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Showing posts from March, 2010

Easter Perspective

The New Statesman's James MacIntyre at least has some perspective on politics as we head to the Easter weekend. He reprints the Archbishop of Canterbury's Easter letter on his blog, a service to all of us who occasionally like to look to the far horizons of humanity. In the letter, Rowan Williams steers us to the plight of Christians suffering persecution and whole communities fending off fear and poverty in many parts of the world. The hope and joy that the Resurrection points to is usually better understood by those who are not viewing the world from the apathetic comforts of western armchairs. Perhaps more notably, if Williams is able to remind us of a larger world that demands our focus and compassion, we may become more graceful and tolerant in our own sphere too. I've also kept Nicholas Kristof's article link up in the 'Recommended Reading' section, since it serves as a reminder of what Christian action can aspire to at its best, and it is a salutary…

Darling's Reputation

Whatever you thought of the budget itself, Alistair Darling appeared to emerge from it with an enhanced reputation. Perhaps it's the contrast with his predecessor and boss. Perhaps it's the comparison with his Conservative opposite number. Whichever it is, the Observer's Andrew Rawnsley ponders the new-found potency of Labour's chancellor in his column here. He concludes:
Alistair Darling is one of the few politicians who can still command a degree of respect, not a negligible quality in an era when the political classes are held in such contempt by most of the public. Whether or not he is still chancellor in six weeks' time, his remarkable survival is a parable which other politicians might usefully ponder on. Especially the one who lives next door.

The Daily Mail, the Deputy Head and a small matter of truth.

On its website today, the Daily Mail headlines the heart-warming triumph of a deputy head who was cleared of false charges of sexual relations with a 'deeply disturbed' teenager:
Deputy head teacher cleared of having 14-month affair with 'fantasist' special needs pupil

The report goes on to detail the trauma of the teacher's two-week trial as she sought to clear her name amidst significant publicity. What, of course, the Mail doesn't tell us - perhaps for reasons of space - is that her innocence was by no means assumed by all observers. One story that appeared during the trial was headlined:
Deputy Headmistress at Special School 'had sex with hyper-active pupil, 16, in disabled toilets of British Library'.
That particular story continued in the same vein for several paragraphs, detailing the accusations against the accused deputy as if they were in fact true. It begins:
A married woman teacher had secret sex sessions with her 16-year-old special needs pu…

Clarke the Crowd Puller on New MPs

Philip Cowley's Election blog reports on a recent visit to Nottingham University by Ken Clarke. Not only was the lecture theatre crowded out (as is usual with Clarke visits, says Cowley) but Clarke also challenged the conventional wisdom that the new intake of MPs after the election will be a more independent minded bunch. He suggestst that they might actually be quite compliant, such is the nature and complexity of parliament for a newbie. Students should go and give the account a read - very useful for the parliamentary part of the AS in particular.

Did Osborne Fail to Nail the Budget on Today?

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson thinks he failed. He points out in his online post that Osborne failed to lift himself up from overly technical language, whereas his predecessors - especially Ken Clarke - would use everyday language to make their points; he was also stymied by being interviewed by Evan Davis, who knows his beans when it comes to economics and managed to show up the paucity of Osborne's promises. Nelson's main point, however, seems to be that Osborne failed in presentational terms, not that he doesn't know his stuff or doesn't have a good case. Much has been made in recent weeks, of course, of the apparent Tory strategy of keeping Osborne out of the public side of the campaign - could this be why?

Dissecting Darling

Sky News' Joey Jones gives an entertaining explanation of some of Alistair Darling's budget performance today. How was his opening statement a dig at Gordon Brown? What's the hilarity behind his mention of "Dominica, Grenada and Belize"? And who on earth is Baldemort? Click the link above for the answers.

Budget Revival for Labour?

