Friday, 28 May 2010

Simon Hughes Standing For Deputy Leader

I strongly support Simon Hughes to become Deputy leader of the Lib Dems. Though I am not a party member due to doubts about the orange liberals agenda, Simon Hughes fits perfectly as a Lib Dem MP who shares my values and is from the same political standing as myself, i.e. the more radical center left of the party.

It is important for the Liberal Democrats that this wing of the party are represented by a MP like Simon Hughes holding a high posistion and making sure that the left of the party's views are represented.

He supports the coalition but emphasises the Liberal Democrat need to stay independent, a smart and correct choice. As i've stated previosuly, I do not believe the coalition will last as it is now, and Simon Hughes is the best choice for the Lib Dems to hold a posistion as important as deputy leader as he will assure the left that a vote for the Lib Dems does not support the Tories, it support Lib Dem principles and policies. It will also face off potential loss to Labour, because he is well known as being on the left and it is important at the next election that the Lib Dems have a high profile figure who is seen as someone who could happily deal with Labour, which Simon Hughes clearly can, whilst regarding this coalition sensiably, supporting it but retaining independence, which he is doing well.

Hopefully this view will be shared by the Liberal Democrat membership when it comes to the descion time. The fact that Vince Cable, probably the most popular Lib Dem amongst the public at large now that Cleggmania has died away, has given him his backing will be important as well.

Thursday, 27 May 2010


This coalition government is not going to last.

Vince Cable, said to be unhappy about dealing with the Tories, has stepped down as Lib Dem Deputy leader.

Sir Menzies Campbel has said he will rebel on tution fee's.

Charles Kennedy said he could not support the deal.

And on the Tory side, Graham Brady has been elected 1922 commitee chairman. He is not Cameron friendly.

And their are now very public disputes over capital gains tax.

The Liberal Democrats should be preparing for the fall out. They face being punished by the electorate for siding with the Tories in a government that is set to fail. And when it does, they need a damn good plan to stop themselves loosing seats, both to a Labour party re-energising itself and a Tory party who will constantly claim that hung parliments and coallition governments 'are bad' for the country. It will be a tough fight, and the party must realise it is going to be sooner than expected.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Boundary Changes

So Tory party policy is too reduce the number of MP's by equaling out the size of constituencies. As the Lib Dems want too reduce the number of MP's as well, and in return for the referendun on AV, then it looks like this is going to happen. Nothing really bad there, I can understand the logic, and it seems fair to make sure MP's are elected by similar levels of people.

However, there is another side to this. The system is thought to be biased towards Labour, and it's a fair thing for the Tories to go after, they may gain but you can't really complain about it for democratic reasons as the idea in itself isn't that bad on paper.

The BBC points this out:
Constituencies like the Isle of Wight, for example, has 110,000 voters, while the Western Isles has only 22,000 voters.

Doesn't seem fair does it? Perhaps equalising the electorate sizes for places like this would be more democratic.

But wait a minute...aren't the Tories champions of the idea of the 'local MP'? Don't they oppose more proportional systems because that local connection will be lost? And here you begin to see the contradiction in Tory policy.

For these 2 places mentioned happen to be their own localised communities. I mean if you put the Western Islands in with somewhere on the mainland that not very 'local' now is it, because they are now grouped in with people in different situations from them who live many miles away. The MP would no longer be local to the constituency, only part of it. Same for the Isle Of White, you can't make a new MP for it because thats adding to the number, not taking away, and it wouldn't be very local to chop off part of that islands population and group them in with somewhere on the mainland.

Of course as Island(s) these 2 are particuarly good examples, but it's doesn't take much to see big differences in cities either, with one of a city facing very different situations and circumstances to another depending on how it has grown over the years. Do you think it's fair to have the intrests of the affluent represented by the same MP representing the poorest, just because in that particular half of the city there happens to be more upper market houses?

