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Is it worth putting a tenner on @NormanLamb to win?

By Angela Harbutt
July 2nd, 2015 at 1:55 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in Leadership, Liberal Democrats

With the Lib Dem leadership contest into the last couple of weeks, and with ballot papers now sitting with the Lib Dem voters, how are the two candidates shaping up?

Rather than look at the candidates websites, their promises and “liberal vision” (yes they both have one), now seems a good time to see who is endorsing them. Having big grand ideas is all well and good – but what also counts in a leadership race is the respect that colleagues have for prospective leaders. Those working alongside Norman and Tim will have a much better working knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses than the average voter can ever hope to determine by a search of their websites or tv clips of the odd hustings.

Besides, (being totally honest) I am just darned curious to see how it is stacking up.

Getting the comprehensive list was not easy. Norman’s and Tim’s websites do a pretty good job of listing their supporters – but both list their supporters in a bit of a randomised way. And Wiki, whilst pretty good, seems to have a few missed off the list.

Having completed the task as best I could, I thought I would share, in case (a) anyone else is interested and (b) anyone can correct any of the entries.

FORMER MPs declaring for either Norman or Tim.  

Former MPs = recent MPs (those who stood in 2015)

Norman Lamb Tim Farron
Ming Campbell Simon Hughes
Ed Davey Alan Beith
Stephen Williams Duncan Hames
Don Foster John Leech
Norman Baker Greg Mulholland
Tom Brake John Pugh
Paul Burstow Sarah Teather
Bob Russell Mark Williams
David Laws Jo Swinson
Simon Wright
Stephen Gilbert
David Heath
John Hemming
Michael Moore
Nick Harvey
Julian Huppert
Tessa Munt
Mark Hunter
Jenny Willott
Mike Thornton
Lynne Featherstone


Interesting to note that Norman’s list is substantially longer, though Tim has three of the six current MPs. Norman has one. Nick Clegg and Alistair Carmichael appear not to have declared for either.

There is also a long list of notable ex-MPs (including Danny Alexander, Vince Cable,and Jeremy Browne) who appear to have not indicated a preference either way.

Sandra Gidley and Julia Goldsworthy (MPs from further back) have also declared for Norman.


Norman Lamb Tim Farron
Paddy Ashdown David Steel
Shirley Williams Meral Hussein-Ece
Tim Razzell Diana Maddock
Kate Parminter Brian Paddick
Judith Jolly Ros Scott
Joan Walmsley Floella Benjamin
Liz Barker Alexander Charles Carlile
Lindsay Northover Brian Cotter
Dee Doocey Kenneth Macdonald
Alison Suttie Monroe Palmer
Paul Sciven James Palumbo
Sue Garden Paul Strasburger
Jane Bonham Carter Matthew Taylor
Kishwer Falkner
Susan Kramer
Dominic Addington
Sally Hamwee
Olly Grender
Phil Willis
Paul Tyler


Once again it is Norman that scoops up not only more of the Lords, but a much more impressive list. Having Shirley Williams and Paddy Ashdown on your side must be pretty useful! So useful in fact that I wondered at first why Norman does not seem to have featured Paddy in any of his literature.

The answer seems to be that ballot papers (with the latest literature from both candidates) went out on 24th June. It appears that Paddy Ashdown only declared his support for Norman (via twitter to his 19,000 followers) on that day (24th June).

paddy tweet

If this is the case, Norman must be spitting feathers that he could not get that all-important endorsement into the leaflet accompanying the ballot paper. Will that have cost Norman the leadership?

There are some other notable names on the list declaring for one or other candidate. Sarah Ludford, Andrew Duff (ex MEPs) support Norman. Fiona Hall (ex MEP) and Catherine Bearder (Lib Dems only current MEP) break for Tim. Also worthy of note is Willie Rennie (Leader of the Scottish Lib Dems) declaration for Tim.


dappy N-DubzFrank BrunoThe prize for best supporter(s) has to go to Norman however. No. Not Shirley or Paddy. Norman has captured some heavy weight support from outside of politics. Frank Bruno has clearly been knocked out by Norman’s work on mental health and N-Dubz star “Dappy” has taken to twitter to show his support for Norman too. With some 875,000 followers on twitter, Dappy’s support has got go someway to getting the vote out (assuming at least some of his followers are Lib Dems of course !). If nothing else it shows that Norman has the ability to excite people from outside of politics to get involved- no bad thing for a party that is going to struggle to get its voice heard on traditional news media in the coming years.

The bookies odds have Tim Farron as the clear favourite to become the next leader of the Lib Dems. But as we have seen in previous Lib Dem leadership elections, the betting market is pretty illiquid. It doesn’t take much cash to skew the odds in favour of one or other candidate, intentionally or not, out of all recognition. And it is worth noting that traditionally the activists have always made more noise during leadership elections – putting their poster boy into the lead on the betting markets – but it is the centrist candidate that the wider membership end up voting for.

