What do we stand for?

Now I know this isn’t something that, as Liberal Democrats, we should be asking ourselves but maybe it might be worth asking the average voter this question. We used to be the party generally associated with PR and far too often just seen as a place for protest voters. But since the coalition this has changed dramatically. People now view us as ‘that party in coalition.’

When policy is coming out of coalition it is clearly very difficult to put our name to legislation when almost all policy is part of a collaborative effort with the Tories, even if it had originated directly from our manifesto. So the big question for 2015 is gonna be what do the Liberal Democrats stand for? It is very rare that you find a voter who will instantly think “ah yes, you’re the party of the pupil premium!” Sadly, we still have a very long way to go and things won’t get easier if we don’t begin to establish where our true priorities would lie in a Liberal Democrat majority government. PR wasn’t and simply isn’t enough. This blog post is not an answer to this problem but its more of an acknowledgement that we should not forget that a lot of people still don’t actually know what we really stand for.

Something to think about in the light some pretty dysmal results.

Why the momentum is with Brian

Last night I had the pleasure of attending Sky News’ London Mayoral Debate. The setting was on a very high floor in the overwhelmingly huge Heron Tower, the tallest building within the City of London. Being practically skyrocketed up in the elevator felt like being transported to another world. A very political world. Amongst the excited excited audience the usual journos were lurking in the backgrounds no doubt planning their personal ways of spinning the result even before a single word is said from the three men invited to debate. We think politicians are bad for their spinning, but its certainly not without the help of their friends in the media.

The debate itself, I expected, was to be a carbon copy of the Newsnight debate we had seen a few weeks back. However, with an eager audience who were openly invited to stand up at any time and make themselves heard, there was a certain edge to the proceedings where you never quite knew what could happen or what someone might say. Kind of like Question Time on crack, but held in some weird detached political bubble overlooking London. The questions came thick and fast with topics covering housing, poverty, crime, the London riots and transport. Some very eager bike enthusiasts nearby even got to ask the question they had been planning on road safety for cyclists. However, what really surprised me most that night was the reaction from the audience. We, as Lib Dems, already hold a certain fondness for Brian Paddick (well I hope you all do!), but too often Lib Dem candidates are too quickly dismissed by the public for their allignment with the party. This was not the case as even Adam Boulton himself conceded that if the debate was to be judged on claps from the audience then Brian was the clear winner. Amidst the usual bickering between Boris and Ken, Brian managed to articulate his points clearly and passionately making some risky claims that really took many back (blaming the death of cyclists on Boris was a risky move that paid). Whether it was road safety or Brian’s knowledge of the police and crime issues, he commanded the platform he shared and managed to hold off the ramblings from two, quite frankly, political giants.

All in all Brian pulled off what Nick Clegg did back in 2010, although I doubt viewers would be so quick to fall at the feet of our candidate after a few debates this time around. But asides from that, it seemed that Brian really managed to step up his game in a way that will be hugely beneficial to the London Liberal Democrat campaign. If Brian’s performance wasn’t enough of a boost then the latest Mayoral poll will certainly add to it. Just a week or so ago we were fearing that the Green candidate Jenny Jones was on the verge of becoming the third candidate with Brian polling as low as 5%. However, we now see that support has risen to 11%, over double what he previously was polling. The momentum is there and if Brian can put in another strong performance in the ITV debate on Tuesday (which will no doubt have a much higher viewership) then London could really be in for a surprise on May 3rd.

To find out more about Brian’s campaign then go to his website http://www.brianpaddick.com

Oh and if you’re the tweeting type then remember to use the hashtag #paddickpower

ANOTHER thing, watch this fantastic video:

My Student’s Union headache

Firstly, I do not usually use this blog for these kind of rambles but since I intend for this to be a one off kind of statement I felt it would be pointless creating a whole new blog for what I want to say.

