Category Archives: News

Tim Farron’s message for World Aids Day 2015

Courtesy of the National AIDS Trust

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Tim Farron writes… continuing the fight against the affordable homes flog off


I made it clear over the summer and in my conference speech that housing and homelessness would be a top priority for me as leader. I said we would oppose the Right to Buy extension to Housing Associations and fight the Government tooth and nail in the Lords.

The fight is now well underway. I have been speaking in Parliament and will continue to lead our campaign in the House of Commons. After Christmas the legislation will be debated in the Lords, where our Lib Dem team will aim to cause the Government serious problems – which they have shown us in the last few weeks that they can do!

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Willie Rennie’s message for St Andrew’s Day – a plea to help refugees

Saltire and Forth BridgeToday is St Andrew’s Day. Here is Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie’s message to the people of Scotland:

Our Patron Saint was born in the village of Bethsaida, a short distance from the troubles in today’s Syria.  As we celebrate St Andrew’s day this year, millions of people across Syria and the Middle East need our help.

Last week I visited an Edinburgh charity which has been collecting clothes for refugees who have made the perilous journey from Syria to Europe.

In many respects they embody the values that St Andrew taught. Tolerance. Generosity. Openness. We need Scotland’s two governments to follow their example.

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Farron: UK Government must push for better LGBT rights in the Commonwealth

Speaking to the Independent, Tim Farron has said that he’s disappointed that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference is not discussing the issue of LGBT rights.

But Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat leader, said last night that the issue should have received greater prominence in Malta. He said: “Sadly, a majority of Commonwealth nations criminalise LGBT people, and in some places homosexuality still faces the death penalty.

The Government should have used the meeting in Malta to press commonwealth countries to live up to our collective values. We must be a beacon of human rights, tolerance and the defence of minorities. The British government must use our strong position to press the case for better LGBT rights in other Commonwealth nations.

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Oldham hustings quiz

A bit of Sunday morning fun. Here are some quotes from a hustings in Oldham West and Royton. See if you can match them up to the candidates taking part who are:

John Bickley (UKIP)

Jane Brophy (Liberal Democrats)

James Daley (Conservative)

Simeon Hart (Green)

Jim McMahon (Labour)

Such a pity that Lord Oink-a-lot, the Monster Raving Loony Party couldn’t make it. He evokes memories of that delicious night in the Liberal Democrat Conference bar when that story about David Cameron rippled its way round. Groups of people convulsed with laughter as the news made its merry way round.

But back to serious business. Here are the series of quotes. Your job is to match them up with the candidates. Which one would you want as your MP based just on the following?

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Making the right decision on Syria

In some ways, the decision on whether to back the Government’s proposals to bomb Syria is one of the hardest the party has ever had to take. I’ll be honest, I don’t think that the case has been properly made in either long term strategy for Syria or in protecting the innocent civilians, many of whom are women and children. That is not to say that I can’t be persuaded. This is no Iraq where for months beforehand I just instinctively felt that it was the wrong thing to do. It’s a very complex set of circumstances and it’s very much a case of making a judgement call on the least worst option.

This piece is not about the rights and wrongs of the situation, though. It’s how we reach our position and how we conduct ourselves before, during and after. There have been things that have impressed me in the past few days, and things that have set off a few alarm bells. Tim Farron has not, I think, put a foot wrong. His reasoned approach with his five tests give credibility and authority and, unlike any other party, has given the government serious questions to answer. He has also been seriously engaging with people on Twitter and offline too.

From what I can see, the Liberal Democrat members seem to be pretty evenly split on whether to support airstrikes. There are sincerely held and well-argued points of view on both sides. So how do we get to a decision we can all live with? There are a couple of things that I think would help and a few things creeping in occasionally that certainly don’t. 

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Nick Clegg on Jane Brophy and the #libdemfightback

On Thursday alone, 5 of the Lib Dems’ 8 MPs were in Oldham. Tim Farron had been there on Monday and Sal Brinton is there today. You never know who you might meet if you go there this weekend.

Nick spoke to the Oldham Evening Chronicle, saying he thought Jane was fantastic and talking about the #libdemfightback

As a party that took a real knock in the General Election this by-election gives us the opportunity to get out and speak to people again, explain who we are.

I think Jane’s getting a really positive response on the doorstep and I am very confident that she is going to do a lot better than we did in the General Election.

