Author Archives: Alix Mortimer

Who are Vote for a Change?

UPDATE: the data extracted from Vote for a Change and used in this post was extracted around 1.30 this afternoon. Since then, the site’s data has been changed. Please see comments for further details.

Ever hear of Vote for a Change? Vaguely?

Another of the plague-on-all-your-houses, real-reform-now campaigns which have been springing up all over the internet over the past year, right? Yes, that’s what I assumed too.

Their aim, they say, is to advise people on how to vote tactically in each constituency to bring about a hung parliament. This is what they say about how they made their choices:

We began by looking at the latest national opinion polling, which has the Conservatives in first place, Labour in second, and the Lib Dems in third. In each constituency, we assessed how many candidates had a strong chance of winning the seat – based on polling, personal draw, and the political dynamics of that constituency.

Out of those candidates, we then picked the one whose party was likely to win the fewest seats in Parliament according to current predictions. So we would favour Labour over Conservative, Lib Dem over Labour, and minor parties over the “big three”.

For example, in a constituency like Batley & Spen, where only Labour and Conservative candidates look likely to win, we have recommended the Labour candidate Mike Wood. In Brighton Pavilion, where Green candidate Caroline Lucas has a strong chance of winning, we have recommended her over her Tory, Labour, and Lib Dem opponents. In a battle between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, we will normally recommend the Liberal Democrat candidate. A few exceptions have been made, however, where the Labour incumbent has been outspoken in their support for “hung” or “balanced” parliaments. One example is Edinburgh North & Leith, where we have recommended Labour’s Mark Lazarowicz because of his work with the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform.

Correction: this is what they said up till today. While I’ve been writing this post, their FAQs page has changed and relevant passages can be found here.

Up until today, they haven’t actually displayed their choices publicly. You have to put in your postcode to get your personal recommendation for a hung parliament. No-one could get a look at the overall picture of what is really being recommended by Vote for a Change. Under, I gather, some pressure, they have today released a list (PDF), which covers the 300-odd more marginal seats.

This, on the other hand, is what Ryan scraped off their website a couple of hours ago, asking for its recommendations for all constituencies:

Posted in News | 21 Comments

Why blog?

Welcome to the final part of our “Introduction to blogging” guide for Liberal Democrat bloggers or would-be bloggers. It’s been appearing each Saturday in the run-up to Christmas, with all the posts available via this page. The series will then be revised and collated into an e-book, so please do post up your comments as the series progresses. Today we’re finishing where we started, with reasons to blog. Alix Mortimer is at the keyboard…

Why blog?

The whys and wherefores of political blogging generate a lot of heat. Amble around the internet a little, and you’ll find denunciations of blogging as a …

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Is that what I think it is?

There was I, all set to wind down from the keyboard, when this inspirational news descends from politicshome:

The Independent says that Nick Clegg plans a new tax on homes worth over £1m in order to fund raising the basic starting-point for income tax.

It’s a wealth tax! A redistribution of taxation burden on to static capital accumulations and away from economically productive activity! Has anyone told Jock?

Woohoo! If the party adopts this, I’ll even overlook all that airbrushing nonsense…

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Sweetly misguided he may be, but…

…top marks for Sunder Katwala of the Fabians for this, reported by James Graham:

When Cameron claims you can’t put a cigarette paper between the Tories and LDs, it makes you wonder what he’s smoking.

Meanwhile, twittery excitement is growing about this afternoon’s debate on civil libs. Richard Dawkins is speaking to his amendment in about half an hour:

@bengoldacre #ldconf there’s also dawkins doing amendment on libel in civil liberties session at 4pm, main hall, we’re going thru his speech now

But never mind the mere intellectual giants and dishy sci-geeks of our age. What could possibly be …

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Commentislinked@LDV – bumper edition

I am agog to hear the podcast of last night’s LDV fringe event (hint), but in the meantime, some snippets of news from the jumping-up-and-down-on-the-sidelines school of conference reporting.

First, David Howarth is plugging away the civil liberties message in the Guardian:

…I am still profoundly unconvinced by the Tories’ conversion to the cause of freedom.

First, Tory proposals have a tendency to smack of too little, too late. For instance, its surveillance proposals looked oddly similar to those to be found in the freedom bill. Scrapping ID cards? Getting rid of the ContactPoint database? Reining in councils’ investigatory powers? It’s

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Conference: Day 2

The agenda

Reports from the Campaign for Gender Balance and the Diversity and Equality Group this morning, then a Scotland/Wales double-act in the form of the policy mortion on the  Future of Devolution (short version: more of it please!). There’s a presenttation from Kingston’s Lib Dem group (go Mary!), speeches from Norman Lamb and Ed Davey and a policy motion on the paper “Thriving in a Globalised World – A Strategy for Britain”.

