Friday, 30 April 2010

Doorstep Politics

I have knocked on many doors but I have never known a reception like the one that Liberal Democrats are getting now. People are willing to talk about politics. They may not have a local or national political question but they are commenting on the leaders' debate. They know that times are changing and this is reflected in the numbers that are saying they are supporting the Liberal Democrats.

If the talk is not about the leaders' debate then I am getting lively conversations about Gordon Brown's Rochdale debacle. I admit that some have mentioned that they are still supporting Gordon, but the majority have seen him in a new light.

If my experience is anything to go by then Labour support will fall away dramatically.

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Defensive actions

This week I spoke with a doctor who told me that there are problems with the Tory position on extending GP surgery hours. If you extend the GP hours then you have to extend the hours of everyone who may be related to the GP's work. Are they going to increase the hours of consultants' secretaries or hospital laboratory technicians? I was given a long list in the space of a minute.

More concerning than this one small aspect of Tory policy is the idea of "defensive medicine". If one patient in a hundred falls seriously ill after they present with a few symptoms, then doctors have to bear in mind that they may be prosecuted if they are not seen to act properly.

I also spoke with a police officer this week and coincidentally his concerns were of a similar nature. Defensive policing means that actions have to be taken just in case something goes wrong. This week the arrest of Damian Green has been in the news. Would he have been arrested if the police had not been concerned about political correctness? A couple of weeks ago the leader of Manchester City Council was arrested for an alleged assault against his stepdaughter. He temporarily stood down from his position as leader. I don't know any details but it may be the case that the stepdaughter regrets her actions, the leader's life has been turned upside down and so too has that of the ruling body of a large city council. Has this happened because of defensive policing? This may not be the case in this instance but defensive policing is happening every day.

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Thursday, 29 April 2010

I agree with ...

One of the questions that is really popular if you are a Liberal Democrat is who will you work with in a balanced parliament. Well constitutionally the question should go to the Labour or Tory parties before it goes to the Liberal Democrats. I would be quite happy to work with anyone who has sensible policies. Wouldn't that be novel - politicians deciding how to vote on the strength of the argument rather than party political lines.

It is the other parties that can actually be seen to vacillate on this issue. "I agree with Nick" was the catchphrase of the first leader's debate, as Gordon Brown tried to recruit Nick on the spot into an anti-Tory pact, but in the second it had been supplanted by "Get real" from Gordon, and "I agree with Gordon" from David Cameron. "Get real" apparently means accepting without question an expensive like-for-like replacement of Trident even though the world is a very different place from when Trident was first developed. "Get real" should mean having a review of military spending, and we can't exclude from that review the single most important item of military spending, the one which might justify having a review in the first place.

This shows the real danger of a hung parliament - the extent to which it could draw Labour and the Tories into coalition. At the moment they can indulge in expensive fantasies while at least pretending to oppose one another. In a hung parliament fantasies would be exposed for what they are. The only way they'll be able to get things like a new Trident implemented without any debate or oversight will be by having David's "I agree with Gordon" being met increasingly by "I agree with David" from Gordon. Meanwhile, most voters would say "I agree with Nick". The only way to limit the dangers of a Lab-Con collaboration is by having a strong Liberal Democrat presence in the next parliament. Could this be the election where people actually vote for what they agree with?

Incidentally, there's lots of good "I agree with Nick" T-shirts and other merchandise out there - look at or or just Google for more. I don't get a commission from any of this, I just think it's a good enough idea to be worth mentioning.

Change the world.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Letter to the paper

This is a first for me. Three blogs on the same day. However I was moved to write a letter to my local paper, the Morecambe Visitor. Here it is...

I know that there is a serious side to the headline in The Visitor (28th April) “MBIs expel their ex-leader” but I was amused that you could be expelled by independents. Can Evelyn Archer stand as an independent in the next local elections? How can anyone stop her? The irony is that the independents were elected because of their leaflets opposing party politics at a time when party politicians were not popular. They are now seen for what they are, a political party, and chickens will come home to roost.

The MBI article would have been my main motivation in writing to The Visitor but I am much more concerned about political coverage. The reporting on the general election has been very good in the Visitor and in the Guardian but I like to hear what my candidates have to say in person. I like hustings and we are due to have one in Morecambe on Sunday. Unfortunately Geraldine Smith is not so obliging. She will not be at Sunday’s public meeting because she has better things to do. So how am I to learn about her deeper political commitments? What is better than advertising your policies to a packed meeting? I can only assume that Geraldine is not keen on advertising her policies. I think that it is an affront to the voters of Morecambe and an affront to democracy.

