Tag Archives: isabel hardman

William Wallace writes: How rotten is our democracy?

This is the question Isabel Hardman poses at the beginning of her review of Chris Bryant’s new book, Code of Conduct: why we need to fix Parliament – and how to do itHardman’s own book, Why we get the Wrong Politicians (first published in 2018 and updated for a paperback edition in 2022) had already covered much of the same ground – on the ‘toxic culture’ of Westminster politics, the power of the whips over individual MPs, the neglect of parliamentary scrutiny of government legislation and decisions in favour of efforts to become ministers, and above all the strains on personal relations and family life.

Bryant – chair of the Commons Committees on Standards and Privileges until this month – writes in an easy, personal style, but his underlying anger at the corruption and the toxic culture of Westminster politics is evident.  He starts with the Commons’ handling of Owen Paterson’s censure for ‘paid advocacy’ for companies which were paying him more than £100,000 a year. 250 MPs voted to reject the Standards Committee recommendations, with support from Johnson as prime minister and Rees-Mogg as leader of the House.  ‘I felt that Parliament itself was on trial’ in that vote.

In the context of historical comparisons with past parliamentary scandals, he concludes that

This is indeed the worst Parliament in our history.  More than twenty MPs have been suspended or have left under a cloud.  Rules have been flouted… Ministers have lied and refused to correct the record…’  There is ‘a widespread sense that politicians believe the rules don’t apply to them.

He sees ‘something rotten’ in the structure of the Westminster system, with far more ministers than in comparable democracies, dependent on prime ministerial patronage.  Unchecked prime ministerial power allows corruption to spread through PPI contracts, through the allocation of levelling-up funds and through the appointment of friends to paid public offices.  He details the lies Boris Johnson as PM made to Parliament, the bullying habits of government whips, the conflicts of interest that arise through moves from ministerial office to private directorships and consultancies.  He reports the massive outside earnings that former ministers and PMs make – noting that in the first three months of 2023 Johnson registered £3,287,293 in outside earnings.

His remedies come close to Liberal Democrat policy.  ‘We need to look at the underlying structural problem in our British way of doing politics…the “Winner Takes All” system is at the core of our problems.’  Our voting system, combined with the government’s control of parliamentary business, leaves limits on executive authority dependent on the self-constraint of ministers – and that has broken down in the past seven years. ‘Parliament needs to rediscover its backbone and reassert its freedom.  Good government and better decisions depend on the proper exercise of power.’

Posted in Books and Op-eds | Also tagged | 10 Comments

Out on the campaign trail with Jo Swinson

The Spectator’s Isabel Hardman went up to East Dunbartonshire to go campaigning with Jo Swinson recently. Her piece is pretty balanced and fair and gives quite an insight into Jo on the campaign trail

Now, I know what a whirlwind Jo is and how much work she gets through and how many doors she knocks on. I went across to help many times during the 2005 campaign. She was so disciplined and even if she met her own high targets, she wasn’t happy unless she’d done even more.

Her campaigning experience comes across in Hardman’s profile as does her name recognition:

Swinson is also a proper local campaigner. Everyone we meet seems to have had a problem that she’s sorted out. ‘You fixed my drains!’ is something several householders exclaim as they open the door (they mean she got the council to do it, I assume, though Swinson does tell one man she used to be a girl guide, which makes me wonder if she has actually personally fixed some drains too). Even the voters who aren’t backing her say ‘I’ve got to say, you do a lot for this area. Well done.’

She also behaves like someone used to pounding pavements. When we’re knocking on doors in a sheltered housing complex, she makes sure that the fire doors don’t swing noisily shut after her, instead shutting them gently herself. This is the sort of thing people who don’t bother to knock on doors very often don’t do, because they don’t realise how much striding noisily through someone else’s property annoys them.

Hardman reckons Labour MPs are so non-plussed because they’ve never had to campaign, but it’s clearly Jo’s forte.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

Lib Dems need to take every opportunity to get our message out there

Megaphone, some rights reserved by garrykinghtI’ve made no secret of my view that a change in leadership is likely to do little to revive Liberal Democrat fortunes at the polls given the rather more structural reasons for the decline in support for the party.

But I also recognise that to continue doing and saying the same things over and over again and expecting a different result is not only the definition of insanity but is unlikely to lead to an electoral revival:

We should not simply keep calm and carry on, but nor should we lose our heads either. The long-term success of the party is best served by

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 94 Comments

76% of Lib Dem members oppose Government plans to render foreign-born terror suspects ‘stateless’

Lib Dem stickersLib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. More than 830 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Three-quarters oppose Theresa May’s plans to render foreign-born terror suspects ‘stateless’

The Government has proposed in its Immigration Bill that the Home Secretary should have the power to revoke the British nationality of those whose presence in the UK are deemed ‘not conducive to the public

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged , , and | 8 Comments

Can Nick Clegg hold the line on not offering any red lines?

