Thursday, 25 February 2010

'Thatcher remains queen of Tory PPC hearts' reports Progress-online

Today's New Statesman/ComRes poll amplifies the echoes of Thatcher and the 1980s that have been steadily approaching for a while now: this morning George Osborne said Tory cuts would be harsher than Margaret Thatcher's.

Meanwhile, the next edition of Progress Magazine is an ‘80s revival' special, arguing Cameron could be set to repeat the mistakes of the woman who is the political hero to a third of Tory PPCs.

The same polling goes on to reveal that 20 per cent want to reinstate the death penalty - though this is significantly less than the public at large - and three-quarters believe civil partnerships should be treated the same way as marriage (but it does not give Tory PPCs' views on gay marriage).

While it would be unfair to say the Conservatives haven't changed, a majority are shown to be in favour of cutting public spending and inheritance tax for the richest - findings which shine a light on diehard Tory beliefs that remain. In a similar vein, nine in ten express their support for an immigration cap. The noises emanating from Tory ranks on slashing spending and immigration point firmly away from a progressive agenda of public service reform and commitment to free movement of people. The Conservatives will have to change much more yet if they are to have truly progressive credentials to burnish. 


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Wednesday, 24 February 2010

No fewer than 3 Independent + a Green ppcs standing in Luton South - hope they've got a plan!

Joe Hall (Independent), Qurban Hussain (LibDems), Nigel Huddleston (Conservative), Dr Stephen Lathwell (Independent),  Marc Scheimann (Green Party), Gavin Shuker (Labour), Esther rantzen (Independent) and Charles Lawman will be attending.

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Nice pic of the Northumberland countryside.

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Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Under Labour the poor's debts rose massively

The current economic crisis has cast a sharp light on broad cultural trends across all income groups. Consumer-led aspirations and a national obsession with home-ownership are deepseated cultural developments with both social and economic drivers. But for many families, having access to products and homes means relying heavily on debt.

In the decade to 2008, average household debt in the UK increased substantially – from 93 to 161 per cent of disposable income. The profile of borrowers widened to include lower income groups, which some suggest has led to greater opportunities for social and economic inclusion. But low-income households are the ones that are most vulnerable to debt problems, and ippr’s new research illustrates that our reliance on debt – far from creating opportunity – has created vulnerability during this recession.

ippr’s innovative research with 58 low-income families in London, Newcastle, Nottingham and Glasgow aimed to understand what the expansion of household debt has meant for the lives of low-income families. In-depth interviews, an income and expenditure diary and regular telephone conversations over four months explored patterns of income, spending and borrowing.

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The culture of culture

Arts & Culture

What we stand for

Culture as a good in its own right.  We are sceptical about the current trend for seeing cultural activities simply as an instrument for achieving other policies, believing in the value of arts and culture for their own sake. We do not believe that the arts are the exclusive domain of the left – a fallacy that has remained unchallenged for too long.

Liberating the arts from stifling bureaucracy. The arts are tangled in bureaucratic organisations: with quangos such as the mammoth Arts Council for England, RDAs, local authorities, different government departments (and others) all trying to exert top-down control. Do we know what all the bodies supposedly stimulating the arts actually do? How much duplication is there? Can they be trimmed, or cast aside? We believe the arts need to be radically simplified.  

Using technology to spread opportunity. The digital age should mean new audiences and revolutionary access for the arts, but much of the thinking in this area is undeveloped. And what about the future of broadband? The policy debate has focused heavily upon technologies, but perhaps the most crucial aspect is broadband’s scope for spreading opportunity - and thus one of the most serious dangers is that of a continuing geographical divide.

More from Policy Exchange's Arts & Culture Unit: 

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Why do we have a worse cancer death rate than the European average?


The Cost of Cancer

The UK currently has a cancer death rate 6% higher than the European average. However if the survival rates were improved in England to a level commensurate with the best in Europe, on a cumulative basis by 2020, 71,500 lives could be saved and total costs could be reduced by £10 billion. The report recommends that the Department of Health identifies and adopts the best practice in cancer services from high-performing European countries, focuses resources where largest reductions in mortality can be achieved and focuses on cancer prevention strategies.

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What can the North-East of England expect if Cameron gets in?

"Many of Britain's towns and cities have failed - and been failed by policy makers for too long. It is better to tell uncomfortable truths than to continue to claim that if we carry on as we are then things will turn out well. Just as we can't buck the market, so we can't buck economic geography either. Places that enjoyed the conditions for creating wealth in the coal-powered 19th century often do not do so today.

"Coastal cities, whether large like Liverpool and Hull, or small like Scunthorpe and Blackpool, are most vulnerable ... They are almost always at the end of the line. They have lost their raison d'etre [as ports] and it is hard to imagine them prospering at their current sizes.

"Sunderland demonstrates just how hard it is to regenerate such a city. It is time to stop pretending there is a bright future for Sunderland and ask ourselves instead what we need to do to offer people in Sunderland better prospects."

