Tag Archives: nich starling

The Phil Woolas judgement: Arthur Balfour was right

The election offence for which Phil Woolas’s election was overturned is, deliberately and rightly, drawn narrowly and precisely (a point Nich Starling made very robustly on his blog and which Iain has also made on Lib Dem Voice).

The law gives very broad scope to contentious and aggressive claims, partly because – as Arthur Balfour succinctly put it when pushed to expand the law in 1905, “It is evidently not easy to go further, if only because of the difficulty of distinguishing between the mis-statements which are due to malice and those which are due to mere stupidity.”

The offence was introduced in 1895 with, until then, the only offence under election law regarding false statements about candidates being if you falsely claimed that someone had pulled out as a candidate.

It is worth considering what, however, would be the position if even this narrow legal offence did not exist. Imagine case, say, of a candidate campaigning to oust a Labour MP and making false claims about the Labour MP being a supporter of terrorism. The Labour MP loses, sues for libel and wins. During the court case it is revealed that the victorious candidate always knew the claims being made about the now ex-MP were false but even so deliberately decided to include them in leaflets distributed during the election.

Without the sort of offence for which Phil Woolas was found guilty the victorious candidate might have to pay up in libel damages but could continue as an MP. (Eagle-eyed readers will have noted by this point that there are some important difference between the Representation of the People Act 1983 and libel law, but they don’t affect this example.) They would be able to continue speaking and voting in Parliament, drawing a Parliamentary salary, accruing a Parliamentary pension and so on for the next few years. Would that be a satisfactory outcome?

Your answer to that determines whether or not the principle of provisions like those in the Representation of the People Act 1983 is right. I think it is – we should give very broad scope to the public getting to determine who wins and loses in elections, but that is not the same as saying that anything goes.

Those who argue otherwise are wrong and, in fairness to Labour, it should be pointed out that the vast majority of the online coverage from Labour bloggers has been to condemn what Phil Woolas did. I also had the experience of listening to Harriet Harman on the radio at the weekend and agreeing with her. She is right that what we know Phil Woolas did has no place in politics even if he manages a successful legal appeal. What puzzles me, however, is that very little new came out during the case. There have been some interesting details – such as the forged diary, the evidence of the Labour Party agent being called “not reliable” by the judges and the complaint about a cat. At heart, however, what we now know Phil Woolas did is what we always knew he did, which makes Ed Miliband’s decision to appoint him not merely a Shadow Minister but one for immigration, all the odder. Hopefully, however, that will soon become no more than a curious political footnote.

As for political campaigning more generally, I don’t think the ruling will have a major impact – nor should it, because the law should only be for exceptional cases. Leafing through the advice I’ve co-authored for candidates on what you should or should not say in political literature (which was quoted in the court case and described by Phil Woolas as “naive”!), there does not look to be anything that needs changing based on this case. In that, there’s nothing new – for when the original provision was brought in by the 1895 act, the Liberal Party’s then election manual, Woodings, was updated to mention this new offence. It rightly noted it but did not make a song and dance about it for it was rightly considered then, as has been the case, to be a provision that only covers unusual and extreme cases. As the Judge put it in the 1911 case which hinged on this offence:

The primary protection of this statute was the protection of the constituency against acts which would be fatal to freedom of election. There would be no true freedom of election, no real expression of the opinion of the constituency, if votes were given in consequence of the dissemination of a false statement as to the personal character of conduct of a candidate.

The law has been in place for 115 years. That Phil Woolas is one of only a very small number to fall foul of it shows not that the law is too broad but that his behaviour was so awful.

Credit, by the way, to the judges for their understanding of how easy it is to find coverage of election candidates online – para 123 of the ruling shows a familiarity with the internet that counters some of the stereotypes about an out of touch judiciary.

Phil Woolas election – full legal judgement

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Daily View 2×2: 17 May 2010 (with bonus ‘Prophet Steel’ video)

Happy Monday morning, everyone, and welcome to the first full week of Lib Dem / Conservative coalition government. Let’s get down to the news …

One Big Story

Lib Dem members give overwhelming thumbs-up to coalition government agreement

The Daily Telegraph has a fair-minded report proving that extraordinary things really can happen in the new politics (and in stark contrast to the snarkiness of the Grauniad):

… members voted “over-whelmingly” in support of the deal with no more than a dozen of the 2,000 delegates opposing the deal in a show of hands at the gathering in Birmingham. Speaking after the vote, Mr Clegg said: “It is a big step. There are lots of unknowns, there will be bumps and scrapes along the way”. He said the party’s special conference had taken a “very, very important decision” to approve the coalition “which is utterly new in modern British political history”. .. It is understood the while 100 members had quit the party since the deal was signed – a further 400 had joined.

