I took part in this evening’s manifesto webinar with David Laws, and hosted by Helen Duffett. After a few technical problems – which seemed to be about forgetting to switch on the microphone – it got underway with people submitting manifesto ideas via the website.
There will be a recording online in the next few days, apparently, for anyone who missed it.
The whole approach to the 2015 manifesto is fantastic. Anyone, including people who aren’t Lib Dem members, can submit ideas for the manifesto under the two umbrella themes of ‘Stronger Economy’ and ‘Fairer Society’. Members can comment on articles that have been submitted by other members – some of which sit on the manifesto working group. And then there are other events such as the webinar and roadshows.
I think the site needs a little development to use the full potential of the Nationbuilder functionality – but I’m sure that will come.
BBC Presenter, Andrew Marr, said in an interview with Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, on his show this morning
“The Human Rights Act is something the Governmentare now determined to scrap.”
This is utter rubbish and lazy journalism. The Conservatives would like to scrap the Human Rights Act, but the Liberal Democrats are staunchly against this. In fact at the 2011 Autumn Federal Party Conference Nick Clegg said
It couldn’t be clearer – Tories want the HRA gone, Lib Dems want to keep it.
This misrepresentation is something which happens often. The media use the party names, and “government” or “coalition” interchangeably without any thought about which is the proper use – and these are not synonyms!
The parties are still separate and entitled to their own policies. These policies are not Coalition Government policies, but set out what the parties would do if they had a majority.
There is no excuse for journalists making this mistake now. The Coalition has been in operation for well over three years – they know how it works. Get it right – make it accurate!
I caught this interview with Grant Shapps on The Daily Politics the other day. I can’t decide whether he was dodging answering Andrew Neil’s speculative question on joint Conservative and UKIP candidates or he just simply doesn’t know it’s possible. It doesn’t seem likely that he wouldn’t know that joint candidates are permitted because The Labour Party and the Co-operative Party have been standing joint candidates for a lifetime. There are currently 42 Labour Co-operative candidates, including Ed Miliband. Also the Government in which Shapps serves has change the electoral law to allow joint candidates to have a logo on the ballot paper. Previously joint candidates weren’t permitted logos.
It poses an interesting hypothetical question though. From where would joint Conservative/UKIP MPs take the whip. It’s not a problem that applies to Labour Co-operative MPs because the Co-operative Party doesn’t field any candidates who aren’t aligned with Labour. Theoretically there could be UKIP MPs who aren’t endorsed by the Conservatives as well as joint MPs. In which case, would they take the whip from UKIP or the Conservatives?
Luckily it’s not a problem that would ever apply to a Lib Dem, because Liberal Democrats aren’t allowed to be members of any other UK political party. Could it however, be a problem for the right-wing of UK politics? We’ll just have to wait and see if UKIP manage to get anyone elected.
Lord Andrew Adonis has been at the Cheltenham Literature Festival touting his new book 5 Days in May: The Coalition and Beyond. Speaking at the event, he commented on Nick Clegg and the coalition. Normally this kind of thing wouldn’t interest me – it’s to be entirely expected that a senior member of the Labour party would take every opportunity to Coalition-bash – but it’s different because Adonis was at the heart of the Labour coalition negotiations. For me, it just shows how a Lib-Lab government would have never worked.
The Express reported that Lord Adonis said:
“It would have been an interesting question if Clegg had said during those coalition negotiations when he was in a position of maximum strength because the government could not have been formed without him… if he had said ‘I want to be Foreign Secretary and there will be no government unless I am’.
“It would have been an interesting test because Clegg would have wanted something that was really difficult for Cameron to give.”
Coalitions are about co-operation; coming together temporarily to achieve something that the individual parties couldn’t do by themselves. If the starting point for that is testing each other beyond the limits that are acceptable to each other it would be a coalition that is doomed to failure.
Aside from the electoral arithmetic, the attitude of Adonis shows why the Lib Dems couldn’t have done business with the 2010 Labour team.
Adonis’ comments did lead me to think what might have been – what my fantasy coalition cabinet might have looked like. I still think it was the right thing for Clegg to become Deputy Prime Minister. It’s a level of seniority which helps the public understand there are two political parties with within a government. It also allows Nick to have an umbrella view of what is going on within all departments, not just the one he might have been secretary of state for. It’s the thing that allows him to be effective in The Quad.
