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Introducing the next leader of the Liberal Democrats : Norman Lamb

By admin
April 11th, 2011 at 7:15 am | 9 Comments | Posted in coalition, Liberal Democrats

 There’s not a vacancy, of course.

And nobody’s talking about a vacancy.

We’re all backing Nick. Some of us still dust down the “I agree with Nick” banners, T-shirts and badges. They bring a tear to the eye. They remind us of those dreamy days when, with just a couple of weeks to go to polling day, the LibDems were at over 30% in a cluster of opinion polls.

Much has changed since then, of course. If a week’s a long time in politics, a year is, in rough terms, about 52 times as long.

But, most likely, if you had to put your house on it, you’d probably shove it on Nick Clegg leading the party into the next election. And if you knew he wasn’t going to – and have to bet your mortgage on someone else – you’d probably have to edge towards Chris Huhne or Tim Farron as his likely successor.

Every loyalist insists in public, of course, that such tittle tattle is just the media making mischief.  But – in our heart of hearts – we know that’s totally disingenuous.

Bar room gossip at party conferences quite often turns to the topic of who the next party leader might be. It’s not plotting. It’s just idle speculation. But that doesn’t make it illegitimate or poisonous.

Everyone involved in politics is interested in how things might “pan out” and telling Jeremy Paxman that you “don’t answer hypothetical questions” is just a cop out. Virtually everything we think about and discuss is based on hypothetical questions.

So, consider this.

Imagine – for whatever reason – that Nick Clegg doesn’t continue as party leader for the next decade. You don’t need the imagination of an Arthur C. Clarke or a J. R. R. Tolkien to see how this might happen. Maybe he just gets cheesed off with the whole thing. Maybe there is some enormous internal party revolt at some stage. Maybe there is some recalibration of the way the Coalition operates. There’s a zillion ways it could happen, even though, on balance, it probably won’t.

Step forward Norman Lamb. He is an almost complete unknown outside of the LibDems. But then so was Nick until the first TV debate.

Crucially, he’s fairly independent. He’s not put all his chips on the Coalition succeeding, which many other possible leadership candidates have had to (partly because, of course, he was shamefully overlooked for ministerial office when the Coalition was formed).

He’s also essentially a party loyalist, but with Orange Book and mildly eurosceptic tendencies.

His television profile is rising. He’s an obvious choice for party-orientated media (by-elections etc) and also strong on his former health portfolio. Yesterday, he broke cover to make a splash on his concerns over the Lansley NHS reforms. Not in the terms of some tedious conservative Luddite, but for fear they hadn’t been fully thought through.

About a year ago, here on this very blog,  Norman was described as a media superstar.  Objectively he is not that – not yet. He’s occasionally a bit defensive and slightly hesitant. But he does have the common touch and doesn’t talk in jargon. Additionally, I’m not sure that “macho” politicians – displaying Ed Balls-style certainty in the face of all credible evidence to the contrary – are very popular anywhere any more.

He also has a few other things going for him. Typically, LibDems seems to vote for more establishment middle-of-the-road candidates rather than firebrand radicals. Despite their many strengths, Simon Hughes and Chris Huhne have now both lost two leadership elections from “the left”. To run for a third time for the party leadership surely puts one in the “Ken Clarke” position – widely considered charming, but unlikely to ever actually inherit the crown.

The lefty-leaning, charismatic, activist-adored and media savvy Tim Farron, only narrowly defeated the more establishment Susan Kramer for the party’s Presidency last year despite running an enormously more impressive campaign.

Norman also has a pretty hardened and impressive political CV – both at the coal face of Westminster and at the grassroots level. He had to deal with the growing disquiet over Charles Kennedy’s difficulties with alcohol (having been his PPS) – and was one of the very first MPs to publicly call for Charles to quit. He also has the battle scars of the frustrating Ming Campbell period, serving as his chief of staff in troubled times.

At local electoral level, Lamb’s achievements are staggering. He first contested North Norfolk – a rock solid Tory seat with a 10,000 majority in 1992. He cut this to around 1,000 in 1997 and just won it with a majority of 483 in 2001. In 2005, he saw off Tory blogger Iain Dale and increased the LibDem majority by over 2,000%. He increased his majority again in 2010 to an eye-watering 11,626.

If the shift in votes which have occurred in Norman Lamb’s seat since 1992 had been replicated across the country last May, the national vote share in the 2010 General Election would have been LibDem 46% Conservative 20% Labour 17%.

He may need simply to find a little more self-confidence and a bit more steel. And no doubt his surname gives rise to a whole string of dismissive newspaper headlines and dispatch box jibes. But the next time you’re speculating about who might lead the Liberal Democrats next, give Norman Lamb serious consideration.

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So why has the BBC banned the term “electoral reform” ?

By Angela Harbutt
February 7th, 2011 at 8:58 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in AV referendum, BBC

About a fortnight a story emerged that BBC journalists had been sent an internal document from the top brass demanding that their staff stop describing “electoral reform” as “electoral reform”.

I raise it now (late) because having missed the revelation at the time I assumed “word had got out there” about it, so I let it pass. I am however surprised to find how few people who are usually “in the know” – don’t know. Here are the basics….

