Saturday, May 29, 2010

David Laws and Alastair Campbell

Sara Bedford's excellent posting on David Laws is followed by an intriguing comment by Pat Nash, suggesting that Alastair Campbell played a role in the story. Why did he produce a photo of David Laws in the 59th minute of Question Time ?

Private lives

The news about David Laws is sad. His second home expenses were not unreasonable for London, less than many MPs claim. The issue is whether your lover is your spouse. The opposition will exploit popular salacious homophobia but pretend only to care about the money. Society pretends not to care about public figures' sexuality but denies them the right to private lives.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Nick Cohen attacks Jenny Tonge...again !

Nick Cohen is very rarely right. He was wrong about Iraq and he's wrong about Jenny. Read this appalling article carefully and you'll see that he smears her for what he thinks she believes rather than for what she actually believes. One example: "Once baronesses start talking like this, it is only a matter of time before they embrace the "blood libel"..." She doesn't, she hasn't, she never will. Cohen really is "something nasty in the woodshed" - a disgusting toad. I hope Jenny can sue him for libel.

People called Boak(e)s

The Thirsk & Malton election was delayed because of the death of John Boakes. The name rang a bell and I identified the clanging as Commander Bill Boaks, the eccentric parliamentary candidate. Wikipedia has an interesting biography of him. I particularly like that the first time he stood, in 1951, he intended to stand against the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, whose constituency was Walthamstow West, but Boaks got it wrong and fought Walthamstow East as an independent candidate for "Admiral" (which stood for "Association of Democratic Monarchists Representing All Women") and got 174 votes out of 40,001 cast.

Boaks obviously disliked Attlee who relied upon his (Attlee's) wife Vi to drive him (Attlee) when campaigning. Mrs Attlee was a notoriously bad driver and Boaks attempted private prosecutions whenever she crashed. Boaks himself used to campaign from the middle of roundabouts, until moved on by police. His funeral was attended by the then Transport Minister, Peter Bottomley.

Not a lot of people know that

Michael Caine says he supports the coalition government. He likes the idea of politicians controlling each other.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

So, farewell then Alan Watkins

Alan Watkins, who died recently, was the man who coined the term young fogey for Charles Moore. Alan Watkins' son David was about to read him fellow columnist Simon Hoggart's article on the General Election fallout when he realised that his father had died. "Rather an extreme reaction," said Robert Harris in his address at the funeral.

The men who stare at space

Kevin Fetter stares at space. Some time ago he discovered a missing tool bag that an astronaut had dropped at the International Space Station. The video of a dot crossing the dark sky was a hit on You Tube. Now Kevin has found the US's secret unmanned shuttle, the OTV-1, which passes over Afghanistan every 90 minutes. Kevin lives at home with his mother and cleans floors for a living. Perhaps he could find my glasses.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Israel locks up Vanunu again

Whilst the world tries to negotiate reductions in nuclear weapons and the West threatens unspecified reprisal if Iran develops them, Israel continues to deny that it has them and again jails Mordechai Vanunu, the whistleblower who exposed their nuclear arsenal to the world. He has already spent 18 years in jail, mostly in solitary confinement. This time he's been sent back to jail for unauthorised meetings with foreigners, including his Norwegian girlfriend. Amnesty International now considers him a "prisoner of conscience". That's Israel folks, the country our last government used to refer to as a friend and ally.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fine cuts

At the Yeovil constituency post-election party I handed David Laws a present to help with his job as Chief Secretary of the Treasury - a knife sharpener. Not a knife, because I didn't want to promote cuts but a sharpener because I wanted him to make fine cuts. David has referred to it in his interview in the FT.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Naked short-selling - was I wrong ?

I think the Druid and the Guardian between them have persuaded me that banning naked short-selling may not be the solution. I'd like to know what is.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sssssh ! The spectre of budget cuts

New York Public Library facing budget cuts, re-enacted the invasion of ghosts and their defeat by ghostbusters. When libraries in the London Borough of Ongar faced cuts, the headline in the local paper read "Book lack in Ongar".

Naked trading

The Guardian reports, "Germany bans naked short-selling". Years ago I asked fellow Liberal and a stockbroker, Chris Wilding, what a financial headline meant. He responded, "Oh that means you're going uncovered bears". I was suitably enlightened. Now uncovered has become naked. It's selling stocks you don't own. If you sold someone a car you didn't own, you'd be guilty of an offence under the Theft Act for "dishonestly appropriating property belonging to another" and it would be no excuse that you planned to buy it before you handed it over. But of course the financial markets are a law unto themselves. High time they weren't. Good on the Germans, I say.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Coalition: Special Conference speech

What do we think of this coalition ? Some will say with Wordsworth, "Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven". Others with Browning, "Never glad confident morning again". I go with Longfellow, "Life is real and life is earnest". Sadly however, while we campaign in poetry, we govern in prose. I wanted a progressive alliance but there were two problems, quantity and quality. There weren't enough Labour MPs and Labour wasn't progressive.

