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Liberal Democrats GLA list announcement

By Tom Papworth
December 14th, 2010 at 3:28 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Liberal Vision can today announce the Liberal Democrats London List for the GLA elections in 2012. The list, in order, are:

1. Caroline Pidgeon
2. Stephen Knight
3. Bridget Fox
4. Shas Sheehan
5. Jeremy Ambache
6. Merlene Emerson
7. Emily Davey
8. Steve Bradley
9. Marisha Ray
10. Nick Russell
11. Ajmal Mansoor

Congratulations to all the candidates, especially to Caroline Pidgeon, who deservedly tops the list after a stella rise from new Assembly Member in 2008 to becoming leader of the GLA Lib Dems.

First item of business: sell this; move to cheaper office space; rebate the difference to Council Tax payers.

First item of business: sell this; move to cheaper office space; rebate the difference to Council Tax payers.

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President Tim rebukes the Miliband Tendency

By Andy Mayer
December 13th, 2010 at 11:00 pm | 9 Comments | Posted in Labour, Liberal Democrats, Policy

When writing about the rise of Tim Farron last month, we made the following prediction:

“He will become one of Ed Miliband’s sternest critics whilst agreeing with almost everything he says.”

So we are pleased to see Tim’s reaction to Miliband’s latest attempt to split the party as follows:

‘Labour spent years “sucking up to Rupert Murdoch and George Bush – why would any progressive even give them a second glance?”‘

Meanwhile as if to answer Tim’s question, Richard Grayson, a self-appointed victim of the party’s desire to practice pluralism, is not so much coquettishly glancing, as giving the Labour party a throaty snog under the Mistletoe by joining Liam Byrne in a co-operative policy review.

This is a mistake for both parties.

For Labour it makes it less not more likely that they will get useful input from serious Liberal Democrats. Grayson is something of a monomaniac on the social justice agenda, finds compromise hard, and his solutions gravitate towards the impractical. Others on the social liberal left who might like to work with Labour from time to time through the usual route of think tanks will not necessarily warm to Grayson as their champion or his official channel as as a filter.

Meanwhile much of the ‘Orange Book’ agenda, reaching socially liberal outcomes through market mechanisms, is straight out of the New Labour playbook. The Miliband Tendency might well remember New Labour as the people who won elections, and still have sizable support in the Party. Elevating Grayson may well encourage more Labour moderates like Alan Milburn and Frank Field to work with the Coalition.

For Grayson it will marginalise him in both organisations. Few warm to overt treachery, and there is a world of difference between constructive criticism on serious points of policy disagreement, and openly seeking to undermine your Leader. For those who might agree with Grayson often on policy, like President Tim, it puts them in the disagreeable position of disowning him or looking disloyal.

Within Labour tribal loyalty has an even higher value, defectors and collaborators may be welcomed in public, but are often derided in private. The ‘for-us’ or ‘against-us’ mentality finds it hard to work with others, other than in the Machiavellian sense of using them as means to ends. Labour’s interest in Grayson is purely in the electoral calculus of how much damage he can do the Liberal Democrats, not his ideas.

Grayson in June described the Liberal Democrats as “unideological, under-factionalised and leadership-loyal”. Forming an ideological faction of one to disprove the latter is not his finest moment.

A fresh breeze from Belize

By Andy Mayer
December 12th, 2010 at 2:12 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats, polls

Lord Ashcroft, the former Conservative Party Treasurer responsible for funding target seat campaigns, many against Liberal Democrats, is not an entirely popular figure in this parish. Indeed the media spin on his latest report

 “Lib Dems ‘to lose half their support at the next General Election'” – Telegraph

“The LibDems may cease to be” – Iain Dale

… is unlikely to increase the number of air mail Christmas Cards winging their way to Belize.

However the research he has commissioned is important and there are much useful analysis within it that Liberal Democrats should not ignore.  I note particularly the conclusion of the Summary which states

“Pandering to the party’s oppositionist tendency may win back a few of the voters who don’t like what has happened since May – but at the expense of many more who think the Liberal Democrats are finally getting somewhere.”

