This blog is a political blog from a left-of-centre perspective. This is not specifically a party political blog, but does have a Lib Dem orientation. Constructive enagement with radical liberals, social democrats / democratic socialists and greens is particularly welcomed.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Kennedy Must Go Petition

The petition organised by 'The Liberal' is risible in the extreme. It is a pity that the Guardian gave this miniscule circulation rag the title of 'in-house journal' which it self-evidently isn't.

This irregular pretentious poetry ridden magazine has little Lib Dem orientation, with as many [largely uninteresting] articles from Labour or Tory circles as Lib Dem. It is nothing more than a poor attempt to raise profile and circulation. The collection of email addresses is a ropey tactic too.

The Guardian poll saying voters want change is also probably a creation of the media. Prior to the [sadly unsacked] malcontents on the front bench creating the latest furore over the leadership, I think most people within and without the Lib Dems were reasonably happy with 'Chairman Charles'.

Yes Charles does need a in private kick up the backside ! Yes, in my opionion, he has promoted economic liberals to top posts in the parliamentary party, only for them to try to steer / hijack the party into an unquestioning free-market direction, much against the general grain of the thinking of the party membership as a whole. If anyone has to go it is these figures and not Kennedy ! Charles Kennedy is as good a unifying figure as any and certainly in a way his putative challengers to his right and left would be, however much I'd personally prefer the latter.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Lib Dem MPs Shut it NOW !!

Yet again I switch on the Today programme and the Lib Dem leadership is subject to discussion. Ming Campbell's comments are cleverly phrased but still hardly a ringing endorsement. A leader that cannot carry with him / her leading figures in the party has a limited shelf-life. Again, Ming is calling on Charles and others to raise his game, so clearly he is falling short in many people's eyes in the **parliamentary ** party

In part though CK has himself to blame. He should have cracked down on those elements that have issued briefings over-reaching beyond party policy - a recent example being talk of a deal with the Tories post General Election in 2009/10. The Treasury team in particular continue to 'fly kites' that would have questionable support within the wider party.

Now on a personal level I'd like to see someone of the ilk of Simon Hughes leading the party and, conversely, would dread a decisive shift rightwards engineered by an economic liberal like Oaten, Laws or Cable. Sometimes I despair in that CK seems to have no ideological compass at all, but as 'Chairman (sic) Charlie' he has just about managed to bind rival traditions within the party together. His collegiate and more consensual style added to positive public approval are his strengths. I can't see any of his rivals equalling this.

Ask yourself this too. Apart from maybe Simon Hughes and possibly Menzies Campbell, typically amongst the wider public few of the party 'stars' have name / image recognition. This is hardly the basis to champion a change of leadership.

I was a little disappointed with the 2005 GE outcome, but nonetheless it WAS the best result for a 'Liberal' party for 82, so lets cut Charles some slack.

Most of all I am seething with anger that negative briefings from the parliamentary party have brought us to where we are. For goodness sake put up or shut up. Better still just shut it - now ! I don't care from what 'wing' of the party you come from I will not forgive these actions easily. When the party membership is at odds with party MPs this spells disaster - I certainly don't want 1980's Labour style internecine warfare thank you very much.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Will the economic Liberals take note of the August findings in a Which? poll as quoted by Simon Jenkins in 'The Guardian' yesterday :

"...90% of people did not want choice,just a good hospital within easy reach".

The same is true of schools and most public services. Where is the evidence to the contrary.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

No More Briefs !

Will Lib Dem parliamentarians please desist from briefing against party leader Charles Kennedy. This is doing the party no good at all and we need to hold our nerve and see what how any 'Cameron effect' impacts upon the Tories [and Labour and ourselves].

As I've said earlier, Charles does need to raise his game, particularly if the Tories get reacquainted with political reality again, but his lack of obvious ideology enables him to bind together the differing strands in the party. Whilst we might see the debate raging between economic and social liberals, this has not registered with the general public.

It is fair to say that I look to the likes of Hughes, Holmes, Harris, Greaves and their ilk to keep the radical flame burning within the party. CK isn't my ideal leader, but he is pretty popular with the electorate and is seen as a fully paid-up member of the human race, unlike many of the front bench. How many people if polled would recognise [say] Vince Cable ? Many of his putative rivals, to his left and right, have low recognition levels 'out there' and I'm not sure the wider membership are that unhappy with Charles. So I think a leadership contest is not warranted or desirable at this juncture.

Let's give Charles more time for the realistic alternatives are not THAT obvious to me.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Cameron - the early verdict !

On the plus side one can welcome the environment commission set up by Cameron. Certainly Gummer and Goldsmith are two figures well worth listening to and their deliberations - and the Tory reaction to them - should prove interesting. One caveat is are the Tories picking up the mantle of green issues as a clumsy attempt to [as they probably see it] connect with younger voters ? After all the Tory record has been dismal since Gummer departed.

