Daily Archives: 19 July 2006

Iain Dale’s Lord Levy moment

I do worry that certain bloggers are getting too big for their boots. I’d draw an analogy here with one of my past obsessions: Robot Wars.

I used to love the show for the simple reason that it involved lumps of metal sawing the crap out of each other. Another entertaining feature was seeing the geeks who built the things being interviewed by the rather lovely Philippa Forrester (before she lost all credibility over the Brass Eye paedo debacle). Socially awkward at the best of times, they were all so clearly terrified of her it made truly entertaining telly.

The problem was though that after a few series, the programme started to hit the mainstream. Robots would be invited to open Village Fetes, become the talk of water cooler conversations, have affairs with Z-list celebrities and have embarrassing photos of them climbing out of cars with their undercarriages exposed published in Heat magazine, that sort of thing.

Meanwhile their designers started to believe that they themselves were minor celebrities. They started wearing team uniforms, developing team songs. Worst of all, they all started to think that Phillippa actually liked them. The sight of a sweaty, fat bearded man with no social skills attempt to flirt with an attractive woman 15 years his junior was truly awful to watch.

My question is, is the same thing happening with bloggers? Guido has been bouncing around the blogosphere recently expounding the Power of the Blog. And the lest we forget the supreme pretentiousness of the Euston Manifesto.

As for Iain Dale, he’s been roasted a bit on his blog today for writing a very silly post claiming that former Labour David Hinchcliffe’s decision to take up a non-executive directorship of South West Yorkshire Mental Health Trust is an example of New Labour sleaze. His defence seems to be that the press release announcing his appointment claims it wasn’t a political appointment but rather Hinchcliffe was appointed on merit (which on my reading it would appear that he was) and that, um, anyone criticising him is “employed to post on the blog by the Labour Party”. Including me.

Yes indeed. Iain is such a threat to New Labour that they employ people to discredit him, and his proof is that people post on his blog to tell him when he’s being a bit of a berk. He might as well just write a post entitled “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!?” and be done with it.

Hubris. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

Bypassing the byelections

Some good poacher-turned-gamekeeper advice from Mike Smithson on how to stop a Lib Dem by-election onslaught can be found on politicalbetting.com today.

The only thing I would take issue with here is that Mike buys into the myth that Hodge Hill was a successful defence on the part of Labour. Actually, Leicester South, called on the same day, was a good Labour defence. The Lib Dems’ victory was widely predicted due to the local party’s already strong presence, yet we only scraped through and handed it back to Labour on a plate a year later. Compare that to the result in Hodge Hill, very much the Blaenau Gwent to Leicester South’s Bromley, where we came within inches despite a campaign from Labour that harked of the bad-old-days of Labour’s Militant Tendency rent-a-mob past.

If we’d won Hodge Hill, and if we’d had a few more days we clearly would have, I’m quite sure that Nicola Davies would have been able to hold onto the seat, just as Sarah Teather managed.

True, in Hartlepool Labour were more effective, but this was for two reasons. Firstly, Labour wisely pulled back from their Hodge Hill excesses, remaining forthright but calling off the rottweillers. This prevented the story from becoming about Labour dirty tricks and rather stymied initiatives such as Comical Tommy (mutter, whinge…). Secondly, the Lib Dems made some bona fide cock ups. The farrago over Jody Dunn’s infamous “angry dog blog” was poorly handled and I personally think we over-played the hospital thing after Labour had already started to rebut it well. We didn’t have another issue and were running out of steam.

So yes, by all means go negative, but be negative on real issues not flim-flam. Whether the Tories like it or not it IS an issue that Bob Neill is dividing his time between the Commons and the GLA; insinuatating that Mark Hunter is a rapist or that Nicola Davies eats babies weren’t.

Carbon Credits

I’m in two minds what to think of David Miliband’s recent interest in Personal Carbon Allowances.

As I’ve explained previously on this blog, I like the economics behind carbon allowances, but feel it could be better administered simply by selling carbon allowances to the businesses, having them pass on the cost to the consumer, and having the government pass on the revenue raised in the form of a citizen’s income. I’m uneasy at the thought of advocating technocratic solutions in an era where that appears to be politicians’ solution to anything and with particular regard to this government and technology I wouldn’t trust them with my pocket calculator. They invariably fall for feature creep and buying expensive, over complicated systems that just don’t work (I met an old friend who is currently earning a small fortune touring GP surgeries to keep their databases up and running, which the government has installed in every GP’s office at enormous expense and even more incompetence). Who knows what extra features Blair will insist on adding to this card in an effort to keep any eye on how much carbon suspected terrorists are consuming?

To be fair, I don’t think Carbon Allowances are doomed to failure in the same way that I am absolutely convinced a national Road User Charging scheme will be (and the fact that New Labour are keener on the latter than the former I feel proves my point), but we should be careful to read the fine print before patting them on the back for catching up.
Fundamentally though, any system like this wouldn’t be up and running for another ten years. Ministers ought to be addressing what they plan to do in the here and now rather than get carried away with what we might think about introducing in the future.