The Apollo Project
Liberal Ideas for the 21st Century
Monday, April 10, 2006
We've Merged!
The Apollo Project has joined forces with Rob Knight's Liberal Review. Henceforth this site will be kept as an archive. For the new Apollo Project follow the link.

Liberal Review offers the best of Liberal opinion, commentary and ideas. We will continue with the best of Apollo, plus the Editor's review and Guest Blogs by various well-known Liberal and liberal contributors.

Rob will continue to round up the day's News, and there will be regularly updated Blogger Profiles. We will link to the best of Liberal thought, and also welcome contributions.

Liberal Review - what no Liberal should be without.
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:20 pm   3 comments
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Wiki Meme
by Steve Travis

OK ... 6th December:

Three events
1768 - The first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica is published.
1921 - The Anglo-Irish Treaty is signed in London by British and Irish representatives
2005 - David Cameron becomes leader of the UK Conservative Party, defeating David Davis.*

Two birthdays
1896 - Ira Gershwin, American lyricist (d. 1983)
1977 - Andrew Flintoff, England cricketer

One death
1882 - Anthony Trollope, British author (b. 1815)

* - strictly speaking I'm not sure if this qualifies as an "event"
posted by Apollo Project @ 12:12 am   0 comments
Friday, April 07, 2006
Sour Grapes or Lemon?
by Jabez Clegg

Oh dear. It seems that David Cameron isn't very popular with the readership of the influential Tory blog Conservative Home. Most of the advice on what he should say in a speech in Manchester* tomorrow is less than complimentary.

My personal favourite:

"I come here to Manchester today with an apology and a big announcement. I stood for the leadership last year wildly overestimating my capabilities as a politician. Over the course of my short leadership I have felt out of my depth and this has begun to show through. I am sorry to the party for this, but today I am stepping down from the leadership and offer my full support to David David the man I think can make this party great again."

That would make my year if DC said that, mainly because it would be the right decision.

Posted by: Clare Lewis | April 06, 2006 at 14:41

*Although we're surprised that the Notting Hill-billy knows where Manchester is.
posted by Apollo Project @ 12:16 am   1 comments
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Song Title Meme
by Steve Travis

Thanks to Random Incident:

1. Are you male or female:
Mr X

2. Describe yourself:
I am alive

3. How do some people feel about you:
Your name (has slipped my mind again)

4. How do you feel about yourself:
Stranger within

5. Describe your day:
Rage in Eden

6. Describe current gf/bf:
Mine for Life

7. Describe where you want to be:
White China

8. Describe how you live:

9. What would you ask for if you had just one wish:
I want to be a Machine

10. Share a few words of wisdom:
We stand alone

11. Now say goodbye:
I can't stay long

Bonus points for naming the group.
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:16 pm   2 comments
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Punch and Judy Politics – Child’s Play for Cameron and Osborne

Nick Robinson has big shoes to fill. His immediate predecessors in the role of BBC Chief Political Correspondent – John Cole, John Sergeant, even the New Labourish Andrew Marr – all had a certain gravity and authority that repetitious phrasing (“If only, if only” and “Can he? Can he?”) haven’t quite matched as yet. Still, he had it partly right on his Newsblog when he wrote:

So much for "No Punch and Judy!" Coming face-to-face with Gordon Brown for the first time, David Cameron leant across across the Despatch Box, shouted rather than spoke and pointed his finger.

This is rather true. Cameron evidently had almost nothing to say, and said it only for a very short period of time. The suspicion remains that it is not clear that his years advising Norman Lamont resulted in any detailed knowledge of either finance or economics, or whether his subsequent career as an ITV spin doctor and political adviser have ever trained him to master a detailed brief. Generously, Robinson went on to say:

There were lots of high quality Oxford Union-style gags at Gordon Brown's expense - "In a carbon conscious world we have a fossil fuel Chancellor" and "He's an anologue politician in a digital world".

Perhaps it is beside the point, but I have actually heard far funnier gags in the Oxford Union than the ones above. High quality these were not. In fact, they look really rather childish and not terribly effective playground jibes. A fossil fuel chancellor? Please! Analogue not digital? I can think of two digits response to that. If Gordon Brown had pigtails, David Cameron would have pulled them. But isn’t the real point here that this isn’t the Oxford Union? One is left with the feeling that Cameron is playing at politics, as if a mere game.

But the real joker yesterday was the hopelessly out of his depth George Osborne. On Newsnight last night (watch it here for the next few hours) he was asked by Paxman which bits of the budget he didn’t like. Lamely, Osborne explained that nothing new had really been said in the budget so he couldn’t think of any. Paxman, sensing blood, pushed on. As it turns out Osborne couldn’t actually name anything in the budget that he disagreed with, and seemed to be oblivious to the fact that Brown’s budget speech is a rather different thing to the Red Book which details the budget – this year’s is three hundred and four pages long. Surely George disagreed with some of the content? Well, I daresay he might – had he read some of it - but as he couldn’t articulate any criticisms at all he should seriously question why people should think him competent to run the British economy. It is perhaps worthwhile pointing out once again that George Osborne is a man who has no formal economic training and has never worked in either the public or the private sectors.

On this evidence, as long as Cameron and Osborne are at the Conservative helm there is no chance of the Conservatives regaining a reputation for competent financial and economic management – and on that basis alone, they are not going to win the next General Election with Big Gordie on the other side of the bench.

[posted by Simon]

posted by Apollo Project @ 4:31 pm   0 comments
Budget Bore
by Peter

It would be over-the-top and old-fashioned to accuse a Labour Chancellor of sounding like a soviet commissar, so I will quote Martin Wolf rather than make up anything of my own. Here he is:

as I tried to stay awake during his Budget speech, I understood what it was like to listen to a Soviet commissar delivering a discourse on prospects for the tractor sector.

This was the speech of a man with a plan for every cranny of British life – for children, childcare, skills, education, science, the environment, enterprise, economic development and even Olympic athletes (this being the most Soviet moment of all). Some of Mr Brown’s plans are sensible. Some look absurd. But what remains missing is an overall strategy for reform of the public sector or, equally important, of the tax system, under a putative Brown premiership.

There is something in this. Listening to Brown one was struck by how much he believes the State has to wade in to save us from ourselves. We were being tinkered with - just like the nation's finances:

this Budget amounts to next to nothing. On an indexed base, the fiscal policy decisions add a mere £415m in extra tax in 2007-08 and £705m in 2008-09, after a giveaway of just £380m in 2006-07. Individual measures are tiny: the biggest for next year is the £275m cost of failing to adjust fuel duty for inflation until September 1 2006.

Brown was most interested to manage the public when he talked about training

Mr Brown remains a man obsessed with quantitative targets for inputs and outputs, rather than a man who has internalised either the role of incentives or the deep uncertainty about the future. No passage from the speech better illustrates these failings than this: “Today the British economy has just 9m highly skilled jobs. By 2020 it will need 14m highly skilled workers. And of 3.4m unskilled jobs today, we will need only 600,000 by 2020.”

This is Soviet tractor planning at its ludicrous worst. Fifteen years ago, no one imagined the current economic role of the internet, for example. Yet the chancellor now dares to tell us the precise number of highly skilled and unskilled people the economy will “need” 15 years hence. In fact, he has no idea how many skilled people the economy will need (or, more precisely, demand) by then. Such “plans” are not worth the paper they are written on.

So that's it fro the FT. Brown is competent but boringly compete net, interested in managing the public rather than managing the State. Labour's big problem just now - and for the years to come - is the NHS. All that money has brought surprisingly little improvement - in spite of the that (rather soviet style) Healthcare Commission designed to ensure it was well spent. All of which brings to mind a Scottish expression about best-laid plans...

