Tag Archives: alistair darling

Nicola Sturgeon challenges Nick Clegg to do the Ice Bucket Challenge

ice bucket challenge photo by University of Central ArkansasWe can’t look at our social media at the moment without coming across an avalanche of videos of our own friends or celebrities doing the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness of Motor Neurone Disease and raise money for its charities across the world.

I have to say that I have actually refused to do the challenge. I am too much of a free spirit, I suppose. I don’t think I have the right to tell someone which charity to donate to or publicise, nor do I like being so told myself. This doesn’t make me a wimp (although I do not deny that I am about most things), or lacking in a sense of humour or heartless. I just don’t like the peer pressure element of it and I think it’s ok to say that you’re not going to conform. I felt particularly strongly about this after seeing one person say in their video that if those nominated didn’t do it, they didn’t care  and were basically evil.

I also have a bit of a worry about so much water being wasted. In so much of the world it’s such a precious commodity. I wonder what people in parts of the world where it is so scarce think of the waste.

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Opinion: Better Together should agree to a third independence referendum debate

st Andrews flag saltire scotland Some rights reserved by Fulla TIt appears that despite lengthy discussions between Sky news and the Yes and No campaigns there will now be no third televised debate between the two campaigns.

According to the Sunday Times:

A spokesman for Better Together said: “We made it clear right from the start that all television debates would have to be done before the first postal votes start to go out.

There are only two weeks now before around 1m people who are registered for postal votes start to receive their voting forms.

It’s only right that the debates between the leaders of the Yes and No campaigns have all been seen by then. If Mr Salmond had not spent so much time trying to delay both the STV and BBC debates, other bids could have been accommodated.”

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Alistair Carmichael as many of you will never have seen him before

Do you know what, this independence referendum is actually starting to have some nice moments.  I would never have thought it. Sadly, few of them are to do with the actual substance of the campaign, but there’s always hope.

One of the best things about it for me is that for what I imagine will be the only time in our lifetimes, my Dad and I are on the same side in a political debate. I was absolutely thrilled when he took up volunteering for Better Together one day a week and he’s become a bit of an expert on the …

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An evening with Alistair Darling and Jim Naughtie

st Andrews flag saltire scotland Some rights reserved by Fulla TIt was with very little enthusiasm that, full of the Liberal Democrat Conference cold, I headed to Glasgow to spend 90 minutes watching Jim Naughtie in conversation with Alistair Darling as part of a series of lectures ahead of the Scottish Independence Referendum organised by the Herald in partnership with the International Network of Street Papers. 

What motivated me off my sofa was the chance to see Darling in a proper chat. I think we get the best of him that way.

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I’ve just been speaking to Alistair Darling…

Scotland’s Better Together campaign has for the first time allowed humble bloggers like me to talk to its Leader, former Chancellor Alistair Darling. He held a conference call with us to discuss his lecture at Glasgow University this morning in which he presented a case for staying in the union designed to appeal to both head and heart.

He told his audience of 300 that there were two sides to the pro-union argument. One was very factual, a hard headed calculation of the benefits of the economic union, the UK single market. The second was about he social and political union …

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Better Together, the pro UK campaign launches in Edinburgh

The campaign to keep Scotland within the UK launched on Monday in Edinburgh. Led by former Chancellor, Alistair Darling, it aims to “promote the view that Scotland is a better and stronger country as part of the United Kingdom”. The name of the campaign, Better Together, is positive and deliberately does not include the word “no”.

There were keynote speeches from Darling and a finale by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, but the stage was mainly given over to a selection of ordinary people who took to the stage to explain why they wanted Scotland to stay in the Union. Some of them are in this video, the Best of Both Worlds, also available here on You Tube.

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Opinion: Lib Dems Must oppose Labour’s ideological cuts in 2012

If I were a cleverer person than I am, I would try to create a joke with a punch line to fit the following set-up: What’s the difference between a cut in government spending and an ideological cut in government spending?

That I’m not clever enough to create a pithy punch line is of no consequence, as it is no laughing matter.

Labour have sometimes tried to trail the line that the coalition’s cuts are avoidable, that there are the product of ideology rather than necessity.

This line lacked some credence because even as they

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Pack & Tall Debate… What’s the Lib Dem economic narrative now?

In the week of the Chancellor’s autumn statement, LibDemVoice co-editors Mark Pack and Stephen Tall debate what it all means for the Lib Dems…

Stephen Tall: So we now all know the painful financial reality. With growth forecasts revised down by the Chancellor in his autumn statement, austerity is here to stay.

