May 2008


Charlotte Gore is back! Joy! I love this girl – so much so that I once had to hurriedly clarify to her that I wasn’t gay and trying to pick her up on Facebook, I just thought she was a really good egg! That’s how much I love her.

Her first two posts make a fascinating pair of counterweights. The first, basically, says we’re heading into the next election as principled losers with hardcore green policies where the other parties will have ditched them come 2010 and be addressing the needs of motorists. So we should ditch green policies too.

I can’t express how profoundly I disagree with this reasoning. It’s not just to do with principle – although of course I believe we should try to do what is right rather than what is expedient at the ballot box. It’s to do with taking the longer view on positioning – the view that will ultimately prevail.

I’ve been viewing the world through the lens of Maslovian types lately and what Charlotte is basically saying here is that we should be following the Prospectors and Settlers sections of society. The Prospectors, for those who weren’t paying attention at the back, are the upwardly mobile, self-interested, status-driven operators who grew to dominate political discourse over the 1990s, displacing the traditionalist Settlers, whose age of influence was the postwar period and who are now dwindling fast. Between them, these groups account for a good 60% of the population, according to the Maslovian questionnaire stats. So we want to appeal to them like Charlotte says, yes?

No, no, no! Appealing to Settlers is a loser because the Settlers, literally, are a dying breed. Hence the frantic backlash of extreme right-wing activity in the form of the BNP, hence the ever more frothily crazed screaming about corporal punishment and good British values and what have you over at the Torygraph.

From a distance of forty-odd years, this is going to look like the last stand of the Luddites. Like cornered animals, they know they’re dying and they sure as hell aren’t going to go quietly. Appealing to Settlers is a waste of time, and it’s also deeply, deeply unprincipled because security-driven, traditionalist, heriarchical Settlers are about as far from liberal ideals as it’s possible to get. So they’re out.

Appealing to Prospectors can generate tremendous instant rewards at the ballot box. David Cameron is finding that out – actually, he hasn’t found it out, he has been well-advised. Even down to his slogan “You can get it if you really want it”. If that wasn’t framed with the Maslowian Prospector group specifically and nominally in mind then I’m a tin of pears. But appealing to Prospectors ultimately gets you nowhere, because Prospectors only want to mirror other people.

This is what Labour are finding out – and boy, they really are finding out, in the same way that you wake up and think “Hey, I’m not really that hungover,” and then half an hour later whoooosh. Having warped themselves to fit the views of the dominant group of the electorate, Labour became a sort of shell that no-one quite got round to looking inside for ten years. Now the Prospectors are clamouring for “change”, by which they mean a new fashionable talking point, a new mirror image, a new set of cool-but-stamped-with-mass-approval Stuff. Nothing too edgy. They don’t do real edgy - what if no-one else likes it and they look silly? Thus, Cameron provideth.

We should carry on doing exactly what we do best, and that’s not delivering thousands of leaflets. It’s appealing to the Pioneers. The Pioneers are the people the Prospectors, eventually, listen to. Converting one Pioneer is worth ten Prospectors. It’s like Focus delivery routes - spend an hour delivering 100 leaflets, and you’ve delivered 100 leaflets. Spend a quarter of that hour chatting to a supporter and getting them to deliver some for you next time, you still deliver 75 leaflets but you’ve ensured that next time, you’ll deliver 200. The investment in a niche – the one person on the street who might be happy to deliver your leaflets – pays a dividend that the equivalent delivery time would not.

For the purposes of branding and market appeal we’re the political equivalent of tech gadgetry (no coincidence that our ranks are so thickly peopled with techies of one sort or another) and if we let that go, we lose everything. If we keep it, in twenty years’ time we’ll be Bill Gates.

Which brings me to Charlotte’s second post. She’s done what she always does brilliantly – pulled together the potential outline for an edgy, interesting, attention-grabbing GE ad campaign. It’s a positive message while still poking fun at the other side. It says everything about who we are, and why people should want to be like us. Even the rough draft mock-up she has done is streets, miles, light years, parsecs better than anything I saw from any party during the recent local elections. And certainly – oh god, the smelling salts, quick! – in a different dimension to that weepingly awful Village Idiot video for the London campaign.

