Lib Dem MPs were right not to play Labour’s silly games over the Bedroom Tax

Twitter has been full of Labour types slating Liberal Democrat MPs for voting against Labour’s parliamentary motion on the Bedroom Tax. When longstanding critics of the measure like Tim Farron and Julian Huppert vote with the Government, then there has to be a good reason. In fact, there are three.

1. This was just a Labour stunt

It was a parliamentary game to go along with a data gathering exercise Labour have been doing over the past few days. Social media has lit up with a link to a site in Liberal Democrat colours asking people to sign up to stand against the Bedroom Tax. All they wanted was the excuse to put on a leaflet that the Liberal Democrats had voted to keep the Bedroom Tax. Of course, it won’t mention that they voted in favour of Andrew George’s Affordable Homes Bill which made proper, actual sensible changes.

This is not a new tactic. I dare say we’ve used it ourselves plenty times in the past when in opposition. The SNP used to do it all the time when Labour and the Liberal Democrats were in power in Scotland. This may be a good moment to remind people that they never turned up to support Andrew George’s Bill. That’s an aside, though. What happens is that the opposition puts up a motion that even opponents of the measure in the Government couldn’t possibly vote for so that they can make political hay.

2. Labour’s motion did nothing for private sector tenants affected by similar measure introduced by…Labour

Yesterday’s motion was not about actually making anyone’s life better. It had no chance of helping those who are struggling with the Bedroom Tax. Nor did it to anything for those who are stuck in overcrowded accommodation. Even if their motion had passed, it would not have been binding on the Government, nor would it have tackled the hardship faced by people renting in the private sector. We forget that Labour brought something very similar to the Bedroom Tax in for private sector tenants in 2008. Yes, it’s slightly different in that it didn’t apply to existing tenancies, but there is much greater turnover in private sector tenancies, so it’s been causing real difficulties too. We shouldn’t ignore that. Funnily enough, Labour’s motion did ignore the problems they had caused.

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Baroness Sally Hamwee writes…Localism and liberalism, urban and rural

You have to admire the energy and determination of Lucy Hurds and the Lib Dem team in Hereford and South Herefordshire. When I went to Hereford the other day, I found I was the most recent of a gaggle of peers and MPs (is that the right collective noun for Parliamentarians?) whom Lucy had persuaded to trek westwards.

Going to rural seats always reminds me how different it is campaigning in the countryside. In my neck of the woods, the challenges are from entry phones and gated developments (how does anyone ever get in, or – as happened to one colleague who did achieve that, get out?) In other parts of the city it’s tall and too often liftless blocks. Lucy whispered to me that two members to whom she introduced me delivered a village every week.

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Fifa World Cup row: Lib Dem members say no to Qatar but split on 2022 boycott

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what our sample of Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. 747 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Yesterday, Fifa’s independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia quit in protest over the handling of his report into bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Here’s what Lib Dem members had to say about Fifa in our latest survey…

Do you think the 2022 football FIFA World Cup should go ahead in Qatar, or should it be hosted elsewhere?

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Vince’s Royal Mail privatisation: independent report concludes “the right decisions were made”

An independent report by Lord Myners published today has concluded Vince Cable and the Government made “the right decisions” during the process of selling off Royal Mail.

royal mail sell off

The BBC explains the background:

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LibLink: Tim Farron – CIA report shows we should fight even harder for liberal Britain

Writing in New Statesman, Tim Farron argues that liberalism is not a given, is under threat and we should fight for it:

We cannot continue to take liberalism for granted. We need to articulate our liberal values loudly and clearly to stop a creep into authoritarianism built on a currency of fear.

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Opinion: The power of the media for good or ill

The existence of a free press is one of the hard-won aspects of our society, that makes it what it is. Added to this is the existence of a free broadcasting system and the internet, some of which features other countries are lucky enough to share.

Of course, there are problems associated with a free media, including the issue that it is largely profit-driven and can therefore occasionally overstep the mark of what many ‘ordinary’ people consider to be acceptable behaviour. Delving too deeply into the private lives of those who are not in a position to defend themselves is one example of what can go wrong. On the other hand, revealing the depths of corruption in various public bodies is something for which we should thank them.

It is therefore with a degree of diffidence that I wonder whether some of the 24 hour a day coverage we see is actually a bad thing. Take for example, recent events in Sydney, Australia.

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Fixed-term parliaments: 56% of voters support them, finds YouGov

I’ve written before about the fact I like fixed-term parliaments: In praise of 5-year fixed-term parliaments. You may remember that a few years ago, former Cambridge MP David Howarth tried to introduce them. Then in the Coalition Agreement, they became reality.

