Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
As usual I have been to a different party conference from the one the media floated through or above. The Guardian led the pack who expected Liberal Democrats to be downhearted and when we weren't decided that instead we must be deluded. Setting aside the joy of meeting old friends, the curious pleasures of debating and voting, we had other reasons for not despairing. There is the Tim Farron joke that we could cope with being out of power for a generation as predicted by the governor of the Bank of England, because we are used to being out of power for three generations. There is the comfort of Harold Wilson's observation that "A week is a long time in politics" and there is the gut wisdom of Harry Truman's "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."
At the Guardian lunch, Paddy Ashdown chose a metaphor from military history. He recalled the Duke of Wellington saying to his troops when the French found their range, "Hard pounding gentlemen." Actually I don't think the Labour opposition has found our range yet, just scored a few lucky hits on our exposed left flank. I did ask Paddy, "Where's Blucher, where are the Prussians ?". He suggested that the voters would be the Prussians. I believe this can only come true if we establish clear gold water (not, please, aquamarine). As I repeatedly suggested at conference, the next election will turn upon how many voters have jobs. Myriad Liberal Democrat policies will weigh as nothing if unemployment is high. We need to propose a programme for jobs like Obama. We too may be blocked by conservatives but people will know what we stand for.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
According to today's Guardian, a leaked No.10 memo outlines government plans to appeal to women. It cites "...an urgent need to up our game on communications about what we're doing". Well, they could start by learning to write in English and continue by basing policy on principle and evidence instead of trim and spin. Why do politicians always think the problem is communications instead of the damn stupid policies ?
(Fans of Ed Reardon's Week will note that the 12-year-olds run No.10 as well.)
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Simon McGrath has published an article on Liberal Democrat Voice defending the Liberal Democrats' Federal Conference Committee's handling of accreditation. It contains many false assumptions and muddles and some language that is downright misleading. I have commented at length on LDV but I summarise here.
1. Simon says that the party not the police take the decision to exclude representatives, but he also says that if the party ignores the police advice then we would have no insurance and hence no conference, so it's not advice, is it ? It's a police veto.
2. "When Simon says that the party decides to exclude representatives, he means the mystical group of three - the Chairman of FCC,the President and the Chief Executive. This is an unelected committee unknown to our party constitution which gives no-one such a power.
3. Simon maintains that the real choice was between accepting police advice on accreditation or having no conference, although he goes on to say (in the same paragraph)that we might not need this procedure at a different venue. Find that venue, I say. This is not a true dilemna.
4.Simon is remarkably better informed than the rest of us about the fact that there has " ...only been one person flagged up by the police and the group of 3 has decided that he should not be admitted. This is someone who joined the Party in July 2011 and about whom the police have raised ‘serious concerns’ – very specific details of which were given to Wiseman etc". As he's not on any of the relevant committees, how does he know this ? Who's been briefing him ? More to the point, how is it that the rest of us don't know this ? An unelected group of 3 purport to exclude someone from the conference without any constitutional power to do so and in an unaccountable way. None of us know who the person is nor what the grounds were. We don't know if the person concerned was told of the "serious concerns" and had the chance to challenge them. This in a party that has fought against arbitrary power and against control orders in particular. Nor has the procedure for challenging a police "recommendation" be publicised. Nor, it appears, is there any appeal against the self-appointed group of 3. We would not tolerate such proceedings in government. Why the hell should we accept them in our own party ?
5. Simon objects to my motion because of "the idea that the police should be pressured to change their advice on security on political grounds." This is very misleading language. I am not suggesting that politicians should interfere with the police (we can leave that to the daft Tory idea of elected Police Commissioners which many Lib Dem MPs have just been whipped to vote for). I am suggesting on the contrary that the police should not interfere with the democratic process of a political party choosing its own representatives.
Friday, September 09, 2011
In a few days time the United Nations will decide whether to recognise Palestine. Listening last night to Richard Perle, Washington's "Prince of Darkness", on Question Time, I heard him lie many times. In particular he denied that Israel was in breach of any UN Security Council Resolutions. A member of the audience immediately cited UNSCR 242 as I shouted it at the television. There are others. David Miliband called for leadership to solve the Israel/Palestine issue. Clearly he has little faith in the expensive mission of Tony Blair on behalf of the Quartet which we are all paying for.
My disgust at Perle and other apologists for the USA's and the UK's failure to face up to the problem has led me to contribute to Avaaz's campaign for recognition of Palestine. If you agree, you can too by going here: Time for Palestine.
Thursday, September 08, 2011
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Excellent article on accreditation by Jonathan Calder in the Guardian's Comment is Free. Most of the comments that follow the article are by people with very short memories who think the Liberal Democrats are finished. Have a little perspective guys. Read some history. People have been saying we finished since the 1920s. They were wrong and it's still wrong now. However, I was amused by this comment which refers to instructions for permissible photos:
"A neutral expression, with your mouth closed, eyes open and clearly visible...
Isn't this actually a partial quote from the Coalition agreement? I believe it continues...
... bent over, with hands firmly grasping ankles."
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
I have heard the hackneyed phrase about striking a balance between security and liberty before - from Tony Blair, from John Reid, from David Blunkett, always in the name of some new restriction on fundamental freedoms which we as Liberals have opposed over the years. I do not take my stand against police accreditation on the inevitable inefficiency of this process. I would oppose it if it was executed with finesse and subtlety and grace. Search us, scan us, check our luggage by all means but never admit the possibility that the state in any of its myriad guises can decide who shall attend a party conference.
Monday, September 05, 2011
Much recent discussion about accreditation has been about the inefficient operation of the process. I wouldn’t care if the process was the smoothest I had ever experienced. It is simply wrong that an organ of the state has any say in who attends a political party’s conference. No Liberal should have any difficulty understanding this principle. It is also wrong if the party's Federal Conference Committee (FCC) or any other committee, office-holder or panjandrum can decide who attends. Does anyone really think that a party committee should be able to interfere with a local party’s choice of representative ? Even if you do think that, it’s not what our party constitution provides. I am bitterly disappointed that members of FCC either didn’t know this or didn’t care.
Sunday, September 04, 2011
Thanks to Stephen Tall for drawing my attention to some old Liberal (not Liberal Democrat as YouTube says)Party Political Broadcasts. I particularly like Frank Byers and John Arlott answering questions from a businessman and a housewife in 1955. Unscripted, polite political dialogue unknown to us today. 56 years later we are still waiting for the spread of co-ownership and profit-sharing (except for bankers of course).