26 days ago the Union of Brunel Students elected a number of students into part and full-time Officer positions to serve the students for the academic year of 2012/2013. I was hoping to be one of the lucky few elected to an officer role as well but, sadly, I still sit here 26 days after the polls closed compeltely clueless about whether I am elected or not. The reason for this is something completely out of my hands. I have had so many people coming up to me with the kindest of words and I feel it is unfair, not just on me, but them to be left in the dark over what happened or what isn’t happening. Many of these people had never voted in a Student Union election before and had taken their time out to do just that. Many had done this time and time before but were still very much interested in the proceedings of their Union which they pay into and all help succeed in many ways whether it be through the Student Union bars, Student Activities, using Academic services it provides or by simply admiring the Costcutter Kiosk (now open from 1PM to 1:01PM!..I kid, of course).

So what actually happened? If I knew the whole story then that would put me in a much clearer position and would have my mind at greater rest. But to cut a long story short the incumbent President was accused of breaking many rules and regulations which had been set and then passed by UBS’ Student Assembly (which I happen to Chair). I say accused because I do not think it would do me any favours by trying to second guess the actions of individuals for who I am not responsible. I ran a clean campaign and that was and is my primary concern. The problems with this began at the end of the election. I was informed a few hours before the results that I was not to find out the Presidential result that night. I was not phased as I was well aware that issues had arisen so I merely took comfort in the fact that it was all to be resolved in a matter of days (or at least I thought). The Elections & Referenda Committee, who deal with any complaints and issues during the election period, had made a decision based upon the complaints received and evidence compiled to eject the incumbent President from the election. This is what I found out a few days after the results night and it did not help with what was going around my head and the fact that every few hours I had to explain the situation to many of my friends and people who recognised me from the election. I was unsure of what this meant but it became clear soon enough that the incumbent was now in a position to appeal that position, which as far as I’m aware, they did do just that.

The responsibility was then passed to the Returning Officer and out of the Union’s hands. The Returning Officer is supposed to be an individual who oversees the election and has the power to make decisions that rule over that made by the Union in an election. As far as we are aware the Returning Officer has not made a formal decision as of yet and neither has the incumbent President who is expected to appeal to the Returning Officer. We brought in our Returning Officer from the NUS, who has a lot of experience with SU elections, with the expectation that he would be able to make big decisions like this. Either we were wrong or something is going on that we don’t know about.

Now this may seem all a bit silly and I may look rather impatient but this is a huge thing for me. Not only do I now not know my fate for next year but the Union is currently without a President for 2012/13. I will uphold and respect any ultimate conclusion that is reached but I will not accept the fact that myself and the other candidates have been very much been kept in the dark. This is not a criticism of the Union and its staff as they have acted within their powers and have done a sterling job but what of the Returning Officer? What of the current President? What the hell is actually going on?!

Another question is being raised in light of this election and that is what do you actually have to do to get kicked out? We have Regulations and we have our Constitution with accompanying By-laws but they are clearly powerless in such a process that gets to this point. We are not even sure of a time limit for a decision to be made on this issue and students are, as expected, getting restless. I had friends who took hours out of their own time to assist myself and others did the same for other candidates. I skipped lectures, damn nearly missed deadlines for this because it matters. Not just to me, but to the 15,000 students who will be represented by the Union’s nominal head. Me and the other are now in a state of limbo. We’re either to be elevated to Presidency or dropped back to where we were over a month ago. I should be revising as I write this or even applying for Placement positions (a prospect I’ve since ditched due to the sheer uncertainty this process has brought) but instead I sit here re-assuring people that a decision will be made and re-assuring them that justice (whatever justice even is in this situation) will win the day but am I being truthful? I don’t know if I am because I am just as in the dark as everyone else.

