Author Archives: Martin Land

Carlos Tevez and Local Government

So Carlos Tevez would like to leave Manchester City. He still has more than three years to run on his incredibly expensive contract, but has informed the press that he has played his last game for Man. City. Now, I’ve nothing against Man. City (other than them not being Liverpool) and my sympathy lies very much with their owners and management. No club should be bullied in this way, and I hope the rich Middle Eastern owners of Man. City will do football a real favour, by refusing to bow to this pressure and continuing to insist Tevez comes to …

Posted in Humour, Local government and Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Opinion: Democracy, the Rule of Law and New Labour

Back in the 1980s my employer, encouraged by some important orders I’d picked up in what we then called Eastern Europe, asked me to try to build up a distribution network in as many countries as I could. In creating this customer base, I made a number of good friends in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Yugoslavia. It was good business, though never easy, and my sympathy with the many friends I made there led me to take more time over it than perhaps I should have.

I’m pleased to say that after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was personally able to help a number of my old contacts with the small amounts of capital needed to start up their own businesses and keep up contact with many of them even now. Sad to say some of my Yugoslav friends disappeared into the tragedy of the Civil War, though I still keep in touch with Slovenes who escaped the worst of it.

In those dark days in the 1980s conversations often turned to politics. Once we had carefully sounded each other out, it was a topic that could not be easily avoided. It was obvious that the system had failed, though no one I ever spoke to thought it would go and certainly not in the manner it did. I felt it had 10 years; they were generally far less sanguine.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Opinion: Once again, the French show a little bit more imagination…

The reduction in VAT from 17.5% to 15% quickly condemned and rightly so, by Vince Cable, as expensive and ineffective is one of this government’s more costly errors. The one year only cut will cost us the incredible sum of £12.5 billion pounds and has done little to stimulate consumer spending, simply because despite the enormous cost it still seems so meaningless at the till.

Indeed, it may will come with a sting in the tail, as when it comes to an end and VAT goes back to 17.5% it will come with a sharp inflationary jolt which may well trim back some of those ‘green shoots’ that Labour will being telling us about this winter.

The French, as usual, have shown a little bit more imagination.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments

Opinion on Nick Clegg’s first anniversary: Martin Land – Has it really been one year?

Clegg’s first year: Clegg on Clegg | Tall on Clegg

Well, it has been a year. I’m sure its felt even longer to you Nick. Take some time over the holidays and quietly reflect. I know you’re busy, so let me help you:

The good bits

1. You have had a good year. Sure the odd slip-up, but no leader is ever surefooted straightaway. You’ve had the odd ‘baseball cap’ moment, but public recognition is increasing and I think they like what they see. Try to get angry more often though. After all, you are only human. Let people see it.

2. You have a new Party President, Baroness Ros Scott. I didn’t vote for her, but it’s an opportunity to reach out to alienated and ignored parts of the party that you simply don’t have the time to reach. I think she’s someone you can work closely with.

3. 19% in the latest ICM poll. That’s about as good as it gets between elections.

4. Whatever you may (or may not) think, you have a good team. Cameron would kill for your frontbench team. So, I suspect, would Gordon. If only parties had transfer fees like footballers. Think what we could get for Vince!

5. You perform well in the media. You are relaxed and in control, where Cameron just looks manic.

The bad bits

1. All political parties are having a rough time, but you need to take charge of ours. The strategy we have pursued over the past 15 years looks more and more like a scorched earth policy for local parties. Membership cannot be allowed to decline any further and we must stop bleeding local parties to death for the sake of strange ‘targeting’ strategies, which owe more to egos than demographic or psephological analysis.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Opinion: The devil is in the detail

On the whole, Lib Dems can probably be broadly satisfied with our current performance. The latest poll I’ve seen (from ComRes in the Independent) puts us on 18% – so, despite a significant Tory revival, we have not been squeezed.

One might reasonably argue that we should have done better out of Labour’s current demise, but my suspicion is that things will tighten as the general election comes closer, and Nick Clegg – who impresses me more and more – gets the greater media attention he deserves.

But that’s a pretty passive approach. How could the party be more …

Posted in Op-eds and Parliamentary by-elections | Tagged | 5 Comments

County Council Elections 2009: Let’s stop this electoral manipulation now!

I like to think I’m a patient man. When you’ve been a Liberal / Liberal Democrat for 35 years you have to be.

But if there is one thing that makes my blood boil, it’s the constant interference of this Government with the electoral process. After 11 years of Labour interference in our democratic fabric, we have a plethora of postal vote scandals and overlapping legislation which manifestly fails to prevent a pattern of defamatory statements and nasty, negative campaigning. Yes, and different voting systems across the country.

