Monday, 30 May 2011
This is truly democracy at work and a good conscientious government doing the work of the people and representing what the people want.
The key to good democracy is doing the people's will whether it is a bad thing or not, after all people should be allowed to make their own mistakes and make their own decisions and the Government not to dictate what they think is best for the nation but what the nation wants.
So what's wrong with that?
Everything is wrong with it I'm afraid. Nuclear power is not safe, it can lead, as we've seen at Chernobyl and Fukishima to massive environmental incidents and potentially threaten human and natural life on the planet. However it takes something pretty big to cause that sort of crisis. Chernobyl was a product of aging reactors and poor safety procedures where as Fukishima was the result of a cataclysmic Natural disaster something the ever cautious safety designers in Japan hadn't taken into consideration. Don't misunderstand they had set a safety line and then knowing what their part of the world was made it an extra percentage safer but the scale of the earthquake and resulting Tsunami was even bigger than that!
Germany is safe from both of those problems. It has always been said (and fairly stereotypically) the Germans over engineer everything and they are pretty strict with rules and legislation. It would also be highly unlikely that an earthquake of that magnitude would occur under the North sea and cause a massive Tsunami that would sweep into Germany.
Nuclear power is non-renewable and does generate some serious waste issues BUT it is preferable, in my view, to gas and coal fired stations which are heavy pollutants and although cheap to run in the long run will run out of fuel. These are the very power plants that will have to be established to fulfill Germany's power needs for the Nuclear switch off in 2022. After all there are no really suitable sites for Geo-thermal or off sure wind farms, land ones are often rejected by NIMBYists as ugly and noisy. There is scope for tidal generators across the Rhine estuary or in the North sea but such measures are expensive.
It has been said that "What is in the public interest is rarely in the public interest." and this is a case that demonstrates that and... as illiberal as it is to say this, the Government should have ignored the masses and done what was right and what IT deemed right for the people as sometimes the people do need guidance and direction on certain issues.
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Monday, 23 May 2011
On May 5th I stood amongst fellow party members and watched the party collapse, not only in Medway but across the nation and it was frustrating to watch something I cared deeply about fail so horrendously and not be able to do anything about it. This was coupled with the utter failure of the AV campaign which meant that we were kicked in the guts whilst we lay on the floor bruised. Angry, bitter and hurt Lib Dems filed out of Count halls across the country thinking about how they were going to pick themselves up and where we were going to go now. I know I asked the question and Blogged about it.
Many turned to the leadership and Nick has been labelled as the Captain of the ship that struck the Iceberg.
The big questions are;
Is this the time to replace Nick? Who would replace him?
Nick Clegg has become like Asquith. A once inspirational leader who is responsible for many great strides and improvements is rapidly finding himself out of touch and out of his depth in the evolving political world. The Media mock him, deride his policies, the Tories hate him and us as a sort of parasite that is sapping their essence whilst feeding on their power, Labour see us as the Achilles heal and Ed Miliband wants to be Nick from last year, even his some of his own party members dislike him seeing him as a sell out. I'm a fairly loyal Cleggite but even I have found myself shouting at PMQs.
"Damn it Nick stop nodding! You don't agree with the crap coming out of Cameron's mouth do you?"
Something must be learned from the Asquith scenario of 1916. Lloyd George took over from him and yes he was more of a political force when it came to solving the national crisis that was World War One but he sold out to the Conservatives and Boner Law, the party was also effectively destroyed and split into factionalism of Asquithian Liberals, Coalition Liberals and it took decades to repair the party and get it to the position it was in last year. Do we really want to go down that road again?
Nick is also VITAL to the running of the coalition. He definitely has some form of chemistry with David Cameron, despite protestations to the contrary. They get on, they work well together and they are the glue that holds it together a new leader may not have that dynamic and could lead the coalition to rupture and crack forcing another General Election and heralding the return of Labour and further defeat for us at the polls.
