Author Archives: Stephen Tall

Stephen has been Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice since 2007. He edited the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He writes a fortnightly column for ConservativeHome and 'The Underdog' column for Total Politics magazine. He also writes at his personal website, and is a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum. He was awarded the inaugural Lib Dem ‘Blogger of the Year’ prize in 2006, was a councillor for eight years in Oxford, including a year as Deputy Lord Mayor, and appears frequently in the media in person, in print and online. Stephen combines his political interests with his professional life as Development Director for the Education Endowment Foundation, though writes here in a personal capacity.

6 British Pathé video clips of ex-Liberal leaders from 1931 to 1967

Sir John Simon speaks to the Nation. “Let us give to the Prime Minister a firm mandate in the name of the whole nation” (1931)

Posted in YouTube | Tagged , , , , and | 6 Comments

New LDV members’ survey now live: your views on Scotland, drugs, Nick v Nigel, the economy, the Coalition, and much more!

imageThe new LDV members’ survey is now live. So if you are one of the c.1,500 registered members of the Liberal Democrat Voice forum — and any paid-up party member is welcome to join — then you now have the opportunity to make your views known.

Questions we’re asking this month include:

  • do you support or oppose Scotland becoming independent?
Posted in LDV Members poll | 5 Comments

Daily Mail attacks Nick Clegg for Cyril Smith RIP tribute. Why?

mail cyril smith lib dems‘Squirming of the Lib Dems’ is the Daily Mail’s front page splash today. It’s the second successive day the paper has tried, a bit desperately, to pin blame on Nick Clegg for the extensive abuse allegedly committed by former Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith in the 1960s and ’70s.

The basis for the paper’s accusations is that Nick Clegg issued a tribute on his 80th birthday and when Cyril Smith died. As Nick has pointed out, “I would never have dreamed of saying the things …

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 34 Comments

The verdict of Philip Collins, chief speech writer for Tony Blair, on Nick Clegg: “the Deputy Prime Minister should be applauded by all liberal voters”

Nick Clegg Q&A 19Philip Collins uses his column in today’s Times to write something not often written on that paper’s pages (or anywhere else for that matter): praise for the Lib Dems in Coalition. Here’s the paywalled link, and here’s a glimpse behind the paywall of what he has to say:

It is therefore a serious defence of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats to commend them for things that would have happened had they not been there. It is in the nature of things that have not happened that we

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 99 Comments

Latest ICM poll: Lib Dems at 12% for Westminster, but just 6% in the Euros

As I’ve mentioned before, The Guardian’s ICM poll is the one I wait for each month. The latest figures are now up, and the figures are… well, I’m not sure what to make of them really.

icm april 2014

In the snapshot of Westminster voting intentions, the Lib Dems are unchanged from last month on 12%, ahead of Ukip on 11% (+2%). Labour lead the Conservatives by 37% (-1%) to 32% (-3%). All the figures are within the margin of error. The party will be relieved to see that there’s …

Posted in Polls | Tagged and | 37 Comments

Jeremy Browne’s ‘Race Plan’. I’ve read it, so here’s my review…

Jeremy Browne bookThree points to make right from the start about Jeremy Browne’s new book, Race Plan.

First, it’s a wholly Good Thing that a Lib Dem MP is choosing to think aloud, to set out clearly his views. Nick Clegg having decided that he did, after all, like one of the Beecroft recommendations and decided to fire-at-will his home office minister, Jeremy could have slunk away, tail between his legs, to nurse his bitterness. He’s chosen a rather more constructive outlet for his disappointment. By which I mean this book, rather than his short-lived, C.19th-throwback, gap year beard.

Secondly, there is a fundamental problem with the central conceit of this book: that Britain is in a global race, and that if we don’t get fitter, we’ll be overtaken by or competitors in the coming Asian Century, fall behind, and become poorer.

Posted in Books, News and Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , and | 58 Comments

What Jeremy Browne did – and DIDN’T – tell The Times about the Lib Dems

the times browne pointlessLib Dems ‘are pointless’ – that’s today’s Times front page lead, reporting an interview it carries with Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne.

You might imagine, therefore, that Jeremy Browne had at some point in his interview said the Lib Dems “are pointless”. But if you read the article you’ll be disappointed. He doesn’t say it. That a newspaper with the reputation of The Times should put in quotation marks made-up quotes is quite something.

However, the headline isn’t based on nothing, even if one of the words attributed to …

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 40 Comments

The Nigel Farage Paradox: the higher his public profile, the lower is public support to leave the EU

Nigel Farage

Here is the Nigel Farage paradox: the more that Ukip’s media profile, poll rating and party membership has grown over the last two years, the more that support for the party’s core mission – that Britain should leave the European Union – seems to have shrunk.

