Friday, November 27, 2009

Complaint to BBC

'I would like to complain about Question Time, 26 November, as once again the Liberal Democrats were omitted from the panel.

The programme was in Scotland (where the Liberal Democrats have recently shared power) and the first question was on the Iraq war (where Liberal Democrat opposition to the war has been proved right). Despite this, the decision was made to ignore the right of the Lib Dems to be represented – a common trait amongst the media but one should expect better from the BBC.

In Scotland, there are four major parties – and it is clearly wrong to invite only three to such a prominent programme.

To ignore the Liberal Democrats (who got nearly six million votes at the last election) is complete bias and against the principles of the BBC. It seems strange that the BBC are so quick to promote the right of the BNP to be heard yet are so quick to dismiss the far greater right of the Liberal Democrats.

I would welcome your views'.

(I will let you know if I get a reply but don't hold your breath).

Monday, November 23, 2009

Should the Queen read the Queen's speech?

While watching the Queens’ speech, I found myself saying ‘boo’ and ‘nonsense’ etc, when suddenly I felt very guilty. Here was a lady, 83 years old, 57 years as our Queen, a lifetime of service to the country, one of the greatest Britons that ever lived, and I am sitting here heckling her.

Of course the Queen is merely reading out text written by the Prime Minister – of whom we have every right to boo and heckle – but this made me wonder whether having the government’s programme read by the Queen gives it some sort of false respectability and risks dragging the Queen into party politics by exploiting the automatic loyalty most people have for her.

Apparently it’s an annual game amongst spin doctors as to how much they can get away with. For example, in 1997 Tony Blair’s first Queen’s speech started with ‘My Government intends to govern for the benefit of the whole nation’ – the implication being that the last lot had no such intention.

Here’s a test. Imagine the Queen sitting on her throne, crown and jewels, the Duke next to her, etc. She is reading out. Have you got her voice in your head? Right, she now slowly reads the following:

‘My government will bring forward legislation to offset the national debt by selling parts of British territory to foreign countries. We look forward to welcoming the President of France to commemorate the handover of the Isle of Wight.’

‘My lords and Members of the House of Commons, legislation will be brought before you to provide every roof with a large upside down umbrella to combat the problems of water shortage.’

Now how do these ideas seem when you hear them from the Queen?

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Very British Selection

The new President of the European Union is the gloriously-named Mr Herman Van Rompuy, the Prime Minister of Belgium. On seeing his photo, my first thought was I didn’t know Sven Goran Eriksson had gone into politics – I hope the EU do better than Notts County.

Mr Van Rompuy’s name, pronounced, I think, Rumpy, is a headline writer’s dream. Now if Ed Balls becomes Labour leader, sub-editors everywhere will be leaping for joy.

As I said earlier, I think we should have elected the President. Still, we must wish Mr Van Rompuy luck in his new post.

Despite the media’s scorn, there is something very British about this selection of the least offensive candidate. Instead of cheering someone on, we are more likely to fear the alternative and rally behind a compromise.

The Conservative party have constantly chosen leaders for who they are not – John Major was not Michael Heseltine, William Hague was not Ken Clarke, Ian Duncan Smith was not Michael Portillo and David Cameron was not David Davis. In each case the obvious front runner was defeated by the more conciliatory option. As John Major said at his first cabinet meeting as PM, ‘who would have thought it?’

Not only in politics of course. In business, top quality candidates are often sidelined by their superiors for fear of their own position. When David Frost first applied for a job with the BBC in the 1960s, he was nearly rejected because he did such a great interview that the panel feared his brilliance.

Brian Clough would have made a great England manager, Matthew Le Tissier and Glenn Hoddle should have played for England more often, Geoff Boycott would have made a good chairman of England cricket selectors and James Nesbitt would have made a great Doctor Who. The list of might-have-beens goes on.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sittingbourne and Sheppey election - race hots up

The Labour party have now announced their candidate to defend our parliamentary seat in Sittingbourne and Sheppey. It is Angela Harrison, the leader of the Labour group at Swale Council. This is good in one way, that we have some local candidates in the picture, but not so good in that she would be a more formidable opponent than someone imported from outside.

