Archive for the ‘Conservative Party’ Category

I was on BBC Radio 5 live on Friday and again this morning on Kevin Maguire’s LBC show. My theme was the monumental failure of Nick Clegg’s leadership of the Liberal Democrats in the coalition. But far more important than what I think, is the damning verdict of the electorate last Thursday, when our share of the vote plummeted For those of you reading this who are not natural Lib Dem supporters you might want to skip the next couple of paragraphs!

Squandered Opportunity for Electoral Change

I have a big stake in this. I have been a member since the Party was formed back in the 1980’s and I was in the Liberal Party before that. I have been a District and County Councillor and stood for Parliament twice, most recently last year in Surrey against Jeremy Hunt. I served as a Branch Chairman and on the Executive of my local Party. Like many committed Lib Dem members I believe Nick Clegg has failed us badly.

For committed Lib Dem supporters it is shocking that Clegg has squandered the golden opportunity to achieve electoral reform, perhaps for a generation. No other Lib Dem leader has had such an opportunity, but Clegg has comprehensively failed to deliver on this political reform which falls directly under his Ministerial remit. First he failed in the negotiation with Cameron last year, which left us with the rather uninspiring AV system as the proposed change. He then failed on his choice of timing, by fixing the referendum date at a point when (because of the ‘savage cuts’ agenda) the coalition was likely to be deeply unpopular with left-inclined voters whose support would be needed to secure reform. Due to Clegg cosying up to Cameron he undermined his credibility with those same voters and thus their support for a voting system that would benefit the Lib Dems. He left the Yes campaign too little time to mobilise and plan for the vote. He then failed to rein in the Tories and prevent the scandalous tactics of the No2AV campaign. The last of these points is symptomatic of his wider failure as Lib Dem leader in this coalition.

What are the Lib Dems for?

Nick Clegg’s cosy relationship with Cameron and his personal unwillingness to assert himself in the face of the ‘ruthless and calculating’ Tories (as Vince Cable describes them) is a huge factor in the loss of support for the Lib Dems. I have just watched the Lib Dem leader of Eastleigh Borough Council on TV describing Clegg as naive. That’s one perspective. Personally I wonder if Clegg isn’t actually a natural ally of Cameron, not simply because of their similar class backgrounds but because they share much in the way of political ideology. Whether Clegg likes it or not, for decades most of our support has come from left of centre voters. It is these voters who are saying to us that they feel betrayed by our broken promises and by our rightward shift (which I call the Toryfication of our Party). Clegg is seen as weak by many people who suspect that he is a Tory at heart anyway. Whether or not that is true, he has failed to provide a passionate left of centre leadership. His heart just does not seem to be in it.

People naturally ask “What are the Lib Dems for?” and “What’s the point in voting Lib Dem?” When we make an explicit promise to vote against any proposed increase in University tuition fees (and actually sign a pledge saying exactly that) it is no surprise if people turn against us when we do exactly the opposite. Simples! Why should the voters believe any promise Clegg makes to them? The tuition fees vote was a political disaster for us. By this foolish act alone, Clegg has fatally undermined his credibility with millions of people, especially the young who had thought we were ‘different’ from the usual manipulative, unprincipled, deceitful politicians who pitch for their support. The contempt that many young people now have for the Lib Dems will be hard to remedy.

Clegg should have made the tuition fees vote a red-line issue in the coalition agreement. It was a failure of his political judgement that he did not do so.

Loss of Identity

Few people would suggest that the Tories have lost their principles. Most people know what the Conservatives stand for. This can no longer be said of the Lib Dems. It has all got very fuzzy. On the BBC Andrew Marr programme this morning Clegg said that the lesson he has taken from last Thursday’s elections and the AV defeat was that the Lib Dems failed to communicate effectively. Well Mr Clegg – you are the leader, so that must be your personal failure to communicate. Your dalliance with Cameron and Co has eroded our Lib Dem distinctiveness and alienated millions of voters.

Clegg now wants to assert his position, flexing his political muscles over NHS reform. The problem is that he is not the one to re-establish our integrity and identity. The damage to his credibility has been too deep. The electorate now see him as weak and ineffectual. Many believe he is a Tory at heart. The disillusionment is too great for him to win back their support.

