Friday, 29 May 2015

Putting the boot in Southport Tory style

Negative campaigning was not invented by Lynton Crosby, here is a prize specimen from the Southport Vister of January 1910. Ten reason electors should vote against Baron de Forest (the Liberal Candidate.)

The Tory candidate was one Major White. And yes the Tories played the race card. This poster was put up in Birkdale

Electors of Birkdale
From all Radical Lies
Fraudulent Misrepresentations and other
Low Electioneering Methods
Deliver Us
From Austro-Germanic Invasions
"Political Earthquakes" and Local
Deliver Us
By voting for
Major White 
You can find out more here                            

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Update on how UKIP member counted the ballot paper in Birkdale

As I explained here a couple of days ago, last week's election count in Birkdale Ward was much delayed for one of the most bizarre reasons that any of us could ever recall. This was that a couple of UKIP guests to the count ended up "helping" to sort and count hundreds of Birkdale ballot papers. For those who want to know more, here's my (shortly to be re-elected) colleague Cllr Simon Shaw, explaining in the middle of Friday's count, what had gone wrong:

Facing up to political tribalism by reclaiming the alternative liberal agenda

This Assembly of the Liberal Party, indignantly aware of the grossly unequal distribution of property (wealth) in this country, believes that the greatest possible measure of personal ownership, with the independence and security it brings, should be enjoyed by all. It also believes that the opportunities of a full life hitherto open only to the rich should be placed before all.

It recognises these twin ends as the inspiration of its domestic policy and pledges its whole strength in urging on the nation far-reaching reforms to achieve them

Liberal Assembly, Buxton. ( Guess the date?)

We do not have multi party politics. Britain does not have a culture of coalition. Tribalism is alive and well in politics. Unless and until we have major constitutional reform, including electoral form for Westminister, any strategy which is based upon coalitions will fail.

Just look at how the Labour Party behaved on Thursday. Ed Balls lost his seat whilst Labour activists , motivated by loathing of Clegg spent time failing to unseat him rather than defend Balls. The same happened on a smaller scale in Southport. Labour activists were receiving emails beseeching them to go and help in the marginal seat of South Ribble ( which Labour failed to take) but choose instead to work their socks off in Southport where the only outcome which they could hope to achieve would be to reduce the Lib Dem vote and let the Tory in. Fortunately our ground war was just strong enough to repel them. Lab/Con do not have pluralist bone in their body. Take another example close to home. Southport has its own Health Commissioning arrangements (CCG). There are not, and there never have been, any Labour Councillors elected to our council from the town and yet there are only Labour Councillors sitting on the Health and Wellbeing Board which is the mechanism for the CCG's accountability.

The same is true of the Tories. Look at their behaviour over House of Lords Reform and the AV referendum.

If we are to rebuild we have to adopt a strategy which works under the First Past the Post (FPTP) and settle for nothing less than PR before joining a coalition. It is daft, irrational and against all the available evidence to think that either Labour or Tories will adopt PR. It is not in their interest. They will not do it as long as they can along without it. Forget bleating about unfairness. Was the system changed after 1983 when we got 25.4% of the vote and only 3.5%  of the seats? No. It will only change when we can build up a core vote big enough to win through under FPTP.

David Howarth has written an excellent article over of the Social Liberal website which shares this premise. David goes on to outline a strategy which could take us where we want to go. I urge you to read I, all of it, it gets beyond the anger of the lost opportunities and has a vision that can move us forward.

Central to any strategy is the building up of the core vote. If Simon Titley was still with us this is the point he would be making. It is the point Michael Meadowcroft has consistently made. If people only vote for us because we do prodigious amounts of case work we will all burn out before we achieve or goal and, what is more important, unless we persuade them to share our values we will only borrow their votes for a season. To succeed we need them to vote for us because they agree with us not because they are grateful we have fixed the drains.

