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Showing posts from October, 2007

It's a no-brainer!

Well, nominations have closed and there are just two candidates. When deciding who has the necessary leadership skills, don't just listen to what they say, look at what they've done. Deciding whom to vote for is a no-brainer!
When I asked what Nick Clegg offered that could compete with Chris Huhne's vastly greater experience of the wider world, I got no answer. So I am backing the candidate who didn't go into the public sector but instead chose to get out there and cope with the wider world - not looking at the water but swimming in it. And I look forward to seeing Chris Huhne wipe the floor with Gordon Brown and David Cameron, because he is the man to do it.
Here are the reasons why:
Proven team builder with ability to best use the talents of others? Chris Huhne, definitely yes - look at his successful business record. Nick Clegg, not proven.
Proven formidable debater and media performer? Both candidates are good but Nick Clegg can be pushed on to the back foot, a…

Vince Cable boycotts Saudi state visit

I welcome the news that acting Lib Dem leader Vince Cable MP is to boycott this week's state visit to Britain by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, due to Lib Dem opposition to the Al Yamamah arms deal. It is reported that Vince has declined to meet King Abdullah or attend a banquet by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

What troubles me

I resolved not to make up my mind on the leadership contest until after nominations close, because one shouldn't be hasty (as an Ent would say) but it is constantly on my mind because the politics of the future are not just going to be about party "positioning" (that ghastly word) but about averting disaster, and our party could be crucial in forcing through big changes. Today I was musing on the training I once received in good recruitment practice. First you define the qualities required for the job and then you look at the candidate's track record, which is the best evidence of those qualities. And the higher in the organisation the job is, the more important it is that he/she must have those qualities. Pretty obvious really.
So we should define what qualities to look for, and then look for them in our dynamic duo's CVs. I think we should be choosing a proven team builder, able to best use the talents of others, and himself or herself a formidable debate…

Not a herd animal

I have every sympathy with Cllr Peter Tyzack whose letter to last week's Lib Dem News pleaded: "This time can we not have a procession of party grandees telling us who we should be supporting". But some grandees are falling over themselves to do just that, as if trying to start a stampede. Judging from their track record in late 2005-early 2006, they do not have the monopoly on wisdom on this subject. The febrile atmosphere of the Palace of Westminster doesn't help. And who knows what deals have been done to secure their support? No, I am not a herd animal, and I find this procession irritating rather than anything else. I have been trained to base decisions on evidence, and that is what I will do - in due course.

Comparing Gordo, Dave, Nick & Chris

I've been collecting for comparison a few relevant facts about Gordon Brown, David Cameron, and the current Lib Dem leadership contestants. Here are the results so far.
Date of birth: Brown 20/2/51. Cameron 9/10/66. Clegg 7/1/67. Huhne 2/7/54.
First degree, university and year of graduation: Brown history Edinburgh 1972. Cameron PPE Oxford 1988. Clegg social anthropology Cambridge 1989. Huhne PPE Oxford 1975.
What they did between graduation and becoming MPs: Brown 1972-1982 postgrad student of history of Scottish Labour Party (PhD - eventually! - 1982), 1976-1980 politics lecturer, 1980-1983 journalist/editor, Scottish Television current affairs dept; elected as MP 1983. Cameron 1988-1992 Tory research dept; 1992-1993 special adviser to Tory Government ministers; 1994-2001 PR man at Carlton Communications; elected as MP 2001. Clegg 1989-1990 postgrad student of political theory, University of Minnesota; 1990 trainee journalist in New York; 1991-1992 trainee in European affairs, C…