What this basically shows is that Tory policy isn't for a shiny bright democracy, it's for themselves. If they really cared so much about being local they'd be wanting to make a whole lot more MP's to ensure even more people are covered, and if they really cared about fairness and everyone's vote counting then they'd support a PR system. Rather what they do care about is reforming the system in their favour so they get more seats in the House Of Commons, regardless of whether they are actually representing 'local' communities or not.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Banning the sale of below cost alcohol

One of the measures promised by our new government is the banning of the sale of alcohol below cost. This is excellent news, and not just for the 'health' measures being talked about by the media. Whilst people focus on the binge drinking aspect there is actually another aspect not being considered - and that is the buisness side.

The sale of below cost alcohol is a buisness practice engaged in by the UK's major super markets designed to entice people into their shops to buy eveything but the alcohol. They may loose of the sale from the 24 pack but they win overall by charging extra for the things you buy with it, particularly over priced grocery items and of course on things like BBQ's and the food you cook with them.

You may rememmber the off licence chain Threshers (aka First Quench Trading). A perfect example of a British buisness effectively destroyed by the 4 major supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsburts, Asda, Morrisons) quest for greater shares of the market. A company like Threshers could not afford to compete on beer prices and even with 3 for 2 on wine and much wine focus and training for it's staff it of course eventually lost out to the cheaper brands offered by he supermarkets, and sadly fell into administration in October 2009.

Individual independent buissnes's of course struggle as well to compete. For example a small newsagent simply can't afford to sell alcohol at less than cost, thats just not financially viable. It is getting harder and harder for them to compete with the giant shops and thats unacceptable if we wish to give the consumer choice and stop small buissness closures. We can't allow the whole country just to become 4 shops. And of course shops selling food and such are effected as well as potential customers end up doing all their shopping at the supermarkets, enticed by the alcohol offers and falling into the supermarkets trap and buying more whilst there. These big supermarkets have specialised marketing people working all year round with the aim of maxamsing profits and persudaing people to buy as much as possiable whilst in store - how can your local independent grocery shop owner compete with this?

Then of course there is the pub/bar trade. With the football world cup this summer you would expect a buisness sector like this to be booming and looking forward to it with great expoectation. Instead you see worry about these supermarket beer offers danaging trade and concern over a fall in sales figures. Pubs can't compete with the supermarkets on alcohol prices, and it is damaging to the pub trade to continue to allow below cost selling. People simply aren't going out to socialise when the supermarkets offer alcohol at a much lower price.

We can't allow supermarkets to continue to threaten other British buisness's by allowing them to continue selling alcohol below cost price. The government is right on this. Lets hope they pull through and deliver this promise.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Nick Clegg plans democracy shake up

Nick Clegg has today been setting out plans for reforming parliment and 'shaking up democracy'. This is going to be the big Lib Dem selling point to their supporters, the reasoning why a coalition deal with the Tories was he best course of action.

The Lib Dem website has his speach up here.

The BBC's report on it has highlighted the following 5 points asides from the 55% rule and teh Av referrendum.

-Elected House of Lords
-Scrapping the ID card scheme and the national identity register
-Libel to be reviewed to protect freedom of speech
-Limits on the rights to peaceful protest to be removed
-Scrapping the ContactPoint database of 11 million under-18s

So lets look at those:

Elected House of Lords
Well first thing that springs to mind: About time! It's been talked about for as long as I can remember, and whilst Labour made steps towards it they never went far enough. Which is odd, you would have thought a 3 term Labour government would have finally made this step, but they seemed far too focused on invading Iraq and reacting to the Sun's headliners and seemed to have forget this rather essential step towards making the UK a proper Democracy. It's very important we start electing our House Of Lords, given how big a part they play in British politics. I suspect it will be via PR based on party lists - thats fine with me.

Scrapping the ID card scheme and the national identity register
One of the biggest disagreements I has with Labour asides from Iraq was the ID card scheme and thankfully this is being scrapped. Monitoring people in such fashion has no place in an open, free democratic society, people should never have to justify their existence based on the information held in a database, and the government should never have such control over it's citizens. It was a slippery slope as well, way too open to abuse by future governments and it's good to stop it now before it's properly gotten under way.

Libel to be reviewed to protect freedom of speech
I must admit libel law has never been my strong point, but the amount of time i've seen new story's concerning arguments over it and people's freedoms being quashed by companies/departments it's good to see at least a review being proposed. Essentially free speach that a)does not tell ouright lies for malicious reasons and b)does not incite violence based on racial predjudice (and so forth) should always be protected
to the maximum point possiable. People should be engrouraged to voice their opinions, not discouraged because they worry they might get sued!

