Two Lib Dems standing down: Ming on competitiveness, Iraq and backing Clegg, Teather on “political self harm”

The Observer is interviewing some MPs who have stood down from Parliament. Ming Campbell and Sarah Teather are featured today.

Ming says his proudest moment in his 28 years in Parliament was deciding not to support the war in Iraq:

The second Gulf war, that’s the most significant political thing I’ve been engaged with. We took the decision – not an easy decision – that we were going to thoroughly oppose it, and there were some sleepless nights for me and for Charles . All it needed was a company of American marines to discover two tanks of anthrax – our position would have been wholly undermined. So it was a big risk, but we thought it was right and we thought wasn’t legal.

Ming comes from a different place politically than Nick Clegg, and he hasn’t had a government job. What does he make of our leader?

I’m a great admirer of Clegg, he was my pick and he’s astonishingly resilient when you consider some of the stuff that’s written about him. Forming the coalition was a very brave thing to do – it’s no secret I had some reservations – but if you’re in the ex-leaders club your duty is to follow your leader. If you’ve been through the fire and brimstone yourself, then you really have a duty to ensure that your successor is not subject to that.

Sarah had some pretty astute observations about modern politics which should make us all think about why it’s so deeply unsatisfying. She had been asked if we should worry about the number of women standing down:

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Opinion: Why do I still care?

It is difficult to stop caring coming, as I do, from generations of politically active Liberals and having taken up the baton myself back in 1983. In 1997, I was handed the reins of the Scottish Lib Dem website which meant I was in sole charge of the content and design of the site. I ran it until 2008 when I resigned in disgust at the changes, and censorship, mooted by a newly-formed website committee. Since then, I have allowed my membership to lapse but, until now, have always voted Lib Dem.

Being in a coalition took Westminster Lib Dems by surprise in 2010 but it need not have done. They have, of course, done wonders as a brake on Tory policies but they will never have any credit for what they have done. What is particularly frustrating for me is that I had pointed out how to advertise their role in a paper I circulated in January 2005 because, by that time, there had already been Lib Dem Government Ministers for five years.

How easy it would have been, back then, to have had permanent footers on every London press release pointing out that the person in charge, in Scotland, was a Lib Dem.  How easy it would have been to have our Education spokesperson MP stop waffling on about what he would do and start saying this is what our Minister is doing, in Scotland.  No-one else was going to do so, no Westminster Minister was ever going to admit to covering only part of the UK, the only people who could blow the Lib Dem trumpet were the Lib Dems themselves and they failed, miserably.

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Sarah Smith, a brave and committed Liberal Democrat candidate fighting the election while undergoing cancer treatment

There’s a really moving profile of Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Smith in today’s Observer magazine. Written by her stepsister Catherine Mayer, it tells of how she is combining fighting the election with a gruelling course of Chemotherapy after being diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer just after party conference in October last year.

Sarah is not the only candidate fighting the election with such a diagnosis. I know of two others who have had Cancer diagnoses in recent months and are continuing with their duties. The way that they have handled it has been a real example to us all.

Sarah is fighting the seat of Dover and Deal and has been open about her diagnosis and hopes that she will be able to help others and raise awareness.

Surely she should now devote her energies to recovery or, if that proved elusive, draw up a bucket list? People in her situation book trips to Rome or the Galapagos rather than yearning to tramp the streets of Dover and Deal.

Sarah laughed at the comparison but remained obdurate. Her candidacy had validity before her diagnosis, she said, and she refused to accept that illness would stop her from being effective. Her local party agreed so she posted an open letter to constituents revealing her condition. “I am telling you about this because I want to be open about what is happening to me, and because my treatment will undoubtedly affect my campaign. It will be harder for me to get out to meet you on the doorstep, although I will do that as much as I can.”

Mayer outlines what Sarah has been through in the last 6 months:

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Senior renewable energy figures support Lib Dem involvement in next Government

Twenty figures from the renewable energy industry have written to the Independent on Sunday to say that they want Liberal Democrats to be involved in the next Government because of our record, in adverse circumstances, in this one. They said:

When the Coalition took office, both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats pledged to make it the ‘greenest government ever’.