The budget may not in itself give cause for any significant increase in Labour's fortunes, but they might be taking comfort from the fact that its relatively anodyne content will do nothing to harm the apparent slow revival that is already evident. A Politics Home poll suggests that the public are becoming more willing to credit Labour with for its handling of the economy, at a time when a slowly increasing number of people also think we may have turned the corner on the economy.

The polls are hardly ecstatic - the overall proportion of voters is still negative towards Labour on the economy - but they show a trend that Alistair Darling's financial legerdemain may well have given a little bit of a push to. Much depends on how the three parties spin the budget over the next couple of days, an operation which will show us just how good their respective communications directorates are. That's politics for you, after all.

Cameron's Tuesday Joy

The Guardian has called it Cameron's "triple happiness" day - Samantha is pregnant, Unite are still on strike in an unpopular action, and now three senior Labour ex-ministers are being excoriated throughout the media today for their lamentable lobbying miscalculations. The Guardian's politics blog went to Cameron's morning press conference to see how he would play it. He will undoubtedly be hoping to do something about that all too low Conservative lead - UK Polling Report comments on the latest YouGov poll bringing the Tories back down to a lead of just 4%. Cameron must be wishing for more days like today.

Finis

What a way to end a career. Human failings contain their own seeds of tragedy and pathos, even in relatively banal cases.

The Feelgood Factor

This is one of those 'etc' bits, but SGS's production (with Sutton High) of the musical "The Wedding Singer" was excellent, and had a great feelgood factor. A review and video montage are here.

MPs for Hire - Again!

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Back in the 1990s, when a tottering Conservative government under John Major was being hit by sleaze case after sleaze case, two backbench Conservative MPs were caught out by the Sunday Times. They were offered £1,000 to ask questions in the House of Commons by the reporter's 'front' company. They were only too happy to oblige, one of them describing himself as a bit like a "taxi for hire". They were duly excoriated, and doubtless had played their part in making John Major that little bit more unelectable. Well, what goes around comes around, as they say, and the Sunday Times, together with Channel 4's Dispatches team, has been up to it's old tricks. This time, the reporters targeted ex-Cabinet ministers, and with considerable success it would seem. Where the 1990s scandal required approaches to 20 MPs before 2 were venal enough to take the cash, this time most ex-cabinet ministers seem to have been only too willing to make up the financial deficit …

Anarchism's Idealism and Failure

The tutor2u blog has an excerpt from a recent book on Anarchism ("Anarchism: The World That Never Was"). For those A2 students still puzzling over what anarchism has to offer, and why we should be studying it at all, go and read the extract, and maybe even try the book!!

Hannan on McMillan Scott

Daniel Hannan pens a 'more in sorrow than in anger' post on Edward McMillan Scott's defection from the Conservatives. He can afford a bit of magnanimity, since he won! Won some time ago, actually, but it's just taken Edward McMillan Scott a while to come to terms with it. Hannan suggests, inter alia, that EMS has become ever so slightly obsessed with him, mentioning him all the time in his speeches and articles. Clearly, the ex-Tory MEP blames the current Tory MEP and Telegraph columnist for all the ills that have befallen him. If any of it is true, it wouldn't be the first time that Mr. Hannan has been accused of ensuring a degree of 'purity' amongst elected Tory representatives. In his book, "Tory Wars", Mail on Sunday political editor Simon Walters passes on the accusation from several Tory parliamentary candidates that they thought Hannan might be behind some dirty tricks operations to stop them being selected. Hannan denied it.

The Tories' Europe Curse

Edward McMillan Scott was leader of the Tory MEPs. Before that, he had a long and distinguished career as a Conservative MEP. He vigorously opposed the decision to leave the centre-right European Parliament grouping, of the European People's Party, and certainly considered that the new leader under whom the Tories now grouped, Michal Kaminski, was too extreme for a moderate British party. Now, finally, after a long battle with the Tory hierarchy, McMillan Scott has thrown in the towel and joined the Liberals. Tory activists will be pleased at the defection of a pro-European, as witness this brief post on Conservative Home.

