So, David Blunkett thinks we should censor the internet, because Nazis. No, that is his argument:

Drawing a parallel with Germany before the rise of the Nazis, he suggested a loose moral climate had fed the paranoia and fear that had allowed Adolf Hitler to flourish.

“In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Berlin came as near as dammit to Sodom and Gomorrah. There was a disintegration of what you might call any kind of social order.”

Except Berlin didn’t come close to Sodom and Gomorrah, or a breakdown of the social order. The 1920s in Berlin are known as the Golden Twenties, because of the incredible cultural and economic flowering that occurred in the city during that time – major industrialisation was occurring, the city was one of the world’s cultural capitals (Berlin Alexanderplatz and Metropolis are both from this time), and Einstein was also working in the city at that time.

Of course, there were some people who resented this cultural progress within the city and denounced the ‘degenerate art‘ this period produced. They were, of course, the Nazis. Using myths of depravity and exaggerating the supposed threat caused by what they saw as a breakdown of the social order, they were able to come to power – by creating the myths that David Blunkett now happily parrots in his attempt to keep pandering to the Daily Mail tendency. Effectively, Blunkett is trying to use Nazi propaganda uncritically to threaten the rise of Nazis in an attempt to get his way – it’s like watching Godwin’s Law eat itself.

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YouGov have done a survey asking people their opinions about Doctor Who and what characteristics they want to see in the next Doctor. As politics and Doctor Who are two of this blog’s continuing obsessions, I couldn’t resist writing about it – and this post becomes even more ‘my entire blogging history in one post’ if I tell you I’m doing it while I wait for the highlights of the Criterium du Dauphine cycling to come on TV.

(Insert your standard disclaimer here about polling not necessarily being accurate, margins of error, just a bit of fun etc)

It’s perhaps not surprising that Lib Dem voters are more likely to be Who fans than supporters of other parties (see Alex Wilcock’s ‘How Doctor Who Made Me A Liberal‘ or my take on it here) but it’s nice to see it statistically confirmed – 41% of Lib Dem supporters are interested in the series, compared to 34% of Labour, 29% of Tories and just 26% of UKIP supporters.

I’m actually surprised to see David Tennant topping the ‘favourite Doctor’ part of the survey by quite a convincing margin – 43% to Tom Baker’s 16% and Matt Smith’s 14%. He won a similar DWM poll while he was the Doctor, but he’s now three years out of the role, which does indicate that he may well have replaced Tom Baker as the public’s image of the Doctor. (He is one of my favourites, but if I’d have been polled, I’d have doubled Patrick Troughton’s support amongst Lib Dems.) However, fun confirmation of stereotypes comes with Jon Pertwee getting his highest ratings from UKIP and Tory voters, but absolutely no support from Lib Dems. It’s possibly because he’s the most ‘establishment’ of all the Doctors – no other Doctor spent so much time hanging around the military – though one could also argue that the Pertwee era was full of images of a proudly independent Britain with its own space programme and big energy projects. As soon as he went, Tom Baker’s first story saw international sovereignty being pooled to protect nuclear codes in ‘Robot’ and the English countryside, if it was real at all, was depicted as being full of androids.

There’s also interest in the questions about what characteristics the new Doctor should have. Even without the breakdown by party, I’m surprised to see that the population of Britain are relatively open to the idea of a different Doctor. The only characteristics that get bare majority support are British (54%) and male (52%) – and male only gets about 40% support from Labour and Lib Dem voters. That gives me hope that when – and I believe it is a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’, even if it’s not this time – we get a female Doctor, the general populace will be much more inclined to accept it and see how it goes than certain Who fans believe they will be.

Other figures almost look as though they were created by the stereotype-o-matic such as 50% of UKIP voters thinking it’s important the Doctor is white, compared to 5% of Lib Dems, though I’m confused by a couple of spikes (which might just be statistical noise because of small sample size) – Tories are more likely to want the Doctor to be attractive, while Labour voters are more likely to want the actor to already be a household name.

My general position is that I want the next Doctor to be played by someone interesting – I’ve not been the biggest fan of the last three years of the series, but I think Matt Smith’s done a good job with some weak material and has been very good when he gets a good script – and most of the actors who I’ve thought could be interesting Doctors have been different from the norm. (That said, I do edge towards the ‘I’d like a woman Doctor, but not one written by Steven Moffat‘ position) If it was up to me, I’d be trying to persuade one of Adrian Lester, Maxine Peake, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Naomie Harris or Ben Whishaw to take the role – but it’s not up to me, so I just get to wait, watch and see what comes next. Hopefully, I’ll still be around for the 100th anniversary, when all this speculation will seem as quaint and irrelevant as ‘can you really get another completely different actor to play the Doctor?’ was in 1966.

