Robert Hampton

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5th June 2015

Posted by at 6.28pm | Politics | 1 response

Saddest news in ages came earlier this week with the death of Charles Kennedy. For anyone to die at just 55 is a tragedy, but for one so talented and respected, it’s just awful.

From the first time I could vote, until 2010, I supported the Liberal Democrats. This was in large part thanks to Charles Kennedy’s stewardship of the party and the high opinion I had of him. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way; in the 2005 General Election the Lib Dems won 62 seats, their best ever result (and a figure they’re unlikely to see again in the foreseeable future).

Kennedy was nicknamed “Chat Show Charlie” and mocked for regularly taking part in Have I Got News For You. However, he always came across well in his TV appearances, showing a quick wit and ability to laugh at himself that few other politicians seemed to have. In fact, wherever he spoke, in the House of Commons and elsewhere, he always demonstrated an ability to connect with ordinary people, communicating effectively without relying to soundbites or slogans. It’s an ability few MPs today are able to demonstrate, and one they would be advised to learn.

He led his party in taking a principled stance against the Iraq war in 2003, representing the views of the majority of British people. In 2010 he warned the Liberal Democrats against going into coalition with the Tories. On both these matters, he was completely right.

It’s terribly sad that he had his career, and his life, cut short. Listen to the glowing tributes that have been dished out from all sides of the political spectrum, and from many people outside the world of politics. Are there many (or indeed, any) other figures on the current political scene who would inspire those sorts of comments? Will people be lining up to pay tribute to Cameron, Blair or Clegg when they pop their clogs?

31st December 2010

Twenty Ten – again. Again

July brought big changes to the newspaper industry, as The Times started charging for access to its web site. This was supposed to ensure a steady income stream for the newspaper, putting it on a secure financial footing for the future. However, it also resulted in the Times being completely removed from the online chatter of the blogosphere, as its news coverage and columnists were no longer accessible to the internet hoi-polloi. Still, I’m sure this decision made sense to someone somewhere.

The Supreme Court ruled that gay people facing persecution are entitled to claim asylum in the UK. I welcomed the decision, although my blog post is curiously vague about precisely why I welcomed it. Hmm…

In other gay-related news, I reviewed, with sadness, a booklet from the US Military discussing its anti-gay don’t ask, don’t tell policy.

Elsewhere, health and safety went mad as one person suggested banning rugby scrums. I felt uncomfortable on a train full of Orange Lodge marchers and I defended the traditional sitcom from an onslaught of criticism from trendy TV reviewers.

Read the rest of this post »

9th November 2010

Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Woolas?
Posted by at 10.44pm | Politics | No responses

The MP Phil Woolas has been stripped of his seat in the House of Commons, after a Court ruled that he breached election campaigning laws.

As a consequence, Woolas has been expelled from the Labour party, a decision which has not pleased everyone. Colleagues and sympathisers are stumping up for his appeal.

In the Guardian, Michael White argues that half-truths and unkeepable promises are par for the course in election campaigning. That may be true (although it’s not a fact that reflects well on our politicians) but Woolas went a bit further than most though: accusing his opponent of funding his campaign illegally and associating with Islamic extremists.

And if you still don’t think he’s done anything wrong, consider this: e-mails from the campaign team revealed during the court case show that there was a strategy to ”galvanise the white Sun vote”. His seat is in Oldham. Of all the places where stoking racial tension is a bad idea, that would have to be near the top of the list.

If Woolas’s appeal fails and a by-election is held, it will be interesting to see how the result turns out. The Liberal Democrat candidate lost by just 103 votes in May 2010 and would be expected to win this time round. Will the coalition cost the Lib Dems votes?

20th October 2010

Another Uninformed Political Post
Posted by at 11.04pm | Politics | No responses

(typing this on a netbook with tiny fiddly keys, please forgive any typos)

I’ve been asked a few times if I feel stupid for voting Lib Dem in the last General Election. The answer I usually give is “yes and no” (a classic Lib Dem position if ever there was one).

“No” because back in May I genuinely believed that the Lib Dems were the best option for the country. This was not as a result of Cleggmania, that (very) temporary hysteria that surrounded the party leader following the televised debates. In fact, I had voted for the Liberal Democrats in every election since I became eligible to vote. I thought they offered something new and interesting, a genuine third way — untried and untested, but that is what’s needed.

“Yes” because the party has, in my view, betrayed the people who voted for it by going into Government with the Tories. At first I was hopeful that a Liberal Democrat presence in the cabinet would restrain the Conservatives and lessen the impact of harsh Tory policies. In fact, the so called “coalition” is really a Conservative government in practice, with Liberal Democrats simply rubber-stamping the policies. A few crumbs (the postponement of Trident, voting reform) cannot make up for threatening the future of the BBC, imposing steep rises in university fees and introducing massive cuts in benefits (and many people who receive benefits are in genuine need, not scroungers as the tabloids like to make out).

The cuts announced today are a case in point. I don’t doubt that cuts need to be made, but these cuts are too harsh and too fast.

I have no idea who I’m going to vote for next time. Maybe it will be Labour, if they get their act together and remember they’re supposed to help the working class, not send them to fight unjustified wars. Ed Miliband is making some of the right noises, so let’s see what happens.

10th May 2010

Don’t ConDem this out of hand
Posted by at 10.40pm | Politics | No responses

Welcome to the latest in an occasional series of “Hampo pretends his opinions matter”, this time talking about a potential coalition between the Liberal Democrats and one of the other parties.

