Category Archives: Lib Dems

How you spin ’em, number 94

Anthony Wells, yesterday:

Over the last couple of days the Evening Standard have been reporting the contents of a new YouGov London poll – yesterday here and today here.

YouGov found London voting intentions of CON 35%(nc), LAB 45%(+3), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 8%(-2), GRN 4%(nc). Labour are up three since June, but this poll would still suggest Labour doing slightly worse in London than elsewhere (a ten point lead for Labour in London is a 4 point swing since the general election, whereas GB polls are currently showing a 5 1/2 point swing to Labour.)

For the record, London voting in the 2010 General Election went:

Labour 36.6% (down 2.3% since 2005) and 38 MPs;
Tories 34.5% (up 2.6%)  and 28 MPs;
Lib Dems 22.1% (up 0.2%) and 7 MPs.

By consensus Labour:

  • did better in London than across the UK (vote down 6.2%), and
  • far better than England taken together (vote down 7.4%).

These things have the characteristic of a rubber band: they stretch, but only so far — and the Labour vote inevitably has natural limits: even in the wonder year of 1997 the vote in London was

  • 49.5% Labour, 31.2% Tory, 14.6% Lib Dem.

One other figure worth mentioning is the 2014 London Borough elections (the most recent proper poll). This, on a smaller turn-out, which itself tends to count against Labour, had:

Labour 37.33% (up 4.83%  on 2010 Borough Elections),
Tories 26.32% (down 5.42%) and
LibDems 10.63% (down 11.73%).

Were we to take that Evening Standard/YouGov poll as total Gospel, Labour is way ahead, even from May, the Tories are a trifle restored (thanks to the UKIP decline?), and  the LibDems still barely bog-snorkelling.

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Filed under Elections, Evening Standard, Labour Party, Lib Dems, London, Tories., ukpollingreport

Letter box stuffers

The Daily Mail, never more than a couple of aeons behind the news, plays catch-up:

Ukip has launched a £1.5million publicity drive in the hope of triggering a ‘political earthquake’ by topping the Euro poll on May 22.

But the campaign attacking ‘open doors’ immigration from the EU has been dogged by allegations of spin, fakery and hypocrisy.

Today it emerged that Ukip flyers were being delivered by Eastern Europeans hired by company Fast Leaflet in Croydon.

Boss Andrew Spalis told the Huffington Post many of his employees are from Latvia and ‘only yesterday’ had been working for Ukip.

And why not?

Allegedly, the LibDem stuff arrives by the same delivery. Or is that just in Lynne Featherstone’s patch?

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Filed under Daily Mail, Elections, Lib Dems, London, Lynne Featherstone, UKIP

Everyone remembers their first …

This one started with a Paul Waugh tweet:


The link would take you to a BBC web-site with David Laws doing a interview with school students.

And why not?

To be honest (something Laws wasn’t over his expenses), the teddy-bear’s name question is:

  • a terrific idea for an interview;
  • as good a way to humanise a politician (or any other figure) as comes along.

So, to join the fun, and win brownie points, mine (not just first, but only) was boringly “Teddy”.

The rest is a bit different.

Teddy-bears, new, were not a readily-attainable consumer item as the Second World War moved on after Alamein to complete the conquest of North Africa. I adopted Uncle Derrick’s cast-off.

He was a previously well-loved and well-worn specimen, presumably from a couple of decades earlier. His limbs were loose, so my mother sewed them back on. His paws were even more threadbare than the rest of him, so she made cut-outs from yellow dusters, and sewed those as well.

He was in due course discarded into the toy-box (my grand-father’s old cabin-trunk), and his later whereabouts remain unknown. Three daughters later, he could well be in the attic, in one of the many boxes of soft toys we seem still to be lumbered with.

The cabin trunk lives on

It occupies a corner of the Pert Young Piece’s bedroom, packed with her complete (I believe) collection of annual Harrods’ teddies, plus Ellis (a skinny, gingery, super-hirsute and rather frightening beastie).




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Filed under History, Lib Dems, Paul Waugh, politicshome, Uncategorized, Wells-next-the-Sea

Fretting about Fratton

portsmouthfirst2Handy Hancock

In the Portsmouth municipal elections in May, who will be the Liberal Democrat candidate?

Apparently, although this is a safe LibDem ward (58.7% in 2010), there may not be one.

