'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Friday, 30 March 2012

The next Leader of the Labour Party

Well, I've been waiting to write this for a while and the Bradford West By Election result has given me the perfect excuse to post it. Now that Ed Miliband's leadership is once again under the microscope, the debate can start once again about who is best placed to replace him.

And, like a Bradford High Street bookie (they closed the books on Galloway winning on Wednesday  - they knew...) - I know who the next leader will be.

Here is my scientific analysis that will reveal the next leader.

Do a Google image search on Ed Miliband: you quickly find this.

Repeat the exercise for David Miliband: Guess what...

Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper? Doesn't get any better...

Then try Alastair Darling. All you get, is page after page of this...

No pictures in silly hats; no dancing; no staged photo's holding a pasty. The best you can come up with is that he has a vague similarity to one of the Muppets.

Dull yes. Grey yes. But safe.

You mark my words. next time, Labour will go safety first.

They wont want to see any of this...

Quick. Someone tell Nick.

Apparently, according to 'Klout',  I have influence in three areas. Politics. College (college??). and Liberal Democrats.

I'm beginning to suspect Klout may not be all it's cracked up to be...

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Me and The Kremlin

While this post has only the remotest of political connections - lots of people have said nice things of this shot I took of The Moon, Jupiter and Venus over The Kremlin on Monday evening.

So for your delectation and delight, here it is...

Here's a poser for Labour folk in London...

Now, it's completely unscientific, atypical and you can draw no firm conclusions from it. but here's a screen grab from the House of Twits poll on 'Who do you want for London Mayor'?

Now, Boris clearly in the lead. But essentially Paddick and Livingstone neck and neck.

Now, given its a STV election: Just supposing - with his support plummeting currently - Livingstone comes third, and its a stand off between Brian and Boris. Who will Labour supporters have put second?

I would suggest it's far more likely to be Brian. Which means they could (not on the figures above, obviously, but close to them) put our Brian into City Hall.

It's a stretch, I know.

But Mr Paddick is running an exceptionally good campaign....and Ken most certainly is not....

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

A row I've been trying to stay out of. And failed.

There's been a lot of debate over recent days about Tim Farron signing the 'Christians in Parliament' letter to the ASA, asking them to overturn the ban on Christian advertising promoting Faith Healing.

There has been an excellent defence on LDV from Stephen Tall, and an  equally good reply on LDV from David Parkes

With all due respect to both these views, I think they have missed one crucial factor out of the debate (which I've also not seen anywhere else): fairness.

Much of the debate has been contrasting the treatment of the Christian advertising - which has been banned on the basis that they cannot scientifically prove their claims, as they are based on Faith - with that of pharmaceutical advertising, which can be proved. I would contend this is the wrong comparison.

The ASA needs to be seen to be even handed (I know something about this having worked in advertising for twenty plus years). The two groups the ASA will be keen to treat equally are not 'Christinas' vs. 'Scientists". It is 'Christians' vs. Aethiests.

The ASA has a strong track record on treating both these sides equally.

In 2009, the sixth most complained ad in the UK was this, from the British Humanist Association

Interestingly, the most complained about ad in that year was this one, from the Christian Party

In both cases, the ASA ruled that that they would not adjudicate about the advertising, because (according to The Telegraph):

"The ASA did not investigate the advert - a response to a British Humanist Association (BHA) poster reading: ''There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life'' - because political party campaigns are outside its remit.

The ASA also did not investigate the BHA ad, which was the sixth most complained-about campaign with 392 objections, concluding that it was an expression of the advertiser's opinion and not capable of being objectively substantiated."
On this basis, the ASA ruling on the Faith Healing ad will be based on the fact that this is not a political ad, but instead is promoting the claims of a specific service or product, which cannot be substantiated.
The argument that a pharmeutical company can prove its claim whereas the Christian organisation cannot is therefore a false comparrison. The unfairness will arise if an organisation such as the BHA tries to run an advert saying that Faith healing does not work - and the ASA allows it. That indeed would be double standards.
Meantime, I suspect that the Christians in Parliament campaign has succeeded in generating far more publicity and conversation about the merits of Faith Healing than the original campaign ever would have. So their appeal has, in that sense, already worked.
I should make it clear here that I am not promoting one side or the other in this debate. I am merely pointing out that nothing the ASA has yet done has been treating one side differently to the other.