For years Lib Dem leaders have been plagued by the question, ‘Who will you support in the event of a hung parliament?’ In 2010, Nick Clegg straight-batted it pretty effectively, saying the Lib Dems would talk first to the party with the most seats and most votes. In 2015 he’ll stick to that trusty formula, with the added credibility of being able to say it’s exactly what he did last time – the voters remain the king-makers etc.

So unsurprisingly journalists have moved on. Their new favourite question, one we’ll hear more and more the close we get to May 2015, …

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 27 Comments

Liberal Conspiracy is dead – and so too’s the amateur blogger (more or less)

Sunny Hundal announced on Friday that left-of-centre blog Liberal Conspiracy is coming to an end:

I no longer have the time to maintain Liberal Conspiracy as a daily-updated news and opinion blog, so as of today I’m going to stop. This site will become an occasionally updated personal blog, with the odd guest-post.

It’s fair to say LibCon received an underwhelmed response from Lib Dems when it was launched six years ago, mostly on account of it including the word Liberal in its title but not so much in its outlook. Sunny himself was sport enough to respond to

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , and | 4 Comments

A personal guide to the 13 most essential political podcasts

podcastsCommuting is a major part of my daily life, so I find podcasts are an essential way to make use of time I’d otherwise spend staring vacantly out the window or idly refreshing and re-refreshing Twitter. Here, in order of where they appear in my iTunes directory, are the podcasts I listen to most frequently…

The Economist’s podcasts – a good mix of audio recordings of selected articles from the print edition together with brief discussions involving the Economist’s expert correspondents. Slightly irritatingly the sound can vary between recordings, so you …

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and | 8 Comments

Eastleigh by-election: your essential round-up of the latest campaign news (13 Feb)

Here’s a round-up of news from the past 24 hours in the Eastleigh by-election…

Mike Thornton’s campaign in full swing

mike thornton david chidgeyThe Lib Dems’ Mike Thornton — pictured here (by Jon Aylwin) with 1994 by-election victor David Chidgey — has been focusing on how the pupil premium, the party’s flagship education policy, has been helping Eastleigh schools:

Lib Dems boost Pupil Premium (Southern Daily Echo)
The policy introduced by the Liberal Democrats has invested £1.7m in Eastleigh schools, and is aimed at ensuring every child has a fair start in life.

Just one of the reasons why volunteer help has been pouring in to help Mike retain the seats for the Lib Dems:

Posted in News and Parliamentary by-elections | Also tagged , , , , , , , , and | 12 Comments

Clarke’s concessions on secret courts will not satisfy Liberal Democrat campaigners

Ken ClarkeIsabel Hardman has written a piece on the Spectator’s Coffee House blog which essentially says that Liberal Democrat MPs and campaigners are on a bit of a collision course over Part II of the Justice and Security Bill. Liberal Democrat conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of this measure being withdrawn because of its provisions on secret courts.

The article suggests that Liberal Democrat MPs are likely to support the measures now that Ken Clarke has accepted an

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 1 Comment

Your essential weekend reader — 12 must-read articles you may have missed

It’s Saturday morning, so here are twelve thought-provoking articles to stimulate your thinking juices…

Where now for the immigration debate? – Sarah Mulley in the New Statesman with an excellent analysis: ‘the public don’t (on the whole) feel that immigration is a problem in their own local communities, although a large majority do feel that it is a problem for the country as a whole.’

The Empire Strikes Back: Ofqual, and the omnishambles of assessment – Tom Bennett on the latest GCSE controversy: ‘let’s be …

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , , , , and | 3 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • Simon R
    Since I wrote the above comment, the LibDem manifesto for London has been published (https://www.londonlibdems.org.uk/robblackie/our-manifesto) so to be fair I...
  • Phil Wainewright
    Instead of restricting individual freedom, surely we should simply tax at 100% all profits made from nicotine addiction?...
  • James Moore
    @David Raw Temperance was about individuals voluntarily agreeing to give up alcohol, not the central state banning people from drinking it. At the end of ...
  • Peter Davies
    Either that is a completely unreasonable administrative fee with no relation to the cost of finding and emailing the data or the administration of our court sys...
  • Alex A
    Free transcripts of entire trials for all victims for any reason at all is not a reasonable or practical demand. It may sound cold, but the courts exist to admi...