Category Archives: News

Call Clegg goes on the road as Nick Clegg launches the Liberal Democrat election campaign

A big day today as Nick Clegg heads to Oxford West and Abingdon to officially launch the Liberal Democrat campaign. As ever there will be a bus to ferry the leader and his team around the country but it will have two particularly interesting features. First of all, it’ll have the tech to enable Nick to do Call Clegg style shows and radio interviews while he travels. Nick has always been the most accessible party leader, doing regular town hall meetings, but this will take it to a new level.

The other feature of the bus is that its livery has been designed by two graphic design students with panels to represent our main priorities.

It’s significant that the launch is taking place in a seat that we hope to gain, sending out the clear message that advancement is on the agenda, even when so many have written us off even more than they usually do.

Ahead of the launch, Nick said some things which should by now be quite tedious to Liberal Democrats but we need to remember that we are not the target audience.

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Wow, Labour really are pandering to UKIP, aren’t they?

Didn’t they once used to be the party that talked about international solidarity amongst workers? Didn’t they once used to at least say they stood for decent, liberal, progressive values?

Those days are gone. Look what you can buy in their shop for £5. 

Labour immigration mug

It’s one of their key pledges in this election. The way to deal with UKIP’s rise is to challenge them with evidence, not pander to them.

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“Charm machine” Paddy Ashdown in Bristol to mark million door landmark

By the end of this weekend, the Liberal Democrats will have knocked on one million doors this year. That’s pretty incredible. Paddy Ashdown has been in Bath today to campaign for Steve Bradley and mark that important milestone.

Liberal Youth members have been out in force too. Bristol students called our election chief a “charm machine” which is a whole load more respectful than he got in Scotland last weekend when Willie Rennie dubbed him Father Jack after his sweary outbursts in press briefings.

Paddy has written to all Liberal Democrat candidates as the short campaign kicks off. This is the Scottish version of his letter:

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The Liberal Democrats who stood up for John Bercow

I asked the other day why on earth the Liberal Democrats had indulged the Tories’ last minute motion on the re-election of the Speaker which brought this Parliament to a rather undignified end.

We still haven’t had any real justification as to why we allowed this to take that leap from William Hague’s head to Commons Order paper, but I thought that you would be interested to read the Liberal Democrat interventions in the debate, both of which were against the motion.

David Heath’s remarks were very brief but to the point:

Further to the point of order, Mr Speaker. There is, of course, another way. The Leader of the House could withdraw the motion— I have to say that although I would always support a secret ballot, I very much dislike the way in which this matter has been brought before the House today.

For Duncan Hames, it was all about the potential consequences of such a rule change and how that would affect the balance of power between Speaker, House and the Executive:

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LibLink: Catherine Bearder MEP et al: Liberalism in Europe is facing its biggest fight

Three current and one (sadly) former liberal MEPs have written for the European Parliament’s Magazine following a Liberal International meeting in Oxford. They argued that liberals must stand together against the far-right and the politics of fear.

Catherine Bearder, Dutch MEP Hans van Baalen, our Graham Watson and Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikström show how liberals see the world:

As liberals, we will be standing together against the racists, the xenophobes and those who believe Europe needs to return to its fragmented past.

Liberals are naturally internationalist; it is in our DNA. We view the world as a global stage, not one subdivided by borders. We see friendly cooperation with our neighbours as the very key to unlocking a more secure, sustainable, prosperous and market-oriented future for Europe and the rest of the world.

We need to spread the message that liberalism is a home for people who don’t seek to brand migrants as ‘other’, for people who believe a Europe without the EU would be weaker and for people who see a reversion to separatism as the very worst outcome.

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Alex Salmond postpones US book tour as Christine Jardine’s campaign goes from strength to strength

Salmond New YorkThe Herald reports that Alex Salmond has postponed a trip to the US to promote his book which had, incredibly, been due to take place in just 10 days’ time, after the start of the general election campaign.

His publishers pencilled in signings in New York and Toronto for the week after next, during the annual Scotland Week festivities.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford was also lined up to appear at a hustings in Gordon, where Mr Salmond is the SNP candidate, during his absence.

