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.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Fantasy Politics of Torbay Tory PPC - Letter to HE 260909

Marcus Wood (no relation) writes the following in today's 'Herald Express' newspaper. It should be noted the Macus' preferred modus operandi is to mercilessly attack the Lib Dems at every opportunity, whilst coming forward with no ideas as to why to positively vote for him. Here's his latest missive with my unedited reply (as yet unpublished)

PEOPLE are growing weary of gladiatorial politics and want to know that their elected representatives can work together for the common good where necessary.

That is why we should celebrate that a Conservative mayor, working with a previously Lib Dem county council and a Labour Government have been able to make such good progress on the Kingskerswell bypass in recent years.

It was disappointing, therefore, that Nick Clegg turned his back on some promising signs of cooperation earlier in the year. While David Cameron offered Lib Dems the hand of friendship and cooperation Nick Clegg was saying that David Cameron was a 'con' and a 'fake'. Even more worrying is that according to a BBC poll, Liberal Democrat party activists are overwhelmingly in favour of keeping Labour in power if there is a hung parliament, regardless of voters calling for a change.

Many progressive liberals despair that rather than being an agent for change in Britain, the Liberal Democrat party has allowed itself to become a road block to progress. I don't expect all these people will become a card carrying member of the Conservative Party overnight but we will be urging them to vote for something exciting and progressive; I will be asking for them to put their trust in David Cameron and our party to deliver on those things that we all want to see, scrapping ID cards, the surveillance state and guard our freedoms, maintaining support for the NHS and overseas aid while working to reduce the national debt and bring down the tax burden on the lowest paid. And above all, returning some honesty and integrity to the political process in Britain.

At least 50 Lib Dem councillors have joined us since David became leader. Added to that are nine former parliamentary candidates, and Saj Karim in the European Parliament; and last week they were joined by Cllr James Keeley, until recently the Liberal Democrat candidate in Skipton and Ripon. These people have decided that the best way of getting this country headed in the right direction is to support us, and I know there will be thousands more joining us this time.

Working together for what is best for society is not just down to the politicians though. Once or twice in a lifetime the national situation is important enough that doing what is best for the country outweighs tribal loyalties; the next election will undoubtedly be such an occasion.


Parliamentary Candidate for the Torbay Conservatives

My reply is as follows :

Marcus Wood of Torbay Conservatives urges liberal progressives to vote for something 'fresh and exciting' in form of the Conservative party under David Cameron.

Most would consider the description of liberal conservative as an oxymoron in itself, but let's look at the evidence before us. As a supposed agent of change it took David Cameron three years to withdraw from the moderate centre-right EPP group within the European parliament. In doing so he moved his party away the influential governing parties of France and Germany. The Daily Mail (23 June) , a paper not noted for liberal sympathies, declared that the Tories new Euro allies "will include 15 MEPs from Poland's Law and Justice Party, which banned gay marches in Poland for being ‘sexually obscene’. One of its MPs said President Obama's election would mean ‘an impending catastrophe, the end of the civilisation of the white man'. The third largest grouping is nine MEPs from the Czech Republic's ODS, whose founder Vaclav Klaus has declared climate change a ‘global myth’. Their Latvian allies include some members, who see the Latvian Legion – the Latvian units of the Waffen SS – as brave patriots who fought against Stalin's Soviet Union. Not very much that is either liberal or progressive here.

Domestically as Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader said last week, Cameron says he says he wants to fix the broken society, yet he's promised tax breaks to the very rich. Further, the Tory leader claims to wants new politics, yet he won't even own up to whether or not his big donors pay full British taxes. As for political reform and the ending of safe seats via a fair voting system, or moving towards an elected House of Lords, the self-styled 'liberals' within the Conservative party support the status quo.

Progressive liberals can be agents for change, as the Liberal Democrats amply illustrated at their Autumn Conference. Policies agreed include a redistributive taxation policy that would lift four million out of taxation altogether, a genuine commitment to decentralisation and a programme of action to address youth unemployment. Add to this a pupil premium to aid schools in more disadvantaged areas, smaller class sizes and the recent reaffirmation of opposition to the expensive and dangerous development of nuclear energy sources. This is the progressive liberalism of the Liberal Democrats. Marcus, trying to claim this mantle for the Tories, is engaging in fantasy politics.

