon Brown, for five more holepunch-hurling years, because the Lib Dems almost always vote with Labour, and in my years in Parliament I can’t remember a single moment when they opposed a Labour measure to expand state spending or state control.
I can’t think of anything worse for this country than some great ghastly soggy Lib-Lab coalition, dripping with piety and political correctness and unable to take the decisions we need for fear of offending the vast hordes of public sector special interest groups they collectively represent.
That is why the current madness cannot last. The Lib Dems are everywhere today, like the orange spores of an exploded puffball. Next week they will be gone with the wind. Clegg is the beneficiary of cunning Labour spin, bigging up the third party in order to take the shine off the Tories. But when people understand that a vote for Clegg is a vote for Brown, they will stay their hands, and they will see that it is only by voting Tory that they can give this country the change it needs. That is still my prediction, and if Max disagrees, we can always increase the stake.
Sunday, 18 April 2010
Lib Dem surge special:
- Cicero's Songs on why Labour and the Conservatives are slipping and how the Lib Dem policies will stand up to scrutiny.
- Stephen Tall writes an open letter to the Labour Party asking why they are saying the Lib Dems will team up with the Tories in one communication, and in another making it clear they don't think that will happen.
- Iain Dale says that the stupid personal attacks on Nick Clegg, such as those surrounding his "Britishness" from the Mail on Sunday (which frankly to me seem to come close to the sort of nonsense you see from the US Obama "Birther" movement) should stop. In a related post, Alex Massie suggests that the MoS could actually be Clegg's best recruiting Sergeant.
- Liberal Conspiracy asks if The Independent is about to come out for the Lib Dems.
- Political Betting asks if the poll boost is down to Clegg's height!
In amongst all the comment and reaction to the Lib Dem poll surge in recent days I have seen a comment made several times which amounts to:
"Yes, it's all very well that Nick Clegg and Vince Cable are impressive but what about the rest of the Lib Dem front-bench? That's where they'll be found wanting."
It's appropriate that the polls are showing the Lib Dems surging into second (and in a couple of polls first) place following the leaders debate on Thursday just at the point when the largest event in the Snooker calendar, the World Championships at the mighty Crucible (coincidentally in Sheffield, Nick Clegg's patch) start. Because frankly, as far as I can see the other parties are now pretty much snookered when it comes to their options of how to deal with the Lib Dems and Clegg. Let's have a run-down of the sort of things they will be war-gaming and indeed that we have started to see being played out:
The massive leaps in the polls that we have seen for the Lib Dems since the middle of last week (interestingly, the 7% leap in one of the polls was from fieldwork done largely before Thursday's debate) have of course got us activists a bit giddy.
Saturday, 17 April 2010
With a BPIX poll for The Mail on Sunday: