Thursday, August 16, 2007

Where are the LibDems?

In the past few weeks, ConservativeHome and I have been critical of some Conservatives for, shall be saying, being absent from the headlines. However, this is nothing compared to the LibDems. have they disappeared off the face of planet earth? The Despatch blog makes a good point this morning, saying it is no good just sending out press releases and expecting great media coverage. Not only has Ming Campbell been absent from the headlines for three weeks, so have his key spokespeople.

Health spokesman Norman Lamb (my old opponent in North Norfolk), however, has hit the headlines for his remarks on the standards of health hygiene in the nation's hospitals. He compiled a league table of the hospitals with the worst records and bravely included his local (well, it's the one nearest to North Norfolk) hospital, the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital, in the top five list of worst hospitals in the country on the basis that inspection reports made five sensible but minor suggested improvements - including fixing some flaking paint behind a dishwasher, and putting a can opener in the dishwasher rather hand washing it. The only trouble is, it turns out not to be true.

Mr Lamb has today been forced into a grovelling apology to the hospital in the Eastern Daily Press. The hospital said: "We had serious reservations about the quality of the [LibDem] research and it would have been nice with hindsight if Norman had got in touch with us beforehand."

I wouldn't like to be the researcher at LibDem HQ who did the legwork on this. We've all done it, I suppose, chased a headline and lived to regret it. I know I have, so I know how embarrassed Norman will be feeling this morning!


Anonymous said...

Iain , you ask 'where are the LibDems?' Probably better not to ask that question. 'What are they up to?' would be more appropriate; and would probably bring forth much hilarity!

Anonymous said...

John Hemmings MP has been running a laudable campaign for more transparency in family courts - I would like to see some Conservative MPs openly backing his campaign.

Perhaps a more pertinent question would be: where is the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Some nasty things are happening to global financial markets, yet we see and hear nothing from Darling.

Colin D said...

Norman Lamb may well have been wrong on this occasion. One small matter that I will raise is that he along with Simon Hughes has the common Courtesy to reply to mail, as does Michael Howard. Which is more than can be said for the excuse of an MP we have. Still the local press barons and their cretins like him. All £125,140:02p of him!!

Newmania said...

An interesting article in the New Statesman today Iain claiming the Liberals were praying to lose Ealing badly so as to force out Ming who they say is less popular sober than Kennedy was drunk... Now it is clear the Liberals do not believe there leader is not fit to run an orgy in a brothel why would anyone else be interested in them. Its such a shame that some of them cannot be persuaded to update the Conservative Party .
BTW Bet you are wrestling with the green monster jealousy with your bitter rival Guido having an article in the Labour mouthpiece The New Statesman, tied , says Guido , to the Smith institute and , the hopping puppet off the Brown Reich. I expect Guido took 30 pieces of silver for that .He presents himself as almost like a Chinese dissident who is currently building a bridge over the Rover Kwai for saying “its raining “, when the Party said it was not .” It could have been me “ well no not really still fame and fortune for the G man

Nich Starling said...

Your analysis of what Norman Lamb said and the Eastern Daily Press report is at odds with the article in the EDP.

It would be worth people going to the EDP website ( and reading it themselves so as not to get your spin on it.

In fact, everything in Norman Lamb's report was correct, it was just that the N&N was listed in the top five (or worst five), Norman now accepts that all the faults with the hospital, although fully accurate (which you have implied are not) are not as unhealthy as other faults at other hospitals and that they issues were not sufficiently weighted.

I know you still must have some issues regarding Norman and North Norfolk, but misrepresenting thr facts like this is not the way to put them right Iain.

Iain Dale said...

Nich, I have re-read my article and can't think how you can interpret it as me spinning. Norman has admitted it was a mistake and apologised. We've all been there. I can't link to the original article but you can find it at

I have no issues with Norman or Norfolk Norfolk at all, as you well know!

Oscar Miller said...

Perhaps a more pertinent question would be: where is the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Some nasty things are happening to global financial markets, yet we see and hear nothing from Darling.

I was wondering the same thing. So far Darling has been the invisible Chancellor. He hasn't dared to go on holiday has he? and would anyone notice if he had?

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

Who cares where the Lib Dems are? Where's Dave and the Shadow Cabinet?

