Posts Tagged ‘Mike Simpson’

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!

To all who helped in our campaign in SW Surrey and who gave me your vote – thank you

There is of course great disappointment but also a once in a lifetime opportunity for our Party to secure electoral reform and fairness in our voting system. I hope that Nick Clegg will take that opportunity.

Cameron has not ‘sealed the deal’ with the electorate and won their trust.

So far as South West Surrey is concerned we must assess where we are and where we go from here, but for the time being a period of reflection is needed. It must also be said that my opponent Jeremy Hunt has proved a popular MP and I pay tribute to him.

A tsunami of support for the Tories swept across the South of England and we could not stand up against it. But we must also remember our duty to stand by our Liberal Democrat values. Nearly a third of the voters of South West Surrey voted for us and they deserve nothing less.

Mike Simpson

After our successful campaign to save Farnham’s Water Meadows we have launched a new ‘Protect Our Greenspace’ campaign in Badshot Lea

• You will get a fresh voice at Westminster

• I will challenge the political establishment on behalf of ordinary people

• I will speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves

• I will work to bring real reform to our political system

• I will live in the constituency, not in London & I will commute to work

• I will not claim for a ‘second home’

• I will work full-time as your MP

What I Stand For

Here’s a summary of my main campaign themes and how I’ve tried to fulfil them over the last 12 months:

I have four campaign themes which dominate my political philosophy:

Speaking up for Ordinary People

• I have spoken out against the plans for the Key Site development in Godalming and fought for affordable housing on the site.
• I have used my position to publicise the plight of Dan Eley, a young man from Godalming who used to work with street children in South America but suffered a broken neck and was left paralyzed, and stuck in Colombia. The Lib Dems put out 14,000 leaflets which publicised Dan’s situation.
• I have been outspoken in respect of the affairs of the standing MP Jeremy Hunt. Hunt has suffered the embarrassment of having to repay over £12,500 of his MP’s expenses claims, after I raised questions at a public meeting in May 2009.

Seeking a Fair Deal for the Vulnerable

• I strongly support the Royal British Legion’s Campaign for better care for returning veterans, having worked with army veterans through the YMCA.
• I am supporting the Act for Justice group in Haslemere, campaigning against human trafficking.

Campaigning for a Sustainable Community

• I chaired the successful campaign to save Farnham’s Water Meadows
• I am now fighting the proposals to double the size of Badshot Lea village
• I raised strong objections to the TAG flights proposal which involved the expansion of Farnborough Airport

Investing in our Children and Teenagers

• Seeking to help and empower young people is key to my agenda, as I have worked with them for many years in my role as a CEO of the YMCA.
• I strongly support the Lib Dems’ plan to phase out University Tuition fees. It’s too late for my own children, but I don’t want to see generations of young people saddled with huge debts just as they start out in life.

Vince Cable wrote to the voters of South West Surrey – his letter is reproduced below my YouTube video

Vince Cable kindly wrote this letter urging voters in South West Surrey to support me on Thursday:

Dear Elector

This election is not decided. The British people have a real decision to make at the polls and, for the first time in a long time, you have real power to make a change that goes beyond the choice between two bickering parties. Most importantly it is a choice about how to ensure economic recovery that is sustainable.

The MPs’ expenses scandal has been a disaster for UK politics. But by exposing those with their snouts in the trough, it empowers the public to make a choice. It creates a wake-up call about the frailty of the present voting system, where MPs believe that have a job for life and that they can ’milk the system’ and get away with it.

I have always argued that we need to go further than reforming MPs’ expenses; we need to elect MPs totally committed to wholesale reform. Your Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Simpson will be a strong voice in Parliament. He is a man committed to challenging the political establishment and he has all the right credentials for such a role.

The opinion polls suggest that people are rightly unhappy with the Labour Government yet have no real confidence in George Osborne and the Tories. The choice presented to the electorate is to lurch from incompetence to inexperience. I think you deserve more. To get the economy back on track requires the best minds, working effectively together. It requires fair taxes and common sense that you can trust. The Liberal Democrat Party is committed to sound economics. Our priority is to secure the long term financial viability and vitality of the economy.

Do not let anyone try to persuade you that a balanced parliament will be detrimental to our country. Far from it. A parliament balanced with a strong, Liberal Democratic presence will result in a House of Commons composed of true representatives of the electorate and sound, sensible policies brought about by discussions and consensus and not by political dogma.

Vote for your Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Simpson, and help create a government capable of rebuilding our economy and our political system.