Jean Marie Kelly of HarperCollins in New York said yesterday: “Unfortunately, we only have him in Toronto for one day and in New York for one day so a very whirlwind trip.

“We are just firming the exact dates and times, but all indications are the week of April 6.”

However after press enquiries to the SNP, Mr Salmond’s plans melted away.

His rival candidates in Gordon said a transatlantic tour mid-election would have demonstrated an ego “spiralling out of control”.

What’s interesting is that there seems to be some new law of the universe that requires every mention of Salmond’s book to be accompanied by Paddy Ashdown’s memorable review of it. The Liberal Democrat election chair said that the book was:

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Cute seals for Earth Hour Day – and some serious points about Liberal Democrat policy

On the day Earth Hour takes place, the Liberal Democrats have released a video with Nick Clegg and Julia Goldsworthy at a Cornish seal sanctuary. They highlight the nature bill that’s part of our 5 green laws in the manifesto. I know this is childish but every time I see that headline, I think of a cartoon David Laws, greened up like Elphaba in Wicked. The party’s video communications are really good at the moment. Enjoy this one.

Our plans for a Nature Bill include removing exemptions from all plastic bag charges to safeguard our environment and protect wildlife.

Posted by Liberal Democrats on Saturday, 28 March 2015

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LibLink: Willie Rennie MSP: Liberal Democrats nail their green credentials to the mast

It’s WWF’s annual Earth Hour tonight, between 8:30 and 9:30. Many of us will be turning our lights off to show that the planet and its environment is a priority and to show that we want our government to take it seriously. I noticed that this year it clashes with Channel 4’s docudrama thingy about the Coalition. When I moaned about it on Twitter, people reminded me about Channel 4 + 1.

WWF Scotland have asked the country’s political leaders to contribute a blog post to explain what Earth Hour means for them. Willie Rennie’s is here. He starts off by saying why Earth Hour matters:

 In our busy day-to-day lives this huge event forces us to stop and think about the future. Raising awareness of the climate challenge we face. Setting out concrete actions we can take to protect our environment. Ensuring that our children live in a fairer, greener society.

The Liberal Democrats are the only party to have nailed their green credentials to the mast, and set out how our radical agenda will be delivered in a way that is both credible and affordable.

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David Heath’s final speech in the House of Commons

David Heath
On Thursday a valedictory debate for retiring members took place in the House of Commons. Members whose service totalled several hundred years bade farewell to the Commons. Three of them were Liberal Democrats and we’ll be publishing their speeches in full. Today we have David Heath, MP for Somerton and Frome for 18 years. You can read the whole debate, with speeches from long-standing and distinguished MPs such as Gordon Brown, Joan Ruddock, Sir George Young and Elfyn Llwyd, here.

 

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Today’s headlines show just how much work is still to do on mental health stigma

All of us have been moved by the Germanwings plane crash, feeling for those who have lost loved ones or colleagues. The circumstances of the crash, caused by what seems to be a deliberate act by the co-pilot, has provoked much comment in the press, much of it deeply irresponsible. Headlines have screamed about Andreas Lubitz’s mental health demanding to know why he was allowed to fly.

Lurid headlines, written by sub-editors who clearly have no clue about mental health, do not help to either tackle the stigma faced by people with mental ill health or encourage those who suffer to seek help. The more open we can be about mental health, the more we understand. That leads to a more comfortable and sympathetic world for those who are suffering.

It’s worth reading this statement from Mind, which acts the media to report the issue responsibly:

The terrible loss of life in the Germanwings plane crash is tragic, and we send our deepest sympathies to the families. Whilst the full facts are still emerging, there has been widespread media reporting speculating about the link with the pilot’s history of depression, which has been overly simplistic.

Clearly assessment of all pilots’ physical and mental health is entirely appropriate – but assumptions about risk shouldn’t be made across the board for people with depression, or any other illness. There will be pilots with experience of depression who have flown safely for decades, and assessments should be made on a case by case basis.

