Tag Archives: liberal vision

Government brainwashing works – and it’s for your own good

Earlier today, a tweet by Ellie Sharman about a two year old Liberal Vision article almost prompted by to write about its wrongheadedness before I realised that I had already done so. That was that, I thought, until I read this article about how the beleaguered Health Minister had been forced to restore his cuts to the public health campaign budget after evidence emerged that the cuts had actually lead to an increase in flu deaths, as well as a decline in things like people joining programmes to give up smoking.

What does this have to do with airbrushing? Well, for me it highlights a pretty fundamental point: advertising works. Andrew Lansley has at least given us a bit of evidence we can now draw on in future to ensure that the mistake is not repeated.

It is the fact that advertising works that sums up why I am not a libertarian or classical liberal. Brains can be manipulated and even fooled; we aren’t rational beings. The libertarian assertion that if you just took state action out of the equation, people would act rationally simply isn’t backed up by any credible evidence. And of course they end up tying themselves up in knots attempting to prove it.

So it was that in his Liberal Vision article two years ago, Tom Papworth found himself implying that “airbrushing” doesn’t manipulate young women and that to assert that it did so was to suggest that it does is to brand them as “stupid”. The idea that people can be manipulated on a psychological level and not be cretinous does not sit well with libertarians. Yet the simple fact is that if psychology did not have a large part to play in advertising, it would not have evolved in the dramatic way that it did over the course of the 20th century, and people would not now be lamenting the delay of Season 5 of Mad Men.

When the government produces an advert designed to encourage you to give up smoking, it is explicitly attempting to manipulate you. That doesn’t sit terribly well with classical liberals, yet why is it such a dreadful thing for a democratically elected and ultimately accountable government to be doing it but not a commercial company which is only accountable to its shareholders?

Psychology and neuroscience represent massive challenges for liberalism which it can’t afford to ignore. It isn’t that the principles at the heart of liberalism are flawed, just that their real world application are inadequate. This is what the new liberals realised at the start of the 20th century and it is something we must be continually alive to. Yet there remains a strand which defiantly refuses to acknowledge this and wraps itself in the easy slogans and notions about rationality of the Victorian Age.

As a result of the government spending millions of pounds encouraging people to live healthier lifestyles, people’s lives – and thus liberty – are improved in a tangible, measurable way. It is right that governments continue to do so, notwithstanding the fact that there is a real debate to be had over how far it should go. It is equally right that politicians such as Jo Swinson raise issues about advertising and body image with initiatives such as the Campaign for Body Confidence; again notwithstanding the fact that some of the conclusions they draw are liable to be problematic. To suggest that there is some simple, magic liberal litmus test which we can apply to difficult areas such as this is the ultimate act of illiberalism.

Credit where it’s due


The Evening Standard and Liberal Vision have been patting Guido Fawkes on the back for observing the uncanny similarity between David Cameron’s latest airbrushed photo and Lt Cmdr Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Only one slight problem with this: Guido actually got the idea from me as I tweeted this observation over a week ago.

Back in the day, Guido used to run a regular feature on diarists who regularly ripped off bloggers. These days of course, Guido is feted by the mainstream media. Fascinating how times have changed.

It is also worth observing that the substance of Angela Harbutt’s blog post is that Jo Swinson is a hypocrite for criticising adverts with airbrushed images of women whilst not criticising Cameron for this blatant act of fakery. Wrong again, I’m afraid, as any twitter search will tell you.

UPDATE: Guido has issued a carefully worded non-denial denial and accused me of “bloggers narcisim” – possibly the most self unaware statement ever uttered on the internet. Just for the record, I don’t expect or demand an acknowledgement – I’m just putting the facts out there. People can draw their own conclusions.

The Littlewood Effect… twelve months later

Mark Littlewood has articles on Liberal Vision and The Telegraph reminding us of his pamphlet The Cameron Effect last year.

That’s fair enough. It’s equally fair enough for me to point you in the direction of my rebuttal of that pamphlet.

What has changed in the previous twelve months? Mark is right to say that one thing that hasn’t, frustratingly, is the opinion polls. Nonetheless that is to ignore the fact that they went up for the local elections in June (and down for the European Elections). We have every reason to expect those figures to pick up as we head towards 2010 all else being equal. In fact, I think we have a lot of reason to be confident that things will pick up quite well during an election campaign. Clegg has finally moved on from his “calamitous” period and Vince Cable continues to get good press.