I've seen John Redwood once in the past fortnight, wheeling out an impossible promise.

Unsworth said...

Got a great e-newsletter from my local MP today. Apparently most of the Labour Party seems to be in Tuscany just now.

The breathless tone of the newsletter describing the delights of the local scenery, recommending which local wines to drink, and his companions (Harriet Harman, Jack Dromy, Frank Doran and Joan Ruddock) was frankly too much. Bear in mind this is from an MP to his constituents!

To me it all smacked of "am having a fabulous time here on your money and the allowances, so glad you're not here".

I mean. I know these are the 'great and the good', but they aren't half milking it eh?

Still, maybe we'll remember that, come the election (which, incidentally, he seems to think won't be this year).

Mulligan said...


You can't knock Mr Darling, he's only been in the job 2 months and already inflation is under 2% (ho ho ho, believe that and.......)

fairdealphil said...

Ironic that it is Mr Lamb who complains today about a mischievous attempt to mislead the public...

It seems there are two Mr Bakers. The real one and a Facebook Fake.

But which one really issued the misleading hospital report...?

And which one issued the grovelling apology...?

The voters deserve to know.

Will the real Mr Lamb please stand up...

fairdealphil said...

norfolk blogger:

if you don't like Iain's analysis, I'm sure you won't like my blog on the issue either.

Mr Baker published misleading info and it's backfired.

He's been caught making a mountain out of a molehill.

And he's been forced to grovel to his own local hospital.

Stop whinging NB. Iain gave him an easy ride.

David Lindsay said...

"Update the Conservative Party", Newmania? Again?

In the 1970s and 1980s, one of Britain’s principal political parties was afflicted with a highly organised campaign of entryism by elements entirely alien it.

No, not the Militant Tendency. That was far smaller even than other Trotskyist organisations at the time, it barely existed outside the Liverpool area, it never stood the slightest realistic chance of actually taking over the Labour Party, and its members did at least go to the trouble of joining that party.

I’m talking about Ralph Harris, who sat as a Crossbencher even after Margaret Thatcher gave him a peerage. I’m talking about Arthur Seldon, a lifelong Liberal. I’m talking about Oliver Smedley, Vice-President of the Liberal Party and five times a Liberal parliamentary candidate in the 1950s and 1960s. And so forth.

Lurking behind all of this is the figure of Alderman Alfred Roberts, Thatcher’s father and the defining influence on her political thought. Amid the debris of the Liberal Party after the First World War, he sat for decades as an Independent, and never joined the Tories to his dying day. For the very good reason that he wasn’t a Tory. And nor was his daughter.

Of course, there really is a unifying tradition, which has come down from the ultraconservative Colbert through the Liberal Keynes via FDR, which has come down from the ultraconservative Bismarck through the Liberal Beveridge, which was epitomised by Lloyd George in his heyday, and which flowered must fully in government under Attlee.

But that tradition could not be further from the views, activities or legacy of Harris, Seldon, Smethwick, and their entryist Institute of Economic Affairs. Or of the Centre for Policy Studies, a sort of in house Tory equivalent of the Socialist League to the IEA’s Communist Party. Never mind of the Freedom Association, which was funded by the government of a Boer Republic set up as an explicit act of anti-British revenge in a former Dominion of the Crown by people who had been interred for pro-Nazi activities during the War, which Republic was at the same time propping up a regime treasonable against the Queen, a regime which in fact had purported to depose Her Majesty a mere four years into its life.

Yet such were the originators and guiding lights of Thatcherism, and thus also of New Labour. You surely do not want any more of the same, do you?

Tim said...

How odd.

I came here to see if you had reported on difficulties Norman Lamb (your old opponent in North Norfolk) was having with those sock-puppets you object to so much. Instead, there is only this unrelated (and negative) article about that same person.

How about you call for an end to the age of spin again, Iain.. that's always good for a laugh.

MorrisOx said...

Not where are the LibDems. Surely it's why?

Anonymous said...

Iain, I've been to the EDP website and, while the hospital defend themselves robustly there is nothing resembling an apology from Norman Lamb (nor should there be). He simply agrees to visit the hospital to look at standards there.

