Tag Archives: the guardian

Two points about the Guardian’s analysis of Labour’s campaign

Patrick Wintour has written a long analysis of Labour’s General Election campaign. It outlines strategic misjudgements, disagreements and errors by Ed Miliband and makes a very interesting read. Before anyone says it for me, a similar account for the Liberal Democrats would also be enlightening. Most of us could write it ourselves and I suspect that there would be remarkable unanimity about the ineffectiveness of our national messaging, our positioning as a “none of the above” party and the very odd “stability, unity and decency” message of the last few days.

Two things particularly strike me about Wintour’s article. The first is that women are pretty much invisible. Lucy Powell, Labour’s campaign chair, is mentioned only because of a letter she wrote to the BBC complaining about coverage during the election. Harriet Harman, the Deputy Leader, only seems to come in to the picture when she’s waiting for some shred of good news in studios on election night. All the key players seem to have been men. This is exactly the same as it was during the Brown era when Harriet Harman was treated pretty much as an irrelevance. I’m not saying that they would have won the election had they listened to the women, because there is no indication that the women were getting it either. Of course, the ease with which Yvette Cooper seems to be distancing herself from everything Labour said during the election campaign is interesting. Did she put her views forward during it and have them rejected by the cabal at the centre of the campaign?

Similarly in our campaign, men seem to have dominated the decision making. Olly Grender was certainly there doing great practical ground war stuff, but it did seem sometimes as if Clegg, Alexander and Laws were just making stuff up on the bus as the campaign went along and the rest of the operation was playing catch-up.

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LibLink: Vince Cable: Charles Kennedy: he was left of Labour maybe, but always a true liberal

Vince Cable has been writing about Charles Kennedy for the Guardian. He mentioned Iraq and was honest about his own role in confronting Charles towards the end of his time as leader. It was this passage on Charles’ ideas and philosophy that caught our eye, though.

In the early Blair-Brown years, when Labour successfully colonised the centre ground, Charles took the Liberal Democrats into territory described as “left of Labour”. This reputation was underlined when we were joined in the run-up to the 2005 general election by a defecting leftwing Labour MP, Brian Sedgemore, and others with similar views.

But this was also the period when the Orange Book, edited by David Laws, to which I contributed, was produced as a counter view, with more economically liberal arguments.

As our party’s shadow chancellor at the time I had doubts about the wisdom of promising a range of free things – university tuition and personal social care, for instance. But it is wrong to portray Charles as a socialist. He had come into parliament as a social democrat and remained one. Like me, he joined the SDP in the early 1980s when Labour was anti-Europe, anti-Nato and was looking back nostalgically to the era of state control and trades union power. For those of us who were attracted to the ideals of social justice, and wanted an alternative both to Thatcher’s Conservatism and to what Labour then offered, the SDP then the Lib Dems offered a way forward.

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Five Liberal Democrat ex-MPs turn down the ermine

Honourable mentions for Messrs Cable, Laws, Alexander, Baker and Hughes who have, according to the Guardian, turned down or said they are not interested in offers of peerages in the dissolution honours:

Four senior Liberal Democrat politicians defeated in the general election, including former business secretary Vince Cable, have turned down offers of a peerage from Nick Clegg in the dissolution honours list. It is understood that David Laws, the former education minister, Simon Hughes, the former justice minister, and former Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander have also decided to reject a chance to sit in the House of Lords.

The Lords is likely to be a battleground for the government since the Conservatives do not have an overall majority in the upper chamber, even though in practice there are strict limits on how far peers can resist central planks of legislation agreed by the Commons. The Liberal Democrats currently have 101 peers, Labour 214, the Conservatives 178 and crossbenchers 224.

Hughes, a former deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, who lost his Southwark and Bermondsey seat to Labour, told guests at a recent birthday party: “I don’t believe in an unelected second chamber. When you see the list I will not be on it. I am not going there.”

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So, the Guardian finally recognises the usefulness of the Liberal Democrats, years too late

The Guardian Building Window in London

The Guardian has spent the last five years spewing poison in the direction of the Liberal Democrats. Now, a week into a majority Tory government, they finally realise what good we did. I suggest that this is not entirely a surprise. A cursory glance at the Conservative manifesto gave an indication of what would happen. David Cameron’s pronouncement, back in 2012, that he’d govern like a true Tory if it wasn’t for the Liberal Democrats, went unignored.

