Author Archives: Nick Thornsby

Clegg: Yes to intensive support for unemployed young people; no to automatic benefit withdrawal

On his weekly LBC phone-in earlier today, Nick Clegg took a call (from Lib Dem activist Linda Jack; see comments) on the proposals mooted at the Conservative Party Conference to remove the automatic entitlement to Housing Benefit from those aged under 25 and require them to be in either work, education or training.

The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour has written up Clegg’s response (which has been slightly unfairly characterised, or at least oversimplified, in the headline):

Clegg said he supported the idea that some claimants who had been on the work programme for two years should work for their dole, the proposal

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Carmichael goes sober in October

Everyone’s favourite chief whip, our very own Alistair Carmichael, has taken the somewhat drastic step (at least to those of us positioned nearest the LDV towers booze cupboard) of making October a Scotch-free zone. As MP for a constituency boasting such fine exports, one suspects that’s not a decision that will have been taken lightly, but it has been taken in aide of the best of causes, namely Macmillan Cancer Support.

Alistair’s only been on the wagon for two-and-a-half days, but has already raised nearly £200. We’re sure …

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Jo Swinson answers your questions, 2-3pm today

Jo Swinson, MP for East Dunbartonshire and a minister in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, is taking part in a live Q&A this afternoon from 2-3pm over at the Guardian.

Here’s how the site introduces Jo:

When she took her seat in parliament in 2005, Jo Swinson was the first MP to have been born in the 1980s. In 2012 she became a government minister after the Lib Dems formed a coalition with the Conservative party.

As minister for women and equalities, Swinson has made it her mission to bring about a change in culture around women in the workplace.

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LibLink: Caron Lindsay – Why home rule would be better for Scotland than independence

Our very own Caron Lindsay has been moonlighting over at The Herald, with an excellent piece on the relative merits of independence and home rule.

Here’s a sample:

First and foremost I’m a mum. I want my daughter and her children beyond her to live in a prosperous, inclusive, progressive, liberal, Scotland.

That word liberal is a bit of a giveaway, however. I’ve been active in Liberal Democrat politics for 30 years, since joining as a curious 15 year-old during the 1983 election. I’m a federalist and my views on how Scotland’s governance should work were very neatly summed up by

Posted in LibLink | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Civil liberties and social justice: the stumbling blocks to a future coalition?

One of the themes that a number of journalists decided to pursue during last week’s Lib Dem conference was the possibility of a 2015 election outcome which leaves the door open to an arrangement with either Labour or the Conservatives. The LDV team has taken the bait: Stephen has reminded us of the challenges of forming a coalition with either party in 2015, and Joe has warned of the dangers of an equidistance which seeks simply to slit the difference between Labour and the Conservatives.

But amidst the discussions of the politics and the personalities, the one thing that …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 18 Comments

Clegg pushes for transatlantic trade deal

Container Ship tradeWhen, just over a week ago, conference overwhelmingly backed motion F19, “Strengthening the UK Economy” (pdf), it voted for our party to lead the way on free trade, thanks to the following addition (in which I played a small role), which was “drafted into” the motion:

8. Increase trading opportunities by working in the EU to ensure that the success of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, doing everything possible to revive the World Trade Organisation led Doha Development Round and further integrating the EU services market.

The party’s leadership …

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LibLink: Anuja Prashar – At the heart of why Europe matters

Operation Black Vote has an interesting interview with Anuja Prashar, Lib Dem Euro candidate in London, covering a whole range of issues, including her views of the future of the European Union.

Here’s a sample:

Prashar, an OBV graduate from the 2011 Parliamentary Shadowing Scheme, is rapidly making her political presence be felt. Having shadowed Baroness Ros Scott, former President of the Liberal Democrats with who she has maintained a relationship, Prashar feels she was given a unique and exceptional opportunity on OBV’s scheme and was surrounded with like-minded people.

During my time talking with her she consistently reiterated the need for our

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Why we should consider the detention of David Miranda and destruction of the Guardian’s data as distinct issues

The conflation of the detention of David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, and the story of the Guardian having destroyed the computers on which a version of the data released by Edward Snowden was stored was perhaps inevitable, and has certainly been encouraged by the Guardian. But we should avoid considering the issues as a single whole, for there are separate arguments at play in each in relation to the actions of the state and others, particularly when it comes to the actions of Liberal Democrats in government.

