Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Michael Moore's Telegraph Tape

So Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore has fallen victim to the Telegraph sting operation where they send wired up young women posing as constituents to record private conversations with ministers during their surgeries. This is a right wing newspaper's underhand attempt to split the coalition up. Don't be in any doubt about that. They don't like the fact that the Tories aren't governing alone and would much rather see the crazier Tory policies on scrapping the Human Rights Act, marriage tax breaks and helping the rich at the expense of the poor being put into action.

The Lib Dems are being attacked from left and right for having sold out - but if we weren't having  big influence on the Government, why would the Torygraph go to all this bother?

Here is their highly edited audio and transcript of what he said. It's not a full transcript, because, like with Vince yesterday, they haven't published the lies the journalists must have told.

Nothing that Michael Moore said in that conversation was in any way surprising to me as someone who has known him for 10 years and there is very little that I can disagree with.

  • On Child Benefit, he agreed the inherent unfairness - something I was quick to point out at the time. The price we had to pay, maybe, for ensuring that there was no cut off at 13 or 16.
  • On Tuition Fees - of course it was a mess
  • On the fact that Liberal Democrats come from Venus and Tories come from Mars - or words to that effect. A statement of the bleedin' obvious if ever there was one.
  • On the good things that the Coalition is doing
You get a sense of how hard it's been for our ministers over the past few months, especially on tuition fees. That's part of the reason I find it really difficult to be hugely angry with our MPs who voted for the Government's proposals even though I'd have taken a different decision, because they've clearly been through hell and they've reached the conclusions they have for the most honourable of reasons. Look at what Mike said here:

It's not a decision taken likely by any of us and beyond the specifics of the issue, what we've all had to weigh up is the greater sense of what the coalition is about. If I felt that the coalition was about was clinging on for the sake of saying I was in Government, that's not worth it because......any of us ministers could be out on our ears at the whim of the party leaders......that's not a particularly sensible basis on which to go through a lobby.
in terms of the other issues which I've outlined to you whether it's on fairness issues that we've put into the spending review, welfare reform, the spending review, in terms of Scottish constitutional reform, the freedom agenda, environmental issues, all that for me stacks up. But I accept I have, along with my colleagues, a huge challenge to get that understood and accepted.
I assure you that our party and me individually are passionately liberal Democrat. I came into politics, frankly as a kid as much because I hated what the Tories did to Scotland and the UK as I was motivated by constitutional reform and freedom and that sort of stuff that made me want to be a Liberal. 
On tuition fees, he mentions that he said exactly the same thing as on the tape in public at a high school earlier in the day. That doesn't surprise me, because I know him to be completely straightforward and genuine.

All of these so-called revelations just prove the point that the Liberal Democrats are having a big impact on this Government and they are staying true to themselves and their principles.

One thing that made me howl with laughter from the Torygraph's main report on this, when they summarised their conversations with Mike along with Steve Webb and Ed Davey, was this wee gem:
It emerged that senior Liberal Democrats are boasting privately that they were responsible for delaying government plans to replace the Trident nuclear deterrent, which means nothing will happen on the project during the current Parliament.
Boasting privately? I rather thought we'd been shouting it from the rooftops that this was a major Liberal Democrat win. Who on earth else would have made that happen? Honestly! I mean, whose policy was it not to have like for like replacement of Trident at the General Election? Not the Tories, (or Labour, for that matter), that's for sure.

The thing that I take from this is that these recordings were clearly done in the last fortnight so we know that even months after announcements have been made, our ministers are continuing to work within the Government to try and get some of the things that are difficult to live with changed. And a note to George Osborne, what Steve Webb doesn't know about the benefits system simply is not worth knowing. You would have to be very stupid indeed not to listen to him. So if I were you, I'd dig out the letter he wrote to you on the Child Benefit changes and read again what he's telling you about the details not being right. He will not be wrong.

Our ministers are taking a lot of flack at the moment, but I'm sure about one thing - things would be a lot worse without them.

