Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Morrissey Progress Report – first thoughts

Morrissey Progress ReportAs promised earlier, here are my first thoughts on Helena Morrissey’s progress report which she published earlier today. There is so much in the report that I could go in to but these are the main points I’ve noticed.

The party needed to come out of this well, and show good progress in 18 months. To a certain extent it does, and the people who needed to come out of it most well were the leader, chief executive and president, the holders of most power in the party and who are perceived by the public as its face. They were praised for their commitment and for what has been achieved. It was the lack of progress at regional and local level that concerned Morrissey and she wants to see that changed. In many respects I agree with her. However, those of us who value the say that grassroots members have in this party should make sure that there is no “mission creep”. It may be a temptation to take more power than is strictly necessary to the centre and we need to be vigilant on this point.

Morrissey outlines the solid progress that has been made so far on each of her recommendations but is clear that there is still more to do. She suggests further action on two broad themes – structural reform and specific action to make sure that people are aware of the standards of behaviour expected of them.

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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 (that’s most SNP MPs) 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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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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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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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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Dear Liberal Democrat MPs: Judicial Review restrictions are a messy compromise too far.

Dear Liberal Democrat MPs,

Tomorrow you will be asked for the second time amendments which the House of Lords has made to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. The Government wants you to severely restrict the right of citizens and organisations to use Judicial Review to examine its decisions and those of local authorities. This interferes with a key check on government power.

I don’t think any of you would have come up with this idea on your own. The Liberal Democrats are there to challenge entrenched power and vested interests, after all. This measure is one of those “messy compromises” of coalition.

Anyone who has ever been in any sort of relationship, business or personal, will know you don’t get things your own way the whole time. You have to do things you would rather not do. However, there have been a number of times when we have accepted Conservative measures and had to revise our support for them after they became law because the evidence showed that they were the wrong thing to do.

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Can Murphy and Dugdale resurrect Labour’s fortunes in Scotland?

Labour Party logoSo, we know that Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale will be the new leadership team for Scottish Labour. Murphy won the leadership with 55% of the vote and Dugdale won the deputy post with 63%.

The result was announced at the Emirates – the one in Glasgow, not, as I initially thought when I was told yesterday, the one in London. But Labour wouldn’t be so stupid as to announce in London when their last leader quit after complaining that Scotland was treated as a branch office.

Murphy is a Big Beast, having been part of the last Labour government for 9 years. He was a staunch Blairite and, of course, voted for the Iraq war and all of Labour’s authoritarian policies from ID cards to 90 days detention.  A pro-war blairite seems hardly in keeping with the zeitgeist, it has to be said.

He’s a deeply polarising figure. It’s hard to see how he can unite the Labour Party, let alone the country. His rhetoric way back when he was Secretary of State for Scotland was divisive and he’s continued in that vein. In 2010, he described the divide between Labour and the SNP as Patriots vs Nationalists, language which I find at best unhelpful, at worst irresponsible. I wrote back then about how wrong I felt it was to use patriotism as a political weapon. Particularly when our country is recovering from an emotionally bruising referendum, it’s even more nasty, brutal and irrelevant than ever. Even combining it with the word “optimistic”, as he did this morning, makes me feel queasy.

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A bit of advice to the English Liberal Democrats – sort your gender balance out and soon

I realise I could get myself into trouble here, as a Scot, offering advice to a fellow State party, but please be assured  that it is meant in a sisterly way. You  may think of it as annoying-little-sisterly but I have an annoying little sister I adore and couldn’t be without.

Anyway, tomorrow the English Council Executive has its first meeting the English Party elections. At this meeting its office bearers and committee representatives for 2015 will be chosen. For more details of what is on the agenda, Anders Hanson, outgoing Regional Chair of Yorkshire and the Humber and a directly elected member for 2015 has provided a very good summary here.

The big problem with ECE is with gender balance. Next year’s 23-3 male/female split is, believe it or not an improvement on this year’s. Anders has this analysis of the situation:

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Ed Miliband has his economic deficiencies but is the Liberal Democrat response adequate?

I’m getting as fed up with arguments about the economy as I was about the quality of the debate in the independence referendum. We seem to be stuck in a yah-boo soundbite fest that is deeply uninspiring.

Ed Miliband’s latest contribution on the deficit was pretty risible if you looked at it in terms of facts. He’s opposed practically every single cut the Coalition has made over the last four years but presumably his “sensible cuts” won’t actually affect anyone. Of course he’s not actually told us what they are, so we can’t really judge. Our problem is that with the way our newspapers and broadcasters work, neither Labour nor the Tories have to be that good to get their message across. Already we seem to be being demoted to an afterthought in most news reports. We have to work ten times as hard as everyone else to grab even a tiny bit of attention.

