Tag Archives: evening standard

LibLink: Jo Swinson: The Lib Dems represent modern Britain and we’re aiming for the top

It’s been a busy first week as leader for Jo Swinson.

She’s questioned two Prime Ministers, been all over the media, headed to Brecon and Radnorshire to campaign with Jane Dodds ahead of the by-election next Thursday and has found time to write for the Evening Standard as well.

She contrasted the hype and the reality of our new Prime Minister:

Earlier this week, when Boris Johnson, London’s former Mayor, finally got the keys to No 10, he promised a Cabinet that represents modern Britain. But as all Londoners know, promises made by Johnson tend to be less impressive in reality than they are in rhetoric. In his reshuffle this week, he gave jobs to people who have supported the death penalty, who have bragged about not being a feminist, and who are completely opposed to abortion even in cases of rape. He has also sacked the only LGBT+ member of the Cabinet.

It shouldn’t surprise us that these are the people Johnson picked. Just look at him and what he has said. He has compared Muslim women to letterboxes and described elite women athletes as “glistening like wet otters”. He is determined, despite all the evidence on how damaging it will be to our economy, to pursue a no-deal Brexit. And yesterday, when I asked him to fulfil his reassurances that the three million EU citizens — our friends, family and neighbours — would retain their rights after Brexit, and to back a Lib Dem Bill to that effect, he was all talk and no trousers.

It’s enough to make anyone cry -but there is hope.

From Aberdeen to Cornwall, and everywhere in between, I’ve met so many people who believe that Britain should celebrate our differences, not just tolerate them; who believe that we should embrace the cultural diversity that has made Britain great, and who believe that we are at our strongest when we work with our European neighbours, not when we turn our back on them.

Those fundamentally liberal values — openness, inclusion, internationalism — are what truly represent the best of Britain, and it’s those values that I’m determined to fight for as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

And when she fights both Johnson and Corbyn, she is doing it as their equal.

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Nick Clegg cheered by students

Six years ago, Nick Clegg was not the most popular politician amongst students. Now, things have changed as many young people find that he speaks for them as the Government hurtles towards a hard Brexit which will blight their future and opportunities. The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour watched him speak to a crowd of students last night:

In his Standard column this week, Nick described another student debate, in his Sheffield constituency, where he had a few words to say to the Labour MP on the panel:

I was on a platform with other politicians taking questions from a student audience. A local Labour MP was having the normal go at me about tuition fees. Fair enough — though I noticed he omitted to mention Labour’s own role in introducing tuition fees, and then trebling them on its own watch.

No, the moment Labour’s malaise really struck me was when this MP started speaking about the vote last week in the Commons on Article 50. He displayed none of the intelligence or humility of Keir Starmer, the shadow secretary for exiting the EU, who disarmingly confessed to the gathered MPs how difficult the issue is for Labour. Instead, in Sheffield this MP started to deliver a sanctimonious lecture to the Ukip and Conservative panellists, berating them for placing immigration above the economy in the Brexit talks.

I couldn’t contain myself. Irascibly, I interrupted his pro-European sermon to remind him that he’d just got off a train from London having voted with Douglas Carswell, Michael Gove, John Redwood and other zealous Brexiteers. How could he claim he was representing the interests of the youngsters in the audience having given his support to Theresa May’s uncompromisingly hard Brexit, yanking the UK out of the single market altogether?

I don’t believe that it would have been a betrayal of democracy if MPs had voted against the Government last week. All that would have happened, once the splenetic outrage of the Brexit-supporting press had passed, is that the Government would have been forced to come back to MPs with a more moderate, workable approach to Brexit which would then have received their support. MPs would not have blocked Brexit but they would have blocked hard Brexit. So it is pretty rich for Labour MPs to deliver pious homilies to other parties about the dangers of hard Brexit.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg – Brexit is proving that the Tories are no longer the party of business

Writing in the Evening Standard, Nick Clegg argues that the Conservative party poses a serious threat to the long-term health of the British economy:

May’s party is now poised to inflict more damage on the British economy in one Parliament than John McDonnell could manage in a decade.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Brexit Lords have a cheek to complain about EU democracy

Nick Clegg turned to the subject of EU democracy in his Standard column this week.

