April 2008


I wanted to be Vince Cable really, but I got into it after a while. At times I even caught myself attempting the accent. Other than my impersonation of a gingery Scotsman, today’s run-through at the Beeb alongside Iain Dale and Luke Akehurst (a pair of total pussycats! Can’t imagine what all the fuss is about) for the election programme was chiefly remarkable for three things:

First, THE TABLE! THE TABLE! THE BIG RED ROUND GLASS TABLE THEY HAVE ON NEWSNIGHT AND STUFF, I SAT AT IT, YEEEEAH! It’s got all smears and scratches on it. The floor’s a bit grubby as well.

Second was David Dimbleby pretending for interview purposes not to know that Lib Dem tax policy involves cutting the basic rate and raising the personal allowance, bless his specs. I always thought the media really were wilfully ignorant about us, but apparently they just pretend to be and frame their whole line of questioning accordingly. That’s all right then.

Thirdly, and despite number two, we’re going to look good on tv. That’s because our party talking head, as you will have gathered, is Charles Kennedy (I don’t impersonate him for the fun of it, you know, and certainly never in my own time). The Tories have George Osbourne. Labour has Tessa Jowell. And never has the phrase “enough said” been more apposite than it is now about to appear, fitted like a silencer onto the end of this paragraph. Enough said.

But more important than any of that was the incidental revelation of the meedja’s expectations for us. I gather, from reading between the (great big thick) lines, that if the Lib Dems attract much less than 30% of the vote tomorrow there will be cause for much pundit headshakery over the future of Nick Clegg (who, you know, once did it with some ladies too!)

Now, given that Lib Dem commenters themselves over at LDV are generally predicting in the range 22-26% (i.e., a modest to good advance on where we are in the polls), one can’t help feeling there’s a degree of, ah, nobbling going on here. The Tories, of course, need to advance 2-3% on their current polling position to look like serious election winners (arithmetically if not intellectually). Essentially the Beeb’s position tomorrow, so it appeared to me from today, will be that anything less than an advance of 10% on where the Lib Dems are in the polls can merrily be interpreted as abject failure. Good to know where you stand, I suppose.

Yeah, well, their leader did Do It With Ladies…

Maniacally bitter humour notwithstanding, may I remind you that YOUR REPUBLIC NEEDS YOU tomorrow night, loyal citizens! results! early indicators! rumours! shocks! tears! laughter! speculation! bar charts! wild guesses! songs! poems! prose contributions! photographs of amusingly shaped vegetables that look like Boris and Ken! - all are considered for publication. Email me, facebook me (details right) or comment below or at LDV. For now, Good Night And Good Luck.

Having mounted an armed coup against the treacherous enemy pigdogs of the People’s Republic carried out protracted negotiations with our most honourable and wise comrades in the media, we are delighted to announce our takeover of BBC One. The People’s Republic will be available in live televisual form for one night only on Thursday 1st May from 11.35pm onwards at each and every half-hour or thereabouts. Free pizza and beer will be available.*

Visit Lib Dem Voice for further details. In the meantime, a small competition:

What should the Head of State say/do when the presenter tries to suggest to her that the Cleggster’s interview with Piers Moron Morgan marked a great and terrible watershed in the history of the Liberal Democrat party and a turning point in the political mores of our times? (Answers should use no more than eighteen rude sweary words per square metre and should not assume the close proximity of the free pizza as this cannot be guaranteed, although reference to glasses of water is permitted).

*To me.

We have been busy in the People’s Republic with internal affairs of state. Unfinished articles, undelivered leaflets and distinctly under-exercised flab litter the land. Some people even expect us to do some work! So we were working up a nice head of steam to finally blast away at the disgraceful 10p tax band business, now crowned with its final turd in the shape of the Prime Minister going on Channel 4 news last night to tell us everything’s all right AGAIN.

