What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Archive for the tag “Nick Clegg”

Lib Dem Conference Latest…

… just in…

In Brighton this week, Danny Alexander was publicly thanked by failed minister Sarah Teather for making her look good…

… Breaking News…

…The Lib Dem Glee Club has replaced “F*** off Tony Blair and die” with a more appropriate song that fits their standing in the polls – Tom Lehrers’ “We Will All Go Together When We Go”…

(For the original offensive Lib Dem song, see this – http:www.labourlist.org/2012/09/lib-dem-conference-goers-sing-tony-blair-can-fk-off-and-die/  )

…And in what may yet be seen as his best speech ever, Little Nicky shows his grasp of History, the laws of Physics, and primary colours:

“The past is the past…”  “…we can’t return to the past…”  ” Blue + Yellow = Green…”

So, altogether now – “Red and yellow and pink and blue…”

“…No more apologies…”

“… I’m so tired,

I’m so sick and tired…”

Our apology for a Government seems to be spending much of its time saying “sorry” at the moment.  And, just like Morrissey, I experiencing a distinct increase in my level of fatigue with them.

Firstly, Little Nicky pops up to make us all feel his pain on youtube, saying sorry for promising something he could not deliver, and for in fact doing the opposite on tuition fees. The instant auto-tuned hit has been an enormous flop in terms of convincing non Lib Dems that they are anything other than a puddle of yellow water on the steps of number ten.

Clegg was using a mix of two political techniques, borrowed from two other progressive leaders:

 Firstly he used the “Blair Gambit” – “hey, I am a decent guy who had to make a tough choice in hard times, but I am a pretty straight guy…’ 

Secondly, he employed what has become known as “The Clinton defence” – “Y’all caught me out, aw shucks, I’ll never do it again, and I feel your pain – please, feel mine. Can I give you a hug? Can we forget about it?”

Most interestingly, his apology was less for introducing an increase of £9,000 in student fees, and more for promising to eventually abolish them. In essence, Clegg is saying that his mistake was to propose and campaign for a progressive measure. Breathtaking cynicism. Employing the techniques pilfered from “the fornicator in chief” and possibly the most mistrusted and reviled British politician of recent times – lets see how that works out for you Nicky…

 And then we have Andrew (Grant) Mitchell. Oh dear. Not good Mr Mitchell, not good at all. Up until last week, most of us believed that the Conservatives were in a committed relationship with Ms. Laura Norder, although they may have had the odd fling with that G4S hussy. Apparently no more, “the Bobby on the Beat” has become “the pleb at the gate”. Step forward Mitchell, and display the fruits of your expensive education…

 … Andrew Mitchell used that other weapon in modern political  warfare, the “Non Apology Apology”. Used often over the years by GW Bush, Hilary “misspeak” Clinton and over here by Peter Mandelson. Manfully, he stepped in front of the news cameras to say, in effect ” I never said that, but I am very sorry for the things I never said.” Of course you are Andrew, of course you are…

A word to the wise Andrew, try not to swear at Policemen, however hard your day has been. They tend to have notebooks in which to write stuff down, and as Leveson is proving, access to the media. As anyone who has been on a demonstration in the past thirty years knows, or as any Football fan could tell you, they tend to get a bit narky when insulted…

In general, politicians, like the rest of us, do make mistakes – most of them are human after all. Of course, sometimes an apology is welcome, and a useful part of the process, yet in these cases the words do not ring true.

Much of the left has spent years shouting loudly at Tony Blair, demanding that he apologise for Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he should then be put on trial. Blair refuses to apologise because he does not believe that he was wrong – to my mind he is right not to, as it would be a palpable lie in this case.

In any case, since the Clinton era of misdemeanour-lie-apology-next misdemeanour -apology ad infinitum, the tactic of simply using a form of words to cover your ass is devalued.

Part of Nick Clegg’s problem here is that his version of the Coalition narrative no longer rings true to many who voted or campaigned for him in 2010. Mathematically, the only stable coalition was between the two partners in Government now, but there were other alternatives. Firstly, a minority Tory Government, backed on a looser “confidence and supply” basis by the Lib Dems, secondly, and more interestingly, there was the never discussed option for another General Election.