And just to illustrate that point, have a wee look at this, proof that ID cards are now a thing of the past. The Identity Documents Act getting rid of them received its Royal Assent yesterday. It's just a pity that so much money was needlessly wasted by Labour on something that was always going to be very expensive and ineffective, the worst of all worlds.

To come in the New Year, the finalisation of the Bill bringing in the Fairer Votes referendum, the Scotland Bill, giving more powers to the Scottish Parliament, which the Tories were trying to wriggle away from.

Already delivered, 900,000 low earners will be taken out of tax completely next year, an extra £2 billion for Child Tax Credits for the poorest, the minimum wage up by 13p an hour, the full rate going to young people and for the first time to apprentices, the pensions-earnings link restored, an end to child detention for immigration purposes and justice for Equitable Life holders.

And that's just the start.


cynicalHighlander said...

Not an ounze of integrity left in the LibDems by voting for something just so that they can feel important whilst ignoring those who voted for them.

Mind you he has form on this sleekit behaviour by releasing that the SNP had let SVR lapse yet it lapsed under the LabLib government.

Calman what a complete stitch up by a minister who says one thing and does another, not to be trusted as power before democracy.

Dubbieside said...


Is there anyone more of a two faced hypocrite than Moore.

He said he only got into politics because he hated what the tories were doing to Scotland, but was quick to take their ministerial car and salary.

So he opposes tuition fees, yet voted for it. He opposes cuts in child benefit, but presumably will vote for it. Is there any position that he will not sell out?

He is trying to do greater damage to Scotland with the fatally flawed Scotland act, were he is happy to be the tory front man. I wonder what he really thinks of Calman but is afraid to say.

I am normally polite with political canvassers and point out I am an SNP voter, but I cannot wait until the first two faced Lib Dem turns up on my doorstep. He/she will be told what to do with their manifesto, as everyone knows no matter what is in it, it will be pure fantasy available to be changed/amended/sold down the river to the highest bidder.

cynicalHighlander said...


No doubt they will have difficulty in walking with any dignity after that. They have let their voters and respective countries down big time.

Rab o'Ruglen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rab o'Ruglen said...

Hi Caron,

Thank you for your more than temperate reply to my rather intemperate comment on your piece on 17th. regarding Geremy Purvis.

Firstly, may I draw a distinction between a party governing as a minority government and a party acting in coalition with another (or others) forming a government of absolute majority.

In the first, the minority government can only bring forward successfully, legislation that the other parties in combined opposition will allow.

In the second, all parties in the coalition must accept joint responsibility for the legislation brought forward if the government is not to collapse into chaos.

One of the reasons for my fury with the Libdems is not generated by policy differences between them and the SNP since so many of the policies are similar, but the way in which you as part of the Unionist Opposition in Holyrood have harried and obstructed the Scottish Government at every turn as though it was a majority government. Endless calls for enquiries into probity and supposed wrongdoing when all such enquiries have proved fruitless has seemingly not slaked the thirst for more, and it makes your party look ridiculous. Have you not heard of the "Boy who cried Wolf!?"

I do not like "strong" government. I think it leads to abuse of power, and the diminution of Citizens' rights, not to mention illegal wars - especially with the unfair FPP system of voting for Westminster, but I consider the Libdem behaviour in Holyrood has been inimical to Scotland's interests and, in my opinion, your party's own.

To argue that the Libdems should be congratulated for, within the earlier Lib/Lab Holyrood coalitions, having prevented the introduction of student fees by your Labour colleagues is ridiculous. Had you not been in coalition with them, you could have voted against the principal. You could have challenged a Labour budget which remitted so much of the block grant back to London, allowing free prescriptions, the abolition of tolls and the tackling of the disgraceful hospital infection rate years before the SNP did it for you.

To go on and argue that the SNP has failed on its election pledge of introducing Local Income Tax when your party - whose policy remember is not all that far removed from it, voted in conjunction with the other Unionists for the status quo is just, well, childish and such behaviour is not approved of by the voting public.

And now having supped with the Devil in Westminster your best defence seems to be that the big boys made you do it.