But there have been one too many bloody silly stories lately for me not to saddle up and hunt cretins through the marshes with a great big stick, I’m afraid. First, Piers Moron and his all-singing, all-dancing inane questions almost made me weep with total unconcern, and I was only prompted to care about the whole thing when it became clear that the underwear of a number of newspaper columnists and, hem hem, Tory commentators would be permanently soiled as a result of the incident. And now this student-in-joining-university-political-society-and-forgetting-twenty-years-later-shock-meltdown. For god’s sake. Even the commenters on Conservative Home are questioning whether this merits discussion.

Leave aside for a moment the fact that everyone who has ever been to Oxford or Cambridge immediately pointed out that most politicised students joined several societies, for the social contacts and the chance to hear the speakers. Leave aside also the fact that by no means a majority of the members of any affiliated association were also members of the party in question. Leave aside the fact that Clegg’s name appears on the list only for his First Year and that he would therefore have most probably joined at Freshers’ Fair, a whirligig of fierce competition for the innocent souls of the newly matriculated that leaves even the most single-minded signed up to things like the CU Underwater Frisbee Society, the CU Amoral Sciences Club, the Franco-British Student Alliance (who are they fighting? The Central European Society, perhaps), the CU Guild of Change Ringers, the CU Lindy Hoppers and, if you’re really unlucky, the CU Netball Team (geddit? Think about the merchandise…)

Further, leave aside the fact that it has taken Greg Hands his entire career since leaving the rather small college he and Clegg attended at the same time to notice that Clegg is, what do you know, something rather big in the Liberal Democrat party, and offer his revelation to an astonished world. Leave aside even the fact that plenty of alumni have also pointed out that the officers of these societies are none too bothered about having people’s actual permission before signing them up, and that the sheet of paper in question was marked with various runes by Hands at a time when he was trying to get elected as an officer and was therefore drumming up all the support he could – by fair means or foul, if my memory of these people serves.

No, leave aside all that. Instead, consider Andrew Sparrow‘s hair. No, don’t, that would be mean and personal (and yet it is so strangely fascinating…) Andrew Sparrow is plainly of the opinion that joining the CU Conservative Association is, in fact, exactly the same as joining the Conservative Party. No, really, he is! That’s what his headline says. If he sets the standards for journalistic enquiry in this matter, who is to say what actual question Nick Clegg’s office was asked which prompted his unequivocal denial?

If it was, “Were you a member of CUCA as a student?” then Nick may well have genuinely forgotten, but it was still a bit daft to be that definite.

If it was, “Were you a member of the Conservative Party as a student?” then, well, the answer would appear to be unequivocally 100% absolutely not.

Dirty trick or sloppy journalism? You decide. I’m off to put a few cretins’ heads on spikes.

Yesterday I fell off my chair. Or, not so much “off” as “through”. The chair broke, you collect. With hindsight this was not terribly surprising, not so much because I was sitting on it (don’t be so damn rude) as because the chair is about seventy years old and has seated several generations of skimbly pre-and post-war Mortimer forebears before playing host to my much better-nourished posterior.

In the People’s Republic we have always been peasantishly bad at throwing things away (as you might gather from the provenance of the chair) if there is any chance that sufficient duct tape and a funny little wiggling motion every time you pick it up/switch it on/put weight on it in future will rectify the problem. Accordingly, since the basic joinery of the chair is perfectly sound, I have temporarily knocked its warring components back together with a hammer, and am now sitting on it again, taking great care to ensure I don’t work too hard nor get too exercised on Comment is Free. But it is still going to need some sort of metal bracket nailing across the bottom of the frame, to brace the seat against the assault it will suffer tomorrow night when seven other drunken women come over for dinner.

Simple, I think, I’ll nip up the road to, er… Following the closure of Bond & White, the local DIY store, to make way for Planet-fricking-Organic, where the hell do you go in Muswell Hill to buy a hap’orth of nails, or whatever it is, and funny shaped bits of metal? Woolworths? Not for long, it seems. I miss Bond & White. Going in there was like stepping into a seventies sitcom and playing the part of Woman Customer. It was the only shop anywhere on the broadway or for quite some distance around that sold anything remotely hardware-related, and it seemed, to my inexpert eye, to stock everything. The nearest comparable range must have been in one of the giant chain stores on the north circular, which is useless if you haven’t got a car.