Yours faithfully,

Michael Gradwell

Who makes Gordon angry and upset?

If you support one group to the detriment of another then you run the risk of being called a bigot. I don't think Gillian Duffy from Rochdale is a bigot but she was simply asking a question about admitting workers from abroad. Gordon had a fair stab at answering her quesion but the BBC political editor, Nick Robinson hit one nail on the head when he said that today's events in Rochdale were a disaster for the prime minister because it showed the gap between his public and private face.

The damage is done and it isn't about his views on foreign workers. It is about his judgement of others. It is about his private versus public opinions but for me it is about the stage management of his campaing. I have heard on many occasions that Gordon is meeting real voters not pary stooges. In the past couple of weeks the handshakes have looked like they have gone to party members. On this occasion a lady walks down to the shop, asks a decent question and gets called a bigot. Gordon was caught on a microphone criticising others. He should not have been talking to this woman - and she was a Labour supporter!

In public Gordon is very angry and upset with himself. You can't help thinking that he is very angry and upset with his party workers.

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Rotten Borough Politics

I have written previously about the corruption that was rife in our electoral system and even now one vote is very often not worth a vote. Why should we bother when most constituencies have MPs for life depending on which party is popular in that area? No UK parliamentary election has ever been won by one vote - or so I thought. But just now I did some digging, and found (at a story that in 1816 an election really was decided by one vote. It was in one of the "Rotten Boroughs", Gatting, that had three electors: first, the owner of the borough, who nominated his absentee son as Tory candidate. Next there was his son, who of course couldn't vote for himself since he was absent. The third voter, the butler, had a falling out with his master and would have voted for himself, but in the end he refrained from voting, so the absentee son won by one vote to none. I haven't been able to independently verify that tale, but it is an interesting one. Maybe the moral is that we should all vote or we'll be back to those even-more-rotten-than-what-we've-got-now boroughs.

I understand that the rules surrounding elections limit the amount that each candidate may spend. In Morecambe we are now on our fourth wave of Tory political posters. I know how they can afford to pay for all their leaflets and all their posters -it's because the posters are actually financed by Lord Ashcroft - but I'm not sure why one party is allowed to spend so much more than the others. At least, though, the posters are so bad that if they do actually influence anyone's vote, it's likely to be against voting Tory. When I think of how the money the Tories spent on those posters might have been spent on more effective campaigning, my inclination is to say "bring it on". Then, when I think of how Lord Ascroft doesn't pay UK tax on his offshore billions, and think of how much in services all these posters could have paid for if he did pay tax, I feel indignant again, until I realise that there's a positive side to all this - namely, Lord Ashcroft staying offshore.

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Tuesday, 27 April 2010

What makes you vote?

Most people that I meet are interested in politics. This may be more to do with the people that I meet rather than the mood of the nation. However there are some who don't engage with the political process. They don't recognise that political decisions affect them. I have tried to explain the need for involvement by writing these blogs but there are simpler methods of getting the message across. Poster campaigns, TV ads and political leaflets all play a part but they are still easy to ignore.

What about the argument that we fought world wars to get the vote? Well this may not convince everyone and even if we realise that the alternative to democracy may be dictatorship then some would say that is good. The problem, of course, is that we have no checks or balances if we have a dictator. We get the government we deserve but if you remain unmoved by any of the parties then do take part in the democratic process. Go into the polling station and spoil your vote. You have participated and who knows, you may even be moved to vote for one of the candidates.

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Monday, 26 April 2010

A quote from John Cleese

There are many problems with our electoral system and the majority of voters don't get the candidate that they want but there is a real sense that things will change after this election. The local Labour candidate gives us a headline in her leaflet that asks for Liberal Democrats to support her. 'Lib Dem Supporters could hold the key' is the headline and in the body of the text she tells us that 'it is clear that either Labour or the Tories will form the next governmnent'. I mentioned this lack of reasoned argument recently but it is worth repeating. When Labour and Tory politicians are losing the argument they fall back on the 'they can't form a government' argument.

Now the tables are turned. She needs to add two 'n's to her leaflet and write 'it is clear that neither Labour nor the Tories will form the next governmnent'. Ironically there is another headline in her leaflet 'Every Vote Counts'. If every vote counted then everyone would vote for the party that they wanted to win. As John Cleese told us in his memorable broadcasts, "if everyone who'd wanted the Lib Dems to be in power actually voted for them, they'd win".

