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.

What if… David Davis had won the Tory leadership contest in 2005?

Cameron and DavisWhat-ifs are, as Peter Snow would say, just a bit of fun: a counter-factual parlour game for historians. It is impossible to know exactly how one event ricocheting off in a different direction would have altered the subsequent reality.

This one does genuinely intrigue me, though: What if David Davis had won the Tory leadership contest in 2005, rather than David Cameron? Davis did, after all, begin as favourite. His disastrous 2005 party conference – a dud photo-op and a lacklustre speech – coupled with David “let sunshine win the day” Cameron’s triumph meant his second leadership attempt sank without trace. He was trounced 68%-32% in the all-member ballot that followed.

But what if he’d won? Would David Davis have been a more effective leader of the Tories than David Cameron has turned out to be?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 10 Comments

And the top book read by Lib Dem MPs this summer was…

capital pikettyPolling firm ComRes has published its annual list of the books MPs have been reading this year, based on a survey of 154 MPs weighted by party and region to be representative of the House of Commons.

Here’s what Lib Dem MPs have taken to the beach with them…

2014
1. Capital in the 21st Century – Thomas Piketty
2. When Britain Burned the White House – Peter Snow

(And here’s what they took last year…

2013
1. What Has Nature Ever Done For Us – Tony Juniper)

Piketty’s tome polled strongly with MPs of all three main parties; though Margaret Thatcher (who topped last year’s list) wasn’t far behind:

Posted in Books | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

A new Lib Dem presidential candidate enters the race

daisy cooperThis is the text of the email I received this morning from Daisy Cooper:

Today, I’m delighted to announce my candidacy for Liberal Democrat Party President, with the backing of Catherine Bearder MEP, Norman Baker MP, experienced councillors and some of the party’s finest campaigners.

I have huge ambitions for our party. I’m 32 and I’m prepared to spend the next 50 years of my life fighting for our political beliefs. The next few months will be challenging but they also present an unrivalled opportunity for us to lay the foundations for a Liberal Revival.

Our Councillors and grass roots campaigners are the forgotten army on which our future depends – in this party, our place is front and centre.

As President, I would:

Posted in Party Presidency | Tagged | Leave a comment

LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 2

Congratulations to Nick Davies, Jon Featonby and George Murray, who lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 2, scoring a cumulative 137, 136 and 135 points respectively. Only three players appears in all three of their teams, by the way: Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey.

There are 135 players in total and you can join the league by clicking here. All the rules are available to read here. As predicted, my appearance in the top 5 proved fleeting. I’m now languishing in 17th place. Not lost my deposit yet, though…

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The 3 Lib Dem seats where the Greens are a threat

green party logoIt’s three months since the Lib Dems were beaten into fifth place at the European elections: the party which nudged us out was the Greens. Ukip may be grabbing the media attention, but it’s the party of Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas which poses the bigger threat to our party.

It’s not hard to see why. Ian Warren of the @election-data blog has analysed which groups of voters were most likely to vote Green last May. See if you can spot a trend:

Posted in News | 16 Comments

++ Coup for Ukip as Tory MP Carswell defects, triggers by-election in Clacton

Douglas Carswell, elected in 2010 as Conservative MP for Clacton, has today announced he’s joining Ukip and will fight a by-election under his new party’s banner.

In one sense, the news isn’t a surprise. Carswell is a member of the Tory awkward squad, its sixth most rebellious backbencher according to Revolts.co.uk, having defied the party whip on 46 occasions during this Parliament.

But on another level it’ll be a real shock to the Tories: Carswell’s right-wing brand is much less swivel-eyed than that of many of his fellow rebels like Philip Hollobone and David Nuttall. He’s generally a thoughtful, independent-minded …

Posted in News | 111 Comments

Happy Birthday to us: 8 years old today

libdemvoice8 years ago today LibDemVoice appeared for the very first time. The first story? ‘Hughes certain to be challenged for party Presidency’. He, erm, wasn’t.