We may dislike the coalition at times in fact some LibDems and some Tories hate it a lot but lets face it this our chance to make a difference and we are making a difference and pushing forward Liberal reforms and policies if we mess it up now we will always be known as the party that imploded at the first whiff of responsibility and as the U-turn party that once propped up a Tory Minority government. We don't know what the next four years hold but we should hang on in there and see.
Many great politicians messed up royally in their careers but are remembered for their successes. Winston Churchill responsible for the Gallipoli massacre and economic decisions that brought about the general strike saved by epic leadership during World War Two, Milk snatcher Thatcher remembered for the Falklands, George Washington for crossing the Delaware and not the crushing defeats in the Philadelphia campaign. The tuition Fees and local council defeats could be Nick's Quatre-Bras, a defeat he has had to suffer before a stunning victory at Waterloo. If his stance and words of tough Liberalism are genuine and start to ring true, if he stands firm on defending our stance on NHS reform, if he battles the return of the ID database and visibly stands up to the Tories then damn it I'm still on board and I will gladly Tweet "I agree with Nick again."
If... If, when all is said and done it is another damp squib and we just trundle towards the next election in a mediocre diet Tory party fashion then I think in the autumn conference of 2014 we should stand up and elect a new leader for the general election, a new face, a new direction.
But if it is worse than a damp squib and things get worse for us and the country, if we really are ceasing to agree with Nick and each other I think maybe... and it pains me to say it, we should act sooner.
But I have faith that Nick can turn it around for us.
If a replacement for Nick was to be found I think it would have to be someone outside of the government, someone who hasn't been tainted by the coalition or has stood their ground. Unfortunately that rules out Danny Alexander and even Doctor Vince and definitely Chris Huhne who has ruled himself out in recent weeks! also, unfortunately David Lawes and even Simon Hughes. I, personally think someone like Tim Farron or Greg Mulholland would be a good choice or Julian Huppert. Good, solid Lib Dem MPs who represent their constituents, who stand by their pledges and begged others to do the same. These are the people who agree with the grass root party members and if the worse comes to the worse take over from Nick.
Again I say that I support Nick, I agree with Nick and understand he has a tough job, a job none of us would or could do and his position is attacked on all sides by many vipers and carrion eaters but he stands tall and proud trying to do what he thinks is right. I truly believe that in 2015 we can look back on the coalition and say.
"Well it started badly but look what we have accomplished thanks to Nick."
It is also up to us, the grass roots activists to tell people what we are doing in government, tell people what Nick is doing rather than isn't and pushing the Liberal message.
Sunday, 15 May 2011
Now that Sophie has celebrated her first birthday with jubilant smiles and cake, how has the Coalition and more importantly how have the Lib Dems celebrated their first year?
Well the council results last week tell it all. I stood with colleagues and friends in a giant hall at the Medway Leisure park centre and watched the results come in. I saw a good man and councillor of 11 years lose his seat in Gillingham South to a Labour candidate that had not canvassed me or even delivered a leaflet. The chair of the Medway Lib Dems, Sue Hannant was quoted in the KM extra this week:
"There is no doubt the coalition did for us.
I personally think we should never have gone into it."
Her sentiment has been echoed by Lib Dems across the twittersphere and in party meetings across the land as they tackle the fall out. I have even echoed concerns with the way we are portrayed and conduct ourselves in my post: http://gingerliberal.blogspot.com/2011/05/libdems-where-to-go-from-here.html
But in the week that followed our defeat and the reversal of Cleggmania what have the party leadership and indeed our coalition partners made of it?
At the bottom of the pile are the observers and Lib Dem activists who have watched a party seem to betray its core values in Government, Nick Clegg a once dynamic leader become cowed into a Darth Vader style villain working with Cameron's Palpatine to crush the plucky British citizen with economic hardship and social injustice for just a ministerial car and office. The parliamentary party seems divided as well, with ministers like Huhne and Alexander nodding in agreement whilst Dr Vince goes from one blunder to another vs. the Huppart's and Mullholland's of the party who stand up for their Liberal beliefs and speak their minds even if it is against the government's wishes. There also seems to be a third way... a grey central ground held by Simon Hughes and others who should disagree but instead stay strangely silent.
