Tag Archives: iain-dale

Comical Tommy’s War against Information

Via Iain Dale, I come across Tom Watson‘s spirited defence of his decision to back the Freedom from Information (none of your fucking business) Bill. Apparently, the Tories Made Him Do It. But, for a bit more detail, here is his argument point-by-point (I’d comment on his blog, but he banned me years ago):

1. If the speaker had not guaranteed that MP’s expenses will continue to be published, I would not have supported the Bill. I repeat – you will still be able to see the expense tables like you have been able to for the last three years.

This is a mischevious half-truth. The fact is there are currently numerous appeals to the Information Commissioner calling for MPs to disclose more detailed information. The Commons’ expenses disclosure isn’t even close to the Scottish Parliament where literally every single invoice is available to view online.

Note that he says “you will still be able to see the expense tables like you have been able to for the last three years” – in other words the detailed information about travel expenses published earlier this year as a result of a case brought forward by Norman Baker would be the first to go.

2. Despite people saying that there is protection under the Data Protection Act, public sector bodies are still revealing the private correspondence between them and MPs regarding constituents.

If it is illegal now and yet people are doing it, it follows that it will still happen if this new Bill is passed. How does passing another law stop people who are already breaking the law? The issue is enforcement – yet the government forces the Information Commissioner to get along with a shoestring budget.

3. This Bill was put forward by the former Tory Chief Whip. Don’t be fooled by the disingenous comments and synthetic outrage of Iain Dale and his chums. Incidentally, he seemed to know how many MPs from each party had voted on the Bill yesterday afternoon – before they are made available in Hansard. He can only have got this information from a source in one of the Whips offices (I’m certain the parliamentary clerks would not help him). This suggests to me that he is part of a Tory spin operation – understandable but funadamentally dishonest in regard to this piece of legislation.

This is worth looking at because it is simply hilarious. Like Iain Dale, I was following the debate on Hansard, which now has less than a three hour time lag. I certainly agree with Tom that the Tories were equally complicit, but I don’t extend that criticism to individuals like Richard Shepherd, John Redwood and, yes, Iain Dale, any more than I do Labour rebels like David Winnick. For Watson to try to blame the Tories for this Bill when Labour has a majority and three times as many of them voted for the Bill as Tories is just eye watering, Comical Tommy stuff.

4. Finally – If Menzies Campbell thought so strongly about this Bill, why wasn’t he there to speak and vote against it?

Because like most MPs he usually has constituency work on Fridays. We can’t all lounge around in Westminster ready to serve as government lickspittles at a moment’s notice.

If I wanted to sum up everything that I truly find deplorable about the Labour Party, it is Tom Watson. A dirty tricks campaigner par excellence, a House of Lords abolitionist (and simultaneously supporter of the status quo), anti-electoral reform, pro-compulsory voting, bemoans the civil liberty implications of RFID tags while voting enthusiastically for ID cards, die-hard Blairite loyalist right up until he can detect the wind has changed whereupon he attempts to orchestrate a coup for newfound best friend Gordon Brown, friends of even bigger moron Sion Simon… what it all adds up to is a nasty little man who is just a little bit too much in love with totalitarianism.

Oh, and if you haven’t done so already, join the Protect Freedom of Information Facebook Group.

Watch me on 18 Doughty Street. Me. Me. Me.

I forgot to mention/cowardly avoided mentioning (delete according to preference) that I was going to be on 18 Doughty Street last night. You can however still watch the programmes (Blogger TV and Vox Politix) on their on demand site. Better still, they don’t appear to have the End of the Day Show on demand, by which point I was falling asleep and saying even more stupid things than normal.

Thanks to Iain for having me on. I survived it rather better than the last time I was on!

Loans for lagging

Surprisingly little discussion in the Lib Dem Blogosphere about Chris Huhne and Andrew Stunell’s proposals for tackling the thorny problem of reducing the carbon impact of British housing. Indeed, the only commentary at all I’ve read thus far is Iain Dale denouncing it as illiberal. Poor show.

Myself, I’ve only skimmed through the policy paper and have yet to fully digest it, but it does seem to be a very sensible policy. In short, it works like this: beef up building standards so that all new build will meet tough efficiency standards by 2011; encourage energy companies to offer people long term loans (which will stay with the house, not the individual) to install a “WarmHome” pack on existing buildings; in the longer term, increase stamp duty on homes which haven’t installed the package.

Using the market in this way to promote energy efficiency is at the heart of the Lib Dem approach to environmental policy. Making utility companies the solution rather than the problem and keeping the use of environmental taxation to a minimum is both pro-business and pro-consumer. Iain Dale’s criticisms are flawed on a number of grounds:

  • the policy is not about ‘forcing’ people to take out loans, but encouraging them to do so by spreading the cost over 25 years and thus enabling them to see immediate savings. The emphasis is squarely on carrot, not stick.
  • the retrospective stamp duty ‘punishment’ is actually an inducement to encourage people to take steps which would save them money in any case. And they will be given a year’s grace to make the necessary changes.
  • he is completely wrong about the system of random spot checks: these are about giving people peace of mind about building standards. They are checks on the industry, not the consumer. Nowhere in the paper does it say that people would be ‘forced’ to undergo inspection. On the other hand, a free spot check to ensure the £10,000 you have just forked out has actually been spent on something which meets minimal standards is something I would have thought most people would welcome.

My one complaint about the paper is that the use of the word mortgage is a little intimidating. Once I read the detail, I was happy, but the ‘m’ word suggests expensive loans hanging over peoples heads for decades when in fact the paper is proposing savings. I prefer another analogy used in the paper: hire purchase.

Overall though, this is a valuable contribution to Lib Dem policy (not that it will be party policy for another 5 months) and something I suspect the Tories will be ‘borrowing’ very soon, regardless of Mr Dale’s reservations.

Turning to the Dark Side

What a bizarre article by Iain Dale!

First, he makes a big deal out of the fact that Mark Oaten, apparently, came “very close” to defecting to the Tories in Autumn 2005. Work that date out in your head for a minute. Posterity records that Mark Oaten wasn’t exactly of sound mind at the time, and was apparently rather more interested in something else that is spelled very similarly to defection, but has an extra ‘a’.

Defecting to the Conservatives may well be a degrading form of self abuse, but I’m not sure it was Iain’s intention to make the link quite so explicit.

Oaten was apparently disappointed by the Lib Dems’ opposition to his ‘tough’ stance on crime. Yet Nick Clegg, also considered a prime candidate for defection, has done more than anyone else to bury Oaten’s ‘tough liberalism’ stance. So which type of Lib Dem do you want?

He goes on to talk about the need for secrecy when it comes to defections, and that careless talk costs them, only to reveal that Ed Vaizey has been given the job by Cameron to co-ordinate it all. Good job that’s still a secret, then.

And then there’s all those strange innuendos, that make it all sound rather like “Confessions of a Career Politician”. “[Vaizey’s] recent trip to the Arctic Circle with Nick Clegg may not have resulted in a defection, but eight hours a night in an igloo can hardly have failed to bring them closer.” F’narr f’narr! “[Shaun Woodward] was promised all manner of rewards (none of which has materialised) and made to feel wanted. But, at the last minute, he wobbled and the seduction turned into a brutal rape.” Err, we are still talking about defections, right?

This article can hardly have helped the Tory plan to get us all to sign up, and indeed makes it sound like the Tory frontbench spend rather too much time obsessing about it. It’s very flattering, but it does rather suggest that they aren’t feeling too confident about how they are likely to fare in the run up to the General Election, and need us to bail them out.

Liberal Review has more.