...a blog by Richard Flowers

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Day 2469: Elections, elections, elections


If you think that the elections have been cancelled, you need to THINK AGAIN!

Coming in 2008 is the important election for LONDON MAYOR, and we need to get working fast! Then in 2009 there are the EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT elections – here in London we NARROWLY missed out on getting a second representative and so we need to work harder next time!

That is why I took Daddy along to the Liberal Democrat London Hustings in Bethnal Green.

Part way through, we received the news that everyone had been on tenterhooks waiting for… England had beaten Australia at Rugby. Oh, and also Mr Andy Marrmite had been up to Mount Sinai and received some tablets of stone from Mr Frown saying "NO" and "ELECTION".

Is it just me, or is Mr Frown's FACE slowly MELTING?


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So yes, Mr Frown has decided to rule out an Autumn election, though he denies that poor performance in the polls changed his mind.

"The… uhhh… weather looks a mite… uhhh… nippy… so I… uhhh… just didn't fancy it… uhhh…" stammered the stumbling Secret Stalin.

Sir Mr the Merciless was first on the case, saying Mr Frown has lost his nerve and calling for fixed term parliaments so that the Prime Monster (whoever he is) cannot put the country (or himself) though this sort of DITHERING again.

Mr Balloon has spent a lot of time smugly harping on about Mr Frown treating us like fools.

It does, of course, take one to know one.

Some people, though, might think that it's not TOO clever to keep on saying, "he's just fibbing: everyone knows that he wanted an election!" when everyone ALSO knows that you desperately DIDN'T want one, even if you keep saying that you did.

Anyway, our magnificent Ms Lynne Featherweight has called Mr Balloon's bluff by telling him to PUT UP or SHUT UP. Either he is serious about democracy – and will back the Liberal Democrats on our fixed term parliament bill – or he is ALL MOUTH and NO TROUSERS.

So anyway, THAT was all a storm in a teacup. We have proper elections to fight, not just Mr Frown's phoney war.

So, back to the hustings...

Getting a seat early
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The message that came strongly from our Euro-candidate hustings was that we are just not Pro-Europe ENOUGH! Or rather, everyone KNOWS that we are the pro-Europe party – as one candidate put it: UKIP are Liberal Democrat ANTI-MATTER – but we sometimes seem to be EMBARRASSED about it, as though we don't want to get caught having the strongest support for the most brilliant European peace and prosperity plan since, well, ever.

Mr Simon James asked us why it is that while in local elections and even general elections we manage to raise our performance ABOVE what the opinion poll ratings say we are getting, in Europe we fall below expectations.

He pointed to the media's OBSESSIONS that Europe is about BIG CENTRAL IDEAS: "the Euro", "the Constitution", "the straight banana" (err…) but the European Parliament is NOT about those things.

Mr Simon put forward the suggestion that we should remember our roots in COMMUNITY POLITICS. We need to take community politics to the EUROPEAN LEVEL: connect people to how Europe affects THEM, not in some abstract way, but directly, in their own local area, and not just the person on the doorstep but our own local activists, who have to campaign for us, and need to be fired up by how important Europe is to THEM too.

Mr Jonathan Fryer told me – in one of the SEVEN European languages that he speaks! – that we need to talk about Europe's SMALL BUT PRACTICAL achievements as well as the big ideas.

Things like "the environment" seem large, but can come down to better controls of air quality or whether we get a third runway at Heathrow (supported by the cosy Conservatory Labour partnership; only the Liberal Democrats are speaking out for the local people who don't want it). Do people know that Liberal Democrat votes in the European Parliament helped secure cheaper roaming charges for their mobile telephones? Not to mention protection from dangerous toys… I gave him a VERY HARD STARE for that!

As Lady Ludford added, Europe should not be boxed off into a separate area. She's used her time in Brussels to press for CIVIL LIBERTIES (she's been praised by Ms Charming Chakrabati of Liberty for her Human Rights work) and that is CENTRAL to Liberal Democrat policy.

I wonder if – just like our manifesto has a Green Thread running through every page – we might need to have a EUROPEAN thread running though all of our policies too.

After the Euro-hustings, we got to hear from the three candidates hoping to stand for the Liberal Democrats for Mayor of London. (For those of us who had been at the packed-out hustings in Brighton this was "another chance to see".)

On the panel
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This time around, Mr Fizzle gave a very stirring speech (to be quite honest it was a LOT better than the one he gave in Brighton!) full of passion and promises. He STILL had too many things to say in the time though! Then came Mr Paddock, who was more serious this time, with fewer jokes. He was less impassioned than his two rivals, but more focused and really knew his stuff on the questions (I bet my Daddy has been giving him LOTS of homework). Last to speak was Ms Chamali, whose speech was quite similar to the one from Brighton. (I must admit that she did stumble slightly, using her "rose between two thorns" line twice, I suspect because she was trimming for time.) However, she was much improved answering the questions – apparently she has grade 5 in ballet too.

All of them are TERRIFIC candidates, each bringing different skills and experience to the table, and I would be PROUD to support any of them. In fact, it is a shame that we cannot have ALL THREE as prospective Mayor!

What we REALLY need, though, is to have a candidate who has a better RUN UP to the election.

We know that developing a council seat or a parliament seat we have to work for often SEVERAL elections before we can build up our support. The same MUST be true for the London Mayor – and yet here we are still choosing our candidates with less than seven months to go! Excellent though they are, we have left them with a big handicap at the start of their race.

What we SHOULD do is have a candidate who can campaign for us for four solid years, and always be ready to appear on the news as "Liberal Democrat Mayoral Spokesperson" – just like we try to choose prospective parliamentary candidates early in our target seats.

It is not like Mr Ken has not been campaigning solidly for himself for the last four years – what are all those "Mayor of LondOn" posters if not adverts for HIM!

Of course, part of the problem is that while Mr Balloon can lose an election but still gets a paid office in Parliament from which to call Mr Frown names, runners up to Mr Ken get no such luxury. Being leader of the opposition to the Mayor is not a paid position… or is it? What about the London Assembly members?

Now, this is just a thought: how about if our mayoral candidates are also one, two and three on our list for London-wide members of the London Assembly. That way, even if we do not succeed this time, our terrific team will be in a proper position to KEEP CHALLENGING Mr Ken and developing their – and the party's – profiles. (I am not sure if you are ALLOWED to stand for Mayor and Assembly at the same time, though.)

(I don't mean any offence to the likes of Lady Tope and Lord Hamwee but at least they do already HAVE jobs in the House of Lords Club to fall back on.)

The London Assembly OUGHT to be where top-quality candidates want to be; it OUGHT to be the OBVIOUS place to look for a Mayoral Candidate as well as for potential top London MPs like Ms Featherweight; and it OUGHT to be full of people who can hold Mr Ken to account and not let him RUN RINGS around them!

After all that, all that remained was for Humph to thank the lovely Samantha…

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…for keeping them all to time and then to usher us out to do our (Cancelled) Election Special Focus delivery rounds!


If you still have anything you want ask the candidates, you can visit the online hustings.

1 comment:

martin said...

Am shocked about the ideas for potential Mayors - I feared I'd bored you into a deep coma by that stage of the conversation ;-)