The problem for the Conservative Party, of course, is that Mr. McMillan Scott is no leftie. He was for years the perfectly acceptable face of Toryism in Europe. He was a part of the Tories' old leadership establishment. He was re-selected by the members in Yorkshire to stand again and again as one of their representatives. He is no long-term rebel. Wh…

The Tories' Next Leader?

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Is Liam Fox the Tories' next leader? Over on the Wintour and Watt blog at the Guardian, they explain how the right-wing shadow Defence Secretary has won a victory over the Cameroons by effectively helping to sideline the 'dream appointment' of Richard Dannatt as a minister in any future Conervative government. Fox is no great friend of the Cameron leadership, who had to reign him in once before. Now, however, the Guardian duo are punting him as a formidable force in any Cameron cabinet and, as an unalloyed servant of the right, a future leader. Should Cameron fail, Fox would have a relatively quick chance to try again for the prize; should Cameron succeed, he may have to wait a decade or so, but at 48 now, could still be a contender. God help the Tories!

The Short Road to Infamy

I don't know what hopes and aspirations Messrs. Morley, Devine and Chaytor nurtured when they achieved the ambition denied to so many of being elected to the House of Commons. But whatever they were - and let us hope for their sakes that they did at least have some - they will now be eternally remembered, if at all, as the MPs who were criminally charged for abuse of their expenses. For defrauding the public who put them into the chamber. Watching the three of them walk through the barrage of hostility to Westminster Magistrates Court today, and seeing these humiliated figures persist in their cries of innocence, one couldn't help but reflect what a short walk it is for MPs to travel from aspiration to infamy.

Morley, Devine and Chaytor may have been the worst of the expense abusers, but of course they are, as we all know, fall guys to some extent for the much larger numbers of their colleagues who carried out similar, if only slightly less blatant, abuse. I don't know whet…

The Image Cameron Would Like To Project

Vanity Fair may not be the sort of magazine in which elections are won or lost, but it contains a profile of David Cameron this month which seems far more assured than current reality might have us think. Interestingly, Conservative Central Office appear to have been in a bit of a tiz about it because of a quote from Ed Vaizey, the shadow culture minister. Vaizey has been a bit too loquacious of late, suggesting that Samantha Cameron once voted Labour, and - in the Vanity Fair piece - that David Cameron may be hiding the real extent of his natural conservatism.

CCO should calm down. Vaizey is not exactly big news for any voter, while the profile, by Michael Wolff, is a pretty good one. You'd never think the last few weeks had occurred actually, and given the timescale for articles in Vanity Fair they probably hadn't when this was written. In consequence, the Wolff profile portrays a smooth, assured, albeit posh and upper class, political leader about to sweep all before hi…

Reporting Lord Ashcroft

Rather different views from right-of-centre commentators about the reporting of Lord Ashcroft's affairs. The conservative blogosphere is tending to regard any media coverage of the Conservatives' most generous donor as a leftie plot. A classic example here is the piece by Marc Glendenning (director of the anti-EU Democracy Movement) on Conservative Home, which singles out the Guardian for particular criticism. They just keep reporting on Ashcroft, opines Glendening, clear evidence of their out and out determination to destroy the Conservatives. He finds the reason in the Guardian's fear of losing revenue from public service job adverts which a future Tory government are going to put online. Well, it's a theory I suppose.

Meanwhile, the more rigorously independent Bagehot in the Economist, takes the right-wing press to task (notably the Mail and Telegraph) for not making enough of the Ashcroft affair:

Here we have a secretive figure who wields enormous influence in t…

Tebbit on Bercow

Norman Tebbit and John Bercow used to be close. Political allies, even. When Tebbit, as Conservative Party Chairman, was compelled to close down the party's rambunctious student wing, the Federation of Conservative Students, it was the then student chairman, John Bercow, who alienated many of his erstwhile libertarian allies by joining up with the old authoritarian bruiser Tebbit in easing the FCS out of the party's misery. How times have changed. Tebbit, from his perch as mischief-maker-in-chief to the Tories, is advocating that Tory voters in Bercow's constituency of Buckingham should be looking to cast their vote elsewhere. Bercow, says Tebbit, is no Tory. He doesn't specifically tell disillusioned Tories to vote for UKIP's Nigel Farage, but you get the impression it wouldn't upset him if they did.

