Monday, 18 May 2009

Please adjust your browsers/links....

. reflect the fact that Moments is moving to here..

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Clegg calls for Speaker and tainted MP's to go

. So, Nick Clegg has bitten the bullet and called for the Speaker to go and those MP's under investigation to be deselected by their local parties. Firstly, Clegg deserves credit for this remark;

"I do not think that the Speaker should be made a scapegoat for the failings of individual MP's".

However, my point about this issue has been and remains simply this; there are more important things that Clegg should have called for first or announced as David Cameron did earlier in the week. He should have insisted that all Liberal Democrat MP's expenses will be published online, as Cameron did, this is an essential part of a transparent system and actually is good political sense in the current climate in any case. He should have announced in a similar vein to Cameron exactly what it would and would not be permissible for Liberal Democrat MP's to claim for in the future and what would not be permissible to claim for; with a violation resulting in the loss of the Liberal Democrat whip.

All of these things clearly should have been done before the Speaker even became an issue worthy of comment. I do not agree that this has somehow flat-footed David Cameron who at least has had the sense to address issues like this first and foremost and has subsequently no doubt gained greater standing with the general public. On the substantive point I have no problem with the Speaker being deposed; I just see it as a secondary issue compared to the ones mentioned above and indeed the wider reform that is needed. If Clegg had actually shown some leadership in the last week and made progress on the above issues which are more important than the fate of the Speaker then there would be no problem with now turning his attention to that issue.

Clegg also called for 'MP's under investigation' to be deselected;

"They should be sacked by their constituencies and they should have by-elections".

The good news is it seems that Clegg won't be calling for a general election over this issue which, similarly to Bernard Salmon, I don't think should occur. The less good news is that Clegg is being far too vague and popularist; all MP's are 'under investigation for expenses' as the Daily Telegraph continues to make painfully clear. So, should Chris Huhne's local party deselect him over his Hob-Nob buying habits? I think not and don't think Clegg thinks so either; there has to be a question of degree and proportion here and that is largely absent in trailblazing calls for MP's 'under investigation' to be sacked.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Why the Lib Dems should avoid this honey-coated trap

. Charlotte Gore, writing on Liberal Vision, openly wonders why The Spectator is urging Nick Clegg to take the lead in deposing the Speaker. The answer seems painfully obvious to me; it is an easy win but would be a totally phyrric victory for Nick and the party. I hate to break this to the blogsphere but nobody in the general populace actually cares that the Speaker is so obviously incompetent. If they do then I am still waiting to see the popular outpourings of anger against him; anger, which I highly suspect is confined to the Westminster Village and the commetariat.

I suspect most people don't even know what he does or even who he is; seen in this light the origins of the 'Speccie's' motives become painfully clear (a publication, it should be noted, not exactly naturally inclined to hand us an 'easy win'). While Mr Cameron is talking to the nation about what they actually do really care about, reform on the expenses issue, Nick Clegg is the back room boy, clearing up the mess in the House of Commons. Worse than this being an irrelevant issue to the general populace my gut feeling is that if Mr Martin is deposed he will actually garner some public sympathy as people popularly perceive it as MP's 'kicking the cat' instead of getting their own houses in order over expenses. Instead of looking like a leader, Clegg will look desperately out of touch with the country while Mr Cameron hums his popularist ditty.

No doubt MP's would be glad to get their own necks out of the newsroom noose for a day or two but that seems scant reason to me to actually do this and/or make it the main thrust of our campaign to 'clean-up'. Nobody doubts the failures as Speaker and I am certainly not going to argue that he has been anything less than incompetent but for us to think that spearing a move to depose him is somehow going to reflect positively on us or be seen as us 'cleaning-up' is frankly naive in the extreme. The Speaker should go but not like this and we certainly should not waste valuable energy on a campaign which will win us little popular credit and is at heart a Kamikaze diversionary run.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Conservative Home launches anti-BNP website...

