It looks as if the cat’s well and truly out of the bag with this Liberal magazine petition website calling for Kennedy to resign (you’ll forgive me if I don’t include a link).
I think first of all it cannot be emphasised enough that the Liberal is not the party’s “in house” magazine, let alone the voice of the grassroots. Bizarrely, Tom Watson has hit the nail on the head here.
The Liberal was launched just over a year ago to spectacular indifference within the party. It has sought to define itself as a kind of small-l liberal answer to the Spectator and its content thus far has contained writing from at least as many Tory and Labour leaning writers as Lib Dems. Frankly, it hasn’t really been my cup of tea being the sort of uncultured philistine who instinctively distrusts poetry (making words rhyme together? Witchcraft!), although I did like the last issue.
Now, if Liberator were to do such an initiative, that would have significantly more impact within the party. It’s been going for 35 years and is regarded by many as required reading. While Liberator contains a more authentic voice of the activists however, it is less activist itself.
In all honesty, I think this petition is perversely good news for Kennedy. It will have the effect of over-egging the pudding just before Christmas. They don’t appear to have troubled themselves with the hassle of introducing any way of differentiating members who sign the petition from non-members, which means it can be easily dismissed even if they suddenly came up with tens of thousands of names. And they haven’t included a data-protection statement or opt-out, meaning they will not legally be able to use the email addresses they collect to campaign.
It does however, increase pressure on Kennedy to raise his game. The anonymous source quoted in the Western Mail today is quite correct:
“Charles genuinely believes he can take on Cameron and win. In a curious way this is an opportunity for us to define ourselves more clearly.”
No more starts and stops – this is the real deal, mate. If Kennedy can rise to this challenge over the next few months, then the party will be in a stronger position than ever.
I was wondering how long it would be before one or more of the Tory-Lib Dem defectors caught that the wind had changed and started making the journey back to where they came from. To be honest, I thought it would be a couple of months away now, but Harold Elletson has fired the starting gun.
To be fair, he hasn’t actually done a double rat. Rather, he is advocating that the Tories and Lib Dems make an informal electoral pact in “strategically important seats” (one would have thought that all our seats are strategically important, so presumably this is code for Operation Fuck the Lefties). His reason for now being the time to do so is on the basis that Cameron has slain his “sacred cows” by saying some nice things about asylum seekers once without making any policy commitment (Michael Howard was constantly saying nice things about asylum seekers, after all he was one – didn’t stop his policy from stinking), some nice things about the environment (he rides a bicycle and gives tinfoil hat wearers jobs so it must be true) and the fact that he won’t be a mouthpiece for big business (show me a party leader who has ever claimed to be the CBI’s bitch. Anyone?).
Who is Harold Elletson you may ask? Well, so did most of us when he joined. Apparently he was an MP before 1997, something which ranks him as a “big beast” in the impoverished game of defection politics.
Welcoming defectors into your ranks is always a risky strategy; once they’ve done it once, there is a real danger that it becomes a habit. Paul Marsden is an excellent example of this. Defectors rarely join for positive reasons; they defect in order to send a message to their party of origin. In a very real sense they never leave. The one thing Elletson is absolutely right about in this article is that we should not have accepted Brian Sedgemore’s defection mid-campaign, if at all.
We saw a swathe of social democrats rejoin Labour in the mid-90s and I have no doubt we will see the same happen with the Conservative Party. The worst thing is, because these people almost always expect (and are given) a reward in terms of prestige for their act of betrayal, when they go back it is actually more damaging to us than it was to the party they originally came from.
Kennedy would be well advised to start moving these people out of such positions where they can do us damage, or at the very least stop giving them fucking peerages. What is the Foreign Affairs Forum anyway? I’ve never heard of it.
UPDATE: Chris Huhne gives a much more appropriate (and constructive) response to Cameron’s tarting.