    Sunder Katwala, director of British Future (New Statesman, 3 April 2014)
Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , and | 31 Comments

UPDATED: Full list of Lib Dems standing in our held seats and top 50 targets

We’re little more than a year from the May 2015 election so here’s my latest running check on how candidate selection is going in our held and key target seats…

Lib Dems winning hereI published a first draft of this list at the start of October, and asked readers to help me update it. Many thanks to those of you who have helped me keep it updated, including the party’s Candidates Services Office. Here’s the latest version of the list of (re-)selections in our held seats and the top 50 targets for the party.

It’s a snapshot of how the party’s doing in getting people in place in the battleground seats that will determine the extent of Lib Dem influence in the next parliament:

Posted in Selection news | Tagged | 4 Comments

Chart of the day: how spending on day-to-day public services will have been cut by 37% by 2018-19

It is simply not true – as our critics on the left pretend – that we are slashing and burning the state. By the end of this Parliament, public spending will still be 42% of GDP. That’s higher than at any time between 1995 and when the banks crashed, in 2008.

    Nick Clegg, 10th March 2013

It’s a soothing line from Nick Clegg, designed to reassure Lib Dems that the Coalition’s austerity programme is simply curbing the spending excess of the Blair/Brown years.

photo by: Images_of_Money
Posted in News | Tagged , , , , and | 24 Comments

The Swiss Wheeze: the Better Off Out argument that’s full of holes

Swiss CheeseIf only we were Switzerland, eh? That’s the dream of the Better Off Out brigade, who long for its freedom as part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). And it’s a tempting offer: all the benefits of free trade with EU member states, and (if you believe Nigel Farage, Dan Hannan et al) none of the risks.

Except it’s not quite that easy, as The Economist highlighted when it investigated Britain’s options.

photo by: Filter Forge
Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , , , , , , , , and | 19 Comments

Nick v Nigel: the polls call it for Farage. Disappointing, but don’t panic! Here’s 3 reasons why you shouldn’t…

Farage cleggLast week we had one post-debate poll. It showed Farage won overall, but the split was more interesting: Labour and Lib Dem voters went for Nick, Tory and Ukippers for Nigel. As you’d probably expect.

This week we had two post-debate polls, and their results are remarkably similar. ICM says Clegg was reckoned to have won by 31% of viewers, Farage by 69%. YouGov says 27% preferred Clegg, 68% Farage.

ICM has released the breakdown of its poll. This week, Labour voters split (narrowly) in Farage’s favour, by 57% …

Posted in Op-eds and Polls | Tagged , and | 56 Comments

Nick v Nigel, Round 2: My second thoughts

clegg farage lbcLast week, there was no doubt in my mind that Nick Clegg won the debate – he quite simply out-classed Nigel Farage, and YouGov’s poll showed Labour and Lib Dem voters agreed (though not Tory and Ukip voters).

This week, it was much more evenly matched. The early part belonged to Nick. With the focus on the Ukip leader’s praise for Vladimir Putin as a “brilliant operator”, Nigel Farage was always going to be on the back-foot. He was, and Nick was able successfully to claim the calm …

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So how’s my scenario 3 – a Tory lead of 6% by May 2015 – working out then?

Time to dust down a post from last December looking at scenarios for the 2015 election based on current polling – two of which pointed to the Conservatives being likely to take a poll lead in the next year.

(NB: as then, please note my huge caveat – “the extent of the polling science on display here is me playing around on an Excel spreadsheet.”)

In particular, I was curious what might have happen to my third scenario in the meantime. So pasted below is what I wrote in December, but I’ve updated the graph to add the last four months’ average poll leads to see how they fit the trend-line. (The answer is pretty well.)

Scenario 3

File this under the heading “a bit of fun… probably” – let’s look at the whole parliament and insert a polynomial trendline to take us through to May 2015. Here’s what happens:

tory lead in may 2015 scenario 3

Under Scenario 3, then, the Conservatives bounce back from their mid-term slump to lead Labour by 6% come the next general election. It couldn’t happen – could it?

Posted in News and Polls | Tagged , and | 20 Comments

Vince Cable in his own words on the sale of Royal Mail

Vincent CableThe publication of a report today by the National Audit Office criticising the “deep caution” of Vince Cable’s department in setting the sale price of shares in Royal Mail has, inevitably, been leapt on by opponents of the policy. Critics who would, of course, have been equally happy crowing if the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills had set the price too high causing the flotation flop.

Vince Cable went to the despatch box of the Commons today to defend his department’s actions, making headlines for unambiguously stating, “The last thing …

Posted in Parliament | Tagged , , and | 56 Comments

Chris Huhne is a glass half-full kinda guy

chris_huhneChris Huhne’s weekly column for The Guardian is a must-read for me. Mainly because his writing is just as you’d expect: not afraid to put some stick about (yeah, yeah: he takes no prisoners) but there’s plenty of sharp intelligence too.