I have relatively few concerns about the state’s actions regarding …

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Immigration, Asylum and Identity consultation paper now available

The working group focusing on the party’s policies on immigration, asylum and identity, chaired by Andrew Stunell MP, has just released its consultation paper ahead of next month’s conference.

The paper’s introduction sets out its aims thus:

1.1.1 The policy working group Immigration, Asylum & Identity aims to craft a practical, liberalpolicy which rebuilds public confidence in an immigration system that should be robust, efficient,and fair.

1.1.2 This consultation paper focuses on the future of migration as it affects the UK, theoperation of the asylum process in the context of our obligations under international law, and theintegration of immigrant communities and new citizens

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Falling living standards are a problem of Labour’s making

Making use of the slowest news month of the year, the Labour party has released details of a report which (shock horror) has shown that living standards have fallen as a result of the financial crisis and subsequent recession.

Of course, they don’t put it quite like that, choosing to blame the coalition rather than the bust they promised would never come. Here’s Chris Leslie, Labour’s shadow financial secretary to the Treasury (presumably Balls is on holiday…):

David Cameron will go down in history as a disastrous Prime Minister for people’s living standards. He is totally out of touch, his economic policies

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Clegg: I’m perfectly relaxed about my staff wearing shorts to work

VANCL-Hawaiian-Beach-Shorts-Men-s-Yellow-White-SKU_6609665.bakHad all those staff cooped up in 70 Whitehall who are responsible to the deputy prime minister been listening to LBC 97.3 this morning (which I’m sure they weren’t of course; far too busy) they would have heard their boss announcing a dispensation from the usual rules of Whitehall attire, and giving them permission to turn up to work tomorrow in shorts.

The DPM didn’t even lay down any ground rules, so it seems it really is dress-down Friday time. Hawaiian shorts. A classy little three-quarter length denim number. And of course flip-flops and sandals. Or perhapsa less revealing pair of espadrilles.

Posted in Humour and News | 8 Comments

Clegg: Party funding reforms “cannot go forward in this Parliament”

For over a year, David Laws, Lib Dem chief executive Tim Gordon, Francis Maude, Conservative Party co-chairman Lord Andrew Feldman, ex-cabinet minister John Denham and former Labour Party general secretary and current whip Lord Ray Collins have been engaged in cross-party talks to attempt to secure a deal to reform party funding.

Today, Nick Clegg announced in a written ministerial statement (pdf) that those talks have collapsed:

Following the publication of the 13th Report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) in November 2011, I convened discussions between the three main political parties to discuss possible reforms to party funding.

Representatives

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Party groups respond to the Spending Round

Here’s your usual round-up of comments from Lib Dem party groups following yesterday’s spending round announcements.

Both Liberal Reform and the Social Liberal Forum issued press releases. Here’s what the SLF said:

Danny Alexander MP will tomorrow announce details of capital spending plans, a result of hard-fought negotiations led by Vince Cable and others. The Social Liberal Forumm recognises that further cuts to current spending in the Chancellor’s Spending Review today are unlikely to repair public finances in the absence of robust economic recovery. Today’s announcements are insufficient to tackle our real economic challenges following the banking crisis and the alarming collapse

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Interview: Nick Clegg on the economy, welfare, Cleggism and the “superb” Kung Fu Panda films

CleggWe brought you a taste of the Voice’s exclusive interview with the deputy prime minister yesterday. Here is the full interview, covering the economy, welfare reform, pensions, Cleggism, our approach to the manifesto, Kung Fu Panda and Clegg’s cooking.

Nick Thornsby: What’s your take on where the economy is now, three and a bit years into the coalition?

Nick Clegg: My overall assessment is that it is healing. There are signs of confidence slowly seeping back into the sinews of the economy. Some of the latest data on consumer confidence are better …

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Clegg shares his concerns over legal aid plans – full transcript

I spent half an hour on a train with Nick Clegg yesterday, chatting to him about a range of subjects for an interview that will run on the site later this week. After the interview I tweeted about Clegg’s interesting answer to my question to him on legal aid, and a journalist I know from the Mail on Sunday got in touch to say the paper was running a story on the subject and would be interested in seeing his answer. Here’s the Mail’s take:

A cabinet split over plans to cut legal aid deepened last night as Deputy Prime

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Local Government Conference live blog

Good morning from the Mercure Hotel in Manchester, where Liberal Democrats from around the country are gathered at the Local Government Conference jointly organised by ALDC and the Lib Dem contingent of the LGA.

