Are people in politics allowed to change? Are their views allowed to develop and progress?
No, says Labour’s LGBT campaign, citing the fact that eight years ago David Cameron vote against the omission of “married” from a list of criteria to be used when deciding adoption applications.
No, says the Daily Telegraph, citing the fact that two years ago, an 18 year old Ellie Gellard vented her feelings about Gordon Brown’s conduct during the 2008 Glasgow East by-election in a blog post.
Politics is supposed to be about debate, about making arguments and testing beliefs. We accept – indeed, pin our beliefs about elections – on the idea that people will change how they vote. So why do we expect our politicians to be different?
I think LP Hartley was right – the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. Look at your own beliefs, political or otherwise. Are they static or unchanging?
Mine certainly aren’t. I wasn’t yet old enough to vote in 1997, but my immature impulse was to favour the programme Tony Blair offered the country. If I was anything, I guess I was a social democrat, but early contact with committed Labourites at University stopped that, and somewhere between then and now, I became an anarchist. Do I now have to stand on the beliefs of my teenaged self?
There must be scope to learn and develop – and to continue to do so. Will I look back in ten years time at a younger self who thought abolishing government was desirable, and smile wryly? I hope not, but I don’t discount the possibility.
It’s perfectly reasonable for David Cameron and Ellie Gellard to be challenged to explain how they came by their change in views, but expecting them to stand or fall, today, on what they believed and said then is wrong – and moreover is poisonous to our politics.
But this is not the same as absolving them of responsibility for those beliefs and statements, not the same as arguing that they must not take responsibility for them.
Stuart McLennan, Labour’s ex-PPC for Moray, wouldn’t have walked down the street insulting his prospective constituents – but he was happy to announce his views to the world. Personally, I could care less that he used obscenities about other Labour politicians: it’s his behaviour towards the people he claimed to want to represent that was the problem.
If McLennan wants to, he should have the opportunity to explain to a subsequent electorate why he’s changed, why he should be given another chance. And it’ll be for them to decide.
Just as its for Cameron to explain his change of position on LGBT rights, or Gellard to explain how she came to view Brown as she does.
Personally, I’d rather hear from someone who’s views have developed and been tested.
Underneath this all, I think there’s a problem with our approach to information. McLennan’s tweets weren’t secret, anymore than Gellard’s blog or Cameron’s vote. But our society has previously relied on aggregators – or as they prefer to be called, journalists – to conveniently package information and present it to us.
The likes of Daily Telegraph, splashing Gellard across the front page, still want to believe that if they cover it, it’s news – even if what they’re covering is two years old. The Sun, reprinting McLennan’s tweets, are just as bad.
[On a side note: I wholeheartedly agree with Juliet Samuels (aka
The Laughing Hyena Emily Nomates), who argued that the Telegraph and the Mail behaved the way they did at least in part for sexist reasons.]
But political parties are as bad. How could Labour select McLennan as a PPC without bothering to check his past public statements? Gellard’s blog was on a Labour party system, for pity’s sake. Did they think nobody would use Google?
One change the growth in the internet has wrought is a persistence of what would previously have been transient, and a dissemination of what would previously have been private. A young woman holding forth across a pub table about Gordon Brown is unlikely to be held to account for her views two years later, any more than a young man texting a friend about the person seated opposite him.
There’s a choice here: either we censor ourselves, withhold our views, and accept the blandness that follows, or we accept that people change their beliefs, develop their views, and sometimes say things they shouldn’t.
While it’s not clear whether they actually targeted their anti-tory “Cancer” mailing to cancer sufferers – and Andy Burnham denies they did – it is clear they targeted it.
Targeting is after all the purpose of direct mail, and the reported use of a specific digital printing house (Tangent Communications’ Ravensworth) adds further weight to this.
