'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Ahead of Wednesday's debate - here's some advice for Nick

My latest in The New Statesman... contains my favourite ever pun. He says modestly...

The Farage balloon was in full flight last night in the LBC debate, full of hot air and poisonous gases. Apparently, 485 million people are poised to arrive in Britain from all over the continent. Eighty million Germans want to break free from the hellholes that are Berlin and Munich, eager for the opportunity to sample the delights of Hansel and Pretzel on Ham Common; 10 million Belgians, sick to death of too many Godivas and desperate for a bar of Dairy Milk, are about to jump on a cross channel ferry. And, indeed, 60 million Brits must be readying themselves to nip over the water purely for the experience of sailing back into Dover, for they too are included in his "numbers" of folk who could be about to invade this sceptered isle.
Except, of course, it’s not going to happen. It’s a big scary number and that’s why Nigel Farage likes it – because he can frighten people with it. And for me that was the theme of the debate – Nigel trying to scare people into thinking his way. What would he want people to take from the debate last night I wonder? Twenty nine million Romanian and Bulgarians could be coming? Every family on the continent is going to come here and start claiming child benefit? The churches are going to be sued over equal marriage? Factories will be closed and your jobs transferred to Leipzig? And it’s going to cost you £55m a day? None of which is actually true. But that’s hardly the point.
Because this stuff sticks. Few folk will remember the facts and figures today. But they will recall the general tenor of the debate. Farage’s sweeping generalisations and grandiose statements against Nick’s more forensic grip on the actual facts – and in an emotional vs. rational debate, it’s generally the former that gets traction. And for me, that’s the challenge Nick has in the next debate. It’s easier to look passionate wrapped in a flag extolling the virtues of fish and chips, cups of tea and lashings of ginger beer than it is when you’re explaining that its better to be part of a trading group with a GDP of $16.6trn when on your own you’re the 8th or 9th largest economy, and China is five times bigger than you.
But that’s what it will take to burst the Farage bubble. Nick needs to come armed with some pointed barbs, a few more jokes and a lot more passion. He won the debate last night. But it’s not enough just to win the head. Next week, we need to win people’s hearts as well.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

What's the difference between Maria Miller and David Laws?

I don't have any particular beef with Maria Miller. And I'm not one for shouts of 'resign' at the drop of a hat.

But I am genuinely bemused by the latest report in The Telegraph about Ms Millers expenses and the possible consequences

To avoid the paywall, I'll quote from the Guardian on the report., who say...

She is expected to repay thousands of pounds and also apologise for her use of the expenses system, the Telegraph said.
Now, as I understand it. Ms. Miller has not yet been found guilty of anything by The Commons 'Standards Committee', who have yet to publish the report into their investigation of her expenses.
But if she is found guilty of incorrectly claiming money - hasn't what happened to David Laws previously set the 'tariff' for the punishment for such actions - which is to resign from the cabinet?

Friday, 28 March 2014

BBC Question Time's Ignoring of the Lib Dems is now beyond a joke.

I don't think anyone with even the vaguest interest in domestic politics would argue that the most talked about political event of the last week was the European, Nick vs Nigel debate.

So when, the next day,  BBC Question Time put together a panel, you would expect that a representative of both sides would secure at least one place.

Certainly room was found for UKIP - but as so often is the case, no seat for the Lib Dems. Unbelievable.

The standard excuse, when given, is that now  we are a party of government, the government's view can be represented by a Tory as much as a Lib Dem. This is, of course, nonsense. But especially so on this occasion as

a) The Tories chose not to be in the debate and
b) The producers found room for not one, but two Tories - Justine Greening and Simon Wolfson, who is a Tory peer.

They also found seats for not only a representative of the Labour Party (Dianne Abbott) but also a Labour supporter and donor, Mick Hucknell.

So, 2 Tories, 2 Labour, one UKIP invited to to discuss the debate of the week.

Just as gobsmacking is BBC Question Time's refusal to engage on Twitter with anyone asking what on earth they were thinking? Unlike, to their credit, BBC This Week, as the exchange below demonstrates.

The Lib Dems still remain under represented on Question Time - with just 7 guests in the 12 weeks the programme has aired in 2014. But this weeks omission on any Lib Dem panellist is the most grievous omission to date.

We should demand some answers.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Pub Brawl

Had a great evening last night with Charlotte Henry, Chris Richards and Marie Jenkins at the LBC Live pub debate with a some very nice (though slightly shouty at times) Ukipers.

My view?

