Tuesday, 31 January 2006

7 Things I had to Think About While Out Campaigning

Ok so Peter from the Apollo Project tagged me just as I was heading over to Dunfermline however I saw it coming when Jonathan Calder was tagged last night.

So here is what I came out with while out and about tonight:


1 Make a winners speech after an election
2 Publish my novel
3 Put on a play at the Edinburgh Fringe
4 Ride into Petra on horseback a la Indiana Jones
5 Follow the route of the Tour de France one July
6 Watch Northern Ireland in a World Cup Finals
7 Retire to a villa in Galicia, Spain


1 Eat marzipan
2 Grow back my own lost hair
3 Stop chewing my fingers
4 Discuss trauma accidents afterwards even if I was performing the first aid
5 Stop the world from turning
6 Represent my country at junior level
7 Fly a plane


1 Initially my ex-fiancee
2 Its closeness to both Edinburgh and Glasgow
3 Whilst remaining surrounded by countryside
4 Linlithgow Palace
5 The chance to be elected
6 The people I have meet
7 Livingston FC


1 What’s next?
2 Livingston are not going down
3 But Question Time is on the other side
4 Right
5 Hello, you’re through to Stephen. How can I help you today?
6 Can I have the remote control now
7 Life, don’t talk to me about life (see books 1)


1 Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
2 Any Terry Pratchett
3 Pooh and the World Philosophers
4 Political Biographies
5 Factoring Humanity – Robert J Sawyer
6 The Bible
7 BCO Chess Openings


1 Lord of the Rings
2 Empire of the Sun
3 12 Monkeys
4 Godfather I and II
5 The Blues Brothers
6 Monty Python and the Holy Grail
7 Chitty Chitty bang Bang


Susanne Lamido
Peter Black
Tristan Mills
Will Howells
Valarie at Forceful and Moderate
Gavin Whenman
Here I get stuck

Chris Supporters Come a Calling

I may have been wrong yesterday when I assumed that Chris Huhne's camp would be more astute and not come urging me to back Chris. However, this morning I was proved wrong.

Admittedly the email came from a personal friend within the party rather than from the man himself, who I have not met in person, and also down near the end did at least say if I won't give your first preference to at least consider giving my second preference to Huhne.

I admit I had not spoken to this particular person about my support for Simon, basically although I've been in Dunfermline at the same time as numerous friends the changes of being in the office at the same time are slim. However, I've hardly been hiding my support for Simon under a bushel either, before he alphabetised his support I believe I was listed at number eight on that list.

Monday, 30 January 2006

Dunfermline Tory Quits Party

Stuart Randall the leader of the Conservative group on Fife Council has quit the Tory Party because he is disillusioned with the leadership of his party.

Mr Randall who stood against Gordon Brown in the last two general elections was overlooked for the short list for the current by-election in Dunfermline and West Fife. He claims that the party leaders in Holyrood are 'ambulance' chasing seeking to meet the latest headline before they lose their chance:

"I have tried very hard behind the scenes to get the party to wake up and reform without success. It has been taken over by an incompetent clique, who can’t see past the next headline, and there seems to be no way for the grassroots to regain control.

"Decision after decision has been botched and wherever one scratches the surface, the whole edifice of the party is crumbling, yet no one really seems to care."

He says his decision has been taken following events of the last few years but the final straw came last week when the party announced the policy regarding the Forth Road Bridge. Mr Randall who is the councillor for Dalgety Bay East said:

"My ward is just a couple of miles from the north end of the bridge, so it affects my constituents greatly. It’s also the biggest issue affecting the whole of Fife at the moment, yet I only found out about the new policy when I saw it in the local newspaper and on a by-election flyer. And I’m the Leader of the Tory Group on Fife Council!

"Treating senior party activists in that way cannot be acceptable in any competent, democratic party."

The news will rock the already floundering Tory campaign to regain credibility in Scotland after their net gain of 1 Westminster seat in Scotland since the total wipe out they suffered in 1997. In May last year their sitting MP Peter Duncan missed out in Dumfries and Galloway while David Mundell saved their blushes and a second electoral annihilation in eight years by gaining Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.

Cameron in Denial

David Cameron is in denial but apparently not for a drink problem, sexual dalliances or use of illegal drugs. No apparently he is denying that is betraying the Tory Party principles by making the changes he is making to the party.

The fact that he is having to make a public denial of doing so in a speech to the left-wing think-tank Demos, must mean that there are murmurings underneath the surface within his own party. There had been rumour about ructions but for Cameron to make a categorical denial there must be a steady head of steam on the point of boiling over.

Already this month there was outcry in the Dunfermline and West Fife Conservative Party when Fife Council group leader Cllr Stuart Randall was not even on the shortlist for the vacant Westminster seat. Local activists have been saying it was because he was allegedly too right-wing for David Cameron's New Conservatives.

Does he have critics well Lord Tebbit is warning fellow Tories against moving towards the "morass" of the political centre ground?

Well Dave if you can't stand the heat and really want to get on with your change in heart I'm sure there will be room in the Liberal Democrats. Are you any good at delivering leaflets?

Dear Stephen - Dear Ming

I have just been emailed by Sir Menzies Campbell asking for my support in his leadership campaign. Heaven knows why none of his team pointed out that I was unsuitable for such an approach especially as some of his most loyal Fife Lieutentants not only know where I stand but also know that I am not for turning from Simon.

Anyway I'll not diclose the contents of the email nor of my response. Suffice to say both letters were courteous and I respectfully turned down the offer to be a public supporter on a second of the leadership candidate's websites.

The fact that Chris Huhne has not contacted me I may put down to the fact that Chris has one of the most IT knowledge backed campaigns of the three candidates. He team might well realise that the Irish spelling of Glenn is rare enough in the party, let alone West Lothian. So any connection between a party office holder and blogger with that surname is purely down to the fact that like Tigger I'm the only one.

Displaced Kingstonian Fans

I don't post often enough about one of the football teams I follow, non-league Kingstonian. The team from Kingsmeadow have a pitch next to the athletics track I used to train at as a student hence the affection I have for them. I also have a tape of the first of their two back-to-back FA Trophy wins.

However, the reason I am posting about Kingstonian today was because of one of those quirks of fate that happen on the campaign trail. Yesterday afternoon after I had eaten a late lunch at Dunfermline headquarters I was ready to hit the streets with more leaflets. I was teamed up two guys who initially told me they were from London until I spotted a Kingstonian fleece in the back of Simon's car. So we had an interesting conversation about Kingston to find out we both ran for the University track team as well.

However, it was good to meet them and they will be around or a little while longer. They are up helping in Dunfermline and West Fife, helping to send Willie Rennie to Westminster, along with others from all corners of the UK.

Sunday, 29 January 2006

The Only Person in Dunfermline Willing to Talk to a Tory

...is another Tory. And a resonably high profile one at that.

Dr Carrie Ruxton has produced an In Touch leaflet which shows her talking to what the public will preceive to be a concerned citizen of Dunfermline and West Fife to show how in touch she thinks she is. However, being the sharp eyed West Lothian political campaigner that I am I immediately spotted it to be Lindsay Paterson. Miss Paterson was the Conservative's candidate in Livingston in the Scottish Parliament elections in 2003 and Gordon Lindhurst's agent in last September's by-election, she also stood in Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill in May 2005. Her job is Campaigns Coordinator for the Scottish Conservative Party, shame they couldn't find anyone more low profile to pose for that photograph. But then maybe Andrew Graves wasn't available.

On the same leaflet Carrie calls for the Liberal Democrats to change their stance on the £4 Forth Bridge toll. Does she therefore want Willie Rennie the Lib Dem candidate in Dunfermline and West Fife to cancel his petition against the tolls and fully support these instead? Any comments from Tories no matter how prominent they think they are will be welcome.

Disgusted of Scotland II

Today's Scotland on Sunday managed to take an extract from my post on Thursday offering continued support of Simon Hughes into a totally different apparent meaning. This is especially true when the following paragraph goes on to talk about tolerance.

The Scotland in Sunday did not contact me before using this copyrighted material is such a spurilous way, in an article they guess I would not have given prior approval. Also until online editions of newpapers use blog etiquette and start to link to the articles from which they select extracts so that their readers can see the quote in context they are showing signs of laziness and bad manners. If Wikipedia can link through footnotes to articles cited so can the online editions of our newspapers.

For the record I have no problems with Simon Hughes' sexual preferences present or past, its disclosure has not affected my support for him, as the remainder of the article showed. While the quote is word prefect its location in the SonS article which taken out of context distorts its meaning and has the reverse effect to my original intention.