The conference even earned plaudits from an unlikely source: ConservativeHome.com offered three cheers for the Lib Dems’ commitment to party democracy:

I take my hat off to the Liberal Democrats for the attempt to involve party members – the people who work so hard without expectation of office – in the decision to form a Coalition with the Conservatives. On a number of occasions Clegg met his MPs and party officers in a bid to hear their views and explain what he was doing. Today’s ratification of the deal will help bind the party into the fascinating Cameron-Clegg experiment. What a contrast with the Conservative Party where there has been next to no consultation of the party membership. Coming on top of Team Cameron’s various attempts to dilute Tory members’ role in membership selection it is all very disappointing.

Here’s how the BBC reported the day:

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Lib Dem gain in Taverham North, Broadland DC

Nich Starling and Taverham North winning team
Congratulations to Councillor Nich Starling (aka Norfolk Blogger) who gained a seat yesterday from the Tories on Broadland District Council.

The result, courtesy of ALDC:

Posted in Council by-elections | Also tagged , and | 5 Comments

Daily View 2×2: 8 February 2010

Happy Monday morning, everyone. Let’s plunge straight in …

2 Must-Read Blog Posts

What are other Liberal Democrat bloggers saying? Here’s are two posts that have caught the eye from the Liberal Democrat Blogs aggregator:

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , , , , and | 17 Comments

Is this the laziest piece of political journalism ever?

Well, no, it’s probably not. But it must at least qualify for the laziest piece of journalism this decade. I refer to today’s Independent article, ‘Clegg faces party backlash over Tory alliance’, by Nigel Morris and Michael Savage. Oh, go on, then, here’s a link if you must; though I begrudge handing them the traffic. The opening para gives a flavour of the kite-flying, unsourced speculation:

Nick Clegg faces a backlash from grassroots Liberal Democrats if he moves his party too close to the Conservatives in a hung parliament.

Well, yes, he probably would. Which is why he won’t. Unless the …

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Daily View: 14 December 2009

Mornin’ all, welcome to Monday, and to the beginning of the last full working week before Christmas. What other things happened on this day in history, you ask? Well, 54 years ago, Hugh Gaitskell was elected leader of the Labour party, succeeding Clement Attlee, and six years ago Saddam Hussein was captured. But enough of the past, and on to the present …

2 Must-Read Blog-Posts

A couple of weeks ago, Iain Dale was casually dismissing the revelations that trustafarian Tory millionaire candidate Zac Goldsmith has been avoiding tax by registering for non-dom status: “lots of sanctimonious guff,” he told …

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Where to get ideas for blogposts

Welcome to part three of our “Introduction to blogging” guide for Liberal Democrat bloggers or would-be bloggers. It’s appearing each Saturday between now and Christmas, with all the posts available via this page. The series will then be revised and collated into an e-book, so please do post up your comments as the series progresses. Today it’s the turn of Mark Thompson (the one with the blog rather than the one with TV empire) addressing one of the problems that befalls many would be bloggers: how do you keep on coming up with ideas for new posts?

Posted in Blogging guide | Also tagged , and | 6 Comments

Daily View 2×2: 19 October 2009

2 Big Stories

Labour’s Hain threatens BBC with legal action over BNP invitation

Labour’s Welsh secretary Peter Hain makes a bid for the media spotlight today by arguing that the BBC could face legal action over this Thursday’s edition of Question Time, due to feature an appearance by BNP leader Nick Griffin MEP:

… in his letter , Mr Hain … said the decision should be reconsidered in light of a legal case about ethnic restrictions on the BNP’s membership rules. The party has agreed to amend its constitution after the Equalities and Human Rights Commission sought an injunction, claiming the BNP was breaking the Race Relations Act by restricting membership to “indigenous Caucasian” people.

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 1 Comment

Daily View 2×2: 9 October 2009

2 Big Stories

Widely questioned as being rather premature, and merited more by vision than achievements so far, President Obama’s award is making the headlines this morning:
Barack Obama wins 2009 Nobel peace prize (Telegraph)

Less than a year after taking office, Mr Obama won the prestigious award after calling for worldwide disarmament.

He had also worked to restart the stalled Middle East peace process since taking office in January.

