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.

Sal Brinton and the grassroots

Sal Brinton addresses the rally Liverpool Spring conference 2015 Phoito by LIberal DemocratsYesterday Party President Sal Brinton was interviewed by Dermot Murnaghan for Sky News.

You can read the full transcript of the interview here, but here are some snippets:

DM: … you are in touch with the Lib Dem grassroots as President and we heard from Lord Steel, the former leader, saying there is no appetite amongst Lib Dems for another coalition.

SAL BRINTON: That’s not the grassroots that I’ve been talking to.

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A tale of a fox and a duck

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What is happening today, then?

 

At midnight last night Parliament was dissolved. Members of Parliament are expected to clear their desks and retreat to their constituencies, if they are re-standing, or to go and help new candidates.

But the country is not without Government. Ministers will continue to hold their posts right until a new Government is formed after the election, so we have the unusual sight, for Lib Dems, of some of our own remaining in power throughout the short election campaign.

photo by:
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LDV hosts debate on devolution – “Just do it”

Lib Dem Voice and the local government think tank Localis co-hosted a debate yesterday under the title ‘What should the Lib Dems offer on devolution in their manifesto?‘. I started by pointing out that our policies were not a secret and we had been discussing the manifesto for the last year or so, most recently in Liverpool. But the debate still threw up some interesting challenges.

Stephen Williams, the Communities Minister, argued strongly that the next government will have to devolve a range of powers to local government almost immediately after the election; not only do all the main parties advocate it but there is growing pressure to do so around the country, especially post Indyref. The UK devolves fewer powers away from central government than any other country in the EU.

The Lib Dem policy is for more substantial devolution on demand, and throughout the debate the Lib Dems emphasised that, rather than impose a unified system straightaway, it would be better to allow practice to emerge from the grassroots as areas became ready to take on more responsibilities, as has happened recently in Manchester. As a first step, Stephen would prefer to see a flatter structure, replacing two tier counties with unitaries, bringing power closer to the people.

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Good news on the Pupil Premium

The Independent reports:

Thinking outside the box can do wonders for disadvantaged pupils, according to evidence from schools about how they are using the Government’s pupil premium to improve performance.

In one case, the simple act of buying a pupil a football kit and providing soccer coaching, as his parents were unable to afford it, dramatically improved his performance, Schools minister David Laws told The Independent. “It got him taking part in lessons and attending again,” said the Liberal Democrat.

On Wednesday the Pupil Premium awards will highlight those schools who are making the most of the extra funding and targeting at the most disadvantaged children. You can see the finalists here. Last year the winner in the Secondary category was Millfield Science and Performing Arts College, where 2014 disadvantaged students actually out-performed their non-disadvantaged peers at GCSE.

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Victory for Lib Dems with announcement of world’s first tidal lagoon

The Chancellor has just announced that he will be opening formal negotiations which could lead to an investment of £1 billion in a world-first scheme to extract energy from tidal power.

Ed Davey has been working on this project for several years, so it is a great victory for Liberal Democrats in government, on the back of our other achievements on renewable energy. The UK is already the world leader on offshore wind, thanks to the Lib Dems.

The first tidal lagoon will be planned for Swansea Bay, as predicted in the Guardian this morning.

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Confessions of an FCC virgin

 

Liverpool was my first conference as a member of the Federal Conference Committee (FCC), having been elected at the end of last year. The experience confirmed my impression that Liberal Democrats do conference really rather well.

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Kate Parminter to join post-election negotiating team

Kate ParminterAbout  a year ago, Nick Clegg announced that the members of the post-election negotiating team would be Danny Alexander, Steve Webb, Sal Brinton, Lynne Featherstone and David Laws.

As Party President, Sal will be closely involved in any post-election moves so it is appropriate that she should be replaced on the negotiating team itself.

According to Michael Crick, Channel 4’s political correspondent:

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Online democracy tools that inform the general election debate

Last week I drew your attention to YourNextMP, a crowdsourced website run by Democracy Club. But they are not the only non-profit organisation providing useful open data information to support democracy, either by data scraping government sites or through crowdsourcing.