It is fairly obvious as to why no party would want this – they had just spent all their cash on the original campaign. However what did the voters want? The hung parliament indicates that it did not want the Tories to run the country, and did not want Labour to continue in the old way. Nick Clegg and the Orange Bookers bottled their chance, scared, as was everybody else, by what could possibly happen in the global markets should another election (that is, actually asking us what we think again). 

 I doubt we will ever get an apology for this… 

 

 

Why, just once, Labour should back the Coalition…

Tonight in the Commons, Labour MPs have an opportunity to show disaffected Lib Dems that there is an alternative to Clegg.

Well, that’s the short tactical argument for voting for Lords Reform, of course there is a longer, much more principled set of reasons, to whit:

Ever since its foundation, the Labour Movement, of which The Labour Party is an intrinsic part (whatever Progress or Bob Crow say), has fought against entrenched power and privilege.  Go back as far as the Putney Debates of the seventeenth century if you like, you will always find slim red thread through radical, socialist and trades union positions on the issue of state-controlled preferment.

 True enough, New Labour at best fudged this, and with its leading protagonists and cheerleaders spending so much effort cosying up to Oligarchs and shysters, we nearly lost any opportunity to win democratic change.

Once before in this Parliament, over voting reform, we have seen the very worst example of parliamentary conservatism and narrow partisanship triumph over common sense and a move towards justice. We must not let it happen again.

By supporting the call for reform, Ed Miliband is staying true to the words and spirit of his first speech as Leader, and being true to the spirit of the pioneers who founded the Labour Representation Committee over a century ago.

Re-read your Thomas Paine, I promise you you will find no argument justifying a second chamber composed of placemen, high-born, or failed politicians (and of course Baroness Warsi).

Lord Puttnam and Bragg are no doubt wonderful, intelligent men, yet I hardly think that this trumps popular sovereignty. And they can always lunch at The Garrick and Groucho clubs instead. To paraphrase Bagehot, intellectual support for The House of Lords rarely survives first contact with the actual institution.

To side with the right of the Tory Party for the sake of causing the coalition one more embarrassment is both short sighted and petty. After all, we have yet to exhaust Osbornes’ Budget.

As a Party, we must be positioning ourselves as the reasonable alternative to the Coalition, which means finding common ground with Lib Dems, and Greens on issues such as democratic reform where we can. By doing this, we make Nick Cleggs job much harder at the next election.

On News International, & on Banking, the Labour Front Bench have scored two goals against Cameron and Clegg. Now lets make it a hat trick.

Let the Tories play games against each other on this one.

 

OH! WHAT A BEAUTIFUL MORNING!

And as the results continue to come in, oh what a beautiful day?

Lib Dems trounced nationally, Labour winning over 500 seats and over twenty councils throughout England and Wales. We have taken seats from the Tories, BNP, Lib Dems, Plaid and UKIP. And it looks as though the SNP may not have won Glasgow as predicted. From Great Yarmouth to Plymouth this is a great result for Labour and Ed Milibands leadership.  Even in Bradford, where we lost seats to Respect, overall we have gained two seats!

Harlow, Southhampton, Dudley – directly from the Tories

Birmingham, Carlisle, Derby, Norwich, Reading – from No Overall Control.

The London results are not yet in, and Scotland is only counting now. The Ken & Boris show is over – too close to call, although whichever way the votes go, David Cameron will have to watch his back…

 

A LETTER TO LONDON CONSERVATIVES…

Dear London Tories,

 I realise that now is not a good time for you, what with the Budget fiasco, Labour’s poll lead, and having to be nice to Little Nicky and his ilk. You have my sympathy, you really do. It must be galling to look at the London-wide polls and see Labour with a nineteen point lead, and now it looks like Livingstone may even beat Johnson for Mayor. You certainly didn’t need that prat Alexander reminding everyone that these austerity measures will carry on until at least 2016  yesterday, making George “Gandalf” Osborne look more like Saruman with every passing day…