Norman and the Lib Dems did not pick out a 'top five' worst hospitals. What they did was include, among the lengthy footnotes to the release, a list of the six hospitals where there were five or more areas of concern identified in inspections. This was entirely accurate. Nowhere was it implied these were the worst six hospitals in the country for hygiene. Number of areas of concern does not, of course, equate to seriousness of concern.

The Lib Dems also included in the footnotes a list of eight hospital canteens identified as 'top priority for inspection every six months' and 16 hospitals which had particuarly bad examples of poor cleanliness and hygiene (mice, cockroach infestations, etc.) Norwich Hospital didn't appear anywhere in either of these lists.

It looks to me like slack journalism if someone has said of the first list of six 'these are the worst in the country' on the basis of number of breaches without looking at the accompanying information about how serious the breaches were.

Iain Dale said...

Tim, how delightful to see you back here again. I think I'll be the best judge of what I write about on this blog. i know you;d love me to dance to your tune, but it ain't gonna happen.

Run along now.

George, terribly sorry that I must have misunderstood the hospital spokesman I quoted who clearly thought there was a big issue at stake here.


Now George, would you like to withdraw your criticism of my piece? I have reported the facts. Unlike you.

Tim said...

So I'm to take that as a casual (if sniffy) 'no comment' to recent Facebook fakery, then?

I must warn you that you're maintaining a rather obvious pattern.

Iain Dale said...

Tim, sigh, for the record I condemm all impersonation on Facebook and elsewhere. It's not clever and it's not funny. Satisfied. No, thought not.

Dan Hassett said...

Wow! If an article which contains the words sorry and apology/apologised (3 times) doesn't resemble an apology, quite how much does George actually expect Mr Lamb to grovel?!

I doubt that either Mr Lamb or George will feel embarrassed by their mistakes though - in my experience, most Lib Dems are thoroughly shameless.

Anonymous said...

Hang on, who said there wasn't a big issue at stake? I certainly didn't.

For some reason the article you quoted didn't come up in my search of the EDP's website and I just got "Hospital hits back at hygiene claims" which is similar but doesn't mention any apology. But the second article, which I've now found and read, clearly does, so I am happy to take back what I said on that.

But my main point still stands, which is that Norman and the Lib Dems didn't say 'these are the worst hospitals for kitchen hygiene'. They simply produced a number of lists based on the information obtained. Two of the lists were about the most serious hygiene problems. The remaining one was the hospitals with the highest number of areas of concern.

If the papers interpreted that list as 'the worst hospitals' that may be, as it sounds like Norman accepts, partly the fault of the Lib Dems for including this list in their press release notes at all. But the description given in the notes was simply "Hospitals with five or more areas of concern as highlighted in their inspections:" That was accurate, and it was right of the Lib Dems to put all this information out there (journalists were sent the full findings for each hospital too, so there is no question of them having partial information).

Given this information, to represent it as making Norwich Hospital one of the worst in the country for kitchen hygiene, is poor journalism. If journalists are going to be slack and misrepresent the information given to them I think they should take some responsibility for that too.

I guess it's a case of measurability syndrome. You can't objectively say hospital X is worst because an infestation of cockroaches and mould in the fridge beats rat droppings and sour milk in hospital Y. But you can measure number of areas breached. So, as with school league tables and the like, the focus goes, lazily, on what can be measured quantitatively.

Anyway, I think we can agree that the hospital in Norwich was rather unfairly treated, and that while its list of hygiene concerns was quite long, none of them were as serious as some of those identified elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

I have just read Conservative Home and the Daily Mail Article about the Tory Part Time Shadow Cabinet, along with the related Blogs.
I am interested in the posting which points out that a local weekly paper, in Cornwall, the Packet, is asking its readers to name the Tory Parliamentary Candidates. The Editor has asked his reporters to name them, and they were not able to do so. What a slight on the newsworthiness of the Party in a County which only 10 years ago held the County, but for Truro.
I understand that the Truro and Falmouth seat is winnable along with the Falmouth and Camborne seat and the Newquay and St Austell seat, with potential majorities of 15,000 each. But frankly with an absentee Shadow Cabinet and absentee A listers in Cornwall it is not surprising David Cameron is getting "uppety" about a lack of " go " and progress in the region. I agree with the Packet, but I do not think many of the readers will be able to answer the question. I think the two main "A" listers are Londoners and spend most of their time there. One is getting tangled up with the liberal democrats about her second homes which she owns and which is a vote loser to the cornish electorate whose main issue is the affordability of the cornish cottage. Meanwhile, in the midst of this inactivity the Liberal Democrats have their act put together and are going at the Electorate like live wires. At this rate they are going to win all six seats.
I also heard that David Cameron has appointed a Cornwall Ministry which is meeting in London- no wonder the Cornish Tories are up in arms. Absentee Governance me thinks.
So sorry your posting Iain has no application to the outback of Cornwall. The Lib Dems are banging the war drums and sending the smoke signals and all else in between, whilst the Tories are not to be seen or heard.