Yesterday Nick Clegg said that it was "potty" if Labour got fewer votes than their rivals but still tried to form a government. There are many "potty" scenarios to our FPTP system but it really feels like we have already reached a tipping point and we will get change.

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Sunday, 25 April 2010

Why buy one manifesto?

I bought my manifestos a few days ago. I went to a bookshop in Lancaster and asked for them and I was told that even though they had been published a week earlier the shop had not received them yet. I went to another bookshop and they had them. The person behind the counter said "which would you like?" I don't know what you think of this question but why would anyone want one manifesto? So that they could attack the policies of that particular party? Highly unlikely. So that they could confirm their beliefs in their favoured party? More likely but this isn't a sensible way of doing things because the only way you confirm your favoured party is by knowing the policies of the other parties.

I asked for all three and then asked if they have any others. The answer was no. I felt particularly sorry for the Green Party as I understand that Lancaster is it's second strongest constituency and you can't buy the manifesto here. I am sure that I could get a copy online but that's not the way I buy my manifestos, and I am sure it will put a lot of people off who may have bought them from the local shop. After all they are not the sort of book that you will want to buy after the election unless the party forms a government.

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Saturday, 24 April 2010

UKIP's homework

I want to write one more blog about UKIP because I am amazed at the number of votes that they get when compared to the message they send out. Last year I met a former UKIP MEP who did not know that the county council dealt with education. The last two blogs have been about the way their leader leads. His poor awareness of UKIP policy and politics in general is there for all to see. It seems that a lack of knowledge of policy at all levels is a prerequisite.

Today I will mention the UKIP leaflet that came through my door and their advert in the local paper. The name on the leaflet is not correct. However it hardly seems to matter as we don't learn anything about this person. The photograph may as well be the photo of the new candidate. The leaflet is only A5 so we don't learn much about policy but we do learn that they are asking for referendums on all major issues. What is a major issue? Locally they want a referendum on the M6/Heysham link road. What is their opinion? We don't know the views of the candidate or the person on the leaflet but what we do know is that Lord Pearson was on the Campaign Show calling for a referendum on Europe "with all its incredible attendant costs". Now they want referenda on all things major with all their incredible attendant costs. At best we can say this policy is confusing.

I live in Morecambe and our weekly paper is called The Morecambe Guardian. On the front page UKIP have an advert for their Lancaster and Fleetwood candidate. If only they had done their homework...

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Friday, 23 April 2010

UKIP revisited

Following on from my comments yesterday about Lord Pearson's phone-in on radio four, I will mention another point that he made as it was a wonderful. He was astounded that the televised leaders' debate from last week did not mention that very important subject of Europe. Martha Kearney told him that the debate last week concerned domestic affairs and only this week would the subject be international affairs. Lord Pearson had already said that he thought it absurd that the leaders had not spoken about Europe. It would have been absurd if they had spoken about it. Which makes Lord Pearson's comments absurd and I would expect any political leader to know this sort of thing.

On a question about disability benefits, a female caller was concerned that a UKIP candidate had talked about cutting disability benefits and she felt this was really frightening for people who can't work. Lord Pearson admitted that he was not a professional politician (he is a member of the House of Lords so what sort of advert is that?) and did not have answers for details of policy, but he was not aware of anything in his manifesto that would reduce support for disabilities. You would guess that Lord Pearson's knowledge of policy would be greater than the average candidate. Let's hope that candidate is rebuked for this misinformation. What is certain is that Lord Pearson is not aware of the detail of the leaders' debate.

Lord Pearson assures us that UKIP supports people with disabilities and the questioner was wrong. The questioner was not reassured and confidently replied that his lack of specific information was not appreciated. I would support the questioner. There may a lot more than one UKIP candidate talking about cutting benefits because they think that it sounds like they are talking tough and it will win votes. However the leader did not confirm this position. What he did confirm was that he did not have a firm knowledge of policy. In his interview on the Campaign Show Lord Pearson did mention that he had read his manifesto (that's good) but couldn't remember the detail (that's bad). They aren't huge documents. Perhaps he may take another look at the manifesto before his next interview.

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Thursday, 22 April 2010

UKIP and reciprocal agreements

I was listening to Radio 4's World at One on Tuesday and I heard Lord Pearson speaking on the leaders's election call section of the programme. As the leader of UKIP he took questions from listeners and one person phoned in from Tours. The caller asked if the plans to leave the EU had taken into consideration the effect on the couple of million British citizens in Europe.

He asked about the reciprocal health agreements with the EU as well as the right to live and work in Europe. These rights could easily be removed if Britain left the EU. What would UKIP do if several million people returned to Britain and needed help with things like housing, health and social care. The reply was that this "really isn't the picture at all". If we left the EU then nothing would change.