There are no easy answers for any of this - and the correct response is unlikely to be to spend more still.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 3:10 pm   0 comments
Monday, March 20, 2006
Man Bites Dog!
Apollo launches its very own Tabloid.
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:36 pm   1 comments
Friday, March 17, 2006
The Education Bill and the British Political System
by Simon

A common argument for the First Past the Post electoral system in the United Kingdom is that it usually provides operational Parliamentary majorities for the winning party in a General Election, which in turn leads to stable government. It is true that in the period from 1945 to the present only one short-lived Parliament in 1974 has been without an overall majority from the outset and Governments have generally been able to get their legislation enacted.

A common argument offered against proportional electoral systems is that sometimes they do not provide operational majorities for the party with the most number of seats following an election, which in turn leads to unstable government, encourages horse-trading for votes, and discourages radical legislation and reform.

I heard Frank Field on the BBC News the night before last arguing that it was perfectly reasonable for Tony Blair to get support for the recent Education Bill from wherever it was forthcoming, including from the Conservatives. Frank Field is usually seen as being in favour of radical reform. Backbench Labour opposition to the Education Bill was because they thought it too radical (or radical in the wrong direction at any rate).

The Labour Government, of course, eventually had to rely on Conservative votes to pass the Bill. It seems clear that a Parliamentary majority of 66 - at one time considered to be a thumping majority - is not large enough for the current Prime Minister and the current Labour party in Government to guarantee to be able govern (i.e., command an operational majority). This is not to say that a different Labour Prime Minister would be unable to pilot similarly radical legislation with the same or even a reduced majority. The same can be said, perhaps, for a hypothetical Conservative Prime Minister. However, it is worth pondering the propensity within ALL parties to dissent from the leadership - and the increasingly incongruous agglomerations of disparate perspectives incorporated within those parties. Can we see the Cornerstone Group, for example, agreeing with a Cameroonian Butskellite consensus agenda? Can we see the Labour left following Brown into the lobbies when they realise he is not of the same position as them? Will corporate-state Lib Dems gladly follow a more market-oriented Liberal leadership?

No system of rules that seem to govern a political ecology last forever. All systems evolve. New rules are created and old assumptions must be cast aside. The Blair-Cameron accommodation over education paves the way for the kind of horse-trading needed to sustain coalition Government.

And so, one of the main arguments in favour of First Past the Post - that it provides meaningful governing majorities and stable government - falls away, just at the moment that the argument that radical reform cannot be sustained by operational coalitions begins to disintegrate also.

Those in favour of electoral reform won a big victory this week. They just didn't notice.
posted by Apollo Project @ 8:04 pm   2 comments
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
No reason to panic...yet.
by Peter

Just the other day I was reflecting on Cameron's first 100 days as Tory leader.

I was not all that impressed:
I think the Tories would have expected rather more: Cameron on paper is a more attractive figure than Howard; the other parties have been in considerable trouble during much of this period; and Cameron ought to be having a baby bounce (or have the Great British Public sated their appetitie for politicians with babies).

And frankly one of the issues that has bemused me is the extent to which he has got the press coverage as new and dynamic, with little to show that he is really having any impact.

The latest opinion poll will make it harder to retain that sort of press support: The Tories are back in their box.

The latest ICM poll (according to polioticalbetting has them on 34%. Where have they got under Cameron? Nowhere!

The Tories have not yet started to panic. They have set up a working group involving Bob Geldof and Zak Goldsmith, and this working group will advise them when the panic should begin.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 10:12 pm   2 comments
The deputy leadership contest
By Peter

Iain Dale has a post on the contest to become Deputy Leader.

This is not a contest that is keeping me awake at night - Jack Garner's words on the Vice Presidency come to mind - but Iain seems to be offering odds of 25/1 on David Heath - and I might put a fiver on that.

He does not mention Malcom Bruce, who stood last time, and always strikes me as a good performer and safe pair of hands. But I thought that when Malcolm stood for the Leadership too, and the rest of the Party failed to follow my lead.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 3:17 pm   0 comments
Childcare is not "just a woman's issue"
by Steve Travis Nick Assinder raises the issue of a Commons Creche, but chooses to portray this as solely a female issue. I'm sure I am not the only man in the world who, along with his partner, has made the issue of child-raising a joint decision. In practical terms, as we both have demanding careers, that means a difficult balancing act cum timetabling exercise as we juggle our professional diaries around our childcare provision. Typically it means my wife works an early day in order to pick the children up, and I work a late day so that I can drop them off. The question we should be asking is why aren't male MPs looking to make this an issue too? Its a sad indicment of our "Obsessive" working culture that, in its worst form, means that any attempt at a normal family life has to be brushed under the carpet. Thankfully, far away from the notice of those who run government and business, a quiet revolution has been taking place. Perhaps in 10-20 years time when those fathers are setting the workplace culture as decision makers at the tops of businesses and government, they will remember what it was like for them and respond accordingly. Sadly, it seems we will have to wait that long.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 1:34 pm   1 comments
Sunday, March 12, 2006
1906 and all that - Part 1
by Steve Travis

Prompted by the anniversary of the Liberal Landslide, adn a recent foray into genealogical research, I have just finished Paul Thompson's excellent The Edwardians. Written originally 30 years ago, and the product of nearly 500 interviews with (then) living Edwardians, it gives some insight into the lives lived 100 years ago. In an occasional series I will dip into this work to look at the differences and, in many cases, surprising similarities with today.

First up is the Conservative Party which, like the poor, seems destined to always be with us.

The Conservatives, who were in power from 1895 until 1905, based their electoral strength on the middle class vote. Although there was still an important Liberal minority in the middle classes, the stage had been reached when a Yorkshire small businessman who was a Liberal town councillor could be regarded as indiscreet for so acting aganist his own natural interests:'people used to tell him that as a businessman he had no business to be so outright a Liberal.' But the middle-class vote was insufficient to win victory alone. In addition the Conservatives secured between on-third and one-half of the working-class vote. It was a working-class vote that asserted the essential unity rather than antagonism of class interests. Hence the Conservatives were significantly least succesful in those regions where the middle-class presence was weakest: the north, Scotland and Wales.

There were, however, areas of active working-class Conservatism to be found in Lancashire. It was fed by the hostility felt for the large enclaves of Irish Catholics who supported the Liberals. Here, in contrast to their methods anywhere else, local Conservative parties were organised on a dual basis, with democratic federations based on the Conservative Working Men's Clubs alongside the usual exclusive party Constitutionalist Associations. Similarly, although with less active working-class participation, the Conservatives were able to profit from the fears brought by the waves of Jewish immigration into east London in the late C19th and early C20th. In the last years before 1914 a new populist radical minority in the party sought to woo 'the man in the street' with a combined campaign against the Irish, intellectuals, Jews, 'money-bags' and corruption.

It strikes me as remarkable how many strains of Conservative thought are actively recognisable in this characterisation of the party from 100 years ago. Perhaps it should not - human nature being what it is. But food for thought, and some pointers about the direction the party may take once again.
posted by Apollo Project @ 8:57 pm   0 comments
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
A Spring in our Step
by Steve Travis

I received today my thank-you letter from the Member for Sutton & Cheam for my (modest) contribution to the election of Sir Menzies Campbell as leader. Spring might not yet be in the air, but there was a spring in my step today. There is a palpable sense of momentum about the party once again. At long last we have the prospect of a coherent policy programme. Ming's shadow appointments set a clear marker about our future direction. Predictably, there have been noises off from the usual suspects, but even this can't spoil the moment.

I would imagine I'm not alone in relishing the prospect of campaigning on the sort of programme Ming will put together. This must be in stark contrast to thousands of Tory activists, faced with having to "sell" Cameron's pale imitation of New Labour - a programme with which they have little in common. For it would be the most pyrhhic of victories for them in the (unlikely) event that the Conservatives were to be elected on such a programme.

