Author Archives: Mark Valladares

The race for the ALDE Presidency – and why it might matter

Four years of an ALDE Party led by Sir Graham Watson is nearly at an end and, following his announcement in Oslo in May that he would not be seeking a third term, one might not be surprised to hear that the campaign started almost before he sat down. I for one was lobbied by a potential candidate at the reception that followed and, since then, two candidates have emerged to contest the succession. So, who will the Liberal Democrat delegation, which represents 12% of the votes to be cast, have to decide between?

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , , and | 5 Comments

Building a more accessible candidate selection process – the campaign phase


Three weeks ago, Zack Polanski offered us a perspective on the way we, as Liberal Democrats, select candidates, focusing in particular on the barriers to participation that campaign spending limits create. And, whilst I am not Mark Pack, I am prompted to offer a different perspective on the problem by Mark Platt’s suggestion of a ‘Packian response’.

First, some context. The 1997 European Parliamentary selection was the first where, almost regardless of where you were, there was a serious prospect of a Liberal Democrat being elected. In South East England alone, seventy-two members applied to be on the shortlist. In the absence of restrictions on spending, certain candidates were seen to have attempted to buy a place high up on the list. As a result, it was strongly suggested that spending caps be introduced, a concept that the English Party adopted readily. As Anthony Fairclough noted, it was for local shortlisting committees to determine a limit appropriate to their circumstances, with an overriding limit of £1 per head – one letter to a member would take up a chunk of that.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Liberal Democrat Committee appointments in the Lords spotlight the talent on our benches

Whilst the lack of women in prominent positions in the House of Commons has already drawn comment elsewhere on the site, in the Lords, the story is rather different, especially from a Liberal Democrat perspective. With nominations now confirmed for all but the sub-committees of the European Union Select Committee, our Leader in the Lords, Jim Wallace, and Chief Whip, Dick Newby, have drawn upon the array of talent within our Parliamentary Party – now 35% female – to reflect its new position as the legislative engine for scrutiny within the Party. So, who should we be watching out for over the next session? We’ll start with the four new Ad Hoc Committees, set up to look at particular topics.

The Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee has been set up to consider the impact of the Act on people with disabilities, and Party President and wheelchair user, Sal Brinton, and Celia Thomas, a Vice President of the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign, will be representing us there.

The Built Environment Committee will look at the development and implementation of national policy for the built environment – think planning and infrastructure. Matthew Taylor, who led the 2012 review of government planning practice guidance, and Kate Parminter, a former Chief Executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, will be authoritative voices.

Posted in News and Parliament | Tagged and | 8 Comments

@ALDEParty Council – mourning our losses in the bosom of our family and friends

I was the first of our delegation to reach Oslo, having concluded that there was little I could practically do to help at home by then and, arriving at the venue for the Friday evening fringe meeting, I was braced for the questions. “What went wrong? What will happen now? Who will be the new leader?”. And yes, I expected some sympathy, although the offer of political asylum in Norway was unexpectedly kind.

Perhaps, just perhaps, opening the event with a debate on the future of Liberal Europe was just a little too raw given events at home, but I did take the opportunity to ask the panel the question, “My political party has just suffered a near-death experience. What single piece of advice would you give me?”. The answer, rebuild from the floor. Rebuild your branch structure, develop some clear, liberal messages, give your members and activists something to believe in and campaign for.

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged | 3 Comments

ALDE Party Council preview: remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue…

Whilst most of you will either be at your count (and good luck to you all!) or sitting in front of a television set or a computer watching the results come in, your correspondent will be in a hotel room in Oslo. Yes, it’s time once again for liberals from across Europe to gather and tell the British how sorry they are for the result/share the love and tell us things will get better/express surprise at how well we did (delete as appropriate). And despite exhaustion and uncertainty, a small, depleted and wholly male delegation will be there to fly the Liberal Democrat flag.

So, what are we there for, apart from the joy of discovering that a second mortgage is required to buy a beer?

