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Showing posts from May, 2010

Gunning for Alexander

The Daily Telegraph is strongly opposed to the proposed increase in Capital Gains Tax. They also hate the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition. It took them 17 days to work out how to get David Laws. It has taken them just one to start moving against his successor, Danny Alexander, over the issue of his non-payment of CGT on a property. I do wonder, though, how much appetite the public has for these continuing revelations. There comes a point where you accept you are not going to get perfect politicians, where you understand that many of them were embroiled in the sort of expenses imbroglio that most private corporations manage to keep secret, where you acknowledge that such sleight of hand has now been genuinely tackled by a new parliamentary process, and you just want to move on and see how this government deals with the important issues of the day. Then again, if you had paid over a million pounds for some old MP expenses files, you might not see 2010 as much of a turning point!

Matthew Parris on the "Foul Hypocrisy of David Laws' Downfall"

Like Iain Dale yesterday, Matthew Parris has got the Laws issue spot on today in the Times. Here's what he says about why Laws, at 44, may have felt unable to come clean about his sexuality:

You start by declaring nothing — and friends and family assume there’s nothing to declare. You find yourself, by your silence, playing along with a lie you never meant to tell.Imperceptibly, but in the end fatally, the outer self diverges from the inner. And whenever you grit your teeth and resolve to blurt it out, there’s always a mother who might be heartbroken, a dad who’d be devastated, a boss who’d be contemptuous, mates whose trust you might lose, or a frail grandma for whom this might just prove the final blow. The years go by, the gap widens and calcifies. He concludes by explaining why so few politicos 20-odd years ago would have wanted to 'come out':

Maureen Colquhoun, then an MP, was pulled apart, and sank, never to resurface. Later, Chris Smith survived. As an ex-MP …

MacKenzie's Fluster

Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of the Sun, always manages to pop up and give us his own brand of moralising, for which he's been well rewarded over the years. So it was good to hear him a little flustered this morning on the Today programme, when Evan Davis asked him why, in fact, it was wrong for an MP to contribute to the rent of a house shared with a partner. Mackenzie works in more broad brush approaches than this, where there are no ambiguities or nuances, and naturally enough went a little quieter than normal. A pleasant interlude. Iain Dale, on the same programme, was also pursuing what has been his very effective explanation of the Laws issue since it started (see here, for example).

The Telegraph's Dismal Victory

The David Laws story isn't really about expenses, for all the wasted newsprint being expended on that topic. If his expenses had been the real issue, there was nothing to stop the Daily Telegraph printing all this last year, alongside all its other victims. There is no chance they could have somehow missed David Laws' claims - he was, after all, a frontbench Lib Dem spokesman, not exactly an unknown. No, the issue is indeed his homosexuality, and his 'secret' partner. The Telegraph have it up there in their headline, and it is David Laws' unwillingness to admit his sexual orientation that is the focus of so much of the commentariat's angst this morning. It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that Telegraph acted on a tip against one of the coalition's star turns, in the knowledge that the revelations about his private life, and his desire to keep it secret, would provide the hook for the story's sensationalism. Well, they have their victory, but w…

David Laws' Mistake and the Telegraph's Cant

Apart from Nick Clegg, David Laws has been the most visible Lib Dem member of the new coalition government. He was a key part of the negotiating team, and then moved smoothly into his alliance with George Osborne at the Treasury. He and Osborne have been starting to show how the coalition can work effectively, in the department at the very heart of government. It is no small blow to hear that the Telegraph - a natural berth for right-wing opponents of the coalition - have been able to expose an expenses scam by Laws, whereby he claimed money to rent rooms in the house owned by his male partner. For Laws, the issue is compounded by the fact that one reason he did not hitherto come clean about this was his desire to keep his homosexuality secret.

Whatever Laws' personal motivation, this is a supremely careless error from a man who is a lynchpin of the new governing agenda, and the last thing the coalition needs is the reminiscence of the expenses nightmare of the old parliament t…

Campbell's Caper

Alastair Campbell is an overwheening former soft porn writer who bears more responsibility than anyone except Peter Mandelson for the poisoning of national political discourse these past 13 years. He is also an exceptionally able - because amoral and ruthless - political operator, and while No.10's decision not to put anyone against him on last night's Question Time was perfectly understandable, it would have been better all round if they had. Guido Fawkes has pretty well hit the nail on the head with his blogpost here - which, incidentally, includes the Newsnight footage of Michael Howard disecting Campbell, to Paxman's apparent concern (towards the end, Paxo, in awe of Campbell, tries to defend him from Howard's attack).