Charlotte has done Pioneer advertising. For every six Prospectors and Settlers who look at her ad and don’t get it, or say “LOL!!! Liberalz r such a WAIST OF SPACE* who wants 2 B like THEM!”, there will be four Pioneers who never knew they cared about politics who look at it and feel – in the words of Hector in The History Boys – like someone has reached out a hand and taken theirs. They’ll giggle, they’ll maybe vote for us next time they get around to it, and one day some of them will start writing blogs, or contributing to comment forums, explaining why all the Prospectors should be voting for us too.

Sadly, I don’t think the party is ready to accept that Pioneer advertising is the way to go yet. It’ll take this GE and probably the next one to convince Chris Rennard (ok, for me to convince Chris Rennard) that this is the prototype which will win us the air war. We’re still too mired in attempting to play the same game as the other two parties on national campaigns – and of course it doesn’t work because our policy-makers don’t play the same game as the other two. Our policies can’t be advertised in the same way as Tory and Labour policy can be.

Excellent to have Charlotte back, but why this total cognitive dissonance between the “new approach” needed on policy and the “new approach” needed on publicity? I’m not going to bust a gasket supporting her bid to get herself on the 2010 publicity team if she’s going to carry out the precise reverse of her noble experiment on our policy unit!

* This is a phrase I actually saw in reference to the Lib Dems on a Yahoo question.

Nah. We should be so lucky unlucky ambivalent. This is one of the more vocal backers of the Iraq war, after all.

But it’s an odd set of parallel universes we occupy if it hasn’t crossed his innermost mind, if only just once, if only on a Tuesday with a prevailing wind when the moon is in Gemini, sign of split personalities…

This particular Tuesday just gone he ventured into the Torygraph to advocate tax cuts for lower and middle income workers. For a less “them and us” take on the issue, consider his Comment is Free piece of yesterday:

Between the Blairite market and the Compass state, is there a place for the individual in modern progressive social democratic politics?

…is the opening poser. He goes on to answer his own question thuswise:

There are two offers in front of Labour at the moment. The calls for a return to the Michael Foot years are growing. All power to the unions. Keep subsidising loss-making post offices. Bring in price controls. Adopt anti-Americanism. …

The other offer is more third way, New Labour triangulation, represented by Phil Collins’s attack on the Fabian tradition in the current issue of Prospect. As a life-long Fabian I think Collins and his wing of New Labour could not be more wrong. The patient step-by-step reformism of the Fabians combined with constant political education has been sadly missing in recent Labour politics in government where short-term gimmicks and even shorter-term manipulation of headlines have been preferred.

So the options are hardcore socialism or… or… more of whatever it is they’ve been doing for the last ten years. Can’t argue with that. Those are indeed Labour’s choices. The somewhat clubby defence of Fabian ideals looks odd in the light of MacShane’s own proposed third (aha!) solution, and this is where I go into superquote mode:

So there is a policy vacuum to be filled.

Well, not vacuum so much as, er, ordinary temporal space that is already occupied by a great big fat wodge of Lib Dem policy. So in order to occupy this same space, the existing object would have to be displaced to a different space. Tsk, tsk. Our parliamentary overlords clearly have no grasp of elementary physics.

It is time for Labour to assert the importance of a 21st-century model of social justice that exists to serve the people, not the state. Unlike Sweden where people pay 25% of their income in tax to local agencies which provide education, healthcare and retirement care that are directly linked to local payment, we sign a collective national cheque for £640bn to the Chancellor and hope he knows how to spend it well.

Sweden, eh? Local control of education spending, is it? Gosh that all sounds familiar…

The time has come to allow some move away from the state and to emancipate the individuals in the lower and middle income strata by giving them more autonomy over the lives by having more spending power. It is a counter-cyclical programme of increasing community spending power by allowing individuals to have a little more cash and the state a little less.