Well Caron, it just will not wash. Your party, possibly for the best of intentions, has betrayed the very basis on which many voted for it and you will have to pay a very heavy electoral price for that no matter how you may justify those actions to yourself.


Dubbieside said...

More good news on the Lib Dems from Wales.

Tonights Monthly Welsh Poll, from Political Betting.

Lab 42% (+1)

PC 21% (+1)

Con 22% (+2)

Lib 5% (-4)

UKIP 5% (+1)

Looks like they are sinking even lower than their political credibility.

How low can you go?

Dubbieside said...


regarding Holyrood you could have also mentioned helping ram the Edinburgh trams scheme through for no other reason than they thought it would embarrass the SNP. Who is embarrassed know?

Or how about opposition to the independence referendum even though Alex Salmond conceded that an option on Full fiscal autonomy should be included. Maybe you could thrown in opposition to the minimum price for alcohol.

These policies had one fatal flaw as far as the Lib Dems were concerned, they were proposed by the SNP. No matter that they would benefit Scotland they had to be opposed for they came from the SNP.

Then you had Scott saying he would settle for nothing less than Calman plus, and now is happy with Calman minus, that is minus any creditability it ever had.

I see they are now at 5% in Wales, I wonder where they are in Scotland

Caron said...

Dubbieside and Cynical Highlander, I can always rely on you to bring some Christmas cheer and good will and spirit of the season:-). Seriously, it wouldn't be the same without you, so keep stopping by in 2011.

Rab - I removed one duplicate comment as we discussed by e-mail. Sorry Blogger gave you so much grief. It does that sometimes.

Now, just to have a look at the subatance of what you'd said, it would have a huge amount more credibility if the SNP hadn't been such a nightmare when they were in opposition. They opposed absolutely everything to the max and often just for the sake of it, shouting as loudly and as deeply as they could.

As for the poor SNP being victimised by the nasty Unionist parties - if they'd bothered to negotiate on LIT so that it was properly a local tax, we could have done it - but, oh yes, John Swinney didn't make the necessary provisions, nor did he tell Parliament about it. He got that one really, majorly wrong. I have a lot of time for John Swinney, but that was a big mistake on his part.

I was as wary about joining a coalition with Labour at Holyrood as I had about one with the Conservatives at Westminster. They both have philosophies and values very different to a liberal mind - and I had a long history of seeing how nasty the Labour Party were in campaigning terms and the many ways in which they'd abused power at local level over the years. I feel just as wary at the thought of dealing with them at Holyrood now. I, personally, am probably better disposed to the SNP as there is a fair amount of policy overlap. I seriously don't get the idea of independence, but I don't see that as a barrier to working together. The SNP's embracing of illiberal expediency is more of a problem to me, but it's no worse than Labour's or Conservative's. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, their idea to ban under 21s from buying alcohol in off licences was appalling, as was their casual quadrupling of pre-charge detention time in an afternoon.

The Lab/LD coalitions were successful though. Yes, we could have voted against tuition fees in Scotland if we'd let Labour govern as a minority, but we managed to sort out a reasonable programme for government which delivered a student system much different to the one Labour introduced in London with no upfront fees at all, free personal care, free bus travel for the elderly and then in the second term the fair votes which has smashed Labour's hold on local government.

Are you seriously telling me that Labour would have legislated on any of these things without a formal coalition?

Caron said...

Without the Lib Dems in coalition at Westminster, we would be looking at a Conservative majority government now or in the very near future.

We know that coalition works up here and across much of Europe.The only realistic option for us was to work with the Conservatives. The numbers didn't work on the other side. It would have been too volatile. So should we sit this one out when we had an opportunity to prove that coalitions could be successful? It's not about power and ministerial cars - as most of our ministers don't have those sorts of perks, it's about changing our sometimes venomous political culture for the better.