Nick won the debate

Farage was scaremongering and inaccurate on the facts

Nick was especially strong on Law and Order; tad less strong on the referendum.

Farage was more emotional and passionate - and Nick needs to add a touch of that next time.

Monday, 24 March 2014

All Parties can be as radical as they like in their 2015 manifestos. The mad stuff won't get done anyway.

A bevy of think tanks has written to the Guardian today encouraging Ed Miliband to be more radical in the writing of the coming election manifesto. A right wing thinker (Simon Jenkins) in that same newspaper has suggested that would be madness, if Ed wants to win.

I'm not sure it makes all that much difference either way.

Because both of these arguments suggest that people will vote according to the policies and the manifestos of the parties standing. And in 2015 I suspect this will be less true than ever.

The current polling - especially with the coming together of the polls - and the boundaries set out as they are, still indicate a coalition government is the likeliest outcome next year. Or in other words - no winner.

In those circumstances, parties deliver, not their own programme of government, but a jointly agreed coalition of policies - in the last election negotiated in 3 hurried days largely over a weekend.

This therefore suggests that whoever you vote for, you are less likely to end up with the government legislative agenda you voted for. So how do you decide where to put your cross?

Well for many people (as we know) it will be tradition - the political tribe they were born into.

For others it will be broad principle - Fairer society (Labour), stronger economy (Tory), both (Lib Dems) or um, neither (UKIP)

But for many many others it all be personality based. Sure they vote for an MP - but they also have in their minds that they are voting for a Prime Minister. And I suspect personality will count for a lot more in 2015 than policies as a result.

I'm not in The Independent

I wrote a piece for The New Statesman last week arguing the case that after the importance of the pensions changes in the budget (and the fact he proposed the motion on the economy at the last Autumn Conference), Steve Webb must be in the frame for the Shadow Chancellor's job for the General Election Campaign.

Stephen Tall was kind enough to reference it on both his own blog and Lib Dem Voice on Saturday when making  how own case that Vince Cable should get the job.

And I would agree that there is a strong case for Vince; indeed I made that point myself, a few days back, on this blog.

What I did find interesting is that in the comments on Stephen's post there is lots of support for Vince, a little for Danny but nary a mention for Steve.

And indeed, when The Independent took up the story today, Steve doesn't get a mention again.

I genuinely think Steve Webb should be in with a shout at least  of the Shadow Chancellors job.

But I suspect I am in a minority on this one.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Guardian gets it wrong

The Guardian has splashed this morning on the news that the new tuition fees system is likely to cost as much as the old system 'despite' the tripling of the fees themselves.

This 'fact' in itself gets my goat as it equates the level of debt incurred with the amount paid out by students - which is of course a nonsense. By raising the salary level at which students started to payback, from 15k to 21k, in the midst of the worst economic recession since the 1930s, and with youth unemployment especially bad, it seemed inevitable that student receipts against loans would drop. Frankly I think it's a miracle that the two schemes cost roughly the same. 

But that wasn't the point of the scheme - the point was to reduce the amount students ended up paying back on a monthly basis vs the Labour scheme that preceded it. So it seems to be working rather well. One might even argue that its progressive.

But what really bugged me was the shoddy journalism that equates some Westminster MPs support of the scheme, in the face of party policy, with our drop in the opinion polls. Here's a quote.

The coalition's decision to introduce higher fees shortly after it formed led to rioting on the streets and forced a dramatic decline in the Liberal Democrats' poll ratings, from which the party has never fully recovered.

Trouble is - it's not true.

Here's the UK Average Polling data since the May 2010 election

Our poll ratings were in decline well before the introduction of the fees - the rioting was November 2010, by which time the graph shows the ratings were already pretty much at their nadir.

The dive in polls was because people who voted for us on the left felt betrayed by the fact we had gone into coalition with the Tories. I suspect if we had gone for a rainbow coalition of the progressive left, our poll ratings would look pretty much identical - only it would be folk on the right who upped sticks.

It may well be true that tuition fees have catastrophically damaged the party's reputation, eroding the trust in the Lib Dem brand that we spend 22 years building up to that point.

But that erosion of trust from the tuition fees debacle is keeping us from recovering in the polls. They are not the root cause of the decline itself. 

That's caused by going into any sort of coalition.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

What connects this eclectic list of politicians?