He was quick to point out the irony of members of the House of Lords castigating the democracy of the EU:

With more than 800 members, the House of Lords is only second to China’s National People’s Congress in size and is about as undemocratic: unique in Europe, its members can revise and amend the laws of the land without anyone actually being elected. It is, in short, an affront to the basic democratic principle that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those who obey the laws of the land.

Yet this obvious inconsistency appears to have escaped Lord Lawson et al when they berate the EU as “profoundly undemocratic”. I find what they do every day in the House of Lords profoundly undemocratic too.

The rest of our democracy is riddled with faults too:

Similarly, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling and the other Brexit ministers appear to be entirely untroubled that they serve in a Government that garnered no more than 24 per cent of the eligible vote. Such an undemocratic outcome — wielding unchallenged power when three quarters of voters either voted for another party or didn’t vote at all — is, it seems, acceptable to these high priests of democratic virtue.

The truth is that our own democracy is in need of a complete overhaul. Westminster is hopelessly stuck in the past: MPs are not allowed to shake each other’s hands on the parliamentary estate; we can’t call each other by our names and must instead use arcane titles such as “my right honourable friend” or “the gallant and learned gentleman”. We are not allowed to clap in the Commons so we register our approval by manically guffawing and waving papers instead.

The EU has its flaws, but it’s not lack of democracy that causes the problem:

What I would never advocate, however, is that Westminster and Whitehall should be razed to the ground or that we should quit our democratic institutions altogether. Yet that is precisely what Brexiteers are inviting us to do: respond to the flaws in the EU, which are numerous, by turning our backs on it altogether.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Hypocritical Brexiteers are as much an elite as those they rage against

I reckon that Nick Clegg’s columns will be more often than not about the EU for the next few months.

This week, he’s looking into the records of those “men of the people” Brexiteers such as Boris, Farage, Zac Goldsmith and Nigel Lawson:

Well, there’s Lord Lawson, the 83-year-old former chairman of Vote Leave who was Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher. He now lives for much of the year in the South of France, nurturing his climate-change scepticism and loathing of the EU from the sunny climes of the Gascon countryside.

Then there’s Nigel Farage, always ready to claim the everyman mantle over a pint of ale in a traditional English pub. Nigel had a long career as a City trader before he became an MEP 17 years ago, and has failed now on seven occasions to become an MP — hardly evidence of someone seeking to shun the Westminster establishment.

How about Arron Banks, the millionaire Conservative donor who defected to Ukip and co-founded the Leave.EU campaign? The insurance magnate was named in the Panama Papers this week as the shareholder of a company based in the British Virgin Islands.

There’s Zac Goldsmith, the Eurosceptic Tory mayoral candidate, who parades himself as a scourge of the Westminster establishment. He is the son of a billionaire whose whole mayoral campaign appears to be based on the claim that his closeness to the powerful in Westminster will help Londoners.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: We’ve made progress on mental health but there’s still work to do

Nick Clegg has written about mental health in today’s Evening Standard column.

One story illustrates different attitudes to physical and mental health:

A few years ago, I met a man called Robert at a mental health trust in Liverpool. He was in his sixties, well-dressed and with a neatly trimmed moustache that gave him something of the air of a Fifties provincial bank manager — not the image you normally associate with severe mental illness. He told me that a few years earlier he had been in hospital with a heart condition and, while he was there, he had been visited regularly by friends and family, sometimes three or four times a day. This outpouring of love was a great tonic for him as he recovered. But he was hospitalised on another occasion — this time for a mental health condition. During the five months he languished in hospital he was visited just three times. The contrast speaks volumes.

