30 March 2012

Remembering David Walter

Lib Dem Voice reports the sad news that former Lib Dem head of comms David Walter had lost his battle with cancer.

David was not just a national figure, but a stalwart of local politics too - a long term member and deliverer in North Kingston, despite being the consumate professional journalist.

The wonderful ITN archive provides hundreds of clips of David in action but this one is particularly relevant.

In 1984 Ken Livingstone and two others resigned their seats in protest at the council's abolition. Three by-elections were held which were boycotted by the Tories- but not the other parties. In addition to David's reporting the other Kingston link is the interview with the Liberal candidate - a young Steve Harris - the then leader of the Council.

Friday favourite 52

The Joy Formidable, Glastonbury 2011, John Peel stage...

Kingston Lib Dem councillor defects

One of my local councillors - Canbury ward Lib Dem - Tim Dennen - has resigned from the party for personal reasons and now sits as an independent.

This is the first change of affiliation in Kingston politics since the Tory civil war of the turn of the century and the first Liberal change of allegience since the 1980s. In another return to the 1980s the Conservatives won the Coombe Vale by-election in December - their first such win since 1987.

One of Cllr Dennen's last acts as a Lib Dem councillor was to vote with local Conservatives for tax payer funded trees and bunting to celebrate the jubilee.

Kingston has the highest council tax in London and one has to wonder whether trees and bunting are a sensible use of public money.

27 March 2012

Centre Forum discuss coalition

Last night Centre Forum hosted a session on what makes for successful coalition politics for a junior coalition partner.

Things were kicked off by a presentation by Ben Page (pictured) from MORI whose research shows the Lib Dems having lost 2/3rds of its 2010 support and made reference to various research papers that show junior partners, such as the Irish PDs, always lose out.

What I found most worrying by the session was the general acceptance that this collapse of support is the end point of analysis (not the starting point) and there was little sense that the party needs to find out more about why people have stopped voting for it.

Simon Hughes then spoke about five themes that the party could promote at the 2015 general election. This mainly consisted of being 'competent and fair' - more competent than Labour and more fair than the Tories. Which is neither a strategy or a campaigning position.

It is clear there is a huge vacuum at the top of the party - with no strategy for either coalition or the next election. Merely becoming a party of government and governing cooperatively and reasonably is not an election winning strategy - even if some of those advising the leadership appear to think it is.

26 March 2012

Remembering Jocky Wilson

The sad news that Jocky Wilson has died aged just 62 has meant that darts (and Kirkcaldy) has lost one of its most infectious personalities.

Wilson was one of the big personalities of the 1980s era of darts - when rooms were smoke-filled and players were drink fuelled. Wilson not only partaked in both - his predeliction for sweet things meant he lost most of his teeth before he was 30. But his gummy grin graced the darts stage and the terrestrial TV channels of the 1980s. He won two world titles and probably could/should have won more.

But his greatest (and most bizarre) claim to fame is surely being mistaken for fifties black American soul singer Jackie Wilson.


24 March 2012

Monty Python does Rangers administration

This was posted on Hibs.net forum earlier today and it is so good it deserves repeating...


Duff and Phelps Insolvency Practice


Paul Clark of Duff and Phelps played by Michael Palin

Irate Customer played by John Cleese

The sketch:

An irate customer enters the insolvency practise

Irate customer: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.

(Clark does not respond.)

Irate customer: 'Ello, Miss?

Clark: What do you mean "miss"?

Irate customer: I'm sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint!

Clark: We're closin' for lunch.

Irate customer: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about this football club what I purchased not half an hour ago from this very insolvency practice.

Clark: Oh yes, the, uh, the Bigotted Blue...What's,uh...What's wrong with it?

Irate customer: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. 'it's bust, that's what's wrong with it!

Clark: No, no, 'e's uh,...it's debt free.

Irate customer: Look, matey, I know a bankrupt club when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

(Irate customer brandishes portfolio of bank statements and documents)

Irate customer: As soon as a took the club home some guy in a bowler hat from HMRC demanded £70 million. Then some ticket tout said he was looking for most of our ticket money for the next four years. Finally some spiv came around saying he was the real owner of the club.

Clark: No no it's not bust, it's recovering'! Remarkable club, the Bigotted Blue, idn'it, ay? Beautiful away strip!

Irate customer: The away strip don't enter into it. It's totally insolvent.

Clark: Nononono, no, no! it's emerging from administration!

Irate customer: All right then, if it's recovering', I'll check it's bank balance! (shouting at the cage) 'Ello, Mister Broxi Bear! I've got a lovely cash injection for you if you show any sign of life...

(Clark hits the nudges the portfolio)

Owner: There, it moved!

