Category Archives: News

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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As if Austin Rathe didn’t have enough to do…

Austin RatheAustin Rathe is, as many of you will know, the Head of Member and Supporter Development at Lib Dem HQ. He has presided over an increase in membership over the last couple of years and is the architect of the incentive scheme which makes it worth local parties’ while putting lots of effort into recruiting members.

He is someone who works almost every hour imaginable and is often to be seen responding to queries raised by members not just through the usual channels but on social media, too.

He’s a very busy person and you can’t really imagine him sitting still for more than 5 seconds. I did wonder, though, when I saw that he was planning to run the London Marathon this April whether we were working him hard enough. Or, alternatively, whether we were working him too hard if he thought that running 26 miles was something he’d do for a rest.

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In full: Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference – personal stories which show the good Liberal Democrats have done

This is Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie’s speech just delivered to the party’s Spring Conference in Aberdeen. It’s full of real, practical accounts of how the Liberal Democrats have improved people’s lives. 

George is a young man. He lives in the Borders.  George works hard but is not rich.  He earns £12,000 a year.

Before Liberal Democrats were in Government he used to pay over £1,100 income tax. But this year it will be cut to £200.

George is not alone.  Over 2 million Scots have had their income tax cut.

I believe fair tax is necessary for a fair society.

It makes work pay, so people can stand on their own two feet.

It is what liberals are for – giving everyone the opportunity to get on in the world.

Without Liberal Democrats in Government this would not be possible.

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Tim Farron’s UKIP opponent resigns, citing claims of “open racism” and “sanctimonious bullying” within the party

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Paddy Ashdown carves out a new career as a literary reviewer

He’s been a marine. He’s been an MP and party leader. He’s an election campaign chief and a successful author. Paddy Ashdown has now shown that he can be an effective literary critic. As you would expect, his comments are direct, no-nonsense and pithy – and required journalists and bloggers to put content warnings on their missives from Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference in Aberdeen.

From the Scotsman:

The former SNP leader’s book The Dream Shall Never Die recounts his experiences in last year’s independence referendum campaign.

The book was published yesterday, with Lord Ashdown telling the press he had been reading it on his way to the conference.

During a media briefing, Lord Ashdown said: “I was reading Mr Salmond’s biography on the way up. It’s not very good, is it?

“In my view, I think it is an extraordinary exercise in self-congratulation.”

He then went on to describe the book as “the longest exercise in literary masturbation since politics began”.

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In Full: Alistair Carmichael’s speech to Scottish Liberal Democrat conference: “Liberalism is needed more than ever”

Here is Alistair Carmichael’s speech to Scottish Conference in which he says the party will confound the doom-mongers and sets out why we can be proud in our records in Government. He paints a grim picture of life with the Tories governing alone and, after praising Willie Rennie, tells us  “Let’s go win.”

Good afternoon, Conference.

It is good to be back in Aberdeen.

Aberdeen is where I attended party conference of the Scottish Liberal Party for the first time here in 1983.

The party was very different then.   In fact it was a different party – liberals and social democrats were still in different parties.

The Scottish Liberal leader then was Russell Johnston.

The party Chair was Ross Finnie and the vice-chairs included a couple of young turks called Jim Wallace and Malcolm Bruce.

What ever became of them?

 

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Nick Clegg: Governing with Labour and the SNP would be a recipe for “insomnia and instability”

The Guardian is doing a series of interviews by Phoebe Greenwood with the leaders of the parties, in the run-up to the general election. This week, it is the turn of Nick Clegg. There is a sixteen minute video of the discussion, plus a couple of summary reports.

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Paul Strasburger stands down from Lib Dem Lords group pending investigation of fundraising allegations

Lord Strasburger has temporarily stood down from the Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords pending investigation into allegations to be made in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme which have been reported in the Telegraph. This involved another undercover operation involving a reporter posing as a businessman. Lord Strasburger has denied doing anything wrong.

From the BBC:

In a statement published by the Liberal Democrats, Lord Strasburger said: “Whatever Channel 4 may say in their Dispatches programme, I do not think I have committed any offence.

“Having said that, I believe that we should all be accountable for what we do,

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Nick Clegg and a dancing troupe in Gravesend filming of promotional video

It appears that the Liberal Democrats have turned parts of the centre of Gravesend into a film set. The News Shopper has the details:

The Lib Dems have been filming in Parrock Street car park for the last two nights, which confused residents who spotted a white, double decker bus and film crews.

They also filmed in the area around Windmill Street, Railway Place and Manor Road, where traffic management was in place both nights from 5pm.

A dancing troupe and the Lib Dem party leader are expected to be filmed today, as long as the smog does not interfere.

