Friday, August 25, 2006

37 defections to Lib Dems in Beckett's constituency

Just in case you haven't seen this, 37 Labour defections over the Middle East to the Lib Dems in the Foreign Secretary's seat. I wonder if the constituency will get a recruitment prize!

Lib Dem news release


Dozens of Labour Party members in Margaret Beckett’s constituency are to defect to the Liberal Democrats today in protest at her handling of the Lebanon crisis. They will announce their decision at 3.15pm today at the Pakistani Community Centre, Derby.

The defections, which come on the day Tony Blair returns from his holiday in Barbados, include a number of senior figures in Mrs Beckett’s Derby South constituency and numerous other Labour members and activists.

Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:

"The Liberal Democrats were the first and only major party to call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. These defections in the Foreign Secretary's own seat are significant. The government's position on the Middle East and Iraq shows just how out of touch it is with many in its party and the majority of the general public."

Mohammed Rawail Peeno, who was Chairman of the city’s Arboretum branch Labour Party, said:

"We could not remain in the Labour Party after their mishandling of the Lebanon crisis.
"When Margaret Beckett refused to back a ceasefire and instead sided with George Bush it was the breaking point for us.

"New Labour have abandoned the beliefs that led me and thousands of others to join Labour in the first place. We have now joined the Liberal Democrats, whose policies of respect for international law and good quality public services have support across every community in Britain."

Councillor Lucy Care, Liberal Democrat deputy leader in Derby said:

"These are people who for years were solid Labour but are now turning to us because they see that on the Lebanon crisis, the Iraq War and the delivery of everyday services it is the Liberal Democrats who are the progressive choice in British politics today.

"This mass defection in Mrs Beckett’s backyard shows that the whole New Labour project and the coalition of support they had is decaying away".


Notes to Editors
1. The official defection is taking place at the Pakistani Community Centre, 103 Harrington Street, Derby DE23 8PG at 3.15pm on Friday 25th August 2006.

2. The defectors include Mohammed Rawail Peeno, a Labour Party Ward Chairman, Ali Shan and Abdul Majid, both members of Mrs Beckett’s ruling Derby South Labour Party General (Executive) Committee and Masood Akhta, an ex City and County Councillor. A substantial number of other Labour Party members are expected to announce their decision to join the Liberal Democrats at 3.15pm.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Desperately seeking........

Help me out guys and gals! I need to know what attacks are being made on the Lib Dems on the ground by our opponents. This is not a sad obsession of mine but rather a determined effort to ensure you are all in a position to rebut attacks and opposition claims.

Get in touch with me either in the Communications Unit at Cowley Street or by email:

Examples I have recently seen are Tories attacking us on taxes on holidays (on exactly the same day as Steve Norris was calling for taxes on air travel!) and a Labour MP attacking the Lib Dems over our petition calling for Post Offices Card Account and Post Office branches to be saved. He claims that there is no threat!

Ealing Comedies are back!

Ealing Comedies are back! This time they star that great Parliamentary wit Steven Pound, who is a Labour backbencher and MP for Ealing. I'm not sure whether the article below was written by the Labour Press Office on a good day or the Pinewood Studios Comedy Writers Team on a bad day. (And yes it is genuine!)

Watch out for a Labour attack coming soon claiming Lib Dem calls to save the planet from global warming are leading to the destruction of the environment; Lib Dem calls for extra police being a blueprint for terrorists to undermine life as we know it, and Lib Dem opposition to the Iraq war being the cause of the conflict in Lebanon.

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world, and Labour live in it!

0207 839 4784; 0207 219 2035.

TERROR 2: Lib Dems under attack over food threat

The Liberal Democrats have been accused of 'giving aid and advice to the enemy' by highlighting the risk to UK food supplies from terrorists.

Ealing North Labour MP Steve Pound that that 'this sort of hysterical alarmism shows why the Liberal Democrats will never be fit for government'.

He told Gallery News, " Any responsible politician with concerns such as these would quietly contact the Minister and address the issue seriously and without giving encouragement or ideas to terrorists. The fact thatthe LibDems have chosen to make a public statement instead proves that they are interested more in political advantage than the defence of the realm.

" To issue a mealy-mouthed caveat that this 'is not an issue for public panic' shows that there is a breath of conscience in the Liberal body but tacking it on to the end of an alarmist press release is far too little and far too late.