Saturday, 28 January 2006

Scores on the Doors II

Ok there was some debate when I posted these yesterday and Rob Fenwick has made adjustments to Simon's site to make up for this debate. However, it would appear that Chris Huhne maybe hasn't had a supporter update in the last 24 hours while the other two contenders have. The current levels of public support are:

Simon Hughes 926 +266

Sir Menzies Campbell 772 +103

Chris Huhne 425 +1 (possibly due to miscount and additions not added today)

Disgusted of Scotland

The Times this morning wrote the article about Simon's Hughes cmapaign launch yesterday in Manchester.

However, while the online copy has the headline Lib Dems Must Aim for '1906' Landslide all very positive. However, in the 1st Scottish print edition which I had delivered this morning the headline is Brazen Hughes Evokes the Spirits of Churchill. Firstly calling Hughes brazen when he was heroically facing down attacks from the Times's News International stable mate the Super Boreaway Sun, including for a second time in this morning's edition, is callous.

However, half way down the article they also say

His main rival, Sir Menzies Campbell, implied that Mr Hughes had mishandled the row over his private life, while emphasising that sexuality should not be a bar to any public office.

"Simon Hughes has obviously found this a difficult issue to deal with. He has explained why it was in the past he had not been quite as forthcoming as people might have expected but now we want to focus on this election campaign," Sir Menzies said on a visit to Dunfermline and West Fife.

I think the implication is all on the Times's political correspondent Greg Hurst's part. Ming said he wanted to now focus on the election campaign and the issues while it is the press that are continuing to direct attention away from just that. Nowhere in the statement that Sir Menzies made and was quoted do I see any implication of mishandling the statement that Simon made earlier this week.

So the men and women of the press who I know will be reading this at some point can you please start reporting on what the Liberal Democrats actually say without trying to invent implications from nothing. If you start to do so I might just start to consider you again as the gentlemen and ladies of the press.

Prominent Tory Joins Liberal Democrats

Former Conservative MP Sir Cyril Townsend has announced today that he is leaving the party he represent in Westminster for 23 years to join the Liberal Democrats. Sir Cyril stated that he did not beleive in David Cameron saying:

"David Cameron was the author of Michael Howard’s illiberal manifesto just last May. If he believed what he wrote then, how can he believe what he says now? And since he voted for the US invasion of Iraq, and has been continually Eurosceptic, what right has he to our respect for his international intentions?"

The fact that this news has not been mentioned by any of the media outlets yet shows that the media is stifling good news about the Liberal Democrats as News International continue in their bid to smear the name of Liberal Democracy at any chance.

The Future Landslide

The Liberals have a proud history but we must not forget that we are experiencing a return to past levels of support in the present and we should look to an even brighter future. Yes at the moment revelations have knocked our poll ratings a little but that is only temporary while we regroup and elect a new leader. At the grass roots level our activists and supporters are still out there doing their work.

Indeed Simon Hughes in the campaign launch speech yesterday said:

"I do not believe that the 1906 [election] result was the last ever Liberal landslide.

"I believe that the Liberal Democrats have huge potential for winning big too in the future."

It's a sad reflection that opinion poll snap shots at this stage of an election cycle always show the third party doing badly. It is also sad that the media take this snap shot as a one off or in conjunction with recent polls and not in a long term trend sense thus blowing out of proportion the extent of the findings.

It is for that reason that Simon Hughes was also wary about the issue of entering coalition. We are not in two party politics dispite what the press say. We are in three party politics in England, four party politics in Wales and six party politics in Scotland. Therefore Simon is quite right in also saying:

"Everyone knows that under my leadership there would be no question of entering a coalition for the sake of a ministerial position.

"Everyone knows that the first pre-condition of any partnership would be a properly representative Parliament."

We need to reflect the new state of politics in our country give people a proper say in who governs them and what policies are pursued. Knowing that the people that represent them actually stand up for them.

I know we are currently knocking away at the egde of that mountain, but looking at the recovery that the Conservatives have made in Canada since they looked finished 12 years ago. We are just waiting for our Canada moment.

Friday, 27 January 2006

The Scores on the Doors

The lastest numbers of supporters listed on the various Lib Dem leadership candidates web sites are:

679 Sir Menzies Campbell

660 Simon Hughes

424 Chris Huhne

Simon Hughes Launches Leadership Campaign

This afternoon the City of Manchester Stadium Simon Hughes officially launched his bid for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats. In the home venue of the highly sucessful 2002 Commonwealth Games Simon alluded to the comparison between athletics and politics. He said:

It is the Commonwealth Games stadium where I, with tens of thousands of others, saw dreams become reality – but only after years of preparation and effort.

Just as in the world of athletics, so in the world of politics, you get nowhere without commitment and ambition. Over the last twenty five years I have shown by example my commitment by campaigning the length and breadth of Britain, alongside fellow Liberals and Liberal Democrats.

As leader, I aim for nothing less than to inspire our party members and the wider public with a new vision of what a liberal Britain would be like.

No-one ever won a gold medal by standing still.

As a former athlete, yes Ming isn't the only former athlete in the Scottish party, I can vouch that this comparision is very real. As an athlete I was a long distance specialist and, unlike Ming's speciality in the sprints and relay, we have as Liberal Democrats to work the long hours to acheive our goal in the long haul.

However, the line is getting closer and can be acheived if we are disciplined. Simon referred to our difference from the other partys as being a party of principle:

The other parties may change their values every time they change their leader.

We must remain true to ours.

The liberty of our people is what drives us on. As a human rights lawyer, I have led campaigning for thirty years against authoritarian governments, whether romoting ID cards at home or the oppression of apartheid abroad. I have always been proud to stand up for the rights of minorities and minority groups. As leader I will ensure that we NEVER sell out our principles for a cheap headline.

Simon outlined his aims for the party to bring freedom, fairness and sustainability to our nation, and calls for the party to be ambitious for the nation. If we are ambitious for our country the people will vote for us, as a vote for us will be seen as a vote for each of them.

Nine Contest Dunfermline By-Election

Page 4 of the Scottish Edition of the Times today has a wonderful picture of Willie Rennie, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election, half way up a climbing way. He looks like he is effortlessly scaling the heights which may well be a metaphor for what Catherine Stihler, Labour’s candidate, is worried he is doing in the polls. Hopefully Willie will reach the peak first on 9 February.

Seven other candidates have declared for this contest after nominations closed yesterday. They are Ian Borland (UKIP), Douglas Chapman (SNP), George Hargreaves (Scottish Christian Party), John MCAllison, a former Labour MP and MEP (Scottish Socialist Party), Tom Minogue (Abolish Forth Bridge Tolls Party), Dick Rodgers (The Common Good), Carrie Ruxton (Conservative).

Thursday, 26 January 2006

Continued Support

As I said earlier this week being bisexual is no reason to exclude anyone from being a member, candidate or even leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Therefore the news that Simon Hughes has ‘had both homosexual and heterosexual relationships in the past’ does not disqualify him from seeking the highest post in the party. I just wish that Simon had come cleaner about this earlier when asked the question but am relieved that now the rumours and speculation is out of the way.

It is therefore with pride that I continue to endorse Simon Hughes’ candidacy for the party leadership.

Now can we get the agenda back to talking about policy and the future direction of the party.

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Reflecting Britain

Why am I a white, middle-class male supporting the latest initiative by the Liberal Democrats to encourage more female and ethnic minority candidates? The answer is simple, the supporters and people who vote for our party are diverse, in fact they are as diverse as the people who make up our country; even in West Lothian with a small ethnic population this is true. We need, as a party, to truly represent that community and multi-culture.

A quick scan down the list of names supporting the three leadership candidates shows anyone just how diverse our party is. Look at the number of councillors who names betray their ethnicity and of course their gender. There are people out there who already hold elected office, who know what being a politician is all about at local level. Why are they not coming out to stand for key and target parliamentary seats? As a party we are making inroads into urban seats where the greater proportion of our ethnic communities live so these seats are targets an.

The candidates and elected representatives who have come through from the initiatives of the Gender Balance Task Force are a sterling example that this focus is producing good, no make that great candidates. This work can continue and be expanded to aid ethnic diversity and balance as well.

Will it be harder for us white, middleclass men to get selected? Definitely, but that only means that we too have to lift our game. In other words the cream will be rising to the top; and when that happens with high calibre candidates of all genders and ethnic origins we will have a team that is ready to govern Britain. Surely that is something we can aspire and look forward to.

Dunfermline Win

Though I hope this is the Liberal Democrat result in the by-election this is a bit premature.