Both Lib Dems and Tories had hoped and expected that three years of painful cutbacks would be followed by a year or two of pre-election giveaways — the Lib Dems would press for a balanced mix of increased public spending …

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Opinion: Green light for Light Rail

Six years ago amid a huge amount of controversy, the then Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced the scraping of several “tram schemes” designed to serve Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Hampshire. In doing so he effectively scrapped plans outlined by the then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott for a network of 30 Light Rail schemes to serve our major conurbations. The reason – escalating costs.

Light Rail was deemed too expensive in this country compared to costs on the continent.

Despite a subsequent report from the Transport Select Committee on what could be done to reduce costs little was done by the Department …

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PMQs: Tim Farron asks “Question of the week” – Ed Balls signals four runs

In my ever-earnest toil to prepare this review, this week I have been reviewing web sites which explain cricket umpire signals. I also checked the umpire signals for netball, American football and baseball.

There is no doubt about it. Ed Balls was signalling a four at Prime Ministers’ Questions. His hand was a bit lower than normal, but it would pass to signal a boundary at Morley Cricket Club.

For a change, I’m going to stand this review on its head this week and concentrate on questions from backbenchers, starting with Liberal Democrats.

Question of the week came from Tim Farron:

The world population

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Vince Cable does gloom

The public’s attitude towards gloomy politicians is a curious one: only too happy to mock politicians who only talk up the positive but also frequently going off politicians who talk up the negatives. It happens across all parties, as we saw in the last Parliament where both Alistair Darling and George Osborne tried talking gloomily about the country’s economic difficulties and, far from being met by public support for their frankness, saw widespread criticism and slipping poll ratings. Journalists may love knocking politicians for not having been gloomier during the 2010 general election, but all the nearly all the signs …

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Alan Johnson – “an instinctive cutter”

Given how I’ve previously pointed out that Yes, ministers can disagree and the world doesn’t end, it would be wrong to shout “splits! splits!” at what is going on in the Labour Party over economic policy. The latest disagreements between leader Ed Miliband and Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson do however highlight just how much work Labour has to do to work out its economic policy.

As John Rentoul has pointed out:

Johnson made clear to Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson that he did not share his leader’s enthusiasm for making the 50p-in-the-pound top income-tax rate permanent: “I am only

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Opinion: a broken pledge, but we knew how bad it was back in March

Sorry Nick. Sorry Vince, I can’t find the figures that back you up

Both Nick and Vince have claimed that there was no option but to reverse their pledges on tuition fees. The public sector finances were in a far worse state than they expected and they had no option.

That would be a justification that would be just about sellable to people. A promise made in good faith which became unsustainable due to information not known about at the time could be legitimately broken.

The problem is, I can’t really find much that backs that claim up.

My starting point …

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How the media loves mixed messages (when they suit their own message)

‘Conservative spending cuts are worse than Thatcher’s, says Alan Johnson’ shouts today’s Observer, reporting the paper’s interview with Labour’s incoming shadow chancellor.

If the election had turned out differently — if Labour had won, rather than suffering one of the worst defeats in its history — the headline could have read a little different… Imagine this headline:

    Alistair Darling: we will cut deeper than Margaret Thatcher

But wait, we don’t have to imagine that headline: it already exists, and was used by the Observer’s stablemate The Guardian back in March when reporting the then Labour chancellor’s realistic appraisal of the …

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Alistair Darling wanted to raise VAT

Throws a bit of a spanner in the works of the Labour rhetoric about how awful anyone who contemplates raising VAT is:

Amid reported wrangling between No 10 and the Treasury, Lord Mandelson suggested in his memoir that Mr Brown rejected a proposal from the chancellor to raise VAT while Mr Darling quashed calls for any future VAT rises to be ruled out. (BBC)

Mandelson writes that Brown and Darling rowed over economic strategy. He “vetoed point-blank” a proposal from Darling to raise VAT up to 18% or 19%. The then chancellor then blocked a proposal from Brown to rule out

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The easy, progressive way to cut £44 billion without harming worthwhile public services or the least well off

It may sound a challenge, cutting £44 billion from public spending.

But actually, it’s easy.

Not only that, it can be done without hitting the least well off. Without cutting worthwhile public services. And if you’re so minded, you can even drape a “progressive” label over it all.

How to do it?

Simple.

You see, the last Labour Budget contained overall spending totals for the government that mean a cut in spending of £44 billion (using the calculations form the Office of Budget Responsibility). Now, because Labour didn’t publish any departmental spending total plans beyond the current financial year, we don’t know where those £44

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PMQs: Prime Minister’s tennis

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Daily View 2×2: 27 May 2010

Detail of the art deco crown of the Chrysler Building, New YorkGood morning, and welcome to Daily View on the day which sees New York’s Chrysler Building celebrate its 80th birthday. Completed in 1930, it was the tallest building in the world for all of 11 months, before being replaced by the Empire State Building. After 9/11, it is once again the second tallest building in New York.