High Stakes Poker needs a ‘ruthless and calculating’ Lib Dem Player

There is much talk today of the risks of the coalition breaking up. Some Tories are saying that if the Lib Dems get too uppity then there will be an election and the Lib Dems will be wiped out.

My analysis is that Cameron would not risk an election now. He likes power and position too much. If there was an election this year then there is every possibility that Labour could end up as the biggest Party and, with the current electoral boundaries, it is very unlikely that the Tories would win outright (although not impossible).

This is a high stakes poker game. It needs a Lib Dem Player willing to call Cameron’s bluff. Clegg appears to like his position as Deputy PM too much to risk losing it and, in my view, he doesn’t have the courage or shrewdness for the game. My choice for such a role would be Chris Huhne. We need a tough operator like him at the top of our Party. The right wing press know he would change the dynamics of the coalition in our favour, hence their attacks on Huhne today.

A Different Agenda

People who are not particularly interested in politics will naturally ask what would change with a new Lib Dem leader. It will be vital to have a clear distinctive Liberal Democrat Agenda. There could be a very long list but as a start my preferred agenda would include:

1. Major investment in transport and green energy infrastructure;
2. No more wars of intervention (unless defending our citizens or direct interests);
3. A clear timetable to put up the tax threshold to £10k (by April 2012 at the latest);
4. A firm ‘No’ to the risky, messy, expensive NHS reorganisation;
5. A ‘Robin Hood’ financial services tax;
6. International action on tax avoidance by the Super Rich;
7. Carefully tapered benefits cuts for those moving into work;
8. Stopping the Trident replacement now before any more money is spent;
9. Instigating a wholesale review of University Tuition Fees with a view to implement reductions and a meaningful cap before 2015, with some targeted subjects being entirely freed from student fees to encourage young people to get qualifications in key areas of benefit to the economic future of our country;
10. Encouragement for foreign students to come here instead of pushing them away (Doh! they bring in money);
11. Splitting up the big banks to reduce future risks and consideration of a wide range of options including mutualisation or transferring ownership to all people on the UK electoral roll!

UPDATE ON MY EARLIER BLOG ‘Coalition descends into Farce: Jeremy Hunt not the right person to judge on BSkyB and Murdochs’

I don’t usually quote the Daily Mail but they have quite a good article on Jeremy Hunt’s private and public contacts with the Murdoch empire. Click here for the article.

I wonder if more details about the Murdochs and Hunt will come out soon? Can’t see the Sun or The Times doing an expose! Murdoch must be laughing all the way to his lair.

George Osborne is attempting to re-write recent economic history.

1. He wants us to believe that the UK is uniquely indebted. This is quite frankly deceitful as explained in my recent blog posts.

2. He wants people to forget that it was the banking sector that caused the world economic crisis and instead seeks to suggest that it was the ‘undeserving poor’ whose extravagant benefits payments sent us into a downward spiral of government debt.

3. He wants us to think that the failure of bank regulation was a peculiarly left-wing phenomenon i.e. Labour were uniquely at fault. The truth is that Thatcher began the process of de-regulation of the financial services sector and the right-wing administration of George W Bush took the same approach in the United States as that taken by Gordon Brown in the UK. It was assumed by the political establishment on both sides of the Atlantic that Financial Services was a ‘Golden Goose’ to be allowed maximum freedom. Right and Left were both seduced by the alchemists of the City.

Let’s remember that alchemy is illusory. Many believe that the smoke and mirrors of financial services can still be a foundation of a strong economy. The gold of the city turned out to be to a great extent Fools Gold. The sooner we wake up to the fact the better.

The scale of the banking bailout is so huge that it puts every other economic mistake of the post war era in the shade.

We simply must develop alternative industries to take the place of financial services. This will require boldness and substantial investment on the part of government. During the General Election the Lib Dems highlighted green technologies as essential to our economic revival, but we have heard precious little since.

I am left wondering where the Coalition thinks the growth and new jobs are going to come from. What is their plan other than savaging the State?

George Osborne told Parliament today that benefit payments to the poor and disadvantaged are to be savagely cut back. Osborne just announced an ADDITIONAL £7 Billion of cuts in benefits, making £18 Billion in all since the Coalition came to power. But the banks will fare somewhat better! No surprise there – Tories always protect their own, but it is shameful that the Lib Dem leadership are going along with this and I speak as a Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate in 2010.