Council will be opened with a speech from the Prime Minister of Norway… who isn’t a member of our host party, Venstre, but is leader of the Conservative Party. That said, the ruling minority coalition of the Conservatives and the Progress Party has a confidence and supply arrangement with Venstre and the Christian Democrats in the Storting to ensure its survival (and you thought that British politics was complex?).

The agenda for Council itself is unlikely to generate much excitement, although the membership application from the Liberal Party of Gibraltar is a welcome one, especially given their performance in the European Parliamentary election last year (the Liberal Democrat list – Gibraltar is part of the South West England region – gained 66% of the vote). There will also be a rationalisation of the Slovenes, as three of the five member parties there are expected to disaffiliate (they have, effectively, ceased to exist).

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

Opinion: ALDE Party Council: Bouncing Czechs, “which Slovenes are the liberals?”*, and a prospective rise in the price of cod…

Whilst you might not have guessed it from those manifestos you read from candidates for places on the Party’s ALDE Council delegation, the policy debates were still in our future when Council made an early start on Friday morning.Our task was a straightforward one, debate changes to the constitution, including a revision of the membership structure, authorise the creation of a business club, consider six membership applications, receive and approve the 2015 budget and debate the report of the Bureau… in two hours (English Council, please note).

The constitutional changes were adopted, although there were concerns over the apparent absence of a code of conduct for fundraising. Luckily, a helpful British member of the Financial Advisory Committee was on hand to both reassure and clarify the position – there is one, it was available for circulation, and it could be applied to the proposed business club, a means for corporate sponsors to fund events without directly funding a political party’s campaigning activities.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

Opinion: ALDE Congress: Après le deluge, liberalism reclaimed?

Rainy Lisbon by vidixitIt had been raining in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. Indeed, it had been raining for so long and so hard that local taxi drivers couldn’t remember it being worse. Not, perhaps, an auspicious opening for a meeting of European liberals, although for the Germans and ourselves, the notion of poor political weather might well have been vaguely familiar.But, gather we did, and amongst our midst were strangers, hoping to be friends, and some of the new MEPs and European Commissioners, showing their faces and networking. There were emerging issues to discuss – what to do about Russia, how to grow the economy, what to do about the digital economy, privacy and data protection – and a desire to reclaim liberalism from those who use it as a term of abuse.

The first order of business was the ALDE Party Council meeting, but I’ll cover that separately.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

ALDE gather in Lisbon: setting sail for a new, more liberal world?

Sailing in Lisbon by Pedro Ribeiro SimõesOnce again, liberals from across the European Union and beyond gather this week for the Annual Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE). And whilst Portugal might not be the most obvious place, given the absence of a liberal party in Portuguese politics for some years now, the emergence of the Earth Party as a serious contender – it won two seats (out of twenty-one) in this year’s European Parliament election – makes Portugal an interesting place to be.

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged , and | 1 Comment

A setback for UKIP in the European Parliament, courtesy of one Latvian MEP…

After the European Parliament elections in May, there was a scramble amongst the political groupings in Brussels to gather enough MEPs (twenty-five) from enough countries (seven) to achieve recognition as a political group, with two groups in particular, the European Conservatives and Reformist Group – ECR (which includes the Conservative Party) and the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group – EFDD (which includes UKIP) competing to attract individual MEPS to reach the required number of countries. At one point, it looked as though the EFDD would fall just short, but the recruitment of the Latvian Farmers Union MEP, Iveta Grigule, was enough to satisfy the eligibility clause.

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

Opinion: an open letter to Tim Farron – “And who made you King, anyway?”

imageIn his recent article in Liberal Democrat Voice, the Liberal Democrat Party President, Tim Farron, refers to a review of the Party’s disciplinary procedures, carried out by a senior barrister, Diya Sen Gupta, and goes on to say;

She has now made recommendations to us and I am determined that we will implement these as quickly as possible.