Orwell Prize Long List

In one of those not terribly surprising turn of events, I have not been longlisted for this years Orwell prize for Blogging. It's almost like they don't CARE about the BOTYS's

Anyway, hats off to all those shortlisted especially the lone Lib Dem Blogger on the list, David Allen Green (It's also his birthday today - many happy returns).

Told you so

This is the headline in The Guardian:

And I believe - as I mentioned in this post, amongst others - that it's a real issue.

I am not one of those people who feels the NHS is going to close tomorrow. I'll write more about this in coming days. Nor do I feel that reform of the NHS is uneccessary.

But I do feel the NHS is worse off as a result of this bill. And that we should gave torn it up and started again.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

School Holidays

There's probably an obvious answer that's eluding me - but just why does Parliament go on holiday whenever the schools do?

Christmas, Easter, Summer and most strangely of all - half terms?

This isn't one of those 'why don't they all work a bit harder' rants. I'm not in any way suggesting that when Parliament isn't sitting that all our MPs are kicking back and going on holiday to Barbados. I know that's not true.

But it is weird that Parliament revolves around when the schools are on holiday, unlike any other area of public life or business I can think of. Imagine if the courts decided to do the same?

So - how come on then? Would love to know the 'logic' behind it...

Monday, 26 March 2012

Battered, bruised but still here!

Well, my post budget piece for The New Statesman caused a right old Kerfuffle. Many thanks to all the Lib Dems who leapt to my aid in the comments section, really appreciate it. If you missed all the fun, here's the piece...

I suspect George Eaton was right when he described the tax transparency proposals outlined in the Budget as a political masterstroke. But credit where it's due - and that credit isn't the Chancellor's. Nor, funnily enough, is it all the good work of Tory MP Ben Gummer, who Osborne credited in his Budget speech. For this policy was part of the 1997 General Election manifesto - of the Lib Dems. So excuse me while I reclaim it for our good selves.
Why am I bothering? Because from now on, we're going to be a lot more territorial about policy.
As I blogged earlier this week, something of a Rubicon has been crossed in the last few days. Who can guess what the last straw was (though I'd lay odds it's the ongoing grassroots fury over the Health Bill). But anyway, Nick inserted an important line in his letter to members, post Budget. It said:
Of course, this is a Coalition Budget and we did not get our own way on everything. Conservative priorities are not ours.
And talking to people in the centre, going forward it seems that finally, finally, finally we're going to start telling people which policies are Lib Dem policies - and just as importantly, which are Conservative ones. Taking two million people out of income tax - the Lib Dems. Cutting the 50p rate - Tories.
The grassroots have been doing it on their own for some time - this infographic, now updated post-Budget, of Lib Dem wins in government is proving a popular crib sheet for Lib Dem activists all over the country.
And now it looks like the party in government are doing the same thing.
Restoring the link between pensions and earnings? Lib Dem policy. The biggest rise in the weekly state pension in a generation? Lib Dem win. Freezing of Age Allowance - all your own work, George.
I've been here before. And been wrong. We've hinted at this approach - and then screwed it up royally. Telling people that '"It is not a Liberal Democrat health bill but it is a better bill because of the Liberal Democrats" is a sound bite in which the words that stick are "Liberal Democrat Health Bill". With that and tuition fees we've got a lot of rowing back to do.
But this time, talking to people at the heart of government, they really seem to mean it. We're drawing a line in the sand, marking our own policies, and letting the electorate decide whether we're right or wrong.
Let's see if we pull it off.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Oh. Have we crossed the rubicon?

At the risk of incurring the wrath of the excellent Mark Thomson, who asked the other day 'what is the point of a blog that just cuts and pastes official party press releases' (and he's got a point), I thought it would be worth posting Nick's note to members yesterday post budget - because I have something to say about it. 

But first - here's the note...

