Say-anything Tories – advance to the right, do not collect £200.

The Conservatives have announced they’re abandoning Labour’s pledge to pump investment into deprived areas as a way of solving Britain’s social problems, the Independent reports.

In addition, the Sunday Times/YouGov poll out today has the Tories down to a 2% lead over Labour. Although this figure has been quickly dismissed by leading Tories as “wedding jitters”, the trend in the polls has been downwards for the Tories. So is that why Cameron’s making so much of his no-notes speech today?

CCHQ and “vetting” Tory PPCs submissions on social networks/blogging.

There’s been a great deal of talk over the past few days about a certain Tory “bloggers meeting”. Left Foot Forward and Liberal Conspiracy were reporting that memos were to be sent out to Tory bloggers stating the party’s policy line, amoungst other pointers. Obviously, the Tory’s bloggerati were out in force to defend the meeting. I’m not a Tory blogger, so I have absolutely no idea what went on in that meeting and neither do I particularly care. We can speculate all we want.

However, today it has been revealed that the Tory leader himself has been issuing strict instructions to Tory PPCs to submit their online submissions (blogposts, Twitter updates and Facebook activities) for approval.

Well, that sure is interesting. So, in order to cut the number of potential gaffes Tory PPCs could make, David Cameron wants to make sure they parrot the party line. This is possibly the stupidest thing I’ve seen the Tory leader do in a very long time. On all sides of the political spectrum, I want to see party candidates who, despite being party loyal, do have their own viewpoints as potential Parliamentarians. Yes, they may be wrong and I could despise their views. But better that for actual debate than some partisan parrot who quotes the book (before anyone asks, I would say the same thing if Labour tried to do anything similar).

Why is the Tory leader so afraid of what his candidates might say? Of course, the Tories jumped on the offensive, stating that they only want to ensure factual accuracy. However, that still means that PPCs opinion could be severely limited. We saw the same thing happen under New Labour, and I disagree with these kinds of moves by party leaders/executives. We need debate, we need opinions and we need viewpoints, otherwise we have no pluralism or diversity in political viewpoint. The blogosphere needs to be an open platform for PPCs to publish and inspire debate with the electorate, other candidates and anyone with a general political interest. They shouldn’t be reduced to parrots by force.

New Labour were famously control freaks. So is the Tory executive planning the same?

More trouble for the Fib(bing) Dems.

Having already had Teather-gate, it seems those North London Lib Dems have got another round of explaining to do – this time relating to the mayor of Camden Council, who has been arrested on suspicion of benefit fraud.

Council leader Keith Moffitt said that Omar Faruque Ansari would be suspended from the Liberal Democrat group in Camden Council whilst investigations are being carried out.

Looks like this one could be ongoing, so I’m keeping an eye out for developments.

Not a good week for the Lib Dems.

Preaching about how the expenses scandal is all down to corruption in politics and how it would all be solved under the Lib Dems is all well and good – until your own CLP comes under fire for irregularities. Sarah Teather, MP for Brent East has famously jumped on her high horse over the expenses scandal, preaching from the pulpit. “What planet were MPs living on?” she asks.

Thanks to some stellar work by Political Scrapbook, Brent Lib Dems may have a lot of explaining to do (note here: do read Political Scrapbook’s investigations into this, makes for essential reading).

But, to summarise:

  • Teather has been accused of sub-letting her constituancy premises to the political campaigning wing of Brent Lib Dems, although Parliamentary rules prevent sub-letting and expense claims that relate to political activity. Harrow Observer were later told that the office is not a sub-let but a shared tenancy. Political Scrapbook points out that Brent Lib Dems haven’t paid rent for the last five years. So, as PS asks, “perhaps this is some kind of special tenancy where the taxpayer picks up the tab for Liberal Democrat political campaigning?”
  • It also turns out that Brent Lib Dems don’t only share an office, they also share a telephone system.
  • And like the office rent, Brent Lib Dems didn’t pay out for phone bills. PS also notes that in the last four years, the itemised bills have been claimed back in Teather’s expenses.

This isn’t looking good at all – especially when one considers that the total cost of phonecalls went up substantially around local election time.

(credit once again to PS)

I’ve personally had enough of the expenses issue, to the point where seeing another story about this-MP-claiming-that drove me to “end it now” despair. But this isn’t just a dodgy claim – it’s hypocrisy too, and that I can’t stand. If you’re going to self-profess yourself as a saint, make sure you are one. If not, berating other MPs when your record isn’t clean is the kind of hypocrisy I don’t like to see in politics.