However, the senior football team based in the current Westminster by-election seat, Dunfermline Athletic, have just beaten the senior team from the last Westminster by-election seat Livingston in the semi-finals of the CIS Cup 1-0, and yes I was there.

I promise not to gripe about dubious refereeing decisions when I return to the Lib Dem by-election office tomorrow evening. Nor go on about the great chances Livingston had to pull level in the second half.

200+ Listed for Simon

I have just done a quick check on the list of Supporters on Simon Hughes' campaign site and was encouraged to find over 200 names on page two of his list of supporters not counting the number of parliamentarians and councillors listed on page 1.

I suppose every one of those listed so publicly has ensured that their nomination has been delivered on time to Simon's campaign office and I know that many others have not put their name forward for publication on the website, so I'm sure that the official announcement that Simon has the required support to be on the ballot to become the next leader is not far away.

Personal Statement From A Former Parliamentary Candidate

To the editors of the Independent, Times, Telegraph, Grauniad et al,

I was the Liberal Democrat Candidate for Linlithgow and Falkirk East at the 2005 General Election. Like Adrian Graves the candidate for Suffolk West I came third, I secured 15.3% of the vote. Unlike Mr Graves I will not be leaving the party, and I can assure you that the parties MPs, many of our candidates from the General Election and many party members feel the same, in significantly higher numbers that those in Mr Graves statement.

I am not persuaded by David Cameron's so called embracing of Liberalism. Unlike the easily gullible I have looked at his record on the issues where he claims he is liberal and find him diametrically opposed to his new stance and therefore very confused and in a dangerous state of mind. He is saying one thing when all indications are the reverse.

I am therefore proud to remain a member of the Liberal Democrat Party and look forward to standing for election again as a Liberal Democrat candidate again in the future.

Yours etc.

Is Gordon Running Scared?

Gordon Brown may be being talked about as the next Prime Minister. However, if he handles each marginal seat like he has Dunfermline and West Fife, where his party is supposedly defending an 11,000 majority, instead of prudence he will have the country on the brink of bankruptcy during a General Election.

What is worse is that for the third time in a week he has ridden roughshod of the devolved Scottish Parliament from his office in Westminster.

Already he has forced the Scottish Labour party to renege on a proposed £4 toll on the Forth Road Bridge. Then he forced them to reopen the option of a second road bridge.

Yesterday he announced plans for a new business training centre in Dunfermline. The only notice that Scotland’s First Minster, Jack McConnell, got of this was when the backers of the centre gave his office a courtesy call. Then continuing his on the hoof announcement making following an announcement of 700 job losses at the Lexmark plant in the constituency the Chancellor decided to immediately conjured up a job pledge to allay fears.

All this over the top activity in one constituency has led the Scotsman to the conclusion that:

The only possible reason for Mr Brown's bizarre approach to this by-election is that he is worried that Labour will lose.

So with the Chancellor suddenly treating this seat as a marginal Liberal Democrat spirits are riding high. This seat is winnable for Willie Rennie and the people in Dunfermline are starting to think it is as well.

Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Who's Backing Who

Thanks to Nicholas who is keeping tabs on the preferences of bloggers in the Lib Dem leadership race. Of the 42 declared on here 17 first preferences are going to Chris Huhne, 13 for Simon Hughes, and 12 for Sir Menzies Campbell. So giving Huhne the slight edge in the blogsphere.

However we must not forget that this only represents 0.06% of the total electorate so people shouldn't get too carried away, especially as the 42 of us are amongst the most opinionated Lib Dems there are, and may not be reflective of the membership as a whole. After all if we weren't opinionated we wouldn't find stuff to fill our blogs with. Would we?

Brown Backs Blair

Apparently it is now news if the Chancellor back his Prime Minster.

What is the Labour party coming to?

Could This Be Labour's Bridge Too Far?

Labour are finding that calling a short sharp by-election is having to formulate policy on the hoof when a main issue in the constituency is slipping away from you. In fact they appear be getting as snarled up over the Forth Bridge as the traffic approaching it does twice daily.

Even more worryingly for Labour and the voters of Dunfermline and West Fife is the decision-makers operating on the hoof are the neighbouring MP and Chancellor and nearby MP and Westminster Transport Secretary. These two do not even appear to have consulted the Scottish Executive who actually have jurisdiction over transport planning for Scotland.

The story so far:

Labour controlled FETA (Forth Estuary Transport Authority) board propose a £4 pound toll on the Forth road up from £1 equivalent to a commuter paying £720 a year just to get to work.

Many including the Liberal Democrats come out against this astronomical hike in the bridge toll which only last year was increased from 70p to £1.

There is a delay on the announcement on road tools until February or March, conveniently until after the potential (now actual) date of the Dunfermline and West Fife By Election.

Gordon Brown calls for the toll increase to be scrapped. Jack McConnell comes alond behind agreeing with this change of direction.

Now Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown are calling for a new road bridge over the Forth, something that Labour’s First Minister had condemned as stupid only a couple of months ago. However, now it appears that Jack is warming to this idea too.

Monday, 23 January 2006

Come to Fife You Might Meet a Leadership Contender

Earlier today Sir Menzies Campbell posted about his visit to the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election. Well he has not been the only one Simon Hughes had been there earlier in the week and Chris Huhne arrived this evening. So far I have yet to run into any of them as the efficient team at HQ know me too well as one of those deliverers that never seem to tire. They just keep turning me around with a fresh batch of leaflets and often a fresh batch of companions to go out and hit some more streets.

The buzz in the office is great. Things are looking great. The impact that our presence had in the area over the weekend was great when Ming and Nicol Stephen the Scottish Party Leader joined candidate Willie Rennie on a walkabout in the centre of Dunfermline on Saturday. Apparently there are accommodation spaces still available so there is no excuse for not being able to come up (or down) and help out.

Meanwhile it was brought to my attention that this blog was seen being read in the hub of campaign HQ while I was out pounding the streets this evening. However, the only comment I have gleaned so far is that they found a typo. So I think we need more people up here to get the deliveries done even quicker. That way they'll be too busy writing their own new material, to keep eager deliverers happy, rather than having time on their hands to critique mine.

Sunday, 22 January 2006

What has Mark Done?

Mark Oaten is a member of a very inclusive party. There are heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, asexual and transgendered members of the party, so the revelations that he allegedly has had both opposite and same gender sexual relationships would not necessarily exclude him from any role in the party.

The fact that his has been unfaithful to a partner is something which is not new. Paddy Ashdown himself admitted to unfaithfulness and remained on as leader and took the party to ever greater electoral success. The fact that this unfaithfulness was with someone of opposite gender to his long term partner was something which while a different slant on the issue, was something which was not in itself insurmountable.

However, the fact that the sexual encounter which caused his resignation was with a rent boy and therefore was paid for and prostitution that causes the problem for which he had to resign. He was the shadow Home Affairs Spokesman and therefore our spokesman on law and order. Prostitution is illegal and therefore we could not have continued with someone in that position who had so blatantly broken the law.

Another concern I do have however is on the wider effect of gay, lesbian or bi-sexual members and potential candidates within the party. Mark has unfortunately opened a whole can of worms about bi-sexuals, and unfortunately by association gays, and promiscuity. The majority of bi-sexuals, gays and lesbians are like the majority of heterosexuals faithful to their partners. By being unfaithful with a member of a different gender to his partner his has made the party open to allegations of sleaze unfortunately. What will this do to bi-sexual or gay/lesbian potential candidates? It might make them less likely to admit it, which is a shame as all three leadership candidates want our election candidates to be a fair reflection of Britain.

Fortunately I don't think it throws us into crisis, nor do I think our party needs too much major reassessing these are just the hyperbole used by the press to sensationalise a situation that a number of private individuals face each year, when it happens to a public figure: you only have to look at Michael Barrymore for an equivalent press hatchet job.

Mark has done the honourable thing under the circumstances for the good of the party. The party will and can survive this. Yes we have had a tough couple of weeks but there are tow indivuals, Charles Kennedy and Mark Oaten, who have both made mistakes that the press has seized upon, neither has seeked to deny or attempt a cover up when confronted. There are people around them who have been greatly affected by these revelations not least themselves. We all should give them time to sort those personal issues out and that includes the press. However, I'm not sure how restrained the fourth estate is going to be to either of them over time.

Sending Willie Rennie to Westminster

Considering all the anxiety and press coverage the party has had over the last 24 hours it was good to forget it all by getting out to Dunfermline and West Fife to do some serious campaigning. I now know that I've delivered over 1000 leaflet in four different constituencies in the last 12 months.