Irate customer: No, he didn't, that was you hitting the portfolio!

Clark: I never!!

Irate customer: Yes, you did!

Clark: I never, never did anything...

Irate customer: (yelling and hitting the portfolio repeatedly) 'ELLO BROXI!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your financial health checkl!

(Takes bank statement out of the portfolio and thumps it on the counter. Throws it up in the air and watches it fall to the floor and bounce up and down.)

Irate customer: Now that's what I call an insolvent club.

Clark: No, no.....No, it's got a short-term cash flow problem!

Irate customer: A short-term cash flow problem?!?

Clark: Yeah! You spent all the bank balance by payin' the wage bill, just as it was moving into profitability! Bigotted Blues run of of cash easily, major.

Irate customer: Um...now look...now look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That club is definitely bust, and when I purchased it not 'alf an hour ago, you assured me that its total lack of cash was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged title celebration party.

Clark: Well, he's...he's, ah...probably pining for the Boyne.

Irate customer: PININ' for the BOYNE?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that?, look, why was the bank account empty the moment I got 'im home?

Clark: The Bigotted Blue prefers running with limited financial reserves! Remarkable club, id'nit, squire? Lovely home strip!

Irate customent: Look, I took the liberty of examining the clubs' books when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it was still in the League was that it had been NAILED there.


Clark: Well, o'course it was nailed there! If I hadn't nailed that bird down, it would have been out of the SPL, and legged in to the English Premier League and the Champions' League Group stages. VOOM! Feeweeweewee!

Irate customer: "VOOM"?!? Mate, this club wouldn't "voom" if you put four million volts through it! 'it's bleedin' demised!

Clark: No no! 'it's recovering!

Irate customer: 'it's not recovering'! 'it's passed on! This club is no more! It has ceased to be! 'It's expired and gone to meet its maker! 'it's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'it rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the SPL 'it'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'it's off the twig! 'it's kicked the bucket, 'it's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-CLUB!! If you hadn't cooked the books it would be in oblivion with Third Lanark, Aidrieonians and Gretna.


Clark: Well, I'd better replace it, then. (he takes a quick peek behind the counter) Sorry squire, I've had a look 'round the back of the shop, and uh, we're right out of Blues.

Irate customent: I see. I see, I get the picture. Have you not got any Paranoid Greens?

Clark: No we've got no Greens at the moment.


We're expecting a Manky Maroon in any day now

Irate customer: Pray, does it win things?

Clark: Nnnnot really.


23 March 2012

Friday favourite 51

The Strange Death of Liberal England - one assumes the noble Lord Bonkers will have something to say...

22 March 2012

Exclusive: those London Underground bonus strings revealed

Britain's most loony union - the RMT - has walked out of negotiations over an £850 Olympic bonus payment claiming that it came with 'strings attached'. By spooky coincidence I stumbled across a paper marked 'private and confidential' at St James's Park tube station (Underground HQ) on my way home this evening.

In it, it revealed management's demands of tube drivers in order for them to receive this £850 bonus:

1. Turn up in time for work

2. Get in cab

3. Start motors

4. Drive train

5. Errr that's it

6. Oh no it isn't - remember to stop at red signals.

Tube drivers earn a minimum of £43,000 a year and all tube trains are capable of driverless operation.

21 March 2012

Geordie comedienne leads Labour's budget response...

Thursday March 15th, Sarah Millican: "For the Queen Downton Abbey is like watching Big Brother."

Wednesday March 21st, Ed Miliband: "the cabinet sees Downton Abbey not as a costume drama but a 'fly-on-the-wall documentary'."

20 March 2012

NHS slumps to fifth...

... biggest employer in the world according to the Beeb.

Ahead of the Indian State Railways, but still behind the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

19 March 2012

Looks like the 50p tax rate is a goner...

...so says Lib Dem Voice's ever well informed Mark Pack.

What is not clear is what the Lib Dems will get in return. Speeding up the increase in personal allowances would be a very poor trade off, as it was due to happen anyway.

I hope to be convinced the party has got something in return that is both sound economically and politically saleable. If not then I fear it will be the last straw for many in the party sceptical of the leadership and the coalition.

16 March 2012

Friday favourite 50

Work commitments this week have got in the way of any forward planning of the Friday favourite. But the strong rumours that the Lib Dems are about to support George Osbourne's abolishing of the 50p upper tax rate has meant I thought it might be good to find something appropriate.

Abolishing the 50p tax rate that only 350,000 people in the UK are eligible to pay is almost certainly good economics - and evidence seems to suggest that it has raised almost no revenue since being introduced at the arse end of the Blair/Brown government.