But, still, the site soon established itself as a fixture in the Lib Dem blogsophere thanks to the early efforts of the founding team: Rob Fenwick, Mark Pack, Ryan Cullen, Alex Foster, Will Howells and Richard Huzzey (Ryan and Alex are still with the site to this day).

There was a brief wobble in May 2007, when Rob announced his departure. But a new team stepped up — that’s when I joined — and over the years the team has included a further 14 editorial contributors, all listed here.

Posted in Site news | 4 Comments

The ‘Favourability Index’: the Tories and Cameron lead, Lib Dems half as popular as Ukip

I’m a fan of polling firm ComRes’s ‘Favourability Index’ which asks of political parties and their leaders ‘How favourable or unfavourable are you to X?’ For sure it’s a simplistic binary. But, then, so’s voting.

It gives a much more accurate read-out of perceptions, I think, than asking (for instance) if people think X is doing a good job as leader of Y. After all, it’s quite possible to think that Nigel Farage is doing a pretty good job for Ukip while still never, ever wanting to vote for him.

The latest index has been published today across the Independent and Mirror. The (perhaps) surprising result is that the winners are the Conservative Party and David Cameron, both viewed more favourably than their rivals.

The bad news for Lib Dems is that the party is viewed favourably by just 13% of voters, half the proportion which view Ukip favourably.

Posted in Polls | 20 Comments

Safe standing at football grounds: “an idea whose time has come,” say Lib Dems

I can still remember my first ever live football match. It was a glamorous encounter between Everton and Newport County in the second round of the League Cup on 24th September 1986. A big part of what made it memorable was the electric atmosphere of the Gwladys Street stand at Goodison Park. I was nine, so everything seemed huge but the big scousers around me, shouting and cheering, made sure I could always get a good view of what was happening on the pitch.

I was reminded of all this by the headline in the The Mirror yesterday reporting Lib Dem plans to allow football clubs to introduce ‘safe standing’ areas at grounds:

mirror safe standing

Posted in News | Tagged and | 6 Comments

LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 1

Congratulations to Sam Barnett, Mike Matuszczyk and George Murray, who lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after its first full week, each scoring 70 points or more.

There are 122 players in total and you can still join the league by clicking here.

I merely mention in passing that two of the LDV team — Ryan Cullen and me — are in the top 10. That I mention it at all is because, at least in my case, I suspect it may be the only time I can make the boast…

ldv league wk 1

Posted in News | Tagged | 3 Comments

In the next month 39 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 Watford, on paper the 6th most winnable Tory seat for the Lib Dems, needing a swing of just 1.39%, as well as Redcar, where incumbent MP Ian Swales, whose majority over Labour is 5,214, is stepping down. And if anyone fancies taking on health secretary Jeremy Hunt, his South West Surrey seat is also up for grabs.

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

Posted in Selection news | Tagged | 4 Comments

Quote of the Week: Lauren Bacall – “I’m total, total, total liberal and proud of it.”

Lauren BacallHere’s Lauren Bacall, who died this week, aged 89, being interviewed by Larry King in 2005:

KING: “Wait a minute. Are you a liberal?”
BACALL: “I’m a liberal. The “L” word!”
KING: “Egads!”
BACALL: … I love it. Being a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be. You are welcoming to everyone when you’re a liberal. You do not have a small mind… I’m total, total, total liberal and proud of it. And I think it’s outrageous to say “The L word”. I mean, excuse me. They should be damn

photo by:
Posted in News | Tagged | 12 Comments

Jo Swinson launches “Scotland should stay!” petition

st Andrews flag saltire scotland Some rights reserved by Fulla TJo Swinson, Lib Dem MP for East Dunbartonshire, is inviting those who “think Scotland should be stay part of the United Kingdom” to sign a petition saying so ahead of the independence referendum on 18th September. Here’s the text of the email circulated to party members last night:

In just over a month my fellow Scots and I will cast the most important vote of our lives.

