The LibDems Play it For Laughs

Of the three parties that have dominated politics in the UK for the last century, it is the Liberal Democrats that seen their support collapse in the run up to the current election.  They believed that in joining a coalition they would see more sunlight and their credibility would rise. In truth it took just months for their share of support in the nation to fall from 23% at the election to less than 10%.

Their support has bumped along at around 8% and no-one has been paying them much attention.  With the new nationalist kids from UKIP and the SNP now on the block, they just haven’t been getting the airtime.

Whether its desparation for attention or a genuine strategy the LibDems have been  playing the election for laughs in the last few days.   When Grant Shapps hit the spolight for allegedly tampering with Wikipedia the Lib Dems put out a press release from Paddy Ashdown saying “Grant is a wonderful guy – he is a credit to the Conservative Party …and if, like me, you have been lucky enough to meet him, you know you have been touched by greatness. Quite simply, a colossus.”  Nick Clegg also suggested that it might have been Michael Green (an alias Shapps has used in the past) that was responsible for the edits.

At the weekend when Cameron forgot which football team he supported the LibDems created an Error 404 page that said “Just like David Cameron’s loyalty to Aston Villa, this page does not exist.

Error 404

It’s a good gag, but maybe not enough to turn the tide.

Swap My Vote

There has never been a closer election in the history of the UK and in the first past the post  constituency system there is every chance that your vote will count for nothing.

There is much talk of tactical voting especially in Scotland where there is usually just one real alternative to voting SNP in each constituency.  The UK sytem can lead to a strong sense that if the party you support isn’t popular in your constituency there is little point in voting.

A new platform called Swap My Vote offers a potential a way to make your vote count.  The Swap my Vote platform helps pair voters who want to swap, each casting each other’s preferred vote in a constituency where where it could really count.  Swap my Vote introduces two individuals to each other and the ballot stays secret.  You are responsible for trusting your partner.

This isn’t totally new. Pairing takes place in the House  of Commons, where a member who can’t attend, say for health reasons, pairs with an MP on the opposite bench, to cancel out each others vote.  In the USA vote swapping was found by the Supreme Court to be protected speech under the First Amendment.

In the 2010 election, an average of just 29% of votes cast gave a candidate victory and over half of votes were for losing candidates. In a sense 70% of votes were ‘wasted’. There’s no way of knowing how many voters will take up the offer and what the level of trust will be but it’s nothing if not an ingenious attempt to deal with the concept of ‘wasted votes’.

Can We Support a PM Who Doesn’t Know Who He Supports?

David Cameron is the PM who made Andy Coulson his Communications Director, either knowing that he was guilty of phone hacking and not caring, or not knowing.  That was a forgivable error, it seems.  He also made the schizophrenic Grant Shapps, Conservative Party Chairman; another dubious judgement call.

It transpires that there may be an even bigger issue of trust at play.  Can we vote for a PM who doesn’t remember which football team he supports?  As the campaign enters the last two weeks David Cameron tells voters that he’d “rather you supported West Ham”.  Cameron is the nephew of Sir William Dugdale former Chairman of Aston Villa Football Club and is on the record as a Villa fan.   He has even taken his son to see them.

West Ham play in similar colours to be fair, but given that the inevitable coalition negotiations that will follow the May 7 vote, can we trust a man who doesn’t know which side he’s on?

Miliband Votes Miliband

At 4pm today (Friday 24th April), New York based David Miliband, confirmed that he submitted his postal ballot and was backing his brother for PM. Five years ago most of the smart money would have been on the elder of the two Miliband brothers being the one beating a path to the door of 10 Downing Street.  However in September 2010, David very narrowly lost the Labour leadership election to Ed. On 15 April  the following year Miliband resigned from Parliament to take up the posts of President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee in New York City.

His preference will have surpised no-one, but his absence from the campaign as both brother of the Labour leader and a former Foreign Secretary is certainly notable.

