Author Archives: Andy Mayer

Opinion: Evan Harris’s major error

So defeated Oxford West & Abingdon MP and left-liberal firebrand Evan Harris doesn’t like the coalition and worries about the message it sends to his preferred allies on the old left of Labour. Or so says in his article for The Guardian.

What’s new? Evan has shown disquiet about non-lefto-neo-revisionist-libero-economism by the party leadership for much of his career. He is about as likely to embrace a broad centre-ground positioning for the Liberal Democrats as Bob Crowe welcoming a restructuring plan on the London Underground.

He isn’t, though, a thoughtless polemicist, and much of what he says is …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 39 Comments

Opinion: A lucky escape from the graduate tax?

If the BBC is correct there is sufficient opposition within the Coalition to stop a graduate tax seeing the light of day and instead come up with a system that is like fees, but not fees, and retains some kind of link between student and university. On that we will have to wait and see what it is before commenting.

I do not though fully understand why a reputable economist like Vince Cable gave the National Union of Students’ graduate tax proposal serious consideration. Apart from the clear inconsistency and hypocrisy, Vince presided over a party tax

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , and | 17 Comments

Opinion: Consumer Politics‏

Working in public affairs means I get to travel outside the tribe and visit other Party Conferences, if exhausting after 3-4 weeks, it’s never a bad experience. In the main they are not dissimilar; set pieces in the conference halls, fringe meetings where the real debates happen, training sessions, social events with plenty of opportunity to end your career if you enjoy them too much, and halls full of exhibitors.

Within those halls one of highlights is the opportunity to engage in a little shopping. We have Lib Dem Image, Labour have their Campaign Shop, the Conservatives have Shop for Change… and as an innovation a mall of other suppliers from Harvey Nichols to Crombie, to novelty Christmas decorations.

Liberal Democrat Image was set up by the party in 2000 to supply a range of branded campaign goods. It’s a franchise operation run by Stuart and Leola Card, and the arrangement requires them to provide activist essentials but with the option to broaden the range should they wish.

This they do. Around 75% of the expanded product range has come from member suggestions, and some come from third parties like Bob Russell’s MP playing cards and Clegg and Cables Credit Crunch Chocolate. The only time LDI have hesitated to sell a product was a proposed range of party underwear “for reasons of good taste”*.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 8 Comments

Opinion: Put your party first… and second…

I’ve read some of the discussion on Lib Dem Voice about how Liberal Democrats should use their second preferences in the race for London Mayor with some interest. It should be stated up front that much of this speculation is fantastically irrelevant to how Liberal Democrat voters will actually choose. It will only permeate to the wider London electorate if Nick Clegg or another senior media spokesperson endorses Boris or Ken as number two, and even then, like the Green-pact it would be more likely to harm our candidate than influence the final outcome.

Articles like …

Posted in London and Op-eds | Tagged | 44 Comments

Blogging and campaigning: the more things change…

As a moderately inactive Liberal Democrat blogger, I read Lynne Featherstone’s piece on ‘are we making the most of blogging?’ with some interest. Her key point was to compare blogging in our party (largely local, anecdotal, and inward-looking), with political blogging in the US (largely campaigning and outward-looking):

What we seem to be mostly missing are those combative, outward looking souls who spot a story and want to help spread or extend the message or the point or the attack.

Or in other words where are the campaigning bloggers? Where are the people who create a story, link up the stories others have sparked, get the traffic moving to a petition site, and mobilise action on and off the web?

I think there are a number of answers to that question.

The first is that the situation in politics is rarely as bad or as good as it appears to be on the surface. Our bloggers do campaign, and the state of blogging in the US is no campaigning nirvana. Like US television we largely get to read the best, or more usually reports on the best, not experience the long tail of low-impact material that we see more of here, largely because we’re looking for it and indexing it on Lib Dem Blogs.

The second is that blogging is a form of journalism, and campaigning journalism has always been a minority pursuit, or rather one that is best done occasionally rather than all the time. Perpetual invitations to give a damn about some perceived slight or injustice can be hectoring rather than engaging. The Independent for example, produces worthy but dull shock-horror front pages every day of the week and is one of the least read national newspapers. You’re more likely to overhear a friend or colleague discuss the latest celebrity gossip in the Sun or Hello than the Independent issue of the day. Guido Fawkes made much this point in his response to Lynne’s original piece.

But people should care, you might rage. Well maybe. But the kind of campaigns that work well by push communications like face to face engagement on doorsteps or leaflets are not necessarily going to play with pull-media like blogs that people seek of their own accord. With a petition shoved in your face you might well agree you’d like to Save the local Post Office, would you actively seek to read about it though?

Posted in Online politics | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

Opinion: Save the Local Post Office – Why?

I know, I know, it’s shooting at Bambi, but I confess I just don’t get the Lib Dems’ Post Office Campaigns.

I don’t mean by this that I have a rabid desire to close every post office in the country, or even that I don’t accept the case that, in some locations, like remote rural communities, they are useful, loved and necessary. It’s more that I can’t think of many campaigns I’m less likely to get out of bed for than this one.

The problem I have is that, while I accept petitions to save local public services, rather like campaigns in favour of orphans and chocolate, are effective short-term publicity, I didn’t really get into politics simply to aggregate target data for our EARS database.

I have the inconvenient belief that campaigning should be for either some meaningful positive change or to stop something bad happening. I can’t fit most post office campaigns into either of those boxes. My contention is that often these campaigns are trivial, and make us in the long-run look trivial and parochial by association.

As an example, a recent urban Liberal Democrat ‘Save our Post Office’ petition amounted to little more than opposition to the hypothetical chance of the service moving from a physical post office building to the counters at WH Smith. A campaign that implied the burning political issue was that customer service in one of the UK’s more successful retailers might not be as good as that provided by the commercially unviable alternative. Evidence for this dull fear-mongering was notable only for its absence.

Another issue is that, bar a handful of delays and reverses, the campaign clearly isn’t working. Governments have been closing post offices at a rate of 300 a year for two decades despite opposition by Liberal Democrats, Sun readers and viral campaign songs.

And while anti-post office closure campaigners may be able to produce the occasional 4-million signature petition, it is not evidently top of mind as a criteria for voting outside local elections – although even here we are somewhat short of actual evidence as to where PO campaigns rank amongst the main drivers of local voting preference.

Posted in Op-eds | 17 Comments

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