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Monday, 30 April 2012

Sheer naked propaganda

Please see below for a very effective piece of political messaging from London Liberal Democrats. I agree. Brian Paddick would make a very good mayor - better than any other candidate who is standing. You can give your first preference to Brian, while giving your second preference to Johnson or Livingstone if you are very keen to stop one of those two men from beating the other, ie if you 'hate' Boris or 'hate' Ken. A first preference for Brian will not let Ken in or let Boris in, as you can use your second preference vote to deal with that (as I have done myself). Oh dear God, talking like this about electoral systems, I sound like a geography teacher talking about glaciers. Why is it always geography teachers that people pick on in this way? Why not teachers of physics, or of sociology?

Anyway, if you are voting for a third-party candidate such as Brian, then you might assume that you should give your important first preference to one of the Tory/Labour Big Two candidates who appear most likely to win, while then daintily dropping your feeble second preference into the corner of the nice Liberal Democrat, as a gesture of encouragement in his direction. Actually, it is the other way round - it is more logical to-<SLUMP> Just trust me. If you vote (for example) "First Paddick, Second Johnson" and Mr Paddick comes third, with Johnson and Livingstone coming first and second, then Brian will sadly be eliminated and your second preference vote will be counted for Boris and against Ken. Whereas if you'd voted "First Johnson, Second Paddick" then you'd have cast the same vote for Boris and against Ken, without giving Brian the first preference vote that he needs if he is to make it to the final two. In 2004, I believe that the Lib Dem Simon Hughes got more votes than did any other candidate in that London mayoral election; had most of those votes been first preferences and not second preferences, he'd have won.

As for the London-wide list of Assembly Members, that is pure PR (give or take). The complete opposite of a wasted vote. Any vote, in any part of London, cast for the Lib Dems will count towards the election of any Lib Dems who are elected from the list. To qualify for getting anyone elected, a party needs to get at least 5% of the vote, a feat achieved last time by the BNP, when they did elect a London Assembly Member. A vote for any other party increases the share of the vote won by all other parties, so making it harder for the BNP to get 5%. So really, if you don't want the BNP to be on the Assembly, then vote Lib Dem or for any other party that is not the BNP. That is democracy - elections are about deciding not only who we want to win, but who we don't want to win, and I don't want the BNP to win.

And I've already voted for Chris Richards, the Lib Dem candidate, to be my local London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden. That is simply done by first-past-the-post, and so does not involve a lecture on glaciers.

From: Brian Paddick <>
Date: Mon, 30 Apr 2012 16:31:01 +0100
To: <>
Subject: Five Reasons Why People are Switching to Us

Dear Matthew

As we get closer to polling day, it is becoming increasingly clear that support for Ken Livingstone is waning and more and more Londoners cannot bring themselves to vote for a candidate that has a real credibility problem.

That's why I'm reaching out to you.

Caroline Pigeon and I, along with our energetic and diverse team of London Assembly candidates can offer real change and a real alternative to the Tory run Mayoralty.

We have lots of fresh and creative ideas for London, here are just five of them:

  • A fairer London, with realistic fare cuts targeted at those who need them most: a One Hour Bus Ticket; Early Bird discounts; and Part-Time season tickets.
  • A greener London, with electric buses, taxis and vans by 2020.
  • A safer London, with police who listen to the concerns of local people and work with them against the criminals.
  • Serious solutions to London’s biggest problems, such as tackling the housing crisis by building 360,000 new homes.
  • Creating a network of Youth Hubs to give young people a positive alternative to gangs.

There are so many reasons why if you sit on the left of London politics, you do not have to vote for Livingstone.

To read more about what we would do, have a look at our manifesto here

With very best wishes,

Brian Paddick



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The Men Who Stare At Ballot Papers

Devoted readers will recall that I previously used this blog to announce to the world that I had voted by post (for the Liberal Democrats) in the 2012 London Mayoral and Assembly Election. In an exciting development, I can now inform you all (several days on) that I have actually now posted my ballot papers, rather than leaving them sat, completed, in an envelope on a chair in the drawing room of my flat.

