Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

There is no need for Clegg to make an EU Referendum a red line. This does not signify agreement to it

I have seen some consternation amongst Lib Dems today, both in real life and online, about Nick Clegg’s remarks about an EU referendum not being  a red line for us. Many party members feel very strongly that we should not agree to something which could be very unsettling and destabilising. Having come through three years of the Scottish referendum, I am more in that camp than in the other group of activists who think we should agree to it or we’ll be seen as anti-democratic.

Before we rush to judgment, let’s have a look at what Nick actually said. From the Guardian:

I am happy to insist on my red lines – they are the ones the Liberal Democratshave put on the front page of our manifesto which are much more important than some of the other red lines other parties have chosen.”

He said he disagreed with the Tory position on the EU and said he was still committed to the act of parliament passed by the coalition which would trigger a referendum if further UK sovereignty was ceded to Brussels. But he declined to rule out rejecting Cameron’s demand for a referendum.

“It’s not my responsibility to try and stare into a crystal ball. The way this works is I set out my priorities, David Cameron sets out his, Ed Miliband sets out his. People then choose. How those red lines are or are not compatible with each other is in part dependent on the mandate that the British people give each of those parties.”

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Lynne Featherstone on Labour’s “lies and desperate smears”

A couple of weeks ago, we featured the Labour candidate in Leeds North West who had a bit of a problem with the, you know, facts. Greg Mulholland rightly called him out for it.

Now Lynne Featherstone’s Labour opponent has told a pretty outrageous untruth about her. They will now have to print and distribute a retraction.  From Lynne’s blog:

The letter to residents contained the false statement: “Lynne Featherstone…was even a minister in the Home Office when the disgraceful “Go Home” vans were sent out.”

At the time the vans went out (July 2013), Lynne Featherstone was in the Department for International Development, kick-starting the campaign to end FGM and fighting to protect the aid budget. Lynne Featherstone was a minister at DFID from September 2012 – November 2014.

Labour have been advised to immediately cease delivering the letters, and issue a retraction to all residents who’ve received the letter.

Lynne said:

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In which I seriously contemplate voting Labour

You might find this hard to believe. I was a little bit shocked by it myself. You have to understand the situation I am in. I live in a seat which is, to all intents and purposes, a battle between the SNP and Labour. With a poll this week suggesting that the SNP could win every single seat in Scotland, the unthinkable had to be thought. Should I, could I vote Labour tactically  to try to stop that happening? A large group of SNP MPs primarily motivated by narrow nationalist interests is not something that I think would be healthy for our democracy.

I have voted either SDP or Liberal Democrat in every election since I turned 18 bar two. The first was in the 90s when there was no Lib Dem candidate in my council ward. There wasn’t even an independent. My choice was Tory or Labour. There was no way I could ever in a million years vote Tory, so I had to click my heels three times, cross my fingers behind my back and put my cross next to the Labour candidate. The second was the 1997 election when I didn’t vote at all. When I had headed over to Chesterfield on the Friday before polling day, I rather suspected I might get home before 10pm on polling day. It wasn’t to be. I don’t think Mrs Pankhurst would have minded too much, though, because I was working my backside of in one of the most fantastic campaigns I have ever worked on.

The thought of Scotland sending a contingent of 100% of nationalist MPs elected on barely half the vote was something that deeply disturbed me. they would then claim that they spoke for Scotland, dismissing those who didn’t support them. Don’t get me wrong, there are some issues where I have a lot of common ground with them. However, their nationalism and quest for independence aside, they have a strong authoritarian, illiberal streak which goes against all my instincts. If Labour were the only ones likely to be able to beat them, shouldn’t I hold my nose and just vote Labour?

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Another way to waste time on the internet

There’s a new app about which purports to be able to guess your age from a photo. Journalists with nothing better to do have been putting politicians’ photos through it.

Buzzfeed has the UK leaders. Nick Clegg and David Cameron were born weeks apart, yet this app has Cameron at 56 and Clegg at 52. They are both 48. Whoops. 45 year old Ed Miliband will be happy that he was determined to be 38.