The icing on the cake is the return of Lord Ashdown. The future's bright ...
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:50 pm   6 comments
Our day out in Liverpool
The children enoyed themselves yesterday on their class visit to Liverpool.

They even got their photograph in a local newspaper.

This is what they said:

Voters deserted the Tories in droves in the 1980s, blaming Margaret Thatcher's policies for Liverpool's decline - and most have never returned.

The party has no MPs in Merseyside and no city councillors.

Last week, the Tory candidate was beaten into last place by the British National Party at a council by- election in Waterloo.

That was very exciting!

But there was a surprise for us

"I cannot say everyone I met was a card-carrying Conservative member!!!"
I told the nice man from the local paper. (Fortunately he didn't interrupt me the way some of them do - although he did find it hard to understand my accent).

Everything went rather well. Most of the children were well behaved, although some of them did mutter rather a lot on the way back home.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 4:52 pm   0 comments
Monday, March 06, 2006
School trip to Liverpool
Dave: Come on! We're late!
Shadow Cabinet: Where are we going?
Dave: To Liverpool
Shadow Cabinet:Why? Has Boris got to apologise again?
Dave: Stop muttering and get in the coach! Have you remembered your packed lunch?
Shadow Cabinet: Why do we need a packed lunch? Aren't we going to have lunch with our Liverpool MPs?
Dave: We haven't got any, you clot!
Shadow Cabinet: Well, with our Councillors then?
Dave: (reaches for detention book)
Shadow Cabinet: Sorreee!
Dave: Just get in the coach, and no muttering!
Shadow Cabinet: Well if we haven't got any Councillors and we haven't got any MPs, What are we going to do in Liverpool?
Dave: We are going to go canvassing.
Shadow Cabinet: what good will that do?
Dave: I've got it all worked out. If each of us can just convice two Liverpudlians to vote Conservative...
Shadow Cabinet: Yes?
Dave: Well, we will just about double our vote. Now get in the coach and STOP MUTTERING!
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 1:01 pm   1 comments
Sunday, March 05, 2006
So hip, so trendy, those cool conservatives
Damien Green is in the Observer this morning, telling us how much the Tories have changed.

His speciality is immigration. He doesn't exactly apologise for baseless scaremongering and pandering to racism, but is prepared to admit that
Maybe the tone has been too harsh.

So now the Tories welcome immigrants, nothing against immigrants, fine people immigrants. Got it?

But of course he has to be mad about something. So now he is mad about statistics. He expresses this, well, madness with a stunningly fatuous comparison:

Here are a few things the government does not know. It cannot say how many people are living here illegally. It comes up with a figure of somewhere between 310,000 and 570,000. If the Chancellor told us he was taking somewhere between 31p and 57p in the pound in taxation and couldn't be more accurate than that, he would be out on his ear.

If a Chancellor told us that a particular tax was probably going to raise 440 million, but that on pessimistic assumptions the tax take might be as low as 310 Million, and on optimistic assumptions as high as 570 million (a rather better analogy, if I say so myself) then I do not think anyone would give a damn.

But what does Damien Green want? Apparently he wants the collation of an enormous quantity of statistics wherever an immigrant/illegal immigrant/asylum seeker might come into contact with the the public services:

What about figures which must be available to the authorities, because they involve those receiving a public service? How many children of temporary migrants are currently in state schools? How many temporary migrants are receiving NHS treatment?

So this is the new liberal conservatism. Not mad about immigrants, but bonkers for immigration statistcs - and prepared to make it a little bit more difficult for anyone who just might be an illiegal immigrant to use public services in orde to get them.

Thanks but no thanks, Damien...
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 4:02 pm   0 comments
Friday, March 03, 2006
ForMing, NorMing, StorMing, PerforMing!
by Steve Travis

Congratulations to Sir Menzies Campbell on a hard-won victory in the leadership election. In deference to the four phases of team-building alluded to in the title, I'd like to take the presumption of offering him some advice on the immediate priorities requiring attention:

- Restructure the parliamentary team. Focus on maybe half a dozen (at most) key departments, and ensure that those chosen for these briefs are strong candidates. We should aim to get our stars in the media as much as possible.

- Give the party's professional structure a complete overhaul. Evaluate the performance of all departments, restructure and reform with a more focussed professional team.

- Media relations. We must construct a more potent media strategy, and that should include (if it doesn't already) training on how to deal with the media. Too many recent banana skins here.

- Set the narrative. Decide on the 5 key themes that make our party distinctive and keep pressing the message.

- Focussed policy. Back up the narrative with a cohesive, slim, but powerful policy platform that reinforces our core values.

And above all, be Merciless in your commitment to Liberalism!
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:52 am   1 comments
Thursday, March 02, 2006
The result you've been waiting for
by Stephen Tall

The votes have been counted, and it's now time to declare the winner... of The Apollo Project's Liberal Democrat leadership prediction competition.

Twenty-two entries were received, and our collective punditry was a good pointer to the eventual outcome. This is what our entrants predicted would be the result:

Turn-out = 68%
First round: Ming Campbell (38%), Chris Huhne (34%), Simon Hughes (28%)
Second round: Ming Campbell (52%), Chris Huhne (38%), Simon Hughes (9%)
And this is the result as recorded on the Liberal Democrat

Turn-out = 72%
First round: Ming Campbell (45%), Chris Huhne (32%), Simon Hughes (23%)
Second round: Ming Campbell (58%), Chris Huhne (42%),

The scoring system for the competition was straightforward: I summed the differences between our entrants' predictions and the actual result – the lower your score, the more accurate you were.

The clear winner was Peter, one of The Apollo Project's co-founders, whose prediction of:

Turn-out = 72%
First round: Ming Campbell (44%), Chris Huhne (30%), Simon Hughes (26%)
Second round: Ming Campbell (57%), Chris Huhne (43%),

gave him a score of 8. The five runners-up were: Paul Linford (14), Icarus (22), Stephen Tall (23), Alastair Mckinnon (24) and Joe Otten (25).
posted by Apollo Project @ 6:16 pm   0 comments
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Just for fun
I have calculated the overall net prediction from the leadership prediction competition.

So far, 12 give it to Ming and 5 to Chris.

The average score on second preferences is nearly 53% to Ming, just under 47% for Chris (some answers do not sum to 100%).

We don't have enough replies to read much into this.

Please keep entering. It is too late to impress the electorate that anyone has the momentum with them, so just tell us what you think.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 3:48 pm   0 comments
Monday, February 27, 2006
Leadership prediction competition
by Stephen Tall

Here at The Apollo Project the arguments have raged over the last few weeks (or at least as close as we Lib Dems come to raging) as to which of the three Lib Dem leadership hopefuls – Ming Campbell, Chris Huhne or Simon Hughes – will emerge victorious.

In truth, none of us really has any clue what will be the decision of the 73,000 party members when it is announced this Thursday. Which is what makes elections exciting.

But the time has now come for us to set aside our own partisan views, and to put our pundit credibility on the line. Below are the seven key questions which will determine who is the victor: using your skill, judgement and sheer blind luck, post your predictions in the comments box before 12 noon this Thursday.

The prize, as is customary in all such cheap-arsed interweb competitions, is the admiration of your peers.

1. Total number of votes cast (%):

2. First preference votes cast for Ming Campbell (%):

3. First preference votes cast for Chris Huhne (%):

4. First preference votes cast for Simon Hughes (%):

If no candidate scores 50%+ on the first round, the candidate with least 1st preferences will be excluded, and their 2nd preferences re-distributed accordingly.

What do you think will be the result in this final round? (Tip: put 0% next to whichever candidate you think will lose in the first round.)