He talks about the work that the Liberal Democrats did government, and goes on to outline 3 new priorities for action:

The first is the way it is funded. Part of the reason that there have been cuts in mental health services despite the renewed focus from government is down to an important, if technical, discrepancy in the way they are paid for. A hospital, for example, is paid by activity: each procedure has a price attached to it and the more it performs the more money it gets. Mental health trusts, on the other hand, usually get a block grant. So when demand goes up, the money stays the same.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: My birthday wish is that we win the argument for staying in the EU

Nick Clegg’s first Standard column of the New Year is published on his birthday. Twitter was not exactly heaving with birthday wishes as midnight passed, but there were some:

Anyway, when he blows out the 49 candles on his birthday cake today, he’ll be wishing that we stay in the EU. I thought they weren’t supposed to come true if you told them, but there is some relevance to the paragraph he spends going on about the misery of a January birthday. What was happening around the time he was born?

On this day 49 years ago, British diplomats were preparing for negotiations with the six founder members of the European Economic Community — Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg — over our application to join. It was our second attempt to get into the European club, having tried four years earlier only to be rebuffed with a haughty “Non!” from Charles de Gaulle.

The debate about whether we should be in or out was remarkably similar to the one we are having today. People on the pro side of the argument believed it was in our economic and strategic interest to join; the antis warned it would lead to the surrender of too much British sovereignty. Plus ça change.

Posted in Europe / International and LibLink | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

LibLink: Nick Clegg: My family are up in arms over ham but I’m raging over sugar

Nick Clegg’s been on a bit of a journey on his views about sugar consumption. In an article for the Evening Standard last week, he outlined the dangers of consuming too much hidden sugar and said that he now favoured strong action to reduce our sugar consumption:

Now, finally, we are beginning to have a proper debate about what we can and should do about it. A recent report by Public Health England proposed a number of measures, as has the ever- compelling Jamie Oliver.

Reducing two-for-one deals, clamping down on advertising targeted at children, reining in the marketing of high-sugar food and drinks, reducing sugar content and portion sizes, and introducing a tax on sugary drinks and food have all been called for.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: The Tory assault on housing associations is another betrayal

Nick Clegg has a new regular Evening Standard column and in the latest edition, he talks about housing.

After a look at the history and importance of housing associations, Nick writes about how he and Danny Alexander secured assurances that housing associations would receive support to continue building more houses for rent. These assurances have now been trashed now the Tories have a majority:

Five years ago I dissuaded the Conservatives in Coalition from fiddling with social rents to cut the housing benefit bill because it would have had a disastrous effect on the ability of housing associations to raise the money

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Farron talks housing, Clegg, airports and Corbyn in first pre-conference interview

“The Tories need to be opposed in ways that are credible” says the headline to Tim Farron’s first pre-conference interview in yesterday’s Evening Standard. Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, argues Tim, leaves a big space in British politics for a responsible opposition party to hold the government to account:

Tomorrow morning he will start the #LibDemfightback, as they are hashtagging it, when he rallies the Lib- Dem faithful in Bournemouth at his first party conference as leader.

There will be “no glib slogans”, he says, but a return to grassroots campaigning. And a lot of mentions of the unlikely saviour that Farron thinks will most help the Liberal Democrats in their hour of need — Jeremy Corbyn.

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Jo Swinson on shared parental leave: “It means mums might go back to work earlier and dads might get to spend more time with their children”

swinson and hamesThere was an in-depth interview with Jo Swinson, Lib Dem business minister, in Tuesday’s London Evening Standard – her first interview since returning from maternity leave, having given birth. You can read the full feature here, but snippets below…

Jo Swinson on her (and Duncan Hames’) baby being the first carried through the voting lobby of the Commons:

“Given that we’re still voting until 10pm on a Monday, that makes our lives slightly easier. It saves you having to leave the baby with a stranger.” Is Swinson pleased it was a male MP who was the first to do this? “Yes. Having a baby has an impact on dads too — and people don’t always recognise that.”