However it is appalling politics.

The budget has for decades been irrelevant to economic management - that happens on a day-to-day basis regardless. But it remains the big political theme setting set piece of the political year. And if the headline is a relative handful of rich people get a tax break from it - then it simply adds to the confirmation that the current government is a Tory one in everything other than name.

Anyway onto the song. What is clear is that generally in the UK income is taxed too highly and wealth is not taxed enough.

So to put some steel in the spines of Liberal MPs here is Michael Foot's favourite polical song - the Land. But apologies for the poor quality of the sound.

Lib Dems to back abolishing 50p tax rate?

Newsnight reports that Lib Dem MPs are to back Conservative budget plans to abolish the 50p tax rate for those earning over £150,000 per annum. Newsnight claimed that Lib Dem MPs couldn't stop it happening and would be rewarded by further moves to raising the tax threshold towards £10k.

If true, one can only despair at the concept of confirming people's worst fears about this government at the price of doing something that was going to happen anyway.

But then over the last two years Clegg and the Lib Dem leadership have never failed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on almost every single issue of public concern.

13 March 2012

Rangers Blue Knights to fail fit and proper test?

So says the ever informed Scots Law Thoughts.

One of the problems (a few bloggers excepted) of the reporting of Rangers administration is the supine cravings of the Scottish media. Sports journalists north of the border fish in a very small pool and the often tedious going ons at both halves of the Old Firm conjoined twins are given prominence they rarely deserve. As a result journalists enjoy too close relationships with the PR departments of Rangers and Celtc in a bid to get the next 'scoop'. And therefore the serious investigation and questioning of Ranngers and their administrators has pretty much been avoided by the mainstream Scottish media.

So it can only be good news that C4 News's chief reporter, Alex Thomson, has taken an interest. So far he has provided a lot more insight (and reported the views of non-Old Firm fans) than the average west of Scotland hack.

12 March 2012

The convenient non-resignation of Joyce

Eric Joyce's non-resignation has been much commented on by bloggers such as Liberal England and Stephen Glenn.

But what I find most interesting is that the real winner of this sad affair is the Labour leadership. A by election in Falkirk would have almost certainly seen an SNP victory - setting Labour's recovery back and putting more pressure on the lacklustre leadership of Mili Minor. So one can't help wondering if Joyce's statement had been agreed right at the top of the party...

11 March 2012

Lib Dem Bloggers fall into the fatalism trap

Why do governing parties (in particular) lose elections? Is it because they make unpopular decisions, fail to listen enough or simply lose control of events?

If you read some of the most popular Lib Dem bloggers - here and here - they seem to suggest the fate of the Lib Dems is entirely down to a vote of a few hundred members in a conference hall in Gateshead on whether they pass or reject a motion on the minutiae of the changes to the NHS proposed in the current bill.

The facts are that if the bill is passed by 2015 the NHS will exist pretty much in its current form - very well paid independently organised GPs will still be the driving force in patient care decisions and multi national drug companies will still be rubbing their hands with glee at the fat profits they make for providing generic drugs to the entire NHS at a huge mark up because the central bureaucracy is incapable of procuring anything at a competitive cost.

But that isn't the point.

Even if the bill resulted in the sacking of every nurse and doctor and the importation from the USA of their rapaciously inefficient health practices - then the Lib Dems fate would still be in their own hands.

The fact is that since entering coalition the leadership have been atrociously advised, media and PR has been almost non existent and its campaigns stuck fighting the battles of 2005. That's the cause of the party's collapse in vote share in the last two years - not the the decisions MPs and ministers have taken in government.

And if the party and its activists can cast aside the fatalism that says there's no way back and the leadership learn the real lessons of the last 18 months there is no reason not to look forward positively.

And there are signs in Nick Clegg's warm up speech in Gateshead that that is starting to happen:
“And now it is time to move on. To stop justifying being in Government and start advertising being in Government. To stop lamenting what might have been and start celebrating what is. To stop defending our decisions and start shouting our achievements from the rooftops.

“Lower taxes for working people. Fairer chances for our children. And the beginnings of a new, green economy that benefits everyone in every city, not just a few in the City of London.

“So: no more looking back. You can’t drive if you’re only looking in the rear-view mirror."

Let's hope it's the start of a proper campaign strategy - but given the several false dawns over the last year or so - I won't be holding my breath...

9 March 2012

Paper aeroplanes predate human flight

Workers renovating a 14th century former chapel in Barnstaple, North Devon, have uncovered a squadron of paper aeroplanes that are likely to predate the Wright brothers first powered flight.

The Daily Mail carries the story...

