Author Archives: Simon Foster

Lib Dems surge as Corbyn’s Labour falters behind Tories

Since May 2016, the Liberal Democrats have been the clear winners when it comes to taking seats in local by-elections.  Many campaigners will have seen the following graph:
bar-chart
With 21 seats gained, and only 1 lost, the net result of +20, with our vote share averaging up 9% is a good recovery which the party should be proud of.   We need to continue to work hard, but at the same time, steady progress.

Conventional thinking would have us believe that when a party is in Government, they do badly in elections.  Conversely, opposition parties should be doing well.  Therefore, if Labour were to be on a serious road to power, it should be thrashing the Conservatives by achieving net gains from them.

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Different perspectives on election results

National vote third at 15%, up  45+ Councillors!  Scottish mainland seats gained!  Overall, these elections were an important step forward in recovery for the Liberal Democrats.

However, this was not a uniform set of results.  There were disappointing results in Wales and London, along with some English areas.  We should think twice when discussing with colleagues how we did.

Candy Piercy wrote this which struck a chord with me:

The hard working candidates and teams who lost will be feeling out of step with the rest of the party. It is not just Wales and London feeling the pain. There are many candidates who bravely put themselves forward hoping against hope that they would win.

So how should we be approaching things?  Well, the field of communication skills has some suggestions.

There’s a saying “the map is not the territory.”  People have different ways of interpreting the world.  A mental map of how they interpret things.  Their map may not only different from yours, but different to what is actually going on.

We should understand these different points of view, which comes naturally to liberals.  Avoid assuming people feel the same way about these election results. Instead, ask people “How do you feel we did?”  Listen to their experience. Feel how they feel. See things from their point of view. Empathise if they have lost and you have won.

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Postcard from Orlando: Hillary sweeps the board with big wins in Florida and Ohio

Hillary Florida GOTVWhat do Florida, North Carolina and Ohio have in common? They’re AWS, which means All Winning States on this side of the pond.  As I write (0515!GMT) Hillary appears to have won Illinois and Missouri by a margin that would have any agent worth their salt screaming “Recount,” at the top of their lungs.
Whilst Florida was always polling strongly for Hillary, the big prize tonight was Ohio for her campaign.  After the shock loss of Michigan last week, Hillary’s campaign needed a big win in the rust belt.  In Ohio, she got it.
The two states are significant. Ohio is the ultimate swing state, crucial to Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012.  Florida has even more of a history since George W Bush’s controversial “win” in 2000.  At a rally for his wife on Monday, former President Bill Clinton said “You don’t need to explain to Floridians the importance of voting.”
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Inside the Hillary Campaign in Florida

Florida

ORLANDO, Florida.  A state with a rich political history, of hanging chads and contested election results back in 2000. A vital state in the primary calendar for the American Presidential election, given its winner takes all rules for delegates.  The perfect place to campaign for Hillary on International Women’s Day.

The Democratic race is fairly straightforward here. Hillary is going to beat Bernie in Florida, and Bernie knows it.  However, perception is everything in the US media, and so Bernie is campaigning to close the gap.  The Democratic debate here is on Wednesday 9th March. Barring a mishap, Clinton will be fine.  Canvassing 100 advance ballot voters (sorry, postal voters), Hillary is clearly ahead, but the talk is all elsewhere.

It’s red on red (*) Republican warfare in Florida.

Posted in Campaign Corner | Tagged and | 18 Comments

Not in my name – I’m not resigned to this

Later today, Liberal Democrat MPs will vote to support the extension of airstrikes in Syria.

Many people will disagree with this decision, as some others, who I respect, agree. Others will be upset. Some may even be on the point of resigning their party membership.

I’m writing today to explain why I’m staying to fight for what I believe in, within the Liberal Democrats.

I resigned from the party once before, over a series of events and ultimately the decision by Nick Clegg on tuition fees. The betrayal of trust I felt, rather than the actual policy was my final straw, which caused me to leave.

It’s a lonely place outside the party. You’re still a liberal, with a small l, knowing what you believe in. You acquire a different perspective, seeing all the liberals in all the parties, and wishing they would work all together more often. You quickly realise that by far the greatest number are in the Lib Dems.

Elections become difficult. You research the candidates, looking for the most liberal ones that will help your area. You vote Lib Dem, more often than not, because they still chime with your views.

However, that sense of loneliness persists. You can join a pressure group, but by their nature, they focus on one particular issue. You search for that overarching view, but it’s missing.