Does that mean that I am prepared to revise my prediction that the Lib Dems will finish the election with roughly the same number of MPs that it started with? No. I don’t see any evidence of a breakthrough this time around. But equally, I continue to regard Liberal Vision’s pessimism as misplaced.

Mark, it has to be said, has subtly shifted his position. Last year the focus was all on tax cuts; this year he has replaced this with more ambiguous language about “winning over those who are flirting with David Cameron’s Tories.” But the people switching to the Tories this time are not the ones clamouring for the Tories to adopt a small government, low tax agenda; indeed they are coming to the Tories precisely because they don’t think that is what Cameron is offering (they may be in for a surprise considering what the new Tory intake looks like). Ultimately, I don’t follow the argument that this is some kind of zero sum game between the Lib Dems choosing between soft Labour and soft Tory voters at all. Instead it is a mad scrabble for floating voters who are up for grabs by any party.

Mark may not have got his wish of the party adopting a position of overall tax cuts, but he should be consoled that the party is in favour of reducing taxes for low and middle income owners and that the party is united behind this position. This isn’t a policy aimed at the left or right (although the right may quibble with the tax increases we propose to impose to pay for them); it has far wider appeal than that.

Talk of tax cuts right now would almost certainly scare people right now and be scarcely economically justifiable; Mark knows this. So the question is, what buttons should we be pressing that would appeal uniquely to people currently in the welcoming arms of David Cameron? Should we be bolder in our talk about spending cuts than Vince Cable has been this week at a time when all Osborne can offer us is flummery and his characteristic whingeing? It is hard to believe that would make us especially popular.

The main thing that has changed is that the economic situation has got a lot worse. That’s bad news for those of us who would like to see greater investment in specific areas and bad news for those who would like to see overall tax cuts. I suspect the all out hostilities over the heart and soul of the Liberal Democrats will have to wait for at least another conference, something which is good news for the hedges outside the Bournemouth Conference Centre.

Liberal Vision concede defeat

Godwin’s law strikes again:

What is more worrying, however, is that an appendage of the state is now a matter of national pride. Daniel Hannan has been called a “traitor”. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what national socialism looks like.

Sara goes on to insist that by “national socialism” she was not, of course, referring to Nazism. Surely any rational person would assume she was referring to all the other ideologies that espouse national socialism. You know, the ones which we refer to as “neo-Nazis.” So, not invoking Godwin’s law at all then, clearly.

UPDATE: I should make it clear that I am referring to the author of the above referred to Liberal Vision article, Sara Scarlett and not Sara Bedford or indeed any other Sara.

Has “Joker” Lembit been “stopped”?

So claims the Shropshire Star (hat tip: Jonathan Calder):

Sources say Mr Opik has secured the support of only six of the Liberal Democrat MPs – less than a tenth of the total… One insider described Mr Opik as ‘a joker’.

That latter word for some reason makes me think of a 70s song which had a brief 80s revival. How’s this for weirdly appropriate lyrics:

Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me maurice
Cause I speak of the pompitous of love

People talk about me, baby
Say Im doin you wrong, doin you wrong

Well, dont you worry baby
Dont worry
Cause Im right here, right here, right here, right here at home

Cause Im a picker [technically an Opik…]
Im a grinner
Im a lover

And Im a sinner
I play my music in the sun

The rest is here.

On a slightly more serious note, one of the things that appears to have blown Lembit’s thunder is Chandila Fernando’s candidacy. People are at least talking about Chandila (not just me). Lembit’s appeal for Primary Colors, sorry “primary colours” has failed to set tongues wagging while Chandila’s more explicit talk about rebranding has provoked much more discussion.

Now, I’ve called Chandila’s candidacy a “cunning stunt” before and I still do, but I’ve never claimed it wasn’t effective. I wonder about unintended consequences though. Superficially at least, with Liberal Vision hailing Lembit as the most liberal Lib Dem MP, it does appear that they would prefer it for Lembit to beat Ros. If that is the case then Chandila’s exercise has essentially backfired.

But if they do feel that way, they are being unfair to Ros. The one candidate who has proven they know a thing or two about branding and positioning in this campaign is Ros Scott, and she’s shown actions speak louder than words.

