Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Tories cry "foul" at Lib Dems' fair hearing

More complaints about the Liberal Democrats and media bias - but this time it's the Conservatives worried that when Liberal Democrats get equal billing, people like what they see.

From the Times:

The Conservatives complained to the programme makers three times during Monday night’s television debate between the candidates for Chancellor, accusing them of skewing coverage in favour of Vince Cable.

At one point during the Channel 4 Ask the Chancellors programme senior Tories phoned the hotline to the production staff claiming that the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman was receiving too much applause.

Yesterday the Conservatives warned broadcasters not to give the Liberal Democrats an easy ride in the leaders’ TV debates.

Although many were happy with the performance of George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, senior Conservatives, including David Cameron, were irritated by the way Mr Cable was able to present himself as a referee between two opponents rather than facing pressure over his own policy positions.

We've covered before the familiar problem of media bias against the Liberal Democrats, and explained how you can help.

So what happens when a Liberal Democrat does get an equal chance?

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Paul Burstow: Liberal Democrats won't support the Digital Economy Bill

The Liberal Democrats have now withdrawn their support for the Digital Economy Bill, in a revision of the original plan to vote against certain elements in the "washup" (the last-minute rush to pass laws without debate or detailed scrutiny at the end of a Parliament).

Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat Chief Whip announced on Twitter earlier:

I have told the Govt we won't support the Digital Economy Bill as drafted. There is not enough time for MPs to examine it in detail.

The Guardian takes up the story:

The Liberal Democrats have called for the Digital Economy bill to be scrapped and re-introduced afresh in the next Parliament, and say they will oppose its rushed passage if, as expected, it is speeded through to become law in the "wash-up" ahead of a general election.

Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat chief whip, told the Guardian that although the party's opposition might not be enough on its own to prevent the bill from passing, he hoped that the arguments being put forward - that the issues needed more debate than has been possible - might sway one of the other parties into delaying its passage.

"During the negotiation and discussion in the wash-up we will make it clear that we think that it isn't a suitable way to deal with the issues remaining such as site blocking," Burstow said. "We will put amendments down and make the case and hope that the government and the Conservatives will agree that it shouldn't proceed at this stage," Burstow said.

This is the latest in a series of events within the Liberal Democrats, which began with an open letter by Bridget Fox and 24 other PPCs [including me]. This expressed concern at amendments tabled by Liberal Democrat peers to the Digital Economy Bill.

Dialogue ensued, an emergency motion was submitted to Spring Conference, and was passed with overwhelming support.

The Liberal Democrats Save the Net group has produced a factsheet detailing the motion and explaining its background:

Save the Net Factsheet

Also available at Scribd here.

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

Vote Labservative - for more of the same

Loving the Lib Dems' new viral campaign which shows how hopeless and interchangeable the Labour and Conservative parties are:

"We’ve taken the first step on our unstoppable stroll to victory with the launch of a brand new advertising campaign. Of course, we don’t need a campaign at all – after 13 consecutive General Election victories we can be forgiven a smidgen of complacency. But though our triumph may be inevitable, we’re leaving nothing to chance. Number 10 is where we belong. Besides, all our stuff’s there and the garden looks lovely at this time of year."

Labservative supporters can add their testimonials to the site, under Why I'm Labservative.

The best comments so far:

I would never vote for a party that I’ve never voted for. Doing something new is just asking for trouble so Labservative are the only option. I’ve also never left the house and eat baby food even though I’m 47.
[Olly Drake]

“Labservatives say – stick with what you know! Don’t Vote Liberal Democrat – they’d only change things!”
[Alex Wilcock]

You can download campaign posters and buy merchandise here and follow @GorvidCamerown on Twitter.

Monday, 29 March 2010

New MPs' expenses rules published - the end of second homes and first class travel

New rules published today by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority mean that MPs will no longer be able to profit from taxpayer-funded second homes, nor claim for gardening, cleaning or first-class travel.*

However, the scheme has stopped short of a ban on MPs employing family members. Instead, no more than one "connected party" (i.e. close family member, spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner) may work for each MP, within approved salary and job description guidelines.

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, Chair of the IPSA said,

No longer will MPs benefit from a slack allowances system. This system brings MPs’ expenses into line with those in most other areas of life. Expenses will be reimbursed only for legitimate costs, backed up by receipts.

There will be complete transparency, so that members of the public will see, in detail, expenses claimed by MPs. The rules will be backed up with tough new measures and abuse of the system will not be tolerated.

The new system is fair, workable and transparent. It will enable MPs to carry out the job we ask them to do and will provide reassurance and value for money to the tax-paying public.