The caller was not reassured by the answer and neither am I. Take the reciprocal health agreement. This costs Europe much more than it costs us. I have no doubt that it would go. No more E111. If you don't believe me then look what Britain has done to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The reciprocal health agreement costs us money so Gordon Brown got rid of it. If you are going to these islands on holiday then do check your holiday insurance.

Lord Pearson thinks it is in the interest of Europe to leave the reciprocal health agreements in place. He is wrong.

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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Morecambe Town Council Website (continued)

On Sunday I tried to comment on Morecambe Town Council's discussion board on the subject of the M6 link road. My comment wasn't published. I didn't take it personally as there were no other comments. Maybe they are having teething problems, but I didn't want to waste the five minutes that I spent writing the comment so here it is...

The title of the press release is 'The Town Council expresses the Public views on M6 Link Road' but the Town Council expressed its own view and 'learnt' about the opinions of others.

If you want my view then take a survey of Morecambe residents who use the motorway to get to work. Ask businesses who deal with the rest of Lancashire. Check the business plans of any company that looks to visitors getting here from the motorway. The Winter Gardens must be a prime example of a company that fully supports the link road. We are desperate for it. Let's not hear about Lancaster's traffic problems and how this will not be affected. There will still be a problem in Lancaster that needs a coordinated approach, but the problem will not quite as bad because of the link, but this is about Morecambe.

I'll let you know if it gets published. I should also have mentioned people who use the motorway to work in Morecambe or businesses that use the motorway to trade with Morecambe, and I am sure that there are lots of other reasons to support the link but I did only spend a few minutes on it.

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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Who wants European cooperation?

Europe's airlines and airports are in chaos. Thousands of holidaymakers are stranded abroad. I don't think crisis is too strong a word. Now if you are on holiday on the far side of Europe and you were desperate to get home, how would you do it? Well you could wait for the dust to settle, literally and metaphorically and catch the next available plane but this may not be quick enough for you. An alternative is to plan a route by land and sea but this would take some planning.

You would need cooperation from the rest of Europe. You will need to pay your way through Europe so banking systems would be involved, as well as good communication with bus, train or car hire companies. Let's not forget the ferry companies too. You may fall ill so we will need health agreements across Europe. You may break the law (accidentally or deliberately) so we will need some legal procedures that cut across national boundaries. You need to eat and sleep so you need to cope with negotiations for both in foreign languages (although many Europeans do speak English, but you can always point at food and mime the action of sleeping). Shouldn't we coordinate how we deal with this pan European problem with the rest of Europe? There is the minor issue of European trade even if we are only talking about the tourist trade.

I have only thought about this for ten minutes. If you are stuck abroad then I am sure that you will have given it much greater consideration. Yesterday I wrote about how Liberal Democrat policies will be exposed. Now which party is for European cooperation?

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Monday, 19 April 2010

Let's get rid of childish behaviour

The Liberal Democrat policies will now be exposed. That is the threat from Labour and Tory sources since the polls made a giant percentage leap following Nick Clegg's success in the leaders' debate. Well what kind of threat is that? The leaders' debate exposed Liberal Democrat policies and support went up.

On the 6th April I wrote that it was good to get criticism. Liberal Democrats are now a threat and the other parties must rebut our policies. If that fails then the other two parties will fall back on the "they can't form a government" argument. The answer to this is that you let the electorate vote for the policies that they want, and then you see who has won. I don't want to copy David Steel's rallying cry which was something to do with preparation and government as this falls into the Labour and Tory trap of presuming the result of the election, but this doesn't stop the media from predicting outcomes which make the "they can't form a government" argument apply equally to all parties.

I have written about consensus politics in the past. There is nothing wrong with politicians of all parties working together. It certainly beats the childish behaviour we have in parliament at the moment. What sort of advert is this for Britain?

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Sunday, 18 April 2010

Let's look for educated answers

Saturday's papers were full of the leadership debate and the poll that puts the Tories on 33%, Liberal Democrats on 30% and Labour on 28%. It seems that in a gerneral election this would translate to Labour having 276 MPs, the Tories 246 and Liberal Democrats 99. I am really pleased that we are talking in terms of these sorts of numbers but just spend a moment thinking about them. Labour have managed to get nearly three times the number of seats with a smaller percentage vote.