And that’s just before lunch.

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Conference: First pictures

It’s that time of year again, folks. Doesn’t it come round quickly? And each year more glorious than the last. Yes it’s:


Arrr. This should make for some interesting speeches from the platform at Bournemouth.

Mark and Alex have already started reporting direct from the Lib Dem Cupboard this morning, which is as luxurious as ever:


I, meanwhile, can’t be in Bournemouth, so I will be your host on the home front, scanning the papers for coverage (with a telescope. Arrr), stealing gossip and …

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PMQs: when will Brown admit he’s wrong?

Do my ears deceive me or has Gordon Brown just answered a question?

Cameron skewered Brown with a statement from last week he claimed had been incorrect. He quoted figures to the House – something Brown has mocked him for not doing – which showed unequivocally that capital investment will fall from next year, 2009/10, up to the Olympics year in 2011/12. Brown’s response, of itself, is reasonable – actually 2008/09 expenditure was atypical, due to bringing forward recession investment. He quotes similarly clear figures that show the 2011/12 figure will return to the 2007/08 level.

Continue reading »

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Daily View 2×2: 24 June 2009

2 big stories

As any fule kno, the chair of the Iraq enquiry Sir John Chilcot has ruled that as a default all evidence should be given to the enquiry in public. He has also indicated that he will be calling Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to give evidence. From the Guardian:

The move to open up his hearings, which came on the eve of a Commons debate tomorrow on the inquiry, shows that a wholesale change of the terms has been carried out since the inquiry was established by the prime minister last week. The decision to summon Brown and Blair for public hearings was disclosed by Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, who met Chilcot today on privy council terms. Chilcott held a separate meeting with David Cameron on the same terms.

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Tory claims for astrology CD

This is one of those moments that sets one’s outer liberal at war with one’s inner Richard Dawkins. Bosworth Conservative MP David Tredinnick’s expenses reveal he spent £210 on astrology software from, it appears, “Crucial Astro Tools” and £300 on tuition from the same company to learn to use it.

The Voice has come by the text of an email he sent to a constituent explaining the claim:

Thank you for your email about my claim for consultancy services from Crucial Astro Tools. As you may be aware I have a longstanding interest in Parliament

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PMQs: banking system

Cameron and Brown follow their usual pattern of scuffling over cuts today. Cameron claims Brown plans real terms cuts from 2011, Brown claims real-terms rises in investment until 2012 an’ anyway the Tories plan to make cuts straightaway. Heads I win, tails you lose. It’s getting unbearable, listening to Brown. “We are the party of the many”. Ugh.

Cameron makes a rare slip, however, when he suggests that the reason Brown is so distrusted is not actually the recession – “there’s a recession all over Europe”. I have never in all my parliamentary viewing heard such baying

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Daily View 2×2: 17 June 2009

2 big stories

No prizes for guessing it’s Iran above the fold again today. After ruling out a votes recount, the ruling forces had this to say, which is of some interest to anyone who gets their political news online:

Following a crackdown on the foreign press, the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s most powerful military force, warned online media of similar treatment over their coverage of the country’s election crisis.

In its first statement since the crisis broke out, the guards – an elite force answering to the supreme leader – said Iranian websites and bloggers must remove any materials that “create tension”

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PMQs: social housing and repossession

Cameron and Brown wrangle over the various parliamentary reform proposals. Cameron uses the election of two BNP MEPs to support his contention that a proportional system lets in extremists, and accuses Brown of only becoming interested in reform when he faces losing the next election. Brown looks somewhat less like a punchbag this week – that Monday night meeting of the parliamentary Labour party must have pepped him up a bit. In fact, his righteousness waxes so great that he proclaims Cameron “doesn’t deserve” to be Prime Minister.

Clegg asks about repossession rates, which he says the government is failing …

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Daily View 2×2: 10 June 2009

2 big stories

This is, I think, the first time I have compiled the Daily View (Wednesdays being Mortimer days) when the headlines in every paper haven’t been dominated by expenses. Hooray, real news!

The big news at Westminster is that Gordon Brown is doing his usual thing of arriving at a political moment (in this case electoral reform) several weeks late and trailing faux consultation in his wake.

From the BBC:

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said the prime minister’s statement will not endorse a change of voting system nor any particular system but it will call for a debate on whether

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We would be “suicidal” to do a deal with Labour

So say “senior party strategists” to the Guardian today:

Nick Clegg would resist overtures from a new prime minister as strongly as he would the current one, senior Liberal Democrat figures have told the Guardian.

