Daily Archives: 21 October 2008

Where’s Lemby’s Answers? Day 2

Lembit OpikAlex Folkes has taken exception to me calling Lembit out on this:

First – the questions aren’t exactly neutrally phrased. And Lembit could probably expect that the answers would be brutally fisked. Solution – don’t offer up ammunition.

Second – you have shown you’re not entirely pro Lembit. You don’t have to be, of course, but I can think of far better things for Team Lembit to do with their time than spend it answering your questions.

Team Lembit has far better things to do than to answer hostile questions from people who are highly unlikely to ever support him. If the questions were more open and came from someone who at least appeared not to have made up their mind already (at least as regards Lembit) then there would be a better chance of getting them answered.

These are reasonable points, and of course Lembit should feel under no duty to answer these questions. But just as Lembit is free to not answer these questions, I am free to ask them.

And I ask them because, regardless of which way I am voting in this election, I think they raise serious issues that ought to concern everyone, whether they support him or not. Unlike some people, I have never dismissed Lembit’s chances of winning this election. But his claims don’t add up for me, and these questions sum up my anxieties (actually, I have others, but these will do for now).

I’m not expecting Lembit to answer; I am however allowing him a right to reply. If the questions are biased, they are not so biased that any politician worth his or her salt could not answer them on their own terms. If he doesn’t answer them however, I will spend the rest of the campaign mentioning them. Maybe that will make no difference to the election, maybe it will. What do I have to lose finding out?

As a reminder, these are the questions which remain unanswered:

a) Since Lembit claims to have such great campaigning and communications skills, why have the Liberal Democrats in Wales stagnated in the last two assembly elections (sticking with six AMs in 1999, 2003 and 2007)?

b) Given the deep problems at the heart of the Kennedy leadership, wasn’t it an error of judgment to stand by him? Loyalty is easy – a nodding dog at the back of a car can do it. Don’t the “rebels” – including Nick Clegg and Vince Cable – deserve credit for taking a difficult decision that Lembit lacked the resolve to take?

c) Why didn’t Lembit stand against Simon Hughes in 2006? Hughes presided over a string of failures, most notoriously watching the party’s membership fall by 10,000 members despite having pledged to treble the membership in two years. Again, doesn’t that suggest a lack of resolve?

d) Why wasn’t Lembit’s campaign ready in Bournemouth? Frankly, it was a total mess. Ros Scott launched her campaign exactly 12 months before, so it isn’t as if Lembit didn’t know she was serious. Is this the level of professionalism we can expect from him? Don’t actions speak louder than words?

For the record, the Liberal Democrats did not solicit nor accept a donation from Michael Brown

I feel the need to point this out because George Osborne is being very precise here.

So no, the Lib Dems did not receive a penny from Michael Brown (it all came from 5th Avenue Partners Ltd). Nor did they make the first move.

So that’s all right then, we must be in the clear.

Not convinced my Tory friends? No, neither am I. Neither am I.

A lesson for us all, I feel

With the Atheist Bus Campaign now at £38,000 and climbing, Peter Black asks:

Wouldn’t all this money committed on both sides of the argument have been better spent on actually helping people have a good Christmas, the homeless for example?

Allow me to quote Matthew 26:6-13 (lolcats version):

6 So Jebuz was outside in Bethany, inside the house of Simon the lepr,7 Woman popped up wif can of tuna, and poured oilz on his head, as he sitted at cheezburger.8 But when his bfz sees it, thays angry, saying, Y to waste?9 Dis oilz might have been sold for much, and give to other kittehz wif no cheezburgerz.

10 Jebuz thinkz n sez, Y U freekn? she knows I like oilz.11 Always kittehz wif no cheezburgers; but I go bai, k?12 Thatz Y she pour on the tuna oilz, 4 2 bury mee.13 I sez 2 U, wen teh bibul iz told, it wil say wut shes dun 4 me. Shez cool. U suck.

Wise words, wise words.

Who says atheists don’t give money to charity?

I donated my tenner this morning, but I’ve been keeping an eye on the Atheist Bus’ Just Giving page all the same.

