Tag Archives: Lib Dem

Citizen Öpik

Would-be Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London Lembit Opik has been busy making a series of short videos for his campaign. The Lib Dems haven’t selected their London candidate yet, so maybe the former Newcastle city councillor and former MP for Montgomeryshire is in with a chance. Lib Dems do like their local candidates.

To be fair, Opik lives in Kennington, presumably still in the flat he claimed £68,031 towards as an MP whilst getting a summons for non-payment of council tax.

He has demonstrated the city-wide reach of his campaign by going nine stops down the Northern Line to Tooting Broadway. This video lavishly recreates the opening titles of the late-seventies sitcom Citizen Smith, complete with Red Flag soundtrack.

Clearly a serious politician of formidable substance. Next is Opik back in his local boozer in Kennington, not appearing to pay for his pint.

You’ll notice him, in this one, honing what I imagine for Liberal Democrats is an appealing political slogan – ‘if that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get’. Reminiscent of ‘change that works for you’.

And finally, this one has the former MP standing outside the Houses of Parliament. ‘I spent thirteen years in that building there’, he says, pointing at the House of Lords.


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Steve Reed’s Budget Speech To Lambeth Council

It has been reported, and I have commented here, on the way Lambeth Council’s meeting to set a legal budget, faced with massive Tory Lib Dem government cuts, was disrupted by protesters. Council then met in closed session, in the Assembly Hall of Lambeth Town Hall. Five speeches of the planned 41 were made before the budget was voted on.

Contrary to claims made by Lib Dem leader Cllr Ashley Lumsden, and his heir abhorrent, Cllr Steve Bradley, Labour councillors did not laugh and clap as the budget was voted on. This recording made in the meeting of Labour leader Cllr Steve Reed’s speech gives an impression of the tone of the meeting.


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Lib Dem Quits After Racist Tweet About Chuka Umunna

Cllr Warren Swaine

No, not in Streatham, where I live, but in the area where I grew up, in Reading.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Katesgrove ward, Warren Swaine, decided to pass comment on the recent performance of my good friend and neighbour Chuka Umunna, Labour Member of Parliament for Streatham, on BBC Question Time.

Cllr Swaine (pictured) tweeted this:

“I am waiting for the Labour guy to claim, ‘Is it because I is black’ as a defence for being a muppet.”

Disgusting. Loathsome. Detestable.

I watched Chuka on TV, as I often do, and thought it was an excellent performance. As a press officer I used to brief people up for Question Time, and still do occasionally. So I can claim to know a thing or two about effective QT performances. I texted Chuka afterwards to say so.

Chuka is young, bright, articulate. He’s a very capable politician, in the Commons, in the media and, crucially, in the community he serves. Warren Swaine has shown himself to be the reverse of that, the negative, the underside of the stone. He is a bilious disgrace to his party, the people who elected him and the office he holds. If anyone is a muppet, it is Swaine. A racist muppet.

I read today that Cllr Swaine has now ‘stepped down’ from his role as Cabinet Member for Environment and Sustainability on Reading Borough Council, but not before turning his not inconsiderable mind to maligning black community leaders on his own doorstep.

Reading is a town (it should really be a city) with a significant black and minority ethnic population. Cllr Swaine, who uses being half Sri Lankan as a defence when it suits, chose to question the integrity of campaigners trying to prevent funding cuts (by his Tory Lib Dem administration) to Reading Council for Racial Equality. Swaine said on his blog:

“Maybe I can be forgiven for thinking that they [RCRE] aren’t quite the spontaneous groundswell of support they were supposed to appear as.”

Swaine also sought to suggest RCRE has leanings towards Labour. RCRE director Rajinder Sophal has responded:

“Cllr Swaine came to RCRE disguised as a friend but actually with malice in his heart. We treated him nothing other that as a friend and colleague and we feel let down by his outburst.”

I do hope that in 2012 the voters of Reading will assist Warren Swaine in ‘stepping down’ from his role as a councillor.

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Leaving The Lib Dems

As my last post was long, here’s a video I’ve made compiling the press statements of councillors who have resigned from the Liberal Democrats since May 2010. They have served in cities and counties across the country. Enough from me, I’ll let their words speak for themselves about leaving the Lib Dems.

