Author Archives: Ed Fordham

Remembering Charles Kennedy’s character, wit, ascent and triumphs: a report from today’s London service

This was no wake, this was a celebratory thanksgiving to the Charles Kennedy we knew and loved.  Held, not in Westminster, but in Charles’ own London parish church – the Catholic Cathedral of St George, Southwark.  As one Liberal Democrat peer wisely observed after the service – Charles would have liked that the residents of the Village of Westminster had had to come down to his manor here in Southwark.

So often with memorial services of people whom we have lost untimely there is a sense of what might have been.  Instead this celebration marvelled at just how much Charles had achieved so young, and with apparent effortlessness.  This was a welcome and deserved recollection of the character, the wit, the ascent and triumphs of Charles.

There were elements that were not highlights of the service – but rather illuminations of the brilliance, the reach and nature of Charles himself: Jim Naughtie (BBC World at One and Today) reflected just how special and unique a politician Charles was; Ian Hislop, at the request of the family, read the serious and challenging Death shall have no dominion by Dylan Thomas; and former Intern in Charles’ office, Eleanor Sanderson-Nash held the cathedral spell-bound with her performance of Vissi D’Arte, from Puccini’s Tosca (and evoked a spontaneous round of applause).

Leading politicians from all parties – but largely drawn from the Liberal Democrat family – gathered as a clan to remember, smile and laugh.  But for me the real stand out feature that credits Charles the man, was the sheer number of Liberal Democrat former Westminster parliamentary staff in attendance.  This was not just their affection for him, but the truth that Charles had noticed them in their time at Westminster.  And so today they came in huge numbers to pay their respects.  Prayers from Revd Canon Mark Soady for example – clergyman yes – colleague and friend yes – but longstanding front-line staffer of 4 Cowley Street, well known to Charles, who acknowledged all staff in HQ whenever he was there.

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Proud of Pride in Belgrade


International Office_with textI have been working with the LDP (Liberal Democrat Party of Serbia) for a few years now through the International Office and we have been concentrating on human rights and LGBT issues for the last 18 months. The first stage of the work the International Office and I have been doing, focusing on building LGBT competency within the wider LDP and supporting them to create their own LGBT specific committee in the Human Rights Council, culminated last month when I joined the Human Rights Council and LDP leadership at Belgrade Pride.

photo by: torbakhopper
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Ed Fordham’s Letter from Belgrade

I am sitting in a hotel here in Belgrade eating my breakfast. It’s Serbia so meat is the dominant feature.

But I have just walked around the corner of the block to the hotel where they are issueing the accreditation to volunteers stewards who are marshalling the Pride March today and in the course of that short journey I have passed over 200 riot police (I stopped counting). The roads are closed and the streets ghostly quiet.

I am fairly confident here and know Serbia pretty well – but I found myself nervous, uncertain and even tearful as I walked through the streets. I was clutching my phone, hiding my camera and very mindful that as best I try I probably look like a visitor.

In three hours I will meet other friends who are LGBT activists in the Human Rights Council of the Liberal Democrat Party of Serbia whom I will march with. In London, the UK, much of Europe we can be confident of who we are and who we love. Here people, friends, folks I know, are fighting, literally, for the right to exist and be themselves.

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Good luck, Jeremy

Okay so here is the rub (possibly more than one): I massively feel sorry for friends, colleagues, opponents in the Labour Party who are faced with the very real election of Jeremy Corbyn. I genuinely believe that his election and his pitch would be a retrograde step for any party. An equivalent would be Nigel Farage tipped to win Leader of the Conservatives… which in the current climate Farage might want to think about.