Liberal Democrats kept to that pledge. Under the leadership of the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey, they have consistently acted to make this country cleaner, greener and more open to investment in renewables.  Some £37 billion has been invested in renewable energy, supporting 460,000 jobs as of 2013, reducing our carbon emissions and improving Britain’s energy security.

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Two ways to support Austin Rathe’s Marathon Effort

As I write, my friend and LDHQ Members and Supporters Manager Austin Rathe is heading off on a 26 mile run around London. It sounds so easy to write it like that, but it will be about 4.5 hours of real pain. As I said when I first wrote about his plan to run the marathon, we must be working him too hard if he thinks that a 26 mile run is something to do for a rest.

Let’s just remind ourselves why he’s doing it – for a very worthy cause:

Austin will be running to raise funds for Special Effect, a small charity which helps people with disabilities to enjoy playing video games. You can see some of the good work that they do in this video.

So, if you are suitably impressed by Austin’s effort, there are two things you can do to help him.

First and most importantly, sponsor him to raise money for Special Effect. He’s not far away from £1000. If everyone reading this could maybe give the price of even a coffee, that would make a big difference. I know we are all supposed to be giving all our money to the party at the moment, but we all still have enough left over for that cake to take to campaign HQ or the coffee to have afterwards. So if you could give up today’s snacking money for Austin, that would be brilliant.

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Nick Clegg’s statement on the SNP doesn’t preclude voting with them

There has been much revolution and intertwinement of under-garments over Nick Clegg’s statement about the SNP yesterday. In its refined form he talked about “not entering into a post-election coalition that relies on life support from the SNP or UKIP”. Earlier he talked about no entering into “arrangements” which involved the SNP.

This is all a bit of a non-event or non-story.

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Nick Clegg, coalitions and the SNP: too much egg in the pudding?

Nick Clegg has been talking about how the Liberal Democrats will not be part of a coalition which has to rely on the support of the SNP or UKIP.

He outlined his position in an email to members this afternoon:

You’ll see in the news today some comments I made about us not entering into a post-election coalition that relies on life support from the SNP or UKIP.

Over the next 12 days the media are going to become more and more obsessed with who is prepared to do a deal with who. This only goes to underline what we all know – nobody is going to win this election – which makes the number of seats we win even more important.

As we have always said, the party with the most votes and the most seats in this election has the first right to seek to form a Government. The British people would rightly question the legitimacy of a coalition that didn’t allow the party with the largest number of seats and votes the opportunity to attempt to form a Government first.

I’m proud that the Liberal Democrats have proved we can form a strong and stable coalition government, able to bring prosperity to Britain.

Just like we would not put UKIP in charge of Europe, we are not going to put the SNP in charge of Britain – a country they want to rip apart.

We’re a democratic party. In the end, the decision to form a coalition rests not with the leader but with the party.

So let’s not get too distracted – I’m going to spend the next 12 days supporting our candidates and making sure we win as many seats as possible. I know you will as well.

If you’re not already helping a target seat, why not sign up to make some phone calls from home this week and help get out our vote? Every call you make will help one of our fantastic candidates.

Thank you for everything you’ve already done, and everything you’re going to do in the next 12 days.

Nick

The fact that he’s done such an email to members shows that he realises that this will be a controversial stance. Aren’t we, after all, the party that believes in coalition and if we’re doing politics differently, should we not reject the binary “one big party/one little party approach. Should we not be championing a more inclusive, pluralist approach, after all?

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So how worried should we be about the Ashcroft poll on Bristol West?

Lord Ashcroft has released a further six constituency polls today. There is serious Liberal Democrat interest in only one of them – in Stephen Williams’ constituency in Bristol West. The results make depressing reading, showing Stephen in 3rd place behind the Greens. The figures, after they’ve been through Ashcroft’s magic manipulator, his not very transparent methodology.

