Author Archives: Mark Valladares

Mark lives in a small village in Mid Suffolk, with his wife, Ros, a former Party President. He doesn't really miss the travelling... Professionally, he is a faceless bureaucrat, except when working for the Party, when he becomes a... faceless bureaucrat. When he's not administering whichever part of the Party takes his fancy, he covers Party bureaucracy, the House of Lords and Europe for Liberal Democrat Voice.

@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
Posted in News | Tagged , and | 1 Comment

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

@ALDEParty Congress: writing a manifesto for Europe

So, a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest, but possibly with better tunes, liberals from as far afield as Armenia and Catalonia, Finland and Cyprus are gathered to debate the draft manifesto.

The draft is founded on four key themes;

  • creating jobs and opportunities – free trade agreements, stimulating SMEs and e-commerce
  • setting new priorities – redirecting spending towards increasing jobs and improving lives, cutting administrative budgets and the Common Agricultural Policy, and ensuring healthy public finances
  • stronger in the world and safer at home – a common asylum and refugee policy, strengthening EU agencies and cooperation to fight organised crime, pooling and sharing

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged and | 11 Comments

@ALDEParty Congress: Council, the contractual obligation album?

Welcome to Liberal Democrat Voice’s coverage of the Annual Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe, or ALDE for short. The Congress, which was officially opened yesterday evening, continues until Saturday.

As at many similar events, scheduling anything for 9 a.m. tends to signify a less exciting part of the business or, for the more cynical, things that the leadership hope to sneak through relatively unnoticed. ALDE Council meetings tend to into the former category… And yet, because most, if not all, of the key figures are present, it offers an opportunity to see how Bureau candidates perform …

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

@ALDEParty Congress: meet (most of) the Vice-Presidential candidates *updated*

Welcome to Liberal Democrat Voice’s coverage of the Annual Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe, or ALDE for short. The Congress, which was officially opened yesterday evening, continues until Saturday.

In the run-up to next year’s European elections, the role of ALDE in leading the Europe-wide campaign is a key one, and so it was no surprise to see a high quality list of candidates for Vice-Presidential positions on the 2014/15 Bureau, which will be elected tomorrow. And because the Liberal Democrats represent about 15% of the entire electorate, six of the seven candidates put in an …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged | 4 Comments

This week in Europe: 18-21 November

Lib Dem MEP welcomes EU infrastructure investment

Liberal Democrat European transport spokesman, Phil Bennion, welcomed Tuesday’s adoption of an EU infrastructure package worth EUR 33 billion between 2014 and 2020.

The ‘Connecting Europe‘ programme will help fund and facilitate projects of common interest in the areas of energy, transport and infrastructure, and the West Coast Main Line corridor is among the identified priority projects that would be eligible for EU funding.

Phil Bennion MEP said:

When it comes to energy, transport and digital infrastructure it is important to look beyond national borders to exploit potential synergies and enable an easy

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , , and | Leave a comment

This week in Europe: 11-15 November – it’s all getting a bit tense out there…

Following a complaint by the UK Government to the European Commission over the imposition of strict border controls by Spain at its border with Gibraltar, the Commission have, somewhat unexpectedly, concluded that the checks did not break EU laws. It has written to both the UK and Spain with recommendations to avoid future delays at the border.

In response, Sir Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, said;

“It sounds to me as if Spanish officials have succeeded in nobbling this report. As the editor of Private Eye once said, if that’s justice then I’m a banana.”
“I am …

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , and | 15 Comments

Opinion: how much is that MP really worth?

Isn’t the free market wonderful? It allows bankers to be paid vast sums of money, yet should never be applied to the public sector. After all, heaven forfend that such people should earn a salary that reflects their market value.

In the midst of the debate about MP’s and their energy bill claims, the general view appeared to be that they earn too much anyway, and that their relative wealth makes them incapable of understanding what real people go through.