"And Cathy Says" - Question Time in Sutton

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If the candidate hustings at Sutton Grammar School didn’t quite set the political world alight, it wasn’t for want of sheer worthiness. The venture itself was a thoroughly worthy one, and all of the candidates appeared to be motivated by decent, worthy intentions. So worthy that they seemed to dislike disagreeing amongst each other too much lest it seem a little, well, unsporting. And yet, despite all this worthiness, there wasn’t much of consequence said either.

All of the candidates told us they would fight to preserve and improve St. Helier Hospital at a cost of £290 million or more. This is an essentially worthy aim and one that I suspect no self-respecting Sutton candidate would want to deny. But if these sorts of promises are being made across the country, you can begin to see why none of the major parties is keen to indicate what cuts they are going to make to solve the budget crisis. Promising money is a whole lot easier than telling hard truths about cuts.

It was, perhaps…

Sutton Hustings

We have a hustings for the parliamentary candidates here at SGS this evening. Paul Burstow, the sitting Lib Dem MP, and his Conservative challenger Philippa Stroud are both here, along with the Green and UKIP candidates. The Labour candidate, when asked in January, cried off in favour of an International Women's Day event, but today, apparently, her agent has been trying to get himself in to speak on her behalf. Student organiser Charlie Edwards turned down the request. Not surprisingly - it's entirely up to the candidate if she deems a non-constituency event to be more important, but they can't then go belly-aching about how unfair it all is!!

As for the evening itself, to be chaired by SGS Head Gordon Ironside, we'll see if it brings any illumination, or merely increases our weariness!

Superhero MP

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I hadn't been particularly impressed with Jeremy Hunt's performance on First Time Voters' Question Time, thinking him rather bland and not nearly independent enough in his views (much too tied to the party line). A subsequent conversation with some sages in Bristol, however, reveal something more about the man. Turns out he's a bit of a 'superman' in disguise, having learnt Japanese during two years there, done the traditional management consultancy that everyone with a First in PPE from Oxford does, and then deciding to solve Africa's AIDS problem* and set up an educational publishing business along the way. A man this dynamic should surely have a more impressive presence?!

*He has set up a charity to help AIDS orphans in Africa.

Obama's West Wing Infighting

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President Obama's combative chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is allegedly the real life role model for the character of Josh Lyman, deputy chief of staff in the superlative 'West Wing' series. Like Lyman, Emanuel is congressional fixer and a man with one finger on the pulse of the Democratic Party. Unlike Lyman, however, Emanuel is a more earthy character, given to expletives, and now, apparently, a little at odds with the rest of the key West Wing team.

The Observer reports a growing controversy surrounding Emanuel's role, and cites some infuential reporting from the Washington Post. One of those reports, by Dana Milbank, defends Emanuel as the one man whose advice needs to be heeded rather more, as opposed to the other 'Obama loving' aides who are too awestruck by the president to be able to give him genuinely good counsel. This lead to suspicions that Emanuel might just be running his own press operation, instead of devoting himself completely to the preside…

A Bit of Reflection

Great post from the Wall Street Journal's Iain Martin, as he explains why he didn't want to 'live-blog' Gordon Brown at the Chilcot Inquiry:

I’m not sure this innovation — writing something a little reflective after a political event has finished — really stands much of a chance of catching on in the modern world of uninterrupted communication.

The New FCS - Could Tory Youth Be Back On The Fringe?

