Friday, 24 September 2010

Kentish Town by-election called for 28 October

From Camden Council website:
Following the death of Councillor Dave Horan, an election is to be held for ONE Councillor for the Kentish Town Ward.

Nomination papers may be obtained, during normal office hours, from Electoral Services, Room 11, Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, London, WC1H 9LZ. They must be returned to the Elections Office by 12 noon on Friday 1 October 2010.

If the election is contested, the poll will take place on Thursday 28 October 2010 between the hours of 7.00am and 10.00pm.

Camden residents can apply for a postal vote: you can download the form here.

Councillor Horan, who died last Saturday, had regained the seat for Labour in May after losing it to the Liberal Democrats in 2006.

The Liberal Democrats haven't selected a candidate yet, but they have an excellent set of campaigners to choose from, including former councillors for Kentish Town.

For news from the area, check out Kentish Town blogger Rocky Lorusso, Kentish Town Liberal Democrats and local paper, the Camden New Journal.

Do Tweets win seats? – Micro-blogging and politics

This is my chapter for The Total Politics Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2010-2011, which is available from Amazon.

It's arrived: I are an author! (Total Politics Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2010/2011)

Politicos use Twitter to communicate with voters, activists and the media. It’s sociable and fashionable. It’s useful but it has its limits.

And if this was Twitter I’d stop there, for the paragraph above is a 140-character summary of the popular micro-blogging service and its emerging role in politics. Having the luxury of a whole chapter, rather than a couple of lines, I can expound a bit. But sometimes I relish Twitter’s brevity and the way it gives me both the discipline and the excuse not to write at length.

Twitter was to the 2010 General Election what blogging had been to the previous one: novel, topical, conversational, personal. Blogging, in long and short form, is good for quickly spreading campaign messages, news and rumours and it’s freely accessible for anyone with an internet connection.

When I first subscribed to the service a couple of years ago, few news outlets or political candidates were tweeting, although the three main parties were already using it to link to party information and election results.

Over the past year, Twitter has been increasingly taken up by MPs and councillors, bloggers and journalists, even government departments, but crucially by thousands of people who are none of the above, but want to converse with them on an equal footing.

The parties continue to tweet, but now candidates, MPs and party leaders themselves are using the medium, with varying degrees of skill.

Conference needs claptrap

Clegg Speech 19
Image by Alex Folkes/Fishnik Photography

Max Atkinson blogs some interesting stuff about the nuts and bolts of public speaking and presentation.

This week, he's covered Nick Clegg's and Vince Cable's speeches to Liberal Democrat Conference - noting in particular the audience's physical response in the form of clapping.

He talks about the way that applause was sometimes delayed during both Clegg's and Cable's speeches and wonders whether that was a sign of audience dissatisfaction with their messages.

See Max's blog for more on this, including Claptrap the movie, which explains the devices (including applause hooks) which politicians use to build rapport with their listeners.

When making a political speech, it's vital to establish a physical connection with the audience - after all, it's a physical performance. People have chosen to gather in a speaker's presence rather than read the words in an email or pamphlet. Easier to move hundreds of hands with the right words than it is to go round shaking every single hand in an auditorium.

One way I do it in my own speeches and training sessions is to open with a question: "Hands up if you've ever..." and make it one which most people will respond to with a "yes." Often, a chuckle follows and there: the audience are moved. Literally.

A keynote political speech should be like a song: it should strike a chord, pack a memorable hook, and have the audience humming your tune on their way out.

And that was what struck me after Nick Clegg's speech to Liberal Democrat Conference on Monday - it didn't sing. Something to do with governing in prose, perhaps?

Nick gave us the reasons, the rhetoric, the record of action. It made a very interesting read when I got my copy at the press briefing beforehand.

But in its rendition I felt it was a cautious speech; neither passion nor Powerpoint. I was informed but not inspired. Of course, the real rousing happened at the Rally - the extravaganza that opened Conference - while party President Ros Scott spoke at Conference's close.

Nick's speech, unusually, came in the middle of Conference. "Stick with us," he said as he popped off to represent Britain at the UN in New York. An interim briefing before getting back on with the job.

