Daily Archives: 16 January 2006

Sky Hustings – the verdict

Very brief, but in order of performance…

  • 1st, Chris: good interventions, best on policy. Absolutely creamed Oaten on his attempts to claim the Liberal crown. Delighted to hear him critical of road user charging (preferring higher fuel duties) and his general candidness about environmental policy. Also, by far the strongest on public sector reform.
  • 2nd, Ming: came across very well. Articulate, to the point. Not clear what he was saying about the Lib Dem’s current policy on getting more women MPs, describing it as a complete failure yet opposing all women shortlists. I would humbly suggest that the failure was in the lack of senior political support, not the current GBTF policy itself which has been a modest success.
  • 3rd, Oaten: came across as the most bullying and least consensual. His pontificating about Cameron not being a real liberal was a joke given his own latter-day damascene conversion. On environmental issues he was appalling, claiming that we should simply financially reward good behaviour rather than punish bad behaviour (with what? Fairy dust?), and waxing about bioethanol which is a complete environmental blind alley. But at least he participated, unlike…
  • 4th, Hughes: the most reserved of the four and all but disappeared as the debate went on. Genial and consensual, and what he said was fine, but he allowed the others to dominate which is not what you want to see in a leader.

Conclusion: on this type of format, Huhne could do very well indeed. Roll on Any Questions (and Question Time?).

Oh, and Rob Fenwick – you are very cheeky! 🙂

Is 20% the new 15%?

Under-reported in Lib Dem blogs is this opinion poll by ICM, showing the Lib Dem support down just a single percentage point at 1%.

One thing our opponents are unlikely to acknowledge is that we appear to have reached a point whereby a fifth of the country supporting the Lib Dems has now become the normative. Before 2003, the normative was closer to 15%.

What does this mean? It certainly suggests that so long as we can hit the ground running after the leadership election, there is every reason we can look forward to new horizons in the next general election. I for one am genuinely surprised at how well our support has held up under the Cameron onslaught and with the harder definition that a new leader will bring, our prospects are looking very good indeed.

Third time lucky

Forceful and moderate’s own George Galloway Libertycat (which presumably makes the fire headed Viv Rula Lenska) mentions an interesting quote from Oaten in the Guardian:

Mr Oaten also warned that some Lib Dems were failing to live up to their liberal belief in individual freedom by falling in with “nanny state” proposals to ban smoking or outlaw foxhunting.

He said: “A lot of my colleagues would support a ban on smoking, but as a liberal I’m uncomfortable with that, so I do challenge the party to be tough about its liberal values and stick to them even when it challenges something we believe in.”

This, I would remind you, is the mastermind behind the party’s opposition to relaxing the licensing laws, claiming that alcohol related crime was “out of control” (when it has been falling) and that we were to expect a “Christmas Crisis” once the new laws took effect.

Personally, from a liberal perspective, I would say that there is a much stronger argument for smoking bans than strict licensing laws. Passive smoking has a perceptable effect on people’s health regardless of who does the smoking while the effects of drinking very much depends on the individual. My point is, quite simply, the Oaten is in no position to lecture anyone about liberalism.

Betting and the Big Mo

Rob Knight and Phil Grant add their opprobium to Jackie Ashley‘s latest nonsense about the evils of political betting.

Quite right too. Yesterday I blogged about how articles about Lib-Lab talks made a welcome change from the constant chatter about a possible Lib-Con coalition. And who was I thinking of most when I wrote that? Step forward Jackie Ashley.

At the end of the day, political betting is nothing more or less than yet another factor we have to weigh up, which in turn is dependent on everything else. One thing I cannot take is the commentariat adopting the higher moral ground. At least punters put their money where their mouth is, something you could never accuse pundits of doing.

Swinging in the wind

Rereading that 2001 BBC interview with Mark Oaten I linked to previously, some of the other bits are actually more revealing and important given the current context, than that silly Militant quote.

Here we see Mark the principled crusader for Lib-Lab cooperation:

He used to be a Lib-Lab “Project” man, but purely for instrumental purposes rather than out of any passion for former leader Paddy Ashdown’s vision of healing the breach between Britain’s two centre-left parties.

“It seemed the best show in town,” Oaten says. “It isn’t now.”

Here is Mark the principled One Nation Conservative:

The Winchester MP is something of an outrider for a new project now: moving his party into the space vacated by the Conservative shift to the right under Iain Duncan Smith… Oaten believes his party must start sounding more Tory, “rather than like a left-wing party”.

The problem is of course that with Cameron, the situation has changed yet again. Yet Oaten has yet to tell us (unlike the previous two occasions) what we should be doing now: start shouting about the need for coalition again, or try to squeeze between the tiny gap between New Labour and Cameron’s Cons?

The last thing we need right now is a political weathervane at the top of the party.

(I’ll stop going on about him soon, I promise. I just find the prospect of anyone actually voting for him too dangerous to bear).

Gaia knows I’m miserable now

James Lovelock is predicting the end of the world in today’s Independent:

The climate centres around the world, which are the equivalent of the pathology lab of a hospital, have reported the Earth’s physical condition, and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. I have to tell you, as members of the Earth’s family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilisation are in grave danger.

Our planet has kept itself healthy and fit for life, just like an animal does, for most of the more than three billion years of its existence. It was ill luck that we started polluting at a time when the sun is too hot for comfort. We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years. We are responsible and will suffer the consequences: as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.

Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert, and will no longer serve for regulation; this adds to the 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface we have depleted to feed ourselves.

This is really bleak stuff. I have no reason to disbelieve him, except that systems theory is by its very nature extremely highly complex and Lovelock only needs to have missed one thing in his calculations for the exact opposite to happen. We just don’t know what is going to happen, and apocalyptic predictions have a remarkable habit of being wrong. Of course, they only need to be right once.

Anyway, read it before the Indy firewall it.

Iraq innuendo

Silly nonsense coming from the Kennedy camp:

Sir Menzies is trying to reassure members who think he is too right-wing. Allies of Charles Kennedy suggested yesterday that Sir Menzies was more cautious than the former leader in opposing the Iraq war. Mr Kennedy’s former chief of staff, Dick Newby, told ITV’s Jonathan Dimbleby show that there was a row over an anti-war march in London in 2003. The views of some of the organisers alarmed Sir Menzies, who tried to talk Mr Kennedy out of going, he alleged.

Speaking as someone who was in on that row, the blockage came as much from Kennedy’s office as from Ming. And with good reason. I can absolutely see why senior politicians from a serious political party would be reticent about joining a platform with some of the most looniest lefties you are likely to meet.

When we insisted that the party should back that March it was not done lightly. We knew there were risks with being associated with the left. But we also knew there were benefits. In the event I have absolutely no doubt that Charles made the right decision and the party paid dividends ever since. But Ming was also right to be cautious, and that doesn’t suggest he was any less anti-war than the rest of us.

If he was ambiguous about the war, he could have stayed in bed and helped his convalescence when the crucial vote came (the man was recovering from chemo at the time). No-one would have thought any less of him. He didn’t, and I for one have never doubted his commitment since.

Militant tendency

The Liberal Dissenter reminds me of a Mark Oaten quote in 2001:

According to Oaten, the Lib Dems lack the symbolic dragons that Labour leaders have in the past found useful to slay…

“We haven’t got a Clause Four, Militants or rot at the core of the party,” he says.

“Oddly enough, if we did it might be helpful because we could then make a big demonstration of tackling them and the public could then engage in what [the review] was about.”

Well, we seem to be having our “Clause Four moment” now. And the rot that we appear to be junking would appear to be…

I couldn’t possibly comment.