In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher's most committed supporters led the party's Federation of Conservative Students. They were even more committed than she was to some of her own ideological positions. They sent their leaders to fight with the Nicaraguan Contras against the left-wing Sandinista regime; they advocated the decriminalisation of drugs; they weren't the best behaved conference goers, often running riot at their own conferences, bashing down the doors of the nonbelievers with fire extinguishers. They were positively Maoist in their attitude to Tory 'olds', and it was a stinging attack on former Tory premier Harold MacMillan (he was denounced as a 'war crimina;' for his role in the despatch of Cossacks back to Russia after the Yalta Agreement) that ultimately brought them to their doom. Their libertarian chairman, an ambitious young right-winger called John Bercow, did a deal with that most Thatcherite of Party Chairmen, Norman Tebbit, and the FCS …

Brown at War

To have one former head of the armed forces contradict your evidence to a committee may seem like carelessness, to have two is beginning to look habit forming. Thus it might be said about Gordon Brown today, as he faces the criticisms of both Lord Guthrie and Lord Boyce. Both of them have accused him of being disingenuous, and dissembling, in his evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry yesterday. Oh look, let's be honest, they're calling him a liar! He says the armed forces got everything they asked for to conduct the war that he and Tony Blair sent them on. They say they didn't, and Guthrie specifies helicopters as being unforthcoming despite requests.

They may both be right. The armed forces will almost certainly have requested everything they could. Their requests can be granted if the equipment is available to provide. The problem with helicopters is that they don't exactly have off the shelf availability. Complex decisions are involved when determining whether to p…

Peter Bingle's Despair

Channel 4's lobbyist was Peter Bingle from Bell Pottinger. Judging from his recent tweets, there really is nothing new about his despair, and nothing mysterious about his political motivation - he is a nostalgic Thatcherite.

Yesterday, he echoed Lord Tebbit's view that Ashcroft could be the ruination rather than the salvation of Tory hopes. He wants school vouchers (an idea beloved of the right) and misses the inspiring speeches of Margaret Thatcher. He muses that "Hilton [Cameron's key strategist] should spend more time in California". And, of course, he gives us the rightist mantra that all Cameron needs to do is give us "small government, low taxes and personal choice". The point is, his disillusion has been long-term, and it is less to do with the Ashcroft issue or the apparent lack of control of Tory strategy, and much more to do with his own nostalgia for a leader who isn't David Cameron.

Tory Tweets Against Channel 4

A few quick blasts into the web-o-sphere from irate Tory commentators about the Channel 4 lobbyist piece. Henry Macrory, Tim Montgomerie, and Iain Dale are all tweeting or blogging against it!

Brown's Chilcott Evidence

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Neither Gordon Brown nor his predecessor have added greatly to the sum total of our knowledge of the Iraq War in their evidence to the Chilcott Inquiry. It is amazing how little a seasoned performer can actually say, no matter how many hours he sits before an eminent committee. We now know that Gordon Brown thinks the war was right (could he have ever really got away with saying he disagreed with it, as the second most powerful man in the government at the time?) and that he absolutely would never have kept funds from the army that they needed. He stuck with his story, although it does contradict the views of other people, including former chief of staff Lord Guthrie, that Brown did in fact do precisely that.

I don't envy the Inquiry members, charged with trying to find a straight route through all this material. The Iraq War has become such a controversial, byzantine cause that finding its origins will take years, at the very least. I'm inclined to agree with the SNP'…

More Ashcroft News

The Ashcroft row shows few signs of running out just yet, although the one crumb of comfort David Cameron's team can probably take is that it will likely be a dead issue by the time of any election. Best to get it out of the way now I suppose. Channel 4 News today had got hold of a hitherto unheard of 'top Tory lobbyist' who despairs of the Tory Party. And well he might, although much of the problem seems to lie within a party that has taken leave of its discipline. There is certainly a serious issue regarding Lord Ashcroft, a man who appears to have back-tracked on an agreement made with then party leader William Hague. It is the broken agreement, rather than his non-dom status (significant though that is) which is souring the news agenda, and you can sense the Tory frustration that Labour non-doms are getting virtually nil publicity - but then, they didn't give any undertakings to become permanent UK residents.