Thomas Williams, Labour
Tony Benn, Labour
Michael Colvin, Conservative
Michael Stern, Conservative
Robert Rhodes James, Conservative
Paul Boateng, Labour
Tom Cox, Labour
Matthew Carrington, Conservative
Jenny Tonge, Lib Dem
Susan Kramer, Lib Dem
Zac Goldsmith, Conservative

Scroll down for the answer....

The answer is: me. They are the MPs whose constituency's I have lived in during my lifetime

Yesterday's budget in pictures

My favourite images around yesterdays budget. Probably not the ones you're thinking of.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Pretty sure this man's odds on being the Lib Dem Shadow Chancellor for the next General election just shot down?

So, the big surprise in the budget was the wholesale re engineering of the savings landscape, with what Osborne called the biggest shake up in pensions since the 1920s bang in the middle.

And one person had their fingerprints all over those pension changes.

And they're a Lib Dem.

The shadow chancellor in 2015 might not be Danny or Vince.

Steve Webb. It could be you

Who will be the 'Out of Europe' candidate in the next Tory Leadership battle?

Iain Martin - who is an excellent and thought provoking Twitter follow btw, if Twitter is your thing - posed the following question last night.

And I wonder if I don't know the answer.

Michael Gove.

Firstly: is he in the 'out of Europe' Brigade? Well, I rather think so... he certainly seems on the sceptical side...

‘It’s ridiculous,’ splutters Gove, as he reflects on the prime minister’s inner circle. Four of this group went to just one private school: Eton College

Now, of course, many had interpreted this, not as a move by Gove for himself but as a support for his friend George Osborne's leadership ambitions, Osborne having 'only' been to St Pauls (unlike Old Etonian, Boris). 

But while Gove himself frequently rules out any future leadership bid, one can't help but wonder if the Warsi incident the other night - not just the photo opportunity but her words as well - were part of a campaign to position Gove as the alternative to the establishment.

"Michael was making an incredibly serious point that it can't be right that the 7% of kids who go to independent school end up at the top tables, not just of politics, but banking and law and every other profession, and that what Michael wants to create is a first class, world class state system which means that in future years you will have more pupils from state schools, people like me, around the cabinet table, and in that I fully support Michael Gove."

And anyway, as well know, a denial of leadership ambitions often means nothing in politics...

So. Gove vs Osborne vs. May vs. Johnson

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Lib Dems: Boris Johnson's best friend?

There's a very readable piece in The Observer today about the Tory leadership positioning, and the problems Boris faces in putting himself in poll position.

But I think it misses one crucial point out.

Boris doesn't need the Tories to win in 2015. If they do, Cameron is safe until 2020, after which the next generation of Tories are more likely to take up the leadership mantle.

But he can't be seen to actively want the Tories to lose either. That would be suicidal for his leadership credentials. And anyway, he presumably doesn't want them to lose.

So he is in a bit of a cleft stick.

So the best situation for him is probably - a repeat of the status quo. Another collation with us.

A straight Tory defeat would mean Cameron resigning a day after the election, and a new leader elected very quickly. Boris, not in Parliament, would be the Prince across the water without a boat.

But another coalition would delay that process. Cameron wouldn't be under the same pressure to resign - after all, to be in that position, the Tory's share of the vote vs 2010 would be at worst similar, in itself a remarkable political achievement. So Boris would have time on his side to get his ducks in a row and find a seat.

Now of course, Boris again cannot be seen to be wanting the Lib Dems to hold the balance of power - anything but. So expect a lot more articles like these.

But deep down, Boris must know. His best chance of leading the Tories lies in the General Election performance of the Lib Dems.

As we mourn Benn, the rise of unelected power should shame us

My latest in the New Statesman - which I see has twice as many comments over there as the article that prodded it, written by Douglas Alexander. Which I find quite funny.

