Saturday, May 08, 2010


All Four of Our Cast-Iron Priorities: Deal. Anything Less: No Deal.

My message to the Liberal Democrat Federal Executive, meeting this afternoon (mail yours to

In one line – all four of our cast-iron priorities: deal. Anything less: no deal.

In Full

I hate the Tories. I hate Labour. I don’t want a deal with either of them.

But we don’t have a Lib Dem majority, and we support a system that almost inevitably leads to coalitions. So we must listen to the voters and negotiate in good faith, because while we hate Labour and the Tories, the voters have given them larger chunks of power.

What happens if we don’t negotiate? A minority Tory government, sustained by the DUP. Can any Lib Dem honestly say that a Tory government made less horrible by Lib Dem participation would be worse for the country than a Tory government made more horrible by the Paisleyites?

So, the national interest is to bargain hard for a coalition.

Our party interest is not to touch it with a barge pole.

Clearly, we haemorrhaged votes at the last minute because voters say they like politicians talking to each other, but are terrified of us talking to ‘the wrong ones’ and were scared back to the Labour / Tory to stop Tory / Labour getting in.

If we deal with either party, we run the risk of splitting. And either way will help Labour, who deserve to be ground to dust after their appalling record.

Do a deal with the Tories and we give Labour a lifeline to be the only opposition.

Do a deal with Labour – however that would work, as we simply don’t have enough seats – and we give a lifeline to Labour to keep being in charge.

Either way damages us horribly.

How to Square the Circle

First, if we do a deal, it has to be for a formal coalition, for a fixed term, published out in the open. Otherwise the Prime Minister can just cut and run with a new election for party advantage, and we’re stuffed.

Second, we must learn from Scotland. We went into a formal coalition with Labour to get things done: we insisted on over 20 pages of over 80 firm commitments, so we not just got Liberal Democrat policies made real. We made Scotland better for it – and could point to our explicit achievements. We weren’t rewarded for it at the ballot box – but we weren’t hammered for it, as we would have been if we’d only propped up what Labour were going to do anyway. So any agreement isn’t secret, but written down for all the world to see and so the Tories can’t lie about it later.

Third, Nick’s made it very clear, as has our manifesto, what our bottom lines are. We get the four fairnesses, or there’s no deal. We should bargain for as much as we can of the rest of the manifesto – but if we don’t get those four bottom lines, we can’t possibly agree.

Cameron yesterday said warm words, but no detail at all – basically just the Tory manifesto bits that sounded a bit like us, but with no meat to it.

There’s no way that’s good enough.

Lib Dem tax cuts for low and middle earners, with increased taxes on the rich to pay for them.

Breaking up the banks and a green economy.

Solid money to support poorer kids in schools.

Big money out of politics, elected Lords and above all STV.

All those are hard for the Tories to swallow, but tough. They’ll have plenty of things we don’t like that we’ll have to give way on.

If we get a coalition with at least those four as a baseline, we would change Britain for good, and we can prove it to people. We will still be hurt, but we’d achieve something massive. It would be worth it.

If Cameron sticks to what he said yesterday, we should tell him we’d rather bring him down. Labour lied to us and the country for thirteen years over electoral reform. We would have to be lobotomised to listen to the same from the Tories.

They hate STV; we love it. Fine. Referendum, this Autumn, one question, for or against. Tories free to be against, us free to be for. Sorted. If they’re afraid to defend their system to the people, they’re weak and won’t afraid of the voters.

The Tories have just been given their fifth lowest share of the vote for 200 years. If they think that’s a mandate, it isn’t.

Cameron promises a “committee of enquiry” on electoral reform. That’s what Heath said in 1974. We told him to sod off, too (as quoted in The Independent today!).


Both Labour and the Tories are vile. But if we get our priorities, we get a less vile government. If we don’t, stuff it.

We should be very loud in saying – we told the voters every day what our four bottom lines were. We will stick to every one of them, and hope to deliver more of our manifesto, but recognise we have to compromise on that.

