From a comment on Lib Dem Voice:

It is my expectation that, when the Tory right seeks to exert their power and to remove Cameron as leader, that many would give serious consideration to leaving the Tory party and joining the more moderate Liberal Democrats.

To borrow a phrase: sadly, no.

I’ve been following and involved in British politics for at least two decades now, and one constant of that time has been confident predictions of imminent splits in one party or another. I’ve made quite a few of them myself, and it’s this long tradition of failed predictions that has taught me that large-scale party splits are an incredibly rare event in British politics. Even singular defections are pretty rare, and they increase in rarity with the seniority of the potential defectee – the most senior defectee in recent times would appear to be Shaun Woodward.

I think attitudes can be coloured – and particularly in the Liberal Democrats – in that we are in a period where there has been a comparatively recent major party split when the SDP formed in 1981. Rather than being a part of regular politics, though, that was an exceptional event, notable because large numbers of MPs and senior party figures (including former Cabinet members) left one party and formed another. Aside from the contortions over the National Government and Mosley’s New Party in 1931, the last time that had happened in British politics was Chamberlain and the Liberal Unionists in 1888.

What tends to happen in British politics is that those disheartened by the direction of their party take one of two courses. They stay and fight, trying to bring the party back to the position it had before or they decide to give up on active politics altogether and find a new way to occupy their time. In terms of the contemporary Conservatives, one could see Ken Clarke as an example of the first and Michael Portillo as an example of the second – those who take the second option usually try the first one before moving on. They very rarely switch to another party, even one of their own creation.

It’s easy to say ‘that’ll definitely split the party’ but permanent large-scale splits are a very rare occurrence in British politics. What’s much more common is the losing of conviction and the withering away of the minority. You’re much more likely to see former rebels making documentaries than signing up for another party.

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Nanowrimo 2012

November starts tomorrow, having settled into its new role as the month where you do something a bit different in order to give you something to talk about on the internet. As I already have facial hair, I can’t take part in Movember, so instead it’ll be another attempt at National Novel Writing Month. Amazingly, despite the fact it’s spread far and wide from its origin as something attempted by a group of friends in San Francisco to become a worldwide phenomenon, that stubborn ‘National’ clings alone to the front, with no concerted efforts to either delete it or add an ‘inter’ before it it. That’s probably because people don’t want to work out how to pronounce ‘NoWriMo’ or InNaNoWriMo’ after putting so much effort into learning to pronounce NaNoWriMo.

(Of course, if National Novel Writing Month didn’t exist, it’d be the sort of thing the National Office of Importance would have produced a poster about)

Yet again, I will be attempting to produce fifty thousand words of something during the next thirty days, and as this will be my fifth attempt after four previous successes, I thought I should share my wisdom with you all and collate the lessons I’ve learned over those previous 200,000 words. I may go on at length, so if you want to read more, you’ll find it beneath the cut.

Read the rest of this entry

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Castle Ward will be the location for Colchester Council’s next Day of Action on Thursday 29th November. This is where the Borough Council gets together with a whole host of other agencies to deal with problems in the area that have been identified by residents.

People have been out yesterday and today knocking on doors in the area to find out people’s views (I’ll be out later today!) but there are a lot of doors to knock on, and if you haven’t had the chance to respond to a survey at your doorstep, there’s an online consultation that you can respond to by clicking here. It’s a chance to let us know what your priorities are for the Day of Action, and what you want to see done in and around Castle Ward.

You’ll need to fill it in by the end of this week – Friday 2nd – so all the responses can be looked at before the plans for the Day of Action are made.

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Andrew Gilligan and Matthew Brown – Continuing the story of the PCC candidate linked to American neocons I linked to last week, here’s the tale of how a Daily Telegraph journalist based a story entirely on the proclamations of a fantasist.
Jill Dando, John Yates and Operation Oxborough – Was Jill Dando’s privacy being invaded before she was murdered, and who was responsible?
The Disappearance of the Colonists on LV-426 is Something God Intended to Happen – “Life is what’s important to me. The lives we can save, right here and now. The little, baby alien lives. I believe they begin the moment the egg reacts to the heat of the nearby host and the implanter life form hatches.”
Thank you Vasili Arkhipov, the man who stopped nuclear war – Fifty years ago, a Russian submarine captain made a decision not to fire a nuclear torpedo. Thanks to him and others, the place where I live isn’t part of the East Anglian Fallout Zone.
Will the United States or the United Kingdom play a role in supporting any Israeli military strike against Iran in the six months following the 2012 US presidential election? – A somewhat reassuring brief from Open Briefing, arguing that the US and UK won’t be backing any Israeli action in the short term. I’ve been following Open Briefing for a while, and it has some interesting reports and briefings, so I would recommend it.

And while you’re here, vote for brainnnsssss:

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I was looking up something about Nick Harvey for my previous post and noticed that he’s started to show a display a resemblance to a former Soviet leader…

Mikhail GorbachevNick Harvey

Is Stavropol Krai in North Devon following the boundary review? I think we should be told.

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Two bits of news about the business of Government that have caught my attention over the last few days.

The quad has become the sextet – As we’ve come to see over the past couple of years, a lot of the real decisions about the direction of the Government are being taken by the ‘quad’: David Cameron, George Osbourne, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander. That’s now expanded include David Laws and Oliver Letwin.
Philip Hammond is pushing on with Trident replacement contracts – The ‘main gate’ decision isn’t meant to be taken until 2016, but work is still being undertaken as though that’s already been decided. Institutional inertia, anyone?

