To realms unknown

North Korea 2

I have long used Voyages Jules Verne for interesting places to visit.

In 2012 one flyer caught my notice. The chance of a trip to the hermit nation, North Korea. I instantly booked up. This trip is no longer on offer and I am pleased I took the chance in May 2013.

To begin, it is the only country where I have had to fill in a pre visa application form. It is certain that my son, as a former RAF intelligence officer, would not have got in. I was pleased that, despite being a former East Lothian Councillor, I got a visa.

Flights are only on Air Koryo from Beijing. Eat well before – in flight food was a tasteless cold hamburger. The in flight magazine is Kim propaganda.

Having arrived you need to go with the flow and pay heed to regulations. I was on one of the first tours where tourists were allowed to keep their mobiles – although there was no connection anyway. First night food  at the Koryo Hotel was grey boiled chicken, but it got better. One tour member rarely got off the bus. I wondered why she had booked given the clear statements by the tour company about severe restrictions on movement and food quality.

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Liberal Democrats must enthusiastically occupy the clear pro EU space – nobody else will

The Liberal Democrats have historically been enthusiastically pro EU. The strength of that enthusiasm, it’s fair to say, has not always been uniform. While a small number of Liberal Democrats campaigned to leave the EU, the vast majority of us wanted to remain. That was very clear to the tens of thousands who have joined us in the aftermath of the vote to leave.

As a party during the referendum, we did more than any other to campaign for a Remain vote. That’s quite a staggering achievement given our size and resources compared to the Labour party.

However, there are signs now that the consensus is starting to develop some fault lines. Our position in the aftermath of the referendum has been very clear. We campaign to stay or go back in to the EU at the next election. We want the voters to have their say on the Brexit deal. It’s only polite, really, given that they weren’t given any indication about what it would look like before they voted.

I don’t want to over-egg this particular pudding, but it looks like our general unity as a party on this is now under threat. Many Liberal Democrats  have been very concerned to see that Norman Lamb and Nick Clegg have endorsed Open Britain, the organisation formerly known as Britain Stronger in Europe.  Open Britain accepts the referendum result as final even though they also accept that nobody knows what they actually voted for. They will not be calling for a second referendum which seems to be a bizarre and contradictory stance to me.

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Conference Access Fund helps more members to attend

Rally entertainment Spring Conference Liverpool March 2015 Photo by Liberal Democrats

Spring Conference 2016 saw the launch of the Conference Access Fund, which makes grants to members to enable them to attend conference. It was pretty successful at York, and is proving to be even more popular this time round for Brighton.

When members register for Conference they are asked if they would like to make a donation to the fund and they have been amazingly generous. The fund is ring-fenced and any that is not spent is carried over to the next conference.

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Please understand what The Alternative is about

The AlternativeJudging by the reaction to Andrew George’s post last week  there seems to be a lot of unnecessary fretting among Liberal Democrats caused by ‘The Alternative’, the book I have co-edited with the Labour and Green MPs Lisa Nandy and Caroline Lucas. Allow me to explain why I think some people are getting the wrong end of the stick.

I fully understand the views of those who say Labour is not a progressive party, and that we sometimes have more in common with the liberal wing of the Conservatives than we do with Labour or the nationalist parties. Those views can be defended, but they don’t alter the practical reality of what we face.

Everyone is talking about how we were hammered at the 2015 election, which we were in relative terms, but the 8% of the vote we polled would have given us around 55 seats if we’d had a proportional election system, which was roughly what we had in the last parliament.

As a liberal, I’d happily accept whatever our core vote is – probably something between 8% and 20% – under PR. We’d probably never be a party leading a government, but we’d have real influence, and could pursue liberal-democratic policies in association with whichever other parties were receptive to our ideas.

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

7 bestMany thanks to the 10,100  visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

Could “Traingate” derail Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign? (71 comments) by Caron Lindsay

Nicola Sturgeon appoints controversial Brexit minister (25 comments) by Caron Lindsay

Andrew George writes…Can progressives unite to defeat the Tories? (68 comments) by Andrew George

Brexit and the path to a written constitution (36 comments) by Ciaran Mcgonigle

Renationalising the railways is trendy but not smart (73 comments) by Jack Watson

Is Labour really the natural home for those concerned about human rights? (33 comments) by John Kelly

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LDV at 10: Pick of the posts: The one with the naked man

On 27th August, LDV will be 10 years old. In that time, we’ve brought you over 24,000 posts and published over 337,000 comments. Over the Summer holidays, we’ll take you on a nostalgic meander through a decade of Liberal Democrat history, seen through the eyes of our editors and contributors. We hope you enjoy our choices.

This is one of our more iconic posts. Former co-editor Stephen Tall made a bit of a rash promise on the Daily Politics in 2013. He said that if the Liberal Democrats only  won 24 seats in the General Election, he would run naked up Whitehall.

Well, sadly, the election result is history. Stephen could have got off on a technicality, but he did the run, on, of all dates, the anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s birth, pretty much naked and filmed for the Daily Politics. Enjoy.

Stephen Tall, formerly of this parish, has honoured the pledge he made to run naked down Whitehall if the Liberal Democrats were reduced to 24 seats.

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BHS stores close today but pensioners face decades of pain

Former BHS owner Sir Philip Green has been traversing the tranquil southern European seas in his humungous new £100 million yacht, staffed by a crew to cater for his, his family’s and his pets’ every need.

That might be fine if the flagship High Street chain was still going strong and if the pension funds were in a healthy condition.

Instead, nine decades of retail history comes to an end today as the final stores close. 11,000 workers lose their jobs and many will be facing the consequences of what a committee of MPs described as “the unacceptable face of capitalism.”

The Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee really didn’t mince its words about the demise of BHS and the culpability of its leadership:

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