As a committed student of political science, I know enough about elections to know that postal ballots do actually have to be posted back if they are to be counted towards the result of an election. I think that merely thinking positive thoughts about a candidate should count as having voted for the candidate concerned - it gives a whole new meaning to the expression 'secret ballot' (

Anyway, I yesterday posted the requisite envelope into a pillar box on the East Barnet Road; given that the Postmaster General is currently a Coalition Liberal Democrat (meaning that the Royal Mail is, now more than ever, running like clockwork), I am confident that it will reach Barnet Council by 10pm on Thursday (and if not, then I shall expect PM and DPM to summon the Postmaster General for an interview without coffee).

One Labour personage of my acquaintance told me, by the way, that s/he is not voting for Ken Livingstone in this election; s/he wondered if Mr Livingstone would even escape coming third, as s/he cannot imagine Labour people being able to bear the thought of voting for him. Nobody would be more pleased than would I if Ken Livingstone came third, assuming that Brian Paddick thus came second. The system used for mayoral elections (with first and second preferences) means that, if Brian came second on first preferences, then (when the second preferences were counted), Brian would probably be elected...Obviously, I have myself cast a vote for my second preference for London Mayor (having given my first preference to Brian Paddick). In Lib Dem circles, it is not cricket to reveal to whom one has or has not given one's second preference. I therefore have absolutely nothing to say to anyone who might suggest that I voted first for Brian Paddick, second for Boris Johnson. Absolutely nothing at all.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

No tactical vote for Andrew Dismore

Over on my blog at the Jewish Chronicle, I have explained the many good reasons why Labour candidate Andrew Dismore does not deserve the tactical votes of Liberal Democrats. Yes, breaking news: I have postal-voted Liberal Democrat in the 2012 GLA elections. Before you all fall into a deep sleep in response to this unexceptional news, here is what I wrote over there:
Well, I have voted by post in the 2012 GLA elections. It will not surprise you that I voted Liberal Democrat, given that I am, you know, a Liberal Democrat. Move along. Nothing to see here. Dog bites man, Sun rises in morning, Lib Dem votes Lib Dem - so what?
My votes for Brian Paddick and the Lib Dem London Assembly List candidates are unexceptional. More interesting is my vote in the election to choose the local London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden.
Labour candidate Andrew Dismore says, quite accurately, that former Lib Dem councillor Wayne Casey is supporting Mr Dismore in this election. Wayne was my agent when I stood for Parliament in Hendon at the 2010 General Election. He is one of my best friends - politicians always say that for effect, but Wayne really is a good friend of mine.
After sixteen years - sixteen years! - of service as a Barnet councillor for Mill Hill, Wayne stood down from the council in 2010 and decided that he was very much 'done' with any and all involvement in politics (especially local politics), so he allowed his party membership to lapse and has nothing more to do with any of it.
Wayne warned me that he would support Andrew Dismore in this London Assembly election. He shares with many people a strong distaste for the politics of Brian Coleman, the incumbent Conservative London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden. He sees Mr Dismore as being best placed to beat Mr Coleman and therefore would want Lib Dem supporters to cast a tactical vote for the Labour candidate in a bid to get the Tory out.
Having previously urged Labour voters to cast a tactical vote for Lib Dem candidates in some Barnet council elections, I have no complaint about Labour's urging their equivalent of that in this election. They can say what they like. That is showbusiness. I had a civilised working relationship with Andrew Dismore when he beat me in Hendon and I bear him no especial political animus - why would I? There are, however, three main reasons why I have ignored Wayne's blandishments and voted not for Mr Dismore, but for the Liberal Democrat candidate, Chris Richards.
One is that I have got to know Chris and he is a good, hard-working candidate and very much my kind of Liberal, so it really wouldn't kill me to simply vote for him, given that I am supposed to be a committed Liberal Democrat. Sometimes it really is that simple.
A second is that, while I understand all the reasons why Brian Coleman's political record is objectionable (and while I have been very happy to publicly criticise Mr Coleman's actions myself), he is not someone against whom I have a particular personal axe to grind. He and I are at least on nodding terms and he has always been more than courteous when we have run into each other. I see no reason to engage in a vendetta against the man. I shall shed no tears if he loses, but I decided to vote 'for' Chris Richards and not 'against' Brian Coleman.
The third reason relates to Ken Livingstone. Writing here in a personal capacity, I do not see Mr Dismore as having done enough to distance himself from those remarks of Mr Livingstone's that have offended so many Jewish Londoners, myself very much included.
My sense of this was exacerbated by my having had through my letterbox a leaflet bearing a photograph of Messrs Livingstone and Dismore at Golders Green Station, with a headline about what the duo would apparently do for Barnet if elected.
What would have been the reaction if, as Lib Dem candidate for Hendon in 2010, I had not been sharply critical of Baroness Tonge's remarks, but had instead posed with her at Hendon Central Station in an election leaflet? How would it have looked if I had done that at the same time as trumpeting my positive stance on a range of issues that matter to Jewish residents, in pursuit of such residents' votes?
Mr Dismore's long record of campaigning on issues of Jewish communal importance sits ill with his current embrace of Mr Livingstone. Mr Dismore wants Lib Dems to do him the favour of ignoring their true inclination and voting not for the Lib Dem candidate, but for him, on the basis that he might at least be preferable to his Conservative opponent. Sorry, Andrew, but the recent utterances of Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn mean that I for one do not owe you or the Labour Party any favours. No political party is perfect, but I am pleased to have voted for Chris Richards and against Ken Livingstone.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Does Nadine Dorries vote Conservative?

