Daily Archives: 13 January 2006

Oaten to pull out tomorrow?

Oaten has now declared his nominators. They are: Bob Russell, Mike Hancock, Paul Rowen, John Hemming, John Leech, Paul Keetch and Lembit Opik.

Hancock, Rowan and Hemming are all declared “nomination tarts” who have said they will nominate anyone who asks, and while I’m quite open to be corrected, “Bingo” Bob Russell comes from a similar mould. I’d be quite surprised if he turned out to be actively supporting Oaten.

That means that Oaten is only actively supported by 3-4 MPs, derisory given his long declared ambitions. The question must therefore follow: is he really going to stand, or will he eventually pull?

A time honoured tradition in NUS circles is for candidates to stand for election and then, at the hustings, pull out in favour of a particular candidate, once an appropriate pact has been secured. Lembit Opik, Mark’s campaign manager, has a background in NUS. Indeed, one of the more memorable bits of advice he once gave a friend of mine about the Lib Dems’ NUS strategy is as follows (I only slightly paraphrase slightly due to haziness of memory): “Deals. Do deals. Deals, deals, deals.”

Is this the advice he is now gently whispering into Mark Oaten’s shell-like? At tomorrow’s Meeting the Challenge conference we shall see.

UPDATE: Eek! Could I be eating my words already? Oaten has released a webcast – still no website though. I’ve tried this on Firefox, Safari and Explorer on a Mac, with no success. Can anyone else get it to work? I assume it contains warm endorsments from all his supporters (sarcasm aside, this doesn’t change anything since this webcast was clearly commissioned before it became apparent to what degree the wheels were coming off his campaign).

7 questions for candidates

I’ve been working with a small group of party activists on a number of questions to put to the leadership contenders. We’ve now agreed the list and they have been sent to all the candidates who have declared.

  1. In view of the General Election and events since, would you agree that a fundamental overhaul of our communications function is urgently needed? What changes would you direct? Is the structure of the party’s campaigning and communications adequate to meet the challenges of the next General Election?
  2. How should our policy platform, especially our approach to the provision of public services, be different to that of the other parties?
  3. British politics is paradoxically becoming more localised in outlook and more fragmented on single issues. How do you propose the party maximising its effectiveness with both trends in mind?
  4. How would you seek to retain the support gained through the Party’s principled stance over Iraq? In particular, how would you seek to retain, develop, and involve the Muslim and other minority ethnic communities?
  5. It is extremely unlikely that we will have a woman candidate for leader. How would you work to ensure the next leader of the Party is a woman? How will you work to make sure we have a more diverse range of parliamentarians, front-bench spokespeople and future leaders?
  6. It is very possible that the 2008/09 General Election will return no majority government. What would your declared position be in answer to pre-election speculation about such a scenario; what (if anything) would be your response if it occurs?
  7. What will be your approach to the Party’s policy-making process? Do you intend to chair the Federal Policy Committee?

We await the response.

Leadership Special Question Time

Momentum is building for the campaign for a Lib Dem leadership special Question Time. This morning, I’ve had numerous emails from people saying they’ve contacted the BBC about it (you can make the suggestion online simply by going here).

Last night I tried texting the programme’s interactive service to get the issue aired live. Both texts were blocked by the producers however. Bizarrely however, that didn’t stop them from allowing someone to demand the BNP should be given a platform on the programme. A strange sense of priorities.

Mark Oaten’s David Davis moment?

Iain Dale recounts an hilarious yet under-reported exchange that happened on Wednesday afternoon:

Oaten was on Andrew Neil’s sofa and asked by Andrew Neil to respond to the claim by an anonymous Lib Dem MP that “Mark Oaten can be summed up in four words: unlimited ambition, limited ability”, Oaten replied “That’s more than four words”.

Rumours that he added “Literally.” at the end for emphasis cannot be confirmed.

Blink and you’ll miss it: the return of Lib Dem property taxation?

Hold the phone!

Campbell to ditch high-tax policy

They are likely to propose that the system be made more progressive without the higher top rate. Instead, the party may suggest higher capital gains or property taxes on the better off.

It looks like a head of steam is brewing to both ditch the supertax and (my requirement) to ditch the party’s opposition to property-based taxes. Something tells me however we will end up with a somewhat better policy than council tax however…

With Huhne making similar noises, it suggests this election will be an interesting debate that goes beyond left and right. Hughes I suspect will champion the supertax, but he is also on record as a known LVT supporter so that may cause him difficulties. Oaten’s fudge is looking more foolish by the minute. Claiming to be the vanguard of the left won’t wash and he will make a fairly uncomfortable piggy in the middle I suspect.

But of course, Ming is also claiming to be to the left of Labour (I haven’t read this yet as I tend to reserve the Guardian for my commute – will comment more later on it though). What we’re seeing is something much more nuanced than a battle between left and right, but real thinking that demands intelligent answers.

People who think this election is just about who is “nice” and has nothing to do with policy could not be more wrong. Our policy narrative for the next half-decade is going to be written over the next couple of weeks.

I forgive the Cable XI

Having seen Rosie Boycott’s moving and blisteringly honest piece about her experience as alcoholic and how she related to Kennedy’s downfall on This Week tonight (frustratingly not on the web but there’s a similar article by her in The Guardian), I’ve come to the conclusion that I overreacted in anger at the actions of the Cable XI last week. While I’m sure none of them are reading this, I thought it was important to state for the record.

While it was clearly a cock up, I think I can see how the whole situation had got bigger than the actions of any individuals or group and that in many ways it was an instinctive loyalty to Charles that made the matter worse.

Time to move on.