Tag Archives: bagehot

The Economist: ‘Grassroots Lib Dems are much keener on coalition than Tories’

The Economist’s political commentator ‘Bagehot’ this week surveys the attitudes of Lib Dems towards the Coalition at the mid-term point — I particularly like its opening:

THE Somerset village of Chew Magna, with its sleepy pub and Georgian houses, seems an odd setting for prognostications about Britain’s political future. But prognosticate the local Liberal Democrats do. “In 40 years’ time, people will look back and ask: what was all the fuss about being in coalition?” says Dine Romero, a councillor. Her colleagues nod. Multi-party government, they agree, is here to stay. “I like coalition—on principle”, asserts a sprightly 91-year-old.

We all …

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The state of Britain: cause for some optimistic pessimism

David Rennie has been the pen behind the pseudonymous Bagehot column, which appears weekly in The Economist, since 2010. During that time he has been deservedly recognised as the most acute commentator, bar none, writing on British politics. Not that I’ve always agreed with him, not least his indulgence of hoary old cliches with which to whack the Lib Dems.

He has now transferred to the US to personate another Economist pseudonym, Lexington. However, his final missive is a must-read ‘state of the nation’ take on the Britain …

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“A shitty time to be a liberal”: The Economist’s must-read piece on the Clegg paradox (and 2 reasons why it’s wrong)

There’s a must-read column by The Economist’s Bagehot this week focusing on the Lib Dems’ dilemmas, titled The Clegg paradox. It’s a serious and weighty analysis, which asks some uncomfortable questions of the party’s strategy. Here’s it’s conclusion:

At a recent meeting of the Lib Dem parliamentary party, Tim Farron, an ambitious left-winger and party president, reportedly cheered this anti-Tory success, but bemoaned the fact that unelected peers had led the charge against the NHS reforms and got the credit for it, rather than Lib Dem MPs who need votes. That drew a rebuke from Jeremy Browne, a foreign office

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Why was this Lib Dem conference cheerful? Simple: because it mattered.

The Economist’s pseudonymous political commentator Bagehot devotes his column this week to the Liberal Democrats, analysing the mood of serenity which prevailed at this year’s party conference to the surprise (and chagrin) of the media.

He notes that activists were cheered by the anti-Tory rhetoric that pervaded speeches by Tim Farron, Chris Huhne and Vince Cable, believing this differentiation will in turn demonstrate to the electorate that the party is punching above its weight — that Nick Clegg is, in the words of Tory MP Nadine Dorries, “the boss”.

Many Lib Dems argue that Tory-bashing is good politics, and long overdue. It is true that differentiation does have a strategic aim: persuading voters that the Lib Dems are not powerless puppets in a Tory government. But those same Lib Dems underestimate the emotional temptations to which they are giving way.

The Lib Dems think it unfair that they are hated. They think (rightly) that inconclusive election results and a mood of national crisis made joining the Tories in the coalition last year the responsible thing to do.

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The Saturday Debate: Local government is to the Lib Dems what the unions are to Labour and big business is to the Tories

Here’s your starter for ten in our Saturday slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

I was struck by this recent article by the Economist’s political columnist Bagehot, headlined When progressive actually means misanthropic, reflecting on the Lib Dem conference, and specifically the debate on free schools.

Highlighting that, while the party may have lacked power at Westminster, the Lib Dems have for decades now been a major player in local government, it observes that:

… local government occupies much of the mental space taken up by national politics in the Labour and Conservative parties. … more

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Was 6th October the day it started going awry for the Tories?

The opinion polls are up-and-down day-in-day-out at the moment, making it almost impossible to say with any confidence whether we are firmly in hung parliament territory, or whether the most likely result is still a Tory victory at the coming general election. But one thing is beyond doubt: the last six months has seen a substantial narrowing in the Tories’ opinion poll lead.

In October 2009, the Tories were polling at around 42%, Labour at 28% – a convincing Tory lead of 14%. Last month, the Tories were at 39%, Labour at 31%, a 3% swing from the …

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Top Lib Dem asks: was Ashcroft’s peerage given under false pretences?

Today’s Telegraph reports that Lib Dem peer Lord (Matthew) Oakeshott has called for all documents relating to Tory donor Lord (Michael) Ashcroft’s peerage to be made public to establish whether the Queen conferred the honour under false pretences:

Lord Oakeshott, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, wrote to Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, urging him to publish all relevant papers as a matter of urgency, to make clear whether the monarch had been misled. … William Hague, the former Conservative leader, said that he discovered only a few months ago that Lord Ashcroft had enjoyed ”non-dom” tax status for the last 10

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If Gordon’s a “glum optimist” and Dave’s a “perky doom-monger”, can Nick be the “honest optimist”?

Here’s how The Economist’s Bagehot characterised the performances of Gordon Brown and David Cameron at their respective press conferences this week:

On Gordon Brown: “… was his usual funereal self (even if he did manage a decent joke about the date of the general election). I thought he looked exhausted. But what he had to say was relatively upbeat: the recession is over; the government has plans for the “job-rich prosperity” that is just around the corner and an expanded middle class.