The report says that all the 3m new homes planned by the government should be built in just three southern cities - London, Oxford and Cambridge. It says: "Cities based on highly skilled workers are the most dynamic. Oxford and Cambridge are unambiguously Britain's leading research universities outside London." People in the north should be told bluntly that their best chance of an affluent future is to move south. "No one is suggesting that residents should be forced to move, but we do argue that they should be told the reality of the position."

Tim Leunig, an economist from the London School of Economics who co-wrote the report, admitted that some people will see his ideas as "unworkable, unreasonable and perhaps plain barmy".

Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, said: "This report from David Cameron's favourite thinktank has just dismissed a huge area of the country as worthless. Is it any wonder there are no Tory councillors in Liverpool when for all their warm words they have not changed a bit?"

The above extract from the Tories favourite think-tank might give us a clue.

Click on link to read article.

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Monday, 22 February 2010

What's going to happen if Cameron & Osborne start slashing public expenditure?

Which bunch of economists is right?  Those who say cut public expenditure rapidly - or those who say do it less rapidly?

Richard Murphy provides an easy to understand case study - the likely consequences of rapid cutting are chilling.  He says;

Give or take the public sector employs about 5 million people. If, as is demanded, there should be public sector cuts of 10% then maybe 500,000 people will lose their jobs.

People in work spend and pay tax and they don't need benefits - sacking someone on £25K creates a net loss to the Government of  c.£20,000 - excluding the personal misery and any consequent costs of ill-health etc.

The net direct loss will be 500,000 x £20,000 - and the human misery incalculable (look at what is happening in and around Redcar right now).

Richard Murphy's article is a 'must read'
-  click HERE


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Tax havens: how much tax do the rich avoid or evade?

How much tax do the rich get away with - through avoidance or evasion?

According to Richard Murphy it's at least £18.5 billion!

Richard Murphy

£18.5 billion is, I suspect, an underestimate, but it’s always worth being cautious when it comes to these matters. Even so the loss is staggering: that’s £18.5 billion a year lost to the UK Exchequer as a result of the abuse of tax havens by corporations and individuals resident in the UK.

Part is avoidance. A significant amount is evasion.

And of course I’m not na├»ve enough to think that this means all can be recovered. But I’m equally adamant that significant amounts could be.

Click HERE to go to Richard Murphy's fascinating article & site.


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Bring back Prof Cooper & Ann Widdicombe - get rid of Pratt

BT ditches free evening calls AND is now pumping out nuisance calls


BT customers with free evening calls are unlikely to be pleased by the changes. Photograph: Marttila/Rex Features

BT is pushing back the time from which customers can make free evening calls, from 6pm to 7pm, in a move that could infuriate millions of customers.

News of the change is buried in letters and emails sent out to customers this week, entitled "Important information about your BT service". The letters say that the end point for the free evening call period will also move back, from 6am to 7am.

Although the change, to be implemented on 1 April, only involves a move of one hour, it is unlikely to go down well with the 10 million BT customers who have signed up for packages that include free evening calls. Only those on the Anytime package will be unaffected.

Not only are BT cheating on their contracts with customers they are now starting to pump out nuisance calls.

I assumed the recorded message that disturbed our evening was from some gut-bucket company but no it was BT themselves advertising some wretched self-congratulatory event.

Click on link to read Guardian story.

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Was 'Bully Pratt' acting for the Tory Party? - Cameron appointed Bully Coulson

The charity boss has since admitted to being in contact with Tories over the claims, adding that it was "irrelevant" in the context of her speaking out.

Asked if the Conservative Party had been in contact with her over the allegations, she replied: "Yes. I have been in touch with them, they have been in contact with us but we are not a political charity, I'm not politically motivated." But questions remain over whether she was contacted by MPs before or after she went public with her comments

Check out Cameron's choice of bully;

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'Is it time for 'Bully Pratt' to resign? - Ann Widdecombe has - BBC

Christine Pratt defends her decision to speak out

Tory MP Ann Widdecombe has resigned as patron of an anti-bullying charity after it publicised the fact that No 10 staff had used its helpline.

Prof Cary Cooper and TV presenter Sarah Cawood have also stepped down from the National Bullying Helpline.

Its head, Christine Pratt, had told the BBC of its dealings with No 10 staff after Business Secretary Lord Mandelson denied Gordon Brown bullied people.

Mrs Pratt said she did not disclose confidential details or name anyone.

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A hung Parliament could be the first step in MPs learning to be mature 21stC Politicians

"Westminster sees minority government as weak, unstable, incoherent and short term in its approach to policy.

Recent experience in Canada supports that, with unstable minority governments and political and constitutional crises. But in New Zealand and Scotland minority governments and minority parliaments have been much more effective. "


Making minority government work: Hung parliaments and the challenges for Westminster and Whitehall. Hazell, R. and Paun, A. (eds). 2009.  Institute for Government


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Earn less than £100K? - is this what the Tories have in mind for you?