We have got to rebuild like any party, like any individual that takes a hard knock. You have got to lick your wounds a bit but move on and dust yourself down.

The party’s finding its zeal and fighting spirit again. In a constituency like this where we haven’t traditionally been competing at Westminster level we still have scores and scores of activists coming into our HQ and knocking on people’s doors.

It shows that, as much as our opponents might suggest that the Liberal Democrats have been put out of action, we’re mounting a fight back. We’ve had a massive influx of new members.

He also commented on the Autumn Statement and in particular the Chancellor’s u-turn on tax credits:

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Farron on HIGNFY: Live blog

Tim Farron on HIGNFY It’s almost 9pm and time for this week’s hotly awaited Have I got News for You. Have you got your popcorn and glass of wine ready? We’re about to be off…

So Tim’s on Paul’s team..

If you are only just seeing this now and haven’t watched the programme, you can do so here on iPlayer.

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Tim Farron on Have I Got News for You: 9pm tonight, BBC1

And it looks like it’s going to be a good one. Laurabee was in the audience and this is what she had to say on Twitter:

And there’s more:

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What’s wrong with the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement?

There are three huge defects in the Chancellor’s autumn statement

1 Technical

The Chancellor fundamentally believes that the government budget can and should be balanced, or even run in surplus. This basic accounting assumption drives his whole thinking. But facts prove him, and the traditional thinking of the whole financial establishment, wrong on this. He has been unable to eliminate the deficit. He will not be able to eliminate it. In modern high technology, high productivity economies, deficit is inevitable, and manageable.

There’s a huge problem in thinking here. The Chancellor approaches economic policy like an accountant, rather than as an economist. Books should balance. He talks about what we can afford, purely in financial terms. But it’s not money which gives value to the real economy, but rather it’s real economic activity which gives money its value. Economic activity creates financial value, and not the other way round. What we can afford has to be measured in real resources of people, skills, natural resources, technology and capital assets. A thought experiment demonstrates this. If it were possible to plug a machine into the earth to produce the whole GDP without labour and therefore without wages, then the money vouchers the government would have to allocate would all be a total financial deficit each year. Money does not have to be backed either by gold, or by the sale of government bonds, but only by output GDP. Deficits are here to stay. Facts support this hypothesis.

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Climate change dangers show why Liberal Democrats are needed in government

Next week the fate of the world is going to be decided. That is a statement that we have rarely, if ever, been able to say with any certainty. But the consequences of another year, five years or decade without a global climate change agreement in the form of a legally binding treaty on all major global polluters could see the progress of degradation accelerate to a point where any further action would be mostly damage control. That is the solemn mandate of the Paris Cop21 Climate Conference, co-operate or face consequences, consequences that will be more tangible than ever before.

As global temperature rise being successfully held at 2 degrees Celsius looks more and more improbable, and unprecedented ice-cap melt (like that of Greenland in 2012) continues to stun Arctic communities and swell the global oceans, the level of climate disruption is now undeniably enormous. Even the kind of serious concerted action we all hope for in Paris will not be enough for those who are already set to face the horrors of the degree of environmental disruption we have now made inevitable. The most striking case of all? The chain of Pacific islands that form the state of Kiribati. Climate scientists have suggested that by 2100, or even earlier, rising sea levels will result in the full submersion of the islands.

This will be a decisive moment in human history. At this point our human capacity for destruction will have been fully realised, we will have effectively destroyed an entire nation. Global leaders in Paris who think that at their feet is placed an impossible and sobering task should be reminded of just how sobering a task lies at the feet of Anote Tong, Kiribati’s President, who every year must plan for the future awaiting a people who will lose the very land they call home to the sea, on account of our actions.

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Sheila Thomson elected Convener of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

Sheila Thomson has been elected Convener of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. She beat Perth Councillor Willie Wilson and gained a spooky 666 votes.

Sheila has been Conference Convener for the past 3 years and was previously a Councillor in Aberdeenshire.

In the other Scottish internal elections, the following were elected:


Alan Reid

Allan Heron

Christine Jardine

David Green

Dawud Islam

Emma Farthing-Sykes

Galen Milne

Graham Garvie

Jacquie Bell

James Harrison

Jenny Marr

Paul McGarry

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Farron welcomes gay blood ban review

Tim Farron has welcomed a review in the rules for blood donation which currently stop gay men from giving blood within a year of being sexually active.