The Lib Dem leader believes Labour is finished regardless of who leads the party, and as one close aide put it: “The sort of discussions they need to have can’t take place in government – they need to go into the wilderness to reflect where they stand.” The view damages the hopes of some on the centre-left who believe a change

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Daily View 2×2: 3 June 2009

2 big stories

“It’s not the wheels falling off the government.”

With these (deliberate?) words on Radio 4’s PM yesterday afternoon, Harriet Harman defined today’s big story. No, the PM’s reshuffle plans have in no way leaked throughout a thoroughly angry and demoralised cabinet, and they are not at all about to resign en masse. The government is not in the slightest on a course to imminent implosion and Gordon Brown is not reduced to kissing babies on the news and saying nice things about Susan Boyle in a farcically doomed attempt to court popularity. Honest.

Covered with varying degrees of glee …

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Daily View 2×2: 27 May 2009

2 big stories

Much of today’s coverage is summed up perfectly by the Independent’s headline Brown v Cameron v Clegg, under which all three leaders set out their visions for the rebuilding of Britain’s broken politics. They are due to take party in cross-party talks according to the Guardian, talks to be led by that famed bastion of reform, Jack Straw. Perhaps that’s who Nick Clegg was thinking of when he said (to the Times): “There are prominent people in government who recognise that the game’s up.” Our friends in the Lords are

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Ros Scott: Lib Dem internal code of conduct on expenses

The membership have just received an email from the President summarising the decisions made at the Federal Executive meeting on Monday.

1. There will be a code of conduct binding on Liberal Democrat parliamentarians and candidates.
2. All Liberal Democrat MPs will support the proposals from Sir Christopher Kelly’s review of MPs’ expenses. There will be no picking and choosing of which of his recommendations to support.
3. Our leader and Chief Whip in the House of Lords will undertake a thorough review of expenses and allowances in the House of Lords.
4. We will end the self-regulation of Parliament.

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Liberal Reformers (or, the revolution will be blogged)

What a week for British politics

Nearly a week ago now, I suggested that one of the party’s longer term aims on the way out of the expenses crisis should be to push the case for full electoral and constitutional reform. Would we ever, I asked, have a better chance than this?

At the time it seemed a bit of a long shot, even by my terminally optimistic standards, but a week is a long time in the political media. The expenses relevations, coming so suddenly and in such a concentrated form, are unmistakeably betraying

Posted in Op-eds | 17 Comments

PMQs: change the whole system

We open with tributes to the Speaker from Brown and Cameron, and a planted question on the government’s forthcoming Gurkhas statement. The House listens in faintly disgusted silence to Gordon Brown making a virtue of the fact that he had to be made to do something.

We follow with tussling between Brown and Cameron over whether or not a General Election would cause chaos. Cameron trying to persuade us that an election would mean “addressing the issues” and “a fresh start” – see Costigan Quist’s post on this subject this morning, if you haven’t already. Brown’s

Posted in PMQs | 7 Comments

More Lib Dem saints #MPexpenses

The Telegraph continues its series of saintly MPs and three more Lib Dems are included.

Tom Brake, Susan Kramer and Ed Davey are all Greater London MPs with columns of zeroes next to their ACA claims, even though they are strictly speaking entitled to them. They join Sarah Teather, Lynne Featherstone and David Howarth who have already featured in the series.

Here’s an interesting thing: will Vince Cable be included in this holy parade? He too is a Greater London MP who doesn’t claim the ACA he is entitled to. I seem to recall

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Daily View: 2×2

2 big stories

There’s only one game in town this morning, and it’s a mish-mash of the Speaker’s resignation plus the interim measures on expenses he announced yesterday. The Guardian has it:

MPs will no longer be allowed to “flip” second homes or claim for household goods, the outgoing Commons Speaker Michael Martin announced tonight as part of a “robust” set of interim measures aimed at resolving the MPs’ expenses crisis.

Just hours after telling the Commons he was standing down as Speaker next month following pressure over his handling of the expenses debacle, Martin reappeared

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Expenses – where did it all begin?

Required reading for your Saturday morning if you want to understand exactly how we’ve got to where we are, from investigative journalist Heather Brooke in the Guardian:

I did one request for travel information (refused), then for the names and salaries of MPs’ staff (this was blocked personally by Speaker Michael Martin) and then finally one for information on second homes. Initially I asked for the details for all MPs, but this was refused, so then I narrowed it down to 10 – the leaders of the parties and a few ministers.

