Cameron’s monkish silence on civil liberties

Ben Brogan notes that Gordon Brown has bitten back at last, specifically concerning David Davis:

Turns out the hero of H&H wrote to the Prime Minister last week, as well as every Cabinet minister and even Keith Vaz, to challenge them to a debate on 42 days and the state of freedom in Britain. He suggested Labour MPs have been gagged on the PM’s orders, to stop them engaging with DD. Somewhat suprisingly, Mr Brown has written back with his own challenge to David Cameron:

“Dear David
As you know, Prime Ministers are available once a week at Question Time to debate all the issues of the day, and I was disappointed that you chose to step down as a Member of Parliament in advance of Question Time on Wednesday, 11 June rather than coming to the House to debate with me the issues around the use of CCTV and DNA evidence, and the measures we have taken to protect our national security.
Nevertheless, the leader of your party has the opportunity each week to ask six questions on those issues that caused you to leave his Shadow Cabinet. He has had two such opportunities to date, but he has yet to ask any such question. He has two further opportunities to raise these issues before the ‘by-election’ on July 10th, and I am sure that if he shares your strong feelings about them, he will not duck those opportunities.
Gordon Brown”

600,000+ people have watched the Heinz Deli Mayo ad on You Tube – is this what Heinz wanted all along?

There are some interesting comments on the Heinz Deli Mayo saga from advertising professionals in the Guardian. One I liked was this one from Marco Rimini of Mindshare:

Of course the ad shouldn’t have been pulled. The point of the ad is to use shock to communicate. It’s bang on strategy. If it’s going to succeed in its objective then why withdraw it? The real issue is, is it a good strategy or a desperate one and should the ad have been approved in the first place?
Is anyone really surprised that there are enough homophobes to generate more than 200 complaints for an advertisement showing two men kissing? If they are, it’s doubtful they should be in marketing. This type of communication relies on shock – it’s the shock that sells. Withdrawing the ad makes me think that it’s just another example of the use of mainstream TV to generate publicity for an ad so it has a healthy afterlife on YouTube. It’s not really an ad targeting the mainstream through TV, but a viral ad using TV as a launch platform.

At a rough tot-up of the four versions of the ad which I can find on You Tube, well in excess of 600,000 people have watched the ad so far, so Rimini could well be right.

How to become a Tory MP: "Lick up" to Central Office and "hold your nose"

Conservative Home have published a fascinating guide on how to become a Conservative MP, garnered from submissions from 126 adopted candidates.

Some of the advice can be considered common to people aiming to be MPs from all parties, for example “Don’t leave first base without your family’s support”.

But some of the guidance has a distinctly Conservative flavour.

For example, “Prepare to lose a lot of money”. One adopted candidate writes:

Over the last ten years I’ve spent at least £100,000 getting to this point and I feel lucky. I will be an MP in the first Conservative government of the 21st century but many others have spent tens of thousands and have got nowhere.

Indeed, Conservative Home estimates that the average cost of becoming a Tory MP is £41,500. It seems that part of this money needs to be spent on buying vintage champagne for Conservative Central Office list-wallahs at conference – one candidate wrote:

I was told by a CCHQ employee that if I applied for the seat they would ensure I got an interview. We’ll manage the sift for you. It was a person I’d bought champagne at the last Party Conference. It was the best £35 I ever spent in my time in the party.

Also, forget working hard – it’s who you know that counts. One candidate says:

Seriously – do some homework – and be seen in the right places – by elections, various events that the area CCHQ staff are at…and the like…don’t bother doing 10,15, 20 years working your way up through the ranks gaining experience.

There are some other gems on this same subject:

Lick up to everyone in CCHQ who matters to get on the A list – get the fix in your favour and make sure you’re good on the night too.

Hold your nose while you’re on your way up. Say nice things to the CCO staff who will lose your CV or put it on the top of the pile. It’s nauseating but these people have so much power.Too much power.

Thoughts on the Scots

I don’t often comment on Scots affairs, even though, as a Celt, I do feel a certain amount of affinity for those north of the border.

Bernard Salmon wrote an excellent post on the demise of “Bendy Wendy” and I also recommend this article by the BBC Scotland’s veteran political editor.

But the one opinion I wanted to express is this. Stuff those English numpties who are criticising Andy Murray. If he wins anything in tennis it will because he has real grit and isn’t a home counties nice boy. I am delighted that Andy Murray has failed to set alight those home counties twits who inhabited Henman Hill. The reason they are not delirious with hero worship is the very reason he has have a chance of succeeding in tennis.

Heinz: remember salad cream

In 2000 Heinz announced they were withdrawing their Salad Cream from sale due to lack of interest. There was a huge outcry amid vast free publicity for Heinz.

Then, a few months later, they changed their mind (surprise, surprise) and said they would be re-starting their Salad Cream range, albeit rebranded and with a slight change of recipe. Their rethink got them… gussed it…vast free publicity.

These guys don’t do things lightly and they know how to manage a story.