This isn’t a precious selfish rant about the death of the small shop – those are alive and well in most of London – nope, it’s a precious selfish rant about the death of the shop that sells, well, useful stuff that ordinary people need to make way for yet more luxury wankfestery. It’s a perfect illustration of the fact that markets are blind. They’ll correct, but they’ll correct to the advantage of those with most input into the market. So in a rich area, you get rich people’s shops, in a poor area you get poor people’s shops, and in mixed areas… you get rich people’s shops.

In other words, there’s no problem with being a small shop on Muswell Hill Broadway, but there is a problem with being a small shop that sells a packet of nails every six months to a girl with a broken chair on Muswell Hill Broadway. All the people who form your main customer base, because they own their own homes and are allowed to do shit to them, are the kind of people who will also have cars and are able to make the trip out to the cheaper chain stores on the north circ. No one, except people like me, comes to the Broadway to buy nails any more.

No, most people come to the Broadway to pick up a few bits at M&S, grab the Guardian from WHSmiths, buy a chicken brick from The Scullery for Lottie to take back to university, take a fancy to an adorable little £150 dress from Leila (and that’s just the men), moon over the cheese counter in Feast and pretend they are some sort of Chaucerian goodwife throwback and now, presumably, feel up the pre-packed mixed seeds and nuts (so knobbly!) at Planet Organic. When they want a nail knocked in, they call up an Eastern European migrant in Tottenham and ask him to come over and bring a nail with him.

London, darling, it’s been wonderful, but I’m leaving you.

Yes, much like the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I persist in finding Early Day Motions inherently amusing (by way of, possibly, mitigation I have just been watching ‘Allo ‘Allo clips on youtube.)

Douze points to Bob Russell for being the first Liberal Democrat MP to sign Greg Pope’s EDM calling for Darling, darling! (hahaha. Ehehe. Hm. Gets me every time) to review the abolition of the 10% tax band.

Either you know my views on this, or you’ve just arrived on this blog from outer space, or possibly Comment is Free. Get on ze blower to your MP immediately, and meet me back at ze cafe.

After a year’s light snoozing, the Labour party has belatedly realised that the last budget delivered by their Iron Chancellor-as-was will have the incidental effect of making poor people worse off in 2008/09. The scrapping of the 10p band, as reported heretofore, will make everyone on an income of below about £18,000 worse off before inflation from 6th April next week.

I must hand it to them, for they are charmingly worried and concerned. Oh dear! Making poor people worse off? That’s not right, is it! Why only the other day, Eric Martlew, MP for Carlisle, received a complaint in his surgery from a disgruntled poor person who was about to get even poorer!

Here’s Nia Griffith, a parliamentary private secretary at Environment:

We have always wanted to support those on lower incomes, we have done an enormous amount with things like the minimum wage to raise people out of poverty. I think therefore anything that hits people on lower incomes is perhaps something we are particularly sensitive to in the Labour party.

“Perhaps”? “Sensitive to”? Bravo, Nia! Have you ever considered becoming a candidate?

Of course, Gordon’s answer was that tax credits made up the slack, and to be absolutely fair to him, in Gordon’s head they probably do. Only we don’t live in Gordon’s head, praise the lord. Onlookers report that the MPs muttered discontentedly at this, doubtless because they are perfectly well aware from dealing with gruelling queries in their constituencies that not everyone on a low income is eligible for child tax credits, which do exactly what they say on the tin (only not necessarily, and we might take the tin away again). Something must be done! Say, can we talk this policy over, Gordon?

It is, of course, far far far too late. You useless numpties.

UPDATE: the FT  is now carrying this story as well, with extra added numpty quotes.

The Guardian is looking but can’t find him. Our Brian, on the other hand, is about to answer some pretty rabid commenters’ questions for the Torygraph.

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