The sitting councillor is a certain Mike Hancock, of whom many — especially those with a scurrilous turn of interest — may have heard much.

Hancock is currently “suspended” from the LibDems, but only after a report by Nigel Pascoe, QC, was leaked. Political Scrapbook have been on the case.

Disgraceful Mike

It would be unnecessarily cruel to suggest that Mr Hancock has aged disgracefully since that photo above … well, perhaps not.

HancockEven so, Hancock seems to have a continuing close throttle-hold on Portsmouth’s LibDems:

The [Portsmouth] News understands Cllr Hancock will still be able to attend group meetings but without voting rights.

And a meeting of the Portsmouth Lib-Dem exec agreed last night not to put up a candidate against Cllr Hancock in Fratton ward at May’s local elections.

The meeting saw seven vote for the motion, one against and one person abstained.

Mystic Dale

Not surprisingly, when Iain Dale cooked his predictions, that there would be 30-35 LibDems in the next Parliament about LibDems, he wrote:

This seat has never had a huge LibDem majority since it was won by Mike Hancock in 1997. It’s always ranged between three and six thousand. It’s difficult to assess the impact of the groping scandal, but on top of their national woes, it could be that the Tories win back what was once for them a safe seat. Hancock has failed to squeeze the Labour vote as much as some of his colleagues, and not so long ago they managed a healthy 25%. If they return to those levels the Tories will win.

Dale may be on the right lines here (though he is surely sadly wrong about Lynne Featherstone having more than the faintest hope of holding Hornsey & Wood Green). What should not go unnoticed is the reservoir of potential left-of-centre votes in Portsmouth South. Hancock was elected for the SDP in the 1984 by-election. It was a three-horse race:

SDP 37.6%
Tory 34.3%
Labour 26.5%

Revolting youth

Despite what Dale says there, Hancock survived in 2010 by squeezing the Labour vote to half its natural level. That will not be repeated. The constituency, reckoned Anthony Wells:

contains Portsmouth University, and is the more student heavy of the two Portsmouth seats.

Portsmouth University has 18,000 students. In the 2010 General Election campaign, nationwide, students polled had near a half tending to the LibDems. Latest numbers suggest that figure is down to barely double figures — and a switch to Labour of perhaps 30% +. If those rough numbers make any sense, they alone destroy Hancock’s majority.

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Filed under British Left, Elections, Iain Dale, Lib Dems, Political Scrapbook, politics, polls, sleaze., Tories., ukpollingreport

The pernicious influence of Goveian militarist clap-trap

As far back as March 2010, and that’s before he was enstooled at the DfE, The Times was mocking Michael Gove as a “meerkat“.  It’s not just the facial expressions: the constant self-grooming and sublime self-confidence are ever reminding of the fabulous Alexandr Orlov:


Things, of course, have gone from bad to worse. However, Anne Treneman has his service number:

New Year, New Gove. It seems that over the Christmas break Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has been busy turning himself into a military man or, in his case, meerkat.

Field Marshal Gove, of course, is currently re-fighting World War I:

He condemned the widely held view that the prosecution of the war was “a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite” as the misrepresentation and myth-making of “dramas such as Oh! What a Lovely WarThe Monocled Mutineer and Blackadder” and “left-wing academics” such as Sir Richard Evans, regius professor of history at Cambridge. In fact, he denounced Sir Richard’s views as “more reflective of the attitude of an undergraduate cynic playing to the gallery in a Cambridge Footlights revue rather than a sober academic contributing to a proper historical debate”. A dismissive comparison indeed coming from a man who thinksBlackadder is a drama.

Evans himself, Tony Robinson and shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt all returned fire and even Margaret Macmillan, a historian praised by Gove, responded coolly saying: “You take your fans where you get them, I guess… but he is mistaking myths for rival interpretations of history.” Meanwhile, a fellow Tory member of the government said that “Michael should get back in his box”.

“Michael should get back in his box”

Ouch! And double ouch! What interpretation could possibly be lurking there? Here’s an unboxed clue:



Nothing to do with the snout, but the “study of diseases”. In this case a verbal dysentery, “an inflammatory disorder of the mouth”.