When I donated, the £5,500 target had already been met. At the time of writing, the target had hit £20,300 and counting.

My only concern is that with this coming in the run up to Christmas, it will almost certainly be used as a hook to pin the “atheists want to ban Christmas” annual story on the media donkey once again. Can I suggest that a small footnote is made at the bottom to the effect of “* And have a happy Christmas, too!”?

UPDATE: I’ve since been informed that the poster campaign is due to start in January, so that kills that idea.

Jewel of Medina pledge update: should trash be burnt?

My pledge to buy the Jewel of Medina is just one signatory away from being fulfilled, so if you haven’t already signed up, please do.

Since I launched the pledge, the publishers Gibson Square have postponed the publication of the book indefinitely, which means that the firebombers may have won. Shelina Zahra Janmohamed has also written a review of the book on the BBC Magazine.

In Shelina’s view, the book is a bodice-ripping yawn. Having read the book, I will defer to her judgement. But trash deserves the right to be published as much as quality literature. Get the trash taken off the shelves and the quality will follow. And is Islam really so fragile to be vulnerable to shallow nonsense? To be fair on Shelina, she doesn’t suggest otherwise and doesn’t call for the book for be banned. She is right to say that “If our society upholds the right to offend, then the right to be offended goes with it.” The problem is, too many people want a right not to be offended.

In my view, if you value freedom of speech and have enough spare income to afford it, you have a moral duty to buy any book under threat, no matter how dreadful it may or may not be. The book itself is meaningless, it is the precedent that is important. Can I get one more person who feels the same way before the end of the month? More to the point, can I get anyone else to set up more pledges like it?

Finally, note how spineless the BBC are – the picture of a woman reading the book accompanying Shelina’s article carries the disclaimer “Picture posed by a model” as if it would be uneccessarily inflammatory to have a picture of an actual person actually reading. Yet of course, Shelina herself has read the book, so it is completely nonsensical anyway.

Is George Osborne Cameron’s Mandy?

How much longer can George Osborne hold on as Shadow Chancellor? Now is not the time for a flyweight to be in charge of the Tory’s economic policy, not least one who thinks that the best way to stop a “house burning down” is to “fix the roof.”

Today’s revelation by Nathaniel Rothschild that Osborne not only attended the legendary dinner with Peter Mandelson and Oleg Deripaska but that he solicited a donation from the man, could just be the final nail in the coffin. At the same time it smacks of poetic justice – it was Osborne who began this whole cycle of events by making indiscreet comments about a private dinner he had had with Mandelson in the first place.

Osborne has form with this sort of thing as well. Pretty much every time he opens his mouth he attempts to lower political debate to the level of the school playground, whether he is whinging about Gordon Brown snubbing him or making snide remarks about Gordon Brown being autistic. This sort of thing gets him headlines but I don’t think earns him much respect. That is probably at least partially why journalists have been so happy to leak him as the Mandelson “source” in the first place.

Osborne deserves a lot of credit for helping to detoxify the Tory brand with Cameron. As a marketing strategy, their’s has been near flawless. The problem has always been with the substance (and I’m not talking about the Class A Cameron may or may not have put up his nose before becoming an MP). The deliberate strategy to be policy-lite has broadly worked, but the wunch crunch changes all that. The Tories need a heavyweight leading their Treasury team, a Letwin or a Willetts, or their current wobble in the polls may start to become a southbound trend.

Let’s not forget about Caroline Spelman either by the way. The Parliamentary investigation about her nanny is still ongoing, and while I was one of the first to defend her, but things seem to have got much murkier since then. If this comes to the surface once again while the Osborne stink is still lingering, the Tories could have a full scale crisis on their hands. The received wisdom seems to be to replace her as quickly as possible with Eric Pickles. If that happens it will be interesting, as Pickles has a big mouth which could cause him all sorts of problems.

And then there is Cameron himself. As this blog has repeatedly noted, he has a tendency to capitulate rather than confront. Blair was a thousand times more ruthless and even he balked at sacking Mandelson. Both times. What all this seems to add up to is the makings of a political storm. That assumption that the next election is already in the bag may yet prove to be premature.