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More #Libdemmery nonsense

By Editor
July 3rd, 2015 at 9:38 am | No Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Here is the Lib Dem leadership ballot paper -with very clear and totally absurd voting rules clearly printed on it.

In a two horse race, the key advice is that you can’t vote with an “X”. Oh no.
This election is taking place under the Alternative Vote system. You must decide the order in which you love and adore Tim & Norman. By all means write the numeral “1” next to the one you love most and the digit “2” next to the guy you love nearly as much.
We were beginning to think the Libs Dems hadn’t really come to terms with their crushing defeat on May 7th. Turns out it’s worse than that. They haven’t even come to terms with the defeat of the YES2AV campaign from years ago…

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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.

LORDS DECLARING FOR NORMAN AND TIM

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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Kennedy’s Legacy & The Leadership Election

By Editor
June 5th, 2015 at 2:28 pm | No Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

A difficult article for Liberal Democrats, and unwisely inaccurate to personalise the issue to Kennedy so much, and so soon. But the underlying issues raised are there all the same. Collins, as a project New Labour man is more sympathetic to the Lamb-cause than Farron-project. No surprise there. I’m not entirely sure he gets either right.

Farron will be more left-wing and populist than Clegg. Clearly. I’m not sure it’s correct though to presume that means a return to the Kennedy era. Kennedy’s Party was relatively left-wing because the Labour Party wasn’t. It was populist because it seemed to help win by-elections. It would be difficult to ascribe anything as uncouth as a deliberate strategy those events. Kennedy for example while more left himself, was very happy to sponsor groups and MPs that were not and build the ground for the change that came.

Farron on the other hand has the vision thing. He does seem to know where he’s going and wants the Party to come with him. He wants to lead a revolution not chair factions with a vaguely common purpose.

Whether or not this revolution is actually capable of achieving, let alone wielding power is not clear. Will for example Farron find himself scrapping with a Burnham-led Labour Party for a handful of Guardian readers? heralding another decade of majority rule by a centre-right minority. Or will a few good crises enable him to do to Labour what Labour did to the Liberals? Perhaps both?

Lamb, I agree is more pragmatic, more clear about his comfort with being in Government. More comfortable with compromise and coalitions. He is more classically liberal in the Orange-Book mould. But he’s not offering a grand strategy for a return to power, let alone holding on to it. He has set out his ‘liberal vision’, but one it’s rather hard to see as distinct, other than being less left-wing.

His Leadership campaign so far for example appears to be classic populism. Principally a mental health revolution, and mobilising the suspicion the Party’s significant gay rights lobby has about Farron’s theological views.

The Lamb critique then is not dissimilar from one Collins makes about Kennedy. What do you do if you get there? With ‘if’ very heavily underlined.

Clegg got there and promptly set about imploding. In part due to the internal contradictions of the Party. In part his lazy indifference to doing very much about them. In part due to the difficulty in selling something that amounted to being ‘a bit like the others, just more liberal’. Then switching tack mid-term to being little more than a brake on the ‘nasty Tories’. Trying to run a ‘keep the bastards honest’ pitch works better if you’re not one of the bastards. It doesn’t work at all if you cack-handedly manage to make honesty the antithesis of your personal brand.

Neither Lamb or Farron have that problem, quite the opposite. But the Liberal Democrat Party, after a string of avoidable scandals made much worse by the Liberal Democrat Party, still does. On that issue Farron has a track record of asking questions and leading reform. Lamb of avoiding getting embroiled.

In respect of the full package then, a vision, a sense of the organisation needed to deliver it, underlined by values that are applied consistently, arguably Farron is more the Blairite. Lamb the more Kennedyesque. Neither though will be repeating history. Both are very much their own people better judged in that light, responding to events today, than by comparison to circumstances and Leaders past.

Collins should avoid the temptation to view absolutely every political problem through the narrow prism of his own experience of the Labour Party.

RIP Charles Kennedy 1959 – 2015

By Sara Scarlett
June 2nd, 2015 at 9:23 am | 1 Comment | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Absolutely shocking news this morning. Charles Kennedy was taken far too young. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. My heart especially goes out to his young son.

Charles Kennedy was the Leader who spearheaded the LibDems’ opposition to the Iraq War. One of the main reasons I joined the LibDems in the first place was because of this principled stance and on this issue, Charles Kennedy’s instincts were proven absolutely correct.

Rest in peace.

A Memo On Memogate

By Editor
May 26th, 2015 at 9:47 am | 4 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Malcolm Bruce has commented in a 20 minute Today programme segment on Memogate. This following a long weekend of coverage. I note the following. The Liberal Democrat Party remains quite the most hopeless stewards of their own reputation of any of the major parties. Showing no sign whatsoever of seeing themselves as others see them. Let alone addressing the issues that arise from that. Regardless of the long-term damage it does them collectively.