In an internal BBC memo leaked to The Independent, Ric Bailey, the corporation’s chief political adviser, said: “Please can we make sure that we don’t describe this – in our own scripts, headlines, etc – as the referendum on ‘electoral reform’. When the [BBC’s] Guidance is published ahead of the referendum period, it will make clear that, in the context of the referendum, that is not an impartial term – ‘reform’ explicitly contains a definition of ‘improvement’.”

 So if “reform” is “not an impartial term” why is it that changes to the public services and laws of this country can be described in terms of “reform” by the Government – and parroted by the BBC…. NHS reform plans will strenthen NHS,says Government. BBC October 1st 2010. Welfare benefit reforms unveiled by Government. BBC October 2010. Government to press ahead with radical NHS reform plans. BBC December 15th 2010.  “When ministers drew up their plans for radical reform of the NHS, schools and the welfare system..” Norman Smith Chief Political Correspondent, BBC Radio 4 , February 2nd 2011. and so on……

Why is it that a term such as “electoral reform” causes such offence to the BBC but all other Government reform is OK?

You could argue I suppose that the reason why”electoral reform” is on the forboten list and “NHS reform” isn’t, is because there is to be a vote on electoral reform. But then surely that must mean that the BBC is openly admitting that it frankly doesn’t give a toss about the language it uses day-today, but does care when it comes to a vote.

Slack, lazy reporting on a day to day basis BBC? Maybe. But I suspect that it is not that. Could it be that the BBC is running scared of the Government? Could it be that the BBC has been got at by the highly influential No campaigners with their slick suits, armed with promises of who-knows what  post election by those in the corridors of power?  So BBC,  are you incompetent, lazy,or just plain “got at”. It doesn’t look good any way you look at it.

And here is why this is oh so puzzling.. “electoral reform” is a term that has been around longer than the BBC. It is part of the language of politics. Of democracy indeed. We all know what it means.

Significantly it was this Government  that made a pledge to introduce a vote on electoral reform. Not “electoral change”. Not “electoral alteration”.. It is there in black and white. A vote on electoral reform.. We will bring forward a referendum on electoral reform” … (Coalition Agreement)… Next May, there’ll be a referendum on electoral reform”; (David Cameron speech to Conservative Party) ..

And so, The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill 2010-11 has thus been called, ever since, as the “electoral reform bill” by all the main news sources in the UK – including the  BBC….. “Lord Falconer and Lord McNally debate whether the house of Lords should pass the electoral reform bill”  (source BBC)….  “Peers’ threat to AV voting reform referendum defeated” (source BBC)…

 So if the Prime Minister and the Coalition Government can and have promised this country a vote on electoral reform -and  the newspapers and broadcasters of this land have thus described it, and the bill that will enable it, as “electoral reform” / “electoral reform bill”, for the last 12 months, why has the BBC decided in its infinite wisdom to ban the term now?  On whose say so?

The BBC should not be allowed to rewrite history, or skew the debate. Nor should any shiny suited boys, with an eye to their own future prospects, be allowed to threaten or cajole the BBC into actions that suit them now.

 Yes to Fairer Votes are writing a letter to the BBC condemning this action, which you can sign here: Reform” isn’t a dirty word: Cosign our letter to the BBC.  It is a start but it is almost certainly not enough if what we get in May is a free and fair vote. We need more questions raised in every public place, and to the BBC at every opportunity. And frankly, a lot more answers…

Oh…. and if any BBC employee  out there is willing to spill the beans and tell us what is really going on – please email me – I will happily publish your post – anonymously if necessary. Surely one of you cares more about journalism than just plain self interest?

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“If LDs sink then Dave is out”

By Angela Harbutt
December 1st, 2010 at 2:25 am | 9 Comments | Posted in coalition, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats

HAT TIP : Read this from politcalbetting.com……..

You have to see the chart….but here is a taster… (click on the link to read full article and see the chart…. you want to…i know you want to……)

” ….The above chart shows the actual poll shares achieved at the general elections from 1979 onwards. The 2015 numbers are the current PAPA numbers (Mike’s polling average). It also shows the GE turnout % (green line) and the combined share of Labour plus the LibDems (dotted line).

What does it tell us?

Firstly, it shows that there is quite some truth in the notion that Labour and the LibDems have historically fed off each other’s vote. Their combined vote has traditionally been a little over 50%, but this went up to the high 50s during Labour’s time in power. The Labour view that the LibDems were ‘on our side’ is not entirely unjustified – and hence the bitter feelings of betrayal that many lefty voters now feel about the LibDem decision to get in bed with Dave. This is very dangerous for Dave. Labour’s vote translates disproportionately into seats as their vote gets towards 40%. When Labour and Tories are neck and neck in the polls that means, I’m afraid, that Labour are well ahead in seats. Equalising constituencies and sorting postal votes out will help Dave, but only so much. If the LibDems sink then Dave is out.