 To an increasing number of you, it must feel like you chose the wrong chap in David Cameron, after all, it cannot sit easily with you when an hereditary Liberal like Helena Bonham Carter pops up and tells the world that David is “not right wing at all, really” after spending weekends with the Camerons at Chequers. I mean, where was Julian Fellowes, or Michael Caine, come to that? Or at least someone with a smarter looking husband…

…and that “tennis” comment did not go down well with voters, not at all. Nor did David’s failure to name a pasty outlet that is actually open in Leeds. For the record, I recently went up there and counted at least two Greggs, and one West of Cornwal shop not five minutes from Leeds station – does no-one do their research at number ten?

 It maybe that he really is “the heir to Blair”, in that he holds your party in contempt, just as Tony did with us. In this you have my sincere condolences, as it will not end well for you, just remember what happened to us…

 Leaving aside “Mad Frankie” Maude making a hash of Union bashing, something we all thought any one of your MPs could do in their sleep, what really must rankle is that faced with an enormously unpopular Labour government, in 2010, you could not defeat Gordon Brown without needing the Coalition. Dave really did not connect with that many swing voters, even when given the electoral gift of “Bigotgate”, economic crisis, the expenses scandal etc. And he seemingly hasn’t got any better – why, for someone who claims to have the countryside in his blood, he fails to remember which horse he rode, and when. He couldn’t even win an election against Gordon Brown.

 However, I think I may have found a solution to your Leadership problem, in fact, it is staring you in the face. You need someone who portrays unambiguous Conservative instincts, yet can appeal to floating voters and socially liberal types across the land.You need a ruthless man. Someone with a high media profile, yet who can take gaffes and bad publicity in his stride, a man that can amuse and delight both the party faithful and those all-important floating voters.Sadly, David Davis won’t do it, & I think you know who I mean, but just to be clear, you need Boris Johnson.

The only problem is that he currently resides in City Hall, not Westminster, but you have it in your hands to change this between now and May 3rd. Just remember, a defeat for Boris can easily be blamed on David Cameron – after all, look at the polls – its the Budget, stupid! And those pesky LibDems! Finding Johnson a safe seat should present you with no problem at all, particularly with the seat cull going ahead, and I doubt that any local association would refuse him, be mad to.

Once safely ensconced in the chamber, it is merely time to revisit the glory days of the 1922 Committee and hey presto! No more Coalition, just a straightforward Tory government, at least until election time. The great Communicator, teamed with someone in contrast, maybe someone northern and blunt, would be a difficult team to beat.

So, for the sake of your party, and all you hold dear, I appeal to your better natures, do the right thing, and make this dream a reality. You know what to do – stop canvassing, stop leafletting, make like you don’t care. It will be hard I know, but in the end, it will be worth it.

 

Yours,

 

Clem.

 

…NEWS FROM SOMEWHERE…

By: Our Staff Liar –

In a shock outburst this week, a fictitious source close to Nick Clegg announced that he was “unavailable” for comment, for discussion, or indeed for anything other than helping Samantha Cameron around the house.

Sources close to the Prime Monster’s other partner mentioned “doing the ironing, cleaning the bathroom, oh, and we need more Hobnobs.” as a fair summation of Mr Cleggs’ enhanced role.

Meanwhile, fibbers close to Danny Alexander, the Scottish Annoyance at The Treasury declared  him to be “pleased” on being declared “More annoying than Alex Salmond” by a leading made-up focus group…*

In other party of my imagination, Chris Huhne has been spotted doing a merry jig to the demise of Silvio Berlusconi. This long awaited retirement places the dull Huhne at last in the top ten of Western Europes’ leading political philanderers, ahead of that bearded LibDem who likes Eastern European assistants for their brains. ” For years everyone thought I was the dull one” said Huhne, “Well now I’m the dull one who left his wife by text.”

* One source from the group was quoted – “Its not that he’s Scottish, or that he’s ginger, its because he is Danny Alexander – he just stands there, two feet behind George Osborne with a slight smirk on his pasty face.” Said the anonymous Mr Kennedy.

 

Little Nicky and the Tribalists.