Of course, the Lib Dems woes don’t exactly get any better. One of their candidates (well, now ex-candidate) has quit amid an email race row.

Additionally, Plymouth Lib Dems have been suspended by Lib Dem HQ due to infighting and disputes. After losing two chairmen in the past five months, the party’s London HQ suspended the branch. Additionally, the Western Morning News notes that financial irregularities are currently under investigation.

Another one?!

Trouble on the centre left? If this week is anything to go by, I’m inclined to agree that something’s not right with those Dems.

Explanations are very much required!

Bitter Blairites crash Labour’s positive start to the New Year.

How typical, I break from my energy politics portfolio to make some lunch, come back and my Twitter feed is going crazy. So, the news is that Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon have circulated a letter calling for a secret leadership ballot. Well, how refreshing it is to see a coup mounted by bitter Blairites (!)

We’ve just entered the General Election year. The Tories marriage tax proposals were crashing around them and the nasty KerryOut Twitter campaign was backfiring. There’s been monumental anger at Boris Johnson’s public transport fare rises in London. All major Tory failures – and then, along come two bitter Blairites to derail progress. Talk about timing.

Hewitt and Hoon are acting like petulant children. Their careers are over, so they turn on the Prime Minister. It was rather interesting to hear Hewitt defending herself on BBC Radio 5 claiming that she wasn’t trying to oust Brown. Well, what the hell is she doing? And Hoon, of course, is spinning this to be an attempt to solve the dispute. What, by creating one and breaking up party unity? Sure it is. Their parliamentary careers may be finished, but why wreck Gordon’s and any other Labour MP’s?

This whole saga is complete madness. Thanks for giving ammunition to the opposition, idiots.

The small comfort I have is the statement from Tony Lloyd, chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party (via LabourList)

“Gordon Brown will be the leader next week and at the general election. There won’t be a secret ballot because there is not the demand. It’s pinprick stuff, but it deflects from us talking about our own policies.”

And let’s keep it that way, despite the attempts by a few Blairite derailers to do the complete opposite.

Michael Howard tells us we’ve not done enough to combat the threat of the BNP. 2005 election campaign anyone?

Cast your minds back to elections past – namely 2005. Tony Blair vs. Michael Howard. The infamous Tory poster:

(with added graffiti)

Fast forward to the present, and Howard’s been telling the main parties that they have not done enough to combat the threat of the BNP. I’m tempted to ask exactly what planet Howard’s been on recently, because his election campaign directly played on anti-immigrant vote. So to turn round now, almost five years later to tell anti-BNP activists that we “haven’t done enough” when his election campaign directly fed into unfounded fears about immigration is just a tad bit hypocritical (!)

And before I get the inevitable deluge of “well Labour can’t ignore immigration as an issue”, I should probably point out that I am all for a debate surrounding immigration policy, I don’t shy away from it and I do listen to all sides when I talk to voters. I also campaign bloody hard to fight the BNP’s disgusting and inhumane rhetoric. I want to hear people’s concerns, whatever they may be. If we don’t debate and challenge the unfounded rhetoric that exists in the immigration debate, then the BNP and their ilk certainly will capitalise on it.

But Michael Howard cannot tell us we haven’t done enough, because his campaign also capitalised on that rhetoric. It was a mistake that I believe the Tories should know not to repeat.

Meanwhile, whilst riding of his European election success, Nick Griffin has now got his sights set on Westminster. Of course, him getting in would be an absolute travesty.

So could us anti-BNP activists please be allowed to get on with what we are doing without being told by someone who played into empty and false rhetoric about immigration that we aren’t doing enough?

Attleeite Lefty’s Christmas Message

It’s that time of year, and I should be following the lead of many bloggers and wishing the seasonal greetings too.

So, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers, Twitter users I follow, Labour activists, fellow bloggers (of all sides), members of the LYL exec and everyone who’s out celebrating/working or spending Christmas with the endless array of relatives.

I myself am off to have a quiet family and friends Christmas deep in the heart of East England. Politics is obviously going on the back burner as of now.

Merry Christmas everyone, see you in the New Year.

Rosie Hucklesby,
Author and administrator of Attleeite Lefty.