I’m hoping there’s a resounding vote for Scotland to stay as part of the

Posted in News and Scotland | Tagged , , and | 7 Comments

Why Lib Dems shouldn’t keep schtum about tuition fees

tuition fees vote“University tuition fee rise has not deterred poorer students from applying”. That was the headline in The Guardian this week reporting new analysis by the Independent Commission on Fees chaired by Will Hutton:

The raising of tuition fees to £9,000 has not put off students from disadvantaged backgrounds from applying to university – although the gap in applications between those from wealthy and poor backgrounds remains wide, according to new analysis. …

The commission found that university application rates for 18-year-olds in England have continued to recover from their post-rise lows, with application rates for 2014 entry – including students who will receive their A-level results on Thursday – almost two percentage points higher than in 2010.

While students who are not eligible for free school meals – available for pupils from households earning less than £16,000 – remain more than twice as likely to go to university, the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students has narrowed from 30.5% in 2010 to 29.8% in 2013.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , and | 206 Comments

An idea from Matthew Parris that will unite political activists everywhere

head over heels in the letterboxThe Lib-Con Coalition may have run out-of-steam, but Conservative MP-turned-columnist Matthew Parris has identified a policy around which the two parties could happily unite. Indeed, his proposal might even form the basis for a Rainbow Coalition of all the parties.

What’s prompted the idea is that Matthew’s been out delivering leaflets recently. And it has unleashed within him his ‘inner fascist’:

I want order. I want consistency. I want standards. And I want eye-watering penalties for property owners who try their fellow Britons’ patience and waste our time by making their addresses impossible to find. I am driven to distraction by the merry chaos of British residential and commercial addresses, and if I crick my back one more time stooping to try to force a flimsy paper envelope through a vicious ankle-level steel trap of a letterbox, I shall resign as a libertarian and howl for regulation.

So here’s his solution:

photo by:
Posted in News | Tagged and | 25 Comments

Lib Dems pledge more tax cuts: after personal allowance raised to £12.5k will also increase National Insurance threshold

Danny Alexander by Paul WalterToday’s big announcement from the Lib Dems has been the “plan to cut your tax bill further”. Here’s how The Guardian reports it:

The Liberal Democrats are to burnish their credentials as the tax-cutting party for the low paid by floating the possibility of cutting national insurance contributions for anyone earning below £12,500 a year.

In a challenge to David Cameron, who is facing pressure from Tory MPs to pledge bold tax cuts as the economy grows, the Lib Dems will promise in their general election manifesto to raise the level at which workers start to pay national insurance contributions.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 36 Comments

Lib Dem donations in 2014, 2nd Quarter: £1.23m raised (but that’s less than Ukip)

Today saw the publication by the Electoral Commission, the independent party funding watchdog, of the donations received by the UK’s political parties in the second quarter of 2014 (1 April to 30 June). Here are the figures:

lib dems donations - Q2 2014

And here’s how the BBC reported it:

UKIP have reported more in political donations than the Lib Dems in a quarter for the first time, according to the Electoral Commission. UKIP reported donations of £1.4m from April to June this year – £170,000 more than reported by the Lib

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

Lib Dem Chief Whip on David Ward: “I do not intend to take further action in relation to the tweet”

David WardThree weeks ago, Lib Dem MP for Bradford East David Ward tweeted: “The big question is – if I lived in #Gaza would I fire a rocket? – probably yes”. The following day he issued an apology, saying:

I utterly condemn the violence on both sides in Israel and Gaza. I condemn the actions of Hamas, and my comments were not in support of firing rockets into Israel. If they gave the opposite impression, I apologise.

