Archive | September, 2009

Don’t underestimate the Lib-Dems

25 Sep

By Nick Osborne

David Mitchell of Peep Show fame said on Mock the Week last night that the Liberal Democrat Conference was simply a warm up for the Labour and Conservative Conference’s in the coming weeks. Normally, from what I’ve experienced, this was probably the case, although this time I’m not so sure.

Naturally, there has been a fairly large amount of press surrounding the Lib-Dem Conference. It is after all, the first major conference in the last conference season prior to a General Election. Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Vince Cable MP has been named the most trusted politician in the UK. Nick Clegg has found his feet as Leader of the Lib-Dems and as he states he is ready to become Prime Minister. This obviously will never happen, but I predict that the Lib-Dems will play a more significant role in this election than they have played in recent ones.

All elections are fascinating, but this one will potentially benefit the Lib-Dems for a number of reasons:

1.       Increased visibility. I’m sure Nick Clegg was the first to jump at the chance of a three way debate between the leaders. Clegg has nothing to lose and everything to gain. A story on Newsnight earlier this week revolved around Barack Obama’s polling analyst looking at the upcoming election.

Via a number of focus groups he initially determined that Clegg’s biggest problem was the lack of visibility i.e. no one had heard of him or understood what he stood for. However, once they were shown footage of him speaking and discussing his policies, many of the focus group opinions changed. He was seen as likable, strong with reasonable policies. A televised debate would give him a national platform that the Lib-Dems would not have experienced for a long time.

2.       Social media. This kind of fits within the increased visibility section above, but like the other parties, the Lib-Dems are going to be able to push their policies and candidates over the web, something that hasn’t been done during a general election in the UK before. Voters will therefore be more aware than ever before.

3.       Disaffected Labour voters. The term progressive has been over used to a nauseating level in the past two weeks, but, let’s be truly honest the Lib-Dems probably have more right to the term than the Conservatives. With the Lib-Dems wanting to tax the rich via the mansion tax and out flanking Labour from the left by raising the tax-free threshold to £10,000, scrapping trident and ID Cards, angry lefties might just tick the yellow box.

4.       People who can’t bring themselves to vote for David Cameron. In the North, Cameron is still going to struggle, simply because of his Oxbridge, Etonian, Bullingdon club reputation and there will be many voters who won’t be able to bring themselves to tick the Tory box. If they don’t vote for Labour, or god forbid the BNP, the Lib-Dems might just pick up a few votes or even seats here and there.

5.       Expenses. The Lib-Dems were comparatively unscathed as an individual party, although as MPs, they were dragged through the mud with everyone else. The Lib-Dems should have done better in the Euro elections in June, but they did reasonably in the local elections so it is hard to say whether they will garner extra votes from being relatively clean.

6.       Increased voter numbers. The public is peeved with Westminster and this could either mean a record high or low turnout. If it is high, then I think the smaller parties, including the Lib-Dems will pick up a significant number of votes because they are still not seen as one of the major players, yet they are still seen as a viable protest vote destination.

No Party is doing as well as they should be. Sure, the Tories have a commanding lead in the polls and hover just above 40%, Labour mid to high twenties and Lib-Dem low twenties, high teens. That to me suggests some issues. To be clear winners, the Tories should be 45%. Labour should be higher at 30% to be in with a chance, but things will tighten as the elections looms. But the fact is, there looks like around 15% undecideds, even if you give 5% to the minor parties.

The Tories should still get it, but things aren’t as black and white as some pundits claim they are. If the election was called today, it would not take a huge percentage shift for the Tories to be presiding over a hung parliament and Ming has already stated that if the Tories won, the Lib-Dems would be compelled to work with Labour. The Tories are also clearly a tad concerned, hence David Cameron and Eric Pickles calling, slightly ridiculously, for Lib-Dem voters to come home to the Tories.