It is commonplace to say the public are confused about what we stand for. It is nevertheless true and the incompetence exhibited at the highest level over the last five years has added to the lack of clarity. As David Howarth points out we do not have the luxury of being vague like those who appeal is based upon promoting sectional interests-Labour's identification with class and the SNP with the nation. I can do no better than to start by copying and pasting David's summary:

Some of our values are clear –  internationalism, protecting individuality and non-conformity, hating bullying and the abuse of power,  promoting environmentalism, protecting civil liberties and a love of democracy not so much because we think it efficient or effective but because it expresses a basic equality of respect for all individuals. But some of our values are not clear. Most significantly, what is our view of economic inequality? Do we, like Nick Clegg in his disastrous August 2010 speech, worry only about social mobility, or do we care about inequality of wealth in itself? I think most members do care about inequality of wealth, especially in its gross modern form. But the party is going to need to say so loudly and clearly.

I well remember that Clegg speech. I met a journalist who contributed to a Right wing periodical. He was ecstatic. Clegg had passed the Rubicon, he foresaw long term cooperation with the Liberal Democrats. Clegg had removed the biggest barrier. It was all about emphasis now not substance.

It is evidence of how far Clegg has shifted the Party to the Right that we have to address this question. We had very few high profile visitors to Southport during this election: Mathew Oakeshott and Shirley Williams we were pleased to welcome. Shirley was on Any Question on Friday (BBC Radio 4) where she was forthright in her view that the economic inequality in our country needs to be addressed.

Just as there is a difference between a citizen and a mere subject, so there is a difference between an employee who is simply hired by his company and one who shares, officially and formally, in the ultimate power to determine the company’s aims and call its directors to account.
(LPD 1962)

I joined the Liberal Party at the end of the 1960's. The signature economic policy of the party was Co-Ownership. The policy held that those with capital were entitled to a 'rent' on their investment but any profit over and above 3% should be shared with the work force. Capital did not have unconstrained rights. There was to be one company register on which shareholder and workers were to be equal. David Penhaligon always maintained to achieve workers' control all that was required was for a worker to buy a single share. This policy derived from what the academic Stuart White has called the alternative Liberal tradition. He explains:

While this tradition endorses both markets and significant private ownership of wealth, its proponents also see a key role for collective action, including action by the state, in determining, for egalitarian purposes, the content of the right to capital and its distribution. I call this tradition liberal because some of its leading theorists, such as J.S. Mill and James Meade, identified as liberals and because the Liberal party in the UK historically drew on and contributed to it.[2] But it is an alternative liberalism to neoliberalism in that it takes a different view of the content of the right to capital and regards rules regulating the distribution of wealth as properly subject to collective determination and an egalitarian conception of the common good.

To bring this up to date there has been much discussion of the writings of Thomas Piketty particularly his book   Capital in the Twenty First Century. White summarises his argument that without  corrective action, we can look forward to a rise in capital’s share of national income and a corresponding depression of the share of labour. This might not be so significant were capital evenly distributed so that all could share in its higher returns. But Piketty shows that the distribution of capital is extremely unequal and likely to grow more so. At the same time, he argues, the share of wealth that is inherited looks set  to increase. Together these trends threaten to produce a society in which a relatively small section of the population comes to claim a larger share of national income through its (increasingly) concentrated ownership of (increasingly) inherited wealth.

To those of my generation this sounds like pure Meade. He was a disciple of Keynes, a Nobel Prize winner (Economics) and advised the Liberal Party. I well remember a meeting of the Party's Policy Committee (or Standing Committee as it was known then) chaired by Richard Wainwright when he tabled a paper written by Meade. Meade also contributed a chapter to David Steel's 1985 book Partners in One Nation in which he argued the case for employee ownership.

As Piketty argued their is a maldistrubtion of the wealth we create, the share being taken by capital is disproportionate and those who only have their labour to sell are getting a raw deal. Liberal argued that the solution was to transfer ownership. Meade wanted, among other ideas,  companies to create extra shares and establish a workers' Trust much like Ed Davey did with the Post Office.

