Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Call Clegg goes on the road as Nick Clegg launches the Liberal Democrat election campaign

A big day today as Nick Clegg heads to Oxford West and Abingdon to officially launch the Liberal Democrat campaign. As ever there will be a bus to ferry the leader and his team around the country but it will have two particularly interesting features. First of all, it’ll have the tech to enable Nick to do Call Clegg style shows and radio interviews while he travels. Nick has always been the most accessible party leader, doing regular town hall meetings, but this will take it to a new level.

The other feature of the bus is that its livery has been designed by two graphic design students with panels to represent our main priorities.

It’s significant that the launch is taking place in a seat that we hope to gain, sending out the clear message that advancement is on the agenda, even when so many have written us off even more than they usually do.

Ahead of the launch, Nick said some things which should by now be quite tedious to Liberal Democrats but we need to remember that we are not the target audience.

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The Liberal Democrats who stood up for John Bercow

I asked the other day why on earth the Liberal Democrats had indulged the Tories’ last minute motion on the re-election of the Speaker which brought this Parliament to a rather undignified end.

We still haven’t had any real justification as to why we allowed this to take that leap from William Hague’s head to Commons Order paper, but I thought that you would be interested to read the Liberal Democrat interventions in the debate, both of which were against the motion.

David Heath’s remarks were very brief but to the point:

Further to the point of order, Mr Speaker. There is, of course, another way. The Leader of the House could withdraw the motion— I have to say that although I would always support a secret ballot, I very much dislike the way in which this matter has been brought before the House today.

For Duncan Hames, it was all about the potential consequences of such a rule change and how that would affect the balance of power between Speaker, House and the Executive:

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Alex Salmond postpones US book tour as Christine Jardine’s campaign goes from strength to strength

Salmond New YorkThe Herald reports that Alex Salmond has postponed a trip to the US to promote his book which had, incredibly, been due to take place in just 10 days’ time, after the start of the general election campaign.

His publishers pencilled in signings in New York and Toronto for the week after next, during the annual Scotland Week festivities.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford was also lined up to appear at a hustings in Gordon, where Mr Salmond is the SNP candidate, during his absence.

Jean Marie Kelly of HarperCollins in New York said yesterday: “Unfortunately, we only have him in Toronto for one day and in New York for one day so a very whirlwind trip.

“We are just firming the exact dates and times, but all indications are the week of April 6.”

However after press enquiries to the SNP, Mr Salmond’s plans melted away.

His rival candidates in Gordon said a transatlantic tour mid-election would have demonstrated an ego “spiralling out of control”.

What’s interesting is that there seems to be some new law of the universe that requires every mention of Salmond’s book to be accompanied by Paddy Ashdown’s memorable review of it. The Liberal Democrat election chair said that the book was:

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Cute seals for Earth Hour Day – and some serious points about Liberal Democrat policy

On the day Earth Hour takes place, the Liberal Democrats have released a video with Nick Clegg and Julia Goldsworthy at a Cornish seal sanctuary. They highlight the nature bill that’s part of our 5 green laws in the manifesto. I know this is childish but every time I see that headline, I think of a cartoon David Laws, greened up like Elphaba in Wicked. The party’s video communications are really good at the moment. Enjoy this one.

Our plans for a Nature Bill include removing exemptions from all plastic bag charges to safeguard our environment and protect wildlife.

Posted by Liberal Democrats on Saturday, 28 March 2015

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LibLink: Willie Rennie MSP: Liberal Democrats nail their green credentials to the mast

It’s WWF’s annual Earth Hour tonight, between 8:30 and 9:30. Many of us will be turning our lights off to show that the planet and its environment is a priority and to show that we want our government to take it seriously. I noticed that this year it clashes with Channel 4’s docudrama thingy about the Coalition. When I moaned about it on Twitter, people reminded me about Channel 4 + 1.