 Dear Richard,

We can be proud that the biggest tax cuts in today's Budget go to millions of working families.

As a result of this Budget, someone working a full week on minimum wage will see their income tax bill cut by over 50% compared to under Labour.

Increasing the personal allowance to £9,205 takes us within touching distance of our number one manifesto pledge – ensuring no one pays any tax on the first £10,000 they earn.

Thanks to our changes, a basic rate taxpayer will be paying £45 a month less in tax than they would have been under Labour.

The Tycoon Tax, an increase in stamp duty for high value properties and other new taxes on wealth will raise five times as much as the 50p tax rate. Those with annual incomes of more than £150,000 a year will be paying on average an additional £1,300 a year in tax, as a result of this Budget.

Of course, this is a Coalition Budget and we did not get our own way on everything. Conservative priorities are not ours. But as on so many other issues, we have made sure that there is a real Liberal Democrat stamp on this Budget.

Lower taxes for more than 20 million working people; effective new taxes on the rich.

This is a Budget we can be proud of - a Budget for the many, not the few.

Thanks for all the support you give to the party.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister

Now I thought there were two very important lines in there in particular. Did you spot them? Here we go...

"Of course, this is a Coalition Budget and we did not get our own way on everything. Conservative priorities are not ours."

It struck me that this was an overt signal to party members that we are not going to present a united face anymore - we'll own our policies (taking another million of the poorest paid out of tax) and make it clear which policies are Tory policies ( cutting the 50p rate). We're helping the millions, the Tories are helping the Millionnaires. 

So I checked with someone in, ahem, the heart of government - and yes: that's the message. We're no longer going to lay any claim to policy we can't abide.

To me, that means a rubicon has been crossed.

At last.

And thank goodness.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

I've taken Lord Rennard's advice...

As suggested by Lord Rennard in his comment to the Baroness Jolly piece on Lib Dem Voice yesterday I went through every amendment to the Health & Social Care Bill yesterday. I have a huge amount of respect for Chris and so I felt it was important I did so.

There was one change I hadn't properly recognised - I think it may have been changed on Monday night, maybe I just kept missing it. Ironically it's one of the earliest amendments. It does now seem clear to me that the total and final responsibility for Public Health and the NHS does now lie once again with the Secretary of State. There was wiggle room before. So one of my detailed concerns with the bill has been allayed.

However one of my other concerns still remain. I still cannot find a detailed and explicit clause where CCGs are mandated to put quality above price. I have seen reference that price cannot be put before quality - but that is different, it implies equality of these two factors, not superiority of one over the other.  I would be happy to be wrong about this. I may just be missing it - there is a lot to get through and cross referencing amendments with the bill gets complicated. Indeed the BBC news also explicitly stated that quality has primacy over price in the Act.  So if anyone can point me to the exact point where this is written into law I will be obliged and feel better.

My main objections to this bill remain. The electorate were told no massive reorganisation of the NHS - they have got the opposite. The professional bodies  representing medical staff in the NHS predict chaos. I fear the cost savings predicted will not materialise and patient outcomes will suffer.

But I am happy to acknowledge there are good things in the bill. I am not a 'no reform under any circumstances' merchant - our manifesto called for reform (though not these ones). And if anyone can show me that quality of service over price is written in stone than I will be a (slightly) happier man.


As you can see below, Lord Rennard has taken up the challenge, and answered my question in full. I doff my cap in his direction. That IS what I call service!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Oh Good Golly Baroness Jolly

Baroness Jolly has written a piece for Lib Dem Voice explaining why Lib Dem peers voted for the NHS Bill in the Lords last night. I'm very unhappy with it - as I've posted on the site and copied below (with a couple of typos corrected). Do pop over and read the piece (I don't want to trample roughshod over their copyright by pasting it here)(unless they tell me that's OK!) and then have a look at my response. Over at the ste, there are some other excellent comments too.