. Conservative Home, 'Continuity IDS' as it is fondly sometimes called, deserve some praise for launching There is Nothing British about the BNP. Ignoring the slightly nationalist overtones for the moment; I doubt you will find any spirited arguments for immigration for example, in the spirit of a bit of cross-party unity the site has some plus points. The section on the BNP not delivering on it's promises is rather key to my mind and does have some useful ammunition. It's links work and the site it takes you too has a long list of how abject BNP councillors are when they do get elected.

The section on the economic message is rather pithy to be honest, and shows the hallmarks of who made it; for some odd reason the link takes you back to the original page too. Something that surely needs to be fixed. The criminal convictions is slightly damming although I am not sure the implication, that the BNP are just a criminal gang dressed up as respectable politicians resonates that well now and I am not sure it will with embittered voters looking to kick the main parties.

I presume the 'About the BNP' section has yet to be written. It has a petition which encourages some participation but it is clear from the sites design that it is aimed at potential Conservative deserters. It is a shame the orientation was not allot more broadminded, especially as it is most likely that the BNP will pick-up Labour strays and there is nothing really to engage with them and draw them back into the fold. Also, no arguments to tackle people who are discouraged by the recent expenses scandals. All-in-all it is worth commending efforts to tackle the BNP online and that alone would be worthy of praise but the narrow orientation of the site will rather restrict it's appeal and impact.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A directly elected Mayor for Leeds?

. Today's Yorkshire Evening Post flags up the start of a consultation process on whether Leeds should have it's own directly elected Mayor. This is one of those issues which I swing both ways on because while I am in favour in principle of the maximum amount of direct democracy I also see the potential problems of creating yet another layer of bureaucracy and concentration of power in the hands of a dwindling executive. Link

As is rightly pointed out the experience of directly elected mayors across the country is something of a mixed bag. Leeds City Council already has an executive leader/cabinet system of running and if a directly elected mayor was created then there would still be a ceremonial Lord Mayor though it is hard to see what function they would have in comparison to one with a voter mandate.

It is said that this would take the role of Mayor away from party politics but I don't see this as being the case and in any case the place where the system is most effective ie, London is the place where it is most tied to party politics. The less said about Hartlepools selection of H'Angus the Monkey the better; however, this does point to the fact that realistic fact that the role of an elected Mayor just becomes another electoral battlefield between the parties.

Logically, the cabinet/leader system makes Leeds one step away from needing an elected Mayor because the current system currently skews the link somewhat between direct electoral accountability and the leading representatives of the council. Whether the scheme is a success really does actually depend on who ends-up in charge. Doncaster, where the council and Mayor seem to be at permanent odds with each other, points to another danger of the system; namely that leadership becomes impossible in a battle of wills between two, both electorally mandated, arms of local government.

What the DEM system does is actually create a quasi-American separation of executive and legislature at a local level; which is fine as long as the system has the required built-in checks and balances. If the right person is in charge then an elected Mayor can be a huge force for good where as the wrong person can make the whole exercise a complete waste of time and money. As I have said, the situation in Leeds makes the democratic case for direct electoral accountability of the executive persuasive; however, I remain to be 100% convinced it is the right solution to this issue.

Also, a slight news announcement of my own; as those of you who Tweet will know I now own the domain name for this blog so watch for some c-c-c-changes in the coming few days. A new site and a new look are on the way along with a possible broadening of content.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

PMQ's: Cameron loses context

. A very subdued PMQ's as has already been noted; Brown trapped in a technocratic mentality where everything has to be decided by committee while Cameron does look increasingly prime ministerial and decisive. However, Brown did make one telling point about keeping the expenses debate in context, something that has been totally absent from this debate as the 'braying mob' mentality has increasingly taken hold. This has been shown in the fact that a number of the stories that have emerged are being contradicted by the established facts; which is a reminder every story does have two sides. We are not seeing both sides in the media coverage currently.