If, however, I was forced to give Nick Clegg a ministry it would have been the Home Office. Just think how different things might have been with a Lib Dem there instead of Theresa May. No “Go Home” vans! No attempts to do away with the Human Rights Act or threat of withdrawal from the European Court/Convention of Human Rights! No vile rhetoric on asylum seekers – as though they are criminals! No mis-use of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act! Better controls over UK-USA extradition arrangements. Evidence-based decisions on drug-classification. And a Home Secretary who generates more press coverage for their stance on civil liberties than on the design of her shoes.
Lib Dems have always sought to promote and protect human rights and civil liberties – so Home Affairs would have been the ideal place for Clegg. Who knows? Maybe one day there’ll be Lib Dem heading-up that department. But for now, I’m very happy having a Liberal Deputy PM, leading our party in a government which is far more stable than a 2010 Lib-Lab pact would have given us.
Whilst watching George Osborne’s speech at the Conservative Conference today I’ve observed a number of things:
He’s getting better at giving big set-piece speeches.
He’s still showing little or no personality – assuming he has some.
He should keep away from comedic lines until he learns how to time them (but that goes for many politicians including Danny Alexander).
Whilst remaining rigidly set in his economic plan he remains incredibly flexible with the truth.
Let’s check his little lies.
The Liberal Democrats at their Conference were jostling for position. I have to tell you today, that Nick Clegg has informed us of his intention to form a new coalition. For the first time, he’s intending to create a full working relationship with Vince Cable. Mind you, at their conference Vince Cable did do something that was undeniably Tory. If I’d been there, I wouldn’t have turned up to the Lib Dem economic debate either. But at least they had an economic debate.
Well here Georgy Porgy is a couple of weeks out of date. There was speculation that Vince Cable wouldn’t show up for the economic debate beforehand. On the day, however, he was there. I’m sure his slightly late arrival to the debate was fully intended so that the media would record him walking in and see the unity. If you want to check it, George, stick it in a search engine.
The Liberal Democrats like to point out that during the election David Cameron said he’d love to increase the tax allowance, but warned it’s not easy to afford. You know what? He did say that. And he was right. The difficult thing is not increasing the tax-free allowance. The difficult thing is paying for it. But we’ve done it.
Wrong again Georgy Porgy! David Cameron did not warn “it’s not easy to afford”. He said “I would love to take everyone out of their first £10,000 of income tax, Nick. It’s a beautiful idea; it’s a lovely idea. We just can’t afford it!“ If you want to check it, George, you can still find the Leaders’ Debates on YouTube.
I sit at that Cabinet table and I know who has really put forward the policies that are delivering a fairer society. The pupil premium to support the most disadvantaged children: that was Michael Gove’s idea, front and centre of the last Conservative manifesto.
Wrong again Georgy Porgy! The pupil premium was on the front cover of the Lib Dem manifesto as one of our first four priorities for Government. You could call that ‘front and centre’ perhaps. The first place it was mentioned in the Conservative manifesto, albeit very briefly (That is why we will introduce a pupil premium – extra funding for children from disadvantaged backgrounds), was on page 53. I would hardly say that was ‘front and centre’, George.
I’ve no problem with him claiming to have achieved things that the Conservatives wanted, or even claiming to have delivered things that were in both Lib Dem and Tory manifestos – like international aid – but let’s do it in an honest way. So no more porky-pies, eh, George.
I took the long journey to and from Glasgow this past week to attend the Autumn Federal Conference. It was fantastic, and I left feeling particularly motivated. There was a great mix of policies to debate and many excellent fringe events.
The things that make the news are often only the Party Leader’s speech and any comments from MPs at fringe events that journalists think they can twist into a story. So I wanted to choose a couple of stand-out speeches that show why I found conference this year so good.
Tim Farron’s speech on the opening day
Tim’s speech was his trademark combination of humour and intense zeal. He spoke on a variety of things including party membership, the Better Together campaign towards the Scottish independence referendum, and a clear view that we should be unashamedly pro-European in the lead-up to next year’s European elections – an opinion I have shared for some time now. It was music to my ears.
Charles Kennedy’s speech on F35 Prosperous, Sustainable and Secure (Europe Policy Paper)
Usually standing ovations are reserved for the speeches of ministers. It’s not often that a short speech on a policy motion is welcomed in such a way. It shows how great Charles Kennedy is and how much respect party members still have for him.
