Category Archives: News

Christine Jardine quizzes Salmond on his “curious” view that he prefers people “of faith”

It was never likely that I’d make it on to Alex Salmond’s Christmas card list. After all, he thinks that people who don’t support independence are making the case “against Scotland.” Now, it appears, there’s another reason for him to disapprove of me; I don’t have a religious faith.

Pink News has a video clip of him saying:

I  am biased of course because I am a Church of Scotland adherent and I prefer people of faith to people of no faith or people who have lost their faith.

Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Aberdeenshire East seat next May has written to him to question this rather odd opinion:

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In full: Willie Rennie’s piece for the National on refugees: “We cannot stand by and leave this to others”

Willie Rennie has been writing for The National, Scotland’s daily independence supporting newspaper, about what he thinks should be our response to the refugee crisis. Nicola Sturgeon and Labour’s new leader Kezia Dugdale also wrote articles. Below is Willie’s piece in full. The parts in italics are those which ended up on the National’s cutting room floor.

As a country we have a proud tradition of offering sanctuary to those facing persecution.

As far back as 1572, we provided safe haven to French Huguenots forced from their homes. During the Second World War, Nicholas Winton exemplified this spirit when he rescued 669 children from Nazi death camps.

The picture of a young child, drowned as he made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean with his familu, shames those who would say that we have no responsibility to help those fleeing conflict and war.

The situation facing refugees from Syria and elsewhere is desperate. They know the risks they face in making the journey to Europe. Thousands have died in the process. But still they come.

Last month, the new leader of the UK Liberal Democrats Tim Farron and I met with Amnesty International and the Scottish Refugee Council to discuss the crisis. They set out the scale of the challenge that we are facing clearly.

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How to show that refugees are welcome in your home area

38 degrees does have its uses. Their “Refugees Welcome” campaign allows you to go their website, enter your postcode and see if their is a current “Refugees welcome in -name of town or city-” petition for your locality. If there is, you can sign it if you want to. If there isn’t one for your area, you can just hit the red button to “start a campaign” and you can set up a petition for your home town, village or city, and then publicise it via Twitter, Facebook, email etc.

The Guardian has a list of ways you can help refugees. – As does The Independent.

My eye has been caught by these two refugee-related good causes:

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Liberal Britain?

We’re told that Britain is a liberal country, that Liberalism is mainstream. After all, every party supported same-sex marriage, the gender gap is narrowing, and even the class system is slowly, slowly, so painfully slowly on the wane.

The state’s attempts to impinge on privacy are rebutted time and time again – or have been up until now – we keep spending on international development even when we’re hurting at home, and each Parliament is more diverse than the last.

We have much to be proud of, and rightly so.

But in a truly liberal Britain, there would be as many women sitting round the directors’ table as men. The best students from our state schools and from our private schools would have the same chances on results day. Our police would look just like the people they work so hard to serve – as would our soldiers, as would our politicians.  

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Andrew Wiseman writes…Introducing the Policy Pitch

We are trying a new session at this year’s conference. The idea behind the session is to encourage policy discussion in a different way to a formal motion or FPC policy paper.

Members will put forward ideas in the form of a ‘policy pitch’. These ideas should not be current party policy, they should be new ideas or ideas that develop existing party policy in an innovative way. Rather than having to set out a more formal motion where there is a debate and a yes/no vote the member will submit their idea in a less formal pitch of up to 400 words. Those chosen by FCC will be given a two minute ‘pitch’ to conference where they will get the chance to present their idea to a panel. The panel will discuss the idea with the proposer before giving their views.

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Farron: Enough is enough. It’s time to help refugees in need in response to Independent’s heartbreaking photo of a little dead Syrian boy

As David Cameron goes on the news and tells us all that we can’t take any refugees, but we are doing all we can to make life ok in the countries they come from, Tim Farron has been telling the Independent that we need to take in more refugees.