" To state on the record that 'agro-terrorism is furthermore a very cost-effective form of causing major disruption with a small amount of a high risk chemical potentially producing an epidemic of nationwide proportions' is an absolute disgrace and close to treachery. Any terrorist looking for a'cost-effective' tactic now has the blueprint thanks to the irresponsible publicity hounds of the Liberal democrats.

" No doubt they'll come up with some wingeing hand-wringing excuse but I just hope that they ask themselves the simple question. Has this statement helped our country or those who attack us? The answer is clear to me.

" We're used to mendacity and duplicity from the Liberal Democrats but giving aid and advice to the enemy is a new low - even for them."


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

email newsletters

Last night I completed and emailed out the edition of my email newsletter eFocus that goes to the larger of the distribution lists I have of constituents in Blaydon constituency - 600 addresses. I included in it a link to the video newsletter I produce.

If any Lib Dems want a copy as an example of using emails for mass communication to residents, drop me a line at

I have been getting a steady stream of replies today, many of which come from people who are not on the circulation list. It shows that people are forwarding it on to others, an indication that people find eFocus useful.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Home Spun Politician

Can it be true? The Tories have a poll lead sufficient to give them a majority? Well, not really. They will have to do much better than this mid term if they are to get the swing they need to win an election outright.

Whilst 40% in today's Guardian ICM poll will no doubt have brought a smile to the Cameroonies, as the Times points out, that will give them a majority of only 10, on a uniform swing. And we know, uniform swings are not the bread and butter anymore of UK general elections (remember 1997 when our share of the vote went down and our number of seats doubled). In other words, local campaigning and constituency factors influence individual results. And there are no better people to make that happen than Lib Dems ourselves!

When Blair was Opposition Leader, he and Labour had poll ratings that were in the stratosphere. There is nothing like that for the Conservatives at the moment. In those 3 years in the run up to the 1997 general election, Labour's lead in the opinion polls was substantial because the Lib Dems were registering poll ratings at best half what they are now.

The Conservatives are therefore not seen as the only alternative to Labour. And that is shown in the polls at the moment. Indeed, we have come a long way when we think of 17% for us in the polls (the figure in last month's Guardian ICM poll) as disappointing when only 10 years ago that sort of figure would have seen us cracking open the organic, locally produced, sustainably sourced champagne!

Cameron has seen his personal standings slip. For example, take the results of the Mori poll in the Sunday Times:

Politicians are often accused of being all spin and no substance, would you say this is or is not a fair criticism of the following politicians?

Leader Fair Unfair Index
Blair 64 28 -36
Cameron 42 31 -11
Brown 41 45 +4
Campbell 28 36 +8

So Campbell is seen as the most unspun of the leaders.

Good poll ratings however, even if they do not indicate a general election win, are good for moral (and the reverse likewise). Cameron will at least be happy with that. And at 22%, so should we. Mind you, getting the tax proposals approved by conference will bring a further smile to Lib Dem faces!

Monday, August 14, 2006

At last, The Guardian has something supportive to say

Following the dismally thin coverage last week of the Lib Dem tax plans in The Guardian, at last today the newspaper has something supportive to say. The following leader speaks for itself:

“The party makes a compelling case: green taxes reached a peak of 3.6% of GDP in 1999 and have fallen to 2.9% thanks to a freeze on petrol tax. He party wants to reverse the trend, targeting air travel by taxing flights not individual passengers. But the policy document also offers a wider reappraisal of the purpose of taxation. Taxes are, it argues, “a limitation on freedom” that can be justified, not least because that can encourage equality and responsible behaviour. In short, the party thinks that requires fewer tax breaks for the rich and a simpler system for everyone. Both are a good direction to follow.”

Better late than never. Perhaps I won't be cancelling my subscription, at least not yet.

Cameron poll slip

According to a poll of Conservative members on Conservativehome, Cameron's popularity has been slipping. Amongst the 1700 Conservative members polled, he has slipped to plus 49%, down from plus 59% in July.

It should be remembered that these are Conservative members and are therefore far more likely to be positive about the party leadership. It is still a healthy plus percentage but the point is it is moving downwards.

This reflects the Yougov poll on 21st July that saw Cameron's ratings amongst the electorate generally slip from plus 28 to plus 12 percent. This is not the stuff that makes for the massive swing the Conservatives need to win a general election outright.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Is that a green tax or are you just pleased to see me?