The Problem with School Reform

It's been quite entertaining watching Liam Byrne opposing the government's proposed deficit cuts, knowing as we watch him that he handed the coalition a propaganda weapon so valuable they will keep on using it to the end of time - or the end of the coalition, whichever is the sooner. David Cameron used it, in a feisty Commons performance which suggested that having made common cause with one set of former enemies he was going to make up for that unnatural conciliation by redoubling his aggression against the remaining enemy. His Liam byrne line was "thirteen years of government summed up in thirteen cavalier words" - or words very close to that anyway.

Meanwhile, as expected, one of the more eye-catching parts of the Queen's Speech, delivered in her customary jokey manner, was Michael Gove's proposed school reforms. I'm not a great expert on schools reform, teaching as I do in one of those that clearly doesn't need any reforming. And I was pleased…

Orwell Prize Blog Illuminates The Underclass

The Orwell Prize for blogs has been awarded for the second year, and the winner is the pseudonymous Winston Smith, writing a bog entitled "Working with the Underclass". It is a blog of literate and illuminating wisdom from a residential care worker whose heroic efforts to improve the lives of the 'underclass' are not hampered by unnecessary sentimentality. For those of us who could never imagine going into that area of work, it is a real eye-opener. If ever you start to feel that perhaps unrestricted drug taking is ok, or that the idea of a few moral values is a bit too middle-class as a concept to impose on others, go over to Winston Smith's blog, select a few posts, and see the consequences of such irredeemably vacuous and dangerous thinking.

The blog is clear evidence to those of us living in the middle class enclave of the existence of 'two nations'. No longer just the 'rich'and the 'poor' as Disraeli had it, but the valued and the …

AS Students - Electoral Reform

Mike McCartney has this helpful update on the subject of electoral reform, posted to the tutor2u website. He makes use of the Electoral Reform Society's observations on the recent election. Well worth any student's time in the next couple of days.

The Case For Grammar Schools - Again!

Cristina Odone, writing in today's Telegraph:
There is one way for children in this country to climb out of the rut they’re born into. It’s called grammar schools. They allow the brightest children from disadvantaged homes to climb out of their milieu. They provide their students with aspirations and fill them with the self-confidence to fulfill them. But under the Conservatives, and then Labour, these schools have shrunk to 164, catering for only 140,000 students. Labour hates them because they’re selective, and therefore divisive; David Miliband, during his tenure as Secretary for Education, embraced the comprehensives as the only way forward. David Cameron, when he was going through his we-must-be-more-like-Polly-Toynbee moment in Opposition, bought this line and turned his back on grammars as well; and the Lib Dems had no plans to resurrect them.

AS Revision

SGS students go here for revision details.

Cameron As Prime Minister

This is for AS students specifically. As far as your work on the Executive goes, David Cameron's take-over of that office is too recent to merit much comment in the exam, but there are one or two points that can be made. I have used an article by Peter Riddell in today's Times to make some suggestions on the tutor2u blog.

Milibands Compete

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Ed Miliband has thrown his expected hat into the Labour leadership ring, to compete against his brother David, and presumably some further as-yet-to-be-announced contenders. I must confess that Miliband Snr's candidacy leaves me rather cold - he backed out twice from challenging Gordon Brown, thus putting himself in the same unenviable position as Michael Portillo when he failed to challenge John Major. Portillo suffered ever after from being branded a cowardly careerist, before becoming fed up with party politics and leaving the Commons. However, Miliband does have one clear advantage over Portillo - he is still in the House of Commons. While Portillo's later leadership bid, in 2001, was a failure, it is quite possible that had he retained his Enfield seat in the 1997 election he might still have become leader of the Tories after Major, in a leadership election that lacked spark and went ultimately to the relatively untested William Hague.

Ed Miliband announced his candida…

Brown's Historic Reputation

History will deal Gordon Brown a kinder hand than contemporary commentators, so says Anthony Seldon in the Guardian today. "The reputation of Brown's premiership will grow" he says, although it is hard to see how it could in any case go much further in the opposite direction!

