Author Archives: Tony Greaves

Tony Greaves writes…Challenging the Tories, Liberal Democrat lords are in the vanguard

We have just seen another week in which the Liberal Democrats in the Lords led the way in challenging the Conservative Government. The high profile issue was votes for 16 and 17 year olds in the European Referendum when no fewer than 91 of our members voted for the amendment, out of a total of 107 – five are still waiting to come in – with none against, an astonishing record turnout of 87%. Labour managed 74% and the Tories 71. (And it didn’t even include me, I was stuck at home in Lancashire feeling poorly and miserable).

And then Sue Miller (my good friend Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer) moved an amendment to give the vote to all UK citizens living in the EU – and why not, it’s their future as much as or even more than ours? But Labour more or less abstained (four in favour, 37 against – these no doubt being mainly the anti-EU little Englanders in their ranks) and the amendment went down by 214 to 116. There were 84 LD votes in favour and again none against. Yet another principled Liberal charge while Labour sat on the sidelines!

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Obituary: Dennis Wrigley

Dennis Wrigley, who died earlier this week, was an inspirational pioneer in the rejuvenation of the Young Liberals and the Liberal Party in the Manchester region and the North West during the 1950s and 1960s.

Dennis came to national prominence in the High Peak by-election in 1961, in the year before Orpington. A combination of the rising national Liberal vote, a lot of outside help including Manchester students and YLs, and Dennis’s personal charisma and campaigning energy produced a Liberal vote of 30.5%, narrowly third but up by more than 10% from the General election in 1959. He contested the seat at the following three General Elections, polling well but never as well as at the by-election.

In 1964 the Labour candidate was the subsequent Liberal Democrat peer and Lords Chief Whip John Roper. The story that both of them told is (from Dennis) “Of course I was able to preach in every chapel in the constituency” with the riposte from John “Yes but I drank in every pub!” Unfortunately neither won that year.

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Lord Tony Greaves writes…Raising awareness of Lyme Disease. Do you know how to deal with tick bites?

Ticks courtesy of Lyme Disease Action 1Lyme disease is something rather nasty that you can get from being bittenby a tick. Both Lyme and ticks have had quite a good press of late (or perhaps a bad one) due to a number of “celebrities” getting infected –people such as John Caudwell (founder of Phones 4U) and Bella Hadid, daughter of Yolanda Foster – with long articles in the Mail, Evening Standard and on the BBC website.

Not so well promoted, but I hope important, was a short debate I secured and led on Lyme Disease and other tick-related infections in the House ofLords last week. This was, it seems, the first ever debate in Parliament onthis matter. This is perhaps not surprising since Lyme Disease was onlynamed in 1975 (after a small town in Connecticut where it was first studied). So what is this all about and should we all worry about it?

Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease transmitted tohumans and other animals by bites from ticks, which are small arthropodsrelated to spiders, and I can tell you from a close encounter with quite a big one last June that they are pretty nasty things. Infected ticks transmit the Borreliosis bacterium when they suck your blood, and they are found throughout the UK. They live on vegetation, particularly damp areas of vegetation such as bracken and in woodland. They are found throughout the countryside but they also appear more and more in towns – in parks and in suburban gardens for instance – and they are increasing in number.

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Lord Tony Greaves writes…Crisis on the streets of Lancashire

When the new lot all arrive we’ll have 112 Liberal Democrat peers and we need to use them. For some of us that means local as well as national stuff since some of us are still actively campaigning in our local areas! So when changes to the police funding formula were announced that mean one of the best forces in the country risks being “annihilated”, in the word of the commissioner, it was time to put down a topical question in the Lords.

The Lancashire police force is “outstanding”. That’s the conclusion of the review of police force efficiency by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. It’s one of the most cost effective police forces in the country at only 49p per head, it’s made savings of £74m since 2010, yet it will be hammered by further cuts up to £161m. Police officers will drop from 3,611 in 2010 to 1,699 in 2020 and the PCSOs (community support officers) will disappear. Chief Constable Steve Finnigan says these cuts would severely limit the capabilities of Lancashire Constabulary which by 2020 will only be able to provide an emergency- service, responding to 999 calls and a few priorities.