The feeling on the street is that the people of the constituency know exactly who it is that is the real challenge to Labour and they are not being fooled by SNP lies about what the Scottish Liberal Democrats do not stand for. Willie's message is clear and direct and from report backs from canvassing is having an effect. Willie is being seen by many as the only candidate who can stand up for people against the £4 Bridge tool and stand up for their local services.

Many people have already been to help but with many more we can assure that the next MP for Dunfermline and West Fife is Willie Rennie.

Betting on Oaten's Replacement

Stan James online bookmakers have apparently installed Charles Kennedy as favourite to take over from Mark Oaten as Home Affairs Spokesperson. While I dont normally dispute the accuracy of The Times (apart from occasional spelling and incorrect constituency names) I was unable to locate this particular bet on their site.

Torys Parachute in Cameronite

According to Atticus in today's Sunday Times the Tories parachuted two Cameronite's into the selection process for the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election (Atticus please note the correct name of the new constituency).

The locals wanted the change to select Cllr Stuart Randall who is the Tory council leader on Fife council and coucillor for dalgety Bay East. However, the Tory hierarchy foisted two women Davena Rankin, a 32 year-old single mother, and Carrie Ruxton, a 38 year-old nutritionalist and also a single mother. Both accorded to Atticus were deemed to be in more in keeping with the new David Cameron image of the party. Davena Rankin was actually named in a Scotsman article as the sort of candidates from ethnic minorities and women that DC was looking to get unto constituency selection procedures.

While both the candidates have contested the 2001 elections Dr Ruxton in Northavon and Ms Rankin in Glasgow Kelvin the local party showed their dissent by not voting, indeed only five took part in the selection process which selcted Dr Ruxton and the candidate for the election on 9 February.

The Liberal Democrats have selected Willie Rennie, Labour Catherine Stihler, the SNP Douglas Chapman and UKIP Ian Borland.

Saturday, 21 January 2006

What a Rotten Week to Be Oaten

Coming homie this evening from a volleyball tournament I could not believe my ears regarding the lastest news from the News of the World, in what must be the worst week of Mark Oaten's life.

First there was the leaks of emails from his office. Then he faced the realisation that he did not have suffiicent support with the parliamentary party and now these lastest allegations.

I wouldn't wish that sort of week on anyone. I hope he and his family are afforded the privacy they request at this time.

Friday, 20 January 2006

Who Has Kennedy's Backing?

The Scotsman today has a report that Simon Hughes has the backing of former leader Charles Kennedy, following Simon's visit to Dunfermline and West Fife yesterday. This comes after days when Mark Oaten, who has now withdrawn from the leadership elections, claimed similar support.

However, what both Simon and Chris have said is that Charles encouraged them to put their names forward not that he was necessarily backing them. Charles said that he wanted a contested election so that the party members could reclaim their right to being consulted on this issue. Therefore, it would be obvious that, for such an election, to have credence the other two people perceived as potential leaders, Hughes and Oaten, needed to also be in that race. Chris Huhne was not seen as being part of that equation and was very much a surprise contender; his current level of support is also taking many by surprise.

The Scotsman report also mentions this will fuel suspicions that Charles Kennedy was seeking an election as he did not want his deputy to be crowned his successor. The Scotsman itself speculates that this may be because of the part that Sir Menzies Campbell played in his downfall.

Thursday, 19 January 2006

Back On the Campaign Trail Again

The writ has been moved today for the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election following the death of Rachel Squire on 5 January.

The election will take place on 9 February, in three weeks time. So plenty of time for Liberal Democrats to get here before they receive their ballot papers for the leadership election after 6 February.

The result in may put the Liberal Democrats in second place in this seat so we are in the position to challenge Labour for this seat.

Rachel Squire Labour 20,111 47.4 -7.1
David Herbert Liberal Democrat 8,549 20.2 +5.9
Douglas Chapman SNP 8,026 18.9 +1.1
Roger Smillie Conservative 4,376 10.3 +0.6
Susan Archibald Scottish Socialist Party 689 1.6 -0.8
Ian Borland UK Independence Party 643 1.5 +0.1

So far the candidates announced are Willie Rennie for the Liberal Democrats and Douglas Chapman for the SNP.

Labour are expected to pick MEP Catherine Stihler, who is expected a baby in March, after they bent party rules allowing her to stand without first resigning her European seat.

Channel Faux Pas

It appears that Channel 4 news are getting their Lib Dem MPs mixed up.

Their news story about Mark Oaten quitting the leadership race says:

Mr Oaten, who has only been an MP since May.

Whoops that would be Chris Huhne then!

Mark has of course won 4 elections to Westminster for Winchester; the first in 1997 by 2 votes, before taking the by-election with a 21,556 majority. Then of course getting re-elected in 2001 and 2005.

Oaten to Step Out of Leadership Contest

It appears that 21st Century Liberal Mark Oaten is about to announce his withdrawal from the Liberal Democrat leadership election.

It appears that only Lembit Opik of his parliamentary colleagues is supporting him. His non-existant internet presence has be noted by a number of bloggers and of all the candidates his has been the most low key campaign.

As he was the second candidate to declare his intention to stand it may be that Mark was only answering activists call for there to be an election not a coronation, unfortunately as the field grew he may have realised that neither an election or coronation would come his way at this time.

He is going to be making a statement at 3:30 no doubt there will be more comments to follow after we hear what he says.

Where Have the Websites Gone?

Following Oatengate last night.

This morning I am slightly concerned that both Simon Hughes and Chris Huhne's websites have gone down.

However, Sir Menzies Campbell's campaign team have been able to blog this today.

Disturbing. Flash we need you to save the e-campaign.

Wednesday, 18 January 2006

Bichard Report the Story So Far

So of the 31 recommendations of the Bichard Report how well are the Governmenet doing? Or in other words what is the answer that Tony Blair should have given Sir Menzies Campbell earlier today.

The Home Secretary Charles Clarkes seems to have been a little bit vague only last week on this matter. The first interim report of November 2004 and the second one of November 2005 make interesting reading.

However, there is still a lot of light between the actual recommnedations and the progress that many of them have made so far. I'm still trying to work out how many appear to ahve been implementated in full as recommended and how many are merely still in a planning stage however advanced. However, I'm hope Tony will be mulling over the answer with Charles Clarke into the wee small hours tonight.

Considering the serious nature of the implications of these recommendations, or the failure to do so, I hope that momentum is not being slowed down by excessive committees looking into the implmentation. But then being a realist I suspect the opposite to be true.

What Tony Blair Doesn’t Know

Well today he clearly wasn’t expecting to have to answer questions about sex offenders, or maybe he just doesn't care. Strange as Ruth Kelly has been in the news over that issue all week.

Sir Menzies Campbell came out strong and avoided a repeat of the faux pas of last week's debut, as temporary head of the Liberal Democrats, to ask two questions about sex offenders.

Firstly the Prime Minster was unable to answer how many of the Bichard recommendations, brought about following the Soham inquiry, had been implemented. Then he also was unable to tell us all when a police computer checking system for offenders was going to be completed.

I think on this performance we need to employ Matt Santos’s rules for debate on PMQs and make the Prime Minister give an answer to every question.

Where is the Scottish Support Going

As I reported earlier not all Scottish support is going the way of the Scottish candidate in the leadership election.

This morning I noticed the names of Mike Rumbles and Robert Brown, two MSPs, being listed as supporters on Simon Hughes site. Must be the most high profile occasion I have agreed with Mike Rumbles in the last couple of years.

Another MSP Euan Robson is backing Chris Huhne.

If anyone knows where Mark Oaten is listing supporters I'd love to know?

Maybe these are the three MSPs that are quoted in the Scotland on Sunday article alluded to above.

Tuesday, 17 January 2006

The End is Near

As some of my longer term readers will be aware towards the end of last year I came to the end of a five year engagement. My ex-fiancee broke the news to me as I was still fatigued and recovering from the Livingston by-election that she no longer felt she could be part of a relationship with me at that level but that she still wanted to remain friends.

Well for hte last couple of weeks I've been slowly but surely seeing her stuff and some of hte stuff htat we bought together disappearing from the house. It is largely an empty shell right now. However, it does mean that I have got to focus on trying to find someplace else to lay my head as there is no way I can afford the rent on this palce by myself.

Being a member of a small local party I am actually able to change the constituency I live in without changing my local party allegience as West Lothian Lib dems actually covers two Holyrood constituencies instead of just one line most. Just over a year ago I move from Linlithgow into Livingston. So at the moment I am looking at the possiblity to move back not least as I intend to carry on fighting elections over in Linlithgow for the party.

So I've got a few possiblities I'm now just trying to work out the maths of accomodation, bills, travel to see if I can afford to make the jump to Linlithgow itself.