As with Conference, so with Coalition - there's more to come. He listed the four fairness pledges from the Liberal Democrat manifesto: on tax, children, the economy and politics, before looking ahead: "The destination is the right one but getting there is going to be hard."

Here's what I said to BBC World Service afterwards:

Video also available on YouTube here.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Nick Clegg's speech at the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is representing the UK at the United Nations Millennium Development Goals summit in New York.

Lib Dem blogger Jonathan Calder is also there, with an international group of bloggers put together by Oxfam to report on the summit. You can read his take here.

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan writes fulsomely about Clegg's diplomatic experience and linguistic skills here.

Meanwhile, here's his speech:


It is an honour for me to address the General Assembly today for the first time as Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
And it is a privilege to be here with you to discuss how together we can reach the Millennium Development Goals;
To make the necessary commitments towards eradicating the problems that blight the world we share:
Poverty, hunger, disease, and the degradation of our natural environment.

This week we are reviewing progress, assessing obstacles, and agreeing a framework for action to meet our targets.
These are the technocratic terms in which governments must necessarily trade.
But let us be clear: behind the officialese of summits lies our single, common purpose:
To uphold the dignity and security that is the right of every person in every part of the world.

Development is, in the end, about freedom. It is about freedom from hunger and disease; freedom from ignorance; freedom from poverty. Development means ensuring that every person has the freedom to take their own life into their own hands and determine their own fate.

The last decade has seen some important progress.
That progress has, however, been uneven, and, on a number of our goals we remain significantly off track.

Britain's commitment

So my message to you today, from the UK government, is this - we will keep our promises; and we expect the rest of the international community to do the same.

For our part, the new coalition government has committed to reaching 0.7% of GNI in aid from 2013 – a pledge we will enshrine in law.

That aid will be targeted in the ways we know will make the biggest difference.

And I am pleased to announce today that the UK will be stepping up our efforts to combat malaria.

In Africa, a child dies from this disease – this easily preventable disease – every 45 seconds. So we will make more money available, and ensure that we get more for our money, with the aim of halving malaria-related deaths in ten of the worst affected countries.

The UK government is also proud to be boosting our contribution to the international drive on maternal and infant health. Our new commitments will save the lives of 50,000 mothers and quarter of a million babies by 2015.

The case for development

The UK makes these commitments at a time of significant difficulty time in our domestic economy.

The new government has inherited a £156bn budget deficit, so increasing our international aid budget is not an uncontroversial decision.

Some critics have questioned that decision, asking why, at a time when people at home are making sacrifices in their pay and their pensions, are we increasing aid for people in other countries?

But we make this choice because we recognise that the promises the UK has made hold in the bad times as well as the good – that they are even more important now than they were then.

Because we understand that, while we are experiencing hardship on our own shores, it does not compare to the abject pain and destitution of others.

Because we take seriously the fact that the new coalition government is now the last UK government able to deliver on our country’s promises in time for the 2015 MDG deadline.

And because we know that doing so is in our own, enlightened self-interest.

When the world is more prosperous, the UK will be more prosperous. Growth in the developing world means new partners with which to trade and new sources of global growth.

And, equally, when the world is less secure, the UK is less secure within it.

Climate change does not somehow stop at our borders.

When pandemics occur, we are not immune.

And when poverty and poor education fuel the growth of global terrorism, our society bears the scars too.

Twenty two of the thirty four countries furthest from reaching the MDGs are in the midst of or emerging from violent conflict.

Fragile spaces – like Afghanistan – where hate can proliferate and terrorist attacks can be planned, where organised criminals can harvest the drugs that ravage our streets, where families are persecuted, displaced, pushed to seek refuge with us.

So we do not see the Millennium Development Goals just as optimistic targets for far away lands; they are not simply charity, nor are they pure altruism.

They are also the key to lasting safety and future prosperity for the people of the United Kingdom, and of course, for people right across the globe.

On what we expect of others

We welcome the General Assembly’s agreement to annually review progress made against the commitments agreed at this Summit.

The UK will stand up to that test.

Today I call on others to show equal resolve.

The Millennium Development Goals must be a priority for each and every nation present in this room. Developed nations must honour their commitments.