The potential impacts include closing all enquiry desks and the loss of specialist support units, mounted officers, dog units and road policing units, and dramatic cuts to departments that deal with serious and complex crime. In addition the county-wide network of neighbourhood policing teams – community beat officers and community support officers – will be swept away.

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Lord Tony Greaves writes…Why a new coalition would be a bad idea

In my first piece about what happens after May 7th I worked on the basis that the result would be around Con 275, Lab 275, LD 35, SNP 40, UKIP 5, Green 2, Speaker 1, all the Northern Irish 17 (of which the present numbers are DUP 8, SF 5, SDLP 3, All 1). Since then the numbers predicted by the polls have wobbled a bit around these numbers but the only consistent change has been to push up the SNP to perhaps 50 seats. And given the lack of a “late swing” of any size the LD number may be a bit high.

Given the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act it all still adds up to the likelihood – or the opportunity? – of a minority government (or democratic parliament?) that lasts several years, perhaps for the full five. Yet our official line is still that we want to join another Coalition. Officially we will negotiate with Tories or Labour, starting with the party with most seats (though in practice we will be talking to both simultaneously if that is what the numbers decree). Unofficially our leadership are reported to prefer another coalition with the Tories.

It’s no secret that this idea causes a severe onset of jitters in many parts of the party. With a week to go, the Times’ lead story reports “Lib Dems to revolt over fresh pact with Tories” (£). The story is pretty anecdotal, full of unattributed comments by “senior figures in the party” and the like (only Andrew George breaking cover), in general a typically flimsy piece of tabloid style journalism of the kind we see nowadays in the Times.

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Tony Greaves writes … Haggling over more than the haggis?

 

Let’s assume, as I did in previous pieces here and here, that no party will win a majority on May 7th, and that all the post-election pressure will be for a minority government with an arrangement with one or more other parties that falls short of coalition. On current polls the Liberal Democrats will not get enough seats for it to be practicable for us to enter coalition, and the third largest party will be the SNP who have made it clear they will not enter any coalition but will seek a looser agreement with Labour.

None of this may happen but the probability seems high enough to discuss how it might work. I am also assuming that, for reasons I’ve also set out previously here, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act will make it very difficult for anyone to force an early second election. In spite of this (or perhaps with some level of ignorance) both Labour and Conservative MPs seem to favour minority government. All this could mean that a minority government may not only be the short term outcome, but could last for some time – perhaps a full five years.

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Tony Greaves writes…Can’t poll, won’t poll?

I wrote about prospects for a minority government if no party gets an overall majority at the General Election, and some of the things that might need to change at Westminster if it’s to work. Moves away from its majoritarian and adversarial culture to one based much more on negotiation and mediation, compromises and trade-offs, and an acceptance of a more dominant role for Parliament as against the government. But will it last?

Traditionally the Prime Minister asked the Sovereign for a dissolution. In the modern era such requests were always granted. Sometimes the government had lost the confidence of the Commons (1924 and 1979), run out of steam (1951), or politics had been turned upside down and the new arrangements needed popular endorsement (1931).

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  • User AvatarIan Swales 7th Feb - 12:32am
    William. I guess you and are having a heated agreement. The important thing that few people are mentioning is that a high proportion of our...
  • User AvatarPaul Walter 6th Feb - 11:57pm
    Moderator's note: This thread is now being pre-moderated and any references to men/male procedures will be deleted under our "off-topic" rule. Please see our comments...
  • User AvatarHarry Hayfield 6th Feb - 10:50pm
    And let me tell you, Ceredigion may seem to most people as "that constituency with the sole Liberal Democrat MP in the far flung reaches...
  • User AvatarJames Ridgwell 6th Feb - 10:50pm
    i agree - thanks for engaging with the debate BTL Paul
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    My wife's theory on lack of women candidates (and she has had over past years much more experience than me in approval and selection of...
  • User AvatarSarah 6th Feb - 10:02pm
    I can't believe "Would you rather have 8 all male MPs or 5 MPs with at least one woman" is even a question. Of course...