But one of the jibes I hear most from Labour folk, and it is Labour folk, is that Liberals (and they can’t get the name right and choose not to) are too pure, to small and too broad stroke in our politics.
And yet, if I understand their concern over Corbyn-mania correctly it’s that he will confine them to unelectability for a generation.  And so they demonstrate their flaw. They quite like Corbyn – but they can’t vote for him because he won’t give them power. They might agree with him, but dare not.  That they can’t leave Labour and create either a new party or join with another non-Tory alternative because they are Labour folk – that is what I loathe about their politics. That their tribal instincts are so deep that they can’t be honest and advocate fair votes for local government, let alone our national parliament – even though they have allowed a series of different voting and counting systems across the UK.
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Opinion: Wear a yellow flower to honour a Lib Dem friend

A few years ago I gave a training session at Wyboston for target seat candidates on the role of the PPC.  I tried to make it interesting, thought provoking, even different. One of the roles I had on my slides was attending funerals of long standing activists.  The idea aroused some discussion with a couple of those present dismissing the idea, and one person present saying they were going to concentrate on the living only.  Well I would still believe that one of the roles of a PPC is to attend funerals of long standing activists.  Let me explain.

Here in Camden we have a strong and sociable local party – food and drink are a large part of our staple campaign diet – we try to make it fun, we have a scheme whereby if you can’t go, but can afford it, you pay to attend and those less able to afford are given free access.
With this sociability goes a sense of family – this is something I often hear Liberal Democrats talk about up and down the country – well so with family we pay our respects when they pass away.
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Opinion: On being beaten

After hours of counting on the morning on Friday 7th May 2010 it was announced for the world to see that Glenda Jackson was re-elected elected as the Member of Parliament for Hampstead and Kilburn.  Hidden beneath this was my own result where I lost by 842.  A close result, except that I was in third place – in 2010 the best placed third placed loser in Britain I’m told.

In most of the accounts of the 2010 General Election H&K as it was dubbed, is listed as the seat the LD’s hoped to win – Nick Clegg had launch his campaign there.  I was cited as a close friend (one paper even said I was his best man – I wasn’t!).

Indeed I remember at the count when the Conservative candidate went back to his team – he said “She’s won”. One of his campaign asked hastily – “and Fordham?” – “he’s third came the reply” – “Yes” they cheered.

But for me as I walked home and for the days afterwards it was more than losing.  I’m a Liberal Democrat – I’m used to losing counts.  But losing as a candidate it is highly personal.

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Philip Vince RIP. A life time of discreet service.

philip vinceIf you have been a member of the Liberal Democrats, at any level, then the likelihood is you will have met Philip Vince or maybe you will have had a handwritten note from Philip in immaculate spider-small handwriting; if you attended any Federal Party Conference and before that Liberal Assemblies since at least 1957 then chances are you saw or met Philip Vince. For someone who never stood for public office his impact and commitment were unrivalled.

Despite that, constructing this biography has been a work of many conversations, tiny snippets of information, leads, contacts, shared insights – Philip was known by many people across the organisations that he involved himself with, but it is also true to say that very few people really knew him well.

Posted in Obituaries | 7 Comments

My proudest day as a Liberal Democrat

fordham and eaglingAccording to the cash receipt slip I was given by the membership secretary of Stanford and Spalding constituency local party I have been a member of the Liberal Democrats for 26 years 4 months and 25 days. I have experienced the lows and highs of losing and winning elections, I have been involved in conference debates, fringes, attending key speeches and declarations, delivering leaflets, knocking on doors, influenced government policies, and when I married Russell Eagling on 5th July this year I was the direct beneficiary of the Liberal Democrats in Government.

Yet today Tuesday 18th November 2014 will go down as one of the days on which I was proudest to be a Liberal Democrat. The two instances could not be more related and yet more different.

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Opinion: Jeremy Browne deserves our thanks

Jeremy BrowneSo my good friend Jeremy Browne has announced he is standing down as the Member of Parliament for Taunton Deane. This announcement by him has achieved a lot of opprobrium and gnashing of teeth: ‘too late’, ‘too soon’ – what has been little reflected upon is the burden we place on our candidates and MP’s.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Jeremy since 1990, when we met at the University of Nottingham: the long haired, railway-signalman’s cap-wearing, President of the Les Dawson Appreciation Society was a larger than life …

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Opinion: We will not stand aside while persecution takes place

Whilst party activists gathered in Glasgow and quite literally were debating policy F33 Age Ready Britain there was another gathering taking place of a quieter, but perhaps more significant nature.