Bad though all this is, though, there has been some …

Dimbleby in the Bullingdon?

Did Boris Johnson really out David Dimbleby as a Bullingdon Club member on last night's Question Time? Paul Waugh caught it, and you can hear Johnson's irate comment on the playback - go to 54.45 in on the video and you'll hear Boris say that "we Bullingdon men stick together" and then "he was in the Bullingdon you know!" And again, much more clearly, at 56.45!! Dimbleby didn't deny it!

Tories - Modernise or Die?

The FT's Jeane Eaglesham gets the current Cameron dilemma:

"...the modernising ideology crafted by Mr Cameron’s inner circle appears to elicit little enthusiasm from many of his backbenchers, who want to fight on a platform of tax cuts and immigration controls, rather than localism and protecting the NHS."

The question facing the Tory Party is, which path leads to electoral success? The modernising path, or the tax cut and immigration control path? Recent electoral history suggests it is the former, but as David Cameron's lead falls even in the much vaunted marginal seats, one wonders whether the fratricidal strife that has characterised the Tories since the political assassination of Margaret Thatcher in 1990 will once again deny it victory at the polls.

David Cameron leads the Tories at the equivalent point in its opposition history to Neil Kinnock, when he was leader of the Labour Party in 1992. In that year, the derided new Tory Prime Minister, John Major, pu…

Pandering to the Young - First Time Voters' Question Time

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I suppose there is a case for finding out the specific views of first time voters, although I'm not sure it's a strong one. Politicians and the media spend rather a lot of time pandering to young people, and certainly the most frustrating part of the First Time Voters' Question Time that BBC 3 broadcast this evening was the debate about why young people weren't fully engaged in politics. Young people are disengaged from traditional politics for a variety of reasons, not least their own unwillingness to spend time considering often complex issues, and their preference for trivial, personality led media. But that doesn't mark them out especially from the rest of the population. We live in a democracy, and if you don't like the people running it you have the absolute right, perhaps even duty, to put your head above the parapet and get involved. And the politicians who have done that, who have stood before an electorate, who have tried to pursue public service…

The London Effect Benefits Cameron

The Evening Standard's YouGov poll has the Tories doing better in London than nationally. Although it reflects the cutting of the Tory lead seen in national polls, there could be some London upsets. The Standard's projection would even have Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow losing to Philippa Stroud in Sutton and Cheam, and Tom Brake losing Carshalton and Wallington. However, as Mike Smithson points out over on Political Betting, the poll doesn't give us a break down of what is happening in the key marginals, and in London as anywhere else, seat specific considerations could defy what is a polling result that is still too close for comfort from the Tories' point of view. Lib Dem MPs work their seats hard, and Burstow in particular is well regarded in Sutton. Meanwhile, Richmond MP Susan Kramer may benefit from the alienation that some voters are feeling against Tory Zac Goldsmith - his non-dom status has not gone down well there.

Locally, then, the Monday debate between Burs…

Murdoch's Tory Minions

I've only just read Jonathan Freedland's piece in the Guardian about the BBC Strategy Review, but it admirably, and far more eloquently, captures my own view of the criticism being levelled against the Beeb by the Tories:

So why has Mark Thompson done it? Because he feared that if he didn't jump from the second storey window, an incoming Conservative government would push him off the roof. He is right to be anxious. The Tories have indeed signalled a hostility to the BBC that is rare, if not unprecedented, in an opposition. Why might that be? Two words: Rupert Murdoch.
People often speak of the unique influence of the media magnate, with his combination of economic and political muscle, but "influence" doesn't quite capture it. Instead David Cameron has simply allowed News Corp to write the Conservative party's media policy.


