May 23, 2015
by Paul
2 Comments

I have changed my comments policy

After nine years of blogging I have changed my comments policy. I used to say that I allow any comments as long as they are not potentially defamatory. For most of the time that will continue to be the case, but I reserve the right to reject comments if I just don’t feel like publishing them.

The knee-jerk reaction is to call rejection of comments “illiberal” and indeed I used to be of that view (although I never used to buy the moronic line that comment rejection is “censorship”). However, it is part of a liberal society that there are owned units of publication. Book publishers. Newspaper publishers. It is a liberal right of each of those owners to publish what they like in their publications. It is just the same with bloggers. This is my blog and I will publish what I feel like on it. If your comment is not published here there are, of course, millions of places elsewhere where you can publish it. Notwithstanding that, I am very grateful for you for reading this blog and thank you for your comments, most of which will be published.

So this is my new comments policy:

I regard this blog as my personal space. I will therefore publish your comments if I feel like it.

If you want to make contrary smart-arse remarks, go and do it somewhere else.

This is where I get to be the smart-arse.

May 23, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Our great democratic system….not

In the general election ending on May 7th:

  • 37% of the votes cast were for the Tories and they received 51% of the seats in the House of Commons.
  • 24% of the votes cast were for the Lib Dems, the Greens and UKIP, and they received 1.5% of the seats.
  • The SNP received 3% of the votes but 9% of the seats.

All totally logical. Not.

Rory Bremner, impersonating David Cameron was asked “Isn’t that unfair?” and Cameron (Bremner) replied:

Life is unfair and it is only fair that we reflect real life in the House of Commons

May 23, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Why I’m backing Tim Farron to be leader of the Liberal Democrats

A photo I took of Tim after having a cup of tea with him in Portcullis House, Westminster on March 24th this year

A photo I took of Tim after having a cup of tea with him in Portcullis House, Westminster on March 24th this year


We are very fortunate to have someone of Tim Farron’s skills available to us as a leader of the Liberal Democrats at this time. We need to rediscover and refocus our liberal values. Tim is a lode star of liberalism. He is a walking, talking embodiment of liberalism. I can trust 100% that in any given situation, if Tim is asked for his view on it, he will give a 100% liberal view – and do it with enormous passion and clarity.

Tim is a very honest and sincere person. As has been said, he shakes every hand, answers every tweet, email and direct message. I honestly believe he does so not out of ambition, but because he feels he ought to. That it is his duty to be polite and friendly.

So in this desperate situation for the party, we need Tim to re-establish our identity as liberals. That identity has been blurred by five years of compromise in government. We need Tim to electrify us – as only he can – in the party and non-party members up and down the country with passion for liberalism.

Tim reminds me of many of my heroines and heroes in the Liberal Democrats and Liberal party. John Pardoe. Shirley Williams. Jeremy Thorpe. He is precisely the sort of person we need at this time. A rabble rouser. A “march to the sound of gunfire”-type person.

Back in 2003, with my family, we were privileged to be invited to one of Gerald Vernon-Jackson’s legendary birthday jaunts. This one was a weekend in Prague. We were fortunate to spend quite a bit of time, during the festivities, with Norman Lamb and his wife. They were in the same hotel as us and we shared tables with them etc. So we were able to get to know Norman, who was two years into his time as MP for North Norfolk. My overall impression was, and is, that Norman is a very, very nice man. His spell in government, his very firm base in his constituency, his stand on mental health, and the dignified way he dealt with the publicity surrounding his family, all show that Norman is a very passionate and effective liberal. I have enormous respect for him.

But at this particular time in the Liberal Democrats we need a rabble rouser as leader. Whatever Norman’s huge talents, he is not a rabble rouser.

I should add that I know, from what he said as party President at a dinner at Hampstead Norreys locally a couple of years ago, that Tim has enormous respect for Norman and has based his whole behaviour as a local MP on the “Lamb plan” as operated for many years in North Norfolk. It is no accident that Tim and Norman are two of our remaining MPs – both in areas with Conservative-dominated histories.

Me and Tim stuffing envelopes at the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election 3rd January 2011

Me and Tim stuffing envelopes at the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election 3rd January 2011

May 16, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Coalfields and curtains – two very surprising things about the general election on May 7th

Coalfields%20v%20labourIn all my reading about the general election, two things have particularly surprised me.

