Daily Archives: 10 February 2006

A Soggy Argument

Unsurprisingly, Chris Huhne is starting to draw some criticism, with both Simon Mollan and Dan Falchikov laying into him this afternoon.

Probably the weakest of these criticisms is the one about Huhne being a closet (whisper it!) social democrat. Do catch up. The party has inherited too many genuine liberals from the old SDP for this to still be an issue: Roy Jenkins, Bob Maclennan, Charles Kennedy to name but three. In 1982, the Liberal Party had been in the political wilderness for decades; it is no surprise that liberals ended up in both Labour and the Conservatives. Some of the most illiberal people I’ve ever met within the party love to go on and on about their background in the old Liberal Party, which was more of a franchise for the disaffected than the Lib Dems have ever been. Sneering about anyone with an SDP background being a closet socialist is simply historically ignorant (compounded in Simon Mollan’s case by apparant ignorance that Huhne’s line about taxing the dead was a direct quote from David Lloyd-George).

Some of Simon’s criticisms are valid: Chris certainly does need to stop grinning inanely when he doesn’t realise the cameras are on him, and his apparent smugness over the YouGov poll did him few favours. I certainly do think that he needs some fairly intensive media training to get him up to speed. But as the former employee of Paddy Ashdown’s ex-speech trainer, I can state categorically that has applied to some of the best politicians around. And as a “problem” it is eminently fixable.

But his criticisms on international policy are just plain Simon, who in any case was an outspoken critic of Ming before the leadership blew up. Simon won’t like what ANY of the candidates have to say on foreign policy, so why he considers this to be a deciding factor in the contest is beyond me.

Ditto environmental taxation. Again, all three candidates are in favour; the debate is about degree. It is fair enough to choose the candidate closer to your view, but Simon does seem rather keen on attempting to portray this in black and white terms, with Chris and Ming at different ends of the spectrum. What he’s really saying is that he doesn’t like any of the candidates’ policies and Ming is the best of a bad lot. That’s again fair enough, but a bit of frankness would be nice.

Reasons to be Cheerful no.63

A brief footnote to James’s eloquence on the Dunfermline & West Fife result.
1) Its a good reminder of the self-absorbed uselessness of the Westminster-media bubble: according to the headlines in the last month or two, the Lib Dems should have done badly, and the Tories at least done something.
2) Its difficult to know if this was a worse result for Labour or the SNP. The Nats came 2nd here in 2001, and must have aimed to get that position back at the by-election. If they can’t move forward in a by-election now, then when can they? This result is strong further support for the Lib Dems being the second party in Scotland, after coming second in seats and votes in the 2005 General Election, but in that case how should we be positioned for the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections?

Best. Viagra. Spam. Ever.

Everybody knows the great sexual scandal known as “Klinton-Levinsky”. After the relations like this Klintons popularity raised a lot! It is a natural phenomenon, because Bill as a real man in order not to shame himself when he was with Monica regularly used Voagra. What happened you see. His political figure became more bright and more attractive. It is very important for a man to be respected as a man!

Ming: the choice of illiterate, old amateurs?

The counter-spin from Camp Campbell:

Sir Menzies’ supporters argue that the online poll – commissioned by John Stevens, a former Tory MEP who defected to the Lib Dems and is a friend of Mr Huhne – was bound to be weighted to younger, professional, internet-literate members, precisely the kind of people attracted to the Eastleigh MP’s campaign.

Pah! Who wants those sort of votes anyway?

It should be pointed out of course that the Tories have even fewer “younger, professional, internet-literate members” and yet YouGov predicted Cameron’s victory by 1%.

Liberal Drinks – an anniversary of sorts

I realised earlier this week that the next Liberal Drinks – scheduled on 15 February – is actually the 3rd anniversay of That Peace March.

For me, that is a very personal anniversary becacuse it is one of the things I have most been proud to have been involved with. While it was unsuccessful in terms of its specific objective, it did succeed in demonstrating the massive nationwide opposition to the Iraq invasion.

(As an aside, I would again say that I don’t personally bear Ming any ill-will for arguing we shouldn’t have joined the march as I have a lot of sympathy for his concerns. On balance I think he was wrong, but I really don’t think it should be an issue).

So, anyone want to join us for a celebratory drink? 7.30pm, Silver Cross, Whitehall, as usual.

A Question of Honesty

Simon Hughes claimed on Question Time tonight that he has never attacked the other two candidates. Dimblebum later said that the attacks were on his website, prompting this rebuttal:

Simon appeared on BBC1’s Question Time with the other leadership candidates on Thursday evening, and really connected with the audience in the studio and at home – it’s worth watching.

However, in the course of the progamme David Dimbleby stated as fact that Simon has published two attacks relating to other leadership candidates in his manifesto and / or on this Website. This allegation is untrue.

Well, I haven’t bothered scrolling through the whole website, but I have noticed that neither the In the News or Speeches section have been updated since before the ballot papers went out on 3 February. As I don’t scrutinise the website regularly, I can only assume that is a monumental cock-up on Camp Hughes’ part rather than that they have gone scurrying around removing anything in the past week that could be seen as an attack. But the BBC’s website is updated somewhat more regularly. It still carries the following story:

Mr Hughes, seen as the most left-wing of the three leadership contenders, said of Sir Menzies, the party’s 64-year-old acting leader and foreign affairs spokesman: “Members have to make a choice. Do they want a leader for this parliament and this generation or do they want a caretaker?”

He said Treasury spokesman Mr Huhne, 51, lacked “campaigning experience” and had “no evidence of relating well to the British public”.

These are direct quotes – attributed to him personally, not a spokesperson. If the BBC has printed an outright falsehood, then it is an absolute scandal. So, what action is Simon taking to have the story taken down, or have the relevant journalists disciplined? It is odd that he has allowed the stories to stay up there unchallenged for the past two days.

Once again then, we return to Simon Hughes’ judgement. Like the gay/bi/whatever situation, it is the way he has handled it that has raised eyebrows. There’s nothing wrong with being gay or bisexual. And there is nothing wrong with having criticisms of your political opponents – both criticisms are ones that the targets will need to account for. My suspicion is that he did say these things, whatever Camp Hughes put on their website. I would have a lot more respect for him if he had just come out and admitted it, rather than dissemble.

On a related note, I have received notice that Simon isn’t planning to answer the questions set on his e-hustings until Monday. Will anyone have not voted by then? (that is a rhetorical question by the way Rob)

UPDATE: Ann Treneman remarks:

It was a weird moment. Mr Hughes was being asked about saying that Chris Huhne was not very well known and that Sir Ming Campbell was cautious. Now Mr Hughes definitely said those things, and not long ago. Perhaps he had just forgotten. I found it worrying. Can his denial really be that strong? The answer, as always with the Lib-Dems, is that it can.

Maybe Simon will be suing the Times as well?