So today, after keeping schtumm for the whole campaign, Nick Clegg wades in with a fairly coherent op-ed article in The Telegraph. So far, so good – a reasonable, reasoned argument for reform, in Britains’ most august Tory daily.

Sadly, he followed this up with a massively partisan and mendacious attack  on the Labour Party with his follow-up speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research. Little Nicky simply repeated Osborns canard that Labour would have cut only £2bn less than The Coalition is doing. This would be fine if we were still fighting the May 2010 election, but that was a year ago. It completely ignores the changes made on economic policy by both Ed Miliband and Ed Balls. It also ignores the economic facts of life.

Unemployment – In the last quarter of 2010, this fell by just 12,000 (0.1%). At the same time, our GDP fell by 0.5%, apparently this was caused by snow in December – a previously unheard of event. In Barak Obamas USA, under a radically different economic regime to the austerity we suffer, unemployment fell by 1 Million (1%), and in the last quarter of 2010, their GDP ROSE by 0.8%.

YEAR-ON- YEAR, OUR ECONOMY HAS SHRUNK BY 1.5% UP UNTIL MARCH 2011! WELL DONE GIDEON!!!

The OECD, which Osborn so often quotes as supporting him, has issued the following economic forescasts for GDP over the next two years:

                               USA            UK

2011                      2.2%          1.5%

2012                     3.1%           2.0%

So, in the midst of a Referendum Campaign, when it is imperative that ALL Party members who support change work together, why has Clegg thrown such a massive spanner in the works? The cynical answer could be that he is intent on sabotaging his own cause, on the basis that he doesn’t really want it, and it was only a sop to his activists anyway.

Could it be Coalition loyalty? Possibly,but for the life of me, I cannot credit the Cabinet Office stipulating that he preface a call for electoral reform with an attack on a party who’s supporters need to be won over.

No, I believe that in essence, for Nick, this is simply politics as usual. For all the guff about “new politics”, up and down the country, anyone involved in local politics knows just how nasty the Lib Dems can play. From personal insults to pretend innocence, the centre party of British debate plays rough, whilst appearing doe-eyed before us.

“Who me?” They cry, whilst dressed like a harlot in a Wedding Dress. Not only this, but certainly the Orange Bookers have swallowed whole the economic nonsense that passes for thought in the pages of the Daily Mail.

Let me state this as clearly and simply as I can; Austerity following the kind of recession we have seen leads to more unemployment. Higher unemployment leads to lower wages for those in work, to smaller tax receipts, and more austerity. It is a downward spiral leading to a car boot sale economy. And Nick Clegg thinks this is a good idea. 



MORE WEDDINGBALLS…

Everyone wishes Kate and Wills a wonderful day, and long, happy marriage. My auntie will be up from Cornwall on the big day, to celebrate with the millions who wish to celebrate with the happy couple.

Yet see how quickly apoplectic our ever loyal (bugging aside) media have become when it comes to the very thought of a small expression of free speech on the big day…

Camden Council have refused permission for a street party next Friday, perhaps the only council in England to do so. The party, organised by the pressure group Republic, was meant to be perhaps the one place in London on the 29th where those who are against the idea of monarchy (not the monarch herself) could gather and celebrate all that makes them proud of Britain in their way. Camden is nowhere near the procession, nor within yelling distance of  the great and the good.

Stung by recent mishandling of student protests and peaceful occupations, not to mention the Inquiry into the G2o 2009 protests in which Ian Tomlinson was killed, The Met are looking forward to using draconian powers to stop anyone they don’t like the look of from going to the parade.

Hands up anyone who either A; Trusts their judgement?

or B; Believes that these powers will be suspended after the wedding? 

Westminster Council will try to use its powers to stop soup kitchen deliveries in the area at least 48 hours before, and will no doubt try to enforce this permanently. I doubt that Kate and William would see this as a fitting tribute – hungry homeless people, but there you go, its not their fault.

A tiny number of Anarchists may try to demonstrate on the day, apparently “spoiling it for everyone” by exercising their (and your) democratic rights. But hold on – we have a long tradition of protests at national events;

During George V’s Silver Jubilee, East London Young Communists hung a banner over the procession route proclaiming “Twenty-Five Years Of Hunger And War” – a fair point in 1935.