Firstly, the Labour winning vote situations are virtually identical to were there are coalfields in England and Wales.

Secondly, a major academic study says that the Lib Dems didn’t lose because of policy, but because of valance issues. You know, curtains. It was curtains for us. No, that should read valence issues. Valence issues? I had to look up the word “valence”.

Mark Pack explains:

Political scientists crunching the evidence over how people decide who to vote for (such as in Affluence, Austerity and Electoral Change in Britain) find that policy issues matter much less than ‘valence’ issues.

That is, people don’t decide who to vote for based on looking at policies and seeing how closely a party or candidate’s policies match up to their own preferences. Rather, they lean on decisions over perceived competence on issues where different parties all have the same shared objective. For example, voting Conservative because you think they’ll be best at creating new jobs is a valence choice. All parties want more jobs, so picking the Conservatives is about perceived competence, not ideology.

Although there certainly are ideological choices and they do have an influence, it’s valence that dominates in British elections. Hence the problem for the Liberal Democrats in the general election wasn’t about having controversial policies which people didn’t like. There wasn’t even a small echo of the problems with the immigration amnesty policy of 2010 for example (good policy but burdened with the fatal combination of being both controversial and not amenable to a one-sentence defence). Asked where they put the Lib Dems and themselves on the political spectrum, voters kept on putting the party near to themselves overall.

Rather the problems were valence ones – about competence and trust in particular. Overhauling the party’s perception on those is not going to be a minor matter.

To be done seriously, the work has to infuse every corner of the party’s operations, from its disciplinary procedures through to how well the party does (or doesn’t) respond to voters getting in touch for the first time. The new leader, if they wish to be successful, needs to ensure a thorough overhaul, both internally and externally.

May 16, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Nigel Farage needs that summer break

It seems that events are conspiring to strain the health of Nigel Farage to breaking point.

After the general election he said he would take the summer off. That was very wise. (Family and enjoyment of our beautiful world are what is important above all.) That decision seems to have melted in the subsequent UKIP civil war that has broken out.

It would be very unwise for Mr Farage not to take that long summer break. I have recently spoken about my concern for his health. It doesn’t do any good to a human being to be, essentially, a one-man party.

As an aside, I did think it was very odd for Farage to resign and announce that Suzanne Evans would be leader pro tem of UKIP. Do UKIP not have a constitution? Or does Nigel Farage make it up as he goes along? – I mused. Well, yes, actually they do have a constitution.

May 16, 2015
by Paul
1 Comment

The electorate did the Liberal Democrats a favour

Distinguished people such as Peter Kellner and Stephen Tall predicted that the Liberal Democrats would get 32 seats at the general election. That was what I was hoping for.

But imagine if that is what we had got. Nick Clegg would still be leader, probably. We might have been involved in some sort of government deal making. Messrs Law and Alexander would still be ruling the roost. We would have limped on.

But I think the electorate has done us a favour. The grassroots now rule the roost. I believe and hope those grassroots are now younger and more diverse.

I think we will come out of this as a refreshed, vigorous and clearer Liberal party, rather than just limping on.

I mourn the loss to our parliament of many hard working and passionate Liberals. I acknowledge the pain being felt by many who worked really hard in the campaign.

But I think it does us good to occasionally be kicked up the backside by the great British voter.

May 10, 2015
by Paul
1 Comment

The abuse of the words “tsunami” and “decimation”

From the Guardian:

The rehearsals, portentous theme tunes, garish computer graphics, live links and guests had not prepared for such an SNP tsunami and the decimation of the Liberal Democrats

As Baroness Hussein-Ece has pointed out, thousands of people have died tragically as a result of tsunamis. It is a terrible insult to their memory to compare a event where no one died to such tragedies.

Decimation means the elimination of one in ten of a population. The Liberal Democrats lost nearly nine out of ten of their MPs. That is not decimation. (Although I admit the dictionary has moved with the times on that one – it just annoys me that people don’t find a word with a more appropriate original mathematical co-relation!)

That is all.

May 8, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Thanks

I’d like to say thank you for the welcome I’ve received as I have helped in various constituencies since January.

I’ve worked hard in my home constituency of Newbury and also delivered leaflets, canvassed or made donations in Portsmouth South, Oxford West and Abingdon, Somerton and Frome, North Cornwall, North Devon, Sheffield Hallam, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, Colchester, Gordon, Ross,Skye and Lochaber, Torbay.

