Swinging doors

Andy Coulson’s appointment shocks the blogosphere

Two men given top appointments this week share the fact that one of them was forced out of their last job and the other is replacing someone who was forced out. They are Andy Coulson and Robert Zoellick. The blogosphere asked: "Any similarities?"

News of Andy Coulson’s appointment as director of communications for the Conservative party shocked the blogosphere.

Yes, this is the guy who took “ultimate responsibility” for the illegal phone tapping of more than 600 mobile phone messages by one of his reporters when he was News of the World editor.

Guido thinks: “He'll bring a more robust tabloid headline sensitive approach that is more likely to connect with people than an Oliver Letwin speech.”

Mr Coulson certainly knows the newspaper industry like the back of his hand so will no doubt be directed to liaise with editors to drive the Tory party machine to possible victory at the next general election.

Anthony Little, at Little’s Log, said: “I was amused by the triumphant fanfare” over the announcement, but I’m not quite sure what amused him so much.

Labour blogger Tom Watson said Mr Coulson was quite good company. He added: “He is out of the work. The Tories are in disarray. So why not?”

But perhaps most insightful of all, the Lib Dem Norfolk blogger, asked: “What does this tell us about David Cameron?” Comments are welcome.

According to Benedict Brogan’s Daily Mail blog, Mr Cameron's office is describing Coulson's departure from the News of the World as "honourable" following the phone-tapping case.

Honourable is certainly not a word many would use to describe his departure.

But could “honourable” be used to describe the new boss of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick. Awaiting the inevitable approval from its board, Mr Zoellick, a former US trade representative, will be sworn in. He replaces Paul Wolfowitz who was forced to resign after suspected nepotism.

Over at Lenin’s Tomb a succinct summary of Mr Zoellick makes for vital reading. He said: “He wants efficient American power, and keeps his eye decidedly on the welfare of American capital.”

If you watch closely in the new film Black Gold about the injustices of coffee industry, Mr Zoellick can be seen looking very unsympathetic about a producers co-operative in Ethiopia whose farmers’ families are starving.

But I’m sure Mr Zoellick is shrewd and bright, as has been said of Mr Coulson. Both men are clearly now at the top of their respective games. Can they cut the mustard?

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.
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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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