Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More on the LibDem Away Day

In March 2007 the Liberal Democrats had a parliamentary away day at the Henley Management College. The two day seminar, led by Henley's chief executive Chris Bones, was packed with sessions on polling, messaging, the manifesto and, most interestingly, "balanced parliament options". Between 50 and 100 LibDem MPs and Peers attended.
Questions are now being asked at Henley about the level of subsidy they enjoyed, courtesy of the LibDem supporting Chief Executive. Mr Bones has previously been a donor to Ming Campbell's leadership campaign and was appointed in January by Nick Clegg to carry out a root and branch review into the Party's activities and structures. Quite how he finds the time away from his £200k a year job is beyong the ken of many of his colleagues, who are growing uncomfortable with the Centre being used for party political purposes. Henley has been used on four separate occasions (20/21 July 2006, 9/10 November 2006, 8/9 March 2007 and 15/16 June 2007) by senior LibDems for these sort of away days, and on at least one occasion, a commercial client was 'bumped' in their favour, according to a Henley source. This is all the more puzzling considering the Centre's less than brilliant financial position.
Some senior managers at the Centre are also asking if the Centre's governors have approved the involvement of Mr Bones in the Reform Commission, how much time he is devoting to it and whether the Centre is being compensated for his time.

The PowerPoint presentation used in the Henley sessions is a substantial document of 50 pages and fully branded by Henley. So if Bones did this in his private capacity why is it branded ‘Henley’?. As it is branded 'Henley' it seems likely that Henley wish to be associated with it and that the College is claiming ownership of the work.

It is also puzzling that none of this munificence on behalf of Henley has been declared by the LibDems to the Electoral Commission, or by any MP to the Registrar of Members' Interests. It is entirely possible that they paid the full commercial rate, of course, in which case no declaration would be needed.

But of far more interest is the 50 slide Powerpoint presentation given to the assembled LibDems in March 2007, as it gives the lie to their public pronouncements that they have no interest in a coalition. It is also clear that at that time the preference was to ally themselves with Labour - well, according to Mr Bones who was the author of the presentation. In this slide he comes to the conclusion that the next election is 55% likely to be won by Labour, with a 40% chance of no party having an overall majority. Remember, this was done a year ago, four months before Brown took over the Premiership.

And these were the instructions given to those attending on what they should say about the possibility of a hung parliament.

UPDATE: Thursday 4pm: I've had a very nice email from Henley asking me to clarify a few things. I'm happy to do so.

Professor Stephen Lee, Henley Management College's Secretary, reports direct to Henley's Court of Governors and is responsible for the governance of the institution and the protection of the integrity of its charitable status.

Professor Lee can confirm that:

· Henley's Principal, Chris Bones, played no part in any commercial negotiations with the Liberal Democrat party.

· No other client was 'bumped' or had their agreed letting arrangements affected by a commercial letting to the Liberal Democrats in any way.

· Henley Management College's charitable status requires it, when not engaged in primary charitable object activity, to seek always to maximise the resources available to the beneficiaries of the charity. Thus Henley has standard procedures for commercial letting clients that require its staff, in all cases, to confirm to industry procedures designed to assure competitive letting practices. On each occasion Henley dealt with the Liberal Democrat party these procedures have been properly followed.

· On each occasion our negotiation with this particular client has achieved a highly competitive arrangement that more than achieves our requirements as a charitable organisation. In each case the Liberal Democrats, by comparison with our own overall lettings performance and industry norms, paid in excess of our average or mode overall lettings performance. In fact, the Liberal Democrat party was the highest paying customer on each occasion.

· The Principal, like all other members of staff records his holidays and these correlate with the days the reform commission has met. It is clear that he continues to do his volunteering in his own time, not that paid by the College.

· As a globally recognized centre of excellence for thought leadership in management thinking Henley Management College welcomes the use of its facilities by all political parties. Many members of our academic community interface all the time with each of the political parties - this is an active part of their role as academic 'thought leaders' in the area of management education and on key issues of the day facing managers - reputation, risk management, political funding and fundraising, sustainability, customer relationship management etc.

· All College clients are entitled to use College administrative facilities which are, of course, branded Henley. The presentation on your blog was created by attendees on a Henley machine - hence the template and is not the work of Mr Bones or any other member of the Henley staff.


Anonymous said...

This might explain the briefing and speech given by Ming Campbell at conference that caused so much trouble.....
Well they say a week is a long time in politics, but over three years it can mean three leaders. Funny how Clegg has distanced himself from the talk of any coalitions while aiding and abating the Labour party on the important Lisbon treaty amendment vote.....just sitting on the green benches they helped the government defeat the referendum vote.

