Monthly Archives: January 2006

Finally, some meat

At long last, the leadership election is starting bring out real issues, with both Ming Campbell and Chris Huhne starting to develop their policy stalls. Simon Hughes meanwhile is still stuck in willy waving mode.

From what I’ve read, Ming’s policy document is quite impressive. I need to go through it in more detail, but I do like the noises coming from its section on the environment. I think it’s unfair to attempt to compare Huhne’s initial outline of his basic position on environmental taxation with this more nuanced text, but it clearly puts the onus on Huhne to come up with something just as good.

Meanwhile, Huhne has a number of points in his section on leadership which should gladden the heart of plenty of anxious activists. His sections on keeping it local, leading and listening and winning the youth and student vote amount to a firm rebuttal of the centralisation that has been going on under Kennedy and Simon Hughes’ presidency over the past 12 months. I’m sure Andy Mayer will appear now and scream “activistocracy!” at me, but really this is simply good management and effective internal communication. If Campbell doesn’t address these issues, then we would be right to worry, especially given his emphasis on the parliamentary as a team (seemingly at the expense of the rest of us).

Meanwhile, another bizarre row has broken out between the two camps, with a spokesman for Campbell accusing Huhne of “naive populism” for calling for the government to set a date for withdrawing the troops from Iraq. I originally read this story earlier in the day before the Huhne camp had got its rebuttal in, but I too was puzzled as to how Campbell could use such robust language given that Campbell spent much of last year calling on the government to set a date for withdrawal. It does strike one of a bad case of the jitters.

Whatever. The point is, it looks like we’re starting to have a real debate on policy and strategy, which is badly needed. I hope we can all agree to welcome that.

“Action, not warm words!”

Grim times are ahead, if an official government report on global warming is to be believed.

So what, you might ask, is our government going to do about it?

You will be delighted to know that Environment Minister has declared that now is the time for “action, not warm words“. The only slight problem is that, erm, she wants the action from the one group of people constitutionally prevented from taking any action: the opposition.

Yes, that’s right. In response to opposition calls for the government to take action, the government has replied “No, you do it. Why do we have to do everything? God. This is so unfair!”

She also claims that the government supports cross-party co-operation on the issue, despite the fact that she turned down just such an opportunity a few months ago.

Fortunately however, all is not lost. Labour are, of course, Doing Something. What, you may ask?

Labour wants young people to become ‘climate change champions’ and has announced a competition to encourage people to get involved.

Nine winners aged between 10-18 will travel to Switzerland to see a glacier that is melting due to climate change and will get to meet government ministers to discuss the issue.

Of course, despite the fact that we are assured that this is a “Labour” initiative, it is actually run on a government website. But rest assured that this new team of 10-18 year olds will be able to pick up the slack.

They’ve got to be better than Margaret Beckett anyway.

Willy Waving

The Huhne and Campbell camps are having a pissing contest at the moment over who has the most council leaders supporting them. Anyone with more time on their hands than me want to work out who has the most according to population size?

Clearly, the fact that they are spending all their time on such important matters explains why neither of them has thus far made any response to the Reflecting Britain campaign. Good sense of priorities, guys. Real leadership qualities shining through.

The S-word

You’ve got to wonder.

Both Nick Assinder and Guido appear to think the phrase “straight choice” is a reference to a candidate’s sexuality and not a common term to mean “simple”.

Given that the Labour candidate in the Dunfermline and West Fife is 8 months pregnant, I don’t think anyone is suggesting she hasn’t had sex with a man at least once in her life.

The fact that both of them seem to think this is even noteworthy would rather suggest that they aren’t entirely au fait with what the fuss was about in the first place. Give me strength.

Catching up

I’ve spent the last few days running a workshop in Cardiff. A lot of fun, a lot of ideas, some of which I may talk about here.

Haven’t been to The ‘Diff since 1999 and its interesting to see how it has changed, particularly the Bay area. The Millennium Centre in particular impressed me and I was disappointed not to get to see the new assembly buildings from the inside.

Delighted to see that Question Time will be holding a Lib Dem leadership hustings. Given the speed with which they announced the Any Questions programme, one presumes there has been a lot of frantic negotiations going on behind the scenes about this, and I like to think that the dozens of people who I encouraged to write in played a part.

Speaking of Question Time, for some reason it goes out in Cardiff 30 minutes later than anywhere else in the country. Apparently, this has something to do with the rift in time that it is understood to sit on.

A straight choice?

Simon Hughes bar chartI was wondering which candidate would be the first to succomb to the temptations of the bar chart. In the end, I was unsurprised to discover it was Simon Hughes on his new (vastly improved) website.

It is a shame however that the Hughes Campaign have chosen to endorse data which is statistically meaningless, methodologically dubious and, in other parts of the dataset, actually quite damaging for the party. Presumably, they agree with the Guardian that the “Findings are bad news for all three candidates .”

But please. Spare me this guff about the election being a two-horse race. In a first past the post election this is a perfectly legitimate tactic, albeit a negative one. In an AV race, it becomes wholly meaningless. People who want “anyone but Hughes” can legitimately vote for their first choice with no fear of splitting the vote. Simon’s campaign would do well to remember that.

There you are, bringing class into it again

Reflecting Britain is a certainly Good Thing, but it makes me wonder how the Lib Dems can encourage more people who aren’t… how can I put this… middle class, to get involved.

Of course, the advantages of being middle class are not only (or even mainly) financial, but relate to an amorphous system of cultural capital, social networks, aspirations etc, that can’t be deal with in the same way as relatively less complex identities like gender or ethnicity. So I don’t think that Reflecting Britain should just extend its remit, in any case its BME work is likely to have a positive ‘class’ side effect.

But this is something worth thinking about.

In a recent mailing to federal conference reps, the guidance on submitting a motion suggested asking a ‘teacher, journalist or civil servant’ in the local party to draft it. On that basis, none of the 12 working-class Liberal MPs in 1885 would have been asked…

(Note from James: this is the first of, hopefully, many posts from fellow member of the Liberati Bernard Gowers. Be gentle with him :)).

Iain Dale’s Top 25

I’m flattered to be in Iain Dale’s 25 Political Blogs, albeit at the bottom.

For my part, I have to admit to enjoying Iain’s blog. I have to say I found it quite unreadable in the run up to the General Election (Serious tip, mate: don’t be so nasty when you stand in future. The Tory in the seat I was campaigning in tried the pitbull approach and it similarly backfired – it just puts people off), but since things have cooled off it has been a very useful and enjoyable source of information.

Doesn’t mean I’m going to defect though.