He said:

I very much welcome the review of what I believe are the discriminatory rules on blood donation in the UK. In 2015 I cannot see why we can’t support an evidence based approach.

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Join drive for new kindertransport to save refugee children from Syria

Tim Farron has written a moving, compassionate and persuasive article for Jewish News in which he calls for an initiative to help bring Syrian refugee children to safety in the same way as Jewish children under threat from the Nazis were brought to Britain in the 1930s.

In 2014, of the 13,000 unaccompanied children who were registered in Italy alone, 4,000 of them went missing. Refugee and migrant children in these circumstances are incredibly vulnerable, and there is a real risk that these missing children were subject to trafficking, forced labour and exploitation. Europe cannot continue to let this happen. If the UK government will step up and accept just 3,000 of these children, who have been processed by UNHCR and have been confirmed as having no identifiable family, then we can go on to press the rest of Europe, and indeed the world’s, governments to do the same.

Every politician in this country is agreed the Kindertransport, which brought over unaccompanied Jewish children from Germany in 1938, was the right thing to do. Now we need a new Kindertransport to save another group of vulnerable children, and send a clear signal of the renewal of the British values of which we are so proud.

He started off by wondering what it would take for him to leave his life and all he knows to seek refuge in a strange place:

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Tim Farron questions Cameron on Syria

Here’s the exchange between Tim Farron and David Cameron from today’s debate on Syria. Tim asked about safe havens to protect the innocent civilians who are trapped there and about the role of other countries in the region in helping the forces on the ground. It was a civilised exchange. The Prime Minister was on his best behaviour today.

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement and for early sight of it. There are understandable knee-jerk reactions on both sides to the horror of Paris and of Beirut. There will be those who say, “Intervene”; those who say, “Intervene at all costs”; and also those who say, “Do not intervene no matter what the evidence points to.” The Prime Minister knows that the Liberal Democrats have set out five criteria against which we can judge this statement. On that basis, may I press him on two particular points? The Prime Minister recognises that air strikes alone will not defeat ISIL. He has already heard that he will need to give much more evidence to this House to convince it that the ground operations that are there are sufficient and have the capability and the credibility to deliver on the ground, which is what he knows needs to be delivered. What role will Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the other Gulf states play in delivering this victory, if that is the direction in which we choose to go as a country and as a House? There is also a reference to humanitarian aid in this statement. He will know that no amount of aid can help an innocent family dodge a bomb. There is no reference in this statement to establishing no-bomb zones or safe havens to protect innocent civilians if this action takes place. Will he answer that question?

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Susan Kramer responds to the Autumn Statement in the Lords

New Liberal Democrat economy spokesperson responded to the Autumn Statement in the Lords yesterday. Here’s her speech in full.

It is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, but I confess that he disappointed me today. He did not throw anything, so we have missed out on the drama of the other place. I was also somewhat disappointed in the Budget. It is less generous than it appears on first viewing: we still have a £12 billion cut in welfare. If I understand it correctly, that will now happen as people transfer into universal credit. I am sure that the Minister will advise noble Lords about that—it would be good to understand how it will work. Of course, I am absolutely delighted that the Chancellor reversed his plans to cut tax credits for poor working people. I think, with some interest, that had the Chancellor been a Member of this House a couple of weeks ago, when the relevant statutory instrument was debated, he would have supported neither the Conservative nor the Labour Motion, but the Liberal Democrat fatal Motion.

We are also pleased with the up fronting of money for the NHS in this Budget, especially the investment in mental health. That is welcome, but can the Minister confirm whether that £600 million is new money for mental health and does not contain any former promise within it? We are supportive of stamp duty on buy to let and very supportive of the increased spending on infrastructure. We note that the Chancellor partially explained that that was because borrowing is now cheap. That is what we have been saying for weeks, so we are very glad that he has listened to that argument.

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Kirsty Williams’ bill to ensure safe staffing levels for nurses takes a step closer to becoming law

Kirsty Williams’ bill to ensure that nursing levels in Welsh hospitals are put on a  safer, statutory footing has passed another parliamentary hurdle, as Wales Online reports:

A proposed law to introduce a legal minimum staffing level for nurses has overcome another hurdle after Assembly committee members passed amendments to the Bill.

The Nurse Staffing Levels (Wales) Bill, proposed by Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams, would see an independent assessment for appropriate staffing levels in Welsh hospitals.