Grant Shapps in Identity Crisis

Grant Shapps is caught up in another row about manipulating his public profile.  He used the pseudonym Michael Green for more than a year after he first became an MP to run an internet business, something he continually denied until his denials were exposed and pictures emerged of him at a US internet conference badged as “Michael Green”.

The latest row is over claims that he was involved in editing his Wikipedia entry to remove references to this scandal and other embarassing entries. A Wikipedia user called Contribsx systematically removed material from his page and added negative commentary to the pages of some of his political rivals.

Wikipedia editors said that they “believe that the account Contribsx is a sockpuppet of Grant Shapps’ previous accounts on Wikipedia … and based on the evidence the account is either run by Shapps directly or being run by someone else, an assistant or a PR agency, but under his clear direction.” The user’s account has been blocked after Wikipedia investigation.

The Lib Dems took immediate advantage and put out a press release from Paddy Ashdown saying “Grant is a wonderful guy – he is a credit to the Conservative Party …and if, like me, you have been lucky enough to meet him, you know you have been touched by greatness. Quite simply, a colossus.”

In a note to editors at the bottom it said the release had been edited by Contribsx.

Libdem release

Where’s Alex Salmond?

Although the media can’t get enough of Nicola Sturgeon she’s not even a candidate in the General Election, in two weeks time. Yes, you heard that right, she’s not standing, but Alex Salmond is and he will be the leader of the Scottish National Party’s Westminster MPs.  There will be about 50 or so of them if the polls are to be believed. “I’m the leader of the SNP, I’ll be in charge of any decisions and negotiations and anything that happens after May 7” says Sturgeon. But she won’t be in Westminster, so Salmond, who will, must inevitably play a key role after the vote. Why then have we heard nothing from him for weeks? Have they calculated that Sturgeon won’t provoke the ire of the media in the same way Salmond might?  Alex Salmond is one of the brightest and effective politicians that the UK has seen.  Whatever the reason for his absence from the stage, you can guarantee it’s no accident.

Pub Landlord Confirms He’ll Stand Against Farage

Pub Landlord, Al Murray has confirmed his intention to stand against the beer loving UKIP leader Nigel Farage in the South Thanet constituency in the May general election.  Murray confirmed on Twitter that his nomination papers were submitted this morning (8/4/14).

The comedian will stand under the banner of the newly-formed Free United Kingdom Party (FUKP).  In a bid to win votes from beer drinking voters, he has promised to introduce the 1p pint, although “crisps will remain at the current price”. Mr Farage has vowed to quit as UKIP leader if he fails to win South Thanet, which the Conservatives won from Labour at the previous election in 2010.   Latest polls show that Nigel Farage is marginally behind in a three-cornered fight with UKIP one point behind the Conservatives and Labour one point behind them.   Whilst Murray is unlikely to win, his candidacy could be highly significant, even decisive, in a closely run race.

Sturgeon Surprising in TV Leaders Debate

David Cameron didn’t want to do any of the TV debates, so to have come through them relatively unscathed is probably a result for him.

Nicola Sturgeon probably gained most from the two hour TV marathon last night.  Although there was no consistency in the post broadcast polls, one from YouGov actually put Sturgeon on top with 28%.  Miliband did better than Cameron with top or equal top position n three of the five polls.

Sturgeon looked to be making overtures to Labour by supporting the party’s plan to restore the 50p top rate of tax, clearly with a mind to support a minority Labour victory. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett looked uncomfortable at times as did Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru, who targeted most of her points at the Welsh audience.

Clegg attacked Cameron for tax cuts for the rich and went on the offensive several time with his partner in government – clearly seeking to put clear blue water between his party and the Conservatives.

Still to come is a BBC debate involving just the opposition party leaders, so no Clegg or Cameron, on 16 April.  There will also be a special Question Time on BBC One, one week before the election, with Cameron, Miliband and Clegg separately answering questions from a studio audience.  Drama is unlikely to ensue, but watch this space.