Whisper it, it’s unfashionable, but political parties still need members

Chandila Fernando, to his credit, is at least campaigning for some radical ideas in his campaign for Lib Dem President. He wants the Lib Dems to “become the first mainstream political party to move away from the tired concept of card-carrying membership” replacing it with “a system of registered supporters.”

Fernando’s website has currently been replaced by a holding page (is it me or does that big beaming face scream “over-exposed”?) so we cannot penetrate the words of wisdom within. However Mark Littlewood, in his role as Head Fernando Cheerleader, expanded this idea on Lib Dem Voice as follows:

1. Anyone can become a member of the party (which I’d probably retitle “registered supporter”) if they are on the electoral register in the UK and sign some form of statement saying they are a supporter of the Liberal Democrats.

2. This data would be centrally collated – although obviously shared with local parties – on a database package that could be deployed for campaigning and fundraising purposes.

3. Once the system had been successfully implemented, which may take some months (at least!), the party’s constitution should be reviewed in order to attempt to enfranchise these supporters into the party’s decision-making process. This might start with consultation and then go on to “open primaries” for PPC selection and even lead ultimately to mass enfranchisement for a party leadership election.

4. A whole range of issues would need to addressed (length of tenure on supporter list before you get a vote, preventing mass last minute non-LD sign-ups to infiltrate the party, provision for those under the age of 18) etc. These are very serious issues – but are essentially technical and administrative points.

5. The explicit aim of such an exercise would be wider participation and involvement, not “demutualisation” or converting the party into a company controlled an oligarchy.

6. The President of the party wouldn’t, of course, have the authority to impose such a system, but he or she could set a direction of travel. He/she should accept that a traditional party membership model is becoming an anachronism. When Charles was elected, there were 82,000 members. When Ming was elected, there were 72,000 members. When Nick was elected, there were 67,000 members. I suspect the total may have slipped further since then (we’ll see when the Presidential vote is tallied). (These totals contrast with 101,00 Liberal members and 58,000 SDP members at the time of merger – or at least those were the totals for ballot papers issued in 1987 and 1988)

It’s easy to dismiss radical ideas out of hand, but it is certainly worth exploring this idea in at least some detail. It certainly is true that party membership (across all parties) is in serious decline and if the current trend continues at some point the Lib Dems will simply cease to be a viable operation. But is a registered supporter system the answer?

I have to declare an interest at this point. I work for Unlock Democracy, which was created last year when the New Politics Network and Charter 88 merged. Charter 88, up until a couple of years ago, did not have members but instead had a database of “signatories” who agreed with the organisation’s founding charter – of which I was/am one. New Politics Network meanwhile specialised for a while in the funding of political parties and published several publications on the topic, most notably these two. For a couple of years this was my main focus at work. Combined with my experience of the party at all levels, I feel I’m fairly well qualified to interrogate this idea.

The first thing to note is that the idea of political parties having registered supporters rather than members is not new. Indeed I think I’m right in saying the US Democrats had registered supporters before any UK party had members. Party membership as we understand it did not exist until the 20th century. At first Labour didn’t bother with members at all and was wholly owned by trade unions and socialist societies. The Conservatives only adopted a centralised membership system under Hague in the late 1990s. The 1950s is generally regarded as the height of party membership but those members had few rights – party membership was as much a social thing as anything else. It is only really the 1970s, with the advent of one-member-one-vote in the Liberal Party, that what we currently understand as party membership emerged.

The registered supporter system in the US emerged out of the system of caucuses and primaries they tend to use to select candidates. There are as many types of registered supporter system in the USA as there are US States. The one thing however that US States do have in common however is that the two-party system is dominant. Independent and third party politicians are a rare exception. Registered supporter systems tend to work better in two-party systems with good reason: two-party systems for all their flaws are relatively immune from entryism.

This is a crucial point when considering how a registered supporter system would work in the UK. With low participation rates, entryism is already rife in the UK. If anyone on the electoral system could ‘join’ at effectively no cost, anyone could run a mass recruitment campaign with a view to stitching up a candidate selection, regardless of whether they agreed with the party’s values or not. Now, that could arguably lead to us having candidates that better reflected the communities they stood in and superficially that is a good thing. But it would mean the party would effectively be a franchise open to anyone to take over. And however problematic this might be in a system where all parties operated in the same way, it would be much worse for a party that voluntarily chose to do this on its own.

