Showing posts tagged lib dems


Jeremy Browne and a panda eating a carrot

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Posted at 5:17pm • Permalink  • Tags: politics lib dems general lol
Reblogged (Photo reblogged from abriefhistoryofliberty)


UK politics in chaos

The independent Boundary Commission for England has made its proposals for boundaries that fit the reduction in number of MPs and lower tolerances for the number of people per constituency. And it’s got MPs worried. “Musical chairs with machetes” is the best description I’ve heard!

Many have said that the changes are more radical than expected, and the problem is that the Commons needs to vote through these yet-to-be-finalised boundaries - or not - in 2013. This is a consultation for now, and in some areas all three parties might submit their own proposals, but in most cases I doubt there’s much leeway. Here are some unsettling points:

  • Which party comes out best? From what I’ve seen, the news for the Lib Dems isn’t terrible (or is it?, but I think the analysis is too simplistic so far) but more on that below. More marginals, particularly Labour/Conservative, is a likely outcome. The new rules are designed to benefit the Tories but no one’s saying at the moment that the proposed seats would give them a scandalously large boost. Certainly many Tory MPs will want to vote down the changes. But if Conservative HQ see lower-than-expected gains, might they conclude that bringing their MPs into line for the vote isn’t worth the effort?
  • And if the Tory party isn’t so keen, then the importance of the Lib Dem’s [thus-far] largely-unspoken threat of voting against the change, and therefore part of their coalition bargaining power, is reduced.
  • The BBC picks out these senior figures as being particularly under threat: George Osborne, Ken Clarke, Hugh Robertson (Tories); Ed Balls, Hilary Benn, Tessa Jowell, Chuka Umunna (Labour); Chris Huhne, Vince Cable, Tim Farron (Lib Dems); Caroline Lucas (Green Party).
  • But the Lib Dems really don’t have (m)any safe seats. Unlike George Osborne, their leadership can’t just be moved to safer pastures. I’m sure they can win most of them, but it’ll take a lot of work. Will the Lib Dem party have to choose its leader for the next election (Nick Clegg? Tim Farron?) without being sure if they’re going to win their seat? Might that skew the party election?
  • Party President Tim Farron’s large majority would merge with a Tory seat with its own large majority. Cumbria’s seat reduction will hit one of the coalition partners, but my money’s on Farron winning. The party might be more worried about Chris Huhne’s seat, into which a lot of work has been put, I believe.
  • Will some Labour MPs back the changes for their own good?
  • Political expert Mike Smithson says "PaddyPower is laying bets at 6/4 that the changes won’t happen. I think it’s only a 50-50 chance."
  • Under such conditions, are local parties to start putting in the legwork in new areas before 2013 without knowing if the changes will happen or not? 
  • The boundary review (Tory demand) was legislatively packaged together with the AV referendum (LD demand). Would there be something poetic or just about neither the Tories nor Lib Dems getting what they wanted? It might be better than the Tories winning on both counts!
  • These reviews are meant to take place every 5 years. Will future changes be anywhere near as disruptive?
  • Does the reduction in the number of MPs impact other political decisions? Will in-fighting affect Parliament’s work? And do elected Police Commissioners and an unelected House of Lords provide comfy places to send pacified MPs?

Tories cold on gay kissing (Lib Dems hot)

(Re. broadcasting on TV before 9pm.)

Edit: I wonder if those surveyed would have preferred married (or, for now, civil partnered) gay/lesbian kisses?

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Posted at 8:09pm • Permalink  • Tags: politics lib dems tories equal love


Liberal Democrats want inquiry into decriminalising drug possession

Front page of The Independent today: Lib Dems to vote to decriminalise all drug use

Guardian: Liberal Democrats want inquiry into decriminalising drug possession

More on the Indy website:

Leading article: The case against criminalisation

Nigel Morris: Commonsense policy leads into a political minefield

The Daily Mail doesn’t deserve to be linked to but here it is anyway: Lib Dems move to decriminalise ALL personal drug use and to allow controlled use of cannabis

Senior Liberal Democrats believe Cameron and the home secretary, Theresa May, could be persuaded to hold an open-minded inquiry into a controversy which divides public, political and medical opinion.