Here’s what they had to say in an editorial posted last night:

…yet it is true too that the Lib Dems were frequently a moderating, and on occasion a truly positive, force within the coalition. Even in social security, a field in which they ultimately proved disappointingly willing to fold, they postponed the serious Conservative assault for a couple of years. On the core liberal territory they proved more determined – defending human rights, seeing off the snooper’s charter and rallying to defend equality laws. It has taken precisely one week of majority Conservative government to remind Britain why, in the absence of a liberal party, one would have to be invented – and indeed, why one will now have to be reinvented and rebuilt.

They then acknowledge that Liberal Democrats are needed because their precious Labour party can’t be relied upon to stand up for civil liberties.

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Clegg: Lib Dems bring conscience and stability to a Coalition

As the Lib Dem manifesto is launched, with a headline of giving opportunity to kids, which is much more inspiring than the Tory extend right to buy in middle of housing crisis caused by right to buy and Labour waffle on deficit, Nick Clegg has been talking to the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour. His theme is that we know that the election is not going to give anyone an overall majority, and asks who people want to be walking into Downing Street with Cameron or Miliband.

the looming question in the next phase of this campaign is whether there is to be a coalition of grievance, or of conscience. The last thing the British economy needs is the instability and factionalism that those coalitions of grievance of right and left represents

He talks about UKIP and the SNP offering the “politics of grievance”. Though he uses the same theme of Labour being forced to dance to Alex Salmond’s tune, he stops short of the ridiculous things being said by the Tories on that. He also makes a very important part about the failures of the Labour Party:

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Caroline Lucas: Vince Cable could make you think eating babies was ok

It’s fair to say that this is not a headline I ever thought I’d be writing, but there you go.

The Guardian decided that it might be a good idea to take ten politicians and send them on a “blind date” with someone from a different party. They didn’t exactly push the boat out with this. The MPs met in the cafe in Portcullis House which is ok, but I prefer the public one off Westminster Hall. It’s always a joy to see what food combinations they come up with. They had an Earl Grey cheesecake one time I was there, which was a bit lacking in flavour, if I’m honest.

Probably the closest match politically was between our Vince Cable and Green MP Caroline Lucas. Afterwards, each MP had to say what they thought of the other. Caroline was generally very positive about Vince but made a bit of a strange comment:

My overriding feeling about Vince is that he’s so reasonable and so plausible that he could make eating babies sound an entirely rational thing to do.

The only thing is that Vince is generally right about stuff. If she thought that what he was saying about things like tuition fees and austerity was rational, it’s because it was. I was a bit miffed on Vince’s behalf by the baby-eating comment. She could have chosen a better analogy.

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Opinion: Getting things out of proportion

Finding things to complain about in The Guardian is hardly difficult, but here are two little blemishes that bleed deep:

First we have a quote from editor Alan Rusbridger in 2013, touching on the AV referendum:

They came up with such a weak version of proportional representation that they could not get anyone excited or enthused.

And second, a report from earlier this year on a Guardian staff ballot:

Staff of the Guardian and Observer have voted in favour of Katharine Viner… using the single transferable vote system… he successful candidate is guaranteed a place on the shortlist of three that will go forward to the next round of interviews conducted by the Scott Trust.

Claiming that AV is a form of PR, or that you used STV for what turns out to be a single-winner election, is incongruous at best, and probably just plain wrong. And, of course, the article doesn’t mention that Labour was the party that “came up with” AV as a 2010 election commitment.

If you want to get technical, it is true that AV is essentially STV-1 (STV electing a single member).  But the two names are used distinctly with good reason. STV-1 is a degenerate case, with less complexity and none of the proportionality of its multi-winner siblings. Important connotations of “the single transferable vote system” do not apply to AV, and vice versa. Even if this kind of equivalence was intended, the bold passages still needed qualification in order to make sense to the Guardian’s general readership. It seems far more likely the editorial process just got it wrong.

