Friday, 31 October 2008

Cameron's C-Team

"...if you can find them..." Policies, do you mean?

E-voting FAIL? A scary thought.

This clip from the Simpsons is a timely reminder of the problems still to be ironed out if E-voting is to be trusted.

Curt Wagner blogs at Show Patrol:

Thankfully, the frightfest opens big—as in, Homer not being able to squeeze into a voting booth. He has to use the “double-wide” booth instead, but his problems don’t end there: When he votes for Barack Obama, the machine counts his click as “One vote for McCain.” Homer clicks again and again, and the machine responds “Two votes for McCain,” “Three votes for McCain.” Your vote not being counted correctly? Now that is frightening.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

"People don't have campaign headquarters anymore. They have websites now."

At US website Politics Online, Anthony Man writes on how the internet has changed the way local and national campaigns are run:
“As more and more people spend more and more time online, the Internet is reshaping political campaigns in ways large and small. From the presidency to the lowest-profile local office, the Internet is permeating the way campaigns are organized. It's changing the way candidates raise money and eroding influence of candidates, political parties and the news media.”

In this piece, Man also quotes other commentators on the effect of the internet, most notably in the current Presidential campaign:

"If you're under the age of 30-35 or so, this is how you engage in the political process. You're not going home after work to watch the nightly news. You're not picking up the newspaper in the morning," he said. "You've got your RSS feed, you're talking with your friends on your social networking site [and] you're going on YouTube to watch the debate from the night before."

Quick disclaimer: As with any campaign tool, the internet is just that, and to be used as part of a range of activities. Websites (even, ahem, ones as wonderful as this) won't be superseding such "analog" activities as personal contact, doorknocking and leafletting any time soon. Will they?

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Global Peace and Unity Conference: Pakistan news agency report

From the Associated Press of Pakistan:

LONDON, Oct 27 (APP): Politicians, activists and grass-root leaders joined thousands of British Muslims to celebrate peace, in defiance of divisive smear casters. They gathered Sunday to take part in an annual jamboree to celebrate British Islam and discuss how the community can reach out to wider society in peace and solidarity.

The Global Peace and Unity conference organised by the Islam Channel took place at Excel Centre in East London despite the attempts of smear casters to dissuade leading politicians, activists and community leaders from attending.

The Muslim Council of Britain has written to the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, to express their appreciation for the manner in which he stood up to the smear tactics of the divisive think-tank, the Policy Exchange.

The leader of the Liberal Democrat party wrote to the Policy Exchange ‘think-tank’ criticising its ‘bizarre and underhand behaviour’ in seeking to try and dissuade prominent politicians from attending.

Mr Clegg, along with politicians from across the political spectrum, took part at the event or sent messages of support.

“For years, the Policy Exchange has peddled a McCarthyite agenda that seeks to divide British people and draw suspicion and fear towards British Muslims. Nick Clegg is to be commended for not succumbing to the pressure brought to bear by the Policy Exchange and indeed revealing to the world the underhand manner in which the Policy Exchange operates,” said MCB Secretary-General Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari.

Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey, was among the politicians who received a special award from the Muslim Council of Britain for principled defence of the Muslim community.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

US political yard signs: raising the stakes

In the US, as in the UK, some people don’t like to reveal who’ll get their vote. But there are suburbs where residents are risking controversy by putting up huge campaign signs in their front gardens.

With days left before US voters go to the polls, many homes in Bay View, Milwaukee are displaying “yard signs” as big as 8ft by 4ft featuring the name of their favoured candidate.

Jim Marsh of South Superior Street has previously been reserved:

“I am pretty quiet about it. I guess it’s speak softly and carry a big sign.”

Similar signs have led to tension further down the same street. WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio reports:

"On one side of the road, there’s another large McCain sign surrounded by households with smaller ones. And on the other side, you have proud Obama supporters like Sarah Berg. She says when she first saw the size of her neighbor’s McCain sign she couldn’t believe it. She wondered whether it violated any laws... Berg planted two standard-size Obama signs in her yard... Now she says it just pains her a bit to look across the street.”

Berg’s next door neighbour Cliff Gribble [also supporting Obama] sums it up:
“This is really exactly what the election is about, the freedom to do exactly what we’re doing. And to me this is kind of the freedoms we have in microcosm, if you will, our side of the street and their side of the street, although like I say it is divided a little, the idea that we can do that in our country is what we’re fighting for. And the very idea that so many people seem to be excited and participating in this election is in my mind very healthy. Even if some of them have the wrong idea.”

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Boris Johnson says get elected to make your voice heard in City Hall

Mayor’s Question Time yesterday at London’s City Hall was interrupted twice, by protesters in five different parts of the public gallery.

They were calling on the Mayor to ensure a living wage for workers on the London Underground, particularly those employed as cleaners. I’d noticed the young woman sitting next to me, fiddling nervously with a piece of paper, but it was only when she stood up and shouted in Boris’s direction that I recognised her as one of the group who’d carried out a similar protest in July.

At first, the Mayor and Assembly Members looked on benignly as one protestor after another stood to speak on behalf of the lowest paid Underground workers. Silken banners were unfurled, as security staff stood awkwardly beside the protestors, seemingly unsure how to end the outbursts.

City Hall staff came out of their offices and stood watching the commotion on the spiral walkway above the chamber. Meanwhile, Question Time was adjourned until order was restored. Mayor Johnson had a brief walk around the floor of the chamber, and even addressed the protesters – he told them that if they wanted to speak in this forum, they would need to get themselves elected.