My answer:

Oh dear.
While not denying the enormous amount of work done by Peers to amend this act, these answers simply will not do.
The main thrust of the argument, once again, is that the members of the party, the public and most patronisingly of all the professional bodies like the Royal Colleges or the BMA simply don’t understand this bill and when all the changes are explained, all will be well.
I’m willing to bet the Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians (to pick just one example) are both bright enough and informed enough to understand this bill perfectly well. And they think it’s bad for the NHS.
The words used in the piece are also very carefully chosen. For example, ‘commissioning has to be transparent, accountable and free from conflict of interests.’ It is true that commissioning groups now have to declare a financial interest in any organisation they recommend ( unbelievably in the original White Paper signed by Nick, they did not). But there is no bar to stop them still using those companies. It is this sort of detail that ‘lay people’ like me are presumably not meant to understand. But believe me Baroness Jolly, I do..
Similarly while value of money now no longer has primacy over quality of care, my reading of the amendments in this area are that the two have equal import – so decisions will still be made on price. Anyone running a service business will tell you that customers can have any two from three out of cheap, fast and good – but not all 3. The same will be true for NHS patients after this bill passes.
I could go on ( and I have here – http://aviewfromhamcommon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/owen-jones-this-ones-for-you-why-i-wish.html?m=1 ). But the short answer is that this unwieldy piece of legislation is bad for the NHS and we should never have put our name to it.


The comments on the Baroness Jolly article have been almost universally against her piece - but Chris Rennard has stepped in and urged people to look at the amendments in detail (here and here) and the pieces that the party have written explaining what they have done.

In the spirit of balance I have linked to them on here so folk can make their own minds up. I remain of the view however that we should #dropthebill

Monday, 19 March 2012

Last Throw of the Dice

Third Reading of the Health and Social Care Bill in the House of Lords tonight - and the last realistic chance of at least pausing the Bill.

As the Risk Register has not been published, the Faculty for Public Health have written and published their own. It doesn't make happy reading.

If you haven't got time to read the report, there is an excellent commentary on the issues here.

Please Lib Dem peers - support the Owen Amendment this evening to at least pause the Bill until the Risk Register has been published.

Drop the Bill


PS If you haven't read this piece from Charlie Brooker yet on why we should drop the bill - you've missed a treat and you really should...

Saturday, 17 March 2012

A Magnificent Gesture from MPs

Apparently George Osborne is to propose in the budget that MPs representing constituencies in the poorer parts of the country are to have their salaries and benefits cuts to reflect the local economy.

In these times of austerity it is a magnificent gesture from the leading public servants in the country.Well done them.


Just to double check - these proposals that Public Servants from the poorest parts of the country should earn less than those from richer parts do apply to MPs, don't they?


(h/t to @gedrobinson for pointing this out to me)

Friday, 16 March 2012

How has no one told me about this Harman car crash of an interview before?

A disaster by anyone's standards PS Apparently the video isn't playing on I phones ( I player issue) so click on the link here

Nick - take Dave's advice. Listen to the Doctor

The results of the Poll of Members of The Royal College of Physicians into the support for the NHS Bill have just been announced and an astonishing 69% - basically 7 out of 10 - have asked for the Bill to be withdrawn.

This follows an earlier vote of Fellows of the RCP with an even clearer majority calling for the withdrawal of the Bill

There is one more throw of the dice on the NHS Bill - that the House of Lords support the Owen amendment (as we're giving motions people's names now) to pause the Bill until the Risk Register is published.

Please Lib Dem Lords, support the amendment and #dropthebill

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Pauline Pearce, the Hero of Hackney, to stand as a Lib Dem Councillor

After a week of mournfu resignations - another fine person left this morning, what a depressing week its been - some good news at last.

Pauline Pearce, the Hero of Hackney in last years riots, is to stand as a councillor for the Lib Dems.

Thank you Pauline. That's cheered me no end. Here's her moment of glory once again

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Owen Jones, this one's for you: Why I wish we would #dropthebill

Owen Jones sent me a fairly direct comment on my last piece for The New Statesman and not the sort that usually persuades me to write a response (and I'm honour bound to point out that this isn't the erudite and rather nice Owen Jones who wrote 'Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class' - he's written to me to say it's not him. Told you he was nice).