Memogate itself is relatively simple. Alistair Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland, and then Scottish Secretary, was made aware (in that capacity) of a civil service memo that suggested the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP (SNP) had made politically unwise remarks to a French diplomat. Carmichael authorised his special adviser to release the remarks to the media with the intent of causing the SNP political damage during an election campaign. When approached about the matter by the press, he lied about his involvement. A Cabinet leak inquiry followed, in which these facts came to light. It was agreed between the inquiry and Carmichael (no longer a Minister) that he would issue a fulsome apology and forgo his Ministerial severance pay.

Misconduct in public office and dishonesty was then admitted. A not insignificant degree of mitigation and apology was offered. The Ministerial portion of the scandal was settled. To Carmichael’s credit he did not attempt to bluff it out beyond this point.

The matter more generally though has not been settled. Carmichael remains an MP, one whose electoral mandate is self-evidently open to question having won his seat narrowly on a false prospectus about his own character and judgement.

He remains an MP in a political climate that does not tolerate misconduct in public life, and where Recall was a position supported by his Party (however anaemic the eventual legislation). It is perfectly reasonable, in these circumstances for his opponents to call for him to step down and fight a by-election. Putting his redoubtable record of public service to islanders and sincere apology up for public affirmation or not.

The problem is that he would probably lose such an election.

And that is the lens through which the Liberal Democrat Party is looking at the matter. They have only 1 MP left in Scotland, they are decimated, demoralised, and aggrieved, and do not wish to risk losing what it is they have left. They reasonably look at a man who has served them and his constituents well. To whom they owe favours, and have worked hard to support in turn. In short a friend and until this point a huge political asset who has managed to play something of the Prescott role in the Party, supporting an orange-book leadership while holding on to his social liberal principles and canny local campaigning instincts.

That matters internally. A lot.

Consequently the Scottish Liberal Democrat Executive has met, decided there is nothing to see here… it’s all settled… and would the public and SNP mind going away please… and frankly grow up… and learn to forgive people. What! what is their problem! I mean really. It’s not as if they’re purer than the driven snow… look at their lies that they got away with… we all make mistakes… etc.

That is the line.

It is self-serving crap.

The public can see it’s self-serving crap.

It will not help Alistair Carmichael’s reputation or future re-election prospects a jot. Quite the reverse. If not defenestrated by pressure or process, he’s probably out voluntarily or otherwise by 2020. This will not have gone away or been forgotten in 5 years.

As to the Liberal Democrat process… it looks like what it is – a group of Ally’s pally’s gathering together to agree he’s a terrible nice chap and sticking their heads in the sand about the wider implications of the scandal or their own long-term interests.

The BBC shrewdly asked Bruce this morning whether they would regret their approach if they lost MSPs in the 2016 Scottish election. He of coursed ducked the question; but that is what is likely to happen. The Party having already lost seats UK-wise over their casual indifference to matters of integrity and trust, has now started the next election cycle demonstrating it has learnt nothing. Nothing at all.

They could have acted more wisely.

What they could and should have done is take the matter seriously. Alistair Carmichael’s membership should have been suspended. His disreputable conduct properly considered by someone not connected with the tight-knit clan that run his Party machine, and their recommendations taken seriously. That should have taken at least a month and taken some of the oxygen out of the current media frenzy.

We cannot pre-judge, but it is not at all clear such a process would have recommended his expulsion. That disrepute has taken place is admitted. Sanctions to the same are not unipolar. They can be discrete, and a sensible one in this instance might have included a 3-6 month suspension.

That would be proportionate to the offence, demonstrate the Party takes such things seriously, and allow Carmichael to get on with his job, which right now involves a lot of apologising to islanders, in person, and demonstrating all the other reasons why he’s held the seat so long.

If during that suspension the SNP somehow succeed in getting a process going that forces him out, the Liberal Democrat Party would at least have had some moral high ground, having acted properly and seriously. That would count for something for his successor and the Party’s wider prospects in other Scottish elections.

But that opportunity has gone, and it’s heads in the sand and hope time.

In conclusion that after Thorpe, Smith, Rennard, Hancock etc. the Liberal Democrat Party still think the way to deal with unethical conduct and serious reputation issues is either denial, or denial followed by parish council procedures and bureaucratic excuses is extraordinary. That is follows an election where the same has severely damaged them shows a lack of survival instincts.

The next Leader will have to deal with this shower and their naval-gazing self-regard, or that survival is in doubt.