But, where is the serious discussion about what represents a realistic salary for a Member of Parliament? The usual cry of, “A …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 33 Comments

Once more into the breach, dear friends: my day – 15 November

In the unexpected absence of Andy Boddington (and I do wish that it could have been otherwise), your friendly neighbourhood Readers’ Editor is standing in until someone comes forward as a volunteer (you, yes you at the back!).

So, what can you look forward to? Well, we’ve got news from last night’s four local council by-elections, some suggestions on candidate selection and how you might be involved yourself, as well as an opportunity for you to express what you expect from your MP and how much that’s worth in terms of a salary.

And who knows, a politician might do something interesting. …

Posted in News | Leave a comment

Readers’ Editor: publishing and being damned…

It is, I suppose, an inevitability that, from time to time, an article published on a political website such as Liberal Democrat Voice will be controversial. Sometimes, the controversy is expected, occasionally it comes as a surprise.

For example, anything to do with the Israel/Palestine situation is almost certain to degenerate into an increasingly polarised slanting match, with pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian commenters quoting atrocity and counter-atrocity until the neutrals run for cover. And, if in doubt, the moderators make a good target if your comment breaches the comment policy – it’s obviously because they’re biased, right?

However, Leon Duveen’s recent piece calling …

Posted in News and Site news | 8 Comments

Liberal Democrat Peers: they’re your secret weapon, if only you’d use them!

Last week, the outreach programme of the Parliamentary Party in the Lords moved into its next phase. There is, unfortunately, a catch, in that, through no fault of their own, the earlier phases haven’t reached quite as far as they might have hoped.

The campaign for Liberal Democrat Peers to make one thousand constituency visits before the 2015 General Election continues – Suffolk Coastal were very hospitable – but too many Local Parties seem oblivious to the possibilities that nearly one hundred (very occasionally) ermine-clad Parliamentarians, with four thousand years of service to the Party between them*, can offer. I …

Posted in News and Parliament | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Lord Ian Wrigglesworth’s maiden speech

It is a tradition for LDV to bring its readers copies of our new MPs’ and Peers’ first words in Parliament, so that we can read what is being said and respond. You can find all of the speeches in this category with this link. Last Thursday, Lord Wrigglesworth made his maiden speech in the House of Lords during a debate on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. His words are reproduced below.

My Lords, it is a great honour and a great pleasure to address your Lordships’ House for the first time. I do so with

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Readers’ Editor – comments, need it all be so difficult?

OwlAs promised, this is the first ‘occasional musing’ on our website and how it works. Feel free to join in…

The recent decision by ‘Popular Science’, a long-established American magazine, to, for the most part, simply ban comments from the majority of its online content was a dramatic response to the difficulties brought about when you try to maintain a civil discourse on an interactive website such as Liberal Democrat Voice. And if they thought that scientists could be feisty, they have nothing on the politically active.

Posted in Readers' Editor and Site news | Tagged and | 47 Comments

Readers’ Editor – some thoughts from the first month or so

OwlSo, I’ve been in post for a few weeks now, and I thought that I really ought to give you a taste of some of the issues that have arisen so far.

Is it fair to judge someone’s performance whilst they’re on maternity, paternity or long-term ill health leave?

This question did spur some slightly guilty reflection on my part. Childless by choice, and with little experience of the impact of either children of long term ill-health on one’s ability to function, it had never crossed my mind that, by including someone who …

Posted in Readers' Editor and Site news | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Baroness Zahida Manzoor’s maiden speech

It is a tradition for LDV to bring its readers copies of our new MPs’ and Peers’ first words in Parliament, so that we can read what is being said and respond. You can find all of the speeches in this category with this link. Today, Baroness Manzoor made her maiden speech in the House of Lords during a debate on drugs policy. Her words are reproduced below.

My Lords, it is a real honour and a privilege to take my place on these distinguished red Benches. I have been overwhelmed by the sincerity of the welcome and the

Posted in News, Parliament and Speeches | Tagged and | 2 Comments

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