The nagging worry I have about Labour appropriating policies like our Mansion Tax is that they can then position themselves to say “vote for us, we come without their baggage”. This, I grant you, is pretty much the same as “vote for us cos we’re fairer than them and more economically responsible than them” which seems to be our pitch.

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Why this coalition is worth it: Pupil premium pays off as achievement gap narrows

The BBC tells us that poorer pupils are doing better at school, although you have to scroll through a load of text and graphics before they squeeze in as an afterthought that the Pupil Premium championed by Nick Clegg was responsible for the success.

Two-thirds of pupils (67%) on free school meals gained a Level 4 in reading, writing and maths this year – up four percentage points on 2013.

This compares with 83% for non-disadvantaged pupils, reducing the attainment gap to 16 percentage points.

The data is based on tests taken by 11-year-olds in 16,000 school

Schools Minister David Laws said it was “encouraging to see the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers continue to narrow and parents, teachers and pupils deserve to be congratulated for their efforts”.

He added: “But we know there is more to do and there are still too many areas with simply unacceptable levels of attainment for disadvantaged pupils.”

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MPs to debate curtailing judicial review on Monday as rebel Lib Dem peers face wrath of senior party figures

house of lordsYesterday we told you about the Liberal Democrat rebels in the Lords who voted against the Government’s plans to restrict judicial review and to reject the plans for the new secure college to be open to girls and under 15s. It’s worth adding that the NSPCC are totally opposed to the secure college plans. Penelope Gibbs from the Standing Committee on Youth Justice wrote in an LDV article two weeks ago that young children and girls would be put at risk if this were to go ahead.

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24 Lib Dem peers “rebel” as Lords reject government’s judicial review proposals

The Guardian reports:

A rebellion in the House of Lords has inflicted a second defeat on the government’s plans to restrict access to judicial review challenges.

The vote by 274 to 205 means that for a second time peers have rejected keys proposals in the criminal justice and courts bill. It will restore to judges their discretion in handling such cases.

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Something you didn’t know about Stephen Tall…

…but could probably have guessed.

Stephen got a mention in the Telegraph’s Morning Bulletin this morning for this tweet:

So, I asked around at LDV Towers and discovered that there was only one member of the team who has a Positive Candy Crush Status. And it isn’t me. I’m not going to out the person because they asked me not to.

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Who needs human rights?

Last week, in the run-up to Human Rights Day tomorrow,  the Scottish Parliament debated the Scottish National Action Plan on human rights. This aims to ensure that every citizen can realise these internationally recognised rights.

Alison McInnes led for the Liberal Democrats and she went through the SNP Government like a dose of salts for its dreadful stance on stop and search. She highlighted how any one of us might need these rights to protect us one day should we find ourselves sick or vulnerable. If you read the Daily Mail, it’ll tell you that human rights are nasty things that let terrorists off the hook. Well, actually, they  protect all of us from abuse by the state in all sorts of ways.

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A day for Liberal Democrats to speak out for Justice?

It’s not a comfortable day to be a Liberal Democrat today.

The House of Lords is debating the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. Will it overturn the Commons’ rejection of its amendment protecting the right to Judicial Review? Jonathan Marks wrote of his concerns about this provision earlier this year. When it was last discussed, 17 Liberal Democrats supported the rebel amendment and 43 supported the Government position. You have to ask serious questions when even Lord Carlile thinks the Government is going too far.

It was a Judicial Review that ruled the appalling Prisoner Book ban unlawful last week. The state has more than enough power and screws things up, or at the very least pushes the boundaries all the time. It is vital that citizens have the chance to challenge government decisions in the courts. It’s a vital check on power that should not be being mucked around with.

How can citizens take the government on if the government throws all the tools at their disposal in the bin?

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Vince Cable marks 2 million apprenticeships in 4 years – how that story could be told a bit better

Over at the party website, there’s a piece today marking the fact that the coalition government or, let’s not kid ourselves, Vince Cable, has created 2 million apprenticeships.

To mark the occasion, Vince met the two millionth apprentice, Paige McConville in Oxford. Paige, aged 16, started her Advanced Apprenticeship in Engineering Manufacture with high-tech engineering firm FMB Oxford in August.

Paige took Vince on a tour around FMB Oxford, explaining how her apprenticeship with the firm is giving her the skills she needs to begin her career as an engineer.

All young people should have the opportunity to get on in life, and apprenticeships are a great way to achieve that. That’s why the Liberal Democrats have prioritised creating jobs and apprenticeships in this Government.

