Recent Articles

Now is not the time for Police and Crime Commissioners

by Lee Griffin     July 19, 2011 at 11:45 am

Plans are afoot for a move in this country to elected police and crime commissioners. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill 2010-11 is currently going through the House of Lords and will see it’s third reading on Tuesday (today).

They’ve been pushed forward by the Conservatives, the only party to suggest such a plan in their manifesto.

The plans put forward are to “shift power directly into the hands of the public as they elect police and crime commissioners to lead the fight against crime and disorder in their areas.”
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Why Charlie Gilmour was sentenced fairly within the law

by Lee Griffin     July 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm

There’s a bit of a fuss going on about Charlie Gilmour, and how apparently it’s outrageous that he has been sentenced to 16 months in prison (which, we all know, will only end up being 8 or so).

This outrage is bollocks.

You only have to take a look at the sentencing history for “Violent Disorder”, coupled with Mr Gilmour’s nature in court (allegedly giggling at scenes of his actions), tempered by the fact he pleaded guilty and apologised for certain (but not all) actions.
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Labour’s hypocrisy on electoral reform continues

by Lee Griffin     August 18, 2010 at 2:30 pm

There is nothing worse in politics than listening to the continuing hypocrisy of the political parties. By far the biggest turn off to the whole process for me personally, perhaps only matched in the general public by the lack of choice or apparent influence over their politicians.

It’s ironic the amount of bashing the Lib Dems have to go through about “propping up” the Tories, by a Labour party that are doing just that on the single greatest barrier to public participation in politics – the General Election.

Labour should look in the mirror when they’re taking their opportunistic and “opposition for the sake of it” counter-gerrymandering and I hope they feel ashamed.
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Unions need to do better after the Budget to stay relevant

by Lee Griffin     June 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm

I’m no fan of Trade Unions as they are currently structured and operate, I’ve made this known before but feel it’s worth prefacing this article with that fact straight away. But this doesn’t mean I don’t believe that there is a place for democratic organisations to aid the process of ensuring fair pay and conditions.

However, while those organisations would put publicity ahead of their very reason for existence their credibility can only be shot to pieces; indeed the GMB have managed to do just this in spectacular style in response to Cameron & Clegg’s letter to public sector employees to help find alternative cost saving solutions, by blurting out their faux-fury at the way the situation is being dealt with… continue reading… »

What does “winning” even mean?

by Lee Griffin     May 1, 2010 at 11:00 am

It seems to be that the story of last night will be that Cameron won the debate. I don’t agree with this, and though I move in obviously partisan circles I found it hard to find any significant number of people that would agree either. But then one thing is for certain, these polls are…whether we like it or not…the best thing we’ve got for gauging opinion. And they’re actually quite good at it.

So perhaps the bigger question here is “What do you mean by ‘won’?”.

Five polls were out last night, and you can see all their details here (all top line results are put handily in one post over at Angus Reid, Populus, ICM, YouGov, and ComRes.

When looking into the polls these pollsters (except ComRes) didn’t just ask who won, they also asked questions like who performed best (a slightly different question from who won), who was strongest on certain subject, etc, etc. How did they turn out?
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Tory support has collapsed nationally to 2005 levels

by Lee Griffin     April 27, 2010 at 9:00 am

Wondering why the Tory party decided yesterday to unveil the “Labservative” copycat campaign, “The Hung Parliament Party“?

Perhaps you’re wondering why the party of the “Great Ignored”, the “Big Society”, and of course “Change” is now spending it’s time fear-mongering about the Liberal Democrats and electoral reform?

The reason is simple… the Tory support around the country is collapsing, and in some regions it is actually getting worse than it was in 2005. And, of course, it’s all down to the Liberal Democrats.

First up, prime yourself with this polling data (carried out by YouGov for PoliticsHome) for the governmental regions from 11th-18th of April. Note that this means the majority of the fieldwork took place before the first Leaders’ debate. Below is the breakdown, all figures are changes in the public support compared to the 2005 election…

Region Con Lab Lib Nat Other
Scotland +1 0 -3 2 0
Wales +5 -1 -3 -3 +3
North East +5 -8 +1 +2
North West +5 -8 +1 +2
Yorkshire and the Humber +4 -10 +4 +2
East Midlands +4 -7 +1 +2
West Midlands +4 -8 +4 0
East of England +2 -5 +3 +1
London +7 -6 0 -1
South East +5 -5 0 +2
South West 0 -3 +2 0

The analysis for this is fairly simple; Labour are losing out, the Tories are taking the gains, and there is a definite improvement nationwide for “Other” candidates (the exception being Plaid in Wales). So far so very much over-reported.

So how much difference does a week make?

Check out the results for the same regional style poll, but from the 19th-24th April. Again, figures are changes from the public support in 2005. change from previous week is in (brackets).