WWF Scotland have asked the country’s political leaders to contribute a blog post to explain what Earth Hour means for them. Willie Rennie’s is here. He starts off by saying why Earth Hour matters:

 In our busy day-to-day lives this huge event forces us to stop and think about the future. Raising awareness of the climate challenge we face. Setting out concrete actions we can take to protect our environment. Ensuring that our children live in a fairer, greener society.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party to have nailed their green credentials to the mast, and set out how our radical agenda will be delivered in a way that is both credible and affordable.

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Today’s headlines show just how much work is still to do on mental health stigma

All of us have been moved by the Germanwings plane crash, feeling for those who have lost loved ones or colleagues. The circumstances of the crash, caused by what seems to be a deliberate act by the co-pilot, has provoked much comment in the press, much of it deeply irresponsible. Headlines have screamed about Andreas Lubitz’s mental health demanding to know why he was allowed to fly.

Lurid headlines, written by sub-editors who clearly have no clue about mental health, do not help to either tackle the stigma faced by people with mental ill health or encourage those who suffer to seek help. The more open we can be about mental health, the more we understand. That leads to a more comfortable and sympathetic world for those who are suffering.

It’s worth reading this statement from Mind, which acts the media to report the issue responsibly:

The terrible loss of life in the Germanwings plane crash is tragic, and we send our deepest sympathies to the families. Whilst the full facts are still emerging, there has been widespread media reporting speculating about the link with the pilot’s history of depression, which has been overly simplistic.

Clearly assessment of all pilots’ physical and mental health is entirely appropriate – but assumptions about risk shouldn’t be made across the board for people with depression, or any other illness. There will be pilots with experience of depression who have flown safely for decades, and assessments should be made on a case by case basis.

Today’s headlines risk adding to the stigma surrounding mental health problems, which millions of people experience each year, and we would encourage the media to report this issue responsibly.

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Sir Alan Beith’s final speech to the House of Commons

Alan Beith

Yesterday a valedictory debate for retiring members took place in the House of Commons. Members whose service totalled several hundred years bade farewell to the Commons. Three of them were Liberal Democrats and we’ll be publishing their speeches in full. Today we have Sir Alan Beith, elected in a by-election in 1973 and who faced two defences of his seat in the first year. You can read the whole debate, with speeches from long-standing and distinguished MPs such as Gordon Brown, Joan Ruddock, Sir George Young and Elfyn Llwyd, here.

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Why have Liberal Democrats indulged the Tories’ Bercow bashing?

By any standards, the last minute motion to change the rules on Speaker election is pure bad manners. Filed with less than a day’s notice when many MPs will already have left Westminster, it asks MPs to approve a secret ballot on the re-election of the Speaker. Up until now, MPs have voted in the traditional manner. The election of a Speaker when there is a vacancy is already conducted by secret ballot.

The actual proposal itself is not unreasonable, for consistency’s sake and was recommended by the Commons Procedure Committee as the Guardian article linked to above says:

Tory and Lib Dem sources rejected Labour claims they had acted in an underhand way. They said they were following the convention of allowing MPs to vote on the recommendations of the procedure committee. But Nick Clegg, who is spending the day in his Sheffield Hallam constituency after his weekly LBC phone-in, will not be present for the vote.

So when did the Procedure Committee make that recommendation? I looked through their recent report which suggested revisions to Commons standing orders and it wasn’t in there. There was stuff about elections and by-elections for Deputy Speakers and even a change in lunch breaks on Thursdays in public bill committees (up till now the poor little loves might go hungry – how cruel), but nothing about Speaker elections or re-elections. You have to go back almost five years, to 2010, to find that recommendation. There has been more than enough time to have that vote, so why leave it till the last possible moment?

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Everyone’s talking about Clegg’s Great Funk Up

I manage to pretend most of the time that I’m a young person, but last night I wondered if I was in fact approaching middle age when I saw this:

Was I becoming an old fuddy duddy or was this genuinely an acquired taste?