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Miriam Gonzalez Durantez meets Miranda Sawyer

There’s an interesting interview between Miranda Sawyer and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez in the Guardian this weekend.

They meet at an Inspiring Women event on sport at the aquatics centre where the Olympics took place and, separately, in Miriam’s office.

Miriam talks about the attitudes in the Spanish village where she was brought up, where people pitied her working mother.

Her mother was the object of some local sympathy. “People felt sorry for her because she had to work,” González Durántez says, “but she wanted to. My mother has taught three generations in the village. I am never going to make so much of a difference.”

Actually, many of the women González Durántez knew had jobs – they just weren’t paid. Both her grandmothers came from rural communities where women laboured in the fields. Her maternal grandmother brought up eight boys (one died) during the Spanish civil war. “She was a tiny, dynamite woman,” González Durántez says. “Always vivacious and positive, a lesson in life.”

Though democracy came to Spain after Franco died in 1975, old-fashioned attitudes took a while to wither. At her school, “when boys did sport, girls did knitting. And boys, when they behaved badly, were sent with the girls.” González Durántez enjoyed reading and music – she played an hour of piano every day (“I say this to my children, who do half an hour a week!”). As the eldest child of the mayor, she was very much part of village life: “I organised things for the little kids, I helped my father in politics, I tried it all. A race or something, there I was. I wasn’t very good at running, but I tried it all.”

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Swinson and Clegg force Tory u-turn on gender pay gap

One particularly satisfying piece of news in the last week is that Jo Swinson and Nick Clegg have forced the Tories to agree to transparency on equal pay between men and women. 45 years after the passing of the Equal Pay Act, women still earn on average almost 10% less than their male colleagues for doing the same job.

Now, after a voluntary scheme saw only five companies publish details of men and women’s pay in their company, an amendment to the Small Business Bill will make the reporting mandatory, with a potential £5000 penalty (as well as the bad publicity) for failure to comply.

The Guardian quotes Nick Clegg and a Liberal Democrat source on this:

Welcoming the move, Clegg said: “While the Liberal Democrats have made real progress in areas like shared parental leave and extending the right to request flexible working, the labour market is still stacked against women.

It simply cannot be acceptable that, in the 21st century, women on average still receive a smaller pay packet than men.

We can’t wait and we can’t dither. We need to sort this out now. Both Jo Swinson and I have pushed for this to happen within government for a long time.

These measures will shine a light on a company’s policy so that women can rightly challenge their employer where they are not being properly valued and rewarded.”

A Lib Dem source added: “In discussions this week, it was clear that the Tories wanted to delay taking any action on equal pay and kick the can down the road, just like they have for the last five years.

“This is extraordinary International Women’s Day, you have some Tories feigning support for women in the economy while dragging their feet on gender pay transparency.

“It’s a huge U-turn from the Tories but it’s welcomed. At last we can take some real action before the election to make companies publish pay differences between men and women.”

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LibLink: Nick Clegg and Richard Branson: We have been losing the war on drugs for four decades. End it now.

Nick Clegg Glasgow 2014 by Liberal DemocratsIn a major keynote speech today, Nick Clegg will call for responsibility for drugs to be moved from the criminal justice system to the health care system. In that, he has the support of Richard Branson and the two men have written for the Guardian’s Comment is Free section. First of all, they show how the current system is both wasting money and failing:

 Since the “war” was declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, we have spent over £1tn trying to eradicate drugs from our societies. Yet the criminal market continues to grow, driving unimaginable levels of profit for organised crime. We devote vast police, criminal justice and military resources to the problem, including the incarceration of people on a historically unprecedented scale.

In many parts of the world, drug violence has become endemic. As Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, visits the UK, we should remember the estimated 100,000 people killed in Mexico alone since 2006. Yet tragically, the sum total of enforcement efforts against drug supply over the past 40 years has been zero. Efforts at reducing demand have been similarly fruitless. Here in the UK, a third of adults have taken illegal drugs and the gangs are doing a roaring trade. The problem simply isn’t going away.

While other countries around the world are rethinking their approach, Britain remains stubbornly, truculently wedded to the old way, with tragic human consequences:

And yet we desperately need better solutions in this country. One in six children aged 11 to 15 is still taking drugs; 2,000 people die each year in drug-related incidents; the use of unregulated “legal highs” is rampant.