Region Con Lab Lib Nat Other
Scotland -2 (-3) -3 (-3) +2 (5) +3 (1) -1 (-1)
Wales +5 (0) -10 (-9) +8 (11) -5 (-2) +1 (-2)
North East 0 (-5) -14 (-6) +12 (+11) +5 (+3)
North West 0 (-5) -10 (-2) +9 (+8) 1 (-1)
Yorkshire and the Humber -1 (-5) -12 (-2) +11 (+7) 0 (-2)
East Midlands -1 (-5) -10 (-3) +11 (+10) 1 (-1)
West Midlands +3(-1) -11 (-3) +8 (+4) -2 (-2)
East of England 0 (-2) -10 (-5) +8 (+5) +1 (0)
London +4 (-3) -8 (-2) +6 (+6) -1 (0)
South East +1(-4) -7 (-2) +6 (+6) 1 (-1)
South West -2 (-2) -7 (-4) +9 (+7) 0 (0)

It’s a complete change with the Lib Dems taking share away from Labour, but also clearly away from the Tories. In fact the situation is now so bad for the Tories that out of the 11 regions here they are polling either no better or worse than 2005 in 8 of them.

The only regions they are improved in are London, the West Midlands and the South East.

The Great Britain total itself taken from all these regions stands at Con 33 (-4), Lab 28 (-3) Lib 30 (+6) Other 9 (0); so as you can see it is entirely in line with polls that have been marginally back and forth for the last half a week.

Yet it is the regional data that makes it interesting.

In the South West, an area traditionally Tory that was supposed to make huge gains after local election victories is starting to slip away from them; all the good work they have done up until the election campaign in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber has been completely reversed in just one week of the public realising the Lib Dems are present and willing.

But perhaps most shockingly is the state of the South East, not entirely made up of the locations ripe for the traditional immigrant bashing, it is still a Tory strong hold polling 46% of the region’s support, but this is now only 1% better off for the Tories than it was in 2005, easily within the Margin of Error.

Could it be that not only the scandal of expenses, but that (unfortunately) specific Lib Dem policy on moving immigration to different regions may be the cause of this lack of improvement?

Unlike most areas where Lib Dem shares are increased slightly more by Labour losses on last weeks polling than the losses made by the Tories, the South East is moving more significantly from the Tories to Lib Dems than from Labour.

Why Labour has little to gain from attacking Libdems

by Lee Griffin     April 20, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Labour, facing their worst result in almost 20 years, have a lot to worry about. Their share is dropping and for the first time in a long while they have become the third party…however fleetingly.

They need a sensible and effective strategy, both for the party AND the supporters that are directing both the ground and internet campaign for hearts and minds. Who or what should they be targeting?

My first instinct would be to say “Not the Liberal Democrats”. Here’s why (though, in advance, forgive the broad generalisations):

Of the top 25 target seats for the Lib Dems in May, Labour seats therein lie in either Scotland, the North East, or London. The only exceptions are Watford and Norwich South. Let’s be clear that the fight in Scotland is between the SNP and Labour.

Lib Dems might be sniffing around at a few extra votes but there is nothing that they can offer above the border that the SNP can’t in terms of electoral strategy. In London the battle is almost exclusively between Labour and the Tories.

Compare the above situation with the seats Lib Dems will be fighting the Tories for, Somerton and Frome now notionally a Tory seat despite being the seat of a Lib Dem front bencher, Solihull also notionally Tory despite being held by long term Lib Dem in an area Lib Dems are gaining at an equal if not better pace than the Tories…

In fact out of the top 25 target seats that are Tory there are only Guildford, Ealing and Central Acton, Eastbourne and Meon Valley that look like tough nuts to crack, down in the South Eastern heart of anti-EU anti-immigration sentiment.

The differences here are night and day, while Lib Dems will hope to achieve wins in the Lib/Lab marginals that they’re contesting the reality is that support in these areas is already high and isn’t going anywhere. I mentioned scotland above, but in the North East and London Labour are still polling a 53% and 39% share respectively.

The trend is downwards for Labour, that much is true, yet their supporters need to realise that these highly marginal seats are not worth butting heads with the Lib Dems over…it is the Tories that hold the threat. These regions are simply not turning Yellow just yet. They may do in the future, but not yet.

* * * * * * * *

More pressingly the Tories first 8 target seats, all around the London area, are all virtually guaranteed to turn Blue due to their location, go further down their list to a more “current” swing likelihood and you have seats like Bury North, Ribble South and Pendle.

These are supposedly Labour’s strength and traditional support, yet unless they work out how to reverse the tide of support flowing from them in regions like this (North West) and the North East then they will also lose these to the Tories. It is here that the Labour party must be most careful and most proactive.

Meanwhile for the Lib Dems it is the Tories that must be the target of attack for greater parliamentary weight, constituencies already predisposed to voting “Liberal” and in regions that are seeing the vote share swing to the Lib Dems.

There are also three way marginals in the mix, and every bit of common sense suggests that in these areas the Lib Dems will win, most likely due to a Watford style crumbling of support for the main two parties, the latest Yougov poll suggests that where Lib Dems can be seen to have a significant chance of winning they get a massive 49% of the vote.

What it ultimately has to come down to is funding for the Lib Dems, and it’s the seats like Weston-Super-Mare and Devon Central that the local Lib Dem supporters and party are going to have to really take seriously now. A 2% swing against a resurgent Tory party in a fairly blue or yellow part of the country might have been daunting a month ago, but now there is no reason to fear that battle.