So how does Boris’s “don’t get mad, get elected” attitude work in practice? Interesting to note that Boris used his voice a lot during the meeting yesterday, though not effectively. Rarely did he give a straight or succinct answer to the Assembly Members’ questions.

Each group on the Assembly has its time strictly allocated, according to the number of Members it has. The Liberal Democrat group are keenly aware of this, having one of the smallest allocations. To save time, questions are referred to by number, as they are printed on the order papers supplied to every participant. Often Johnson spent valuable moments shuffling through his papers in search of information, or even reading the questions out in full – wholly unnecessary and looking like a stalling tactic.

Dee Doocey, (Liberal Democrat policing spokesperson on the Assembly) had asked the Mayor to say where the axe would fall, as a result of £76 million in cost-saving cuts. After a lengthy rehash of the question, followed by the qualifier, “This is coming at an early stage in our budget discussions... we will be having discussions before the final proposals are submitted... if you want my general philosophy... I do not want to see cuts, as you describe them, in front-line services...” Dee Doocey then pressed Johnson for a “categorical assurance that no borough will have to cut police staff posts or police officer posts next year”. The best that Boris could give was a “highly unlikely,” but no guarantee that front-line services would not suffer.

Dee also asked Boris to give his plans for avoiding potential cuts in the numbers of Police Community Support Officers in London. Johnson launched into a long tribute to PCSOs, but was eventually stopped in his tracks by a look from Dee. “You want me to hurry up, don’t you?” he said. “Yup,” replied Dee, “The problem is, I’ve got very little time.” “Ok I’ll just shut up then,” offered Johnson. However, answers were required, so Johnson started to speak much more quickly, for a while at least.

Caroline Pidgeon, London Assembly Transport spokesperson, asked the Mayor whether he is absolutely confident that all the transport infrastructure for the 2012 Olympics will be delivered. Johnson was not aware of several issues raised by Caroline Pidgeon, although he had earlier been at pains to point out that he is Chair of Transport for London. “It sounds to me that you’re really not on top of your transport brief,” she told him after he had struggled to recognise figures and even the name of a potential contractor to deliver a transport and events smartcard for the London Olympics.

So this is how the Mayor uses his (elected) voice at Mayor's Question Time. There were two large groups of university students in the public gallery. Each time one of them so much as shifted in their seat or moved to stand up, the security staff looked nervous, perhaps fearing yet another crop of protesters.

Assembly Members, despite having been elected, are themselves unlikely to get straightforward answers unless Boris Johnson starts preparing adequately and stops using this forum as "Mayor's Question-dodging."

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

John Cleese on Sarah Palin.

According to John Cleese, Michael Palin's not the funniest Palin any more.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Boris Johnson on trial after Police Commissioner’s departure

In his first meeting as Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority yesterday, Boris Johnson faced criticism for causing Sir Ian Blair’s resignation.

Johnson maintained that he had sought the opinion of “a great many” of the MPA’s members. However, the majority of MPA members said that they had not been consulted about the Mayor’s decision to oust the Commissioner.

Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Dee Doocey voiced her concern at such a precedent:

“If you do not consult the MPA on a matter as important as this, then what happens next time?”

Dave Hill’s London Blog has more.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Change is broken?

Danny Finkelstein of the Times (speaking on the BBC) has just likened Mandelson's third stab at Cabinet to the second marriage of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

The Liberal Democrats recognise that the whole political system needs an overhaul, and that, "Politics is broken."

The Tories say either that there's no such thing as society, or that "society is broken."

Today, Gordon Brown's new cabinet with a retro feel seems to be saying, "Ah, what's the use? Let's retreat... Change is broken."

When the Sun comes out...

Sky News currently reporting that David Yelland, former editor of the Sun newspaper will be appointed "Director of Communications" in the new government.

This comes at the same time that the Politics Home Index "panel of experts and insiders" are forecasting that the Sun will back the Conservatives at the next election.

Any port in a storm...

Cabinet reshuffle: like there's no tomorrow?

Gordon Brown's cabinet reshuffle is underway today, with the unexpected return of some old faces:

The biggest surprise is that Peter Mandelson, EU Trade Commissioner since 2004, returns to the cabinet for a third time, this time as Business Secretary. Margaret Beckett is also back, in the new role of "Cabinet Enforcer."

John Hutton will replace Des Browne as Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon replaces Ruth Kelly at Transport.

The reshuffle is being presented as Government readiness to tackle the crises in the economy and the environment. However, as Alex Foster said here yesterday, this could appear to be a rearranging of the deckchairs, in a Government with enough crises of its own.

Will the new cabinet make a difference to the country and to Labour's fortunes? Or is it too late?

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Dee Doocey on Sir Ian Blair's resignation

Sir Ian Blair resigned this afternoon as Metropolitan Police Commissioner, with effect from 1st December.

Dee Doocey, Liberal Democrat London Assembly spokesperson on policing (and a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority) said:

The Metropolitan Police Service is crying out for strong leadership, and whoever takes over has a mountain to climb. The lack of leadership at the top of the MPS in recent weeks and months has resulted in the top brass fighting among themselves, rather then getting on with their real jobs of policing London.

The Met must now devote all its efforts on keeping the streets of our capital safe rather than vying for power and fighting each other.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.