Author Archives: Mary Reid

Mary Reid was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, and has developed websites for several parliamentarians and Lib Dem organisations. She manages the annual conference for the Social Liberal Forum.

Meet Vince Cable

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The lovely digital team at HQ have interviewed Vince Cable.

He spent his childhood immersed in chocolate, it seems.

I grew up in York, which was then very much an industrial city. Its factories supplied the country’s railway carriages and fed its appetite for sweets. I grew up breathing the all-pervasive smell of sugar, cocoa and vanilla.

My first home was a small terraced house close to the Terry’s chocolate factory. My father Len was a craftsman at Rowntree’s chocolate factory whilst my mother Edith packed chocolates for rival firm Terry’s.

I arrived at the University in York at about the same time as Vince left for university and career, and I have fond memories of Tuesdays, which was chocolate making day at Rowntrees. Walking through the town was like being bathed in chocolate.

After Cambridge he ended up in Glasgow where he became a Labour councillor. He was one of the first Labour members to join the SDP.

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Autumn Conference agenda and directory now available

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The agenda for Autumn conference in Bournemouth has now been published online. This contains the full text of all the motions that will be debated, as well as speeches and other events in the main hall. The conference runs from Saturday 16th September to Tuesday 19th September.

Now is the time to arrange a meeting with your local party to discuss amendments you might like to submit. The deadline for submitting amendments to motions, and also for emergency motions, topical issues and questions to reports, is 1pm on 4th September. As always, you would be wise to ask for drafting advice for amendments in advance, and this is available up until 21st August.

You can also download the Conference directory, which lists the fringe meetings, training sessions and exhibitors.

If you haven’t attended conference before then it is not too late to register. The registration fee for first-timers remains the same throughout the booking period, whereas the fees for returnees rises in steps. First-timers also get invited to a number of events designed to introduce them to conference, to the venue and to each other.

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Sarah Olney on returning to normal life

The New Statesman is running an article titled “I’m very much out on my ear”: what it’s like becoming an ex-MP. It interviews a number of people who lost their seats, but the focus is heavily on Sarah Olney.

Apparently, Theresa May apologised to Tory MPs who lost in the debacle that was the June General Election.

While May was referring to her Conservative peers, losing a seat is an experience also familiar to Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney. The former MP for Richmond Park made headlines by overturning Zac Goldsmith’s 23,015 majority in the December 2016 by-election – only to lose the seat by 45 votes six months later.

“I don’t get any money at all,” she says. “I got paid up to 8 June and then nothing. I don’t qualify for loss of office allowance or statutory redundancy because I wasn’t there for long enough. You have to have been there for at least two years.”

Olney, who intends to look for a new job after the summer holidays, describes herself as a “little bit cheated” by the snap election. “I was expecting – especially when we had a Fixed-term Parliaments Act – that parliament was going to last until 2020. So to suddenly find that it’s changed means that you don’t qualify for anything.”

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Want to see Norman Lamb in lycra?

It is dangerous for politicians to make pledges during an election campaign. I’m sure you all know what I am talking about – Stephen Tall’s pledge to run naked down Whitehall.

And then there was Vince Cable’s hat.

But Norman Lamb rashly said he would join a zumba class if he won his seat in North Norfolk, which, of course, he did.

But he did it!

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James Davidson – a Liberal MP in Scotland who should not be forgotten

The Times has carried an obituary for a former Liberal MP for Aberdeenshire West. You can be forgiven for not having heard of him because he served as MP from 1966-70 and he died at the age of 90.

But having read his story I really wish I had known him. Here are some extracts:

A British naval attaché was on a 1,100-mile train journey from Murmansk to Moscow in the early 1950s when he got talking to a young captain of artillery in his carriage. “We had lunch together and he asked if I would like to bring a girl from the embassy to come to have dinner with him and his fiancée,” recalled James Davidson. “Then, 48 hours before I was due to go, the phone rang and it was him. He just said, ‘This is Sergei. I am afraid we cannot meet you. I am sure you understand.’ And he hung up and that was the end of that.”

On another occasion Davidson and a colleague went for a walk in the forest and were stopped by soldiers armed with Kalashnikovs who tried to make them sign a confession that they had deliberately gone into a forbidden area. “But that was not true, there were no signs,” he protested.

More than a decade later, and back in Britain, Davidson discovered that the Russians had not forgotten their suspicions. Now serving as a Liberal MP, he was proposed as a member of a parliamentary Anglo-Russian friendship society, but the Soviets refused to accept him.

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LibLink: William Wallace gives the William Beveridge Memorial Lecture

William Wallace – one of our eminent peers – delivered the William Beveridge Memorial Lecture at the Social Liberal Forum Conference a week ago.

Professionally William was a professor in International Relations at the London School of Economics, and he has worked as a visiting professor in Universities around the world. So you would be right in expecting his lecture to be intellectually rigorous and thoroughly relevant to social liberals.

He took as his theme the question: Is a liberal and democratic society compatible with globalisation? You can read the full text of his lecture here, but here is a taster.

He sets the question firmly in an international context:

Dani Rodrik, one of my favourite economists – a Turk teaching at Harvard – wrote some five years ago that we may be discovering that democracy is not compatible with unconditional globalization; and that if we have to choose, we must prefer democracy and open society to globalization.  I take that as my text, and will explore its implications for Liberals, who believe in open societies and international cooperation but also in individual freedom within settled communities.   I have a second text, which is President Macron’s declaration that France must support a market economy, but not a market society’ – which is a good phrase for us to adopt in Britain, when Corbynistas are close to rejecting the market as such and the Conservative right sees the market as governing social provision.

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The tide is turning

 

The editorial in The Observer yesterday makes for interesting reading. Under the headline “The tide is turning against deceitful and incompetent hard Brexiters” it kicks off cheerfully:

What next from the lords of misrule, the Tory hard Brexiters who seem to be enjoying playing party political games with our futures while the world looks on bemused, if not baffled? Day after day, they stumble on, deaf to warnings on every side and blind to hard, objective facts – that delusions and jingoistic illusions do not a plan make. How did we get here? Is this the best Britain can do? The four Brexiters charged with plotting our political, economic and cultural future – Theresa May, Boris Johnson, David Davis, Liam Fox – cheered on by an undistinguished group of backbenchers, could hardly have had a less impressive three months since triggering article 50.

It cites:

Here is a report by the non-partisan Office for Budget Responsibility, warning that public finances are in worse shape than before the 2008 financial crash.

And here is the National Audit Office, the UK’s spending watchdog, predicting a “horror show” if Britain leaves the EU customs union without its own fit-for-purpose customs system in place.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDaniel Walker 17th Aug - 10:18pm
    Glenn, I meant currently-ascendant within the Tory party, rather than "currently running the country", although they are doing that too with assistance from the DUP.
  • User Avatarfrankie 17th Aug - 10:03pm
    Glen, I suggest you read the new-statesman link then come back and tell me you want to put your faith in the Tory government. All...
  • User AvatarGlenn 17th Aug - 9:56pm
    Daniel, Would the be currently ascendant tory party that lost it's majority? Minimum being the operative word and not actually very good at it either.
  • User AvatarDaniel Walker 17th Aug - 9:39pm
    Come now Glenn, there's plenty of EU Labour Laws which are continent-wide, and collective bargaining and union membership are protected by the ECHR, so apply...
  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 17th Aug - 9:31pm
    David, I think the issue of inter-generational equity is a crucial one, particularly housing affordability. For too many, buying a house has become out of...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 17th Aug - 8:33pm
    Joe, Yes there is a good argument that the much smaller numbers of earlier graduates have already paid their fair share. of contributions to the...