Ooh, that sounds like a good idea. Er…

Cutting taxes is not neoliberalism. The adjective is absurd in a British economy where the state takes and spends £4.50 of every £10 earned in the nation. In the past it was easy for earlier Labour politicians or Fabian or trade union leaders to call for higher taxes because the working class did not pay any. Even as late at 1960, a worker on average manual wage paid 8% in income tax. Today, the vast mass of voters and pensioners pay tax out of their earnings. Those with families get tax credits. But a third of voters in the recent London mayoral election are individuals. They should not be ignored.

Heavens, a recognition that things have changed since the 1960s. What can be going on? And, what’s this? People without children have rights? A bold new stroke from the two-party consensus indeed. Is it me, or is it getting a bit liberal in here?

Does cutting taxes means cutting spending? Yes, it does. Ask any trade union general secretary about cutting costs to keep unions afloat. They have done it. So why should secretaries of state be exempt from being obliged to curb or cut costs in order to put more money in the pockets of low and middle income Britain?

Less state income does not mean less public policy. We need to see rises in the minimum wage, encouragement to councils to build council homes, and further moves like the agency workers’ agreement which the British Chambers of Commerce is denouncing.

Hm, a recognition that the size of the state can be reduced without necessarily entailing the mass consumption of the Babies of the Poor by frothing hordes of Tory hounds, eh? Shurely shome mishtake. And here’s the drumroll:

…If the Tories said there is no such thing as society, Labour must be careful to avoid the trap of saying there is no such thing as the individual.

Labour has a wider duty to reinvent a new form of government… Labour must now break free of the Compass-Blairite axis and shape new policies. In the present conjuncture, a good place to start is to have a little less state and a little more individual spending power.

Who are you, “Denis MacShane”? What have you done with the real Labour MP for Rotherham?

In a way, whilst I agree with nearly all its essentials, the article highlights exactly what is so damaged about Labour after ten years in power. They’ve gone native (if they ever stopped being native in the first place). A thousand word article about cutting taxes and reducing the size of the state in which there is no mention whatsoever of the only mainstream party committed in black and white to doing both? Self-absorbed and self-interested doesn’t begin to cover it.

Of course, MacShane can’t admit that much of what he is describing is the Liberal Democrat approach, because that would be to give up on the cherished party he has been a parliamentary member of since 1994 (certainly not easy), and it would also be to concede that there might be life outside the two-party system, and no-one who profits by a system wants to see it undermined.

But this man is a Liberal Democrat in very many important respects other than the admittedly germane question of international sovereignty and illegal war. Possibly he doesn’t even admit it to himself. But then again, possibly he does.

The clinching proof? Look to the comment thread on Clegg’s Whiff of Insurrection piece for the Torygraph yesterday – a thread aptly described by OneHour over at Paul Walter’s gaff as “like having a bucket of bile thrown at you”. There were a number of noble exceptions to this, in fact, but I still expect to be washing bits of half-digested vomitted-up stupidity out of my hair for weeks. At least this one can construct a sentence:

Yesterday, we had the dreadful dinosaur MacShane, proffering his agreement that Labour was a waste of money, but then in the last throes of pseudo backstabbing of his own fellow travellers, switched to twisting the facts to blame conservative ‘policies’ for the debacle resulting from the last eleven years of Labour. He is another, who runs with an ever so slight conflict of interest in representing both his constituency and the EU, having sworn allegiance to both, and coming down firmly on the side of his EU pension.

Now we have Clegg, with more of the same drivel…

Now that is what I call an endorsement.

All the focus in this morning’s reportage of the Crewe & Nantwich by-election has, naturally, been on what it signifies for the next general election. My interest is somewhat nerdier but potentially, I think, more significant for the future of politics than the question of whether Tweedledum or Tweedledumber will be running the country after 2009.

