Tag Archives: nick robinson

Tribal politics and liberalism – the fight to the death

I have a slightly irrational aversion to holding up diamonds, wearing rosettes and beginning sentences with the phrase “Only the Liberal Democrats”. In fact I canvass now with a badge I had made which says on it against a yellow background “Bloody Politicians”. 

I really,really do get the importance of branding etc but I do think that the future of Liberalism depends on the death of tribal politics.

We are living in strange times where political discourse is often reduced to the exchange of insults, declaration of tribal belief and parodying of alternative perspectives. As Nick Robinson tweeted<

Much but not all of this is done through social media. Political debate ,as opposed to the political exchange of fire, is harder now to engage in. Voters are increasingly endorsing populist-right and left- politicians who offer simple solutions, ignore complexity and play successfully on emotions and fears.

Polarised politics though has certain key definable features we need to understand and as importantly worry about emulating.

It characterises political opposition in terms of a moral gulf. Those who back a different position are knaves, fools or both. They are not just people who have arrived at a different opinion. There can be no dalliance with the enemy not just because they are wrong but because they are necessarily evil. So we have the coarsening of political discourse, mindless abuse of opponents etc 

A second key characteristic is to deny or minimise the possibility of shared truths between political opponents. One side has to have got all the facts right and the other side all the facts wrong.Intelligence is only ever used by opponents to mislead and confound. 

These two key characteristics act to reinforce each other. It cannot possibly be the case that one’s political opponents have looked at the same facts one sees and arrived at different conclusions, possibly sharing some similar core values to oneself. That’s a liberal mirage.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 20 Comments

How to do Twitter, Home Office style

Oh, they have been busy bees at the Home Office this Summer.  The Go Home vans, immigration checks at tube stations, not telling Nick Clegg what they’re up to, it’s amazing they’ve found time for anything else.

On Tuesday they published their Twitter policy. While I’d like to think it was hastily drawn up in response to criticism of the way its account was used during the immigration spot checks, with statistics of how many people had been arrested were given along with disturbing photographs of people being bundled into vans, I’m not sure the wheels of …

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Your essential weekend reader — 8 must-read articles you may have missed

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

Why don’t we trust politicians? – The BBC’s Nick Robinson takes politicians to task, doesn’t let the media off the hook either… while Labour’s Rachel Reeves mouths platitudes.

The BBC regains its honour – Nick Cohen links the Beeb’s problems with Newsnight and Jimmy Savile to the wider question of institutional trust: ‘We ought to be extending anti-managerialism into every private and public hierarchy.’

The Savile inquiries: giving truth a

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Lords reform: what the failure means for the Coalition, David Cameron and Nick Clegg

First up, here’s Nick Robinson’s take on yesterday’s events followed by myself, via the BBC News Channel:

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Forgotten Liberal heroes: Earl Grey

Nick Robinson has returned to the radio for a second series of his short portraits of British Prime Ministers and in the list this time is Earl (Charles) Grey, one of the figures I’ve previously highlighted as a forgotten Liberal hero.

Robinson’s piece is history as light entertainment – so it starts off with the connection between Grey and the tea that we now know as Earl Grey and then moves on to his high profile affair before getting stuck into the more serious aspects of his record. But as a quick canter through his life in a style that …

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Lib Dem response to Labour’s letter to broadcasters

Nick Robinson has reported:

I’m told that Labour has asked the two other big parties to sign a joint letter to broadcasters criticising them for covering the debates and the polls too much and claiming that the news bulletins had “failed to deliver the usual specialist examination of specific policy areas”. The Lib Dems and the Tories have refused to sign. The BBC has yet to receive the letter.

Here’s the party’s official response to the request from Labour:

We have discussed your proposal, however, we do not think that it is appropriate for political parties to seek to dictate the nature

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Dear Nick Robinson…

Dear Nick,

Sorry to be boring and quote things like numbers and evidence.

But on the 10pm news you said, “I think both sides agree the Tories have won the politics of the first week”.

I’d have thought the public should get a look in on this and you know what the public’s verdict is?

By a slim lead (within the margin of error, to be fair) the public says that the Liberal Democrats have run the most impressive campaign so far (see http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/2566).

Makes the idea that the Tories have won the politics look a bit different, I’d have thought?