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LibLink: Nick Clegg – I’m the daddy

The London Evening Standard carries a feature interview with Nick Clegg, focusing on his and Miriam’s home life and its influence on his political views — here’s some excerpts:

His startling lack of machismo is mirrored in his policies: he wants more time for dads at home, more time for women to chase high-flying careers. From 2015, parents can share up to one year of “parental leave” after the birth of a child. They can take time off together, take it in turns, or

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Newspaper headlines, the Evening Standard way

Story:

Lord Judge said … “The problem therefore is not the internet”

Headline:

Judge: Internet threatens justice

(From Thursday’s Evening Standard, page 7)

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LibLink: Nick Clegg… AV got the Mayor elected – now he’s voting against it

Nick Clegg wrote an article for the Evening Standard yesterday aimed at London voters, who’ll only be voting in the AV referendum on May 5th as London does not have council elections* this year.

As well as outlining the reasons for voting Yes to Fairer Votes, “I believe most Londoners want a new way of electing MPs that cleans up politics, makes MPs work harder and makes every vote count,” Nick busts the myths about AV: “vote-counting machines that don’t exist and won’t be needed. Claims that the alternative vote is too complex for the British people to understand, as …

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LibLink: Nick Clegg – My vision for a new political map and voting system

Acting Prime Minister… are we allowed to call him that? No, okay then: Holding the Fort Prime Minister Nick Clegg has an article in today’s London Evening Standard setting out how he thinks the way in which people vote can be improved by the next general election, in 2015.

He looks at three issues. First, Nick notes the current unfairness that unequal constituency sizes mean that the votes of 87,000 voters in the East Ham constituency are worth less than the 66,000 voters living 10 miles away in Islington North: “So, if you live in Islington, your voice counts for more.” …

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Conservative MP Jacqui Lait loses libel hearing over expenses

The Evening Standard reports:

The Evening Standard has won a significant victory in a High Court libel battle brought by a Conservative MP.

Jacqui Lait, MP for Beckenham, had sued over an article headlined “Women MPs will be put off by Kelly reforms”.

Mr Justice Eady today struck out elements of her claim and ordered her to pay £10,400 legal costs.

The November 2009 article correctly pointed out Ms Lait had claimed “large sums” to travel to her family home in Sussex even though her constituency home is only 11 miles from Westminster…

The judge said it was “unreal to suggest that readers of

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Well done, Evening Standard

A quick update to my post which pointed out how the media had comprehensively misreported findings about how many people are registered to vote, painting an unduly pessimistic picture. The Evening Standard at least has now corrected its report.

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Electoral registration: is the problem with young people or with journalism?

Earlier this week the Electoral Commission published a new report, The completeness and accuracy of electoral registers in Great Britain, looking at how electoral registration is working in the UK.

Although it’s been widely covered, the coverage has been very similar – taking the top line figures from the report and covering press release without digging in to what the report really says. So if we venture in to the inner reaches of the report, what do we find?

The report is a very welcome piece of path-breaking research, based on in-depth local studies. Given the importance of registration, and the number of policy and organisational options available to politicians and council officials, gathering this sort of information is extremely useful.

An interim report was published in December (which we covered here) and this final report updates that with more evidence collected.

The use of in-depth local studies is a good move, but it immediately raises a caution about the quoting of figures as if they apply to the country as a whole. The report itself says, “the findings cannot be used to report on national rates of completeness and accuracy.”

However, the report went on to say, “Under-registration and inaccuracy are closely associated with the social groups most likely to move home. Across the seven case study areas in phase two (therefore excluding Knowsley), under-registration is notably higher than average among 17–24 year olds (56% not registered), private sector tenants (49%) and black and minority ethnic (BME) British residents (31%).”

As a result, the 56% has been widely quoted in the media as if it were a national figure, despite the report explicitly saying it isn’t. Take the BBC (“the Electoral Commission has released results that suggests 56% of 17 to 24-year-olds may not be registered to vote”) or the Evening Standard (“The Electoral Commission says that just 56 per cent of young people are registered to vote”). You wouldn’t guess from either of those that “the findings cannot be used to report on national rates”.