Now call me a stickler for process if you will, but where does Tim get off making such a statement?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 36 Comments

ALDE sets sail for a new world from a old port

image aldeThe Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) have confirmed that they will be holding their next Annual Congress in Lisbon, Portugal, a country not known for its liberal politics in recent years.

However, as part of ALDE’s efforts to encourage the growth of liberal forces across the continent, links with a new group in Portuguese politics, Nos Ciadados (We Citizens) have been established, and it is hoped that, by meeting in Lisbon, that those links might be strengthened and nurtured.

In the light of the recent European Parliamentary election results, …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Welcome to my day: 11 August

Just another day at Liberal Democrat Voice, as the day editor re-enacts a scene from Beau Geste... Just another day at Liberal Democrat Voice, as the day editor re-enacts a scene from Beau Geste…Yes, it’s me again, I’m afraid. And after last week’s controversy over an article that never did get resubmitted by its author, we have more comment on Gaza. This time, I’ve published it, as I think each has something new to say. Do remember though, we pre-moderate all such stories given the propensity of some to make comments which …

Posted in Site news | 4 Comments

Welcome to my day: 4 August 2014

There apparently comes a time when all good folk must come to the aid of the Party. Admittedly, not everyone would describe me as good (best to get that in before someone else does, methinks) and it is Liberal Democrat Voice and not the Liberal Democrats who have attracted a desire to assist, but the principle is the same.

The volunteer team who gallantly maintain this organ for the debate of Liberal Democrat ideas are a bit short-staffed this month, and I thought that it might be nice if I lent them a hand. Besides, it makes a pleasant change from …

Posted in Site news | 30 Comments

@ALDEParty Council preview – “How was it for you?”

image aldeIt seems like mere weeks since the last Council meeting of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE), when optimism was in the air – admittedly helped by the presence of our Austrian hosts on that occasion, who were running an unashamedly pro-European campaign. Sadly, just six weeks later, delegates from across Europe gather in Brussels under rather less cheery circumstances.

The decimation of the British, German and Italian member parties in the European Parliament, plus the defection of the Romanians to the European People’s Party following merger with …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged and | 24 Comments

European elections: vote Conservative, get Liberal?

election day 2014It’s polling day here and, indeed, in the Netherlands, as four days of voting for the European Parliament kick off. And, just possibly, whilst the Liberal Democrats are predicted to suffer losses here in the United Kingdom, the groundwork for the appointment of a liberal as President of the European Commission might be being prepared.

Christopher Flores, writing in the EU Observer, explains how;

Should a left coalition be blocked, the left will likely rally around one candidate in hopes of salvaging the loss of the Parliament by being able

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 5 Comments

ALDE Party Council – seeing double in the city of intrigue and sachertorte

SachertorteIt is perhaps appropriate that, given the much-anticipated (at least by our enemies) fate of Liberal Democrats on 22 May, the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe) Party Council meets in Vienna, the city where Orson Welles set ‘The Third Man’, in which Harry Lime gave the impression of being dead, only to be killed in the end anyway.

However, this month’s European Parliamentary elections represent the raison d’être of any pan-European political party, and so liberals from across the European Union are working to ensure the strongest possible representation …

photo by: Jen SFO-BCN
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ALDE 2014 – it’s just like being in a movie

aldeIn any half decent action movie, you have to have a vaguely credible, if unlikely, hero, a stereotypically evil, well-resourced opponent, and some sort of desirable outcome. For example, a mild mannered archaeologist or museum curator, the Nazis and the retrieval of some mystic artefact.

In ‘Indiana Clegg and the Temple of Federalism’, the outcome is the selection of the right Liberal candidate for President of the European Commission, and the opponent is Guy Verhofstadt, a former Prime Minister of Belgium and current leader of the Liberal group in the European Parliament. The hero? You decide…

Posted in News | Tagged | 33 Comments

Opinion: as Labour and the Conservatives play “Find the Lady” on immigration, what are we to do?