Well, it seemed that proper young people weren’t overly impressed either. One wrote on my Facebook that it had “broken my brain.” That was, I have to say, one of the kinder things I heard said about it. Others liked it though.

To be fair, if you compare it to the original Uptown Funk video, there are bits of it that are quite clever. Where it suffers is that it just doesn’t have a decent hook.

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Clegg launches Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation

I think it’s fair to say that Nick Clegg may not exactly rock the tracksuit look, but he did do something very valuable today. In one of his last engagements as Deputy Prime Minister before the election campaign, he launched the Charter for Mental Health in Sport and Recreation aimed at kicking the mental health stigma out of sport. The video explains why:

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Nick Clegg’s last Deputy Prime Minster’s Questions of this Parliament brings a flurry of Labour own goals

On 22 June 2010 a new parliamentary phenomenon was born. The Deputy Prime Minister in a new-fangled coalition government got his own Commons question and answer session. It was Labour MP Jim Cunningham who asked the first question then on plans for the AV referendum.

Since then these monthly sessions have generally involved Labour lobbing whatever verbal grenades they can, ably assisted by certain Conservatives who were not, to put it mildly, fans of the coalition.

Today marked the last Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions of this Parliament and it was unique in leaving Nick actually lost for words. He has generally dealt with the abuse with his customary good humour and wit but today, Harriet Harman asked a question so daft that he could barely believe it.

In an interview last week the Deputy Prime Minister pronounced that

“the way in which politics works is bust”

and that “Westminster is a joke”. When he said that, was he referring to himself?

Nick treated that with the contempt it deserved:

I wonder what answer I should give to that. No, of course not.

He then made a bold prediction:

I think that the era of single-party government in this country is over. I know she does not like that idea and that the establishment parties—those Members sitting both behind me and in front of me—do not like it either, but I think it is over. This coalition Government have, in very difficult circumstances, presided over what is now the fastest growing economy in the developed world, with more people in work than ever before, and more women in work than ever before, after the absolute economic mess she bequeathed us. That is quite an achievement.

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A few quick thoughts on last night’s Dispatches

Channel 4’s Dispatches programme last night featured the attempts of one business man to give lots of money to Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The programme has already led to Liberal Democrat peer Paul Strasburger temporarily resigning from the Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords pending an investigation from the Electoral Commission. Here are my thoughts on the programme:

Lib Dems should not keep this money – and we aren’t

My instincts on seeing the programme was that the donation that he has procured should be returned because the programme made clear that it didn’t come from the person whose name was on the cheque. That’s not to say that I think there was conclusive evidence of wrong-doing. The Electoral Commission will rule on that and we should let them do their job. What is clear is that the Federal Party had no way of knowing that the donation had come from anyone other than the name on the cheque. I was glad to see Olly Grender confirm on Twitter that we are not keeping the money. It will either go back to the donor or to the Electoral Commission. Guidance is awaited on that point.

Cash for access?

The programme certainly gave an insight into the world of political fund-raising with the businessman concerned Paul Wilmott being invited to events with senior figures from the three parties in fairly short order. This I think is a much bigger deal in the Labour and Conservative parties than it is in the Liberal Democrats. Let’s face it, I’ve had longer conversations with Vince Cable than Paul Wilmott did and I don’t have loads of money. Senior Liberal Democrats are much more accessible than the likes of Cameron and Miliband. Let’s face it, I saw a new member at her first conference in Liverpool last week meet Nick Clegg and chat to him 3 times in the first evening. Our senior figures also spend massive amounts of time supporting local party dinners and campaigning. If you turn up to go canvassing in a key seat, there’s every chance you might be out with one of our senior MPs or Lords. It’s not like the Tories where your position in the room at a dinner depends on how much you have paid for your ticket.