One of those horrible …

Posted in General Election | Also tagged | 4 Comments

John Hutton was right: Gordon has been ‘a fucking disaster’. But who else was there?

At long last, what was widely known in Westminster Village circles has rippled out beyond: John Hutton was the cabinet minister who told the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson in 2006 that Gordon Brown would be ‘a fucking disaster’ in the role of prime minister. Well done to BBC Radio 4’s Eddie Mair for wringing the admission from a reluctant Mr Hutton.

But it prompts two questions.

First, if this was Mr Hutton’s view – albeit one from which he has subsequently resiled, in public at any rate – why did he choose to become one of the 308 Labour …

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PMQs: Nick tackles Gordon on Labour’s “suffocating and shameful culture of secrecy”

Ah, the joy of PMQs – Nick asks Gordon a question, Gordon fails to answer a totally different question to the one Nick asks. It’s a regular pattern, but today it was clear to everyone that the Lib Dem leader had floored the Prime Minister over the issue of Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq.

Nick laid the trap neatly, asking the simple and straightforward question:

It is vital that the Iraq inquiry, which started its work this week, is able to reveal the full truth about the decisions leading up to the

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What does the future hold for British political blogging?

Predictions that the next general election will be the one in which the internet will make a huge impact have regularly come and gone. Post-Obama ready yourself for another such clutch of predictions, but underneath this punditry froth the internet has got on with quietly shifting the way politics works. It’s been more at the unglamorous organisational end (imagine trying to organise a campaign without email) than at the eye-catching systems-shattering dramatic end beloved of pundits, but it’s been a major change nonetheless.

Following in the footsteps of email, blogging has also established a firm place in the logistics of politics, even if its impact on the overall style and conduct of politics is less clear and less dramatic. Blogs have become a key news medium for people involved in or significantly interested in politics, they have become a key part of the flow of news to and from journalists and for some MPs and candidates they reach local audiences large enough to be a significant factor in their election efforts.

Posted in Online politics | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , and | 5 Comments

Mainstream media in “using the word liberal” shock – will meltdown follow?

To while away those last precious hours before you head off for after-work drinks (the week of Christmas itself doesn’t really count as “work”, does it) some links from yesterday and today’s coverage of Nick Clegg’s first anniversary. I’ve chopped out a few excerpts for each which I find particularly telling in one way or another.

Allegra Stratton for the Guardian

The Good:

hasn’t done badly, pulling off some fundamental repositioning of his party this year. At this year’s Lib Dem conference the party membership voted through a programme of tax cuts, beginning with cuts for low earners, and

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Who do you think’s the best political journalist in Britain?

That’s the question Total Politics put to journalists, MPs and the magazine’s Facebook fans – and below, courtesy of The Guardian’s Politics Blog, are the top 20.

As ever with such lists, there are some curiosities – for example, that neither Andrew Neill nor Matthew D’Ancona make it into the premiership. And, personally, I’m a fan of Philip Stephens in the FT. Who do you think’s missing, or been over-promoted?

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The financial crisis: what will be the impact on Labour?

Yesterday I looked at the impact of the current financial crisis on the Lib Dems, the one party which correctly anticipated the credit crunch and its impact. Inevitably (if frustratingly) much of this will depend on the extent to which the public blames Labour for the mess the UK currently finds itself in, or the extent to which they credit Labour if the Government’s bail-out package helps rescue the UK from amidst the debris of the current global crisis.

In short, what the Lib Dems have to say is unlikely to have any immediate positive or negative impact on …

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Is 42 days dead?

The BBC’s Nick Robinson thinks it is in spite of the Labour Government’s official denials.

The Lib Dems’ shadow home secretary Chris Huhne wrote here on Lib Dem Voice back in the summer explaining why detaining without trial terrorist suspects for 42 days was wrong both in principle and in practice:

Detention without charge for terrorist suspects has already risen from 7 days, to 14 days, to 28 days just since 1997. The sad truth is that ministers are using this simple number as a proxy to persuade the public that they are tough on terror. In fact, such

Posted in News | 12 Comments

Should the report of a Prime Minister’s speech be 42% journalist talking?

That’s how Nick Robinson’s piece for BBC TV on Gordon Brown’s speech to Labour Party conference broke down. The 4 minute 50 second piece was 42% Nick Robinson speaking, and only 58% Sarah or Gordon Brown speaking.