I’ve linked these stories because they both highlight something important about this government that I don’t see being talked about much, possibly because we’ve all internalized the belief that no one wants to talk about process stories. I’m usually inclined to agree, but the problem can be to assume that process and policy aren’t strongly linkes. Sure, in Government they can’t exist without each other, but we must not forget that the way the process is structured can effect the policy as it works through the system. (I had a whole lot of analogies here, none of which worked)

Nick Harvey’s removal from the MoD without a Liberal Democrat replacement coming in for him has already sparked off lots of discussion about the Trident review and replacement and today’s announcement is just a small part of that. The key point here, though, is that there’s now no longer someone like Nick Harvey fighting that corner in the MoD day to day. Clegg and Alexander are supposedly overseeing the issue, but that’s different from actually having a minister in there – overseers tend to only get to see what the process spits out at the end, when what’s needed here is someone to influence it a long time before final reports are made.

This is why I think the recent reshuffle is going to cause lots of issues further down the line as the implications of it are felt. As well as Liberal Democrats leaving certain areas behind, it also saw the Tories shift rightwards, and the additions to the quad make it look unlikely that it’s going to provide any brake to that tendency. The quad determines what does and doesn’t get done in government, what each party is willing to trade off with the other and for what. The Liberal Democrat members of it have an important job to do in not just keeping government running smoothly, but in understanding and representing what the party will and will not accept. Unfortunately, adding David Laws to it doesn’t instil much confidence in me that the party’s full range of views are going to be reflected. Adding in another member of the party ‘right’, someone ideologically closer to the Tories than many others in the party, seems to me to be a strategic error.

If we’re really seeking to act as a handbrake on the Tories, why is the centre of political gravity on the quad so far to the right? The quad might just be a process within government, but the decisions it makes – explicitly or implicitly – have an ideological effect on what policies get pushed through the system. Yet again, too much is being conceded to the Tories before proper discussions even start, and we know where that’s led us before.

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Fear and loathing in Athens: the rise of Golden Dawn and the far right – I don’t know how much it’s emphasised for the story, or if it seems worse than it is because of the focus on one angle, but Greece sounds like a country with some major problems right now.
Stephen becomes first councillor in the UK with Down’s Syndrome – Great story, and even better, the comments below are almost completely positive.
Light Entertainment – Andrew O’Hagan in the London Review of Books on the Savile scandal and the rather disturbinglight world of British light entertainment.
Conference accreditation: what do candidates think? – One for my Lib Dem readers here. Following on from Jennie’s questions to candidates, Andy Hinton polls candidates for the Federal Executive for their views on Conference accreditation.
Context is everything – Charles Stross looks at the reasons for and against protecting the environment. JUst how important are humans anyway?

And if you’re still here, why not watch this?

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121741: Listed building application for internal alterations, Lexden Road.
121859: Enclosure of courtyard for guest seating area, North Hill.
121860: Listed building consent for 121859.
121902: Enlarged and refurbished store including part demolition and rebuild, remodelling of external elevations and internal alterations, High Street.
121905: Conservation Area approval for 121902

Please note that I am a member of the Council’s Planning Committee for this municipal year. This means that I’m required to act in a ‘quasi-judicial’ manner with regard to applications before the Committee and as such, can’t make comments in favour or against planning applications as I may then have pre-judged them before they come to Committee. I can give advice on planning issues and what to do if you have a comment or objection. However, my ward colleagues Bill Frame and Jo Hayes aren’t members of the Committee, so they’re free to comment as they wish.

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Transcript of all news programmes – Love and Garbage saves you from having to watch them. But they’ll no doubt have a special report to examine why you’re not watching them.
Bloody Nasty People by Daniel Trilling – review – David Edgar reviews what sounds like a fascinating book about the far-right in Britain, but the review itself makes some very good points.
Third draft struggles – Author Benjamin Rosenbaum talks about how swapping the gender of the characters in his novel gave him a whole new perspective. Given the interest this post has provoked, I think there’s a market there for a gender-swapping Scrivener plugin.

Warning: Both the next two links deal with rape and sexual abuse. They’re potentially triggering for people who’ve experienced that or other abuse, but I’ve included them because they’re definitely worth reading.
A fan letter to certain conservative politicians – I wish I could write something as good as this piece by John Scalzi. I wish the world was such that he didn’t have to write it. Again, a massive trigger warning for this piece, which is a piece of midnight-dark satire.
Beneath the law: When the system inherently favors the rapist – Reports from around the world of how those who are meant to be working for the victims of sexual crimes are failing in that responsibility.

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As part of my realisation that it’s been nearly ten years since I started blogging (along with the whole ‘Has it really been that long? God, I’m getting old…’ thoughts) it occurs to me that I don’t follow as many British political blogs as I used to. Part of this is for the very good reason that most British political blogs aren’t very good and are merely about point-scoring and emphasising repeatedly how wonderful your party is while reminding us how evil everyone who doesn’t agree with you is.

But, I’m sure there have to be other blogs out there that I would find interesting if I only knew about them. So if you know of a blog – or even have one yourself – that you think I might find interesting, then please recommend them to me in the comments. I’ll even collate all the recommendations into a post so even if they don’t end up appealing to me, there’ll be some free promotion and linkage for you.

And by political, I mean that in the widest sense – I don’t want the the diaries of party hacks written in the style of press releases, I want interesting views and news from across the country, with perspectives I’ve not seen before. What would you recommend that might educate, inform and entertain me?

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