Cameron knows perfectly well that Syria is far from ok. How can it be when you have a brutally murderous dictator fighting a brutally murderous death cult for control?

Had we still been in Government, Cameron’s comments would have chilled me to the bone. The truth is we haven’t done enough to offer sanctuary to people in need throughout the whole crisis, not just this Summer. Nick Clegg certainly managed to ensure that we did take some people from Syria who needed specialised support but nowhere near enough.

The Independent has published a heartbreaking photograph of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach. They know it’s going to upset people. This is their explanation for so doing:

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Dreaming of Lords reform

Surely there is nothing better for a lifelong liberal to do in an idle moment than to fantasise about some form of constitutional reform?  Well maybe that’s just me….but please indulge me for a moment.

In the last couple of weeks we have seen Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie explore the issue of all women short lists and the dissolution honours has prompted unease at the membership and structure of the House of Lords.  Could we solve both these issues in one move?

How about we elect (gasp!) the House of Lords but do so differently from the Commons?

Currently, the UK sends 73 MEPs to Europe from 12 constituencies.  My plan would be to use these same constituencies for the Upper House except with double the number of seats – half for women and half for men – 146 members in total – a reasonable amount for a focused chamber and more than the US Senate.  

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Roger Roberts calls for Parliamentary debate on refugee crisis

So, the Westminster Parliament resumes on Monday after its Summer recess. The Commons debates the EU Referendum Bill, the Lords the Energy Bill. With a growing humanitarian crisis on our doorstep, though, can it really be business as usual?

Liberal Democrat peer and passionate advocate for the fair treatment of those who seek sanctuary Roger Roberts thinks not. He wants the current agenda to be postponed in favour of debates in both Houses on the crisis. He said on Facebook:

Next Monday Parliament reconvenes. I plan to have discussions today to treat Monday as if it was for the recall of Parliament to have an emergency debate on the Refugee crisis. With many thousands of people involved in what appears to be one of the major humanitarian crises of our time.I would welcome as much support (facebook – messages to M.P.s and Peers etc) as possible.

I think it would be good to have Parliaments in Scotland and Wales debate the issue too, especially if they are able to say that they are happy to take refugees in their areas.

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Liberal Youth Elections 2015 are go! #lyelects

It’s that time of year again – Federal Liberal Youth and the Welsh organisation IR Cymru are electing the teams which will lead them through the next year. The new executives will take office on 1st November.

I am Returning Officer for the third year. Any member of the party who is under 26 or is in full-time education is eligible to vote. Everyone the party thinks fits those categories should have had an email on Sunday evening. If you haven’t, please check your Spam folder. If it’s not there, get in touch with membership department here and ask them to mark you as a Youth member.

Details of all the positions and how to apply can be found here. If you want to apply, you should provide me with the required information and an A5 sized manifesto in PDF or Word format by 8pm on Sunday 6th September. One of the first things I changed about these elections was to ensure that nominations closed at a sociable hour. The first year, they closed at midnight on a Friday night, and, given the number of places available, there were a fair few last minute nominations and queries that I had to deal with.  I am pretty pathetic at the staying up late thing, so I decided on the earlier time for future elections. 

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#Brexit referendum question to change after advice from Electoral Commission

referendum2From the BBC

The elections watchdog has recommended a change to the question to be put to voters in a future EU referendum.

The Electoral Commission said the wording proposed by ministers – “should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” – could be perceived as biased to the status quo.

It has proposed adding the words “or leave the European Union?”

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Conference Countdown 2015: Cutting VAT for tourism would be a costly mistake

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

One of the motions at conference is for reducing VAT on tourism as far as possible. Here’s why that’s a bad idea.

The idea is to reduce VAT on hotels and selected attractions from the standard rate of 20% to 5% – the minimum allowed by the EU. This is something the British Hospitality Association has been lobbying the Treasury on for years. The motion refers to the importance of tourism more generally, with figures that include all restaurants, pubs and outbound flights, amongst other things, but I assume its VAT proposal is (mercifully) more limited.