I am sorry for the disappointing results.

It’s been great fun meeting other Lib Dems and getting out into the fresh air.

At this rather distressing time we must remember the good things in life: family, friends, hobbies, music, health, tea and happiness.

This is not the end of the world and it reminds us that we must not be defined by political success. We’re defined by more than that – our beliefs, our loves.

Keep positive and happy, folks.

And remember, Nigel Farage didn’t win! Phwah!

May 3, 2015
by Paul
1 Comment

Peter Kellner’s latest projection gives hope to the Lib Dems but points to the squeakiest of squeaky bum times

In the Sunday Times (£ – Phwah!), Peter Kellner predicts 32 seats for the Lib Dems, which is in line with Stephen Tall’s long-standing projection.

But the overall seat projection from Kellner puts us in rather different waters than other projections. The Guardian’s projection, for example, has pointed almost constantly to a Labour minority government with SNP support. Continue Reading →

May 2, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Former Newbury Labour spokesman suspended over fraud

From the BBC:

A Labour parliamentary candidate has been suspended after being convicted of fraud, the party has confirmed.
Richard Garvie, 30, who is standing for Wellingborough and Rushden, was found guilty of buying about £900 worth of train tickets using a bank account he knew contained insufficient funds.
He had denied the offence and told the BBC he “did not set out to defraud East Midlands Trains”.
His name will stay on ballot papers as it is too late for it to be removed.
Garvie, from Corby, Northamptonshire, was convicted at Wellingborough Magistrates’ Court on Thursday and will be sentenced at a later date.

Richard Garvie is a former Labour Party spokesman in Newbury.

You can read the full story here.

April 25, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Nigel Farage – something not quite right

I preface this by saying that nothing I say about Nigel Farage will make any difference. Just one more bleeding heart liberal bleating on…

He’s taking temazepam for back pain, then drinks beer on Thursday, as the photo shows. Apart from starting to look like the late great Derek Jameson, he is risking his health.

This website says:

Do not drink alcohol while taking temazepam. It can increase some of the side effects, and could possibly cause a fatal overdose.

And what are those side effects which can be increased by drinking alcohol while taking temazepam? Here are some:

weak or shallow breathing;
fast or pounding heartbeats;
confusion, slurred speech, unusual thoughts or behavior;
hallucinations, agitation, aggression;
thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself;
restless muscle movements in your eyes, tongue, jaw, or neck;
pale skin, easy bruising or bleeding, unusual weakness;
fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms;
problems with urination; or
nausea, stomach pain, low fever, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).
Less serious side effects may include:

daytime drowsiness (or during hours when you are not normally sleeping);
amnesia or forgetfulness;
muscle weakness, lack of balance or coordination;
numbness, burning, pain, or tingly feeling;
headache, blurred vision, depressed mood;
feeling nervous, excited, or irritable;
nausea, vomiting, stomach discomfort; or
dry mouth, increased thirst.

It will be interesting seeing which of these side effects emerge in Mr Farage in the coming hectic two weeks.

But seriously, as a fellow human being I don’t think this is good. He’s overdoing it and should stop, for the sake of his family.

April 20, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

On May 8th, could David Cameron just lock the doors of Downing Street and stay put?

24 days ago, I wrote that We’re heading for a Labour minority government backed by the SNP.

Since then, there have been thousands more people polled, millions more pounds spent on campaigning and millions more words written/said about the election. So, I now have a ++BREAKING NEWS++ update! Continue Reading →

April 19, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Why Nigel Farage is being silly about the BBC debate audience balance

The Sunday Express today has the story: “Ukip sets lawyers on biased BBC: Furious Farage goes to war over Left-wing debate audience”.

You probably saw Nigel Farage complaining about the audience during the debate of five opposition party leaders last week. The clip is below where he says it is “a remarkable audience even by the left-wing standards of the BBC”.

Surely he realised that if he went on to a debate programme with four left-wing speakers, then the audience would be 80% left-wing. Isn’t it obvious? The audience should reflect the make-up of the panel.

However, the BBC, being the BBC, bent over backwards on impartiality. ICM, the polling company, independently chose the audience to reflect the overall UK political situation:

Of the 200-strong audience, about 58 were Conservative or Ukip supporters, while about 102 backed Labour, the Lib Dems, SNP or Plaid Cymru, all Leftist parties. The remaining 40 described themselves as undecided.