Matthew Taylor, former head of Labour’s policy unit, was just on the Today programme laying the blame for the loss of Crewe & Nantwich squarely at the door of an “inept” campaign strategy. The campaign, lest we need reminding, saw activists wearing top hats and the Crewe Labour website adopting a front page which suggested the Tory candidate was a con man (subsequently replaced, I see, with something less overtly offensive and equally desperate). The kind of self-conscious “nasty” stuff that campaigning tacticians insist always, always works. Labour insiders insisted exactly that during this campaign – that they had at least moved the talk of the town off the 10p fudge and on to Labour’s dreadful campaign tactics, which is a sort of vindication, I suppose. None of that defence was in evidence this morning.

Jim Naughtie rightly (not three words often seen in association) picked Taylor up on this – so either Downing Street didn’t send anyone good to Crewe, or they weren’t listened to when they got there. Which is it? Danny Finkelstein corrected (there we go again) the position aptly: Labour ran a bad campaign because they are in trouble, they’re not in trouble because they ran a bad campaign.

In order to answer Naughtie’s question, I’ll just remind you of the local Labour leader’s response when asked about the top hat/con men stunts. “You’ll have to ask the experts.” This was a central campaign, all right. If it worked, it was going to be redeemed as a bit of fun, but since it failed, it is the ready trussed-up scapegoat. And its success or failure was purely dependent on the existing party weather.

If you doubt this, look at the Tories’ merry distribution of 8,000 people’s data to a Manx radio station (I’d love to know how that happened, by the way. How do you accidentally send something to the Isle of Man?) If that had been Labour, it would have been heralded as the final death knell and the swing to the Tories would have been even stronger. As it is, the punters on Andrew Sparrow’s live blog greeted the news with near-indifference when a Lib Dem councillor raised it. They were not, I think, doubting that the blunder had actually taken place. They were merely questioning whether it was all that important – after all, if it had been “serious” wouldn’t the media have indicated this to them by making more of a fuss?

I would like to think that evangelicals for negative campaigning across all parties are watching and taking note of this. I am increasingly troubled by the intellectual bankruptcy of negative campaigning and the way people continue to believe that it works no matter what happens. It seems the proponents of negative campaigning literally cannot lose an argument. If we do well, it’s because of negative campaigning. If we do badly, it would have been even worse had it not been for the negative campaigning. There are probably dreadfully keen types out there this very minute theorising that we were squeezed in Crewe because we didn’t do enough negative campaigning. Heads I win, tails you lose.

It’s not just the cynicism on show in Labour’s approach to Crewe that turns the stomach. I’m sick of the sheer uncritical stupidity of negative campaigning. I’m sick of the way the proponents of negativity wave their willies around – yeah, well, you gotta be prepared to play hardball in this game, there are no points for Mr Nice Guy, hur hur hur, just as well you called me in… It’s all just a great big wank for them, probably a great big compensatory wank for having been bullied at school.

If Crewe tells us anything about the future of politics in this country beyond the purely literal, it is that very negative spin, like very positive spin, only works if the wind is in your favour. Self-appointed hardball-playing cretinous wankers of all affiliations should take note.

Yesterday’s kite-flying in the Torygraph can now be put into some kind of context. They’re just having another anti-Lib Dem week. Apparently we’re, you know, at death’s door again. Nothing to worry about, everybody, perfectly normal for the time of year, just keep your umbrellas up…

There are many choice comments from the usual stupidity merchants - and also a piece of outsider’s balanced analysis from one Igonikon Jack at 8.12am which is well worth reading to re-orient oneself - but this is my absolute favourite. My emboldening:

“Rumour has it that Nick Clegg is suggesting that if he got into power he would increase the tax take on privately funded pensions for all higher rate tax payers.

What a clot! How dull is that?

At a time when pensioners are in dire trouble over their care provisions, brought about in no small part by the Brown raid on pension, he is advocating making it worse for them.

Sorry, if Mr Clegg is so inept and out of touch with what is going on in the real world he is unelectable.”