Secondly, current polling shows that the LibDems’ joining a coalition with Dave has not apparently broken the tradition. The Tory polling remains steady in the high 30s – to 40s range, and Labour is up wholly at the LibDems’ expense. This gives Clegg a sharp dilemma – it seems the lefty half of the party has drifted to the red camp and I don’t think they’re coming back. At 12.5% the LibDems are just not going to win many seats at a GE and the ones they do win will be due to big name local incumbents. The marginals (and Scotland?) will be gone. My own (FPTP based) model has the LibDems gaining just 22 seats at the current level in the polls and an enormous Labour majority. The LibDems would be dead (and Dave too) if current polls were actual GE vote shares.

This raises some serious questions about tactical voting. I think historically the vast majority of tactical voting has been Labour and LibDem voters supporting whoever would keep out the local Tory. We have never seen much tactical voting by Tories – if they are not happy they just stay at home, as the clear alignment of Tory and Turnout lines shows. But now that the LibDems are proving to be good partners in government, I think it is fair to expect there will in future be some Blue / Yellow tactical voting to keep Labour out of some marginals.

And that leaves the LibDems and Dave with some very clear messages …….

……The LibDems’ future lies not in being the third party but in being the conscience of a permanent centre right alignment based on civil liberties and sound money…”

Ok you know thr drill..click on the above link to read the rest….

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Lib Dem Conference Event: Lembit Opik, Guido Fawkes, Jeremy Browne, Richard Grayson, Stephen Haseler…

By Julian Harris
September 15th, 2010 at 11:55 am | 1 Comment | Posted in coalition, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats

guidoSo…

This is the week we’ve all been waiting for. Waiting, patiently. Silently. Waiting.

Then waiting some more.

Yet suddenly HARK! IT STARTS!

Yes, that’s right – the Liberal Democrat Conference 2010 begins this Saturday. I can almost feel your auricles fluttering from here.

If you’re going to conference, come to this:

“Coalition, Cuts and Conservatives: an attractive agenda for the Lib Dems?”

It features:

  • GUIDO FAWKES!
  • JEREMY BROWNE MP!
  • LEMBIT OPIK!
  • PROFESSOR RICHARD GRAYSON!
  • STEPHEN HASELER!

And me.

Mark Littlewood, now head of the IEA, chairs the event.

It’s on Sunday 19th September, 8pm – 9:15pm.

Location: ACC Liverpool, Hall 11C

It’s free, but get there early to avoid disappointment. It’s inside the venue, so you need a conference pass.

Also, if you would like to HELP Liberal Vision during the conference, drop me an e-mail with “Help! You need somebody (me)” in the subject line. I know, I know. I have my coat and am heading for the door. I can only apologise.

And finally… young Liberal Democrat Niklas Smith has been doing valuable work critiquing the free schools motion. You can read his excellent evidence-check against the motion here: http://ldv.org.uk/20890

But for now adios, and we’ll see you in Liverpool.

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Can a Whig give the coalition some soul?

By Angela Harbutt
September 7th, 2010 at 1:03 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in coalition, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats

Its been  a bit of a depressing summer for many..all that talk of cuts, hacking and slashing – we might be forgiven for thinking that Freddy Krueger has hit town. But the really depressing thing for me has been lack of a philosophy behind the slicing and dicing. Yes I know our coalition partners will point us to  “The Big Society”. But, to be honest, I still don’t understand it….the journalists and political commentators don’t understand it… hell I don’t think even David Cameron understands it. So it was a real  hallelujah moment when I was handed a copy of the Sunday Times to read. For there in black and white was the answer of course…in the slightly retro-looking form of  Friedrich Hayek.

In his article, Liberal Vision’s old friend and founder Mark Littlewood, now of  The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), serves up a convincing argument as to why Mr Hayek and his “Constitution of Liberty” has all the answers …(well most of the answers anyway).

In his article (which you can read in full on the IEA website) he says…

 “Although one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, Hayek has never been a household name. Remarkably, for a man who was born at the tail end of the 19th century, won the Nobel prize for economics in 1974 and died nearly 20 years ago, that may be about to change. Thanks to an extensive feature on the wildly popular Glenn Beck television programme in America, Hayek’s masterpiece The Road to Serfdom zoomed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller charts in June.

This is unusual enough for a philosophical tract, but is astonishing for a book originally published in 1944…… downloaded from our website tens of thousands of times over the summer.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of another great Hayek text, The Constitution of Liberty. Anyone searching for an intellectual basis for a genuinely Liberal-Conservative approach to government should read it.

Hayek argues for strict limits on state activity and intervention. But he offers a very different take on the nature of the individual from that often – if wrongly – associated with free-market capitalism. Hayek sees individuals as intrinsically social beings. His vision of a free society is not one where men and women are trampling over one another in pursuit of narrow, venal self-interest, each using their own freedom of action to exploit others. Hayek believed each individual would benefit as much from the exercise of others’ freedom as their own.

This optimistic view of human nature should be what guides the British government as it grapples with the shocking state of the nation’s public finances and attempts to provide some coherence to its big society agenda.

Interestingly, and importantly for the coalition, although beloved of Margaret Thatcher, Hayek was not a Tory. He described himself as a Whig. And Mark Littlewood may well have had another annoying moment of foresight when he argues later in his article that the coalition should seek to rediscover the best elements of this Whig tradition.

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