Anonymous said...

Lib Dems, Lib Dems, Lib Dems - oh, this is so much fun and so rivetting - Lib Dems, Lib Dems, Lib Dems - are we almost there yet? - Lib Dems, Lib Dems, Lib Dems .... zzzzzzzz.....

Anonymous said...

Is all this relevant now, or have I missed something?

Tapestry said...

I spent a bit of time at Henley in the 1990s and occasionally keep in touch. They were getting a lot of government-funded research then, and are involved still in big projects on business analysis and regulation.

I wrote papers on entrepreneurship and part of a book edited by a Professor Bernard Taylor on Business Change Strategies, still used on MBA courses in the US, and some UK business degree courses.

In the 1990s there was a lot of interest in entrepreneurship. Now the fashion (and the money)'s all gone government regulation. Very dull.

Somehow hosting an EUcentric political party fits the picture spot on. No doubt EU money is washing around the place in one form or another. Henley has to make a living like any other place.

Ted Foan said...

Verity - yeah, I know what you mean about the LibDems - so boring!

But I think why Ian bangs on about them so much is because, unless the Conservatives can get enough of their supporters to vote for them, then that weird Mr Brown will sneak another win at the next General Election in Britain.

If you actually lived here right now you might appreciate how important it is that we get them to switch to the Conservatives. The more we can do to point out that the LibDems are a dubious mish-mash coalition of wishy-washy, sandal-wearing, beardie, intransigent, second-rate, policy-lite, tree-huggers who have no hope of getting a sniff of power, the better for the Conservatives.

Or am I wrong!

Anonymous said...

iain, have you really got nothing better to have a swipe at? the world is coming to an end, we will shortly see the resurgence of fascism in the streets, looting, bankruptcies...and you're blogging about some obscure powerpoint.ppt doc? jeepers.

verification: fwyahnfx

for why? ah, na, fucks...

Ralph Hancock said...

Well, they were certainly even more away than they are usually to have produced that diagram. Have studied it earnestly and still don't have a clue about what it might mean. Not much, I suspect.

Anonymous said...

funny big V. ever thought of, I dont know, just not hitting the send key?

last chance to have a go luv. I am heading back to a sunnier socialist clime. And unlike you I wont feel the need to contribute to this UK bloggsite. You'll miss me (noticed a few of my choice comments have ended up in "Private Eye", none of yours have)

Sod off you old baggage.


4x4 the people
troll patroll
green lantern
anon (passim)

off to terminal 5 as we speak


Anonymous said...

btw - there wont be a comeback V. Do your best. I'm off. I'll be on a sunny beach in Oz and you're stuck in a maximum security rehab facility in mexico. One of us needs to think about wether this was where we thought our life would end up doesnt it. :-)

It aint me luv.


Anonymous said...

"it gives the lie to their public pronouncements that they have no interest in a coalition"
With respect, no it doesn't!

a) this presentation demonstrates that - sensibly - they were (a year ago) looking at likely outcomes of the next election; and

b) that a "balanced" parliament, i.e. one where a coalition might be viable, is a very remote chance - which again points to a strategy around minority government.

Nell said...

how patronising Verity, Lib Dems are formidable opponents where they are active. It's just lucky for the rest of you that those of us with a Lib dim threat in 2005 put in the hard work to break their spirit in some areas

Johnny Norfolk said...

Well you can understand all this banging on about the Lib/Dems as there is nothing to tackle Labour about is there !!!!.

Anonymous said...

Nell said...only at Bye Elections dearie where you flood the area with workers from across the globe (which you cannot do at general elections) promise every voter what he or she wants - even if it contradicts the promise to next door! (Proof at the Hartlepool By Election!!)

The Lib Dems are to decency in politics as the Chinese Government are to democracy in Tibet!

The sooner these power by any means charlatans are sent to the graveyard of political parties the better. They and Clegg are well suited.

As for Henley - others have mentioned Common Purpose Iain. It is there before you eyes. EU Monet and Common Purpose are joined at the hip.

The question you must ascertain is IS Cameron a member?

This will become a hot potato at the General Election. It will follow him around. Ukip are on to him

Patrick said...


If you have have the whole thing as a .ppt attachment could you post a link?

Iain Dale said...

Patrick, I have it as a PDF. But I don't have anywhere to upload it so link to.

Alex said...


Ask Guido to put it up for you.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 9.14am. I was in Hartlepool and didn't see anything contradictory put out by the Lib Dems.

I did, on the other hand, see Labour promise, days before the by-election, "There is no question of the hospital closing or services being rundown” (Tony Blair quoted in the local paper).