When Gove shouted “Rule Britannia,”
When he’d sung “God save the Queen,”
When he’d finished killing Evans with his mouth,

Mark Wallace at the ConHome cheer-leader squad donned the brass-hat and the red tabs, and contracted Gove’s ailment.  His piece is thin as gossamer, but the rhetoric is instructive: “invade new territory”, “stronghold is collapsing”. ” new campaign”, “dodgy generalship”, “core territory”, “solid supply lines”, “drive his divisions”, “own fortress”, “sallying forth”, “super weapons”, etc., etc.

Don’t you just feel the military metaphors are a trifle overdone? It’s party — even partisan — politicking, for heaven’s sake! Not the drums of total war, June 1941 and Fall Barbarossa.

Surely we should always be suspicious of such strained, purplest prose: it generally disguises threadbare argument. It may encourage the troops (which, apart from providing a jam-pot for the Kippers to buzz around in, is what ConHome is about), but we deserve something better, more solid than either Wallace or Gove, in their separate ways, provide.

Praise the lord and pass the ammunition

That was the thought that came to mind, reading Wallace.

It seemed a trifle Kiplingesque. But, no, it is as recent as 1942, and comes from Frank Loesser:

Down went the gunner, a bullet was his fate,
Down went the gunner, and then the gunner’s mate.
Up jumped the sky pilot, gave the boys a look,
And manned the gun himself as he laid aside the Book,

Shouting …

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
And we’ll all stay free!

Praise the Lord and swing into position!
Can’t afford to be a politician!
Praise the Lord, we’re all between perdition
And the deep blue sea.

So, two lessons here:

1. The war-talk is precisely what turns folk off political discourse. It’s unreal. It’s extreme. It’s contrived. It’s hysterical.

If political commentators or practitioners have something of point to say, that should be enough. Henry V before Harfleur, they are not. Today’s PMQs were instructive: Cameron seems to have relapsed into his shrill hectoring mode (his only alternative register to his pseudo-bedside palliatives). Miliband is experimenting with a softer, more measured, more deliberate tone. Nick Robinson, on BBC2 Daily Politics, murmured that the former might cheer the troops in the Tea Room and appeal to the lobby sketch-writers, but the latter could well have wider listener appeal. We shall see.

2. The other lesson is we are still sixteen months out from a General Election.

Under normal conditions — not this artificial fixed-parliament five-year-stretch abomination — we really would be waiting for the electoral starting gun.

Even at the outset, there was general agreement (i.e. everywhere except Nick Clegg’s inner circle) that five years was too long. Even the Commons own political and constitutional reform committee saw that:

Among its main concerns was the proposed length of the Parliament, which experts suggested should be shorter.

The government had justified the length by saying it went “with the grain of some of the founding texts of our unwritten constitution” – the maximum length of a Parliament was curtailed from seven years to five in 1911.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also said it followed the previous government’s precedent and would “give any government of whatever complexion enough time to govern and deliver a programme of change and reform”.

But the committee points out that the expectation of the 1911 changes was that five years would be the maximum – and, in practice, terms were expected to be four years.

Since 1979 four general elections were called after four-year parliaments, while three, in 1992, 1997 and 2010, were called after five years.

Constitution expert Professor Robert Hazell told the committee: “Those parliaments which lasted for five years did so because the government had become unpopular and did not want to hold an earlier election.

Instead there is still 1/3rd of a normal term to go. Parliament ought to have much unfinished business: it doesn’t. It has run out of puff. Lassitude is setting in. Every MP has eyes on May 2015, marking time, sounding off, filling in the voids, fretting on the majority. Among Tories, Item One is the inroads UKIP might make, particularly coming off a high in the Euro-poll.

In that sixteen months there is still ample room for umpteen mood-shifts either way. Writing off any — any — party (as Wallace does with contempt) and its leadership so prematurely is prejudging the case.

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Filed under Ann Treneman, BBC, Britain, broken society, ConHome, David Cameron, democracy, education, Elections, History, Lib Dems, Michael Gove, Nick Clegg, Nick Robinson, politics, Times, Tories., World War 2

Beaker amid the beavers

There surely has to be irony in the Twitter strap line currently on politicshome:



And, because we give added-value at Malcolm Redfellow’s Home Service, there’s the little matter of a Ginger Rodent at a Beaver Trial.

Pick the odd one out

Pick the odd one out

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Filed under Lib Dems, politics, politicshome, Scotland

The Lynnette whinges

Linnet: A small, slim finch, widely distributed, and once very popular as a cage bird because of its melodious song. [RSPB]

One of the benefits-on-the-side of removal to York is MP-swapping the benighted Lynne Featherstone for decent Hugh Bayley.