Cameron rightly called for expenses to be published online for all MP's but then wandered off on a tangent about Communications Allowance. This demonstrates a worrying mindset in itself and the Labour MP's heckles of 'but your a millionaire' have a point. When the shakedown occurs do we really want a Parliament that only people already wealthy can afford to be in? Democracy does cost money and there has to be a basic recognition of that fact by the general public; this is the danger of the mentality that has taken hold, that the demands will become increasingly unreasonable and they in fact strike at the very core of the system of having a representative democracy as much as abuses.

In pandering to that mentality Cameron has once again shown his rather popularist colours, the part I least like about him as a politician. Clegg meanwhile focused on expenses and focused rightly on MP's actually making profit on second homes, as opposed to actually having them when their constituencies are hundreds of miles away. The form that accommodation takes is open to discussion but the basic fact that MP's need a second accommodation doesn't change. It is time to moderate the tone of this debate; it is time for context but David Cameron has clearly lost his context.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Cameron got it right today....

. As many people will know I am not David Cameron's most natural fan however, credit should be given where it is due; he got it about right. If we look at the concrete measures then we see that he has got this right;

MP's to publish all expenses online

Quite right. A transparent system is one that is less likely to be abused almost be default; as long as the witch-hunting principle doesn't extend and the public are prepared to be reasonable about the fact that yes, they do have to provide certain things so an MP can do their job.


Again this is quite right really although again it should perhaps be arranged in an altogether more sensible climate when people are prepared to be reasonable which to be honest I don't think they are right now.

Scrutiny Committee

Although this does rather fall under the category of MP's policing themselves (which let's be honest hasn't worked so far) it at least shows a willingness to do something. This measure is all show to be honest; in theory the existence an independent body negates the need for this but I would reserve judgement on that totally until I saw who it was was actually proposed to do the scrutinising. The suggestion on Liberal Vision's blog that Guido Fawkes should do it is frankly absurd.

So, what should Clegg do? Well he should have done at least two of these three things already and the fact he hasn't is kind-of disgraceful to be honest but anything he now does looks like he is following Cameron so he will have to do something similar by this time tomorrow and will in my opinion be left with little choice.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Letter to the YEP the sequel....

. Below is my latest letter to the Yorkshire Evening Post...

Dear Sirs,

Alan Slomson (Letters, May 11) asks if I would allow special car parking spaces to facilitate theft and the answer is of course I wouldn’t but you cannot conflate the unlawful theft of private property with a discussion about how common property is used.

Alan raises legitimate concerns but I have to say once again that this is the reason the special area is being proposed; to limit the damage that is done and make sure the Moor is preserved; residents concerns are addressed and people’s freedoms are not unnecessarily restricted.

Alan mentions the current by-laws which prevent barbecues on the Moor and says ‘if only they were enforced’ but makes no proposals about funding the enforcing of these laws nor there impracticability nor the fact that they restrict the legitimate freedoms of people who have no facility to have a barbecue elsewhere. Smoke travels; should we outlaw them in back gardens too because of the damaging effects of smoke travelling?

This debate is all about striking the proper balance between rights and freedoms and responsibilities; it is my belief that the proposals put forward do that and that is why I support them.

Yours Sincerely,

Darrell Goodliffe

Hyde Park, Leeds

No mystery or masks here....

. Woodhouse Moor Online claims to go 'beneath the mask', 'exposing' me not as a local resident but as a Liberal Democrat activist (something that won't exactly surprise the regular readers of this blog). Unfortunately, the piece is flawed by a simple fact;
  1. I did include my address in my letter to the Yorkshire Evening Post but it was not printed. I have no intention of publishing my full address so publicly but I can reassure the writers of Woodhouse Moor Online that I am indeed a local resident as anybody who knows me well will vouch for; I note that there is no facility to comment on their blogs unlike here so this speaks volumes for how accountable they wish to be and how ready they are to enter into an open dialogue.
  2. My Liberal Democrat activism is no secret; I run a blog here as many people know. How much more public can you get? However, none of this means I am not capable of being both a local resident and activist for my party.