YouGov has asked the public what they think about them, and you can see the result below courtesy the New Statesman’s May2015 polling website:

yougov fixed term parliaments - 1

photo by: garryknight
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Civil partnerships can now be converted into marriage

As of last week, couples in England and Wales have the choice to convert their civil partnership into marriage, concluding a historic process of changing the law to give same sex couples the right to get married.

The Liberal Democrats were the first party to support same sex marriage and have delivered our promise to couples to allow conversions into marriage to take place. There is now no reason in the law why two people of the same sex cannot be married.

Liberal Democrat Minister for Equalities Jo Swinson said:

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Opinion: Torture – taking back control of the debate

Following the publication of the Senate report into the CIA’s treatment of detainees during the ‘war on terror’, David Cameron said ‘Let us be clear. Torture is wrong, torture is always wrong’. This is undoubtedly a powerfully attractive view for anyone of a humanist disposition, concerned to condemn all violations of basic human rights.

But there is a nagging problem – the British public seem not to be so sure. A survey by Amnesty International in May this year showed that 30% of Britons believe that torture can sometimes be justified, and that 44% believe we should not rule out its use altogether – more than in Russia and China, countries where torture is endemic.

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Opinion: London’s house clearing and what the Focus E15 campaign tells us

The introduction of the Benefit Cap and Housing Benefit changes is adding fuel to the gentrification of our urban centers, throwing out many small businesses that can just afford the London Living Wage, and pushing micro urban economies into a transition that will inevitably see the marginalized and low income workers evicted from London’s salubrious centre zones.

Local Authorities (LAs) are already reconfiguring their homeless departments which, if pursued to their natural conclusion, will see changes in their service delivery because officers will have to eventually move out with their service users – starting the same homeless process all over again in the outer areas.

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Devolution must go beyond Westminster

Yesterday in parliament, William Hague announced four options to address the “English votes for English laws” issue. They are:

  1. Barring Scottish and Northern Irish MPs from any role in English and Welsh bills and limiting England-only bills to English MPs
  2. Allowing only English MPs, or English and Welsh MPs, to consider relevant bills during their committee and report stages, where amendments are tabled and agreed, before allowing all MPs to vote on the final bill
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Equal Marriage now a reality in Scotland

Same sex couples in Scotland are now free to arrange their weddings to take place from 31st December. Some people are sure to have a very happy Hogmanay. Some had a very happy 16th December as they converted their civil partnerships into marriages.

One of the things I’m most proud of is that organisations like the Equality Network and LGBT Plus Lib Dems (thanks, Dave Page) were listened to and we don’t have the cruel spousal veto up here.

Also, the Guardian published a poll today that shows that equal marriage has never had such high support, with 68% of people backing it:

According to ScotCen Social Research, 68% of people in Scotland now agree that gay or lesbian couples should have the right to marry if they want to, compared to 61% in 2010 and 41% in 2002.

There has also been an increase in the strength of this support, with those saying they agree ‘strongly’ that gay couples should be allowed to marry increasing by 14% over the past four years, while only 7% ‘strongly disagree’ in 2014.

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“The best opinion poll I’ve seen in a long time” says Nick Clegg

Nick’s Bite the Ballot Leaders Live Q & A this evening went pretty well. Those watching were asked to tweet #yesNick or #noNick to indicate what they thought on four different subjects, jobs, education, health and immigration.

All I can say is that I hope all these young people have votes. Here are the scores on the doors:

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Nick Clegg live Q & A at 7pm tonight

Nick Clegg answers live questions on the interweb thingy tonight at 7pm. That’s in just 45 minutes’ time. A group of young people will be asking him about the issues that they care about.

Watch here:

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Our worst nightmare? Peter Kellner’s scenario 3: “Lib Dems choose who’s the PM”

cameron clegg miliband 2Just over a year ago I wrote a piece titled Nightmare scenarios: what are the 2015 election results the Lib Dems, Tories and Labour most dread?

In it, I argued that the trickiest prospect for the Lib Dems would be an evenly poised general election outcome in which the Lib Dems held the balance of power:

In the nightmare scenario would have a genuine choice open to us: a second coalition with the Tories or a Lib-Lab pact.

Do a deal with the Tories – if that’s even

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Two Liberal Democrats win European awards

Its awards season at the moment and last week the focus shifted to Europe where the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe held its annual LeaDeR (Liberal Democrat Regional and Local Politicians) Awards. Two British Liberal Democrats were successful.

David TuttThe first was Cllr David Tutt, Lib Dem group leader of East Sussex County Council and leader of Eastbourne Borough Council who had been nominated for the Achievements in Government prize by MEP Catherine Bearder. He won for:

…his visible leadership in having put core liberal values of innovation, forward-thinking and opportunity into action in transforming what was officially the worst Council in the south-east of England into one widely recognised as among the very best in the country.