In an announcement in Oslo, he was honoured “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Thorbjoern Jagland said.

“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as (Mr) Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” the committee said.

“His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world’s population.”

The committee said it attached special importance to Mr Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Royal Mail strike – Christmas come early?
And not in a good way…

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Final push for votes in Norwich North

Poor Labour. Not only do they face losing the Norwich North by-election, but their candidate Chris Ostrowski has gone down with suspected swine flu. (Genuine sympathies to him for a speedy recovery).

Today’s Eastern Daily Press assesses the currrent state of play HERE, including this snippet:

Private Lib Dem canvassing suggests that the party is lying second to the Tories, on 24pc. But other party canvassers report that the Greens are performing strongly in traditional Labour areas.

(Actually I’m not sure there’s necessarily a discrepancy between those two reports).

Vince is, as ever, ready with a quote:

We know support is crumbling

Posted in Parliamentary by-elections | Also tagged , , and | 4 Comments

Daily View 2×2: 20 July 2009

2 Big Stories

Andy Burnham on “conflicting advice” about swine flu
There’s even conflicting advice on whether “conflicting advice” is actually conflicting…
From the Guardian:

“There isn’t conflicting advice. The advice has been clear all along that women who are pregnant should take extra precautions as they would anyway – they should really follow the advice about hand hygiene, they should consider avoiding crowded places. This is the advice we have given out all the way.”

David Cameron’s ‘new look’ Tory MPs are the most extreme for a generation
From the Mirror:

David Cameron’s claim to have modernised his party is today exposed as a

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

Daily View 2×2: 2 July 2009

2 Big Stories

The news has a state vs public ownership flavour at the moment:

Passengers to pay price for crisis on the railways
“A series of big projects are in grave doubt after the collapse of the highest-earning franchise exposed a deepening hole in the rail budget.

National Express East Coast is to be renationalised after the parent company refused to honour a pledge to pay the Department for Transport £1.4 billion in the years to 2015.

The DfT will have to accept a much lower sum when it puts the franchise back out to tender and is likely to be …

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Daily View 2×2: 1 July 2009

2 Big Stories

British economy in worst state in over half a century

Perhaps it’s the sweltering weather, perhaps recession fatigue has set in, but there is little reaction to yesterday’s startling news that the British economy contracted by 2.4% in the first quarter of 2009 – the worst decline in more than 50 years. It isn’t the main story for even one of the newspapers, though it led all last night’s TV news programmes. Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable underscored the seriousness of the data:

The biggest three month fall in GDP in more than half a century is a clear

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , , and | 2 Comments

Daily View 2×2: 12 June 2009

After the intensity of the last few weeks – MPs’ expenses, the Speaker resigning, local and Euro elections, the failed putsch against Gordon Brown, a hurried cabinet reshuffle – there’s a slight sense of anti-climax to political news at the end of the week. So much has happened, but nothing much seems to have changed.

2 Big Stories

Each of the so-called quality newspapers has a different lead story today, but both the Guardian and Financial Times focus on the economy, and specifically the perceived threat of rising inflation:

Guardian: Buyers face hike in mortgage rates as inflation fears mount

Homebuyers are facing their first rise in mortgage rates for a year in a move by banks and building societies that could extinguish the nascent recovery in the housing market. Nationwide was one of several leading mortgage lenders that today hiked the cost of its most popular deals, with others likely to follow suit in the coming days. … The news that mortgage costs are rising came as the Bank of England announced that up to 1.1 million households have been plunged into negative equity by the property crash. With prices down by 20% from their peak in autumn 2007, research by the Bank published tomorrow suggests that between 700,000 and 1.1 million homeowners now owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth.

Meanwhile the FT reports an interview with Alistair Darling, still Chancellor by the skin of his teeth:

Forecasters have said that Britain’s economy may be growing again, although Mr Darling said he was sticking to his Budget forecast and expected the recession to finish towards the end of 2009. But Mr Darling warned that a high and volatile oil price “has the potential to be a huge problem as far as the recovery is concerned”.

Amidst all the sound and fury of the pointless Labour/Tory row over which party intends to cut public spending more, it’s especially worth noting the article’s conclusion:

If a spending review was published on the basis of already announced spending totals, it would show big cuts for most government departments after adjusting for inflation. Robert Chote, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: “The real choice is between Labour cuts and Tory cuts.”