See UK article HERE


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Vital for all political reformers - the work of the Institute for Government

Our work

We focus on the issues that really matter to government, examining both what supports and holds back effectiveness. 

Our approach is rigorous and evidence based, drawing on best practice from around the world and developing new insights and practical recommendations for improving the mechanics and processes of government.

Central to our work is the integration of our research with our learning and development programme.  The research informs learning and development which in turn informs our research. 

It is this virtuous circle which makes what we can provide integrated, sophisticated and flexible, thereby maximising the benefits to our partners, whether government departments, agencies, civil servants or individual politicians.

If only Cameron and Blair would start telling the truth about issues instead of pumping out Tribalist lies and prejudices.

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Looking for ideas to reform Whitehall?

'Shaping up: A Whitehall for the future - Institute for Government'

Click on link to read much more

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Vital research for all political reformers - Institute for Government

About us

The Institute for Government is an independent charity with cross-party and Whitehall governance working to increase government effectiveness. Our funding comes from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts.

We work with all the main political parties at Westminster and with senior civil servants in Whitehall, providing evidence based advice that draws on best practice from around the world.

We undertake research, provide the highest quality development opportunities for senior decision makers and organise events to invigorate and provide fresh thinking on the issues that really matter to government.

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Vital report for all Political reformers - 'Hung Parliaments: What you need to know' - Institute for Government -

Hung Parliaments: What you need to know

Hung Parliaments: What you need to know

No general election in 36 years has returned a House of Commons without a single party majority. However, recent opinion polls suggest that a hung parliament is a possible result of the forthcoming election. This has been reported quite negatively and has generated predictions that unstable and ineffective government would be the result.

However, as argued in a recent report by the Institute for Government and Constitution Unit, this need not be the case. Indeed, minority or coalition government can even have advantages, though ministers, the opposition, the civil service and the media would all have to adapt their behaviour to make it work.

One key message from our report, and from the Institute's sister report on government transitions, is that preparation and planning by all these groups is key. We offer this brief guide to what the implications of a hung parliament would be.

Click on link to read full report

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Even a spoof of a spoof can be spoofed.

Lord Ashcroft and someone else.

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Sunday, 21 February 2010

UK Politicians - grow up instead of getting hung up

No British general election has returned a hung parliament in over three decades. But recent polls have served as a reminder that a House of Commons under "no overall control" is very much a possibility after next year's election. The polls have triggered a wave of speculation about whether the result will be political instability, market collapses or even "the death of government".

There's no need to panic. Virtually all other advanced democracies cope perfectly well with minority and coalition governments, as has Westminster in the past. As a new report from the Constitution Unit and the Institute for Government argues, a hung parliament is very unlikely to be "one of the biggest disasters we could suffer".

One specific concern about hung parliaments is that governments emerge out of secret negotiations rather than directly on the basis of the election result. In this way, democratic accountability can be weakened. Some also fear the monarch being drawn into this process, having to adjudicate between two leaders who both have a claim to the keys of No 10.

But these concerns could be avoided by a relatively simple reform that would let the Commons itself decide on who should lead the country. This is what happens in many other countries. As in Scotland, parliament would vote on a recommendation to the Queen on who to appoint as prime minister, so no formal constitutional change would be required. The motion would be debated at the start of the parliamentary session, straight after the election, with the candidates for PM stating their case, and smaller parties explaining their reasons for backing either side. This would be more transparent, more comprehensible and less likely to politicise the monarchy than the current opaque conventions and processes. There is no reason why all parties could not agree to this change now, before the election potentially forces their hands.

To prevent a lengthy government formation process the political parties should start preparing early for potential negotiations after an election. In particular, they should think hard about their "red lines" and map key areas of agreement and disagreement with all other parties, as well as agreeing processes for securing the backing of the party at large for any deal made.

Parties should consider the full range of options in terms of types of partnership as well as potential partners

It's the greed, out-dated beliefs and rotten attitudes of politicians that stop them from focusing on the the needs of their country and constituents.

It's time that they emerged from their Tribalism and worked together on the most pressing issues.

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Bullying - who did Cameron appoint as his Head of Communications?

Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson, now David Cameron's head of communications, led the bullying campaign the tribunal found. Photograph: Martin Argles

A News of the World reporter who suffered from a culture of bullying led by former editor Andy Coulson, who is now David Cameron's head of communications, has been awarded almost £800,000 for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.

Matt Driscoll, a sports reporter sacked in April 2007 while on long-term sick leave for stress-related depression, was awarded £792,736 by the east London employment tribunal. It is believed to be the highest payout of its kind in the media, and legal costs could take News International's total bill well over the £1m mark.

The award will cause fresh embarrassment for Coulson, who resigned in January 2007 from the newspaper after the former royal editor, Clive Goodman, was jailed for hacking into the phone messages of aides to the royal family.