Catherine explained why she nominated David:

David has worked tirelessly in Eastbourne to ensure the town continues to go from strength to strength and when I heard about the awards I was delighted to put David’s name forward as I know the huge impact his work is having on the Eastbourne community.

 David is now a winner, just as he’s made Eastbourne a winner.

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Opinion: Shhh! Keep this secret

Everyone knows that the Federal Party committees do important business and that this business has to be kept absolutely secret. So I can’t really say anything about Monday’s Federal Executive meeting.

But if we are to move to OMOV (one member one vote – essentially the abolition of conference representatives) there need to be reports capable of being seen in the public domain and hopefully – unlike some reports I have seen within the Party about Federal Committees – uncoloured by the standpoint of the observer.

So let’s have a go.

We talked about OMOV itself. There is now a working party including both enthusiasts and sceptics and this has gone through the necessary amendments again and is hoping that this time it’s watertight. There are some very important loose ends, like how to ensure that people can afford to attend conference, and how the members of committees are to be held properly to account. There will be some consultation work on these at the spring conference.

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Judicial Review: Parliamentary Ping Pong delayed until New Year

It had been originally thought that the House of Commons would debate the Lords amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill yesterday.

This has now been delayed, probably until the New Year, indicating that there may be some chance of a Government compromise on the points of dispute.

The Lords have now voted twice to give judges some discretion about letting cases proceed even if they fail the “highly likely” test. The Government hasn’t yet given way on this one but you would hope that they would accept Lord Pannick’s amendment passed last week which would allow cases to proceed if it was in the public interest for them to do so.

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LibLink: Norman Lamb: Decades of not understanding Mental Health has left too many Unhelped – but we are getting there

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat Health Minister, has written for the Huffington Post about the changes he’s been trying to implement in mental health care and treatment.

First he talked about services for young people:

Recent provisional data shows that hospital admissions for self-harm for young people aged 11-19 are at their highest for five years. Maybe it is better reporting, maybe it is a result of the added stresses young people face. But these figures represent real young people and their families and the serious emotional distress they face.

Some find it difficult to talk about their mental health, which is why it is so important for those who can to be open about the problems they have faced. Don’t underestimate how important it is to encourage others to feel they can talk about it. In a way, it’s the most important thing.

I want young people to get good and compassionate personalised care. I want them to be given both physical and mental health care which helps them in their time of need but also gives them techniques and support to help prevent or manage further problems.

That’s why, earlier this year, I convened a Taskforce to advise us on improvements to mental health services for children and young people. This is the first time a group of experts from across, health, education and social care have come together to focus on making sure every young person gets the care they need. Crucially, we are also involving young people in this work so they can give their views on what they want from services. And it’s my aim that services don’t just stop at the youngsters themselves – services need to support entire families to deal with the challenges of living with mental illness.

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LibLink: Tim Farron – Pandering to Ukip risks handing over British-grown ideas to overseas competitors

Tim Farron launches the Lib Dem YES! campaignLib Dem party president Tim Farron argues that “a simplistic debate over immigration will force potential wealth creators overseas” over at the Huffington Post website today. Here’s an excerpt:

Pollsters will say that migration is one of the main concerns of this election. An ill-fated and simplistic response by politicians to this issue will not address their concerns. A cap will do nothing to address the problems that Britain faces. Low pay will not be solved by a migrant cap. The housing crisis will not

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Clegg: senior Labour ex-ministers should give evidence to UK torture inquiry

Nick Clegg Q&A 12Last week came the revelations from the US Senate Intelligence Committee about the extent of the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”.

It immediately promoted questions about what the then Labour Government knew about what was happening on the watch of its closest ally. Nick Clegg has called for senior ex-ministers to give evidence to Parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) on what they knew about torture conducted by UK or US intelligence agencies in Iraq or Afghanistan, as The Guardian reports:

The deputy prime minister said

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The Independent View: Where Next for Royal Mail?

Royal Mail delivery trolleyWith privatisation done and dusted it was inevitable that the debate about Britain’s postal service would move beyond the public vs private argument.

Royal Mail is now a private company and is likely to remain so. It, of course, faced many challenges regardless of ownership which were certain to surface once it moved into the private sector. One of these is now coming across loud and clear. Namely the requirement of Royal Mail to deliver a universal delivery service to every UK address six days a week.

In response to falling profits, management and union within the company  launched a call to the regulator to require the competition to be bound by the same Universal Service Obligation as Royal Mail. This call has fallen on deaf ears.

Posted in The Independent View | Tagged | 14 Comments

Vince Cable on the Tories’ “extreme ideology”

As we reported yesterday,, on the Andrew Marr show Vince Cable said:

We are committed to financial discipline but we’re not veering off to the kind of extreme ideology that the Tories seem to want.