The agenda for the day is here (pdf). I’ll cover as much as I can of some of the talks, as well as some comments from Don Foster, Gerald Vernon-Jackson and others. There will be a bit of a break mid-morning while I interview Nick Clegg for the site (we’ll publish the interview this week).

I’ll also try and post on the Lib Dem Voice twitter account

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TOMORROW: Join us for coverage of the Lib Dem Local Government Conference

The Local Government Conference organised jointly by ALDC and the Lib Dem LGA group takes place tomorrow in Manchester. As you can see from the agenda (pdf) there is a packed schedule, with numerous MPs including Nick Clegg, Tim Farron and Ed Davey in attendance.

I will also be there, covering things for the site. I’ll have a live blog running here where I will bring you coverage of some of the talks, and hopefully some interviews from some of the participants. I’ll also try and tweet, both from my own twitter and the Lib Dem Voice account.

If you …

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The Syrian civil war is a humanitarian disaster: the time has come to intervene

There are few things about which we can be certain in the Syrian crisis, but there are some. We can be sure that brutal, unspeakable and unimaginable things are happening on a daily basis, particularly and most distressingly of all to the country’s children. We can also be sure that somehow, someday the war will end.

When it will end is anybody’s guess. How it will do so is a slightly easier to guess at. We know that Bashar al-Assad is militarily strong, thanks to the supply of weapons from Iran and Russia, and soldiers from Lebanon’s Hezbollah. We know that …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 36 Comments

Obama to Clegg: “It’s good to see the better looking half of the coalition”

Clegg ObamaNot content with insulting the chancellor by calling him Jeffrey on three occasions at the G8 summit, President Obama also dealt a blow to the prime minister’s vanity, via his deputy. The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn reports:

In a second diplomatic gaffe on the same day, Mr Obama said Nick Clegg was more attractive than David Cameron. He told the Deputy PM: “It’s good to see the better looking half of the Coalition.”

Ouch.

Posted in News | 7 Comments

“I refute these allegations” – no, you don’t

I blame the lawyers. It seems to be standard practice for those in the public eye accused of wrongdoing, or their lawyers, to make public statements asserting that they “refute” whatever allegations are being made.

But while they might deny them, or reject them, or dispute them, they do not “refute” them.

Here is the definition of that word:

Verb

  1. Prove (a statement or theory) to be wrong or false; disprove.
  2. Prove that (someone) is wrong.

As the lawyers that make these statements know, denying something is not the same as proving it to be wrong. So I urge my fellow lawyers: stop this assault …

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments

Would PR spell the end of the Liberal Democrats?

It is one of the biggest yet most under-appreciated ironies of British politics that the policy that unites the Liberal Democrat party membership in its most fervent rapture — the introduction of proportional voting to Westminster elections — is also, probably, the thing most likely, if implemented, to lead to the end of the party is we know it.

That is not to say that PR would necessarily lead to the break up of the party, but it is undeniable that majoritarian electoral systems force together the relatively broad coalitions that are the pre-requisite to winning elections.

The way in which individuals …

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Liberalism’s comeback, feat. Mill, Smith, Gladstone and Clegg (on drums)

For those Voice readers who, as a result of an unfortunate oversight, do not subscribe to The Economist, here’s a heads-up that you may wish to pick up this week’s edition, which features this cover:

For those not inclined to pick up a souvenir copy, you can read the excellent Jeremy Cliffe’s report here, and the accompanying leader here.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 29 Comments

Laws vetoes plan to turn teachers into part-time border agents

Education Minister David LawsFrom yesterday’s Guardian:

A proposal to require schools to check on the immigration status of their pupils has been shelved after the Liberal Democrat schools minister David Laws decided the idea would be bureaucratic and difficult to implement.

In a sign of the Lib Dems’ determination to assert themselves in the coalition, Laws told the education secretary Michael Gove the proposal was a “non-flyer”.