Please bear in mind that I don’t like the Conservatives and I believe that David Cameron is wrong on many issues. Some of the Tory policies (repealing the ban on fox-hunting, for example) are downright awful. That said, I’m not a big fan of the current Labour party either, largely thanks to their relentless attack on our civil liberties.

The ideal situation right now would have been a landslide victory for the Liberal Democrats, with Nick Clegg ensconced in 10 Downing Street ready to lead Britain into a new Golden Age (THAT WOULD REALLY HAVE HAPPENED). A Hung Parliament (most disappointing porn movie ever) means that unpalatable solutions have to be considered, and I believe that a Con-Lib coalition is the best option for now. DON’T HATE ME!

The main reason is simple mathematics: whichever way you look at it, the Conservatives won the most votes and the most seats. Labour were second and the Lib Dems a distant third. A Lib-Lab pact would essentially be the two losing parties ganging up to stop the first place party from forming a Government. Excellent for the soon to be Brown-less Labour party, but not really brilliant for democracy, and it may result in voters deciding to punish Labour and the Lib Dems by voting Tory next time. Given that a new election can’t be too far off, and David Cameron was reportedly short of a majority by just 16,000 votes this time round, that can’t be good.

I’m not naive, I believe that whichever alliance is eventually forged, it can never be more than a marriage of convenience and will not last very long before one of the parties pulls out the rug from under the other. Still, we may get some long-overdue electoral reform out of it. Nick Clegg and his team have a big choice to make, and none of the options are particularly wonderful. It’s good this politics lark, isn’t it?!

If, like me, you’re still confused, the Telegraph has helpfully set out where the policies of the three parties overlap.

7th May 2010

The Afternoon After

Lib Dem signs

As I write this, we are looking at a hung parliament and everything is still very much up in the air as the various parties attempt to form a coalition.

The big disappointment from last night was of course the Liberal Democrats, who only increased their vote share by 1% compared to 2005. They failed to make any significant gains, and their comedy candidate, Lembit Opik, lost his seat. There will be a lot of analysis of what happened. I think that the third debate and the final week of campaigning didn’t go too well for the Lib Dems and caused them to lose the momentum. I also think that a lot of floating voters decided to back one of the big two at the last minute, possibly due to tabloid scaremongering about the consequences a hung Parliament.

David Cameron cannot possibly claim that this is a roaring success for him, after failing to win a majority against a deeply unpopular Labour government. His campaign has not been particularly brilliant and his “big society” idea seemed to scare everyone who managed to understand it.

If you went to bed and missed the excitement, don’t worry: I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll be having another election before too long.

6th May 2010

All over, bar the voting
Posted by at 6.08pm | Politics | No responses

As I write this there’s over three and a half hours left until the polling stations close. If you haven’t voted yet, GO AND DO IT!

Sign above a polling station: "Do not sit on the fence"

I am off to see Canary at the Liverpool Playhouse tonight, but will hopefully be back home in time to see the results pour in. I will be twittering away throughout the night (or at least until I fall asleep).

My own prediction? I’d love to see Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats win, of course, but it looks like the Conservatives will get the most seats. However, will it be enough to get an overall majority, or are we looking at a hung Parliament with all the apocalyptic doom that brings (according to the Daily Mail, anyway)?

There is real excitement here. Will there be a Portillo moment? Will Brown try to cling on and form a coalition? Will any of the small fringe parties have success? Anyone who says politics is boring is WRONG.

(picture above shamelessly pinched from the Guardian election live blog.

5th May 2010

I agree with Nick
Posted by at 1.04pm | Politics | No responses

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you’ll be aware that there’s an election tomorrow. If you’ve been following the election closely, you may be reaching the stage where you want to live under a rock for a month.

I sent my postal vote on Friday morning, the ballot paper enthusiastically marked for the Liberal Democrats. In the remainder of this post, I am going to set out the reasons why they have earned my vote and also why Labour should not win another term.

Read the rest of this post »

22nd April 2010

Smear Cam(eron)paign
Posted by at 11.38pm | Politics | No responses

A little nugget buried in a blog post by Nick Robinson:

I now learn that political reporters from the Tory-backing papers were called in one by one to discuss how Team Cameron would deal with “Cleggmania” and to be offered Tory HQ’s favourite titbits about the Lib Dems – much of which appears in today’s papers.

The same post also confirms that the Telegraph’s front page splash (about Nick Clegg accepting donations into his personal bank account) is completely without substance — the LibDem leader did not pocket any cash for himself, he declared the donations to the Electoral Commission and he actually paid a further £700 of his own money out on top of this.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail did what it does best: taking quotes from an eight-year-old Guardian article completely out-of-context in a half-arsed attempt to question Clegg’s patriotism.

As the Guardian reports, there is widespread panic in the right-wing press at the prospect of the Liberal Democrats denying the Conservative party the win they supposedly “deserve”.

When people are asking questions like “could Murdoch lose Britain?” you can see why they’re worried.

20th April 2010

Easy to get angry about… difficult to spell
Posted by at 11.48pm | Politics | No responses

My MP, Louise Ellman, scores 90 out of 100 on the authoritarian index, voting in favour of ID cards, control orders, holding the DNA of innocent people on record, and various other unpleasant things – the criteria are listed here.

Anti-authoritarianism and the protection of civil liberties is a key part of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. Just saying.