BBC Uses Great Lib Dem Idea

I hope Peter from the Apollo Project is on commission with the BBC after they have copied his idea of a leadership quiz.

Briton's Nuclear Reaction

Well it looks like all three of our candidates where thinking along the same lines as the nation with their comments last night.

According to a Mori poll only a slim majority accept Nuclear power but an overwhleming 80% are seeking sustainable, renewable alternatives as the answer to our energy concerns.

We as Liberal Democrats need to be bolder in what we propose and more creative in the types of energy sources that we utilise.

Monday, 16 January 2006

The Sky Debate: How It Went

Well the first debate between all the candidates has taken place on Sky News.

Before it got under way there was a debate about the branding of the Liberal Democrats the whole way through this they had a bearded sandal wearing walking through the suited and booted of London. So much for Sky having a balanced debate on that issue then!

One of the first questions was what future Charles Kennedy could have in the party. All four of the candidates said they saw no reason why he could not return to Lib Dem front bench when he was ready for it.

Then came the issue of being anonymous and how to build up recognition. All the candidates mentioned that the leader of the party would invariably have more recognition than others. Ming said that this leadership election would be an advertisement for all four and the party outside the confines of Liberal Democrats.

When asked about experience Chris Huhne defended his lack of Westminster experience by saying that the right leader would have the right mixture of skills for the task before highlighting his own.

When asked about the number of seats we would expect at the next election. Ming echoed Charles Kennedy's statement bout no glass ceiling. Simon disappointed in merely saying at least 100, but added that this would have an influence as no party would have an outright majority. Mark Oaten said we should be aiming for 300+ to make us the next Government, he said that the public urge us to be more ambitious in our aims at the last election and we should not shy away from grown up politics.

On the NHS Mark was directly challenged on having differences from Simon and Ming who had spoken before him, and they attempted to portray him as an Orange Booker. he rebutted by saying that the NHS should be a gatekeeper but that patients should be able to take private care if it was more rapidly available as long as the private sector did not take resources out of the NHS.

When the party was accused of being a party of high taxation all four jumped in to say 'Not Higher, but Fairer'. But Ming as in other parts of the debate took the lead and was determined to have the last word.

When asked how they planned to have the party taken more seriously. Mark said it was down to how we present the portfolio of what we believe in. Sir Menzies said we needed to display ambition and consistency. Simon said the party needed to look more like Britain that could engage with Britain. Chris said we needed to be coherent and become interesting and viable to the people of Britain.

One final matter that came up was on nuclear power. Chris pointed out that there had been no privately built nuclear power station since Three Mile Island because they were not prepared for the risks. Mark Oaten took it off that subject but said that instead of paying farmers to plant nothing they should instead use those fields to produce bio fuels. Simon emphasised that we can reach our energy commitments without nuclear it is only that Labour are not really prepared to try.

The final question was on a smoking ban. Ming would reluctantly vote no, and face the wrath of his wife. Mark said he could not support and outright ban. Chris Huhne quoted John Stuart Mill that you may need to coerce people if it can prevent an adverse effect. Simon said that he shan't vote for a smoking ban but says it is right it should be a free vote.

All in all I think the four will actually face far tougher questions at hustings with party members as these are the people who will be really looking for differences between the candidates and who will know which buttons to press. All in all apart for the occasional difference in opinion and rhetoric it was clear that we are a party largely facing in the same direction.

Good Recovery

Pooling is not an exact science and last week as I mentioned at the start of my thought on restoring trust one such poll was made at exactly the wrong point i.e. last week end for the Liberal Democrats.

However, as Lord Rennard said on Monday when he announced the plans for the leadership election the party was already starting to come together and put the bad blodd behind it. It appears the public may be of a similar mindset as the latest YouGov Poll indicates only slight change from their last poll down only 1% to 20%.

We have moved up steadily to a position where the 20% mark in opinion polls is becoming the norm. We need to move on further after the new leader is selected. We should be aiming for 25% then 30% once we have 30% we really will see three party politics as then the votes will be very evenly spread between the main parties. I believe we can do it. I know that many of the rest of you also believe we can do it. Many people I've met in campaigns in the last few years have said you know you lat are making sense, we just have to make so much sense that those people do start to realise that we can actually achieve the things we say we want to do.

The Prime Ministerial Voice

Ok so I was watching The West Wing repeat, Freedonia, on More 4 last night and Amy Gardner was preparing Santos for debate and telling him he was lacking the Presidential voice.

In light of our four candidates’ performances on Saturday morning do any of them have a Prime Ministerial voice. The real test will undoubtedly be on the doorsteps in 3-4 years when our Parliamentary candidates, hopefully including myself, are standing on people’s doorsteps asking them to vote Liberal Democrat.

So what do the grass root activists and the general public expect in a Prime Ministerial voice? Surely it goes a lot further than merely the voice. The voice needs to demand authority, trust and respect, but at the same time this has to be backed up with actions. So it is not so much a Prime Ministerial voice but a whole persona we are looking for. Each of the four candidates has something of the Prime Minister about them, after all you don’t get elected to Parliament especially in a seat which the party did not hold if they didn’t. This applies to most of the candidates as only Chris Huhne has succeeded in a held Lib Dem seat.

So maybe we should all be looking three years down the line when we are once again out almost every night on doorsteps talking to the non-Liberal democrats we meet. Imagine you are trying to convince them that we are the real alternative, that we are going to form the next government. Who do you want to be heading up that message?

Of course as Josh Lyman later reminded us you have to be elected President (Prime Minster) to be able to use the Presidential (Prime Ministerial) voice. So lets go out then and look at ensuring we have a Lib Dem who will use the Prime Ministerial voice, persona and wear it well.

Sunday, 15 January 2006

Nominate by Download

It has come to my attention that now all four of the declared candidates have an option for mrmbers to download a nomination form from one of their sites.

One of my fellow bloggers earlier in the week called this oportunism on the part of one of the candidates, I beg to differ. This is merely a very environmentally effective way to ensure that all constituencies can have their choice and say in nominating their preferred candidates. Instead of having 4 sets of mailing to each of the 600+ constituencies these can merely be printed off as required also saving on postage waste out. It is an aid to the democratic stance of our party where everyone has an equal right to nominate the candidate of their choice.

MSPs Seek Alternative to Ming

This mornings Scotland on Sunday shows that there is doubt over Sir Menzies Campbell being the right leader from his colleagues in the Scottish Parliament. However, as none of the three MSPs quoted by the Scotsman on Sunday are prepared to be named it is hard to see how they can anonymously support another candidate.

The lack of the support the caretaker leader showed for Charles Kennedy and the lack of attempts to quell the MPs last week are reported as reasons why many Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs are looking for alternative choices to lead the party after May 2. Sir Menzies may have the public support of 7 of his Westminster colleagues there has been no evidence of similar levels of support within Holyrood.

Blair for UN?

Apparently Bill Clinton thinks that Tony Blair would make an ideal secretary general of the United Nations. The term of Kofi Annan ends at the end of this year.

No let me get this straight. People are talking about putting a man in charge of the UN who has actually gone to war without the backing of UN resolutions. A man who is a close ally of hte biggest and most powerful bully in the schoolyard. I don't think that is such a good idea. Maybe Clinton's heart medication is affecting his brain.

However, I've no doubt that Gordon Brown will be leaving copies of this news at various very visible locations for the Prime Minster.

Saturday, 14 January 2006

The Speeches: The Beginning...The End

The art of good speech making is to start my grabbing the attention of the listeners and finish by leaving them wanting more. So therefore I'm going to look at how the four candidates started and finished their speeches at today's Meeting the Challenge event in London. Make up your own opinion by listening to them on the BBC.

Firstly Sir Menzies Campbell started laying his credentials out by saying:

I have come here today to affirm my belief in a great cause. It is a cause that has inspired and dominated my whole life. The cause of liberty, of freedom, of justice. The cause that empowers people and liberates communities. The cause that enlightens our world and inspires our politics.

It is the great cause of liberalism. I have always been proud to be a Liberal and a Liberal Democrat and to campaign for this party since I was a student.

This lead in to talking about our tradition. Our defence of individual freedoms. A challenge to 'Dave' Cameron and denying his liberalism and then touching on the growing energy crisis and international security.

In conclusion he said:

You’d expect me and others to say something about leadership. I believe in leading not following; setting goals and objectives; shaping events not being shaped by them; taking responsibility and discharging it; being both candid and confident; neither dictatorial nor prescriptive, but consultative and committed.

To be the leader of the Liberal Democrats is to be the trustee of a great party, with much to be proud of already, but with the best achievements still to come. My role, with faith and diligence, is to ensure that future.