If all they can do is to invent elaborate conspiracy theories rather than enter an open and honest debate then I think that is to the detriment of successfully dealing with this issue. As I understand it many of the 'Friends of Woodhouse Moor' have stated political affiliations; does this automatically exclude them from the debate? I don't think it does so why am I to be excluded on the basis of being a active member of a political party? Being a member of a political party does not make my view less or even invalid.

***UPDATE*** Woodhouse Moor online does have a comment facility (which wasn't immediately obvious since they are not shown at the bottom of the post as is customery) so, a slight correction from yours truly there.

Kudos to Jo Swinson....

. ...who has placed all her expenses details online at her website. This is something Nick Clegg should be telling all our MP's to do later today; in the current climate we should not be letting the media dictate the agenda.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Witch hunts don't solve anything....

. Let's be quite clear; there are genuine abuses and genuine scandals in the way MP's claim expenses. However, having said all that the slew of 'revelations' is fast descending into farce itself. The Daily Telegraph has been forced into a humiliating climbdown with regard to it's stories surrounding Gordon Brown.

There has been some quite excellent blogging on this issue from Costigan Quist and Bernard Salmon but sadly, some bloggers seem intent recklessly on fanning the flames. They seem intent on claiming the moral high-ground, complaining loudly about the abuse of 'our money' etc, etc. Again, let's be honest, they have a point but it is a limited point because it is based on judging a complicated story on media hype and hot air. What we are really seeing is the publics frustration primarily with this government and it's inability to remove it from power. Both Costigan and Bernard are rightly alluding to a simple fact here; that there are a great many people in politics, MP's included who are not 'on the make'. These people work hard, long hours for their constituents and deserve every penny of their pay. As has been pointed out alot of MP's expenses claims are directly related to staffing costs who, I am glad to confirm from personal experience, work damn hard for very little relative reward.

None of this is newsworthy of course so you won't be hearing much about it in the coming days or even weeks because well, it just isn't scandalous enough is it? As the bonfires continue to be stoked the chances of a rationally worked through solution to this problem diminish almost by the passing hour; instead we will get reform that further damages the political system that it is meant to save.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

How a national Focus column could look...

. One of my known bugbears is the lack of national content in local Focus, to illustrate what one could look like there is a mock-up below which didn't quite make it into the Hyde Park & Woodhouse edition, on the plus side my letter was published in the YEP....

'Westminster Watch'

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was at the forefront of winning Parliamentary recognition for the right of Gurkhas to settle in the UK. He challenged the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, on his ‘shameful’ abandonment of the Gurkhas at Prime Ministers Questions. He attacked a government which had ‘lost its moral authority’ for refusing to honour the countries debt of gratitude to the Gurkhas who fought for Britain during both World Wars.

The following day the Liberal Democrats put forward a motion which would grant rights of residence in the UK to all Gurkhas which was carried by 267 votes to 246 against. It won support from all parties and was a historic victory for Gurkhas; many of whom are still waiting for the Government to decide on whether they will be allowed to settle in the country they risked their lives for.

Speaking following the vote, Clegg insisted;

'The Government must listen to Parliament and scrap these shameful rules immediately and grant justice without conditions to all retired Gurkhas.'

In other Westminster news, the Liberal Democrats have continued to push for a program of tax cuts targeted at low/middle income earners to deliver real help to people as the economy continues to struggle. The program, which would put £700 a year back into people’s pockets, would be paid for by closing existing tax loopholes. Liberal Democrats are at the forefront nationally of ensuring people get real help during the downturn and locally are fighting to ensure our communities still get the resources they need during these difficult times despite huge cutbacks on government funding for local authorities."