It is interesting to note the Conservative experience with primary selections. The party has not rolled primaries out to all Associations as a matter of course, but has been quite scrupulous in picking and choosing which constituencies to hold them in. Participation rates tend to vary but I haven’t heard of any area which had significantly more participants than they would have had if voting had been restricted to members. No Parliamentary candidate has been elected with a four figure tally of votes as far as I’m aware and even the high profile Mayoral selection was a damp squib.

So the closest example of a registered supporter system we’ve so far seen in the UK has been far from a runaway success. But that will be of no surprise to people who closely observe US politics. Presidential primaries gain all the attention, but the level of participation for congressional candidates is approximate to the Tory experience.

Don’t believe me? Have a look at these results, bearing in mind that each House Representative has about ten times as many constituents as each MP. This is not an exercise in mass political participation by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, presidential primaries are a different story. Speaking personally, I think the idea of using primaries to elect party leaders – our closest equivalent to a presidential candidate – has a lot going for it (and before anyone claims Fernando has inspired me, I first mused about this in January). But that is a very different type of election and fundamentally much easier to control.

Is party membership in terminal decline? Certainly there has been a negative trend but it is statistical nonsense to infer that this is irreversible. There has been some talk about how the Conservatives’ membership has continued to decline despite Cameron’s popularity and how this contrasts with Labour’s fortunes ten years before. A sign of the times? Perhaps, or perhaps a more prosaic answer would be to point out that Labour’s increase in membership in the mid-90s went hand in hand with a massive recruitment drive during that period. For an eighteen month period, the Labour Party had a recruitment form in the Guardian (and often on the front page). It was a key strategic objective of theirs, very much comparable to Obama’s 50-state drive happening today, and judging by the busloads of supporters that would drive past me while I delivered my knocking up leaflets in Oldham East and Saddleworth in 1997, it was a strategy that paid off. But it was also a very costly and ultimately unsustainable strategy; no party could do it in the long term.

The Lib Dems can neither afford a recruitment campaign of that scale nor would it be as effective, but fundamentally if you want to reverse a decline in membership you need a recruitment strategy. We lack one at the moment because, frankly, we haven’t really needed one. If you can deliver growth in seats and votes without more members, why spend money recruiting? As time goes on however, that calculation will change as we run out of activists. Arguably, we have already reached the point where serious action needs to be taken.

We also have to consider momentum. Barack Obama has done a fantastic job at creating momentum, but will he have the same easy time of it in four years time? Is what he’s doing sustainable? What happens once the circus has moved on? Members are certainly harder to recruit than supporters, but they are also less likely to drift away during the tough times.

For an example of this, consider Charter 88’s experience. Charter 88 is one of the most successful pressure groups in history. Creating a database of 50,000 “signatories” in just two years, it embarked on a campaign strategy which delivered significant democratic reform in 1997. Having read the organisation’s 1990 business plan, it is remarkable how even back then it more or less sketched out the Cook-Maclennan agreement seven years later.

Charter’s success was borne of its ability to create a sense of momentum. For nine long years it stormed along like a snowball on steroids. In the 1992 general election it held around 100 public meetings; in 1997 it held around 200 (I helped organise the one in Manchester Gorton). Local groups sprang up all around the country. It was really an exciting organisation to be a part of.

And then it all came to a shuddering halt, almost overnight. By the 2001 general election it was a shadow of its former self and continued to decline after that, only really starting to recover a couple of years ago. There are a large number of factors behind this (if you want to know more, Charter 88 – 20 years of Unlocking Democracy will be in the bookshops in time for Christmas), but one of them, I personally have no doubt, was the fact that its supporter base was essentially shallow. Signatories did not own the organisation and it was all too easy to drift away. And once some people drifted away, it became even easier for others to follow suit. The positive feedback which fuelled the campaign for so many years went into reverse.

Fernando is keen on branding so he should consider the different messages sent out by the terms “registered supporter,” “signatory” and “member”. The latter implies that the individual has a personal stake in the organisation in question; the former terms are passive by comparison. Of course we would want our registered supporters to get involved, but would they? I’m highly sceptical.

