Category Archives: News

Steve Webb on working with IDS: “When it comes to pensions I think he trusts my judgment.”

steve webbPensions minister Steve Webb is one Lib Dem minister who has emerged from Coalition with his reputation enhanced, praised even by such diverse admirers as The Sun, The Guardian and Quentin Letts. Today’s Daily Mail features a warm profile of him talking about his passion: pensions. Here are a couple of excerpts that give a flavour…

On working with Iain Duncan Smith

Today, he and Work & Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith have become Westminster’s odd couple. IDS is renowned for his Right-wing stance on benefits and welfare, and Mr Webb

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Danny Alexander: More people in work than ever before, earnings now rising in line with prices

speech danny alexander 6Two pieces of good economic news today, as the BBC reports:

UK unemployment falls to five-year low of 2.2m

The number of people out of work in the UK has fallen by 77,000 to a five-year low of 2.24m in the three months to February, official figures indicate. The unemployment rate now stands at 6.9% of the adult working population, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

After six years, wages finally overtake inflation

After nearly six years of falling real wages, weekly earnings have finally edged above inflation. Weekly wages, including bonuses, rose by 1.7% in the year to February, up from 1.4% in January, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Earlier this week, inflation, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), fell to 1.6%. It is the first time that earnings have been higher than inflation for six years, apart from two months in 2010.

Here’s what the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander had to say:

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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 …

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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

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A message from Nick Clegg for Passover

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Clegg announces three new garden cities to be built

Nick Clegg Q&A York Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsThe BBC reports:

Up to three garden cities, each with more than 15,000 homes will be built to help deal with a “chronic” housing shortage, Nick Clegg has announced. The deputy prime minister promised “high-quality homes in thriving new communities”, on potential sites yet to be identified.

Funding from an existing £2.4bn pot will be made available for developments being built up to 2020. Councils will be asked to raise any concerns over the schemes.

Last year 109,370 new homes were completed in England, …

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By-election update: Lib Dems make a gain from Tories in Wantage

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)Last Thursday saw four principal by-elections.

In Wantage Charlton (Vale of White Horse district council) the Liberal Democrats missed out on taking the seat by just 49 votes. The by-election, caused by the conviction of the previous Conservative councillor, saw the Tories hold the seat with 41.9% (-5.3%). Jim Sabbald, the Liberal Democrat candidate, took 38.4% (+2.5%). Labour came third with 11% and the Greens last with 8.8%.

However the by-election on Wantage Town Council caused by the disqualification of the same former councillor saw Jim Sabbald …

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Opinion: Regina v Nigel Evans should wake up MPs

Statue of Justice - The Old BaileyNigel Evans’s acquittal on charges of rape and sexual assault has triggered various expressions of concern.
Those expressed, trenchantly by some, are:

    1. The Crown should never have prosecuted him because the evidence was weak.
    2. The Crown treated him differently because he is an MP.
    3. The case shouldn’t have relied on alleged victims who did not consider themselves to have been victims.
    4. Nigel Evans is left with a huge bill to pay his defence.

“The Crown should never have prosecuted him because the evidence was weak.”

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Opinion: The Scottish independence referendum – a lack of wisdom in the pro-UK camp?

September 14th "Welcome to Scotland"In September 2014, the Scottish public will vote on independence from the rest of the UK. As of mid-April 2014, the opinion polls suggest that the pro-UK camp is ahead, but over the past few weeks the pro-independence camp has been fast catching up. Why?

One reason seems to be the spat between the London-based UK administration and the Scottish National Party (SNP) over the role of Britain’s sterling currency. All three main UK national parties stepped in behind a sudden policy of non-cooperation with an independent Scotland …

photo by: amandabhslater
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#SelfEU: the way to win a day with ALDE’s Guy Verhofstadt*

Guy VerhofstadtYes, the #selfEU is actually a thing, as ALDE’s Guy Verhofstadt promotes his campaign to become the next President of the European Commission:

THE ONE AND ONLY “SELF-EU” CONTEST
It’s simple, just send us an EU selfie or a #selfEU, and you could win a day with Guy Verhofstadt.

The EU is about more than rules and regulations. Show us your favourite thing about the EU. Did you just board an airplane on a cheap flight, cross a border without having to use your passport or change currencies, or

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Lib Dems: “Cyril Smith’s acts were vile and repugnant and we have nothing but sympathy for those whose lives he ruined”

cyril smith bookWe reported here yesterday the latest revelations of extensive alleged paedophile abuse by former Liberal MP, Cyril Smith, in a new book co-authored by his Rochdale successor, Simon Danczuk. Today’s Observer highlights the party’s response, and the responses of two current Lib Dem MPs, John Pugh and John Hemming:

In a statement the party said: “Cyril Smith’s acts were vile and repugnant and we have nothing but sympathy for those whose lives he ruined. His actions were not known to, or condoned by the Liberal Party or the

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Tim Farron reveals all about the day he impersonated Nigel Farage

NickTimHere’s how Lib Dem party president Tim Farron recounted to his local paper, The Westmoreland Gazette, his assistance to Nick Clegg for the second Nick v Nigel debate:

In an empty central London theatre, the Lakes MP donned the trademark purple tie of the Euro sceptic for a practice debate with the Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister ahead of the real thing.