In 1974 Labour managed to win more seats with fewer votes than the Tories and this made headlines. This minor blip in our first-past-the-post system was seen as major problem but one which is unlikely to happen again. What happens all the time is that most MPs manage to hold on to their job without much effort. If they want to work hard that's good for their constituents but it is no great incentive if the MP happens to lose an election and is then given another job by the party.

My friend Jon Sopel on Friday's Campaign Show asked about mandates to govern. Was it up to the party with the highest number of seats of the party with the highest number of votes. According to him it is a simple question. It is as if you are taking a GCSE, but if you want a more considered reply then it is a complicated question. I am sure that this question could form part of a thesis. Later he asked if Tony Blair would have done better than Gordon Brown in the televised debate. Again, it is a simple question for GCSE. Jon confirmed the simplicity by telling the interviewees how simple it was. Well it is simple if you see no depth to the question. Do we really want our presenters to dumb down like this? In my previous blog on Jon (Monday 12th April) I was writing about his aggressive style. He wasn't as aggressive on Friday, so let's hope this continues and in the future lets hope he looks for educated answers.

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P.S. I wrote this yesterday morning and late last night I read that a new poll puts the Liberal Democrats on 32% and in first place. I am told this is the first time in living memory. I presume there were polls in the first few years of the twentieth century.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

What do you say after you lose convincingly?

Yesterday I didn't want to say Nick Clegg had won the debate as I am biased. I know that I am biased but what makes it all the more pleasing is to hear that everyone is talking about it and everyone is saying that Nick Clegg won. I am pleased with the way that Nick came over as a person as well as the content of his answers. One example of this was when the leaders shook hands with the audience. Gordon didn't make eye contact, David gave a cheesy smile and Nick was asking opinions and having a chat.

Yesterday morning Gordon was interviewed on a BBC Radio Sussex programme. The presenter faced him with a question about the polls on the debate. He said Nick won 51% of the vote. This was from Yougov poll in the Sun. I know it is the best of the figures but other polls weren't bad at all. ITV news had Nick at 43%. In fact Nick was consistently the people's favourite. What was Gordon's answer to the radio presenter? "I don't think there was one poll, there were lots of polls". Well Gordon was right and I suppose that it the answer that I would give if I had just lost convincingly.

Even better than polls on the debate are the polls on voting and Liberal Democrats are now at 30%, two points ahead of Labour!

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Friday, 16 April 2010

Did you see a debate?

I am interested in politics, hence the blog. I enjoy listening to political programmes on the radio. I watch TV and I take an active part in local politics. I wasn't happy with this debate. I felt we were getting hundreds of soundbites that came so thick and fast that none really meant anything.

If the Oxford and Cambridge boats get too close then the umpire shouts at both crews. Alistair Stewart was the moderator for the leaders' debate but I would prefer to call him the umpire. He spent most of the time shouting names so that the next leader could speak. This interruption actually stifled debate and led to further soundbites rather than genuine debate. It would almost have been the same programme if they had been filmed in separate studios.

I did get a little out of the debate but if I want to find policy then I will read the manifesto rather than watch television. I did want to see a debate. It is a shame the rules didn't allow it.

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Thursday, 15 April 2010

Reacting to insults

The Liberal Democrats unveiled their manifesto yesterday but it was not to universal acclaim. David Cameron was telling the cameras that liberal voters should support him. You can see from my daily blogs that I spend a lot of time criticising the Tory position. There are plenty of reasons why liberal voters should vote for the Liberal Democrats.

Gordon Brown still thinks we are called the Liberal Party. This may be a sign of ignorance if he is unaware of the Party's name but I don't think that this is the case. I think it is more likely that he calls the party by a name that changed in 1988 because he thinks it is an insult. Maybe he is ignorant and insulting but I would give him the benefit of the doubt and just call him insulting.

Later on Newsnight Peter Hain calls us Liberals a few times. Is this a central dictat in Labour circles that we should not be called by our official title? There is not usually a reaction from the Liberal Democrats but I was one of those who voted for the name change. I thought it was fairly easy to appreciate the new name but maybe I am missing something and I will get a comment about how I should not be reacting to insults.

Change the world.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Another area for savings

David Chaytor is one of the north west MPs who is in court because of his claims for expenses. I think it is outrageous if anyone claims for a mortgage on a property that doesn't have a mortgage and this appears to be the case with Mr Chaytor, but I am not the judge and the jury and everyone is entitled to a defence. He may even be innocent.