If the Tories say they can’t deliver, Nick should go for the jugular and attack Cameron as a weak prisoner of his extreme party:
“Mr Cameron – if your party want to act like spoiled children and won’t compromise, don’t pretend they aren’t extremists.
“If you can’t deliver your party in the national interest, don’t pretend you’re serious about governing.
“The voters did not give you the power to do whatever you like. Don’t pretend they did.”
Alex Wilcock
Liberal Democrat member
Former Parliamentary candidate, 1997 and 2001
Former member / Vice-Chair of Lib Dem Federal Policy Committee, most of 1993 to 2007

I am, of course, also working on a long version which may be posted later setting out exactly what I think. But the headlines above summarise what I think should be done.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010


Lib Dem Fair Taxes: The Reverse Poll Tax

You want the most blatant difference between parties? Tax. The Liberal Democrats would raise taxes on the richest to give a £700 tax cut to low and middle earners; Labour have just raised taxes again on low and middle earners; the Tories claim they want to reverse Labour’s tax rise, but won’t say how to pay for it – while their biggest commitment is a massive handout to double millionaires. And the simplest way to explain that difference? Remember the last Tory Government’s flagship poll tax, taking proportionally most from the poor? Lib Dem fair taxes are the exact reverse.

And, yes, I know this one’s pathetically late, but come on – the Lib Dems will keep on campaigning on it, and the Tories will keep on slashing the poor to subsidise the rich.

The Tories Only Cut Taxes For the Wealthy – and Make the Rest of Us Pay

The poll tax was the Tories’ big new idea to take them into the ’90s. It was so shockingly unfair that it brought riots on the streets. Simple idea: instead of taxing people on the value of their homes, everyone would pay exactly the same. Sounds fair for a second… Until you realise people on the lowest incomes would have to pay just the same as a multi-millionaire. A tiny fraction of the ultra-rich’s income; a massive hit to someone working hard to make ends meet. No wonder that tax break for the richest brought down Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister and forced the Tories to cobble together the mess that’s the council tax instead.

Today, exactly the same instinct that created the poll tax has risen to the privileged top of the Tory Party again. They just don’t learn. For three years, it’s been their main tax priority to cut inheritance tax for double millionaires. At a cost of £6 billion to the rest of us, only the richest 3,000 families in the country would get a tax cut of a quarter of a million quid each. Nice if you can get it!

Lib Dems Cut Taxes For Most – Wealthiest Pay More

In complete contrast to the Tories’ tax plans, the Liberal Democrat flagship policy in this election is a massive £17 billion tax switch. Everyone earning up to £100,000 a year would pay no income tax on the first £10,000 they earn. That means a tax cut of £700 for most people on low and middle incomes.

And to pay for that enormous cut? Five different tax rises at the other end of the scale: equalise capital gains tax with income tax, so people can’t dodge taxes by sticking their loot into property; giving everyone the same basic rate pension relief, instead of giving twice as much back to the wealthiest; a 1% mansion tax on any property value above £2 million; cracking down on tax avoidance, including specific measures on stamp duty and a new general law against measures designed to dodge tax; and taxing air travel per plane, not – as it is now – per passenger, so air freight pays its weight in tax and polluting planes fly full instead of half-empty.

Making Work Worth Working For

Everyone who’s ever worked on a low wage – and I know this, but I can’t imagine many Tories do – knows that one of the big problems is that benefits vanish just as your hard-earned cash starts to disappear in tax. It means you’re often hardly any better off working than not. No, if you earn under £10,000, you won’t get the full £700 – but you will get to keep what you earn, rather than see it pocketed by the tax man.