But then the first Owen Jones did then ask me in a more polite manner WHY I was so opposed to the Health and Social Care Bill. And while I write with a heavy heart, given the failure of the LD Amendment to pause the Bill in the House of Commons tonight, I have never put it all down in one place. So let me explain.

Owen would like a few details and I'll get to that - but a general point to start.

This bill is incredibly complicated. It started out being something like twice as long as the original Bill that founded the NHS, and its now 3 times longer. 

When I sat in on the SaveOurNHS rally last week, numerous politicians spoke well, but mainly talked in populist soundbites and slogans. But what struck me was that each of the Healthcare Professionals who spoke - like the Head of the BMA or The Royal College of Nursing - talked about their greatest fear - chaos. Make no mistake this is the top down reorganisation that David Cameron promised wouldn't happen, and people who work in the NHS are petrified that no one knows how it will operate.

A classic example of this is the touchstone argument - that the bill will allow hospitals to give 49% of their beds to Private Patients. Polly Toynbee says this is a fact, Shirley Williams says it's simply not true, Fullfact says a touch of a plague on both your houses. What a mess.

I get rather worried by the complexity of so called controls on Foundations to stop this happening. Here's the Shirley Williams defence:

Now, we can argue that toss about each of those - number 4 I find especially worrying, as my reading of the act indicates that Monitor actually has dual responsibility for delivering on value as well as effectiveness with neither having primacy over the other. But while I understand all those amendments - I think it's complexity leaves a lot of room for confusion and disorder. And that's before you argue the toss about the 49% limit. Judicial review anyone?

Let's also not pretend that this is solely about handing control of budgets to local commissioning bodies. As Martin Tod pointed out in his speech to conference on Sunday, 40% of the NHS budget will be handed to a new national commissioning body. Skipping over that this is counter to every desire we have as a party to let local people decide their own priorities, again it's a new complication.

And that's before we start on the money. Labour says the costs of the reorganisation will be £3bn. The Tories say short term it's a little over £1bn but will lead to savings of £4.5bn. Fullfact indicates no one really knows so the the truth is somewhere in the middle most likely

But what a risk to take  - especially in the current economic climate.

I have been surprised by how many people in the party have contacted me to assure me that there's no risk. To which I say - how do you know? There is of course an independent report on the risks. It's called The Risk Report. And Andrew Lansley has decided we shouldn't see it - even in the face of a court order to do so. He is of course doing nothing wrong - he is following the judicial process as the law allows. But why on earth are we rushing through legislation before we know all the facts - and the risks. 

And if there is no problem with the Risk Register Report - why isn't he falling over himself to publish it?

I could go on. I do  not think it is accurate to say that the Secretary of State for Health's total responsibility for providing Healthcare free at the point of need has been restored fully from the original White Paper (it's better - but not better enough). Anyone working in a CCG with a financial interest in a provider now has to declare it (they didn't in the original draft - unbelievable) - but it doesn't stop them still using that provider.

Finally, Owen, whose original comment prompted this piece, rages that I shouldn't listen to every professional healthcare organisation in the country, all of whom have objected to this bill (if you click on no other link in this piece, click on that one - it's amazing) but make my own mind up.

And plenty of people - even Shirley last weekend, and Lord Clement Jones today - are trying to tell people in the party that they don't understand the changes that have been made.

Well, as I hope this piece demonstrates, I have thought about this a lot. I have been to rally's, read the commentary from the Royal Colleges, talked to a lot of Doctors ( declaration - I am married to one), and generally made my own mind up. I am also not one of these people who believes that this is the end of the NHS, nor that some reform of the NHS isn't needed - our manifesto at the last election made it clear that we did

To quote one patient I saw speak last week - "I'm fed up with being told I don't understand this bill. I do understand this bill. That's why I want it dropped'

Please, Members of the House of Lords, suspend approving the third reading of the bill until the Risk Register is published.

The NHS does need some reform. But not like this and not with this terrible piece of overcomplicated legislation.

Drop the bill.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Price Worth Paying?