Aides revealed that to prepare for the role as the UKIP leader, Mr Farron watched recordings of his public speaking with Farage winning plaudits for his man-of-the-world directness.

Mr Farron’s aides

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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.

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Jeremy Browne responds on Twitter to Times’s ‘pointless’ front page headline

Three weeks ago, Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne joined Twitter. He’s been putting it to use this morning to refute The Times’s front page headline that claims he said the Lib Dems are ‘pointless’:

As for those imagining that he’s about jump ships, Jeremy couldn’t be clearer:

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Daily Mail serialises ‘The Double Life of Cyril Smith’

daily mail cyril smithToday’s Daily Mail begins the serialisation of a new book, Smile for the Camera: the Double Life of Cyril Smith, co-authored by Rochdale’s Labour MP, Simon Danczuk, who went public with allegations of sexual abuse by his Liberal predecessor in 2012:

The book, co-written by Matthew Baker, reveals that as far back as the 1950s, Rochdale police had their suspicions about the politician. Smith, MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992, was governor of almost 30 schools. In the 1960s, he helped to open Cambridge House children’s

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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 …

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Manifesto 2015: The debate is on

logo_lg new Liberal Democrat logoLast week saw the final, rearranged, Manifesto Roadshow in Leeds chaired by Sal Brinton. Those of us present had some good opportunities to suggest and debate policy ideas for the 2015 General Election manifesto.

There was lots of discussion of transport issues – around the quality and reliability of buses and trains and the capacity of the rail network. I raised the point that transport links between and within the northern cities has been identified as a vital ingredient in the agglomeration recipe that supports economic growth. While there has been some progress on this, such as with the Northern Rail Hub, we need much stronger and clearer ambition still.

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Martin Horwood writes … an important day for disability and international development

A Remarkable Young ManSelect committee reports are often considered to be rather dry, even to the most politically active among us, which is why I feel particularly compelled to highlight the 11th report of the International Development CommitteeDisability and development.

The select committee decided to hold this inquiry because they had been told repeatedly by organisations like Sightsavers that our country’s aid system was not delivering for disabled people overseas. Lynne Featherstone also paid attention to these organisations and started championing the rights of disabled people in her first year as a minister, describing disability as the great neglected subject in international development.

photo by: khym54
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So where exactly were the UKIP peers during the Immigration Bill?

house of lordsNoticeable by their absence during the Lords debates on the Immigration Bill were the three Peers who are members of UKIP. A cross-party group of peers, including our Shirley Williams, Roger Roberts, Bob Maclennan, Jonathan Marks, Alex Carlile, Nigel Jones, David Chidgey and Mike Storey thought this was worth mentioning in a letter to the Standard.  This is what they said:

The report stage of the Immigration Bill concluded in the House of Lords on Monday April 7.

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Alistair Carmichael as many of you will never have seen him before

Do you know what, this independence referendum is actually starting to have some nice moments.  I would never have thought it. Sadly, few of them are to do with the actual substance of the campaign, but there’s always hope.

One of the best things about it for me is that for what I imagine will be the only time in our lifetimes, my Dad and I are on the same side in a political debate. I was absolutely thrilled when he took up volunteering for Better Together one day a week and he’s become a bit of an expert on the …

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The Immigration Bill: 23 Liberal Democrat Lords rebel on “stateless” power, 12 on child trafficking guardian

immigrationThe Immigration Bill was back in the Lords this Monday where the Government suffered two defeats. The first was to overturn the power of the Home Secretary to deprive terror suspects who had acquired British citizenship  (note, suspects, not anybody who has been convicted of anything) of that citizenship even if so doing would render them stateless.

Of the 242 peers supporting Lord Pannick’s amendment, 23 of them were Liberal Democrats. And their ranks included more than the usual Awkward Squad.

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Danny Alexander tells Bloomberg of Liberal Democrat contribution to fair recovery and plans for Mansion Tax

Danny Alexander by Paul WalterDanny Alexander gave a big speech at Bloomberg this morning. Interestingly, he mentioned several times that he was from the Highlands and credited his upbringing in a small community with forming his commitment to fairness and managing resources wisely.

It was a wide-ranging speech, which looked back at the almost four years since he entered the Treasury. He said that some of the detail of getting to grips with the economic crisis would have to wait for his memoirs which he hoped would be “some way off”.  His main theme was that the Liberal Democrats were, uniquely, capable of managing the economy fairly. It was another variation of the “stronger economy, fairer society” melody.