Commenting on the good news, Vince Cable said:

“Reaching the 2 millionth apprenticeship is testament to this Government’s commitment to apprenticeships. Paige and her employer are a shining example of how apprenticeships give young people the chance to start a career and give businesses the talent to grow.

“This isn’t just about numbers. From space engineering, to TV production, to legal services, apprenticeships are the ticket to a great job and a route employers trust to access the skills they need.

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Reviewing the papers on Radio Scotland’s Crossfire

Driving to Glasgow at 6am on a wintry Sunday morning was slightly scary, especially for someone who really doesn’t do Winter, but that’s what I did to take part in the review of the Sunday papers on the Radio Scotland programme Crossfire. I was on with former Herald editor Murray Ritchie and Cat Boyd from the Radical Independence campaign.

Obviously we talked about some bloke deciding he wants to stand for the Westminster Parliament he claims to revile.  Former Special Adviser Sam Ghibaldan on Sunday Politics Scotland and I both made the case that Salmond’s victory is far from assured.

I raised …

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #401

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 401st 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 (30 November -, 6 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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Game on in Gordon: Liberal Democrat Christine Jardine has to defend seat against former First Minister Salmond

imageIn the biggest surprise since the sun last rose in the east, Alex Salmond will announce today that he’s going to be standing for the Westminster Parliament in the Gordon Constituency which is currently held by Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Sir Malcolm Bruce.

It’s almost a year since Christine Jardine was selected to fight the seat. She has been leading a fun and spirited campaign since then which saw voters in Gordon reject independence by almost 2:1. Her campaign manager is the party legend who masterminded Nicol Stephen’s election campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s. Mr Salmond should underestimate them at his peril.

Salmond represents part of the Gordon constituency at Holyrood. He no doubt thinks that he can do as he did in 2007, swan in to the seat and win. Certainly the SNP will resource his campaign to the max and there are plenty new members in that party to help out.

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Scottish Liberal Democrats announce their list selections – and for the second time in a row manage to put one of their best MSPs in a more challenging position

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have been holding their regional list selections for 2016 Scottish Parliament elections and yesterday announced the top 3 in each region* .

Willie Rennie said on the team announced:

We are first off the mark with our candidate selection and this is a clear statement of intent. We have a team of passionate, dedicated campaigners who are up for the fight and will be working hard for their regions every day between now and the next Holyrood elections.

Our list candidates offer a mix of youth and experience that gives people right across Scotland the opportunity to elect a strong liberal voice to represent them at Holyrood. The new Home Rule powers Liberal Democrats are helping deliver for the Scottish Parliament mean it is more important than ever that we have a team of MSPs who will always stand up for their local area.

With the SNP taking their eye off the ball with the referendum it was Liberal Democrats challenging Scottish Government ministers over the pressure facing our NHS. We led opposition to damaging college cuts and helped families by expanding free childcare.

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Michael Moore 1 Tory Game Players 0 – International Aid bill clears the Commons despite Tory shenanigans

It all got a bit nail-biting yesterday. The House of Commons was going to shut at 2:30 no matter what and a few determined Tories were planning on making sure that Michael Moore’s Bill to shrine the 0.7% of GDP international aid target into law died a death just like Sarah Teather’s on revenge evictions did last week.

In the end, a couple of enterprising Tories tried to talk it out but there were more than enough MPs who supported the Bill to put an end to their parliamentary games and the Bill passed the last of its Commons stages. It now goes to the Lords where our Liberal Democrat Minister Lindsay Northover will be one of those piloting it through. 

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

Mittens and Cartoons: how political parties are trying to mobilise their supporters this Winter

liberal mittensI have been loving some of the stuff that our sister party in Canada has been sending out to supporters. Their Winter fundraising push involves them sending this fetching pair of mittens to anyone who donates over $100 over a two day period. It’s caused such a stir that those cheeky little mitts have their own parody Twitter account.

I bet their supporters team, led by the  equivalent of our Austin Rathe, had fun coming up with the accompanying email:

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Nick Clegg’s message for Small Business Saturday

We’ve had every massive corporation trying to tempt us with bargains over the last few days, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. Today small independent traders hit back with Small Business Saturday.

Nick Clegg has put out a message to mark the occasion. He said:

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Jo Swinson on one of the great double standards of our time

Breastfeeding is in the news again after Claridges thought that it was ok .to tell a mother to cover up as her baby nursed.

Nick Clegg was asked a rather strange question, which he eventually answered pretty well, about whether the importance of breastfeeding should be covered in Personal Health and Social Education classes and whether mothers should be told that it should be done in private. The right answer is, of course, yes to the first and no to the second.