What has been interesting about the response from Labour is the failure to take the most straight forward option for ending speculation – explaining the selection criteria. Andy Burnham has said:
It is categorically incorrect to imply that we targeted cancer sufferers and we regret if any offence or anxiety was given to people who have suffered cancer.
This denies the allegation, but doesn’t answer the question – how did Labour target this mailing?
I’m not interested in conspiracy theories or Kremlinology, but I don’t think it’s acceptable to simply brush this aside as Labour would like to. The examples cited by the Times make clear that the targeting was not simply “women”, nor even postcode or age.
Burnham’s approach is also the approach taken by Labour’s supporters, along with attempts to turn the story around, and demand that people who question Labour’s conduct provide evidence of wrong doing.
Unity, who writes for Liberal Conspiracy, typifies this. He would like to rest on the fact that any large scale mailing would include a proportion – he estimates c.10% – who had suffered from cancer. This, again, fails to address the question of what targeting Labour undertook – something I’ve pointed out in comments on his post:
Labour sends mailings to 250k specific people, selected from a database covering the majority of people in the UK. Are you seriously suggesting that they just picked 250k random people to receive the mailing?
I keep having to say this to people defending Labour on this issue, but go back and read the specific examples the Times gave in their original article. These mailings were clearly targeted. At best Labour picked specific Mosaic codes; at worst, they used other data from National Canvasse to select recipients. If the latter, there is a valid question about how they were selected.
If a business had done this – think of Virgin Media’s “Bullet Hole” direct mailing from 2008 – there would be demands for a proper explanation. The media would not allow that business to blithely say “Oh, statistically some of the recipients would have been victims of gun crime”, and leave it at that.
In the meantime, another leaflet story came up – Zoe Margolis, author of Girl With A One Track Mind, posted photographs of a leaflet issued by Andrew Charalambous, the Conservative PPC for Edmonton. This differed from fundamentally the Labour cancer mailshot in not being targeted at specific individuals, but also because it used a striking – arguably graphic – illustration of a bloodied machete to grab attention.
It was picked up by
Sunder Katwala on Next Left Left Outside in a stinging post which tied back to the earlier controversy over crime statistics. (Liberal Conspiracy republished the post here. There’s also a later and rather similar – if not nearly as well put together – post from George Eaton at the New Statesman in exactly the same vein).
I share the distaste for the imagery used on the front of leaflet but it bears saying that Left Outside
Sunder only picks up on that side, and on its claim of a 44% rise in violent crime under Labour. He doesn’t take issue with the statistics that Andrew Charalambous put on the back of his leaflet:
- 160 children are convicted of crime every day, official figures show
- 2 violent crimes are committed every single minute
- Only 1 crime in 100 ends with a punishment in court
- 1 in 5 criminals caught with a gun or a knife, only get cautioned
- 80,000 criminals let out of jail early. Including 15,000 violent offendors. Those released went on to commit 1,500 crimes, including rapes and murders.
I look forward to seeing one of the left-wing bloggers show me that all of the above is made up.
Yesterday I was arguing that political advertising should be regulated by the ASA. Guess what – I think the concerns about Andrew Charalambous’ leaflet strengthens that argument. He should have to defend his claims, and his artwork, against the same standards we apply to any other advertisers.
Perhaps, instead of trying to downplay Labour’s cancer mailing, we could some cross party consensus going here on the need to remove the exemption of electoral publicity from ASA regulation?
I realise some may find this a bit difficult to grasp, but arguing that everyone does it doesn’t make it right – just as arguing that, statistically, shit happens, doesn’t excuse it.
Tim Montgomerie offered an interesting post this morning, which should be read by two kinds of people: those still undecided about Cameron himself, and those think a General Election campaign is the right time to attack your own side.
