+++ Holy crap, the Guardian endorses Lib Dems

Not content with publishing a letter from leading progressives, the Guardian tonight brings to an end its journey to a decision about which party to support.

The article is here.

General election 2010: The liberal moment has come
If the Guardian had a vote it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats. But under our discredited electoral system some people may – hopefully for the last time – be forced to vote tactically

We can certainly commend them on their decision, and my headline shows my surprise at them taking this bold step. I think many people were expecting the paper to resurrect its “clothespeg” stance from 2005. But let’s not forget the paper ultimately almost endorsed the Liberal Democrats in the European elections last year.

Those who comment beneath the articles waver between enthusiastic endorsement of the paper’s stance, criticism at the length of time it has taken to take a decision, and appalled horror from the remaining Labour stalwarts in the comments thread.

On the Conservatives

The article takes some considerable time to praise efforts from the Conservatives to re-align their party with a British mainstream, to diversify and speak to the many people in this country who aren’t extreme right wingers, and most importantly of all, to ditch Thatcher’s legacy. But they conclude the process is far from complete:

[David Cameron’s] difficulty is not that he is the “same old Tory”. He isn’t. The problem is that his revolution has not translated adequately into detailed policies, and remains highly contradictory. He embraces liberal Britain yet protests that Britain is broken because of liberal values. He is eloquent about the overmighty state but proposes to rip up the Human Rights Act which is the surest weapon against it. He talks about a Britain that will play a constructive role in Europe while aligning the Tories in the European parliament with some of the continent’s wackier xenophobes. Behind the party leader’s own engagement with green issues there stands a significant section of his party that still regards global warming as a liberal conspiracy.

On the Labour party

The Guardian acknowledges – like many of us – that the Labour party has significant achievements from its time in office. But as the years go on, their failings become more apparent until they tip the scales away from Labour being a positive influence on our nation.

Invited to embrace five more years of a Labour government, and of Gordon Brown as prime minister, it is hard to feel enthusiasm. Labour’s kneejerk critics can sometimes sound like the People’s Front of Judea asking what the Romans have ever done for us. The salvation of the health service, major renovation of schools, the minimum wage, civil partnerships and the extension of protection for minority groups are heroic, not small achievements.

Yet, even among those who wish Labour well, the reservations constantly press in. Massive, necessary and in some cases transformational investment in public services insufficiently matched by calm and principled reform, sometimes needlessly entangled with the private sector. Recognition of gathering generational storms on pensions, public debt, housing and – until very recently – climate change not addressed by clear strategies and openness with the public about the consequences. The inadequately planned pursuit of two wars. A supposedly strong and morally focused foreign policy which remains trapped in the great-power, nuclear-weapon mentality, blindly uncritical of the United States, mealy-mouthed about Europe and tarnished by the shame of Iraq – still not apologised for.

On the Liberal Democrats

And as expected in an endorsement article, the paper reserves its warmest words for us.

[T]here is little doubt that in many areas of policy and tone, the Liberal Democrats have for some time most closely matched our own priorities and instincts. On political and constitutional change, they articulate and represent the change which is now so widely wanted. On civil liberty and criminal justice, they have remained true to liberal values and human rights in ways that the other parties, Labour more than the Tories in some respects, have not. They are less tied to reactionary and sectional class interests than either of the other parties.

The Liberal Democrats were green before the other parties and remain so. Their commitment to education is bred in the bone. So is their comfort with a European project which, for all its flaws, remains central to this country’s destiny. They are willing to contemplate a British defence policy without Trident renewal. They were right about Iraq, the biggest foreign policy judgment call of the past half-century, when Labour and the Tories were both catastrophically and stupidly wrong. They have resisted the rush to the overmighty centralised state when others have not. At key moments, when tough issues of press freedom have been at stake, they have been the first to rally in support. Above all, they believe in and stand for full, not semi-skimmed, electoral reform. And they have had a revelatory campaign. Trapped in the arid, name-calling two-party politics of the House of Commons, Nick Clegg has seldom had the chance to shine. Released into the daylight of equal debate, he has given the other two parties the fright of their lives.

Thank you, Guardian.

Welcome aboard.


New piece on the Pod Delusion

I have a second piece on the Pod Delusion today – explaining how polling day works from the perspective of the countless thousands of Council staff who administer the secret ballot and of the political people who are keeping a watchful eye on them.


Listen in if you’d like to know what we’ll all be getting up to next week.

And don’t forget I’ll be on BBC Radio Nottingham from 1201am on Friday, 8th May for their results programme.

Tweets on 2010-04-30

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A plea on behalf of people whose names start with A

My name is Alex, and that puts me near the top of the phone book in most of my friends’ mobile phones.

This means that when my friends sit on their phones, or put them in their handbags unlocked or leave them where their toddlers can get hold of them, it’s me that receives the call or text message.

I can’t tell you how many blank texts and silent calls I’ve had as a result. Strange long messages where all you can hear is muffled chat. Phone calls on Christmas morning from Lib Dem campaigners talking to their mothers. Pre-verbalisations from very small people who’ve learned how to use phones before they’ve learned to talk. To bowdlerise a phrase from the King, text messages straight from your arse.

So here’s my top tip. Please put a fake number in your phone book ahead of the top named person there. A short number that won’t terminate in a call or a text message if it’s dialled by accident.