Also celebrating birthdays today are the chef Jamie Oliver (who is currently applying for planning permission to build a restaurant in Nottingham I will probably never be able to afford to eat in); West Wing actor Richard Schiff and the Lib Dem MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale Tim Farron. Some have speculated he might be in the running to replace Vince Cable as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats; he tweeted last night that as Vince Cable’s PPS, he got to hear the “Stalin to Mr Bean” gag in rehearsal. Tim is 40 today.

2 Big Stories

Coalition government sets out radical welfare reforms

So says the Guardian headline, anyway, but the article is light on detail if heavy on mood music. A lot of people will be watching anxiously for the detail.

Duncan Smith says he is to propose to the Treasury a radical scheme that includes simplification of the complex benefits system designed to make it financially worthwhile for unemployed people to work, including in part-time jobs.

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Opinion: Debates – the first two questions count most

Amongst the plethora of writing on the 2008 US Election, I came across this observation:

“After every debate the media narrative was determined by the first two questions and answers.”

(J. Heilemann & M. Halperin, “Race of A Lifetime: How Obama Won the White House”, Penguin Viking).

I decided to see if that hypothesis holds true for the recent Chancellors’ Debate as a clue as to whether it will apply to our forthcoming Party Leaders’ Debates.

The first question, asked by a trainee solicitor, in the Chancellors’ Debate was,

“This is a job interview; what personal qualities do you have that make you better

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Tories cry “foul” at Lib Dems’ fair hearing

More complaints about the Liberal Democrats and media bias – but this time it’s the Conservatives worried that when Liberal Democrats get equal billing, people like what they see.

From the Times:

The Conservatives complained to the programme makers three times during Monday night’s television debate between the candidates for Chancellor, accusing them of skewing coverage in favour of Vince Cable.

At one point during the Channel 4 Ask the Chancellors programme senior Tories phoned the hotline to the production staff claiming that the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman was receiving too much applause.

Yesterday the Conservatives warned broadcasters not to give the Liberal Democrats an easy ride in the leaders’ TV debates.

Although many were happy with the performance of George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, senior Conservatives, including David Cameron, were irritated by the way Mr Cable was able to present himself as a referee between two opponents rather than facing pressure over his own policy positions.

We’ve covered before the familiar problem of media bias against the Liberal Democrats, and explained how you can help.

So what happens when a Liberal Democrat does get an equal chance?

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LDVideo: Vince Cable’s best bits from Ask The Chancellors

Welcome to this latest LDVideo instalment, highlighting video clips from last night’s Ask The Chancellors debate on Channel 4.

Vince not only speaks the most sense but provokes the best reaction from the audience, getting more rounds of applause and even warm laughter.

On bank bonuses:


available on YouTube here.

I warned of the recession:

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Ask the Chancellors: live blog

Here are the verdicts on how it went:

Overall verdict

Very well chaired by Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Cable frequently got applause. Darling held his ground well, but Osborne often weak and looking shifty. No-one got in a killer blow that will shift lots of people’s views, but debate will have confirmed praise for Cable and doubts about Osborne.

You can watch again Vince’s opening and closing statements.

Other people’s verdicts

  • The audience: I make it 6 rounds of applause for Cable, 3 for Darling and 1 for Osborne
  • The journalists: “Audience pretty much unanimous cable won, hacks too privately, but many sticking to party lines in

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Lib Dem fiscal policy in a nutshell

Ahead of this evening’s debate between Alistair Darling, George Osborne and Vince Cable, you might find this little summary of the party’s fiscal policies helpful:

  • The party’s proposed tax cuts (such as raising the basic rate income tax threshold to £10,000) will be paid for by tax rises elsewhere in the system (such as ending the higher rate tax relief on pension contributions)
  • The party’s spending savings (such as scrapping ID cards) will be spent two-thirds on cutting the deficit and one-third on other policies (such as the pupil premium)

As to exactly how much savings will be identified, that in part awaits …

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Low earner Liberal Democrats: what’s the impact of the budget?

Having covered earlier in the week the importance of ‘low earner Liberal Democrats’ to the party’s prospects, how are things looking after the Budget?

One thing Alistair Darling most certainly did not do was to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000, the Liberal Democrat policy that would take millions out of income tax completely and also cut the tax bill for those low income households on higher incomes. Instead, he went in the opposite direction by freezing (i.e. cutting in real terms) the income tax threshold.