He was mentioned on the local news tonight because he has managed to get legal aid. The reporter thought that there was a sense of irony in this award because he has been charged with taking taxpayers' money and is now receiving more. In the sense that legal aid provides representation in court for those who cannot afford it then there is no irony if Mr Chaytor cannot afford representaion. The only way that you would know if legal aid is needed is by knowing the wealth of the individual and the cost of representation. I know neither, but he has obviously qualified so that's that. We are where we are but let's hope legal aid becomes another area for savings.

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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Cycling and happiness

I was in Cambridge last week and you may have guessed from these photos that I am going to talk about transport, in particular bicycles. I was told that there are 35 000 bikes in the city and the high number is partly because all the rich students aren't allowed to bring a car within five miles of the city centre.

In general I like cycling. It is healthy for the cyclist and it is also environmentally friendly. However there are poor cyclists just like there are poor drivers and even people who cause accidents by walking. I used to cycle between Morecambe and Lancaster and there is a clear division on the paths designated for cyclists and that for walkers. You do get a few cyclists who travel next to people at an excessive speed. The proportion of cyclists who do this in Cambridge is far greater. Everyone seemed to be in a hurry and I didn't even see what happens at rush hour. For all the benefits of cycling they didn't look happy. Maybe they are, but at least they should be physically more healthy than their non-cycling counterparts.

Change the world.

Monday, 12 April 2010

I vote for Jon Sopel

There are blogs that go into great detail about the amount of time given to particular candidates in political programmes. Their raison d'etre is to inform us that their particular favourite is treated badly. One way of doing this is to count the number of interruptions that each of the panellists receives on shows such as Question Time. For me this sort of analysis is a waste of time. David Dimbleby's job is to keep people on the right track or to delve deeper. Interruptions may be entirely appropriate and have nothing to do with bias.

I prefer qualitative research for two reasons. Firstly it is easier to justify my opinion, and secondly I don't have a stopwatch or the inclination to time anything. This brings me to Jon Sopel. Whenever I watch him interview a Liberal Democrat he is quite aggressive. I saw him yesterday and he was asking Vince Cable questions and asking another question when Vince had got three words out.

I watch the Politics Show regularly and the grilling that he gave Nick Clegg was nothing compared to that given to David Cameron. One member of the audience welcomed David. Another had been a Tory voter previously and needed some persuasion to vote for them again. Now that shouldn't be difficult given the turmoil in the economy and a government that may be criticised on so many levels.

I think that others who write blogs would like a vote on BBC presenters so that they could get rid of one or two. My vote would be for Jon Sopel.

Change the world

P.S. On Tuesday 13th I watched the programme 'Spotlight on Nick Clegg' presented by Mark Austin. It made a pleasant change to watch a presenter gently interviewing a politician.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Tory advert is all rosy

The Conservative candidate is back in the news again this week, even if it is his own half-page advert and his own letter. I have written recently that he complained to me last year that he could not get into the newspapers. Well it is easy if you have the money. All you have to do is buy the advert. The wonderful thing about blogs is that they don’t cost anything any you are the editor. So today I will deal with his advert. I am writing this on Thursday and the advert was in yesterday’s Morecambe Visitor

As a very brief summary it mentions raising state pensions, not selling private homes in order to pay for residential care, freezing council tax (I presume that they will do this from Westminster thus taking what little power is left from the county and city councils), putting more police on the beat, raising inheritance tax thresholds, not cutting pensions or pension credit, preserving winter fuel allowance, keeping free bus passes for pensioners and boosting Sure Start.

Everything included in the advert costs money including the advert itself, and it says nothing about how they are going to pay for these changes. Elsewhere the Tories have said that they can save £12 billion on top of the £15 billion saving already named by the Government. To put this in perspective we need to find around £700 billion.

Tory adverts may be full of promises and look painless, and they are guaranteed to get in the paper. Let’s hope the voters get to see balanced arguments.

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Saturday, 10 April 2010

Independent independent independents

I have written previously about the Morecambe Independent Party and one of my concerns is about their beliefs. They present themselves as putting Morecambe first but I am not sure what this involves. Do they put Morecambe first by supporting everything that is happening within the town’s boundaries and nothing outside this area? What happens when the discussion is purely about Morecambe? Do they get involved at all when the discussion does not concern Morecambe? What makes them tick? Well they are in the news this week because their cabinet member on the Lancaster City Council has stepped down because “Morecambe is always the loser”. So much for having councillors who are called Morecambe Bay Independents.

Most parties are acting together within the cabinet. This causes a problem because it is difficult to criticise any action at party level because parties work together. I suppose that is a good thing but there is a difficultly because the Independents have openly criticised many of the cabinet’s decisions and they are part of the decision making process.