Friday, 8 May 2009

Taking the lead on exspenses

. Several places have blogged the story in the Daily Telegraph and rightly feel in my eyes that this is the start of something akin to a witch hunting atmosphere is gathering, something Charlotte Gore characterises as the prelude to an 'us v them' atmosphere. No doubt this explains the not so strange silence of Nick Clegg and David Cameron, noted by Guido Fawkes. When questioned on Newsnight recently about whether Clegg would impose rules on Lib Dem MPs specifically he slithered and squirmed to the point of it being very embarrassing to watch.

We can't doubt that the main beneficiaries of this kind of atmosphere will be the BNP and political movements akin to them if nothing is done. This issue should be considered in much the same light as the donor issue; that if we fail to take a lead then nobody will see us as being serious about fixing 'broken politics'. If we merely continue to say well we will do what the government does then it will look like an entrenched political class banding together to save itself and preserve it's own perks.

Various solutions present themselves; Charlotte wants a general election called which it should be but not on this issue alone, that is akin to actually building a bonfire to burn the witches. A sensible, and reasoned rational debate about what expenses MP's do legitimately need to claim is hard enough to have without making it the centrepiece of an election campaign. Amidst all the outrage and front page headlines there has to be a reasoned argument and public discussion about what is legitimate and what isn't and part of that does entail the mood of popular outrage giving ground.

I think the opportunity exists for Clegg to make it clear that we won't accept expenses abuse from our own MP's by introducing binding guidelines for Liberal Democrat MP's. This has to be done to show that we are serious about our 'fixing' agenda....

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

PMQ's - It's all in the body language

. PMQ's was as could be expected fiery. David Cameron lead the charge on Hazel Blears remarks earlier in the week calling the government 'lamentable'. Cameron undoubtedly captures the mood of the country in rightly calling for a General Election now and throughout their exchanges Brown looked distinctly uncomfortable, refusing to look directly at Cameron for much of it instead focusing his gaze on the Speaker. This said allot about the fact that Brown simply didn't want to answer Cameron's question about why Blears was still in the Cabinet.

Brown's body language was hunched and deflective which summed-up his cruelly exposed Premiership. The Conservatives have clearly decided that is their line of attack as they lined-up to call for a General Election with one, Andrew Rossindale, raising the now fabled online petition. Brown's stoic answering looked laboured (no pun intended) and failed to recognise that whatever this government does do people won't support it; it has passed the point of no return.

Nick Clegg focused on education and the prospects for young people and did ok but it is quite clear that Brown feels much more comfortable dealing with Clegg as he chose to look directly at him. Clegg's question usually give Brown an opportunity to reel off a list of policy 'achievements' and this is obviously what Brown feels comfortable doing. Clegg spoke passionately and even implied that Brown was stupid; cue roars from the Labour benches to which Clegg deftly replied 'at least I say it to his face'. Clegg is getting better but he doesn't have the knack of unsettling Brown like Cameron does; Cameron does have the benefit of being the main opposition leader but he clearly has Brown rattled where as Clegg doesn't.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Will The Guardian go Lib Dem??

. Sunny Hundal has an interesting Liberal Conspiracy; he ponders the diema of left-of-centre publications like the New Statesman and Guardian faced with the unpalatable choice of backing a unpopular government or the Conservatives, who are not exactly their target readership. Sunny thinks that, at lease in the case of the Guardian this will be solved by a backing of the Liberal Democrats.

I think in the Guardian's case there has been some clear kite-flying in favour of at least the Cameroon wing of the Conservative Party. Earlier on this blog I looked at the kite-flying article talking about 'constructive engagement' with the Cameron-wing and they were part of the 'Progressive future' series of debates that the Guardian held. I think what we will see is a vauge editorial line calling for change from the Guardian come the election, which is a de facto call for a Conservative vote in alot of areas. They may well urge a Lib Dem vote where applicable; ie, against Labour where we are the main competition but the main thrust of what they say will be calling for change and a grudging acceptance of the incoming Conservative government. What they may endorse us as is the opposition essentially and say there should be more Lib Dem MP's to hold the Conservative administration to account.

