Tom Mendelsohn: All the latest in serious, up-to-the-minute political commentary

This just in, from the Popbitch newsletter, an update on David Cameron:

JL writes:
"I live round the corner from Dave Cameron,
or at least I did until he became PM, and
saw him regularly in our local newsagent. The
other night he drove up in his people carrier
(nothing flash) and parked illegally on double
yellow lines. He went into the shop, bought
a bottle of red wine (they have a very rubbish
selection so it won't have been anything over
about six quid), then drove off again, homeward,
forgetting to put his headlights on. I saw him
again a couple of days later buying
tinned pineapple."

Make of that what you will.

Tom Mendelsohn: Only in America

I say 'only in America' when I guess I mean 'even in America'. The following video was rleased by Roy Moore, a candidate for governor of Alabama, who wants his electorate to know something about his opponent Bradley Byrne. I don't want to ruin the surprise, so watch it:

I know, right? Byrne once actually went as far as to claim that 'evolution... best explains the origins of life.' Furthemore, he even thinks that the Bible may not be 100% true, in this crazy world of ours.

I've got to say, hung parliaments and awkward coalitions aside, and debates on abortion limits notwithstanding, I am pretty glad that we don't have this sort of nonsense to put up with in Britain.

Tom Mendelsohn: The coalition on civil liberties

The Conservative/Liberal coalition has published its agreement document this afternoon. You can see it here. There's plenty of interesting stuff in it, and it does really seem to be something of a synergy between manifestos - maybe the Conservatives come out on top in terms of victories, but the Liberals have won some important concessions. It'll be picked over in great depth in tomorrow's papers, so I won't discuss it all here.

What I will do, though, is publish the list of measures the two parties wish to take on civil liberties.

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour government and roll back state intrusion.

This will include:

• A freedom or great repeal bill
• The scrapping of the ID card scheme, the national identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point database
• Outlawing the fingerprinting of children at school without parental permission
• The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency
• Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database
• The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury
• The restoration of rights to non-violent protest
• The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech
• Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation
• Further regulation of CCTV
• Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason
• A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences

There's a lot of strong stuff in here. The multiple scrappings, of ID cards, national registers, biometric passports and Contact Point, will be seen as a significant victory for privacy campaigners. The restoration of non-violent protest is interesting, because it could well see a roll-back of one of the big symbols of Labour's authoritarianism: the banning of protests in Parliament Square. Does this mean Brian Haw can finally get a roof over his head and a hot bath? The review of libel laws could also prove significant, and maybe help stop libel tourists coming to Britain. Finally, the new mechanism to prevent unnecessary new criminal offences is also welcome, as the right sort of red-tape cutting.

Maybe we can all be a bit more optimistic about how this government is going to work now, please?


Tom Mendelsohn: The press conference just been

Cameron and Clegg just gave their first joint press conference of the 'new politics' era. It was an extremely jolly affair, with journalists rolling in the aisles, and prime ministers and deputy prime ministers staring long and lovingly into each others' eyes.

The parity on display was remarkable - both men answered questions on a near-even footing. Cameron led as you'd expect, what with him being the boss, but Clegg was neither diminished nor undermined. The body language was very warm, and the two men were even joking about, in between gazing at each other adoringly. they evidently get on, which bodes well for all but their respective parties' fringes. One journo described the conference as 'a charming love-in', before wondering with the LDs' left and the Tories' right would be able to see past all this new-found chuminess. He was fobbed off.

There was much hilarity all round. Jon snow asked whether, 'if the phone rings at 3am - do you both have to answer it?'

Cameron said that he believes that the arrangement 'will succeed through its success'. He would probably admit that this is not a quote for the Oxford Companions to Political Histories.

The best bit came when Cameron was asked if he regretted saying that his favourite joke was 'Nick Clegg' .

"I'm afraid I did say that once," he said sheepishly, at which point Clegg marched off in a pretend huff. Cameron called: 'Come back!'. 

This droll exchange led @jameskirkup to tweet the following:
Oh god. The country is now being run by two characters from a Richard Curtis film.

It was basically like a gay wedding, but they do make a sweet couple.

Tom Mendelsohn: An unbalanced look at our new PM

Martin Lewis, a fellow with whom I'm not familiar, but who seems to be one of the go-to Brits in Hollywood, has a few choice bons mots on David Cameron in The Huffington Post.

He now has the opportunity to follow in the tradition of the political hero he idolized in his youth, Margaret Thatcher, and do unto Britain's public health-care system, education system and poorest citizens exactly what he and his Champagne Charlie, Hooray Henry, Upper-Class Twit cronies did to Oxford's restaurants twenty years ago. Trash and wreck them. With the added bonus for him that, unlike his days in the Bullingdon Club when he and his fellow trust-fund brats at least paid for the damage they caused, now they can do this all for free.

Harsh words Martin. The article is funny, but I don't know that I agree with all of it. Cameron is a moderate Tory, he's patently not excessive in the way he lives, and we all have youthful indiscretions.