5. Second round votes cast for Ming Campbell (%):

6. Second round votes cast for Chris Huhne (%):

7. Second round votes cast for Simon Hughes (%):

By 3pm this Thursday, 2nd March, the Liberal Democrats will have a new leader. The Apollo Project wishes the best of luck to whoever emerges the winner; and thanks the two losing candidates for ensuring a hard-fought contest.
posted by Apollo Project @ 11:04 am   30 comments
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Probably not the UK's biggest robbery
by Alex Sweet

A pedant writes: today's robbery has been widely referred to in the media (e.g. tomorrow's front pages) as the UK's biggest ever robbery. It is thought that around £40m may have been taken.

It ought to go without saying that to assess what is the largest robbery ever in Britain, you need to adjust the previous amounts stolen for inflation. Here is a ready reckoner, applying the UKCompare tool at Economic History to the amounts given at the BBC's roll call of past hauls.

There are two major contenders in recent history (and doubtless some others looking further back).

1963: the Great Train Robbery made off with £2.6m worth of swag, which would be some £37m in 2006 on a retail price basis, adding an additional 4% for the years since 2004.

1983: the Brinks-Mat robbery netted £26m. This translates to £61m in 2006 on the same basis.

If correct, the £40m thought to be stolen today would therefore be far short of the most valuable UK robbery.
posted by Apollo Project @ 11:22 pm   0 comments
Thursday, February 16, 2006
The First 100 Days
by James Chard

In a couple of days or so, young Mr Cameron will have lasted 100 days as leader of the Conservatives, an achievment of itself. He has been quite busy, but to what effect remains to be seen. This is my take on how our new leader ought to make an impact both within and without the party in his first 100 days:

1. Put Cowley Street on the market with the aim of moving to modern office facilities, quite possibly some distance from Westminster. A statement of intent regarding a modern, professional party organisation is required.

2. Announce plans radically to reform conference along the lines Francis Maude floated for the Tories - with two weekends of set-piece speeches, big announcements and mystery non-party guests in two provincial cities in September and a low profile, dry, policy-based session in the Spring.

3. Ditch the 50p rate for earnings greater than £100k and pledge to go into an election not proposing net tax increases for the first time in a long while. I am not violently anti-50p, and was happy to defend it last year but it is an idea whose time has passed and this simple move would be an important outward-looking statement that we are clearing the decks for a manifesto next time based on reform, rather than spending. Maybe at the same time we should propose taking X million out of tax using green taxes as per Mr Huhne, but maybe not within 100 days as we need to ensure this policy is cast-iron and able to withstand scrutiny.

4. State that the Euro is off the agenda for a generation, that Europe is excessively bureaucratic and that we will force through proposals to cap the EU budget. We need to ditch the image of being uncritical friends of the EU (which I think is an unfair image, but it is the image). This will be the sort of "Clause IV" headline-grabbing move we need to make to keep ourselves in the spotlight once the leadership election is done.
posted by Apollo Project @ 4:48 pm   4 comments
For-Ming an Opinion
By Steve Travis

The deed is now done. After time for final reflection, my vote in the leadership election was cast and posted today. For the record, it was:

1 Ming Campbell
2 Chris Huhne
3 Simon Hughes

All three candidates have strengths, and all three have weaknesses. All three would make good leaders of the party and would, no doubt, grow into the role. All three are also fortunate to have a talented front-bench team.

In the end, though, a decision has to be made. And what tipped it for me was this statement:

If the Liberal Democrats are to be credible on public finances and on social policy, we will need to demonstrate that we are capable not only of suggesting extra spending, but also identifying savings. Only in this way will the party be able to free up resources for its key spending priorities.

We need as a matter of urgency to devise a [tax] system that is both simpler and fairer and that maximises opportunity, not penalises achievement.

This demonstrates to me that of the three, Ming is most in touch with the issues that matter to the electorate. This is the way we will build the further electoral success which enables us to put Liberal ideas into practice, and is, after all, what we are in politics to acheive.
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:41 am   0 comments
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
The Mask Slips
by Steve Travis

The more sharp-eyed and eared amongst you may have noticed that that nice Dave Cameron is rather keen to recruit Liberal Democrats because they will help him get elected. Sorry ... I mean, of course, because they share his liberal values (no, really). He even set up a website that, rather nicely, shows all the Lib Dem held seats turning from gold to blue. Well ... that's the subtle way to say you want to send us to oblivion.

Over on Conservative Home they don't hold with all thus wet shilly-shallying. They believe in calling a spade a spade. Things are looking up for the Tories, notes William Norton:

It’s a good time to be a Conservative, just now. We have a new leader and some momentum in the polls. Labour have suffered humiliating defeats.

[but not at the hands of the Conservatives. We move on].
This is not enough, however, to guarantee a Conservative Government. The 2005 General Election demonstrated that an unpopular Labour administration does not lead automatically to a Tory victory. What do we do for our next trick?

The options, finds Mr Norton, are two-fold:

(i)Pretend to be nice and cuddly - repeat this message often and get lots of no-Conservatives to be photographed with you to reinforce it.
(ii) Win the policy argument, but don't be too shrill or too wonkish.

Except they're not. He believes the Tories ought to do both. Luckily, he believes that the Great British Electorate isn't interested in policy, so sweet-talking should do the trick.

Now, however, comes the good bit. Understanably, some Tories might be unsettled by the voter-friendly mood music:

Some stalwart Tories may object to the company we will be keeping – but asylum-seekers always create resentment among their hosts.

What an astounding assertion - asylum-seekers always create resentment. Never mind that they might have suffered great hardship, abuse, death of loved ones, lost all their possessions and be barred from re-entering the country of their birth. It's not compassion for their plight, but resentment ...

It gets better:

When Liberals start flooding our constituency associations like latter-day Vietnamese boat people, we will just have to establish “reception centres” for them where they can adjust to life in a civilised party.

So, when we take the great leap into the welcoming arms of the Tories, we can expect to be patronised and treated like second-class citizens. That's useful to know.

Perhaps distinguished North Devon accountants would volunteer to give them re-education lectures?

This quote is bizarre - perhaps its an oblique reference to one of our ex leaders, famously from North Devon. But its also instructive to note that he assumes all accountants are Tories. I can assure him he's wrong on that count.

No doubt Mr Norton would argue that this was "just a bit of fun" and that we are being thin-skinned in reacting to it. Most Liberals would take it for what it is - patronising, insulting, and a useful reminder of why we're not members of the Conservative Party.

So, next time you hear the siren call of Cameron's liberal Conservatives, just remember what lies beneath the mask.
posted by Apollo Project @ 8:53 pm   0 comments
Reflecting Britain
by Peter

I haven't responded to this before, but reading Mark Valladares on the Ethnic Minority Election Task Force made me think that I should.

To start with the basics: we should have more women MPs and we should have ethnic minoirty MPs and we should be working to make sure this happens. We are making progress on getting more women MPs - not enough -yet the mechanisms of getting more women to put their names forward seem good to me. Having a much bigger pool of ethnic minoirty candidates should be high priority moving towards 2008 or 2009. (Brown will cut and run, won't he? perhaps it will be earlier).

Are these the only ways we should reflect Britain? No. I think we need to retain a number of candidates with strong regional roots. I don't say that all candidates should be local - but we need our Penhaligon's (and voters need them too).

And then there is education. There is a disturbing trend for increased credentialism in the UK and for the political elite to fill up with public school, oxbridge types. This is epitomised by Blair (Fettes and Oxford) facing Cameron (Eton and Oxford) at PMQs (though not today). We need to be vigilant to ensure that while decrying decreasing social mobility in the country we are not reinforcing it within the party. By all means let us have candidates from this sort of background - but let us think about what this means in terms of Reflecting Britain.

On how to achieve these ends, well I agree with the argument Mark develops

I really ought to declare an interest here. I serve on the English Candidates Committee of the Party, on the London Region Candidates Committee and have been a Returning Officer for our internal selections since 1989. I fundamentally belief that restricted shortlists are illiberal and contrary to the notion of selection on merit and nothing else. I expect Simon to be in favour of quotas - he has form after all (remember Blackpool?) - but to see Chris pander to this was very disappointing. Ming, on the other hand, took the line that persuasion and leadership would be more effective and essayed a liberal philosophy that I was impressed by.

