Sunday, August 28, 2011

May 2011: "A perfect storm" for Liberals

Today's Telegraph reports on the internal inquiry into the May local elections by the Liberal Democrat's Campaigns and Communications Committee. The committee says the party faced a perfect storm and identifies these factors:
* public anger over university tuition fees and NHS reforms;
* failure by Lib Dem activists to praise the Coalition Government during discussions with voters on doorsteps;
* reluctance by supporters of the two main parties to vote tactically for the Lib Dems in seats where their own party had no chance;
* high turnout among Tory and Labour voters because of the referendum;

The sad thing about this report is not that it is a statement of what Basil Faulty called "The bleeding obvious" but that it was bleeding obvious before it happened. So many of us warned that the handling of tuition fees would be toxic, whatever the merits of the policy itself. So many of us warned that the referendum should NOT be on the same day as the elections.

To paraphrase the Earl of Strafford, "Put not your trust in leaders". They don't always know best and nor do the inexperienced wunderkinder who surround them in their offices.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Well whoopee -dee-do, Greater Manchester Police approve of me !

Just received the following from LibDem HQ:

Dear Disgruntled,

Just to confirm, we have received information from Greater Manchester Police that you have been successfully accredited for the upcoming Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference 2011. Your conference pass will be posted to you in September.

In the meantime all conference papers, including the Agenda, Directory and Training Guide, are available to view online at

We look forward to seeing you at conference.

The Conference Team
The Liberal Democrats

Please note: should you have colleagues or friends who have registered to attend the Liberal Democrat Conference but have not received confirmation of successful accreditation yet, please be aware that the accreditation process is ongoing and all members will be updated about their application when information becomes available.

I replied:

Thanks for your message. I attend conference because Yeovil Liberal Democrats elected me, not because the police allow me to. That’s according to our party constitution.

Best wishes,

Friday, August 12, 2011

Disgruntled but accredited ???

The postman and I had a good chuckle as he delivered my conference papers from LibDem HQ addressed to Mr Disgruntled Grace. He asked if I'd fallen out with the senders. Apparently the sorting office had a good laugh over it this morning. I'm all for a lighter Chard and don't mind that party HQ or their contractors can't handle data entry accurately but I would like to know if I have been accredited, i.e. approved by the Constabulary to take part in my party's conference. I suppose we can assume that being sent papers means we're OK, kosher, pukka, persona grata etc. If not, it's going to be difficult for me to sum up the motion challenging this nonsense (9.00am, Sunday, 18th September)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Evening all

The last few days have offered relief from contemporary images in the form of Carry on Constable and Radio4 Extra's revival of Dixon of Dock Green. How policing has changed.

What will Ed say today ?

Party positions seem to be hardening ahead of today's parliamentary debate on the riots. The government - both coalition parties - seems to be focusing on punishment, including the nutty idea of making people homeless. The Labour Party is trying to blame the government's cuts whilst simultaneously condemning the rioters. This won't work as Harriet Harman found out on Newsnight. The media will simply headline Labour's party political point-scoring and ignore the ritual condemnation.

If Ed Miliband has any sense - and he has shown some in the past - he will of course condemn the rioters but he will add that the entire political class has lost touch with a section of society, the often-labelled underclass. He could quote J K Galbraith's "The Culture of Contentment" which contends that society is divided into two classes. One class has material goods and comfort and votes. The other has little or nothing and doesn't bother to vote. Of course, politicians compete for the voters and ignore the rest.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Parents, will you take your kids to the police ?

"When I get home nothing is going to happen to me. I might get shouted at", young looter on radio this morning.

I put this question to two law-abiding,sensible Guardian-reading friends. One hesitated and ducked the question. The other answered without pause that she would not. She stuck to this answer.

I don't understand the dilemma. You expect even demand that other people's kids are punished for theft. Why not your own ? I praise the parents of the boy who dropped the fire extinguisher off the roof of the Millbank Centre during the tuition fee demo. They took their son to the police. To my mind, that is good parenting and a lot more use than shouting.

It's not just the kids who have lost their moral compass, it's parents too.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Riots ramble - not, I hope, a rant.

I have been looking at Facebook, Twitter and LibDemBlogs and listening to Radio 4. Radio 5 and BBC News 24 and trying to avoid my own anger and fear deteriorating into calls for the army etc. Comments fall into two categories: (1) condemnation of the rioters and looters and (2) searches for deeper explanations, usually involving government policy. For now, I settle on two points of social psychology.

Firstly, the relative poverty hypothesis. The rioters and looters are neither starving nor homeless. They may be hopeless. Compared with teenagers of earlier generations they are well off. Above all, all around them they see people enjoying wealth and consumer goods, which they cannot obtain legally. Some are really poor. Many more see themselves as poor.

Secondly, the loss of respect for the law. It's an old chestnut for students whether law and order is maintained by consent or force. Certainly when there is no consent, force will follow. The young criminals of the last three nights number far more than the usual habitual thieves of any neighbourhood. How have thousands of young people come to lose all concern for law ? Last night was not just an attack on rich chain stores. Some burned cars and buses, some hit anyone who tried to stop them, some broke into houses. Of course, it's still a small minority of the population, but it's a group growing up seeing the rich and powerful casually breaking the law with great impunity - cheating MPs re-elected, amoral bankers wrecking people's lives and still getting their obscene bonuses, police on the take, rarely held to account when they kill people, journalists with no moral qualms about their methods. Useless to protest that these too are minorities, that most politicians, police and journalists don't do this (You'll note I do not exonerate bankers). Someone I know well, on a small income, has recently been ripped off by a landlord charging extra when nothing extra was given and an employer in the restaurant where he works stealing his tips. Both landlord and employer are very well off and do not seem to be breaking the law. His reaction has not been to riot, loot or burn but he begins to understand why people do.

We cannot and should not excuse any of the rioters and looters but nor should we be surprised at their greed, envy and sheer anger untrammelled by any moral perspective in a world that shows them the prizes but keeps them out of reach.

Monday, August 08, 2011

London's burning

We know it's not protest. We know it's crime, theft, arson and violence. What follows is not in any sense justification. In a society where MPs cheated on their expenses, where bankers remain immune even rewarded for their catastrophic mistakes with other people's money, where powerful and rich companies and individuals avoid tax, where the press hack into people's phones and are untouched by their clients the politicians and the police, where the burden of mismanaged public finance falls hardest on the poor, where education is becoming a private privilege, where schools fail and jobs disappear, can we be surprised that there are so many young people who clearly feel they have no interest or stake in a lawful society ?

This is not the Big Society. This is a very small, fearful, hopeless, selfish society.

"Time for Radicals" says Craig

"A financial system in which the face value flow of funds was vastly greater than the face value flow of goods traded is a bubble. The “bailout”, or payment of vast sums of ordinary people’s money to bankers to keep this crazed system going, could never make it sane.

Allowing bad banks to go to the wall was not just possible, it was essential. Instead the poor are in deep hock simply to maintain the lifestyles of awesome consumption led by the political and financial elites. That is the immediate cause of the services cuts and tax increases sweeping the Western world. The fact this is no solution at all to funny money explains why trillions were wiped off world stock markets last week. The explanation is simple; those trillions never existed in the first place.

So writes Craig Murray.

OK, all you dismal and realistic economists, explain to me now why you think Craig is wrong.