The Guardian is notably not afraid of tacking away from it's readership base as it did over the Iraq war and The Independant is in such a poorly state that it is unlikely to be able to steal readers off of it so yes my money is a Guardian vote for change.

Sweet dreams are made of these.....

. Stephen Tall has rightly won praise for his article on Liberal Democrat Voice speculating on how we can overtake Labour and be the next party of opposition. Any reasonable, cogent analysis of the political scene has to see this as being the next-step of Liberal Democrat advance. Given events of recent weeks it is quite clear that we are going to get a big swing against Labour and that the most likely outcome of this is a Conservative majority. So, the question then becomes one of how do we effectively place ourselves as the next opposition.

In terms of centre-of-political gravity being centre/leftish is naturally the best place to be not least because it maintains the balance of having one centre/right and one centre/left party. Stephen's proposition that the Liberal Democrats can fill this void and eclipse Labour is entirely reasonable in this climate. Looking at his three preconditions in turn they also seem eminently achievable:

Labour must Fracture

This is a tricky one and I see comparisons with 1983 as being completely invalid. Mainly because there was wave after wave of industrial militancy in 83 (and immediately preceding it) which the swing to the left then was actually grounded in. Now, while it maybe true that CLP's are more leftward inclined, there simply isn't that social base. We are in a massive economic depression and the nature of the CLP's is more determined by the remaining activists being die-hards and last ones standing than an actual social movement.

One way we can guarantee that any such split won't benefit us is to go with the foaming-at-the-mouth sectarianism advocated by Charlotte Gore. When people feel attacked they circle the wagons; they don't as a rule rush into the embrace of their attackers. However, the correct approach comes under the next heading.....

The Liberal Democrats must show they are the progressive party

This is about showing those people we want to fracture away from Labour in our direction that we actually share their values but disagree with Labour about how those values are best realised and actually translated into government policy. This is a constructive, subtle engagement/dialogue as opposed to grandstanding about 'Destroying' or 'Killing' the Labour Party.

Here Stephen actually has a reasonable formula regarding us being the 'champions of the underdog' where as Charlotte has a reasonable point about us stopping behaving like a party that is an underdog and has no hope or aspiration to govern. The squeeze message is a classic example of a third party mindset. All of which leads us into point 3....

The Liberal Democrats must show how we would govern

One of the major problems we face is the credibility gap we have; ie, the wasted vote argument. So, our policies need to be fully justified but we also need to show practically where do govern; ie, local councils or where we have a sitting MP where we make the difference that the other parties can't. We need to be advancing those type of arguments to make the transition from being a third party into being an opposition party and then a government-in-waiting...

Monday, 4 May 2009

We must be Europe's strongest champions....

. Interesting remarks by Chris Davies MEP reported on Politics Home;

"I don't underestimate UKIP. The European elections are just made for them. I want to put some pro-European arguments, i'm happy to take on UKIP anytime."

He also, rightly in my eyes, called the Conservative position on Europe 'hopelessly confused'. In reality the Conservatives want to 'democratise Europe' by destroying it; reducing it back to it's component parts. Davies is right that we need to be the most passionate Europeans out there and we need to clearly fight Euro-scepticism even in the full knowledge that this is against the public grain.

In electoral politics it is tempting to go with the grain; to find the winning formula and stick with that no matter what no matter what we believe. There is nothing wrong with 'democratising Europe' as a call in and of itself but the Conservative stance is pure demagoguery. Gordon Brown isn't inherently wrong about the global nature of the economic crisis (though there are, of course, local causation factors too) and this should tell us something about the necessity and pioneering nature of the European Union in the role of establishing the principle of transnational governance as being a good and indeed necessary thing.