(Given the Fabians criticised the Lib Dem plans for raising the basic income tax …

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Daily View 2×6: 25 March 2010

A pleasant surprise this morning to wake up and find that, despite the fact I am doing the Daily View, it is indeed Thursday and not Tuesday! In celebration of yesterday’s Budget, there’s riproaring inflation of the number of posts featured in today’s Daily View. Don’t tell Vince! Is it sustainable? I doubt it, so enjoy while you can..

Thirty years ago, the British Olympic Association (BOA) voted by a large majority to defy the government and send athletes to the Olympic Games in Moscow.  The Conservative government has pressed the BOA to boycott the event in a protest at the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the previous year. Sir Denis Follows, the chairman of the BOA, said that whilst he was sympathetic to the government’s stance, “We believe sport should be a bridge, and not a destroyer”. 

On this day in 1655 Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens discovered Titan, the largest natural satellite of the planet Saturn.  During their 1969 honeymoon, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their first Bed-In for Peace at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel.

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Public poll says Cable for Chancellor – how to bank this in real votes?

Vince Cable is the public’s preferred choice for Chancellor, according to a poll by PoliticsHome.

Of the general public polled, 31% chose Vince Cable above George Osborne, Alistair Darling, Ken Clarke, Peter Mandelson and Ed Balls.

The poll also found that 79% of Liberal Democrat voters supported Vince Cable for the job, while Osborne and Darling received much lower levels of support from their own parties’ voters. (Find the full results at PoliticsHome.)

As Iain pointed out yesterday, Vince’s recent recce to the Treasury does raise questions about how he could land the job.

Of course, national polls like this …

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Alistair Darling: how wild a conspiracy theory do you want, or is it just about the Budget?

So, how to explain what Alistair Darling has been up to with his comments about Number 10 unleashing the forces of hell on him?

Let’s go for the carefully plotted conspiracy theories first (warning: may contain irony).

Explanation number one: it’s all a clever plot to make sure the Conservatives win the general election and are then crippled for a generation by having to carry out huge spending cuts. After all, look at the damage winning in 1992 did to the Conservative Party in the long run. This is a consistent, long-term and well thought out plot of course because each time …

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What the papers say…

Tories claim Labour is using taxpayers’ money to fund election advertising campaign – Telegraph, 15.1.10

“The Conservatives accused Labour of “raiding” taxpayers’ money to fund their election campaign. New figures uncovered by the Conservatives show that spending on advertising has increased to £232 million, which is a 39 per cent increase on the previous year.”

A tenth of schools fail to meet GCSE targets – The Guardian, 14.1.10

“One in 10 secondary schools in England failed to meet basic targets for GCSEs last summer and academies were disproportionately represented among the failing institutions, government statistics published today reveal.

“David Laws, the Liberal Democrats’ education …

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What the papers say…

Brown sees off the plotters…just – The Daily Telegraph, 7.1.10

“Gordon Brown was forced to rely on lukewarm backing from senior Cabinet colleagues last night to see off an attempt to oust him as Prime Minister.

“By last night, the attempted coup, which had begun at lunchtime, appeared to have failed as no senior figures were prepared to back it. But while every senior minister issued a statement condemning the letter, few voiced strong support for Mr Brown.”

MPs could be in line for £15,000 pay rise – Daily Mail, 6.1.10

“MPs could receive a big pay rise to compensate …

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Welcome to tax and spend politics, 1992 style

Unpopular government seeks fourth general election victory in a row in midst of a recession. Sound familiar? Welcome to 1992.

Back then it was the Conservatives in power facing a Labour opposition and David Cameron was working for the Conservative Party, as head of the political section of the Conservative Research Department.

I suspect it’s memories of 1992 that help explain the vagueness of Conservative tax and spend plans this time round. In 1992 the Labour opposition had spelt out its spending commitments in advance in some detail and so, when Chancellor of the Exchequer Norman Lamont sprung a surprise in the …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 16th Dec - 1:45am
    Sorry, I mean of course 'a Liberal ' in his youth, he wasn't psychic too!
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 16th Dec - 1:41am
    Well, Peter, the absurdity was just not taken account of, it seems. Yet a shrewd friend of mine, a Lib Dem in his youth and...
  • User Avatarfrankie 15th Dec - 11:55pm
    But David I seem to remember you were a fan of Bevan's quote about rats. That was a man who through bitter experience knew what...
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 15th Dec - 10:52pm
    @ Martin Typo, not intended
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 15th Dec - 8:35pm
    I wish he was !!
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 15th Dec - 8:26pm
    The cinema site in Tunbridge Wells has been cleared and covered with broken bricks. A new cinema cannot legally be built precisely where the previous...