Simon Hughes started by saying:

The easiest thing for me to do now would be to run through all the policies I support, trying to mention everything that might appeal to every section of the party. But that isn’t what this leadership contest should be about. Because in our party, it’s not the leader that makes the policy, it’s the members – and I am determined that my leadership will be as consultative and participative as this process has been.

Today’s conference sums up how we do things, how we put our principles into policy and into practice. We meet as a democratic organisation to debate openly different approaches and argue which are principled, which are practical and which are popular – in that order.

he went on to mention our core beliefs of liberty, fairness and sustainability. The unfairness our poor face under the current tax system. Our equal emphasis on freedom and fairness. he highlighted the dangers of economic liberalism without a social conscience. he highlighted his own and the party's environmental credentials.

In conclusion he alludes to Liberal ideas in the past that would not hold water with Labour spin doctors:

Can you imagine what would have happened if they had been control freak populists like the current bunch of new Labour and new Tory spin merchants?

"I am sorry Mr Lloyd George, the editor of one of the major dailies wont like this universal state pension idea - it's a bit left wing.

"Mr Beveridge - mondeo man thinks this a national health service Isn't sufficiently modernising."

I want the Liberal Democrats of 2006 to be as courageous and principled as the Liberals of 1906. I want a society where people don’t feel trapped or oppressed. I want a country which enables people to achieve their potential, not one which leaves them frustrated and unfulfilled.

I want to work with you, fellow Liberal Democrats, and to lead you, to inspire all those in Britain who believe in a fairer society, not only within our party but well beyond it. Just as it was a century ago, this should be the Liberal hour, the Liberal Democrat hour.

Chris Huhne started by talking about environment, economic challenges, global poverty, government, and competition the reasons behind meeting the challenge which Liberal Democrats are uniquely equipped to respond to.

he emphasised our openness, internationalism and rationalism. Highlighting the danger of Labour and Conservatives attempting to steal our clothes. He highlighted David Cameron's not so green environmental record. Said we need to set up a details platform of policy to challenge David Cameron. He advocated radical eco-taxes to meet our commitment. He asked why we set a minimum wage and then tax it. he argued for localism to improve services. We are apparently only less centralised than Malta! Now that is something I never knew.

He finished saying:

For Freedom, for Fairness and sustainability. That is why we have to unite around a policy programme that combines all the goals that our consciences grave with the pragmatic solutions that our heads can devise

It is not left not right, not Orange book versus Yellow book. It’s not Social Liberalism versus Economic Liberalism.

It is about uniting a party of conscience and reform around a programme that works. If we do we will do more that win the argument we will win the electoral war.

Mark Oaten started out aiming for his David Cameron moment speaking away from the podium and without notes:

With new ideas and fresh thoughts for this party we can set out a lib agenda for the future. But we also need to use this leadership contest to be positive and united. That is the least that we can do for Charles.

Urged that we most do more than defend the principles and liberties we stand for. Mark said we must complete the liberal project and give the electorate something positive, need to provide real equality of opportunity. We need to be more progressive, ambitious and optimistic and not fight over being left or right. But that does not mean going to the centre with no values or principle, however we should provide passion and ideas. He urged us to draw together our liberal principles both social and economic. Enabling people to take the environment more seriously. Redistribution of the tax burden. Our respect agenda will have a positive liberal approach. He said we need to engage with member and open channel of dialogue about policy and encourage feedback, both party members and others.

Our new leader needs to talk and put these ideas into practise. We cannot afford to spend the next century on the sidelines of British politics. While we leave it to other to imitate our liberal principles and pervert our values for popular appeal I do not want to be the leader of a glorified think tank.

In 1986 David steel told his party, don’t worry I’m not going to use that quote. David Steel told his party I am attracted by power without principles but only faintly attracted by principles without power.

The challenge today is to realise the potential of the Liberal Democrats, to take our principles into power. So let’s come together, let’s be bold in our beliefs, let’s be ambitious in our ideas and let’s move our party into the 21st century.

My view on these speeches they were very good. Mark Oaten started out in his policy brief and Chris Huhne also focused a great deal on his environmental experience, and therefore didn't really push themselves to the edge of the envelope as much as they could have. Ming Campbell showed a real grounding in Liberalism as one commentator said earlier this week he is a gut Liberal this shone through, however he dwelt too much in the past and not looking to the future. Simon Hughes however, started by acknowledging the party members position in shaping the party and was the only of the candidates to do so and finished by talking about working with the party.

Therefore in my opinion this gives a slight advantage to Simon on the day. Chris did better than I had been led to expect but I would still put him behind Mark and Ming in that order.

Telegraph May Be Looking For a Blair Double

Thanks to Vivienne for pointing out to be that I got a mention is this mornings Daily Telegragh. Apparnetly dispite all my bolgs about the soul searching of the party over the last week what they are most concerned about is my resemblance to Tony Blair.

Well I guess that is really going to help them persuade me to buy their paper. Not.

Friday, 13 January 2006

Nominate More Than Once: The Alternative View

Yesterday I blogged that I felt that MPs nominating more than one candidate was bad for democracy.

I received some disparaging remarks from others however in order to be balanced having been pointed to the following from Paul Keetch's website, by a comment from Angus J Huck on Quaeguam Blog!, I give the alternative viewpoint.

Hereford Lib Dem MP, Paul Keetch today opened up nominations for the Lib Dem leadership to local party members.

Commenting Mr Keetch said

"Although, I have already declared my own personal support for Sir Ming Campbell as party leader, I have had much feedback from local party members showing there is a clear desire for an open and democratic leadership contest.

"At a Parliamentary Party Meeting last night, I and other MPs offered to sign the nomination papers of any candidates, to consent to them standing. This will ensure that our party members who took no part in removing Charles Kennedy will have an opportunity to elect a new leader."

Nomination papers will be open to all Hereford Lib Dem members from today at 39 Widemarsh Street, Hereford to register their preference for any of the candidates. Nominations will close on 20th January 2006.

"Our party has always had a long tradition of direct democracy, and I encourage all local party members to sign the nomination papers for their preferred choice of Leader." Mr Keetch added.

Friday: Launch Websites

I notice that Steve Guy has been keeping us updated on the web launches of the various campaigns throughout the day.

Well Chris Huhne was first out of the blocks to please all us internet geeks. He launched his campaign website this morning. I know the guys at Prater Raines are fast, but he only made his mind up in the last few days.

Sir Menzies Campbell made the news in Scotland earlier this week. However, I have it on good authority that these sites were only acquired to prevent a similar fate to that of John Thurso earlier this week. From reading that Herald article however, I'm not sure if this is a site for Ming's campaign or not. I'll try to find out if it is genuine.

Then we have Mark Oaten auditioning as Max Headroom. Or is that me showing my age as one of the Adrian Mole Generation? Apparently this is first of many webcasts he is planning to have. So maybe next time they'll take the phones off the hook on the other side of the office.

Simon Hughes does not have a dedicated campaign website at present, not even a Ming style holding page. He has only put a few links on his website. I'm sure there must be someone in his team that is capable of managing a website for a few months, so watch this space.

So at the end of the first working week I would give Oaten the slight edge over Huhne on the e-campaigning front. Simon and Ming have a lot to do to make up ground.

Also in this new media campaign Monday is set for the first TV Hustings of the campaign on Sky One [Correction Sky News]. As I only have Freeview I'll happily accept an invite from any friendly Lib Dem in the Lothian region so see how things unfold.

UPDATE: Tried some random URls and found this for Simon. Warning hard hats are currently required to be worn at all times on site, and all visitors must report to the webmasters office upon arrival.

Head or Heart?

I’m was in a dilemma over between my head or my heart. My head was telling me to go with a candidate that would win over the nation, my heart was telling me that someone else had the expertise and experience that would set out a clear and radical Lib Dem take in the centre ground.

In the head my head won out and I will be supporting Simon Hughes to succeed Charles Kennedy as leader. He has the ability to get the party driving forward, the experience to lead and the passion, which clearly comes across to the voters in a charismatic way. Chris Huhne has valuable experience and I think he would make an excellent Shadow Chancellor. However, I think of the options open to us Simon Hughes is capable of making the greatest progress in the next general election. However, I think we may need to work on him a little about consideration for Scotland.

All of the candidates once they are capable of getting the party working together I can see taking us on to gain even more MPs but I can see Simon doing this fastest, most vigorously and with the greatest results.