See also here.

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Lib Dem Chameleon Caught In Headlights

It’s fascinating to see how the Liberal Democrats locally and nationally are adjusting to being in government, and how they are approaching the tricky issue of responsibility for the deeply wounding cuts being inflicted on local communities by government-imposed, ideological cuts to council services.

Does a Liberal Democrat EVER take responsibility? Is the Pope a Buddhist? Listen, is that a constipated bear I hear grunting and straining in the woods?

It seems to me, after five years of observing the ungainly policy somersaults of Lib Dems here in Lambeth, their absurd dancing from populist pinhead to pinhead, their eager climbing aboard of any bandwagon like it was the last bus home, their oily, pompous grandstanding and their desperate airbrushing from history of their own history of failure, that Liberal Democrats are not in the business of taking responsibility.

But that’s why, it seems to me, Lib Dems become Lib Dems. They yearn to be a bit provocative (but not too much, we want the neighours to like us, Muriel), a bit different from the mainstream (typical attention-seeking tactic, like rich kids living in squats) and a bit oppositionalist (but only ever if they think it will be a magnet for votes).

Let’s not forget that Lib Dems are peculiarly skilled at concealing their lack of principle (Tory-sounding on one doorstep, Labour-as-they-come on the next, UKIP, Green, SWP – you choose, they schmooze). They are political chameleons, adapting their electoral appearance to circumstances and always looking for ways of explaining away any actions or decisions that could become questionable.

So that’s why it’s interesting to see what the Lib Dem chameleon, now caught in the headlights of government, looks like when startled by the consequences of its own actions.

Take Lib Dem government minister Sarah Teather, attending a meeting in her constituency, where impending closures of six libraries in the London Borough of Brent was being discussed. An uncomfortable place to be for any Lib Dem on the wrong side of an argument. What to do? Rather than taking any responsibility and explaining that a massive cut in (her) government’s grant to local government is necessitating closures of many local facilities like libraries, Teather thought in this case she’d do the usual hand-wringing thing, whilst half joining in the save libraries campaign and half staying out of it. Typical.

Local resident Philip Jones said that Teather ‘Did seem a little bit embarrassed about being there when everyone was talking about saving the [Kensal Rise] library because of the cuts, and she suggested that people take all the books out of the library and clear the library of books … we were all a bit stunned really because she is a member of the Government and it seemed opposed to the policies of the Government’.

Taking all the books out of a library is a gesture. It doesn’t amount to a strategy that saves a library in the fierce blast of Tory-led, Lib Dem following government cuts.

In Lambeth, look at Lib Dem Leader Cllr Ashley Lumsden, who had this to say in the South London Press about the effects of his own government’s £37 million cuts (this year) on this one borough: ‘Residents will neither forgive nor forget Labour for this butchery to local services’.

Oh, so he rushed to the Lambeth Lib Dem comfort zone – it’s all Labour’s fault. If that isn’t avoidance of responsibility, I don’t know what is. The online comments on the article, mainly directed at Cllr Lumsden’s misfiring sophistry, are instructive:

‘It’s your government’s cuts you ridiculous little twunt’

‘Its more likely the people of Lambeth will never forget or forgive the Lib Dems for being traitors and Tories in disguise!’

‘The Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition seem to be particularly punishing inner city areas like Lambeth with their spending cuts’ [True, see here]

And, finally, the particularly illuminating: ‘Ashley Lumsden is a dishonest fool’

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Tulse Hill Toils

It’s been an eventful week here in Lambeth, with a very sweaty Labour leadership hustings in Brixton on Wednesday and the Lambeth Council by-election in Tulse Hill on Thursday.

I’ll post some thoughts on the hustings tomorrow when I’ve (hopefully) sorted out sound issues with the video I made. I do wish people would speak up.

So yesterday, Labour won the by-election and held the council seat in Tulse Hill.