Tory MP Nadine Dorries just agreed with a BBC TV interviewer that David Cameron and George Osborne are "two posh boys who don't know the price of milk". She then said that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are "two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to want to understand the lives of others, and that is their real crime". No remorse and no contrition for what? For implementing the policies of the Conservative Party? "Their real crime" - if she really hates her own party's leaders that much, then why does she remain one of that party's MPs? How can she encourage people to vote Conservative at the next General Election if she thinks that a government led by David Cameron is such an awful prospect? Would she not be happier (and more honest) if she did the decent thing and defected either to UKIP or to the socially conservative wing of the Labour Party (she could sit next to David Blunkett)?

Friday, 20 April 2012

Video: Brian Paddick at London Jewish Forum

London Lib Dem mayoral candidate Brian Paddick today spoke and took questions at a breakfast organised by the London Jewish Forum (LJF), in the latest of the LJF's public meetings with the candidates. I was there wearing my Liberal Democrat hat, and also had with me the hat that I wear as a member of the LJF's steering group. I decided to don yet a third hat, that of a citizen journalist, nay citizen cameraman, as it occurred to me that my blackberry telephone not only receives telephone calls and emails, but also has on it a video camera. I took the attached (short) videos, which are actually very interesting, as Brian gave a highly impressive performance. Well, I would say that, wouldn't I - except, I wouldn't, if I didn't think it was true. I'd say something else instead, or not blog this at all. Have a look at the videos and you'll get an insight into what Brian thinks about some issues that are of interest not only to Jewish Londoners, but also to other Londoners as well, including Muslims in particular - some of you might be surprised by the sorts of things that are discussed at a meeting such as this. By the way, the man on Brian's right in these videos is Vivian Wineman (president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews); the man on his left is Adrian Cohen (chairman of the LJF). Also there in the audience were the Lib Dem London Assembly candidates for Barnet & Camden (Chris Richards) and Brent and Harrow (Charlotte Henry). Apologies for the variable sound and picture quality of these videos, and for the occasional noises off (coughing and laughter) from the cameraman.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Media: Voice of Russia on Iran

On Monday, I was a panellist on a Voice of Russia radio discussion show about Iran's nuclear programme; please click here if you want to hear it.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Time to stamp on political re-branding?