The ultimate test will be election day, but the fact is, I don’t think the Lib-Dems can necessarily be discounted. They may be a force to be reckoned with, or they might fluff it, they’ve done it before after all. But you never know, come Autumn in 2010, we could be waking up with a few extra pounds in our pockets or less, if you own a whopping great house.

Love to know your thoughts.


Canvassing with Sadiq Khan MP in Tooting

13 Sep

More of a diary update, rather than a comment piece.

I’ve been recently toying with the idea of joining a political party and as I’ve no doubt you have realised that my preference is for the Labour Party.

Well, I have recently volunteered with Sadiq Khan’s (Lab-Tooting) office offering to do what I can and when I can. Well, today I joined his team out canvassing in the local area. Sadiq has quite impressive and seemed really engaged with the local constituents. If they had a problem he was really keen to speak with them to see what he could do. A couple of people seemed really impressed that he was there to listen and said they would vote for him because of it. I’m sure if every Labour MP and PPC can do the same, Labour has more than a chance at the next election.

But anyway, I enjoyed it and I know I’ll be back to help in the coming weeks.

Pneumoccocal disease in the developing world

12 Sep

The WHO haPneumo_deaths_maps recently released figures surrounding the global disease burden of pneumococcal disease and Hib, two of the leading causes of pneumonia which kills more children that AIDS, malaria and measles combined.

In 2000, 735,000 children under 5 died from pneumococcal disease which is an enormous number. There were an incredible 14.5 million cases globally.

This disease causes meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis and inner ear infections. These diseases lead to disability and death. Tragically, it is entirely preventable by vaccination.

According to the press release posted on PneumoADIP’s website, “the ten countries with the greatest number and greatest proportion of global pneumococcal cases were in Asia and Africa, and taken together account

Pneumococcal disease deaths

Pneumococcal disease deaths

for 66% of cases worldwide. These countries include India (27%), China (12%), Nigeria (5%), Pakistan (5%), Bangladesh (4%), Indonesia (3%), Ethiopia (3%), Democratic Republic of the Congo (3%), Kenya (2%) and the Philippines (2%).”

Hib, another disease that is almost completely preventable, yet in 2000, there were 363,000 deaths and 8.1 million cases.

The work of PneumoADIP, the Hib Initiative, the WHO, the GAVI Alliance and UNICEF to name but a few players has been phenomenal. Their work to get the developing world access to vaccines against this disease, in particular through the Advanced Market Commitment, has been phenomenal. Likewise, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pneumococcal Disease Prevention in the Developing World which I am involved with as secretariat has made enormous strides lifting the profile of this disease in the UK and overseas.

These figures will enable governments, for the first time, to have accurate figures actually detailing the scale of the problem. A significant reason why more hasn’t as yet been done was simply because there wasn’t enough awareness surrounding the disease and there were no accurate figures to ascertain the true breadth of the problem. However, nations will now understand the scope of the problem and be able to do something about it. These figures could make a world of difference and hopefully, it will.

When do shock campaigns go too far?

7 Sep

A series of fairly hard hitting ads with the tagline AIDS is a Mass Murderer, will be played on Germany TV and cinema screens in the lead up to World AIDS Day. The video features a couple having sex, however, at the end of ad, the male raises his head and is clearly supposed to be Hitler. A number of posters are also being produced and the imagery is again of a couple however, the male character is either Hilter, Stalin or Saddam Hussein.


AIDS has always been a focus of hard hitting ads. I don’t remember many ads from my childhood, but one that has always stuck with me is from 1987 from back home in Australia. I’ve embedded it below. It is one of the most frightening ads I’ve seen, but the message is essentially that AIDS doesn’t discriminate and it is a devastating disease that could affect anyone, so take proper precautions and don’t be naive.

That, personally, was a pretty effective ad. The Hitler one I think goes a tad too far.

I realise that AIDS doesn’t receive the same headlines as it did in the 80s and 90s and AIDS groups and advertisers have to rely on shock value to get the message across these days because unfortunately there simply isn’t enough media or public interest. This is clearly what the campaign is trying to address as first line of the website’s homepage states “Over the past number of years, public interest in AIDS has massively declined. The number of victims, however, has not. As of now, over 28 million people worldwide have died. And every day another 5,000 fatalities are added to that number. This makes AIDS one of the largest mass murderers of all time.”