Labour prefers to make people dependent – taking money with one hand, giving tax credits back with the other… As long as you jump through the right hoops, and fill out the right forms, and wait for the money to come through, and hope it doesn’t get taken back because they made a mistake or changed their minds. They just love to control people – they just don’t understand that it’s better, simpler, and cheaper than all the bureaucracy just to have the self-respect of keeping your own money, not relying on the whim of government handouts. And to make sure they keep low and middle earners in their place, Labour have done the opposite of the Lib Dems taking people out of paying tax altogether. They’ve claimed not to increase income tax… But they doubled the tax on every single one of the lowest earners by scrapping the 10p rate. They raised taxes on income without saying the words by raising national insurance – which works in just the same way for most. And rather than lifting that threshold at which people start paying tax, Labour’s frozen it at just about £6,000, so that inflation alone means the lowest earners get clobbered for extra tax.

Tories Prefer To Hit the Poor Rather Than Rich Tax-Dodgers – Who’s Surprised?

The gap between the rich and the poor is bigger under Labour than it was under Mrs Thatcher. The lowest-earning 20% of people pay a higher share of earnings in tax than the wealthiest 20% under Labour. It’s the purpose of the Liberal Democrat tax switch to tackle that, to make taxes fairer.

I’ve written about the Tories’ very different tax-cutting agenda, instead to widen the gap between rich and poor. But the parties also have a different idea of who to chase hardest for money gone missing. I mentioned that the Liberal Democrats want to chase tax-avoiders. Well, let’s look at the figures. Tax avoidance that’s currently exploiting legal loopholes is estimated to cost the taxpayer nearly £50 billion a year: the Lib Dems’ plans assume that, by taking action to close those loopholes, at a conservative estimate about 10% of that would be scooped up – about £5 billion. That’s not counting getting harsher with not the dodgy dodgers but cracking down on definite criminals: illegal tax evasion costs taxpayers £15 billion a year.

So what’s the Tories’ priority? Not one word about wealthy tax dodgers. Instead, their right-wing dog-whistle posters shrieked “Let’s cut benefits for those who refuse work” and, after twenty years of every government cracking down harder on people who not just refuse to work but are too ill to work or who can’t find a job because the government’s stuffed the economy, how much more do you think can be squeezed by kicking the poor still harder? The Tories scream that they want to kick the poor. The Tories shout that they want to give massive handouts to idle millionaires. And while tax evasion costs taxpayers £15 billion a year… Benefit fraud costs just over £1 billion.

You might be more generous or more imaginative than I am, but I can’t think of a single possible explanation for the Tories attacking people who cost £1 billion and giving extra to people who cost £15 billion that doesn’t boil down to them getting all their funding from rich tax dodgers on the one hand, and wanting to grind down the poor and sick who can’t hit back on the other.

The Reverse Poll Tax – The Tax Cut Tories Will Never Agree With

In the election TV debates, David Cameron described the Liberal Democrat tax cut as “a beautiful policy,” but said that it couldn’t be afforded. That was a lie. You can pay for a £17 billion tax cut – by raising £17 billion more from the wealthiest, who currently pay a smaller share of their income than the poorest.

Well, we know why that’s almost literally unthinkable for David Cameron, don’t we?

The difference between Liberal Democrat and Tory tax cuts could not possibly be any clearer. And to return to the comparison with the poll tax…

Remember how the poll tax gave a massive tax cut to people living in huge mansions, while hammering people on tiny wages in tiny homes? The Tories today want to give a much, much bigger tax cut to people inheriting huge mansions – not even to people who’ve earned them. The Liberal Democrats today want to pay for a tax cut for ordinary people, in part, by taxing huge mansions.

Remember how the poll tax took the same amount of cash from everybody, so the rich gave up the tiniest fraction of their wealth and the poor were robbed of a huge slice of what they earned?

The Liberal Democrat tax cuts are the precise reverse of that.
By giving back the same amount of cash to everyone earning between £10,000 and £100,000, it’s fair – because everyone gets the same – but helps you more the less you earn, which starts narrowing that gap between rich and poor where lower earners pay a bigger share.