The Scottish leaders were assessed by the Scotsman. Ruth Davidson, the Tory leader, will be delighted to have lost 9 years and to be judged …

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Caron’s Sunday Selection: Must-read articles from the Sunday papers

sundaypapsOn the last Sunday before the election, here’s a quick selection of the must-reads from the Sunday papers. Five years ago on this Sunday, we woke up to favourable comments in the Observer and Scotland on Sunday. Would anyone recommend voting for us today or would the papers revert tot type?

The Observer, presumably for its own reasons, has a very unbalanced look at coalition options after the election for the Liberal Democrats. The article barely even looks at a deal with Labour and has a number of sitting MPs, including David Ward, saying that the coalition with the Tories might continue. They might have done well to look at my article on the party’s processes so that they didn’t assume that it was all in the MPs’ gift. Oh, and a member of the LDV team gets quoted.

In news that will surprise nobody, the Observer backs Labour. Unlike its sister paper, though, which advised tactical voting for the Lib Dems in places like the South West, the leader ostentatiously ignores us.

Funnily enough, the Sunday Times (£) talks up Liberal Democrats slating the Tories to try to persuade Tory voters not to vote tactically.

Clegg has said he will deal first with the largest party, but in a sign that a repeat of the coalition may be difficult the Lib Dem Tim Farron last night warned that his party should be prepared to “walk away” if it does not get what it wants, branding Conservative instincts as “wicked”.

He said a Tory government without the Lib Dems would be “a horror story”, creating an “uncivilised” country “that we should be ashamed of”.

Farron said his party would inject “compassion and basic humanity and civilisation into an otherwise wicked Tory administration

In news which will surprise nobody, the paper backs the Tories but urges Tory voters in Lib Dem Labour marginals to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrat.

But Peter Kellner finds room to hope for Liberal Democrats, finding strong recovery in key seats.

We find that Conservative support is holding up better in the party’s key marginal seats than in the rest of the country, and also that the Liberal Democrats are recovering strongly, albeit from a low base, in the seats they are defending.

The upshot is that I have increased the number of seats that I expect the Lib Dems to hold, and reduced the number of seats that Labour is likely to gain from the Conservatives.

Posted in Op-eds | 15 Comments

Fancy a chance of dinner with Hugh Grant? Just donate to Lib Dems before Monday evening

We thought they’d done well persuading John Cleese to have dinner with a lucky donor to the party. And it’s a miracle that some of us have any cash left. However, now that payday has arrived, they’ve found another cunning plan to entice us to donate even more. Only dinner with Hugh flipping Grant.

Hot on the heels of his tweet endorsing Danny Alexander the other, he’s now offering to have dinner with the lucky winner drawn from those who donate to the party before Monday night.

What would you ask him? One of my favourite scenes in film ever is the fight scene from Bridget Jones’ Diary when he and Colin Firth slugged it out in a restaurant to “It’s Raining Men”. I’d want to ask him about that after, of course, something worthy about Leveson.

In an email to party members, Grant said he was full of admiration for the way Nick Clegg had stood up to the Tories over Leveson:

I am not a Lib Dem, a Tory a Labourite or anything in particular but I recognise political guts when I see it. And I know Nick Clegg was prepared to stand up to the Tories when they wanted to ignore or water down the Leveson Report. For that he gets a lot of abuse in the Tory press. But he was right to do it. And the manifesto is very clear, not only that Leveson should be delivered, but that it should be done while boosting investigative journalism with more protections.

So I am happy to help make this election a fairer fight.

I can bore to death any lucky winner of this draw on the detail of the Leveson Report and effect of  section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. Or we can just talk about me and all my problems.

If you want to take part in this amazing offer, click here.

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Apparently, our future depends on Nick Clegg’s eyebrows…

 

An article on the Huffngton Post looks at Nick Clegg’s communications skills. It’s all about the eyebrows, apparently:

Nick Clegg faces a virtual mission impossible in this general election campaign – but if anything can save him and his party from electoral oblivion, it’s his eyebrows.

That’s right. His eyebrows. They’re the key to understanding why, despite being a figure of derision, the deputy prime minister’s communication skills remain some of the most polished out there.

