» david cameron ¦ What You Can Get Away With

Let us be glad that Hansard, which has recorded great debates in Parliament for years, was still around to capture this piece of high-level intellectual debate:

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): The Prime Minister jests about what words are allowed and not allowed in this Chamber; on the Opposition Benches, we would quite like to hear one word more often from his lips: “growth”.

Further to the question from the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), the problem of corruption in Russia is manifest. On 7 March, this House unanimously agreed a resolution, supported by the Government, calling on them to introduce legislative proposals to make sure that those involved in the murder of Sergei Magnitsky and the corruption that he unveiled were banned from this country. When will those legislative proposals be introduced?

The Prime Minister: I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that the word I am waiting for from him, because he introduced a point of order claiming that I had misled the House, is “sorry”. To be fair to him, he has said sorry to everybody else—you, Mr Speaker, I think, and to the House in general—but the person he accused of doing something wrong he has yet to say “sorry” to. So, until I get that apology, I think I will leave off the answers.

Yes, that’s the Prime Minister of this country refusing to answer questions in Parliament because someone hasn’t apologised to him properly. That’s the sort of behaviour that would shame a playground, so why do we accept it from him?

,

One of those little things that’s crept into our internet usage over the last few years is the customer satisfaction query. There’s probably another name for it, but what I’m referring to is the little question you often get asked when you’ve queried an FAQ, a support database or help system. Did this answer your query? they’ll ask at the end of your reading, checking to see if they’ve understood what you were asking and have provided the answers you require.

Why I’m thinking about this is because I was watching David Cameron’s appearance in the House of Commons yesterday. And what I was thinking is ‘how much would it change the way Parliament works if the Speaker could ask that to MPs when they’ve asked questions?’ Of course, part of that would be the fun of seeing John Bercow regularly popping up to ask ‘did that answer the Honourable Member’s question? Yes/No/Partially’ but more fundamentally, it would be interesting if an MP could have some reaction, however minimal, to the non-answer that’s been prevalent in the Commons for years. Just a chance to say ‘I’m sorry, but that wasn’t even an attempt an answer’ might make people wonder just what they’re supposed to be doing there other than braying like idiots.

, , ,

Not all phone-hacking, all the time:

Paper, scissors, stone – Heresy Corner collects George Michael’s tweets on his relationship with the News Of The World, and notices that they point towards some very dodgy-sounding behaviour from the Metropolitan Police. (via)
Don’t pity Gordon – he supped from the devil’s hands – “At its core, it is an issue of the abuse of political power not by Murdoch, but by Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, David Cameron and every other elected quisling who supped with the devil not with a long spoon but from the devil’s own satanic hands.”
Dominic Grieve is a bigger scandal than Andy Coulson – How The Sun vetoed David Cameron’s choice of Shadow Home Secretary.
Test Your Vocab – Interesting test to see how many different words people are aware of, and by taking part in it, you’re helping out with some research. (36,100 for me, if you’re interested) (via)
An Eye-Opening Adventure in Socialized Medicine – An American visitor discovers the NHS (via)

, , , , ,

One of these is obviously a day late. Can you guess which?

One genre to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them – There’s been some interesting discussion recently about the claims of literary fiction, and how this one genre dominates media coverage of books and reading. Here’s an interesting take on it all. (via)
Meat Lover! The Scariest (True) NYC Sublet Story You’ve Ever Heard – Does exactly what it says on the headline. Probably not to be read if you’re squeamish, easily offended or are about to eat Chinese food.
One cold may morning in June – Phil Edwards on the difference between Adams and Pratchett.
Ireland and Doctor Who – For St Patrick’s Day, Nicholas Whyte chronicles the connections. “There is occasional confusion about whether Gallifrey might be located in Ireland.”
If Cameron can’t explain AV, his education was wasted – “So for Cameron to blithely claim he is not able to explain AV suggests one of two things to me. Either he is not being honest, or his extremely privileged education was wasted on him.”

, , , , ,

Yes, we still have links, even if we don’t have much other content:

The Battle for the No Campaign and a Prime Minister in Peril – Interesting WSJ piece on the AV referendum. I’d question some of the assumptions in it, but worth reading nonetheless.
Tuition Fees: Did The Coalition Get Its Sums Wrong? – Just in case you thought the whole tuition fees issue wasn’t a big enough debacle, here’s another complication.
The Beasts in the Arena – A free short story in the Romanitas universe from Sophia McDougall. Works as a good introduction to the series if you’ve not read them.
NUS President will not stand again – What I find most interesting about Free Radical’s thoughts on the NUS is that I heard most of them twenty years ago when I was involved in student politics. I’m not sure that NUS has ever been properly representative, or has ever had a strong idea of what it’s for. (via)
David Cameron: Gun Slut – Justin McKeating on what David Cameron’s doing after talking up democracy in Cairo: selling weapons to dictatorships.

, , , , , ,

Some disorganised thoughts from me, that may or may not add up to a coherent whole. For those looking for a more thought-through opinion on all this, I suggest visiting the Lib Dem Blogs aggregator and working through the entries there. Or take a look at this Dutch perspective on the situation.