The government’s response to this lobbying (under both Labour and the Coalition of which we were a part) has been to point to the substantial price tag. The cost of cutting VAT for accommodation alone would be £2 billion a year, with amusement parks and similar adding another £200 million. This is serious money. A comparable total would be the cost of the Pupil Premium that Lib Dems fought so hard to introduce.

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Walter James: Last surviving 1950 General Election candidate

I don’t recall ever meeting Walter James, the last surviving candidate of any party who fought the 1950 General Election who has died aged 103, but I did hear my father Stanley Wood speak of him and I may have well have attended Liberal Party meetings at which James spoke.

James, who gained 1st class honours in modern history at Keble College, Oxford, wrote for the Manchester Guardian, had a distinguished career and later became a member of the BBC Advisory Council. In 1945 James was Liberal candidate for the Bury division in Lancashire, narrowly won from Labour by Tory Walter Fletcher. James was readopted, but boundary changes created the new seat of Bury & Radcliffe and he stood down as PPC in 1947 about the time my Dad Stan became Liberal Party agent.

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Some newspapers’ attitude to refugees is downright disgraceful and un-British

Friday 28th August. News came through of an horrific discovery in Austria. 71 refugees, including three children and one baby, were found dead in a lorry there. Adding to a very grim day, reports emerged that a boat packed with refugees had sunk off the coast of Libya, with 200 people feared dead.

One would have thought that such a double humanitarian disaster would have softened the heart of the most hardened Fleet Street editor.

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LDV Poetry: Moving forward

Devastating

 gruelling

what a cruel night

and so unexpected.

Friends and colleagues

dismissed

so much expertise

discarded

as if on a whim.

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Tim Farron’s Q & A with Scottish Party members: “Liberals, moderates, our time has come”

Tim Farron came to Scotland on Thursday and spent an hour taking questions from party members at a very hastily arranged event at Party HQ in Edinburgh. Even though it hadn’t been organised until Tuesday afternoon, there was standing room only. A fair proportion of the audience was made up of new members.

He spoke about our place as a party, positioning ourselves as a party of economic credibility and compassion ready to stand up to the authoritarian governments in London and Edinburgh. His words complemented what Willie Rennie was saying about us being at the heart of the radical centre in his speech on Wednesday. 

It was very clear that he had been very strongly affected by his trip to Calais. His frustration at the misrepresentation of these vulnerable people in the press and by Government ministers was clear.

He promised to be back in Scotland many times for campaigning in the lead up to the Holyrood elections.

Here is a Storify thingy which covers the highlights:

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Lib Dems could try to out-flank Corbyn from the left? Are you having a laugh? Oh, and quit the anonymous briefings…

I am more than a little irritated by an article in the FT in which three of our eight MPs are quoted. They are all talking about the need for the Liberal Democrats to stick to that centre ground and not try to move to the left of Labour if they elect Jeremy Corbyn.

When on earth was that ever going to happen? How on earth could you outflank Corbyn from the left? He is an old fashioned socialist. He wants to nationalise everything, leave NATO, dispense with any sort of fiscal caution. To go any further left would involve Five Year Plans, hammers, sickles, a whole load of red and a Politburo. That’s not really our usual style, shall we say.  The notion that Tim Farron would actually try and do this is risible, yet we have three of our MPs and perhaps an un-named fourth constructing a straw-man.

One un-named MP is quoted thus:

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Walter James, last surviving Liberal Party candidate from the 1945 General Election, dies aged 103

The Times (£) has reported the death of Walter James, who was the Liberal Party candidate for Bury in the 1945 General Election. As such, he is thought to be the last Liberal candidate from 1945 to pass on, leaving, it is believed, just two candidates surviving from that election, both of them from the Labour party: Denis Healey and Jeremy Hutchinson, now Baron Hutchinson of Lullington.