The Liberal Democrats have said they want to give a tax cut of £700 to low and middle earners – which means that the lower down the scale you earn towards £10,000, the bigger the percentage gain to your wages.

The Liberal Democrats have said they want to cap all public sector pay awards, with the economy doing so badly, at £400. Again, a solid cash figure – again, that means that the lowest earners would get the biggest percentage increase, but better-off public servants (like MPs) couldn’t get a larger share.

Not all tax cuts are the same. The Conservatives’ instincts are still exactly the same as those that created the poll tax to help the rich. The Liberal Democrats’ instincts for fairness are exactly the opposite – helping the lowest and lower middle earners most. And, of course – unlike the Tories – the Lib Dem manifesto printed the figures to say how it would all be paid for.

There is all the difference in the world.

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A Final Glance At the Manifestos

If you’re interested in what the parties have to say, you’ve probably already glanced at their manifestos (available for free online) or bought one of the “Why Vote Party X” books in the shops. I’m not going to do an in-depth analysis of any of them at this stage, though I’ve read some more thoroughly than others. But even at a cursory inspection, you see something of the parties in them. What are their priorities? What do the covers and contributors tell you about their approaches? What about the gays? And why (surprise) do I prefer the Liberal Democrat publications?


The cover of their Manifesto mentions “A Future,” but it’s a retro-future, desperate to ignore all the failures of the past and imagine themselves safely back in a cosy socialist utopia (not one on offer within the text): the cover looks like it was drawn in the 1950s as an advert for Nuclear Families For A Nuclear Future. I’m gay, I don’t trust nuclear power, and I don’t want to go back to the ’50s – and I don’t like Labour always telling me their perfect niche into which I should fit (as ever, no new policies on LGBT equality – though Mr Brown personally attacked marriage equality. Their record is to wait for the Lib Dems to come up with them, vote them down, then pick them up a few years later when it looks like they’re ‘safe’). There are no new ideas – just, as ever, that Labour knows best, mixed with authoritarian dog-whistles like calling a chapter “Crime and Immigration” (but with cartoons, though. Surely no-one who uses crayons could be evil). The Why Vote Labour book makes the same approach still more explicit: it has the central stamp of approval from Gordon Brown’s foreword, but the deniability of being written by someone who’s not an MP; the Conservatives are attacked by implication in the book’s first paragraph, and by name in the second; and while there are many paragraphs allegedly written by other people, most of them are just identified by a first name and a town – like a made-up quote on a leaflet – and all of them are put carefully in their place, framed in boxes under orders as examples of the central Labour Truth.

But neither of these publications matters very much. Can you think of a single new policy that Labour’s been campaigning on? Not one. It’s all been about a tiny fraction of government spending that they can pick out as a potential Tory cut to make you scared, then either saying the “Liberals” will do the scary same thing or cosying up with “I agree with Nick” on alternate sentences.

The Conservatives?

The cover of their Manifesto offers an “Invitation to Join the Government of Britain”. Only the Tories could frame a populist appeal to every citizen in the style of a £500-a-head white tie do, as if assuming everyone goes to them all the time, like they do; only the Tories could invite everyone to participate in government, then spend their entire campaign taking fright and shrieking panicky scare stories about the awful danger of, er, anyone but the Tories forming the Government of Britain. So I admit I’m biased against a cover that might as well be a neon sign saying ‘We Don’t Mean It’. Open it up, though, and it does look more inviting. There’s none of the faux pas of the cover – instead, it’s a graphic designers’ paradise, easily the prettiest of the manifestos. And the mood music is early David Cameron: it feels more like a “liberal” Tory manifesto than any that have gone before. There’s no sign of the hard right policies that have appeared in desperation in speeches and posters as Tory support has sagged during the campaign – there’s little sign of much in the way of firm policies at all, but there are lots of nice full-page pictures of towns across Britain and in other countries, as if the Tories are taking credit for them, or possibly preparing to annex them.