Here are the results:

Ruth Ling (Labour) 1235

Terry Curtis (Liberal Democrat) 745

George Graham (Green) 256

Will Blackburn (Conservative) 94

Robin Lambert (UKIP) 36

I’m really pleased by Ruth’s success yesterday, a convincing win with 52% of the vote; she is a good friend and was a diligent ward councillor in Clapham Common between 1994 and 2010. Sadly Ruth lost her seat to a Tory back in May, the only seat Labour lost in Lambeth. We picked up seven others elsewhere – four from the Tories, two from the Lib Dems and one from the Greens. The loss was very much due to the General Election being on the same day, combined with the blue-tinged demographics of Clapham Common.

Always ‘a fighter not a quitter’ (to borrow a phrase from the former Cllr P Mandelson, Labour councillor for Stockwell, LB Lambeth), when the by-election was announced unexpectedly, Ruth put her name forward and was selected by Tulse Hill branch members as their candidate.

As a former by-election winner myself (there are now five of us in Lambeth Labour Group, a distinguished caucus who have seen off those principle-lite, scruple-free Lib Dems) I’m pleased and proud that Ruth has been elected and I’m sure she will make an excellent ward councillor in her new patch, armed with Lambeth experience and driven by Labour values.

So, yesterday I was toiling around a sweltering Tulse Hill on my bike for most of polling day, picking up numbers from the five polling stations and keeping a watchful eye and ear on the Lib Dems I spotted on my travels.

It was interesting, leaning on my handlebars for a breather, to observe the reaction of Lib Dem tellers at polling stations at being harangued by voters because of the ConDem coalition government (‘I didn’t vote for THAT’), and also their characteristically innuendo-laden by-election campaign.

Interesting too to see Lib Dem tellers sporting badges and stickers displaying the name of their candidate and their party, an apparent failure, shall we say, to observe Electoral Commission guidance:

Tellers must not … display any campaign material in support of or against any particular political party or candidate other than a rosette.

Labour tellers yesterday were wearing plain, unbranded red rosettes. For the avoidance of doubt, surely that’s how it should be. Red, blue, yellow, green rosettes, plain and simple. A uniform approach and a level playing field.

The Commission does say:

Tellers may … display a coloured rosette displaying the name of the candidate or political party.

OK, fair enough. I imagine the name and party is allowed so as to be fair to independent candidates and smaller parties. But a rosette is not a badge or a sticker. Nor is it a small Lib Dem poster which I saw attached to one teller’s clipboard.

Anyway, back to the Lib Dem campaign. Tulse Hill residents were subjected to the regulation barrage of paper from the Lib Dems with the predictable by-election attacks on Ruth for not being ‘local’, describing her as a ‘Clapham reject’. This from a party who in May 2010 stood a long-serving Streatham councillor as a candidate in – by coincidence – Clapham Common. He was rejected, not because he wasn’t local but because more voters voted Conservative.

I’ve survived a similar ‘localism’ exercise. When I was elected in Streatham South the Lib Dems claimed I lived ‘halfway to Brixton’ despite the fact I live in the adjacent ward, Streatham Wells. My predecessor, whose death caused the by-election, actually lived in Dalberg Road in the middle of Brixton. That didn’t prevent him from doing a really good job representing Streatham South, and being fondly remembered as a ‘local champion’.

I can think of at least three Lib Dem councillors here who don’t live in the ward they represent (and indeed one former councillor who didn’t live in Lambeth). From a political party perspective, this whole ‘he/she is/isn’t local’ isn’t really about being local, it’s about opportunism. Every party lobs in the ‘local’ grenade from time to time, but it does little to improve political debate. It certainly does little for the so-called ‘new politics’ the Lib Dems love to prattle about.

But far worse than that, with a Labour councillor having resigned (his name Toren Smith and the resignation by choice) after his arrest and a court case in the offing, the Lib Dems resorted to incredibly distasteful leaflets which had little regard for sub judice, ignoring the fact no case has yet been heard. So it was all systems go with the twisted opportunism, slamming Labour in general and thereby seeking to link Ruth Ling to the ex-councillor’s situation.