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Stephen Williams takes on 38 Degrees over “highly misleading campaign”

Just hearing the name 38 Degrees will, undoubtedly, make at least the candidates among LDV’s readership shudder. For the luckily unfamiliar, 38 Degrees is a campaigning group which mobilises individuals, primarily in an effort to bombard MPs and candidates with, often, hundreds of identical emails. Those of us involved in politics will have long heard the frustration of those on receiving end, who rightly complain that the campaigns are often only loosely based on facts, and selective ones at that, and often fit with Labour’s similar shaky narratives. The campaign against TTIP is probably the prime example.

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Independent: “Liberal Democrats do have a more balanced, pragmatic approach to the task”

This morning’s leader article in the Independent praises yesterday’s Liberal Democrat alternative budget and concludes that “five years in government have clearly matured the Lib Dems”:

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Danny set outs alternative Lib Dem budget

In a constitutional innovation, from the House of Commons dispatch box, Danny Alexander has today set out the Liberal Democrats’ alternative fiscal plans, as the Guardian reports:

Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, has taken the unprecedented step of standing at the Commons dispatch box to set out an alternative fiscal plan to George Osborne’s budget.

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Danny turns the tables on Balls on TV economy debates

On Sunday’s Andrew Marr show, Ed Balls caught the chancellor off guard when he all but forced him (in one of recent television history’s most awkward moments) to shake on an agreement to hold a television debate.

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Twelve major improvements announced in the budget

There are twelve significant improvements announced in today’s budget:

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Victory for Lib Dems with announcement of world’s first tidal lagoon

The Chancellor has just announced that he will be opening formal negotiations which could lead to an investment of £1 billion in a world-first scheme to extract energy from tidal power.

Ed Davey has been working on this project for several years, so it is a great victory for Liberal Democrats in government, on the back of our other achievements on renewable energy. The UK is already the world leader on offshore wind, thanks to the Lib Dems.

The first tidal lagoon will be planned for Swansea Bay, as predicted in the Guardian this morning.

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Budget open thread

 

We will not be live blogging the Budget as there are plenty of other sources of live information. But readers are very welcome to add their own reflections in the comments section below.

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LibLink … Ed Davey: Britain must signal the beginning of the end for coal investment

Ed Davey Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterEd Davey writes in the Guardian:

For over 200 years, modern civilisation has been built on fossil fuels; now climate science says we must phase out fossil fuel pollution in just a few decades. That’s a colossal challenge – especially if we are to keep anything resembling current lifestyles while also ending the poverty that blights the lives of more than 1 billion fellow human beings.

We are already seeing a significant shift in thinking. The Rockefeller Foundation is divesting from coal and tar sands. Oxford University is considering similar action. And the Bank of England is analysing the impact on financial systems of fossil fuel investments becoming “stranded assets” – in other words worthless – if the world gets its act together on climate change.

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Debate likely to be the political Celebrity Squares option

seven candidates

US Republican Presidential nomination primary debate 2012
Don’t hold your breath at this stage, but it looks entirely conceivable that we have possibly got a robust plan for a seven-way leaders debate during the general election campaign. It could well be on April 2nd, although Labour have yet to agree.

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In praise of Eric Pickles

We bet you never thought you’d see that title on Liberal Democrat Voice, eh?

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Our Don says farewell to conference with a song

Don Foster - Some rights reserved by Department for Communities and Local GovernmentWhen I first started going to Lib Dem conferences, we had fewer MPs than we have now. So, those MPs that we had were run ragged charging from fringe meeting to fringe meeting to speech to TV interview, as they were rather thin on the ground. It always seemed to be our Don Foster who was really doing loads of stuff. I did wonder how he kept going.

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Confessions of an FCC virgin

 

Liverpool was my first conference as a member of the Federal Conference Committee (FCC), having been elected at the end of last year. The experience confirmed my impression that Liberal Democrats do conference really rather well.

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Kate Parminter to join post-election negotiating team

Kate ParminterAbout  a year ago, Nick Clegg announced that the members of the post-election negotiating team would be Danny Alexander, Steve Webb, Sal Brinton, Lynne Featherstone and David Laws.

As Party President, Sal will be closely involved in any post-election moves so it is appropriate that she should be replaced on the negotiating team itself.

According to Michael Crick, Channel 4’s political correspondent:

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Online democracy tools that inform the general election debate

Last week I drew your attention to YourNextMP, a crowdsourced website run by Democracy Club. But they are not the only non-profit organisation providing useful open data information to support democracy, either by data scraping government sites or through crowdsourcing.

MySociety started it all many years ago, with the now redundant FaxYourMP. This was eventually replaced by WriteToThem, where visitors could find out the names of their elected representatives (including councillors) and send them a message without having to search other sites for their contact details.  FixMyStreet is another simple but powerful site which allows people to report problems to their local council.

theyworkforyouBut the best known MySociety project is TheyWorkForYou, which is still the yardstick by which many of us judge civic websites. It takes data from Hansard and other parliamentary/ assembly resources and repackages it to make it immediately accessible to any of us.  Enter your postcode to discover your MP’s voting record, recent speeches, attendances on committees, register of interests. It also covers members of the House of Lords, and the Queen.

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