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The attacks on Tim Farron need to stop – Vince Cable should know better

Tim Farron Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterNot even a charming account of his Friday dance class as reported by Buzzfeed’s Emily Ashton can assuage my annoyance with Vince Cable this morning. I have to say that he is an unusual candidate for my ire. His work rate of good, decent, liberal stuff in this parliament from stopping the Tories allowing employers to hire and fire people at will to strengthening consumer rights, tackling payday lenders and bringing in shared parental leave has been excellent. His economic wisdom and willingness to call out the Tories on their silly immigration targets has been much appreciated, as has his honesty about the realities of being in coalition with the Tories.

But he’s been the target of enough critical press briefings over the past five years to be aware of how destructive they can be. The fact that he’s prepared to put his name to trashing Tim Farron’s reputation and prospects doesn’t make it that much better. Speaking about the interview in which Farron was reported as saying that he’d give 2/10 for our handling of some aspects of the coalition (which is so totally out of character for Tim that I doubt its accuracy), Vince said:

“It wasn’t at all helpful,” Cable says bluntly. “I mean, he’s a very good campaigning MP, but he’s never been in government and has never had to make difficult decisions and I think his credibility isn’t great. You know, he’s an entertaining speaker and has a bit of a fan club. But I suspect he would not be seen as a very credible leader, at least now. Maybe in five, 10 years’ time, things are different.”

Credible politicians must be more consensual than extreme if they want to get things done, Cable suggests. He says pointedly: “The closer we get to an election and the more uncertain it seems, the more people will want people who are seen to be competent and reliable.”

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The Telegraph puts its own predictable spin on Liberal Democrat election strategy

It always amuses me how the newspapers report  what is going on inside the Liberal Democrat campaign machine. I would strongly recommend that you read anything published on the pages of newspapers who hate us with a very large pinch of salt.

A few weeks ago the Mirror painted this picture of “MPs being forced to undergo dragon’s den style grillings” to secure campaign resources. This is kind of right, except it’s a process which has been going on for most of this Parliament and in fact any seat was welcome to apply to be part of the strategic seats programme. I was part of the Dragon’s Den panel in Scotland and I was really heartened to see how the process worked and how campaigning activity in all our seats improved as a result.

Now the Telegraph, which hates us as much as the Mirror if not more, screams “Lib Dems throw weak MPs to the wolves”. There are undoubtedly some people who would far rather be thrown to an actual pack of wolves than face Paddy in full Father Jack mode but the sense I get is that seats which a year ago were thought to be lost are actually being seen as seriously in play. This is down to the massive effort that has been put in on the ground by our highly motivated campaign teams. The party has always targeted its relatively scant resources carefully to put most effort in where the evidence tells us we can win. The only difference between this campaign and previous is that there are fewer seats we are seriously targeting to gain. Oxford West and Abingdon and Watford, where Layla Moran and Dorothy Thornhill respectively are standing, are two prominent examples of that sort of seat.

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Is David Steel right about the Liberal Democrat attitude to a future coalition?

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As if Austin Rathe didn’t have enough to do…

Austin RatheAustin Rathe is, as many of you will know, the Head of Member and Supporter Development at Lib Dem HQ. He has presided over an increase in membership over the last couple of years and is the architect of the incentive scheme which makes it worth local parties’ while putting lots of effort into recruiting members.

He is someone who works almost every hour imaginable and is often to be seen responding to queries raised by members not just through the usual channels but on social media, too.

He’s a very busy person and you can’t really imagine him sitting still for more than 5 seconds. I did wonder, though, when I saw that he was planning to run the London Marathon this April whether we were working him hard enough. Or, alternatively, whether we were working him too hard if he thought that running 26 miles was something he’d do for a rest.

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Norman Lamb and his family deserve our support

There was always going to be a lot of warmth in the room when Norman Lamb appears on stage to give his speech to Liberal Democrat conference this morning His actions in government to transform mental health and care services touch every single one of us. If we don’t need these services ourselves, someone we know does and he has made life easier for so many people.