So, 29 per cent of the audience were UKIP or Tory supporters. That would seem relatively fair given that the Tories weren’t even on the panel.

Anyone who has tried to be in the audience on a BBC political show knows that agents are meticulously fair about ensuring the audience reflects the panel.

But just to be ultra-fair the BBC have now given Nigel his own show.

April 19, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

RIP Ronnie Carroll – Double UK Eurovision singer who’s still on the ballot paper in Hampstead and Kilburn

In a previous life I had a radio show where I played records from the 50s, 60s and 70s. I played songs occasionally by Northern Irish singer Ronnie Carroll. “Roses are red” was one I particularly remember playing. It was number 3 in the charts in 1962. I have it on vinyl, carefully “archived” in my loft. Carroll had six top forty hits between 1956 and 1963. He represented the UK in the Eurovision Song contest in 1962 with “Ring-a-ding girl” which came fourth. The following year he represented us with “Say wonderful things” which also came fourth. He was the only singer to represent the UK in Eurovision twice.

Sadly, Ronnie Carroll passed away this week, aged 81. I’ve embedded “Roses are red” below.

As well as being a singer, Carroll was politically active. He stood in the 2008 Haltemprice and Howden by-election. He was a regular phone-in caller on BBC Radio London and was standing as an independent candidate in Hampstead and Kilburn. Because nominations had closed prior to his demise, his name will still be on the ballot paper. If he is elected, the election for that constituency will have to be re-run.

April 9, 2015
by Paul
2 Comments

Scary anti-immigration feeling

I watched a James O’Brien programme the other day. Immigration was the subject.

A young man said that we should have a points system like Australia. We do. You only have to look at the array of categories set up for visa applications:

You’ll need a visa to work or do business or academic research in the UK
The visa you apply for depends on your circumstances.

Skilled workers

A ‘skilled worker’ visa may be suitable if you’ve been offered a:
##skilled job in the UK
##role in your overseas employer’s UK branch – the visa you apply for depends on your circumstances
##job in a religious community
##job as an elite sportsperson or coach

Temporary workers

A ‘temporary worker’ visa may be suitable if you want work in the UK for a short time:
##in sports
##in arts or entertainment
##as a volunteer
##in a work experience role
##for a charity
##for a religious organisation

You can also apply for an international agreement visa if you’ll be doing work covered by international law while in the UK (eg working for a foreign government or as a private servant in a diplomatic household).

‘High value’ workers

A ‘high value worker’ visa may be suitable if you’re:
##an investor
##an entrepreneur
##a graduate entrepreneur
##a leader in arts or sciences

Commonwealth citizens

You may be eligible for a UK ancestry visa if one of your grandparents was born in the UK.

Other workers

You can also apply as a:
##domestic worker in a private household
##representative of an overseas business

How your visa is treated depends on what sort of job you are pursuing.

But of course those categories don’t apply to EU citizens who have a different process, but who still need to be coming here to work or study, or be able to support themselves. And what about the 1-2 million Brits working and/or living in Spain, France, Germany, Ireland and other EU countries? They would have to come back to the UK if we came out of the EU. That would be a cataclysmic cutting off of our economic nose to spite our face.

Back to the James O’Brien show. We then had Christine Hamilton saying that ‘immigration into this country is equivalent to adding the population of Greater Birmingham every three years’. The population of Greater Birmingham is 2.4 million. For the year from Oct 13 to Sep 14 net migration to the UK was 298,000. I think La Hamilton is taking immigration only, which was 624,000 in that period. She is then adding a bit. Quite a bit, in fact.

I am taken by this snippet from Channel 4 News’ Factcheck:

…we shouldn’t be surprised…

…that people living in low-immigration areas are still worried about migrants.

According to the latest British Social Attitudes survey, “those most likely to be directly exposed to migration in their daily lives have much more positive views”.

“Londoners, those with migrant heritage, and those with migrant friends (all of whom are more likely to have regular direct contact with migrants) have more positive than negative views about immigration’s effects.

“The most intensely negative views are found among the oldest voters, and those with no migrant friends.”

That explains why UKIP’s target constituencies in the May elections are areas of well below average immigrant populations, as the Channel 4 News piece states.