Clegg uses his eyebrows better than any of the other party leaders when he wants to use emphasis to make a point. Raising the eyebrows is a very primitive gesture indicating interest in a particular fact or statement. And Clegg always has a slightly raised eyebrow look which opens his face up.

Compare him to David Cameron, whose face is so tense he can barely muster a convincing smile. The prime minister always seems quite severe, whereas Clegg is more open facially and appears more likable as a result.

They look at other aspects of his communication skills:

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Manifesto snippets in BSL Part 5: young people, immigration and housing

The Liberal Democrats have produced a series of 20 videos giving snippets of our manifesto in BSL. We are the first major party to do so. The full list is here.

We’ll also put them up on here in batches over the next wee while. If you want to see all our posts, just click on the bsl tag at the bottom of this post.

In this post, you will find young people, immigration and housing

Young people

Immigration

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Clegg wins the battle of the switchers in last night’s Question Time

An interesting snippet from the Guardian’s snap ICM poll  (22:15) after the Question Time for Leaders last night. They didn’t find ever so many people who’s minds had been changed about how they were going to vote by the event, but of those who were, most were leaning towards Nick Clegg:

Relatively few votes are likely to have been changed by the evening: only 6% of the sample indicated that their mind had been changed by what they saw, as against 87% who said it would make no difference to how they voted. Among this small sub-sample, of 79 respondents, Clegg did the best – with 32% of switchers indicating that they might now lean Lib Dem, as against 25% who said Conservative, and just 20% who said Labour.

The Independent found someone who had been impressed:

I had a message from one of Nick Clegg’s sternest critics within the party just after the debate. I have rarely heard this person say a good word about our leader. Their words to me: “Nick Clegg smashed it tonight.” If he can win this person over, the rest of the country should be a doddle.

Cameron is being tipped the winner of the event, but how can he be when he just stonewalled on the issue of welfare cuts. You wouldn’t buy a new house without knowing whether it had central heating or electricity so why  would you trust a man who has promised tax cuts for the richest but can’t tell you which of the poorest he’s going to make pay for it. Or won’t.

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Today is “Celebrate your Lib Dem organiser” Day

I  am unilaterally declaring this day Celebrate your Lib Dem Organiser Day. It’s 6 days out, most will be surviving on energy drinks and riso ink fumes and there’s still a big push to come.

Not only will they be sorting out the canvassing packs and delivery runs for the weekend, they will be organising polling day, making sure all the committee rooms are well equipped, that there are enough people around to get all the jobs done. Making sure our voters get to the polls is absolutely critical over the next few days. If you haven’t already arranged to do so, make an organiser’s life easier by helping out in one of our target seats so that we can make absolutely sure that we can say at 10pm on Thursday night that we couldn’t possibly have done any more.

Our organisers have been laying the foundation for this campaign for a very long time. It’s not been 38 days at full pelt, it’s been more like 450. They’ve been building the team, recruiting members, leading the door-knocking, keeping the candidates sane, organising the stake boards, designing the literature, meeting all sorts of unreasonable deadlines which require pulling all-nighters. There is a weird law of nature that stipulates that the bigger the delivery that arrives at the office, the fewer people are there to receive it, so when 40,000 tabloids arrive, they often have to lug them all into the office by themselves. And not all offices are on the ground floor. They have eaten, slept, breathed this election with little time for anything else like having a life.

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Financial Times: “In seats where Lib Dems are the incumbent or main challenger, we would vote tactically for them”

If you woke up in the middle of the night, chances are you might have heard in the distance a rhythmic humming heartbeat sound. That would be the risograph* in a Liberal Democrat key seat churning out leaflets with this quote from the Financial Times:

The country would benefit from the countervailing force of Lib Dem moderation at Westminster. In seats where the Lib Dems are the incumbent or the main challenger, we would vote tactically for them.

The paper was far from complimentary about the Tories’ divisive strategy.  I guess the last thing they want to do is refer to the fact that the coalition has actually worked well:

Five years ago, the prospect of coalition government attracted dire predictions of instability in markets and gridlock at Westminster. Neither proved true. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has shown European-style cohabitation can work. Curiously, Mr Cameron has not trumpeted its successes. He has preferred to wage a campaign of fear. Labour, he argues, would prove untrustworthy on the economy; and a Labour government would be held hostage by a separatist Scottish National party. The risk of a cross-border leftist alliance is not negligible; but even some Tories worry that its invocation encourages English nationalism.