In pretty grandiose – even bombastic – terms, he laid into those people right of centre who are failing to support the Conservatives:
So the stakes are high at this election. As Horatio Nelson might say, “Any captain not engaging the enemy is not at his post!” And the enemy is not David Cameron. The enemy is a re-elected Labour government. Our friends Simon Heffer, Peter Hitchens and Kelvin MacKenzie are not at their posts. They are the critics hurling abuse from the stands. Theodore Roosevelt had their sort in his mind when he warned that it is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
Our opponents tonight are the cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
There’s a straight choice over the next couple of weeks, between re-electing a Labour government and electing a Conservative one. For all their “Labservative” nonsense, the Liberal Democrats haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell of forming the next government, and they know it. At best, Nick Clegg can prop up one of the other two parties – and he’ll have competition for that from the Celtic Alliance.
I’m the last person to argue for unflinching loyalty to your chosen party, but there comes a point where you have to make a decision about what you’d prefer. No party (or manifesto) is perfect, but I’m clear about which delivers more of what I want to see a government do.
It’s a theme Tim goes on to drive home, arguing:
Just as Margaret Thatcher inherited the children of Macmillan and Heath, Cameron inherits the children of Margaret Thatcher… and I don’t mean Carol or Mark! The candidates standing under blue colours at this election – and ConservativeHome has surveyed them more intensively than any other media organisation – cut their political teeth under Margaret Thatcher. They want welfare reform. Control of the trade unions. Lower, simpler taxes. Support for the family. Strong defence. She changed the politics of her party forever. Her children are coming to power. They won’t fail this country and neither will David Cameron.
Whatever you think about the way in which Thatcher went about it – and there’s no doubt that she often preferred the direct and violent approach of Alexander the Great to carefully unpicking problems – she left Britain in a far better state than she found it. Tony Blair couldn’t really say the same (having squandered the Conservative economic legacy with borrowing at the height of a boom), and Gordon Brown was the person holding the purse strings under Blair.
It’s time to put up, and shut up. Elect an Conservative government, then you can argue about the details of its programme all you like. But fail to elect it, and you share the blame for what ensues.
Labour ex-ministers are having a bad week of it. After Stephen Byers, Geoff Hoon, and Patricia Hewitt did their best to upstage the budget, it now turns out that Adam Ingram and Richard Caborn, respectively former Armed Services and former Sports minister, were also secretly taped by the Sunday Times/Dispatches team. If you’ve not already read it, John Humphrey’s comment following the first round of allegations is well worth a look.
Although various Conservative MPs were approached, only Sir John Butterfill actually took the bait. With five Labour ex-ministers and one MP (Margaret Moran) weighed against him, this makes the lobbying issue a party political one – any call for an investigation into claims by Stephen Byers that he had influenced policy, for example, becomes a call for an inquiry which could politically damage the Labour party.
Let’s be clear, an inquiry is needed into what Byers et al may have done in the past, not their behaviour when talking to the undercover journalists. If these people have influenced government policy in the way they claimed, this is a serious issue. It is even more serious if, as Richard Caborn is quoted in the Observer suggesting, civil servants’ decisions have been effectively suborned.
An inquiry is needed, and I struggle to understand the logic of Brown’s blanket refusal. Any properly conducted inquiry couldn’t hope to report before May 6, so any fall out from its findings would occur after the election. Moreover, having an inquiry will prevent Cameron and Clegg from making further mileage from the issue – since they’d be pre-judging the results, prejudicing the outcome, preventing a proper investigation, etc., etc. The refusal feels like a mistake, and will start to look like a serious error if further revelations drip out over the next week or so.
My immediate response to this story last week was that Brown’s position within the Labour had actually been strengthened by this story, given it was prominent Blairites who were being exposed. I still think that’s true, but that will change if his refusal to hold an inquiry develops from mistake to serious error.
On a side note, there’s a real irony in Sir John Butterfill being the only Tory on the list, given the Labour movement probably has more reason to respect him than any of the Blairite ex-ministers exposed by the undercover investigation. Last year, Sir John was responsible for the Building Societies (Funding) and Mutual Societies (Transfers) Act, which he introduced as a private member’s bill (the Financial Mutuals Arrangements Bill). The Act makes it possible for mutual societies to merge – something which improves the prospects of survival for co-operatives and mutuals – and made the Britannia Building Society’s merge with Co-operative Financial Services possible. It’s a real shame that he may now be remembered for a tawdry lobbying scandal, rather his private members bill.