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Yesterday’s Guardian had a very interesting interview with Arnie Graf, a veteran community organiser from Chicago who Ed Miliband brought in to advise on how to change the way the Labour Party works to make it more effective. Graf produced a report with various recommendations on how to improve the way the party works, but his recommendations appear to have stalled somewhere in the party machinery – which is perhaps not surprising, given how critical he is of it. This perspective on it from Mark Ferguson at Labour List is an introduction to the way some Labour people see it.

Now it would be easy to write a post here about what this shows us about the Labour party, but reading about Graf’s suggestions in the Guardian piece, I found that they resonated with my experience of the Liberal Democrats (and I suspect other people in other parties may find the same too). We obviously don’t have the full report, but there are four principal ideas expressed in the article that we would do well to consider in the light of our own experience:

First, there was a need to deal with what Graf describes as the party’s “bureaucratic rather than a relational culture”. A new member coming into their first meeting should expect more than bureaucracy and hierarchy. They should be welcomed into a group that offered trusted, working relationships and interesting political discussions.

Second, the party had to stop treating members as drones rather than leaders. Many of the party members Graf visited in the regions seemed to think that if there were genuine leaders in the party, they were all in London. Most orders came from the capital. It was in London that the leaflets were designed, the timetables set and the marching orders given.

Thirdly, the party was too closed: Labour gatherings were often suspicious of outsiders, particularly people who were Labour sympathisers but not prepared to be members. It seemed hard for newcomers to break in.

Finally, the party offered little inspiration to its members. Graf blew open a complacent consensus that branch meetings had to be boring. He could see that they could offer more, and dared them to be so: “We grow up and get meaning from relationships … politics should provide that.”

While the structure and culture of the two parties is different, I think there’s something in all four of those points that Liberal Democrats should consider. We all want to get more people involved in the party, but what can we offer them to get them there? A chance to sit in a draughty room discussing the minutes of the next meeting, before being given a bunch of leaflets to deliver? If someone was interested in the party and wanted to find out more about what we do, would they feel welcomed at a meeting? More to the point, would we actually be able to offer them anything interesting to do? (And no, for most people delivering leaflets is not interesting)

The problem we face is that as a party, in many cases we’ve come to see campaigning as an end in itself. (See for instance this LDV article, where getting people out to campaign for PCC elections is seen as an unambiguously good thing, but it’s a common theme) It’s where Liberator’s description of the party as a ‘leaflet delivery cult’ comes from, which is true despite the fact that no one I’ve ever encountered in any party got into politics because they really love delivering leaflets.

The problem all parties have is that a lot of our ideas about how politics work in Britain are based on parties with mass membership and strong links into the local community. It’s not just about delivering leaflets, but knowing the people around you and what they think to feed that into the process. Somewhere along the line, we’ve lost that, and we’ve lost that wider engagement which has led to all parties becoming odd clubs where the like minded spend time together. While party membership was never quite as common here as registering as Democrat or Republican is in the US, it was a lot more common. (As an aside, how much did party membership cost in the 50s and 60s before the decline started?)

If we’re going to survive and thrive as a party – especially in a post-coalition world – then we have to start questioning how we’re going to do it, and why we’re doing it in the first place. Even if it’s bogged down in bureaucracy, Graf’s work shows that Labour are properly thinking about this problem, and we should be too.

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We all remember some of the shameful things that happened in Parliament during the last Labour government. Chief among them, of course, were the repeated times when the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats used their majority of votes their to repeatedly block any attempts to discuss House of Lords reform. Then, when it managed to get through, they repeatedly voted down Labour’s proposals for a 100% elected second chamber and referendum on the issue. They certainly weren’t a government who got extremely half-hearted about Lords reform after removing most of the hereditary peers, and allowed whatever meagre Parliamentary time they allocated to discussing it to end in inconclusive votes that achieved nothing beyond kicking it into the long grass for years.

I don’t recall any of that happening, but it must have done for this to make any sense. Otherwise, it’d just be someone blocking the chance to have any further reform of the Lords in order to play political games.