Impressions of Berlin

I have been away in Berlin at the ELDR (European Liberal, Democratic and Reform) Party Congress, where delegates of parties from all quarters of Europe met. 100 out of 270 Members of the European Parliament, and 10 of the 27 European Commissioners, belong to the ELDR's bloc (though ELDR's geographical scope is wider than that of the EU). This is new and important: previously in both Parliament and Commission there was a deadlock between socialist and conservative blocs, and I suspect those blocs are at a loss what to do about such a major rearrangement of the pieces on the chessboard. The future may be exciting.
This was my first visit to Berlin, and the city struck me as a particularly fitting place for the Congress because of its central position not only geographically but also historically: if we needed a reminder of the importance of keeping on fighting for liberal and democratic ideals in Europe, this place is one, for evidence of its dark past is everywhere. Remain…

Postscript

I gather my blog of a week ago was quoted on the TV and radio news. I have declined all offers to talk to the media because I did not wish to add to what was said in my blog. Moreover the cacophony was already deafening. But I write this to make it clear that to the best of my knowledge and belief, the Channel 4 News reporter's suggestion today of a conspiracy by Chris Huhne supporters was utter rubbish. Ming resigned the leadership for his own reasons and because he put the cause we are all working for above himself. That is the kind of man he is - the best kind.

Despite all the hot air

I attribute the phrase "idle chatter of the occasional dissident" used on Saturday last to an over-zealous speechwriter, but it troubles me for several reasons. First, it is a misdescription, because the concerns I expressed were of the utmost seriousness and purpose. Second, the term "dissident" is inaccurate because the current controversy is not over substantive issues. Third, "occasional" is unduly dismissive, as other activists have told me they agree with my last blog, although I only speak for myself. More importantly though, the phrase implies a mindset that perceives the leadership and "occasional dissidents" as on opposing sides. But as I see it, we are on the same side. And dealing with the various wings of the party is not like a forensic contest. Nor is it like maintaining military discipline: that is not possible, as we are not a conscript army, but volunteers. Most of us - the poor bloody infantry, one might say - willing…

Time to take stock

I think it is time for our MPs to take stock - to take a good hard look at the situation in which we find ourselves. It is up to them, in particular, for at least three reasons.

First, under article 10.5 of the Federal Party constitution, no one can stand for leader unless proposed by at least ten per cent of our MPs.

Second, it was a group of our MPs who forced Charles to resign, which under Article 10.2 triggered the leadership election back in the winter of 2005-2006.

Third, a good proportion of our MPs proposed Ming, and when other candidates entered the contest, argued in Ming's favour that he would be a "safe pair of hands", and persuaded the membership to choose Ming, though not by an overwhelming majority.

In short, a heavy responsibility lies on our MPs.

I am just an activist with no real say in all this - just as I had no say in whether Charles ought to go, and had limited information on which to cast my leadership vote (though I had more information than …

Free Burma

My thoughts are with Aung San Suu Kyi who, 17 years after being duly elected as the rightful leader of Burma, is still under house arrest, and with her long-suffering people who have since 1962 been living an Orwellian nightmare, tyrannised by a bandit usurper regime that continues to plunder the nation's wealth and enjoy a luxury lifestyle while the people starve. The regime could not survive without support and protection from neighbouring governments, who have blocked UN action. Those governments have the blood of Burmese victims on their hands. Self-interest rules while the innocent and powerless suffer.

Don't forget the Tory gerrymandering

I am caught up in the general frenzy about the general election Gordo could be about to call: besides attending last weekend's special Federal Policy Committee meeting to draft a general election manifesto (my fourth, I think), just in case, I have two constituencies to look after. In one of them - Cities of London & Westminster - the electorate has in the past repeatedly delivered a mountain of Tory votes. The other constituency is Labour-held and with redrawn boundaries 75th on the list of Tory target seats. In both seats the legacy of England's greatest gerrymandering scandal, carried out in the late 1980s by Shirley Porter and her allies, is as permanent as the housing stock that they socially engineered. In a nutshell, they moved as many poor people out of Westminster as they could in order to ensure Westminster Council remained under Tory control. The result is wards extraordinarily sharply divided into rich and poor. The Tories don't deserve either seat. …