Iain Dale said...

George, you completely miss the point. It's not sloppy journalism. It's sloppy research by Norman and his staff. Norman announced on GMTV that the N&N were one of the 5 dirtiest hospitals in the country (so I am told by someone who was watching). He should have checked his facts, as he now admits. Credit to him for that.

Nich Starling said...

Fair deal Phil - You've made yourself look a right prat.

If you persist in believing Norman Lamb is actually Norman Baker, we are hardly going to believe a word you have said.

Iain, did you see the letter from the Chief Exec of the hospital in the EDP ? It hardly looks as if Norman has had to grovel whilst the article makes clear that the things hughliughted by norman's reports as bieng a problem ARE a problem. Your reports says they were made up lies. This is factually wrong.

Iain Dale said...

Nich, nowhere have I accused Norman of lying.

Are you really saying Norman hasn't made a cockup. Come on, admit it. See my comment to George above.

Anonymous said...

Bernard is right. Cornwall is now in a real position for the Tories to take control.

The District Councils asked their electorate if they supported a Cornish County Council Unitary Council...The result in all council area's was overwhelming AGAINST such proposal. What do the Lib Dems in charge of CCC do? they get their tame Lib Dem MP's to lobby the Government and Lo and Behold what is Cornwall getting? A CCC Unitary Authority. Such abuse of public opinion.

I have written many times that in the West Country (Devon and Cornwall in particular) you MUST appoint LOCAL candidates certainly not someone who once lived there, or someone who is the daughter of a former mayor of a local town!!!

You need real local conservatives born and bred and LIVING locally. Forget the A or B or C list and reject the blowin's masquerading as Cornish or Devonians. IF the tories want to win ---which I now doubt---they must reavaluate their candidates down here.

The newspaper The Packet is incidentally a truly independant newspaper and gave great coverage (and support) to Anne Widdecombe when she came recently. If that paper is saying that then the Tories had better wake up very soon.

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

On reflection, perhaps we should care about where the Lib Dems are.

As was pointed out to me, the Lib Dems have allowed themselves to have their polling numbers squeezed by Labour, which cannot be good news for us.

Anonymous said...

Like many of the real persons who also have lives outside the politics, Lib Dems are on holiday this time of year. In the meantime, the Conservatives are left to entertain those who for one reason or another aren't able to travel to holiday during the silly season. Enjoy the coverage!

Anonymous said...

I take it you'll be doing an equally angry article about MP Mr Bellingham who has been made to grovel to his local hospital.

I await in interest.

Anonymous said...

Tory MP Henry Bellingham apologised to staff at his local hospital in King's Lynn, which he said had been wrongly included on the list.

Mr Bellingham said the Queen Elizabeth hospital should have been consulted about the campaign.

"Obviously a mistake has been made and as a local MP I wasn't consulted on this and I apologise unreservedly to the staff of the hospital," the Norfolk North West MP told the BBC.

People who pay their money to the NHS want to see their services saved not cut.

David Cameron
Conservative leader

Q&A: Hospitals under threat
A&E closures 'risk lives'

"I do think there's a lesson for all opposition parties, all parties actually and the government, if they are issuing a statement that affects an organisation, be it a hospital, the police, some school, they should always consult the chief executive or the headmaster or whoever it is."

Anonymous said...

I know BOTH mps apologised - the point is this blog hasn't done an article saying `Top Conservative apologises etc etc demeaning that party`. I don't think it ever will do such an article.

Iain Dale said...

I might take you more seriously if you didn't hide behind anonymity.