Oh, and the whole ‘we should be concentrating on the economy and not doing anything else in Parliament’ argument? Take a look at this list of bills announced in the 2009 Queen’s Speech when the economy wasn’t doing too well either. Oddly, that seems to have a number of bills included in it (including ones on constitutional reform and Lords reform) that are nothing to do with the economy. Perhaps the Labour Party of 2009 – unlike their modern-day counterparts – were able to understand that it’s possible for a Government and a Parliament to do more than one thing at once.

What might have happened if someone had told William Beveridge there was no time for him to waste writing reports on social insurance while there was a war on?

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I only discovered the Labour Uncut site a short while ago, but has it always been the place where supposedly rational people let out their weirdest thoughts?

Last week, we had Sion Simon declaring that he didn’t like The King’s Speech because Colin Firth voted Liberal Democrat, and he should be apologising to people for that.

Then today we have Tom Watson – admittedly, never normally a man who acts like he knows the meaning of the word ‘restraint’ – stating that JFK would have supported locking up shifty-looking people without charge because, um, er, it’s wrong that anyone should attempt to hold Tony Blair to account and anyway – Look! Over there! Terrorists!

But even that fades to nothing when put next to this, which makes an immediate appearance in a very high position on the list of the most overwrought and hyperbolic political analogies. Yes, according to Labour Uncut, David Cameron is ‘the British Pol Pot’ and states:

This is the most destructive administration since Pol Pot. It isn’t killing professionals and the middle classes, but it is so damaging their lives and the chances of their children that it’s the British equivalent to wholesale slaughter.

Can you imagine the outcry – likely led by Tom Watson, ironically – if Conservative Home, Liberal Democrat Voice or any other political website ran an article comparing Ed Miliband to a genocidal dictator? As well as Watson, I can see articles by three other Labour MPs – John Spellar, John Woodcock and Tom Harris – on their front page right now. Are they happy with that sort of hyperbole and to have their words published on a site that produces material that resembles a parody?

I understand they oppose the Government and the site seems to be reflecting more of Labour’s authoritarian wing, but do they seriously believe that comparing David Cameron to Pol Pot does anyone any good?

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Yes, yes, yes

Go read Anton Vowl on Phil Woolas:

It was Labour’s fault in the first place, for not booting Woolas out sooner. Those leaflets were evidence enough to see him off. The claim that the party didn’t want to prejudice the court case and so waited for the verdict is simply not good enough. You either think that publishing such leaflets is appalling, in which case you take action, or you don’t; you don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do. That kind of wobbling leaves Woolas and his chums with the defence that Labour didn’t kick him out until the court ruled, so if the ruling can be overturned, then everything will be rosy again.

It may be disappointing to see a democratically elected person be kicked out of office by the courts, but it’s more disappointing to see someone resort to dog-whistle racism and lies to try and win a tight election. Woolas knew the law (or at least he should have been aware of it) when he started his campaign, and – at the risk of using a fairly standard phrase you see everywhere at the moment – he had 13 years in government to change that law, should he have thought it was unfair. He didn’t, and neither did anyone else who is suddenly getting heated about the decision.

There is no absolute right to tell a lie, and get away with it, just because it’s politics and electioneering. It doesn’t chill political debate to call someone out for lying; it simply makes people less likely to lie in the future. We can wring your hands if we like, but I don’t find that tremendously worrying, in the cold light of day. And yes, Liberal Democrats and Tories do leaflets of their own that aren’t very pleasant. If you don’t like them, call them out. Whataboutery doesn’t work in this instance because everyone has the opportunity to complain about election communications. And there’s a world of difference between a dodgy bar chart and the kind of awfulness found in Woolas’s material.

Update: And don’t miss this either.

Solidarity and loyalty are fine and noble things. Loyalty towards someone who has disgraced your movement and your party is something quite different. It taints you, and it makes you look bad. If Labour want to carry on clinging on to Woolas, that’s fine. If they want a vote from me afterwards, they can go whistle for it.

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I’m sure there are lots of blog posts about the Labour leadership election today, so I’m not going to add to the crystal ball-gazing about just what Ed Miliband might or might not do now he’s leader of the opposition, or even about the structure of the result, but there is one curious part of Labour’s electoral system that I wanted to comment on.

There’s a huge lack of secrecy involved in the process and declaration, with some dubious implications for how the party is run. In the results section of the Labour website, there are separate pages for the three different parts of Labour’s electoral college – MPs and MEPs, members and unions & affiliates.