Win or lose we need to move forward from this and make sure a position like this is never reached again in future SU elections. We need a stable and strong system to ensure we are clear on what won’t and will get you chucked out of the election. I don’t envy the position others, including the current President, are in as this has well and truly messed with my head. What is most worrying is that after all this we could either be left with the status quo or a situation where people question the validity of a new President’s victory. Whoever ends up winning is being given the hardest of starts. I intend to keep you all updated to the best of my ability but for now this is all I have to offer.

My clash with Andy Slaughter MP and the words I thought I’d never hear!

Ok so it wasn’t a clash but I did get the chance to speak to Labour MP  and Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter at a Q&A at my univeristy, Brunel. Mr Slaughter spent a good 15 minutes talking about how right wing the Coalition was, how huge the Lib Dem U-turns had been so it was no surprise that I was pumped up with a lot of anger. I took my opportunity to question Andy on the recent failure for Labour to vote against the 50p rate being dropped to 45p on high income individuals. He also made an interesting comment on the Budget which was something I thought I’d never hear from a Labour MP.

My first question was on the 50p tax rate. I asked him why he and all Labour MPs, bar two, chose to abstain on a vote on the 50p rate. No surprise that he quickly thursted the Labour line that the party voted against the Budget as a whole. Well, of course they were going to. Well done Mr Slaughter for doing what is expected of you as an opposition MP. He even said there wasn’t a vote but after I made it clear I wasn’t going to let it slip he blustered that other Labour members were too busy and had other things to do so “most of them had left”. I asked why those present chose not to vote but I got no clear answer other than what the Balls’ spin machine had been producing.

What was really surprising for me was Andy’s assertion he made that I don’t think I had heard from any Labour MP since the budget. Although he said those on middle incomes came out poorly under cutbacks he did in fact also say that those in the “top 10% were hit hardest”. This is not only shocking as it shows a Labour MP speaking of the budget truthfully but its also the first time since the budget that I have seen a Labour MP, a high profile one at this, not keeping to the party line of referring any reference to the high earners to the cut in the 50p tax rate.

I’m not sure what to make of Andy Slaughter MPs revelation but what is clear is that beneath the surface of the spin shield there is a very clear and vivid realisation that Labour know very well that this “right wing” Coalition have done what others thought we wouldn’t by making sure those at the very top paid their way.

Labour are well and truly spinning out of control and all I can say is pass me the popcorn.

Bradford West by election coverage

02:44

Clarity on the result (in full)

Respect 18,341 (55.9%)
Lab 8,201 (25.0%)
Con 2,746 (8.4%)
LD 1,505 (4.6%)
UKIP 1,085 (3.3%)
Green 481 (1.5%)
Nat Dem 344 (1.0%)
Loony 111 (0.3%)

Labour now blaming the fact that Galloway is a celebrity. If this was how politics went then Katie Price would have been elected in 2001 as well as Esther Rantzen in 2010!

An extraordinary night and its been thoroughly enjoyable trying to cover it! Thanks again 🙂

02:30

Respect – 18,341
Lib Dem – 1,505
Labour – 8,201
Tory – 2,746
Loony – 111
UKIP – 1,085
Green – 481
Dem Nat – 344

02:28 – Result coming in now!

02:16 – Lots of people complaining about the poor BBC coverage. Mike Smithson (@mikesmithsonOGH) just tweeted: “Why is the BBC Bradford West coverage so crap? This is the most sensational by-election result for decades and they are ignoring it”. Truth in those words. The BBC need to ensure proper coverage of by-elections in future.

02:05 – Talks of plotting already underway as to what to do with Ed Miliband in light of this result. Really exposing the importance of this result.

02:03 – Labour, just four hours ago, were “confident but not complacent”. Stunning turnaround for Respect. Talk of Galloway win of 2:1 over Labour.

02:01 – Not much being said now as there is little to report but its just starting to sink in that Galloway is making a shock return to Parliament!

01:49 – It appears I missed the turnout call! The clarify I’ve heard its at 51%. Very impressive turnout for a by election.

01:41 – Returning Officer reportedly saying we should expect a result around 3AM. My prediction of 0140AM seems all the more daft now!

