Friday, 31 December 2010

Poll Shocker - unless you actually have a working brain

Sky are shocked to learn that the Lib Dem MPs, who approved the Coalition agreement without a single vote against, have said that they're going to keep their word and stay in the coalition. Funnily enough, I always thought that, when they signed into a five year agreement, they did it with the intention of keeping it.

Also, if they were going to break the agreement, surely they wouldn't announce it to Sky over the phone, of all people. I mean, given that Sky is Murdoch's favourite tool to shoehorn public opinion into supporting what he wants surely every Lib Dem MP would be stampeding to give them an exclusive.

Seriously, the whole article is exasperatingly hilarious. If I'd been one of the Lib Dem MPs I'd have had a one syllable supply to the question:


Thursday, 30 December 2010

Who wants to help a crazy russian out?

Dig out your beer mats, a stamp and a jiffy bag. Pronto!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

I'm an obsessed, crazy fanatic

Apparently, there are plans underway to replace the No. 10 petition website with a mechanism that would allow petitions to be debated in parliament.

Labour MP Paul Flynn has been criticising this. One of his loquacious gems was:

The blogosphere is not an area that is open to sensible debate; it is dominated by the obsessed and the fanatical and we will get crazy ideas coming forward.

Well, that's certainly put me in my place. After all, here I am, sitting in my parent's basement (actually I'm in a living room in front of a log fire), frothing at the mouth (as if I ever would) and furiously typing (languidly is probably a better verb) my insane ramblings, blaming everyone and everything from socialists to fascists to the New World Order for my own miserable life (actually I'm rather happy with my life but I'd be a poor sport to try and escape the stereotype).

After all, it's not like bloggers routinely offer insightful commentary on current events, report stories which the main media ignores or call journalists and politicians out on lies and deceit. It's not like ordinary people ever have the temerity to go online and voice their opinions on matters which they feel politicians ignore.

Now, I'll be frank, some of the petitions on the No. 10 website have been insane - such as one protesting the application to build a "Megamosque" in Birmingham when there was no such application at all. However, there have also been petitions on such irrelevant issues as civil liberties, child detention and more. Quite clearly the public are not to be trusted with having their say - apart from election times of course, when I'm sure that Mr Flynn suddenly becomes a staunch man of the people, willing to listen to anyone and take their concerns seriously.

Look, the proposals are to include the introduction of certain criteria before a petition can be discussed - and I'd imagine such criteria would include something on making sure that the petition was actually about something that had really happened - so come on, give us some credit Mr Flynn. If you want to go and show your ignorance over a part of the internet which you clearly know nothing about then go ahead. But I'd like to think that the British people are slightly more intelligent than you give them credit for and certainly more intelligent than you.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A student's view

An old school friend of mine has written a very good article on her personal experience with tuition fees. It's well worth a read.

What ifs and the Coalition

A lot of people talk about what ifs. What if, following the general election, the Lib Dems had done this, or Labour had done that or if the Tories had done something else. Some scenarios have no coalition being made and no confidence and supply agreement either. Somehow this would have led to a magical progressive wonderland where the tories would have been defeated and been forced to implement left wing policies. That indeed is a wonderful image. But complete and utter poppycock.

There are three main reasons why any scenario other than the current one was impossible. The first is that the tories could have simply called another election, which the other parties couldn't afford to contest, and won the slim majority they needed to form a government.

The second is that any longer without a government and the markets would have lost confidence, pulling the rug out from underneath us and leaving us in a situation as bad as Ireland's. They don't do this when other countries (such as Belgium) spend ages holding coalition negotiations, but that's because a) in this country we have a media which was in uproar at a mere five days without being privy to what was happening and b) because the markets have all the intelligence of an over-ripe turnip.

The third reason is that there were no real alternatives to a coalition. I wish there had been others but there weren't. The LDs are making the best of a bad job and, apart from the monstrous betrayal by some (not all) of them over fees, they aren't doing too bad.

Not everyone will agree with me on this of course, so let me address my two hypotheses:

Labour and the Lib Dems would have been unable to afford to fight a second election

Labour is £20 million in debt already, the Lib Dems coffers are almost empty. There are 650 constituencies, merely to stump up the deposit to stand a candidate would be in the region of £500k - and that's not taking into account printing costs and all the other paraphernalia of an election campaign. There'd be no money for political broadcasts or anything else - sure people would come out and vote but the overwhelming message dominating the election campaign would have been the tory one - relentlessly pumped out via television, leaflets and the tabloids - that any government other than a majority would cause financial ruin. That would probably have been enough to win the election for them.

Of course, people might have voted differently but it's a hell of a lot to gamble on - particularly when the only thing you have is the hope that your vote will hold up.

