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.

Does the prospect of Scottish Independence make electoral reform more likely?

Most electoral reformers were looking the other way when Scotland elected its first majority government in the devolved age and many haven’t taken on board the importance of this shift. We were busy trying to change the electoral system on the same day. But this change could actually be one of the main catalysts for the parties south of the border to revisit the way we do business at Westminster.

The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Greens and UKIP are committed to electoral reform but the Labour Party, whether before or during the AV referendum, has been almost equally split on the issue. But, with the possibility of the electoral mathematics being different in post-independence Britain could the combination of principle and self-interest move the Labour Party into a position where they see the benefits of electoral reform more clearly.

Although Labour has dominated Scottish politics since the mid-1960s (the last time the party did not win in terms of seats in Scotland was 1955) it has regularly failed to turn this pre-eminence north of the border into government at Westminster. However, with the Conservatives now so weak in Scotland the Labour Party have returned between 40 and 50 seats since the mid-1980s and the Liberal Democrats have also returned about 10 MPs from Scotland. Although the boundary changes at present being discussed makes the mathematics against an overall UK Labour majority worse they slightly improve if Scotland leaves the union but nonetheless this is a slightly marginal impact.

Losing 40 Labour MPs would have delivered a Conservative majority in Parliament in 2010

Do the mathematics of possible Scottish Independence make electoral reform more likely for Westminster

and the results would have looked like: Con 306 (307), Lab 217 (258), LD 46 (57) – with a Parliament of 591 seats – a Conservative overall majority of 21. So the decision Scotland makes on independence is important to England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as Scotland, as we would now have a different government if Scotland was independent.

So this major shift away from the Labour Party makes the prospect of Conservative government more of the time more likely. Does this sort of major shift in the nature of the country make it more likely that Labour sees the importance of its future policy on electoral reform? Well maybe, but the question is have our political class quite worked out that there is a genuine chance of Scotland being independent within the next five years? And this is where I believe there is a genuine level of self-denial amongst Westminster, and for that matter Holyrood, politicians. Scotland could well be on the verge of it’s the most significant constitutional change since 1707. With Alec Salmond running a popular, anti-Westminster government in Edinburgh there is a chance, without credible arguments and strong campaigning against independence, for it happen.

With this change will English and Welsh politicians come together to deliver a better way of electing Westminster as well as what Scotland decides for its own future?

‘Forget the toothbrush, you can buy one; dignity is priceless!’ – The Press Officer’s Guide Lesson 12 – Pack a reserve parachute

With me in Brussels and my suitcase in Kuala Lumpur I was faced with a tricky dilemma when I met the European Commissioner

As a young man I was elected to lead the Liberal Democrat delegation to the British Youth Council. I led a small but excellent team of Lib Dem activists who had a significant impact on the nation’s leading youth organisation.

As part of the political engagement of BYC I was regularly invited to attend meetings, conferences and events across the UK and Europe.

One such meeting was the weekend European Youth Congress in Brussels in 1994, it was a meeting of young politicians from across the European Union and was a most enjoyable event for all concerned.

Youth politics was quite un-Tory at that point being the fag end of a Tory government and as such the delegation was almost entirely made up of Labour and Lib Dem activists.

Our delegation was all booked on flights from London to Brussels and we met at Heathrow for the plane. We checked in promptly and settled down for the short flight over to Belgium.

I and Dan Shepherd, a Labour member, were very disappointed to discover, on arrival, that our suitcases for the trip had not been stowed on the plane before leaving and had in fact been flown on a much more exotic flight to Kuala Lumpur.

A rather unhelpful member of British Airways staff, at Brussels airport, gave us both an overnight bag with all the essentials for a night without a suitcase. We were promised that our suitcases would be sent on as soon as they could be returned, but even at a best guess this would be a minimum of 24 hours.

Arriving at the accommodation we duly opened the rather pathetic contents and discovered a toothbrush and all the things that a hotel would quite happily have given or found for us.

At the bottom of the bag was a rather strange wrapped up piece of tissue paper. Upon closer inspection this appeared to be a shower cap made of paper, but with three holes, rather than one.

They were paper underpants.

Now I’m as happy as any man to sleep on floors or sofas and I have even been known to wear a shirt for more than a day when the need has arisen, but there can be nothing to compare to the personal discomfort of wearing paper underwear, in thirty degree heat, whilst meeting a European Commissioner and Ambassadors from the EU nations.

This is compounded by the fact that your own underwear is having a much nicer time of it in South East Asia.

As such I, and I am sure Dan, always pack underwear in hand luggage now, just in case BA threaten me with paper Y-fronts!

You can buy a toothbrush in a hotel but dignity is priceless!

Is the return of the monocle a sign that the Old Etonian Tories are taking control or the preparations for a Labour anti-Toff campaign?

Tory fashion accessory or a cunning plan from Labour Agents across Britain - The Monocle!

Vision Express has announced that it is to start stocking monocles for the first time following a spate of young male customers requesting to buy them.

This apparently came as quite a shock to the major high street retailer who has never sold them before.

I couldn’t help but think that the boys from the Bullingdon Club and the Old Etonians (the Conservative front bench) might all be dashing out to buy them as part of the season’s must have fashion accessory.

But, then it occurred to me that with the increasingly anti-upper class tone of Gordon Brown at Prime Minister’s Question Time and of Labour campaigning it was probably a raft of Labour agents dashing around to buy a monocle for anti-Tory photos for their election literature to show a division between them and their quadruple barrelled opponents.

Only time will tell!

Are the Tories creating clear Green water for the other parties to target?

Has the Tories increasing climate change scepticism made clear Green water for the other parties to occupy?

According to The Independent the Labour Party campaign managers have identified 31 seats where the increasingly sceptical Conservative tone over climate change might benefit them and the Liberal Democrats. 

In these seats, of which 7 are Lib Dem held seats, the Labour Party believes that it might be possible for incumbents to benefit from an above average Green Party level of support and squeeze it to support the non-Tory incumbent. 

This follows Gordon Brown’s comments about Nigel Lawson and David Davies and their “flat-earth” environmental comments.

According to The Independent, ‘in the 31 seats, the Green Party or Scottish Green Party had a 2 per cent or higher share of the vote – which could make the difference between the Tories winning or losing on a marginal swing.

‘The Tories need to win Tooting – target seat number 112 – with a notional Labour majority of 5,190, to win an outright majority. In this south London seat, the Greens won a 4.1 per cent share of the vote in 2005.’

Certainly the Tories apparently paper-thin interest in the environment might well now damage them, but I find it fascinating that Labour high command at Number 10 identify seven Lib Dem seats as being ones where this strategy should be adopted.

The full List of seats according to The Independent is:

Finchley & Golders Green (L); Croydon Central (L); Battersea (L); Milton Keynes South (L); Hove (L); Cheltenham (LD); Stroud (L); Carshalton & Wallington (LD); Hastings & Rye (L); Calder Valley (L); Hereford & North Herefordshire (LD); Colne Valley (L); Brighton Kemptown (L); Swindon South (L); Milton Keynes North (C, notional L due to boundary changes); Watford (L); Birmingham Edgbaston (L); Worcester (L); Bradford West (L); Richmond Park (LD); Brentford & Isleworth (L); Edinburgh South (L); Leeds North West (LD); Ochil & South Perthshire (L); Stirling (L); Devon North (LD); Oxford West & Abingdon (LD); Poplar & Limehouse (L); Reading West (L); Waveney (L); Tooting (L)
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