Norman Lamb, a leading Lib Dem and advisor to Mr Clegg has come out in recent days and described the party as a human shield for the Conservative party. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13331612)
People have told me that we are to blame for the harsh government economic measures, that we have a Liberal Chancellor - possibly from the amount of interviews Danny Alexander had to make. Even with the NHS reforms, a process our party members were quick to reject at the Spring conference we have been attacked for standing our ground;
"Instead of coming along after they had made the NHS bill and arguing about it, the Lib Dems should have argued against it from the beginning." Ed Miliband
Conservative back benchers, some of whom have been against a coalition with the Lib dems from the start, have been uttering displeasure at Mr Lamb's observations.
"One of them, Peter Bone, said the Lib Dem ministers had to show more "collective responsibility" and stop "bleating" about the Conservatives." (Ibid.)
Instead Mr Clegg has harkened to advice from the Lib Dem members, perhaps he even read this blog, (unlikely) and has announced a tougher more "Muscular Liberalism."
The following email was dispatched to Lib Dem members:
Earlier today I gave a speech at the National Liberal Club to party members and activists outlining where I believe we should go next in coalition. You can read the full text of my speech here.
The decision we took to enter full coalition with the Conservatives, a decision we collectively took, was absolutely the right one. However it is important to be clear that the current government is a coalition of necessity. The driving force behind the formation of the coalition was the need to act together in the national interest to sort out Labour's toxic economic legacy. It is not a 'national' government, but it is a government formed in the national interest.
In the next phase of the coalition, both partners will be able to be clearer in their identities, but equally clear about the need to support the Government and government policy. We will stand together, but not so closely that we stand in each other's shadow. You will see a strong liberal identity in a strong coalition government.
We will not define ourselves in relation to the other parties. We are defined by a century and a half of liberal politics. It is not left. It is not right. Not the anti-Tory party, nor the anti-Labour party, nor the anti-politics party. Instead a party of enterprise and fairness; a party which knows we can do more together than we can alone.
We are a liberal and democratic party. And we will stand our ground in the liberal centre of British politics.
The Speech itself was a very good one, (http://libdems.org.uk/latest_news_detail.aspx?title=One_Year_In%3a_Coalition_and_Liberal_Politics_-_Nick_Clegg's_speech_to_mark_the_first_anniversary_of_the_Coalition&pPK=b06a3476-8433-42d4-83f7-cbcba784f4b5) and there were many good soundbites for the collected members of the Liberal club and the media as a whole.
It is quickly stressed that the Coalition was not one of convenience but of necessity because of the economic crisis, a crisis that Labour left behind, a party that the public had no real confidence in to sort it out.
But the driving force behind the formation of the coalition was necessity: the need to act together in the national interest to sort out Labour’s toxic economic legacy. It is not a ‘national’ government, but it is a government formed in the national interest. - Clegg
Clegg, also reminds us what a golden opportunity the coalition is, it can show that we as a party are able to legislate, govern, generate ideas and are a good choice for government;
I am confident that by showing we can combine economic soundness with social justice – competence with a conscience – we will be an even more formidable political force in the future. -Clegg
He also acknowledges that the party has failed to be in the forefront of the media, telling people what we have done rather than what we have failed to do. Pupil Premium, free pre-school, moving for an elected house of lords, delayed Trident renewal, cutting income tax, helping pensioners... All of this has been lost in the quagmire of the media and cast into the shadow of Tuition fees.
"In the next phase, both partners will be able to be clearer in their identities but equally clear about the need to support government and government policy. We will stand together but not so closely that we stand in each other's shadow," -Clegg
This will be a good move! It will hopefully help to define us as a separate party again. Indeed on the doorsteps for the local election a Liberal Democrat councillor, with a Lib Dem Candidate badge and rosette was told by one householder in Gillingham South. "No thanks, I don't vote Tory."
If we can stand apart from the Conservatives a bit more, if we can show ourselves as the reformist party that we are we can win back the voters we have lost by 2015. We can honestly say that we have done our bit for the party and the country as a whole. We may not win every time but the proof is in the stance.