"Having served for nearly half a century in the House of Commons, I now want more time to devote to politics and more freedom to do so."
While it’s 15 years since he said that, Tony Benn’s words today seem more apposite than ever, albeit in a way he didn’t intend. For democracy seems to be in a very poor state of repair just now, and power seems to lie increasingly not with our elected representatives, but with the elites and the establishment.
The world argues over the rights and wrongs of the Ukraine. The west howls because a referendum is going to be held asking the people of Crimea what they want, ostensibly objecting because it is "unconstitutional" (one suspects what they really mean is "we will lose"). Meanwhile, 20,000 Russian soldiers waltz into the region, largely because they know no one will stop them. And today two politicians, neither of whom come from the Ukraine, will meet in London to try and thrash out a solution to the problem that will set the future for its people. For what it’s worth, neither of those politicians are elected by the nations they hail from either.
The worst conflict in the world currently is the civil war in Syria. The democracies of the world watch helplessly as the two unelected sides battle it out, the innocent population bearing the brunt of, what I heard described last week as a de facto war between two completely different countries – Iran (currently 158th of the 167 countries listed on the EIUs Democracy Index) and Saudi Arabia (our ally, currently lying 163rd on that list, five places lower than Iran and a remarkable 21 places lower than, er, China).
And how quick we are to forego democracy ourselves when it suits the establishment to do so. I’ve railed before about the effective coups in Italy and Greece in the euro crisis, where the ballot box was quickly dumped in favour of doing what the political establishment decided amongst themselves was "the right thing". Only yesterday did we see our own Prime Minister discussing how best to solve the problems of the Middle East with the region’s – needless to say unelected – "Peace Envoy". How happy the people who live there must be that the great and the good from the UK, including the author of the doctrine of the international community, are amongst them to solve their problems. It’s like we’ve gone back to the 1950s.
It seems more than ever that the establishment are determined to decide what’s best for everyone, rather than letting the people decide for themselves. But then again, as another politician of whom Tony Benn approved once wrote, “if voting changed anything, they’d abolish it”.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet as of March 2015

While there was brief flurry of excitement last week at the who-will-be-Lib-Dem-shadow-chanellor-for-the-general-election speculation, it strike me that actually there is going to be a bit of a shift around in the not too distant future, as we will need a full 'Shadow Cabinet' going into the next election, and it's not immediately clear who will be in what post.

And it's not straightforward, especially with so many MPs retiring. Also I think you have to ignore  members of the Lords for this, as it's the GE team. So people like Susan Kramer, who would make an excellent SoS for Transport, don't feature here

So I have helpfully sorted it out for Nick, and list it below.

(Nb This is the shadow cabinet for the election campaign, not the cabinet I would like to see after the election - when hopefully a lot of new names will feature highly!)


Nick Clegg

No comment necessary

Shadow Chancellor

Vince Cable

Yes, I know. But this isn't a replacement for Danny. Neither Nick nor Danny has this role currently - and Vince was undeniably brilliant at it in opposition, which is where we will be when the election is called again. And I suspect the country still seems him as mystic Vince. Plus how can Danny attack Osborne when he has been at his side for the last 4 years? This feels like a no brainer to me.

Foreign Secretary

Danny Alexander

I want to give Lynne F a big job. And I did have her pencilled in here. But I also need Danny to have a big job. Plus, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman is also called D Alexander. So it saves the signage maker a job.

Home Secretary

Lynne Featherstone

She's be great in the role and she'll give Theresa May a run for her money. The fact that she's a woman in one of the big 4 jobs is a bonus. Harsh perhaps on Norman Baker.


Nick Harvey

Would he take it after being sacked before? I don't know. But I wish he would. He's who I would want.


David Laws

A controversial choice I agree. Not everyone's cup of tea in the party. But he is an expert on the topic, he is a Minister in the Department now, and he's a good media performer.


Norman Lamb. No debate


Alistair Carmichael


Jenny Willott

N Ireland

Lorely Burt

Work and Pensions

Steve Webb. Again, surely no debate here?

Communities and Local Government

Tim Farron. Come on. He'd be brilliant at this. And imagine a Tim vs Pickles dust up. Bring it on.


Jo Swinson. In the department, good, capable, knowledgeable

Energy and Climate Change

Ed Davey. In post, great job


Norman Baker. Again, an antidote to Grayling, a topic close to his heart, and good compensation for not getting the HO brief.


 2 jobs Swinson for this

International Development

Lynne Featherstone. Yes, I am giving her 2 jobs as well.


Dan Rogerson. Doing a grand job in the department already

Constitutional Affairs (Nick's other job)

Michael Moore. I just trust him to get it done. Still feel he was terribly hard done by to lose his cabinet post, much as I admire Alistair

So any comments?

Friday, 14 March 2014

Why - if the maths are right - we'll form a coalition with Labour, not the Tories, post 2015

We're very fond of thinking - indeed, there seems almost a presumption - that come the 2015 General Election, there will be another hung Parliament, and we'll be back in government. Of course, this isn't necessarily the case, and for over 3 years now, the polling figures translated into a a GE result indicate a Labour majority.

But, as the economy improves and we can nearer the crucial date, polls are shifting and the Dan Hodges rule comes in to play. The Dan Hodges 'rule' - which I tend to broadly agree with  - says...