Through the letter-box comes London Elects' booklet on the Mayor of London & London Assembly Elections, written in commendably plain English and very well-presented. It lists all the candidates, including many Constituency London Assembly Member Candidates who are listed as standing for "Fresh Choice For London". That is actually UKIP in disguise. Should political parties be allowed to fly under a flag of convenience in this way? I thought the same when the SWP first donned its new costume as Respect (it was a pantomime horse costume, of which SWP activists provided the back end). Might some voters vote for Fresh Choice without realising that it's UKIP? Should there be a footnote on the ballot paper explaining who a party really is, if the party concerned has changed its name within, say, the past twelve months? Perhaps UKIP's logo will appear next to Fresh Choice on the ballot paper, but this re-branding still seems a bit iffy and potentially misleading.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

I hate Labour's macho anger

In what is quite an interesting story about taxation and charitable giving (, Labour's Gareth Thomas (a name that causes much nostalgic giggling among schoolboys of my generation) is quoted as saying: "David Cameron needs to stand up to his chancellor..." What does that even mean? Has Labour got people in focus groups saying that they don't think that David Cameron "stands up" to George Osborne? Is Mr Thomas suggesting that David Cameron wants to change course on tax relief on donations, but cannot do so because it would mean "standing up" to the Chancellor? By all means let Labour disagree with the Government on this. By all means let them call on the Prime Minister to lead a change on this issue. But why mix it up with this very male language about senior ministers "standing up" to each other, which implies that Mr Cameron is not hard enough to disagree with Mr Osborne and that the whole thing is some sort of fight? It isn't.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Alcohol, Religion and Islamophobia

A story in the Standard ( alerted me to what the paper calls a "ban" on alcohol at a London university. The story suggests that London Metropolitan University (LMU) plans to "ban" alcohol from part of its campus, in deference to the sensibilities of those Muslim students who don't drink alcohol. It goes on to explain that LMU's vice-chancellor, Professor Malcolm Gillies, is "considering replacing one of the bars on campus with a coffee shop", in line with what students (including some Muslims) might want. So nothing is being "banned", least of all alcohol, and least of all at the behest of Muslim students.

LMU and (one assumes) its surrounding area will continue to have many bars that serve booze - subsidised bars, in the case of the university's own establishments. But that won't stop the saloon bars of Barnet from echoing to the sound of disgruntled old men moaning about how Muslims have now banned beer from British universities (I myself am a gruntled middle-aged man).

It will go all over the world, spread by viral emails sent by the same sort of people who falsely claimed that "the UK" was scrapping Holocaust education so as not to offend Muslim pupils (a filthy lie which, in a surreal twist, sparked a similarly false viral allegation about Holocaust studies at the University of Kentucky, which has the initials "UK").

And the same credulous people will believe it, just as they believe so many other islamophobic smears. What is wrong with a university having a coffee shop as well as having bars? I would expect a university, an airport or a big hotel to have some bars, some coffee shops and some restaurants or cafes, some serving alcohol and some not. If a university opened a coffee shop because it now had more mature students and fewer beery undergraduates, would anybody turn a hair? It's called "supply and demand" and it's got nothing to do with a religious ban on anything. Must our discussion of these issues be constantly dominated by such misinformation?

The irony is that I grew up in a place that does indeed ban the sale of alcohol - Hampstead Garden Suburb, whose Christian founders imposed bylaws banning the opening of pubs or off-licences, of which the Suburb has not one to this day. It does, however, have one or two very nice coffee shops.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Brian Paddick's Mayoral Election broadcast

I often say when I don't like something like a Lib Dem election broadcast. I don't praise such things on auto-pilot. So, what do I think of Brian Paddick's London Mayoral Election Broadcast? I think it's good. It focuses very simply on Brian's main strength, which is his long experience as a senior London police officer. London's Mayor now has the same powers over policing that elected 'commissioners' will soon have in other parts of England. Brian's experience qualifies him to exercise those powers more effectively than would any other candidate. The broadcast is at (if watching on a mobile) and (if watching on a computer).

