Talking Politics
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    Douglas Carswell presents an existential threat - not just to the Tory party, but also to Ukip itself.

    His victory speech after winning the Clacton by-election last night was a leadership speech in all but name. And not just any leader’s speech. It was a direct challenge to Nigel Farage’s political values.

    It’s worth quoting at length:

    "To my new party I offer these thoughts. Humility when we win, modesty when we are proved right. If we speak with passion let it always be tempered by compassion.

    "We must be a party for all Britain and all Britons, first and second generation as much as every other. Our strength must lie in our breadth. If we stay true to that there is nothing we cannot achieve.

    "The governing can no longer presume to know what is right for the governed. Crony corporatism is not the free market. Cosy cartel politics is not meaningful democracy. Change is coming with the realising that things can be better. It is an honour to be a small part of that this evening."

    The

    Read More »from Clacton is won: Now prepare for the Ukip civil war
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    Nick Clegg is not a prostitute for power, as his detractors claim. Nor is he stupid, as they sometimes imply. But he has a very small idea of what politics is. His speech today aimed to disprove the easy populism of Nigel Farage or Alex Salmond. But he revealed his own failings much more powerfully than those of his opponents.

    The opening did a better job of surveying the political landscape than either of the other two main party leaders had done. Forces of separation and difference had overcome Britain, he said. People were being told to blame the English, or immigrants, or people on benefits. They were being given easy scapegoats for their anger.

    Clegg’s solution was dispiriting. “Politicians of every party,” he said, “have fed this growing cynicism by exaggerating and overstating what governments can do.”

    It was a very revealing statement. It was reminiscent of his performance against Nigel Farage, when he seemed content with European politics staying roughly as it was for the next

    Read More »from Clegg's speech defended the very establishment he claims to despise
  • Nick Clegg’s survival mission starts here. His pitch wa not about values or policies, but about the value of coalition: a concept as tarnished as it is associated with the deputy PM.

    This was what his aides call a “combative and passionate speech”. It wasn’t as personal as last year. It didn’t try to be anything other than what it was: a pitch for five more years in power.

    The flagship policy on mental health, announced overnight, is all very well. It is a popular policy, one the party can get behind, and the Lib Dems win points for getting there first. But this morning - both in the alcohol-addled small hours and during their hungover-addled breakfasts - activists were wondering whether it was really distinctive enough to win back support.

    For the Liberal Democrats need more than just attractive policies. They know they have stretched the basic rules of the relationship between politician and voter beyond breaking point. An apology was never going to be enough to fix the damage caused

    Read More »from Clegg's survival mission starts here
  • People wonder why Liberal Democrats retain the will to live. Year after year their remaining members trudge to party conference, this time in the misty far-away lands of Glasgow, and continue a journey that surely leads to electoral oblivion. How can a party on eight per cent of the vote, with an election in less than a year, keep its head?

    When we look back on our darkest moments, we often wonder how we got through them. The answer is that humans are a uniquely optimistic species. We all think we’re going to win the lottery, but none of us think we’re going to get cancer. In trying circumstances, we find a glimmer of hope and focus on that. Aspiration is the defence of the soul. For the Liberal Democrats, that great hope is provided by the Conservative party.

    Amid all the jubilation over the Conservative conference last week, commentators and politicians neglected to mention the effect of right-wing Tory economic policy on Lib Dem-Conservative marginals. When people say things like

    Read More »from Osborne has done the Lib Dems' work for them
  • The Liberal Democrats meet in Glasgow with polls showing their support at almost imperceptible levels

    One YouGov poll on the eve of conference found a pitiful six per cent of voters still willing to back the party.

    If that was repeated in May next year, the party would face an almost total wipeout, losing all but a dozen seats across the country.

    But while the headline figures look absolutely dreadful, Nick Clegg’s party remains relatively chipper. So why is this?

    Well if you look beyond the national figures, the Lib Dems have a much better chance of hanging on in 2015 than you might expect.

    Recent polling of Liberal Democrat marginals found that while the party faces losing dozens of seats to Labour, they could hold on to a surprising number of seats against the Conservatives.

    The polling by Lord Ashcroft found that despite the dreadful national figures, the party is actually running level with the Conservatives in most of the marginal seats that David Cameron needs to win a majority

    Read More »from Liberal Democrats pin their survival hopes on 'beating up on the Tories'
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    Chris Grayling has been caught out by the high court once again, this time for trying to protect insurance companies from people who have a couple of years to live.