A rather helpful comment on the Lib Dem tax plans launched today has come from Friends of the Earth's Head of Policy, Mike Childs. He said:

"The Liberal Democrats have thrown down a green gauntlet to Labour and the Conservatives with their new green taxation plans. They are very progressive measures to make doing the right thing for the environment also the right thing for your pocket. We very much welcome their plans for increasing taxation on gas guzzlers and aeroplanes because transport emissions continue to grow and threaten to wipe out gains made by other sectors. All the political parties have put climate change at the top of their agendas because of the massive threat climate change poses to people and the planet. The Conservatives and Labour need to follow through with equally progressive tax plans."

Given the wall-to-wall coverage of the terrorism issue, on the whole the media coverage of the launch has snatched a few page leads. The Guardian was a disappointment. On small paragraph. I seriously wonder whether it's worth continuing to buy this rag.

Best coverage I think is in the FT: "the party will today propose a package of reforms worth £18 bn a year that will squeeze the rich and penalise behaviour that is bad for the environment while benefitting families with incomes of up to £70,000.

"The tax changes are intended to strengthen the Lib Dem's environmental and socially progressive credentials while ditching their reputation as a tax-and-spend party."

Meanwhile, you've read the policy, now watch the video! Ed Davey interviewing Vince Cable on the party website:

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Making Video and Email Newsletters

For those Lib Dems who are interested in using email and video for engaging with residents, here's a bit about how I do things in Gateshead. I produce a monthly Video Focus newsletter. The link to the just-produced August edition is: or follow the link on the blog entry below.

I started off producing videos that are about a minute in length and restricted the file size to about 1 or 2 MB. One minute was generally enough for about 4 issues to be covered. I am now more relaxed about using larger files so the last edition was over 2 minutes and 6MB.

Hardware is quite basic. A Nisis DV6 digital camera, a tripod and an Olympus VN-480PC voice recorder with hand held mic. Editing is done on Windows Movie Maker though I was looking at Martin Tod's version of Adobe Premier last week and I'm definitely going for a copy of that!

The Nisis operates at 30 frames a second though in the August Video Focus I also use a 4 year old JVC digital camcorder that takes 15 frames a second. I used this for the opening and closing shots.

I email the video file to a list of about 50 people. They have all specifically asked to receive them. Now, however, I also put the video file onto YouTube. This is greatly increased the number of people viewing the videos. This is because I can put a link to the Video Focus on the email letter I produce that goes to 900 addresses.

The email newsletters - eFocus - are produced monthly in 2 different editions. I am currently experimenting with producing short, single issue videos a link to which can be attached to the appropriate story in eFocus. I have done this twice before and both videos have received more viewings than the Video Focuses. This is of course early days.

With eFocus, I deliberately ensure it has a very high local news content. I have found that many residents find eFocus the most useful literature they get from us and many forward it on to others. I am constantly coming across constituents who tell me they like eFocus - and I know for certain they are not on my direct circulation list. I have one elderly constituent who prints lots of copies to give to friends who are not on email. So produce a useful productand others will distribute it for you! (But produce rubbish and it is just too easy for it to be deleted by the recipient unread.)

Earlier this year I got an email from a ship's captain somewhere in the Pacific telling me the eFocus was his best way of keeping in touch with what was happening back home!

Campaigning in Gateshead is geared to carrying out petitions and surveys which always ask for people's email addresses (be sure to include the appropriate wording about using the informaiton supplied to contact people.) We collect them directly from people's doors on the same day as they are delivered - make it easy for people to respond and you will get much higher rates of return.

My target is to have 1200 emails by the end of the year. I am gradually getting there.

I am also trying to include business emails in the distribution. We have started some business survey's recently and have had a good response. Local small businesses are opinion leaders and therefore it is useful for people like shop keepers, hardressers etc to get a good supply of local news from us. And over time we want to encourage them to us eFocus as a way of reaching out to potential local customers themselves - at a suitable advertising rate!

Finally, content of the eFocus and Video Focus tends to be different from printed Focus. It is much more up to date but at the same time it has a much shorter shelf life.

Any Lib Dem wanting copies of what I produce can email me at

Video Focus August 2006

For those interested in using video newsletters etc, here's my latest Video Focus for constituents in Gateshead. The link is emailed to about 900 residents and the actual file is emailed to about 50.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

14,500 - the difference between defeat and not winning

Michael Howard interviewed in The Times today said of the general election result last year:

"It was in many respects a lot closer than the result in seats suggests. The percentage difference was quite small. We got more votes than Labour did in England. I don’t want to go on about what might have been, but one of the lesser-known statistics is that if 14,500 people in the seats that give Labour its majority had changed their vote, we’d have been a hung parliament."