Seldon - who has made something of a living (alongside his day job as Head of Wellington College) out of analysing the different premierships of recent years - makes some interesting comparisons between Blair and Brown. Blair, he suggests, was much the better political operator, but achieved rather less than Brown when it comes down to substantive policies. He sees Brown as the creative force behind much of the success of the first Blair term, although conversely says that Brown then went on to limit the success of the second term with his obduracy. Blair, of course, faced a far sunnier set of political circumstances in 1997 than Brown ever managed to face. And the manner of Brown's exit was…

The Coalition Honeymoon

Political honeymoons are strange affairs of very diverse lengths. Tony Blair's lasted virtually his entire first term, and then some. Barack Obama's was pretty short before he was plunged into the maelstrom of finance and health reform. The new Cameron-Clegg coalition enjoyed a good press conference in the No. 10 garden, and must then have wondered where its honeymoon went as 'senior' Tory backbenchers (well, Chris Chope anyway) on one side, constitutional experts such as the admirable Professor Hennessy on the other, and rejected suitor Lord Adonis on yet another, all honed in on the proposed change to parliamentary dissolution arrangements. This is yet to be debated, and there is hopefuly room for manouevre, although the key element of the change - the removal of the Prime Minister's right of choice over election dates - is to be welcomed. It is the 55% requirement in the Commons for a dissolution of a government to occur that is causing headaches. The angst…

The Endorsement of Its Enemies

It is often said of the BBC that since it is criticised equally by politicians of the left and politicians of the right, it must be doing something right. The same sort of thing might increasingly be said of the new coalition. Criticised by an unholy alliance of right-wing commentators and the just defeated Labour Party, we might infer that it must be doing something right.

The rancorous comments against the coalition of Melanie Philips (Daily Mail) and Mehdi Hasan (New Statesman) on Question Time tonight - both of whom are commentators with no need to engage in practical politics - reflect two defeated agendas that are currently writhing around in pain, thrashing wildly out against the thing that has defeated them. Heseltine and Hughes both gave bravura defences of the new arrangement, with Heseltine quite correctly pointing out to the audience that this is what "you, the masters of democracy", have created. We can't really spend years complaining about how politicians j…

The Centre-Right Project

Voices on the left and right are already moving in on the new coalition, the difference being that most of the leftist voices are from outside the Liberal Democratic party, while most of the rightist voices are from inside the Conservative Party. Conservative Home's Tim Montgomerie wasted no time in posting a critique of the party's campaign on his website - about which more in a later post - and today Paul Goodman, the former MP and, long before that even, former moderate leader of the Federation of Conservative Students before it entered loonyland, has penned a mournful observation on the same site. Goodman is predicting - rather hopefully I felt - that the coalition may not last five weeks. He does, however, end with an observation on Cameron and Osborne that is, I think, very acute. He makes this point as a regrettable occurrence - I see it as a thoroughly good one:

In short, they're doing a Roy Jenkins in reverse - seeking to form a progressive coalition of the cen…

The New Cabinet

A few quick thoughts. My main surprise - as for many - was reserved for Theresa May's appointment as Home Secretary. I don't find her particularly impressive on television; she is a rather pedestrian performer, with little ability to go beyond a well learned brief. With the talent of two parties at Cameron's disposal, I couldn't quite believe that he really thought she was the best person for the job, and wondered whether a need for female representation was a more pressing issue. Shades of the unfortunate Jacqui Smith started to hove into view. However, the Telegraph's Benedict Brogan, a seasoned observer, does take a more positive view, so it's possible I'm being unfairly negative.

Vince Cable is clearly the Lib Dem who is least comfortable in his coalition role. Liam Fox will reassure the Tories about Trident, and since he has been shadowing the post and built up an expertise about the state of the armed forces, he is likely to be able to hit the ground r…

Coalition Success and Cynical Comment

The leaders of the coalition - Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg - were clearly brimming with enthusiasm about it in their joint press conference this afternoon. As well they might. There has been much talk over the decades about changing British politics (the old SDP, out of which the Lib Dems were born, sought to 'break the mould' but alas didn't) - these two, with a bit of nudging from the electorate, have actually done it.

David Cameron's enthusiasm in particular suggests that he seems more at ease in this new arrangement than he might have done with a majority Tory administration. At least the coalition gives him the chance to ditch a few less favoured Conservative policies and keep a leash on the right. One Nation politics is very much back. Cameron, in fact, has shown daring and decisiveness in his drive to get this coalition on the road, which bodes well for his future leadership of the country. Clegg has been hardly less impressi…

The Deal Is Done - Cameron As Prime Minister

It's been a long election in British terms, but only the second change of government in 30 years has now occurred, and the Etonian groomed Mr. Cameron has finally crossed the threshold of the house he has probably long coveted. Yesterday started with Labour in new talks with the Lib Dems, and the Westminster village was alive with all sorts of rumours - manifested in tweets and blog updates - as to which deal was going somewhere and which wasn't. In the end, of course, not only did the Labour deal lack the arithmetic, it seemed to lack the will. John Reid and David Blunkett were only the tip of the sceptics' iceberg, and it turns out that barely any of the Labour parliamentary party had been consulted. Diane Abbot spoke tellingly of unelected people (she mentioned Mandelson and Adonis) riding roughshod over the representatives, and David Lammy went on television to say that he knew nothing of what was going on. The word from Labour is of a seething fury at the way things w…

Brown Leaves, Cameron Soon to Arrive?