That wasn’t quite the end of the matter, though. The Lib Dem disciplinary process required a meeting between the party’s Chief Whip, Don Foster, and David. That’s now taken place, and it’s been decided there will be no further action. The Yorkshire Post has published the statements issued by both:

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , , and | 34 Comments

ICM poll: Labour leads Tories by 7%, Lib Dems in third place on 12%

What a difference a month makes. In July, the Guardian’s ICM poll – the ‘gold standard’ – showed a narrow 1% Tory lead over Labour. Fast forward to August and Labour enjoys a solid 7% lead over the Tories, by 38% to 31%. The Lib Dems are in third place, unchanged on 12%, with Ukip trailing on 10%.

icm poll - aug 2014

Three brief points:

Posted in Polls | Tagged , and | 55 Comments

Ryan Coetzee switches from Clegg’s Director of Strategy to Lib Dems’ General Election Director of Strategy

Ryan+CoetzeeIt’s almost two years since Ryan Coetzee was appointed as Nick Clegg’s director of strategy, replacing Richard Reeves. His experience as a liberal politician and campaigner with South Africa’s Democratic Alliance meant that he was welcomed, even by many of those often sceptical of advisers and their worth.

One of his first actions was to start identifying the Lib Dem ‘market’, those voters who would consider voting for the party. His research, backed up by the party’s first major private polling operation about which I wrote here, has informed much of the national party’s campaigning since, including its “Stronger society, fairer economy” strapline.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 48 Comments

Vince to quit? The party’s “senior sources” have been out and about stirring again…

It’s not even six months since my co-editor Caron Lindsay urged fellow Lib Dems to make nice and drop the internal briefing against colleagues. This followed a spate of whisperings against Vince Cable and Tim Farron among others. The voices off against Vince even prompted Nick to start an internal inquiry, though, as Jonathan Calder observed here, nothing more was heard of it.

Today, though, the Mail on Sunday reports:

Allies of Vince Cable reacted furiously last night over a Liberal Democrat ‘whispering campaign’ suggesting that he is on the brink of walking out of the Coalition. The Mail on Sunday has been told by two well-placed sources within the party that the 71-year-old Business Secretary is considering leaving the Cabinet immediately after the party’s autumn conference.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 33 Comments

Six new Lib Dem peers named

House of Lords - Some rights reserved by UK ParliamentThe names of six new Lib Dem peers have been published today. They are:

  • Chris Fox – Director of Group Communications for GKN; former Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats
  • Cllr David Goddard – elected Member of Stockport Metropolitan Council; former Leader of Stockport Council; former Member of the Greater Manchester Police Authority; former Non-Executive Director of Manchester International Airport
  • Cllr Barbara Janke – elected Member and former Leader of Bristol City Council; former teacher
  • Cllr Kath Pinnock – elected Member and former Leader of Kirklees Council
  • Posted in News | Tagged | 59 Comments

    The Sun: “Nick Clegg makes a powerful case for reform of our drugs laws”

    The Lib Dem website says this: “Nick Clegg has announced that the Liberal Democrat manifesto will include a commitment to end imprisonment for possessing drugs for personal use, so that no one is sent to prison, where their only offence is one of possession. Under the proposals, users would instead receive non-custodial sentences and appropriate medical treatment.”

    That’s not so surprising. The Lib Dems have long argued for a more rational approach to our drugs laws, with Nick making the point before that “If you are anti-drugs, you should be pro-reform.”

    More surprising is that The Sun newspaper says this:

    Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 29 Comments

    Nick Clegg’s speech on immigration: baby steps in a liberal direction

    Nick Clegg Q&A 12When I read Nick Clegg’s immigration speech yesterday I breathed a sigh of relief. It’s sensible and mostly liberal.

    Which means it’s a stark contrast to his March 2013 attempt: that was probably the most dire speech I’ve ever heard from a Lib Dem leader. Back then, Nick took credit for net migration having fallen by a third, even though net migration is, as Vince Cable has repeatedly pointed out, an absurd measure of success. He also came up with the unworkable proposal for security bonds (ie, upfront cash payments) for immigrants from ‘high-risk’ countries entering the UK.