On David Cameron: “… was his usual breezy self, cracking jokes, remembering journalists’ names, etc. But what …

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The Economist: “the Liberal Democrats have the most mature position on the deficit”

Here’s the verdict of The Economist’s columnist on British politics, the pseudonymous Bagehot:

In some ways, miraculous to report, the Liberal Democrats have the most mature position on the deficit. Nick Clegg, their leader, this week demoted some of the party’s spending pledges (for example, on pensions and university funding) to aspirations, pre-emptively narrowing his manifesto to a few, affordable core themes. He has not promised to protect any departmental budgets. Vince Cable, his Treasury spokesman, has a longer list of items for the chop than Mr Osborne, including some cherished defence projects, but accepts that the axeman’s hand should

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The Kaminski row: 2 must-read articles

The row over David Cameron’s decision to pull the Tories out of the main centre-right European grouping, the European People’s Party (EPP), and set up a new group of “extreme and rag-bag” assorted right-wingers, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), has been simmering for months.

It’s burst into the political mainstream this week, courtesy of the unlikely figure of the chief rabbi of Poland, Michael Schudrich. Back in July, he emailed the New Statesman’s James Macintyre with some sharp criticism of Michael Kaminski, the leader of the Tories’ new Euro grouping, who has faced accusations of anti-semitism and …

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Saint Vince, the canonisation continues …

Yesterday saw the launch of Vince Cable’s and the Lib Dems’ plans for tackling the fiscal crisis, widely praised by commentators (though perhaps less so in Wales).

Today it’s not just the Guardian which is singing Vince’s praises, the Economist’s Bagehot is also writing In praise of Vince:

The real winner of today’s fiscal tussle, however, was Vince Cable.

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Bagehot praises Nick’s Afghan policy

Bagehot, the pseudonym of The Economist’s British politics columnist/blogger, has written a post sticking up for Nick Clegg following criticism aimed at him from both left (in the shape of The Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley) and right (James Forsyth in The Spectator):

Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has been unfairly treated for saying in public what a large number of other people are confiding in private. … the doubts Mr Clegg has expressed about the strategy, resources and prospects of the Afghan campaign are shared by many others.

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Is Gordon safe?

Martin Kettle’s article in The Guardian – suggesting that the week beginning 12th October is make-or-break week for those Labour MPs who’d like to oust Gordon Brown – has sparked a fresh bout of Labour leadership speculation. The Economist’s Bagehot is having none of it:

Labour MPs have had their chance. And it wasn’t in June 2009 or in October 2008. It was in 2007, when almost all of them lined up, baa-ing, to endorse Mr Brown. They were too numbed by more than a decade of unthinking obedience and by cowardice to do anything else. That is a

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Brown’s five Iraq inquiry U-turns explained

The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow has been a busy boy – he’s been trying to keep pace with the Government’s U-turns since Gordon Brown made his statement announcing the Iraq inquiry last week. He reckons there have been a possible nine, and a definite five:

  • Holding the inquiry in public
  • Allowing the inquiry to attribute blame
  • Forcing witnesses to give evidence on oath
  • Publishing an interim report
  • Membership of the inquiry committee
  • Indeed, it’s interesting to compare this list with Nick Clegg’s consistent pressure on the Government over the past few days, and the clarification he’s sought from inquiry chair Sir John Chilcot.

    Economist columnist-blogger Bagehot has today analysed this litany of reverses in an attempt to explain Mr Brown’s reverse Midas touch:

    I prefer to see the whole, shambolic episode as a parable of the dialectical weakness that has undone Mr Brown’s premiership.

    The prime minister made his announcement without proper consultation, either of other political leaders or other interested parties, such as current and former generals. His proposal came in for criticisms—on the openness question, the composition of the panel, the time-frame and so on—that ought to have been glaringly predictable, and would certainly have been made plain by any meaningful canvassing of views. As a result, an initiative that was doubtless expected to be a vote-winner threatened to become a political disaster. The government has responded with an ongoing frenzy of back-tracking and buck-passing, leaving it to Sir John to resolve many of the controversial issues himself. (There is a useful catalogue of the various U-turns here.) What ought to have been a cross-party endeavour instead became, in the votes in the Commons yesterday evening, a futile test of the government’s strength.

    There you have it: an encapsulation of the whole Brown tragicomedy. The motive may (or may not) have been noble. But the execution was a catalogue of shoddy judgments and mistakes, combining lack of consultation with a political tin ear, failings that perfectly illustrate why Mr Brown’s overall position is so vulnerable. That vulnerability in turn explains why he was obliged so swiftly to climb down. He is in large measure the author of his own predicament; and the predicament is in turn emasculating him.

    And Labour’s U-turns aren’t restricted solely to Iraq. Just today, Harriet Harman scrapped the Government’s plans to limit the scope of the committee set up to oversee the reform of Parliament. Ministers had been planning to prevent the Wright Committee from examining any Government business. However, Ms Harman today contacted Lib Dem shadow Leader of the House, David Heath, to inform him that she would be accepting his amendment allowing the committee to look at Government business.

    David Heath commented:

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