And developing nations must understand that they will not receive a blank cheque. Developing countries and donors must work together – as equal partners – towards securing our common interest.

They will be expected to administer aid in ways that are accountable, transparent, and responsible - creating the conditions for economic growth and job creation.

Prioritising national budgets on health, infrastructure, education and basic services.

Managing natural resources, particularly biodiversity, in an environmentally sustainable way.

Improving the lives of women and girls: empowering them; educating them; ensuring healthy mothers can raise strong children. There can be no doubt that women and girls hold the key to greater prosperity: for their families, for their communities, and for their nations too.


If we each step up, we can meet the Millennium Development Goals.

We can liberate millions of people from daily suffering, and give them the resources to take control of their lives, and their destinies.

So let future generations look back and say that they inherited a better world because – at this critical moment, at this difficult moment – we did not shrink from our responsibilities.

Let them say that we rose to the challenge, that we kept our promise.

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

Liberal Democrats Abroad launches today

The Liberal Democrats have today launched an organisation to communicate with the party's overseas supporters.

Liberal Democrats Abroad aims to keep members and supporters in touch with the UK party, to encourage supporters to join, and to register to vote in the UK.

So, who's eligible to vote?

British citizens who live overseas but were last on a UK electoral register within the last 15 years can vote in elections. If you are abroad but not on the electoral register, you'll need to contact the council for the area where you last lived in the UK.

People who were under the age of 18 when their parents moved abroad can also vote once they reach 18 - for up to 15 years from the time when their parents were last registered in the UK.

There's already a Brussels and Europe local party, and more branches are planned soon.

Nick Clegg (who is himself abroad today, at the UN in New York) said:

In response to requests from our many supporters overseas and reflecting the Party’s internationalist outlook, we have decided to set up a new organisation called Liberal Democrats Abroad to connect with our members and supporters living overseas.

Our aim is to ensure that Lib Dems living overseas can stay in touch with the Party in the UK and make certain that, in return, the Party understands the concerns of its members overseas.

We will also encourage our members and supporters to register to vote in the UK.

To this end we will set up a network of Lib Dems Abroad branches in as many countries as we can. We will then give them our continuing support.

Both the Conservative and Labour parties also have international organisations, and with 2.5 million Brits abroad, there's a significant number of votes to be harvested.

For more information, including how to register to vote, visit the Liberal Democrats Abroad page on the party's main website.

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

Jo Swinson new Deputy Leader of Scottish Liberal Democrats

Jo Swinson MP with new Bearsden South Councillor Ashay Ghai

Jo Swinson MP has been announced as the new Deputy Leader of the Scottish Lib Dems. Michael Moore MP, now Secretary of State for Scotland, is stepping down after seven years as Deputy Leader.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats website quotes Jo:

After just four months in opposition, Labour has gone back to the cheap tricks and opportunism of the 1980s.

In office, Labour ran up £23,000 of debt for every man, woman and child in Scotland.

Labour caused the rising unemployment that we have inherited.

Labour raised the deficit, Labour cost jobs and Labour ducks the blame.

I intend to work with Tavish, Michael and all of our colleagues to contrast Labour hypocrisy with Liberal Democrat achievements.

Michael Moore said:

It has been a great privilege to serve as Deputy Leader for the last seven years, and I am delighted to hand over now to Jo.

Jo is our second female Deputy Leader and I know she will do an outstanding job. She has the energy, determination and razor-sharp campaigning skills that we need to highlight the things that we need to highlight the things that our party is achieving for Scotland.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott MSP added:
I'm delighted to have Jo as my deputy as we campaign for more jobs, reformed public services and better education.

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

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Now open: Stratford station's new westbound platform. (Train doors open both sides!)

Video also available on YouTube, here.

Today, for the first time, Central Line passengers at Stratford have a choice of Westbound platforms. [Sunday 5 September 2010]

Train doors open on both sides: the right hand side for London Overground and National Rail services; the left for a faster change onto the Jubilee Line, DLR, or to exit the station.

For more photos and information on the new platform read David Lew's excellent post here.

It's another sign that the 2012 Olympics are getting closer; the next step being the opening of Stratford International DLR extension this autumn.