I must admit that the whole immigration debate bemuses me. As Labour and the Conservatives compete for the prize of being ‘not quite as tough on migrants as UKIP want to be’, some of my fellow Liberal Democrats respond by only talking of the benefits of migration, making the mistake of assuming that there is a rational debate to be had there.

The problem is that there isn’t – not now, at least. Instead, I suggest a different approach – holding the other three parties to account over their proposals. You see, I have concluded that most of the proposals will …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 28 Comments

2014 – looking for a dark horse, or a safe pair of hands?

I mentioned yesterday that there were two elections that might pass uncommented upon for the most part, one of which was internal to the Liberal Democrats. Yes, we have a Presidential election to look forward to, and given that Tim Farron is term-limited, somebody new is going to be leading the voluntary Party into a potentially tough General Election.

Six years ago, everybody knew that Lembit was going to run for the Presidency, whilst Ros Scott was emerging as a likely opponent. What wasn’t clear was what the Leader’s Office wanted, or who they would back, or whether further viable …

Posted in Party Presidency | 26 Comments

2014 – the year of an election the media might miss

This year starts with media attention turning towards European elections in the Spring, and will end with the political parties cranking through the gears in anticipation of a General Election. In between, though, there are two elections that matter, one in Brussels (or, in an interesting turn of events, Athens), one in the Liberal Democrats, each of which will serve as a marker towards future events.

First, the European one. After the European elections, the European Council will vote, using qualified majority voting and bearing in mind the results of the elections, for a nominee to become the new President of …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Deserving poor, undeserving poor and welfare reform – can you have one without considering the others?

Like many people, I often hear about welfare reform in terms of finding ways to cut spending in difficult times with a degree of nervousness. Experience tells me that, at one extreme, dozens, nay thousands, will suffer horribly, whereas at the other, the public are apparently horrified by the number of alleged skivers. But to even suggest that there might be deserving and undeserving poor is anathema to those who believe in greater state action in challenging poverty.

And yet, without using such phrases, the debate seems to have swung towards making such distinctions. For example, EU migrants without work are …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 42 Comments

Opinion: is a more human, more engaging politics too much to ask for?

I joined the Liberal Party, or rather, the Union of Liberal Students, in 1984, because I believed, as I still do, that individuals should be nurtured, but not at the expense of community, and that people had a right to their dignity and freedom. It was a reflection of my upbringing and a gut instinct. For me, democracy and civic society offered a gateway to liberty for all.

Despite that, I never really wanted to be elected to public office – recognition perhaps that I lacked discipline and the necessary level of commitment. Retail politics wasn’t that attractive, and life offered …

Posted in Op-eds | 22 Comments

This week’s by-elections: a come from behind upset in Lincolnshire brightens an otherwise grim scene*

Lincolnshire wasn’t kind to Liberal Democrats in the 2013 County elections, with our vote share dropping by three-quarters and two of our five seats lost, so a December by-election in Scotter Rural wouldn’t have seemed to be promising much other than more pain, especially with UKIP in second place in May, but in a fine rebound, the seat was gained from the Conservatives on a 22% swing.

Many congratulations to Lesley and the team, in an area of recent, and hopefully future, Liberal Democrat strength.

Posted in News | Tagged | 46 Comments

2013 @ALDEParty Congress: a manifesto is born

ALDE has become the first of the European political parties to release its manifesto for next year’s European elections.

As ALDE Party President, Sir Graham Watson notes;

This manifesto is a departure from the norm – it has been forged in the heat of the crisis Europe has been weathering for a number of years now. I am pleased that it demands a stronger union to serve our interests while calling for a cutback in top-heavy, unnecessary and costly bureaucracy. A stronger, simpler union is what we all want and need and that is what our manifesto delivers. It is a solid

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged and | 1 Comment

The ten most active MPs on Twitter are…

Courtesy of John Rentoul, news reaches us of a list of the ten most active MPs on Twitter in 2013.

top tweeters

Yes, it’s our Tim and our Julian at the top of the list, with an honourable mention for Greg Mulholland.