Key components include:

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Fiona Hall MEP: "The Conservatives are a danger to women"

Conservative MEPs have consistently voted against measures to protect women's rights, figures compiled by the Liberal Democrats show:

Analysis of the record of 25 Tory members of the European Parliament this year shows they voted against, or abstained, eight times on issues relating to sexual equality, family-friendly working hours, maternity leave and reproductive health – often in clear defiance of official Conservative Party policy.

The MEPs also failed to back an EU resolution expressing concern about homophobic attacks in Croatia, which is seeking EU membership.

For details of the votes, see the full article in the Independent on Sunday.

Stephen Tall at Lib Dem Voice has covered David Cameron's fluster about his party's stance on gay equality. Now the Conservatives' voting record on women's rights shows a similar confusion.

Fiona Hall, leader of the Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary Party said,

For the Tories to suggest that it is in women's interests to vote for them is downright cheek. We have looked at the voting record of Conservative MEPs and one thing is very clear: the Conservatives are a danger to women.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The first Google Street View Liberal Democrat superboard of spring?

First we brought you a smudge.

But now there's no mistaking this Liberal Democrat superboard on Google Streetview.

Well, I say spring, but this image from Bedford looks as though it was taken in autumn - during the campaign to elect Dave Hodgson as mayor?

Anyway, now that the stakes have been raised (ahem), has anyone spotted a more impressive political campaign poster on Google Street View?

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

Sunday, 21 March 2010

The Leaders’ Wives obsession: why it’s missing the point

Tonight it's Nick Clegg's turn for a Sunday evening party leader's interview - with Mary Nightingale on ITV1 at 10:15pm.

Miriam Gonzalez Durantez (Nick's wife) also appears in the programme. At first I was dismayed that Miriam might be wheeled out as yet another politician’s wife, dreading revelations about socks or other foundation garments...

Until I watched her in this extract :

I don't like that name: "political wife". I'm the wife of a politician... I don't have a role. I'm just married to him...

...It's a personal choice and I think it's perfectly possible to have a normal life where you let people see how you live, and I understand that they may want to look into it.

But one thing is to let people have a look at your life so that they get to know the politician, the person, and a different thing in my view is to put together a sugary-coated image of yourself in the hope that that brings you votes. It's not that I wouldn't do that - it's that Nick would never agree to do that either. So it has to be possible, because that's what we are going to do.

The Sunday papers have already portrayed Miriam's support for her husband with a tinge of disdain: “middling”, a refusal, "too busy".

The Telegraph, in a purse-lipped reminder of its priorities for her, refers to "Miriam Clegg" - a name by which she is not even known – then calls her “Mrs Clegg” nine times in the rest of the article. Gosh, is it really still the 1950s?

Nick's not some poor latchkey husband. Miriam Gonzales Durantez is a mother of three young children and has a successful career whilst being clearly supportive of Nick's work. However, the mainstream media will misrepresent Miriam's choices as long as their view of a "good" politician's wife remains as hackneyed as their binary view of politics.

What's actually being reported here is a media mindset, which is not to be confused with the news, nor indeed the facts. It's patronising to voters to suggest that the men who lead the three main parties need to be buttressed by the constant presence of their wives - whether on the campaign trail or the conference platform.

The notion that there's only one type of politician's spouse is as unrealistic and outdated as the traditional image of one acceptable type of family. Life's not like that. Voters aren't like that.

Political families already come in all shapes and sizes, and people had better get used to it. You might not think it, given the coverage, but politicians can be female, gay, parents, child-free, married, single or in civil partnerships.

To concentrate on the Leader's wife is also to ignore the work of other women in the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems' real "First Lady" is their President, Ros Scott; we have excellent women MPs in Jo Swinson, Lynne Featherstone and more. Hundreds of women in the party, myself included, will be working hard in the coming elections. While we'll do our bit, Miriam will do hers.

Will tonight's interview give Too Much Information? Watch ITV1 tonight at 10:15 to find out.

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

Monday, 1 March 2010

See yourself as the internet sees you

New toy!

Here's a twist on Googling your own name: Personas is part of an exhibition by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at MIT Museum.

You type in your name, watch the visualisation process (screenshot below) and end up with a coloured bar (screenshot above) which sums up you and anyone else who shares your name.

"It is a critique of data mining, revealing the computer's uncanny insights and inadvertent errors. It is meant for the viewer to reflect on our current and future world where digital histories are as important, if not more important, than oral histories, and computational methods of condensing our digital traces are largely opaque and socially ignorant."

In other words, it'll throw up all kinds of results: some surprising and some inaccurate. That's the idea: it's a thought-provoking piece of art that illustrates the quirks of online search.

Try it for yourself here (also works for brands and political parties) and click on "Read more" to learn about the methodology and implications.