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Showing posts from November, 2007

Nick Clegg's lecturing - when and where?

No one has contradicted the information I was given that Nick Clegg’s degree was a lower second (see my posting on 26 Nov). If that was the case, then here’s a puzzle. His constituency website states: “Nick stood down from the European Parliament in 2004 and lectured part time at Sheffield and Cambridge Universities.” That seems to mean that in 2004-5 Nick had part-time lecturing jobs at both of those prestigious universities. I find that surprising, if he only had a lower second, in view of the intense competition for academic jobs. However that may be, the Royal Society of Arts’ website, advertising a lecture given by him, states – presumably based on a briefing from his office - that he has been “a part-time lecturer at Sheffield University and a guest lecturer at Cambridge”, which is different. And the Independent, reporting the Clegg leadership campaign launch on 19 October 2007, stated that Clegg was a part-time lecturer at Sheffield University in 1996-99 but with no mentio…

I receive leaflets

The three leaflets I have had from the Clegg campaign devote a lot of space to listing his backers, who are his main asset. This listing resembles a medieval procedure (called compurgation) whereby a defendant would get a dozen freemen to swear he was a good bloke, as distinct from dealing with whether the allegation was in fact true. They are largely the same group as only 19 months ago backed Ming Campbell, none more vehemently than Clegg himself (see e.g. Guardian 20 Jan 06). By last month their support had melted away.

The other feature of Clegg’s leaflets that struck me as a bit of a waste of space was his denunciation of the Japanese WW2 prisoner of war camps. Surely this is motherhood and apple pie stuff. Who – in any party – would disagree?

In one of the leaflets Lord Ashdown was quoted praising Nick Clegg’s intellect. He may be right, but this claim makes me wonder whether it is true that, as I have been told, Clegg’s university degree was a lower second - which after s…

An intense, watchful cat

I enjoyed this comment in Saturday's Times piece on Huhne: “He would not fall for any of our tricks because he knows them all, and more: interviewing Mr Huhne is like circling an intense, watchful cat that seems perfectly friendly but is probably quite dangerous.” I liked the fact that the writers had - correctly, I believe - detected a quality that, very relevantly for this contest, would mean that Brown and Cameron wouldn't dare take their eyes off him in case they got a mauling.

Audit reveals Government business incompetence

The business incompetence of the Ministry of Defence and the Labour Government is put in the spotlight by a National Audit Office report on the 2003 privatisation of the defence technology business QinetiQ.
Initially there were seven bids for QinetiQ valuing the business at between £450 million and £600 million. The private equity firm Carlyle purchased a 37.5% stake for £42 million. That valued QinetiQ at only £374 million. That was in 2003. The value of the stake rose to £372 million.
How did this happen? The NAO press release states: “Carlyle were appointed as the preferred bidder in September 2003 despite price sensitive issues still being outstanding. This turned a competitive process into one of negotiation.” To rephrase that, once the other would-be buyers were ruled out, there was only one person left in the saleroom – a situation any self-respecting business person would exploit, and Carlyle did. The situation was made even more favourable to Carlyle by Treasury pressure for t…

This time, get it right

I do not hold Nick Clegg responsible as head of Ming Campbell’s leadership campaign in 2006 for the false, and damaging, claim made by telephone canvassers that none of Chris Huhne’s former colleagues in the European Parliament were supporting the 2006 Huhne leadership bid. (In fact, three Lib Dem MEPs were supporting Huhne.) Equally, I do not hold Huhne responsible for the “Calamity Clegg” tag used in a briefing document sent out by someone in his team.
So let’s back to what’s important, which is this: the Tories must crush the Lib Dem vote if they are to regain power. In order to do that, they must destroy the Lib Dem leader. And they will do their darnedest to. They thought, rightly or wrongly, that they could do that while Ming Campbell remained leader; they even regarded his leadership as a Tory asset. The Tories are a ruthless power machine.
Therefore, we now need a leader who avoids pitfalls, is steady under fire, is, in a word, tough.
Which of the contenders fulfils th…

European Parliament adopts climate change goals

I welcome the announcement that the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) MEPs are fully behind ambitious goals adopted by the European Parliament in yesterday’s resolution on the EU strategy for the forthcoming UN Climate Change Conference. The EU has a vital role here that overshadows all grumbles about the drawbacks of membership. And I am relieved, but not surprised, that na├»ve economic liberal opposition to any market intervention, even to correct market failures in respect of environmental damage, has lost the argument.
ALDE coordinator on the European Parliament’s Temporary Committee on Climate Change Lena Ek (Centerpartiet, Sweden) commented that the situation was “critical” and that “Ambitious goals are absolutely necessary.” She also stressed the importance of forests and the need for sustainable forest management.
ALDE-member Vittorio Prodi (Margherita, Italy), TCCC Vice-Chair, said that we would have to decrease our CO2 output drastically and in order…