The over-bureaucratised and unresponsive nature of the European Union should never blind us to the virtues of the principles that underlie it nor the powerful almost totemic significance of a continent which was once riven by petty national hatreds coming together. UKIP and the Conservatives essentially articulate a version of democracy that looks backwards; not forward to the possibilities of the Union. Democracy means nothing as an individual act; democracy only means something when people come together in it's formation; and in a collective expression of will and desire to shape society. Our democracy is impoverished when people become apathetic and withdraw (and consequentially anti-democratic forces like the BNP rise in popularity) from participation in what is a collective act and a collective living and breathing expression of will.

We should not be afraid of taking the argument to UKIP, the BNP and the Conservatives and challenging their hostility to Europe. It might not be the most popular move at first but in this case that really isn't the point.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Letter to the YEP....

. In lieu of me having a proper Leeds-focused blog, here is a letter I sent to the Yorkshire Evening Post....

Dear Sirs,

Alot of comment has been made about the proposed barbecue area on Woodhouse Moor, including your double-page spread on April 28th. One of the first things that is notable about this debate is it is being framed in totally the wrong way by opponents of the proposal. It is not a question of whether you want barbecues or not; some people invariably will, others won’t. Regardless they will happen so the opponents of this proposal suffer from a basic refusal to deal with reality.

Having recognised and accepted the above but also, at the same time, realising that some of the concerns expressed are legitimate it then becomes a question of effective management and this is where the virtue in these proposals is clearly shown. In acknowledging the concerns they are an attempt to manage effectively and balance the concerns of the residents without restricting other people’s ability to enjoy the Moor and use it in a way they wish.

This really is not a cut and dried issue and opponents of the proposals do them a disservice by insisting that they are put forward by people seeking to somehow damage the Moor. Burying our head in the sand and making it an either/or choice does neither the quality of the debate nor the actual interests of the Moor or the residents around it any favours.

It is time this debate was conducted properly so people can work together for the best interests of both the Moor and the local community without the impediment of blinkers.

Yours Sincerely,
Darrell Goodliffe
Local Resident."

Emotion V Reason in politics....

. This is perhaps one of the falsest counter positions there actually is; starting from the top, most people are in politics because they care on one degree another about the world around them and want to change it for the better. Often there is a motivating factor, something that inspires people or that they see wrong and motivates them to get out there and do something but the basis of the commitment remains the same. An ideological commitment is similarly an emotional commitment as much an intellectual commitment; in fact, it is arguably more so.

Without being a full statement of identity our political views are as much shaped in the crucible of our respective experiences in life. Of course, the finer print of how we actually do this is where things tend to fall apart. However, who would actually put all the hours and effort that most of us do into our political lives without some form of emotional commitment? Is this a bad thing? Of course, a detached analysis of the facts is helpful and sometimes necessary but how often have we seen politicians frowning over 'apathy' and the lack of involvement of people in the political process? Part of the reasons for this is unquestionably that politics fails to engage people on an emotional level; this is why the real divisions and differences are not understood or dismissed as puerile and insignificant.

This also goes a long way to explaining the almost fabled success of single issue campaigns in terms of engagement in comparison to the lack of success of party politics. It also explains why some people become disillusioned; feeling that politics is just another career choice and it might even explain why some feel so ready to abuse things like the expenses system. Also, 100 days ago we saw the success Barack Obama just over 100 days ago on the crest of a wave of public emotion; something of a outpouring of hope. Of course, we can see the negative way emotion plays out in politics in the way the British National Party so love to pray on peoples insecurities and fears.

All of this is to say that there is not a place for a certain detachment but as with most things it is a question of balance. However, to deny the important place that emotion and conviction has in politics is to deaden it and to open the gates to a decay of the fabric of the very system we all claim so much to treasure. Part of the problem and part of the reason that politics is indeed broken is the lack of conviction. This is something Nick Clegg proved in the positive by winning an inspiring victory for the Gurkhas; speaking passionately for a cause he clearly truly believes in and winning an important battle which proves that at its best Parliament can still function in the interests of the people it is supposed to represent. Part of fixing broken politics is thus bringing about the return of conviction politics.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Labour's treason season?