In 1977, The Sex Pistols’ “God Save The Queen” reached number two in the charts, possibly number one if the conspiracy theories could ever be proved correct. I was six at the time, and busy waving the Union Flag and eating ice cream…

At the wedding of Charles and Diana, one left wing weekly had the headline “Big Ears Marries Noddy” – the best front page they ever had.

The Coalition are using this event to their own ends – the cuts are provoking a great deal of anger, so this wedding is being used as a cover to throw our liberties in the dustbin. No doubt this bunch of inadequates will also be using the week to push through nasty legislation that they know we won’t like.

The Tories used Andrew and Fergies’ happy day to get the Poll Tax on the statute books. 

The shenanigans surrounding this binge are evermore tawdry, and a day of happiness is being turned into a day of awkward shame by Dave, Nick and Boris. Thank goodness they will have no say in mine and Lady Ps…

Is This Justice???

Over the past two weeks, David Cameron has been feeling rather unwell, or “sick to my stomach” as he puts it. The source of his affliction has apparently been identified as a Court in Strasbourg, where it has been proposed that prisoners should be given the vote, and that those on the Sex Offenders Register might have the right to appeal.

Leaving aside voting rights for prisoners, which I am not at all sure about myself, the right to appeal needs looking into. At the moment anyone who commits any sexual offence is placed on the Register for life, regardless of circumstances.

The recent case in the South West is one example, and given what we know, it seems a reasonable outcome.

However, the following fictitious case would cause the same result:

A young woman of 18 years has sex at a party with a fifteen year old boy. The boys parents find out, and outraged, take the matter to the Police. Under due process of Law, the young woman is found guilty and serves a sentence. Upon leaving custody, she is now marked for life as a Sex Offender.

Now the right of appeal is not an automatic method of wiping names of the guilty off a list, but it would be compassionate, just, and ultimately wise if it was there to protect those who are unfairly bracketed with serial child abusers and child pornographers.

Not to Mr Cameron, nor his equally “sick” allies.

May 5th – Our Choice, Our Chance…

So, on May 5th we get the chance to alter our voting system from First Past The Post (FPTP) to the Alternative Vote (AV). With Ham-Face and Little Nicky setting out the opposing arguments this morning, it would be useful to review what we have, and what we could get.

THE SYSTEM AS IT IS:

At the moment, our political system is a Constitutional Monarchy, that suffers a little Democracy to intervene now and then. Parliament is Sovereign, with the power to dismiss the Monarch – a power not used since 1688, but that led to the abdication of Edward VIII in 1937. The House of Commons is theoretically where power lies – as the elected chamber is the only place where legislation can be decisively approved or denied. The unelected Lords can only amend Bills, and since Lord Salisbury back in Victorias day, no Prime Minister has sat there. Practically, power lies with The Cabinet, some would say The Cabinet Office.

Our Electoral System is based on FPTP, and in practice this means that the candidate with the most votes, regardless as to whether this is a majority, wins. At the last General Election, fully two thirds of seats were won by candidates who had less than fifty percent of the vote.

Our participation in elections as voters has been declining since 1945, and our disengagement with the political process is at its highest since the vote was won for women and the propertyless. The expenses scandal, the perceived unresponsiveness of our elected members, and the narrowness of the terms of official political debate (the hunt for the nebulous “Middle England”)have all contributed to this. There is a distinct class divide in voting – the richer you are, the more likely you are to vote – which partially explains why our major parties spend much of their efforts trying to placate a mythical “mainstream” vote, whilst ignoring other considerations.

As for those we elect, increasingly and overwhelmingly they come from similar backgrounds regardless of party. Very few MPs have come from outside of the Middle Classes, and the domination of The Cabinet by men from Oxbridge is simply an extreme version of this. In the last edition of the late Anthony Sampson’s “Who Runs This Place?” a marked trend towards certain professions was noted – Law, Finance, Local Government and Higher Education are the major areas of practical experience that our MPs have. Student Politics is the proving ground for this new political class, who in attitude see the rest of us as at best foot soldiers in their campaign for ultimate power. This is regardless of party.