We need to reflect Britain, and we need to adopt liberal solutions to achieving that end. Labour have gone for the option of parachuting in a woman from London - and it does not work.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 11:22 am   2 comments
Exit Poll
by Gareth Epps

I have finally cast my vote, which is Chris Huhne 1, Simon Hughes 2. The reasons?

Chris is the heavyweight of this contest. His campaign has taken off from a late start after he was persuaded to stand (unlike others who had their campaign teams organised before Charles Kennedy's departure). He has gained tremendous momentum in just a couple of weeks.

I've been impressed with the way Chris has taken on the policy debate - he has a great article in today's Guardian and has gained column inches on Iraq (the first Lib Dem to do so for quite a while). He will inspire all communities but especially those in urban areas - after all, that's where the next big forward move is for the Liberal Democrats. He knows it and will work for it. And having campaigned alongside Chris (we were in a Brent East canvass team but I've campaigned with him in Oxfordshire) I know he goes down well on the doorstep and is a team player.

(The Oxfordshire story begs repeating: in a village for a County by-election he asked about the issues, which were limited but included a struggling small shop whose owners were furious that the Tory council had scrapped rate relief for small village shops. Ten minutes later, one ripped campaign schedule but one household of prominent - and flattered -Lib Dem supporters and a great new poster site.)

Chris' entrepreneurship is illustrated by that story, but also his background. He has the hunger of many of the brightest newer MPs wrongly labelled as 'modernisers'. What he will modernise is our approach to campaigning - happy to go on the attack rather than settle for comfortable, established positions that have led us to media anonymity in the past. And his skin's thick enough to withstand the attacks of more than the motley bunch of Campbell campaign outriders who've grown ever more shrill and whose skin has thinned with Ming's lead as the campaign has gone on.

The point about entrepreneurship is personal, not political. Many have sought to paint Chris as the candidate of the Right - or to be more accurate the unfettered free-marketeers who breathe a purist form of economic Liberalism. The Times is the paper which regularly makes this false equation. Entrepreneurship and modernisation for a political party means moving its campaigns, communications and shop front into the 21st century. Chris is the only candidate who has spent time on this in the campaign and it is absolutely fundamental to future Liberal Democrat success. Crucially, he will do this with the ability to unite the party - when the debate (sadly absent in the election) on macro-economics and public services comes up, he won't tack one way or the other. Sorry Mr Murdoch.

My second preference has gone to Simon but only very reluctantly indeed: he will not set us back in the way I fear Ming will by wasting time focusing on winning over rock-solid Tories, but his presidency and London mayoral campaign hardly inspire confidence.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 10:40 am   0 comments
Monday, February 13, 2006
Economical with the Actualite
by Steve Travis

In today's Independent, the paper's founder, Andreas Whittam Smith, indicates his support for Chris Huhne in the leadership contest. In his article he makes a strong case for having an economically literate party leader in contrast to the usual collection of barristers, lecturers and PR types. Whittam Smith's argument is a good one, and he makes a number of points that add weight to Huhne's candidacy.

However, he rather spoils his case with this paragraph:

I had better also say that I believe him to be honest and trustworthy, no small quality in contemporary politics. The Daily Telegraph headed a leading article: "Huhne takes the lead in spite of duplicity". That is a very damaging statement for a newspaper to make about anybody. I don't suppose Mr Huhne will be bothered to sue for libel, but he would have a good cause. For what proof did the newspaper offer? Chiefly that instead of dismissing as irrelevant his rival Simon Hughes' deceitful accounts of his sexuality or passing over them in discreet silence, he "sententiously" declared that his colleague had apologised for misleading people. I'm afraid that isn't what duplicitous means.

That may well not be what duplicitous means, Mr Whittam Smith. But what you fail to mention anywhere in your piece is that the Telegraph article you refer to also makes this point:

Mr Huhne's early manoeuvrings in the leadership contest were similarly two-faced: having agreed, in concert with his Orange Book colleagues, to support Sir Menzies, he reneged on the agreement and stood himself, taking the opportunity to make an unkind observation on Sir Menzies's age.

Readers can make their own minds up as to whether Huhne was showing verve and daring by entering the race, or reneging on an agreement. It can then be debated and explained, and the explanations judged. Brushing it under the carpet doesn't do anyone any favours in the long run.
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:23 am   7 comments
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Came friendly lib dems
by Davd Langshaw

To Slough yesterday, for the Leadership Hustings. It started in the best way possible, with a rousing address from our favourite Lib Dem MP – yes, Willie Rennie flew down to Heathrow, just to come and speak to an ecstatic South Central Regional Conference. I can’t remember much of what he said, but who cares? We cheered, we shouted, we yelled, we laughed at the jokes and agreed with everything he might have said. Careful attention was paid to the three leadership candidates on the platform, to see that their fervour and enthusiasm for our new hero was suitably euphoric. The Chair (Dawn Davison, from the English Candidates Association) told us twice that we were not allowed to vote for Rennie as our first preference. By 9:45, he was off, back to Scotland, “Because he has a constituency to look after, you know!” said Dawn.

Then on with the main business of the day – three speeches from Ming, CH and SH (in that order, drawn by lot.) We were already running a bit late, because of the Surprise Guest and because Simon was late. Three good, competent speeches: Ming emphasised radicalism, CH majored on tax and green issues, and SH concentrated on the concept of “fairness” in Liberal Democratic thought.

The press were out in force, and in due course they were invited to leave before questions were asked. During the break, I asked a representative sample of 12 members (six men, six women, one ethic minority) what they thought of the speeches. I did not know any of them (except for one) and I emphasised that I did not want to know who they were going to vote for: I just asked them to mark the speeches out of 10. The average scores were Ming 7.08, CH 7.25 and SH 7.75. Someone gave CH a 10, and someone else gave SH 4, but they were the only outlying scores.

In my opinion, the questions showed the candidates in a better light. The questions (submitted in advance) were on the environment (the most popular subject), education, tax and transport. This gave the candidates the chance to extemporise; SH made better mini-speeches, CH answered the questions better, and Ming looked and sounded magisterial.

All candidates had their supporters present, handing out flyers and badges etc, but SH did not seem to have an entourage with him. I spoke to a couple of raddled and cynical party hacks at lunchtime (one of them a strictly neutral party employee) who both agreed that the three campaigns showed the need for the Party to employ competent campaigners, as all three of the Candidates’ campaigns were so poor.

There was a Lib Dem Image stall, selling badges and mugs for the three candidates; they had sold out of CH mugs, but it was thought that that was because CH’s office staff had bought one each, rather than popular demand.

The rest of the day was a bit flat. The training was worthwhile, some of the Party business was incomprehensible, but Neil Fawcett on the Campaign for the Local Elections was quite informative. (Apparently, the press coverage of the success or failure of our campaign in May will depend on the results in just 30 wards.) Then, after lunch, Tom Brake spoke on Transport and Vince Cable spoke on the policy Review. Vince came over very well, a lot of “presence” compared with Tom, who looked a bit tired.

Two other MP’s were present – Sandra Gidley talking to putative candidates in a fringe meeting, and Evan Harris in the audience. David Rendel was also there. I wonder, when was the last time that eight Lib Dem or Liberal MP’s were present in Slough at the same time? Changing trains on the way to Queen Victoria’s funeral, I reckon.

On the way out, some of us were given Focuses to deliver on the walk back to the railway station – the Slough Party used the occasion to get a target ward delivered in one day.