He started off in a relatively relaxed way, moved into some political history which explained his viewpoint, and ended up with a rousing, passionate and fiery expression of why Europe is so important to Britain and to Liberal Democrats. If that doesn’t get you out delivering Focus leaflets, knocking on doors, and persuading the public on Europe then nothing will.
The EU has proposed plans to cap bankers' bonuses at a level the same as one year's basic pay. Many people have waded in with opinions as to whether this is under the EU's jurisdiction. I am less concerned over who has the right to make this decision than I am about whether it's the right thing to do.
Who, reading this post, has a bonus larger than 100% of their basic salary? Very few people, I would imagine. The bonus scheme attached to my job means I get a maximum of 10% (about 4 weeks' salary after tax). For most working people this would be enough to motivate them to try a bit harder, to work that bit more, to deliver better results - why is this any different for bankers?
The danger of high, personal, performance-related bonuses is the behaviour it drives. If I were a salesperson, who sold double the number of products to a colleague, I would rightly expect to earn more. But how much is fair? More than doubling my salary might tempt me to take some risks - to mis-sell the products, to falsely increase the retail price or decrease the wholesale price thus driving margin, or to take my colleagues' clients so that I make the sale.
We have seen the kind of risks that people in the banking world have been prepared to take in order to make money and earn bonuses. The sub-prime markets and libor fixing are just two recent examples. So banks should stop giving out bonkers bonuses, to improve the behaviour of bankers. Let's not give diamond bonuses to guys like Bob Diamond, why not simply give them a few bob?
We should have learned by now that monetarily motivating people to behave in a certain way can have unintended consequences. Quite frankly, I applaud the EU for proposing something. Whether they have the right to do so is a different question. There is the opening gambit, it's over to individual governments to respond.
UKIP leader, Nigel Farage is always taking a pop at the EU over something – mostly pointless, or slightly misinformed.
Here’s some video footage from the Youtube channel of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe which shows Farage being bashed for taking an EU salary, paid for by our taxes, and doing absolutely nothing in return. The second clip shows Chris Davies rightfully having a go at Farage over employing his own wife to do his accounts and yet they are not up to date.
Just a few days ago Ed Milliband gave a vacuous speech on immigration to the Institute of Public Policy Research.
People worry about the changing nature of British culture, but it occurs to me that one element of Britishness has always been acceptance and welcoming of others. Of course there have been times throughout history when tensions existed, but on the whole, people of Britain have supported and understood immigration and the advantages it brings.
What strikes me about Milliband’s speech as that it neither arrives at a conclusion nor poses the questions that will form the debate he speaks of. Like so much of the talk from the post New Labour era they seem to want so much to be different, but don’t know what they want or how they’ll get there. I’ve never known a political group to be so anti-everything and pro-nothing. Is Milliband (and Labour) simply jumping on the band waggon of anti-immigration?
At about the same time as I heard Ed Milliband’s speech on immigration this week, I also finished reading A Brief History of The Anglo-Saxons, by Geoffrey Hindley. The book reminded me that we have always been a mongrel nation.The Anglo-Saxons were the most advanced western society of the time, and it was because of the influx of people from proceeding Celts, Picts and Romans, then the migrating Germanic tribes and Vikings – and the acculturation that happened after each.
Even after the Anglo-Saxons the Normans came along and completely changed our language. They invited in Jews to develop English finance and commerce – if this hadn’t happened would the city of London be the financial powerhouse it is today? Being invaded by others may have led to some consternation among the ruling elite of the time, but meant very little to ordinary people. As the invaders settled we absorbed their culture, adapted and normalised: mostly harmonious relationships.
A liberal immigration policy is completely egalitarian, and so it is surprising that a party with a socialist background says it’s previous open-door policy was wrong. It seems there is little difference between the conservative-socialism approach of Milliband and the compassionate-conservatism approach of Cameron.
I am incredibly lucky to have been born in Britain, and it’s only luck that I was. It’s not the fault of people who aspire to the kind of lifestyle Britain can offer that they were born elsewhere. Anyone who is socialist or liberal by conviction, should understand this.
In these tough economic times it will test our politicians whether to live by their values or switch to the path of least resistance – but now is not the time for bandwaggoning. It is widely acknowledged that we must build stronger and better trading partnerships with the BRIC countries (Brazil, India, China). How can we do that if we restrict their citizens from living here?
I wholeheartedly welcome the debate on immigration, but I wish politicians would be honest about their views on it. I believe there’s a lot of them right now who are simply reflecting what they think the country wants to hear.