The Conservative Manifesto was launched a couple of days after their Shadow Home Secretary was caught saying one thing in public and another thing in private about gay rights, yearning for the days of signs in windows marked “No Blacks, No Gays, No Catholics”. I wonder, I thought, if the manifesto does the same thing? Well, in panic at their plummeting gay vote, David Cameron… No, actually, he’d just made that awful fuck-up in a Gay Times interview and had to ask them to stop the camera, hadn’t he? Then he spun to the gay press that he’d begin the campaign on 6th April by mentioning gays in his first election speech, but having said that to the gay press, said “Black and white… Rich and poor…” but didn’t say “Gay or straight…” to the crowd and the TV cameras. Say one thing in one place, say something completely different to someone else. That’s the Tory way of speech – what are they like in print? So, amazingly, George Osborne was thrust out as a ‘safe pair of hands’ and promised to tackle homophobic bullying, at long last, and even came up with a uniquely Tory policy none of the other parties had mentioned and which I thought was a good idea and on gay rights. Credit where it’s due – that’s a first! He said they’d go some way (though, of course, not all the way) to quashing convictions of men who’d had sex with men that was only illegal because the law at the time was discriminatory. But… No. Again, the Tories say one thing to gays, but something else to other people. Because on the day their manifesto launched, “homophobic bullying” was put on the front page of their website… But it’s not in their manifesto. Nor is their other idea. Or any other pro-gay policies whatsoever. They do, though, have a nice pretty picture of Brighton, and mention how gay it is, because if that’s in a Tory manifesto it must all be down to the Tories. Somehow, I don’t think it works that way.

Oddly, the Why Vote Conservative book has a more coherent stamp to it, every word written by the same person and advancing an argument… But it’s also by a long way the most deniable of the three. Written by a Tory blogger, it opens not with a foreword from Mr Cameron but a disclaimer that he had absolutely nothing to do with it, nor any Tory MP nor employee. Gosh. So, they’re really keen to be pinned down on policy, then.

Oh, and in the last few days, David Cameron’s rushed out a “Contract” on Britain with a different set of policies again. Some of which were in the manifesto, and some on the posters (no, not the first set – nor the second – you know, this week’s Tory posters), and some presumably were just what Rupert Murdoch told him to say to try and salvage his investment.

It’s not clear which, if any, of these publications indicate what the Conservatives would actually do if given power – except enjoy it.

The Liberal Democrats

The cover of the Liberal Democrat Manifesto is quite plain – in both senses. “Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2010,” it’s labelled. “Change That Works For You – Building A Fairer Britain”. And the only other thing on the cover is, would you believe it, policy. Imagine that, for a manifesto? It sets out the party’s four key priorities about Fairness. The same ones Nick settled on last year; the same ones he made the centrepiece of his speech to Lib Dem Conference in March; which I picked out as the party’s key themes at the start of the campaign; the same ones he’s explained in every interview; the same ones I saw him give a barnstorming speech about on TV at his final campaign rally last night. Inside the manifesto, it explains those four key priorities in more detail, right at the front. Then sets out all the other policies, saying up front that the key priorities are the most important, but that they’d try to implement the rest too, depending on how much influence the Lib Dems win in the election (oh yes – and after several decades of being the party most committed to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, even when they were wildly unpopular, there are commitments to plenty of them in there. Including, in the section on education, with tackling homophobic bullying, as well as that on “families of every shape and size,” the workplace, hate crimes…). Every single section has green tabs next to commitments to show how a green approach runs through every area of policy. And, at the back, there’s an index so you can find every issue you’re interested in more easily, and a full set of costings – the only manifesto that sets out how a single policy can be afforded. And this sets out the figures for every single commitment.

This is very odd, after the other two manifestos. Words and numbers, rather than just packing the pages out with pretty pictures (though there are a couple)? It’s as if the Liberal Democrats want you to know what they’re promising, be able to check the figures, and hold the party to them. Imagine!

