Hunter's very poorly - but am I bovvered?

Hunter is suffering from a bad bout of 'flu and has been signed off from work for a week. New Covent Garden soups, Copella fruit juices, Californian grapes and a couple of DVDs (preferably starring Catherine Tate!) wouldn't go amiss...

And now there are two

Hackney Lib Dem councillor Joseph Stauber has defected to Labour - leaving just two Lib Dems on the Council (vs. 1 Green, 9 Conservative and 45 for Labour). This story wasn't mentioned on Lib Dem Voice. Mark Pack is so obsessed with defections, he normally lists them (even when a councillor crosses the floor on parish council!).

Quote of the year (so far)

From the Guardian's Comment is Free (CIF)

"It must be irony day at CIF - first Alistair Campbell on media ethics, now Keith Best on financial probity for MPs. Something preachy from Blunkett and Mandelson surely can't be far behind" - 'Downsman'

Blair and Brown dithered. Cameron acted.

Full marks to David Cameron for removing the Whip from David Conway, the now disgraced MP for Bexley and Old Sidcup. Conway was caught red-handed. He then tried to gain sympathy by apologising to his family. He then apologised to his constituents, Parliament and to the Conservative Party. The normally-sane Roger Gale, MP, was on the Today programme trying to do the impossible: defend Conway's behaviour. Roger Gale said that Conway is "innocent until proven guilty". Well, Roger, Conway has already admitted to the main charge and has apologised - would he have done that if he had been innocent? No, of course not. Ironically, Conway was a leading player in the downfall of IDS - accusing Betsy Duncan-Smith of claiming cash from the public purse for working for her husband on constituency matters, when she infact did not (this later turned out to be a totally false allegation). Hunter not only views Conway as a thief but a hypocrite, too.

It's just a shame that Blair and Brown dithered on taking firm action against those Labour MPs and ministers in the wrong.

The importance of being consistent at Home and Abroad

Hunter has just learnt of some extremely disturbing news. ConservativeHome is reporting that William Hague, he of the disastrous "Save the Pound" campaign, is in talks with the homophobic Law and Justice Party - formerly led by the crazy Kaczyński twins - to join British Conservative MEPs in the European Reform group.

Since David Cameron's election as Leader of the Conservative Party, much has changed - and for the better. After the next general election, we are set to have more BME and gay MPs than, probably, Labour and the Lib Dems combined. And they were selected on merit, not by using politically-correct and patronising systems. Despite their rhetoric, Labour and the Lib Dems talk about representing modern Britain but they don't. Conservatives do.

By Conservative MEPs jumping into bed with unknown travellers and others with repugnant views, like Poland's Law and Justice Party, we risk undermining all the good work that has been done to brand ourselves as a compassionate and inclusive party. It's important that we're consistent - at home and abroad. For that reason, David Cameron must keep our MEPs in the main centre-right grouping, the European People's Party. It's not too late.

Why are so many Socialists ugly?

By pure co-incidence, Hunter came across Cllr. Terry Kelly's website. Kelly is a "Socialist" (aka New Labour) councillor on Renfrewshire Council, Scotland. He may be a really nice guy. Oil painting he is not. This lead Hunter to wonder, 'just why are so many Socialists as ugly as sin?’ Nationally, think Margaret Beckett, George Howarth and Ken Livingstone. Locally, think Cllr. Bob Harris, Karen Jennings and Keith Flett. Hunter cannot think of a single beautiful Socialist - can you?

Sure, all the parties have their share of uglies. Why, though, do Socialists have far more of them than the other parties, possibly, put together?

Highgate by-election

There's to be a council by-election in Highgate - on the Haringey side, which is Hunter's home turf. Justin Portess, a Lib Dem, quit the Council and left the local Lib Dems bomb-shocked and reeling. Portess was only elected 18 months ago - just why do the local Lib Dems continually select candidates who will not stay the full course? Perhaps Portess didn't actually expect to win?

Cllr. Matt Davies speaks well of Portess, but Hunter never saw Portess speak once in the Council Chamber. Nor did he have any sort of profile in the local media.

Running scared of a resurgent Conservative Party under David Cameron, the Lib Dems have called the by-election, at a cost of £20,000 to the taxpayer, on Thursday 6th March - just a month before 'Super Thursday' - when Highgate residents vote in the London elections. Voters won't thank them for forcing them to vote TWICE in less than TWO months.

The Lib Dems have not, according to my little yellow bird, selected a candidate yet. They will select on Monday, 28th January at the Three Compasses, Hornsey. Apparently, in a letter to their members, they enclosed a map of Highgate Ward - so members outside N6, like their two remaining councillors, know how to find it. They also asked for donations - starting off with a £50 tick box. Perhaps Lynne's money has all dried up?

This, of course, comes just months after Lib Dem Cllr. Catherine Harris defected to the Labour Group on Haringey Council - accusing the Lib Dems of political opportunism.

This will be an interesting election - it won't be who runs the council (unfortunately we have to wait until 2010 for that) but making sure Highgate's voice is heard loudly and clearly on Haringey Councilon.

Haringey Labour website - cut off for non-payment, perhaps?

Hunter notes with alarm and sadness that Haringey Labour's website is no more. Perhaps Haringey Labour failed to keep up with the payments? Haringey Labour, incompetent/lazy? Shurely shome mishtake?

UPDATE: No mishtake at all! It's official! They failed to pay and re-register their domain name! MUPPETS!