Er…

In case you missed it, the Cleggster has been in Afghanistan over the weekend getting shot at. With real rockets. Presumably not accompanied by any of the usual Westminster bubble media hacks – “Nick, would you mind doing that again for the cameras? Yeah, just a bit of a flinch when the great big bang comes… Perfect.”

I don’t tend to write about war very much. It just isn’t very funny. (Actually, that’s not true. I have it on good authority from people who have done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan that it has moments of absolute gibbering hilarity. You couldn’t get through it otherwise. “Shall I take’em out, sir?” “No, corporal.” “But they’ve got a gun, sir.” “Yes, corporal. We’ve got a tank.”)

But the main reason I don’t write about war is because, obviously enough, there isn’t a liberal perspective like there is for every other aspect of policy-making. Liberalism has no answers to offer on a logistical and strategic problem like how to succeed in a theatre of war – though it has a great deal to say as soon as the last shot has been fired. Once you’ve committed to war, as the party did in this case, there’s little to do other than see it through.

So Clegg’s concerns are the universal ones – why isn’t the British purpose in Afghanistan being driven home to the public more clearly? Why haven’t we got a decent strategy for tackling the opium trade? Why isn’t the international community providing more co-ordinated support for reconstruction, without which the whole exercise will have been worse than useless? Why aren’t the troops being paid enough? And why, even after a great deal of improvement, have they still not got enough decent kit? (The answer to a lot of these questions, of course, insofar as they involve stretched resources, is a great big fat “Iraq”.)

But what, I hear you cry, does The Army Rumour Service (ARRSE) make of the party leader’s visit?

“Oh great,” says one poster, wearily, “More vote-grabbing by our dear (wannabe) leaders. Does it matter? Not like we will have a general election any time soon.”

You might just have answered your own question there, soldier. Still, another poster is more forgiving: “Well least he has gone out there to see for himself. More than a lot of MPs have done.”

Others, meanwhile, muse with gentle cynicism on Clegg’s opinion that Afghanistan is “the most important conflict of our generation”.

Poster 1: “Er, until the next one, presumably?”

Poster 2: “Beat me to it. I was going to say ‘Until IRAN!’”

Ah! as General Melchett would say, the healthy humour of the honest Tommy!

Little extra treats on a Monday never go amiss. In culminatory order of squeal-inducement in the People’s Republic this evening:

1. Cadbury’s have brought out a year-round version of the Creme Egg in bar form (I know, I know; mind-blowing)

2. Time Team is doing a special on pre-Roman hill forts

3. The Liberal Democrats have published a  MINI GUIDE TO PARTY POLICY! Seventeen ickle-pickle pages with headings an’ sub-headings an’ everything! Let joy be unconfined!

I’ve been grousing about this on and off ever since I joined. It needs a link from the front page of the website asap but otherwise it looks perfect. I will be genning up and reporting back, and I encourage all other nerds to do likewise. Now that we’ve got the raw material served up to us in easy-peel form for our busy executive existences (or whaddever), we can have a proper discussion about what to use on the doorstep, what would work well if we all blogged about it at once, what little unexpected gems or oddities lurk within…

And above all, how best to slap the Tory blogosphere round the face with it.

We’ve shown you ours; now you show us yours. Oh, whoops. You don’t have any, do you.

A 1am quickie to forestall a horrible, horrible dilemma. I have not had a cigarette now since 6 March, and only today I was congratulating myself on the general excellence of this, hoo yes, not had one of those filthy things for two and a half months, yes indeedy, no need for those elegant little wands of bliss, no need for the feeling of being at peace with the world and ready to do a little thinking, nonono, not at all, gaaaaaaah, cake, wine, anything, quickly…

And I overcome this energetic bout of vindication, one roast dinner and half a bottle of sparkling rose later, to find this Q&A from Nick Clegg in the Grauniad (h/t Paul Walter), and it includes this little nugget

What is your most unappealing habit?

I still smoke, a bit.