While I can see that there are valid reasons for the unions and affiliates section to be counted by organisation – to prevent ballot stuffing by an organisation, for instance – I’m not sure what the party’s reasons for declaring the membership results by constituency party are. It may be useful to know which areas of the country might have the most peeved Miliband (D) and celebratory Miliband (E) supporters this morning, but it seems to me that if a vengeful leader wanted to know where to find their enemies (not that I think Ed Miliband is like that), breaking down the result to that level makes it quite easy. Of course, this may be a hangover from the time when the Labour leadershp wanted to know where the Militant supporters were – and the Militant supporters liked it because it helped them know just where their entryism had been most successful, I assume.

However, that’s probably explainable by me being used to an entirely different way of structuring a party and reporting results, but I’d be interested to hear what the justification is for every MP and MEP’s individual vote being made public. It seems really odd to me – given that the Labour Party likes to see its roots in the Chartist movement – that they’re not trusted to have a secret ballot. While it is amusing to see those who didn’t want to use any preferences in their ballot, publishing their ballots like this surely causes quite significant pressure on individuals to vote in favour of political expediency rather than their conscience.

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(if any happen to be passing by this way…)

You might have heard that Phil Woolas is this week in an electoral court because of a legal challenge about his campaign in Oldham East and Saddleworth during this year’s General Election.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the electoral petition, look at the copies of his leaflets that are available here and here (pdf files) as part of it. Now, ask yourself this: are you happy that Phil Woolas used those leaflets as an official Labour candidate? Are you happy that he has faced no disciplinary action or disapproval from the leadership of the party because of them? And are you happy that a man who can happily put out such leaflets remains an official Labour front bench spokesman on home affairs, including immigration? And if you are fine with that, just how far does a Labour candidate have to go before you’ll disavow their actions?

(links from Anton Vowl on Twitter, and further coverage of the electoral court is available via Nick Thornsby’s blog and Twitter)

UPDATE: Interesting post here from a Labour member wanting him expelled. However, what interests me is the suggestion in the comments that Woolas is involved with David Miliband’s leadership campaign – anyone know more about this?

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Life is composed of reality configurations so constituted. To abandon her would be to say, I can’t endure reality as such. I have to have uniquely special easier conditions.

Philip K Dick, ‘Now Wait For Last Year’

It’s been a rather eventful day, but I think the situation for the Liberal Democrats still hasn’t changed. Clegg is playing a difficult hand extremely well, but for me the situation still looks as though all he can hope for is to get out with what proves to be the least worst option for him and the party. However, as you might expect in this situation, which option that will turn out to be won’t be obvious for six months or so when the commentators get to write the ‘why didn’t Clegg do X instead?’ articles.

There’s been a lot of commotion this evening over the supposed ‘progressive alliance’ that might now be a possibility. Leaving aside my habitual concerns over the use of the word ‘progressive’, even with Brown out of the way, I’m still not sure this would make for a workable and stable government. Even if one assumes that the entire Parliamentary Labour Party could be brought into line to support the promises that are being made now, any Commons vote would be entirely dependent on keeping some combination of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the DUP in agreement, which is nothing more than a recipe for Alex Salmond or Peter Robinson to hold the Government to ransom every time they watch their opinion poll ratings start to fall.

But then, neither of the Tory options – either a full-fledged coalition, or a looser confidence and supply arrangement for a minority government – would have been high on the Liberal Democrat pre-election wishlist. The first offers the chance of a chunk of the party’s support and membership walking out on the grounds that they can’t suffer a deal with the Tories, while the latter leaves the Damoclean threat of David Cameron calling an election the moment he thinks he can get an outright majority and crush us into the dust while Labour’s new leader gathers up the rest of our disaffected support. If we’re lucky we go back to the position we were in during the 70s.

In that ideal world we’re not living in, I’d love us to be able to hold up our hands, take a step back, say ‘you know what, you can sort it out between yourselves’ and let them form some grand Labservative coalition. The other day I was thinking that was possible, remembering back to what happened in Germany in 2005, then realised they have fixed term Parliaments which would encourage a solution like that when a minority Chancellor can’t just cut and run when they want to. Besides, us saying we don’t want to deal with someone is hardly an advert for the new politics we like to advocate. While perhaps not what we were envisaging this time last week, this is the sort of situation we’ve wanted to be in, and if we don’t take this opportunity now it’s here, why should anyone take us seriously in the future?

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