Today’s headlines risk adding to the stigma surrounding mental health problems, which millions of people experience each year, and we would encourage the media to report this issue responsibly.

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Sir Alan Beith’s final speech to the House of Commons

Alan Beith

Yesterday a valedictory debate for retiring members took place in the House of Commons. Members whose service totalled several hundred years bade farewell to the Commons. Three of them were Liberal Democrats and we’ll be publishing their speeches in full. Today we have Sir Alan Beith, elected in a by-election in 1973 and who faced two defences of his seat in the first year. You can read the whole debate, with speeches from long-standing and distinguished MPs such as Gordon Brown, Joan Ruddock, Sir George Young and Elfyn Llwyd, here.

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Baroness Liz Barker writes… International Office supports the next generation of female leaders from Mouvement Populaire party in Morocco

International officeLiberal Democrats do love a challenge. Not for us the easy life of safe seats and majority governments. Oh no, marginal and year round campaigning is the life for us.  So imagine that this is your task: to inspire women to stand for election to new regional councils, under an alternative list system, to be held in September, probably. The regulations for the new system  have yet to be finalised, but existing laws, under which all meetings of more than ten people have to be licenced and leaflets cannot be distributed without permission,  remain in force.

That is the task which Harakie Women, the women’s group within Mouvement Populaire, our sister party in Morocco, currently face.

Working with colleagues from VVD in the Netherlands and the FDP in Germany, the Liberal Democrat International Office has been supplying strategic and tactical support to the party’s potential candidates, coaching female candidates and providing them with the skills required to run an effective campaign.

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Sir Malcolm Bruce’s final speech in the House of Commons

Malcolm bruce glasgow 2014Today a valedictory debate for retiring members took place in the House of Commons. Members whose service totalled several hundred years bade farewell to the Commons. Three of them were Liberal Democrats and we’ll be publishing their speeches in full. First up is Sir Malcolm Bruce, MP for Gordon for the last 32 years. Today we have David Heath, MP for Somerton and Frome for 18 years. You can read the whole debate, with speeches from long-standing and distinguished MPs such as Gordon Brown, Joan Ruddock, Sir George Young and Elfyn Llwyd, here.

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One of the most important acts of this government?

Hidden away in the pages of last week’s budget details was a very significant measure, which has received precious little public attention. The Guardian reports:

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+++ Lib Dem PPC arrested on historic child sex abuse allegations +++

According to Mansfield and Ashfield Chad, Jason Zadrozny has been arrested today over historic child sex abuse claims. Jason is a Nottinghamshire county councillor and also serves on Ashfield District Council. He has today withdrawn as the Parliamentary candidate for Ashfield, and has been suspended from the party.

Jason says:

I am in full cooperation with the Police and vehemently refute the allegations.

Comments on this post will be moderated. 

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LDVideo: Jeremy Browne MP’s final Commons speech – politics must seize the opportunities of the future, not preserve the past

Taunton Deane MP Jeremy Browne, who announced last year that he would not be seeking re-election having served in the House of Commons for nearly 10 years, took the opportunity of the debate following last week’s budget to make what was his final speech in the House. He used it to praise the coalition’s “vision” in its determination to solve the country’s weaknesses and to pay tribute to his constituency. He also returned to the theme of his book, Race Plan, calling for a less timid, more ambitious politics in order to prevent the UK becoming ever more irrelevant on the world stage.

You can watch Jeremy’s speech below or on YouTube here, and the Hansard transcript follows.

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Everyone’s talking about Clegg’s Great Funk Up

I manage to pretend most of the time that I’m a young person, but last night I wondered if I was in fact approaching middle age when I saw this:

Was I becoming an old fuddy duddy or was this genuinely an acquired taste?

Well, it seemed that proper young people weren’t overly impressed either. One wrote on my Facebook that it had “broken my brain.” That was, I have to say, one of the kinder things I heard said about it. Others liked it though.

To be fair, if you compare it to the original Uptown Funk video, there are bits of it that are quite clever. Where it suffers is that it just doesn’t have a decent hook.