Following Ed Balls incorrect statement on Question Time last night falsely accusing the Lib Dems of not balancing the books, I think Sir Menzies Campbell is premature in his declaration of future tax policy. This is clearly leaning on Economic Liberalism without too much interest to Social Liberalism and is liable to create a chasm in the party. This is one of the areas currently under review in meeting the challenge and already we are seeing major diversities in ideas from our candidates.

I do not think that our tax message dampened our impact in May. I feel that how it was delivered in some areas had the impact. After all here in Scotland we won East Dunbartonshire one of Scotland’s most prosperous areas and came within a hairs breadth of representing the fine people of Morningside in Edinburgh South.

Prime Minister's Answers

Alan Beddow is right and James on Quaequam Blog! is correct in his take on it. While I said earlier that this week was the wrong week for Sir Menzies to ask his second question, next week is an ideal opportunity to ask it again. If the Prime Minister tries evasion again there are any number of options as to what the follow up question can be.

Help I'm Tony Blair's Double

James at Quaequam Blog flagged up this face recognition programme.

So I enter this picture from my election communication.

My top similarity turned out to be a 67% match for Tony Blair. Now this shouldn't really be a shock to me as each passing year the Prime Minister reminds me more and more of my father, who everyone says I look uncannily like, down to certain ticks and gives.

However, on a happier note I also recorded 63% similarity to Christian Slater, 62% for Roger Penrose (the mathematical physicist), 56% for Juan Manuel Fangio, 52% Al Pacino.

Thursday, 12 January 2006

Simon Hughes Stands for One Member One Nomination

I like the note to editors at the end of Simon Hughes announcement to stand for leader of the party.


The first 7 MPs to sign Simon’s nomination paper are:

Annette Brooke
Tim Farron
Evan Harris
Paul Holmes
Mark Hunter
Steve Webb
Richard Younger-Ross

All 7 are not signing the nomination papers of any other candidate.

Now there is a man who understands democracy and the need to re-establish trust in the Liberal Democrats.

There's an 'H' in Thursday

For Hughes and Huhne and Hemming.

This is the only day of the week containing an H so what better day for the other two H's to break out. John Hemming has been blogging all week about his intentions to seek the relavant nominations.

Simon Hughes is the second open secret of the week. He has taken every step to not decalre his candidacy while taking every step to ease his announcement, expect a press conference later today.

Chris Huhne may only be a first term MP, however like Nick Clegg, who has declared that he will not stand, he is a former MEP. As Lynne Featherstone writes he is very experienced in finacial matters, which will be a boon against Gordon Brown, and is also very strong on environmental issues. He is an interesting wild card in the mix if he can gather the support and is liable to take some votes off Sir Menzies camp according to The Times.

Wednesday, 11 January 2006

Who Chose That Question?

Perhaps [the Prime Minister] would like to explain why it is that one in five schools does not have a permanent Headteacher.

On most weeks a very sensible question for PMQs. But less than four days since you took over as caretaker leader of a political party today was not the time to ask that question. The response was uproareous laughter from all corners of hte chamber, yes there were even a few smiles on the young turks gathered around Sir Menzies.

Statesmanlike has been a term used in the press to describe Sir Menzies Campbell, today he has serious egg on his face. But who advised that question? Who advised that wording? More to the point why did the person that a large number of MPs want as their new leader not realise that question.

I've heard Sir Menzies on many times answering questions and answering them well, today was not one of those days.

As for Simon Hughes maybe he should wear a neck brace when in the presence of Tony Blair.

Mark Oaten I believe was safely in the BBC studios preparing to answer questions rather than asking them, but would he have faired any better.

Having just come from the Livingston match where we were beaten by Alloa who are bottom of division 2 the anology with today PMQ performance is clear. On today's performance the political gap is wide. Unfortunately our guys may think they are ready for the SPL but they played like Livingston did tonight and the result was just as disappointing.

The Bartlett Diaries

Today I noticed a large number of hits on my blog coming from Austaralia and noticed that they were all begin referred from here.

The reason for this interest is that Democrat Party Queensland Senator and Member of Austalian Parliament Andrew Bartlett posted a very thorough and balanced piece on recent Lib Dem developments, quoting and referencing various Lib Dem (and other party) Blogs. Like so many of us in recent years he found this lead to a lot of interest and decided to a short follow up.

The Liberal Democrats are one of the international parties most readily identifiable with the Australia Democrats, Bartlett writes. Well I'm glad to see he is doing his part to educate Australian readers about the events that are unfolding here. I expect he'll have to do some more updates over the next couple of months.

Is Crisis Good For Chess?

All of this crisis appears to have coincided with a run in form with my online chess games at Gameknot. My team mates have already remarked that I am on a killing spree with 5 successive victories and 7 out of my last 8 games ending in wins.

In fact since the New Year I have completed 9 games winning 7 of them.

I'd don't believe there is a similar correlation with my performance during the Tory Leadership contest.

Tale of Two Cabinets

Peter over at the Apollo Project stole my thunder when he blogged about this article by Fraser Nelson from this morning’s Scotsman.

It refers to an occasion when John Major, under severe pressure, attempted to persuade a prominent Liberal Democrat to defect by offering a guaranteed cabinet post: the Member for Fife North East declined.

Some time later of possibly around the same time discussions were going on with Tony Blair about the possibility of a coalition with new Labour after the 1997 elections. Two Lib Dems looked set for Cabinet posts Paddy Ashdown and Menzies Campbell. So one of our leadership candidates has been viewed as having cabinet potential by both the last two Prime Minsters.

Mr Nelson ends his article by musing:

Two wild cards may prevent Sir Menzies taking the throne [of Lib Dem Leadership]. One is his role in the Kennedy coup de grace: did he initiate the whispering campaign that had such a spectacular denouement last week? This would go down badly with party members. The next is whether the Lib Dem members will, lake the Major government, see a Tory lurking behind Sir Menzie’s statesmanlike demeanour.

Well Mr Nelson the first is a serious question to pose. The second is taken out of context as both Labour and Conservatives have seen Sir Menzies capable of working with them, something that Lib Dems experience up and down the country in coalition administrations with all parties.

What is it About Being Hirsute?

Vivienne, a new addition to the team of Lib Dem Bloggers, brought baldness yesterday on her blog. Then today Hugo Rifkind has a spot the baldy contest in the People section of today's Times.

Hint: For any non-Lib Dem reading this from Left to Right is also the media percieved postion of the two candidates and candidate apparent (Simon Hughes).

As someone who himself is confident in his rapidly thinning locks I hope to see a rapid shift away from this facination to more pertinent issues.

Tuesday, 10 January 2006

Moving Forward Together

Mark Oaten said in his launch speech:

This contest is not just about modernising the party. But it is about the issue of whether it is left or right, or social economic or liberal economic.

And I believe that in fact those are the wrong phrases. We need now to merge those ideas together and create a modern Liberal party for the 21st century.

I happen to agree with him that both these philosophical mindsets have a place in our Liberal democratic position in the centre of politics. There are things from both sides of the debate that are relevant and pertinent. We as a party have been charged with the task to find the right balance and when we hit on that balance we will make that breakthrough and become an electable force.

I knew that Mark was capable of tying these two threads together after hearing him at one of the fringe events in Bournemouth. I'm sure I would have had this backed up had I been at Blackpool but unfortunately there was a greater need for me a short walk away in a by-election campaign office.

So far of declared the candidates he has my highest preference but I just feel that something, other than John Hemming, is about to stir the mix up again real soon.

Eviction Threat in 'Respect' Plan

Well that is the headline on this BBC article. Does Tony know something about this Celebrity Big Brother contestant who is facing eviction and part time Respect MP.

An End to Late Night Counting

To maintain the concurrence of Holyrood and Scottish council elections the Electoral Commission has recommended that the count for Holyrood should held over until the following day. With the first Scottish Council election under STV starting on the Saturday morning.

This will mean that the counters at least will be fresh, however I think the party activists are still going to be exhausted the following morning as we're liable to be sitting up watching the council votes south of the border and the Welsh Assembly elections. Yes we are anoraks those of us who attend counts into the wee small hours.

There is also discussion about possibly doing the Holyrood count by an electronic system. If that does happen I may miss trying to read the expressions of the other parties as the boxes are upended and emptied. However, I suppose they still need to verify the mark on the ballots so that still might allow me to practice my poker face (i.e. the one where I draw a royal flush).

Monday, 9 January 2006

And They're Off

The Federal Executive has set the ball in motion to elect our new party leader.

A new leader will be announced on 2 March the day before the Spring conference. So instead of using conference as a husting it will be celebration of the new leader and a push for the council elections.

Nominations will close on 25 January and postal ballots will start heading to our letter boxes on 6 February.