MySociety started it all many years ago, with the now redundant FaxYourMP. This was eventually replaced by WriteToThem, where visitors could find out the names of their elected representatives (including councillors) and send them a message without having to search other sites for their contact details.  FixMyStreet is another simple but powerful site which allows people to report problems to their local council.

theyworkforyouBut the best known MySociety project is TheyWorkForYou, which is still the yardstick by which many of us judge civic websites. It takes data from Hansard and other parliamentary/ assembly resources and repackages it to make it immediately accessible to any of us.  Enter your postcode to discover your MP’s voting record, recent speeches, attendances on committees, register of interests. It also covers members of the House of Lords, and the Queen.

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The local offer: what should the Lib Dems offer on devolution in their manifesto?

Stephen WilliamsLast week I wrote about the event that Lib Dem Voice is running with the local government think-tank Localis, and we’d love it if some of our readers could join us.

It will take place at 6.45pm on Tuesday 24th March at The Ideas Space, Clutha House, 10 Storey’s Gate, Westminster, SW1P 3AY, which is just round the corner from HQ.

Under the title “The local offer: what should the Lib Dems offer on devolution in their manifesto?”, Stephen Williams,  Minister for Communities, will lead the speakers. He will be joined on the platform by John Shipley, (advisor to the Government on cities from the House of Lords), Caroline Pidgeon (Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the London Assembly) and Tony Greenham (New Economics Foundation). I will be chairing the session on behalf of Lib Dem Voice.

There are still places available. It’s free to attend but you do need to  book your place in advance on the Localis website.

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Members of the public tweeting live from Parliament

Houses of Parliament and Westminster BridgeFor the first time today, members of the public who attended a debate in Parliament were permitted, and indeed encouraged, to keep their phones and use social media. Sadly it wasn’t in the House of Commons, where you still have to hand in your phones and tablets before you go into the public gallery, but appropriately it was in a Westminster Hall debate on Digital Democracy (#digitaldemocracy). It’s not clear to me how many of the tweets were directly from the admittedly small public gallery, and how many from people watching it on ParliamentLive TV, but it was an encouraging start.

photo by: [Duncan]
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Who is standing in your constituency?

 

Who are the candidates standing in your constituency? Crowd sourcing seems the obvious way to build an online database of PPCs, of all parties and none, across the country, and that is exactly what is happening on YourNextMP.  Please check out your own constituency and submit, or correct, information about the Lib Dem candidate.

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Invitation to a debate on devolution to local government with Stephen Williams

Stephen WilliamsWill you be in London on Tuesday 24th March? Here at Lib Dem Voice we have been planning a joint session with Localis, the local government think-tank, under the title “The local offer: what should the Lib Dems offer on devolution in their manifesto?”

We are delighted that Stephen Williams, who is the Minister for Communities, has agreed to speak. Alongside him will be John Shipley, (advisor to the Government on cities from the House of Lords), Caroline Pidgeon (Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the London Assembly) and Tony Greenham (New Economics Foundation). I will be chairing the session on behalf of Lib Dem Voice.

You are invited to join us at 6.45pm on 24th March at The Ideas Space, Clutha House, 10 Storey’s Gate, Westminster, SW1P 3AY, which is just round the corner from HQ.

The event is free, but please book your place in advance on the Localis website.

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Sharing a platform with ConHome and LabourList

nlgn

Yesterday I represented Lib Dem Voice on a panel with Conservative Home and LabourList. It was at the end of a conference organised by the New Local Government Network on the overall theme of localism and devolution to local government.  I was surprised and pleased that so many local government officers resisted the urge to slope off after the teabreak and stayed to hear the bloggers.

I had the huge advantage over my fellow bloggers of being a former councillor. By contrast, the other two had the luxury of being employed full-time as blog managers – although I have to say that I do enjoy being part of the LDV volunteer collective and the way we work as a team.