What’s more, despite the implicit negative tone of the media’s coverage, the report actually suggests there is good news on electoral registration overall with a long-term decline halted:

Evidence available from electoral statistics and surveys of levels of response to the annual canvass of electors suggests that there was a decline in registration levels from the late 1990s to 2006. The same evidence base suggests that the registers have stabilised since 2006 although it is likely that the completeness of the registers has declined since the last national estimate in 2000.

In addition, the return rate for electoral registration forms across the country, which dropped sharply in 1996-2003 and then declined a little further in 2004 has quickened its recovery: 2007 was up on 2004 and 2008 was up on 2007 by a larger margin. Though the figures are still below the 1996 ones, the trend is heading in the right direction and the figures are higher than in 2005.

Moreover, the figures in the report are based on data taken at one of the worst points in the year for electoral register accuracy.

There is a full update to the electoral register each year, with a new register published on 1 December. It then steadily deteriorates in accuracy through the next year. The register can get updated through the monthly rolling register updates, but people usually leave it until the full register is redone to update their records. If a general election is called, they can however then update their records and still get a vote at their new address.

Therefore, it is normal to see registration levels drop through the year and it isn’t necessarily a cause of worry. By doing their studies on very old registers (eight to ten months old in all the cases used to get the 56% figure and other similar ones), the Commission (and to be fair, they know this and the report makes it clear – if you get to page 16) produced figures which are much lower than if the evidence had been gathered on a new register. Depressing the figures further, the research was done when there was no election in the offing and so people did not have any particular incentive to use rolling registration to update their records.

In other words, the registration figures found are much lower than we’d expect either on a new register or for a general election.

What’s more, the reason for low levels of registration amongst young people in the local studies may have little to do with levels of interest in politics but more to do with mobility:

92% of people who have lived at their current address for five years or more are registered, compared to just 21% among those who have been at their present address for a year or less.

So is it registration or journalism we should be worried about?

One other thing this report tells us is something about the how journalism is works – or doesn’t work. It’s easy to sympathise with hard-pressed journalist taking story and data from reputable source and turning it into story without much questioning. But the data isn’t nearly as uncontroversial as the uniformity of media stories would suggest.

Are the figures for youth registration bad because they’re low, okay because of the time of year they were taken or good because a long-term decline has been halted? You can argue any of the three – and were these figures a matter of political controversy, we’d have had talking heads and quotes arguing the case on each side.

But because there isn’t a National Association for Electoral Registration and Turnout Optimists and there is no argument between the political parties on the statistics, the figures don’t get an external sceptical eye cast over them. Add to this the Electoral Commission’s need to emphasise the importance of people getting registered, which provides an incentive to stress the pessimistic in its figures, and we get just the bad news reported. The good news doesn’t get a look in.

The full report is below and if you need any help to register yourself, visit www.aboutmyvote.co.uk or call the Electoral Commission helpline on 0800 3280 280.

(UPDATE: The Evening Standard, one of the media outlets to get the figures wrong, has now corrected its report.)

Electoral Commission Report on Electoral Registration

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Girls in crisis? Hold on a minute.

…it is becoming increasingly clear that teenage girls are a stand-alone demographic in crisis

So says a report in Sunday’s Observer, looking at the pressures faced by teenage girls and the effects it has on their lives, and it’s far from alone.

As Mark Pack reported here on Sunday, the Evening Standard and Telegraph both reported on concerns of girls becoming sexualised at ever younger ages.

Just hold on a moment, though.

Yes, teenage girls have problems. And it may well be that there are specific measures the State can take to reduce those problems, such as the regulation …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments

This is why the Editors’ Code of Practice needs reforming

It’s a small, but telling example.

The Evening Standard ran a piece from Simon Jenkins, which included a bit of myth-recycling about what the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health had said about people clearing snow from outside their property.

There were two problems.