A story in the Mirror today lays bare some of the details of the personal pain that lies behind his determination to build a mental health system that makes sense and works for people. We in the LDV team are struggling to see the public interest in publishing such a story about a very private matter about the health of Norman’s son, Archie. We particularly question the rather lurid headline and the inference that Norman was in any way worried about his own career. His own words are pretty clear to me that it’s Archie’s career that they were worried about. Norman has spoken to the Mirror and it’s his words we quote here:

He says: “I have talked openly and publicly that our family has been touched by mental ill health but I haven’t, because I have to protect his interests, said anything about Archie’s situation.”

He was diagnosed at the age of 15 with obsessive compulsive disorder and has been on medication ever since.

“He’s carried a heavy burden with his ill health. He wants to be open about his mental health as this is the source of the problem. We have had a very traumatic 10 years in many ways.

“He’s had amazing success in the music business and he’s also had very dark periods and that led to him drinking too much and, as we understand it, getting into bad company and drugs.”

But Mr Lamb insists Archie – who discovered Tinchy Stryder as a young music producer – is now clean.

“We are immensely proud he has escaped from that. He’s rebuilt his career and is doing very well – this is what is so tragic about this blackmail.”

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Paddy Ashdown can’t hurt me now

Paddy Ashdown video screenshotLast night in his rally speech, Paddy Ashdown jokingly suggested that he might deliver a cruel and unusual punishment to anyone who didn’t do the 10 calls from the Team 2015 phone bank that was requested of every member over the Conference weekend.

In no way am I scared of Paddy and his humorous threats were not the main reason I headed down there this afternoon. Honest.

It  was all very painless and great fun. You are greeted by cheery volunteers who sign you in and give you a mobile phone, a script and a list of calls to make. The biggest problem I had, typically for me, was that it took me ages to work out how to end the calls on the, shall we say, old fashioned models we were using. I was sitting next to Julian Huppert. He was calling voters in his Cambridge constituency. I was calling people for Stephen Williams in Bristol West. And here is the proof:

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Nick Clegg’s Q & A: Live blog

Nick Clegg Q&A Liverpool Spring conference 2015 Photo by Liberal DemocratsWhen I tried to live blog Nick Clegg’s q and a in Glasgow it all went horribly wrong. I’d got about 20 minutes in and then lost the whole thing. I will be a bit more diligent about saving and updating this post.

In the style of the Daily Mail writing about female politicians, Nick Clegg, a 48 year old father of three has come on stage wearing a smart blue suit with a lighter shirt. His hair is not as sleek as it could be. He could have done with a few minutes with his hairbrush this morning.

The first question is about our relative spending on defence and aid. Nick said we should look more holistically – aid is an important part of our own national interest. He was then asked if the EU idea and said definitely No. A barmy idea, a barmy army, he said. He did say, though, that Britain and France were the only countries with any large military capability so if the EU wanted to be more self sufficient on this, there should be more long term thinking on building it up so we didn’t have to rely on “uncle Sam’ to bail us out.

Right and left abhor us being in government more than they abhor each other

Why are our poll ratings not better when we’ve done so much in government is the next question.

Nick says that it’s the first coalition at a time of real economic crisis. The powerful financial and media vested interests of right and left “abhor the Liberal Democrats in government more than they abhor each other.” They want to reclaim their binary system and us being in government puts a spoke in that.

He says that polls look much better where we can tell our side of the story and where we do that, we are going to win. 

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A snapshot of the mental health debate

Mental health is important to Liberal Democrats because it’s instinctive to us to want to break down barriers that hold people back from living the best lives they possibly can. When we see people’s lives blighted, limited and restricted because they can’t access help and support for mental ill health it makes us furious and determined to right it.

This is something that has always driven Nick Clegg. His first major speech as leader was on the subject of mental health and the party has set in train a series of reforms which has made mental health care more accessible and given patients more right. In time, we will no longer have the scandal of someone with a broken leg being treated immediately while a self-harming teenager gets sent home and put on a waiting list which might lead to a year’s wait before even seeing a psychiatrist, let alone receiving any targeted help to alleviate their symptoms.