So Gordon Brown has finally gone - his second resignation in as many days! David Cameron has not yet agreed a final deal with the Lib Dems, although William Hague and the negotiators are now reporting back to him, presumably on the nuts and bolts of a coalition deal. But we may not hear such details until tomorrow, and certainly the Cabinet positions may take some time to emerge!

Close To A Deal?

There seems little doubt that the Lab-Lib Dem talks have collapsed, with some suggestions from Downing Street that Nick Clegg was not really committed to them in any case. He needed to consult Labour to keep some of his party associates happy, along with former leaders like Ashdown and Campbell. Rumours in the early evening include the Lib Dems having 6 cabinet places. Nick robinson is speculating that Ken Clarke could be Chancellor, with Cable as his Chief Sec., and Clegg as Deputy PM of course. Osborne would go to Business in a swap with Clarke. Could be a very sound coalition!

UPDATE: The Spectator's Alex Massie has this explanation of Nick Clegg's recent manouevrings.

Tory Discipline Needed

There are inevitable signs of growing Conservative impatience with events. The right-wing commentariat has never been on a leash, but Conservative Way Forward is also now calling for a minority government to be formed. George Osborne, in fact, declared on this morning's Today programme that such a minority government was simply not viable, and he's probably right. What the Tories need to be very careful of is allowing any Lib-Lab deal to generate civil war in their own ranks. So far, they've played the situation very impressively, and if their own Lib Dem deal doesn't work, they will be in a very strong opposition position - but only if they maintain their support for Cameron and maintain the discipline for which they were once famed.

Labour's Would-Be Leader and the Liberals Would-Be Chancellor

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A couple of items picked up. David Miliband was apparently all ready last night to announce his candidacy for the Labour leadership. Certainly the well-connected Paul Waugh of the Evening Standard was tweeting along those lines before the Cabinet meeting. Miliband is apparently keen to gain momentum and to make up for the hesitancy which has marked his previous leadership 'bids'. Alas, this time the Cabinet put paid to his opportunity, as they demanded that no contenders announce their candidacy while the Lib Dem discussions were going on. Guido Fawkes has been blogging about the build up of a Miliband team.

Meanwhile, over in the orange corner, the Telegraph reports tension at the top of the Liberal Democratic Party. Noticeable for his absence from the Conservative negotiations has been Vince Cable, the former Labour man turned SDP member. Cable is one of those opposed to a Conservative deal, and there is also apparently tension anyway between him and the man who succee…

Boulton versus Labour

Two fantastic confrontations between Sky's Political Editor Adam Boulton and two of Labour's apologists yesterday. Boulton clearly fed up with the line that Labour won, and definitely fed up with Campbell claiming he was upset that Cameron didn't win. In the first video, the real dust-up begins at about 3.30 minutes in - great television.



The second one is slightly less angry, but only just - this time it's Ben Bradshaw who rouses Boulton's ire.




[Hat Tip Guido Fawkes]

Clegg Hamstrung By Party

The Times today reports on the meeting of Lib Dem MPs that seems to have forced Nick Clegg into a further round of talks with Labour. What is clear is how unhappy a number of those MPs were with the slow movement towards an agreement on voting reform by the Tories. The Lib Dem constitution does not allow Clegg much freedom of manouevre on his own, hence the need to open up a new line of communication, helpfully enabled by the Brown decision. What is certainly true is that the Conservative offer of a referendum on AV would not have been as forthcoming if it hadn't been clear that the Lib Dems had the option of going in with Labour.