Yours sincerely

Vince Cable

The opinion polls in tomorrow’s papers (Sun and Guardian) show that Cameron has failed to win the trust of the British electorate. The Conservative party are supposed to be the main opposition to Labour and yet even with the banking crisis, the MPs’ expenses scandal and the spiralling government debt, the Tories have failed to close the deal with the electorate.

Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems have proved to be credible, likeable and respected. Let’s hope that the voters will not have last minute nerves about putting their x where their heart lies.

The figures are:

YouGov poll for the Sun: CON 34%(-1) LAB 28% (+1) LDEM 29% (+1). No significant change from yesterday.

ICM poll in the Guardian: CON 33%(-3), LAB 28%(-1), LDEM 28%(+1).

The Lib Dem Team of Clegg and Cable is the best choice for Britain

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat finance spokesman warned this week that Britain risks sliding into a Greek-style fiscal crisis unless the next government takes drastic action to cut borrowing.

Taxes must rise sharply over the next decade to bring down borrowing, according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. They suggest that taxes will have to rise by the equivalent of a 6p in the pound on income tax! They also said the UK economy faces sluggish growth and rising unemployment this year.

The Governor of the Bank of England governor Mervyn King is reported to have warned that “Whoever wins this election will be out of power for a whole generation because of how tough the fiscal austerity will have to be.”

Who would want to take the economic reins of power in such a scenario?

I ask another question – ‘In such dire circumstances who will be best suited to reduce the government debt, oversee a much needed restructuring of the banking sector, whilst protecting the vulnerable from cuts in vital government services?’ It will not surprise you that my answer this question is Vince Cable, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.

The next government could make the situation a lot worse. We need sound financial judgement if we are to recover and not sink into a second recession. Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats have consistently got the analysis right over the economy. We must tackle government debt without choking off the economic recovery

We cannot afford to take a leap in the dark with Osborne and Cameron. Many people are fearful of the mass job losses and VAT increases likely to follow a Conservative win. Cuts and tax increases will be needed but who will bear the brunt of these?

Vince says, “The public will accept austerity for a time if the burdens are fairly shared”.

Vince Cable and the Lib Dems are determined to make our tax system fairer and we would raise the tax threshold so that nobody earning less than £10,000 would pay any income tax. This would be paid for by a tax on mansions worth over £2million, closing tax loopholes and making airlines pay for the pollution they cause.

Raising the tax threshold will benefit the average tax payer by £700 per year, but it will also have the added benefit of greatly increasing the incentive to work rather than languish on benefits.

Our manifesto sets out a carefully costed plan of cuts and spending commitments that would result in a £10billion cut in the deficit. Much more needs to be done and that will include hard choices about benefits and public sector pensions for example.

Nick Clegg proposes a ‘Council on Financial Stability’, involving representatives of all parties, the Governor of the Bank of England and the Chair of the Financial Services Authority. We face the kind of dire circumstances that require all Parties to work together if we are to avoid major social division when cuts and tax rises are implemented.

A strong Liberal Democrat presence in Parliament will ensure a wise, prudent and compassionate approach to the crisis we face.

I have been struck by how many local small business people are outraged by the foolish and illiberal digital economy act which Labour rushed through Parliament with support from my opponent Jermey Hunt. I wrote an open letter to Mr Hunt on 5th April about this.

On 11th April I called for the Digital Economy Act to be repealed.

I have been delighted to receive strong support from the local E-Commerce community. Here’s one comment:

“As a local businessman who voted Conservative in every election to date I’m changing to vote for Mike and the Lib Dems. I’m very impressed with the Lib Dems strong pro-business policies, in particular their balanced and sensible approach to E-commerce and the digital economy.” James Firth

And it’s not just the Act that is a problem in Farnham. Read this comment by local film and television producer Jack Jewers who I met recently:

“Britain’s digital infrastructure is seriously under-developed and it really does hurt us. In most of Farnham, broadband access comes down old copper phone wires (rather than fibre optic cables), so the average broadband speed is barely 2MB. That makes the internet slow and unreliable. I’m a filmmaker by trade and have recently moved two businesses here from London because I want to support my home town. However I may be forced to move back to the city because I cannot get the reliable, high-speed web access I need. There are wider implications of this too. Imagine if the thousands of people who live in our area could commute digitally, what a difference it could make to the environment, not to mention to our crowded trains. Given all of this, I simply cannot understand why, when Britain lags so far behind Europe and the wider world on digital infrastructure, Parliament chose to pass a bill (the Digital Economy Bill) that limits digital growth instead of one that improves access. I fear we’re going to be left behind, and that companies like mine will find it hard to compete with better wired businesses elsewhere in the world.”