And there’s a pretty hefty dollop of optimism this week, too, as he looks at the polls for evidence of a Lib Dem revival:

There was also a straw in the wind pointing to happier times: YouGov just found more people saying they would vote Lib Dem in the

Posted in News | Tagged | 10 Comments

Time for Nick Clegg to ditch the “Great Britain not Little England” line

england-flag“Great Britain not little England” – it was a line Nick Clegg used in his recent Spring conference speech, setting up the new political dividing lines between those who are optimistic, outward-looking, progressive pro-Europeans and those who are gloomy, isolationst, reactionary anti-Europeans.

It’s a line he used again in this week’s Nick v Nigel debate. “Great Britain, not Little England” was the subject line, too, of the party’s immediate post-debate email to supporters.

Clearly it’s a line the party believes encapsulates the main fault-line in British politics right now. …

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

In the next month 9 seats will short-list their wannabe Lib Dem MPs

Lib Dems winning hereHere’s the full list of selection contests in the coming month available for Lib Dems on the approved parliamentary candidates’ list, together with the closing date for applications. They include Bristol North West, on paper the 26th most winnable seat for the Lib Dems, needing a swing of 3% from the Tories.

The following seats have selections in progress and are currently advertising for candidates:

Posted in Selection news | Leave a comment

A longer read for the weekend: How important will incumbency be to the Lib Dems in 2015?

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKLast year I wrote a piece, So, about that Lib Dem wipeout in 2015 then…, highlighting that – though the polls are grim for the Lib Dems – the assumption of many pundits that this will automatically translate into Lib Dem annihilation at the next election is flawed.

That brief analysis was based on looking at the lists of Lib Dem-held seats that Labour and the Tories are targeting. Now Craig Johnson from Newcastle University has taken a more …

Posted in Party policy and internal matters and What do the academics say? | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Latest Euro poll shows how, in this May’s elections, every %-age point matters for the Lib Dems

clegg farage lbcInterest in the outcome of May’s European elections is picking up, at least judged by the number of polls the newspapers are commissioning – four have been published in the last fortnight. Here’s the average support for the parties:

    Labour – 30%
    Ukip – 26%
    Conservative – 24%
    Lib Dems – 9%

Converting that into seats using EuroElection predict’s online gizmo would produce the following figures:

Posted in Europe / International and Polls | Tagged and | 27 Comments

YouGov’s Nick v Nigel poll: Clegg wins with Labour, Lib Dem voters; Farage with Tory, Ukip voters

Nick clegg york in europe Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsMy overall view of last night’s Nick v Nigel debate was that Mr Reasonable won it. But then I would think that, wouldn’t I? What did rest of the British public think?

Well, the vast, vast majority of rest of the British public would have had no view either way: they didn’t watch it. But polling firm YouGov did ask those who did watch it – though as Anthony Wells notes, “to get 1000 people for our poll of people …

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 38 Comments

Nick v Nigel: My first thoughts

nickvnigelThis was Mr Angry v Mr Reasonable.

Nick Clegg started with one advantage – he’s a veteran of leaders’ debates – and one big disadvantage – his pro-Europeanism is unfashionable. Tonight, though, the Clegg of 2010 was back on show. He looked directly down the camera lens at the viewer, hand nonchalently in pocket, first-named the questioners.

It was (and yes, I would say this wouldn’t I but it doesn’t make it any less true) a class act from Nick. His crisp opening statement framed the key point we wanted to …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 64 Comments

Your essential Nick v Nigel debate reader: 15 articles to get you match-fit ahead of tonight’s live encounter

Today’s the day of the first Nick v Nigel debate. Here’s your essential reader ahead of tonight’s first encounter between the Lib Dem and Ukip leaders…

Three LibDemVoice articles…

First, let’s recall how the debate came about – Nick Clegg challenged Nigel Farage to the debate live on his LBC radio phone-in last month: “It’s a brave, maybe audacious move,” said my co-editor Caron Lindsay, “but Nick has never been one to shy away from a challenge. He’s also honed his already good debating skills since his success in 2010.”

And as I pointed out then, it was a smart …

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

Jeremy Browne joins Twitter. In unrelated news, his new book’s out next month

I published the complete and utter list of Lib Dem MPs’ first tweets last week, so it seems only fitting to include the latest first tweet – from Taunton MP Jeremy Browne (updating David Penhaligon‘s famous injunction):

jeremy browne_Reform_Race_plan_coverWe can expect to hear a lot more from Jeremy in the coming weeks. He’ll shortly be publishing a book, Race Plan An

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

Without a shadow of a doubt: Vince Cable should be the Lib Dems’ Shadow Chancellor at the 2015 election

Vincent CableOne of the quirks of being in coalition is the Lib Dems no longer have a shadow chancellor. But we shall need one in time for the 2015 general election – not least for the traditional televised ‘Ask the Chancellors’ debate.

