Diane Abbott allowed me to follow her on Twitter for all of 15 minutes before she blocked me…

Diane Abbott's apology is welcome but silencing critics is an unhealthy sign in the age of social media democracy

I must confess I have never really been that much of a follower of the great and the good on Twitter and have only really got vaguely into it recently – I am careering towards my 400th tweet after being on it for 2 years.

However, I know a few mega-tweeters like fellow Electoral Reformer, Arnie Craven, and saw a mild storm brewing last night concerning the rather unfortunate comments made by the Diane Abbott, concerning her apparent belief that:

“White people love playing ‘divide & rule.'”

I must confess I was rather shocked that a mainstream politician, which Diane is nowadays, couldn’t see the danger in her comments. Ignoring the obvious comparison with what would happen if the opposite was said by another politician it just struck me as being amazingly crass. White people, and others, do have an awful lot to own up to concerning our colonial history and I am the first agree with Diane that our history is littered with cases of ‘divide and rule’, but the belief that somehow this attitude continues to the present day, as a tactic to create schism amongst an entire section of society is reckless.

Diane has thankfully apologised, as I did have a small hand in making sure that she felt the pressure from reasonable people, as well as those who seek to find offence. However, I suspect mine has been the shortest ever following of any Twitter account, as I started following her at just gone midnight and within 15 minutes I appeared to have been eliminated.

Politicians should be able to take criticism from reasonable people. It is concerning that when reasonable people identify a fairly gaping hole in a train of thought they are silenced for their criticism.


Tales from the Phonebank 2 – Learning the AV Referendum Lessons – Canvassing

The Yes to AV team hit the streets of Warrington with dramatic success - then we turned into the road where I was born

One of the key objectives of the Yes campaign was to make as many phone contacts as possible.

I, and the North West team, as well as all the other regions, put in a lot of time and energy in getting people into the phonebanks to try and get the numbers of contacts required to achieve the millions of identified supporters we needed if we were to affect the result.

Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the telephone script we were using was deemed ‘illegal’ by the Information Commissioner!

Unbowed by this important, if momentary setback, we set out to try and meet as many people as possible the old-fashioned way – on the doorsteps.

The first such evening was organised by the campaign organiser in Warrington. Myself and the national campaign manager in charge of making all the contacts duly arrived in the town to go canvassing. Armed with canvas cards, leaflets and posters we set out to test the waters.

After the first main road in Warrington we discovered a most astonishing thing – people thought AV was a good idea! In fact the longer we went on the more posters we were giving out the more we were increasingly bemused that lots of people were considering voting for us. Bearing in mind the polling data at the time it’s fair to say this was quite a surprise.

Then we are arrived in the very road where I was born – Sulby Avenue.

I knocked on the door of the house I was born in. They were in!

Having knocked on the doors of so many supportive people that evening I felt sure that the wise occupants of such a prestigious address (which no doubt will have a blue plaque on the wall one day) would be supportive.

I was wrong, they were voting NO. It was a sign of things to come!

Labour need the Liberal Democrats to survive 2015 to make sure we don’t have permanent Tory government

If the Labour Party builds up support in rural areas where the Lib Dems are strong it could lead to a long term Tory government

With 2012 being another important year of elections across the UK, with local elections in England, Wales and Scotland it could be a very difficult year for Liberal Democrats. Although it’s difficult to see that the results in 2012 could be as bad as 2011.

However, possibly because it suits the two-party consensus, the Labour Party needs to be careful not to make their own chances of running the country in 2015 to the detriment of maintaining a pluralist democracy.

Whatever the pros and cons of the Liberal Democrats joining the Coalition government if the party performs very badly in the 2015 General Election it may also make the chances of Labour running the country after that election less likely too.

Because of the nature of the Liberal Democrat advances in the 1990s and 2000s the party has naturally made gains from the Conservatives in rural areas. Only in 2005 and 2010 did the party really make advances against Labour, and only to a fairly modest degree. Consequently if the Liberal Democrats do badly at the next election the main beneficiaries will be the Conservatives – in those rural constituencies. This will only make the chances of Labour winning the election lower (if the net beneficiary of Liberal Democrat losses are the Conservatives) as at the moment the Conservatives only need a dozen or so gains to achieve this result.

I don’t blame the Labour Party for attacking the Liberal Democrats and their recent affiliation with the Conservative Party, but by building up support in areas where it will not directly benefit the Labour Party themselves, such as the South East and South West of England, it will just lead to greater Conservative representation and the chance of a return to the 1980s and almost permanent Conservative government.

Something that I would personally like to avoid.

We walked round Washington growling at the WWII memorial saying the conflict was from 1941-45, imagine my surprise when I discovered the war ended in 1946!

The attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into the Second World War – but when did it officially end?

This isn’t one of those mystery stories about a Japanese soldier stumbling out of the jungle in the late 1940s to discover that the war had been over for several years, nor a rehashed version of the fact that Berwick-upon-Tweed was at war with Russia long after the Paris Treaty at the end of the Crimean War. However, it does start with the mild irritation of walking around The Mall in Washington DC.

History tells us that the war ended with the fall of Berlin with VE day on May 8th 1945 or more accurately with the end of the war with Japan on September 2nd 1945. But the actual end of the war with both of these countries came much later following a Presidential Proclamation, 2714, on this day 31st December 1946.

It is, in fact, the reason that US veterans from that war are defined up until that date.

Arguably the war technically ended in 1951, when Congress passed a resolution ending the declaration of war on Germany. This may seem odd, as we all generally accept that the war ended in 1945.But, because of the on-going occupation of Germany and Japan by US forces, as well as those of the victorious powers. It also allowed the Nuremberg Trials to go ahead as a military court rather than a civilian process.

So, should the memorial in the Washington Mall really say 1941-1951?

25 Years on and Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats should still remember David Penhaligon today

Truro and St Austell’s MP from 1974-1986 remembered today

People often ask whether you can remember where you were when JFK died. I don’t I was too young. But, for those of us who can remember David Penhaligon the feeling, I suspect, is similar to those people felt when John Kennedy was shot. A feeling of deep loss having very little personal knowledge of the man personally.

As an MP from a peripheral party at the time he was possibly a surprising national political figure who had garnered a great deal of national publicity and was almost certainly the shoo in as the next leader of the party, ahead of the eventual winner – Paddy Ashdown.

I was sitting in my front room with several school friends when I heard the news, being only 16 he had had a surprisingly big impression on me. Although I joined the SDP I had briefly met David Penhaligon once and also seen him speak once. The former was on polling day in the Knowsley North By-election, caused by the resignation of Robert Kilroy-Silk as a Labour MP. I, and fellow campaigners, had been out delivering leaflets in the pouring Merseyside weather and returned to the Alliance HQ, where we discovered David Penhaligon and other party luminaries with their sleeves rolled up delving into the inner workings of a printing machine. It was a surprising if apparently usual event.

This was an image I will never forget, and it has rather shaped my view of what MPs and party figures should be like since. He was deep down an activist and keen to helping in a by-election, however unlikely the party’s chances of winning. The other time I saw him was when he spoke at Methodist Central Hall at a pre-election rally in December 1986. His was an inspiring speech which set the tone for an exciting day at a party rally.

However, as any Liberal Democrat in Cornwall will tell you, his influence remains an important aspect of the party’s resonance and influence in Cornwall. I can remember campaigning in several general elections in Cornwall and still getting support for the party, twenty years on, because of the work he did for Cornwall, especially in Truro and St. Austell.

Liberal Democrats, especially in Cornwall, owe an awful lot to David Penhaligon and today we remember all that he did for us, the party and for Cornwall.