An absence of a strong government would have led to a collapse in market confidence

Here's what it boils down to: as a nation, our credit rating is determined by market confidence. If confidence falls, so does our credit rating and then our interest payments go up, making it even harder to pay off the deficit. On the monday following the election the FTSE fell - the markets didn't like the uncertainty of the election results. In the negotiations even Labour were willing to concede that a quicker deficit reduction was needed. I'm not saying that politicians or the markets were right to think that a government without a majority would have meant disaster but that was the orthodox opinion at the time and it is hardly surprising that the politicians made their decisions accordingly.

Why there were no alternatives to a LD/Tory Coalition

If you read Mr Laws' account of the coalition negotiations you will see that the Lib Dems had already decided to do a confidence and supply agreement if no coalition deal was possible. The details of it were all worked out before Labour came to the negotiating table. We could have had a confidence and supply agreement but the tories could have threatened to call an election at any time whilst simultaneously being dependent on their right wing to get anything done. I guarantee you that, however abhorrent you find our centre-right government, it is far better than a full fat right wing government which is what the alternative to the coalition was.

Under the current government we have earning linked pensions, the pupil premium, an end to the detention in barbaric conditions of innocent children, trident renewal kicked into the long grass, reform of the House of Lords and a referendum on AV. None of these would have been possible without Lib Dems in a coalition.

Personally I would have liked to see a rainbow coalition, which might well have been possible, despite the parliamentary arithmetic being against it, were it not for the fact that half the Labour leadership, including Ed Milliband, were opposed to it.

It's almost amusing that the Lib Dems are now shouldering the burden of government whilst Labour are enjoying the blanket of opposition without yet providing any alternatives to what the coalition is doing. Our political system requires a credible opposition but we do not have that at the moment. Labour failed in government and now they are failing in opposition.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Motion of No-Confidence in Nick Clegg

Following the result in the House of Commons today, where the increases in tuition fees were passed with a majority of 21 votes, I, as a Lib Dem feel betrayed. I accept that the proposals are marginally better than the current system and that compromise is necessary in a coalition. Indeed, I continue, in general, to actively support the coalition. But our MPs signed pledges that they would vote against any increase in fees - this wasn't a negotiable manifesto promise but a cast iron guarantee to the electorate. I campaigned on this basis and believed our MPs would keep their word. You can see what Nick Clegg said on the matter here.

As a result of this betrayal, I will be submitting the following motion to the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference (anyone interested in sponsoring it can contact me here):

Business Motion of No Confidence in Nick Clegg MP as Federal Party Leader

Conference notes the assessment by the Guardian Datablog that 64% of the party’s manifesto for the 2010 General Election is present in the Coalition Agreement. Conference also notes:
a)      The findings of the Browne Review, that under it tuition fees stand to rise substantially and the report’s role as the basis of the proposals submitted to a Commons vote on the 9th of December.
b)       That in this vote 27 of the party’s 57 MPs broke their pre-election pledge not to vote in favour of an increase in tuition fees.
c)       That the parliamentary party leader, Nick Clegg MP was one of those MPs who broke their pledge.

Conference further notes the constitutional inability of Conference to recall the Federal Party Leader under the Federal Party Constitution.

Conference applauds the presence of 64% of our manifesto in the Coalition Agreement and of the efforts of our MPs and Peers in further advancing Liberal Democrat policy and values in government.

Conference believes that the breaking of the tuition fees pledge runs contrary to the wishes and values of the majority of the party and those who supported us.

Conference further believes that the breaking of the tuition fees pledge discredits and damages trust in the party and its principles.

Conference also believes that the party leader has betrayed the party’s core values on several key issues and that this does no credit to the party as a whole.

Conference therefore:
1.       Expresses its dissatisfaction with the actions of the Liberal Democrat MPs who broke their pledge.
2.       Supports those MPs who kept their pledge.
3.       Criticises the party leader for not doing more to support and publicise Liberal Democrat values and achievements in government.
4.       Expresses its belief that the continuation of Nick Clegg as party leader is damaging to the party’s credibility and electoral prospects.
5.       Calls upon Nick Clegg to resign as party leader.
6.       States that it has no confidence in Nick Clegg as party leader.
I hope this will go some way to showing the general public that not all Lib Dems are lying bastards like our leader.

The important thing to remember is that leaving the party, for social liberals like myself, would solve nothing. We are the party. What the leadership is doing is not representative of the Liberal Democrats or are policies - in my eyes Clegg and co have left the party, ideologically speaking. Now we must work to make that a reality. We are fortunate that, unlike the two other major parties, we are a democratic party and independent minded so those who have double crossed our members should expect to pay for it and this motion should be a taster to them of things to come.