The proposal would see Wales become the first country in the UK with a legal duty on safe nurse staffing levels.

The Assembly’s Health and Social Services Committee voted to support Phase 2 of the Bill which will now move to Phase 3.

The Bill has the backing of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales.

The Minister insisted on the removal of the word “safe” from the title of the Bill, which has disappointed Kirsty, but she is pleased that it has passed another stage:

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Your thoughts on Osborne’s Autumn Statement


Before George Osborne steps up to the dispatch box today we already know which Government departments will be protected from the cuts and which will have to take the brunt. The Tories have pledged to protect the NHS, education, defence, pensions and foreign aid, so that leaves vulnerable the police, local government (and just think of the huge number of services they provide), social care, further education (apparently not considered ‘real’ education), renewable energy and, of course, welfare.

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Farron’s five tests to secure Lib Dem support for UK action in Syria

Falling on David Cameron’s desk this afternoon is a letter signed by all current and living former leaders of the Liberal Democrats in which they outline the five key tests the Government must pass in order to secure the party’s support for airstrkes in Syria.

Here is the letter in full:

In advance of your statement outlining your plan for military intervention against ISIL in Syria, we are writing to outline the criteria against which we will judge our response to your proposals.

As you will know our party has maintained a consistent position that airstrikes alone will not defeat ISIL in Syria. Deployment of lethal force should never be used simply as a gesture. It has to have effect, and to have effect it has to be part of a wider strategy, especially on the diplomatic front.

We are encouraged by the fact that the Government has at last decided to explain the details of that strategy and look forward to hearing what this is.

The five conditions below give the UK the best chance at having an effective strategy to counter ISIL and make serious progress in ending the Syrian civil war. We call on you to embed them into your plans before they are brought to the House of Commons on Thursday.

These conditions are:

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We must reclaim our Social Democrat heritage

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party brings back memories. Of when a Labour activist grabbed me by the throat, and a Trotskyist threatened to break my arm.

Few Labour members in the 1980s were violent, and nor are the vast majority of Corbyn supporters. But I have no doubt that the same intolerance and intimidation that I experienced at university is being felt by moderate Labour members today.

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“It’s time to break the silence surrounding male suicide”

Norman Lamb and his son Archie opened up on ITV News about Archie’s depression and thoughts of suicide. In a very moving interview with Mark Austin they say what it is like to live with mental illness.

Archie explains:

It just takes over your head. You can’t think of anything else. When you get into depression you cannot think of anything else apart from the gloom of how you are thinking. In my toughest moments you don’t feel like there’s any escape. … I’ve had those thoughts ever since I can remember. They’re not very nice thoughts to have, obviously. It’s really, really horrible and you feel embarrassed to talk about them. At the time I wouldn’t have spoken to my parents about it, or my friends because it is embarrassing.

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Farron on Defence Review: We need more flexible forces and better co-ordination with Europe

Tim Farron has been commenting on the Strategic Defence Review. He said:

Only this government could create a ‘rapid reaction force’ and will take 10 years to react.

The Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) has some good points, especially the new maritime patrol boats and extra frigates.

The world is more dangerous and uncertain since the last SDSR and that is why we need more flexible forces and greater coordination with allies in Europe. For all the Prime Minister’s bluster, that piece of the jigsaw is sadly missing.

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Farron: I don’t want British weapons used for human rights abuses

The Guardian reports a Liberal Democrat call for stricter controls on arms exports so that weapons could not be sold to regimes which have poor human rights records:

The Lib Dems tightened the already strict criteria while in government, delivering on a manifesto commitment to secure the first international arms trade treaty, limiting the sale of weapons to dangerous regimes. More than 150 licences granted by the Labour government were revoked as an immediate reaction tot he Arab Spring.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, said: “Human rights should not be pushed aside in a headlong rush to profit. We currently sell weapons to a series of regimes that have terrible human rights records. I do not want British weapons or equipment being used to commit human rights abuses.

“We do have a strong regime of safeguards, some of the strongest in the world, but they can be strengthened.

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English Party election results and good news on the Membership Incentive Scheme

There was good news for local parties from yesterday’s English Council meeting .The proposals we told you about to retain the Membership Incentive Scheme were passed. This means:

  • Net growth of between 1 and 10 members will qualify local parties to receive 18% of all their membership subscription fees paid during that quarter. 
  • Net growth of more than 10 members will qualify local parties to receive 33% of all their membership subscription fees paid during that quarter.  