    Tomorrow he will try to scrap legal protections available to British citizens from the European Convention of Human Rights.

    It is a damning charge sheet. What we are witnessing is a full scale assault against the rights of citizens and an attempt to bolster the powers of the state and private companies. And it is being conducted by the lord chancellor himself.

    These were the victims he picked: mesothelioma sufferers. People who inhaled asbestos, usually through work. It is a horrible disease. From the point of diagnosis you usually have two years to live. That is why the House of Lords exempted them from the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (Laspo).

    This legislation forced people winning compensation to pay up to 25% of it in costs. It’s supposedly intended to address those personal injury claims you

    Read More »from The lord chancellor is dismantling the rule of law
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    Asylum seekers are a testing lab for how we treat those we don’t care about. It starts with asylum seekers and before you know it you see the same policies being applied to benefit claimants.

    Case in point: benefits cards. Iain Duncan Smith announced to the Conservative party conference this week that he’d be testing out pre-paid cards for people to receive their benefits, so they couldn’t spend it on alcohol or drugs.

    He said:

    "Conference, today I can stand here and announce to you that I am going to start testing prepaid cards onto which we will make benefit payments so that the money they receive is spent on the needs of the family, finally helping I believe to break the cycle of poverty for families on the margins. This is a change for those families that we as a Conservative government will be proud of."

    IDS does not have to look far for how the system works. It is already in place for failed asylum seekers who, for reasons outside of their control, cannot return to their own

    Read More »from How IDS' plan will starve and stigmatise people on benefits
  • Promising tax cuts - the ultimate turn-on for the Tories and vote-winner for the electorate - guaranteed this speech would be a success for David Cameron. But the prime minister had a bigger task to overcome in what could yet be his final conference speech as leader of the Conservative party.

    Cameron wandered on to the stage slowly. He had all the languor of a man taking a lap of honour, a man happy to soak up the applause for governing the country. It seemed appropriate, for there wasn’t the customary build-up in excitement to this speech. There was no real sense of anticipation. Delegates were calmly expecting something workmanlike.

    What they got was something much better. Even after nine years in the job, David Cameron is still not entirely a known quantity to the British people. He does not stand for much that is not universally acceptable. “I’m not a complicated man,” he told delegates. So, by weighting so much of his speech about the inadequacies of Ed Miliband, he had to do

    Read More »from Forbidden for so long, Cameron unveils the Tories' forbidden Viagra
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    By Paul Harris

    I’m terrified. Why? Chris Grayling has just made a rabble rousing speech at the Tory party conference, shredding the Human Rights Act, that perennial, lazy target for the Tory faithful and the tabloid press.  As they would have you believe it, the Act protects prisoners, terrorists and paedophiles. But, yet again in the short career of Mr Grayling, he’s distorting the reality of a law for cheap political gain.  He’d have you believe that it’s a product of the evil EU which subverts our sovereignty with left-leaning liberalism.

    Three facts escape him. It was born out of the ashes of the Second World War to protect Europe’s fragile democracies. It sets in stone rights such as the right to life, education and free elections. It also applies to everybody equally.   

    But Grayling has other plans. He’s happy to tear up the agreements which have made us a beacon of human rights internationally. He proposes a bill of rights, bespoke to England and Wales. Killing three political

    Read More »from Human rights law protects us against ministers like Grayling
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    The applause was as hard-edged as George Osborne’s smile. Even after all these years, he still hasn’t learned how to look convincingly happy. And the Conservatives like him all the more for it.

    Looking cheerful, the meanest-minded Tories would have to admit, is not really in the job description. It has been this chancellor’s task to preside over one of the most dramatic retrenchments of public services in the British state’s history. Grimacing, not grinning, has been Osborne’s expression of choice.

    Today was a masterclass in looking immovable. His technique of delivering his speech from behind a lectern, solid and reliable, is all part of this. So too was the unusually unsubtle autocue at the back of the hall, which David Cameron’s No 10 spin doctors took to staring at anxiously rather than focusing on their colleague in No 11. Osborne couldn’t have come across more differently from the touchy-feely, forgetting-his-lines Ed Miliband. Which, of course, is exactly as he wanted.

    "Britain,

    Read More »from Pain, poverty and the cold, hard sound of Tory applause

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