The party debated a wide ranging motion on mental health this morning. Here are some of the highlights:

Anyone who has supported a teenager through mental ill health would have found Alex White’s speech incredibly moving. She was frank about her own issues, about the waits she’s experienced for treatment. She explained what was wrong with the current system and how we need to fix it:

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#ldconf gets under way: Rally live blog

Rally entertainment Spring Conference Liverpool March 2015 Photo by Liberal Democrats
I’m sitting in the auditorium between Paul Walter who is taking photos which by the magic of technology will illustrate this post later, and Deborah from Derbyshire, who’s at her first Conference. She’s been saying what a wonderful atmosphere it is here. In front of us Nick Clegg, Jo Swinson and Paddy Ashdown are watching the singers who are entertaining us with bright and uplifting songs. It’s a little bit of West End musical magic to make us smile.

We’ve already had a video where some of the fantastic Team 2015 volunteers who staff the LDHQ phone banks tell us about themselves. Including some guy called Nick who said he was the Deputy something or other.

Mustang Sal

And now we have Sal Brinton making her first platform speech in her new role. She enters the hall on her wheelchair to the strains of Ride, Sally, Ride. She managed to get from Mustang Sally to Ian Fleming to modern politics in her opening paragraph.

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A double boost for Julian Huppert’s re-election campaign

Julian Huppert MPTwo bits of good news for anyone who wants to see Julian Huppert re-elected as MP for Cambridge.

Firstly, he had to quickly increase his fundraising target after a steady flow of donations took him within easy grasp of his original aim very quickly after his Back Julian site was launched.  He now hopes to raise £15,000 and is well on target to meet that.  The positive video, showing a busy team waving placards with all the reasons to vote for Julian, from civil liberties, to equalities, to science, drug policy reform. Every one of us actually has an interest in him being there because of his massive contribution on the national stage. In fact, the plea on his site is almost under-stated.

photo by: Policy Exchange
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Does Cameron think he’s been in Nick Clegg’s pocket these last five years?

The third last Prime Minister’s Questions of this Parliament was just as ridiculous as we’ve come to expect. I lost patience with it at the moment when David Cameron got away with describing Ed Miliband as despicable.

Now, I have many, many disagreements with the Labour leader. I’m also furious with Ed for countenancing some horrible personal attacks on Nick Clegg, not least that appalling Party Political Broadcast during the European elections last year. However, that was an ad hominem too far. Whatever his policy deficiencies, I think Ed is a decent enough bloke who does not deserve that sort of …

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Who’s the woman who has inspired you most?

Caron and ShirleyIt’s International Women’s Day today and on Twitter, there’s been an #inspiredby meme on Twitter where we have to say which women have inspired us.

I went a bit mad, as you can see from my Twitter feed. I’ve been lucky enough to know so many fabulous women in politics from all parties that if I started writing about them now, I’d still be here this time next week. And that would just be politics. So I’m going to limit myself to just two.

The first is someone who was my first political hero, ever since she made that speech at that first SDP conference where she talked about being required to scale unscaleable heights as she announced her candidacy for the Crosby by-election. She’s done so much to advance and advocate women’s rights internationally. She was a minister in a world where it was ok for interviewers like Robin Day to compliment female MPs on their outfits and say how pretty they looked. She was brave enough to recognise that she and the Labour Party had come to the end of the road and to branch out in a new direction when the SDP was formed. Her energy even now, at the age of 84, is incredible. It was fantastic to have her come to Scotland for the best part of the last 10 days of the referendum campaign last year. She was filling halls and winning debates right up till the last minute. I found it quite emotional to see a Yes campaigner come up to her on Dunfermline High Street and say that she’d been her hero all her life too. I’m talking of course about Shirley Williams. She’s had such a fascinating life. It must have been so hard to have been uprooted and sent to strangers across the Atlantic during the War, thousands of miles from her parents but she threw herself into that experience. As she grew up she met some of the most progressive thinkers of her day.

