This month we received post about negative campaigning from the Lib Dems and shocking election results on the Isle of Wight
Letter of the month wins a TotalPoliticsGuide tothe2010GeneralElection queries the Lib Dems’ entitlement
Lib Dem tactics Ben Duckworth rightly queries the Lib Dems’ entitlement to the “clean politics” mantle in his interview with Nick Clegg (TP February). But he misses the most crucial point: the Lib Dems not being in government. The best way that we can judge the cleanliness of their politics is by looking at what they do and how they act ‘on the ground’. And on that score, it is well-known among politicos that the Lib Dems are usually the dirtiest electoral campaigners of all.
In the Norwich North by-election last summer, I pioneered a clean campaign pledge. The pledge was signed by the Tory and UKIP candidates, and (in a different form) Labour. Only the Lib Dems refused to sign. And it is little wonder why. Their campaign was viciously negative, replete with deliberately misleading graphs and personal attacks (full disclosure: I was their top target). Nick Clegg was caught on the back foot on Newsnight trying (and failing) to explain how such campaigning practices sat alongside cleaning upWestminster.
One of the reasons I left the Lib Dems a decade ago was because of my growing dismay at the bad name their tactics give to politics. If we politicians are going to clean up Westminster, then we need to begin by cleaning up our own act. If and when Clegg instructs local Lib Dems to cut down the personal attacks and misshapen graphs, then I will begin to take seriously his professed wish to create an honest politics in this country. Cllr Rupert Read Norwich city council
Proportional votes I noted with interest the letter published in the February edition from Keith Geddes, former president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. Clearly,
Proportional votes I noted with interest the letter published in the February edition from Keith Geddes, former president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. Clearly, as a former Labour councillor in Edinburgh, and president of the then Labour-dominated Convention, he has a nostalgia for the past.
However, if he claims to be a democrat, he can not defend a system which, in Scotland, in 2003 for example, gave his party 41 per cent of the seats in local councils on 32.6 per cent of the votes. There were other unsatisfactory, to say the least, aspects to the former first-past-the-post system which are also adequately illustrated by the overall results of the 2003 Scottish local government elections.
Whatever way you look at it, the former system was utterly undemocratic and often failed to produce results which even approximated to the votes cast. It suited Labour very well which no doubt explains Keith Geddes’s feelings, but democratic it was not.
As to directly elected council leaders, this is totally unworkable. It is likely, as I think has been seen in several places, to lead to an ongoing conflict between the council and the mayor or whatever title is appropriate. To be effective, council leaderships must be capable of determining a direction of travel and sticking to it. The direct election of such leaders is almost bound to make that impossible, particularly where they are elected on the basis of some narrow agenda of their own. Cllr Alan Grant, Deputy leader, Perth and Kinross SNP Group
4 | Total Politics | March 2010
Isle of Wight shock result In your list of shock election results (TP February), surely you should have included Isle of Wight February 1974? Stephen Ross for the Liberals defeated the incumbent Mark Woodnutt overturning a Conservative majority of 17,326 to win with a majority of 7,766!
I believe Mark Woodnutt had been involved in some controversy regarding Bembridge harbour which probably contributed to his defeat. Stephen Ross retained the Isle of Wight mainly by squeezing the Labour vote to almost nothing until he stood down in 1987. Between October 1974 and 1983, he defeated Economist editor Dudley Fishburn (twice) and Virginia Bottomley. David Bell Norfolk
Tory fibs I don’t know why the media don’t pick up on more of the Conservatives fibs and distortions about
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Last month’s winner “There was a mixed reception as Ann Widdecombe took part in the party conference dancing contest.” Ian Lake
A DVD copy of Creation is on the way to you.
How to Enter Simply email your caption to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and address before 08/03/2010. Entries Labour’s record in government. The Tories have gone to great (and consequently embarrassing) lengths to suggest that violent crime has increased under Labour.
However, the London mayor’s recent budget cuts will mean 455 police officers are off the beat by 2012. Added to the fact that up to 3,500 constables will be off our streets thanks to the Conservative’s funding rollback, do they honestly believe their own press releases? If violent crime has increased under Labour then why are they planning on cutting our country’s police force? Marie Starr London
Business and Brussels Mark Fox writes a very interesting, and if anything, rather understated assessment of the position of business in the UK in the runup to the general election (TP February). It is truly to be hoped that the practical pro-business approach advocated by Mr Fox does indeed emerge after the election, because it appears that business is really not flavour of the month, be that in the UK or in Brussels.
Even worse if you are part of Boris Johnson’s aptly named “leper colony” in the City of London right now, especially as far as Brussels is concerned. While politicians and business have a very close relationship in private, the public relationship is notably more fickle – needs must.
The UK needs to revitalise its own business sector and encourage Brussels to do the same and not regulate its way out of the crisis. The Doing Business 2010 report by the World Bank shows that the UK remains an excellent place to do business, ranked five overall, but it needs to ensure that it maintains (why not improves) this position through these difficult times – times that will certainly get worse for business in the coming months. Let’s just hope it’s rhetoric. Alan Hardacre European Institute of Public Administration
Westminster privacy Ben Duckworth on learning from our political elders and the hype of the leaders’ debates
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We discuss the departing generation of MPs in the leader overleaf, but do check out Amber Elliott’s article about them on p14. Yes, they will probably always be remembered for leaving office at a time when the reputation of our Commons representatives reached an all time low. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have some salient points to make about how our politics works, and also have some pretty colourful stories, especially Sir Nicholas Winterton.
While politics runs on people talking to each other, there are also issues which don’t get discussed that really should. One of them is mental health. Politicians work incredible hours. It’s a lifestyle choice rather than a job. Of course, it’s also their chosen path and no one is forcing them to do it. But the pressures can be large, the media are always circling and showing any sign of weakness even to close colleagues can often have serious effects on a political career. It’s no surprise that no one talks about it. While some politicians and people working in politics have been open about their problems, many others, according to surveys, don’t.
I hope Laurie Penny’s piece on p22 will prove a thought-provoking read.
Talk of a Westminster village always underplays the size of the trade. For every politician, there are many more people who work around them, some who are very possessive of their privacy and others who are open. Beyond that, there are many people who by dint of their power in their respective fields always get listened to by politicians. We’ve collected together the top 50 people we think are influential on politics in Britain. Some like Simon Cowell might get sneered at but remember how often Gordon Brown and David Cameron have had to discuss his TV shows. It’s on p44.
Finally, don’t miss Adam Boulton and Tim Montgomerie’s disagreement (polite and constructive!) over the forthcoming leaders’ debates on p10. They will be the focal point of the election campaign which has both benefits and downsides. Personally, I think they will always be a let-down compared to the hype but they may still contain a game-changing moment. I hope you enjoy this issue.
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March 2010 | Total Politics | 5