'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Monday, 30 September 2013

Things George Osborne nicked in his speech

To be updated as I discover more ( do let me know if you see any...) but for now....

1. The Lib Dem policy on raising the tax threshold.

And let's not forget Cameron said in the leaders debates in 2010 that it couldn't be done

2. The Pupil Premium.

Yes, you thought you had seen it on the front page of the manifesto...

but George seems to think it was Michael Gove's idea all the time....

3. His vision.

He didn't nick his final words from us; but he definitely drew his inspiration from somewhere other than the Tory party. Hmm.  " The sun has started to rise above the hill' - where have I seen that image before...

4. Ernest Rutherford

George claimed him as one of Manchester's own. Only...

5. International Aid

Apparently, delivering 0.7% of GNI to International Development was Andrew Mitchel's idea.  Which is funny - because I was sure I read it in our manifesto...

We will meet the UK's obligations to the developing world by committing to spending 0.7 per cent of GNI on aid. And we will put Britain at the heart of Europe, to ensure we use our influence to achieve prosperity, security and opportunity for Britain.

I am sure there'll be others...


Thanks to @stackee who has tweeted me that this man may want his hair back from George


Of Course, I am reminded that  the freeze in fuel duty isn't original either

Now George, where did you get that image....

It seems that the 10k tax threshold isn't the only thing the Magpie Tories are nicking off other parties

George Osborne finished his speech today saying...

'The sun has started to rise above the hill..."

Now, where did he get that image from?

Angela Eagle needs to learn to use Twitter properly


Angela Eagle posted this 15 hours ago on Twitter (it's 10 am on Monday morning).

Now, I have no issue with the point she is trying to make; a large demonstration about the NHS should be reported, and Police estimate 40-50k  people attended so it should be heard.

Problem is, I'm told that isn't a photo of the NHS demonstration. It's of an anti Iraq War demo. In 2005.

Now I am quite sure this is just a mistake; I'm sure Angela Eagle genuinely thought it was the demo on Sunday and this is a simple mistake. I have no problem with that.

But what I do have an issue with is not rectifying the mistake. Twitter has been abuzz with this since last night. She must know by now that its the wrong picture.

She should delete the original tweet, and send out a short apology, sharpish. By all means then send out a repeat tweet with a picture of the actual demo.

But I think the longer this goes on, the more this looks less like a mistake and more like an attempt to make the demo bigger look bigger than it was - an appearance I am sure Angela Eagle would want to put right

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Hats off to Ed Miliband for doing this

I hope, in similar circumstances, I would do the same

10 things I learned about the Tories today

1.     The Tories lost the 2010 General Election. I know we all knew this before – but Cameron actually said it on Marr, which is, I think, the first time he has ever said it publicly (I stand to be corrected but no one has yet).
2.     The most successful policy this government has enacted so far (at least, I imagine, in Tory focus groups) is… taking 2 million people out of tax altogether and reducing taxes for 25 million others. I know this because Cameron said it twice in the Marr interview, Hammond said it on WATO and it’s on the front page of the Tory Website – in fact it’s the first thing. Pity Cameron said it was impossible in the leaders debates…
3.     Philip Hammond on the World at One refused to deny the Marriage Tax allowance would be paid for by tax rises elsewhere. It does increasingly look like a very badly thought through piece of nonsense.
4.     David Cameron didn’t deny he had worked out weeks before the last general election, through a seat by seat analysis, that they were not going to win an overall majority. When asked the question he said ‘that’s not how I remember it’. A non-denial denial. Damien Mcbride must have smiling approvingly.
5.     The Tories are taking up my suggestion of renaming HS2; however I said that as the main argument was shifting from speed to capacity, it should now be called HC2 (or perhaps HC1, as HS1 – the line from St Pancras to Paris – has always been about speed and nothing else). However it seems they are to rechristen it the North South Line – which is ironic as, if the North is SO important to them you would have thought they would have started building it there. Or else they have so little concept of what constitutes the North that they think Birmingham is part of it.
6.     Cameron also committed to HS2– so no backing down from the Tories going forward. Although Cameron did say there was a choice here – between HS2 or building a Victorian type railway instead. He appears to think we still have steam engines. Maybe they do in Chipping Norton.
7.     Michael Gove and William Hague both unequivocally ruled out ever standing for the leadership of the Tory party today. Which means there is still a lot of talk about the leadership – and presumably their names are being mentioned. Wait for the line “I have no desire to do this, but I have been persuaded by colleagues that it is my duty, for the good of the country, yada yada yada…”
8.     Want more proof? Andrew Mitchell started talking up George Osborne today, saying his share price was very underpriced (and channeling Stephen Tall in the process). So Osborne vs. Boris pre 2015? It’ll happen – if Labour maintain an 11 point lead in the polls
9.     Cameron also came out against not just the Mansion tax – but wealth taxes per se. As one person on Twitter put it to me… He seemed to be making a Mansion Tax a red line issue going forward. A marker for future negotiations me thinks.
10. They still don’t seem to see there’s a contradiction in saying that they are incentivising hard work over not working – and incentivizing one person in a marriage to stay at home through the Marriage Tax Allowance. (However paltry an incentive that is). It’s clumsy thinking. As well as a really stupid idea anyway