So we should be hearing about other candidates soon I reckon.

Cameron Blows His Lib Dem Bridges

Well David Cameron really knows how to woo dishearted Liberal Democrats to his new Conservatives. He has just come out and said the exact opposite of one of the main planks and Lib Dem successes in devolved government over the lest few years.

David I'm glad you are going to carry on supporting tuition fees as:

a) It means that us Lib Dems know you were only a short flirtation with us.

b) You will continue to play poorly with the student vote. And once they start voting for us we can keep them.

c) Your timing couldn't be better. Lib dems in crisis over leadership and you attack something we can unite on and attack you back with.

Thank you DC for lifting my spirits today.

What a Bad Start to the New Year Tony Blair is Having

Peter Whitehead one of his MEPs was the first death reported of the New Year. Then Lord Merlyn-Rees and Rachel Squire MP both passed away on Thursday. Now Tony Banks, Lord Stratford has joined the macabre list.

I can’t remember so many politicians of the same party dying in such a short time scale. I wonder how many Labour MSPs, AMs and members of the GLA are heading to their doctors for health checks as a matter or urgency.

Sunday, 8 January 2006

Restoring Trust

The next task of the Liberal Democrats has to be to restore trust especially in light of the latest opinion poll:

a) in the party members

b) in the general public

c) in the press (if we ever had any anyway)

For the party members many feel that 33 (the highest published figure) of their number, who happen to have been elected to the House of Commons, have taken away their democratic right to choose the party leader. Now that may not seem a lot but we were the first party to give that right to every member from the full slate of candidates. And we are the only UK-wide party to ensure that every vote does count as those elections are by AV.

What the party members need to restore trust is therefore an election not a coronation of Sir Menzies Campbell or anyone else. The fear is that the MPs taketh away, anoint, they might just taketh away again when they feel fit. Therefore while not my first choice as an alternative is not fellow blogger John Hemming I applaud his openness about his campaign to stand and make an election of it.

The general public see us now as a bunch of back stabbers in it for personal gain. I'm fortunate to point out that my loyalty stretched long into the debacle when many around me were losing their heads. However, many of our MPs may be considered with suspicion from now on. Plus when I next stand as a candidate how will my candour, openness and honesty, things which Lib Dem candidates have long prided themselves on, be viewed by my electorate.

We are not a nasty party. We are the most transparent of all the mainstream party. Our policy is voted on in open debates, by ordinary members, not behind closed doors and rolled out only to be show cased and rubber stamped.

Therefore we need our next leader to get their A team, frontbench spokespeople, and B team of backbenchers all pulling behind them. Yes there are differences of opinions in the party that is what leads to interesting debate and radical ideas. We should not shy away from that but as we have in the past through dialogue reach a consensus of opinion to take forward and present to the voting public. Therefore part of Meeting the Challenge is how we can become an increasingly successful, growing and responsive parliamentary party while at the same time keeping the membership engaged.

The trust is the press may not even have existed but we need to gain that within the media after the events of the last week. They may misprint, distort or even leave out what we tell them, but the one word that was on their lips during every interview I have seen has been the word lie. Simon Hughes had one of the best rebuffs by saying he tends to stick by and help his friends.

So therefore we have a major trust obstacle at the moment. We are going to back out there saying that we can form the next government therefore, with all due respect to Sir Menzies Campbell, I do not feel that we are right to elect as a leader we propose to be the next Prime Minster somebody who is liable to retire as leader within the first few years after the next General election. If Blair and Brown face difficulties this parliament might well go full term to May 2010, when Ming will be just weeks shy of his 69th birthday. I respect him as an elder statesman; I know he will be a fine caretaker leader while the leadership issue is being settled. My concern is would I feel uncomfortable standing on doorsteps with our next General Election manifesto saying that Ming will be carrying out all of these promises.

To be taken seriously as a party our leader must be somebody the press can see as the next Prime Minster. With Ming the press will carry on the year on year debate they have had with Charles recently when will he go, who is to follow, this does not bode well for establishing trust with the press, who can affect our trust with the electorate and the rank and file members of the party.

Therefore we need a contest. We need to look at internal mechanisms in the party. And controversially, especially for a Lib Dem in Scotland, I say we need someone other that Sir Menzies Campbell to be the next leader of our party to become the first Liberal Democrat Prime Minister after the next General Election.

Saturday, 7 January 2006

The Grassy Knoll

I love this post by Peter at lunartalks.

To safe the hastle of debating this for 30 years. here is our Lee Harvey Oswald.

Daisy McAndrew

However, her co-conspirators on a grassy knoll did leave their names of various bits of paper.

So what next?

Looking at my bookshelf I see on one battered spine of my dogeared copy of Charles Kennedy 'The Future of Politics'. So what is the future of politics for the Liberal Democrat Party?

In Charles' resignation speech he said that:

'A new, democratically-elected leader is in place as soon as possible to take the party forward.'

Like Chris Black said only 5 days ago, it seems longer, I don't want a coronation. I want like Chris and charles a vote amongst the party membership to democratically elect our leader. As Charles Kennedy said in recent days the leadership is in the gift of hte membership and not to be sliced up by the 62 members who are forunate enough to have access to the floor of the House of Commons.

Mark Oaten has said:

'I need to talk to the other possible contenders but I'm in no mood to have a long drawn out issue.'

Actually Mark no what me and many other members of hte party now want is not for an undemocratic coronation we want to have our say. Our MPs have had plent to say on this issue and two opportunities to stand a candidate against Charles Kennedy since the General Election to get their point across. I want the right to make my choice and voice, and that of every member, to count just as I have as a conference voting rep on the policies that the new leader will be leading us forward over.

There are only two decisions in our party that are open to all members, the leadership and the presidency. Others are decided either regionally or by democratically elected representatives of our local partys.

Therefore whoever the new leader is to be needs to be elected. The leading candidates should talk to their parlimentary colleagues to assure that they have the support required then start to look at raising the required support from party members allowing them to stand. Let us hear what they ahve to offer, let us make up our mind, let us rank our options in order of preference on our ballot papers. Then the party can do what Mark Oaten has also said and 'unite and move forward'.

Thank You Charles

as I started to type this simon Hughes has just said on BBC 24 that this is a thank you to Charles day, I wholeheartedly agree.

Firstly thank you Charles for taking on the leadership of this party in 1999 when many said we had reached our peak, and thank you for taking us to even greater heights in the tow elections since.

Thank you for you great contribution over 22 1/2 years from the baby of the house to the leader of the third largest party.

Thank you for being an inspiration to me as an activist and candidate. For being someone who has brought together the varying strands that make up the Liberal Democrats and for leading us along the same path.

Thank you for your courage on Thursday to stand up and acknowledge in public the problem you have been fighting for some time. It cannot of been easy, it my eyes and in the eyes of many others it made you more of an electoral asset to our party.

Thank you for realising today that you need support not just in the country but also in the House and that you made the right choice for the party today.

Thank you Charles, I'm sure this will not the last we hear of you within the party.

If Only...

...this kind of support had been more forthcoming from Charles Kennedy's parliamentary colleagues.

Bowing to the Inevitable

I have just returned from the Livingston and Murrayfield by-elections thank you party (as I pledged yesterday I remained on soft drinks all night). I have been forthright in my support for Charles Kennedy over the last 24 hours and have received over 160 visitors to this blog since his statement on Thursday evening.

However, whilst I was heading to the party the news that 25 members of the Parliamentary had removed their support for the leader, 19 being spokespersons, brought me to a sad conclusion. While I and other members of the party at large may still be prepared to fully support Charles, the people he has to lead through division lobbies and from the Lib Dem benches cannot see themselves doing so. The fact is that the 25 signatories of todays statement are not fully inclusive of the original 11 signatories spoke of greater depth of feeling than the numbers conveyed.

I feel the person who is most able to lead and inspire the activists on to greater achievements, and most able to convince non-Lib dems to vote for us, is being forced out. However, in order for anyone to be able to do these things they must have backing in the commons.

Fortunately in my time involved with the Liberal Democrats the party has grown very considerably thanks to the efforts of Charles and Paddy Ashdown before him. We are no longer conceived or believed to be a one man band with a few interlopers. We are a party with a lot of good, experienced people in positions of responsibilty who are up for the challenge of such a task.

Therefore it is with sadness that I can see no other option this evening than for Charles to make a dignified exit and allow an open contest between the people best able to bring credibility back swiftly and in the long term. Thus releasing any who feel bound by a code of honour to take their place at the start line.

Charles I wish you all the best in your battle with the bottle and reiterate my pledge stay off the drink for the remainder of this year as a sign of my support in that aim.