But, the problem with this ad is that the message could be read by some people as – if you have AIDS, you are as bad as Hitler/Stalin/Hussein. By personifying an individual with AIDS as a mass murderer, you could be running into trouble and you enter the territory of vilifying AIDS sufferers.

I know that there are few internationally recognisable female mass murderers, but I think it is also questionable that the person transmitting AIDS in these posters are only men. I know it sounds silly, but with people thinking chicken skin, kebabs and coke can act as contraception (I know, I was stunned too), it isn’t outside of the realms of possibility that young men would think you can only catch AIDS through sex with men and you can’t catch it from a unprotected sex with a woman.

I believe the most effective campaigns are a combination of shock and education. These ads only state protect yourself. From what? Where is the advice around condoms, clean needles etc.?

This ad is clearly only about raising the issue of AIDS as a media priority and is based purely on shock value. It will, as it already has sparked debate and gained publicity, but do we need more than that? Like other shock campaigns, people will also become desensitised, then the media will move to the next story, so what is the next step for media campaigns? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Cross posted with Ruder Finn Dot Comms

Tories Progressive – sure and I’m Scooby Doo!

5 Sep

John Prescott and the Go Fourth team have put together a video in reaction to the Tories’ saccharine video listing their progressive policies.

It’s a good viewing, so have a look.

Is Brown dithering, or is he getting bad advice?

2 Sep

Throughout his Premiership, Gordon Brown has been accused of dithering.

First it was the will he, won’t he non-election decision way back in 2007. Since then he has been accused of taking far too long over decisions of national importance on numerous occasions including Heathrow, the banking crisis and most recently, the long absence of a UK Government statement surrounding the decision to free Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi . If he’d made a statement earlier, I’m sure he and his Cabinet wouldn’t have been drawn into this mess about Libya quite so deeply.

Even his “cautiously optimistic” interview with the FT regarding the recovery from the economic crisis sounds like he is hedging his bets.

But the silence coming from Number 10 in regards to a Leader’s Debate during the upcoming election campaign is personally dumfounding and not a little bit frustrating. David Cameron has accepted the invitation, as has Nick Clegg, but there is nothing from the Prime Minister. Sky News has said that if Brown doesn’t turn up, there will be an empty seat on the podium if he fails to attend and debate.

Granted, a debate could be dangerous for Brown as it could potentially highlight his weaknesses or make David Cameron and Nick Clegg look Prime Ministerial, but surely that is better than not-showing up and there stands an empty chair. With Brown’s and Labour’s poll numbers through the floor, surely it is imperative that Brown shows up and tries to engage with the public. Brown clearly needs to be more decisive and more approachable to win the next election and a good showing in a national debate may not be the answer, but it would certainly help.

In modern times, there has never been such a disconnection between the public and Westminster. To simply get people to the polls and to keep out the BNP, the main party leaders need to show what they stand for and why people should care. Not showing up would be devastating and Brown’s silence on the issue is definitely hurting him even further.

As I write this, 2029 people have signed a petition from Sky News calling for a Leader’s debate since September 1st and that number is rapidly climbing, at least 900 in the past few hours.

But, this dithering raises an even larger question. As Philip Johnston of the Telegraph stated in his blog on a similar subject almost a year ago, Brown certainly doesn’t inspire confidence with his decision making. So what is the reason behind it?

Is Brown unable to make immediate decisions without consulting every man and his dog? Is he getting bad advice? Is he terrified of the repercussions of a bad decision? Is it a mixture of everything?

For Labour to claw back in the polls, Brown needs to be stronger and less hesitant than he currently is and someone in his team needs to take matters in hand. Labour needs a strong Brown and they need him now.

Cross-posted with Ruder Finn Dot Comms.