Or put another way

“Those who voted Liberal Democrat mainly as a protest against the two main parties, or to stop another party from winning, were consistently more negative about the Lib Dems and their performance in government than those who had voted for a positive reason”

It may be obvious, but if your goal is to govern, you cannot build a sustainable coalition around factions more geared to permanent opposition.

The report also quantifies where disgruntled support is likely to go

“54% of those who voted Lib Dem in 2010 said they were likely to do so again in 2015. 22% expected to vote Labour, 5% Conservative and 8% for another party.”

And highlights the mixed blessing that many (43%) still vote Liberal Democrat mostly because of local issues and candidates, with a hope for a Liberal Democrat government next (21%), and tactical voting a much smaller consideration.

I say mixed as on the upside it means the currently negative national narrative will not be as impactful on individual results as the polls would suggest. But on the downside still implies the party has much to do to build up a core vote who are both instinctive liberals and identify those instincts with the Liberal Democrats.

The rest of the 32-page report is packed with many more useful quotes and numbers that a worth reading directly.

But it will be interesting to see whether the party’s strategists take this data as a sign they need to reach out again to the one in five former and more left-wing supporters who’d rather now vote Labour, or look for new support where a more left-leaning Labour party will alienate. Our preference, given the centre-ground is where elections are won and has more voters, particularly genuinely liberal voters, would be the latter.

What would lack credibility though is if Clegg reaches out one way whilst Farron and local candidates the other. And that remains the central message of this report. Nick Clegg needs to be the first Liberal Democrat Leader since Ashdown to set a direction and stick to it. Going both ways at once is like doing the splits in trousers. Whatever is in the middle ends up looking rather exposed to the political elements. And the breeze from Belize may not always be so tropical.

The Guardian’s tenuous revolt narrative

By Andy Mayer
December 12th, 2010 at 1:58 am | Comments Off on The Guardian’s tenuous revolt narrative | Posted in Liberal Democrats, Spin

We can reasonably assume the left-leaning Guardian newspaper would prefer a Lab-Lib to Con-Lib government, and that the number of Liberal Democrats who would agree with that proposition has increased after the tuition fees vote. This headline today though is a little naughty.

Liberal Democrat grassroots hit back over tuition fees

Richard Grayson, former director of policy, says Liberal Democrats should move closer to Ed Miliband and Labour

The conflation of one pundit’s views as representative of the entire party ‘grassroots’, is somewhat misleading.

But also compare and contrast with Richard Grayson’s views in the Guardian in May. Prior to the Coalition deal, on tuition fees or anything else.

Lab and Lib: a dream team

Progressives will never forgive Labour and the Lib Dems if they flunk this historic chance to form an alliance

Hard to see how the Guardian can describe such a continuity of hostility to working with Conservatives as “remarkable words” or as “laying bare”, “the depth of anger among the Liberal Democrat grassroots over tuition fees”.

What Grayson has actually said in his “astonishing article” is even more mundane.

Liberal Democrats should engage with like-minded members of Labour

Less fanning the flames of revolution, than proposing tea in the common room.

I suspect then Nick Clegg will survive this entirely unsurprising attack.

What the public thought of the tuition fees debate

By Tom Papworth
December 10th, 2010 at 5:19 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

A bit of a lazy post for last-thing on a Friday.

The following are the emailed and tweeted comments highlighted by the BBC yesterday during their online coverage of the debate and protest.

I think they provide an interesting demonstration of the breadth of opinion, which is all-too-often portrayed (mainly by the anti-reform camp) as though it is a one-sided debate, with most of public opinion leaning against reforms that are being foisted on an angry nation by an isolated and unrepresentative government.

One caveat needs to be stated up front: the BBC will have chosen these views explicitly to give voice to the broad range of opinions, so nothing below indicates the proportions holding each view (though it is noticable how many do support the government’s position). Even so, the range – and some of the specifics – are very enlightening.

(Note that the numbers indicate the time at which it was posted, and some are clearly responses to earlier tweets).