Sold many books yet Mr Rawnsley?

How many people have stopped by the Observer?

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Britain isn't broken - according to The Economist


THEY are not the world’s most effusive people at the best of times. But even by their usual gloomy standards, Britons seem to have got themselves into a slough of despond of late. Well before the economic crisis they were weeping on the shoulders of pollsters, who reported rapidly rising levels of dismay about the country’s direction and an increased sense of nostalgia about the good old days. For those (and they are legion, on inner-city council estates as well as in the shires) who think that society in Britain is “broken”, the country is stuck in a mire of crime, fractured families and feral youth.

Click on link to read article

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Saturday, 20 February 2010

Tory joins UKIP to fight seat at General Election - Julian Whittle reports in Cumberland News

A disillusioned Conservative is standing for the UK Independence Party in Penrith and the Border.

John Stanyer photo
John Stanyer

John Stanyer, 45, fell out with his Conservative association over the selection of the Eton-educated former diplomat Rory Stewart as parliamentary candidate.

Mr Stanyer was angry that none of the six hopefuls presented to a selection meeting in October was local.

He has now left the Tories and will stand for UKIP at this year’s General Election.

He said: “The Conservatives are becoming less and less honest and open, less democratic.

“We need a change. We need some honesty and more say for ordinary people.

“Politicians are held in total disregard by the general public. I don’t believe Labour or the Conservatives are offering anything different.”

Click on link to read article in Cumberland News

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Hung Parliament 2010 - Channel 4 Report

Channel 4 News Report

The media are picking up a Hung Parliament as a seriously possible outcome of the election. Expect more of this as time goes on, until it becomes the default expectation.

When that happens, all parties, not just the Liberal Democrats, will face searching questions about forming a stable government capable of dealing with Britain's problems. David Owen makes a telling point that even a small majority will be insufficient to govern effectively.

2010 will be an election like no other we have seen...

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Lib Dems and the potential for hung parliament - Patrick Wintour in the The Guardian

Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg, right, may be kingmaker in a Brown-Cameron battle. Photograph: Rex Features

For the first time in 15 years, the Liberal Democrats are facing the perils of being taken seriously as they handle the gathering speculation about what they would do, or allow to happen, in a hung parliament.

A balanced parliament was not a realistic prospect in 2001 or 2005. By contrast, in 1997 Paddy Ashdown made elaborate plans anticipating one, relying on lengthy advice from Lord McNally, now the Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords and a source of wisdom to the people around Nick Clegg.

Lord Rennard, the former party chief executive, has recalled that 39 out of 42 polls pointed to a hung parliament in 1992, and the issue was discussed in private, in a specially chosen hotel room, between Neil Kinnock's staff and the Liberal Democrat leadership. But John Major and his party unexpectedly defeated the recession and the pollsters to remain in power as a majority government.

In 1987, the joint SDP-Liberal alliance effectively scuppered its own campaign by making the goal of holding the balance of power the explicit objective of its campaign. "What if" politics can be the upending of a third party. As one Lib Dem election veteran admits: "I have been through elections and everyone spent the time talking about what could happen. The consequence was that nothing happened. We lost."

The party's freestanding message becomes obscured by the speculation over whether it is likely to form a partnership with left or right.

This time will they have the wisdom and skill to use the opportunity for the benefit of modernizing the system and for the good of the UK?

Click on link to read full article

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A hung parliament need not paralyse a government

Britain’s upcoming election may not deliver a clear victory for any one party but an inconclusive result does not have to be a disaster for economic and financial stability.
With the Conservative lead over ruling Labour shrinking ahead of an election that must take place by June, there is growing talk of a hung parliament, in which no single party has control of the House of Commons, the lower chamber.
Investors fret that this could deliver a weak government at a time of severe strain on public finances.
The deficit will hit £178bn ($279bn) this year, more than what the government spent last year on schools, health and defence put together. Markets worry that a hung parliament would delay painful but crucial spending cuts.
Memories of the last hung parliament, in February 1974, are not reassuring. Then, a Labour government pushed ahead with minority support in the Commons, but it proved so difficult that a snap election was called seven months later. Labour won, but by a razor-thin majority.
Labour stayed in power until 1979, but the period was marked by strikes, inflation and a public finances crisis that forced Britain to turn to the International Monetary Fund for support - a humiliation seared into the nation’s collective memory.
But times have changed since the 1970s and there are reasons why a break with one-party domination might not be so bad for Britain.
The need to clinch cross-party agreement, whether as a coalition or as a minority government seeking parliamentary support issue by issue, can be a useful way to focus minds and find pragmatic, non-partisan ways to solve problems.
“It will force parties to work together in a way that single-party government won’t,” said Vince Cable, Treasury spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, the party that will hold the balance of power if neither of the big two win a majority.
A cross-party arrangement would also strengthen the government’s legitimacy at a time when it will have to take on labour unions to push through painful cuts in public spending.
The majoritarian voting system in national elections has allowed two parties, the Conservatives and Labour, to alternate in power since the end of World War Two.
But the rise of the Liberal Democrats, who won over 22% of votes in the last election in 2005, and of smaller parties with strength in particular regions, means the two-party model no longer reflects the breadth of British politics.
“It’s time for people to wake up and smell the coffee. Times have changed. It’s a multi-party system,” said Patrick Dunleavy, political science professor at the London School of Economics.