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Don’t talk to me about migrants…

I didn’t actually get to see a news bulletin until 10pm last night and when I did, I was livid. Language matters. The 59 men, 8 women and 4 children who suffocated in that lorry were human beings and yet they were being described as “migrants” not people. Had those people been British, there would have been wall to wall news coverage of the tragedy for days. Already it’s slipping down the pecking order in the news bulletins along with the news of the drowning of another 200 people in the Mediterranean.

Calling these people “migrants” is both inaccurate and dehumanising. It’s inaccurate because most of them are refugees. Let’s face it, if you live in Syria you find yourself caught between a brutal government and barbaric ISIS. Amnesty’s most recent report on Syria outlines just how bad things are.

Syria’s internal armed conflict continued relentlessly through the year and saw both government forces and non-state armed groups commit extensive war crimes and gross human rights abuses with impunity. Government forces deliberately targeted civilians, indiscriminately bombarding civilian residential areas and medical facilities with artillery, mortars, barrel bombs and chemical agents, unlawfully killing civilians. Government forces also enforced lengthy sieges, trapping civilians and depriving them of food, medical care and other necessities. Security forces arbitrarily arrested or continued to detain thousands, including peaceful activists, human rights defenders, media and humanitarian workers, and children, subjecting some to enforced disappearance and others to prolonged detention or unfair trials. Security forces systematically tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees with impunity; thousands of detainees reportedly died due to torture or harsh conditions. Non-state armed groups, which controlled some areas and contested others, indiscriminately shelled and besieged areas containing civilians perceived to support the government. Some, particularly the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) armed group, carried out indiscriminate suicide attacks and other bombings in civilian areas, and perpetrated numerous unlawful killings, including summary killings of captives and suspected opponents.

photo by: FreedomHouse
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URGENT: Deadline for notifying LDHQ of Conference reps extended till Monday 7th September at midday

There was great disappointment amongst Liberal Youth members earlier this month as they were told that they were too late to notify LDHQ of their voting reps for Federal Conference. The organisation has a number of voting places allocated to it as young people often find it difficult to get elected to the role by a local party as they are more likely to move home or to be away studying half the year.

They had not been aware of the original deadline and over the past few days have made their case to LDHQ and the Federal Conference Committee. Some local parties also missed out because they hadn’t realised there was a rush.

This afternoon, Party President Sal Brinton announced that the deadline would be extended until Monday 7th September at midday.

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Safety on trains for women – what do the rail companies have to say?

reading railway station by paul walterThere’s been a lot of discussion about train safety for women over the last week or so after the publication of statistics showing a rise in the number of sexual assaults on trains and the subsequent controversy over Jeremy Corbyn’s comments on women-only carriages.

However, we haven’t heard much from some very influential organisations about this, surprisingly so. The train companies themselves have been pretty silent.

Liberal Democrats Kelly-Marie Blundell and Daisy Cooper took to Twitter to question them.

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A chance to help shape Liberal Democrat policy on social security, privacy and sex work

The party’s Federal Policy Committee is looking for party members to take part in policy working groups to develop policy in three particular areas:

  • Social security
  • Security and privacy
  • Sex work

From an email sent to party members today:

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Willie Rennie’s tribute to Charles Kennedy from Dingwall memorial service

CK MemorialOn Monday, a memorial service for Charles Kennedy was held in Dingwall, a town just north of Inverness which he had represented for the whole of his 32 years as an MP. His constituency office was there and over 300 people turned out to remember their former MP. Music was provided by the Kiltearn Fiddlers, who played a piece of music written by Charles’ father when he was elected to Parliament in 1983. The Dingwall Gaelic Choir also sang. It was quite an emotional occasion, but also full of laughter as memories of Charles were shared.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie paid tribute to Charles. Before the service, he gave an interview to STV. The wonderful scenery in the background shows the Cromarty Firth with views down to the towns of Maryburgh, Conon Bridge and Dingwall, an area represented by excellent Liberal Democrat councillor Angela Maclean.

