Vince, endless elephants and the Lib Dem manifesto

Election 2010: Guffwatch!

There were so many elephants in Vince Cable's speech at the Lib Dem manifesto launch, you felt you might be crushed at any moment.

There was an "elephant in the room", an elephant that wasn't being confronted and, of course, the "elephant man" himself: Vince. I love it when a speech hits on a metaphor and doesn't just run with it, but leaps, bounds, sprints and pirouettes a marathon, clutching the metaphor to its chest like a gold medal.

(Clegg tried to capitalise on Vince's elephants: "Thank you, The Elephant Man." Oh, Nick. The joke had already been crushed into submission. But good on you for attempting to resurrect it for the benefit of a silently unamused audience who had already been all elephanted out.)

But the Lib Dems were trying to be much more serious and specific than the "it's all fine, really" Tories and Labour: their manifesto has real numbers on page 100, to which Clegg directed his audience like an eager schoolteacher, holding aloft his manifesto like a textbook.

The point is that Clegg has a plan, not just a promise. (Although his plan sometimes sounds remarkably familiar. His one-word summary? "Fairness." His aim? To put "power back into people's hands". Thank you, Labour, thank you, Tories.)

"These are promises you can trust," he said, forgetting that he was all about plans, not promises. When is a plan not a promise, or a promise a plan? Who can tell . . .

Anyway, Clegg was all about optimism. Hope. The future. Candour, yes. Oh, and magic:

We can turn anger into hope, frustration into ambition, recession into opportunity for everyone.

It's practically alchemy! A new strand of policy for the Lib Dems, but who says some 17th-century shape-shifting can't be a major factor in this election? It was the one thing missing, in my opinion.

And then he was off with a trumpety-trump trump, trump, trump. And an "ain't". As in: "I hear the Conservatives say they want to ring-fence the NHS. They ain't!" Yeesh.

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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