Click on link to read full article

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Two interesting points in relation to hung parliaments

What is the Electoral System saying?
The capacity of FPTP to deliver an overall majority is entirely dependent on two factors – its exaggeration when translating votes into seats, and the number of third party MPs.

The first has been in long-term decline since the demise of the “cube-law” in the 1950s, although it has recovered slightly since 1992, and has now stabilised at around a “square-law.” This change, due to the decline in the number of marginals, means that fewer seats now change hands between Labour and Conservative for a given shift in votes, or swing.

The second has seen the number of MPs not aligned with Labour or Conservative grow from just 8 in 1955 to no fewer than 92 in 2005. This change, due to the rise in the LibDems and Nationalists, and the de-coupling of Northern Ireland from the mainland party system, means that to gain an overall majority Labour or Conservative now need a far larger lead in seats over each other than they did in the past.

Combined, these two factors have dramatically altered the British FPTP system from one where hung parliaments were extremely unlikely to one where they are now increasingly likely.

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Read this analysis of the crookedness of Labour's AV - by Adam Collyer

Labour have been talking recently about a referendum on introducing a new system of voting. They have billed it “proportional representation”, but the system they will propose is the Alternative Vote system.

Under the AV system, instead of voters putting a X against a single candidate, they rank candidates in order of preference. When the votes are counted, first preferences are looked at first. If nobody gets more than 50% of the first preference vote, then the lowest candidate is eliminated, and their votes are redistributed to their second preferences. This process continues until a candidate goes over that 50% hurdle.

I thought it would be interesting to speculate on what the result of the last election would have been under such a system. Obviously, it is impossible to tell accurately what voters would have voted under a different system. But you can look at likely distribution of second and third preferences, and so predict what the outcome would have been.

Click on link to read Adam Collyer's article.

Not only have they managed to stuff it to the Lib Dems, and possibly the Tories, they have arguably put back the cause of Fair Voting for years.

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54% of teenagers are pregnant claim Tories - good job George Osborne is really good at economics

David Camerson put the Conservatives on a full election footing yesterday, but hit an immediate setback as the party made an embarrassing mistake in its campaign literature.

Information released by the party, claimed that more than half of girls – 54 per cent – in the most deprived communities fell pregnant before their 18th birthday. The claim, in a document detailing the gap between the Britain's richest and poorest areas, was breathtaking. It was also untrue: a crucial decimal point was missing from the actual figure, which is 5.4 per cent.

Click on link to read story

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Friday, 19 February 2010

Hung Paliaments - look at 1974 (Wikipedia)

The UK general election of February 1974 was held on the 28th of that month. It was the first of two United Kingdom general elections held that year, and the only election since the Second World War not to produce an overall majority in the House of Commons for the winning party, instead producing a hung parliament.

This election saw Northern Ireland diverging heavily from the rest of the UK, with all twelve MPs elected being from local parties (eleven of them representing unionist parties), following the decision of the Ulster Unionists to withdraw support from the Conservative Party in protest over the Sunningdale Agreement. It also saw the first Plaid Cymru MPs to be elected in a general election, in Wales (they had previously won a by-election).

Although the incumbent Conservative government of Edward Heath polled the most votes by a small margin, the Conservatives were overtaken in terms of Commons seats by Harold Wilson's Labour Party due to a more efficiently-distributed Labour vote, and the decision by Ulster Unionist MPs not to take the Conservative whip.

The two largest parties both lost a considerable share of the popular vote, largely to the Liberals under Jeremy Thorpe who polled two and a half times the share of the national vote compared to the previous election. But even with over six million votes the Liberals elected only 14 MPs, polling the most votes (~432,823) ever collected by a party for each MP elected in a UK general election.

Heath did not resign immediately as Prime Minister. Assuming that Northern Ireland's unionist MPs could be persuaded support a Conservative government on confidence matters over one led by Wilson, he entered into negotiations with Thorpe to form a coalition government. Thorpe, never enthusiastic about supporting the Conservatives, demanded major electoral reforms in exchange for such an agreement. Unwilling to accept such terms, Heath resigned and Wilson returned for his second spell as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

The fact that the Liberals did not have sufficient seats to be able to support a government led by either major party on their own made the formation of a stable government in this Parliament a practical impossibility. Wilson would call another election in October of the same year.