So when they commissioned the advert with a New York deli chef standing in as a “mum”, they won’t have done it lightly. The advert (below) would have gone through all sorts of checks and approvals.

It’s actually very funny, in my view. They’ve had 200 complaints against it. I suspect they will receive more about the withdrawal of the advert and that we haven’t heard the last of this one. Heinz may still emerge “apparently” smelling of roses having made sure that their new Deli Mayo is a sure-fire winner – thanks to loads of free advertising.

To complain about the withdrawal, here are the relevant contact details courtesy of LibDem Voice:

Nigel Dickie, Director of UK Corporate and Government AffairsTelephone: 020 8848 2726
Heinz’s free phone number: 0800 528 5757

I have just emailed Mr Dickie.

Visit to the Guardian – photos

I’ll let you into a little secret. I get all weak at the knees at the thought of newspapers. Particularly newspaper offices and printing presses. At an early age, I showed an interest in newspapers. I was particularly fascinated by the Plymouth Evening Herald arriving hot off the presses at 5pm and being chucked onto the hot pavement of the Strand, Bude in front of Tremeers newsagents. The “Stop Press” column used to fascinate me. How did they do it? What is in it today? Oh, it’s the “Closing Prices”. Never mind. I did have a collection of pristine newspapers somewhere including the Daily Sketch (remember that?), the last issue of broadsheet Sun (yes, it was, sort of, a broadsheet once!), the first issue of the tabloid Sun and copious newspapers covering the first man on the moon.

I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged my interest. They bought me a wonderful book called “Discovering Newspapers” about the adventures of a boy working on a local newspaper in the summer holidays. I still revere it. When I was about 12, my dad took to the offices and press of the Cornish and Devon in Launceston to be personally shown round by the Editor, Mr Arthur Venning. My goodness me. Thrills on sticks. I still treasure the memory. The man who was making up the “hot metal” for the presses made up a little block with my name on it. I still have it somewhere.

I also have a picture of me and my family visiting Fleet Street when they actually produced newspapers there (it was when you could walk up to the door of Number 10, Downing Street -which we did). Later, my brother managed to blag me into Financial Times presses which was great.

So, the invitation recently to attend a meeting at the “Guardian newsroom” was received with quivering hands by yours truly. Thank you Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy.

It turned out that it was an invitation to the Guardian’s “Newsroom”, which isn’t, funnily enough, a newsroom. Darn it. Never mind. It is actually a exhibition centre just opposite the Guardian main offices in Farringdon Road, London EC1.

Still, I entered into the whole thing with boyish enthusiasm. To prove it here are a series of photos I took of the Guardian, the meeting arranged by Liberal Conspiracy and its surroundings.

In passing, I would very much recommend the exhibition of photographs by the late Don McPhee, which is currently showing at the Guardian’s “Newsroom”. He was an extraordinarily talented photographer. He could capture a geometrically perfect photo of a split second event. His collection is quite wonderful and includes many memorable photographs, including one of Jeremy Thorpe being interviewed in the Lotus position and Cyril Smith conducting do-it-yourself brain surgery on himself through his eye. (Well, he was just rubbing his eye actually, but it looked as though his finger was going so deep that it was actually entering his brain).

The main Guardian building in Farringdon Road.

The front of the main Guardian building

The reception entrance to the main Guardian building

The Guardian “Newsroom” exhibition centre

The pub just opposite the Guardian – the “Betsey Trotwood”. Perhaps the scene of many a post-deadline sup of Brown ale by Guardian journos? Probably not, it is far too obvious to go to the pub opposite for Guardian types. They’ve probably found somewhere much better nearby.

Some of the LibDem bloggers at the meeting. From left, Mary Reid, Gavin Whenman and Chris Richards.

Exmouth Market, a superb place, just near the Guardian.

Mount Pleasant, the main London Post Office sorting office. At 6pm I saw a queue of people waiting to post letters. A bit weird in a way. A scene you see in towns all over the country, but, in the case of this Post Office, it covers acres and sorts millions of letters and parcels a day.

The Liberal Conspiracy meeting in the theatre of the “Newsroom”. Or, more precisely, the rather stern-faced wait for everyone to arrive.

The discussion on Women bloggers, or more accurately, feminist bloggers

Davis to face 25 other opponents including former Conservative MP

The Haltemrpice and Howden by-election really is going to be a unique exercise in the field of circus acts democracy. One of the candidates is Walter Sweeney, former Conservative MP for the Vale of Glamorgan, who intends to take Davis head on concerning 42 days dentention.