The conference motion also suggests the expert panel prepares alternative proposals for the creation of a “strictly controlled and regulated cannabis market”.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, who has previously supported drug decriminalisation, is understood to be relaxed about his party committing itself to such a contentious policy proposal.

Senior Liberal Democrat sources predicted last night that the motion would be overwhelmingly passed, automatically making it party policy.

"This is not a proposal from a lunatic fringe," said one. "It is a recognition of the general failure of drugs policies both in Britain and across the world."

A spokesman for Mr Clegg said he would “watch the debate with interest” on what was a “perfectly valid and legitimate debate for a party”.

The vote in favour of the moves would not guarantee their inclusion in their next election manifesto, but the party leadership made clear it was sympathetic to the calls. The Liberal Democrats have consistently argued that drug laws should be based on scientific advice, but have never committed themselves in a manifesto to decriminalisation.

Next month’s move by Liberal Democrat activists is a significant moment: it will be the first time decriminalisation has been considered by a party in government. Equally significant is Nick Clegg’s relaxed response. The odds are that a political party will fight the next election on a platform of widespread reform of drugs legislation.


A fascinating poll via Political Betting. Just 12% of Labour voters and 10% of Tory voters reckon they’ll be on the losing side at the next election.

This may be perfectly usual, but I think the current economic circumstances play a large role. Labour voters, I reckon, have a very different expectation to Tory ones of what’s going to happen over the next few years. They believe the economy is doomed, and that the cuts will make so many unemployed, and hurt everyone but the rich so hard, that the Tories have no chance of winning again.

Although there’s some truth in those things, and Labour are ahead in the polls, I think they’re deluded to think they’re going to win even a small majority. Reasons include: economic recovery, a tendency to give a government more than one term, the leaders themselves, the redrawn boundaries (assuming they pass…), the failure of AV in the referendum, Labour’s economic reputation vs George balancing the budget, the promise of tax cuts, the rise of the SNP in Scotland, the spending advantage the Tories always have…

I’d like another ‘hung parliament’ of course, but although that’s achievable, and failing complete economic collapse, I think we’re on track for a Tory majority (eurgh!!!) on 7th May 2015.

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Posted at 9:22am • Permalink  • Tags: politics global affairs labour lib dems tories


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Posted at 1:00am • Permalink  • Tags: prohibition lib dems


Modelling the results of Lords reform (or, “I’m with it! I’m hip!”)

Bored of electoral reform yet? Oh… Well try to pay attention anyway.

The long-awaited proposals for an elected House of Lords were revealed yesterday. Though open to change, for now the basics are as follows [BBC]:

  • 300 members
  • 80% elected - 20% appointed but with a provision for a fully elected chamber
  • Members to be elected for single 15-year terms under the single transferable vote system of proportional representation
  • A third of members to be elected in 2015, a further third in 2020 and 2025
  • Number of bishops to be reduced from 26 to 12

I must admit I enjoyed watching these points being discussed in the Commons, where the debate was less partisan than usual and where there were a few recurring points:

  • MPs were justifiably concerned with what powers an elected Lords would have, and whether the supremacy of the Commons would be retained. Happily, the DPM made it clear that it even though its legitimacy will be increased, its powers will not and will continue to be limited by the Parliament Acts.
  • An elected Lords was in the manifestos of all three main parties (and others) and MPs should remember this, particularly as they like to point emphatically to others’ manifesto commitments when it suits them.
  • 15-year, single terms were accused of reducing accountability. However, this needs to be balanced against increasing the independence of these Lords from the party line and so it is best that they should not be thinking of future elections. I wonder, however, whether the ‘right to recall’ corrupt MPs will be extended to elected Lords.
  • A couple of interesting questions are, 1) whether there will be many ministers drawn from an elected Lords, and 2) whether Lords’ terms will be extended if the [proposed] 5-year Commons election cycle is disrupted?
  • Many Labour MPs thought the proposals did not go far enough, and that a fully elected house and no bishops was needed. They may be right, but so was Clegg in saying that they made no progress in those directions during their 13-year majority rule. And while I feel passionately that the reserved religious places must go, Clegg has won me over to his compromising pragmatism.