The FT essentially wants to see a continuation of the current economic strategy which is far from being a Tory-only creation. We all remember what generally happens when the Tories are left in charge during a recession. The 80’s, anyone? In this instance, the Liberal Democrats have ensured a properly national recovery from a massive economic event which could have plunged us into an appalling depression.

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Manifesto snippets in BSL Part 2: Health, tax and Greg Judge’s message on what the Lib Dems stand for

The Liberal Democrats have produced a series of 20 videos giving snippets of our manifesto in BSL. We are the first major party to do so. The full list is here.

We’ll also put them up on here in batches over the next wee while. If you want to see all our posts, just click on the bsl tag at the bottom of this post.

In this post, you will find health, tax and a very special message.

Health

Tax

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IDS was talking openly about restricting Child Benefit to two children, so how can the Conservatives deny Danny Alexander’s claims?

Danny Alexander has claimed that the Tories would meet their target of cutting £12 billion to the welfare budget by  making massive cuts to Child Benefit, means testing, limiting it to two children, abolishing the increased payment for the first child and removing it for 16-19 year olds. He told the Guardian that they had suggested these things back in 2012 and the Liberal Democrats had put a stop to them:

The Conservatives have been under sustained pressure to detail how they will cut £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-2018, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies thinktank confirmed this week the Tories have so far disclosed only 10% of these cut in the form of a two-year freeze in working age benefits.

A separate internal government paper, Alexander reveals, was drawn up by the Treasury commissioned by the Tories for an additional £6bn cuts in welfare to be announced in the 2012 Autumn Statement.

The £8bn worth of welfare cuts were drawn up by Duncan Smith at a time when the cabinet was considering whether to stick to its timetable to reduce Britain’s national debt as a proportion of GDP. The plan was dropped.

The Tories have come out with a mockraged “But how could he suggest such a thing?” denial. This is barely credible. We know that Iain Duncan Smith was talking openly about limiting Child Benefit to two children back in 2013 as was Grant Shapps who added an even nastier element to this policy – that it should only apply to unemployed parents. According to the Telegraph, then:

But instead of denying the payments to all large families, some Tories have suggested that restrictions should be applied only to parents who do not work.

Grant Shapps, the Conservative chairman, earlier this year suggested that unemployed parents should not receive child benefit for additional children.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, last year questioned whether it was acceptable that families on benefits should continue to receive endless amounts of money for every child they have, when parents who are working often cannot afford to have more children.

The Lib Dems have insisted that there should be no more welfare cuts imposed during this Parliament.

As recently as last month, Newsnight reported that the Tories were wanting to restrict payment to three children, with Dominic Raab muttering darkly about “personal responsibility.”

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We have another red line – raising the personal tax allowance to £12,500

In a move which will surprise nobody, another of those items from the front page of the manifesto has been announced as a red line in coalition negotiations with strings attached.

  • Significant progress must be made to getting to £12,500 in the first year of the next parliament, by increasing the allowance to £11,000 by April 2016.
  • This increase must be paid for fairly and cannot be funded through cuts to public services.
  • This has to be the number one tax priority of the new government. Any other tax priorities must be secondary to delivering the increase in the Personal Allowance.

So the Tories can forget any notion of cutting taxes for the rich until this has been fulfilled. What does this mean for Labour’s Mansion Tax, though? Surely you would want to bring that in at the same time? Actually, Danny Alexander clarified that. There’s not much love for Labour’s 10p tax band. You do wonder why they even thought about revisiting that one. Danny said:

Just two days ago the IFS described Labour’s proposed 10p tax rate as having a ‘miniscule effect’. Compare that to the millions of workers who will be getting their pay cheques today and will be £70 better off a month, thanks to the Liberal Democrats in government.