Above all, you miss the real Lib Dems. People who respect your views when you disagree with them. People who want to create real change in our society, like changing our voting system.

On that basis, I chose to rejoin. Warning – be careful if Liz Lynne is a social event if you’ve lapsed – she’s very persuasive. 



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A close shave. Can you help?

A good friend who was coming to Lib Dem conference was going to shave all of my hair off, for Cancer Research, at the Glee Club on the last night of conference. This has all been agreed with the Hotel and the Glee Club thanks to the efforts of Gareth Epps and the conference office.

However, my hairdresser cannot make it. So, if you know any hairdressers with a pair of clippers coming to conference who are able to give me a close shave for a good cause at the Glee Club, please put them in touch.

In the meantime, I still need sponsors, so if you can donate £5 or any amount, please do so here.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 11 Comments

Opinion: Liberalism – a modern answer to a classical question

Liberalism.  “You can’t define it.”  “It’s too wishy-washy. “Too centrist. “Too woolly.”

The words of my A level students when they begin their course on Political Ideologies each year. The good news here is that there is a definitive answer. One that students have to learn for their exams.

Firstly, the common values to all sorts of Liberalism. Liberalism is a centrist ideology which is based on the twin values of individualism and a negative/selfish but rational view of human nature.

All liberals also believe in democracy in some form, tolerance, some rights, freedom (see below), and limited government. Not the size of Government, but the fact that all liberals are suspicious of government. Therefore, they believe in check and balances such as codified constitutions, and a separation of powers and devolution, for example.

Liberalism’s first form was classical liberalism. When it came to the size of government, this was very small – the nightwatchman state.  Government should be like a security guard, only awake at night, to preserve our liberty.  This nightwatchman state had 3 functions:

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Opinion: Goodbye Salisbury Convention, hello UK constitutional convention

This Government is illegitimate.  We should resist it by all legal means possible.

Apparently, according to Sir Malcolm Bruce, all politicians lie at some point.  I don’t accept this is a good thing, but we should not have been surprised when the Prime Minister came out with this little gem on the day of the Queen’s Speech:

“We have a mandate from the British people.”

No Dave, you do not.

The idea of an electoral mandate is a simple one which I teach my A level Politics students.  You win a majority in the House of Commons, you claim the people have backed you, you get on with the job.

This is not democracy though.  Democracy, which I have also teach my students, means “people power.”  The idea fails for David Cameron on two levels:

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In pictures: Oxford West and Abingdon – 500th poster up for Layla Moran

Thing started well when we got the 300th stakeboard up:

Photo 1 Nathan with the first stake

Photo 1 (Nathan Khan)

Then, there’s the posters.  Activist Jan Morter decided that her stakeboard couldn’t be seen at night.  So she decided to brighten up her street, which shone some light on the campaign:

Photo 2a Jans poster

 

Photo 2 Jans poster at night

Next there’s the ducks.  Duck L’Orange, the duck of Liberal Tolerance and Justice, apart from having her own twitter account (follow @duckalorangeld) has apparently produced some offspring.  A naming competition followed.  After 2 ballots and 1 recount, Crispin Daisy Duck was declared the winner:

Photo 3 Crispin Daisy Duck

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 1 Comment

Opinion: We don’t duck things in OxWAb

duckFollowing on from our April Fool’s Day prank a large yellow Duck has appeared in the Abingdon HQ for the Oxford West and Abingdon Liberal Democrat Campaign.  Already he has become a big hit with the activists.

Typically for Lib Dems, a discussion ensued as to what to call the duck.  A quick internet poll was held, and we now have the results:

Duck a L’Orange (write in suggestion from Neil Fawcett): 69%

Shirley Williams: 15%

Paddy Ashdown: 8%

Evan Harris: 8%

Lembit Opik: 0%

Result: Duck a L’Orange gain.  Majority: 54%

On hearing the news, the newly elected Duck said:

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Opinion: The silence of the Miliband

Yesterday I got an email from Ed Miliband, which included part of his online Q &A session:

I am stuck as to whether to vote Labour or Lib Dem. I am not interested in past records either, I am looking to the future. Many people fall in an “in-between zone”, not poor enough to receive help with living costs, but not rich enough to be able to stay on top of general living costs. How would Labour deal with this? — Zoe, Norfolk