Some Liberal went further as White explains:

 for some more radical liberals/Liberals the idea of co-determination sometimes gave way to the idea that firms ought to be labour-managed. Firms should be run by their workers. To attract capital, worker-managed firms would of course have to offer a return on investment. But investors would not have a right to directly control the firms themselves. A further step along this road, of course, is to envisage workers owning the firm they manage, either in whole or in part

I can well recall Liberal Assemblies where Richard Wainwright argued that labour should hire capital. When you add this approach to Land Tax and a policy of Inheritance Tax which would be levied on the recipient rather that the estate we are well on the road to achieving the Liberal policy of Ownership for All where wealth is diffused rather than concentrated with a commensurate increase in liberty and security .

Adopting these Radical policies and agreeing that to achieve them the state would need to legislate to compel companies to share profits and to give employees equal rights to shareholders was one of the reasons that led to folk like Arthur Seldon and Oliver Smedley exiting the Liberal Party. They clustered around the Institute of Economic Ideas and acted as mid wives at the birth of Thatcherism. I suspect the some economic Liberals will follow their example today. 

White does not include in the antecedence of alternative liberalism  the Distributist tradition about which David Boyle has written.  The book which launched that movement, written in part by the Liberal MP for Salford, was called The Servile State. This tradition certainly influence Jo Grimond. The book that launched the Liberal Revival proper was the Unservile State published in 1957 and edited by George Watson whose recent sad death left the Lib Dems considerably wealthier .

In the Distributive tradition David Boyle has another way to spread ownership is to give away houses! He writes:

I've come to believe, as a modern Distributist, that the way forward has to be building new homes and then giving them away - on three important conditions:
  • They do not go back onto the open market and fuel house price inflation (ownership need not imply the right to sell).
  • They stay at the same nominal price they were originally sold for, ratcheting down the rest of the market, perhaps for a generation or so.
  • They are built in sufficient numbers to satisfy demand.
Simply giving away social housing also works, but not if it fuels inflation and isn't replaced.  But if the social housing is replaced, giving it away seems to me a more Liberal solution, given that it  provides people with genuine independence.  I've got no time for the idea that, because people are poor, they must be forced to pay rent.

The alternative would seem to me to be more and more private landlords and I am uncomfortable with that because as Boyle says: We are becoming dependent supplicants to the new landlord class, the rentiers which Keynes once told us deserved 'euthanasia'.

In answer to David Howarth's question do we care about inequality in wealth? The answer must be a resounding YES and we have the basis of the ideas to address that inequality.

If the party can agree on its values as out lined by Howarth, including redressing the inequality of wealth, then we have the foundation needed to move forward. It will not be enough to develop a new form of mindless activism we must launch new campaigns that communicate our values and as David points out there are some early opportunities. An immediate example is that we should organise our members to put pressure on MPs and ministers on the snooper’s charter, an issue on which the government’s small majority might easily fall apart. Similarly we will need campaigns to save the Human Rights Act, to preserve Britain’s place in Europe and, though it might be hard to win an anti-NIMBY campaign, against banning new onshore wind farms. We should also be campaigning against the forthcoming £12 billion benefit cuts and more broadly against state bullying of the vulnerable (something we seemed to have stopped doing recently). As in the original ‘dual approach’ to politics pioneered by the Young Liberals 45 years ago, we should be organising resistance both inside and outside political institutions, co-ordinating the two and encouraging citizens to join together to change policies and attitudes.

I would add to David's list opposing the renewal a Trident.

If this dual approach is carried through we can rebuild a loyal core vote and not get stranded when the tide goes out. Nor will we be destroyed again by political tribalism. If this is to be a progressive century and not a conservative one then Radical Liberalism must punch above its weight. We must reclaim alternative liberalism

Saturday, 9 May 2015

John Pugh's Southport Declaration video at which he has important things to say

Southport's winning team and results

After the count was (finally) over we had a group photo taken by young Mr Ashton. One or two folk had gone home or were engaged with running volunteers home and other essential duties.

On the night we won not only the parliamentary seat but the majority of council seats in Southport and lost nothing.