Limits on the rights to peaceful protest to be removed
Execellent! Labour's record on thsi was terriable, the Iraq was got them frightened and they squashed democractic rights in reaction. The government should always be held accountable by it's people, and if those people wish to peacefully protest against it then they should be allowed to do so, regardless of whether it inconviences a government official or not.

Scrapping the ContactPoint database of 11 million under-18s
It's just wrong for governments to store so much about their citizens, particuarly children. Let people be judged by their actions, not prejudiced for troubled/disadvanteged childhoods.

Ok, so far, so good. Nick Clegg has done alot today in decalring his intentions and reasons why this coalition should be going ahead. Any Lib Dem supporter out there who is feeling worried about dealign with the Tories surely must agree that these points being talked about are all good things that we have bene after throught the Labour years, particuarly since Iraq triggered the increase of Labour's restrictions on civil liberties.

Sadly no date for an AV refferendum yet though, and worries being displayed in some quaters that it may take a long time getting to. We shall have to wait and see what movement is made on this.

As for the much talked about 55% rule....well it's actually pretty reasonable and too much is being made of it.

Nick Clegg said on the matter:

"That is a much lower threshold than the two-thirds required in Scottish Parliament but it strikes the right balance for our Parliament, maintaining stability, stopping parties from forcing a dissolution to serve their own interest.

"This last week, former Labour ministers who were once perfectly happy to ride roughshod over the rights of Parliament are now declaring that this is somehow an innovation which is a constitutional outrage. They are completely missing the point.

"This is a new right for Parliament, additional to the existing powers of no confidence. We are not taking away Parliament's right to throw out government. We are taking away government's right to throw out Parliament."

And I have to say I agree 100%.

So, today was a good day for Liberalism, and Nick Clegg has put forward many good proposals. Lets just hope they are acted on.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Charles Kennedy in today's Observer

Following on from Nick Clegg in it's sister paper yesterday, the Observer today goes with Charles Kennedy having refused to vote for the coalition.

It is an admirable stance to take and important in that it was he, not Nick Clegg, that really developed the party into a political force and still remains very popular with the British public. Remember the Lib Dems won more seats in the 2005 election under Kennedy than they have now under Clegg.

Charles Kennedy is right to voice is concerns and it is good to see such a high profile Lib Dem doing so. If the Liberal Democrats are going to be able to manage to keep a distance between themselves and the Tories then it will be important for figures such as Charles Kennedy to continue writing articles such as this and remind people that the Lib Dems aren't just Nick Clegg and that not everyone is happy to be in a deal with the Tories.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Clegg defends coalition

Today in the Guardian you can see Nick Clegg doing the rather difficult job of defending the coalition agreement. It is good to see him opening up with things already decided that are good descions, I doubt many on the left are going to disagree with the scrapping of ID cards and ending child detention. He also points out that a deal with Labour was unworkable, this is good. But what he doesn't do is discuss any differences with the Tories.

It seems Mr Clegg is, at current, committed to empaphasing unity and common ground. But this is a dangerous game, and if continues like this for too long he will be seen as propping up a Tory government.

Yes, of course as a coalition government you need common purpose. But the majority of Liberal Democrat supporters are drastically opposed to the Tory party, and if Nick Clegg does not make it clear there are still big differences then he will loose them to the Greens and Labour.

So my advice for Nick Clegg is...yes, for the time being you need to play up the whole 'in the national intrest' idea, find all the common ground you can and make sure people agree with you that the deal was the best course of action. But in the long run start the preparations for drawing big lines between the 2 parties, as when it comes to election time next you need to be able to show the differences and make a strong case that the Lib Dems are operating as an independent party not a Tory annex.

And remember, Scottish and Welsh parlimentry election in May 2011 give you less than a year to get all this Liberal legislation passed before you need to begin aiming fire at your Tory allies.....

Friday, 14 May 2010

The Coalition

So the 2010 general election is over and it's produced a result that causes great dilema for the UK's Liberal Democrat supporting center left. Do the maths, look at the viewpoints and there really was 2 options - to let the Conservatives govern as a minority, or to enter a coalition with them?