On 19th February 2010 the BBC Parliament channel re-ran their coverage for the evening due to increasing suspicion that the 2010 Election will also result in a hung parliament

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60 economists give Darling a reason to smile again

Alistair Darling goes into the weekend a happier - not to say smugger - bunny. The two letters to the Financial Times from a total of more than 60 economists backing Darling's course, and rebuking Shadow Chancellor George Osborne for his over-eagerness to cut public spending, are just what the doctor ordered.

The mantra 'It's the economy, stupid' has never been more apposite than in this general election. If Labour can prove to the general public that they have the wisdom to see us through this crisis, and that the desperate duo of Cameron and Osborne risk making matters worse, then they have a good chance of holding onto power.

Darling's argument is simple; start cutting back on public spending too soon and we will see a lot more young people on the dole queue. Wait until 2011 before introducing serious cuts and Britain has a chance of averting a social disaster.

Osborne, on the other hand, wants to start the big squeeze the moment he gets into power (how big an 'if' that is, we'll come to). He has been holding up a letter written to the Sunday Times by 20 economists backing him, which he has taken to be evidence that a consensus of economic experts supports his policies.

Wrong again, Mr Osborne. The two letters to the FT suggest that the majority of economic academics are on Darling's side. (Even Osborne, reviled by many in the City to the point where increasing numbers hope he will be replaced before he gets the keys to the Treasury, can see that 60 trumps 20.)

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Hung parliament - related BBC Radio programmes

Power sharing deals examined on Radio 4 PM programme
Listen here from 31 min 25 sec

Hung, Drawn and Thwarted - part one
Listen here

Lord Steel and Rhodri Morgan on The World This Weekend
Listen here from 20 min mark

Lords McNally and Howell interviewed on Week in Westminster
Listen here

Lord Owen of Charter 2010 on Radio 4 Today programme
Listen here

Owen and Tom Chandos on Week in Westminster 
Listen here from 8 min mark


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'We will be very constructive in
our approach to hung parliament'

The Liberal Democrats insist they have NOT made up their mind about what they would do if the General Election produces a hung parliament, the BBC has reported.

Vince Cable, the party's deputy leader and Treasury spokesman, said the idea that the Lib Dems were planning to rule out a coalition was "the product of a vivid imagination. We are not talking about deal-making. We are competing on the basis of our ideas and values and we want to win as many seats as we can."

Cable also told BBC Radio 4's World at One that a hung parliament could be in the national interest because "it could force parties to work together in a way that single-party government wouldn't. We will be very constructive in our approach to it, but we are not engaging in fancy games of working out who does what."

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12 weeks til the Election - will all the campaigns work for a common goal?

All the different political reform campaigns have been working away.

But what is the objective now?    In the remaining 12(?) weeks?

Can all of the campaigns work together?
To what end?

Encouraging tactical voting to ensure the Tories don't get an overall majority?

The purpose of which would be what?

To get all MPs working in issues on a cross-party issues-based ways - instead of pursuing Tribalist domination, for the benefit of their pay-masters?

I figure that for those who want to see a Parliament and political system that is truly modern, truly democratic and truly accountable we are embarked on a decade-long process - at least.

The crunch question then is what should we be doing in these remaining weeks that will be of greatest benefit to a set of goals that might take a decade or more?


Please pass on these questions.

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Thursday, 18 February 2010

George Osborne interview - you really get a sense of the calibre of the man & his party

Don't Miss George Osborne's great new Cooperative Society - it's here

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Independent Candidates making ground - BBC Politics Show

We are so lucky here in Hexham to have a truly Independent MP of exceptional calibre - Dr Steven Ford -

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476 Labour & Tory MPs cheated us - demand Fair Voting right here, right now

476 Labour and Tory MPs voted against Fair Voting.

Why are so many Labour & Tory MPs against Fair Voting?

It's very simple from my point of view,  if you get 30% of the votes you get 30% of the seats in Parliament. 

Nothing else is democracy. 

All the nonsense about 'strong government' is tosh - they mean strong only in the sense of what Labour and the Tories have done over the last few decades - i.e rob the middle class as well as the working class and give all the wealth to the rich and especially the mega-rich.

Fair Voting is the key to getting rid of the rot in our political system.

I assume greed and power is the answer to my question.  What do you think?

The Power2010 campaign by the Electoral Reform say;

Currently general elections are held under the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) electoral system; a "winner takes all" system which tends to produce single-party majority government.

A more proportional voting system would see the number of seats controlled by parties reflect more accurately the breakdown of votes across the country. For some proportional systems this would require larger constituencies, each electing more than one MP. The seats would then be divided among the parties according to the proportion of votes won.

A PR system would make it more difficult for one party to gain a majority in Parliament making coalition governments much more likely.

A range of systems exist, including the Alternative Vote Plus, the Single Transferable Vote and the Additional Member System.

Why you should vote for this reform:

• The existing system is unfair and discriminates against all but the main two parties: in 2005, for example, Labour won 55% of seats with only 35% of the vote, while the Liberal Democrats won only 10% of seats with 22% of the vote.