There have been newspaper reports that there’s some jockeying for this position, with the Financial Times reporting that “Senior Lib Dems say the high-profile job is very likely to go to Danny Alexander, the Treasury chief secretary”.

Meanwhile, over at the New Statesman, Lib Dem blogger Richard Morris …

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , and | 45 Comments

The complete and utter list of Lib Dem MPs’ first tweets

Twitter logoThere are currently 45 Lib Dem MPs on Twitter, according to this list curated by Mark Pack. Thanks to Twitter’s #FirstTweet website gizmo we can see the first words of wisdom the party’s elected representatives chose to offer the world. I mean, who wouldn’t want to?

Read this list and you’ll discover who the first Lib Dem MP to tweet was*, who talked about themselves in the third person, and which former cabinet minister asked in 2009, “Wondering if any bankers actually understand what is going on.” And, riddle me this, how did Greg Mulholland’s first tweet manage to be a re-tweet of himself?

Posted in News | 5 Comments

Why not scrap the annual Budget?

Budget 2010 photocallOne of my top 3 suggestions for this year’s budget was: “Scrap the absurd twice-yearly cycle of Budgets and Autumn Statements.” It wasn’t an original idea – the economist Tim Harford suggested it a couple of years ago, arguing “It may be an enjoyable political platform but there is no economic justification for the annual kaleidoscope of trivia.”

Tory peer and Times commentator Danny Finkelstein has tooted the same horn today:

I think one of the most useful reforms the Chancellor could make is to scrap the annual

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 6 Comments

Ming Campbell’s successor selected: Tim Brett to fight North East Fife for Lib Dems in 2015

tim brettFormer Lib Dem leader Ming Campbell announced last October he’d retire as MP for North East Fife at the next general election, after eight elections (five of them successful) and 28 years.

His successor has now been announced: Tim Brett, leader of Fife Council Liberal Democrats and former chief executive of Ninewells Hospital, will contest the seat for the Lib Dems. Here’s what his biography on the Scottish Lib Dem website says about him:

Tim has lived in NE Fife since 1985 and has been a Councillor since 2003. He held

Posted in Selection news | Tagged , , and | 6 Comments

Democratic Audit on the “scandal” of the poor value taxpayers get for the £800m spent on elections in the UK

Ballot paperDemocratic Audit, an independent research organisation based at the London School of Economics, this week published a report, Engaging young voters with enhanced election information. The title may not be the most exciting ever, but the report itself is worth a read. (You can download it here.)

The executive summary from the report’s authors, Patrick Dunleavy and Richard Berry, sets out the current problem as they see it:

Current arrangements in the UK only give very poor, fragmented and old-fashioned feedback to voters about what effect their participation has had, and what election outcomes were.

Posted in What do the academics say? | Tagged , , , and | 15 Comments

In the next month 13 seats will short-list their wannabe Lib Dem MPs

Lib Dems winning hereHere’s the full list of selection contests in the coming month available for Lib Dems on the approved parliamentary candidates’ list, together with the closing date for applications. They include Bath, where Don Foster is standing down after 23 years, a seat which the party will be keen to defend. So far, of the six held Lib Dem seats where MPs are retiring, five have chosen women and one a man from an ethnic community (details here). What will happen in Bath?

The following seats have selections in progress and are currently advertising for candidates:

Posted in Selection news | 4 Comments



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPaul Pettinger 18th Apr - 2:24am
    Sir Archibald Sinclair didn't speak of austerity, lowering taxes or marketisation, let alone four cornered Liberalism, but of employment for all and building the welfare...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 18th Apr - 1:58am
    Great post by Andrew Suffield. It is both practical and principled.
  • User AvatarA Social Liberal 18th Apr - 1:33am
    Thomas Unlike malc - I don't think it is a fair point at all. As an officer in the armed forces of a country in...
  • User AvatarAndrew Suffield 18th Apr - 1:27am
    Presumably those that find means testing acceptable will be looking forward to extending “pay or die” to these people in the not too distant future…...
  • User Avatarmalc 18th Apr - 1:06am
    Thomas Robinson: Fair point and one it's hard to argue with. Also the UK has military base's in Cyprus, Germany, Holland, Gibraltar, Norway etc. Perhaps...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 18th Apr - 12:56am
    Here's Simon Jenkins's piece: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/16/janus-faced-george-osborne-defied-stereotype-triumphed