Ashcroft Bristol West poll bar chart

 

As always he doesn’t use the candidate’s name, which makes no sense during an election. Let’s face it, the voters will be filling in ballot papers with the candidates’ names on them. Not only that, he doesn’t even name the constituency.

Party sources are quite bemused that Ashcroft hasn’t even tailored the poll to suit the seat. For example, with UKIP not a key player, he still asks if people have received literature from them. Yet the Greens are supposedly on 25% and he didn’t bother to ask if people had heard from them.

There’s also a feeling in the party that the truth on the ground isn’t as gloomy as the raw data would suggest for 3 reasons:

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Lib Dems react quickly to Cameron’s “brain fade” West Ham moment

David Cameron had one of those moments on the campaign trail this morning. This is what happens when you are too used to reading your speeches off an autocue, I guess. He was talking about how he wanted to see Britain at ease with multiple identities.

From the Guardian:

Where you can support Man Utd, the Windies and Team GB all at the same time.

Of course, I’d rather you supported West Ham.”

Asked to clarify his loyalties after his speech, which he read from an autocue, Cameron replied: “I had what Natalie Bennett described as a brain fade.

I’m a Villa fan … I must have been overcome by something … this morning.

But there we are, these things sometimes happen when you are on the stump.

It’s the sort of gaffe that anyone could make and it’ll make us all laugh for 30 seconds and move on. Although I do wonder if Conservative peer Karren Brady, who’s vice-chairman of West Ham, had anything to do with it.

Those digital geniuses at Lib Dem HQ have reacted quickly though to give that amusing moment a little extra traction. They’ve done a few amusing “page not found” jokes before. Here is today’s:

David Cameron Aston Villa

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Willie Rennie accuses Conservatives of trying to pull the UK apart

For the third time in ten days, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has hit out at the Conservatives, accusing them of putting party before country and risking the future of the United Kingdom they say they want to keep together.

Their actions are very different, though. Last week, Michael Fallon talked up the entirely ridiculous suggestion of a deal between Labour and the SNP on Trident with the aim of persuading swing voters in middle England to vote Conservative. They also sent their Scottish leader campaigning in North East Fife, a seat they know that they can’t win. Willie Rennie said at the time:

Just the other day the Scottish Conservative Leader was visiting North East Fife claiming they can win.  It’s a seat the bookies say is a close race between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.  The Tories are also rans.  The only result of their reckless actions would be to divide the non-SNP vote and let the SNP win.

Yesterday, Willie described the Conservative plans for English votes for English Laws as “unstable and reckless.”

We agree that there does need to be a stronger voice for England in parliament.

But we will not entertain a Conservative attempt to gerrymander those votes in order to give the Conservatives a majority say on these important matters when they don’t command a majority of peoples’ votes in England.

Like all other forms of devolution in the United Kingdom any change must be based on fairer proportional voting, not Tory plans to create a majority by the back door. The Conservatives unstable and reckless reforms threaten to undermine the future of the UK.

And, finally, today, he condemned a Conservative poster being shown in England, saying that the Tories have joined the SNP in trying to pull the country apart.

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Opinion: A challenge for LDV readers

The BBC has a Hung Parliament Coalition Builder, based on various projections of seats, and different possible outcomes depending on small voting shifts in the handful of marginal seats.

The challenge is to get a coalition without the Lib Dems. It is almost impossible!

There is an assumption this election –the Lib Dems are going to be at the negotiating table on May 8th.

But, given the likely outcome for our party, what if we start from the assumption that we will not be at the negotiating table, and we will go into opposition and oppose any and all Queen’s Speeches? What would our red line(s) be?

I have one red line – PR – and the argument is for good government and a fair democracy:

The Conservatives will get 33% of the vote and nearly half the MPs. Labour will be similar.

The Lib Dems will get about 9% of the vote and anything from 3 – 5% of the MPs depending on how effectively we can work in the next two weeks.

