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.


My personal New Year’s Message to Electoral Reformers from John Ault (Chair of the Electoral Reform Society)

My personal message to electoral reformers for 2012 - it could be an important year of change!

I became involved in politics 25 years ago and one of the main reasons I became involved was because I saw the way that our electoral system doesn’t fairly represent the wishes of British voters.

Becoming involved in the practice of campaigning for electoral reform has actually been a relatively recent thing for me though; when I was employed to be a member of the Yes to Fairer Votes team last year.

Of course 2011 was a bad year for electoral reformers with the failure of the AV referendum. And we are right to re-evaluate if the constitutional reform sector is fit for purpose to deliver its mission.

But 2012 will see, perhaps rather oddly, the first opportunity for all English voters to use a form of preferential voting to elect the new police commissioners across the country. The new voting system, Supplementary Vote, allows voters to rank their top two choices, rather than all of them in AV, and as such does mean there will be a slight, if notable, change in the way the English vote.

It is by no means perfect but if it gets voters used to casting their ballots preferentially that has to be good for the cause of electoral reform, as does the extension of the numbers of cities electing Mayors via the same system. Whatever the pros and cons of either of these new institutions the voting system will be more democratic than first-past-the-post and that has to be progress.

This, to many electoral reformers, will seem a modest change not worthy of attention, but the main prize for 2012 will be reform of the House of Lords. If we can add our voices to this major reform it will be a major, even historic, change. And, if Nick Clegg achieves his objective it will be elected by Single Transferable Vote. This would be a major prize for all of us in the constitutional reform sector and one that we should all put our efforts into over the next 12 months.

Happy New Year and let’s achieve parliamentary reform this year even though we failed in 2011 – it’s up to us.

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?

Tales from the Phonebank 1 – Learning the AV Referendum Lessons – Using Props well

In Chester the campaign to 'Axe MPs' Jobs for Life' took a turn for the worse

I’ve decided now that the referendum was almost last year that it was time to allow people into some of the more amusing aspects of the campaign. I should explain, that as the North West regional organiser of the Yes campaign it was my responsibility to deliver the ‘ground campaign’ in the region.

Although many of us argued strongly for a literature campaign, rather than the phonebanking that was adopted (hence the title of this section), eventually the campaign also focused increasingly on stunts. These ranged from banners, to dressing up as turkies (as they don’t vote for Christmas, like MPs) but this first installment involves an inflatable axe, though to be honest it more resembled a tomahawk rather than an axe.

As the campaign was heavily focused on the argument that Alternative Vote would end the ‘Jobs for Life’ culture of safe seats we were sent into the regions to hold up a banner with the words – “MPs Jobs for Life” and were expected to hold the said tomahawk over the banner, thus expressing the view that MPs jobs for life should be axed.

However, it is fair to say that people of Chester, where we held this banner, were utterly convnced that we were campaigning for “MPs Jobs for Life” and were just mildly bemused by ‘what’s that young man with the inflatable tomahawk doing?’

We didn’t do this stunt again, though we did find other used for the tomahawk/axe!

Office beheadings became a standby activity at times (Highvis jackets were important to maintain Health and Safety)

Is it time Cornwall started to talk seriously about devolution?

Cornwall has a major chance to decide it's own future - will it take it?

With the prospect of Scottish devolution going at least one extra step towards Home Rule or even outright independence from the UK, Cornwall should decide, like Wales, whether it wants to see greater powers come from Westminster to decide more of its own future.

The Coalition government has evangelised the concept of localism, and although this has primarily focussed around the creation of new locally elected police commissioners and more elected mayors for major cities, Cornwall has a role to play in this new deal for local government.

When Cornwall became a unitary council in 2009 many Cornish people opposed the new council rather preferring the old district/county model, however, I supported the new council as it seemed to fit in much better with the aspiration of Cornwall to have its own Assembly, although the model created had far too many councillors to have this as a credible outcome at the time.

If the Coalition is serious about devolving more powers to local control perhaps Cornwall should begin negotiations with Westminster to see what powers could be devolved, such as transport.

Many studies have shown that both the electorate and Cornish politicians want to see greater powers devolved but the process would seem to have stagnated in recent years. With all Cornwall’s MPs now being supporters of the Coalition and with the Conservatives giving Cornwall special status before the 2010 election, by creating a Shadow Minister for Cornwall (though quite what happened to this in government no one knows) this should the best time to urge both parties to deliver on greater recognition for Cornwall.

The Planning Minister, Greg Clark, has indicated that he would welcome discussions on the subject, so let’s take the opportunity whilst it is there.