All in all, a day that recharged the batteries. Everyone seemed in good heart, all of the candidates seemed to be acceptable to the membership, with choices being made on the basis of personality rather than ideology. I did not change my mind, but I would be happy with any of the three of them as our next leader.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 10:50 pm   2 comments
Two Takes on Huhne
by Steve Travis

I noted two snippets in today's Observer concerning Chris Huhne. The first is a rather catty dig at his former car-purchasing habits by Nick Cohen:

Can this be the same Chris Huhne who led an unseemly scramble for company cars by Independent execs all those years ago? And picked a BMW which was such a flash motor that Ian Jack, the most fastidious literary journalist of the time, wrote 'This Car Is Very Vulgar' in the dust on the bonnet? If Huhne wins, Lib Dems shouldn't be too surprised if he orders a stretch limo and private jet.

The second is the paper's lead article, which could have been penned by our own Paul Lloyd:

The person best placed to see off David Cameron is Chris Huhne. The Tory leader's strategy in the next election will be to sell himself as the candidate of energy over experience; 21st-century liberalism over 20th-century leftism. David Cameron's claim to represent those things will look most inauthentic next to Chris Huhne, the genuine article.

But there is a problem. Huhne broke from the pack of new Lib Dem MPs to run for the leadership, but then his courage failed him. He has squandered his time in the spotlight talking up his experience as an MEP and fiddling around the margins of tax policy. His manifesto offers a broader vision. He must learn to express it with real passion.

Sir Ming would be the safe choice, but safety is not a winning strategy. Huhne would be the bolder choice and a risk worth taking if only he could show boldness himself. The vacancy is for a new champion of British liberalism. It needs a man of stature. Chris Huhne must raise his game if he really wants the job.

Chris has spent a lot of time talking down his orange book credentials, probably to outflank Simon. Were he to win the leadership, I would urge him to ensure the Liberal principles he showed in that volume come to the fore once more.
posted by Apollo Project @ 9:18 am   1 comments
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Citius, Altius, Fortius
by Steve Travis

Some of you may recognise the motto of the Olympic Games (Faster, Higher, Stronger). We need to take this on board as we look beyond the Leadership Election.

Much virtual ink is being used penning the virtues of the various candidates, both here in the blogosphere and also in the MSM. Sometimes it is fair, sometimes it personal, sometimes inaccurate.

There are signs that people are becoming tetchy. We have another three weeks of this still to go - perhaps its time to start looking ahead.

There is no doubt that Dunfermline was one in the eye for all of our opponents, especially those who were writing our obituaries as a serious political force. Hence it is vital that we do not lost the focus on our unity if purpose over the coming months. Soon, we will have a new leader, and it is the duty of all of us, regardless of opinion, to continue to drive forward the cause of Liberalism.

If at any time your spirit wavers, read, listen or view what the MSm are saying about us. Then go forward with renewed vigour!
posted by Apollo Project @ 1:19 pm   2 comments
Friday, February 10, 2006
New blog
by Peter

Regular readers might like to add this new blog to their bookmarks.

That's right - all four of you!
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 8:25 pm   2 comments
Update on the Apollo Jury: Ming back in lead after Question time
the friendly rivalry between Hunnies and Mingers took another turn after Question Time. Some of those who had been waiting to make their minds up cast the vote.

The new figures are as follows

First preferences

Ming Campbell 12
Chris Huhne 12
Simon Hughes 1
Still undecided 4

After redistribution of the Hughes vote (1) Ming wins by a margin of one.

Interestingly all of the new votes seem to be Campbell 1, Hughes 2.

Usual caveats apply, small sample, internet-based, almost all graduates.

UPDATE: Another couple of Hunnies have emerged blinking into the daylight - the lead changes once again!
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 3:55 pm   4 comments
Chris on QT
by Dan Falchikov

I was impressed with Chris on last week's QT, but I have been fed up at his campaign's rather precious and intrusive tactics.

It seems only reasonable when Huhne campaign supporters post obvious 'puff pieces' on the net that an alternative view should be put for balance. But it's been the most thin skinned campaign I have ever witnessed - it's OK for Chris or his supporters to make veiled attacks on the other candidates, but they wail and gnash their teeth when the other teams do the same. If you're big enough to dish it out you have to big enough to take it back.

What has also become clear over the past few days is that Chris is not a Liberal, but a Social Democrat. I do not want to see the part lead by a Scoial Democrat - the party is instinctively Liberal and the sort of technocratic mangerialism that social democracy represents will conflict with the parties best instincts and continue our policy making bias towards producer interests.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 3:48 pm   4 comments
The Fourth Poll: Scotland's Orpington?
by Peter

A wonderful result - usually you know that it is going to happen, or that it very well might happen. My impression here was that we might have needed one more week of campaigning. When I heard the result I had that elusive sense of not believing my ears and being happy about it.

This is a great result for all lib dems. We have heard often enough that we are in "turmoil", "meltdown" and "disarray" - to win against this background was fantastic.

Who are the losers? Obviously Labour. Gordon Brown very definitely. And let us not forget Cameron. His ill-advised leaflet was part of our success. The gamble of picking a man who went to an elite public-school, and has a tiny amount of parliamentary experience is looking riskier than ever for the Tories.

Incidentally this is what the Times is saying

The Lib Dem victory also amounted to a vote of confidence in Sir Menzies Campbell, the acting leader, who is MP for a neighbouring constituency of North East Fife.

And here (because the excuse does not come along too often) is a link to the Daily Mail!
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 8:55 am   3 comments
Thursday, February 09, 2006
The Alex Wilcock View
by Peter

Reading Alex Wilcock's pieces on the candidates has been educational.

These thoughts caught my eye:

Ming, at his best, has statesmanlike gravitas. Simon, at his best, can be passionate, or friendly and at ease. Chris, at his best, is… succinct. Unfortunately, he writes much better than his spoken delivery, and the election will be settled on television rather than through pamphleteering. Who is he going to appeal to? Yes, he can seem solid and serious, but does anyone really think he’ll come across as more solid and more serious than Gordon Brown? He really needs to work on sounding human, and I suspect hardwiring his massive brain to a virtual Charles Kennedy is as yet beyond the party’s budget for CGI.

Alex goes on to say:

After Jackie in '99, I vowed to myself I wouldn't back another first-time MP with a tiny majority. After the European Parliament I can just about let him off the one, but a 500 majority? What is he thinking? Though he’ll probably hold it, there'll be no other story than 'Will the Lib Dem Leader lose his seat?' for us in the run-up to the election. So I worry.

Now Huhne's sharp elbows have always seemed an asset to me. Alex puts it like this

The other side of his dealing with people, however, is his obvious ruthlessness, which is unattractive; perhaps he needed to from third place, but he’s been much more ruthless in person to the other two leadership candidates than they’ve been (their entourages are a different matter). He was quite open about being one of those to bring Charles down, too; I didn’t like it. Though it’s more attractive than plotting without holding the knife. And if he’s such a good team-builder, I do wonder that his team and following is mostly made up of people on whom he’s made a good first impression, rather than known him for a while. It’s striking that there are so many more MSPs, for example – as far away from him as possible – than MEPs who he worked with for years on his list of supporters.

I still have my doubts about whether this is all negative - I don't think there is any point worrying that he was one of the prime movers against Kennedy. One almost wonders why he feels he has to be so frank about this - but being frank is a good thing.

And one last thought

Unlike Ming’s, Chris' is a campaign that would benefit from having more of a team to it, and from making lots of moves about consulting the party.

I know most about Simon and Ming so it is good to have this insight into Chris. One hears conflicting reports about him - but "Chris the team player" is not something one hears said very often.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 7:57 pm   0 comments
Paddy's back
by Peter

He is not everyone's fave, but I like Paddy.

From my first Young Liberal's conference (Weymouth - 1981) I have two clear memories. One is of a stout young man from Liverpool who was very interested in campaigning. (Chris something, don't know where he's got to...)

