Look Left – Toxic Tories, Clegg v Cable, and Romney on the slide

Shamik Das looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.


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• Alongside the Andrew Mitchell ‘pleb’ row, which refuses to die down, this week saw another example of the toxicity of some in the Tory Party.

As Left Foot Forward revealed yesterday, a Conservative councillor from Calderdale in West Yorkshire has called the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry a “joke” and attacked the recent Hillsborough Report as “overloaded with politically correct language”.

In an email to JUST West Yorkshire, a charity promoting racial justice, civil liberties and human rights, Cllr Roger Taylor wrote:

“So is your ultra-left organization claiming that the police actually pushed into the terraces and suffocated the victims? Are you telling me that this report is not overloaded with politically correct language rather like the Stephen Lawrence “enquiry” (a joke in itself) was?

“You are not fit to tie Sir Norman Bettison’s shoe laces (I was on the WYPA for nearly three years by the way) so how dare you call for his resignation.

“As racist and anti-American Muslims once again rail against the west with their vile language of death to infidels you choose to ignore that and concentrate on Sir Norman. What a bunch you really are.”

For more on the disturbing comments of Cllr Taylor – including further examples of his views on Muslims and black people – see here and here, and for more on Andrew Mitchell see here.

Taylor remains a member of the Tory party, and today it emerged the Conservative group leader on Calderdale council, Cllr Stephen Baines MBE, is giving him his backing. The question now is, does Taylor (and indeed does Baines) have David Cameron’s backing?

• This week saw the Lib Dems gather in Brighton – against a backdrop of yet more gloomy poll news for Nick Clegg.

As Left Foot Forward reported on Monday, a poll last weekend revealed Nick Clegg to be the least popular major party leader since Michael Foot. Thirty eight per cent see him as dislikeable, 58% untrustworthy, 66% indecisive, and 75% weak, with only 40% believing his tuition fees apology to be genuine and 41% saying it makes him look weaker.

In terms of his future rivals for the top job, as Left Foot Forward reported on Tuesday, a separate poll found that, if Vince Cable were leader at an election now, the Liberal Democrats would gain five points; projections show that, under Clegg, the Lib Dems would win 32 seats if a general election were to be held tomorrow – a figure that rises to 50 seats if Cable were to be leader.

Elsewhere, Nick Clegg came under fire on education policy for ‘meddling with Wales’ and backing Michael Gove in the GCSE re-marking row – see our report here for more; and Simon Hughes, another possible rival for Clegg’s crown, accused banks of making “racist decisions” – for more, see our report looking at his claims here.

And we’ve more on Clegg’s woes below…

• In the US election race, it was another typically bad week for Mitt Romney, his path to the White House continuing to narrow.

As Matt Browne reported on Left Foot Forward today, a fortnight on from convention season, the ‘Obama bounce’ now looks like a trend, with the most recent HuffPo ‘poll of polls’ putting the President at 48.7 per cent to Romney’s 44.5 per cent – a gap of more than four points.

And beyond the national figures, the trend is mirrored in key battleground states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina, all of which bar NC (36%) now have a greater than 50% likelihood of a Dems victory. Recent analysis also suggests “people of colour” are poised to make a more significant impact in 2012 than previously thought, to the detriment of the GOP.

Romney himself isn’t helping the Republican cause, this week seeing yet another imbecilic gaffe ill-befitting a man who would be Pres, when he asked, and I kid you not, why aeroplane windows don’t open – a Bush/Cletus/Palin-ism he later tried to laugh off as a joke.

See here for more on our detailed analysis of the latest polls, and check out our latest must-read US election campaign digests by Larry Smith here and here; the next one will be up on LFF on Monday.

Progressive of the week:

Sheffield councillor Jack Clarkson, who quit the Liberal Democrats in disgust at Nick Clegg’s risible tuition fees pledge ‘apology’, the one in which he said he was sorry, he was sorry, he was sooo, sooo sawwry – but for making the pledge not for breaking it.

Cllr Clarkson, a member of Stocksbridge town council in the Lib Dem leader’s Sheffield backyard, described the apology as “embarrassing and shameful”, and said his integrity is now “shot to pieces”, adding:

“What he says now is highly questionable indeed.”

See here for more and watch the auto-tuned apology song again here.

Regressive of the week:

Tim Leunig, a man David Cameron once called “barmy”, who has been appointed an advisor to the Department for Education.

In 2008, Leunig co-authored a Policy Exchange report, “Cities Unlimited”, which said northern cities had “failed”, and their residents should be paid to move south to London, Oxford and Cambridge – the only three cities in which any new homes (all 3 million of them) should be built. He is also against regeneration – only in July this year, he reiterated his view that “politicians must stop pretending the regeneration works, when it doesn’t”.

He also thinks half of all train stations should close. Oh, and if you’re lucky enough to have a station that remains open in Leunig Land, he wants “3rd class” carriages introduced for poor people – with no seats; it’s standing room only for the “plebs” in Tim’s Britain! We’ll have more on Dr Leunig from Kevin Meagher on Left Foot Forward tomorrow.

There’s thinking the unthinkable, and then there’s Tim Leunig… probably the wackiest wonk in the world.

Evidence of the week:

This week’s report by CND, “Disarming Trident” (pdf), a practical guide to de-activating and dismantling the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system.

The report, designed to demystify the disarmament process, sets out in practical steps how within four years Britain could dismantle its nuclear warheads. It is based on the Ministry of Defence’s practices for operating Trident. This includes the processes of deploying, removing and storing nuclear warheads used by the Vanguard class submarines, based at HMNB Clyde, as well as a detailed knowledge of the MoD’s infrastructure and facilities which service Trident.

See here for more.

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