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Nick Clegg on The Last Leg tonight

last-leg204Nick Clegg will be appearing on The Last Leg at 10pm on Channel 4 this evening.

I will certainly be watching – in fact, I have been a fan of the programme since it first appeared during the 2012 Paralympics. After tiring but exhilarating days spent working as a Gamesmaker, it was great to flop down and watch this totally refreshing and irreverent take on the day’s events with disability at its heart. It cleared away a lot of misconceptions through its #isitok feature and the regular joshing between the three presenters, two of whom have …

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‘Open up!’ – Digital democracy in the House of Commons

Digital DemocracyOpen up!’ was published yesterday and is the report of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy. Liberal Democrats should pay it some attention, even though, sadly, we do not appear to have had any representation on the Commission itself.

Its remit was to explore how to use digital technology to improve parliamentary democracy in the House of Commons, and increase democratic participation, which is surely something that we care about deeply.

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How the Daily Mirror works

There was a curious story in the Daily Mirror over the weekend. It incorrectly refers to Chevening as ‘Nick Clegg’s estate’, and ‘the Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister’s land’ when it is, of course, a property owned by the Government. It is usually made available to the Foreign Secretary so s/he can entertain Foreign ministers in some privacy.

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Paddy Ashdown’s voice

PAddy Ashdown by Liberal DemocratsLiberal Democrats have always treasured the charismatic Paddy Ashdown. He has an engaging style in public and comes over as warm, realistic and credible; he is also very good at rallying the troops.

It seems that others beside the Liberal Democrats have noticed the pulling power of his voice, including an agency for voice-over artists which has now recruited him.

The Guardian reports the story  and refers to his ‘authoritative, reassuring tones’, but also highlights concerns by some party members. It quotes a ‘senior Liberal Democrat’ who said…

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Clegg: “Suicide is preventable, it is not inevitable”

Liberal Democrats are making sure that mental health stays in the headlines, and that our policies are linked in people’s minds with the issues. Today the focus has been on preventing suicide. Here was Nick Clegg speaking this morning:

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Human Rights Committee criticises Terrorism Bill for plans to block UK citizens and for challenges to academic freedom

The knee-jerk reaction to any act of terrorism is to propose yet more regulations and legislation to prevent future attacks or to deal with the attackers. As liberals we have to be very careful to ensure that our civil and human rights are not being curtailed unnecessarily.

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Are Lib Dems normal?

SuttonWe missed this story when it broke earlier in the month, but were alerted to it when it surfaced in the Sunday Times (£ – and to be honest I’m not prepared to pay £6 per week just to be able to read this article in full) yesterday.

It seems Lib Dem run Sutton is the most normal place in the UK. That view was expressed by Neil Couling when he was giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. He explained that the new benefits IT system, which had been plagued by problems, was being tried out in the London Borough of Sutton.

Asked why Sutton had been chosen he said:

It’s the most normal place in Britain. It’s population is average for the United Kingdom as a whole. It’s a wonderful place and I adore it.

… Although he did admit that he had never visited it.

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LibLink: Norman Lamb on integrated funding for health and care

Norman LambIn an interview with Public Finance Norman Lamb says that he has his sights on 2018, as the date by which all health and care spending will be pooled in England. He said:

I want the approach to evolve rather than having anything imposed. The only imposition is to say that we have got to get budgets pooled locally completely, and I’ve talked to a lot of people about this and I think we’ve come up with a neat solution to achieve the pooled budget without a national reorganisation, which nobody wants.

The Better Care Fund seems to me to be the sensible way of achieving that objective, to progressively increase the extent of the pooling, and as you do that I think you remove the perverse consequences of the gaming across the boundary between the two.

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Linda Jack drops out of race for party president

linda-jack-6The election for the new president of the party is underway. Ballot papers will be sent out on Friday  to all members of at least one year’s standing to everyone who was a member on the qualifying date at the end of September.  

Candidates had to collect 200 nominations from conference representatives across at least 20 different local parties, with no-one allowed to nominate more than one. Traditionally the candidates try to get the requisite signatures at Autumn Conference, but this proved to be a particular challenge this year.

