Calling all SUV drivers

One of the things that instantly attracted me to Chris Huhne’s leadership bid was that from that first hustings meeting at the LSE, he had clearly got global warming right at the top of his agenda – where it belongs. Now there has to be a debate about how we tackle the problem. Chris has proposed greater taxation for burning fossil fuels, but with the proceeds being used to help the less well off. The logic is brilliantly simple, although admittedly there are detail questions about how you avoid coming down too hard on those who have no choice but to burn the fossil fuels in the first place – the obvious example is those who live in rural communities with poor public transport options. But none of these objections is insurmountable – as long as the detail is carefully worked out. I do understand that none of us wants to pay more for our fuel – but increasingly science accepts that doing nothing is not an option.
Which brings me neatly on to SUVs. Petrol and diesel are already expensive in this country. A few years ago, car adverts were crammed with headlines about how economical this or that model was. Low fuel consumption was a major selling point. Now I haven’t done any in depth research, but these things are breeding here in the South East. I have recently been canvassing for the Greater Marlow by election, and have been shocked to find some well heeled cul-de-sacs with one of these fuel guzzling monsters on nearly every drive. Two in some cases! If I have to go into London for work, and it’s not snowing, I often take my bike and thread my way through the lines of stationary traffic on the A40. These poor souls queue up every morning on a road that runs parallel to a major railway line and a tube line fuming (in both senses of the word) as we bikers slip between them on our way into London. Again, the numbers of king-size SUVs are definitely on the increase. You can’t miss the on a bike – some of them are so wide you are reduced to waddling between them with your feet down. Why do they need to be so big? These are clearly impressive vehicles that could cope easily with some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth. These marvels of engineering are instead reduced to stop-starting around London’s streets belching out tonnes of CO2 as their drivers try to cope with the frustration. And the bull bars – two inch thick bull bars protect the front of many of these go anywhere gargantuans – what the hell do they need them for?
I am really desperate to know why these cars are becoming so popular. Please would anyone who owns one of these like to tell me how you reached your buying decision? What made you choose an eight wheel drive earth mover when a car would have done? I wholeheartedly endorse using the tax system to try and encourage more responsible use of fuel, but my sincere worry is that some people clearly have more money than sense!

They had nothing to fear

One of the most memorable and powerful party political broadcasts of the campaign last year had to be ‘Memories’ . You know the one – images from the dark, cold Thatcher years. Unemployed miners, poll tax riots all underscored by the vocalist mournfully singing ‘do you remember… the way we were?’. All too well, the memories came back. The subtitles reminded us of how Michael Howard had been a part of it. The message was simple, and powerful: you might not have thought much of Blair and the recent performance of his government. You might be furious about Iraq, but if you don’t vote Labour, you’ll get something much, much worse.
Many tried in vain to spread the word that the Tories couldn’t win – but it didn’t matter – the fear of a right-wing, Howard-led government was a haunting spectre. It is that fear that gave Blair a third term. Across the length and breadth of this country, good honest people voted Labour. Not as an endorsement – but because they feared that the alternative was much, much worse.
In Dunfermline, the voters had nothing to fear and plenty to say. They could have sent Blair a genuine endorsement, had they been so minded. They were not. They had nothing to lose and they voted the way they saw it. In a Labour heartland like Dunfermline, that says a lot. It says lifelong Labour voters are sick to the stomach about what their party has become.
What’s more, they clearly don’t seem excited about Blair’s annointed successor either. It seems that if Gordon Brown is to inherit the good ship ‘New Labour’, he will do so just as the funnel slips below the waterline.

Liberal versus SDP

One of the things that saddens me is that there is still a mentality of some within the Liberal Democrats that is suspicious of those who started their politcal careers in the SDP. This year is the 25th anninversary of the inception of the SDP – and we in the Liberal Democrats should be celebrating the contribution that the SDP made to the shape of our party today – and the successes it has enjoyed.

One could argue that the Liberal Party would have come back on it’s own – and perhaps it would. But the SDP caused the biggest shake up of the British political scene imaginable. The British people were crying out for an alternative to Thatcherism, and a Labour Party in the grip of Militant was not it. Had the Liberal Party of the day been in good enough shape at the time, there would have been no need for the SDP.

Alliance and eventual merger between the Liberals and the SDP could never have happened had it not been for the fact that so many of our core values were essentially the same. If the marriage had not been so appropriate, many more leading SDP figures would have returned to Labour once Kinnock had weeded out the hard left. As it is, many leading SDP figures are now leading Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats, and the British political scene, are richer for the contibutions of the SDP. We are not just Liberals – we are Liberal Democrats. We should focus more on the things that unite us.

For anyone who diagrees with this – there is always the continuation Liberal Party. I believe they have a handful of councillors somewhere…

Well done everyone

Many congratulations to you and your team!
Your collective hard work has produced a result nothing short of sensational. We are all thrilled and delighted and look forward to following your contributions as a Liberal Democrat MP.
Your win will also provided a much needed morale boost for Liberal Democrats throughout the land at what has been a difficult time for us.
We have suffered attacks from all sides after a run of difficult headlines. We have confounded our critics and proved to the nation that we are still a force to be reckoned with.
Thank you
Steve Guy
Wycombe Liberal Democrats

Huhne in pole position now – tonight’s QT will seal it

There can be no denying the significance of the YouGov poll published today giving Chris Huhne a four point lead (albeit from a smallish sample). YouGov have achieved excellent results with their cheekily simple method of polling via an internet panel. Their predictions on the Tory leader race turned out to be very accurate indeed. This poll marks a watershed. Huhne has been transformed from a candidate who many members favoured, but perhaps doubted whether he could beat the mighty Ming, into someone who really looks like a winner. I am minded here of the old Guardian poll which showed that 36% of respondents would vote Lib Dem ‘if they thought they could win’. Now members can be confident that Chris can win – and as a result will move him from second preference to first on their ballot.
Chris’s success has also clearly got a few people rattled. There’s been an explosion of anonymous comments on blogs and other sites trying to rubbish Huhne. Anonymous comments mean little – anyone can snipe from behind the shield of anonymity. Frankly, we don’t know if the anonymous commentators are even Lib Dems. I believe that Tories and NuLab also fear Chris Huhne. The last thing they need now is for us to elect a solid, credible leader.
Those members who haven’t already returned their ballot papers will, I’m sure, be glued to Question Time tonight. A poor performance from anyone tonight will surely be his ‘David Davis’ moment. I am convinced that Huhne will convince many more tonight that he really is the candidate that will strike fear into the hearts of the other parties, and that is why we must elect him.