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LDV hosts debate on devolution – “Just do it”

Lib Dem Voice and the local government think tank Localis co-hosted a debate yesterday under the title ‘What should the Lib Dems offer on devolution in their manifesto?‘. I started by pointing out that our policies were not a secret and we had been discussing the manifesto for the last year or so, most recently in Liverpool. But the debate still threw up some interesting challenges.

Stephen Williams, the Communities Minister, argued strongly that the next government will have to devolve a range of powers to local government almost immediately after the election; not only do all the main parties advocate it but there is growing pressure to do so around the country, especially post Indyref. The UK devolves fewer powers away from central government than any other country in the EU.

The Lib Dem policy is for more substantial devolution on demand, and throughout the debate the Lib Dems emphasised that, rather than impose a unified system straightaway, it would be better to allow practice to emerge from the grassroots as areas became ready to take on more responsibilities, as has happened recently in Manchester. As a first step, Stephen would prefer to see a flatter structure, replacing two tier counties with unitaries, bringing power closer to the people.

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Clegg launches Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation

I think it’s fair to say that Nick Clegg may not exactly rock the tracksuit look, but he did do something very valuable today. In one of his last engagements as Deputy Prime Minister before the election campaign, he launched the Charter for Mental Health in Sport and Recreation aimed at kicking the mental health stigma out of sport. The video explains why:

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Opinion: Have a local party meeting after the election

We will all be very busy for the next few weeks, working hard to get Lib Dem MPs elected.

But once the votes are counted, the job of setting the country on the best direction will not over.  There is every chance no party will win a majority.

Thinking about this must not distract us from campaigning.   But it would be irresponsible to think that polling day is the end.  It is just the beginning.

The Federal Executive has agreed processes for how Liberal Democrats approach inter-party negotiations.

A negotiating team will operate on appointment by the Leader.  It will report to a small reference group drawn from FE, FPC members and MPs/peers. They will report to the full committees and all MPs/peers.  Any proposed decision to work with another party in government will go to a Special Conference.

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What Danny Alexander would say to his successor: “Jobs up, growth up, economy up, don’t screw it up”

We all remember the rather pathetic note that Labour’s last Chief Secretary to the Treasury left for his successor.

no money left

“I’m afraid there is no money left” he said. And he wasn’t a million miles from the truth.

Danny Alexander was asked yesterday at an event what he would put in a note to his successor. His reply was a little more, shall we say, motivating and inspiring, as the Vote Clegg, Get Clegg Facebook page reports:

At a meeting yesterday with Danny Alexander on the panel, he was asked what he would say in a note to his successor. Brilliant reply: “Jobs up, Growth up, Economy up, don’t screw it up”!

Posted by Vote Clegg, Get Clegg on Tuesday, 24 March 2015

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Nick Clegg’s last Deputy Prime Minster’s Questions of this Parliament brings a flurry of Labour own goals

On 22 June 2010 a new parliamentary phenomenon was born. The Deputy Prime Minister in a new-fangled coalition government got his own Commons question and answer session. It was Labour MP Jim Cunningham who asked the first question then on plans for the AV referendum.

Since then these monthly sessions have generally involved Labour lobbing whatever verbal grenades they can, ably assisted by certain Conservatives who were not, to put it mildly, fans of the coalition.

Today marked the last Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions of this Parliament and it was unique in leaving Nick actually lost for words. He has generally dealt with the abuse with his customary good humour and wit but today, Harriet Harman asked a question so daft that he could barely believe it.

In an interview last week the Deputy Prime Minister pronounced that

“the way in which politics works is bust”

and that “Westminster is a joke”. When he said that, was he referring to himself?

Nick treated that with the contempt it deserved:

I wonder what answer I should give to that. No, of course not.

He then made a bold prediction:

I think that the era of single-party government in this country is over. I know she does not like that idea and that the establishment parties—those Members sitting both behind me and in front of me—do not like it either, but I think it is over. This coalition Government have, in very difficult circumstances, presided over what is now the fastest growing economy in the developed world, with more people in work than ever before, and more women in work than ever before, after the absolute economic mess she bequeathed us. That is quite an achievement.