It’s really quite ridiculous to think that it took until 2010 for the rights of mothers to breastfeed their babies in public was protected in law. This means that nobody can ask a mother to stop doing so in any place where she and the baby are allowed to be. Scotland was way ahead of the game, protecting women some five years before. Remembering the struggle it was to get that bill through, I wouldn’t give too much credit to the Labour/Liberal Democrat government of the day. It took a cross party alliance of women to keep Elaine Smith’s private member’s bill alive.

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Challenging the myths about benefits claimant – an inspiring video from an Oxford charity

Liberal Democrats generally despair about the attitudes in the media towards people who claim benefits.

I’m sure that most of you reading this will be inspired by this fantastic video from an Oxford self advocacy charity run by and for people with learning disabilities. My Life My Choice got some people to share their stories and challenging some of the myths people have about people on benefits. It’s very moving. Please share it all over social media. I think we probably all have friends who believe the myths and they need to see it.

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Lib Dems Telegraph splash: EU bashing “weak, opportunistic and fundamentally un-British” say Ashdown, Ludford, Brinton, Farron and 90 Lib Dems

Even Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t have taken the isolationist path that David Cameron’s Conservative party is romping its way down, according to 90 Liberal Democrats in a letter to the Telegraph today. The letter states:

David Cameron’s recent speech on European immigration is the latest in a series of desperate moves from a Conservative Party in full-scale panic.

We’ve had: “Go home or face arrest” vans. We’ve had: if you are from the EU and want to move to Britain, go and register at a police station. We’ve had: if you’re out of work, even for a few months, go back to where you came from.

In her Bruges speech in 1988, Margaret Thatcher said: “Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community.”

What happened to that Conservative destiny? The dual menace of the Tory headbangers and the rise of Ukip.

There is nothing patriotic about bashing immigration from Europe. It is opportunistic, weak and fundamentally un-British. Migrants from the EU claim less in benefits than people born in this country. They are a massive net positive to the British economy. The Tories are scared to admit this. They have lost all sense of political courage – and that is why people have lost confidence in them.

We, the undersigned Liberal Democrats, konw that the real patriotic case is for Britain to remain in Europe; our jobs and our economic future depend on it.

photo by: rockcohen
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Nick Clegg announces £150 million to help young people with eating disorders

Nick, Ibrahim and Norman in Brent mental health visitYesterday, Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb visited a youth centre in Brent where they announced £150 million was being invested in services to help young people with eating disorders. From the BBC:

Mr Clegg will say he wants to see services transformed, with the focus shifted from expensive institutional care to targeted community-based provision.

Eating disorders cost the NHS around £200m a year, and the bill for in-patient care averages out at £98,750 per admission.

From 2012 to 2013, there were 2,560 hospital admissions for eating disorders in England – a rise of 8% on the previous year.

One in five of those taken into hospital with an eating disorder was admitted and discharged on the same day.

But one in 17 stayed in hospital for longer than six months.

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Nick Clegg puts £10 million into encouraging students and young people to register to vote

So, when there’s a certain amount of money around to encourage voters to register, what does Nick Clegg do with it?

Does he put it into a voter registration drive in the affluent ex-pat communities of Spain or does he put it into that group of people it can be difficult to find, young people and students? The latter, of course.  From The Guardian:

Lib Dem sources said Clegg, whose Sheffield Hallam constituency contains a high number of students, was “determined to ensure that the government does everything it can to help students register to vote”.

One said: “Nick Clegg has now

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  • User AvatarHywel 19th Dec - 12:09am
    Malcolm Todd/Glenn And Ramsay MacDonald's first government. And his third!
  • User Avatarmalc 19th Dec - 12:03am
    "Liberal Democrats scotch bid to vote down bedroom tax " That was a headline from todays Independent and it's hard to say the headline is...
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 18th Dec - 11:47pm
    I think that James is giving his opinion based on his experience, Mark. It's hard to hear that kind of criticism and to think that...
  • User AvatarGwynfor Tyley 18th Dec - 11:36pm
    To those anti EU commenting here about loss of national identity etc, you should consider the current advert for google's android system "Be together: Not...
  • User AvatarGlenn 18th Dec - 11:16pm
    Malcolm Todd, I simply forgot about WW2! I'm a scatterbrain, I was once forgot it was Christmas! But the point I was trying to make...
  • User AvatarMark Valladares 18th Dec - 11:12pm
    Keith, Having sat on English Council and been Regional Secretary, responsible for getting people to attend English Council from two Regions, I have to say...