Tuition Fees, the Labour Party, and throwing stones in glass houses...

My latest effort in the New Statesman  ('After Labour's leftward lurch, the Lib Dems have the centre all to themselves') has generated a fair amount of comment and one exchange in particular, which I promised to reply to properly. Here's that reply, but first, the exchange, printed below...

(Matthew has since added a further post about a number of other issues but I'll concentrate on the tuition fees one for now, as I'd like to deal with that point properly).

Tuition fees. Matthew, you're right -it's a tricky one for the Lib Dems. We broke a pledge which we had gone out of our way to promote, getting every MP to sign it, generally accompanied with photos of a group of approving students, and we even featured it as the opening image on a PPB when we promised a new kind of politics.

My answer to that is  - I don't try and defend it. I hold my hand up. I supported the original policy, I thought abolishing tuition fees was the right thing to do, I still think it's the right thing to do, and I am very regretful that the Westminster party did what it did. That's never changed. It's also worth putting on the record that many agree with me - including some notable members of the Westminster party itself such as Julian Huppert (pictured above) and Tim Farron, who voted against tuition fees every step of the way.

Neither have I have thought it was an unaffordable or undeliverable promise, and despite the rumours to the contrary, even the architect of the final policy, Vince Cable, says he would have voted for a different policy if we had won the general election in 2010.

"We made a commitment in our manifesto, we didn't win the election. We then entered into a coalition agreement, and it's the coalition agreement that is binding upon us and which I'm trying to honour,"

Start Quoteposed”

Vince CableBusiness Secretary
"We and the Conservatives separately made a whole series of commitments in our manifesto and outside it".
"We haven't been able to carry all of them through, partly because we have a coalition and have had to make compromises and partly because we're still in the middle of this appalling financial situation"
(Vince Cable in October 2011)

It is also STILL the policy of the party in the long term, to abolish tuition fees, a policy reaffirmed in the party conference 2 weeks ago.

Now, as it happens (and bear with me here), there is also evidence that the new tuition fees regime that replaced the previous regime is improving social mobility for university entrance (contrary to all expectations).

"But equality of opportunity cannot stop at 18. The Coalition’s higher education reforms in England, though undoubtedly controversial and politically costly to the Lib Dems, mean the poorest 30% of university graduates will pay back less overall than under Labour’s fees system while the richest will pay more. Potential students seem to have noticed: application rates from disadvantaged areas hit their highest level ever in 2013."

(Stephen Tall, Lib Dem Voice)

So, does this mean we should be celebrating from the rooftops and shouting we were right to break the pledge? 


Of course we should be delighted if the new scheme is improving social mobility. But we would be mad to be boasting about it because while it may have proved to work economically, it's still a political disaster, and still reminds everyone that the party that promised a new era of politics broke a stone cold sober promise, and that's cost us dear over and over again. (I accept, as I pointed out here, that there is a converse argument)

And finally, no one has ever really successfully answered the question I posed some time ago - if tuition fees work, but keep us out of government for another 80 years, then is that a price worth paying? (my answer is 'no').

So far so good, I expect you're thinking Matthew.

But here's my beef with your point. If you accept that tuition fees were either politically or morally a mistake (or even economically, although the evidence is increasingly against you here) - then Labour are the last people to be able to get on their high horse about it.

You can shout 'Fib Dems' at me all you like. But 2 weeks before the 1997 General Election, in a direct answer to the question ' will Labour introduce tuition fees in higher education' (and after Labour had submitted its proposals to the Dearing committee on higher education funding), Tony Blair replied

'Labour has no plans to introduce tuition fees for higher education'.

As C4s 'Factcheck' pointed out, that reply has been thrown back at Labour ever since.

And it gets worse

The 2001 Labour manifesto said On Page 20

"We will not introduce top-up fees and have legislated to prevent them"

And what line of defence did Alan Johnson take to defend introducing them anyway? Here's Factcheck again..