Then there’s the Why Vote Liberal Democrat book. It has a foreword from Nick Clegg, and it’s written by Danny Alexander, the MP who’s Nick’s Chief of Staff and who also edited the manifesto. Well, I say it’s written by Danny… But, although it’s not afraid to say up front that all this is the Liberal Democrats saying exactly the same here as everywhere else – though, in fact, I prefer the more expansive Liberalism of Nick’s introduction here to the much shorter, more businesslike values page in the manifesto, a document boiled down to concrete promises on fewer pages with larger type – it’s not all written by Danny, and nor do other contributors only walk on as directed to give their name (or part of it) to a carefully spun paragraph. While Danny edits the book and provides the overarching theme, each chapter is written by a different Lib Dem spokesperson or supporter. Where the manifesto gives the bullet-point commitments, this explains the thinking and the philosophy behind them, not by central party diktat but in many people’s own words: MPs; councillors; a former senior police officer; a former Director of Public Prosecutions; actors like Colin Firth; musicians; and, yes, an out gay Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate – Ed Fordham, who I hope very much will win Hampstead today – writing about gay equality. It’s a party not of iron control and a single voice, but people working together and unafraid to speak out. It isn’t just the same as the manifesto – but it’s entirely in harmony with it, complimentary, not contradictory. They’re the only two publications from any of the three parties that actually work together persuasively to say why you should vote for them.

What the Parties Stand For

For weeks, I’ve wanted (but not had the energy) to write a piece on each of the manifestos, which I’ve finally got out rather late… And a piece comparing each of the parties’ key pledges announced at the start of the campaign, which – as the Lib Dems had four, Labour five and the Tories six – was going to be Torchwoodishly called ‘The 456 Are Coming’. Perhaps it’s just as well I never got to write the latter: while Nick Clegg and his party have been campaigning so determinedly on the Lib Dems’ Four Fairnesses that I suspect every Lib Dem and a substantial chunk of the public could name them, the other parties’ focus-grouped ‘pledges’ have formed such a minuscule part of what they’ve actually said that I bet they’d be news even to most of their candidates. What, I have to ask, is the point of campaigning to get elected if you don’t know what you intend to do? Are Labour and the Tories really only about power and nothing else? It looks like it.

All the Tories stand for is their sense of entitlement. They think they were born to rule, and they’re damn well going to do it, and do whatever the hell they like, even if only a third of people vote for them. Exactly what they want to do is still unclear: “liberal” Conservatives gave way to ferocious personal attacks on Gordon Brown; now the policies they’re campaigning on are of the hard right, while trying to scare anyone who thinks they shouldn’t have absolute power. Having changed all their policies and their approach several times just in a month’s campaign, it’s difficult not to conclude that they want power because they just want power.

All that Labour stands for is stopping the Tories. Seen their posters? Seen their broadcasts? Heard their speeches? They’re the only party in this election running an even more negative campaign than the Tories are. After thirteen failed years, they’ve got nothing left but scaring people into voting unenthusiastically but worriedly for more of the same. As I’ve observed of them so often, their one theme is, “We’re shit, and we know we are, but – ooh! The Tories! Scary!”

And what do the Liberal Democrats stand for?

The same as we did at the beginning of the campaign. The same as we did before the campaign. The same as we did last year. The only party that’s set out firm priorities, and stuck to them – not panicked and changed them from week to week, or just tried to define themselves by being ‘not the scary other lot’.

The Liberal Democrats stand for fairness: If you vote for the Liberal Democrats, you know what you’re getting. And I will – because I want to get it.

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Time To Vote. Time To Get the Vote Out. And If You Have Any Spare Time… Lib Dems To Enthuse You

With just twenty-two hours left of the most exciting election in our lifetimes, you probably don’t want to read even more political analysis and predictions – not with the real thing nearly decided. So I’m looking at no bets or polls tonight, but I’ve read some brilliant pieces from people about why they’re voting, and what’s worth voting for. Take a peek: these are some of the best, most inspirational pieces of political writing I’ve come across in the last few days (if you read no others, David Matthewman’s “Why I’m A Liberal Democrat” blogs are heartfelt, intelligent and personal).