  1. 1102: @jonathand tweets: “Good luck to those of you attending the protests today. Keep your fingers crossed!”
  2. 1106: Political blogger @dizzy_thinks tweets: “Why do the lecturers who believe in “free education” not forgo their salary and work for nothing?”
  3. 1113: Will Straw writes in Left Foot Forward: “The tuition fees rise will leave students of all backgrounds worse off.”
  4. 1110: Jaclyn Horrod in Keynsham writes: “I am paying for a course I want to study. That’s fair and right. If I end up making money from my chosen career as a mature student, then that’s absolutely fine. Frankly there is no universal right to higher education and the cost of the taxpayer funding the thing is outdated and frankly selfish.”
  5. 1121: Labour activist @BenMosley tweets: “Good luck to all the students and lecturers lobbying their MPs today. LibDem MPs should listen to the people and vote no.”
  6. 1117: Charlotte Hurrell in Lincoln writes: “While we understand that changes do need to be made to help the country’s crisis, this is not the way to do it. The phrase ‘mourning the death of education’ has been passed around and it certainly is true. This is not only the death of education, it is the death of our nation’s professional future.”
  7. 1136: Michael White, writing in the Guardian’s politics blog asks: “If an MP such as Tim Farron thinks the fees policy is progressive, should he vote against just because he once signed a pledge promising to do so?”
  8. 1128: Henk de Vries in Hull writes: “The proposals are not unreasonable. If this gets blocked by the Liberal Democrats it may provoke a general election, where Liberal Democrats will lose seats in favour of the Conservatives. The ultimate outcome of tuition fees after that is likely to be worse.”
  9. 1139: @postdocal tweets: “Going to be an interesting day at demo2010. Police horses warming up and getting riot visors in front of palace. Helicopters buzz above.”
  10. 1155: Jim writes: “Time to tax all the ‘old school’ graduates who had free education. Tax them £9000 per year for three years as well so everybody feels the same pain. That is fair.”
  11. 1201: @hesspartacus tweets: “Dear Government. You owe me nothing. I owe you nothing. Deal? Thought not.”
  12. 1207: Iain in London writes: “I’m a graduate on the current system and although there are things wrong with it, at least I’m paying it off and should be rid of it in five to 10 years. With these new plans most people will not get anywhere near paying off the full amount and this will end up like a permanant tax on graduates.”
  13. 1213: James in London writes: “Increasing numbers of students result in increased costs which the government is unable to pay. The money needs to come from somewhere. Asking those who benefit most as a result of further education is the fairest method of so doing. As such I support the fee increase since it is an investment from which the recipient benefits for the rest of their life.”
  14. 1212: @drbams tweets: “MPs – You can’t represent everything by a pound sign and nothing else. Cuts and higher fees are the thin end of the wedge.”
  15. 1231: Damian Thompson, for the Telegraph’s politics blog writes: “The Lib Dems are on the verge of Weimar-style implosion today. It couldn’t happen to a nicer party.”
  16. 1236: Josephine Hyde-Hartley in Bacup writes: “Education, like information, should and could be free from cradle to the grave in a truly progressive democracy like the UK. Like health care, education is a public good.”
  17. 1246: @Mandrew_IOM tweets: “Now is the time for MPs to decide if they want to lose their jobs in four years, or hold on to their dignity.”
  18. 1320: Brian in London writes: “It simply isn’t fair that binmen and postmen pay for students to study media studies through their taxes. It is surely fair for those students to pay, when their salary allows it in the future, for their own education.”
  19. 1341: Tiffany Smith in London writes: “As a PhD student and visiting university lecturer, I urge MPs to vote against proposals today for the future funding of Higher Education, in particular the withdrawal of public funding for the teaching of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. I am deeply concerned both by the rapidity with which decisions are being made and the ill-considered assumptions that underlie the proposals.”
  20. 1346: Robbie Scourou tweets: “@bbc_haveyoursay Vince Cable making a lot of sense, pity more students aren’t watching this… “