I presume that the Independent Party will continue to have a voice on the Cabinet, in which case I also presume that the backbench non-cabinet Independents will now have to consider whether they wish to become remain Independents as they cannot toe the party line. Just to complicate matters there are also independent independants.

What chance does the electorate have?

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Friday, 9 April 2010

Here's a good trick

David Cameron was in Bolton on the campaign trail this week. He was at Warburton's talking about a whole range of issues but what struck me was a comment about someone earning £20k. He thought they were poor and wanted to help them. It doesn't really matter about the details, the perception is that what is a reasonable wage in the north west of England is "poor". There are millions earning much less than this. I wonder how many at Warburton's earn above this amount.

The funding of the Tory party comes from big business. Businesses have also been aligning themselves with the Tories. So keeping businesses sweet, keeping the super rich wealthy through many policies including inheritance tax, and low national insurance low all play their part in supporting the wealthy.

If you think of the middle class as poor then you don't help the really poor. If you can get their votes and at the same time keep the wealth with the wealthy then that's a good trick.

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Thursday, 8 April 2010

Ask not what you can do for them

There is a by-election for a ward of Lancaster City Council and this area of Lancaster happens to be in my constituency which is Morecambe and Lunesdale. It will be held on the same day as the general election. Now to get a candidate you need ten people whose names are on the specific electoral register. For a constituency it is easy. You can go to ten people that you know and you havc a candidate. When you get to ward level you may not know ten people in that specific area.

It is not necessarily a bad thing to knock on doors and explain and ask for those signatures. You get people who are not usually involved in the democratic process to think about what is happening around them. I did this today and it was very easy. It took around thirty minutes. We saw 14 people. Amazingly one had already signed a Tory nomination paper. This means that if they had signed ours and we had put the nomination paper into the council first then the Tory paper with the same name wouldn't count and they would have to start again looking for thier ten signatures. Even more amazingly one person had already signed the Green Party nomination paper.

There was one person who was fed up with politicians and another who did not want her name linked to a particular party. However she was a great believer in democracy. She mentioned the benefits from fighting wars against tyranny. I did mention that this should mean that she signs because nobody can stand without those ten signatures. It was a good attempt and it was a pleasant conversation, but it only delayed us by a couple of minutes.

It was a really nice way to spend time talking politics. I have knocked on a lot of doors asking if there was anything I could do, but it worked so much better asking if they could do something for us.

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Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Meaningless negative posters

I saw a poster in Lancaster yesterday. It was one that I had not seen in Morecambe but I will take a photo and add it to this blog. It is a picture of Gordon Brown and the comment is about releasing prisoners early. As it is paid for by the Tories I take this comment as an adverse criticism. The first problem with this is that it is negative campaigning and it just doesn't go down well. It may be that some people cast their vote for negative reasons but there are those who like to consider what they are voting for.

My second problem with this poster is that I consider the early release of prisoners as a very important aspect of prisoner rehabilitation. I have written previously about the prison service and it has to serve as a punishment, but if rehabilitation is not high on the agenda then we will produce schools of crime. Even if you don't put rehabilitation high on your prison agenda then it has to be somewhere on the list. Once you accept this you also accept the problem with the poster. It is meaningless.

Are we really fighting this general election on meaningless negative posters?

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Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Mud slinging must be good

Yesterday Ed Balls threw down the gauntlet to the Conservatives by saying that Labour would protect school budgets and he challenged them to say the same thing. Ed was on Newsnight recently along with David Laws and Michael Gove and he complimented the Liberal Democrats on the way that they had funded their education policies. He could not say the same for the Tories.

It is good to receive compliments from Labour, and some would say it is even better for Michael Gove to respond by criticising the Liberal Democrats as he did on the news yesterday evening. Usually when the Tories are beaten by the arguments they just say that Liberal Democrats can't form governments. They must feel threatened to criticise personalities.

I look forward to the televised leaders' debates and if they are anything like Channel 4's "Ask the Chancellors", then I can hope for more Liberal Democrat criticism. It's a pity that Michael didn't mention any policies, but was just slinging mud.

Change the world.

Monday, 5 April 2010

How does Chris Grayling get out of this one?

I wrote about Chris Grayling on the 12th December. He had spoken out of turn and he has done so again. This time he has been recorded at a private meeting and he suggested that bed and breakfast owners should have the right to ban homosexual couples. He has been defended on the grounds of his voting record supporting gay rights (why is he not defending himself?) but his recent comments are at odds with the law. We can't discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation. There may be many other reasons why we can discriminate but this isn't one of them.

