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Jerry Hayes

The Lib Dems mustn’t allow themselves to suffer from Battered Wives or Stockholm Syndrome. And how to spot a defector to Labour before it happens.

September 21st, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Was it some drink induced hallucination or did I really hear Danny Alexander say that he would use private debt collectors to collect our taxes? And was it some drug fueled sex game involving a sports bag, or did I really hear him say that they would be using lie detectors on anyone earning £150,ooo a year?

I know that, like at General Elections, politicians suffer from a strange, but temporary, motor neurone complaint,  whereby mouth and brain do not function simultaneously, but yesterday’s announcements were a little odd and very un Liberal.

Why should it be assumed that anyone earning a large salary is less honest than someone who is not? And of what value is a lie detector when English law forbids their admissibility? And why confuse tax avoidance with tax evasion? The former is legal and encouraged by the government, whilst the other is neither?

The answer is simple. Danny was talking utter bollocks to appease the rabble of wild, green eyed lefties, who want to see the Coalition crack down on the pleasures of the richer. Of course, none of these ravings will ever be implemented. But what is so annoying, is that none of this nonsense was necessary. The one lesson that has stunned Westminster watchers these last few weeks is that the Lib Dems have grown up. Clegg has proved to have the making of a serious statesman and Cable that of a wily Whitehall operator. So please Danny, now that your party is out of short trousers don’t patronise them, it just makes you look a bit of a twat.

But, at the end of the day, the Lib Dems are no different from Labour or the Tories.  They are still that sub species of lower pond life known as politicians. So, “National interest” will always be interchangeable with “Party interest”. After a while you just can’t spot the difference. And once leaders have had their bottoms ensconced on the warming mahogany of the Downing Street privy for a  while, personal interest becomes delightfully confused with the national interest too. The trouble is most of them never realise it.

The real difficulty for the Lib Dems is not to allow themselves to fall into the trap of suffering from two very dangerous political syndromes:  Battered wives and Stockholm.

The battered wives syndrome is best exemplified by the likes of former MP Evan Harris, who is desperate to get back into bed with Labour. Well hardly back into bed, the couple haven’t even had a snog or a brief fumble. Evan, old son, they hate you guys with a venom more poisonous than Peter Mandelson’s aftershave. They have beaten you, abused you and threatened political genocide. Why keep coming back for more?

However, Stockholm’s syndrome, whereby by the kidnapped tend to fall in love with their captors, is a more tricky label to cast off. Clegg and Cable don’t want any accusations of being kept underground in Cameron’s Austrian bunker and breeding Tory babies. They need to show  a separate identity coupled to a loyalty to the Coalition ideal.

Oh, and for all of you wanting to root out the first Lib Dem defection to Labour, the test is very simple. Wait for the polls to flatline, coupled with a thrashing at the local elections and then look for the person with the smallest majority with Labour in second place. And remember, despite the guff you will hear about points of principle, it will be about pure self interest. Politics hasn’t changed that much.

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Labour must choose whether it wants to exterminate the Lib Dems or Woo them. It can’t do both.

August 23rd, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

How appropriate that at a time when astronomers warn us not to look for life in outer space but for sentient machines, Labour leadership candidates stagger from turgid press release to dreary Fabian meetings like extras from Shaun of the Dead; but without the jokes. Why do these normally sane people behave in such an irrational way? David Miliband, in a poor imitation of some ghastly instructor from Ladettes to Ladies, patronises party workers to give their filthy working class hovels a damn good vacuum before they are in a fit state to watch a dumbed down DVD of the great man pontificate. And little  Ed, like a Dalek on crack, but without the charm, urges the extermination of  the Liberal Democrats. To be fair to the poisonous Balls, at least he is inviting them to join the Party before having them interned, tortured and shot. And the turncoats should be pathetically grateful for even that.  Today, he launches his plan to save the Mail.  This man has become so ruthlessly authoritarian one wonders whether he was referring to the Daily Mail. Yet on the left, only the Guardian’s Jackie Ashley,  has had the courage to write the unpalatable truth: Labour has become the nasty party. It really has to make up its mind how to deal with the Lib Dems, they have to decide whether to destroy them or woo them. You can’t do both.

These defection stories are now veering on the infantile. The latest, that Mike Hancock will soon be in the warm embrace/death hug of Labour bears a little scrutiny. We are told that he has been in talks with none other than Dennis Skinner!  Firstly, a visceral hatred of all thing Liberal Democrat runs though his veins; it’s in his DNA. He would rather bite his own head off than be seen with one.  Secondly, Skinner has as much influence with Labour high command as the President of Europe  has with Bill Cash. And lastly and rather sadly, the poor old boy has been gaga for rather a long time. So the Hancock/Skinner story is pure fantasy.