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Jo Swinson MP writes… I’m proud to say we’ve finally got the Tories on board with gender pay gap measures.

In the final days of this Government Lib Dems are still delivering our agenda against the odds, and against Conservative obstruction.

Under the coalition government the gender pay gap had fallen to its lowest level, at just under 20% – but this is still 19.1% too high. Despite our high levels of women’s employment the UK has the 8th highest gender pay gap in the EU.

Not only is the gender pay gap socially wrong in modern society, but economically it’s nonsensical not to reward our most talented female employees properly. We should value the contribution of women and men in the workplace equally, so our goal has to be eliminating the pay gap completely.

As a Business Minister and Minister for Women, I have worked very hard to persuade my Coalition colleagues of the virtues of tough action to tackle this long-term inequality. Their traditional resistance makes it all the more remarkable that Nick Clegg has, in the last few weeks of our term, secured a government amendment that guarantees all large businesses will have to publish the difference between average pay for their male and female staff. So today (Tuesday) I will proudly vote for our party’s manifesto commitment – for large companies to publish the difference in average pay between male and female employees – to become law.

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The Tories’ internet cartoon shows us why the ban on TV spot ads must remain.

In the last few days, the Tories have shown us a cartoon with the worst of TV campaign tactics about the SNP and Alec Salmond. I’m no fan of the SNP, and I’m a supporter of the Union.  However, this internet spot ad, at 45 seconds reveals a lot about the Tories campaign techniques.  It’s straight out of the USA Political Consultants handbook.

In 1992, whilst lecturing and researching Political Image making at the University of Marie-Curie Sklodowska in Poland, I came across the work of Laurence Rees, in his TV series “We have ways of making you think” and his accompanying book, “Selling Politics.”  Rees argued that modern political propaganda techniques were descended from the Nazi propaganda of Josef Goebbels in Germany. Goebbels had stated that “In order for propaganda to be effective, it had to be entertaining.” Entertaining, and involving the politics of fear.

Fast forward to the 1960s and 30 second TV spot advertising was being developed.  Lyndon Johnson’s Daisy Cutter ad began playing on such fear: The Democrat contender Dukakis was destroyed by the Willie Horton ad in 1988.   First hand, I saw how these attack ads formed the frontline of a Senate campaign, when volunteering for Senator John Kerry in Massachusetts against the Republican Governor William Weld, in 1996.  Both Democrats and Republicans poured millions of dollars into these ads.

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Archie Lamb talks to The Times about his struggles with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Norman Lamb’s son Archie has been talking to the Times about his experience of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Many people with this condition find it incredibly irritating when people casually joke about “being a bit OCD”. If you are one of them, perhaps you’ll stop after reading about what life is like for sufferers. This is not a condition to be belittled.

Archie talked about how the condition affects him:

“People think OCD is nothing, that it’s a bit of a joke. It is not just about being clean and washing your hands or lining up cans of Coke in the fridge. It’s not. It’s about terrible thoughts and what it does to you having them in your head all the time. It goes a lot deeper than rituals,” Archie says.

Archie’s rituals were about checking — that lights were switched off, that he had the right kit in his bag, keys, money, everything. Often accompanied with paranoia, they became so bad that at times he could not leave the house. On a simple walk down the road he would constantly check that he had not stepped in something.

Despite his illness, he left school and began to make his way in the music business, setting up a hip-hop night in a Norwich club, then moving on to managing performers. At the age of 21 he had a chart-topping hit on his hands when Tinchy Stryder went to No 1.

Sadly, his OCD was so bad that he had become a recluse. “I suddenly got spots on my face at that age and just could not go out of the house. Everyone was out partying because we had this No 1 hit and I didn’t even care. I just stayed in.”

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Good news on the Pupil Premium

The Independent reports:

Thinking outside the box can do wonders for disadvantaged pupils, according to evidence from schools about how they are using the Government’s pupil premium to improve performance.