First, either Simon Jenkins or a sub-ed dropped the word “probably” making the quote sound far more definitive that in the original version reported in other newspapers. (I suspect it was no innocent error because there was also a similar distortion of what Lord Davies said in Parliament.)

Second, the quote was – even in the full version – wrong. …

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PR in an online world: Boris Johnson’s team at work

There was an interesting little example last week of how the Conservatives are trying to use blogs to set the tone of news reporting, courtesy of Boris Johnson and a report into his behaviour.

The report, into Boris Johnson’s behaviour over the Damian Green affair, makes major criticisms of his behaviour but falls short of saying that he broke any rules. So the battle for good publicity came down to whether the report would be seen as ‘Boris cleared because he didn’t breach the rules’ or ‘Boris criticised for bad judgement and poor choices’. The Conservatives tried to make use of bloggers to pitch for the first, but in the end failed because the mainstream media coverage was far more balanced.

As Tory Troll points out, Boris Johnson got his retaliation in first with a statement welcoming the outcome of the inquiry, emphasising the part about him being cleared of any breach of the rules and glossing over the criticisms of his behaviour in the report, such as the conclusions that his acts:

  • Were “extraordinary and unwise” (paragraph 8.20)
  • Might “inhibit full and free discussion” of high profile cases “between the chief officer of police and a police authority chairman” (6.33)
  • “Placed him at risk of being called as a witness by either the CPS or defence in any criminal prosecution of Mr Green, to the potential detriment of his office as Chairman of the MPA” (8.21)
  • Risked being “perceived as furthering private interests” (8.21)

The Boris Johnson version of events was echoed across a range of friendly-blogs, all of whom ran similar stories: Iain Dale (“Boris is in the clear“), ConservativeHome (“Boris Johnson cleared of wrongdoing over Greengate“) and Conservative GLA member James Cleverly (“Boris in the clear“).

Iain’s piece quotes paragraph 11.1 of the report, but has no reference to the critical parts (his reasoning being, “I quoted that because it was the main conclusion of the report. Surely in these matters, that’s what counts. I don’t deny there were critical comments, and Boris addressed those in his own response”), Jonathan Isaby on ConservativeHome has a smiling picture of Boris Johnson giving a thumbs up, but no mention of the other aspects of the report, and James Cleverly’s piece is similarly glowing.

However, the efforts of Boris Johnson’s team seem to have been largely in vain, because the mainstream media coverage was far better, and in another warning to Boris Johnson about how he may find the Evening Standard a far more hostile paper now that its owner and editor have changed, the Evening Standard headlined its report:

Boris rebuked for his ‘unwise’ contact with Green during inquiry

Similarly, the BBC reported:

Boris Johnson’s role in the Damian Green affair was “extraordinary and unwise” but did not amount to an abuse of office, a new report has found.

Background

This extract summarises the nuances of the report’s findings:

Posted in London and Online politics | Also tagged , , , , , and | 2 Comments

Boris Johnson and the Evening Standard: it’s amazing what a change of editor can do

I’ve been doing a bit of number crunching. In the three weeks before the departure of editor Veronica Wadley from the Evening Standard the paper’s stories about Boris Johnson broke down as 61% positive, 27% neutral and 12% negative.

And in the three weeks after her departure? They were 43% positive (down 18%), 22% neutral (down 5%) and 35% negative (up 23%).

Isn’t it amazing what a change of editor can do?

P.S. Dave Hill reports that further staff changes are being made at the Standard.

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Clegg leadership donor is new key player at London Evening Standard

With a big tip of the hat to the Guido Fawkes’ blog, there is an intriguing Lib Dem connection to the new owner of the Evening Standard, ex-KGB officer Alexander Lebedev: that Justin Byam Shaw, a Lib Dem member who donated money to Nick Clegg’s leadership campaign, is to become its deputy chairman.

A later update confirms the story:

Nick Clegg’s office have been in touch to say Justin Byam Shaw gave £3,000 to Clegg’s leadership campaign and it is on the Electoral Register.

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    Sorry for typos, it is one forty am!
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