Thursday, May 28, 2009

European's the economy stupid!

I was delighted to see how high our European website is coming in Google search when you type in European Elections - and a bit of reassurance that there are still some people out their who recognise that this election is about more than dirty moats, homeless ducks and "growing" families! A friend suggested to me last night that when people on the doorstep were complaining about expenses I should say - oh no, I certainly don't begrudge MPs their bath plugs, after all they are the only people who can afford the hot water to go in the bath now!

This is such an important election, while the nation is approaching hysteria about what is going on, at the same time we are in danger of prioritising the "haves" over the increasingly high number of "have nots".

The credit crunch has become yesterday's news and yet as we speak many of my fellow Lutonians are worried sick about Vauxhall closing completely. When I was a child nearly everyone had a relative who worked there. My dad did until I was about 8, my uncle a fiery shop steward - nicknamed "Red Ken" in the era of "Red Robbo" did until he died. And across our country ordinary people, who don't have the luxury of "allowances" to build extensions or buy their food, are paying the price for 30 years of Tory government (sorry, but I don't make a distinction between pre and post '97). So the need to work together in Europe to develop better banking regulation, greater consumer and worker protection and to support the development of skills and employment has never been more urgent. How the Tories can see that their isolationist position will be in the best interests of the people of this country beats me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Celebrity" challenge to Nadine Dorries

Yet another "celebrity" has jumped on the "let's kick out the MPs" bandwaggon. David Van Day, late of I'm a Celebrity get me out of here (which may be what he would be saying if elected!) is apparently to challenge Mid Beds MP Nadine Dorries - I would put a link to her website but it has been shut down by the Telegraph. Interestingly Mr Van Day has been a Tory candidate before.

So it looks like the good people of Bedfordshire are to have the option of sending both Esther Rantzen and David Van Day to Westminster to represent us. There is a danger of the Palace of Westminster truly turning into the Palace of Varieties - perhaps they will end up hosting the Royal Variety Performance - no need to go anywhere else!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rennard Quits

Like many of you I was taken unawares by the following email that just popped into my inbox - more comment later -

Dear Linda,

First, I'd like to thank all members for everything that you are doing to help our candidates in the European and local elections (if you have local elections in your area). I am sure that they appreciate your support at a difficult time in politics. If you are standing yourself, then obviously I wish you the best of luck!
My reason for writing is that I have decided to make the current election campaigns my last as Chief Executive. I discussed this with Nick some time ago and I have given notice to the Party President that I will stand down as Chief Executive at the end of the Summer.
I want to be able to work more flexibly in future whilst of course continuing to help our party advance. I believe that I will be better able to do so without the administrative burdens of being Chief Executive and running the party's day to day organisation.
For family and health reasons, I have needed to change the way in which I work. My wife Ann has supported me enormously in all my work. But since she retired a few years ago after more than 35 years teaching, we wanted to have something of a more normal life outside the Westminster bubble.
This has become more important to me as I have struggled to maintain good diabetic control with the rigours of a very demanding lifestyle. This has proved to be increasingly difficult whilst carrying out the role of Chief Executive at HQ and around the country.
I decided that this Summer would be the best time for me and for the party to make a change. I am letting the party know this now, so that it can take the necessary steps to appoint a new Chief Executive in the Autumn.
My major work as Chief Executive in recent years has been to help create new structures for the party organisation and help to recruit an extremely strong professional team to work for it. The role of Chief Executive has therefore changed significantly since I undertook this role six years ago.
By the Summer, we will have had crucial local and European elections and I believe that we will do well in them. I am also confident that Nick Clegg will prove to be the most successful Leader that we have ever had. I am immensely proud of the roles that I have played so far in securing the steady advance of the Liberal Democrat cause. Our values and beliefs have never been more important than they are today. I will, of course, continue to support the General Election campaign, but not as chair.
Finally, I would just like to thank all members personally for all the support that I have had whilst working for the party and I look forward to continuing to work with you in future.
With all best wishes,
Yours sincerely

(Chris Rennard)