Earlier I was writing about the relative liberalism – or lack thereof – of Liverpool’s Labour MPs.
Given their pretty woeful track record on standing up for their constituents’ civil liberties, would anyone care to guess how they might to vote on proposals to expand HMRC’s ability to conduct warrant-less searches?
Henry Porter wrote an excellent piece this morning about the Government’s plans, comparing them to the powers of the Stasi in the GDR.
Ahead of a General Election is one of the few times that a parliamentary democracy is particularly democratic. It’s time to start asking our MPs – and those people vying to be our MPs after May 6 – how they’ll vote on these proposals.
For Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, opposing these plans is wholly in keeping with our platforms. The Conservatives have already committed to rolling back the “surveillance state” and reforming RIPA so as to prevent the widespread use – and frankly, abuse – for petty issues. I see opposing these latest plans are a logical development. If HMRC have evidence, they should be able to go before a judge and get a warrant. If they haven’t, then why are they wanting to open post in the first place?
But what about Labour? The party that brought you a DNA database that breaches your human rights, the party that wanted to lock people up for 42 days without trial, the party that says it’s proud of having done these things and built a surveillance state besides?
Try asking your local MPs. If you’re in Liverpool Riverside, you can contact Louise Ellman here. If you’re in Garston and Halewood, you can’t contact Maria Eagle here – as her website seems to be down, so try this instead.
Anywhere else, try writetothem.com, which makes finding and contacting your local representatives simple and straight forward.
Ask your PPCs when they come to hustings, or turn up on your doorsteps. Don’t let them avoid the question, either – make them tell you what they’d do.
Once every five years we live in a democracy. It’s time we started behaving like it.
Liberal Democrat Voice – a yellow tinged version of ConHome – has a tool which lets you check out how authoritarian or libertarian MPs are.
Let’s be clear: it’s not the final word, just a rule of thumb, and it relies on the way MPs voted on the following issues:
- Freedom of Speech
- ID Cards
- 90 days detention
- Abolition of Parliament Bill
- Trial without a Jury
- MPs’ Expenses (FOI exemption)
- Control Orders
- Extradition Act 2003
- Government intervention in collection of evidence
- DNA database
It’s also – as you’d expect with the LibDems, heavily slanted towards social liberalism, rather than economic liberalism.
With these limitations noted, the results are interesting:
|Party Leader||Authoritarian %||Missed Votes|
Even allowing for the slight difference in the number of missed votes, the result is telling. That big clunking fist is significantly more authoritarian than either Cameron or Clegg.
Now, let’s have a little look at Liverpool’s MPs. They’re all Labour (yes, even Bob Wareing – he’s only an independent since he was deselected in 2007), so you might expect them to be much of a muchness.
You’d be wrong.
|Constituency||MP||Authoritarian %||Missed votes|
|Garston and Halewood||Maria Eagle||100%||None|
|Liverpool Riverside||Louise Ellman||90%||One|
|Liverpool Walton||Peter Kilfoyle||56%||Three|
|Liverpool Wavertree||Jane Kennedy||83%||Two|
|Liverpool West Derby||Bob Wareing||13%||Two|
It makes pretty depressing reading. Eagle, Ellman, and Kennedy are particularly bad – loyalist to the core, they’ve consistently put their party’s dictates ahead of their constituents rights, voting with the government to infringe the civil liberties. Both Ellman and Kennedy missed votes, so their scores would be even worse if they’d gone through the lobbies on those issue.
Frankly, they should be ashamed of the fact that ‘Serbian’ Bob Wareing is more liberal than them. Realistically, I doubt they care – and I suspect they’re the kind who view it as a badge of pride that they’re more “loyal” than him.