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Liberalism and Leyton Marsh

Is it Leyton Marsh or Leyton Marshes? It seems to be known as both. So, I have no idea what stance, if any, has been taken by Liberal Democrats in Hackney regarding Olympic construction on Leyton Marsh(es) ( I write about this as myself and not as a Lib Dem. I am not a fan of anything that involves the Occupy movement. I understand that the Olympics will bring great pleasure to millions of people and will doubtless be a great success. Working in the past for a utility company, I often sought planning permission to do things on green spaces, often offering the same promises on improvements and restoration that the ODA is now offering. I'm sure it's all true. But 'my' applications were for essential projects to prevent people's homes being flooded with sewage. The Leyton Marsh scheme is for an inessential sporting bonanza from which a few people will make a lot of money (and from which millions more will derive enormous pleasure).

For how many centuries have local people been tending and enjoying these marshes? And now a bunch of people like me descend and tell them that the site is to be 'developed' (temporarily or otherwise) and that it will jolly well be better afterwards and so people must accept this.

And as a liberal, that makes me think that, actually, people don't always want all this stuff like the Olympics done to them and for them. Sometimes people just want to be left alone to get on with it, the 'it' in question often including uninterrupted enjoyment of ancient open spaces.

Do improvements always actually improve things? I don't doubt the veracity of what the ODA says about this site. But, a generation or two ago, people like me, and various well-intentioned public bodies, sincerely told slum-dwellers that they'd be better off if we demolished their houses and moved them into tower-blocks. Were we right? That's why I don't really like any project (however well-run and however well-meaning) that requires people to move house, etc, for the greater good of society.

It is, of course, too late to oppose the Olympics, which will, I imagine, be a great success, yawn. To oppose it would, in any case, be an affectation, like lighting up on No Smoking Day, or pretending not to have heard of Simon Cowell. In the mid-noughties, I stood with other grinning gizmos for group photos demonstrating London Lib Dems' support for London's bid to host the Olympics. Why do Liberal Democrats imagine that a photo of a group of people smiling and waving is in any way a vote-winner? The mind boggles. Loads of people will enjoy the Olympics and my moaning about it will merely poop the party, so what's the point?

London's Mayor acknowledges this in his line about securing the "the best-value possible Olympics for London" - supporting the Games while also reaching out to those people who are sceptical, many of whom are worried about the Games' financial cost and many of whom vote Tory. This line appeared in the Conservatives' London Mayoral Election Broadcast on television yesterday. It pains me to say it, but it was a well-made broadcast that set out very simply what the Mayor considers himself (rightly or wrongly) to have achieved since 2008, also outlining what he imagines that he might be able to do in the next four years if he is sadly re-elected (an outcome that I do not favour, as I want Brian Paddick to win).

The broadcast was slow and unimaginative enough to appeal to precisely the sort of people who might actually spend five minutes watching a Party Election Broadcast; it made no effort to appeal to that majority of people who would never watch such a broadcast in the first place. It is that sort of unimaginative approach that, you know, actually won the Conservatives the 2008 London mayoral election, with my party last having won an equivalent London election in 1904.

As the third party in a two-party system, Lib Dems often feel the need to undertake 'imaginative' campaigning in order to get media attention. Hence, in previous London mayoral elections, candidates photographed in motorcycling leathers, candidates walking down every London high street in yellow dock martins, and candidates coming either a poor third or fourth. And this with excellent candidates, all three of whom would have made an excellent mayor, as Brian Paddick will continue to demonstrate over the next few weeks.