David Matthewman: Why I’m A Liberal Democrat

Among the very many other things I’d meant to do this election and never managed, I was going to write a series of articles about why you should vote positively for the Liberal Democrats. I am enormously grateful, therefore, to the lovely David Matthewman for writing many of the same ones that I would have liked to but didn’t (and in several cases writing ones that I suspect I agree with more than the one I would have written). They’re all excellent, but I’d particularly recommend his first one, which explains just how important one of the two or three Lib Dem policies I’d pick as my favourite really is. He and Richard Gadsden are excessively kind to me in his fifth piece (and Richard tells me something I didn’t know, and blush at), but if you’re short of time, I’d skip to his most recent two, on Fairness and Unpopular Causes, each of which are both inspiring and thought-provoking.

1 The Freedom Bill

2 The Banks, the Credit Crunch and Vince Cable

3 The Green Economy

4 Electoral and Parliamentary Reform

5 Fellow Liberal Democrats

6 Education

7 Fairness

8 Unpopular Causes

Oh, and if you’re still thinking of voting Labour, David has something to say

…And so does Liz. Less scathingly.

…Oh, as does former British Ambassador Craig Murray. Horrifyingly.

But back to the positivity…

More Lib Dem Link Love

Did you see Nick Clegg’s personal guarantee in some of the newspapers? There’s a pdf of it here. Unlike other parties, we’ve been campaigning on exactly the same four priorities through the entire election. Almost as if we a/ mean them and b/ haven’t been panicking…

If you want to know more about those four priorities, Millennium Dome explains them in superb detail – and contrasts them with the Conservatives’ rival “plans” for “change”.

Like David, Freethinking Economist Giles Wilkes has written his own reasons to vote Lib Dem.

There was rather a good piece in the newly Lib Dem-supporting Guardian the other day along the same lines, too: Five (Other) Reasons To Vote Lib Dem. Historian Timothy Garton Ash is passionate about a Liberal vote for the Lib Dems as well. Go for it!

There are of course local council elections taking place across most of Britain along with the General Election tomorrow, and one of our most fabulous council candidates is the lovely Jennie Rigg. Among her many excellent pieces is one about the Tory press’ desperate ‘mudslinging’ that some Lib Dem candidates are – imagine! – individuals (fantastic fact: the “ventriloquist” candidate, the lovely Chris Young, also wrote the song Letterboxes that Jennie endorses with such feeling).

Speaking of mudslinging, the Independent’s cartoon yesterday about the desperate Tory attempts to expose the ‘horrifying reality’ behind the Lib Dems made me smile…

…As did Jonathan Calder, with one of the best headlines of the campaign.

The lovely Andrew Hickey tries to put partisan feelings aside – with some success – to explain what each of the parties stand for, and (with significantly less success) about tactical voting.

The lovely Chris Lomax writes passionately about the Lib Dems as the party of science. Geek The Vote is campaigning on it.

As I linked to several anti-Labour pieces above, in the interests of balance some Lib Dems are not wholly convinced by the Conservatives:

The Tories appear to being mysteriously (and illegally) aided by the British Union of FascistsYoung Britons Foundation”.

One top Tory candidate, hilariously, has complained that “If this was a safe seat we wouldn’t have to do this work.” Very deserving of your vote, then: “Big Society? …High Society, more like,” observes Liberal Vision.

Another Tory candidate, less hilariously, thinks gay people are possessed by demons. Jae Kay is unimpressed by the “liberal” Tories’ response to their medieval high-flyer (presumably not on a broom).

And finally, to concentrate your mind on your vote – Nick Clegg:
“It may just be a small cross on the ballot paper, but it is a big opportunity.”