    Fast forward 18 months and both have been ditched.

    Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , and | 14 Comments

    What the academics say: How the Lib Dems won the Coalition Agreement

    clegg cameron rose garden‘The UK Coalition Agreement of 2010: Who Won?’ is a fascinating paper written by Thomas Quinn, Judith Bara and John Bartle. It was published in May 2011, but I only stumbled across it yesterday. Here’s what it aimed to set out:

    a content analysis of to determine which party gained (or lost) most. ‘Gained’ and ‘lost’ here both have very specific meanings since they are based on comparisons of party positions as set out in their respective manifestos with the position of the new government set out in the agreement. In global terms we find that the agreement is nearer to the Liberal Democrats’ left-right position than the Conservatives’.

    This is graphically illustrated by measure the two parties’ positions along a right-left scale:

    coalition agreement 2010

    Posted in What do the academics say? | Tagged | 32 Comments

    ‘Lib Dems record of delivery for lesbians’ #AddForLesbiansToAHeadline

    mail lesbiansA couple of weeks ago, Nick Clegg poked fun at the Daily Mail’s everyday sexist approach to reporting the Cabinet reshuffle.

    Today the Lib Dem Twitter account has had a pop at the paper’s stablemate the Mail on Sunday for its widely-mocked front page headline, ‘NHS to fund sperm bank for lesbians’ — the new Health department-backed centre is in fact open to everyone (lesbians included) — using the delicious Twitter hashtag #AddForLesbiansToAHeadline:

    Posted in News | Tagged | 9 Comments

    Incumbency and the sophomore surge: why these two effects will matter for the Lib Dems in 2015

    Lib Dems winning hereWith the Lib Dem vote at least halved in the polls since the last general election, there’s been much focus within the party on what’s known as the ‘incumbency effect’ – the personal vote that benefits Lib Dem MPs. This typically boosts Lib Dems by 8%, compared to 1-2% for Tories and 1.5-2.5% for Labour MPs.

    It’s this effect which, Lib Dems hope, will enable the party to buck the national trend at the next election. It is, however, limited to those seats where the current MP will …

    Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 16 Comments

    Lib Dem party membership: the occasional ups and mostly downs since 1988

    The Lib Dems published the party’s 2013 accounts this week. The report included the latest membership figures, which showed for the first time since 2010 an increase on the previous year’s: up 2% to 43,451. Here are the Lib Dem membership figures since the modern party’s formation as the successor to the Liberal Party and SDP in 1988:

    lib dem membership figs since 1988 - as at july 2014

    For interest’s sake, here’s the increase/decrease in party membership under each leader:

    Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , , , , and | 16 Comments

    Football fan? Lib Dem? Then why not join LDV’s Fantasy Football League?

    ST_evertonMy co-editor Caron Lindsay isn’t, it turns out, a big fan of football. But I am — that’s me there, aged about 8 — and there are a few other Lib Dems who are too.

    The new season properly kicks off in a fortnight’s time, 16th August. So if you fancy pitting your skills selecting the most successful team of players from the English Premier League against the skills of fellow party supporters here’s what you need to do:

    Posted in LDV Awards | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

    The Lib Dem retreat to seat-by-seat campaigns. The right tactic, but not a long-term strategy

    Stephen LloydThe Guardian’s Rafael Behr has written of his experiences in Eastbourne, a seat won from the Tories by the Lib Dems’ Stephen Lloyd in 2010. His majority, 3,435, would need a swing of just 3.9% to be wiped out. The recent Lord Ashcroft poll of Tory / Lib Dem marginals indicated an average swing away from the Lib Dems to the Tories of 3.5%. This, then, is the kind of seat within the Tories’ reach and which they need to win if they are to gain an overall majority. …

    Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 35 Comments



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