Banks will face some unspecified ‘levy’ which Osborne claims will raise more than Labour’s tax on bonuses last year (£5 Billion). Well I won’t be holding my breath as we all know how clever these bankers are at protecting their money and squandering ours.

The details of the bank levy are due to be announced later this week. Even if the bank levy DOES raise more than £5 Billion per year and I repeat that we don’t have any details yet, this is a paltry sum considering the magnitude of the bank bailout (over £1 TRILLION – that’s £1,000 Billion) and the catastrophic damage to the Western economies that the banks have caused.

So the Tory Toffs (and their new found Lib Dem allies) are going to squeeze the poor whilst protecting the bankers. Same old Tories. Shame on Nick Clegg for going along with it.

The Tories are getting desperate. As the Lib Dems surge in the polls and look like spoiling the Tory (premature) election celebration party, the knives are out for Nick Clegg. All the Tory press are in full assault mode today.

One of the most ridiculous attacks is to say that the financial markets and the value of the pound will collapse if the people of Britain dare to vote for anything other than a resounding Tory majority. Actually for a month we have been looking at a hung parliament as a likely outcome and the markets know it. Markets don’t wait to see what happens. They seek to predict what is going to happen. So they have done just that.

I don’t rule out some market volatility before and after election day BUT the current state of markets reflects what traders predict will happen and that is a hung parliament.

Surprise surprise – The result is not financial Armageddon.

A month ago the FTSE 100 share index of leading companies was valued at 5650 points. This morning as I write this it is on 5732 points.

A month ago the £ was worth $1.51. This morning it is worth $1.54. The increase in the value of the pound against the Euro is even greater.

So much for the nonsense of the Tory scare stories.

If it is accurate – the latest Opinion Poll on voting intentions must be very worrying for Cameron and his team. I don’t know if media-savvy Jeremy Hunt has been advising Cameron before last night’s debate, but if he has then he deserves the sack from the Tory front bench team.

Apparently Mr Hunt has been role-playing Nick Clegg in the Tory rehearsals for the debate. Clearly it is not a role that Mr Hunt has performed accurately – because Mr Cameron had no answer to the natural and relaxed manner of Mr Clegg.

Outside of the bear-pit of Parliament – where Nick Clegg is scoffed at by the boorish MPs of some sections of Parliament, there is no answer to his appeal. If he can’t be shouted down then his common sense straight talking is a winner.

See the poll by clicking here

I was out door-knocking last night in Godalming and was surprised by the number of people who raised the issue of MPs’ expenses but who didn’t know about Jeremy Hunt. There are very few MPs who have had to repay more than him but people don’t know about it. So for the record here are some facts:

1. Mr Hunt had to repay many thousands of pounds following investigations by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards;
2. Unlike many MPs who claimed for ridiculous things which were ‘within the rules’, Mr Hunt actually broke the rules. The Standards and Privileges Committee said in their report ‘We agree with the Commissioner that Mr Hunt committed two breaches of the rules’.
3. In one year alone Mr Hunt claimed £12,000 for his ‘second home’ in Farnham (he lived in Hammersmith and as far as I know he still does) but Hunt actually only stayed at the Farnham property for 60 nights that year, so the cost of his claim to the taxpayer was £200 per night;
4. He has now admitted that his political Agent lived in his Farnham home (he says for ‘3 or 4 nights per week’) at taxpayer’s expense;
5. This was a breach of the rules because ‘it provided a personal benefit to the agent from public funds’;
6. Mr Hunt had to repay £9,558.50 of the expenses he had claimed on his ‘second home’ in Farnham because of this;
7. In addition Mr Hunt had to repay £1,996 in expenses because he had claimed for two properties at the same time! (his home in Hammersmith and his ‘second home’ in Farnham);
8. In addition Mr Hunt had to repay £466 in respect of Council Tax claims and according to an interview in the Surrey Advertiser he has also repaid £659.75 because he double claimed on a stationery bill;
9. This makes a grand total of £12,680.25 in repayments that I know about;
10. In the separate investigation by Sir Thomas Legg only 16 MPs had to repay more than £12,500 out of a total of 646.

There are more embarrassing facts about Mr Hunt’s claims but I thought I’d stick to the main points here.