FPTP has resulted in the many seats being “safe” for one party or another – leading to a strengthening of party machines and “a job for life” for some of the least worthy members of the house. Only at times of major upheaval in politics – 1945, 1979, 1997, do these seats even stand a chance of being overturned. in effect, your preference only counts either at one of these elections, or if you live in a marginal seat.

Effectively, under FPTP, a party needs only to win around 30% of the available vote to have a rock-solid majority. This happened throughout the 1980s, ’90s and the last decade. In May 2010, less than 2% of us decided the result.

A culture of entitlement reigns, believing themselves to be a Meritocracy ( whilst misconstruing the term), a certain arrogance can be detected amongst this self-justifyng elite.

What We Could Get:

The Alternative Vote system means that instead of just putting one cross next to one candidate on your ballot paper, you instead rank them in order of your preferences, as far as you wish – so in my case that would be Labour 1; Green 2; and the rest can go hang, unless I like their candidate. Its up to you how far you go. The votes are counted, and the candidates with least votes is eliminated, their second preferences added to the other candidates. This continues until one candidates has over 50% of the votes. Around 14 million of us already use this system for elections in Trades Unions,Political Parties, Student Organisations and such, so many of us already have experience of it. It must be said that whilst this is a more consensual system, it is not proportional – we can still end up with Governments elected by a minority of the electorate.

Possibly the starkest image is best provided by The British Electoral Survey at Essex University, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. In a wide-ranging study, the BES took a representative survey of voting preferences at the May 2010 election, and found the results to be thus:

Conservative     283 – down 22

Labour               248 – down 10

Lib Dems            89 – up 32

At first glance, for the left this looks unpalatable, but look at the arithmetic – we would have been able to offer what Gordon Brown couldn’t last May – a stable Coalition with the Lib Dems. Whether the Orange Book gang would have taken this up is another matter, but there is a strong possibility that the decimation of the Welfare State and dismantling of the NHS would at least not be on the agenda. Remarkably, last May ten seats would have changed straight from Tory to Labour, and only one vice versa.

Many seats regarded now as “safe” would now become winnable. ALL MPs would be returned on over 50% of the votes cast in every constituency.

Our MPs would thus have to work harder for us – local issues would become really important – no more promises to “look into” a third crossing for Waveney for example, only for your MP to forget it until election year.

You get a potentially bigger say, with AV there is no need for tactical voting, simply pick your favourite candidate first. If they don’t win, you still get a say. So Labour votes in the South West and East Anglia now matter, as would Tory votes in Scotland and South Wales.

At a stroke, MPs would have to reach beyond their comfort zones – Surrey Tories and Keith Vaz take note…

The Alternative Vote keeps what is best about the current system, the historic constituency link – you will still know who your MP is, and be able to lobby them.

If extended to local government, then the “Rotten Boroughs” that regularly infest Private Eye would be altered – one-party rule over Tower Hamlets or Suffolk would be altered. No more “sigmoid waves”, “virtual councils” or distant aloof local bigwigs.

If AV is passed, then the possibility of an actually elected House of Lords is strengthened – no more input by those who rely on their place by contributions to party coffers. We would finally have a Liberal Democracy – over two hundred years since Thomas Paine wrote The Rights of Man.

AV is far from perfect – it would be better to have a more proportional system, such as AV plus, as recommended  by The Jenkins Commission on Electoral Reform, yet is a start.

There is just one more point. As part of The Coalition stitch-up over Reform, the Tories have been able to tag on the axing of 50 seats, on the grounds of “cost” – as if you can put a price on Democracy. If AV fails to go through, then the Tories, with Liberal Democrat support, will have managed to Gerrymander the electoral map of Britain, with minimal consultation with you, that no-one voted for, potentially solidifying their hold on power. Only AV will go some way to ameliorating this.

That is why all of us in Labour, and everyone who believes in Democracy, must support the Yes to Fairer Votes Campaign.

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