Of course, this election may be different. The “Lib Dem membership surge” in recent weeks, may be comprised primarily of the disillusioned (who quit when the liberals went into power with the Conservatives) coming home. But that is mere speculation and even if partially true, not all will be of the left-leaning variety. And not all of those will vote for the sometimes gaff-prone Tim. And let’s not forget those who stuck with the Lib Dems throughout the past five years. Everyone agrees that Norman had a pretty good time of it in Government, winning respect from fellow politicians of all colours.

Given Norman’s impressive supporters list (including the somewhat late arrival of Paddy Ashdown), in a two horse race, I wonder whether the value bet is Norman. Long odds of course, but worth a tenner perhaps?

[Please do let me know, via the comments section, of any additions/omissions/errors in the above lists and I will correct.]

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Sock puppets go too far

By Angela Harbutt
July 1st, 2015 at 12:30 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Government lobbying government

This morning I spotted a simply astonishing post over on Conservative Home detailing how one state-funded sock puppet is not only taking vast swathes of cash from the taxpayer, but using it to intimidate local councils to stop vital work and force added costs onto the taxpayer.

Harry Phibbs reports that ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) has been quietly rolling out an initiative called the “Local Government Declaration on Tobacco Control” (LGDTC). Essentially this “encourages” local councils to refuse to have any contact/liaison with tobacco companies whatsoever.

What contact might councils have with tobacco companies?

Well, crucially a lot of contact has historically occurred between tobacco companies and local council trading standards departments, collaborating on identifying and stopping traffickers of counterfeit/smuggled/stolen tobacco products. Illegal tobacco sales costs the taxpayer over £2 billion a year, affects the livelihood of local retailers, and not only funds organised crime – but is often the entry point for gangs into an area. On top of the financial issues, are the health concerns. Criminals don’t care who they sell too, (kids) and what they sell (many fake cigarettes contain such nasties as cadmium, benzene, formaldehyde – even mouse droppings).

Clearly there are many good reasons for local councils to be as effective as possible in clamping down on illegal tobacco sales.

Of course tobacco companies have skin in the game too. Illegal sales hurt company profits and damage brand reputation.

So it is not surprising that there has historically been much collaboration between councils and tobacco companies on illicit trade. And, though not widely known, much of the initial (often dangerous) tracking and tracing work has often been undertaken by the tobacco companies themselves, liaising with trading standards once suspect warehouses/stores/factories/traders have been identified.

That has displeased the state-funded zealots over at ASH who despise any contact – however beneficial it has proven to be – between tobacco companies and local government. They have taken the somewhat reasonably phrased World Health Organisation’s directive (not enshrined in law in Britain btw), Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

“In setting and implementing their public health policies with respect to tobacco control, Parties shall act to protect these policies from commercial and other vested interests of the tobacco industry in accordance with national law”

… and twisted it out of all recognition. As Christopher Snowdon reports, ASH has gone around local councils getting them to sign up to an agreement that includes a promise to…

“Protect our tobacco control work from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry by not accepting any partnerships, payments, gifts and services, monetary or in kind or research funding offered by the tobacco industry to officials or employees.”

Snowdon has been doing some digging around. He has found the ASH document ‘Developing Policy on Contact with the Tobacco Industry’. This document highlights just how extreme government-subsidised ASH has become – using, as Snowdon puts it, “thinly veiled threats” to bully Councils into bending to ASH’s will. The ASH document states:

“[Article 5.3] could be relied upon in legal proceedings brought by an individual or other non-state body against a public authority. An authority that does not act in compliance with the convention may be exposed to risk of judicial review. If a local authority decides to diverge from the guidelines it is suggested the reasons for doing so should be documented…”

As Snowdon observes…

“…Needless to say, all of this goes far beyond anything in Article 5.3, but with the bogus threat of legal action hovering over their heads, it is little wonder that local authorities have chosen to unnecessarily milk the taxpayer for bills that have traditionally been paid by industry.

The outcome of ASH’s  interventions means that much of the collaboration with, and funding (eg for sniffer dogs etc) from, tobacco companies has, or will cease in those areas signing up to LGDTC.

Not very smart thinking for government at national or local level, as more of the costs of clamping down on illegal tobacco fall on the local taxpayer and the number of seizures is almost inevitably destined to fall, harming the Exchequer as well as public health.

And the idiocy does not stop there. Local Councils are also being advised that they must also no longer co-operate with tobacco companies on anti-litter measures.  Returning to Phibbs, this means

“…councils and the Keep Britain Tidy campaign will no longer work with the tobacco industry on anti-litter measures or campaigns such as making bins smoker friendly.”

That helps who, how? Surely it is in everyone’s interest (except ASH perhaps) to seek corporate funding where possible to make our local streets a cleaner, nicer place to be? How long before this idiocy extends to McDonalds, and other corporately responsible companies?

With a good five years in power, it is time for the Conservative government to weed out these ideologically driven sock-puppets which are not just a drain on public funds directly from the “grants” received, but are causing untold chaos – and added costs – at a local level and actively contributing to public health harm?

[Read more from Harry Phibbs here]

[Read more from Christopher Snowdon here]

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