At the same time, the police are stopping and searching half a million people a year for possession of drugs, prosecutions of users are close to record levels, and prison cells are still used for people whose only crime is the possession of a substance to which they are addicted. This costs a lot of money, which could be better spent on treatment and on redoubling our efforts to disrupt supply. And it wrecks the lives of 70,000 people a year who receive a criminal record for possession and then find themselves unable to get a job.

As an investment, the war on drugs has failed to deliver any returns. If it were a business, it would have been shut down a long time ago. This is not what success looks like.

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LibLink: Julian Huppert: Safe seats and second jobs are at the root of the Rifkind/Straw mess

Julian Huppert MPAs Parliament prepares to debate whether MPs should have second jobs, Julian Huppert has written on the controversy surrounding Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind for the Guardian.

He attacks what he calls an “abhorrent” and “unacceptable” aspect of our political culture and sets out why he thinks there should be more regulation of MPs’ outside interests.

Many of us work night and day to get through our work. We find it is the equivalent of having two full-time jobs – one in Westminster and one in the constituency.

But there are just far too many who don’t behave that way. They’ve been here so long a sense of duty morphs into one of entitlement. They get caught up with the pomp and ceremony, allowing the link between the public and their parliamentary role to unravel.

At the crux of this failure is our electoral system. Safe seats generate complacency. They give many MPs the opportunity to sit back, knowing they’ll get re-elected again and again. And it is often in safe seats where some MPs find they have enough time to take on two jobs. Suddenly they believe they don’t need to respond to casework or do the work in parliament. They are above all that – and why shouldn’t they earn £5,000 a day at the end of their careers?

photo by: Policy Exchange
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LibLink: Julian Huppert: Journalists must be able to protect their sources

Julian Huppert MPJulian Huppert has tabled an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill enabling journalists to better protect their sources. He wrote about why this was necessary in the Guardian – apparently over 600 applications have been made to access journalists’ phone records in the last three years. That’s about four a week. As Julian puts it:

How will anyone be brave enough to contact a journalist in the public interest, if they know that they can easily be tracked down?

What’s more, these actions have clearly discouraged whistleblowers from coming forward, having a chilling effect on free speech.

Current procedures do not give adequate protection to journalists:

At the moment the police quite rightly need the approval of a judge before they can take documents from a journalist. But they authorise themselves to access the journalist’s mobile phone records and other communications data. This cannot be right.

As a matter of principle, police and security services should not be able to authorise themselves to snoop on journalists to get to their sources. It may be convenient for the police but it’s not right for freedom of the press and it’s not right for the whistleblowers who badly need protection.

photo by: Policy Exchange
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++Breaking: Clegg gets tough with Theresa on terror measures

I have been uneasy about some of the measures in the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill which will be debated in the Commons in the next two days. It will clear its Commons stages, but once the Lords get their hands on it, they could quite easily defeat some of its key provisions. Nick Clegg has signalled that Liberal Democrats may withdraw support if more judicial oversight isn’t guaranteed. The Guardian has the story:

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The tale of Danny Alexander and the Big Raspberry*

So, Danny Alexander has been having lunch with some journalists today. The conversation, according to Kevin Maguire, was mature and relevant, discussing the important issues of the day.

You would have to be really sad to type “Danny Alexander fart” into Google, wouldn’t you?

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LibLink: Sarah Teather: Let’s stop the scourge of revenge eviction

Sarah TeatherSarah Teather has been writing for the Guardian about the problems created by so-called revenge eviction and how her Private Members’ Bill will tackle it. First she gave an example of what had happened to her constituent:

Last month, a constituent came to my office in Brent for help after his landlord served him with an eviction notice. His property suffered from severe cold and a cockroach infestation, and following an environmental health inspection the council served notice on the landlord to fix the property. The landlord decided to evict my constituent and re-let the flat instead.

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Learning six languages changed my life

rally paddy 01The Guardian is hosting an exhibition called “The Languages that changed my life” at its office in London. This interests me as I was both good at and fascinated by languages at school and I now have a teenager who almost obsessively studies language, learning Swahili, French and a bit of Mandarin Chinese for fun.