PS I thought about letting you know this after the current round of elections, but having taken the decision and informed the Leader and President, I wanted you to hear directly from me and to fully understand why I have been trying to make lifestyle changes and will make an even more significant one later this year.
Nick Clegg has issued the following statement:
Commenting on the decision by Chris Rennard to stand down as Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg said:
"It is impossible to exaggerate Chris' immense contribution to the Liberal Democrats over the years. Without Chris' unique skills as one of the country's most astute and effective political campaigners, I doubt that the party would now have the largest number of MPs in decades.
"More recently, his work as Chief Executive of the party has been invaluable in steering the party through some turbulent times and significantly professionalising the organisational aspects of the party.
"I am especially grateful to him for the invaluable support he gave to me when I first became party Leader. At all times, he has been utterly loyal, hard working and dedicated to the wider good of the Party.
"He will be sorely missed as Chief Executive by the many people in the party for whom he has been a huge inspiration for years.
"Whilst I understand Chris' reasons for moving on as Chief Executive, I am equally looking forward to drawing on his immense wisdom and insight into politics in the years ahead."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nick Clegg - Why break the habit of.......a few lifetimes?

Well done to Nick Clegg for putting his head above the parapet on the issue of the speaker. Ok it may be a few hundred years since we lost one, but that is no excuse for allowing him to limp on. It is abundantly clear the man has lost complete contact with the real world, despite his much lauded origins. Somewhere along the way he drew up the drawbridge in his own little moated ivory tower! He is clearly part of the problem, not part of the solution - the reason probably why he doesn't see it himself and recognise that it is time for change.

Nick has called for a reformer to take the job. I think this is going to be the toughest issue for the Commons - who is a reformer who has the integrity, authority and commitment to take on the role? I would have opted for Ming, but I fear he would no longer command the authority he once did. Despite the fact that the worst possible solution would be to have another Labour speaker, I guess that is the most likely outcome. I am at a loss to think of any Tory MP who meets Nick's criteria although of course I would identify a number of our MPs (further revelations notwithstanding) who would fit the bill.

Whatever the outcome tomorrow - Michael Martin has been fatally wounded, the question is not if, but how soon - he goes. I trust he will not have spent this weekend buying ridiculously expensive bookcases for his Hansards given his pending retirement!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sweeping the Sty Clean

Having been on the road so much lately I fear my mental blogs have never seen the light of day, but, as you can imagine, they have been myriad :-)

Like so many of you I have had to endure the daily tirade of justifiable criticism on the doorsteps of the East of England. My normal response to "you're all the same" doesn't really cut the mustard........the electorate are tending towards the biblical view of sin - size doesn't matter! Hobnobs, sanitised moats, flipping, pruning 500 trees - all send the same message - our politicians are taking the proverbial.

I am delighted that the FE is meeting on Monday and according to our President, Ros Scott - they will be considering this issue. I have, like many, written to her asking for an urgent inquiry into whether any of our parliamentarians have brought the party into disrepute. Frankly, regardless of the fact that as yet it appears none of them have engaged in flipping, claiming second home allowance for homes 100 miles from their constituency or when they don't appear to have a first home; the fact is some are tainted and have in my view brought our party into disrepute. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to meet those tirades on the doorstep with - well, you know none of our MPs would do such a thing......hmmmm. Offences may be minor but surely buying something for your second home - however justifiable and having it delivered to your first home, needs rather a lot of explanation. An internal party inquiry would allow that to happen.

Watching Question Time this evening I had such a horrible sense of politicians having been metaphorically cut off at the knees. Their stature, all of them (even the wholly innocent) is diminished. Their words sound like tuneless clanging cymbals - tinny, discordant, unbearable to listen to.

We have an opportunity on Monday to show some real moral leadership. It really isn't good enough to hide behind the fig leaf of our transgressions are not as bad as your transgressions. Cameron acted swiftly but frankly didn't deal with the underlying dishonesty and opportunism of his colleagues, just asking them to "pay it back". And surely any profit someone has made on a second home, not just the tax, should be repaid? Aah, I am sure that many accused of benefit fraud because they forgot to inform the authorities of a change in circumstances would be more than happy with such an arrangement.

What makes the sty stink more is the climate in which all this is happening. We already have one in three of our children growing up in poverty, this is bound to rise. Many many families are having to deal with the stress of redundancy, repossession and unbearable debt. Those they should have been able to rely on to represent their interests it appears have been more interested in representing their own.