Here's yesterday's piece in the New Statesman. Do pop over if you'd like to see the comments. Generally speaking - they didn't like it. Especially one Owen Jones..Oh dear...

And of course, if you are a Lib Dem MP or Peer, do have a read. I wrote it for you. Everyone else - do feel free to send it to a Lib Dem MP or Peer...

There appears to be some confusion as to what the Lib Dem members were saying about The Health and Social Care Bill at Spring Conference over the weekend. Let me attempt to clarify things.

In short we are asking our MPs and Peers to decide if the cost of passing the Health and Social Care Bill is a price worth paying.

We don't like this bill. We trust our Conservative coalition partners on the NHS about as far as we can throw them. Our peers have done a tremendous job at amending the bill but it still has a very bad smell hanging around it. Even Nick made clear in his speech to conference that "this isn't a Liberal Democrat bill".

Nonetheless, there are some good things in the bill. No one pretends the NHS is perfect. Even Andy Burnham - who wrote an open letter to all Lib Dem members last week - says there is work to do to "enable the NHS to make some of the difficult service changes it needs to make to have a care model ready for the challenges of this century".

But everyone in the party does agree on one thing. Somehow - oh, how has this been allowed to happen - we have been manoeuvred into a position whereby if the bill passes, in the eyes of the electorate the responsibility for it will lie with us. And even if in the long term it turns out that supporters of the bill are right and the NHS improves through the passing of this bill, we wont get any of the credit, and we will get still get hammered by the voters for passing it. The cost of allowing this legislation comes with a heavy price tag for the Lib Dems.

So here is the question our Parliamentarians need to consider. It is perhaps a fairly obvious question - but in the midst of negotiations both around the bill and within the party, it is one that hasn't been asked enough.

Are you absolutely convinced that passing this bill will improve all patient outcomes in the NHS?
If you are - and I'm duty bound to point out this means you believe you know better than just about every professional healthcare body in the country - then you must pass this bill, no matter what the electoral cost to the party. It may mean another 80 years of electoral oblivion but if that's what you believe, you should put the NHS before the party.

But if you're not sure (and until the Risk Register is published, how can you be?), then is the cost of passing, as Nick calls it, the Conservatives' Health and Social Care Bill a price worth paying?

The members have done their bit and been clear that they don't think that it is.

But it's up to you now.

Blimey Marina Hyde just asked a very good question.

I wasn't friends with anyone at school 4 years above me. Were you?

So why IS he pretending they were friends at school.

Martin Bright was one year ahead of me at school. He doesn't know me from Adam.


Update: Political Scrapbook just mentioned that David Cameron's brother is a lawyer who was also at Eton  - and he is older than David, so is more likely to have been friends with Charlie Brooks.

The recomendations on his website are also endlessly entertaining  ...

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Thank you to the 314

Massive hats off to the 314 Conference Reps who voted for the Evan Harris amendment on the NHS debate today.

While it's disappointing that within minutes of the vote, Paul Burstow was telling the media he would ignore the vote and the 'real' will of conference was demonstrated on Saturday with the decision not to debate the #dropthebill motion - at least a majority of the grass roots have now shown the world that we don't think this bill is right - and needs a lot more work.

Do write to Members of the House of Lords to encourage them to do the right thing, reflect the will of the conference and the party - and even if we can no longer #dropthebill, please change this bill.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Ask yourself this. Why isn't Nick Clegg framing the health debate as Paul Burstow vs. Andy Burnham?

I can't pretend I'm not bitterly disappointed that we're not debating the kill the bill motion at conference. As someone pointed out earlier, there is a certain irony that the rebel motion won on the first preferences but lost on the transfer votes - stuffed by AV again!

But we do still have a health debate to vote on - and as a party we should defeat the motion and demonstrate just what we, the grass roots members really feel about this bill. There are many reasons to vote against the leadership's motion.

The one I'm most fed up about is personalisation

Nick has asked us to decide who we are supporting - Shirley Williams or Andy Burnham. What nonsense. The question is do we believe this bill will leave the NHS better off if it is passed. Personality has nothing to do with it.