Nick Clegg said:

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Ashcroft poll in Hallam: Clegg within a whisker of Labour with a lot of Tory vote to squeeze

Lord Ashcroft has released a last minute poll on Nick Clegg’s seat of Sheffield Hallam. It’s the third he has conducted in the last 5 months. It comes with all the usual caveats on Ashcroft polls – he doesn’t mention the candidates’ names, and he has some weird methodology that he doesn’t explain to us about how he gets his final figures.

The results last month showed Labour two points ahead on 36% with Nick on 34%. The new poll shows Labour just one point ahead on 37% and Nick on 36%. The Tories are on 15%, UKIP on 7% …

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Sal Brinton refused access to bus because driver wouldn’t ask man with buggy to move

Sal BrintonJust over a year ago, party President Sal Brinton wrote on here about her woeful experience of rail travel, saying she felt that disabled people were treated like packages. She outlined what had happened to her over a six month period:

  • Last Sunday, returning from the Scottish Lib Dem Conference in Aberdeen, I was  left on an empty train on an empty platform at midnight at King’s Cross for over 15 minutes before I spotted someone on the first floor, and waved furiously to get her attention;

  • Refused permission on to a pre-booked train, because rush hour commuters rushed on the train ahead of me, and the train conductor didn’t want to move the commuters and risk being late – even though she watched them barge past the National Rail guy with the ramp and me;

  • Often been taken off the train by the conductor because the station staff weren’t notified I was on the train;

  • Having to be transported off the end of a rail platform, across the rail lines and up the other side, because many of our stations, even on main lines like Brockenhurst on the  London to Bournemouth line, don’t have lifts;

  • And been told by Complaints Dept at First Capital Connect that  lifts at Luton aren’t on the capital works schedule for some years and it is also  acceptable not to have lifts there because they are available at Luton Airport station;

Yesterday, she had an equally unpleasant experience while trying to board a number 24 bus in London. She told the Evening Standard what had happened to her:

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Stonewall withdraw their inaccurate election graphic – but don’t replace it with one which accurately reflects Lib Dem achievements

Every time you think it’s safe to like Stonewall again, they do something tribally partisan for the Labour Party. As I reported yesterday, they produced a graphic that gave Labour full marks to their questions, but only 2/5 for Liberal Democrats. A cursory glance at the manifesto would have given us full marks, as LGBT + Lib Dems Chair Dave Page and Communities Minister Stephen Williams told Pink News.

I’m astounded by this grossly misleading graphic, suggesting the Liberal Democrats have little to say about LGB&T rights in our manifesto. The opposite is true.

We have seven specific policies including making anti gay chanting an offence, promoting international recognition of same sex marriages and more action on homophobic bullying. As a Stonewall member I am deeply disappointed that they have chosen to spell out Labour Party policies and ignore Lib Dem proposals, which build on our long standing commitment to gay rights.

Liz Barker’s tweets in response were also very informative.

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Two grateful men, one scarf, an angry Baroness and an LGBT organisation that can’t read what’s in the Lib Dem manifesto

Stonewall dropped a huge clanger yesterday by issuing a graphic on its Facebook page that gave Labour a tick for all the policies it had featured and gave only two to the Liberal Democrats. Thing is, anyone who had read the Liberal Democrat manifesto would know that all these things were in fact there.

Pink News has a wonderfully sarcastic quote from LGBT+ Chair Dave Page:

It is surprising that an organisation with Stonewall’s resources, if it seeks to appear nonpartisan, did not seem to have taken the time to quickly search through the Liberal Democrats’ main party manifesto (rather than the separate documents published by some other parties).

If they had, they would have found the commitment to tackle hate crime in section 9.3: ‘Change sentencing guidelines to increase sentences available for hate crimes.’

They would have also found the following on overseas aid in section 11.6: ‘Liberal Democrats believe British foreign policy and international aid should seek to advance human rights and democracy throughout the world. We believe all people – regardless of ethnicity, disability, age, belief, gender or sexual orientation – deserve a freer, fairer and more prosperous world.’

Under Ruth Hunt’s excellent leadership, Stonewall have done a lot of work to build bridges and listen to a wider array of voices.