We have to be calling for a general election now, regardless of how many MPs we may lose or gain. Even after we have swept this sty clean - it will be a long long time before our fellow citizens regain their trust in the political system - and that is a tragedy for all of us, but most disturbingly of all, for democracy itself.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Margaret Moran - A curse on all your houses!

On Monday my first task will be to telephone my MP's office to make an appointment to see her next time she deigns to visit her constituency. Now, even if she is in the town I reckon my chances of an appointment are pretty slim. I have a friend who has been trying for ages to get an appointment to discuss asylum seekers and finds she is never available.

But I will try, after all.......I do have something in common with Ms Moran - we are both "women of a certain age" born in the same year, but clearly not with the same mindset. Frankly - if she "needs a family life" maybe she should do what most ordinary people do - either move her employment or ask her partner to do so. Her shrill mealymouthed explanation of why she can flip all over the place is frankly sickening. She was elected to represent the people of Luton South - I really cannot understand how she can possibly do that whilst living 100 miles away.......or maybe I am missing something???????

Those of us who aspire to political office have to accept it comes at a price. It doesn't mean you can't have a family life, nor should it, but it means you have to be prepared for adjustments that mean you just can't have your cake and eat it. Politicians - I thought - were supposed to serve the people - being their representative, advocate, a voice for the voiceless, committed to making life better for the many not the few.

So - I want to go and have a chat with Ms Moran, I would like an honest explanation of her behaviour - woman to woman. What sticks in my gullet is the fact that she wouldn't have been there if other women hadn't been prepared to be imprisoned and died for the privilege. She is the embodiment of everything that makes me sick. She has not only sullied her own name, but mine too. While I have devoted most of my adult life to trying to make life better for my fellow citizens, she has totally undermined my efforts by her cynical exploitation of her position. When I knock on doors at the moment and meet those who are too disillusioned to vote or worse, those planning to vote BNP, it is her and those of her ilk I blame. Now, this is not to deny that she has done a lot of work campaigning on domestic violence, I appreciate that, but please Margaret - does the word integrity mean nothing to you? Frankly, your pathetic explanation for your totally inexcusable behaviour is astounding. If you want to salvage any vestige of that elusive quality integrity you should go - and go now.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Paddy Ashdown - Please NO!!!!!!!

I am up uncharacteristically early since I woke to the news of Paddy Ashdown's clandestine chats with potential "Blairite defectors" from Labour. Apparently there is concern that some local parties are becoming "too left wing". Deja vu - except that the Labour Party of the early eighties - when Derek Hatton roamed the land - is quite a different animal from the Labour Party of today. I left the Labour Party then to join the SDP because I was uncomfortable about the direction the party was taking - yes - too left wing even for me! I was probably one of Richard Hussey's "stranded liberals" who actually has ended up feeling far more at home in the Liberal Democrats, despite some of my disagreements at the margins. Richard has given a thoughtful, thought provoking analysis of the prospect of us sweeping up a load of Labour discontents. However..............

I have to confess I am not really an "evangelist" for the party - I actually don't believe everyone should join. Whenever I talk to people about joining or defecting I will always make the point that they need to consider first whether or not they share our values. For too long we have been happy to welcome anyone regardless of their values - and it often ends in tears. What really worries me is that it is the Blairites that want to join our party. The Blairites - the architects of the Tory Party reincarnate, the warmongering, civil liberty denying, anti public service characters for whom frankly, I have little time.

Funnily enough yesterday I met with a Labour Party member to discuss tackling the BNP in the European elections, but also debated the possibility of a realignment of the left. In the evening I chatted to a friend from STWC about the vacuum on the left of British politics and his view that as Lib Dems we were in danger of missing an open goal.

If those who are considering defecting from the Labour Party are doing so because, as the Telegraph article suggests, the 50p rate is a drift to the left - I would remind them that this was a Lib Dem policy - and frankly I wouldn't mind betting will be again. At a time when cynicism about politics and politicians has never been so pronounced, when the plaintiff cry on the doorstep is invariably "you're all the same" - the time has surely come for us to put clear blue water between us and the other two Tory parties. If the Blairites are going to defect anywhere I would suggest that their natural habitat would be with the Cameronites.