Nyaaaaaaaaaaargh! Even the high chief of many principles I hold dear “still smokes a bit”! And he does healthy stuff, like tennis and hiking! He has springy hair and energy! People like him simply DO NOT “still smoke a bit”!

I have to believe this, you see, because it’s only people with springy hair and energy who lead political parties that make me feel sufficiently guilty about being such a sedentary self-abusive slob that I can summon the motivation to, for example, stop smoking. If he still does it, then what’s stopping me from getting the baccy off the kitchen windowsill and rolling a restful nightcap right now (deeply unfair business, quitting in a household full of smokers)?

I think I detect the phrase “role model” galloping desperately and misguidedly in this direction. Oh god, as soon as I start thinking in Daily Hate Mail language all must be lost…

I had an email from the Cleggster yesterday. “I’ve cleared my diary for next Wednesday…” he began. Nick, that’s ever so kind, but really it’s not necessary to put aside a whole day to consult me on the future of our national campaigning. Three hours should be perfectly sufficient. And do bring your own pen and paper, won’t you, I’ve lost too many pens over the years handing them out to boys who never return them…

But no, Nick is off to Crewe & Nuneaton Nantwich again, and encouraging the party’s emailing list to follow suit. Typical that the party should start fighting two by-elections just as I manage to land myself two freelance contracts that mean I’m working a five-day week again plus weekendy bits (and just what is this full time work shit? I was happier when I was poor… Actually, no that’s not true at all, I was miserable when I was poor. But I did get a lot more blogging done.) (more…)

Nadine Dorries appears to be in the thick of it. Insults scrawled on the fabric of her house, dismembered dolls through the letterbox and heaven knows what else. No wonder she is a little overwrought.

These, needless to say, are a ghastly and unnecessary set of campaign tactics that can only be the product of sick minds, and I wouldn’t wish them on anybody. The dismembered dolls in particular are a nasty underhand attempt to provoke an emotional response on an issue in which all our rational faculties need to be engaged. I mean, who would deliberately and flagrantly bring such a graphic and horrid image to bear on a health question of national importance? What kind of nasty individual would do that, when the lives and futures of millions of women hang in the balance?

I guess I knew when watching an aborted baby lying in a bedpan struggling to breathe, that my inability to help and my complicity as a young nurse assisting in this process, would one day force me to try to alter the barbaric practice our society has become so immune to: late abortion.

writes Nadine in the saturday Torygraph. One of the commenters is fully convinced:

Your mental imagery of the child in the bedpan, will stay with me for some time. NOTHING can justify that horror.

Evidently the shock tactic, whether it’s Nadine’s blood-and-mucus preaching or a mutilated doll in the post, works. In fact, martyrdom becomes Nadine, the readers seem to think.

Ms Dorries, I greatly admire your courage and determination. I have written to my MP urging him to vote for the reduction in time limit and he has replied assuring me that he fully intends to. I am praying about this and encouraging all my friends to do the same. May God bless your efforts.

And:

Better to be persecuted for doing right, Nadine, than for doing wrong, as the beleaguered Prime Minister of these islands constantly, and justifiably, is. May the God of life help you in your campaign.

And lest you go away thinking that Nadine’s support comes entirely from Christian fundamentalists (perish the thought), there’s this one:

It is all big business for the private clinics …front page Daily Telegraph.

Kill 200,000 babies but not convicted murderers.

Shoot mentally disturned barristers and electricians on the Underground , but not child-abducting peadophiles.

What moral system is this ?

Bring on sharia.

As soon as I had stopped gibbering with terror at the idea that this last person is presumably allowed to roam freely in society, I started to wonder about this big business angle these people keep going on about. “Big business” was elevated to the status of a quite genuine threat to society by eighteen years of protectionist Conservative government, and is now a catch-all bogeyman responsible for Things Beyond Our Control We Don’t Like. Even Tories like Nadine now use it, so irresistable is the Daily Mail nation’s tide of opinion. It’s a shame because the more people wave pitchforks at it and shout “Burn! Burn!”, the less real scrutiny there is on those occasions when “big business” really is shafting society.