• Far fewer votes are "wasted" under proportional representation.

• It would prevent a single party dominating Parliament and lead to a more consensual politics.

• Small parties would be more likely to get a seat and therefore a voice in parliament.

There is still time to vote for the issues important to you on the POWER2010 website.

Go to and help ensure that

comes top of the poll.

They use the votes we send them to put pressure on political parties.  They were instrumental in getting the 'commitment' to AV - disappointing but possibly a step in the right direction. 

We'll see. 

In the meantime help build up the roar of rage.

Help build up the roar for Fair Voting.  In New Zealand it took 10 years - are we in year 1 or year 9?

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Another Tory boomerang

The Tories’  new election poster…

…has been instantly savaged at  Will they ever learn? Cam flimflam is no match for the power of web 2.0 and the humour of the voting public.



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'I've never voted Tory...............' - make up your own joke!

In case you missed it today, the  #ivenevervotedtory trending topic on twitter became the fourth largest in the world. It was an extraordinary, overwhelming and life affirming verbal avalanche of all the reasons why being decent, compassionate human beings precludes so many people from ever  voting conservative.

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Labour or the Tories, what an awful choice ? - vote Independent if you can.

A huge embarrassment for the Tories the next time they accuse their critics of class hatred. Cameron’s Conservatives are deeply engaged in class war, not only against the working class  but against their own middle class heartland as well.

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Check out Esther Rantzen's blog - vote Independent

The recent past has shattered our trust in our Parliamentary system. It is crucial now to change things for the better.
We have to reform and strengthen our democracy, and create opportunity and prosperity for Luton and the whole country. None of us can achieve these hopes and dreams by ourselves, but working together I believe we really can make the difference.

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Best Labour Party videos - but is this one telling a porky pie or two?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Spoof Gordon Brown '9 Banana' diet for rejuvenation

Shock Horror - Hitler discovers Tory Election Poster Campaign spoofed

'BBC News - Tax exiles may have to pay back taxes after ruling' - bet they wriggle out of it!

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton moved to Switzerland, partly to avoid UK taxes.

Thousand of rich UK citizens living abroad as tax exiles may find they have to pay UK taxes after all.

The Court of Appeal has upheld the right of HM Revenue & Customs to tax a businessman, Robert Gaines-Cooper, who has lived in the Seychelles since 1976.

The judges said that he had never been exempt from UK taxes as a non-resident citizen.

Although he had abided by the rules to spend fewer than 91 days here, he had still not cut his ties with the UK.

Mr Gaines-Cooper may now have to pay a tax bill of £30m, for the years from 1993 to 2004.

Click on link to read story

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BBC gets sicker and sicker in kowtowing (oops) to PC - HIGNFY shows the way

Oprah Talks to Thich Nhat Hanh

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

One Independent would-be MP tells how it is for him

Why vote independent

I recently spoke to a man who was kind enough to point out that I have no chance of being elected as an MP for Dagenham & Rainham, and that people will continue to vote for Labour regardless of any policies they don’t agree with.

Of course I have no funding, no backers, no staff of consultants or advisors, but what many will see as a weakness, I see as a strength.

I only have Dagenham & Rainham to represent, I do not have another party constituency to run to, or a political career to protect.

I am doing this because I am tired of shouting at my TV, and listening to the lies of politicians. All I have is a chance, a tiny chance that somewhere in Dagenham and Rainham the voters will not stay at home, but try to make a change.

We the people know more than we give ourselves credit for. The political flyer that tells us how the party politician does, and expects us to just take their word for it.

Typically party handouts are full of statements of “against unscrupulous employers, against bad transport, against lack of affordable housing, against crime”, as if they would say anything else.

I have heard so many times the tired old line that MP’s are ‘Fighting for jobs’, or ‘Fighting for better homes’ even ‘Fighting Racism’. Well are they effective? Where are the jobs sheets?

Parties look after themselves, but seem only to be full of stating the obvious & hiding intentions. They always have questionnaires for us to give an opinion, which they only pay attention to, up to the election results.

People tell me Labour will win, that Conservatives will win, or that the BNP have a chance. I look into how elections are won, & it seems the political parties succeed more, by people NOT voting.

It seems most people always vote for the same party, & party flyers target only those things we are likely to care about in the next few months, without any long term plans being properly thought through.

I was told not to waste time on the elderly & young as they are less likely to vote. But then it was suggested I should get a press picture of me with a smiling elderly person, or photos cuddling babies next to a stage managed hospital visit, anything for a respectable image.

George Kennedy -

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Stay away from BUZZ - until thet create in simple English a safe system for the user.

Google Buzz Privacy Policy

9 February 2010

The Google Privacy Policy describes how we treat personal information when you use Google's products and services, including information provided when you use Google Buzz. In addition, the following describes our additional privacy practices specific to Google Buzz.