And what happened? Almost immediately some services were lost, and then it emerged that Hartlepool's hospital was to close completely and be replaced with a single new one somewhere north of the Tees.

As the Hartlepool Mail commented: "What must all the people of Hartlepool and east Durham be thinking today when they remember the promises made? The Mail would guess they feel misled, double-crossed and betrayed."

Anonymous said...

So far as discussions about tactics and hung parliaments go, can I just say "yawn".

The interesting thing for me is that the Lib Dems actually had a discussion on this involving their whole parliamentary party. Can you imagine Labour or the Conservatives doing this? Of course not. It would just be discussed in a small clique around the leader.

Anonymous said...

Iain, you really do have an unhealthy obsession going on with the Lib Dems. Have another read of the 'Ken is obsessed with Boris' thread, the one before this one, and take some of your own advice!

Anonymous said...


Is there really scandal in this? Explain further rather than just throwing around stuff...

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the Lib-dems are such a font of new ideas that they have to go to Henley for them. I wonder what the average Lib-dem IQ is?

Anonymous said...

use a site such as http://www.megaupload.com/ to host the .pdf file.

Baldwin said...

I think it was Times writer Tim Hames who hit the nail on the head by calling the LibDems a fantasy-land party.

All this stuff about 'balanced parliament', etc., just confirms it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10.51 am "I wonder what the average Lib-dem IQ is?"

I don't know about the LibDems but, when 5 Labour councillors in Southall defected to the Conservatives recently, it was reckoned that it increased the average IQ of both parties.

Anonymous said...

this is an almost indescribably boring post, iain, far worse than most of the guff printed by the msm but lacking even a top line of the sort to make one read on or understand where the eternal snow drif is leading.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, you mean a political party is planning what it might do in different post-election scenarios? How underhand! How sneeky! How wretched those LibDems are!

vanfuertes said...

Why have they decided not to talk about a hung parliament? Wasn't their primary complaint always "people would vote for us but they don't think we have enough influence"? Surely by mentioning they could hold the balance of power that would motivate some undecided voters to go for the Lib Dems (by traditional Lib Dem logic anyway).

Martin said...

Iain, you should have labelled this 'non-story part two'. Frankly, I find it a relief that the LD parliamentary party is considering exactly all its possible post election options. You point as a Tory is that LD supporters prefer Labour to Tories - but that's hardly the fault of the LD's!
Judging by the tone of most of your contributors and many of their comments, Conservative supporters prefer Genghis Khan - equally that's not the fault of David Cameron.

Iain Dale said...

Martin, you miss my point. I am rather impressed that they have these discussions actually, but I am less impressed by their pretence that they don't.

neil craig said...

I'm not sure what point Iain thinks he is scoring. All parties look at their electoral prospects & what works & doesn't & I would be amazed if the Tories haven't done something similar & disappointed if it weren't equally sophisticated.

If this is still remotely current it is good news for the Tories since it is clear from the graph that the LD tactic would have to be to focus their guns on Labour to achieve a hung Parliament.

Of course the Labour vote has collapsed since last year (which is not quite the same as the Tory & LD vote increasing) but there is no guarantee that the public will not be equally volatile over the next year.

Anonymous said...

'PR Changes Everything'. Yeah, right.

In Wales, they had PR, and the Lib Dems couldn't even decide BETWEEN THEMSELVES whether they wanted to join a Labour coalition or not.

In the end Plaid Cymru got into bed with Labour, leaving the Lib Dems able to promise the earth without ever having to worry about delivery, as they never get into the business of Government, even when given the chance.

It is now reverting to being a campaign group debating society, unless Nick Clegg can turn it round from terminal decline...

Anonymous said...

Surely there's a difference between the Libs talking about something internally and the Libs talking about it in the media and with us? Saying they aren't interested in talking about it isn't the same thing as doing no preparation. Important internal subject to get right, but boring external subject. I can't see the story... think you have a miss here. :-(

Anonymous said...


I was under the impression that the Henley College of Management were giving some freebies to foreign diplomats and/or their wives.

Have I got that completely wrong or was that done using EU money?

Anonymous said...

troll patrol said...

"I am heading"

Thank god he's gone.

Anonymous said...

"The more we can do to point out that the LibDems are a dubious mish-mash coalition of wishy-washy, sandal-wearing, beardie, intransigent, second-rate, policy-lite, tree-huggers who have no hope of getting a sniff of power, the better for the Conservatives."

Hmmn. Not EXACTLY a pitch designed to attract natural supporters of the LDs to vote Tory to remove Brown, maybe ?