This was in 2006. My

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Goodnight, Teignbridge

Blimey, you catch up on your Wire Season 4 viewing and all hell breaks loose. It is with heavy heart and limp jaw that  bring you Richard Younger-Ross:

His expenses files show he claims on his Additional Costs Allowance for his £1,556 monthly rent but has also put in receipts for a series of high-cost furnishings.

In May 2004 he put in an invoice for a £1,475 chest of drawers and a £725 free-standing mirror bought at John Lewis. They were made from solid cherrywood by the leading French furniture maker Brigitte Forestier.

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And another thing Clegg should do!

As if my shopping list for Nick Clegg’s priorities wasn’t already long enough, I also think this whole expenses furore is the absolutely perfect hook for the root and branch electoral reform the Liberal Democrats have been advocating since the dawn of recorded time.

It’s maybe not one for immediate execution, while public anger abates and basic reparations and undertakings are being made (see my previous post).

But the kind of systemic corruption that has been exposed over the past week is clearly linked to our topsey-turvey electoral and constitutional system. Cicero explains in

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 11 Comments

Our expenses must be published

Clegg’s response to the expenses scandal

Let’s start by giving praise where it is due – Nick Clegg may not have done the truly brave thing and published everyone’s expenses before the Telegraph could, but he did haveone real, concrete response ready for the expenses scandal and it was this: Liberal Democrat MPs will pass all gains from their second homes back to the taxpayer on sale. Talking of concrete, I was impressed by the “ton of bricks” imagery, which clearly went down well with the Metro.

Also set in stone is his

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The Telegraph should apologise to Andrew George and Alan Reid

Not the kind of stern injunction I was expecting to come out with after a day of Liberal Democrat expenses revelations, I must say. I was all prepared to be angry, disappointed, humbled and even-handedly condemnatory. It has become a sort of communally agreed ceasefire in the political blogosphere and the media in the past few days – no-one’s allowed to query, say “eh?” or doubt the word of the Telegraph. That would be being cocky and partisan. One must only observe the same humilities as everybody else. Shock horror expressions must be worn at

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 54 Comments

Is Alan Duncan the 12th Lib Dem?

Two further updates from the Telegraph, both amusing rather than alarming.

Steve Webb

This headline is just beyond parody. I kid you not: Steve Webb sold one flat and bought another, claiming £8,400 stamp duty

What?? He SOLD a flat, what, and then BOUGHT another? Treachery! Infamy! Off with his head!

Of course, he could have rented and saved us the £8,500. And under Clegg’s original set of proposals for expense reform, rejected by Cameron and Brown, that would be exactly what would have happened. As it is, we’ll have to make do

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PMQs: …well what do you think?

A red-faced and relatively subdued PMQs today all round.

Cameron performed with some sincerity, suggesting that people would not accept paybacks in the short term and rule changes in the long term – political leadership was required to effect immediate changes to the rules. No-one doubted that the rules were inadequate. Unusually, however, I think Brown had the logical upperhand on this one. It is precisely because MPs have proven themselves not capable of keeping to the spirit of the rules that they have forgone any right to effect arbitrary changes to the expenses system. It’s not

Posted in PMQs | 4 Comments

The Telegraph: descending into gutter reportage

Two more Lib Dem MPs’ expense details are now in the public domain, bringing the total to ten.

Nick Harvey

Has a £30 subscription to Sky Sports at his second home. Pay attention, football fans, Sky Sports =/= necessary to perform the duties of an MP. Not a huge sum, but still. 2/5

Alan Reid

Now, at the time of writing Alan Reid’s page isn’t linked from the Telegraph’s main Lib Dem Expenses feed page, and to be honest I wonder if that’s because they’re bloody ashamed of it. They ought

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Alex Macfie
    @Peter Martin: No-one was saying that at all, except maybe @Adam who is relying on BtL comments on news articles which cannot be taken as representative of anyt...
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    @ Chris, Adam and David, So can we all agree (except perhaps Alex ) that being in favour of the EU does require uncritical support? This is a big problem...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Adam: I rarely read BtL comments in newspaper articles as they tend not to be representative of public opinion. All I can say is that such opinions as you have...
  • Adam
    "Given the avalanche of unending and captious criticism of the EU from the pro-Brexiteer nationalist establishment prior to Brexit, it’s scarcely surprising t...
  • David Allen
    Peter Martin, "In practice, we seldom, if ever, see any criticism of the EU from its supporters." Yeah, yeah, yeah. When the Tories make a political broa...