Willie was keen to share many of the things that had been said about Charles by so many across the political spectrum since his death to show, as he said, how much he meant to the world. He also had a list of what he called Charles’ Greatest Hits – his funniest and wisest sayings. Here is his tribute in full. 

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Emails go out to start voting on our Greater London Authority candidates

The ever-energetic and helpful Dr Mark Pack, formerly of this parish, has published a very informative update this morning on the subject of the election of our Greater London Authority candidates:

Emails with online voting links have been landing in London Lib Dem members’ inboxes over the last day.

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Tim Farron in Scotland: Scotland’s parties can embarrass Tories into action on migrant crisis

Tim Farron was up in Scotland today, on his first visit since becoming leader.. He hosted a roundtable session in Edinburgh with the Scottish Refugee Council, Amnesty and the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group. Issues discussed included devolution and refugees, making asylum work for women and what political parties could do in the UK and Scotland to campaign for fairer treatment of vulnerable refugees.

Here they are having their discussions:

Amnesty’s Scottish Director welcomed the meeting:

After the meeting, Tim said:

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Dame Annette Brooke, Hilary Stephenson, Matt Hanney and Ben Williams OBE and the rest of the Lib Dem Dissolution Honours

The dissolution honours have been published in full. When Vince Cable publishes his new book next month, he will do so as Sir Vince. There’s also a knighthood for Danny Alexander.

Nick Clegg has also rewarded Margaret Binks, his constituency office manager, Andy Sangar, his election agent and Ian Sherwood, a volunteer in his Commons office who had also served Ming Campbell and Charles Kennedy.

The list in full has been published here.

The Lib Dems are as follows:

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Eleven new Liberal Democrat peers announced

Eleven new Liberal Democrat peers have been announced in the Dissolution Honours. Congratulations to them.

I will admit to being slightly annoyed at the fact that there are a majority of men – 6 men and 5 women. Surprisingly, there is no peerage for Fiona Hall, the former group leader of our MEPs, nor for Annette Brooke former MP for Mid Dorset and Poole North. We may find out that they had been offered a peerage and turned it down.

Most of the list is as we expected with peerages for the longest serving MPs Sir Alan Beith, Sir Malcolm Bruce and Sir Menzies Campbell. It had already been widely reported that Danny Alexander and Vince Cable had turned down peerages but they have had knighthoods instead.

Other than that there are a couple of very welcome surprises in the inclusion of Shas Sheehan and Dorothy Thornhill, both of whom are part of Tim Farron’s team of spokespeople.

Here is the Lib Dem list in full:

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Candidates and financial exclusion

I’ve seen a number of comments recently about the financial cost of being a candidate. That is particularly sharp with people standing for parliament, but not limited to them.

As a party, we try to take diversity seriously. This is about justice and Liberal Democrat values. It’s pragmatic, in that we’re all diminished if we casually discard the talents of people from disadvantaged groups. There is also a bigger challenge: the changes we push for in society have to be made within the party and in our choice of candidates. Addressing problems this creates may not be easy, but is a first step to bringing change more widely. Addressing any problems this creates also helps us find ways to address barriers to change more widely.

One of the knotty points is around wealth.

The targeting of seats is unavoidable under our present electoral system, so there is no way round the fact that a high proportion of party’s resources has to be directed to winnable seats.