The other was the young Ed Lucas - now a journalist for a well known weekly publication. Ed spent his time "Paddy Ashdowning" - telling people how the fantastic PPC was a future Party leader.

I met Paddy a few months later at the Llandudno - where he made the anti-Cruise missile speech. About a year later I became responsible for getting leaflets printed in my West of England constituency. Yeovil got the contract (undercutting Dowry printers in Bristol). So Paddy printed the leaflets himself - this was how he kept himself from starvation until he had won Yeovil. Many people's memories of Paddy will be of speeches he made as leader. I remember him as an aspirant MP with inky fingers.

So I'm glad he's back. And pleased that I agree with all he says here.

Paddy, if you are reading this, why not sign up to Liberalism2010? The email address is (and we haven't got any Lords on board).
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 7:26 pm   1 comments
Did you hear the one about the three Polls?
by Peter

Poll number one is one down from this. Apollo Project members have voted by a margin of one in favour of Chris Huhne (at latest count - when I looked this morning it was still a tie). Caveats of course are that we are a self-selecting, internet-based, group, all activists. Almost all the others seem to be Oxbridge with multiple degrees (Exeter and just a BA here). I can't think of anyone who hasn't got a degree. And our only parliamentarian has not voted nor declared for any candidate yet (last I heard he was choosing between Simon and Ming). So good news for Chris Huhne - but not enough to uncork the champagne. 58% of Lib Dem members have no degree, a greater percentage is not Oxbridge, an unknown percentage are not activists. Relatively few of them use the internet with frequency.

Poll number two is the controversial Huhne-supporter commissioned You Gov poll, showing Huhne leading Campbell 52% to 48% after distribution of Simon's second preferences. Sample size is higher (401), and we know little about their makeup. Clearly they are internet users. Interestingly 77% of this group said that they favoured higher fuel taxes. This might mean that the Huhne camp has changed members minds. But a survey published quite recently showed that only 53% of members agreed with this suggestion. This is at least a sign that the online sample is significantly different from the real membership of the Liberal Democrats.

Poll number three is one commissioned (or so I believe) by the Hughes camp. It was performed by Communicate Research and involved a sample of 501 voters. Among the findings of this poll were that Ming comes out in the lead on the following measures

* Which of the Liberal Democrat leadership candidates do you think is best placed to revive the party's fortunes?
* Which of the Liberal Democrat candidates do you think would make the party most popular?
* Which of the two Liberal Democrat front runners, Sir Menzies Campbell or Simon Hughes do you think would be best able to unite the party?
* As a Labour voter, which of the Liberal candidates has most appeal to you
* As a Conservative voter, which of the Liberal Democrat candidates has most appeal to you?
Simon also did well on some points, of course - and is I think quoting these bits. This is a poll worth reading.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 6:18 pm   2 comments
The votes of the Apollo jury...
by Oxonian

You could be forgiven for thinking, on occasion, that the Apollo Project is firmly behind Ming for leader. In fact the voting intentions of this small sub-set of the Lib Dem online fraternity are a lot more interesting than that.

Since various polls of membership are stirring up all sorts of controversy at the moment at, and small sample sizes don't seem to be a hindrance, here's the votes of the Apollo jury:

First prefs:
Chris Huhne - 12
Ming Campbell - 10
Simon Hughes - 1
Undecided - 2

Reallocating Simon leaves Chris Huhne as the winner, by the narrowest of margins.

The final result is pretty close to today's YouGov poll, but where are all those Simon voters...?
posted by Apollo Project @ 2:32 pm   2 comments
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Dunfermline latest
by Peter

This is the Guardian on Dunfermline - in the last hour.

In his appeal to Lib Dems in the Dunfermline and West Fife byelection, Mr Cameron wrote: "Issues that once divided Conservatives from Liberal Democrats are now issues where we both agree. Our attitude to devolution and the localisation of power. Iraq. The environment. "I'm a liberal Conservative. I hope many Liberal Democrats will want to join us."

Given Mr Cameron's strong support for the 2003 Iraq war Mr Blair delighted Labour backbenchers in reading out the leaflet when he was accused of "flip-flopping" over schools reform.
"Is this the same man that two weeks ago told the Daily Telegraph 'I am and always have been a Conservative to the core of my being?' One week ago he's the heir to New Labour and today he is a liberal Conservative," Mr Blair taunted, adding to laughter from Labour backbenchers, "No wonder he's against ID cards". Mr Cameron's attempt to steal Lib Dem and anti-war voters drew an angry blast from the Lib Dems' acting leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, who was campaigning in Dunfermline this afternoon.

"I know real liberals, Mr Cameron, and let me tell you - you are no liberal. David Cameron's flip-flops on policy expose his inexperience. He's still a novice. A leader with L-plates.

"So while Conservatives may think that youth, inexperience, and naivete are the answer to their problems; I say they are not the answer to the country's problems," Sir Menzies said.

And more good news for Lib Dems in closing paragraph

Voters in Dunfermline and West Fife go to the polls tomorrow in a byelection to replace the Labour MP Rachel Squire who died last month after a long battle against cancer. The Lib Dems, who have sent 200 activists to the seat to try and overturn the 11,562 Labour majority, claim the result will be close tomorrow night.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 6:21 pm   0 comments
Leaked poll figures incorrect
by Peter

My last post expressed scepticism about the "leaked" You Gov poll figures.

Now Peter Kellner confirms that these are NOT the correct figures. Writing to Mike Smithson at politicalbetting he said

I have been authorised by our client to say that all the figures that you, and Guido Fawkes, attributed yesterday to our recent poll of Lib Dem members are wrong.
One candidate's web site continues to link to these disavowed figures. This seems an error of judgement.

Update: I'm told that the link has now gone. Credit where credit is due - this reporesents good judgement!
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 9:09 am   1 comments
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Bobby smells a ramp
by Peter

There is a lot of fuss being made about "leaked" poll figures at the moment that suggest that Ming will win the contest but that Huhne is in a relatively close second place. No one leaks anything interesting to me, so I don't know if this is true or not. But one poster on politicalbetting smells a ramp.

I don't know who Bobby is - but this is what he says.

103. Does this mean that YouGov need to publish the relevant details of the survey now that its main finding has entered the public domain?

Yes it does, only the figures that have suckered Mike are not the YouGov figures. If Mike believes otherwise he should recontact Peter Kellner with his numbers and demand full release.

What has actually happened here is that the Huhne campaign have taken at punt at the numbers based on their own canvassing returns (returns that tend to ramp the position of the candidate asking). The person doing the spinning to Guido and Mike is more than likely one of the bloggers4Chris.

The giveaway is the second preferences neither of the other candidates has detected anything other than that Chris does poorly on second preferences except if Menzies comes third when he would do better.

It’s a clever piece of spin, but I wouldn’t bet your shirt on it.
by Bobby February 7th, 2006 at 9:05 pm
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 9:15 pm   5 comments
The Mo is with Ming now
by Peter

The Guardian website is running this story.

With both the Guardian and the Independent declaring their support for Sir Menzies this morning, Andrew George, MP for St Ives and the Isles of Scilly, added his name to the long list of parliamentarians backing the frontrunner.

This brings the total number of Liberal Democrat MPs backing Sir Menzies' campaign to 31 - half the parliamentary party and more than Mr Huhne and party president Simon Hughes combined.

The Huhne camp - as ever - is claiming to be past Hughes and into second place. This might be correct, but I would have strong doubts. Few of the Hughes supporters I know have shifted from him, and he is far better known in the party. I don't think that Simon can win, but I would be surprised if he failed to make the last two.

To my mind both the Guardian and the Independent get it right. Ming is a quality leader. He has the support of the largest share of the parliamentary party (Commons, Lords and Strasbourg). All of the Cornish MPs are now lined up behind Ming. We should vote for Ming in large numbers and go forward confidently.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 4:21 pm   0 comments
Saturday, February 04, 2006
My Secret Life
by Steve Travis

Perhaps an unwise title given recent events. Have no fear - this isn't a confession, but a take on the Independent on Saturday Magazine's questionaire. And while we're at it, why not make it a meme?