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A trio of damning reports on impact of Government’s welfare reforms

Joseph Rowntree FoundationThree reports published today on the impacts of the Coalition Government’s welfare reforms should concern anyone who is interested in creating a fairer society.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation publishes two reports on wider welfare reform in general and the Bedroom Tax in particular which should inform those who are responsible for the Liberal Democrat manifesto as well as our ministers.

photo by: HowardLake
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Maria Miller resigns – but is that all that needs to happen?

Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and SportThe writing was on the wall for Maria Miller in the 33rd second after she began her grudging apology last Thursday. Even if she had shown the required amount of contrition, the very fact that a system which allowed a committee of MPs to water down the Standards Commissioner’s judgement looks, even if it isn’t, motivated by self interest, by the privileged protecting their own.

At no point did she, or David Cameron, show any signs of “getting it”, of showing any understanding why the original issue was a serious matter.

By allowing it to become a battle between the Conservative leadership and the Tory right, one in which the latter has triumphed, Cameron has weakened his own position.

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Pauline Pearce on the Daily Politics Show

Pauline Pearce was the studio guest in Monday’s Daily Politics. She deals with questions on Iain Duncan Smith’s latest reforms of the welfare system, and on Nigel Farage and the EU.

Half way through the show there is a profile of Pauline, which explains why she became known as the Hackney Heroine. It is followed by a discussion between her and David Lammy about the Hackney riots – I leave you to decide who won!

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Imprints on online political ads?

Do you remember Bingo graphic that Grant Shapps tweeted last month, which not only went viral but attracted a lot of parodies?

At the time nobody commented on the fact that the ad did not have an imprint. Party activists all know that any printed political literature must have a ‘Published, promoted and printed …’ imprint on it, and not having one can be a criminal offence during election time. And yet there is no such requirement for online ads.

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Jeremy Browne’s liberal regime to get Britain fit for the global race

Jeremy Browne bookAs we reported last month, Jeremy Browne has been using his time since he left government last October productively, writing a book on what he sees as the challenges facing Britain over the decades ahead, and the liberal approach that her believes is necessary in response to them. The book, Race Plan: An authentic liberal plan to get Britain fit for The Global Race, is published today by the think tank Reform.

The conundrum facing Britain is outlined neatly in the book’s first few chapters and can be summarised thus: world power and economic strength is shifting, from the Western powers that dominated the last century, primarily east, to Asia, but also south, to South America and Africa. On a whole range of indicators — productivity, educational attainment, global influence — Britain is losing out or is danger of doing so to these ambitious, focussed countries.

How do we respond? Do we accept relative decline as an inevitable consequence of globalisation? Or do we rethink our approach and seek to maintain the competitive advantage and influence on the world stage that we have grown used to? Browne’s answer is emphatically the latter, and he is clear on what form that response should take: it should be distinctly, “authentically” liberal.

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In full: Nick Clegg’s speech to Welsh Conference

Nick Clegg speaking York Some rights reserved by Liberal Democrats“We meet on the eve of a new tax year” is no conventional beginning to a political speech. However, Nick Clegg spoke to Welsh Liberal Democrats as taxpayers were about to get a Liberal Democrat tax cut which they’ll notice in their pay packets in 3 weeks’ time. He went on about it for quite some time, as you would expect, given that it was a major pledge on the front of OUR manifesto. He said that Cameron and Osborne, who are …

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The three things Nick Clegg would change about the EU

Nick Clegg York Q&A Some rights reserved by Liberal Democrats13 hours after leaving the debate stage last Wednesday night, Nick Clegg was back on his regular Call Clegg radio show. The show had been nominated twice in the Radio Academy Awards to be presented next month.

The first caller, Caron from West Lothian, (who might she be, I wonder?) made the point that she was highly amused by David Cameron trying to pretend that he was the voice of reason on Europe when his plan was to sell all our employment rights down the river and then give us a referendum.  Her question to him was that although he’s a powerful advocate of the EU, he acknowledges that it’s not perfect,

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Ros Scott speaks out against food waste

Food waste 215 million tonnes of food wasted in the UK each year.

122 million tonnes wasted in the industrialised world (which makes the British contribution of an eye-wateringly high proportion).

The latter figure is equal to the entire food production of sub-Saharan Africa.

It’s a far cry from the days when we were growing up. Any waste at all horrified my Granny. She went to the shops every day and bought what she needed for that day and no more. Most of what she bought was relatively locally produced, unprocessed and fresh.

photo by: Nick Saltmarsh
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    There's irony in all this cropping up at the same time that some people are questioning the decision to prosecute Nigel Evans. Whatever the rights...