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LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 33

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Baroness Sal Brinton writes…How Gallipoli marked one young life forever

2nd Lt "Mary" Coningham of 32 Squadron, The Somme, 1917Today marks one hundred years since Gallipoli and my brother and I will be at the Cenotaph to mark this special ANZAC day, as my grandfather, Arthur Coningham, a very young New Zealander, was there and survived. We never knew him because he died in an air accident in the Bermuda Triangle in 1948 but we know from family that his experience in the Dardenelles affected him greatly.

Arthur Coningham later went on to join the embryonic Royal Flying Corps (where he was known as Mary, thought to be a distortion of Maori), and became a fighter pilot. However, he nearly didn’t make it because of his early experiences as an ANZAC.

He was born in Australia in 1895, and after his parents’ notorious behaviour in a celebrated court case they moved to New Zealand where he grew up. His parents subsequently divorced, especially outrageous in the early 20th Century, and the whole family really suffered, with all the children being bullied and humiliated. His mother was a hairdresser, doing her best to keep herself and her three children. He went to Wellington College on a Junior Free Place, where he excelled at sports, but wasn’t at all academic. When he left, he went to work on a sheep farm as he had no idea of what he might do.

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Danny Alexander’s note to Liam: We won’t let you or the Tories screw up the recovery

Five years apart, two letters tell a very different story. David Laws found this on his desk at the Treasury:

 

Liam Byrne's note

 

Danny Alexander got round to replying today:

Danny Alexander's reply

As George Crozier pointed out last week, this recovery is very much a Liberal Democrat recovery:

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Danny Alexander says HSBC worries about UK leaving EU show dangers of Conservatives and UKIP

HSBC has said today that it might consider pulling out of the UK and cited uncertainty over Britain’s position in the EU as part of its reasoning. From the Guardian:

HSBC, Britain’s biggest bank, has issued a stark warning about the economic risks of the UK pulling out of the European Union as it revealed it was considering moving its headquarters out of London.

The surprise announcement of a full-blown review into where the bank should base its operations will stun politicians on the general election campaign trail.

HSBC listed the economic uncertainty created by the risk of the UK going alone – a blow to the Conservatives which have pledged to hold an “in-out” referendum on the EU.

It would be a massive deal if HSBC were to leave as 48,000 jobs would go.

Danny Alexander said that this highlighted the dangers of a Conservative/UKIP government:

Today’s HSBC announcement confirms fears that businesses have over a swing to the right and the prospect of a ‘Blukip’ coalition pulling us out Europe.

David Cameron, held hostage by UKIP partners and the right wing of his party, would drive the country further towards a ‘Brexit’ – which would hit both jobs and business.

As I revealed today, the markets and businesses are increasingly showing their concern at the prospect of an unstable government.

Only stable government with the Liberal Democrats in the mix will stop Britain from being pulled sharply to the right with Nigel Farage, or to the left with Alex Salmond.

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Opinion: On the campaign trail with Jenny Woods and Meri O’Connell in Reading

Jenny Woods and Meri O'ConnellLast September, the Greater Reading party was gearing up to select its Prospective Parliamentary Candidates for the two seats in our area: Reading East and Reading West.  It was the fevered period just before the Scottish referendum, yet discussion about the looming General Election was increasing, including discussion of the number of women in Parliament and ongoing debate about women in the Liberal Democrats in the light of past events.

I was therefore delighted when Jenny Woods and Meri O’Connell were selected, enthusiastically and overwhelmingly, to stand for Reading East and Reading West.

Jenny is that rare thing in politics (less so in Lib Dem politics, it seems!) – a scientist, specialising in sustainability and policy making.  She joined the party in Reading in 2010 out of sheer frustration with how politics deals with science and funding.  She made her mark on the 2012 Spring Conference by proposing a policy amendment against the incipient Snooper’s Charter.  It was thanks to her that Julian Huppert and the rest of the party were able to take up the fight and kill it in Parliament; it is directly thanks to her efforts that the Snooper’s Charter and its cynical successor are not law.