It doesn’t prevent the Featherstone self-exculpation emails getting through.

Is it for thee the lark ascends and sings?
Joy tunes his voice, joy elevates his wings.
Is it for thee the linnet pours his throat?
Loves of his own and raptures swell the note.
[Pope: Essay on Man]

This morning’s is a gem of the genre. It deserves repetition (and annotation):

The Government motion was defeated last night and so was the opposition amendment [Gosh! What a revelation! Was that also in every morning paper and news broadcast?].

I supported the Government motion because it proposed waiting for the UN weapons inspectors to finish their work and for the United Nations Security Council to consider their findings. [So did the Labour amendment, and she voted against that.]
The motion also proposed ‘that every effort should be made to secure a Security Council Resolution backing military action before any such action is taken’. [Whereas the Labour amendment modestly required “the Security Council must live up to its responsibilities to protect civilians”. And that wasn’t enough for Ms Featherstone?]
Most crucially the motion gave an absolute commitment that ‘Before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place.’  That vote would have happened next week, after the weapons inspectors had reported back. [Again, the Labour amendment merely provided: “the Prime Minister reports further to the House on the achievement of these conditions so that the House can vote on UK participation in such action.”]

Because people have asked my position, let me make it clear that, in that second vote, I would have voted against military action unless it was supported by the UN – and indeed resigned from the front bench if necessary. After the government defeat last night, I don’t believe there will be a second vote – but my position remains the same. [Phew! That let’s the lady off a hook.]
I am an internationalist and the use of chemical weapons is a war crime. We must use the international bodies that uphold international law – or else we have nothing. [Except Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.]
Furthermore, I am not persuaded that the sort of military intervention proposed – that of surgical strikes – would have made things better rather than worse. [Note carefully: she believes in “surgical strikes”, despite repeated proven failings, and concomitant civilian casualties, on previous adventures.]

I very much hope now that the international community will strive to find a diplomatic route with urgent and redoubled efforts. Assad and other such people should not take the vote last night as a green light on atrocities. [Trite, woolly and unconvincing. It would be refreshing to find a LibDem unquestionably in favour of undiplomatic and lethargic effort, and wholly shilling for indiscriminate atrocities.]

Is this a Lynnette composition, or, as so often, is it a boilerplate effort from LibDem and/or ConDem Command?

Now to the broader issue of the LibDem performance.

LibDemVoice calculates:

Last night, thirty-three Lib Dems voted for the government’s motion; 9 voted against; one abstained and 14 did not vote.

Which raises questions about a declared abstention (Paul Burstow, since you didn’t ask) and “Oh, I can’t be arsed” absentees.

The thirty-three hung-ho, let’s go with the neo-Cons, were:

  • Alexander, Danny, Ch Sec Treasury
  • Baker, Norman, PUS, DOT
  • Beith, Sir Alan
  • Brake, Tom, Understrapper, Leader of the Commons
  • Browne, Mr Jeremy, MoS, Home
  • Bruce, Sir Malcolm
  • Cable, Vince: SoS, Business
  • Campbell, Sir Menzies
  • Carmichael, Mr Alistair, Dep Ch Whip
  • Clegg, Mr Nick, Dep PM
  • Davey, Mr Edward, SoS, Energy
  • Featherstone, Lynne, PUS, IntDev
  • Foster, Mr Don, PUS, Comms & Lcl Gvt
  • Gilbert, Stephen
  • Hames, Duncan
  • Heath, Mr David, MoS, Environment
  • Hemming, John
  • Horwood, Martin
  • Hughes, Simon
  • Lamb, Norman, MoS, Health
  • Laws, Mr David, MoS, Educ & Cab Off
  • Leech, Mr John
  • Lloyd, Stephen
  • Moore, Michael, SoS, Scotland
  • Reid, Mr Alan,
  • Russell, Sir Bob,
  • Smith, Sir Robert,
  • Swinson, Jo, PUS, Business
  • Thornton, Mike
  • Thurso, John
  • Webb, Steven, MoS, Work & Pensions
  • Williams, Stephen
  • Wright, Simon.

To put it in context: half (well, it looks like sixteen) of the bombers-and-shooters were pay-roll vote. Some of the others seem to be ambitious greasy-pole-climbers. Add in a couple of garrison-town MPs. All highly-principled, no doubt.