Ben Chu: Tim Montgomerie's flawed analysis

It's getting pretty hard to escape Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home at the moment. Fair enough I suppose. He's managed to market himself to the media as the authentic voice of the Tory grassroots. And for all I know he does speak for them. But I'm not sure he talks unadulterated common sense though.

In his Guardian article today he compares Cameron's "silence" on immigration until late in the campaign to "keeping Wayne Rooney on the bench until the last game of the season". A few sentences later he laments Cameron's inability to appeal to ethnic minority voters. Perhaps I'm wrong but I doubt that a lusty blow on the old immigration dog whistle is going to help drive such voters into Camp Cameron.

Montgomerie also declares Lord Ashcroft's marginal seats operation "successful...The Conservatives won 21 more seats than if the national swing towards the party had been averaged evenly across the nation".

This sounds a bit suspect to me. There was a 5 per cent average swing from Lab to Con nationwide. Leave aside the Lib Dem/Tory battles and a glance at the top Conservative target list suggests this should theoretically have delivered roughly 88 seats. In the end the Tories won 97. Can this be put down to the strategy of Ashcroft (who incidentally owns Montgomerie's website)?

I trust the verdict of our own pollster John Curtice who argues: "The average swing in seats where Labour were defending a majority of 20 per cent or less was, at 5.6 per cent, only slightly above that across the UK as a whole. For all the controversy that Lord Ashcroft's funding of the Tory effort in marginal seats has caused, in the event it seems to have made very little difference at all".

Tom Mendelsohn: The end of the Liberal Democrats?

Depending on who you speak to about our strange new coalition government, it's either the best thing to have happened to the Liberal Party in nearly a century, or the worst. The Independent's political commentator Michael Savage reckons that Nick Clegg's party secured huge concessions from the Tories, but there are plenty of doomsayers too. 

For John B, a blogger at Liberal Conspiracy, for instance, the sky is falling in. He reckons that the Lib Dems are getting the 'poisoned chalice' cabinet positions, that they've rolled over on all their major manifesto promises in favour of nastier Tory ones, and that the pledge to have a referendum on AV will come to nothing. In fact, he's predicting major meltdown at the next election for a party that sold out. 

For my part, I think the Liberals did what they had to do. The Lib-Lab-SDP-etc coalition would have been shaky to say the least and would have been pinioned by the 'coalition of losers' tag. And, evidently, not enough of the Labour bigwigs wanted it.

We needed a Government, and this is the stronger option for the Lib Dems, who will be able to effect more of the change they wanted to as insiders rather than outsiders. They get some power - even though Deputy PM is a bit of a sop position - they get the opportunity to shape policy in their own image, and they get to soften the more egregious Tory gambits. If this government succeeds, and if the LDs can be seen to be bringing a moderate touch to procedings, I see no reason for disgruntled lefties to flee to Labour, and I see no reason that they'll be slaughtered in the next polls.

Ben Chu: Liberal Democrat false consciousness?

I'm very suspicious of all those Labour tribalists arguing that what Lib Dem activists and voters all want is a progressive coalition with Labour.
A good example of the genre from Tim Horton on Left Foot Forward here.

Horton brings some solid facts to the party such as this from a pre-election YouGov poll:

"43% of Lib Dem voters described themselves as centre-left or left, compared to 29% who described themselves as centrist and just 9% who described themselves as centre-right or right. 39% of Lib Dem voters described the Liberal Democrat party as being centre-left or left, compared to 33% of Lib Dem voters who described the party as being centrist and just 5% who described the party as being centre-right or right."

He goes on to suggest that a Lib-Con deal would result in Lib Dems rushing into the arms of Labour.

But if Lib Dem voters are all, at heart,Tory-hating lefties one wonders why they didn't just vote Labour in the election? The tribal Labour answer seems to be some sort of false consciousness. They can't seem to grasp that there is a genuine antipathy between the two parties.

Perhaps if the Labour leadership had properly engaged with the Lib Dems, their efforts to form a coalition might have gone better.


Ben Chu: Beware two-party thinking

I think there's a real danger of people looking at these coalition talks and seeing what they want to see.

Paddy Ashdown was on Today this morning arguing that a Lib/Lab pact would be "legitimate" because a majority of the British electorate, 52 per cent, voted for those two parties. (29 per cent Labour, 23 per cent Lib Dem).

Undoubtedly true. And a good rebuttal to those who argue that a Lib/Lab pact would be a "coalition of the losers". 

But consider that a Lib/Con pact would also be "legitimate" because a majority of the British electorate voted for those two parties too. And the popular mandate of that pact would be arguably greater, at 59 per cent of the vote. (36 per cent Conservatives, 23 per cent Lib Dem).

There's a tendency among some on the left, as Giles Wilkes of the Freethinking Economist has pointed out, to assume that a Lib/Lab pact is somehow the only legitimate coalition that can emerge from these dealings - not just desirable, but legitimate. Why? Because a Lib Dem vote was obviously, in their eyes, an anti-Tory vote. For me, that's two-party thinking - and something that the Lib Dems should be keen to repudiate.