In the Admiral Rodney Pub, in Southwell, Nottinghamshire a small group of LGBT activists and supporters prepared to demonstrate for equality. Archbishop John Sentamu was in Southwell for the opening of the refurbished Bishop’s Palace and he was accompanied by acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, Richard Inwood.

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Stand up against the politics of bullets and threats

AlliancePolitics is macho at the best of times – strength and power, even clarity is used in a ruthless context.  All too often there are militaristic metaphors: “I intend to march my troops towards the sound of gunfire” (Joe Grimond 1963).

Indeed, it has always been my experience as a campaigner, member of staff for the Party and as candidate, that macho effort is often valued above more subtle contribution.  You often hear Conference bar boasting about the number of by-elections attended (usually citing the first exciting one that we won, forgetting the less sexy ones: Ogmore or Bootle 2), the number of nights, days, weeks and indeed months (in the case of Brent East) spent at said by-election, and the first by-election attended (often Christchurch or Eastbourne, being a direct reference to the decades of perceived thankless service!).

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Opinion: Church of England, call off your modern day inquisition

Archbishop Justin Welby Some rights reserved by Messiah Lutheran (Mechanicsville, VA)For those of you in York, and indeed last September at Glasgow, one of the loudest cheers in the closing day of the Leaders Speech always comes when the pre-film, or Nick as leader mentions the Same Sex Marriage Act.

Indeed Lynne Featherstone will go down in Liberal Democrat history, indeed in wider history, as the MP who made such a massive impact and a positive one upon society.

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Same Sex marriages – March 29th is the day

wedding ringsThe Government have today announced that Same Sex marriages can commence in 2014.

One of the ways of finding out who I was, who I might be and what shaped my thinking and existence was to speak to older relatives about themselves and my forebears.

Their memories are linked either to very small specific instances or to the large set piece occasions. In this cascade of history weddings stand out large and strong.

In photographs it is weddings that are posed and formal and vibrant – and yet – up to now …

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Opinion: My marriage will be different, but equal, my Lords and Ladies…

wedding ringsIt has been said that people who vote against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will be ‘standing on the wrong side of history’ – as those of us who know and study history accept, only time will tell.  But yesterday, as we led the Equal Marriage Vigil outside the House of Lords  I was struck that we were witnessing and perhaps even making history.

What occurred at our Vigil can be variously described as glorious, fashionable, tuneful and positive. In short we gathered together the LGBT+ communities and their families …

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Opinion: The same sex marriage bill is not perfect, but Lib Dem MPs should get behind it

In the next week it is likely that The Marriage (Same Sex) Bill will pass it’s third reading in the House of Commons and then will go up to the House of Lords. This is without hesitation good news for Liberal Democrats – a key part of the fight for equality will move forwards, it’s party policy and something that many members, individuals, charities and support groups have been pushing for.

The debate has been loud, full and genuine and sincere – the first debate in the House of Commons was emotional, real and heartfelt as members on all sides of …

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Marriage for same sex couples, but not yet equal for all…

In 2013 we celebrate 15 years of having been ‘going out’ together.  That’s a long time to be ‘going out’ – even for the decidedly commitment-phobic.

Over the last fifteen years we have attended many weddings, christenings, funerals of friends and family that mark out the great stations of life.

Apart from the occasional birthday bash and Eurovision party- we haven’t provided a similar opportunity for our friends and family to celebrate our life together.

On Tuesday the House of Commons will have a free vote on the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill – it’s not a perfect bill and in committee and …

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New Liberal Democrat Forum for Africa

The adage goes that all politics is local. And I believe it to be true – certainly local to the individual for whom specific issues are a concern. Living and working in London you can enjoy one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in the world. I can eat on any continent of the world every day of the week, you can pick virtually any country of the world and we have at least 250 from that country living near me in Kilburn, NW6. It’s just great!

Campaigning here is an education and a lesson in the rich tapestry of …

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Opinion: Three steps to better campaigning in London

Immediately after the London Mayoral and GLA election Mike Tuffrey wrote some very shrewd observations on Lib Dem Voice. Now the dust has settled and the election results are known by ward perhaps it is time to think through the next stage of learning.