But regardless of that, 2 other factors should give us pause for thought. Firstly, Shirley William's herself has said this evening that she doesn't like this bill. The NHS is too important for us to be making the 'best of a bad job'. 

And secondly, if it's so wonderful - why isn't this being framed as Paul Burstow (our Minister in the Department of Health) or indeed Nick Clegg vs. Andy Burnham? Because the leadership know they'd lose. Which tells you an awful lot about the contents of the bill and the leadership - that with their name attached to it, it gets defeated.

Next - I'm also fed up with being told I don't understand the bill. Shirley again has said today about the bill and its amendments...

'to please bear them in mind when you are told to vote on motions which are based, to a very great extent, on people being unaware of the firescale of changes made [to the bill], literally in the last few weeks."

Well, I think I do understand the changes, thank you very much.I think many of them have made an enormous difference, and yet I still think this is a bad bill that will lead to chaos and end up being detrimental to patient care. As I heard someone say at the rally last week "I do understand this bill - that's why I oppose it.'

Thirdly, passing this bill is another step towards political oblivion. Please read Mark Thompson's excellent blog post about this from earlier today. He makes the case most eloquently.

I'm not saying the NHS is perfect. I think it needs lots of reforming. But this bill isn't it.

Please vote against the motion in the morning.

Thank you.

I suppose being slagged off by Political Scrapbook is another one of those rites of passage...

Well they say all publicity is good publicity

And I've never been called a party hack before.

Ho hum.

Friday, 9 March 2012

An Ed Miliband Communications 101

One of my more popular pieces appeared in the New Statesman yesterday. Lots of comment - unusually, for once generally supportive. And worth popping over to the original for the photo alone.

But if you can't be bothered, here's the piece...

Have a listen to the opening few seconds of Ed Miliband’s 5 Live interviewfrom earlier this week and you learn everything you need to know about his communication problems. And he doesn’t even have to open his mouth.
Firstly, Ed, or those around him, likes to look clever. Academic. Statesmanlike. How fabulous the phrase “Patriotic Industrial Activism" must have looked on paper, how grandiose, the words of an intellectual.
There is a place for such language. It’s usually in some sort of scholarly paper. It’s not mid morning on 5 Live.
Secondly, how long would it take you to answer that question, to explain "Patriotic Industrial Activism" in plain English? Personally, I would have said “Buy British". Slightly facile perhaps, a little over simplistic -- but nevertheless, plain English.
Ed takes 53 seconds to answer. After which, frankly, most people were none the wiser.
I’ve a funny feeling that Ed and the folk around him feel that giving succinct answers using everyday language may be patronising listeners, selling them short. They’re wrong. To my mind it’s language that’s been Ed Miliband’s biggest obstacle in connecting with the public.
David Cameron totally gets this. I’m often struck by Cameron’s use of everyday language to get his message home.
A great example was when he was informing the House of Commons that he had authorised the use of force in Libya, through air strikes. Can there be any more serious subject on which a prime minister addresses the House? I suspect Ed would have said something like “I have judged that it would be prescient at this juncture to intervene to avoid further humanitarian distress."
Cameron didn’t. He said “We’ve acted in the nick of time".
There is a certain irony in the old Etonian using the language we all use on a daily basis to connect with the population at large (in order to downplay his not-of-our-world ness), while the leader of the Labour Party feels the need to talk like a university professor, nervous that otherwise folk won’t think he’s up to the job.
We know Ed isn’t a natural communicator -- who will ever forget his interviews on the public service sector strikes -- but it’s his inability to touch a common nerve that is at the root of so many of his problems. All the abuse he gets throughout the rest of the interview has almost nothing to do with policy, positioning or belief. It’s all based on an assessment that people don’t think he gets it, or isn’t up to the job.
They are not rejecting his intellectual position -- they’re not getting that far.
Most people would grasp the basic tenet of his argument if he said “Buy British". They’re probably not going to spend a great deal of time interrogating the nuanced subtleties of “Patriotic Industrial Activism".
And you cannot sell to a man who isn’t listening.


Just found a great website that shows everyone who retweeted my original article - thanks to all, extremely flattered.