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Two important deadlines for next week’s conference

Before the weekend is over, a couple of quick reminders about important deadlines to do with next week’s Conference in Liverpool.

I am ridiculously excited about heading back to Liverpool. I’ve been there twice before in my life. The first time was almost 30 years ago as a student. The second was in 2011 when me, my niece and my sister (who was the responsible adult accompanying us) went to see Paul McCartney perform on the very stage that Nick Clegg will be speaking on next weekend. No pressure on him, then. If you are interested, you can read all three gushing instalments of that trip on my own blog here.

Anyway, before I get myself caught up in a mellow spiral of nostalgia, down to business.

Amendments deadline

Should you want to submit an amendment to any of the motions, you need to do so by 1pm on Tuesday 10th March. You can submit it online here. You must also submit emergency motions by this deadline.

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The Herald: “All power to the Lib Dems for standing up for our liberties”

Willie Rennie - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsHerald columnist Ian Macwhirter is not known for writing nice things about Liberal Democrats. In fact, I think it actually causes him pain to do so. It is always welcome when someone who is not your biggest fan says nice things about you. He was very complimentary about Willie Rennie the other day. As someone pointed out on my Facebook when I posted this originally, “All Power to…. is not the most civil-liberties friendly headline, but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

As James Baker wrote a few weeks ago, the Scottish Government were trying to sneak in plans for what is effectively a massive ID database capable of even more surveillance than that set up by Labour. Once Willie got to hear about it, he set about questioning it and used a rare Liberal Democrat opposition day debate in Parliament to highlight the issue. He called for the creation of such a database to be the subject of primary legislation. He was never going to win, because, you know, SNP overall majority and all that – and they don’t take kindly to rebellion or even criticism from their parliamentarians – but he inflicted a bloody nose on the Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

Macwhirter wrote:

I think now we have an answer to what the LibDems are for: they’re the only major party, Greens aside, that really takes issues of civil liberties seriously, as we saw yesterday with their debate on the Scottish Government’s plans effectively to create a national identity database.Leader Willie Rennie’s motion to stop the measure being rushed through without proper parliamentary scrutiny succeeded by 65 votes to 60 in the Scottish Parliament after an intelligent and thoughtful debate; a rare occasion on which Deputy First Minister John Swinney was sent back to think again

We need parties that keep a vigilant eye on government. Labour has never quite got this privacy thing having been, for most of its existence, a party very much of and for the big state. The Tories are supposed to be the party of the individual but their law’n’order populism, hostility to immigration and preoccupation with state security have made them suckers for any agency – police, spooks, tax authorities and so on – that wants to snoop into our affairs.

The Tories seem to recognise threats to civil liberties when in opposition. Their spokeswoman Liz Smith MSP is opposing the latest plans from the Scottish Government as “identity cards by the back door”.

The SNP are similarly schizophrenic. They opposed the introduction of a national identity database in 2005 when it was proposed by Tony Blair’s Labour government. But once the Nationalists got into government they started succumbing to the same pressures to tighten up all round and, of course, to praise our wonderful police, as Nicola Sturgeon did last week.

That would be the same wonderful police, by the way, whose senior management are, for the second time, being hauled back before a parliamentary committee for failing to deliver what they said they would. On both stop and search and armed police they have not kept their word and their chief constable has not shown an acceptable attitude towards scrutiny.

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #414

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 414th 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 (1 – 7 March, 2015), 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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Norman Lamb quizzed on leadership ambitions by Independent on Sunday

No respectable publication seems to be able to interview any senior male Liberal Democrat these days without asking about their leadership ambitions. The Independent on Sunday was no different but it was slightly irritating that it had to spend half the article writing about a contest that hasn’t even been called yet. To be fair, they are doing it with Tories and Labour too, although not to the same extent. There was a chat on Pienaar’s Politics this morning comparing Yvette Cooper and Theresa May for example.