I drive/ride ... a Saab 9-5 Aero Estate. Practical, but fun; and more fuel efficient the quicker you drive.

If I have time to myself ... I write letters. Nothing beats the physicallity of handwritten correspondence.

You wouldn't know it but I'm good at ... making game pie. Port being the secret ingredient!

You may not know it but I'm bad at ... being decisive.

All my money goes on ... mortgage and nursery fees. What's left goes on design classics.

My favourite work of art ... Not art as such, but Art Deco architecture.

It's not fashionable, but I like ... taking Standard 8mm cine films. No sound, a strong chance of messing up the exposure or losing some of the film when you turn the reel over, and 4 minutes costs £20. Yet you get no sense of occasion and anticipation with the instant fix of video. Plus you still can't beat Kodachrome for colour.

If I wasn't me I'd like to be ... a philanthropist. I imagine the hardest bit woud be choosing between so many good causes.

Comfort eating ... Sticky Toffee Pudding.

The soundtrack to my life ... currently Keane. But all time, ABC's masterpiece The Lexicon of Love.

I wish I'd never worn ... shiny black peg trousers and white shoes. But it was 1985.

A book that changed me ... My father read me Animal Farm when I was about 7 years old. The bit about the farmer being a drunk really disturbed me, but understanding the alegory led me to a lifelong fascination with history.

My biggest regret ... Not taking History A-Level.
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:24 pm   0 comments
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
7 Samurai
by Steve Travis

Stephen Tall requested, so here goes ...


1 See my grandchildren children grow up
2 Win an election
3 Write a novel
4 Row in a Thames Cup VIII at Henley one more time
5 Re-attain a 32" waist
6 Travel the Silk Road
7 Design and build a house


1 Play golf
2 Sit with my legs at 90 degrees to my body with a straight back
3 Be neat and tidy
4 Bowl a cricket ball
5 Comb my hair
6 Write legibly, quickly
7 Make a smooth roux


1 Stone Mushrooms
2 The Oolite Band
3 Castle Combe Manor
4 The A4
5 Corsham Computer Centre (CCC) - hello spooks!
6 Proximity to Bath
7 Slaughterford


1 Stop that (Alice/Joe)!
2 Excellent
3 Kind of
4 The thing is ...
5 This really isn't getting us anywhere; can we move on? (used at work)
6 Do you like ...
7 Just the one glass


1 1984 - George Orwell
2 Piece of Cake - Derek Robinson
3 Sherston Trilogy - Siegfried Sassoon
4 Tess of the Durbevilles - Thomas Hardy
5 Posession - AS Byatt
6 Stalingrad - Anthony Beevor
7 The Great Game - Peter Hopkirk


1 A Matter of Life & Death
2 Brief Encounter
3 Ice Cold in Alex
4 Dark Blue World
5 The Titfield Thunderbolt (NE Somerset, in colour, in 1950)
6 My father's 8mm cine films
7 Any footage of real places in colour from as early as possible


Paul Lloyd at Apollo
Oxonian at Apollo
Pandora at Apollo
Augustus Carp at Apollo
Simon Mollan
Simon Isledon

[A bonus point to anyone who can explain the reason for the title to this article]

I note that the Powell & Pressburger Oeuvre is very popular among Lib Dems.
posted by Apollo Project @ 10:24 pm   0 comments
Religious hatred
by Alex Sweet

Last night's victory on religious hatred was a fantastic result for the parliamentary party. Well done to all of them and to Andrew Stunnell -- if just one fewer of our MPs had turned out to vote, the story everywhere today would be "Lib Dems fail to defend free speech". Lessons have evidently been learnt from prior debacles.

Of course it was *also* a great tribute to all of us foot-soldiers who got every single Lib Dem MP elected. Just one fewer MP elected in May would have reversed last night's vote, and allowed one of the sickest, most mis-judged and most corrupt New Lab pieces of legislation through.

Occasions like this are gold dust in denostrating to people that voting makes a difference, and voting Lib Dem makes a difference.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 10:08 am   3 comments
Who are the Liberal Democrats?
by Peter

The Guardianhas a piece about us, this morning.

They have a higher average age for the membership than I would have guessed (59) and say we are unusually highly educated (42% with degrees - which sounds more likely).

They find us relatively coherent

the members share a coherent set of Liberal principles which go beyond local concerns. As the party's name suggests, contemporary liberal democracy encompasses both liberalism and social democracy. The former emphasises individual freedom and market solutions, while the latter emphasises equality and redistribution. In relation to the former, our survey found that 58% of members thought that "individuals should take responsibility for providing for themselves" and only 28% thought that "it is the government's responsibility to provide a job for everyone who wants one". However, they do recognise the limits of the market, since only 19% agreed that it "would be a good thing for schools to be made to compete with each other for students",

Members tend to have the same sort of views as voters. But the one great exception to this environmental taxation:

One difference between members and voters concerns the environment. Fifty-three per cent of members supported an increase in taxation on motorists in order to curb pollution. Lib Dem voters, by contrast, are distinctly cool on the idea that car owners should pay higher taxes.

I don't think this means that we should not advocate higher fuel taxes. But it does imply that we should beware of getting too far ahead of them. The short, sharp shock approach advocated by Chris Huhne is doubtless attractive to many activists. I prefer the Campbell line.

We must be far more imaginative in explaining how changes in individual behaviour can produce a win-win outcome for both the environment and consumers. Energy efficiency measures, which cut carbon emissions, also provide enormous financial savings for families. As leader, I will be unveiling an action plan for a significant boost to energy saving technologies and the provision of incentives to households to encourage the necessary changes at home. What is true for households, also applies to businesses. The Carbon Trust recently set out a detailed analysis of the way in which the costs of energy efficiency measures implemented by manufacturers can be recouped through lower running costs in a surprisingly short space of time.

The tax system and user charges must be used to create incentives to change behaviour. Environmental concerns must be centred in the Treasury, not regarded as some sort of departmental add-on. We’ll create an Environmental Incentive Programme in the Treasury to see how within the same overall tax envelope, incentives for good environmental behaviour can be built into the tax system. Individual behaviour is more likely to change in the right direction if there is a clear material incentive to do so, as well as a positive effect on the environment. There is a case to consider the expansion of road charging systems, as long as the revenues are clearly dedicated to improving public transport alternatives.

Incentives must exist to discourage unnecessary car use rather than an overnight attempt to price travellers out of their vehicles by pushing the price of fuel beyond their reach. I will want to ensure that our party’s position on this is both workable and credible.

My personal preference would be to establish a framework in which users know that taxation is going to rise over the medium term by more than inflation (giving them an incentive to make appropriate investment decisions). At the same time we should promote alternatives to carbon-burning energies.

Our argument should not simply be the impact on the environment. This means a lot to us, but not so much for the wider electorate, and is vulnerable to the irrefutable argument that our impact on atmospheric CO2 is outweighed by that of the rest of the world. Instead we should be arguing that this is necessary to ensure continuity of supply.
posted by Peter Pigeon @ 9:04 am   19 comments
Previous Posts

"What is Liberalism?: I should say it means the acknowledgment in practical life of the truth that men are best governed who govern themselves; that the general sense of mankind, if left alone, will make for righteousness; that artificial privileges and restraints upon freedom, so far as they are not required in the interests of the community, are hurtful; and that the laws, while, of course, they cannot equalise conditions, can at least avoid aggravating inequalities, and ought to have for their object the securing to every man the best chance he can have of a good and useful life." C-B.


The Apollo Project seeks to put together new ideas on policies and campaigning to help broaden the appeal and enhance the impact of the Liberal Democrats.

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