There's no doubt that the desired outcome for Social Liberals across the country was an alliance with Labour. They are progressive, the Tories are not. But alas it was not to be, Labour didn't really want to deal, they have no stomach left for government and are looking inwards, facing a leadership contest and wondering where it all went wrong (here's a hint - Iraq...though the seeds of discontent were there a long time ago).

So we had to look to the Tories. The Liberal Democrat dilema was - do we deal with the hated enemy? Or do we let that enemy rule as a minority, bearing in mind we or Labour can't afford another election yet and they can....

So they chose to deal with the devil. Makes sense really, though the party is unhappy at least things will begin to get done, particuarly on civil liberties, that we approve of. Labour had become far too authoritarian for our liking and we may as well make use of agreements with the Tories in this area to undo the damage done. And hey, scrapping the 3rd runway at Heathrow ain't too bad either.

To do anything other than this would backfire in the long run.

For a start the Tories campaigned against a hung parliment....well they won't be able to do that again in a hurry as those 'hung parliment party' videos now look laughable and Mr Cameron has already agreed that Nick Clegg is not the 'joke' he once he desribed him as.

Labour called Lib Dem policies 'loony'. Well it looks like some of these 'loony' policies are about to become fact. And if they work...well Labour using that argument won't have the same effect again.

'Vote Clegg get Brown' said the Tories. Well that didn't happen....

The point is that the Liberal Democrats are now serious buisness, and alot of the old tatics from the Tories and Labour won't work any more. And now it's firmly established there are 3 main parties in British politics, not just 2. If the Lib Dems had let the Tories go it alone it would have reflected upon them badly, being seen as scared of being in government and being all talk, no action.

Problem for the Lib Dems now is that are going to be seen as the outsider anymore, people really need to be convinced that Lib Dem policies are good for them, it's not just a protest vote anymore!

So policies. Well lets get straight to the point - compromise. We have to do it, so lets get as much as we can. Better to be in government exerting influence then outside it moaning! But part of this compromise is going to be dissapointment that we aren't getting our way as much as we'd like, and there is bound to be some issues where we are very unhappy at what the Tories demand and force us into. The Lib Dem leadership really need to emphasise where we are getting 'good' things done and where we are preventing the 'bad' things the Tories want. That way we maintain is important this is seen as a coalition of 2 parties, not just the Tories leading the way. Plus when it comes to an election the Lib Dems really need to be able to point out the differences and why having them in government has been to the British peoples advantage. I can see the flyers now....list of policies from the Lib Dems with big green ticks were they got it through and lists of ideas from the Tories with big red X's where they said no!

The Tories themselves are a divided party, let there be no mistake about that. David Cameron is not as popular as the right-wing media would have us believe. The Tory party is basically a coalition of various right-wingers, and David Cameron has their support because he was a trillion times more electable than the last 3 leaders they've tried. Micheal Howard? Iain Duncan Smith? William Hague? No wonder the Tories went for this guy! He got them elected but they aren't happy, many were expecting a landslide and past poll ratings of 40% plus indicacted this may be so...but alas 36% and no majority and here we are, how long before the grumbling becomes more serious?

Here's some advice for the Lib Dem campaign managers and tactians - take written notes every time a Tory backbencher speaks out against Cameron/the Coalition/the Lib Dems! For there will be moaning from the hard right, and it will reflect badly on them at election time, and it gives people in Tory-Lib Dem marginals to pick Lib Dems as the 'reasonable' choice versus the hard right-wing choice. For that what this coalition is going to be all about - being reasonable, being seen to act in the intrest of the British people and proving why Lib Dems in government is a good thing!

And for us on the center left...time to grit our teeth, get on with it and make our voices heard. Lets not be too optomistic, fact is the Tories are far apart from us on alot of things and we simply won't be able to get all the great thigns we want done. But lets not be too negative yet....wait and see how the Tories deal with their internal divisions. Chances are if we remain behind Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are seen as unified whilst Tories deal with splits amongst themselves then it will be the Lib Dems who against all odds will come out of this the best, looking like a natural choice for people who want reasonable good governance.