Author Archives: Mark Valladares

Is sovereignty just another source of likely disappointment for the Brexiteers?

Whilst there is a suspicion amongst the more ardent Remain supporter that Brexit was simply about immigration, there were those who claimed that, by voting to leave the European Union, we could reclaim our sovereignty, taking back control, as they put it.

Now, I’m in a sense relaxed about that, in that if that was their genuine wish, then it is at least philosophically consistent. Yes, the question of cost was never really discussed – like the Scottish independence campaign, the supposed benefits were in the headlines, the price in minuscule type, if it was ever mentioned at all. Fair enough, one might suppose – there is yet to be the political salesman that raises the relative drawbacks of their product.

But the problem is that sovereignty is a concept that, in a complex, inter-related world, is becoming increasingly blurred. Do nation states have the ability to “take back control” any more?

In his recent Ditchley Lecture, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer spoke of the increasingly complex nature of jurisdiction, noting that the United States has signed more than 800 international agreements, most of which defer supervision of some element of our lives to transnational, unelected, unaccountable bodies – the internet being the most universal of its type – yet which go virtually unnoticed by the general public.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged and | 39 Comments

International Relations Committee report

Editor’s Note: This report was actually filed just after the meeting ended at Conference but we waited until we were all home to put it up.

Amidst the talk of Brexit and of our future place on the world as a nation, International Relations Committee met in a spirit of determination to do our part.

At the top of the agenda were opportunities to discuss the impact of Brexit beyond our shores, courtesy of Kerstin Lundgren, the Foreign Affairs spokesperson for Sweden’s Centerpartiet, and Joseph Garcia, Deputy Chief Minister of Gibraltar and Leader of the Gibraltar Liberal Party. It was apparent that, whilst our Government is attempting to work out what its negotiating stance might be, there are parallel processes going on already within other national governments.

Naturally, from the Gibraltarian perspective, concerns about the border with Spain, crossed by 12,000 Spanish workers onto the Rock each day, are uppermost, along with the implications for the flourishing financial services industry. Indeed, there has been talk of entry into Schengen for Gibraltar.

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged | 1 Comment

Welcome aboard International Relations Committee

Welcome aboard International Relations Committee flight 2016 to everywhere. My name is Mark, and I’ll be taking care of you today. On the flight deck is Harriet Shone, our International Officer, and our Chair, Robert Woodthorpe Browne, welcomes you aboard today’s flight.

Alright, clichéd opening written, let’s get serious. We’ve just recruited vast numbers of new, pro-European, members, and there’s a governance review underway. What better time than now to refocus the work of the International Relations Committee?

It would be fair to say that International Relations Committee has been a bit semi-detached from the mainstream Party in the past. That hasn’t …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | 6 Comments

A few words of gratitude as Margaret Sharp takes her leave

Margaret SharpIt does seem that the news over the past fortnight or so has been dominated by people saying goodbye to spend more time with their families or whatever. In some cases, they will be more missed than in others, and, on this occasion, it is time to mark the retirement from the House of Lords of our longtime spokesperson on Universities, Baroness (Margaret) Sharp of Guildford, who has decided to take up the option to retire at the still relatively spritely age of 77.

Margaret is another of those whose work over many years led to a triumph celebrated by others, in that it was her success in reducing the Conservative majority in Guildford from over 20,000 to a rather more slender 4,500 that helped Sue Doughty to her famous success in 2001.

An economist of some regard, Margaret taught at the London School of Economics, as well as working in the National Economic Development Office in the 1970s, before becoming politically active with the onset of the Social Democrats.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

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

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