The other thing to consider is fundraising. I think I am correct in saying that Charter never once sent a mailing to every single one of its signatories (which peaked at around 80,000). Rather, you would receive newsletters and information for a while but would only continue to do so if you gave regularly to the organisation. This is a sensible strategy; there is no point in endlessly mailing people who you hear absolutely nothing back from. No organisation could afford to throw money into a black hole in that way. Any political party serious about campaigning which was based on a registered supporter system would have to operate in the same way; the cost of keeping hundreds of thousands of people in touch otherwise would simply bankrupt it. Fernando talks about using the internet but significant numbers of people don’t have access to it and direct mail remains a more effective means of communication in any case. How would he hold an “all supporter” election for 300,000 people, most of whom contributed nothing financially? Via teh intenets (excuse me while I stifle a laugh)?

Indeed, I’m convinced that if Charter had looked to consolidate itself in 1997 and become a membership organisation (which it ended up doing nine years later), it would have gained some measure of stability. Having members gives you a core supporter base which you can see you through the tough times as well as the good ones. It gives you a sustainable base on which to conduct internal democracy. There is certainly a downside – members of political parties are by definition less representative of the wider population – but in terms of cost-benefit it is the neatest compromise.

None of this is to say that the party should not have a supporters database and should not seek to engage with them. I have no clear idea how the party centrally currently engages with supporters but judging by what it sends members it is almost certainly lacking. Supporters should be carefully nurtured – from them we can develop donors, activists and – yes – new members. We should take every opportunity to get further involved in the party. We should offer to take them there in baby steps. We should offer local parties incentives to send the central party leads in the form of a cut of every penny they end up giving. But while nurturing supporters should be at the heart of any recruitment strategy, this is very different from treating support as equivalent to membership.

To conclude then, what Fernando is proposing is not new – indeed takes us closer to a Victorian style of party politics. In its pure form it is simply not sustainable. It would be susceptable to entryism. We could not afford to service hundreds of thousands of new “members” without getting income from them. It would not significantly increase participation.

And crucially, supporters are not stakeholders. If we were to devalue membership in this way, it would be naive in the extreme to assume that our members would not devalue their own membership accordingly. Just as we would expect more “registered supporters” to get involved during the good times, we would expect a sharper decline in the bad times. Yes, we have seen membership drop alarmingly during the past decade, but things would have been so much worse if we had adopted the Fernando plan ten years previously. Thank goodness he has no chance of winning.

The Littlewood Effect: Why wishful thinking won’t win the argument for tax cuts for the rich

The new ginger group Liberal Vision – which to all intents and purposes appear to be an entryist brand of the libertarian pressure group Progressive Vision – published a pamphlet this week called ‘The Cameron Effect’ (pdf). As regular readers of Guido Fawkes will know by now, this report makes the startling claim that two in three Lib Dem MPs ‘could’ lose their seats at the next election unless the party introduces a policy of cutting tax cuts, including cuts aimed at high-earners.

Rumour has it that the reaction of at least one MP to this report was to push its co-author Mark Littlewood into a hedge. While I don’t condone violence, I have to admit I can empathise (sp. I can’t believe I wrote emphasise last night!). But for me, the real problem with this pamphlet is not that it is unwelcome (publish and be damned) but that it is a spectacularly poor piece of research.

Let’s take the psephology for starters. Littlewood and his co-author David Preston have this pearl of wisdom about first past the post:

“Under Britain’s byzantine electoral system – it is not just absolute vote share that matters but relative vote share.”

Hmmm… not sure about that. I notice there are no footnotes. Relative vote share certainly does matter in d’Hondt elections, but where is the evidence that is the case for FPTP?

Problematically for Littlewood and Preston, the example they cite doesn’t support their argument. It IS true that if you look at the average ratio of Liberal:Conservative votes in the 1983, 1987 and 1992 elections and compare it to the average ratio of LD:Conservative votes in the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections, the ratio does indeed change from roughly 1:2 to 2:3. But if you compare 1992 to 1997, during which period the number of Lib Dem MPs leapt from 20 to 46, the ratio goes from a bit under 1:2 to a bit over 1:2. The 2:3 ratio cited only emerges once you factor in the 2005 General Election, when we made significantly fewer gains. If this analysis were correct, surely the ratio would be higher in the year of our great breakthrough?