  21. 1352: Benjamin Bogdanovic tweets: “@BBC_HaveYourSay 200+ PCs on Horse Guards Avenue ready to intercept any marchers coming from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall.”
  22. 1407: JW in Thame writes: “I have two reasons why the bill should be passed. Firstly, as a taxpayer, I don’t want to pay for others to study for a degree when, secondly, there are many apprenticeship schemes, colleges and training programmes that provide similar, if not better, career training.”
  23. 1420: John, in Dundee, writes: “As a student I completely support the fee rise in England and if it should come, Scotland. The UK has spent too long spending money on luxuries it can’t afford and it’s only fair that students should give something back to the fantastic service many universities provide!”
  24. 1439: Ollie Micklem from Chelmsford tweets: “@BBC_HaveYourSay the offering of courses such as harry potter studies don’t deserve to be funded by taxpayer so the gov is right in the cuts”
  25. 1449: OE, London, texts: “As a medical student, the prospect of paying £40k to become a doctor would have probably led to me becoming a lawyer or banker. Talking to my friends, I am not alone in this.”
  26. 1454: Atina Shirvanian from Liverpool tweets: “@bbc_haveyoursay as a history student in Liverpool my department has already faced cuts. Anymore cuts and it will face closure”
  27. 1459: Lisa in Liverpool writes: “I am for the fee rise, as it will encourage students to spend their time at university in a more productive manner. The increase in fees will increase attendance at university and increase the quality of degrees. What does worry me, however, is that with such a lengthy payback time and by allowing an interest rate to be imposed many students will be burdened with these repayments for life.”
  28. 1506: Paul Calzoni Weiss tweets: “@BBC_HaveYourSay I’m an American, I like the UK system because it is accessible to all. This measure will make the system American, not good.”
  29. 1511: Sean Byrne in Lanark, Scotland, writes: “I’m amazed that people think tuition fees are a good thing. The money spent by the government on the fees should be thought of as an investment the country as a whole benefits from. The graduates are our future managers and leaders and so generate the taxes through their hard work!”
  30. 1517: Amy Martin-Madeley in Cleveland, Ohio, US writes: “In a way I can understand the anger and resentment behind the protests, but having just graduated from a university in the US I cannot really sympathise with what in my view are still pretty cheap fees at £9,000 a year.”
  31. 1556: E Davis in Littlestone, Kent writes: “Shouldn’t all these protesting students be sitting at their desks learning, instead of making a nuisance of themselves and costing the taxpayer big money to pay for police overtime?”
  32. 1600: JC in Birmingham writes: “In response to Willam Hague’s insistence that students with lower paid jobs will be better off – we students do not want to graduate with extortionate debts of an estimated £40,000 only to be better off earning less. Surely this defeats the point of going to university at all?”
  33. 1613: Nick Jackson tweets: “@BBC_HaveYourSay To Mr Davis: Shouldn’t those office workers sat at their desks be protesting instead of sitting watching the UK fall apart?”
  34. 1624: Tom Waters in Cheltenham writes: “I’m a student, and I’m fully in favour of the increase in fees. The fact of the matter is that having a degree nets you an average of £100,000 in increased income across the course of your life. It’s fair that people pay for that privilege.”
  35. 1637: James Carlton tweets: “@bbc_haveyoursay The students protesting really just do not understand, or do not want to understand the actual policy. An excuse to fight.”
  36. 1659: Simon Reed in Nottingham writes: “I wonder how many of those who received free university education and now say that it’s fair to increase fees will be donating 9% of their wages until contributions reach £27,000 to help reduce the deficit.”
  37. 1715: Chris Differ in Glasgow writes: “The Lib Dems are going against a promise they made in the run-up to this year’s general election. If the government goes back on their promise shouldn’t we all be on the streets demonstrating?”
  38. 1723: David Chatterton in Winchester writes: “On the subject of student fees, I have yet to see reference to the situation should a graduate decide to join the ‘brain drain’. If student loans are collected via income tax, how does the government intend to recover the amount if the student emigrates? Surely the current situation provides an added incentive to do so.”