But what do I know? I speak as the man who imagined that a photograph of a past mayoral candidate in Bloom's Restaurant on the Golders Green Road would, in and of itself, win the votes of readers of the Jewish faith press - why? OK, that isn't all that I've ever contributed, and some of my ideas have been more substantial than that, but it shows that I am as prone as anyone to suggesting stunts and photo-opportunities.

On second thoughts, one such stunt - involving a senior Lib Dem MP going out on the pitch at half-time with the owner of a local football club - once helped us to win a local council by-election. So stunts do sometimes work, as long as they are actually about something, rather than being purely symbolic - they have to have an underlying message if they are not to be a patronising, failed attempt to engage with the masses. Fortunately, the Paddick campaign has avoided such stunts, focusing instead on what is the central question in any election campaign: "So, what would you lot do if you lot got in, then?" One Lib Dem once told me that she had never been asked such a question and that I was completely wrong on this. Okay...

It is that question that Boris Johnson's broadcast very simply answers; the Conservatives' willingness to answer 'the question' explains why they do quite often unfortunately win a few of these election thingies (although it is this month twenty years - twenty years! - since the Tories last actually managed to win a General Election outright, so let's not stretch that point too far. By the way, when did the Republicans last win an election to succeed a Democratic President, while also being ahead in the popular vote? It was 1980, which strikes me as being quite a long time ago).

As a "Liberal Democrat blogger", I would get drummed out of the Brownies if I actually linked to a Conservative Party broadcast in the middle of an election campaign, so I shall not do so. Instead, here is a video that I found on Brian Paddick's website: or maybe if you are not reading this on a mobile). "Well," I thought, when I saw this video. "Well, well, well." Since it is out there, it is obviously intended to be distributed, so I am sharing it with you here, so that you too can watch it and - well. What can I say in response to this video? "Vote Liberal Democrat", I suppose.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Two great London manifestos for 2012

Why publicise one manifesto when you can publicise two? Given that Charles Kennedy once reportedly called the Liberal Democrats "not so much a broad church as a hexagonal cathedral", I can hardly, as a Liberal Democrat, go into an election period with only one manifesto. The first of my two is obviously that of Lib Dem London mayoral candidate Brian Paddick, who I think would make a much better mayor than would any of the other candidates - unsurprisingly, he gets my (first preference) vote. 

What then, is this second manifesto to which I refer? At this point, reader(s) will probably be expecting me to heap praise upon the manifesto of Boris Johnson, given my active role as a Vice-Chairman of the Lib Dem Friends of the Conservative Party. Few things give me greater pleasure than the fact that one of my friends recently told me that he thought that this was a real organisation; sadly, it is merely a figment of what passes for my imagination. When it comes into being, its patrons will be Lady Bracknell (on account of her having said that the Liberal Unionists "count as Tories. They dine with us. Or come in the evening, at any rate") and Lord Birkenhead (a prominent Tory who, upon popping in to use the lavatory at the National Liberal Club and being asked by a porter if he was actually a member, responded: "Club? I thought it was a public convenience").

I shall end the suspense by saying that my 'second manifesto' is not that of a mayoral candidate or a political  party, but is that of the London Jewish Forum (LJF). I sit (in a strictly non-political capacity) on the steering group of the LJF. LJF is having a busy pre-election period, including hosting meetings with the major London mayoral candidates, including one with Brian Paddick. The manifesto is a useful summary of where the LJF stands on those London issues that are of most concern to London's Jewish communities and is well worth a read. 

Brian Paddick's Lib Dem manifesto also looks really interesting and the next few weeks are going to be fascinating for all observers of London and its politics. Oh, and those of you who live in my part of London might be interested in the website of Chris Richards, the Liberal Democrat London Assembly candidate for Barnet and Camden, who would do a great job if elected.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Nick Clegg's Passover message

Here is that video which I tried (and failed) to insert earlier on today: a Pesach greeting from the website of the UK's Deputy Prime Minister. Chag sameach, happy easter, etc.