1. Half of current UKIP support will go back to Tories
2. Lib Dems will rise to 15%
3. This support will come from Labour.

With the latest polling looking like this.. (H/t to Mike Smithson at Political betting)

...under the Hodges rule we would end up with Labour having most seats, Tories having most votes, and us having the balance of power. In which case, Nick has to make a call.

But does he? Probably not.

Partly this is because it seems generally accepted - although i've never seen Nick confirm this - that when we say we will talk first to the 'biggest' party after 2015, we mean seats, not votes. Although this is an odd position for the party of PR to take.

But as George Eaton points out, there is a ready made programme for government already laid out in shared police positions between the Lib Dems and Labour - 13 fine White Papers, all in the offing.

They include

- A referendum on EU membership the next time any powers are transferred (and support for an "in" vote)
- The introduction of a mansion tax on property values above £2m 
- The reduction of the voting age to 16 
- The removal of Winter Fuel Payments from wealthy pensioners 
- A 2030 decarbonisation target 
- An elected House of Lords
- Greater oversight of the intelligence services 
- Radical devolution from Westminster to local authorities and city regions
- Party funding reform
- An end to unqualified teachers in state schools 
- A ban on for-profit free schools 
- Tougher banking regulation and the potential separation of banks' retail and investment arms 
- A mass housebuilding programme, including new social housing 
- The Human Rights Act

Contrast this with the Tories, where we (quite rightly ) boast of all the Tory initiatives we have stopped,  David Cameron says he has a little Black Book of legislation he wants to get done but can't with us in the way, the unhappiness on the Tory backbenchers, and the fact that - whisper it - there will be little legislation of consequence over the next 12 months of government, as things have really run out of steam (the Scottish referendum notwithstanding).

Given all that - if we are in government in May 2015 - I am increasingly convinced it will be with Labour.

I am Lobby Fodder

Did a recent interactive quiz just to check I was sporting the right party. It seems I am. Almost too much...

Anyway, it's a splendid quiz and takes 2 minutes so do pop over there yourself.

Tony Benn demolishes Ali G

I'm not the first person to post this today. And I won't be the last.

But goodness, Tony Benn is brilliant here

Saturday, 8 March 2014

After the May Elections - what happens next?

Posted this yesterday in the New Statesman. I guess the question for everyone at Lib Dem conference is - am I right? Is the question everyone's talking about in the bars and hotels 'after the May elections - what happens next?'

The daffodils are blooming, the sun is shining and the floods are receding – which can only mean one thing. It’s Lib Dem Spring Conference. This may come to a surprise to many, as unlike in previous years, where the rows have been heavily trailed and keenly anticipated, this time all seems sweetness and light. Sure, there’ll be debates and differences of opinion – but no one’s going to be resigning over motions on the best way to fight food poverty. And with the party set to take positive positions supporting immigration and Europe, why, it feels just like old times.
After some difficult conference moments for the leadership in recent times – for example, it’s exactly a year ago since Jo Shaw quit the party on stage over the Secret Courts debacle - the party looks to be at peace with itself.
Sadly, I fear this is not the case. Scratch the surface, and you find a party that’s tense, nervous about the future, especially worried about the European elections, and constantly looking out for trouble. Witness the reaction to Thomas Byrne's article last week (which named Alistair Carmichael as a potential leader) and especially a quote from someone in the party attacking the left. Over on Lib Dem Voice, that got the hairdryer treatment.
"Apparently, a member of party staff has been mean about Tim and referred to those many party activists who have a lot of time for him as 'sandal wearers.' I can’t honestly think of anyone actually working on proper election campaigns who would ever say such an insulting or dismissive thing. They know that they need every activist motivated and out there, telling the Liberal Democrat story, if we are going to have a hope in hell of achieving our goals this year and next. They would never insult members of the party who, by and large, have kept on working patiently on the ground"
Indeed, almost everything right now is analysed through the prism of "what it means about the leadership". Witness the announcement of the negotiating team for potential future coalition talks. Immediately it has been examined for every conceivable signal. It’s a sign of strength that Nick has appointed a team without reference to the wider party. Or else it’s a sign of weakness that Nick has not been brave enough to submit his choices for debate amongst the party at large. And why is the chosen line-up dominated by the left? Or indeed the right? And why now? Is it a distraction technique – get everyone in the party thinking about the general election to stop them thinking about the European elections? The debate seems endless.
The party is going to look confident, assured, positive and passionate on stage this week. But increasingly the debate behind the scenes that will dominate the bar conversation is around one question: after this May’s elections - what happens next?