In one case, the simple act of buying a pupil a football kit and providing soccer coaching, as his parents were unable to afford it, dramatically improved his performance, Schools minister David Laws told The Independent. “It got him taking part in lessons and attending again,” said the Liberal Democrat.

On Wednesday the Pupil Premium awards will highlight those schools who are making the most of the extra funding and targeting at the most disadvantaged children. You can see the finalists here. Last year the winner in the Secondary category was Millfield Science and Performing Arts College, where 2014 disadvantaged students actually out-performed their non-disadvantaged peers at GCSE.

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A model bobby and an extraordinary community tribute

west briton front pageVisiting Falmouth last weekend, I became aware of something extraordinary, the news of which I had missed earlier.

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Landmark report makes powerful case for Lords and party funding reform

The Oxford University Department of Economics have just published a discussion paper entitled “Is there a market for peerages? Can donations buy you a British peerage? A study in the link between party political funding and peerage nominations 2005-14“. The authors are Andrew Mell, Simon Radford and Seth Thévoz

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Holyrood magazine interview with Willie Rennie: “the Scottish Lib Dem leader, in stark contrast to his counterpart in London, seems near universally liked”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie gave an interview to Holyrood magazine ahead of the party’s conference in Aberdeen. The first few paragraphs told us that he was talkative, he smiled a lot and that he was “near universally liked.” We just wish that translated into poll ratings.

Alistair Carmichael described him as a “force of nature” on Friday and anyone who has seen the energy with which he campaigns from Shetland to Galloway will agree.

He doesn’t get everything right as his baffling response to the question about the difference Nicola Sturgeon brings to the role of First Minister shows, but he made  a solid defence of the party’s record in government and showcased the party’s USP – a strong commitment to civil liberties. There’s stuff in here that people across the UK will find useful.

The interview took place in the wake of the vote on the SNP’s plans for a super ID database. Willie had called for this measure to be done by primary legislation, not snuck in by committee, a clever move which secured the backing of Labour, Tories and Greens.

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In full: Malcolm Bruce’s speech to Scottish Liberal Democrat conference “Liberal Democrats offer the voice of reason, reform and responsibility – against the forces of division, despair and defeatism.”

Sir Malcolm Bruce photo by LIberal Democrats
As well as being Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party in the Commons, Malcolm Bruce is also the President of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. His traditional close of conference speech is usually a cracker and this was no exception. It had some blistering attacks, mainly on the SNP and Conservatives, some personal reflections on his 32 years as Gordon’s MPs and a passionate defence of the Liberal Democrat record in government and a strong statement of Liberal Democrat values of internationalism, openness and freedom. This is proper oratory. There are too few in the next generation across politics, Farron being one of them, who can deliver this real heart-tugging, stirring sort of speech. Here it is in full:

Just across the road from this conference centre you are in the Gordon constituency. Indeed about 30 per cent of Gordon voters live within 5 miles of here. If you haven’t taken an hour out from the conference to help the campaign there is still time to do so. If you have, thank you, but you can still do some more!

I have had the honour to represent the people of Gordon for the past 32 years. I want to tell you something about them and the area.

Things have changed enormously since 1983. There were no mobile phones, no emails, no laptop computers. The fanciest piece of kit I had was a golf ball memory typewriter. The House of Commons paid for one member of staff. The local party paid for a part time secretary in the constituency office which they provided rent free. So during my early years as an MP I and the local party subsidised my work.

In that first winter severe storms brought down power lines leaving thousands of people without power, in some cases for weeks. My office became an unofficial helpline and I worked with what was then the Hydro Board to help prioritise re connections – for vulnerable elderly people and young families and farmers facing the loss of livestock.

In the last 32 years the farming community have not had their troubles to seek. The biggest disaster was the BSE crisis which saw more than 1000 people laid off within a week, One young company lost 95 per cent of its business and all but one of its employees. By its own enterprise and some help from the Government it is now one of our most successful companies in the meat industry.

Years later the industry was hit by foot and mouth. The outbreak wasn’t here but the restrictions on movements of animals had severe effects. Then I was grateful for the wise advice of local vet Richard Brown and the sensible response of Ross Finnie.

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