If we'd sat on the sidelines and let the Tories form a minority government, it would have fallen or it would really be struggling right now. We would most likely have had another election which they'd have won outright. With a majority, there's no way they'd have put an extra £2 billion into child tax credits for the poorest, raised the tax threshold, upped the Capital Gains rate, ended child detention, legislated for fixed term parliameents and an elected House of Lords, given us some progress towards a decent voting system, knocked Trident into the long grass etc etc.

Instead they'd have cut inheritance tax for the rich, wasted money on a ridiculous marriage tax break and probably not gone ahead with the carriers which would have been disastrous for the Forth and Clyde.

Of course I feel uneasy about some of the stuff that's happening, but in every arrangement in life you have to make compromises, there has to be give and take.

Just imagine how much more could have been achieved these last 4 years with an SNP/LD coalition. I think it was a missed opportunity on both sides in 2007 and I feel that both our parties failed by not properly and fully entering negotiations. I reckon we could have had a lot of policy agreement. There were a few sticking points on health and the obvious ones on LIT and the independence referendum but we were both too quick to walk away.

Dubbieside said...


You can rejoice in the knowledge that your party will never again be in a position to go into coalition with anyone.

After the meltdown that you richly deserve in May all the Lib Dems who thought that they had a seat on the Westminster gravy train for life will take fright. The choice for them will be carry on as now until their meltdown in 2115, or ditch Clegg and coalition as fast as possible. When it comes to saving their own skin no one moves faster than an MP.

P.S. That would be the LIT arrangements that were allowed to lapse under the previous Lib Dem/Labour administration. That would be something else that Moore was economical with the actuality about. How much more is there to come about Moore?

P.P.S. After 2007 I would have been happy with a SNP/Lib Dem coalition, now the SNP should not touch them with the proverbial bargepole. They are now the tories little helpers, and it will take years for that tag to go.

Dubbieside said...

More good news on the Lib Dems.

Latest Opinion Poll (Angus Reid, Westminster election intentions)
SNP: 34%, Lab: 42%, Con: 11%, Lib Dem: 6%,
shows SNP support up by 9 points from last month, and by 14 points from the May General Election, to 34 %. Tory support has halved in a month, and Lib Dem support is just a third of what it was at the General Election.

Big question, will Scotland or Wales win the race to the bottom for the Lib Dems?

Maybe I was being optimistic in thinking that Lib Dem MPs will wait until after May before self preservation kicks in.

Turkeys do vote you know.

Rab o'Ruglen said...

Hi Caron,

Thanks for removing the surplus comment. I don't know what went wrong at this end.

So you thought we were horrible in opposition? Well if true, and I don't accept that, that was because your party gave the Labour party nearly carte blanch to run Scotland the way they run Glasgow and made them bullet-proof as a consequence. Completely untouchable. I also think you far overestimate the counterbalancing effect you had on them and that that was the real reason you failed to form a third Holyrood coalition. If the Labour party really didn't like what your ministers were saying they simply ignored you and there was very little you could do about it.

If conducting a minority government has proved to be frustrating, how much more frustrating must it have been forming a coalition with them from a position of weakness such as your party's was then. Labour still cannot believe what has happened to them in that for the past four years they have not been able to get their own bullying way on every single matter. Similarly your party has been spectacularly slow in accepting the responsibility that minority government places on opposition parties to act responsibly if the country is not to suffer.

As I said, I do not like strong government and think the first couple of years of the current administration worked a treat, until the opposition united and started to act collectively like spoiled brats. If we had anything like an impartial media you would all certainly be facing electoral annihilation, but we don't.

Nevertheless I think you will be surprised how well the SNP vote stands up in May as many people, like myself, dread the prospect of the Labour party waltzing into power (with or without Libdem support) and there are already signs in the polls of our vote firming.

You can justify to yourselves any way you want that your party has acted for the good of Scotland both in coalition with Labour, later in opposition to the SNP and now with the Tories in Westminster, and I like to think that you personally really believe that to be the case, but I think you are wrong. Sorry, we will just have to differ on that.

As to a future coalition with the Libdems and the SNP in Holyrood, I think you have blown any slim chance there ever was of that by siding with the Tories in London.



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