And all the Alexes, Anns and Abigails you know will thank you.

Note to agents: do not publish anything you learn at postal vote opening

Twitter has come alive in the last two hours with tweets and retweets of Labour’s new media Tsarina Kerry McCarthy, who appears to have attended a postal vote opening session in her constituency of Bristol East – and then tweeted her tally totals.

Just to be clear, this is illegal. You should not do it. If you are attending postal vote processing sessions or are an agent yourself, please make sure your entire team knows that anything you learn at that session cannot be shared.

Mark Pack has the full listing of the section of the law that applies in this case, but the main point is this:

66A Prohibition on publication of exit polls
(1) No person shall, in the case of an election to which this section applies, publish before the poll is closed–
(a) any statement relating to the way in which voters have voted at the election where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by voters after they have voted,

Kerry Mccarthy, whose website boasts she is a qualified solicitor, should have known better than to publish the information she learned. Indeed once she’d had a few minutes’ thinking time, she hastily deleted the original post. But not before it had been retweeted all over the internet.

This is a serious offence, from a qualified solicitor, experienced candidate and a former MP, and it needs to be taken seriously. If Kerry McCarthy is prosecuted and convicted, she could end up in prison for 6 months.

In the mean time, on a lighter note, Twitter is now speculating what the message would look like if Kerry was boasting about breaking other areas of election law – here and here.

Tweets on 2010-04-29

  • You're kidding me? "We do allow caches in space, eg on Mars" http://bit.ly/blwzFd #
  • @ianvisits it's only a matter of time. 😦 in reply to ianvisits #
  • Oh you are kidding me, is this bigotgate foolishness still going on?! How long will it last? #

  • Wow. Zoom in to read banner. They're facing a house with Tory posters. http://flic.kr/p/7X2LHh #
  • Hah! Eddie Mair opening interview with Nick Clegg by asking "What's the worst thing you've called a voter in private?" #
  • Too many of my leaflet routes have a fast food outlet halfway round. 😦 #
  • Eddie Mair: When did you – Clegg – last cry? What are you bad at? #
  • My view of what Clegg is bad at: too many ums and ers when speaking on't radio. #

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Oh no! Nottingham City Council is digging up my park!

I had to do a double take driving up the Mansfield Road the other day – the City Council has dug up huge swathes of Woodthorpe Park leaving massive tracts of ploughed ground all around the football pitches on the bit nearest the road. What on earth are they doing, I wondered?

Then I remembered discussions with City Council Parks staff about plans for King George V Park in my own ward, and I’m pretty sure I know what they are doing.

They’re planting wildflower meadows.

This is not a new thing – they did it to my primary school when I was there in 1988. They weedkill a spot of grass, rotivate it to turn the earth up, and then sow wild flower seeds into the space.

They also did it to a roundabout in Chesterfield while I worked up there, and what I learned is that during the early phases, communication with local people is absolutely vital. It looks dreadful for the first few weeks. Then it looks untidy and overgrown, and everyone who sees it has real concerns about what the heck is going on.

Then, however, the flowers start to come out, and suddenly it all makes sense. The flowers look fantastic, and should be in bloom by the summer.

Come the autumn, all the Council has to do is essentially harvest the seeds, leaving enough onsite for the plants to come up again.

So, it looks scary now, but it really is a Good Thing. The wildflower meadows look lovely – particularly by the second summer. They allow for informal play. They’re excellent for biodiversity, wildlife and insects – in particular our troubled bee population that needs all the help it can get. And – whisper it – they’re cheap to maintain – they don’t even need mowing like the huge expanses of grass they replace.

So far I’ve seen the council preparing the ground in Woodthorpe Park and a little triangle of land in the Basford ward, near St Leo’s church, on the ring road. But more are planned across the city.

The scary thing is that the parks staff have told residents in my ward that the KGV Park will get one of the largest patches of meadow anywhere in the city. What they’ve done on Woodthorpe is already huge – so what they are planning for KGV must be enormous!

Tweets on 2010-04-28

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Tweets on 2010-04-27

  • Was embarrassed to be responding so late to library request of political material for display, but apparently we are only response. #
  • Waiting for a galette – smells amazing. (@ Aubreys Traditional Creperie) http://4sq.com/ctKfio #
  • This is taking so long, I fear they must be growing the olives! Tiny place with 10 covers and only 1 other order. #
  • Once again finding myself humming "Asda Long Eaton" to the tune of Viva Las Vegas. #
  • @tom_geraghty ask them what colour the carpet is 🙂 in reply to tom_geraghty #

  • Now open in sadly faded West End Arcade. Checked whether I was vegan before frying pancake in butter! http://flic.kr/p/7WC4Dh #

  • Oh no! The back half of the bunny has fallen off! http://flic.kr/p/7WyR3c #
  • 12seconds – Bunny wobble test. http://tiny12.tv/X7IGY #
  • 12seconds – Bunny wobble test. http://tiny12.tv/3WZ8S #

  • Tonight's pudding club – homemade spicy blancmange (blackberry coulis not pictured) http://flic.kr/p/7WySXZ #
  • How nice of Chris Leslie to bring so many stakeboards with his face on down with him from his old constituency of Shipley! #NttmE #

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