The Lib Dems are very divided on who they should go in with, and there is the added complication for them of the numbers - the Lib-Con deal gives a healthy majority in the Commons, the Lib-Lab deal requires an inherently unstable collection of other minor parties to join it. This is difficult territory for the Lib Dems - but it is what they've bee…

Party Games

If the Conservatives are feeling a bit two-timed by the Lib Dems, then they are refusing to show it. Michael Gove was pretty well pitch perfect on Sky and later on Newsnight when discussing progress, and acknowledged that of course the third party had every right to negotiate with whom it chooses. The Lib Dems themselves might want to have a care, of course, about how sullied their leader starts to appear if they don't make a commitment one way or the other pretty soon.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dem tactics, ably abetted by Gordon Brown's resignation, has brought a promise from the Tories for a referendum on the Alternative Vote. This is as far as they can possibly go, but to be fair it is as far as anyone can possibly go. There are sufficient numbers in the Labour Party prepared to vote down such a proposal if it is simply introduced as a bill, as Tom Harris made clear on Newsnight. Quite apart from that, there is also the minor point of perhaps consulting the people via a refe…

How Does Brown's Resignation Change the Picture?

It's taken Gordon Brown a long weekend and several intense conversations with Mandelson and Campbell to make the decision that John Major reached within hours. Now that he's reached it, at just the right time to throw a spanner into the Conservative-Lib Dem talks, does it make an alliance with Labour more attractive to the Lib Dems?

Nick Robinson cogently outlined three problems for the LD's - they still get Brown until September; they then get another unelected leader; and they open themselves up to being called a 'loser's coalition'. In addition to those problems, Labour and the Lib Dems alone do not have enough seats to reach a majority (unlike a Con-LD deal), so need to bring in the varied interests of the nationalist parties and the Green MP. In those circumstances, do we get 'strong and stable government'? Not likely. And then there's the undoubted problem for Nick Clegg of entering a coalition with an as yet undetermined prime minister fo…

Cameron Prime Minister by Tuesday?

Nick Clegg has apparently set a 24-hour deadline for a deal to be completed with the Conservatives, otherwise he's looking elsewhere. He believes the public will start to get restive without a solution soon. Rumour has it that Clegg and Cameron are getting on well, and that an increasing number of Labour MPs want to go gently into the night of opposition now. Cameron is meeting his own MPs tomorrow evening - if the new ones can actually get into the Westminster without any passes. How they react to the weekend's discussions will actually be the first indication of how this very new grouping, with its virtually unprecedented number of new MPs, will operate under Cameron's leadership in the new parliament.

The Conservatives Should Stop Their Whinging And Rein In Behind David Cameron

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The grousy voices from disappointed Tories are already being heard. Both the Observer and the Independent report - rather gleefully - on dissension in the Conservative Party about the way David Cameron ran the campaign. We should have had a majority, go the siren voices of discontent; how did Cameron throw this away?

Only the Conservative right could be quite so self-deluded. The only person standing between the Conservative Party and greater oblivion throughout this parliament, and certainly in this election, was David Cameron. The deep-seated suspicion that many voters still have of Tories has been put on hold while they gave David Cameron a chance to prove things had changed. Michael Portillo, once a hard-line member of the Tory right until his emblematic defeat in 1997, put it eloquently in his Telegraph column on Friday:

In the last parliament the Tories had fewer seats than Michael Foot won in 1983. It took three elections before Labour recovered from that rout sufficiently to win…

The Left Recoil In Horror At the Pact

The liberal-left commentariat are in full swing against the prospect of a Con-Lib Pact. The Independent's Steve Richards led the charge yesterday with a strong invocation not to deal with the dreaded Tories - they will never deliver electoral reform, he reminded his liberal readers. Helena Kennedy was another example as she appeared on the Andrew Marr show this morning to remind us that the Tories hadn't actually won the election, more people voted against then Tories than for them, and it would be a whole lot better for a 'rainbow coalition' to be formed with Labour at the helm. It took Labour supporting Rory Bremner to remind her that, technically, there's no brown in rainbows.

But are they all right? It is difficult for Cameron to deliver electoral reform, certainly, but how much easier would it actually be for Gordon Brown, many of whose own MPs are strongly opposed to the idea and would surely vote down any referendum proposal for change that he might try and m…

English Results

If David Cameron does manage to secure a government with Lib Dem agreement, he could do better than to put Scottish and Welsh independence near the top of his reform agenda. The English results, shorn of the two semi-devolved provinces, make for interesting reading:

Conservatives 297
Labour 191
Lib Dems 43
Green 1

Total seats 532 (1 still to declare - likely to be Tory)

Giving the Conservatives a healthy 62 seat overall majority!

The Brains of the Conservatives?