Total Politics publishes to 100 Left of Centre blogs

1 Sep

Total Politics have published the top 100 left of center blogs as voted by their readership. It is interesting that this year they are left of centre blogs rather than Labour blogs. This is potentially after one or two people kicked off about being called Labour. Nosemonkey, for example, wasn’t happy.

1   (1)   Tom Harris MP

2   (2)   Hopi Sen

3   (-)   LabourList

4   (-)   Alastair Campbell

5  (13)   SNP Tactical Voting

6   (6)   Luke Akehurst

7  (12)   Harry’s Place

8   (-)   Next Left

9   (3)   Stumbling & Mumbling

10  (27)  The Daily (Maybe)

11 (59)   Guerilla Welsh Fare

12 (17)   A Very Public Sociologist

13 (10)   Dave’s Part

14 (15)   Third Estate

15 (43)   Two Doctors

16 (73)   Blog Menai

17  (11)  Sadie’s Tavern

18   (-)   Blackburn Labour

19 (74)  Kerry McCarthy MP

20  (-)   Malc in the Burgh

21  (-)   Bickerstaffe Record

22 (14)  Socialist Unity

23 (45)  The F Word

24  (8)   Tom Watson MP

25  (7)   LabourHome

26  (-)   Yapping Yousuf

27 (54)  Penny Red

28  (-)   Go Fourth!

29  (-)   Duncan’s Economic Blog

30 (39)  Adam Price MP

31 (60)  Welsh Ramblings

32 (93)  Don Paskini

33  (-)  Syniadau

34  (-)  Subrosa

35  (-)  Politicana

36  (-)  Peter Cranie MEP

37 (72)  Harpymarx

38  (-)   Though Cowards Flinch

39 (47)  Cynical Dragon

40 (23)  Kezia Dugdale’s Sopabox

41  (-)   Plaid Wrecsam

42 (29)  Lenin’s Tomb

43  (-)   Lallands Peat Worrior

44 (53)  Tory Troll

45 (28)  Stuart King

46 (71)  Another Green World

47  (-)   Bob from Brockley

48  (-)   Pendroni

49 (25) Bob Piper

50 (36) Conor’s Commentary

51  (-)  Grumpy Spindoctor

52  (-)  Splintered Sunrise

53 (84) Stroppy Blog

54  (-)  Polemical Report

55  (-)  Barkingside 21

56 (44) Rupa Huq

57 (20) Normblog

58  (-)  John Rentoul

59  (-)  Philobiblon

60 (18) Obsolete

61 (35) Bethan Jenkins AM

62  (-)  Politics Cymru

63 (15) Paul Linford

64  (-)  E8 Voice

65  (-)  Left Outside

66  (-)  Borthlas

67  (-)  Leanne Wood AM

68  (-)  Sweet & Tender Hooligan

69 (80) Madam Miaow Says

70  (-)  Dave Hill’s London Blog

71 (85) Shiraz Socialist

72  (-)  Green Ladywell

74 (38) Neil Clark

74 (41) Jane Is the One

75 (22) Theo Blackwell

76  (-)  Rupert Read

77  (-)  Gwilym Euros Roberts

78 (94) Oliver Kamm

79  (-)  Touchstone Blog

80 (96) Macuaid

81 (90) Paul Flynn MP

82 (32) Chris Paul’s Labour of Love

83  (-)  Gaian Economics

84  (9)  Ministry of Truth

85  (-)   Cllr Tim’s Blog

86 (19)  Ordovicius

87  (-)   Snowflake5

88  (-)  Ruscombe Green

89  (-)   Recess Monkey

90 (63)   Labour and Capital

91  (-)   This is My Truth

92  (-)   Huw Lewis AM

93  (58)  Grimmer up North

94 (75) The Exile

95  (-)  Martin Bright

96  (-)  Julian’s Musings

97  (-)  Lord Toby Harris

98  (-)  Rebellion Sucks

99 (100) Jon Worth Euroblog

100 (-) Louise Baldock