The following results of the English Party elections were announced.

Chair of English Party

Steve Jarvis

Chair of English Candidates Committee

Richard Brett

English Council Executive

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A message from Oldham from the Lib Dems there this weekend

imageThe Oldham West and Royton by-election HQ has been busy this weekend as Liberal Democrats head there from all over the country are heading there. Rather than snuggling up on the sofa with a good book and Majorsrise on Twitter (which is really getting exciting at the moment, possibly even more so than when I lived through it), they’ve headed out into the freezing cold to help the old #libdemfightback. Among those there today are our own Paul Walter who went up all the way from Newbury.

But why are they going? This video tells you.

I am so utterly soft that when I watched it, I had a wee tear in my eye.

IF you are wondering what to do with yourself tomorrow, why not head over there? They do seem to be having a great time.

Here’s all the info you need on how to get there:

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Tim Farron responds to UN resolution

Tim Farron has commented on the passing of the UN Resolution 2249, which had the UN Security Council recognise that

Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security,

Tim said:

I warmly welcome United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249. The fact that Russia did not use its veto is an important first step towards creating the broad coalition that the Liberal Democrats have been calling for as the only effective context for considering proposals for military action.

The UK should now use all its diplomatic skills to support the efforts being made in Vienna to assemble an anti-ISIL coalition including Russia, Turkey, Iran and other key states in the region.

At the same time, the Prime Minister must address the questions raised in the Foreign Affairs Committee Report when he presents to parliament the long-term strategy for any military action in Syria. That must include the planning for post-ISIL Syria, which has so far been absent amid the calls for UK planes to be engaged in strikes.

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Lord Bruce of Bennachie of Torphins in the County of Aberdeen takes his seat in the House of Lords

Malcolm & Rosemary Bruce
Malcolm Bruce took his seat in the Lords this week. He was resplendent in the traditional robes.

There was a bit of a negotiation over his title, as the Press and Journal reports:

Lord Bruce previously told The Press and Journal he opted to include the famous Aberdeenshire landmark in his name because it is visible from everywhere in his old constituency.

It was initially rejected on the grounds the hill is not a “habitation”, but a lengthier form – Baron Bruce of Bennachie of Torphins in the County of Aberdeen – was later accepted.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: This is no time for division. It’s what the extremists want

The appropriate response to events in Paris is the subject of Nick Clegg’s Standard column this week.

With ominous predictability, populists from Nigel Farage to Marine Le Pen are already using the attacks to pursue their long-held ambitions — to turn countries inwards and away from each other.

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Listen to Paddy in conversation with Andrew Rawnsley

If you’re heading to Oldham, or elsewhere out on the campaign trail, you might want to download this wee gem from the Guardian. Just imagine being out in the cold with a bundle of leaflets with Paddy’s ruminations on life, the universe, and everything helping you on your way.

It’s perfect delivery round length, at around one and a half hours’ long.

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Tim Farron to go on Have I Got News for You

Way back in June, Tim Farron said, in his Commons tribute to Charles Kennedy:

Charles was successful because he was himself. If any hon. Member is ever invited on to “Have I Got News For You”, my advice is, “Say no, unless you want to be made out to be a prat or unless you are Charles Kennedy.”

But a quick glance down his Twitter feed reveals that he’s going on the show himself, “in a couple of weeks.”

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarHuw Dawson 1st Dec - 12:40pm
    I will be very proud of our MPs if we vote no to the Syria bombing. Our suite of questions is entirely fair, and this...
  • User AvatarNick Coates 1st Dec - 12:40pm
    I agree
  • User AvatarJoe Otten 1st Dec - 12:32pm
    The 'recruiting sargeant' argument was strong for Iraq 2, but I think it is much weaker today. Iraq didn't have WMDs. The Taliban training camp...
  • User Avatarpetermartin2001 1st Dec - 12:29pm
    Geoff, Is there any academic backing for this idea of "debt-free money"? It makes much more sense (at least to me) to consider that all...
  • User AvatarGlenn 1st Dec - 12:04pm
    Manfrang. might I suggest the Pan Arab movement was mostly aligned with Russia and thirty years ago we and America were not destabilising states in...
  • User AvatarSadie Smith 1st Dec - 12:00pm
    I,too hope there is a vote against. I am sure it is more complex than Cameron believes. I had hoped for a bit more time...