Add to that the preceeding and suceeding segments – more BBC journalists and presenters talking about the speech – and what you are left with is reporting largely made up of journalists talking about what someone else has said.

Some context and analysis is certainly useful and interesting – but should Nick Robinson have really taken up 42% of the core piece of coverage rather …

Posted in News | 6 Comments

Conference: curtain up!

Wilkommen, bienvenu, welcome…

In just under one calendar month’s time, folks, many of you and all of me will be struggling down to Bournemouth on the Friday night trains for what promises to be a fascinating conference. Over the next month, we will bring you sneak previews of the policy motion debates, straight from the teeming brains of the people who drafted them, and for a conference count-down fix while we wait for the main thing I can but recommend the preliminary agenda with its rather fetching picture of Bournemouth-at-dusk.

…im Konferenz, a la conférence,

Posted in Conference and News | Also tagged | 8 Comments

Down and dirty with the tabloid press

Kelvin MacKenzie’s phone must be in meltdown. Good! BURN him, BURN him! Ahem. The former Sun editor and fervent supporter of a 42-day detention limit has indicated that he will stand against David Davis in the forthcoming Haltemprice (how quickly we’ve all learned to spell that) & Howden by-election – putting many Lib Dems into the extraordinary position of not only hoping David Davis wins, but actively considering hitting the doorsteps to help him do it.

Yes, yes, Davis is a distinctly unreliable “libertarian” with some nasty socially conservative stances, but who can resist the idea of kicking Rupert Murdoch in the nuts? For

Posted in News and Parliamentary by-elections | Also tagged | 32 Comments

What’s going on in the Conservative Party?

The media are increasingly turning to reporting strains within the Conservative Party over David Davsis’s dramatic resignation. For example, Nick Robinson on David Davis’s resignation:

David Cameron has lost control of his strategy. This was not his decision. He was not asked for his agreement. He was informed late last night by David Davis that he was going to do this come what may. That he was going to resign and trigger this campaign. This is not a campaign that Mr Cameron wants, it is not part of his strategy and indeed, I am told by senior Tories who know

Posted in News and Parliamentary by-elections | Also tagged | 7 Comments

BBC left hand, meet BBC right hand

Two journalists, talking on different TV news programs, Friday 23rd May. One says he can’t find any signs of a plot to oust Gordon Brown. The other says that people are already plotting, with talk of gathering signatures and names of possible candidates.

A mite unfortunate really for the BBC’s reputation that I saw these two reports within 90 minutes of each other, one being Nick Robinson on BBC News 24 and the one being BBC2’s Newsnight. Perhaps the Newsnight team could point Nick in the direction of the plot 🙂

Posted in News | 1 Comment

PMQs: Nick tackles Gordon on Labour’s ‘surveillance state’

After this week’s controversy about bugging of MPs, Nick Clegg used his two questions to the Prime Minister to ask directly about Labour’s desperate efforts to keep tabs on every man, woman and child in the country. In particular, Nick focused on the fingerprinting of children at school, and demanded the Prime Minister stop the practise – a question Mr Brown preferred to ignore.

Meanwhile, the Tory leader’s PMQs’ increasingly shrill performance has become the focus this week of some criticism from the BBC’s Nick Robinson:

The leader who promised an end to ‘Punch and Judy’ has become more and more contemptuous in his attitude to the PM and, as a result, less respectful towards the office itself. … I recall David Cameron telling Tories to be aware that whatever they said would, in the end, tell voters as much about them as the person they were attacking. Has he forgotten this or am I missing something?

There’s no doubting that Mr Cameron is quick on his feet, and well able to riposte with a barbed insult. Yet this poison-tongued smoothness – combined with some glib questions and the full-throated braying of the Tory ranks – can produce a fairly unedifying spectacle which does nothing to make Dave look Prime Ministerial. His advisors would do well to steer him away from lines like today’s rather pathetic playground crack, “I think the Prime Minister had been practising that soundbite all week, and do you know what? It is still rubbish.”

Anyway, read for yourself below how Nick got on this week:

Posted in News and PMQs | Also tagged | 4 Comments

Anyone know what the Tory party’s policy on Europe is today?

Last month, David Cameron went to great obfuscatory pains to refuse to give a straight answer to journalists asking if the Tory party would offer a post-ratification referendum on the EU Reform Treaty if they found themselves in government – a position not helped by a member of his shadow cabinet promising “absolutely” that the Tories would.