"When that failed to impress, he appeared to adopt a third line, telling the students that even if they were correct and the manifesto pledge had been breached, sometimes it was necessary for governments to change course: "There will be occasions when politicians do have to do something different to what they said they'd do because circumstances change," he told them

Frankly I don't have a lot of time for the ' it's worse to break a pledge than a manifesto commitment' argument; because the natural extension of that logic is we can't believe anything in any Labour manifesto going forward. No, you said you wouldn't introduce tuition fees in the first place - and you did. You have no moral high ground here.

Worse, it is generally accepted that the current scheme is more progressive and fairer than the Labour scheme (there really is no argument with that). You had 13 years to sort this out - you didn't.

If Labour had won the 2010 General Election, would you have abolished fees? No. Would you have reduced fees? No. Would you have tripled fees? No. You would have brought in the Browne proposals in full - which provided for unlimited tuition fees (as would the Tories); not very progressive.

And what's the current Labour policy on fees? Is it to abolish them? No - it's to keep the current scheme in place. There is some talk of reducing the cap to 6k - which I would applaud. But so far it's all talk - and no mention I note, at #Lab13, of that policy.

So no, I  wouldn't want to claim tuition fees are a brilliant Lib Dem success story, nor our brightest hour in government - there's a reason why our leader ended up making that video (timed as much to appease people in the party like me as the country as a whole).

But when Labour tries to throw that particular piece of mud at the Lib Dems, we should be a little bolder at picking it up and throwing it right back at you. because you've got as much to be guilty about as we have.

PS Just realised Matthew is the same guy who described me as 'Iain Dale without the self loathing' which adorns the top of my blog :-)

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Miliband Says Britain Can Do Better

I agree.

We can do much better than him

Top ten Political Punchups - Now with extra Godfrey Bloom

In no particular order...

1. Iain Dale um, 'protecting' Damien McBride...

You know, because Damien really doesn't know how to look after himself.... (click here for the video)

2. The Prescott Punch

3. They're angry. They shout. They point. They throw things. A desk turns over...

...and then one of them pulls a gun. Live TV in Jordan

4. Pakistan Politicians

Watch the guy in the middle. He can see what's coming. And he looks petrified. Then after the fight, he gets his glass nicked. And then, when the main protagonist in the fight has left the scene - he gets much more angsty...

5. In the Ukraine, it's not one on one: IT'S ONE IN ALL IN

6. As it seems it is in Venezuela

7. In Greece, being a woman is no protection from a very nasty piece of work

8. Although in Argentina, it seems the fairer sex are not afraid to throw a punch

 9. And In Taiwan, its like all in female wrestling

10. Only in America it seems, do politicians not fight. Because even when one of them is really up for a punch up, no one is inclined to join in. Although the politicians surrounding this chap appear to be the very definition of passive aggression, as their refusal to join in drives him ever wilder...

UPDATE Goodness. I forgot Godfrey Bloom


Ed Miliband is apparently going to quote Ronald Reagan today. Is this the quote?



“Socialists ignore the side of man that is the spirit. They can provide you shelter, fill your belly with bacon and beans, treat you when you're ill, all the things guaranteed to a prisoner or a slave. They don't understand that we also dream.”



Ding Ding Round 3

In the latest installment of my Sadiq Khan debate over who owns the mantle of civil liberties, Robert Sharpe has posted an interesting piece on Liberal Conspiracy in which he discusses both my own piece and Sadiq's.

He makes a good case for not tainting Sadiq Khan with the record of the last Labour government. 

For example...

"For starters, he was one of the Labour rebels who voted against Tony Blair’s 90-day detention policy, back in 2005. More recently, he has admitted the party’s mistakes on human rights and civil liberties. Part of his Charter 88 anniversary lecture was a scathing critique of the last Labour Government’s approach:
'And I hold up my hands and admit that we did, on occasions, get the balance wrong. On 42 and 90 days, and on ID cards, where the balance was too far away from the rights of citizens… On top of this, we grew less and less comfortable with the constitutional reforms we ourselves had legislated for. On occasions checked by the very constitutional reforms we had brought in to protect people’s rights from being trampled on. But we saw the reforms as an inconvenience, forgetting that their very awkwardness is by design. A check and balance when our policies were deemed to infringe on citizens’ rights.'"

Fair enough. I think Sadiq's record does stand up reasonably well

But that wasn't Sadiq's case in his New Statesman piece. Here he claimed Labour deserved the mantle of Civil Liberty Champion. But their record does nothing to merit this, nor are they currently offering any policies to suggest they deserve it. Check out Sadiq's piece - not a single idea, nor any firm promise to improve civil liberties; indeed, the only party currently promising to overturn Secret Courts legislation for example is...the Lib Dems. 