01:38 – Amusing tweet from @JHepplestone “Queues in Bradford as people panic buy cat food in case of a Galloway victory”. #byelectionbanter (Hash tag my lame addition, not his!).

01:34 – Sky News trying to find out whether the result is worse for Labour or the Coalition. Seems quite clear that its easily the former. A hurrendous result in a safe Labour seat.

01:22 – For those wondering the Bradford West result in 2010 was Labour 45%, Tories 31% and Lib Dems 12% with the other parties racking up around 12% of the vote. The seat has been held by Labour since 1970 when they took it from the Tories.

01:18 – Twitter going crazy with by-election fever. Both “George Galloway” and #bradfordwest trending.

01:14 – For all my Lib Dem friends following this blog I apologise that I have heard so little on Jeanette’s result. Reports not good but apparently activists finding comfort in Labour’s crushing defeat. The line may well be that this wasn’t a rejection of the Coalition but Labour’s poor record in Bradford.

01:06 – Galloway attributing his victory to his anti-war message. Condemning not just the Labour candidate but also pitiful result from the Coalition parties.

00:56 – Sky now suggesting a result at around 1:40AM. Interview with Galloway revealing that Respect will field candidates not just in Bradford local elections but in many surrounding areas expecting surprise results.

00:50 – Galloway claims the “path of treason set by Tony Blair” is the reason for his victory.

00:49 – “By the Grace of God we have won the most sensational victory in British political history.” – George Galloway

00:43 – George Galloway still not yet to be seen at the count. Apparently resting his voice and throat after a lot of heavy campaigning and speeches.

00:35 – Sky News predicting Respect vote of 50%, Tory vote collapsing to as little as 13% (down from 31%) and a quote from a Labour MP to sum it all up…”we’re not just going to lose, but we’re going to lose by a mile”.

00:32 – Count verification nearly complete so we should be hearing on the turnout shortly. Actual vote count will commence after that. My 2AM prediction could turn out to be far more accurate than the Sky News one #libdemconcellationprize

00:24 – BBC backing up a lot of what we have heard from Sky News saying Galloway likely to win.

00:17 – Word that a Labour defeat could really take the wind out of their big comeback in the polls and on their strong response to the Budget, #cashforcameron and the potential fuel crisis.

00:14 – With talk of Galloway’s sensational return to Parliament the Big Brother banter has already begun. “Would you like me to be the cat?”

00:03 – Jon Craig on Sky News claiming we see result in an hour or so. 1AM sounds rather ambitious. I’d say wait for closer to 2AM. Swing to Respect from Labour could be up to 37%. Mosque elders were advising to vote Labour, young voters and women voters seemingly have done quite the contrary!

00:01 – Rumours are that Galloway took 3/4 of the Postal Vote. Seems suspiciously high but it comes with the gossip on a by election night like this!

23:56 – Awaiting the official turnout shortly. Rumours of as low as 30%. Would be a surprise considering the hype but similar scenes were seen in Feltham & Heston. May be the case that the votes in Bradford West became sick of the coverage and political hype.

23:53 – Tory MP reporting to have said that Galloway is to have won 50% of the vote! Earlier today Ladbrokes had 40/1 on Galloway winning over 40%. Even if he made 40% it would be truly shake the political landscape in 2012.

23:47 – A Tory friend of mine just informed me that we may be doing worse than I first predicted! I doubt we shall fall to 7th like he says but regardless these are very worrying times. Labour MP quoted as saying there will be “a Respect MP”. Truly astonishing what is unfolding before us.

23:43 – Rumours that Lib Dems may well have been beaten easily by UKIP. Not just this, but also we are to worry about the Green vote as well. Very worrying news for the party.

23:38 – Sky News reporting that Labour MPs are slowly conceding defeat. Galloway has reportedly won postal votes as well as three “muslim wards”. Sky calling it “sensational”. Labour “jitters” now turning into “dismay”.

