They do things funny in Wales. It’s just been announced that nominations for the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Welsh Assembly have been opened, meaning that Mike German is liable to be challenged. With three AMs mooted – Peter Black, Eleanor Burnham and Kirsty Williams – not to mention Mike German himself, with just 6 AMs in total, things could get pretty interesting.
Either way, the contest is NOT to decide the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats. That office is held by Lembit Opik MP. Until recently he was the Lib Dem spokesperson for Welsh affairs but now he’s the Shadow DBERR (crazy name, crazy department) Secretary. The Welsh spokesperson in the Commons is now Roger Williams.
Thus far, my prediction that Ming’s reshuffle would lead to Lembit making way for someone else has failed to come true. With the election for Assembly Leader now underway however, now is the perfect time. I makes no sense whatsoever to have both a party leader and a separate spokesperson in the Commons and holding the elections for both (effectively one contest unless an MP decides to stand for Party Leader) would save a lot of time, confusion and money: how about it Lembit?
Over at Lib Dem Voice, Stephen Tall asks do you remember your first party conference?
What I remember of the Spring 1996 Nottingham conference was not that positive. Three things stand out: the big debate over higher education in which LDYS submitted an amendment for free education which was thrown out in favour of Don Foster’s proposals for individual learning accounts (a policy that lasted ooh… five minutes I think); talking to a fellow LDYS member outside a meeting in which two rival factions both claiming to be the real Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats had had a slanging match; and attending a fringe meeting in which Richard Denton-White and Ken Livingstone back slapped each other for an hour.
As a result of the latter I fell in with Denton-White’s Chard Group (1992) (which for the uninitiated is a microscopic satellite group aligned with the Lib Dems which promotes closer links with Labour’s left wing, “inspired” by a speech in Chard that Paddy Ashdown made in 1992). Fortunately, I quickly learned the error of my ways and drifted away from them again even quicker than the party buried individual learning accounts.
Still, despite all that negativity – not to mention the first LDYS conference I went to (London, November 1995) which was even more rancorous – I’m still here. In many ways the party is much less split than it was back then. On the other hand, that also implies that the party is much less questioning than it was back then. Back then, community politics still had some philosophical underpinning that people actively debated. For all the talk that now goes on about the Lib Dems’ need for a narrative, we actually had one in the 1997 General Election – we just didn’t call it that (“cleaning up the mess in politics, et al“). The party’s strict targeting strategy was controversial and the failure of people to campaign in their nearest target seat probably cost us votes, but at least there was debate about strategy.
Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be and I’m not claiming that 1996 was a great period in the party’s development, but I do miss the freshness of debate. Whether that freshness was due to the comparative newness of the party or the comparative newness of me, is another matter.
The Guardian Guide’s gone comics mad, with a cover and article by Bryan Talbot outlining the history of British comics and a nostalgic article by Charlie Brooker who, it turns out, drew for Oink! (I never knew that!).
Both of these are to tie in with a new BBC4 series called Comics Britannia, which starts on Monday by looking at the Beano and the Dandy. The programme makers must have been bribing Farringdon Road because in addition to those two articles it is listed as Monday’s pick of the day and Number 2 in their Top 50 of must-see shows to watch this autumn. Phew! The fact that it is presented by Armando Iannucci is another definite plus.
It turns out that the series’ website is full of little gems including interviews with Alan Moore and Leo Baxendale, a quiz (I scored 9/10) and a contest to see who is Britain’s favourite comic character.