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Paddick: Tories are playing a dangerous, divisive game over English votes for English laws

I still feel aggrieved that in the immediate aftermath of a bruising referendum campaign, our Prime Minister, rather than say something comforting and unifying, came out and picked a fight with Labour over English votes for English laws. Today, the Tories are highlighting their plans to resolve the constitutional conundrum. From the BBC:

Under the Conservatives’ proposals, the line-by-line scrutiny of new bills would be reserved for MPs from the nations affected by the legislation. A new grand committee of all English MPs – or English and Welsh MPs where appropriate – would also have to approve any legislation relating only to England.

Mr Cameron will promise firm proposals within 100 days of forming a government, which would be “fully implemented” by the time of the Budget in March of the following year.

Speaking on Question Time, Scotland’s Finance Minister John Swinney said the proposals ignored the fact that elements of income tax policy that will still apply to the UK as a whole would remain reserved to the Westminster government.

Labour says the issue should be considered along with other potential changes by a constitutional convention after the election.

The Liberal Democrats favour a grand committee of English MPs, with the right to veto legislation applying only to England, with its members based on the share of the vote.

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Lib Dem Elaine Bagshaw comments on removal of Tower Hamlets mayor Rahman

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets has been found guilty of corrupt electoral practices and removed from office. There is a 200 page judgement which outlines in detail the allegations against him which range from personation to the old offence of “undue spiritual influence.” There is a section on that latter offence which goes through the history of it being used in Ireland against the undue spiritual influence of the Catholic church in the 19th century. The judgement also goes through the history of toxic Labour factionalism in the borough which is an eye-opening read to say the least. The judgement also relies on the judgement in a case which may well be familiar to readers – that of Phil Woolas, when the Oldham East election result was overturned back in 2010.

It is pretty shocking to have the result of an election turned aside because of compelling evidence of various types of fraud.

There will now be a by-election in which Rahman will not be allowed to stand. He will also have to pay £250,000 in costs.

Local Liberal Democrat candidate for Poplar and Limehouse Elaine Bagshaw commented:

Community politics and cohesion is central to a liberal society, so as Liberal Democrats we will be working in the by-election that will now happen to unite our community so that we can move forward and build a stronger economy and a fairer society in Tower Hamlets.

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Willie Rennie takes his son to work

Willie Rennie’s campaign theme today was all about the support Lib Dems offer families. Note the impressive absence of the awful phrase “hard-working families” from any of his utterances.

He also had his son, 11 year old Stephen, with him as he and Alan Reid visited a nursery in Argyll and Bute as part of a Take your child to work day.

Here are the pair setting off from home:

And once there, Stephen really got into the swing of things and was totally undaunted by all the attention:

Willie outlined all the things Liberal Democrats would do to help families:

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Nick Clegg’s message to the National Union of Students Conference

All party leaders (apart from Nigel Farage) were invited to submit a short video to NUS for their recent conference. Given the Greens supposed popularity among students, it was, shall we say, surprising that they didn’t put one in.

Nick Clegg’s did not shy away from the issue of tuition fees, but he did point out how much less people would be paying per month than under the old system, giving them more money at the time when they needed it most, when they were starting out on their working lives. He went on to talk about 3 issues which showed what the Liberal Democrats offered young people – on drugs, mental health and help with housing costs.

You can watch all the videos submitted here. Nick is on first. It was a pretty reasonable effort in the face of NUS’s unpleasant £40,000 Liar, Liar advertising campaign. It’s worth pointing out that however badly we handled the tuition fees issue, what we did when confronted with a situation when there was no money left, we spent it on breaking down barriers for disadvantaged people. A generation of kids from poorer backgrounds are already benefitting from the extra a money Nick Clegg sent their way to help them in school and from the extra year in nursery.

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Shirley Williams highlights SNP’s failings in government

SCaron and Shirleyhirley Williams has written to the Times (£) to highlight that the SNP has not been as successful in government as it would like people to believe. She highlights failures on student debt, class sizes, the NHS and, importantly for anyone of a liberal mindset, its many failings on civil liberties.Here’s her letter:

The election campaign in the United Kingdom has been seriously impoverished by the absence of any detailed analysis south of the border of the SNP’s record in government.

