Thursday, June 28, 2007

Williams and Carlile

Iain Dale is getting remarkably steamed up about Shirley Williams. The very helpful holding statement from the party makes it clear that Williams was not offered, and would not have accepted, a government post. The offer Brown made, which has not yet been responded to, is to advise the government on nuclear proliferation, a narrow remit based on Williams' previous experience with the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

Presumably, Iain Dale got equally steamed up about Chris Patten advising the government on Ulster Policing - did he? Williams was asked on Question Time whether she would accept the offer of a government (i.e ministerial) post. She said she thought that there was no chance she would be offered one. She has not been offered such a post, as the holding statement makes clear. So, she was right.

As "expriest" pointed out on LibDem Voice, Paddy Ashdown has served on the Parades Commission, Alex Carlile has advised on terrorism and Roy "the boy" advised on electoral reform.

This Williams offer seems no different to those roles or the Patten role. There are no red boxes or salaries or government departments involved.

Iain Dale also reports speculation from Adam Boulton that Lord Carlile will be the new Attorney General. I will comment on that if and when it is confirmed. In the meantime I won't hold my breath or explode prematurely.

Update: Baroness Scotland is the new attorney general.


  1. Roy Hattersley tells the story of how, when he was first made a Minister, The Times ran his photograph above the caption "Formerly Mrs Shirley Williams". That was a long time ago.

    Yet, knowing that he was going to be asked about it on Question Time, Sir Menzies Campbell had to give permission early this evening for Williams to accept the position offered by Gordon Brown. She was obviously going to take it anyway, so there was nothing that he could do.

    I honestly think that this week has marked the beginning of the end of the Lib Dems, always an unstable coalition.

    The few old SDPers who have not already done so are going home, to the party and government of a PM in what they wish had been the Labour succession: Wilson, Callaghan, Healey, Hattersley, Smith, Brown.

    But almost stereotypical old Liberals like Ashdown, Lester, Garden and Carlile have also been publicly considered for office. What does that say about Ming and his party, that such offers were even being considered, never mind, at least in Ashdown's case, actually made?

    It says that they are finished.

  2. But it is just an occasional independent advisory
    role on the very narrow subject of nuclear proliferation. It is not a government job - you seem to fail to accept that basic fact and base your whole theory on a false premise.

    I don't think Brown has a track record which will attract.

    "What does that say about Ming and his party?"

    That the party has some very talented people in it.

  3. Aren't you delighted to see Williams, Lester and Neuberger as "advisors" to Brown? Won't that persuade people to vote for you instead of Labour in Durham City, Newcastle Central, Hartlepool, Manchester Wythenshaw, Birmingham Yardley...?

    What are you FOR?

  4. I can only repeat, these are not government posts, darling. I think the public would think it churlish to refuse to co-operate as independent advisers in narrow fields where these peers are accepted experts, especially as there are also people taking advisory posts who are not Labour members. Indeed, Conservative Chris Patten advised the Labour government on Northern Ireland.

  5. Shirley Williams has remained an active and influential public servant; she's intelligent, hard- working, and ethical. Shirley Williams is refreshing, still, after decades of service! Never stale -- when she's on television/radio, I always tune in.