But Liberal? Hardly! Democratic? Not on this occasion.

Now, where else can we look for a linnet?

Well, Yeats, of course, praying for his daughter. Seems peripherally appropriate on the day of Famous Seamus’s death. Also vaguely appropriate to the Featherstone theme (Geddit? Feather!) And can certainly be read out-of-context but relevant to the Great LibDem Betrayal. Above all, though, because Malcolm can never resist a bit of WBY:

In courtesy I’d have her chiefly learned;
Hearts are not had as a gift but hearts are earned
By those that are not entirely beautiful;
Yet many, that have played the fool
For beauty’s very self, has charm made wisc.
And many a poor man that has roved,
Loved and thought himself beloved,
From a glad kindness cannot take his eyes.

May she become a flourishing hidden tree
That all her thoughts may like the linnet be,
And have no business but dispensing round
Their magnanimities of sound,
Nor but in merriment begin a chase,
Nor but in merriment a quarrel.
O may she live like some green laurel
Rooted in one dear perpetual place.

My mind, because the minds that I have loved,
The sort of beauty that I have approved,
Prosper but little, has dried up of late,
Yet knows that to be choked with hate
May well be of all evil chances chief.
If there’s no hatred in a mind
Can never tear the linnet from the leaf.


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Filed under British Left, broken society, Lib Dems, Lynne Featherstone, politics, Quotations, WB Yeats, Wordsworth

Back from the future

Malcolm would have to admit Mark Pack came as close as anyone yet to defining why UKIP causes cringing:

Some of UKIP’s support comes from places the Liberal Democrat should leave well alone — especially those yearning for a 1950s-style society of white men at work, white women at home and gays in the closet.

Why only LibDems, Mark? And why only Some of UKIP’s support?

An agenda for retrogression

Meanwhile, there are the opening four paragraphs of Tim Montgomerie’s piece in this Monday’s Times [£]. These provide as good a check-list of the present Tory malaise as you’ll find; so let’s rip them from behind the pay-wall:

Spend most of your time as Tory leader ignoring the issue that matters most to your activist members: Europe. Launch your bid to be leader by promising to introduce a tax allowance for married couples and then, once you’ve won power, fail to deliver that pledge at four successive Budgets. Tell parents that they can set up any school they want as long as it’s not the one they most want, a grammar school.Stop Gordon Brown holding a honeymoon election in 2007 by promising to abolish inheritance tax but then put it up in office. Spend the general election campaign talking about an issue that no one understands — the Big Society — and don’t talk about immigration, an issue that three-quarters of voters do care about. Subsidise expensive renewable energies at a time when families are struggling to pay their electricity bills.

Form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats even though 80 per cent of your members want you to lead a minority government. Promise not to reorganise the NHS, then reorganise it anyway. Oppose press regulation but then embrace it. Keep pledging to tackle European human rights laws but do nothing when Abu Qatada proves again and again that Britain is run by inventive lawyers rather than democratically-drafted laws.

Insist that you want to reach out to northern and poorer parts of Britain but stuff your Downing Street operation with southern chums who attended the same elite private schools as you. And, just for good measure, insult people who normally vote for your party as clowns, fruitcakes and closet racists.

There are six policy-points there, and counting, that Malcolm, as most decent types (probably including Mark Pack) must find close to abominable; but we’re not Tories, and we’re not seduced by Farage’s forked tongue to bite his rotten apple.

Even so, as Clegg was so emphatic that Europe was his main reason for urging Gordon Brown not to resign, to allow more time to knock sense into the Tories, we might reasonably ask: “How well is that one going, Nick?”

The light of evening, 11th May 2010

No election is a “good one to lose”; but that last one came close.

Any incoming administration was going to have to spatchcock a programme out of nowhere. Alistair Darling had already gone a fair distance in sketching one out. That Gids Osborne, not Darling, was the recipient of the poisoned chalice will tax future historians in finding enough ordure to chuck.