So nice try Robert and I welcome Sadiq's record on Civil Liberties and his desire to improve them; but Labour as the Champion of Civil Liberties? I think not

Monday, 23 September 2013

Labour to keep 20% VAT rate.

This is what the Labour Party website currently says about VAT.


You think so?

Well, Rachel Reeves just confirmed on Newsnight that Labour will KEEP VAT at 20% if they are elected at the next General Election.

Yep, that's right.

What a bunch of hypocrites.

2010 Election Trivia. I love this stuff

I stumbled across the Interim House of Commons Report on the 2010 Election result the other day (don't ask) and it's full of the sort of election trivia I love. I'd recommend a swift perusal yourself, but in case you haven't the time, here are 10 brilliant stats about GE 2010.

1. 35% of voters voted for a party that wasn't Labour or the Tories - the highest since 1918

2. The safest seat in percentage terms is Liverpool Walton, held by new Labour MP Steve Rotheram with a majority of 57.7%.  The largest majority in terms of votes is 27,826 for Labour’s Stephen Timms in East Ham.

3. The seat with the smallest majority – four votes – is Fermanagh and South Tyrone, held by Michelle Gildernew for Sinn Fein.  Labour’s Glenda Jackson has the next smallest majority – 42 votes or 0.1% – in Hampstead and Kilburn.

4. The party that gained the smallest number of votes in 2010 was the Blue Environment Party, with 17 (other cracking party names included the Bus-Pass Elvis Party, Scotland Against Crooked Lawyers and The Joy of Talk Party).

5. Just 117 seats changed hands in the General Election vs the notional seats of 2005. Incumbency matters for all parties, not just the Lib Dems

6. The 10 largest constituencies (by electorate) are all in England. None of the ten smallest are in England

7. The highest turnout in the general election was East Renfrewshire with 77.3% . On a very parochial point, Ham Common (in the guise of Richmond Park) was third highest.

8. Only one of the ten most marginal seats (and it's the tenth) is a Lib Dem seat (Solihull); in 3 of the 10 most marginal, we came second.

9. The party with the highest % of female candidates? The Alliance Party with 33%.

10. Candidates by age? At 18 years 36 days (on 6th May), the independent candidate for Erewash, Luke Wilkins, is believed to be the youngest candidate. 95 year-old Robert Leaky, standing for the Virtue Currency Cognitive Appraisal party in Skipton and Ripon, is thought to be the oldest candidate; Mr. Leaky was also the oldest candidate in the 2005 election.

....and a bonus 11th. 64% of winners had been MPs in the previous Parliament.  Five MPs from earlier Parliaments were returned, Christopher Leslie, Stephen Twigg, John Cryer, Geraint Davies, and Jonathan Evans. 227 (35%) have no previous House of Commons experience

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Dear The Labour Party

You may try to take our policies on Mansion Tax and on the Living Wage

You can copy our Party Conference vote on the Bedroom Tax

You can win over our former Director of Policy

And you can even attempt to steal our mantle as the champions of civil liberties

But there's one thing you will never take away from us.


This, may I suggest, is a step too far....

Update. @aaemmerson tells me that the main act in the Adonis Cabaret Show is called Ophelia Balls. Adonis. Balls. Is there a Princess Miliband?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

So Nick, David, Danny et al, when you're in that room in 2015...

...negotiating a potential coalition, here's how the readers of 'A View from Ham Common' rank the import of the various cabinet posts that may be on offer.

To recap - every voter had 5 votes to distribute to the 5 posts they would most like us to have. PM was not an option. I counted the Treasury as one option (Chancellor) even though it's two roles. The results (in descending order ) were

Environment (44%)
International Development (41%)
DPM/ Constitutional affairs (35%)
Scotland (35%)
Communities (32%)
Wales (32%)
Education (29%)
Energy (29%)
Business (26%)
N.Ireland (26)
DCMS (26%)
Home Sec (23%)
Treasury (23%)
Justice (20%)

Anything else scored less than 20%

The results are surprising, are they not?

None of the 'Big 3' departments  - Treasury, Home Office, FCO  - feature highly.
The top 2 are departments where we don't currently hold the cabinet post

Despite the fact that we have had no end of Civil Libs trauma with the Home Office, it seems we would be happy to let the other party hold on to it.

Despite our failure to get much done on the big constitutional areas, Election Reform and House of Lords Reform, we're keen to hang on to it.