In democracies, even the kind of titular democracy represented by parliamentary systems, the real problem is not authoritarian leaders, but the “useful idiots” who give them legitimacy and support.
In Liverpool, we have three useful idiots as sitting MPs, and one more (Peter Kilfoyle) who’s not far behind. Eagle and Ellman are both up for re-election, and it would be nice to think that people might actually consider their voting records when they go to the polls. If you vote for these people, you compromise the right to complain about the infringements of your civil liberties, because you have enabled them.
Dizzy has done a quick post on the security issues with Cash-Gordon.com, and the *ahem* interesting redirects it was providing.
I was going to blog about Nestle today, and their amusing attempt to develop a presence on Facebook. That’s a substantive story, which offers real world lessons about brand protection and the need for professionalism in public relations even on social media platforms. However, I’ve other things to do, and I’m off to see Salvage at the cinema this afternoon.
The #CashGordon story, on the other hand…
On Saturday, the Conservative Party launched a new front in their attacks on Labour’s
owner trade union backer, UNITE the union. Cash-Gordon.com combined political campaigning and Facebook Connect to create something that should appeal to the people who play Farmville.
Basically, you could accumulate points for completing various tasks, ranging from reading Michael Gove’s speech about “Charlie Whelan’s new militant tendency” (25 points) to donating £5 to the campaign against Jack Dromey’s candidacy for Parliament (50 points). As I say, it should appeal to the kind of people who play Farmville. I’m not one of those, but I am aware their name is Legion, for they are many.
Labour’s fightback took a little while to assemble, but it came this morning, courtesy of Political Scrapbook. Relying on information in the public domain (You will marvel at our journalism!), they exclusively revealed…that the platform Cash-Gordon.com uses is an off the shelf one. In a stunning additional revelation, we were told…it has also been used by US conservatives campaigning against healthcare reform.
Be still my beating heart.
In other news, Labour uses Facebook. This is also used by the BNP.
Possibly my highlight of the morning was this tweet:
It’s not a good situation if you have to all but beg your opponent to engage with your story.
When I commented on the Political Scrapbook story, I referred to Labour’s favourite digital agency, Tangent Labs, who have been responsible for monstrosities such as this (which is vastly improved from its state at launch) and this. If such sites were free, that would be one thing – but Labour paid handsomely for them. ToryBear took a different line on TL, pointing out that Tangent Labs’ owner isn’t just a Conservative donor, he’s a donor to David Cameron personally. That’s an angle Will Straw chose to duck when he rode to Political Scrapbook’s defence, instead repeating Political Scrapbook’s own weak response.
Dizzy then proceeded to hit the debate out of the park, pointing out that Political Scrapbook shares hosting with some pretty odd bedfellows.
Ultimately, this was a non-story, the Twitter echo chamber getting excised about a process issue that nobody outside cares about. Guido Fawkes rather summed up the situation with this:
One political side says that Cash-Gordon.com was a success, the other a disaster. What you believe, probably reflects your preferences.
And then it all went a bit odd: ‘cos it turned out that the Cash-Gordon.com site hadn’t been properly secured. And it promptly fell victim to one or two attacks. At time of writing (1415) the site is down, and I’m not sure it’s coming back.
Maybe after all, #CashGordon and Nestle have more in common that might have been thought!
I wasn’t minded to write about the “vulture funds” bill, until I came across Left Foot Forward’s post on the subject today. The article, penned by David Taylor, is 800 words of pure party political attack on the Conservative Party, with rather less evidence or substance than might be expected from a website which claims to provide “…evidence-based analysis on British politics, news and policy developments.”
Moreover, the attack itself is deeply hypocritical, adopting a double standard which is both unpleasant, and arguably undermines the legitimacy of those backing the legislation at issue.
The Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill was introduced by Labour MP Andrew Gwynne as a Private Member’s Bill. Whatever you may think of the intention behind the bill, it is retrospective legislation intended to expropriate property without compensation, and to overrule decisions of the Courts. The explanatory notes to the bill make no apologies for this, indeed they all but claim this as a virtue.
In other circumstances, you might expect that a bill intended to have such significant and draconian effects upon its subject matter would receive detailed consideration. But this bill, bearing as it does the words “Debt Relief” and “Developing Countries” was expected by its supporters to pass through Parliament unscrutinised.
On 12 March 2010, a Conservative MP scuppered that expectation, by objecting to the bill’s third reading and forcing a debate.
I’ll make no bones about it – the way it was done was cowardly. Three MPs sat together; one shouted “object”; none would admit who. But I’m not so sure that it was wrong to object, and force a debate. There is an important principle involved when any property is expropriated, or where parliament interferes with judgements of the courts, and it deserves to be debated.
Apparently Development Minister, Douglas Alexander, didn’t agree. He wrote this open letter to David Cameron:
As you will be aware, your MPs today killed a Private Member’s Bill that would have put an end to the disgraceful practice of corporations buying up old debts of some of the world’s poorest countries and then suing them for large sums.
The bill had enjoyed widespread support both within parliament and from leading charities such as the Jubilee Debt Campaign.
I had hoped that all Members of Parliament would support Mr Gwynne’s bill but your party today objected to it, knowing that this would mean it will run out of time and have no chance of becoming law.
I find it incredible that Conservative MPs in the chamber – who had pledged their support to the bill – then objected to it and refused to admit who was responsible.
I can only conclude that this was a decision taken by your front bench in a direct breach of the commitments you had given. If the Conservative party – which has pledged its support to the bill and to debt relief in general – is to have any credibility on this issue in the future you must now make your position clear and come clean on whether this important bill was blocked on your shadow cabinet’s instructions.
I await your speedy response,
Wow, that’s strong stuff. Presumably Douglas Alexander, Development Minister, has some basis for making those kind of allegations?
Somehow I doubt it.
You see, Douglas Alexander, Development Minister, is more properly known as Douglas Alexander, Election Co-ordinator.
It’s all good stirring stuff for the shouty left – dreadful Tories siding with business against poor developing countries. Plus, I suspect Dougie has a small ulterior motive.
He’d like you to sign that letter too, you see, and he’s even provided an easy to use web form to let you do just that. Oddly, the form won’t let you just insert your name; you have to provide an e-mail address as well. And nowhere on this site can you see the list of the people who’ve already signed.
The clue as to why is in the text just under the box:
The Labour Party and its elected representatives may use the data you have supplied
Yup, Douglas Alexander’s open letter of moral indignation is a neat way to collect e-mail addresses.
It’d be enough to make you lose faith in humanity, if Douglas Alexander wasn’t so obviously not of that species (I mean come on – he’s obviously a galago that Gordon Brown’s shaved and stuck in a suit).
‘course, the hypocrisy doesn’t end there. We need to turn from Douglas Alexander to Kerry McCarthy, Labour Whip and “Twitter Czar”. As befits a New Media Campaign Spokesperson, Kerry McCarthy was keen to tub-thump for the party line over the “vulture funds” bill. But as she well knows, Conservative MPs aren’t the only ones killing bills with worthy social objectives.
The Contaminated Blood (Support for Infected and Bereaved Persons) Bill is before Parliament at the moment. It would establish a scheme of compensation and support for those haemophiliacs infected with blood borne diseases by the NHS. Strangely, the Labour Government hasn’t been keen on supporting the bill. In fact, it’s done everything it can to scupper it.
On 5 February, Kerry McCarthy earned her
thirty pieces of silver Government salary by objecting to the second reading of the bill passing without debate. The Parliamentary effect of McCarthy’s objection was identical to that of the unnamed Tory MP.