Today the Scottish NHS is in crisis, with targets for cancer treatments not being met. More than 1,000 beds have been closed in Scottish hospitals since 2012. Last year, expenditure on the NHS in Scotland fell by 1.2 per cent while in England it rose by 4.4 per cent. Expenditure on training nurses and midwives in Scotland has been cut by 11 per cent.

In education, the SNP pledged to limit primary school class sizes to a maximum of 18 — a pledge it made when it first came into government in 2007. In fact, class sizes have risen in every year since 2010.

University students have been saddled with greater debt because they have to start repaying their loans once their incomes reach £16,500, while the figure in England is now £21,000. Worst of all, part-time college places have been cut by 130,000 — a travesty at a time when the UK needs skilled women and men to get the economy back on track. The SNP has not even met its unambitious target to build 6,000 affordable homes, despite the obvious need.

Additionally, the SNP’s troubling record on civil liberties has been further extended by its efforts to build an identity database based on NHS records. Its creation of a single national police force has been to the detriment of local policing and communities they serve; Highlanders have been aghast at the sight of armed police undertaking routine duties on their streets. It is a bigger insult that local communities’ calls to reverse the policy were ignored.

The SNP now seeks to present itself as a party with a strong interest in the future of the UK. Its own record makes that very hard to believe.

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Liberal Democrats launch Manifesto for Disabled People

Manifesto for Disabled PeopleNick Clegg launches the party’s Manifesto for Disabled People today. In the foreword, he writes:

Liberal Democrats believe that no matter who you are, where you come from and what your circumstances, you should not be denied the opportunity to fulfil your potential.

It is essential to break down the unfair divisions in our society, yet disabled people in Britain today still face significant barriers to getting on and living happy, independent lives.

Providing opportunity for everyone is the test of a liberal society.

In Coalition Government, I am proud of the important progress Liberal Democrats have made in driving improvements.

From fighting to protect schools and teaching budgets, to investing £400m in carers’ breaks, or launching the No voice unheard, no right ignored programme to ensure people with disability, autism and mental health conditions get the best care possible.

But we can and must go further.

In Government again, we will ensure that disabled people get the support and help they need to find work, whether it is supporting those who want to work, or ensuring fairer assessment and support of those who can’t.

We will work to improve the benefits system for disabled people, ensuring assessments are truly fair, with quick access to financial help for those who cannot work.

We will move towards an integrated health service with more joined up care, more personal budgets so people have more control over the care they need, and delivering equality of care for mental health patients.

Only the Liberal Democrats will create opportunity for everyone by building a stronger economy and a fairer society. Labour will borrow too much, risking the economy. The Tories will cut too much, threatening public services and sacrificing the least well off.

We are determined to stick with the approach we set out in 2010
– a fair way of restoring the nation’s finance. The fruits of Britain’s recovery must be felt by all – providing disabled people with real opportunities to achieve their potential, and the support they need to live happier, more fulfilling lives.

The key measures are:

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Get set for #cleggleg 2 at 10pm tonight

Nick Clegg on the Last Leg 8After the triumph of his first appearance on The Last Leg in January, Nick Clegg returns to the sofa tonight. It’s a risk, for sure. Can he repeat the success of the last time when Twitter was full of praise for his sense of fun and natural manner? Remember when he persuaded Alex Brooker to vote by comparing it to a visit to Nando’s?

As I wrote at the time:

Well, people liked him because he was natural and funny and entirely himself. No other political leader in Britain could have come out of that unscathed. If you meet him in person, you have to be trying really hard to dislike him. It’s a pity we can’t get him onto 40 million doorsteps.

We are all invited to send him our questions via Twitter?