But of course the difference between 1992 and 1997 was not some quasi-mystical change in relative vote share but a dramatic shift in the way the party targeted resources. This is just the first instance in which ‘The Cameron Effect’ fails to take into account the Rennard Effect.

The pamphlet goes on to examine how each constituency is likely to fare in the next election. Helpfully, it provides us with a neat little bar chart showing us what will happen in each constituency once you apply a uniform national swing based on an average of 30 opinion polls taken in the summer.

Even if we disregard the fact that the Lib Dem vote share will almost certainly be higher (and the Tory share will be lower) than the polls suggest this summer, this is a ridiculously crude mechanism to apply for three reasons:

a) It assumes that public opinion is constant across the UK with no significant variations. Yes, that probably means that in the South and East we are likely to struggle even more, but it also means that in the North and West we are likely to have an easier time gaining Labour seats.
b) Even Baxter allows you to factor in a tactical vote these days. Littlewood and Preston work on the extraordinary assumption that not a single voter will behave in this way, despite the fact that every single Lib Dem leaflet they receive will be urging them to do so.
c) In several of the seats listed as being at ‘measurable’ and ‘high’ risk (i.e. the seats which their press release lists as likely to go Tory) even the statistics they cite appear much rosier than they claim. Harrogate and Knaresborough is cited ad being at ‘measurable’ risk despite the fact that there has been a swing against the Tories locally and the uniform national swing would have us win. There’s a similar story in Kingston and Surbiton while in Solihull the massive swing locally, we are assured, counts for nothing.

While these factors appear to over-egg the claim that we are especially vulnerable to the Tories, they downplay our chances at gaining seats off Labour. They assume that not a single Tory voter in a Lib Dem/Labour constituency is squeezable. They talk about the sort of swings that we typically got in 2005 as being ‘exceptions’ to the point of being accidents – once again, the fact that in each of our target seats we are to have a campaign on the ground is completely downplayed.

In short, strip away the ‘we’re all doomed’ hyperbole and the prospect doesn’t look anything like as bad as Littlewood and Preston would have us believe. Don’t get me wrong: my prediction is that we will remain fairly static in the next election, losing some to the Tories and gaining some from Labour. And stagnation is something that I personally find extremely depressing. But the sort of wipeout predicted in this paper is simply wide of the mark.

So much for the psephology; what about the policy? Well, if the confident predictions of our demise seem unlikely, then the proposed cure-all is even harder to swallow. Let us assume for a minute that we really are in the ditch that Littlewood and Preston claim we are. Is a single change in policy really likely to make any difference? And that’s before you consider that the sort of tax cutting agenda they propose would by neccessity mean cutting several of our existing spending commitments (Littlewood and Preston decline to say which ones) and our opponents will almost certainly seek to present this in as poor a light as possible.

The entire argument for how promising tax cuts would make the party massively popular is based on a single opinion poll commissioned by the Taxpayers’ Alliance 13 months ago (before the credit crunch). Seriously. If that is really the best they can come up with, the only rational conclusion is that they must be wrong.

Their argument about cutting taxes for higher income earners is even more spurious. As a matter of fact (unrecognised in the paper) the Lib Dems don’t have a policy of clobbering the rich. Our policy is to close loopholes and exemptions only available to the rich. To argue, as they do, that what the average person in a low income really wants is special tax breaks for the rich so that, if they ever become rich, they’ll be able to get out of paying tax as well is taking the ‘aspiration’ argument beyond the point of absurdity. No-one is suggesting a return even to the 50p rate of income tax, so where did this nonsense suddenly come from?

In fact, I could probably make a better case for the popularity of tax cuts for the rich than Littlewood and Preston can. Far from being in the grip of ‘craven caution,’ when it comes to offering tax cuts, the Tories’ climb in the opinion polls began when George Osborne announced an intention to exclude all but the very richest from inheritance tax. So it is fair to say that some tax breaks for the rich are popular. But it is wrong to say that there is an opening in the tax debate. Lackadaisically calling for tax breaks for the rich won’t make us sound distinctive – they’ll make us sound indistinguishable from the Tories. And why should voters support Conservative copies when they can have the real thing?

Overall then, pretty much every single aspect of this pamphlet is poorly researched and ill-thought out. Mark Littlewood is a master of publicity and has managed to make a big splash with this pamphlet, but the fact that it is so, well, stupid, is cause for hope that Liberal Vision will prove short-sighted.