Now, the powers that be, in this case the Department for Communities and Local Government, are putting out a consultation paper entitled ‘Moving the date of English Local Government elections to the date of the European Parliament elections in 2009’. This paper is launching a consultation (Labourspeak for: we’ve already decided, but let’s go through the motions…) and says:

This consultation seeks, in particular, views of councils and other stakeholders on where the balance of advantage lies – holding the local and European elections on the same day or on different days four weeks apart. The results of this consultation will help us reach a decision as to whether or not the 2009 local elections should be moved.”

Some people might think this is logical enough. After all, the elections are only four weeks apart, and some civil servant with a preference for neatness has decided that these two could easily grouped together, especially now there is little risk of Gordon calling an election before 2010.

But I think this should be opposed, root and branch.

The local elections which risk being delayed in 2009 are mostly the County Council elections. The County Council elections for 2005 were held on the same day as the General Election. As they were in 2001 and in 1997. This means that electors in these areas have not had an election to these important local authorities where the issues could be discussed, unclouded by other elections, since 1993!

And now the Government wants to merge the 2009 elections with those to the European Parliament, so instead of debating issues like Education, Social Services, Regional Planning, Local Transport and the Environment we will be swallowed up by the endless inane debate between the Euro-idiots on one side and the Euro-fanatics on the other.

There are also brand new unitaries whose first election risks being about straighter bananas rather than the issues facing their communities for the following four years.

So, if you live in any of these areas, protest now. Make sure your local party, Lib Dem, Labour or Conservative is campaigning against this, Make sure your councillors on these authorities are demanding a real, fair say for residents. Write to your local papers. Anything. But let’s not accept another Government manipulation of local democracy.

Let’s be allowed to campaign, discuss and have our say about the important issues covered by these important authorities – for the first time since 1993. Or are we going to have to wait until 2013, twenty years, before we can have a real debate? A real election?

These are the authorities affected:

Posted in Local government and Op-eds | 28 Comments

Martin Land on Nick’s first 100 days

Dear Nick,

Well, not bad. The polls look better and on the doorstep I’ve not had a single person ask me why we got rid of Charles Kennedy.

The Bones Commission was a good idea. It was a less of a good idea to allow those who could be part of the problem (I only say could) set its remit. Equally, I’m not sure that the deadline for submissions was very generous and I don’t think the message got down to the grassroots. But let’s see what comes out of it. But it must be an interim step – to coin …

Posted in Leadership Election and Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments

Opinion: The polls show there’s all to play for

Whoever said that people tend to believe whichever opinion poll shows their party in the best light certainly hit the nail on the head. When I was younger, Liberals never believed Gallup polls because they generally showed the Tories in a better light than we wanted to believe (and they were published in a less than liberal Daily).

My personal prejudice is against YouGov polls, mainly because I went to school with its founder and the boy, as the old saying goes, is the father of the man. YouGov are now showing Ken Livingstone as highly likely to lose, which if …

Posted in Op-eds and Polls | 17 Comments

Opinion: America – a sense of proportion?

The American Primaries are in full swing, and the race is on for the next President of the United States who will be, as the journos will constantly remind us, the most powerful person in the world. Assuming of course the Chinese Government doesn’t call in the mortgage!

As soon as a few middle-class, middle-aged Americans attend a few meetings somewhere out in the plains, in a state few of us have heard of and even fewer have visited, our press are fascinated. As are our chatting classes and the webocracy.

But where is the sense of proportion? Last year, France, our …

Posted in LDVUSA and Op-eds | 12 Comments

Opinion: What should the new leader do in his first 100 days? #7

Dear Nick,

If you and you staff have the time, I’ve made many comments over the past two months about how the party needs reforming and reorganising.

But that’s not the object of today. I want to talk to you about the most important meeting of your first 100 days. A meeting, of course, that according to its to principle protagonists will not take place. A meeting, we will not be able to read about until one of you publishes your memoirs. I refer to your first meeting with David Cameron.

It’s important that you set out our stall. Point …

Posted in Leadership Election and Op-eds | Tagged | 4 Comments

Opinion: Let’s stop talking about policy!

This leadership election is, inevitably, getting a little messy. Why inevitably? Because attempts are being made to create massive policy differences where they simply don’t exist, on matters which are important to activists, but far less so to electors.

In case the advisors to Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne don’t know, the key talking points in my town are the middle classes bemoaning the price of petrol and pensioners and families, rightly, concerned about the rising price of staple foods. I wonder how many members of the two campaign teams are aware that bread has more than doubled in …

Posted in Leadership Election and Op-eds | 29 Comments

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  • Alex B
    It was good to see two Lib Dem MPs raising highly pertinent matters relevant to their own constituents and the wider population, even if they were largely fobbe...
  • Simon R
    Since I wrote the above comment, the LibDem manifesto for London has been published ( so to be fair I...
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