This paper has regularly carried partisan attacks made by Marcus upon the Lib Dems in general, and Adrian Sanders in particular. Therefore, the call by Marcus for the abandonment of tribal loyalties can only be seen as hypocrisy of the highest order.

Nationally the Tories talk of change, but they can't and won't deliver it ! Witness their present rule of Torbay as evidence of this ! Voters in Torbay that do want a fairer, greener, liberal and more equal country can help move us closer to goal by casting a progressive vote in favour of the Liberal Democrats at the next General Election.

Barrie Wood

Thursday, September 24, 2009

'Good Conference' or 'Bad Conference' ?

The media would have the public believe that Autumn Conference went badly for the Lib Dems.

Well that's according to establishment figures like Andrew Neill. Frankly, despite the discomfiture of the leadership, it showed from my position on the TV sofa, that the party is a thinking party, has grown up quality debates and occasionally reminds (as it has done before) us all that Conference has to agree to policy changes (rather than the week long cheerleading that goes on at other party conferences).

In my eves I see a victory for debate and democracy and accountability. Any bruises felt by Clegg and Cable are entirely of their making. Despite what some may think I do not fetishise challenges to the leadership. As a former community worker I am ever mindful of the need to take people with you. A pity Nick Clegg preferred macho posturing in the media last weekend instead.

Instead of the doom laden froth of 'savage cuts' and ill-defined attacks on the public sector seeking core Tory votes, that are never likely to come our way, it's the fantastically progressive and redistributive taxation position that we should be taking out onto the doorstep.

So, it seems to me, that Conference was far from the 'disaster' than the political class would have you believe. I missed being there this year, but 2010 will be different !


The verdict on Nick Clegg - Good ? Bad ? Indifferent ?

The Autumn Conference speech yesterday by Nick Clegg with vacuous references like the notion of a ‘progressive audacity’ was not one to excite me as a Lib Dem, let alone those outside our ranks. As Darrell Goodliffe says it's as meaningless as the supposed 'Third Way' of Blair and Clinton.

Last Autumn we had the imprecise detail as to how much of the £20bn of alleged ’savings’ would be redirected towards tax cuts and we had Nick’s inability to say what the basic level of the state pension was. This September we’ve had the irresponsible and alienating talk of ’savage’ cuts and trying to bounce the party on tuition fees. His political antennae is questionable, again.

Conference is meant to rally the troops and engage with the wider public. Did it achieve either outcome ? Most of the public are aware that times of austerity are coming, but as Steve Webb said the leadership overdid the gloom and doom. It is us who will pay for the greed of the banking sector and the artificial credit-led boom that turned sour.

The explicitly progressive taxation positioning clearly outflanks the other parties is what should have been shouted from the rooftops. Our commitment to reforming and cleaning up politics should resonate, following the MP’s expenses furore. Likewise, distinctive policies, such as the pupil premium, civil liberties stances, supporting the Ghurkas et al, are all good stories to tell – not an emphasis on getting into a dutch auction to see who can be harder on the public sector.

Critics portray Clegg as Cameron Lite. The faux sincerity of his body language apes Blair. Just because the media establishment tell you someone is good doesn’t automatically make it so. Didn’t the political class marvel at Cameron and Blair previously ?

Frankly, it’ll be a tall order to retain the number of seats we already have at Westminster next year. That a third of the populace have never even heard of Nick Clegg says it all. Further I remember vividly how God awful he was at the Plymouth leadership hustings. Disappointingly I’m no further impressed despite Nick having had time to ‘grow into’ the job of leader.

Sure he’s had his conference successes too. After the shaky start, I think he did crucially manage to get across how different we are from the Tories (and, of course, Labour).
That Labour is so electorally impotent and their haemorrhaging vote is going pretty much everywhere but NOT to the Lib Dems is a real reason for concern. How do those more impressed with Nick explain this current phenomenom ?