Andrew Sullivan has unearthed this great quote from J.M.Keynes, ending:

"The brains and character of the Conservative Party have always been recruited from the Liberals.......Possibly the Liberal Party cannot serve the state in any way better than by providing Conservative governments with Cabinets, and Labour gvoernments with ideas".

Shock Con Home Survey

Conservative Home has surveyed its Tory loyalist audience, and headlined the results of a 'grassroots' poll. Amazingly, 86% of ConHome readers (they headline this as 86% of Tory members, which is a nice bit of assimilation) would prefer a minority Conservative government to a coalition. Next contestant Conservative Home, special subject the bleeding obvious.

And probably an equally large number of the ordinary voting population would prefer their political representatives to get together and work out a deal as soon as possible. Now who do we think our political leaders should be seeking to represent at this point - the interests of a tiny cadre of party members, or the interests of the voting public at large?

Lembit's Comic Resurrection

I always found Lembit Opik to be a somewhat annoying celebrity MP - trivial and crowd-pleasing, a man whose performances in front of the student audiences that I take AS politics students to were a cringeworthy example of the lowest point that politicians-as-celebrities could get to. Now that he's been kicked out he has finally entered fully into the world of showbiz that he always hankered after, with his appearance this evening on "Have I Got News For You". He wasn't great, and elements of his attempts at being self-deprecating about his own recent defeat were indeed cringeworthy, but you've got to hand it to the man, he's not wasted any time moping about and feeling sorry for himself. He's dusted himself off and allowed himself to face a potentially mocking public, with the consequence that there actually seemed to be a lot of sympathy for him amongst the audience. Mind you, I thought he was about to lose that carefully won sympathy when he got hi…

Cameron's Way Forward

David Cameron's speech offers a fascinating, even radical, way forward. There is probably no doubt in Nick Clegg's mind that it is Cameron who carries the electoral legitimacy; his earlier comments said as much. There is also no doubt as to Gordon Brown's sheer desperation now to remain in power, and to ensure that he controls the levers of power as long as possible. The almost blank page that Labour are now offering Clegg on which to write an electoral reform policy is extraordinary. Cameron, by contrast, speaking from a position of strength as the leader who has garnered most votes, but conscious of the weakness of his parliamentary position as the largest minority party, has offered something far more nuanced, interesting and far-reaching.

Cameron offered some reassurance to his own party, notably on Europe and immigration. But, possibly unlike many of his party die-hards, Cameron, as ever, does 'get it', just as he 'got it' when the expenses scandal…

Clegg the Honest Broker?

Nick Clegg's statement this morning about David Cameron and the Conservatives having earned the right to try and rule in the national interest will have done much to enhance his already strong public image - a man taking note of what the people have said, and avoiding the murky business of political horse-trading, especially when it involves the tarnished brand of Gordon Brown's Labour Party. Might it also be a peace offering to the Tories? A way of suggesting that he is not going to queer the pitch by making demands up front? You get the impression that Clegg and Cameron would both be perfectly capable of cutting an amicable deal, but their problem will be in their party memberships - and MPs. Even as Cameron is working out how to approach becoming a minority Prime Minister, there are apparently stirrings amongst some of his right-wing MP tendency to question the campaign and limit his room for manouevre. The BBC's Justin Webb is apparently suggesting that there are …

Now What?

A fascinating, if ultimately frustrating, night. Much depends on these final seats, and how the numbers work. Can Brown and Clegg put together a viable coalition pact that gives them the magic 326 plus? Would such a pact be based around a short-term alliance preparatory to a referendum on electoral reform? If the Lib-Lab figures don't add up, can Cameron push on with a minority government? We assume a Con-Lib deal is not viable, although perhaps shouldn't write off an 'understanding' too quickly. If the arithmetic doesn't work out for Cameron, how long will it be before blood-letting starts in the Tory Party? Lord Tebbit has already been putting his oar in, with frequent implied claims that David Cameron is failing the Conservative Party by not winning big. Conservative Home, the ubiquitous websites for a self-selecting minority of the grass roots, has already put out a survey to its readers about the election campaign. And what about the Liberal Democrats?…

Seats Info

So Lembit Opik is no longer adorning the House of Commons - lost to the Tory on a massive anti-Lib Dem swing! Good to see that SGS Sixth Form Officer's sister has gained Loughborough for the Tories too.

LATER: Some good Conservative gains from a One Nation perspective. Richard Fuller winning in Bedford, and Jane Ellison earlier in Battersea, puts two impressive political operators into parliament.