Now it’s Dave’s own shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, who’s broken ranks with his leader in today’s Commons debate on the Queen’s Speech – as the BBC’s Nick Robinson notes on his blog:

The Shadow Foreign Secretary went through the usual list

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Tories in a muddle on Europe (plus ça change)

Tory leader David Cameron found himself on slippery terrain today when giving his monthly press conference to journalists. The question repeatedly asked was straightforward enough: the Tories have committed to holding a referendum on the EU reform treaty – will that commitment hold true if the treaty is ratified, and they should find themselves in government?

Mr Cameron’s answer? He had none, pleading the politician’s equivalent of the Fifth Amendment – that he won’t answer hypothetical questions. Here’s how the BBC’s Nick Robinson described Dave’s defence:

What do we want? Power to the people. When do we want it? Now

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Ming: why I quit

Ming Campbell has given a series of interviews this afternoon setting out his reasons for choosing to stand down as Lib Dem leader.

You can watch Ming’s interview with the BBC’s Nick Robinson here.

And here are extracts from Ming’s conversation with Sky News’s Adam Boulton:

MC: … at the end of last week I worked out there had been seven consecutive days of reports in national newspapers about leadership and it became clear to me that if the party was going to make the kind of progress which it deserves and the British people need, it could be

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It’s over: Ming quits

Here’s the BBC report. More soon…

6.32 pm… It’s official: Simon Hughes and Vince Cable made the announcement at 6.30 pm. Where was Ming? Did he resign, or was he ‘resigned’?

6.46 pm… This quote from The Guardian:

A friend of Sir Menzies told Guardian Unlimited: “This was a very personal decision taken after much reflection. He has been thinking about the decision ever since Gordon Brown took his decision . That was the moment to think about things, talk to one or two people and weigh up whether he wanted to do this.”

6.50 pm… the statement from Vince and Simon …

Posted in News | 47 Comments

General election news: what the Lib Dem bloggers say

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

Nick Robinson on News 24: general election this year is off

Headline says it all really.

Let’s see how long it takes for a Labour loyalist to say, “Oh, but Gordon never ever intended to hold an election. He’s been courageous and decisive all along you know, and was never intending to hold an election. It has all been a clever wheeze you understand. But a statesman-like, getting on with governing the country approach at the same time, you understand.”

UPDATE: The partys’ Chief Executive, Chris Rennard, has just sent round this message to party activists and staff:

It now looks as though Brown is just about to make a statement saying NO imminent

Posted in General Election and News | 9 Comments

What the pundits say

Ming can breath a sigh of relief. It’s not just the Lib Dem conference delegates and blogosphere which have lauded his speech – even the media, which has delighted in reporting a conference taking place in an alternative parallel universe all week, has been forced to admit his speech was pretty damn good:

… the moment he stalked onto the stage, dropped the niceties and got stuck in to the state of Britain under Labour, the Lib Dem leader reminded his party why they had chosen him 18 months ago, and why they would be mad to drop him now.

If the catch-all criticism is that he’s too old, then he was right to declare that he would make a campaigning virtue of his 66 years. That wisdom and experience come with age may be a truism, but the point remains valid. On stage he looked more relaxed and at ease with his party. This time he avoided the awkward change-a-lightbulb waves. The speech was fluid, built of complete sentences, and even if some of passages were hackneyed beyond belief, the overall effect was a powerful answer to the doubters. He remains true to himself, has a plan, a set of liberal beliefs in an illiberal age, and some policies.

Ben Brogan, Daily Mail

Sir Menzies is not a natural tub-thumper, but he is evidently decent and has gained in both experience and confidence. This was a better performance than last year. … Ming is a happy warrior and will go home content. It has not been a bad week after all.

Michael White, The Guardian

Today reminded his party that they picked him not despite his age, but because of his experience and judgement. … spoke today of his energy and determination, of his anger, and his unwillingness to be silenced. His party responded. … he spelt out detailed policies on the environment and taxation, and his commitment to protect civil liberties.

Nick Robinson, BBC

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Who interviews the interviewer?

Alex Foster, that’s who!

Catch Alex’s Podcast with Nick Robinson, recorded only minutes after Kennedy’s speech, below.

Posted in News and Podcasts | 6 Comments

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