The 2015 Lib Dem General Election Result

I keep thinking - "you know what would make a really brilliant blog post - a seat by seat analysis of what will happen for every Lib Dem MP in the 2015 General Election"

I've never done it - partly because when I've started, i end up writing 'so-and-so are a dead cert to lose their seat', and it's no fun writing that sort of thing. But mostly, because its a huge amount of work.

Fortunately, Iain Dale had done it for me. So do pop over and see his blog. Its very good.

However, I don't 100% agree with all his analysis - so at some point I will do same, pointing out the differences.

Hope everyone in York is having a splendid time. Enjoying watching it thru the Guardian Live feed!

Friday, 7 March 2014

The European TV debate: it's about losers as much as winners

There's a good article over on The Staggers suggesting that both Nick and Nigel and Farage will win from the European TV debate, almost no matter how it goes on the night. To quote the piece..

"Clegg believes the debate gives him the opportunity to take on the UKIP leader, undermine his arguments and expose him as a man short on ideas and substance. Farage, meanwhile, hopes to continue the momentum his party is building, increasing awareness of his party and trying to cement them in the mind of voters as a credible alternative to the status quo. If he does well in the Clegg debate, and in the European elections a few weeks later, it will put him in a powerful position to claim a place in the 2015 leadership debates"

What puzzles me however, is why cameron and Miliband are happy for this to happen?

A year out from the election, Nick and Farage will be positioned on national TV, setting the agenda for the next 12 months. Sure the 'topic' is Europe - but does anyone seriously doubt that both will fail to introduce other issues into the debate, for that very reason.

Meanwhile, Cameron has handed 'leadership' of the Eurosceptic sector onto Farage - and let's not forget, Cameron does think of himself as a Eurosceptic. Similarly, the Pro European Miliband is giving the stage to Nick, allowing him to own the pro Euro banner - and with 25% or so of the country firmly pro Europe, that's a big chunk of folk to hand over to one of your political rivals. No wonder the New Statesman says Miliband is getting Nick to prop up his own EU policy.

I know there is an argument that says by allowing the 2 to debate, this leaves Miliiband and Cameron free to hold a 'who will be the next PM' debate next year - but i just can't see the Electoral Commission going for that. 

I suspect, come April, this will be a call both Cameron and Miliband regret.



William Barter makes some excellent points here

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Even Senior Lib Dem MPs can slip into labelling activists as 'sandal wearers'. They should stop.

Caron Lindsay has posted an excellent article over on Lib Dem Voice arguing against the recent spate of briefings by some parts of the party against others, and of course she is absolutely right. But one  phrase struck a particular chord with me. She refers to an article in the New Statesman yesterday from Thomas Byrne. Here's the extract from Caron's piece..

What I find utterly infuriating is a quote in the article, apparently from “a campaign staffer in the party.” It’s about Tim Farron. And about you and me. And it’s insulting. You might like to sit down, get yourself a cup of tea, a biscuit and some smelling salts before you read it.
“There are a lot of Lib Dems out there who don’t want Tim Farron to be leader. When people say he is popular with the grassroots, they mean popular with the sandal wearers, but he’s not credible as a national political leader. He’s not a statesman.”
Apparently, a member of party staff has been mean about Tim and referred to those many party activists who have a lot of time for him as “sandal wearers.” I can’t honestly think of anyone actually working on proper election campaigns who would ever say such an insulting or dismissive thing. They know that they need every activist motivated and out there, telling the Liberal Democrat story, if we are going to have a hope in hell of achieving our goals this year and next. They would  never insult members of the party who, by and large, have kept on working patiently on the ground.
Now, what struck me was that the 'sandal wearers' tag isn't restricted to off the briefing quotes from staffers. Here's a direct quote from David Laws in '22 days from May', discussing Andrew Stunnell's place on the coalition negotiating team.
 “Andrew was on the team in part to ensure that the party’s wider perspective would be represented. I am not sure if Andrew is actually a sandal-wearing Liberal Democrat in his spare time, but he looks as if he could be”.

I suspect this was a throw away comment from David, penned without a great deal of thought. But it does indicate a worrying consistency amongst folk who live in the Bubble about their view of the general activists who traipse up and down their constituency's door knocking and leafletting on their behalf. 

I think it would be easy to make too much of this. But folk in the centre should think more about how they describe everyone working on their behalf outside it. We're not meant to be different breeds.