Exit Poll Tension

So the exits are predicting a hung parliament at the moment, but also put the Libs on a mere 59 seats. Tories, they say, will be 19 short of a majority. Definitely going to be a long night, and am hoping the polls are wrong.

Tories on 39%?

Politics Home is reporting exit poll rumours of the Tories being on 39%, which would be enough to give them an overall majority. Paul Waugh of the Evening Standard, on the other hand, is tweeting his view that the apparently high turnout could be evidence of a Lib Dem surge, which he thinks will do for Labour. I'm thinking small Tory majority at the moment.

Meanwhile, am watching Channel 4s Alternative Election Night as they broadcast the first of 4 "Come Dine With Me's", featuring three huge egos - Derek Hatton, Brian Paddick, Rod Liddle and Edwina Currie. Paddick described it afterwards as four nights of torment!

The Electoral System is Not Biased Against The Tories

The Independent's John Rentoul publicises the findings of a fascinating paper by the BBC's Head of Political Research, David Cowling. Cowling concludes that there is no inherent bias in the electoral system against the Tories; the number of votes required to elect them is down to the issue of low voter turnout in Labour seats. That, of course, may be something that changes tonight.

High Turnout?

Purely anecdotal evidence, but I hear of queuing at polling stations in Oxford and in the West Midlands this morning. A high turnout is not usually deemed to favour the Tories, but this time, with the huge number of undecided voters, might it mean that people have decided to come out and vote for a change after all? Conservative HQ was reported to be optimistic of a majority earlier today, with its phone operation placing some 10,000 calls to undecided voters this morning.

The People Decide

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So, briefly, the politicians stop and the people decide....for one day only! I've cast my vote. I was wavering back and forth during the campaign, voting as I am in a Lib Dem marginal. But I have stuck with my political tribe, much as I often despair of them, and once again lent the Conservatives my vote. I believe in David Cameron's attempts to pursue One Nation Conservatism, and I believe that this is, potentially, a last chance for such a brand to survive. Much as I like my local Lib Dem MPs, I have cast my vote nationally. I confess I could have done it with more enthusiasm, but having made my commitment I am happy it was the right one. And in terms of results, I really do want to see a Conservative majority - the idea of a hung parliament, with the nationalist parties holding the mainstream ones to ransom over how much funding goes the way of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, does not seem to me to be a recipe for governmental success. But we shall see. This…

Democracy in Action - Britain and Greece

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David Cameron has just finished his marathon 24-hour campaign-a-thon, and shows no signs of letting up yet. If sheer energy was the pre-requisite for government office, then all three of the main leaders should be in with a chance. However many people vote, or don't vote, tomorrow, at least we can't accuse any of the party leaders of taking the electorate for granted. You get the impression that if they could talk to every elector, then they'd have a good stab at doing so - Gordon Brown might, of course, need a few aides to guide him in the right direction, but that's life. All of which, of course, is great for democracy. That's what it's all about - politicians as supplicants, looking for support to rule over the next five years. Election time is when we hear clear policy messages, and weigh up the hard options on offer. Right?

Er, not quite. Election time is when the fragile electorate get to hear the message deemed palatable enough to give them by pol…

Stroud and the Lib Dems in the Twittersphere

Actually that's two separate issues really. First, I notice that the Philippa Stroud story is the number one trending topic in the UK twittersphere - still! Many twitterers are apoplectic about her reported comments, and equally outraged that no broadcast media has sought to report on them. There may be a lot going on in cyber-space when it comes to politics, but the level of "Get this onto the broadcast media" comments being made certainly make it clear where most people believe the key stories are debated and decided - on good old fashioned television.

Meanwhile, ex-SGS politics student Jack Marshall is currently reporting from New York on the digital world, and notes in this report that it is the Lib Dems who seem furthest ahead in their use of social media. We are still, of course, nowhere near the US/Obama model, but perhaps it is Lib Dem activists after all who are keeping Philippa Stroud at the top of the twitter lists at the moment!

The Hung Parliament Issue

With the polls still remaining obstinately close, and given the by now well known vagaries of our electoral system, the prospect of a hung parliament lies tantalisingly close. It wouldn't be a bad guess to suggest that we will not have a government - other than a caretaker administration - on Friday, or indeed across the weekend. The BBC's Evan Davies has tweeted that the big question of Thursday will be whether the Tories get a majority; if not, anything could happen.

Politics lecturer and Tory peer Lord Norton has meanwhile provided some illumination on the role of the Speaker in a hung parliament.

Are the Tories Getting There?