Paddy Ashdown has written a piece for the Guardian’s exhibition  about how his language learning has enhanced his life. There are a couple of quite funny anecdotes. Just be thankful he didn’t make one of them at a diplomatic reception or there might have been an international incident:

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ICM poll: Tories edge ahead of Labour, while Ukip collapse to 4th behind Lib Dems

Amidst all the reshuffle excitement, I didn’t get chance to report the latest ICM poll – regarded by pundits as the ‘gold standard’ – for The Guardian, published on Tuesday. It shows the Tories a nose ahead of Labour, 34% to 33%, with Ukip slumping to fourth place (9%) behind the Lib Dems on 12%.

icm poll - july 2014

The collapse of the Ukip vote is the most dramatic story in the poll – Nigel Farage’s party topped the nationwide Euro-elections just a few weeks ago. However, the pattern is a …

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LibLink: Lord Ken MacDonald: How the DRIP Bill will help us convict criminals

A telephoneThe Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill cleared its Commons stages last night after a long debate which saw Julian Huppert speak at every stage and in great detail. He was pretty much doing the job of a Minister and very clearly and rationally put the case for the Bill, at all times stating his own personal commitment to civil liberties.

Lord Ken MacDonald, who has been pretty sound on things like secret courts, the statelessness provisions in the Immigration Bill and the cuts to Legal Aid, has written an article …

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Benefits sanctions: what should happen when guidelines and reality are at odds with each other?

Benefits-welfareBack in April, I wrote about how the overuse of benefits sanctions appeared to be at odds with the Department of Work and Pensions guidance which was actually quite reasonable and gave decision makers some flexibility to take things like poor mental health into consideration.

Both the use and the penalty for even a minor infringement of the rules have been dramatically increased in the last couple of years. It’s worth noting that the minimum period of benefit loss is now 4 weeks. Given that the maximum help you can get from a food bank is 3 days’ food, 3 times a year, you can just imagine how much incredible hardship this can cause. You would think that a decision maker would take very seriously the consequences  of imposing a sanction and only do it when the circumstances were clear cut.

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LibLink: Danny Alexander: A like-for-like Trident replacement isn’t justifiable in terms of security or cost

110301-N-7237C-009Danny Alexander has written for the Guardian in response to yesterday’s Trident Commission report. He continues to make the case that the policy passed at Liberal Democrat Conference last September, which cut the number of submarines was the right one for two reasons.

First of all, we don’t need continuous at sea deterrence because the nature of the world has changed:

During the cold war, there was a credible threat of a surprise massive attack against this country or Nato allies. Our nuclear forces needed to be available within minutes in order to give credibility to our policy of deterrence. This is why we maintained continuous at-sea deterrence; we kept at least one armed submarine on patrol 24/7, 365 days of the year. But the Berlin Wall has been down now for 25 years and the threat of “state on state” attack is much reduced.

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“The Guardian view on the Lib Dem Orange Book”

The GuardianAs we noted earlier this week, the tenth anniversary of the publication of The Orange Book was marked by a conference hosted by CentreForum on Tuesday. Today The Guardian publishes an editorial reflecting on the book’s impact a decade on. Here’s an excerpt:

The book certainly signalled that the Lib Dems were not – or not only – a party of protest for those who resented tuition fees or the Iraq war. The market-minded emphasis of David Laws, who proposed a social insurance model for the NHS in his essay,

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: This knife crime law won’t work

Police motorbike - Some rights reserved by Metropolitan PoliceOn Monday, I wrote about the reported Coalition tension over Tory plans to bring in mandatory 6 month jail sentences for carrying a knife. I said that:

It’s important that Liberal Democrats stay in this debate and make the evidence-based case. Nobody else will do it for us. We may not be able to stop a bad law being passed, but we need to oppose it calmly, clearly and without rancour.

I would not suggest for a minute that the two events …

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LibLink: Ming Campbell: I will vote no to independence because I love Scotland

st Andrews flag saltire scotland Some rights reserved by Fulla TWillie Rennie’s “sunshine strategy”, talking up the positive side of Scotland staying in the UK even got a mention on the Andrew Marr Show during our Scottish Conference. The independence referendum is sorely needing a lift, and on the rare occasion it gets it, it is usually down to a Liberal Democrat, it has to be said. Charles Kennedy, Mike Moore, Willie Rennie and Alistair Carmichael have all added some much-needed appreciation of the UK and thoughtful consideration of the arguments. …

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How can we do politics better?