Friday favourite 49

This is one of my favourite songs - and while Cathy Dennis's cover isn't a patch on the original I think it is significant. Dennis transformed herself from attractive singer of tacky dance songs into one of the biggest influences on global pop music.

She is responsible for Kylie's relaunch hit 'I can't get you out of my head' and Katy Perry's breakthrough 'I kissed a girl'. And her live appearance on an early Channel 5 daytime show shows her mid this transformation.

She also comes across very well in the second clip which features some young but now very familiar faces - including a current Tory MP.

8 March 2012

Mansion tax opponents make Vince Cable's case

Tonights London Evening Standard carries an article attacking the concept of the mansion tax - much favoured by Lib Dem economic guru - Vince Cable.

If one was trying to find the least effective spokespeople for the anti mansion tax case Vince couldn't have done better. Here's a flavour of their opposition:

Ivor Dickinson, 54. Estate agent managing director who lives in a large house worth about £3.5 million in Sussex and commutes to his London office every day.

He says: “I inherited this house from my grandparents and would have to pay the extra tax out of my salary. Bringing up three daughters and sending them to private school makes life quite tricky as it is. Anyone of my age will tell you it’s a very expensive time of life. I just about scrape through...It’s the most outrageous idea I’ve ever heard.”

James Wright, 60. Chairman of the Belgravia Residents’ Association. He lives in a house valued at £10 million in Eaton Terrace, near Sloane Square, SW3.

“If the mansion tax is introduced, my bill would be £80,000 a year,” he says. “It would not actually ruin me, as I run a successful business. But it would mean I would have to sell or remortgage some cheaper properties I own to pay it."

7 March 2012

David Boyle sums up my thoughts on the NHS bill

In a superb article on Lib Dem Voice, David Boyle (a former editor of Liberal News), outlines why liberals should support the Health and Social Care Bill.

The fundamental problem with much of the party's thinking over the last 20 years has been a kneejerk support for producer interests and a failure to accept the state can be just as venal and incompetent as the private sector. Sadly it's the thinking that drives Liberal Left and much of the Social Liberal Forum's policy making.

What matters to liberals surely is the quality, efficiency and costs of public services - not who provides them?

6 March 2012

Viv Bingham 1932-2012

Viv Bingham was one of the first people I met at Liberal Assembly and he always had time for a chat on the rare occasions I bumped into him - at conferences or the odd by-election. The party will miss his authentic liberal voice - grounded in the non-conformist politics of the English north.

Better tributes than I can manage can be found at Liberal England and Stephen's Liberal Journal.

This report from the Journal of Liberal History of a fringe meeting looking back at the first 1974 election contains contributions from Viv (among others) - but not Jeremy Thorpe who was apparently ignored by the chair!

3 March 2012

Former Kingston councillor loses out as Helmer defects

Rupert Mathews - a former Conservative councillor in Surbiton - has had his hopes of becoming a Euro MP dashed with the announcement that Roger Helmer has left the Tories to join UKIP. Conservative Home has the story.

Mathews has a colourful history in Kingston - but probably an even more colourful one in the East Midlands as Jonathan Calder reports.

2 March 2012

Not Liberal Democrat Voice

Lib Dem Voice has introduced a tough new comment censorship policy. The unintended consequence has been that loyal Lib Dems who want to robustly defend the party against often obvious political trolls find their comments censored while the original attacks remain.

Here's what I tried to post this evening in the comments thread to the interesting op ed Liberal Left have short memories...

One of the failures of the self styled left (both within and without the Lib Dems) is an arrogance and certainty that they are the sole keepers of the progressive faith and that only solutions approved by themselves are valid ‘progressive’ solutions – you only have to read the comments page in the Grauniad to see this false consensus. And it is this false consensus that believes that the Tories are ineluctably evil and only interested in lining the pockets of a small minority of very rich people. Which if true would make it difficult to explain how they manage to win so many elections.

So any policies that might be suggested – such as selling council houses (for example) – would be immediately discounted because they don’t fit this view that the Tories are only interested in a small group of vested interests. I’d also assume that any policy outcome that didn’t involve the public sector would also be excluded for the same reasons.

Edit - in the interests of fairness this comment has now been published by the LDV team.

Friday favourite 48

In a change of schedule by way of remembering Monkee Dave Jones, here's the band with one of my favourites, Pleasant Valley Sunday. Jones has been generally described as their lead singer. But I remember from the original TV shows - as in this clip - Mickey Dolenz mainly taking on that role (assuming miming counts)...

Clegg takes just 84 seconds to diss work experience critics

A rule of good communications is that less is always more. In this clip - courtesy of Lib Dem Voice - Nick Clegg shows how to make a case succinctly and powerfully.

More please Nick.