Ed: Hi Zoe, you’re absolutely right that the problem in our economy right now is that recovery just isn’t reaching working people — just a few at the top. Many working people aren’t getting paid enough to be able to stay on top of the bills. Tackling this cost of living crisis will be the key mission of the next Labour government. Unlike the Tories, Labour understand that Britain only succeeds when working families succeed, and that’s why only a Labour government can tackle the cost of living crisis. One of the ways we will do this is by freezing your energy bills until 2017 and giving the regulator the power to cut bills this winter so that people can afford to heat their homes. To make sure work pays, we will ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, raise the minimum wage to £8, and provide 25 hours free childcare per week for working parents with three or four year olds. We’ll also introduce a new, lower 10p starting rate of tax, paid for by scrapping the unfair marriage tax allowance, which will benefit 24 million people on middle and lower incomes…”

Well the minimum wage should go up to £8.25 in the long run anyway, and the 10p tax rate is completely wrong, we should be looking at national insurance now instead.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 51 Comments

The Tories’ internet cartoon shows us why the ban on TV spot ads must remain.

In the last few days, the Tories have shown us a cartoon with the worst of TV campaign tactics about the SNP and Alec Salmond. I’m no fan of the SNP, and I’m a supporter of the Union.  However, this internet spot ad, at 45 seconds reveals a lot about the Tories campaign techniques.  It’s straight out of the USA Political Consultants handbook.

In 1992, whilst lecturing and researching Political Image making at the University of Marie-Curie Sklodowska in Poland, I came across the work of Laurence Rees, in his TV series “We have ways of making you think” and his accompanying book, “Selling Politics.”  Rees argued that modern political propaganda techniques were descended from the Nazi propaganda of Josef Goebbels in Germany. Goebbels had stated that “In order for propaganda to be effective, it had to be entertaining.” Entertaining, and involving the politics of fear.

Fast forward to the 1960s and 30 second TV spot advertising was being developed.  Lyndon Johnson’s Daisy Cutter ad began playing on such fear: The Democrat contender Dukakis was destroyed by the Willie Horton ad in 1988.   First hand, I saw how these attack ads formed the frontline of a Senate campaign, when volunteering for Senator John Kerry in Massachusetts against the Republican Governor William Weld, in 1996.  Both Democrats and Republicans poured millions of dollars into these ads.

Posted in News | 13 Comments

Opinion: What might happen after May 7th

This article appeared earlier as a comment on our “Electoral fruit machine” post and is reproduced here with permission from the author.

(After May 7th) I believe the Lib Dems will have more than 20 seats and less than 40, with many polls and commentators going for somewhere around the 30 mark, at the moment. From all the qualitative data I’ve seen so far that seems a fair estimate in political science. Anything less than 20 would be a shock, as Lord Ashcroft’s polling indicates that this is not going to happen.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , and | 96 Comments

The Independent View: the Alternative Vote – what about the House of Lords?

The debate on whether to replace First Past the Post with AV for elections to the House of Commons certainly seems to be warming up. Both sides are seeking increasing media coverage, bloggers from both sides are debating on the internet, and public interest seems to be growing on the issue.

Yet there seems to me one thing missing – an appreciation of the role of the House of Lords, and how it might be reformed.

The reason for this is quite important – the House of Commons does not exist in a vacuum. The AS-level course I teach on …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 27 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 16th Aug - 6:39pm
    @frankie You said; “i(sic) don’t think you understand what ‘status quo’ means”. Of course I understand what ‘status quo’ means. That’s why I wrote ‘status...
  • User AvatarLittle Jackie Paper 16th Aug - 6:17pm
    Nigel Jones - 'He tried to put the issue more personally by asking her what she felt her action would do to the black immigrant...
  • User AvatarLittle Jackie Paper 16th Aug - 6:11pm
    David Allen - 'Do Lib Dems want to argue that poor-white UKIP voters have got it all round their necks, and that what they really...
  • User AvatarDavid Evershed 16th Aug - 6:10pm
    The responsibility for prisoners being re-settled must fall primarily on the prisoners themselves. Lib Dems should surely encourage self help rather than dependence. Outside intervention...
  • User Avatarfrankie 16th Aug - 6:04pm
    Martin, I fear at least one of the first two commentators fails to read the comments as well. 😉
  • User Avatarfrankie 16th Aug - 6:01pm
    John, You obviously didn't get past the first two sentences of my post did you, I think I answered your quote more than adequetely. You...