Likewise, the social justice commission was unthinkable under recent Tory leaders. And, whilst he was an atrocious leader, since then Iain Duncan-Smith has travelled extensively around the UK and absorbed much from the communities he's visited. To earn respect for his integrity and genuine interest from community activists on the Easterhouse housing scheme in Glasgow speaks well of the man. They aren't too keen on Tories up there !

The attempt to make the Tory party benches resemble 21st century Britain via better representation of women and other minorities is something to be applauded too.

However, the mood music may have changed but underneath the old rancid Tory party lives on. Already we have the Tories pledged to leave the moderate centre-right European People's Party grouping in the European Parliament. Who will they align with ? Only the nasty nationalist elements remain open to them. So a few days in the fissure on Europe is out in the open again.

Secondly, look at the top of the party, with key positions given to Fox, Davis, Hague et al. It looks pretty much business as usual with a firm rightward emphasis. That the likes of Clarke and Redwood figure in shadow appointments hardly buries the grisly memories of the Thatcher years.

In terms of presentation, the vacuos but slick oratory seems to ape Blair and that in a period when the PM is far less popular than his party. It will be interesting once the 'honeymoon' period is over to see if Cameron can shift the party to the centre and what the Lib Dem response will be. As Charles Kennedy has said this country doesn't need another conservative party. I'd go further it doesn't need any conservative party !!

What does worry me about CK is that he seems to have no ideological compass of his own. It is Cable, Laws and the other economic Liberals who are steering the party rightwards, with of course, no reference to the membership. Is the Meeting the Challenge exercise for real ? Certainly I would have to consider my position as a party member should we cosy up to the Tories. I've spent my entire adult life opposing them and to make grandiose announcements about putative deals with the Tories come a 'hung' parliament seems terrible politics all round. These anti CK briefings are very damaging too. That said, I'm not sure how much further inertia from 'Chairman Charles' we can sustain.

To their credit the Tories have hit the ground running under Cameron, although one expects this new 'exciting' Tories phase not to last more than a few months. In the meantime I feel the party needs it's social liberal wing to thread their ideas together in response to the Orange Book tendency. Is it me ? Am I the only one to think that we are sounding rudderless and politically drifting ?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Party positioning

So the Tories have elected an opportunist Blair clone as leader. Typically the Tories went for the Eton and Oxford boy whose never had a proper job over David Davis and his council house upbringing. One can hope that the Tory membership have got it badly wrong again. PMQ's yesterday was like watching Blair versus Blair. Plenty of smooth oratory but not a great deal of substance.

To be fair, there is a difference, the Tories would not have introduced a minimum wage (which has made a difference to many in Devon), invested in public services, supported the New Deal and tax credits helping many of the less priviledged. This is not to discount the authoritarian, centralising thrust of Labour. This is NOT signing up to the war in Iraq, anti-terror bill, tuition fees, ID cards, de-facto GM Schools and being softened up for a move to nuclear power energy 'solutions'. In short, I loathe everything the Tories stand for and would be likely to implement in government. Conversely, I regret the many regressive policies introduced by this less-than-Labour government, but do recognise it's achievements too. With Labour there is a debate to be had. The Tories unless they become more socially liberal and economically moderate any constructive engagement is near impossible in my view. If they move towards the one-nation 'civic conservatism' they may yet become a political force again, but the ghost of Thatcherite dogmatism refuses to go away.

Sadly there are those in the Lib Dems who want to drive the party in a more explicitly free market direction. How many times do politicians need to be told that people generally want locally available, good quality, accountable, public services ? What evidence is there so far that contracted out services are an improvement on in-house provision, be that provided by the council, in hospitals or schools ?

Open and competitive markets work well in the provision of consumer goods but I remain unconvinced that the marketisation of public services is either what the public wants or is likely to prove successful.

Will the Lib Dems hold to a social liberal agenda in keeping with the greater number of it's activists or will there be a New Labour-style takeover from the top by Cable, Oaten, Laws, Huhne and co ? Does no-one else see similarities between what is happening in the Lib Dems and what transpired in the incresingly activist free Labour party ?

The Lib Dems have prospered electorally through its progressive policies on tax, education, social care and wedded that to its [never more needed] traditional commitment to the environment and civil liberties. Voters increasingly like what they see and hear, so why become yet another centre-right party ?

This former Labour councillor joined the Liberal Democrats because of it's progressive credentials and its transparent commitment to fairness, liberty, the environment and social justice. These are my reasons for for being in politics. Whilst policies evolve, core principles and a clear ethos need to guide a party. May those that have built the party up, from the bottom upwards, continue to move it forward.