Labour remakes Get Carter

The Times reports there may be another ministerial resignation in the offing, with communications minister Lord (Stephen) Carter looking to move back into the private sector having been progressively sidelined by Gordon Brown since his high-profile move 18 months ago – Lord Carter was elbowed out by Damian McBride, the prime minister’s media pitbull, who was forced to quit in April in the wake of the so-called ‘Smeargate’ emails. Speaking of which, Paul Staines’ Guido Fawkes blog reports that Carter may be considering defecting from Labour to the Tories.

2 must-read blog-posts

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The LDV 2×2 Daily View (12/5/09)

Welcome to what’s intended to be a daily feature here on LDV: an early preview of the two big news stories of the day, and a click-though to two of the must-read Lib Dem blog posts just published. Each day a member of the LDV collective will take their turn to bagpipe fact into news*.

2 Big Stories

MPs’ expenses: paying bills for Tory grandees
The Telegraph has the most enjoyable schadenfreude story of the day, with the latest set of MPs’ expenses revelations this time focusing on the ‘estate-ocracy’ of Tory MPs. Particular faves include:

  • Douglas Hogg (aka 3rd Viscount
  • Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 1 Comment

    LDV tops Iain Dale’s list of Lib Dem blogs

    Modesty (or should that be embarrassment?) almost forbids us from mentioning that Lib Dem Voice has topped Iain Dale’s list for top Lib Dem Blog of the Year. The results of a poll of 1,380 of his blog’s readers were as follows:

    LibDem Blog of the Year

    1. LibDem Voice 29%
    2. Norfolk Blogger 23%
    3. Lynne Featherstone 22%

    Thanks to Iain and his readers; and congratulations from us to Nich Starling and Lynne.

    Posted in Site news | Also tagged , and | Leave a comment

    Total Politics list of top 50 Lib Dem blogs published

    You can see the full list over at Iain Dale’s blog, but here’s the top 10:

    1. Liberal Democrat Voice
    2. People’s Republic of Mortimer (Alix Mortimer)
    3. Norfolk Blogger (Nich Starling)
    4. Quaequam Blog! (James Graham)
    5. Liberal England (Jonathan Calder)
    6. Lynne Featherstone MP
    7. Millennium Dome, Elephant
    8. Peter Black AM
    9. Love & Liberty (Alex Wilcock)
    10. Liberal Burblings (Paul Walter)

    Thanks to those who voted for LDV, and congratulations to all the blogs who made the list. And for those who didn’t, remember: it’s just a list.

    Posted in Online politics | Also tagged , , , , and | 11 Comments

    Conservative abandons Cameron’s pledge on immigration

    1. David Cameron says people should use moderate and careful language when talking about immigration.

    2. A Conservative candidate in a key marginal Westminster seat (Nigel Hastilow, Halesowen and Rowley Regis) says Enoch Powell was right to talk about “rivers of blood” (in the context of immigration).

    3. A Conservative spokesman says said candidate will be told he must be careful in his useful of language.

    4. Said candidate says it’s all ok, but he hasn’t said anything out of line with party policy.

    As Nich Starling points out, there is a bit of a pattern here when it comes to …

    Posted in News | 39 Comments

    Dave’s speech: the views of the Lib Dem blogosphere

    I’m afraid Lib Dem Voice doesn’t have the access The Guardian does – they were able to ask three Tory shadow cabinet members, as well as two Tory parliamentary candidates, to enthuse just how orgasmically fantastic they thought Dave ‘look mum, no notes’ Cameron’s speech to the Tory conference was. A useful public service, I’m sure you’ll agree.

    We’re simply going to point you towards what Lib Dem bloggers have so far said…

    (Please use the comments to let me know of any I’ve missed, or any ones subsequently published.)

  • David Nikel: Cameron gets his knickers in a twist
  • Andy Hinton:
  • Posted in Best of the blogs | 12 Comments

    Warning: this post contains traces of Iain Dale

    In all my excitement yesterday at the posting on Iain Dale’s Diary of Iain Dale’s Guide to Blogging 2007: Top 100 Liberal Democrat Blogs – an article trailing the publication this week of Iain Dale’s Guide To Political Blogging In The UK, edited by Iain Dale – I forgot to mention that Iain Dale’s Guide To Political Blogging In The UK also includes articles not by Iain Dale.

    The following four chapters are by Lib Dem contributors:

  • Blogging: what’s in it for political parties? – Mark Pack
  • Why MPs Should Blog! – Lynne Featherstone MP
  • The state of Lib Dem
  • Posted in Online politics | Also tagged | 3 Comments

    Opinion: Ming should face down blog critics

    Nice as it was to chew the fat with our esteemed leader, with the other LibDem blog of the year shortlisters, in the Margaret Thatcher Near-death Experience Suite on Sunday, it was all a bit too cloistered for my liking.