There was a leaflet which regurgitated various press reports about the resignation (how these reports originated we can only guess). ‘Labour Councillor Quits in Shame’ was the headline. When voters emailed complaints to the Lib Dem agent (Cllr Ashley Lumsden, also Lambeth Lib Dem leader) he responded glibly: ‘It seemed reasonable to set the record straight, and, in the circumstances, simply to reprint what local newspapers have reported.’

Lumsden then went on to have another go at Ruth Ling for having ‘no prior connection’ with Tulse Hill whilst praising the Lib Dem candidate to the skies as ‘an excellent local candidate … whose record of action in the area is longstanding and beyond reproach’. Hmm – note that last word. Is that a dog whistle we can’t hear?

It seems likely to me that more was suggested about the police investigation on the doorsteps than appeared in lurid leaflets, based on what I heard back from uneasy voters when I was canvassing. But the Lib Dems generally escape attention for their less scrupulous canvassing techniques. They remind me sometimes of the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who – they only move and attack when you’re not looking. Which is why people should always keep an eye on them.

Yesterday, it being hot and hilly, I was cycling along slowly, past a couple of Lib Dems on the St Martin’s Estate in Tulse Hill. One was an old hand, the other obviously there for the day (‘Lib Dem canvasser is not local shock!’). The old hand was telling the (‘not local’) helper all about … the police investigation. Now why might she need to know that?

Ruth Ling was an excellent candidate and overcame a Lib Dem campaign that was described to me by a resident in Upper Tulse Hill as ‘sick’. In some ways, I recognise their strategy as textbook Lib Dem, in others they sank to new depths.

Last night, as I stood beside Ruth in Room 8 at the Town Hall, where the count took place, I watched the rictus grins of the Lib Dems fall, by degrees, as they saw a greater number of bundles of counted votes building up in the Labour trays.

As I saw those faces fall, I was reminded of the words of their leader, Nick Clegg, in the first of the leaders’ debates during the General Election: ‘What I support is something I’ve supported all my adult political life: a complete clean-up, from top to toe, of politics.’

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Betty Blue

L1000289Yesterday brought the news that one of the Labour councillors for Brixton Hill, Betty Evans-Jacas, had defected to the Conservatives. Lambeth Tories have made a squeaky fanfare of this, with a statement that only showed, if anything, that Betty would say anything to get into the Conservative group, which numbers 6 (and now, obviously, 7). 

Betty allegedly said: “After years of agonising over the failure of the leadership of the Labour Party in Lambeth to listen to the residents, faith organisations, and business of Brixton Hill and Lambeth as a whole, I have decided to become a member of the Conservative Party under David Cameron.  I believe that under his leadership, I will be able to fulfil all of my duties as a Brixton Hill ward councillor.”

Twaddle. If there is any borough in London that listens, at length, to its residents, faith groups and businesses, it is Labour Lambeth. I know this because I am a Cabinet Member and I see how hard Labour councillors work to keep in touch with the views of residents. 

I suspect that Betty is actually speaking about herself – her demands for extra allowances were not listened to because they were immoral, particularly given her reputation as an absentee in Brixton Hill. Leader of the Council Steve Reed explains here. Missing surgeries is hardly a good example of listening.

When she was ill, as she was, seriously – to the extent that the Lib Dem ghouls were leafleting in expectation of a by-election – her Labour colleagues covered for her. When she was not ill, her Labour colleagues found themselves covering for her. She has been a gross disappointment, and she has lost many more friends in the Labour Party than she will ever gain in the Conservative Party, particularly when they realise the baggage of financial embarrassment she brings with her. It will be a dead end for her and a dilemma for the Conservatives.

It’s ludicrous to think, as she appears to, that David Cameron will somehow enable Betty to ‘fulfil all [her] duties as a Brixton Hill councillor’. She has shown no inclination to fulfil those duties as a councillor of any party, which is why she was replaced at a selection meeting last week.

She has been judged shrewdly by her Town Hall peers, Labour Group, over the years since 2006, and at every group election she has failed to be elected for every council post she has stood for – all of which have involved allowances. Now this grasping would-be politician has failed the people who voted for her in Brixton Hill. She should be ashamed.

Labour Group is not ashamed to be rid of her. Her valueless, shifting political mind suits the Tories.


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