Tim has managed an incredible fifty tweets a day this year, and probably should avoid piers for a while. And for anyone out there who wonders, it is him, and not a staffer, as those of us who have discovered that, by mentioning Tim in a tweet, you …

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 1 Comment

Welcome to my day: 20 December

Sivuqaq the walrusThere appears to be no escape from day editor duty for this walrus, but it’s the last Friday before Christmas, Parliament has adjourned until 7 January, and most of you are beginning to think about presents, turkey and things that rhyme with holly. However, my colleagues in LDV Towers are still beavering away, and there’s still quite a lot happening, so let’s see what we’ve got today.

We’ve got some good news from Lincolnshire, with a marvellous by-election gain, and the pan-European Liberal manifesto for next year’s elections has been …

Posted in News | 1 Comment

Nick Clegg backs Olli Rehn as ALDE European Commission Presidential candidate

Nick Clegg yesterday backed Olli Rehn, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs to become the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission in next year’s European Elections.

One of fourteen ALDE leaders to have co-signed a letter nominating Olli Rehn as their candidate, he said;

I am delighted to nominate Olli Rehn to be the ALDE Presidential candidate. He is the perfect man for the job, and will be a powerful advocate for the liberal cause. I know Olli will help us build a stronger economy

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

ALDE to select candidate for president of the European Commission

The ALDE Party has called an extraordinary Electoral Congress to advise the ALDE Party Bureau to choose a candidate for the President of the European Commission. This congress will take place in the afternoon of the 1st February 2014, in Brussels. Liberal Democrats are the biggest delegation with the total of sixty-two votes.

There are only two declared candidates so far, Guy Verhofstadt, Leader of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, and former Prime Minister of Belgium, and Olli Rehn, Vice President of the European Commission, and Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, a key portfolio over the past …

Posted in Europe / International, Events and News | Tagged and | 2 Comments

2013 @ALDEParty Congress: the election results

On Saturday afternoon, despite some technical difficulties with the election equipment, Returning Officers Daniel Obst (FDP, Germany) and Mark Valladares (Liberal Democrats, UK) were able to announce the winners of the two contests as follows:


  • Sir Graham Watson MEP (Liberal Democrats, UK) – 377 votes (91%)


  • Lousewies van der Laan (D66, Netherlands) – 389 votes (98%)
  • Marc Guerrero i Tarragó (Convergencia, Catalonia) – 378 votes (95%)
  • Olle Schmidt MEP (Folkpartiet, Sweden) – 348 votes (87%)
  • Karin Riis-Jørgensen (Venstre, Denmark) – 339 votes (85%)
  • Alexander Graf Lambsdorff MEP (FDP, Germany) –

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged | 3 Comments

@ALDEParty Congress: making resolutions for the years ahead

Apart from the manifesto which, by its very nature is not going to be so detailed, Congress does find time to debate more specific ideas, and there are some interesting proposals on offer. The various Nordic member parties have been particularly active, and here is a quick summary of what will be debated this afternoon.

  1. Tackling the shadow economy (Keskusta, Finland) – calls for better EU-wide cooperation against tax evasion, common criteria to define tax havens and greater transparency of company registers
  2. Enhancing long term investment for SMEs (Open VLD, Belgium) – seeks dedicated EU markets for small and medium-sized enterprises, the

Posted in News | 2 Comments

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  • User AvatarHuw Dawson 1st Dec - 12:40pm
    I will be very proud of our MPs if we vote no to the Syria bombing. Our suite of questions is entirely fair, and this...
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    I agree
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    The 'recruiting sargeant' argument was strong for Iraq 2, but I think it is much weaker today. Iraq didn't have WMDs. The Taliban training camp...
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    Geoff, Is there any academic backing for this idea of "debt-free money"? It makes much more sense (at least to me) to consider that all...
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    Manfrang. might I suggest the Pan Arab movement was mostly aligned with Russia and thirty years ago we and America were not destabilising states in...
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    I,too hope there is a vote against. I am sure it is more complex than Cameron believes. I had hoped for a bit more time...