There’s been a spate of articles and comments by Liberal Democrat politicians which, at a guess, isn’t co-ordinated, but they all address the same themes – the problems with the way that we do politics and lack of trust in politicians and institutions.

Paddy Ashdown told the Times (£), reported also for free in the Guardian that public faith in British institutions was “crumbling into dust” with some very harsh words for the BBC and NHS:

The BBC is revealed as an organisation which can’t manage its own affairs, misspends public money and seems to have been complicit in aggrandising

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Danny Alexander’s passion for Irn Bru and admiration for Lyndon Johnson revealed in Guardian Q & A

Danny Alexander is featured in today’s Guardian Q & A. It’s a strange feature that is sometimes contradictory, sometimes very revealing and sometimes just a little too on message for comfort. But then, he’s not talking to Liberal Democrat members, he’s talking to the wider public so if there was no mention of a stronger economy or fairer society, it would probably be a bit of a missed opportunity. When we are sick of hearing something, it’s only just starting to get through to the wider public. He even recognises himself, though, that he might over-use “The mess Labour left …

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LibLink: Tim Farron – Why has the plight of the overcrowded and the homeless not been prioritised?

In a hard-hitting article in today’s Guardian, Tim Farron hits out at David Cameron’s “lack of humanity in face of basic need” on housing while outlining what Liberal Democrats want to see done to make sure that there are enough affordable houses for people.

He outlines the scale of the problem first:

The real divide in modern Britain is not between strivers and shirkers, but between those who were lucky enough to buy homes before 1997 and those who were not. Unless we tackle the housing crisis, homelessness is going to become a mainstream problem. Working families can’t afford to buy, and

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LibLink…Paddy Ashdown: After the Syria vote, Britain must not sleepwalk into isolationism

Paddy Ashdown has been writing about the implications of the Syria vote for the Guardian’s Comment is Free site. First, he pretty much repeats what he said on Friday:

There are strange paradoxes here. It is possible to be both proud of a parliament that said no to the executive on a matter like military action. But sad; even – dare I say it – a little ashamed at the decision it took.

Of course there are reasons for this. The leftover poisons of the Iraq war; the toxic effect of public distrust in our politics. Mishandling by the government. President Obama’s

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Liblink: Nick Clegg “I share the concerns about David Miranda’s detention”

You can’t accuse Nick Clegg of hiding away. Now that he’s returned from holiday, his first direct public comment on the Miranda detention and Guardian files controversy comes in a column in that paper.

First, where the Liberal Democrats are coming from:

Liberal Democrats believe government must tread the fine line between liberty and security very carefully, and are not easily persuaded by a government minister asserting: “Just trust me.” So now that we are in government, we have been vigilant in ensuring the right decisions are made: scrutinising and challenging the assumptions of security experts, even as we give them our

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Why we should consider the detention of David Miranda and destruction of the Guardian’s data as distinct issues

The conflation of the detention of David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, and the story of the Guardian having destroyed the computers on which a version of the data released by Edward Snowden was stored was perhaps inevitable, and has certainly been encouraged by the Guardian. But we should avoid considering the issues as a single whole, for there are separate arguments at play in each in relation to the actions of the state and others, particularly when it comes to the actions of Liberal Democrats in government.

I have relatively few concerns about the state’s actions regarding …

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LibLink (Down Memory Lane Edition) | Paddy Ashdown – ‘After the conflict, a bright dawn for the Democrats’

Paddy Ashdown campaigning25 years ago, Paddy Ashdown became leader of the party then known officially as the Social and Liberal Democrats. Here’s an excerpt from what he wrote for The Guardian on his first morning as leader:

Hope, said Francis Bacon, is a good breakfast, but a poor supper. On my first morning as the new leader of a new party, standing at seven per cent in the opinion polls, I know what he meant! But at the end of a bruising and often damaging period in the fortunes of the Social

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