Yet there was no letter from Douglas Alexander in response, no articles in the Guardian and Independent. And David Taylor of Left Foot Forward did not seem to care enough to launch a broadside at the Labour Party. I’ve a question: why do Douglas Alexander, Election Co-ordinator for the Labour Party, and Kerry McCarthy, Labour’s New Media Campaign Spokesperson, apparently care more about third world debt relief than a national scandal about NHS inflicted infections of UK citizens?
In January 2009, the independent Archer inquiry in contaminated blood and blood products specifically recommended a scheme of compensation. In January 2010 191 MPs signed an early day motion asking their colleagues to see the bill passed in this session. Thanks to the Government’s actions, it almost certainly won’t.
Let’s just ignore the breathtaking duplicity of Douglas Alexander blaming the Conservative Party for the bills failure, when the Guardian reported:
Keeble said she would now argue for another slot to debate the bill next Thursday, but has not yet been able to secure the agreement of parliamentary business managers. Alexander suggested it now has little chance of becoming law.
In other words, the Government has it within its power to make the bill law, and chose not to.
As I said at the top, I wasn’t minded to write on the vulture funds bill, and I’ll not claim to have a long term interest in the contaminated blood bill. But I can’t stand the shrill hypocrisy of people like Douglas Alexander and Kerry McCarthy. It’s one thing to criticise the three Tory MPs for not “owning up” to which of them actually objected. When you try to deride their actions, when you and your party have used them, you cease to have any legitimacy.
And when, as a Government, you are prepared to deploy this kind of rhetoric on behalf of foreign governments interest, whilst denying your own citizens the reparation that they are entitled to, you have have lost the legitimacy you claim to have.
Having given Gordon Brown an hour of Piers Morgan’s time, ITV had to redress the balance, so tonight we got #TrevCam, an hour long profile of the Conservative leader, hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald.
I stand by my instant reaction:
My #TrevCam after action: DC is a nice, genuine guy. Sir Trev has just educated Piers Morgan on being a journo. Labourites unhappy.
Twitter lit up during the programme, with #TrevCam trending internationally at one point. I know I’m biased, but the reaction felt more positive than during the Piers Morgan programme, notwithstanding the significant number of negative Labour tweeters.
What I found telling was the difference in approach. Conservatives watched the Piers Morgan programme, and spoke about their impressions. Many Labourites failed to watch the Trevor McDonald programme, but didn’t let that stop them talking about it.
That difference in approach, in attitude, is reflected in the way people approach their politics. Conservatives, by and large, listen to what their opponents have to say, and respond to it. Labourites don’t. I know it’s a crude generalisation. I know there are exceptions. But there’s also a significant and widespread truth in there.
On a lighter note, the night saw watch parties organised nationally. In Liverpool, the city’s party chairman and three of the city’s PPCs joined members of Conservative Future to watch the programme live. It was a nice opportunity for people to socialise, at a time when the pressure of the coming campaign is beginning to build.
Having a watch party for these kind of events is one way people can get involved in a small way with the national campaign. It’s also a great way for activists to get together – without pressure to immediately split up and start knocking on doors!
Here’s the group in the office at Liverpool – photo taken by the Conservative PPC for Wavertree, Andrew Garnett.
With leadership debates scheduled for the first time this election, and lots of local programmes being prepared, I don’t think this’ll be the last watch party before the big one on May 6th!
Or June 3rd.
Or whenever Gordon gets round to it.
Having run Robert Booth’s dodgy journalism on the front page of its Saturday edition, the Guardian today waived the opportunity to rely on blaming second string weekend staff.
It didn’t make the print edition (tomorrow?) but Booth has decided to reheat his story about the Young Britons’ Foundation, and its founder, Donal Blaney. Since even the Guardian draws the line at just reprinting the same story, the leftovers are spiced up with news of the resignation of James Cutts.