Instead we got Alec Issigonis’ (attrib) horse is a camel designed by a committee. The committee being the now-infamous “quad” of Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, and Alexander. Read that as an interior decorator’s otherwise-unemployable son, an EU apparatchik, a huckster for a Scottish ski-lift, presided over by the:

PR man for Carlton, the world’s worst television company. And a poisonous, slippery individual he was, too.

imagesNo! No! Who was spawned was even more hideous! The ConDem creature came straight out of Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein:

The Monster: For as long as I can remember people have hated me. They looked at my face and my body and they ran away in horror. In my loneliness I decided that if I could not inspire love, which is my deepest hope, I would instead cause fear. I live because this poor half-crazed genius, has given me life. He alone held an image of me as something beautiful and then, when it would have been easy enough to stay out of danger, he used his own body as a guinea pig to give me a calmer brain and a somewhat more sophisticated way of expressing myself.

What could possibly dissuade us from confidently predicting a quick ride to Hell in a handcart? Who could doubt there was something even more horrible and unprincipled waiting in the wings, stage right?

And then all our fears were doubly underlined: it was going to be gothic Dickensian as well:

Oh yes, this is looking distinctly due for disaster.

Let’s change the literary media and revert to Young Frankenstein for Gids Frankenstein’s economic experiment on the British body politic:

[after failing to bring the creature to life] Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Nothing.
Inga: Oh, Doctor, I’m sorry.
Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: No. No. Be of good cheer. If science teaches us anything, it teaches us to accept our failures, as well as our successes, with quiet dignity and grace. [starts beating up the creature] Son of a bitch! Bastard! I’ll get you for this! What did you do to me? What did you do to me?

Laugh and the world laughs with you

At least one is allowed to laugh at, and with Mel Brooks. The imperial and imperious Cameroonie ukase has gone out that UKIP are no longer “clowns”. Well, respectable thesps do tend to look down on lesser theatrical species.

And that is a shame.

For, if there is anything more ludicrous than the pantomime camel that rules us, it is the troupe of performing Kippers.

What other “party” has been so prone to splits and harbouring frauds? How many kipper MEPs have cast themselves adrift, unable to stomach any longer the overweening pump and pomp of Farage?

And, what — may we ask — are kipper policies? The next mile-stones are the EU-elections (in which the kippers expect to do well) and the Scottish referendum (on which they might be expected to have an opinion). Try the Scottish UKIP websites and you find:

Not Found

The requested URL /scotland was not found on this server.

Hielan laddies

UKIP have a “Scottish chairman”. He is one Mike Scott-Hayward, a former Tory councillor … a former army major and ex-coastguard officer. And then we have the amazing political-chameleon,

UKIP’s first Scottish spokesman is Mike Haseler, an energy sector researcher from East Dunbartonshire. He was a Liberal Democrat candidate in Watford in the 1990s and stood for the Greens for the Holyrood elections in 2003.

Haseler has a blog, which explains what a well-rounded specimen he is: a self-proclaimed expert in physics, electronics and some philosophy, studying archaeology, learned Danish to understand the competition, worked in the wind industry (surely, a given for a politico) but is now a climate-change doubter. According to his blog, he joined UKIP as long ago as March, 2013. A “March violet“, indeed. Yet, a person of outstanding merit, to have risen so quickly from aspirant member to “first Scottish spokesman”.

As for “policy”, the aim seems to be to render Scotland into an administered colony:

Although UKIP wants to scrap MSPs, it says it would hold on to the Scottish Parliament, with MPs handling affairs on their doorstep three days a week and UK matters at Westminster the other two.

Presumably, some Tory presence would be required in Edinburgh were there ever to be a Tory government in Westminster. So we can confidently expect the Dáil Éireann solution of a nominated “taoiseach’s eleven” to keep the natives in order.

Slugging it out

Much of this came together in Malcolm’s recent recollection of Julian Critchley.

Critchley was a close buddy of Michael Heseltine, a dandy, a bon-viveur, a man-about-town, possessed of considerable wit, a sharp pen and a waspish tongue. As the Tory MP for Rochester between 1959-64, then retreaded for Aldershot for 1970-1997, that absence cost him promotion in the interim. He was a “country member” of the Westminster club, commuting for whipped votes from Ludlow. He was , by any contemporary standard, wringing”wet”, as the Guardian obituary summed him

a liberal Tory, supporting one-nation social policies, membership of the European Community, and a defence policy based on Nato and a nuclear strategy. He would have been a natural and able young ally for Edward Heath, campaigning for him against the Conservative right, which was increasingly hostile to the Rome Treaty and current levels of public spending.

Everything that the present Tory tendency is not.

His saving grace was as a gad-fly to whom Thatcher never took (and whom he mocked disgracefully — it was he, not as frequently-cited Denis Healey, who stuck on her the moniker, “the Great She-Elephant”). As a result the ministerial team was denied one of the brighter sparks in sight.