We are not just a prop to the Conservative party, we are the Liberal Democrat party and we have our own key core values and beliefs that don't always agree with the Conservatives.
However, and as much as I'd like to end on a triumphal Lib Dem surge, I should point out that we are still in coalition. As James Landale points out ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13355877) the coalition will only work if we don't let it turn into a marriage that has wilted into mutual distaste - marred with bickering and backstabbing, of anti- Tory or anti-Lib dem hacking. It is easy to hate each other and to bicker but we also need to work together too solve the deficit and bring in change and reform.
If anything we should not judge the Coalition on what has happened in the first year, and certainly not listen to the criticisms from Labour who cling to the comfort blanket of opposition, and who had just as fragmented party in government as the Coalition which is in fact two parties, we should wait and see how it develops and get involved and judge it on its merits.Clegg also taken steps to move away from the Conservatives and now that we no longer need to play nice for the AV referendum he is offering to stand up to the Conservatives a lot more over policy hopefully showing how separate we are.
Monday, 9 May 2011
Other groups, that are separate from the Unions are apposed to the cuts, everyday people who supported the peaceful UKuncut demonstration back in March and went to Hyde Park to listen to Mr Miliband speak.
Others who work for the NHS are worried about job cuts, privatisation, "efficiency savings" that will not only jeopardise Patient care but also patients lives.
On the local level people are worried about affects on council services, loss of Sure start, wasting money on a new Bus station that no one really wanted, public services etc
Who do these people turn to? The Conservatives? Labour- who have let them down in the past and whose plan for the future is pretty much the same just slower or a blank sheet of paper, Lib Dems?- The bedfellows of the Conservatives and betrayers of the people (obviously not my view but a common one) UKIP or the BNP? Greens? -aren't the environmentalists? No one is there...
TUSC does represent people's needs and fears. They aren't some loony lefty fringe party that only has one message they have practical suggestions and courses of action that would solve unemployment and their plans are drawn from historical precedent and actions of the Attlee government.
(Please see: http://gingerliberal.blogspot.com/2011/04/trade-unionist-and-socialist-coalition.html for more of what they stand for and what I think, Jacqui Berry's facebook page; http://www.facebook.com/pages/Vote-Jacqui-Berry-anti-cuts-candidate-for-Gillingham-South/189146447796319)
As a Historian I am forced to ask what has History taught us about this? At the turn of the last century the leading party that represented the people and brought in reform such as better health, old age pensions, votes for women and residential reform looked at a small party led by Ramsey MacDonald and Keir Hardie as a group of left wing radicals that were over exposed to Marx and Engels and would never develop, in fact Asquith offered them a loose coalition just to help keep the Conservatives out and his party in power. A century on the Liberal party is all but gone, its successor the Liberal Democrats just suffered a major electoral loss to this small party - Labour.
I'm not saying that in a hundred years time Labour will have been supplanted by TUSC but it is a scary precedent!
So how well did TUSC do in the local vote in Medway? Well they stood 8 Candidates across the whole conurbation and received, on average 249 votes per candidate! Well that's more than I got! Some people will say that they only got 0.72% of Medway's vote but as I said they only fielded eight candidates so that's pretty damn good in my opinion.
(Figures quoted from: http://wwwjohn-m-ward.blogspot.com/2011/05/medway-council-election-results-some.html)
BUT and back to my original point, does their existence threaten to keep a Tory majority by splitting the left vote? Yes it does.
Some people, who would normally vote Labour or Lib Dem are drawn to the message, decisiveness and drive of Ms Berry and co. as well as their direct campaigning on the streets of Medway and at the PCS hustings, an event the Conservatives and ourselves failed to attend ( I was there, just didn't have the gumption to get up and speak!) By default the Conservatives get in, however this is no reason not to vote for a party or its representatives. After all only a year a go the Conservative media was telling us "A Vote for Clegg is a vote for Brown!" and I recall an episode of the Simpsons where the evil aliens Kang and Kudos are running for US president,
Homer says: "We could vote for a third candidate"
Kang and Kudos in unison. "Sure you can, throw your vote away!"