Full list of Davis rivals
Grace Astley – Independent
David Bishop – Church of the Militant Elvis Party
Ronnie Carroll – Make Politicians History
Mad Cow-GIRL – The Official Monster Raving Loony Party
David Craig – Independent
Herbert Crossman – Independent
Tess Culnane – National Front Britain for the British
Thomas Darwood – Independent
David Davis – Conservative
Tony Farnon – Independent
Eamonn “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick – Independent
Christopher Foren – Independent
Gemma Garrett – Miss Great Britain Party
George Hargreaves – Christian Party
Hamish Howitt – Freedom 4 Choice
David Icke – No party listed
John NICHOLSOn – Independent
Shan Oakes – Green Party
David Pinder – The New Party
Joanne Robinson – English Democrats: Putting England First
Jill Saward – Independent
Norman Scarth – Independent
Walter Sweeney – Independent
Christopher Talbot – Socialist Equality Party
John Upex – Independent
Greg Wood – Independent

It’s time to dump some sacred cows

There have been some interesting blog posts and LDV comments about Henley. Darrell on the LDV thread mentioned doing away with “Winning here”. Agreed. It is nauseating.

Tabman asked: “How much time and activists is “enough”? ”

Well, there were 400 activists at the last weekend. I seem to remember nearly 1,000 at the last weekend of the Newbury by-election. I apologise if my memory is playing tricks on me. If it is true that activist turnout was down – why was this?

I am not sure how “hands on” Chris Rennard’s role was at Henley. But any Chief Executive should take a fairly back seat role in such a situation.

We need to consider that Chris Rennard’s old 15 seconds “doormat to dustbin” no longer applies, perhaps. It’s more like 0.5 seconds from doormat pile to recycling bin in some cases. I saw a bloke in Henley-on-Thames come home from work, stand at his door and literally throw thirty pieces of paper straight from picking them up on his doormat into the recycling bin. Not much chance of getting the message through there! People often have their recycling bin on their doorstep now – so there is no time for them to glance at the leaflet while they walk through to the kitchen to put it into the bin. So does one of the fundamental building-blocks of “Rennardism” now no longer apply? As Liberty Alone says, around the year a Focus is likely to be read. But in the heat of a campaign, maybe we need to have less quantity? (Gosh – did I say that? Crikey – I never thought I would).

It is worth considering the comparative turn outs for us in the various areas in Henley constituency. I hear Thame was not good, and we were relying on it. Henley-on-Thames – itself – we were not expecting much of but in the event our turnout was good there. Why was that? Could it be – perish the thought – that our message about Townlands hospital in Henley-on-Thames got through locally there, whereas there was no equivalent “ginger message” in Thame to send people beetling off to the polling booths?

And are we putting enough focus and resource into getting our postal vote proportions up? The Tories consistently beat us here. Why is that – and what can we do to correct it?

I agree with Andy M on the LDV comments thread that we need to place less reliance on by-elections and concentrate on success elsewhere.

We first started inventing ourselves as the little tiddler fish of the parties which won by-elections in the sixties. For a while that’s all we did in the public eye – win by-elections. We’re bigger now. It’s time to change our attitude to by-elections so that they are not such an important part of our game plan and such a huge chunk of our self-perception of our party’s strength.

Tory MPs call for Spelman to be sacked amid new revelations

Michael Portillo (cue: Knives in back) has called for Caroline Spelman to be sacked as Tory chairman, according to be BBC News 24 (or is it called something else these days?).

Michael Crick says that “a number of Conservative MPs” have approached the 1922 committee with similar requests. (That could mean two MPs, by the way).

Newsnight has now reported further revelations based around Sally Hammond, who, as Spelman’s secretary, “shopped” her to the Chief Whip in 1999 about secretarial expenses:

Mrs Hammond could not understand why the MP had so little money available for office expenditure. She was shocked to find that much of the annual Commons allowance was being paid to Mrs Spelman’s nanny, Tina Haynes.

As far as she knew, Ms Haynes did little or no secretarial work to justify this.

Mrs Hammond took her complaint to Peter Ainsworth – then, as now, a member of the Conservative shadow cabinet, and for whom Mrs Hammond had once worked.

Sally Hammond is the wife of Tory front-bencher Stephen Hammond which makes this even more embarrassing for Cameron.

Spelman and Conservative Central Office’s account of where her (Spelman’s) constituency office was in the late 1990s has also started to unravel:

Mrs Spelman’s claim that there was no other constituency office was challenged, since documentation shows that her current constituency office over the border in Solihull has always been listed as her office in official directories.

Separately, Janet Parry told Newsnight that when she did a stint of work experience over the summer of 1997, administration work was already being handled by the Solihull office at 2 Manor Road in Solihull.

The Telegraph today headline this story: Caroline Spelman: ‘Nannygate‘ scandal threatens Conservative rift

What I find extraordinary is the defence, laid out by Pauline Neville-Jones on Question Time last night that the money involved is “quite a small amount”. You’d think that Conservative politicians would have a little alarm going off in their head when their mouths start forming those sorts of words. “Reality warning” ought to be the message from the brain.

£25,000. A Tory front-bencher calls this “quite a small amount”.

Perhaps as well as the price of milk, petrol, bread etc, future Tory spokespeople ought to have something else written down in front of them when they speak publicly. I would suggest:

“£25,000 = a ****ing huge amount of money = winning the lottery for most people”