Malcolm’s reason for this memory is that Critchley deplored the dumbing-down of the Tory Party, and the arrival of the “garagistes” (we stand correction on that spelling, though we can be sure Critchley would have made it as effete as possible). The “garagistes” were the golf-club nineteenth-holers, the wide boys, the “Essex men” who came to infest the Tory Party under Thatcher.

So, three decades on, and the change of a single initial letter F for g, we are fulfilling his prophecy, with Nigel of the cheesy grin and the ever-ready pint, as the apotheosis of all things garagiste.

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Filed under blogging, Britain, ConHome, Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., David Cameron, Guardian, Lib Dems, Tim Montgomerie, Times, Tories., UKIP

The Times they are a-churning

This could be one of those intrusive Malcolmian asides. Indeed, that was how it started in another post that is cooking.

Let’s keep it as main text.

Malcolm’s morning trip to the doctor’s surgery allowed him to read Andrew Adonis’s account,  Five Days in May, of life in Downing Street, while the Quad were stitching up their ConDem package. This is being serialised in The Times.

Unless one is possessed of Mark Packian  (who will be featured in that other post) partial eyesight, Nick Clegg (along with the endearingly peremptory Captain Ashdown) does not emerge well.

This is part of the entry for 4pm Monday, May 10, 2010:

Gordon confirmed that Labour would definitely offer AV legislation and a referendum.

The issue now was the status of the Lib-Lab talks. They were for real, Clegg responded.

But, GB pressed, would he say that the talks with Labour were on the same basis as with the Tories?

“Well, we don’t want to bounce ourselves,” said Clegg, uneasily.

So they wanted to negotiate a final deal with the Tories while merely listening to representations from Labour.

The decision — at least on Gordon Brown’s part — was confirmed after Tuesday’s 1pm final Brown and Clegg meeting:

Ming Campbell, the most pro-Labour and pro-Gordon of the senior Lib Dems, erased any lingering doubts when Gordon spoke to him on the phone at about 4pm. “I wish it were otherwise,” said Ming, clearly dejected. Gordon called Vince Cable, who said much the same.

“OK,” said Gordon, putting the phone down. “I’ll do the call with Clegg at five. Get everything ready for the Palace immediately afterwards.”

Even in that 5pm phone-call, Clegg is procrastinating:

“I’m really sorry, but I still haven’t taken a decision,” was Nick’s opener. “Genuinely, I mean this. I’m sitting here with Vince and the party meeting now isn’t until 8.30.” […]

“I can’t wait that long, Nick. I can’t wait the whole evening,” Gordon said, urgent, insistent. “The country expects a decision.”

“Just two or three hours then,” said Nick, almost pleading.

And so Clegg bought himself another hour:

6.30 came and went. Still no Clegg call.

At 6.45, Sue put another call through to Tim Snowball in Nick Clegg’s office.

“I’m sorry, he’s in a meeting and I can’t get him out, ” said Tim.

“It’s really got to be now, Tim. It absolutely has to be,” said Sue.

Thirty seconds’ silence then Nick Clegg on the line.

“Gordon, I’ll tell you what’s happening,” Nick began. “Following our conversation this afternoon I’m basically finding out how far I can push the Conservatives on Europe. I genuinely take to heart what you said about that. We need some sanity on Europe. We can’t seek to renegotiate. I’m trying my best …”

“I’ll tell you what’s happening …”, “basically”, “genuinely”, “some sanity”, “I’m trying my best …” It all seems somewhat pathetic. And unconvincing.

Adonis’s account immediately continues:

Gordon interrupted. “I need to resign immediately  Nick. I can’t leave this hanging. I can’t be hanging on to power while we can’t get an answer.”

“But Gordon, this isn’t over yet …”

“Nick, you are continuing negotiations with the Conservatives and you have rejected a deal with us.”

“No, Gordon. Today is Tuesday. We have only just started the talks. We have not rejected you. We are trying to play our role, to find a stable coalition.”

“I have to do the right thing by both the Queen and the country,” Gordon continued.

Nick again said he hadn’t made up his mind. “As you know the working group weren’t able to answer some of our questions …”

“Nick, it’s past that. I have to resign as people don’t understand my clinging on to power.”