Message to Conservative MPs: sign EDM 666

Hunter is sad to note that, so far, only six MPs have had the balls to sign EDM 666 - tabled by the Labour MP John Austin - calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England. Not one Conservative signature, not even from serial EDMer Peter Bottomley. Hunter feels that politics and religion should be separate and that no one group, based on religious beliefs, should be entitled to freebies from the State. It could also be the Party's 'Clause 4' moment but, unlike "grammargate", command popular support.

On matters constitutional, I see that local MP Lynne Featherstone has reported the Royal Family to the Equality Commission for the demotion in the line of succession to our throne of Lady Louise (daughter to Prince Edward) in favour of her newborn brother. She may have a point, but Hunter doubts that it is of any concern to her constituents. It comes across as a total PR stunt to mark her appointment as the Lib Dem spokeswoman on Equality. Somebody should have talked her out of it. Has she sacked the media-savvy Mark Pack as her PR "guru"?

Why the Lib Dems are right on Europe

One of Norfolk Blogger's hopes for 2008 was that Hunter would write a pro-Lib Dem post. Nich's wish has just come true!

The Lib Dems are the only political party with a sensible approach towards our membership of the European Union. Many in my own party and in the Labour party, aided by an unholy alliance of the red tops and anti-capitalist trade unionists, are calling for a referendum on the European Treaty. The treaty, agreed by European leaders in 2007, is highly complex. So much so, most people wouldn't understand it or the many benefits from it, e.g. a EU foreign minister - which would give us Europeans far more clout on the international stage. And, of course, europhobes would turn any referendum on the treaty into a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU itself.

The Lib Dems have said no to a referendum on the treaty. Instead, they have pledged to hold one on our membership of the EU. Britain really needs to decide if she wants to be in or out. A debate needs to be had and the issue needs to be settled one way or another (Hunter's view is that a 'no' vote would at least settle the issue for the next 25 years).

Hunter would, of course, join the majority of Lib Dem, Labour and, probably, a majority of Conservative, MPs to vote to stay in and fulfil our destiny in the EU - as was the case in 1975.

Labour hopeful in "economy unstable" slip

Yes, it's true! This morning, up popped Karen Jennings on the Today programme to denounce the Labour government for wanting to bring in set pay increases for public sector employees over a three-year period. Arguing against the idea, Karen, a leading light in Unison, said the economy could take a downturn at any time and the economy is "unstable". Ms. Jennings is also the Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Hornsey and Wood Green. She clearly hasn't much faith in Darling and Broon. Nor do we, Karen, nor do we!

No win, no-fee lawyers take on - and could finish off - trade unions

A very interesting story appeared in Wednesday's Guardian, which caught Hunter's eye. Strangely, little, if anything, has been reported in the blogsphere. Rosaline Wilson, a sixty year-old social services manager, thought she was, after reading an ad in her local rag from lawyer Stephan Cross, not being paid enough: she received only 50p more than the people she managed.

Wilson contacted Cross, a no-win, no fee lawyer, who took up her case. Her local council, Redcar and Cleveland, offered an out of court settlement which Wilson wisely rejected. Cross took the matter to court and she was awarded £32,000 (£18,000 net after fees) - some £13,000 more than her council had offered as part of their out of court settlement.

Astonishingly, Wilson's union told her "not to rock the boat" and that they’d "sort it" - something, says Wilson, they never did.

The GMB is now at risk of financial ruin because Cross is preparing a high court challenge involving 5,000 women who accuse it of failing to fight for their right to equal pay. In the case, due in the court of appeal in the spring, the union is accused of sex discrimination against its female members by encouraging them to agree a settlement in the north-east that seriously undervalued their claims and prioritised pay protection for their male colleagues.

The unions themselves say they could face financial ruin as the same solicitors are bringing sex discrimination cases against them, accusing them of failing to represent their women workers properly.

Hunter strongly believes that the big unions have let down the people they were set up to champion. Instead, they're more interested in grandstanding on foreign affairs.

It's possible that these no-win, no-fee lawyers could do what Thatcher failed to do -kill them off once and for all?

Two days into 2008 and it isn't going too well for the Lib Dems

Today, a Lib Dem councillor on Manchester City Council joins the Conservatives. This gives us representation for the first time since 1996. Cllr. Faraz Bhatti, who also stood as the Liberal Democrat PPC for Stretford & Urmston in 2005, will be a councillor until 2011. Said Cllr. Bhatti:

“David Cameron has brought the Conservative Party back to the centre ground of British politics. Like me, he believes in spreading opportunity and giving people a real say over their own lives. Across the country, only the Conservatives can be the change that Britain needs. Here, in Manchester, people are crying out for change. The ‘Punch and Judy’ politics of the current parties is not in the best interests of this city. Manchester needs a real opposition to question the decisions of the Labour Council. The Liberal Democrats have, I’m afraid, become inward looking and too protective of their own positions in the Town Hall.”

There's not a single mention on Lib Dem Voice - the website that frequently inform us of parish councillors 'defecting' to them. Fancy!

And Guido reports that a £millionaire, who gave the party over £400,000, bought, sorry was elevated to the Lords by people who claimed a.) not to know him and b.) how much he gave to party coffers. Both claims are totally untrue. Will, as Guido asks, Chris Huhne be contacting "Yates of the Yard" to investigate this possible ‘Cash for Peerages’ scandal? Again, nothing on Lib Dem Voice...

Meanwhile, local Lib Dems in Haringey are furious that their MP was sacked from their self-styled "shadow cabinet" by Nick Clegg for running Chris Huhne's campaign. One told Hunter a number of local Lib Dem members - known as Featherstonites - viewed their new leader action as being "nasty, petty, spiteful and vindictive".

It couldn't happen to a nicer party. Happy New Year!