Daily Archives: 20 October 2007

Homeopaths resort to legal action to cure all headaches

A few weeks ago, the political blogosphere united to condemn the actions of Alisher Usmanov and his lawyers for attempting to shut down Craig Murray’s blog. We were right to do so; what made Usmanov’s actions particularly reprehensible was the way he used the law to intimidate Murray’s hosting company while cowardly avoiding a fight with Murray’s publisher who had already printed the allegations two years previously.

Now, Ben Goldacre draws our attention to another attempt to shut down a blogger. This time the fight is between a scientist and the Society of Homeopathy.

Andy Lewisallegations seem quite straightforward. The Society has clear guidelines and Andy has what appears to be relatively clear evidence that one of its members is in breach of these guidelines. This isn’t about homeopaths making exaggerated claims about curing head colds to middle class Brits either, but involves potentially dangerous attempts to market homeopathy as a cure for malaria in Kenya.

Andy Lewis demanded answers: the response was a writ issued to his hosting company who subsequently took down the offending article. Sound familiar?

Sound familiar? It should do. There’s a growing list of bloggers who are protesting about this. So come on then Tom, Iain, Guido, Tim and others, how about it?

Ministry of Truth: “our film was a load of old toss”

I suppose honesty is a virtue:

I’m getting into exactly the kind of debate that would fill an LSE lecture hall and keep the public watching Rebecca Loos make a pig ejaculate.

The path we chose was the academic’s polar opposite without the farmyard.

So there you have it. The limits of the Ministry of Truth’s ambitions was to make a programme with the news values of the basest example of reality TV anyone could think of, in the name of populism. And even then the best slot they could get was 11pm on BBC2. Wonderful.

Nick Clegg: burying Caesar?

Am I the only one who finds it quite confusing that LibDems4Chris is written by a guy called Nick?

For the record, I really am still genuinely undecided. My assessment is that Chris is the better strategist and Nick is the better communicator. Nick will win my vote if he can convince me he has some idea about how the party must organise and Chris will win my vote if he can overcome his seemingly poor reputation within certain parts of the media. The latter is important because certain journalists really do seem to have their knives out for him and viscerally dislike him in a way that could be quite damaging. Having seen what they did to Ming, that is currently toppermost on my mind.

Nick Clegg’s speech yesterday was interesting. Unlike Huhne, he made a point of paying tribute to Ming at the start. Unlike Huhne, he laid into Ming’s tenure. Despite crediting Ming for giving the party a clear sense of direction and purpose, he goes on to say that:

For two years now, the Liberal Democrats have been caught up in internal self-analysis. We cannot go on testing the patience of the British people.

I’m not sure these two conflicting statements make any sense together. Without the boring old navel-gazing that Clegg deplores, we would not have the sense of direction and purpose that he praises. And it was Ming, as Chair of the party’s policy, who oversaw that introspection, so it is he, by association, that Clegg is blaming for the party’s shortcomings. To paraphrase another Shakespeare play, is that a dagger I see before me?

The bottom line is that a bit of self-analysis was sorely needed after the 2005 General Election. The last Lib Dem General Election campaign was the least inward-looking we had ever fought; it was did the least to “stand up for the liberal instincts of the British people.”

I suspect that Clegg knows this. Rather, I suspect this is a pitch for that school of activist who has no time for the party’s policy development and prefers, to use Simon Titley’s words, “mindless activism“. This is a way of pushing people’s buttons, of posititioning himself as the blokey, action guy as opposed to the unforgiveably cerebral Huhne. Clearly Team Clegg have been reading The Political Brain during their summer holidays.

Fair play to them. It is something that Huhne can’t afford to be blind to. He needs to find a way of neutering this particular line of attack, and quickly. But by the same token, Clegg needs to be careful not to let himself become a prisoner of his own rhetoric. Despite our democratic structures, the research shows (my research in fact, hem hem), that the Liberal Democrats are in fact the least introspective of the three main parties. It hasn’t gained us electoral pre-eminence. There is virtue in a degree of introspection: I would argue that the “meeting the challenge” project launched by Charles Kennedy (and it is all too notable that I know it as the “meeting the challenge” project, not the allegedly “Trust in People: Make Britain free, fair and green“), has still not managed to give us anything like the sort of coherence that we need. As I wrote on Monday, until our long term aspirations are a closer fit with our short term commitments, we will continue to look opportunistic (because that is exactly what we are being). Nick can flutter his eyelashes at the media as much as he likes, but they’ll continue to give us a hard time if they continue to perceive us as little more than a bunch of chancers. In short, he is in danger of adopting a strategy that will neutralise his greatest single selling point.

EXCLUSIVE: Team Kennedy backs Huhne (updated)

Originally posted: 19 October 2007, 10.27am.

Thus far, it has looked like Nick Clegg has been getting it all his own way with regard to getting public support from the party establishment. The support of Steve Webb and Paddy Ashdown are, for differing reasons, clearly coups.

But he hasn’t entirely had it his own way. I understand that both Anna Werrin and Dick Newby – the key figures of the Charles Kennedy leadership team – have joined Chris Huhne’s campaign. Is this tacit endorsement of the former leader himself? Both have remained close to him.

UPDATE: Late news here, but Candy Piercy, who ran Charles Kennedy’s leadership campaign in 1999, has also joined Team Huhne.