Southport Parliamentary Constituency - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
John David PughLiberal Democrats1365231%Elected
Damien MooreConservative Party1233028%Not elected
Liz SavageThe Labour Party846819%Not elected
Terry DurranceUnited Kingdom Independence Party742917%Not elected
Laurence George RankinThe Green Party12303%Not elected
Jacqueline Anne BarlowThe Southport Party9922%Not elected

Norwood - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
Marianne WelshLiberal Democrats197132%Elected
Stephen James JowettThe Labour Party145924%Not elected
Jeffrey Thomas HughesUnited Kingdom Independence Party130321%Not elected
Anthony Irvine WhiteConservative Party102417%Not elected
David McIntoshThe Green Party4006%Not elected

Meols - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
Nigel AshtonLiberal Democrats206532%Elected
Georgia PactorConservative Party173326%Not elected
Patricia Elaine ShanksUnited Kingdom Independence Party137521%Not elected
Debbie BannonThe Labour Party114117%Not elected
Rick FurnessThe Green Party2374%Not elected

Kew - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
Mike BoothLiberal Democrats184232%Elected
Janet Catherine HarrisonThe Labour Party132923%Not elected
Philip Jeffrey CantlayUnited Kingdom Independence Party125122%Not elected
Jordan Thomas ShandleyConservative Party100417%Not elected
Neville GrundyThe Green Party3396%Not elected

Birkdale - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
Simon ShawLiberal Democrats221633%Elected
Poppy Elise JonesConservative Party137421%Not elected
Allen FergusonUnited Kingdom Independence Party136021%Not elected
Ged WrightThe Labour Party135120%Not elected
Tony YoungThe Green Party3185%Not elected

Friday, 8 May 2015

Lib Dems storm home in Birkdale despite counting farce-

The count for Birkdale was much delayed and for a while we couldn't understand why until a super sleuth journalist got to the bottom of the story. Apparently a couple of UKIP guests to the count had arrived, and it being their first count didn't know the procedure. They proceeded to sit down at the Birkdale table and for some time helped to count the votes. Upon discovery we had to start all over again and had the equivalent of four recounts as they struggled to reconcile the votes.

This count had the tightest 'security' I have ever encountered: letters, passes, and photo ID's required to get in. It goes to show that all the petty bureaucratic procedure do not add up to security-rather like ID cards and DBS's . A sound dose of common sense is required rather than relying on officious procedures.

Anyway when the wait was over and accompanied by the noise of tables being dismantled we finally got the declaration it was worth waiting for a big Lib Dem win for Simon Shaw

video by Samuel B Shaw

Birkdale - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
Simon ShawLiberal Democrats221633%Elected
Poppy Elise JonesConservative Party137421%Not elected
Allen FergusonUnited Kingdom Independence Party136021%Not elected
Ged WrightThe Labour Party135120%Not elected
Tony YoungThe Green Party3185%Not elected

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Nasty anti semitic smear by local UKIP candidate.

News reaches us of a nasty anti semitic smear from a local UKIP candidate standing in West Lancs

.Jack Sen, who is standing in West Lancashire, sent the tweet to Liverpool Wavertree candidate Luciana Berger.The post reads:

"Protect child benefits? If you had it your way you'd send the £ to Poland/ Israel."

This is just another example of why we have to confront UKIP and the prejudices that fuel their support. Locally we have had more than our fair share of vile nonsense. Readers may remember Southport UKIP's chair outburst. Ferguson is still in post and he and his son are high profile candidates for Southport. I wrote about the incident and the full text of Mr Ferguson's letter is here

Friday, 1 May 2015

Sun shines on Shirley's Southport visit

Shirley Williams with John Pugh on Chapel St
It was great to see Shirley back in Southport this morning supporting John Pugh's re-election campaign. The sun shone on us as Shirley sat outside at a pavement cafĂ© in Chapel St.

In Southport we don't usually bother with high profile visitors-to be frank they can be a distraction-but we were all delighted to make an exception for Shirley Williams.

Shirley has a full programme planned for the day and I will post later with some details.