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Kelly-Marie Blundell on walking the high wire: “It was absolutely terrifying but not so bad after the first fall”

You will be relieved to know that Guildford Liberal Democrat candidate Kelly-Marie Blundell survived her tightrope walk in one piece. She was very brave indeed, getting back on after she fell off. That sort of persistence, courage and determination is definitely what you need in an MP.

The event has been covered in the media, on the BBC’s Election Live page (at 15:26 today):

Kelly-Marie on the High Wire

 

And on the Guildford Dragon:

Guildford’s Lib Dem candidate for Westminster showed her skills at holding the balance of power this morning (April 22) with the help of the Moscow State Circus.

33-year-old Kelly-Marie Blundell’s only previous experience has been walking the political tightrope between left and right.

She said: “I have never even done anything like this before, not even gymnastics.

“It was absolutely terrifying but not so bad after the first fall. Actually, it was easier than I thought.”

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Why Lib Dem Councillor Zoe stood down and what we should learn about our expectations of councillors

Liberal Democrat councillor Zoe Franklin is clearly a talented, caring and committed local servant. Her blog tells us that she’s someone who cares deeply about child poverty, the cost of childcare, and she likes to keep residents informed about what’s happening.  It’s a great shame, then, that she’s standing down as councillor for the Stoke ward in Guildford.

She’s written on the Guildford Dragon about why she’s made the decision not to run again for election. The toll the job takes both personally and financially just got too much. Her story of how she became involved sounds very familiar:

I

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LibLink: Kavya Kaushik: Britain’s immigration debate has taken a turn for the toxic

Ealing Southall Liberal Democrat candidate Kavya Kaushik has been writing for the New Statesman about the effect of the sort of rhetoric we’re hearing in the immigration debate.

She was annoyed by Evan Davis’ comments about Nick Clegg’s family background during his leader’s interview last week and recognised Nick’s obvious irritation:

The choice to fixate upon Clegg’s multicultural upbringing, suggesting it to be out of touch with “British” people, made for uncomfortable viewing. For centuries immigrants have been an integral part of the British working class. Within the context of the current immigration climate, it feels like further demonisation of BME people.

Davis’s intention was unlikely to be intentional racial discomfort, but Clegg’s furious reaction mirrored that of many children of migrants. Our Britishness is consistently questioned despite having lived in the UK for our entire lives. Casual racism is on the rise, particularly within politics. On the doorstep a BME canvasser is increasingly likely to hear “I don’t want your people here”, and worse. These experiences lead to racial sensitivity and passing comments questioning multiculturalism vs Britishness can be interpreted as a personal attack when coupled with modern attitudes to race in Britain.

Hang on! What was that?

On the doorstep a BME canvasser is increasingly likely to hear “I don’t want your people here”, and worse. 

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Opinion: What’s worse than a watery grave?

The news this week has been dominated by the horrendous tragedies of over 1000 deaths in the Mediterranean. With the notable exception of the vile Katie Hopkins, this tragedy has moved the hardest hearts, not least because of the number of children who have died.

For me it’s far closer to home and I confess I have spent the last couple of days fighting back the tears. I have the enormous privilege of caring for two children who made that same journey. And the danger for them didn’t begin when they climbed into a rickety boat, it began as they crossed the Sahara, in cars carrying maybe 30 passengers, many hanging on to the outside, where if one of them fell off they would be left to die in the scorching sand. Or in the insanitary, cruel and overcrowded cells of a Libyan detention centre.  And then, having reached ‘safety’ sleeping rough and eating out of bins while all around you people are dying.

As a family we have heard the horrendous stories of the children who are now part of our family, neither of them knowing where their birth families are, both very clear that they were prepared to take the risk to get here because the alternative was worse. Both now lauded by their schools for being role models for other students with their diligence, good humour and determination to succeed.

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Does anyone give a hoot about the Grant Shapps furore? Even if the Lib Dem press office and Nick Clegg make us laugh

Grant Shapps, a Conservative who’s been getting himself into all sorts of scrapes for some years now. That is, of course, if he can remember his name. 