Away from target seats, the financial situation on candidates can be really difficult, especially when local parties are small and have limited resources. Yet it is also important to fight these seats, both to build up the party where it is presently less strong, and to be serious about being a potential party of government. I’ve seen guidance that potential candidates should not be asked what they can contribute financially to their campaign, as this discriminates against the less wealthy. But most parliamentary candidates work very hard in an election campaign and the pressure to end up putting more personal resources into the campaign can be intense — even if that pressure begins with them rather than anyone else. Anecdotes include someone saying they hoped there wouldn’t be another election soon as they had been self-funding and were more-or-less wiped out, and an agent asking the candidate to provide the deposit two days before the nomination form was to go in as if this was a perfectly reasonable request (and failing to register for their regional party’s deposit guarantee scheme).

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Willie Rennie: Lib Dems are for aspirational Scots with a social conscience

In a speech to the Scottish Council for Development and Industry in Aberdeen yesterday, Willie Rennie claimed the radical centre ground for the Liberal Democrats, talking about Labour and the SNP fighting it out on the left, while the Conservatives move further to the right. He outlined a position that championed social justice while making sure that we lived within our means.

Willie now finds himself as the oldest political leader in Scotland at just 47 years old. Nicola Sturgeon is 46, Ruth Davidson 36, Patrick Harvie 42 and Kezia Dugdale 33. It’s certainly different from when I was growing up when most political leaders were in their 50s and 60s and the President of the USA was in his 70s.

The challenges for the Scottish Liberal Democrats are obvious. Standing firm in our own space and talking in a unique way about our issues is very important in post-coalition Scotland. I say standing firm, and not finding our own space as we have always been a radical centre ground party which champions individual freedom. Willie looks back to Gladstone, Asquith, Lloyd George, Russell Johnston, David Steel and Charles Kennedy as liberal inspiration.

There’s an interesting turn of phrase about our years in government:

There are some things I would soon forget about our time in government but our decision to put country before party for economic recovery is not one of them.

He then goes on to talk about the good things we did in Government and indeed the changes in SNP policy that his own parliamentary group of just 5 MSPs have driven.

Here is Willie’s speech in full:

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Christine Jardine selected to fight Aberdeenshire East for Holyrood election

Christine jardineChristine Jardine put up one hell of a fight against Alex Salmond in the Gordon constituency this year. She got 1500 more votes than Malcolm Bruce had 5 years earlier and is in a very clear second place to challenge the SNP in the future.

She has now been selected to fight the Aberdeenshire East constituency in May next year for the Scottish Parliament.

The Ellon Times has the story:

A delighted Christine said: “Its very humbling to know that people are prepared to put their faith in you. I had a lot of support in the general election – 19,030 votes – and, while it’s clear we have a lot of work to do, I know those people, and the many others who have joined the party, are looking to us to repair the health service, improve education and protect jobs.

I am determined that the next Scottish Government will give us here in the North East a better deal on health, education, housing and more.

I’m a Liberal. I believe politics is not about nations or states it’s about people, about individuals and should always put them first.

Nobody should have to travel to another town to find a GP, or to the central belt for an operation or wonder if their child will have a teacher when the term resumes.

Those are the things I want to change. That I will work to change and I will ask the electorate to help by making me their next MSP.

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The Telegraph takes a pop at the Lib Dem Disco

Disco 2014One of the highlights of the forthcoming conference, the Lib Dem Disco, has been mocked by the Daily Telegraph. Is there a higher accolade?

In an article which includes Paul Walter’s video of the Gay Gordons, played by one DJ Cazzie Sparkle (who finished second to winner Alistair Carmichael), but without crediting him for it, it’s fair to say that the paper is less than impressed:

An attendee of last year’s event told The Telegraph: “The music was mostly cheesy pop. It was like a school disco. YMCA, Macarena, Cha cha slide, B*witched were all on the playlist.”

“Farron started his leadership bid early by playing slightly edgy 80’s songs. The dance floor was mostly filled by Liberal Youth members, while most of the normal members milled by the bar due to a £15 price tag. Somebody paid for my ticket so I watched the sights”

“The Lib Dem presidency battle was on at the time so candidates were trying to show their cool side on the dancefloor, but in reality they looked more like extras on Coronation Street”

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