Personal Information

In order to post in Buzz or to comment on or "like" other people's posts, you need to have a public Google profile which should as a minimum includes your first and last name.

When you first enter Google Buzz, to make the start-up experience easier, we may automatically select people for you to follow based on the people who you email and chat with most. Similarly, we may also suggest to others that they automatically follow you. You can review and edit the list of people you follow and block people from following you.

Your name, photo and the list of people you follow and people following you will be displayed on your Google profile, which is publicly searchable on the Web. You may opt out of displaying the list of people following you and who you're following on your profile.

If you are following someone who publicly displays their list of followers on their Google profile, then your Google profile name will appear on that person's public list. Likewise, if someone is following you and displays the list of people they follow on their profile, then you will appear on that public list.

READ THE WHOLE (LONG) DOCUMENT - you will probably want to stay well clear when you see what it says.

Go to bottom of your gmail page to turn BUZZ off.

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'Bitterness and anger as banks fail to lend' - by Ian Dunt at


Ian Dunt starts his article by saying;

"New data showing persistently low levels of bank lending have prompted a tirade of anger at the sector and the government.

Research published today by the Institute of Directors (IoD) shows nearly 60% of businesses seeking bank finance in 2009/10 were rejected by their bank, and that 20% are financing their business to at least some extent with a credit card.

The figures corroborate a damning public accounts committee report last week which concluded the Treasury does not know why state-owned banks are still not lending and has few resources it can use to force them to do so. "


No appropriate accountability. No punishment. Massive profits (see Barclays today). Disgraceful bonuses. No appropriate levels of lending.

When will the gutless government act appropriately?

To read the full article click on link

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A luxury house for 99 euros? - An additional good reason to support micro-credit?

The idea is you buy a 'lot for 99euros - and one lucky person gets the house!

It looks above board - hope so!

Click on link to find out more

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Don't miss 'The Other TaxPayers' Alliance | Fairer taxes not lower taxes'

MUST READ the brilliant 'Airbrushed for change - | Five lessons from MyDavidCameron'


Five lessons from MyDavidCameron

By Clifford Singer

On 30 January I spoke at a packed session on "new media and the election" at the Progressive London conference, alongside Alex Smith, Helen Gardner, Sunny Hundal and Andy Newman. There were strong contributions from all my fellow speakers and from the audience. This, more or less, is what I said.

Click on link to read Clifford Singer's talk about his astonishingly successful viral marketing.

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Still trying to understand where all our Crdit Crunch money went? - Try Bubblewrapped Links

Airbrushed for change - | Government of the rich, for the rich, by the rich

Click on link for lots more poster creativity

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See the new Tory Cooperative Society

Old cooperative society;

New Tory cooperative society - they have your best interests at heart!

The Bullingdon Club of 1992: pictured are (1) George Osborne, (2) Harry Mount, (3) Chris Coleridge, (4) Lupus von Maltzahn, (5) Mark Petre (6) Peter Holmes a Court, (7) Nat Rothschild, (8) Jason Gissing


Who said George Osborne has no qualifications in economics!

Billions between them and waiting for more.

Just read how Labour as well as the Tories have shovelled your wealth to the mega-rich'.

‘In 1976, excluding property, the bottom half of the UK population owned 12% of the marketable wealth;

by 2003 that had fallen to just 1%.

In the same period, the share enjoyed by the top 10% rose from 57% to 71%.‘  SOURCE


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Monday, 15 February 2010

"I heard they'll be a hung Parliament. Can anyone tell me where I can get tickets?"

"I heard they'll be a hung Parliament. Can anyone tell me where I can get tickets?"

Suggested joke for Brian Blessed - can't claim it's mine - I saw it somewhere!



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Ever wondered what life would be like with the BNP? - Dominic Kennedy of the Times found out.

Times reporter Dominic Kennedy is evicted from the BNP meeting in Hornchurch
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(Paul Hackett/The Times)

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Minutes after inviting him in, the BNP ejects the Times reporter Dominic Kennedy from a press conference. They objected to an article in Saturday's paper

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Recommend? (70)


One man grabbed my nose and tried to remove it from my face. I was seized and shoved out of the door towards a parked car. I threw my hands out to steady myself. A BNP thug snarled: “Don’t touch people’s cars mate.” Obviously, I offered no resistance.

I had gone to the Elm Park pub in Hornchurch to report on a press conference at which Nick Griffin, MEP for North West England and chairman of the British National Party, was to explain how his activists had just passed an historic membership reform.

Although I had been invited, one prominent BNP politician had taken exception to an article in Saturday’s edition of The Times. After he lost his temper with me I was quickly shoved and lifted out of the building, hit in the back and had my face squashed.

The BNP, the most successful hard-right party since Oswald Mosley’s 1930s neo-Nazi Blackshirts, had been forced by equality legislation to hold an extraordinary general meeting to let non-whites become members.

Click on link and read full article

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About Me

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My focus is inter-spiritual living