So how well does “big business” do out of late abortion? I am in the happy position of possessing both an internet connection and a brand new free OpenOffice Cal spreadsheet (looks like Excel, works like Excel, is free and legal, hoorah! I like this brave new world) so it was the work of, oh, twenty minutes to find out, because the Torygraph has thoughtfully published all the necessary stats on their Sunday leader article.

In 2006, there were 193,700 abortions in the UK. Of these, 3,000 were carried out after the 20 week marker. As Sunny Hundal has pointed out, Nadine’s official position is support for a reduction to 20 weeks, but she has contradicted that several times herself, and admits support for a potential reduction to 9 weeks, which is what she wrote on Unity’s blog. So she was presumably misquoted in today’s Telegraph (linked to above for the stats) when she said that she fully supported abortion in the first trimester (up to 14 weeks).

Anyhoo, the official position is what I’m going to tackle in the absence of any clearer direction from Nadine. First we need to deduct the small proportion of the 3,000 which were carried out on “ground E” (that there was a risk that the child would be born disabled). Apparently, there were 2,000 of these out of the original figure of 193,700, giving a fraction of 0.01. A whole 1% therefore comes off the 3,000 post 20 week abortions to bring the figure down to 2,970.

Now we need to split that figure proportionately into NHS abortions, independent sector abortions and NHS-funded abortions carried out in the independent sector under contract. The latter two segments constitute our “big business” bogeyman. 24% of all abortions were carried out by the NHS itself, so that comes off 2,970 to give 2,257 private abortions.

A bit more clicking around produces this independent sector price list from BPAS, one of the two biggest providers of private abortions along with Marie Stopes. The prices divide into medical and surgical procedures, and within those procedures there are two different prices for gestation periods of up to 20 weeks and from 20-24 weeks. We’re looking obviously at the later, higher prices, rather more than the only data the Telegraph gives of £500 for a first trimester abortion. Let’s also stick to the (higher) surgical prices because that appears to be Nadine’s main concern, judging by her imagery. So a surgical abortion between 20 and 24 weeks costs £1,690.

That gives us a total market value for late abortions in the independent sector of £3.8m in 2006.

In the same year, the UK cosmetic surgery market had an estimated worth of £528.9m.

The idea that private clinics are desperate to stop the law change to 20 weeks because they enormous fear revenue loss is patently absurd. Consider the contrastingly vast sums they earn from first-trimester abortions. Even with the cost down to around £600, and using the same figures as above, the private market for abortions before 13 weeks (constituting 89% of all abortions) is worth £77.8m. That’s more like it, I’d think, were I a cartoonishly money-grubbing private abortion clinic of the type invoked by Nadine and her followers.

There are two explanations.

(A) the whole thing is a religiously motivated witch hunt whose ringleaders are throwing any and every emotive smear they can at abortion clinics – big business kills babies for profit etc etc.

(B) this reduction to 20 weeks is merely the first offensive. The preoccupation with the “huge profits” generated by abortion looks daft alongside the late abortion market value, but makes a lot more sense in the context of the private abortion market as a whole. So the big business argument is being oiled up for full deployment in stage 2 of Nadine Dorries’ anti-choice campaign, which will be…what? 17 weeks? 13 weeks? 9 weeks? Less?

I can’t decide which is worse. Or even whether they’re mutually exclusive.

So the hills (possibly – can anyone on the ground advise?) of Crewe are alive with Labour’s death rattle. Llamas, top hats and the discarded husks of activist consciences litter the landscape.

Those responsible for the various Class Hatred for Dummies-style japes (“You’d better ask the experts about that,” says the local Labour leader) are claiming the tactics have worked inasmuch as they have successfully moved the debate on from the 10p fudge. And there are plenty of hard heads in the Lib Dem campaigning teams, I’m sure, who would nod approvingly at this. (more…)

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