23:34 – Twitter seems to be going Galloway crazy. A couple of hours ago the feed was filled with Labour confidence. The picture could not be any different now!

23:33 – Early rumours are that Galloway is edging Labour on the postal votes. If this is true then Labour will be very worried as this is where Galloway actually believed he would have lost a lot of ground to Labour. Also I’m hearing that UKIP may well be running the Tories close for 3rd. Not too sure on the Lib Dem vote at the moment but it isn’t looking good.

23:31 – Apologies for the late kick off, I’m not quite as on the ball as I was for Feltham & Heston but I shall try my best!

#CashForCameron and where this leaves the Liberal Democrats

The Sunday Times tomorrow will be formally ‘breaking’ their story tomorrow about the allegations (well, concrete proof) regarding Peter Cruddas, Conservative Party co-treasurer. The Sunday Times undercover reporters question Mr Cruddas about what a donation to the party would mean for them and their business. Cruddas spoke how “Two hundred grand to 250 is Premier League” He also went on to say that “… what you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners”. Such a story will spell disaster not just for the Tories but also for the Labour party who will no doubt be made to re-address their former scandals regarding the influence of wealthy donors on political parties.

Some had seen reform to political party funding as an issue well and truly swept under the carpet, but these events will surely rekindle the flame for reform. This is where we need to make sure our party steps in. I truly believe that our policy of state funded parties is the clear and moral alternative to the sorry state of affairs we have now. Cameron vowed to help end political lobbying, declaring it a “scandal” and there is no way in hell he will want to be tied to this latest scandal and certainly not to the status quo. If he has a decent bone in him he will lead his party to back any reform we put forward. I believe it is only right that the Lib Dems lead on this because its either us, CashForCameron’s Tory party or Labour who still remain well and truly buttoned up in the Union’s pockets.

If we can’t win in an environment like this, with a setting so perfect then we never will. The party needs to act now and I call upon Nick Clegg to do it not just for the party, or for the coalition, but for the sake of politics in Britain.

 

By the way, sorry I haven’t posted in so long I’ve been very busy and I shall explain all soon 😉

Why Boris may secretly want to lose in May

If you’ve at least been on twitter or on various political sites today, you will no doubt by now have read about the latest YouGov poll that sees Ken moving ahead of Boris by the narrowest of margins. Now anyone would think that such a shift in opinion would have Boris quaking in his boots and I’m sure he is worried about losing his job this May, but I have a feeling that a loss would not be all doom and gloom for Boris. Politically speaking anyway.

In the event of a Hung Parliament, in 2015, where the Conservatives end up behind Labour on vote share and seat share I imagine it is likely that David Cameron would step aside. I do not see him as a figure who would grasp on to power at all costs in the way Gordon Brown was willing to in 2010. I imagine he would be more than happy to protect a record that has proved popular amongst Conservatives, but not so much amongst the left-wing press and the anti-Tory brigade (I mean would he have ever managed to have pleased them?). In September 2011, Toby Young raised a very good point on this very issue that if Cameron had lost then the likelihood of Osborne becoming leader would be scuppered by the fact that he would also be very much accountable for the Tory defeat. This, I believe, provides a perfect opportunity for Boris. If he loses in May then I imagine it would take a lot to keep him from the Political scene and a likely stand in 2015 for Parliament would be a surprise to no one. He is loved by his party and has proved popular with many Londoners, which is why it has been so hard for Ken to really mount any sort of campaign against him. I think Boris, himself, feels he is destined to Govern this country and that to rule him out in doing so would be very foolish.

So what can we expect come May? If Boris wins he keeps his job and leads us into the Olympics and hopefully more prosperous times for London (or so they’d hope). If he loses? Then there is a bloody good chance his leadership campaign begins day one after his defeat. Watch this space. The Boris bike route may well change course and I imagine its headed straight for Number 10.