Of course this is a tough time for Nick Clegg and his Party. But he must surely see that a bored and hungry press and a ruthless and desperate Labour party  will want  to goad them into doing something rash. And the nearer we get to the Lib Dem conference the more insane the allegations will become. The more fevered the stories, the more jittery the rank and file.

But is the Lib Dem split markedly different from the right and left in the Tories or the Modernisers and Neanderthals in  Labour?  Of course not. Are they being used and abused by Cameron and his dark forces of vicious Thatcherism as a human shield?  Don’t be daft. All major arguments in this government are not between Tories and Lib Dems. They are between to warring factions within the Conservatives. The reason the right of the Tory Party and the chancers of Labour despise and want to destroy this coalition is because it works. And what  really brings these people to a frenzy is the that the public approve.

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Like a Benjamin Britten opera, Simon Hughes is not always as bad as he sounds; but the Kennedy problem has to be addressed.

August 21st, 2010 by Jerry Hayes

Nick Clegg’s relationship with Simon Hughes is not unlike the dilemma that every parent has when dealing with a small child who refuses to be potty trained. Day after day, you sit them on the bloody thing and day after day they scream, shout,  cry and yet still manage to poo all over the floor, just to wind you up.  So what do you do? Are you patient, understanding and just keep trying?  Do offer little inducements like gold stars and sweets? Or do you just give them a hearty clip round the ear?  So far, Clegg is being sensibly and remarkably, understanding. Yes, Simon, we know you like to shout, scream, throw your toys out of the pram and poo on the floor, but we understand; it’s part of growing up. It’s just a phase you are going through.  So he clears up the mess, pats the boy on the head and awaits the next little accident.

But Simon Hughes is an irritant rather than a problem. Many Lib Dems, accept that he probably has a bit of a point, but the the Munchean Scream method tends to shed more heat than light. Yet, like an opera by Benjamin Britten, he is not always as bad as he sounds. Hughes is tolerated as a sort of in-house conscience on mind bending substances.

However, I do worry about Charles Kennedy, both as a politician and more importantly, as a human being and friend.  We were both elected together in 1983 as very young men; him twenty three, me 29. We appeared on and presented, countless television and radio shows. He is a man of decency, vision and honour and presented the face of pragmatic, non tribal politics with a human face, when Cameron and Clegg were at school. So if anyone is the embodiment off  what this coalition is all about, it is Charlie. Yet, there were rumblings about his unhappiness even when the Coalition was just a twinkle in his leader’s eye. Why?

I do hope that his real friends and not the political chancers that inhabit the sewers of Westminster, are keeping careful and caring eye on him. The break up with his wife, no matter how amicable, must be a terrible strain and not seeing his son every day, sheer agony. When you are fighting demons, the worst possible scenario is returning to an empty flat and gazing in the half light at the siren bottle of amber poison. Just one drink. Just one. But it never is.

But why are rumours gaining currency that he is about to defect to Labour?Perhaps it was as a result of a careless private comment at a moment of extreme frustration. Like Ming Campbell, Kennedy was the victim and the eventual  human sacrifice for political expediency. It was nasty, mean and mostly unfair. Welcome to top level politics. The irony was that he never really wanted the leadership.  A long, long time ago, over a few drinks, I asked him if he really wanted the job. He looked at me with a sad shrug. “What choice do I have?”.  Of course, he had none. To fail to stand after the resignation of Ashdown, would have been seen as a betrayal. I often wonder whether that sad shrug was because he knew that being leader would sow the seeds of his own destruction. But I genuinely fear that Kennedy is about to be exploited by unscrupulous power brokers fanning the dying embers of Labour and the tiny minority of Lib Dem Luddites who to want to blow the Coalition apart, and go back to the good old days of wild and woolly opposition. Unless, he makes a personal clear and unequivocal statement soon, in other words, in time for the Sunday newspapers, gossip and rumour will dominate the news right up to the most important party conference the Lib Dems have ever had. The consequences, though not fatal, would be very damaging. In the unlikely event of him defecting to Labour it would be an unwholesome and unpleasant freak show, where a decent man in need of help, would have every last drop of political advantage ripped out of him before being thrown, eviscerated of honour and friends, onto the bonfire of the inanities. I can’t see that happening. What is more likely, is that he will maintain a brooding silence which will cast him into another unwanted role: leader of the plotters. Charles Kennedy is a talented politician whose plain speaking and human frailties endear him to the public. Unless Clegg makes use of these considerable talents and welcomes him into the family, there will be blood.

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