Here is a video clip:

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The Independent View: UK Foreign Policy and Western Sahara

Westernsaharamap2015 will mark the 40th anniversary of the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco. With the UK’s concern about the rising threat of insecurity from the region, and a renewed focus on British values and human rights promotion within foreign policy, the UK can lead progress towards concluding the Western Sahara issue.

Western Sahara lies on the northwest African coast and is south of Morocco, north and west of Mauritania, and south west of Algeria. It is worth noting that Sahrawi society is one in which men and women play equally important roles. From 1884 to 1974 the territory was a Spanish colony but in line with the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960, the Sahrawi people were to vote on self-determination and independence upon decolonization.

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Lib Dem Lawyers on Judicial Review

House of Commons at NightThe Criminal Justice and Courts Bill is returning to the Commons today after being ‘batted’ back in ping-pong proceedings between Lords and Commons.

Lib Dem peers working with the crossbenchers are refusing to approve two measures:

1) The Government’s Secure College plans for under 15s.
The Lib Dem Lawyers Association are not the experts in this field, but are concerned that MPs should consider all the risks and issues raised by leading experts. The Lords amendment would exclude under 15s from the Secure College until such time as Parliament agrees that it is safe to send them there.

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Africa Liberal Network General Assembly concludes with spectacular success

International officeThis year saw the 11th Africa Liberal Network (ALN) General Assembly, which took place in Marrakech, Morocco, between 26 – 29 November 2014. President of the ALN Olivier Kamitatu said: “This year, the ALN accomplished a number of historic firsts including the election of a gender representative executive committee, the adoption of a robust new constitution and the acceptance of 9 new observer member parties, taking the total number of members to the largest in the Network’s history, with 44 parties.”

It was also the first conference to bring the ALN and the Arab Alliance for Freedom and Democracy together making this the biggest in the history of the network with over 90 delegates from 22 African countries.

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Opinion: All for one and one for all

flag-russiaRussia has been busy in the Baltic recently – they have been harassing their neighbours and it seems to me they are acting as if the Baltic is their ‘mare nostrum’ as it were. The Polish Defence minister noted that Sweden seems to be the main object of Russian attention.

How do we help Sweden, and Finland for that matter? Finland and Sweden are in a slightly odd position – they are members of the EU but not members of NATO. In the Cold War they were ‘neutral’ but whatever that meant then it means even less now. What does Britain and other EU/NATO countries do if Finland and Sweden are threatened or even attacked by Russia? Finland and Sweden not being in NATO, Britain is not bound by Article 5 of the NATO Treaty (an attack on one is an attack on all) but it seems inconceivable that we would stand idly by if these two countries were in danger.

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Opinion: Is this the end of conviction politics?

Are we witnessing the end of ‘conviction politics’ in the UK: that is the willingness of politicians to lead, rather than follow, public opinion, taking it in a direction that they believe to be right, rather than one that will get them re-elected. Of course, politicians want to be returned to power; even the very best can only achieve anything good in society provided they are in a position to influence events.

The danger is, however, that in the rush to get elected politicians sometimes allow the media to set the agenda, and then pander to the ‘lowest common denominator’ of public opinion.

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #402

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 402nd weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the seven most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (7 – 13 December, 2014), together with a hand-picked quintet, you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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LDV’s Sunday Best: our 7 most-read articles this week

7 ver 4 fullMany thanks to the 15600  visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

 Reasons to be careful about new analysis suggesting Lib Dems “set to lose several more seats than national polls with uniform swing would predict” (77 comments) by Stephen Tall

Game on in Gordon! Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine has to defend seat against former First Minister Salmond (25 comments) by Caron Lindsay

Clegg’s letter to Burnham: “you may have inadvertently misled” Commons on Labour’s NHS privatisation record (31 comments) by The Voice

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 18th Dec - 1:17pm
    What culturally resonant region would Birmingham belong to? Or Buckingham? Southampton? And are you sure we all agree what the borders of Mercia or Wessex...
  • User AvatarSteve Way 18th Dec - 1:06pm
    "Yes, it’s slightly different in that it didn’t apply to existing tenancies," Sorry Caron but that is not a slight difference. That is the key...
  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 18th Dec - 1:04pm
    Can anyone point me to a source for the actual text of last night's motion?
  • User AvatarGlenn Andrews 18th Dec - 1:02pm
    Surely regional parliaments would be easier to sell if rather than arbitrary lines with regions called South-east or suchlike we had regions with some cultural...
  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 18th Dec - 12:56pm
    John Tilley I think you're missing the point. Nobody here (or anywhere, I think) is questioning whether the things you describe are torture. The point...
  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 18th Dec - 12:47pm
    "The only solution to such a scenario is full independence for Scotland" I meant to add -- no, it's not. Another obvious solution is parallel...