According to Whitehall emails leaked to the Guardian in March, Laws asked officials earlier this year to carry out a “cost-benefit analysis” of carrying out checks

Posted in News | Tagged | 7 Comments

“Cameron may be the more natural communicator, but it was Clegg who sounded more like a statesman”

Writing in today’s Guardian, Martin Kettle has a good piece looking at the defence of the coalition made by the prime minister and deputy prime minister yesterday.

Clegg’s speech, in particular, impressed – for two reasons:

First, it was a firm defence of the coalition government against its enemies on the Tory benches. In fact it was a much firmer defence of the coalition than Cameron, stylishly ducking and weaving in his radio interview, would now dare to make. Cameron may be the more natural communicator, but it was Clegg who sounded more like a statesman.

Second, and even more interestingly, it was a

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LibLink: Ed Davey – Eurosceptic Tories are damaging the national interest – and their chances of winning the next election

Over at the New Statesman, Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey has a rather perceptive and interesting piece on the Conservative Party’s implosion over Europe.

Here’s Ed’s take:

The Conservative Party hasn’t won a general election for over two decades and its latest infighting on Europe suggests that this trick may get repeated. Internal divisions on Europe haven’t been the sole cause of the Tories’ poor record. A big reason has been the growth of multiparty politics: Liberal Democrats in government in Westminster; the Scottish National Party in power in Holyrood. And with Ukip moving from a single issue party to a

Posted in LibLink | 14 Comments

LibLink: Richard Marbrow – Ukip is essentially a ‘party of the south east’ despite gains

Writing for Public Service Europe, Lib Dem campaigner Richard Marbrow has an interesting piece on the distinctly geographical ‘success’ of Ukip.

Here’s an excerpt:

For those of us who ply our politics in the north or the west of the United Kingdom, the inability of the British press to understand the existence of parts of the country more than an hour from London is a source of never ending frustration. The game changer of UKIP gains in the county council elections is a phenomenon largely contained in the South and East of England. Their breakthrough did not even extend into the South

Posted in LibLink | Tagged and | 22 Comments

Can a global trade deal be rescued?

Container ShipCongratulations to Roberto Azevedo, who, it has just been announced, will take over from Pascal Lamy as the head of the World Trade Organisation later this year. Azevedo, a Brazilian diplomat, beat off Herminio Blanco, a former Mexican finance minister who had the backing of many developed countries.

The most obvious and pressing task facing Azevedo is to rescue the so-called Doha Round of world trade talks, which stalled in 2008 and have made little progress since.

In the absence of global progress, a number of bilateral trade talks have sprung up, most recently …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

The three things I’ll be looking for in today’s results

The extent to which county council election results tell us about the state of politics in the country is without doubt significantly overstated. Only a fraction of the population voted yesterday, and in places that are not representative of the country as a whole.

But the results can tell us some things, and here is what I am looking out for.

1 – How do votes translate into council seats won?

As all Liberal Democrats know, winning votes is little fun at all unless it also means winning seats, and those two things are far from the same in a first-past-the-post electoral system. …

Posted in News | Tagged | 3 Comments

Labour’s VAT cut: bad economics and disingenuous politics

In the run-up to today’s county council elections, Ed Miliband has been taking to a wooden pallet in towns and villages around the UK, telling anybody who would listen about Labour’s plan to rescue the British economy by temporarily reversing the 2.5 percentage point increase in the rate of VAT.

Desperate, though, to avoid admitting this would involve a significant increase in borrowing, he’s been telling us that this would actually be a free tax cut because the economic growth that resulted from it would increase revenues by more than the upfront cost.

That unlikely-sounding claim was given short shrift by …

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 32 Comments

Some recommended reading from the BBC’s Defence Correspondent

Joint-Strike-Fighter-006Those of us interested in politics and current affairs generally have particularly policy areas to which we pay closer attention and therefore develop greater knowledge of.

One of the vitally important areas of government policy which I don’t know enough about is defence. I read the Strategic Defence and Security Review when it was published, but its aim is not to act as a primer for the uninitiated, and it doesn’t do so.

Wishing to gain some knowledge (not least because the Lib Dems will shortly be voting on our future defence policies), therefore, …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 5 Comments
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