Money and time is what it all boils down to. If the Lib Dems want to capitalise on this recent bounce, however long it lasts, then they’ll need donations, they’ll need support…and they’ll need a local party that wants to go out and win.

What they don’t need is Labour denting their chances at taking a swathe of Tory seats, and what Labour don’t have much choice in is the number of seats they’re almost guaranteed to lose to either party in the South. Labour need to be smart now, and in all honesty I think the main party is already on their way to the right strategy.

Their focus, just like the Lib Dems, has to be the Conservatives and stopping the overall majority they’re aiming for.

Both the red and yellow party have significant differences on a variety of issues, but the one thing that I have always believed they are closer on is the lack of desire to see another Tory government given the chance to ruin this country.

April 6th: The day British democracy dies?

by Lee Griffin     March 29, 2010 at 8:45 am

There are many problems with British democracy, and also many upsides, but the one thing about UK government is certain; every MP, elected by their constituents, has the option to vote on laws that are being put to parliament and to scrutinse their contents. On April 6th this basic element of our democracy will be undermined for party political expediency and corporate interests as the Digital Economy Bill is attempted to be shoehorned in to a session on the same day Gordon Brown is expected to call the next General Election.

The Digital Economy Bill has many problems, it is poorly worded, it is detrimental to our liberties in a way that would not be tolerated if the liberties being thrown to the wind were ones we exercised in the streets rather than virtual highways, and furthermore it is in part drafted by corporate lobbyists in the form of the BPI.

There was some hope earlier this month when Harriet Harman “promised” that there would be debate on the bill, however those words have turned (predictably) in to shallow and hollow shadows of themselves. Harriet Harman has given the House of Commons less than one day to debate a bill than similar sized bills of the past (Harman’s own Equality Bill had a good 12 days worth of parliamentary time for scrutiny). Labour (through Harman) have effectively said today that the kind of scrutiny usually reserved for our laws matters less than their own authoritarian decision that the law must pass before the next election. The BPI come before the concerns of the people.
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Would the actions of the Digital Economy Bill be tolerated “offline”?

by Lee Griffin     March 18, 2010 at 11:40 am

Home Sewing is killing the fashion industryThere’s a race on, and no it’s not the Cheltenham festival. Should the election be held on the 6th of May as is expected then parliament will be duly dissolved around the 6th of April, which leaves only 10 days of parliamentary time to debate all the remaining laws trying to be passed. It is this reason that when the Lords finally passed the Digital Economy Bill on the 15th of March they spent a significant portion of time discussing the issue of the “wash-up”, or a (relatively) clandestine period of legislative discussion that occurs in the twilight between an announcement of an election being made, and parliament being closed down for the impending election.

The Government here has one hope and one set of plans, get the Digital Economy Bill through to the “wash-up” in such a way that they can add bits and pieces to an already illiberal piece of legislation without the proper scrutiny of parliament. Instead of our elected representatives ensuring that we are protected from bad law, it would come down to the front benches and the party political whims of the main parties. In short, representation takes the back foot in place of backroom dealing to pass the bills, even if they are slightly watered down in the process. It’s for this reason that we have to stand our ground and ask our MPs to ensure this controversial bill receives proper scrutiny. If they do not provide that scrutiny, if the law goes through on the nod, then the government will have every power to do what they wish, opposed only by the minority Lib Dem party and the Tory party who are surely not the best example of a party beholden to public democracy over business interests.

For those that are writing to your MPs, specifically point them to the areas of the bill that are problematic (and do so in your own words, it has more impact!):
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Digital Economy Bill: Why Amendment 120a isn’t our enemy

by Lee Griffin     March 4, 2010 at 4:30 pm

There has been a lot of fuss about the Digital Economy Bill online for months, rightfully so. However the current topic that is particularly concerning to opponents of the bill is the latest amendment, 120a, tabled by Lib Dem and Tory peers to replace the vastly more dangerous Clause 17. Clause 17 was the one which it’s argued could give dark Lord Peter Mandelson – or any future Secretary of State – unwarrantable powers to change British copyright law.

If you can’t remember the problems with Clause 17 then you should take another look and be thankful that due to yesterday’s controversial amendment getting through such measures are being weeded out.

I am certainly not saying the bill is good, or even adequate, in either it’s original or it’s amended state; indeed once the bill is passed to the commons I intend to go through it on Liberal Conspiracy in detail. There is a lot more that is bad about the bill than just the file sharing aspects, areas that will unlikely be debated properly in the commons as they have barely been touched in the Lords, and unfortunately barely touched in public opposition. But there are some things that need to be understood about where we are now.

1) Things like this amendment (120a) are not fundamentally bad, certainly not so much that we should spend all of our efforts on them compared to the much greater risks to personal freedom present in the bill.
2) We need to be careful not to over-react because we are ourselves making assumptions about the language used.
3) There has to be a distinction between the law and the practicing of law, and a realisation that no legislation on an issue like this can cover every eventuality.

So, why isn’t this amendment quite as bad as people are saying? continue reading… »

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