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Finkelstein: LDs should be happy just to be in power

By Julian Harris
August 4th, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Comments Off on Finkelstein: LDs should be happy just to be in power | Posted in coalition, UK Politics

The headline (above) is, admittedly, slightly paraphrased–but this is essentially Danny Finkelstein’s message in The Times today:

The LDs may be dropping in the polls, but they’re IN POWER and should be happy with that.

For those who don’t have access beyond the pay-wall, the Fink argues that the whole point of being high in the polls is to get into government. Thus it’s better to be in government and on 14% in the polls, than out of government and on 20% in the polls. Popularity is simply a means to an end, so if you have achieved the end, this is what matters.

He also claims that a drop in popularity is inevitable when in government, especially for the “junior partner” of a Coalition.

With the rise in LD fortunes in recent times, the Party, he argues, had to make a choice–to remain a Left-ist protest vote (with the option of siding with Labour) or to position itself in the Centre, allowing the option of holding power with either “main” party.

I slightly disagree on the Left-Right model: it’s up to the LDs, surely, to promote the liberal elements of the “Left”–greater civil liberties, a fairer voting system, constitutional reform, tax reform, penal reform, liberal policies on migration (well said, Vince!), less reactionary views on the EU and so on. This is our raison d’etre.

Finkelstein does, in fairness, understand this. He proposes that liberalism can be seen as Centre ground, and that this can appeal to the electorate:

“There is an audience — and an agenda — for a centre party that offers voters a chance to liberalise the others” he says.

The issue of what happens in subsequent elections is extremely pertinent. The LDs should not simply be grateful for 4/5 years in power, and then crawl back to irrelevance. The Cons can’t have their gluten-free soya cake and eat it. Our presence in the Coalition changes everything, and the question of what we do at future elections won’t go away.

On this question, and the dilemma of the polls, I am (for once) on the fence. Affecting government policy is great–but the question is how to make this a more permanent affair. Thoughts below, if you will.

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Shameful UN need reprimanding by the coalition

By Timothy Cox
June 7th, 2010 at 4:57 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in International Development, Uncategorized

297676513_a3210819d6International development invariably raises some complex issues but periodically we come across an example of the international community acting in a totally indefensible manner. No shades of grey here- this is morally and politically abhorrent. I am referring to the United Nation’s decision to continue with a controversial prize established in “honour” of Equatorial Guinea’s notorious dictator Obiang Nguema.  If the government wants to get serious about development it must be seen to be outspoken and forthright about such travesties.  Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats must not shirk their responsibility to make their voices heard on issues like these across all departments during this coalition.

The UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences is supposed to be awarded “for scientific research in the life sciences leading to improving the quality of human life.”

The “quality of human life” under Obiang’s regime is a disgrace. According to the World Bank, GDP per capita is $28,103 (richer than Israel), but 77 per cent of the population still live below the poverty line. Part of the problem is that all funds received from the country’s extensive oil reserves pass through Obiang’s personal bank account to prevent “misallocation of funds”. Naturally he has invested wisely for the benefit of the people:  Global Witness report that his son purchased a $15,000,000 Californian mansion in 2006 and that the family owns three Bugatti Veyron cars (each retailing for over $1 million each) along with a healthy compliment of Ferraris, Maseratis, a Rolls or two and the obligatory presidential jet. Not a single free and fair election has taken place since he assumed power in 1979 (Africa’s second longest serving living dictator) and one in three Equato-Guineans  die before their 40th birthday. Corruption, human rights abuses and systemic torture by government officials are reported as being routine practice.

But none of this need concern the UNESCO bureaucrats in Paris who will take half of the dictator’s $3 million donation for “administrative fees” to help them identify worthy winners of this prize. It is perversely ironic that the United Nations, which claims to be in pursuit of  a “better world”, should explicitly endorse, and be in the pocket of, one of Africa’s most repressive and corrupt dictators. The Equato-Guineans suffering daily are unlikely to appreciate the irony.

The UK carries a lot of weight in the international development community and, while Andrew Mitchell controls the development portfolio, this is an issue that should transcends briefs and party divisions. Michael Moore and Norman Lamb  are among those on the Lib Dem benches who have been honourably outspoken about the scourge of corruption upon development before. It’s time for their voices to be heard again. Removing one prize fund won’t change the world overnight- but not doing so sends a terrible message to some of the world’s worst abusers of power.

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Achieving coalition with the Tories is a triumph for the so-called Orange Book tendency…

By Angela Harbutt
May 13th, 2010 at 3:32 am | 3 Comments | Posted in Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, UK Politics

Recommended …. 

Telegraph article written by Mark Littlewood… (yes you know..once of this parish, now DG of the IEA)

In his article (which I wish I had penned btw) he basically argues that the formation of a Conservative-Liberal coalition government finally blows apart the idea that the Liberals are natural bedfellows of the Labour Party or some fictious centre-left “progressive alliance”.

Mark also identifies – as did we – the importance of David Laws in the formation of this coalition…. “From the Liberal Democrat perspective, achieving coalition with the Tories is a triumph for the party’s so-called Orange Book tendency of classical, market-orientated liberals. David Laws, who played a central role in the negotiations with the Conservatives, personifies this wing of the party“.

Hear hear.

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David Laws-political genius!

By Angela Harbutt
May 12th, 2010 at 2:40 am | 14 Comments | Posted in Election, Liberal Democrats, UK Politics

Word has it that a 24 page document will be released later today containing the Lib-Con deal. Private word also has it that this will be largely the work of one man- David Laws.

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Libs to get 6 seats in conservative cabinet!

By Angela Harbutt
May 11th, 2010 at 4:58 pm | 21 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

Yes I know it sounds mad. But I have been told that the deal with the Conservatives has been sealed. It will be announced with in the hour. Liberals have SIX seats in the cabinet . Really? I know that sounds bonkers .. but SO BONKERS , from such a good source, it just might be true! After all I saw The PM resign and the Tories offer the Libs a referendum on electoral reform yesterday! Anything could be true.

Update: Looks, in fact, like 2 or 3 in the Cabinet, and 3 or 4 junior ministers. Plus – Brown to resign this evening.

Update: Source incommincado right now. So I am winging it now. I am guessing the dotting i’s and crossing t’2 taking longer than anticipated. Mp’s and Federal exec meeting not expected til 2030. But interestingly Buckingham Palace was expecting a visit tonight – and may still be.

Update: Brown off to see queen.

Update: Negotiating meeting broken up with an indication that agreement reached. Both teams off to talk to their respective parties.

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