If the party were to use this election as a learning experience and get out on the streets and really push the message then they may even take seats at the next election, especially if the Libdems continue to fall apart and Labour continue not to do anything about their economic policy or properly oppose cuts etc.
If Labourites are worried enough about the rise of TUSC, and I believe they should be, then they need to address their party's policies or represent genuine people's problems in Medway and dare I say it the UK in general and remove the need for a splinter party. As for us, I'm not sure. I think the Lib Dems have their own journey to make and because of our spot in the coalition it could cause massively harmful ramifications for us.
Ultimately the appearance of TUSC has inconvenienced Labour at this local election, probably cost them some votes and maybe even a seat or two across the board but they aren't some lunatic fringe that should be ignored, I think they're a force to be reckoned with and should the economic situation fail to improve or, as Ed Balls suggests, double dip, then their support will, rightly, grow and grow.
Saturday, 7 May 2011
In councils we've lost, such as Norwich and Sheffield we need to watch, openly criticise the new administration as and when they fail and make cuts.
Point out lies, omissions and inaccuracies.
But Chris... That's easier said than done. People hate us at the moment and its what we were doing before hand.
I think it is fair to say that the honeymoon is over for the coalition. I'm not suggesting that the party should leave the Coalition, far from it!
The coalition has a lot of important work to do, and we are pushing through a lot of our policies, policies that we wouldn't have a hope in hell of passing if we waited for a Lib Dem government.
We are also dulling the blade of Conservatism. I agree with Nick when he says that a Pupil Premium, AV referendum, cuts to income tax, free pre-school education would not have been brought in by the Conservative government on its own.
But we need to stand up, as a unit and say when we don't agree with something.
This is important, we have the right to abstention over issues, but the party all need to do it, not Just a few "Dissident MP's" whom the media quickly dive on as "Splitting the Coalition" but from Nick Clegg down we need to be able to say "No."
No to illiberal, unpopular, selfish policies that may arise or anything that is not supported by the party at large, especially NHS reform.
I also want to state that I am not encouraging dissent for the sake of dissent but we do need to remind the public that we are not a sub sect of the Conservative party and that we are backing "Alarm Clock Britain" and the electorate.
The more important thing is that we need to start trumpeting our achievements rather than relying on them to speak for themselves. People don't know that we've lowered the income tax threshold, or created the pupil premium all that can be seen is Tuition fees and austerity cuts.
Our achievements are being eaten up as "Government policy" and silently read as "Conservative policy." This needs to change.
I'm going to say it... I agree with Nick. I think he works exceptionally hard at a thankless job that anyone in his position would suffer with.
I think a leadership challenge at this point is politically crazy and dangerous. We've suffered a defeat Yes, but that is no reason to round on our leader yet unless he fails to address the situation. A change of command shows us to be weak in the face of adversity and strife and no one will support a party that crumbles like that. The last time we were in power we did the same thing, Lloyd George replaced Asquith and the split was horrendous and helped cause the party to implode. The same would happen now, we already strain a little between social liberals and Orange Book Liberals but we still use the same approach to solve problems, Mills' theories on Liberal politics. Its what the electorate and media don't get.
To quote Clegg again: "We're not on the left, we're not on the right. We have our own label. LIBERALS"
So I think our leader needs to remember that and start showing it not just closing his eyes and doing what he thinks is best but what the party and the people want.
Just one last thing and I think it is one of the most important. We've learnt that we cannot jump on bandwagons, or rally to populist policies that win votes but are hard to implement. Look at Tuition for Pete's sake.
When you're on the doorsteps or campaigning out there, and this goes for parliamentary and activists, and you too Nick if you're reading this (I doubt it) don't make promises that we cannot keep. Its simple.
In our local election the independents have said they will campaign to bring rail fares down. Balderdash.
We need to campaign on issues and truth... Not Balderdash.