Start with the BBC. Murdoch, with son James, can't stand it – regarding it, a senior figure in broadcasting tells me, as "like…

The Importance of the Leaders

The announcement of the television debate has focused more attention than ever on the party leaders, and Mike Smithson at Political Betting comments on the difference between the leader polls and the party polls. He is right to a large extent - attitudes amongst voters to specific leaders can be crucial, and is even, for many voters, their principal reason for casting their vote in a particular way. Smithson cites the Major/Kinnock comparison of 1992 as being a better guide than the horrendously inaccurate polls that had been predicting a Labour victory. In 1979, however, Jim Callaghan scored consistently higher than Margaret Thatcher for like-ability, but still lost.

Michael Foot Dies

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Michael Foot was the Labour leader who presided over a significant leftward shift in the Labour Party in the 1980s, arguably helping to keep Mrs. Thatcher's Conservatives in power, by both making Labour unelectable to the wider public, and provoking a party split that led to the formation of a new political party, the Social Democratic Party. Nonetheless, for all his failings as a leader, Foot was a highly regarded left-wing politician with, in his heyday, a powerful rhetorical gift for articulating his causes. He was 96. The BBC's coverage and obituary are here.

Leaders' TV Beauty Contests Agreed

So there are to be three television debates between the three party leaders in the run-up to the election. Thus, politics becomes even more of a television beauty contest, for better or worse. Sky's Glen O'Glaza tried to suggest that the debates would not simply be a boost for the best television performer, but that is nonsense of course. All three party leaders will now be focusing their attention on how they will indeed come across as the best television performer.

Received wisdom has it that Nick Clegg is the winner here. Clegg, though, if his public speaking so far is anything to go by, is a stilted, humourless and unconvincing performer who may well end up simply reminding everyone why the Liberals aren't making nearly enough headway. Without Piers Morgan to pump up the emotional level, Gordon Brown is unlikely to show the necessary empathy to really triumph in the televisual forum, which probably leaves David Cameron as the likely victor of this new stage in poli…

The BBC's Rock and a Hard Place

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The BBC has come out fighting against its many critics with a strategic review designed to show that it can reign itself in. There are some positive aspects to the review, including some clear attempts to cut down what can sometimes be seen as a rather bloated operation, and a commitment to reinvest money in new drama and other, British developed programming.

All of which is doubtless very good, but whatever the BBC is hoping, its review won't silence its critics. It won't silence them because for the most part they have political and/or commercial motives for wanting to see a drastically reduced - if not completely emasculated - BBC. The political critics are headed by the Tory Party, which is in danger of simply becoming a Murdoch mouthpiece on the issue of public service broadcasting. They may have a genuine point to make about the way in which the BBC should be run (although despite their criticisms they have not come up with an alternative model to the BBC Trust) but t…

Insights from Westminster

The Westminster visit for the Lower Sixth politics students arguably proved even more useful this year than on previous occasions. The official guides are all great, lovely people, of course, with a fund of good stories, but there is always the sense that they are showing you round a merely historic palace and not a living, evolving hub of democracy. That the Palace of Westminster is both, of course, simply mirrors the confusion inherent in much of Britain's political set-up, but having MP (and Liberal Chief Whip) Paul Burstow conduct the tour this time, along with one of his researchers, breathed a bit of fresh air into the tour. Here, at least, were people who understood the place as an animated political institution, and their insights and comments were more attuned to a group of politics students than some of the official tours.

As we moved through the Lords, Mr. Burstow spoke of its self-governing nature during debates (the Lords Speaker not being a presiding officer in the…

Lord Ashcroft the Non-Dom

The Tory Party's major financier, Lord Ashcroft, has acknowledged that he does not pay UK tax on his non-UK earnings - i.e. he is a 'non-dom'. Nick Robinson explains why this is significant.

Westminster Visit

L6th politics students are visiting Westminster tomorrow, so go here to check on the instructions.