This is a Westminster coalition, not a merger. We know that Liberal ministers will be bound by collective cabinet responsibility and that the whips will try to restrain Liberal MPs, but Liberal MEPs in Strasbourg will not be restrained, Liberal councillors in Birmingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh and Cardiff will not be restrained and above all our party will not be restrained.

Charlie Kennedy is afraid of being swallowed up. Well I'm not. The Liberal Democrats are not. Paddy says he's confused. I'm not confused. Paddy was at my wedding at a Quaker meeting. One of the elders addressed the congregation and invited them all to stand and speak if they wished to. I looked at the crowd of Liberals and thought, "We'll be here all night". You cannot shut Liberals up and you shouldn't try.

As Liberals grasp the reigns of power, they should continue to reach for their ideals. I hope Robert Browning will forgive me when I say, "A man's reach should exceed his grasp or what are the Liberal Democrats for ?"

Friday, May 14, 2010

I think we should be told

Has anyone noticed the extraordinary resemblance between the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, and the new Dr Who, Matt Smith ? I wonder if by any chance they are related ? I think we should be told.

Shoot the dogs - says Toby

Canvassing and leafleting during elections, one learns to be careful about sticking fingers through letterboxes, but even after being barked and growled at and attacked in front gardens, I don't agree with Lord Harris's stand on dogs. Toby Harris, another old Labour dinosaur, says we should shoot dangerous dogs to save money.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Labour dinosaurs

The antediluvians of the Labour Party have wrecked any chance of a progressive alliance, confirming what an archaic, conservative force Labour is. David Blunkett and Jack Straw, two of the worst Home Secretaries ever, can't cope with the idea of a government that actually represents the majority of people instead of their own prejudices.

Riding Two horses

A famous left-wing MP called Jimmy Maxton once said, "If you can't ride two horses at once, you should get out of the bloody circus". It appears that Nick Clegg can.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Don't sell out on electoral reform !

Any deal with the Conservatives will be worthless if it doesn’t deliver electoral reform. I don’t expect Cameron to offer it and, if he did, his party would never deliver it. Nor would a so-called confidence-and-supply deal be any good. It would reap for us the opprobrium of all those voters who supported us to stop the Tories but would gain nothing in return. To update Jeremy Thorpe, “6,827,938 people did not vote Liberal to put a Conservative government into power”

I do not understand those who fear a referendum on PR, as already offered by Labour. The public mood is strong for constitutional reform. Whenever before did we see demonstrations for fair votes across Britain ? I marched in Bristol with several hundred and shoppers applauded and cars hooted their support. Many Labour activists also support PR. If we do not have the courage to seize the chance for fair votes, we don’t deserve to be in politics at all.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

There is a tide in the affairs of men

One or two people of my acquaintance have expressed the opinion that we would lose a referendum on electoral reform and that therefore Liberal Democrats should do a deal with the Conservatives.

I do not understand this view. All the polls on the subject show that the public support it. If we are not prepared to take the risk, we should just get out of politics. This is the best chance we have ever had to change the voting system and the only chance we will have for many, many years. A deal with Cameron would be utterly worthless. We would share the blame for his disastrous economic policy and fail to achieve any of our own basic policies and, when Cameron felt the time was right, he would pull the plug and go for a new election, at which he could win a majority. Under the current system the public would feel even less inclined to vote for a third party and the Tories would have more money to fight the campaign than anyone else.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men” and we don’t take it at the flood, we deserve to drown.

Cameron offers nothing

1. We did NOT promise to work with the party with the most support. Nick Clegg said before and after the election that that party (the Conservatives of course) had the right TO SEEK to form a government.

2. The Conservatives did NOT win the election either by the discredited first-post-the-post system nor by any proportional test.

3. The great prize of this election can be electoral reform. We will never have a better chance of getting it.

4. I have never had any doctrinaire opposition to co-operation with Conservatives or Labour, being pragmatic and basing my view on whatever they offer. It seems to me that Cameron is NOT offering and will not offer anything worth having and that Brown is pretty desperate and ready to offer more.

5. I believe an arrangement with Labour can be presented as a crisis measure for constitutional reform (PR, elected Lords and fixed-term parliaments) and economic stability in exceptional circumstances. There is a popular mandate for both and the Tories offer neither.