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Nick Clegg is worried enough to call David Cameron's arrogance 'breathtaking' - by which he means he is very concerned that Cameron might be able to get into No.10 without him. David Cameron's campaigning is getting more and more frenetic, with a 24 hour slot being promised tomorrow, although I have no idea who he thinks he's going to be campaigning to at 3 in the morning. Maybe he'll be in some red light district trying to make up for his candidates' moralistic tendency.

The latest poll has Cameron's Tories gaining a 7% swing in 57 key marginals, which would, so the polling statisticians assure us, put them into a 2 seat majority. Hmmm. Not substantial - he might be advised to check out some private medical insurance for the more elderly returned MPs of which, thankfully for his sanity, there are remarkably few following the expenses clear-out. What does seem to be happening is a gradual - very gradual - shift towards Cameron, occasioned in part by …

Anniversaries

David Cameron is on a final all-out campaigning trip for the next four days, but he may pause during one of his cross-country commutes to remember that today is the 31st. anniversary of that election in 1979 which brought Margaret Thatcher to power, and changed the shape of British politics. The stats bear thought - on a 75% turnout, Thatcher's Conservatives gained 43.9% of the vote and a majority of just 43. Labour were second on 36.9% of the vote.

Have the Tories Really Changed?

Have just come across this Rowan Atkinson video lampooning the Tories. This was made for Not The Nine O'Clock News soon after the Thatcher victory of 1979, but have a look and see whether you can't imagine a modern day Conservative making the same comments! Classic stuff (starts with the end of a Griff Rhys Jones sketch so give it time!)


Where is the Times Edited Now?

Great story here, showing the Times' two front pages for today, just 45 minutes apart! Now I wonder where the inspiration came from to change the original headline "Cameron Risks Backlash With Early Talk of Victory" to the clearly much snappier and controversial, er, "Cameron Outlines Plans For First Days In Power!

Why Vote Labour?

Nick Cohen has written an excellent and typically vigorous article in the Observer explaining why, despite all the disillusion with them, real radicals should still vote Labour and steer clear of the deceptive middle-class embrace offered by the Liberal Democrats.
He starts by taking Douglas Alexander and Ed Balls to task for offering nothing more idealistic than "If you vote Liberal Democrat you'll let in the Tories" when answering Cohen's question about why left-of-centre voters should stick with Labour. Cohen is excoriating about Labour's failures, and its blind, destructive love-in with the banking system:
The alliance with the City, which complacent commentators hailed in the 1990s as the supreme example of New Labour's "realism", was disastrous for party and nation alike. It produced the unprecedented spectacle of a dazzled centre-left government, who ought to have had the history of the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and Great Depressionbanged in…

Sutton's Prominent Tory

The Conservative high command are very keen that Philippa Stroud wins the Sutton and Cheam seat on Thursday. Hers is a much more high profile campaign than that of her neighbour, Ken Andrew, the third-time standing Conservative candidate in Carshalton. So it will be interesting to see if the burghers of Sutton are attracted or repelled by a story in the Observer this morning. The story focuses on Stroud's recent past as an evangelical church founder, who was keen to help congregants 'pray out' their demons, including the demon of homosexuality. There is no doubt that Stroud is a caring person - she "genuinely cares about people" says one disaffected former member of her church, and the quotes provided from her book are not so much judgemental as pitying. It's just that many of her potential voters may find the level of her spiritual campaign against homosexuality, and her willingness to see it as a work of the devil, to be a little too much to bear. A …

No Darling Leadership Plan

An enticing rumour going the rounds amongst Labour supporters has been the thought that, should Gordon Brown go down to a substantial defeat next week, he would resign the leadership straight away and Alistair Darling could become the new 'interim leader'. Darling has proved himself a more than steady political operator as chancellor, and has, moreover, withstood the storm that engulfed him from No. 10 a few months ago. He is no political patsy, and is regarded as being a steadying figure in the party as chancellor. Alas for Labour, Darling himself has quashed the idea, in an interview on the BBC with Andrew Neil where he says he has no interest in being an interim leader. Back to the boy Miliband then.....

Guardian Deserts Brown

With the Guardian's announcement that they are backing the Liberal Democrats, I think that leaves Gordon Brown only with the support of the Daily Mirror. Of course, the papers don't win elections, and this is of interest more as an inidcation of how these commercially attuned enterprises see public opinion going. Nonetheless, it does mean that if Labour under Brown do have role in the next government, the majority of the print media will be viewing it all from the outside, and they and their owners are not usually satisfied with that!