Of course you would never expect him to utter the words "fair votes" but the Conservatives' love affair with first past the post is not doing them any favours. Indeed the whole Tory relationship with the voting system is like an affair in which one partner has been abused by the other for the past decade, is in denial about it but is hoping the relationship will improve in years to come. A marriage made in Tory Heaven. Not a pleasant thought.

Nevertheless, the mention of "hung parliament" could be seen as an admission that the Conservatives feel they can't win an election outright. After all, one look at the electoral arithmetic and reality comes flooding back. They only have to gain 130 seats to scrape in with a bare majority. And with the Conservatives still below 40% in most polls (see July's polls below) they ain't anywhere near the swing they need to win outright.

The reality on the Labour side is that they are sitting on a very precarious majority. A lead of 66 in the Commons would have been convincing for governments before the landslides of the late twentieth century. But the 33 seats that make up the majority each have small majorities. Are we about to enter an period in which no party can win a majority under FPTP?

July polls

Publisher date published polling organisation Con Lab LD
MoS 9/7 BPIX 41 31 15
Times 11/7 Populus 36 34 19
Guardian 27/7 ICM 39 35 17
Telegraph 28/7 YouGov 38 33 18
Financial Times 31/7 Ipsos MORI 36 32 24

Telegraph 28 July 2006: “David Cameron has completed his first parliamentary session as Conservative leader with a lead over Labour, but with signs that his personal popularity with the voters is cooling.”

Monday, August 07, 2006

A List, (as in A for Arm Twist)

Having the choice of 4 candidates to choose from for a council by-election in Gateshead is the stuff of dreams. Arm twisting is a regular form of selection. So to have 4 candidates expressing an interest in Dunston and Teams ward for the by-election expected next month is a bit of a shock to the system. We'll have to dust off the rule book about selection contests!

The sudden resignation of one of the Labour councillor for the ward last month, only 10 weeks after being re-elected, has not exactly stimulated Labour to any degree of activity in the ward. This is one of those wards that has always been safely Labour but where the Labour organisation has rotted away. We heard rumours that they had to pay to have their one and only election leaflet delivered earlier this year.

It is not a ward we have campaigned hard in before. We get 2nd place as a matter of course in the ward. It is bordered however by a Lib Dem marginal, and another ward which was safe Labour in the past but where we slashed the majority this year from 900 to 92. And bizarrely, just before the resignation of the Labour councillor, we were thinking of doing some missionary work in the ward.

But the lack of past political engagement by any party in the ward must be one of the reasons for the difficulty in getting people to respond to our own outreach work. On Saturday I was out delivering and collecting surveys. On something like that in wards we are targetting elsewhere, even in the early days, I would expect a minimum response rate of about 20% and on a good day a response rate of 40-50%. So 6% from the 39% of the ward we have done so far is, well less than I hoped for.

Perhaps people have given up on political parties there because of the lack of engagement in the past. But is does give us an opening. If we can build up our profile and level of engagement, there are many there ripe for the taking.

We are starting from a low base in the ward, but we should be able to make good progress, especially with Labour dead in the water. And do the work we must, for if we don't, and we know Labour either won't bother or are incapable of doing it, the vaccuum could be filled by another party. And the BNP are sniffing around in the ward.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Uncosted Labour spending proposals

Anyone got examples you can send me of uncosted spending proposals made by Labour MPs and Parliamentary Candidates? Here's one I came across in Gateshead today: Labour MP Sharon Hodgson (who???? you ask - a PPS to a minister so she's just started shinning up the greasey pole of ministerial promotion) is calling for all children to have free school meals. (Is there such a thing as a free meal!?)

Email me any example at Cowley St: and include sources.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Wolfgang Bang

I see that well known terrorist Walter Wolfgang has made it onto the Labour NEC, that august body of the good, not so good and downright tedious in the Labour party. Now that he has reached the pinnacle of his political career, it will be interesting to see how the New Labour tribe respond to the appearance of this octogenarian leader of the military wing of the Labour awkward squad. Perhaps a control order will do the trick! A bit more effective than arrest under the Terrorism Act which they tried on him last year! Now there was a lesson on how to turn a complete unknown into an overnight celebrity. I wonder if he’s thinking of standing for the Labour leadership…..? Given the way the Labour machine have tried to undermine Wolfgang recently, perhaps they are acting as their own weapon of self destruction.