Clegg on school vouchers - the evidence

Did Nick Clegg endorse school vouchers or didn't he? Well, the evidence that he did is rather strong. Not only Rachel Sylvester in the Telegraph on 29 October but also self-confessed Clegg fan Jasper Gerard, writing up an “exclusive interview” in the Observer on 21 October, state that he did.
Gerard writes, quoting Clegg: "'I want a sense of empowerment on a daily basis for people accessing health care and good education.' Well that's clear. But he differs from free marketeer Tories in that 'having lived in Europe and had children born in hospitals in Europe, they have a far greater sense of equity in health and education. It is not like a supermarket but the patient, pupil or parent has entitlements which the provider of services has to meet.' So according to his 'pupil premium', parents would be given a voucher to spend in their preferred school; but while a flaw in such schemes is often that the savvy middle class pack the best schools, Clegg…

If Cameron is Clegg lite...?

The comment that “Cameron is Clegg lite” troubles me a lot, especially because Nick Clegg said it himself.
Lite is a low-calorie, slimmer, weaker, more dilute, more basic, version of the original. The converse of lite is heavy, full strength, even “classic”. If Cameron is “Clegg lite”, what is the full-strength version?
With Nick Clegg, if you turn the sound off, you see someone who looks like Cameron, without a doubt. The similarities of age and physical characteristics between the two men are not something Nick Clegg can do anything about; but I wish he would give the way he dresses and his hairstyle a makeover, to make himself more distinct from Cameron. It would be a miscalculation to think that being easily mistaken for Cameron was an electoral asset. After all, Sir Winston Churchill deliberately cultivated an unmistakeable appearance; being short and bald didn’t matter at all.
More importantly than appearance, if you close your eyes, what do you hear? In January 2006…

Court will hear challenge to halting of BAE fraud inquiry

Three cheers for Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Irwin, who have given two pressure groups - Corner House Research and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade - permission to seek a judicial review of whether the Serious Fraud Office's decision to stop its inquiry into the BAE Al-Yamamah arms deal was lawful. The decision to be reviewed was taken last year when the Government made the SFO drop its investigation into the huge deal to provide military aircraft and equipment to Saudi Arabia in 1985. Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, said that the investigation was threatening the UK's national security. I understand it is not denied that huge sums of money were paid by the MOD to a member of the Saudi royal family in relation to the deal.

Sands, Huhne and Trident

In an article on the Guardian website on 5th November Philippe Sands states: “…the Liberal Democrat spring conference in Harrogate rejected a ballot effort calling for the abandonment of Trident. Instead, the conference narrowly voted in favour of a resolution calling for a delay on the Trident decision.” Oddly enough, in that debate in March (as well as in literature distributed beforehand), the Lib Dem leadership strenuously insisted that the amendment to the main motion (the “ballot effort”) did not call for the abandonment of Trident but for its retention until it rusted to bits. I thought at the time that this was not what the amendment, fairly and properly construed, meant, but the accusation that the amendment was “flawed” and “badly drafted” seems by repetition to have become the current wisdom. Who is right: Sands or the leadership?
Sands goes on, in his article, to claim that the “minimum deterrent” that leadership contender Chris Huhne favours as one of two alternative …

From bad to worse in Pakistan

President Musharraf has declared a state of emergency and fired the chief justice and other senior judges. Commentators say he has done so to prevent the Supreme Court from delivering a ruling that as a military officer he was ineligible to stand in the recent presidential election. Why is Pakistan such a mess, yet neighbouring India manages to keep its democracy together despite a population of over a billion?

Congratulations to Claire Kelley

We Lib Dems have been rightly criticised for not selecting more women for winnable seats. But today for a change some good news - I am delighted to learn that the membership of Lib Dem-held Harrogate and Knaresborough have selected Claire Kelley to contest the parliamentary seat when Phil Willis stands down. Hearty congratulations, Claire.

Chris Huhne's Trident Policy Stands Up

The Trident system has three parts: the missiles, which are American-owned, the 192 warheads, which are British-made and owned, and four British Vanguard-class submarines that carry and fire the missiles. Chris Huhne, if I understand him rightly, thinks there is no convincing case for replacing the Trident system with a system of equal capacity. So the preparatory work now being carried out on a new generation of submarines can be cancelled.
As I understand his views, Chris Huhne does not advocate scrapping Trident now because he is not a unilateralist. However, Trident has a finite life, and he thinks a replacement system of equivalent scale and performance to Trident is unnecessary in relation to the threat, its expense is unjustifiable and it would mean technical dependence on the United States which should be avoided. He thinks that we should decide in 2010 after the next round of disarmament talks between either having no renewed system, or having a minimum deterrent.
I gat…