. The rumours that some Labour MP's/Peers might be considering defecting to the Liberal Democrats has certainly caused a stir on the blogsphere at least. Let's fly straight off the bat; this is kite-flying of the most blatant kind by malcontents in a Conservative supporting newspaper in a media climate where the media narrative is 'government in crisis. So, having said that what are the wider issues?

Firstly, there is nothing inherently wrong with attracting support from people within the Labour Party. It amuses me greatly that the same people who were only days ago celebrating our Gurkha success would think there is; how else was that vote won if not with a large-scale rebellion on the government benches?? This, if anything should prove the fact that there are people in the Labour Party (and indeed the Conservatives too) who can be worked with and are potentially open to political life in the Lib Dems.

Charlotte Gore has obviously totally mis-read the original piece because it is made clear that this is a putative *right-wing* (not left-wing) split from Blairites in our direction. So, most of her rant simply doesn't apply really. Party politics is partially tribal in nature and it engenders a tribal loyalty in all parties, including our own. Sometimes that is a plus, sometimes a minus. Political parties by their very nature are heterogeneous beasts; coalitions of different individuals and viewpoints around broad goals. It is bitterly ironic for people to inveigh against a Labourite propensity to create 'traitors' and then in the very next breath argue for a climate of ideological purity which in fact would make traitors of people.

Over on Liberal Democrat Voice, Richard Huzzey has a certainly more balanced view. He wants the newcomers to actually reverse their positions on some questions like ID cards which is understandable and will be likely if for no other reason than because pragmatically dropping ID cards makes sound economic sense. Also, it's worth noting that the more socially authoritarian strand to Blairite politics (taking Anthony Giddens as our marker here) actually came in as a response to the start of the 'war on terror' and that in turn can be traced back simply to how state formations actually react when a mass hysteria/sense of loss of control takes hold. State's increase their power incrementally in response to this public mood (with public unlicensed consent, normally) usually and had say, for example, the Conservatives been in power things would not have been an awful lot different (you may even have seen a return of capital punishment in response had it been a Conservative government). If you notice one thing it is that support for measures like the introduction of ID cards has declined markedly as time marches on since the last terrorist attack.

Given what I have just said above; assuming that this kite-flying has much substance which is a highly dubious assumption, it would be accepted that these people would bring something to the mix, there own experiences and own politics and commitments. Why anybody should feel threatened by that is beyond me; even though I don't entirely share Blairite politics it doesn't bother me. What we are really seeing in this article is that the coalition; the heterogeneous nature, of the Labour Party is creaking under the weight of the governments decay. In other words, discipline is starting to break-down and the Party is fragmenting into it's component parts.

I would have thought this would have been a good thing from the oppositions point of view. Letters from a Tory presumably thinks that they should, if anything, join the Cameroons in his own party. All-in-all we should dismiss this and the kite flying it actually is but not use it as an opportunity to show how 'closed-shop' we can be....

Friday, 1 May 2009

Lib Dem/Conservative 'co-operation' a hit with voters?

. Politics Home has an interesting poll which concludes that 86% of Conservative voters and 76% of Liberal Democrat voters would like to see the parties co-operate more following the Governments defeat on the Gurkha motion. Now, this is a poll you have to be extremely careful with for the simple reason that a positive response to the question was much more likely a day after the Gurkha motion won the day. Secondly, the sampling size is quite small I think at 873 adults.

The desire for greater co-operation could also come from a negative rejection of this government and a simple desire to turf them out by any means neccessary (which, most reasonable people would conclude, does mean in practice greater opposition co-operation). However, this in itself should perhaps say something about the groundswell of feeling against the government and the desire to kick it in any way possible. Given this it can barely be taken as the precursor of feeling regarding any kind of deal in a hung-parliament.

Having said all that the principle of greater co-operation between the two parties against a deeply unpopular government is a good one. The leaderships of both parties should take note....