We’ve clearly got to that stage of an election where the journalists just want to have some fun. Rather than discuss the major issues of the day – remember that hundreds of people have drowned in the last week – the media is all in a spin about a Guardian story which suggests that Shapps is behind a Wikipedia profile which has edited the pages of various Conservatives, including Shapps, to either add or remove critical or embarrassing facts.

The Lib Dem Press Office responded with great humour and have had some great plaudits for it:

And even Nick Clegg got in on the act, saying rather mischievously at his press conference that:

Well, Grant Shapps has fervently denied that he had anything to do with it. He himself does not have the time apparently to edit his own Wikipedia entry. I’m prepared to believe him. It could have been someone else. Michael Green for instance.

It is all very funny, but how many votes is this going to win for anyone? Will people actually change their vote based on this? Does anyone outside the Westminster media bubble actually care?

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 32 Comments

New edition of Liberator is out: Peerages, post election scenarios and early intervention

The latest issue of Liberator, the independent radical liberal magazine, is with subscribers.

Live sample contents from Liberator 371 are available online here.

Commentary looks at whether the coalition negotiation team hand-picked by Nick Clegg would have the nous to walk away from a poor deal, or whether its wants a coalition at any price if the numbers are right.

The lead story from Radical Bulletin concerns speculation about other contenders who might challenge Tim Farron’s rather obvious ambition to be the next leader should a vacancy arise.

In the sample feature Road To Recovery, former MP Michael Meadowcroft suggest show the party can recover by developing a ‘politics of values’ and avoiding populism.

Lord Bonkers considers the reburial of Richard III in an extract from his diary.

Other articles not yet online are:

Posted in Op-eds | 42 Comments

Nick Clegg outlines pay rises for public sector workers

Public sector workers would be guaranteed pay rises of at least the rate of inflation if the Liberal Democrat had their way. Nick Clegg is to give the details of the plan today. This would mean a minimum pay rise of £350 for a nurse on £25,000, £420 for a police officer on £30,000 and nearly £500 for a teacher on £35,000 over the next two years. After that, the government would recommend to pay review bodies that they give above inflation increases so that wages can rise in real terms.

Outlining the plan, Nick Clegg said:

Workers across the public sector have made enough sacrifices. You have done your bit to help get the country back on track.

That’s why the Liberal Democrats believe it is time to end the era of pay restraint.

Under our plans, we will give all public sector workers – from teachers and nurses to social workers and police officers – pay rises that at least keep pace with the cost of living every year.

No more pay freezes or below inflation pay rises. We can do this because with the Liberal Democrats, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

For two years pay in the public sector will, at the very least, keep pace with prices. After that, we will make sure it rises above inflation – giving millions of workers a real terms pay rise for the first time in years.

If you are a public sector worker worried Tory cuts threaten your job, or Labour’s refusal to deal with the deficit means another year of pay cuts, then only a vote for the Lib Dems will guarantee you a fair pay deal.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 93 Comments
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Recent Comments

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    If Nick will only support the Tories (and doesn't seem to have ruled out a deal with the DUP), why would I ( or any...
  • User Avatarpaul barker 26th Apr - 2:47pm
    Any government that relied on the support of the DUP/UKIP/SNP would be a threat to the continued existence of the UK. Thats not in itself...
  • User Avatarrob 26th Apr - 2:26pm
    As an Englishman looking in from the outside I thought our position was crazy. I was incredibly angry that the central party took a unilateral...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 26th Apr - 2:23pm
    Ha ha, thanks Stuart Moran! I agree reducing the number of constituencies is a terribly tory idea and we should be against it. Michael BG,...
  • User AvatarStephen Hesketh 26th Apr - 2:21pm
    Denis Mollison 26th Apr ’15 – 11:12am JohnTilley 26th Apr '15 - 11:37am "On electoral reform, please can we stop re-inventing the wheel? Our party...
  • User AvatarWilliam Hobhouse 26th Apr - 1:59pm
    Thank you Denis Mollison for a couple of links as few posts back, and for the restatement of the Lib Dem position on STV. is...