For me getting Caroline Pidgeon re-elected was always a top priority. I’m delighted that she has been joined by my long-standing friend Stephen Knight – the shame being that they are not joined by Bridget Fox and Shas Sheehan. But Stephen and Caroline will punch above their weight and the work they have already started …

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Opinion: Handling Israel/Palestine issues can be difficult, but…

I can still remember a night in 2009 when our canvass team came back from a night out on the doorsteps asking “Who is Jenny Tonge? We have just been canvassing and had the most awful time over this person who apparently is a Liberal Democrat…” I explained calmly and with a wry smile that Jenny was a former MP, now member of the House of Lords, that she held strong views and was not afraid to voice them. “But these residents are not going to vote Liberal Democrat because of the views she articulates,” said one of the canvassers. It was not a one-off incident.

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Ed Fordham writes: Oooh… equal everyone – surely not?

Filling out a form the other day the options were single, married, divorced, civil partnerships – so I didn’t complete that question.

No other, no long-term relationship – so it clearly didn’t apply to me… I tried explaining this to the person at the desk and they were positively un-interested. But yet again it irritated me.

Surely I’m not the only person who because I can’t marry (and therefore can’t divorce!), who hasn’t had a civil partnership, but considers themselves to be in a long term relationship?

Cue Equality Minister, Lynne Featherstone and the influence of the Liberal Democrats in the Government.

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Opinion: BSF is dead – thank goodness‏

With the Conference season now upon us and with Labour preparing to crown their new Leader it seems appropriate that we lay to rest the myth that BSF (Building Schools for the Future) was some great effective scheme. In fact it was a bureaucratic joke with too few beneficiaries and huge expensive processes. The Liberal Democrat Conference is a good chance to cheer and toast the end of BSF and focus on education and pupils and real improvements.

It was 2005 and the local elections in London were scheduled for 2006. It was clear, we were clear, parents were clear, that there was a need for additional secondary school places in north west London in the Borough of Camden. The case for more places in the south of the Borough was also compelling – the campaign for a school ‘south of the Euston Road’ was pretty noisy and indeed compelling. And yet Camden Council had got itself to a place whereby it looked inactive, unable to articulate a more pro-active vision and lacking the political leadership to secure a new school.

I remember very clearly the conversation in Cllr Keith Moffitt’s front room in West Hampstead about the need for a new school.

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Opinion: I’m no longer prepared to support Stonewall under the leadership of Mr Summerskill

David Laws has resigned and the story has more or less moved along.  For my part I know and like David a lot and his loss is a real blow to the Liberal Democrats, the Government and the country.  But most of all this was a personal story.

So I was appalled by the decision of Stonewall’s Chief Executive Ben Summerskill to take the airwaves and print media to launch his own mini-campaign against David.

The very organisation that you would expect to have the courage to stand up and explain the moral realities of being gay and struggling with a public …

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Outstanding Liberal Democrat Campaigner of the Year

Campaigning is an all year round slog and most intensive for the staff and full-time campaigners who do this every day, every week. In that context many of you will have fond memories of Cllr Neil Trafford, Federal Campaigns Officer for the north west of England. Neil tragically died in an accident last year, but a group of us have used that sad occasion to institute a new award within the party.

This award will be for the outstanding member of campaigns staff – be they employed by a Local Party, constituency, MP, MSP, AM, MEP or indeed the federal …

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Opinion: Ed Fordham’s Career Choice

Last night my Dad rang me all concerned about my career choices. I stood in the general election of 2005 and am planning to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn at the next election – whenever it comes.

My Dad’s concern was pretty simple: why would I want to join a club of such scoundrels, hasn’t the career of politician been devalued and he was concerned that people get caught up in the maelstrom of the noise and the club-atmosphere and accept as the norm what in fact is wrong.

I believe politics is a calling …

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Neil Trafford’s memorial celebration

Last Friday saw the memorial celebration of Councillor Neil Trafford in Manchester Town Hall.

The memorial celebration was recorded and is now available on YouTube at Part I is below:

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    Phyllis Sky News is wrong, just as the BBC was wrong today reporting that and just as Laura Kuenssberg was wrong last night saying we...
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    Too late for this discussion. Sky News reports that Lib Dem MPs are supporting Cameron. Decision made.
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