I can remember approaching the 2008 elections here in Colchester and we were looking at the prospects of what might happen afterwards. Out of all the possible results, it seemed that the one with the four groups at 27-23-7-3 would be the hardest to find a solution from. So obviously, that was the result we got. This seems like a similar position – the Conservatives where they can’t comfortably form a minority Government, and the combined Liberal Democrat-Labour position doesn’t result in a majority. While we did find a solution in Colchester, this does seem like a much more difficult position to resolve.

Mathematically, a Labour-Liberal Democrat combination, while it doesn’t lead to a majority, isn’t as weak as it might seem. Given that they could rely on the SDLP and Alliance MPs, they’d have 319 to the 307 Tories (assuming they hold Thirsk and Malton in three weeks) and it’s likely that they could get the support of enough from the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Green and independent Unionist MPs to counter the likely Tory-DUP alliance. However, while that might seem possible from a blank slate, given the history and politics involved, it’d be an incredibly difficult solution to sell to the people, especially if it involved Gordon Brown remaining in office, even before you get to the whole issue of Labour’s authoritarian tendencies on civil liberties.

Some have suggested Gordon Brown, or perhaps some other figure, as effectively a caretaker PM for twelve months while this rainbow coalition pushes through a wide-ranging political reform package before a new election. However, to get this through, the wafer-thin majority in the Commons would require Brown to deliver the entire Labour Party through the Aye lobby, and there’s enough of a draconian tendency there to scupper any part of the reform package in favour of keeping their safe seats. There’s also the question of whether a Government made up of so many parties and with a small majority could push through any tough economic decisions that were required.

The problem with a Liberal-Conservative coalition is… well, you can finish that sentence in a number of ways, from a number of different perspectives and almost all of them would be correct. While it seems that Cameron and Clegg might get on personally, the rest of their parties don’t and trying to get through those decades of distrust, contempt and outright hatred at times is not going to be easy, if it’s even possible at all. However, to even get to that point, there has to be a resolution on the issue of electoral reform first.

Whatever happens, I think the media will get their ‘angry Lib Dems quit party’ story – not just people disgruntled at teaming up with one party or another, but even if he finds a way to not choose either, someone will doubtless get themselves their fifteen minutes of fame by claiming we should have done a deal and walk off in a huff because we didn’t.

I know I couldn’t support any coalition deal with any party that doesn’t have a clear and timetabled commitment to a referendum on electoral reform. Not just a Blair-esque ‘we’ll have a referendum at some point in the future’ promise but a definite date by which said referendum will happen. Without that sort of commitment, I can’t see how Clegg and his negotiators could get the backing of the Parliamentary Party or the Federal Executive for a coalition, let alone survive a party conference. Electoral reform is a fundamental part of the Liberal Democrats’ raison d’etre and it’s not something we’d give up on for a few ministerial cars.

However, I do think there is a way for Cameron to get round it, if he can sell it to his party. Remember that our demand is not for the Government to force through electoral reform itself, just a referendum on it. If the Conservatives feel so strongly about it, and think they’re right, then why should they shy away from putting that argument to the people and asking them to decide? Sure, have a committee of inquiry to decide what should be put to the public, but that committee has to have a deadline by which it must report it’s recommendations to Parliament, which will then agree a referendum. I’ve already heard a comparison made to the 1975 referendum on the Common Market where members of the same party campaigned on different sides of the issue yet were able to come together again afterwards.

Of course, even if that can be agreed, then we’ll turn to the rest of the agreement and what sort of policy commitments it requires, but that won’t happen until after the electoral reform question is settled.

Finally, the other option that’s not been brought up much is the possibility of some form of grand coalition or government of national unity. If talks between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives do break down then that might become the only workable option remaining on the table, but that’s something I’ll write more about if we get to that position.

, , , , ,

As the battlebuses pull into their last stops, and the last hordes of activists run through ever-darkening streets to push that one last leaflet that might make the difference through that one last letterbox, the election finally gets handed over to the voters. Yes, at last we’ll get the answer to the question that’s been bugging us for the the past weeks, months, and years – which polling company is the most accurate? Oh, there’ll be something about a new Government at the end of it too, but that’s less important, surely.

Still, if you see your vote as being something more than doing what a random sample of people tells you, have some links. Angry Mob believe that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is telling the Daily Mail where to go. Writing for the Guardian’s Science section, Martin Robbins assesses the evidence about the parties’ science policies and states:

Which leads me to emerge from two weeks buried in paperwork and political promises to find myself at this conclusion. If I were to cast my vote based purely on science, it would be for the Liberal Democrats, for Nick Clegg and for Evan Harris.

It’s the last day of the campaign, so a couple of final digs at David Cameron. Duncan Stott wonders just what sort of interviews he prefers. And David Schneider has a final warning:

And one last video:

And no, when I sent that tweet to Justin a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t expect it to inspire so much.

As for my day, another 350 or so leaflets delivered, which takes me up to 3,800 for the campaign. Was expecting to do even more than that, but after I’d done my assigned delivery, I found out that the rest of the constituency had all been done, so I could relax for the evening. Nice to have so many volunteers, and it should make it good fun tomorrow to have a lot of people around to help get the vote out. I’m up bright and early tomorrow to do the first canvassing shift at my local polling station, and by the time the count has finished, I’ll have likely been up for over 20 hours. Not quite as much as I managed in 1997, but back then I didn’t have to go to another count – for the local elections – the day after.

Blog posting may be understandably light tomorrow, but I will likely be twittering quite a lot.

, , ,