“Why? In other democracies trying to do this takes weeks. It’s quite right for us to to do it methodically.” His big concern remained Europe, he added.

What was Clegg’s end-game here? Was it to remain centre-stage for weeks, in some kind of Belgian government stand-off? Or was it part of the Cameron-Osborne choreography, with Brown forced to sneak out of Downing Street in the depths of the night?

Back with Adonis:

“Nick, you’re a good man. But I have to respect the British people. They don’t want me hanging on. I wish you well in the future. I think your decisions are important. I prefer the progressive way forward …”

Nick interrupted, reverting yet again to the negotiations not having gone well, particularly on the economy.

More shaking of heads in the inner office. David Muir [Brown’s SpAd] texted Jonny Oates [Clegg’s Chief of Staff]: “He’s not bluffing.”

Gordon: “Nick, I’ve no choice. I have thought through the implications. I cannot go on for another day. Your are negotiating with another party…’

Nick, dramatically: “Just five minutes. There are two more people I have to speak to. Then let’s speak again. Please.”

A collective groan in the inner office as the line went dead.

We are now in the dénouement:

The No 10 staff were now crowding into the war room, along with Sir Gus O’Donnell and senior Cabinet Office officials.

Five or so minutes later, Nick Clegg again. “Gordon, I cannot give you assurances. That would be acting dishonourably. But please, please don’t resign…”

“I can’t delay. I’ve got to resign now, Nick. I need to go to the Palace.”

“You are holding me hostage. You don’t need to act unilaterally. We have only spent five days holding these important negotiations. I can’t do anything about that …”

“No, Nick. I’ve got to go to the Palace. I’ve got to resign. I haven’t any choice now.”

“It doesn’t need to be like this …”

“It does, Nick, I’ve got to resign. It’s got to be now. I wish you all the best for the future. You’re a good man, Nick. I’ve got to go now.”

We wouldn’t want Nick Clegg to be perceived as acting dishonourably, would we?


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Filed under David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Lib Dems, Nick Clegg, politics, Times, Tories.

A public service announcement!

lib_dem_logoWeek by week the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors rallies the (ever-more-despondent) yellow peril with rousing news of by-election … err … successes.

Curiously not this week.

There may be reasons:

1. Harwich West Ward of Tendring District Council

This what the ALDC reckoned in advance:

We have a good chance of winning this seat. We are fighting this election and we will have many leaflets to go out.  We shall be canvassing and phone canvassing.  If you can help in the by election, then this will be great.  There are four candidates, Lib Dem, Conservative, Labour and Community Reps standing.  This is a two member ward on the edge of Harwich, easy access to the A120 and A12, 25 minutes from Colchester.

And this is what came out:

Labour: 282 (elected)
Tory: 220
Community Representatives Party: 163
LibDem: 143.

2.  Evelyn Ward, Lewisham London Borough Council

Labour: 978 (elected)
Lewisham People before Profit: 404
LibDem: 131
Tory: 119
UKIP: 119

3. Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary. Fenland District Council

Tory: 384 (elected)
LibDem: 240
UKIP: 214
English Democrats: 33

OK, OK … trivial stuff

Undoubtedly so in this world of woe.

And yet, in the shrubberies, something rustles.

The party positions in London deserve some real attention. Last week Labour stuffed everyone in sight with two run-away canters in two Islington wards. In one, St George’s Labour was up 38½%, LibDems down 28%, Tories scraping the barrel, down 6% to a risible 3.7%. Similarly, in Junction ward Labour was up 21½%, LibDems down 25%, where the previous councillor was a lapsed LibDem, — with a fair showing from a Green candidate second placed on 17½%. What makes Islington all the more intriguing is that LibDems controlled the council until 2006 _ and were the largest party until the latest Borough-wide election. LibDems now have just a dozen seats to Labour’s three dozen.

The gilt is definitely off, and the guilt all over the gingerbread. Even the troops are restless: witness Stephen Tall’s J’accuse on LibDemVoice:

Nick Clegg’s illiberal hat-trick: now immigration joins ‘secret courts’ and media regulation on the pyre

Not without reason, across the Borough boundary from Islington, Labour in Hornsey are taking seriously the all-woman shortlist for what looks increasingly like the next MP for the constituency. And Mrs Featherstone is equally frisky — the output of the ever-busy LibDem press-mill continues apace.


Filed under Elections, Lib Dems, London, Lynne Featherstone