    All right, fair enough. Dear old Ming gave up 30 minutes of his time and was very friendly, charming and, when pressed a bit, animated. As Mark Webster, LibDem communications confirmed, Ming is best when he is under pressure.

    So, let’s have him head-to-head with Laurence Boyce, Nich Starling and Linda Jack then. (With acknowledgements to James Graham, who has written …

    Posted in Op-eds | 9 Comments

    Euro-referendum – the view from the Lib Dem blogosphere

    I think it’s fair to say there’s not been universal acclaim of Ming’s verdict, posted here on Lib Dem Voice yesterday, that a referendum on the EU reform treaty is “not necessary”. Here’s the scores on the doors…

    Agreeing with Ming

    David Nikel
    Paul Walter
    Frank Little

    Disagreeing with Ming

    Gavin Whenman
    Chris Black
    Arwen Folkes
    Nich Starling
    Antony Hook
    Jonathan Calder
    Toby Philpott
    Stephen Tall
    James Graham

    Finally, it seems there may well be a fourth Lib Dem MP backing moves for a referendum, according to the Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts: “Paul Keetch …

    Posted in Best of the blogs and News | Also tagged and | 20 Comments

    Good news for Lib Dems in Norfolk South: Charles Clarke has ‘no plans to quit’

    According at any rate to the Norfolk Eastern Daily Press:

    dismissed suggestions he was ready to throw in the towel and insisted he had no plans to walk away from British politics or his city seat.

    “I don’t know where the idea that I am not running in the next election comes from,” Mr Clarke said. “I am absolutely looking forward to being the Labour candidate and hopefully being elected. I am hoping the electors in Norwich South will look at all the candidates and not vote in some kind of tactical way.” …

    Simon Wright, Lib Dem candidate for

    Posted in News | Also tagged | 1 Comment

    ‘Being Norman Lamb’ in the Staggers

    The New Statesman blog devotes a column to the Norman Lamb Facebook saga:

    In an unprecedented turn of events, the blogosphere was focused on East Anglia for much of this week. Recent reports of identity thieves finding a rich resource on Facebook were highlighted in the ongoing saga involving the profile on the social networking site of Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb. A brief history of which is covered at Lib Dem Voice.

    The same IP address was shown to be responsible for tampering with Lamb’s Wikipedia entry and also uploading an anti-Lib Dem video on YouTube. Various

    Posted in News | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

    Aw, shucks

    Erm, it seems Lib Dem Voice has won an award in the prestigious 2007 Witanagemot Club blogging awards – for best Liberal Democrat supporting blog.

    Congratulations to Nich Starling (Norfolk Blogger) and Peter Black AM on coming second and third respectively.

    Posted in News | Also tagged | 4 Comments

    A quick political history lesson for Grant Shapps

    As Nich Starling has pointed out, last night Conservative MP Grant Shapps said on TV:

    The third placed party in by-elections always gets their vote squeezed … …

    I cannot remember a by-election in the last ten years where the third party has not had its vote squeezed.

    So here are fourteen by-elections since 1997 that must have slipped his mind:

    Dunfermline (where the SNP were third)
    Leicester South
    Birmingham Hodge Hill
    Tottenham *
    Ceredigion *
    Leeds Central
    Paisley South (ok, I admit – I had forgotten this one until I looked it up)

    I do have some sympathy for MPs who have to appear in the media after a …

    Posted in News | Also tagged | 7 Comments

    Brown’s failed poachings: the views of the Lib Dem blogs

    Fifteen Lib Dem bloggers have so far had their say on Gordon Brown’s move to ensnare some of the Lib Dems’ top talent inside his first cabinet.

    Here are the links (in reverse chronological order):

    Neil Fawcett, A Liberal Dose: ‘More Guardian Tripe’

    Tristan Mills, Liberty Alone: ‘Pacts with Labour’

    Jonathan Wallace: ‘Cabinet seats and spin’

    James Graham, Quaquam Blog!: ‘Deny everything, Baldrick (Updated)’

    Mike Bell, Word from Weston: ‘A cosy consensus’

    Anders Hanson: ‘Do we really worry the other parties that much?’

    Paul Walter, Liberal Burblings: ‘Liberals resist headless chicken hysteria at “bums

    Posted in Best of the blogs and News | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

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