If your response to that name is “Who?”, you’re in good company. As Keep Right Online pointed out today, Mr. Cutts was hardly a major player, and for a supposed press officer he seems to be in need of the very training YBF offer.
Personally, I find it interesting that Cutts was supposedly unaware of Donal Blaney’s views until now. He’s not exactly new to politics – he was commenting to the BBC as Chairman of a CF branch back in 2001 – so he must be startlingly poorly informed. You might excuse Robert Booth on the grounds that he’s not a political hack (not much call for an architecture reporter to be familiar with conservative politics) but it’s more difficult to credit the idea of a CF-er of that long standing being unfamiliar with Donal Blaney and his blog.
The latest installment of this story has another point of interest, a comment from Gill Marshall-Andrews, Chairwoman of the Gun Control Network:
We are deeply disturbed that elements of the Conservative party are allying themselves with the organisation Young Britons’ Foundation, whose aims include liberalisation of gun laws, and that senior Conservative figures are espousing the views of this disturbing group
But hang on a second – since when was liberalisation of gun laws one of the aims of the YBF? I’d love to see Marshall-Andrews provide a source for that. You’re certainly not going to find anything on that topic on the YBF’s website. She goes on to say
Ordinary people in the UK are fearful of guns and do not want to see a return to the pre-Dunblane situation where pistol shooting was the ‘fastest growing sport’. Then we were clearly heading along the American road, a road we fervently hope that the Conservatives will not take us down again.
Now I’m even more confused. Had anyone – even the more strident Labourite – ever heard the Conservative leadership propose reversing the handgun ban? I mean, I have to assume that Gill Marshall-Andrews has, because otherwise she’s just scaremongering, and doing so with a specific political target (not that it’d be the first time the Gun Control Network has been accused of scaremongering).
Isn’t it a little odd that the Gun Control Network should be commenting on this story, given the lack of a direct link? Let’s just pause to note that Gill Marshall-Andrews just happens to be the wife of Bob Marshall-Andrews, Labour MP for Medway.
On a side note: Medway, as the political geeks among you will be aware, is a significant marginal. Bob Marshall-Andrews has a majority of less than 250 – reduced from over 5,000 in 1997 – and he’s standing down this year. His replacement, Teresa Murray, is expected to lose to the renamed Rochester and Strood constituency to the Conservative PPC, Mark Reckless, who, in a pleasing coincidence, is a close friend of Daniel Hannan MEP…a member of the YBF’s Parliamentary Council.
It’s a small world.
Anyway, perhaps to “Chairwoman of Gun Control Network” we should append “and wife of Labour MP”.
Not that you should assume that a wife necessarily has the same political beliefs as her husband (cf. the Bercows, Cherie Booth on human rights, Samantha Cameron – if you believe the rumours), but it does help to know the background.
All the background.
If you’re wondering why the Guardian would be reheating and reserving this kind of dodgy journalism, you clearly haven’t been paying attention. Way back in 2006, George Osborne vowed to move all public sector job ads from newspapers to a new official website. The biggest loser would be the Guardian, which earns millions of pounds every year from public sector recruitment adverts placed in its Society section.
This small conflict of interest – if the Tories get into power, the Guardian could go bust – has been noted before, but with the General Election coming up it is taken on a new importance. Marc Glendenning’s recent article for Conservative Home brought it back into the foreground.
The Guardian are clearly hoping that others will pick up this story, but so far they’ve been disappointed. It made the Telegraph website yesterday, but only as a comment piece from Martin Salter MP – a Vice Chair of the Labour Party. I’d talk about it, but James Dellingpole has already delivered a excellent response on the Telegraph today.
And the only other place which picked up the story? Cairo based IslamOnline.net, an English language Islamic news site.
Which makes me think that Robert Booth and the Guardian be back to try again on this story, and that we’ll see more thin innuendos gracing the front page.
Watch this space.
AMENDED 201003091349: Correcting a typo. Misspelled the word wife h-u-s-b-a-n-d… D’oh!