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010


General Election Pop Anthem Special

The General Election looms tomorrow. Knackered? Footsore? Your brain turning to cheese at repeating that you agree with Nick’s Four Fairnesses seventy-three times a day? Then here are three songs to perk you up. They’re all from the 1990s – no, not Things Can Only Get Better; too much like intruding on private grief – and include, for me, the ’90s’ two greatest pop anthems. The first is foot-stompingly Liberal; the second, a total fake (and not quite the proper song, either); the third wasn’t a big hit, but it’s difficult to find a bigger hitting out at the Labservatives.

I’ve been horribly ill throughout the campaign, but today lifted my spirit if not my body with some music. In a strange way, it was inspired by this week’s Doctor Who DVD release, The Creature From the Pit, David Fisher’s witty novelisation of which has just by remarkable timing has just been broadcast over the last week on BBC7, read by Tom Baker (the final part’s tonight at half-midnight, but you can still catch most of it on iPlayer or, of course, buy the CD). No – I’m afraid none of the songs are about giant green blobs, but a point for each of the two key Liberal messages in the story, and a further one for which well-known Kate Bush single it made me think of, and why. This afternoon, then, I staggered to bed in horrible pain and curled up with Kate to sing me to sleep. While dozing, I remembered her fabulous, bonkers but politically unsuitable anthem Ken, which got me thinking of political songs, while Kate in general got me thinking of the wonderful ’90s Doctor Who New Adventures and their obligatory Kate Bush song titles. That collision in my brain demanded ’90s political anthems… So here they are.

The Levellers – One Way

I doubt the Levellers have any party affiliation, but if there’s any finer anthem that sums up Liberalism for me, I haven’t heard it (that techno remix of The Land having failed to chart). Where Labour and Tories want to give you goodies if you fit into their precise definition of a good life, and punish you if you don’t, Liberals think the government can’t know best for you, because everyone’s best is different. Who’s the only party backing a Freedom Bill to sweep away many of Labour’s bossy, vindictive, stupidly timewasting 4,300 new laws? Who’s the only party that wants to give a large tax cut to the vast majority of people, however they choose to live their lives, rather than the Tories’ bribe to people in the right sort of marriages and massive tax break for double millionaires? I agree with Jonathan Calder and – like Simon Goldie – I agree with Nick. Vote Liberal Democrat, and sing along! Or not, according to taste.

David Cameron – Common People

This is mean – though not remotely unfair – and isn’t a patch on proper Pulp. It does, however, make a point, and made me laugh.

Chumbawamba – Amnesia
“Do you suffer from long-term memory loss?”
I know that it’s very on-message to talk about the hopes people had for New Labour back in 1997, and certainly, by comparison to the Conservatives today, Tony Blair had a wild storm of optimism around him. But, bitter old git that I am, I always loathed him – I thought he was a Tory from the word go, and though “I told you so” is never an appealing line, I’m not standing for election tomorrow, so I’ll point out that I did indeed tell people so. I said it at my count on election night 1997 (where I stood hand in hand with my beloved Richard on the stage, on the telly – yay!), coming an heroic third in a Labour-Tory marginal, an unemployed Lib Dem against a Labour millionaire. After congratulating her on her win, I warned everyone in the hall (in the sort of barnstorming speech I so rarely get the chance to make) that Labour would let them all down and be exactly like the Tories. I was shrieked and howled down by Labour – as committed to free speech as ever. Of course, I wasn’t entirely right: in so many ways, Labour’s thirteen years have been so much worse than the Tories. So Chumbawamba’s song here greatly appealed to me, though it wasn’t in tune with the times and I was just about the only person who bought it.

Labour? Tory? Just the same. If you’re thinking of voting for either tomorrow – just how overwhelming is your amnesia?

Or there’s the thing Newsnight got Right Said Fred to do, but there’s nothing sadder than a commissioned pop anthem, is there?

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