Daily Archives: March 11, 2011

George Eaton at the New Statesman has already summed up what was wrong with Nick Clegg saying this morning of bankers that he wanted to “wring the neck of these wretched people“.

As Eaton points out, the comments breach the ceasefire between Westminster and the Square Mile supposedly achieved via Project Merlin. They also remind the public just how ineffective Clegg has been in curbing bonuses in the banking industry. Read more

I revealed in yesterday’s FT that five unions* have lined up against AV with only one union figure – Billy Hayes of the CWU – in favour of changing the system. (And even Hayes hasn’t swung his union behind him yet). Others are likely to join them in the coming weeks.

Their backing, which will include the leafleting of millions of people, will make a considerable difference to the campaign which has otherwise struggled to raise money. Read more

What does David Cameron stand for on Libya? That’s less clear than it should be. Cameron is facing his first foreign policy crisis and wants to be seen driving a concerted international response. But he is in danger of appearing diplomatically marooned.

1) Isolated over a no fly zone: Cameron was one of the first to signal his support for this option. But the effectiveness of such action is being questioned by most of Nato, Baroness Ashton, the US defence secretary, his own defence chiefs, the list goes on. Meanwhile events on the ground seem to be outpacing the diplomatic response. Read more

This morning saw the publication of a letter by 26 historians in the Times arguing for keeping the first-past-the-post system. It co-incided with a letter from 11 business people in the Telegraph (chaperoned by spin doctor Roland Rudd) who back the alternative vote (AV).

Expect to see more of this kind of thing in the next two months. [Coming to a newspaper near you: 32 leading vets back the "No" campaign while 18 prominent chiropodists come out for "Yes". ]

Joking aside, there was some good knockabout on the Today programme this morning between historian Amanda Foreman and Mr Rudd himself. Foreman recalled that AV was discussed in Parliament in 1931. According to the records it was passed in the Commons (by 278 to 228 votes) and then rejected in the Lords.

But what exactly did the great Winston Churchill, who was a sceptic about AV, say at the time? Here is a link to the relevant Hansard:

The Government have, as it seems to me, rejected without reasonable consideration both the method of Proportional Representation and this method of the second ballot. The plan that they have adopted is the worst of all possible plans. It is the stupidest, the least scientific and the most unreal that the Government have embodied in their Bill. The decision of 100 or more constituencies, perhaps 200, is to be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates.’

‘Imagine making the representation of great constituencies dependent on the second preferences of the hindmost candidates. The hindmost candidate would become a personage of considerable importance, and the

 Read more

The coalition is changing the law to allow the Tories and Lib Dems to put up joint candidates with a single emblem on the ballot paper, according to a report by Patrick Wintour in the Guardian.

Mark Harper, Cabinet Office minister, pushed through the legal changes in the Commons this week. According to one source this was designed to allay the concerns of candidates standing for Labour and the Co-operative party simultaneously – rather than an attempt to pave the way for a Con-Dem pact for 2015. Yet the move is bound to arouse suspicions within all three main parties. Read more