And environment - where we didn't have a single minister until after the reshuffle - comes top.

Quite a surprise I think

Friday, 20 September 2013

The nice people at Unlock Democracy..

...have featured me in their weekly roundup, after my exchange of views with Sadiq Khan.

Here's a link to the review (it's on page 2)

A couple of screen grabs from the piece

And some links to Sadiq's piece and to my reply

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Doing a Laughton

I think we can all agree that implying you can't be a good Minister for Family or Children if you haven't any children yourself is a BAD thing. Which is why Tim Laughton ended up apologising to Sarah Teather the other day for any 'misunderstanding'....

But then the news reached me yesterday that Tony Abbott, the new Australian PM, had decided to take on responsibility for the Women Portfolio himself in the new government.

Now, Tony Abbott is not the best person to take on this role; after all, he was the source of inspiration for 'that speech' from Julia Gillard...

"“I will not be lectured on sexism and misogyny by this man, I will not. Because if he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn't need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror.”

And so if there had been a twitter storm about Tony Abbott being a poor choice, you'd nod along. He's an appalling choice.

But it seems to me there was a lot of comment saying that it was wrong that a man had been given the women's portfolio. Here are a few examples...

Now of course there are plenty of other examples of strident and correct criticism of Abbott himself and why he is a poor choice per se to speak on Women's Issues (here's a very good example from the New Statesman). I also found this on line...

There is also the fact that in a 20 seat cabinet, Abbott has selected just one woman to sit in the cabinet; Now, I know we in the Lib Dems need to do a hell of a lot more to get more women into senior roles in every aspect of the party ASAP. - but compared to Abbott we look almost progressive.

And I am sure that there are numerous women who would be miles better qualified to be the Australian Women's Minister. If I was was PM I'm sure I would choose a woman for the role because they would almost certainly be better qualified.

But I think folk should be very careful before saying that to be women's minister you HAVE to be a woman, or to be the Minister for Ethnic Minorities you have to be from an ethnic minority. Because by logical extension that means to be the Minister for Children you think you have to have children.

And suddenly, you're doing a Laughton


I genuinely would appreciate views both for and against this; I think its a tricky area. and I'm quite in favour of say, all women shortlists for PPCs. so if you think I'm completely wrong...do say!

Here's my latest piece in the New Statesman, in response to Sadiq Khan's piece earlier in the week claiming that Labour is now the party of civil liberties.  Bless.

I have sent it to him as well: I'll let you know if he responds...

Labour as the party of civil liberties? We won't be fooled that easily

Oh Sadiq. How could you?
Over here in the Lib Dems we’re used to you, ahem, 'borrowing' our policies. So now Labour is in favour of a mansion tax, a 2030 decarbonisation target, a reduction in the voting age to 16 and the removal of Winter Fuel Payments from the wealthiest 5% of pensioners? All this seems terribly familiar stuff. Because they’re policies and proposals championed by the Lib Dems.
And you’re probably cursing the fact you didn't make a promise of free school meals as well. Although I’m reminded of my favourite Oscar Wilde anecdote; hearing a friend utter a fabulous witticism, Wilde whispered to his companion, "I wish I had said that". "Oh don’t worry Oscar", replied the friend – "I’m sure you will…"
Surely, imitation is surely the sincerest form of flattery.
But now, Sadiq, you’ve gone too far by claiming Labour, and not the Liberal Democrats, is the champion of civil liberties. How quickly you must think we forget. Let’s review what the Convention of Modern Liberty said about civil liberties in its review of Labour from 1997-2009:
- 60 new powers introduced across 25 Acts of Parliament breaking pledges in the Human Rights Act and Magna Carta, all to reduce civil rights.
- 28-day detention without charge (And I seem to recall you wanted 90 days – 90!)
- Stop and search at airports without reason
- Control Orders
And what was the other thing you wanted to do? Oh, that’s right – introduce National Identity Cards. Words fail me.
Compare that to the Lib Dems in government. An end to child detention in immigration cases. The blocking of the Snooper's Charter. Ending the storing of DNA of innocent people. Reform of the libel laws.
Labour could have done any of this. But you didn’t. And even on our one Achilles' heel, secret courts, the grassroots in the Lib Dems have done their job – and the leadership have accepted their mistake. Only this week, conference rejected proposals for technologically impractical internet filters. What’s Labour’s policy on this? I don’t think you have one. Presumably you’re waiting for us to decide ours first so you can pinch it.
The Labour Party is many things. But claiming to be the party of civil rights? Now, that is a taking a liberty.