It is a red herring to defend Mr Grayling on the grounds that it was a private meeting. He either supports the rights of bed and breakfast owners or he doesn't. He can't be defended on the grounds that the media are attacking the Tories. If a politician wishes to put forward views that are contentious then they will be reported.

Problems occur when the rights of Christians conflict with the rights of others. Christians must follow their conscience. If their role conflicts with their conscience then they must change their role. If we did no business with sinners then business would come to a halt. It is one thing to have an opinion and it is another to impose it.

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Sunday, 4 April 2010

More poor adverts

Here is another of the Morecambe third wave of Tory posters this year. We had to take yesterday's at face value but this one does give a website address. I haven't yet looked at the site but it is easy enough to find loopholes in the message just by thinking about it.

Sheelagh from Frodsham has never voted Tory before but has decided that this is the party which will help every child get a good education. What sort of statement is this? Is she actually saying that politicians belonging to other parties give up on certain children? It just doesn't make sense. In fact it is so false I think the children can see through it. Hence the adaptation on the right.

It is fairly obvious that I don't want the Tories to win. This is partly because of their poor adverts, partly because the extra millions that they pay out for adverts is an affront to democracy, but mostly it is because I disagree with many of their policies.

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Saturday, 3 April 2010

Even more posters

Here's a coincidence. Yesterday's blog was about the distribution of wealth here is one of the latest wave of Tory posters talking about the same subject. On the left you will see the original image. This time the Tories don't give any references but let's presume they are right. Well if your backers include fairly wealthy* workers who are supported by strong unions then it may be their duty to increase the gap between rich and poor. I'm not going to argue with what they have written. My concern is that a Tory government is much more likely to want to increase the gap between rich and poor. After all, the Tories are backed by big business. One example is their attitude to national insurance contributions as per yesterday's blog.

The photo on the right is amended. It is my attempt to do something about the millions of pounds that are spent on marginal constituencies. The posters not only say very little but I think they are misleading. I would also question how it is possible to spend so much money in one constituency. I have not visited all poster sites but I have written about many posters that have now been seen for the third time since January. I thought there had been changes on the amount of expenditure in a general election and one of the changes was that there was a limit starting in January of the year of the election. No doubt there is a loophole and the Tories will spend infinitely more than all other parties. This can't be right.

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*fairly wealthy in relation to those who may be classified as poor on the Tory scale.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Make the rich richer and the poor poorer

Following on from yesterday's blog, I thought it was fairly clear that we had to raise the overall level of taxation. You can do this and not hurt the poor if you shift the burden of taxation. So if the level of tax falls in percentage terms then it might help the poor by a few pounds and it might make the rich hundreds of pounds better off. It doesn't really matter if you call this tax national insurance contributions or simply income tax. The effect is the same for the employee. There is a further tax on the company with contributions but there are a lot more savings that are needed. It's no use complaining as we are all going to notice them.

Yesterday the British Chambers of Commerce, the CBI and five other organisations said the Tories "deserved credit" for their opposition to the planned increase of national insurance contributions. As long as everyone understands that in relative terms this makes the rich richer and the poor poorer then everyone knows where they stand.

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P.S. I have written blogs for the next couple of days and both attack the Tories among other things for the amount they are spending on their campaign in relation to the other parties. There are laws about this and on Saturday morning I received a questionnaire from them with an SAE. This should have cost them half the total amount of their campaign but I suspect there is a lot more to come. They can't say this post is targeted because I have told them in their three phone calls to me in the last two years that I am a Liberal Democrat.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Vince wins hands down

I watched the "Ask the Chancellors" programme on Monday evening and I was pleased with the way that Vince compared to the other two. He gave clearer answers. I know that he has a deeper understanding of the economy than the other two but it also looked like he did. Vince gave more specific answers. He mentioned areas where cuts in government spending would be made, including the defence budget, ID cards, biometric passports, the child trust fund, local government bureaucracy. His list was extensive.

I thought it was particularly poignant when Vince attacked the Tory position on cuts. He said that in the previous week the Tories were denouncing government efficiency savings as complete fiction but they were now using these fictitious cuts to finance their own propositions. It was poignant because there was no Tory response.

Vince also criticised the Tories because they had not even named the government departments in which cuts would be made. There was a vague answer that the Tories had the support of two people we have never heard of. There was an opportunity for debating this issue but it was not taken. I could have chosen most of the questions and answers from the programme and it didn't matter whether they were Labour or Tory answers. Vince won hands down. Now I am biased so it is particularly pleasing that since Monday people with no political affiliation have told me Vince was best.

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