We hope that the days of Lib Dem MPs having to lobby Stonewall to support equality rather than the opposite are behind us all. Unfortunately their rush to issue this ill-researched graphic undermines their reputation for being even-handed advocates of equality.

Lib Dem Peer Liz Barker also took Stonewall to task on Twitter. In a series of tweets parodying Stonewall’s “Some people are gay/trans, get over it” phrase, she outlined the Liberal Democrat record on LGBT rights:

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Manifesto snippets released in BSL

A series of videos has been launched which give little snippets of our manifesto. This at least partly came about as a result of a conversation on Facebook that I was involved in on the periphery. It was former Presidential Candidate Daisy Cooper who took it forward with HQ who then made it happen. Here are the first three videos:

Introduction

Paddy gets in on the act

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Nick Clegg announces red line on education

Nick Clegg has announced tonight that protecting the education budget is going to be a deal breaker in any coalition negotiations and that we would not enter any coalition without ensuring that funding would be raised by £6.3 billion over the next Parliament. He told the BBC he would:

not accept under any circumstances the cuts to nurseries, to schools and to colleges that both Conservatives and now Labour have announced”.

And if we don’t get that we wouldn’t enter into a coalition in the first place,” he continued.

We are the only party to protect from cradle to college, from nursery to 19-year-olds.

In pounds and pence – per year – we will be spending £2.5bn more than Labour, £5bn more than the Tories. That is a significant difference.

Party President Sal Brinton emailed party members tonight to elaborate on Nick’s announcement:

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Out on the campaign trail with Jo Swinson

The Spectator’s Isabel Hardman went up to East Dunbartonshire to go campaigning with Jo Swinson recently. Her piece is pretty balanced and fair and gives quite an insight into Jo on the campaign trail

Now, I know what a whirlwind Jo is and how much work she gets through and how many doors she knocks on. I went across to help many times during the 2005 campaign. She was so disciplined and even if she met her own high targets, she wasn’t happy unless she’d done even more.

Her campaigning experience comes across in Hardman’s profile as does her name recognition:

Swinson is also a proper local campaigner. Everyone we meet seems to have had a problem that she’s sorted out. ‘You fixed my drains!’ is something several householders exclaim as they open the door (they mean she got the council to do it, I assume, though Swinson does tell one man she used to be a girl guide, which makes me wonder if she has actually personally fixed some drains too). Even the voters who aren’t backing her say ‘I’ve got to say, you do a lot for this area. Well done.’

She also behaves like someone used to pounding pavements. When we’re knocking on doors in a sheltered housing complex, she makes sure that the fire doors don’t swing noisily shut after her, instead shutting them gently herself. This is the sort of thing people who don’t bother to knock on doors very often don’t do, because they don’t realise how much striding noisily through someone else’s property annoys them.

Hardman reckons Labour MPs are so non-plussed because they’ve never had to campaign, but it’s clearly Jo’s forte.

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So what exactly will the Liberal Democrats do if involved in coalition negotiations?

As Nick Clegg had the good grace to say in his email to members yesterday, that the decision about whether the Liberal Democrats go into coalition or not if in a position to do so is not in his gift.

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

That is kind of true. I thought it would be worth taking you through what will happen should Liberal Democrats be involved in coalition negotiations after the election. The process is different from last time. Then all the leader had to do was to get the approval of the parliamentary parties in the Commons and Lords and the Federal Executive. The Special Conference which took place was not actually a requirement, but it was thought to be good practice. It overwhelmingly endorsed the Coalition Agreement.

This time, things are different, due to a motion passed at Spring Conference in 2012. Now, this will deliver a clear answer on whether to go into coalition or not, so the markets need not worry themselves, but it would be wrong to overlook the potential for longer term chaos it could ignite in the party. What conference was thinking of when it passed this, I have no idea. Here’s the motion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Two ways to support Austin Rathe’s Marathon Effort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick

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

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 69 Comments

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

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

Ashcroft Bristol West poll bar chart

 

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

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

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

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Willie Rennie accuses Conservatives of trying to pull the UK apart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , and | 20 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 61 Comments

Willie Rennie takes his son to work

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

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

Here are the pair setting off from home:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in News | Tagged and | 114 Comments
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