The appointment of the possible unelected 20% is also worth noting as this in itself will be a big improvement. The proposal is for them to be chosen by an independent commission based on merit, a system that I know many would rather see used for all Lords. I’m undecided but think both that and elections are preferable to inherited and bought positions.

Now, on to my main point! This largely relates to the proposed ‘staggering’ of elections - a third every 5 years - as is often done in other elections. I had wondered if this could lead to Labour and the Conservatives controlling one House each and so tried to work out what results this staggering would have produced in the past. I based them on vote shares in general elections (with some 4 year terms though that’s not very important) but this includes some important assumptions:

  • That people would vote the same way! (With a different voting system, different terms and a different role, clearly they wouldn’t. Previous results and history would also change voting patterns while without tactical voting, the two-party and three-party share would decrease still further.)
  • The use of a perfectly proportional system. (Also wrong, and there would necessarily be some kind of threshold for representation)

Those huge caveats aside - this is just for rough illustration! - here’s what a proportional upper house would have looked like, following a proportional house created in 1974 but with one third of those peers replaced in both 1979 and 1983. One table is for a fully elected house, the other for 80%, both showing percentage of seats.

The current poll is YouGov: Lab/Con/LD - 41/39/9 though their results are widely criticised. The Commons colour indicates the most votes or seats in general elections (these have been the same over this time period). LD includes the Lib Dems and the SDP-Liberal alliance.

Some conclusions from these data:

  • It is indeed possible for two parties to gain a plurality in one house each. This would quite possibly have happened in 1997 and 2010 where the 3-election averaging of the Lords smooths out Commons landslides. However, this is not the same as a majority or controlling the Lords (and its power to annoy but not block) and is of more symbolic than practical importance (though the election of the Leader of the House might be interesting!)…
  • …In a 100% elected House, a Lab/Con government would always (with these voting patterns) have a majority if the LDs supported them. The Con/Lab opposition, however, could say the same.
  • With 20% appointed ‘experts’, things may be still more interesting. They would be more numerous than the LDs, yet surely more divided. Getting all these ‘crossbenchers’ onside - a sign of good legislation! - would generally ensure a majority. A Lib-Con or Lib-Lab coalition, however, would often not even have 50% of seats in this 80% elected chamber. I think this is probably a good thing, making even the strictest party whip useless if the ‘experts’ and other parties show zero support for a proposal. I’d imagine and hope that these crossbenchers would also be supplemented by independent elected candidates.
  • One thing that’s surprising yet obvious when you think about it, is that a party gains seats not by getting a better result than it did in the last set of elections, but by doing better than 15 years ago. So while Labour’s popularity significantly dropped between 2001 and 2005, their share of peers may have increased in ‘05 as they were still more popular than in 1992.

So, I have been persuaded of the case for change (not just by this flawed model). The civilised debating culture of the Lords can be maintained and indeed the House may become less party-based with the power of the big three parties dispersed - particularly in the 80:20 proposal - and a more pluralistic (and female?) representation created. The potential for abuse inherent in appointments by the executive can be avoided and our excessive number of legislators can also be cut back to a manageable 900 (still far more than most). Perhaps democracy should get a mention too, particularly given that the Single Transferable Vote might be used!

What exciting times! Having said all this, however, I must admit I will be very surprised if the elections of May 7th 2015 include those for the Lords.


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Posted at 10:18pm • Permalink  • Tags: politics referendum lib dems yes2av


Posted at 1:04pm • Permalink  • Tags: lib dems politics