Linda Jack has issued this statement:

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David Laws on Lib Dem plans for the General Election

Yesterday Nick Clegg officially launched our pre-Manifesto, which will be debated at Federal Conference next month. David Laws was asked by the BBC about the costings, and he said:

We will publish the figures before the next election, but what Nick Clegg did say today is that the proposals that are in our pre-manifesto that we published today are considerably less expensive than the manifesto that we stood on in 2010. I personally am confident that if we were a Liberal Democrat government by ourselves, and we didn’t have to negotiate with other parties, then all that we’ve put in our pre-manifesto is actually deliverable.

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The Airports Commission says ‘no’ to a Thames estuary airport, but Boris hasn’t given up

borisislandBoris Johnson’s proposal for a new London airport on the Isle of Grain in the inner Thames estuary, to replace Heathrow, is not dead in the water despite being rejected by the Airports Commission. The Commission’s decision on the proposal was published today.

Whilst acknowledging that a new (‘ITE’) airport on the Thames estuary would provide extra capacity and improve noise impact, the report cites the loss of protected habitats, the issues with being sited next to a Liquid Natural Gas storage facility, plus the costs of infrastructure, housing and access improvements. The cost of the airport could be anything from £67 billion to £120 billion depending on whether it had three or four runways.

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Zero hours contracts – closing the loopholes

Vince Cable at Social Liberal Forum conference 19th July 2014 - photo by Paul WalterYesterday was a public holiday (except in Scotland, where they have more important things to think about), but it seems the party never takes a holiday.  It chose a wet and windy Bank Holiday Monday to announce that Vince Cable was crowd-sourcing loopholes in zero hours contracts. He is specifically concerned about those that require an employee to work exclusively for the one employer, even though no work is guaranteed.

Vince is launching a consultation and inviting employers, unions …

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LibLink: David Ward writes about a non-violent path to peace and security

David WardDavid Ward has been a little, shall we say, controversial in his statements about the conflict in Gaza. Today he has written about his petition calling for and advocating a non-violent solution.

On his website he writes:

I unreservedly condemn the use of military action by both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But how do we arrive at peace in a non-violent way?

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LibLink: Shirley Williams “Europe has a duty to Gaza”

Shirley WilliamsWriting in the Guardian today, Shirley Williams says:

The tragedy of the centenary we commemorate this week is that it falls as some of the most brutal and merciless wars of those same hundred years are raging.

She refers to the current conflicts in Syria, Gaza, Iraq, Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic.

Attacks on Belgian and French civilians, including children, by Germany’s invading army in August 1914 shocked the public and politicians in Britain and elsewhere into intervening, and many individual men into enlisting – so much so that

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Food for Thought: Scottish independence?

An educational charity called WORLDwrite contacted Lib Dem Voice recently with a link to their programme below.

This was made by WORLDbytes, which is a “unique online Citizen TV channel set up and run by the education charity WORLDwrite. Dedicated to advancing new knowledge, skills and ideas, the charity promotes excellence in citizen reporting and provides free training to volunteer-learners which combines practical film making with tackling challenging issues.” It offers a 6 week training programme for 16 – 25 year olds, so may well be of interest to any Liberal Youth readers.

This is a video their volunteers made about the Scottish referendum.

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A bit of our party’s history remembered

1988On 29th July, exactly 26 years ago, Paddy Ashdown was elected as the first leader of the newly merged Social and Liberal Democrats (which quickly settled down to being known as the Liberal Democrats).  The leadership contest was between Paddy Ashdown and Alan Beith, who had my vote. But what a leader Paddy turned out to be!

The Guardian marks the anniversary by airing an editorial of the day, part of which was a tribute to David Steel who had decided not to enter the leadership contest. David Steel had led the Liberal Party into the Alliance with the Social Democrats and acted as one of the two interim leaders of the Social and Liberal Democrats after the merger.  He had been the baby of the House when elected at the age of 26, and was one of the youngest party leaders ever when he took up that role 11 years later.

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