It also shows how pointless it was to have a woman's only shortlist. As a senior local member, Ms Harrison may well have defeated all other Labour candidates, male and female.

Our MP, Derek Wyatt, will be standing down and Ms Harrison will be defending his majority of 79 which, with the government's unpopularity and the boundary changes, will be almost impossible.

The Conservative candidate, Gordon Henderson, was announced long ago and he has been very busy getting his face in the local paper each week. UKIP will be announcing a candidate soon. The Loonies have already announced 'Mad Mike' Young (who kindly gave me a banana at the county council count). Nothing yet from the Greens or the BNP who may well enter the race.

So that just leaves us. As I said earlier, I am hoping to be our candidate for the election to fight my local seat and will be discussing my intentions at the AGM coming soon. However I have received some details from other constituencies looking for a candidate just in case.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

For once, David Cameron is right - sort of

While damaging to the country’s interests, it is always fun to watch the Conservatives wriggling to avoid self-destruction over Europe – and again we see their leadership furiously backpedalling. For once, however, David Cameron has got something right.

We should have had referendums over the various European treaties – we should have had one on Maastricht (which the Tories denied us), on Nice and on Lisbon. Had we done so, everyone would be much more clued-up over Europe and aware of the advantages. There is much that is wrong and much improvement needed with the European Union, but sitting on the fence doing nothing is not going to change anything. It is reassuring therefore to hear Mr Cameron promise a referendum on any future treaty – better late than never, I guess – assuming he keeps his word this time.

Throughout the history of the EU we have followed, dragged along by others, never led. We were late joining originally and instead joined on the terms of others, we are not in the Euro, we are not in the passport agreement, and has any major EU initiative or treaty originated from the UK?

It’s time to bite the bullet and decide once and for all. We have dithered for too long. We should have a referendum to ask do we want to stay in the EU?

There should be a national debate, both sides can be heard, and then the public can decide. Either we take a full and active role in the European project, join the Euro and the Schengen agreement, have our MEPs as part of the main groupings in the parliament, and take the subject more seriously? Or we simply leave the EU and go it alone?

That is the referendum that David Cameron should be promising us.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Six Months Left

It’s a strange feeling when a long standing government is in its last months and slowly drifts out of power. They can’t acknowledge that, of course, but we are now all thinking of the days when Gordon Brown has moved on and asking ourselves who will be the next Labour leader, and what will David Cameron be like as Prime Minister?

There is, of course, none of that euphoria we saw in 1997. The collapse of the Major government, after 18 years of Tory rule, sparked a national celebration, young faces at the top, Blair’s babes, ‘things can only get better’, Michael Portillo defeated etc. This fitted in with society with ‘cool Britannia’, Britpop, 90s fashion, lots of flag waving. At long long last the Conservatives were gone and the party can start.

Now they are coming back! This is the hard bit. It took so long to get rid of them but ten minutes later they may be returning – the days of using unemployment to control the economy (it was a ‘price worth paying’), tax perks for the wealthy, spending cuts for the rest of us etc. The only good bit will be watching them self-destruct next time there’s a European treaty on the horizon despite the damage this will do to our interests in Europe.

The Labour party of 1997 was completely different to that which lost power in 1979 and much different from the Neil Kinnock party in the 1980s. New Labour changed itself beyond recognition and captured the then spirit of the nation. Now New Labour is tired and bankrupt (as is the nation). But have the Conservatives changed? Are they much different from the Conservatives that were hammered in 1997? I am not so sure.

And what about us in the Lib Dems? We have grown – we control or share control of numerous councils around the country, we have governed in Scotland and Wales, and we have more MPs than any third party since 1929. The days of a handful of Liberals and lost deposits are long gone (although it must have been fun sitting around a table with Cyril Smith and Clement Freud). But we must keep going, keep the pressure on, keep campaigning – as we are needed. A country that only has the choice between Gordon Brown’s Labour and the 'nasty' Conservative party in an out-of-date unrepresentative centuries-old political system is an unlucky country indeed.

Let’s hope we have a good year next year. If there is a Conservative government, the country will need an effective opposition to keep them on their toes, and that’s where we come in.