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