Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Who heard the evidence on Trident?

I have a couple of quibbles with Linda Jack's post (21st March) which asked whether FPC's authority would have been undermined if the Trident motion had been defeated. The quibbles are with the suggestion that FPC, having heard all the evidence, had come up with the motion.
First, the FPC did not hear all the evidence. It did not hear any of the evidence. The Trident Working Group (an ad hoc sub-committee of FPC), or rather those members of it that turned up to evidence sessions, heard the evidence. What the FPC heard was a presentation from the majority of the Working Group, and a presentation from me on behalf of the minority. (The terms majority and minority have no democratic significance as most of the Working Group were picked by the Chair, not elected.) Both presentations were backed up by written reports which came to radically different conclusions.
Secondly FPC did not "come up with" the motion, though it tweaked the phrasing a bit. Nor, oddly enough, did the Working Group. The motion in its essentials was circulated to the Working Group by email and its authors were not named. It did not, in my view, reflect the weight of the evidence that had been received by the Working Group. So whose authority would have been undermined if the motion had been lost?
Influence has shifted away from FPC towards the Parliamentary Party. A significant milestone in this process was the merging of the Policy and Campaigns units. One consequence is that the short term concerns of our Parliamentarians in the Palace of Westminster play a bigger role in policymaking than previously. Is this essential to electoral success? Maybe. Does it result in better policies? In a hundred years who will care who said what to whom across those benches? Will anyone?

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Come to Abbey Road

It's all happening in my patch - a council by-election in Abbey Road Ward, City of Westminster. Yes, that Abbey Road. Okay there are millionaire's row houses with huge price tags and the Tory majority is a challenge, but that was true of Richmond too, and look what happened there. There is a Brent ward on one side of Abbey Road Ward and a Camden ward on the other. Both have Lib Dem councillors.
Our excellent prospective candidate, Mark Blackburn, hosted a funds-and-consciousness-raising film evening on 22nd March. I gave rubbish directions to my guest Simon Kewer (the cartoonist whose work appears on the inside back cover of Lib Dem News). Fortunately he ignored them and got there anyway. The film was "An Inconvenient Truth" - I needed a stiff drink afterwards. More about the film another time.
This morning my Local Party's by-election team stuffed and labelled an unbelievable number of envelopes in less than four hours. We are determined to get at those hard-to-reach electors in blocks of flats. The late David Penhaligon would have been proud.
This is a shameless pitch for helpers of course.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Trident - where next

A clear majority of the audience on "Any Questions" (BBC Radio 4) on 16th March disagreed with the House of Commons' vote on 14th March to begin work on replacing the UK's Trident nuclear weapons system. If the audience was a representative sample of public opinion, then either the New Labour and Conservative leadership had a mistaken belief about public opinion, or they calculated that they could get away with ignoring it because the public did not perceive this issue as a high priority.
We're not gonna make it, are we? - people I mean (as John said in Terminator 2). Maybe we don't deserve to, if we don't think this issue is a high priority. Replacing Trident will ensure the future that we most want to avoid - international proliferation of these weapons. And the more of them there are, the more likely they will get used. And they mustn't be used. And that is why the Conservatives and New Labour are so wrong on this.
I think the public do perceive the issue as a high priority. But if they don't, the political leaderships need not be timid on it.
The sanest thing to do is not to encourage proliferation. Hence we should (1) not replace Trident and (2) get rid of the UK's nuclear weapons now.
If New Labour and Conservative MPs won't reverse their decision to replace Trident, we had better change the MPs. On with my leafletting boots I suppose...
Oh and by the way, before anyone accuses me of being unpatriotic, let me get my Cicero quote in first: "When you have run out of arguments, insult the Defendant."