Anyway, Norman gave that sort of very diplomatic reply which he can do as a very obvious close ally of the leader:

When people raise this with me it inevitably makes you think, in the circumstances envisaged, what would I do?” said Mr Lamb. “I have to answer the question. I’m fiercely loyal to Nick. I always have been, but at some point there will be a further and I will consider the position. I am open-minded about it. My view is if people think well of the job that I’ve done and people then, as a result, conclude they want me to have a go for the top job, then I will consider it.”

What they didn’t mention about Norman is how well respected he is by activists. However people feel about the coalition, they love the work he’s been doing on mental health. Should there be a contest at some point in the future, Lamb is bound to be a strong contender. Of that there is no doubt.

It’s not until you get way down the article that they’ve put in some interesting stuff he has to say about his own brief. It’s clear that he is still full of new ideas:

Posted in News | Tagged and | 43 Comments

Jo Swinson on media coverage of pregnant women, sexism and having to ask to get ministerial job

On Friday, Jo Swinson spoke at a training day for women run by Omnicom UK, which Media Week reported. She gave a bit of an insight into how you get a ministerial job in, at least, our party. I have to say I was surprised:

It took Swinson a long time to realise that she had to ask to become a minister. “I thought I’d do a good job and then I’d get promoted,” she said. “It took me a while to realise I had to go and make the case.”

I’d like to know a bit more about this one. You wouldn’t expect things to be any different for the men in this party, but did Mike Moore, Ed Davey, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander, Norman Lamb and co actually have to go to Nick and say: “I’m here, this is what I can do, pick me.” Nick is generally very good on issues relating to equality. He’s championed shared parental leave for years, he’s expanded childcare, he’s spoken out on violence against women and girls. What he hasn’t done is put a woman in the Cabinet, despite the fact that some of the best performers in the government have been people like Lynne Featherstone and Jo herself.

We’ve seen recently from the appalling commentary on Rachel Reeves’ pregnancy that highly sexist attitudes exist in the media and amongst the people who make our laws. Jo said that such coverage makes her furious.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

What’s the scariest outcome of the General Election?

While the national polls aren’t looking great for the Liberal Democrats, to say the least, in key seats there’s more of an air of, if not confidence, at least hope. Campaign teams are busily getting on with what needs to be done for them to win their seats, buoyed by increasing membership and a never-ending list of jobs to do. Ben Lazarus, who write the Telegraph’s Morning Briefing tried to fathom the other day what he called the “Lib Dems’ curious optimism”:

For a party that, since 2010 has now lost three quarters of their support, the Liberal Democrats seem remarkably calm. There are reasons for this. They know that a hung parliament could give them real power again after May . And, according to YouGov’s Peter Kellner,  despite the abysmal polling, there are two factors that may help them save more of their seats than those headline figures suggest. First, the party usually gains support nationally during election campaigns. The party benefits from TV exposure – although they no longer have the advantage of being a protest party unaffected by the rigours of government, it is likely their exposure by the main broadcasters will still be an aid. Second, Liberal Democrat MPs often have a strong personal following. Where Lib Dems are seeking re-election, their chances are often better than the national polls suggest; the party is deliberately playing to this strength, fighting lots of local campaigns instead of a national one.

With all the talk about Ukip and the Greens, the Lib Dems are sometimes forgotten.  But don’t rule them out.  They may prove more resilient than many expect, and thus play a pivotal role in the messy events that follow the election.

And it’s about what goes on following the election that I want to think about. I wrote last week that we need to keep our options open and not throw any babies out before the bath has even been run. While I understand the logic that letting the SNP be in charge of the UK would be a bit like letting Farage take charge in Europe, we don’t know what orders the people are going to give us, what hand we are going to be dealt. And, frankly, we will have to find the best future for liberal democrat ideas within that. It might be in government, it might not be.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 63 Comments
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