Category Archives: News

Kelvin Mackenzie offers Stephen Tall £5000 to fulfil his pledge to run down Whitehall naked…

Remember that pledge of Stephen Tall’s that he’d run naked down Whitehall if we were down to 24 seats in the election? Well, he has been reminded about it every time he’s appeared on the Daily Politics since. Back on the programme yesterday, he was put in an awkward position when former Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie offered £5000 to charity for Stephen to do it. So long as the legal issues can be overcome, there doesn’t seem to be a way he can get out of it now. From the Telegraph:

Stephen Tall, co-editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, was asked on the BBC’s Daily Politics show why he had not yet delivered on his promise to run nude if his party lost half of its seats.

The Sun’s former editor Kelvin MacKenzie, who appeared on the same show, then offered Mr Tall £5,000 to complete the challenge.

Mr Tall and Mr MacKenzie shook hands on the promise that he would carry out the task in return for the money being donated to his chosen charity.

See the exchange on iPlayer here.

Stephen took to Twitter to repent in 140 characters.

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The ideas that built the Liberal Democrats

The ideas that built the Liberal DemocratsPolitics rest on beliefs. Political parties that operate without a philosophical framework stand for little more than personality and populism. But equally, beliefs must rest on thought – they must be continually defined, tested and debated rather than simply inherited unquestioningly.

That’s part of what the Federal Policy Committee’s Agenda 2020 process is all about; I’ve written about the various elements of that already on Lib Dem Voice.

But of course the party doesn’t start from scratch in this respect. The political ideology of the Liberal Democrats draws on the philosophies of two reformist traditions, liberalism and social democracy. Liberalism possesses an immensely rich history, stretching back over more than three hundred years. Social democracy is a label that has meant very different things over the last hundred years and more, but between them these traditions possess a distinctive approach to concepts such as freedom, equality and social justice.

As a concise guide to the key strands of political thought and ideas underlying Liberal Democrat beliefs, the Liberal Democrat History Group has published a new booklet, Liberalism: The ideas that Built the Liberal Democrats

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LibLink: Sir Nick Harvey: Only the Lib Dems can fill the void left by Labour

Former North Devon MP Nick Harvey writes for the Mirror that the Liberal Democrats have a great opportunity in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s election and sets out what we must do to take advantage of it:

Socially, we must fight unfair benefit cuts which hit the weakest and undermine the working poor.

We must expose the chicanery of a “living wage” which will barely match the existing “minimum wage” if inflated in line with past trends.

Economically, we campaign unequivocally for Britain’s membership of the world’s largest market, the European Union, and for global efforts to liberalise trade fairly.


Government’s apprentice plan to take money from NHS and councils

David Cameron has unveiled a plan to “boost apprenticeships and transform training”. No doubt it will have positive aspects, but – as so often – the cheery message hides some issues that should concern us.

Organisations are currently incentivised to take on apprentices with Government funding from BIS. For larger organisations in the public and private sector that is about to change. The funding will disappear completely and, instead, they will pay a tax called the “Apprenticeship Levy” to cover the costs.

This tax or levy will be hypothecated: companies will get first call on their own money and will be expected to spend it on the apprenticeship and training programmes where BIS previously covered much of the cost.

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Aliens? Migrants? Exiles? Refugees? Asylum seekers? People? Dreamers?

Immigration is perhaps the main debate area where terminology gets very confused. The Express and Mail get people very wound up about “immigrants”. But what are people exactly getting wound up about? Illegal immigrants? Asylum seekers? Legal immigrants? Or people who were born in the UK, and who perhaps have several generations of antecedents who were born here, but just look different to themselves? We have to be very precise about terms or we get into a very emotionally-charged muddle.

In an LDV article entitled “Don’t talk to me about migrants” Caron noted on here last month that words matter in the reporting and discussion of the refugee crisis. I’ve read some correspondence between a complainant and the BBC from last month (and I’m sorry I can’t find it at the moment) where the BBC were adamantly sticking to the word “migrant” to describe the current movement of people across borders.

So, I couldn’t believe it when on Wednesday night on the ten o’clock news on BBC1, a BBC reporter actually referred to “refugees”. (I know it’s not the BBC, but Ben Shephard on ITV also referred on Thursday morning to the “refugee crisis”.) And a quick search of the BBC website for the last few weeks shows that they have been frequently using the word “refugees”. But they still use the word “migrants” in many blanket headlines.

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LibLink: Tim Farron: For Lib Dems everything has changed

So far, Tim Farron has got through his pre-conference interviews without creating the sort of media storm that has surrounded previous efforts. Remember “cockroaches” and “2/10”, neither of which actually was as bad as it initially sounded to some people.

Tim has written for the Guardian outlining the opportunities he sees for us as a party in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s victory. He talks about Labour MPs (and a Tory) being distraught at the direction their respective parties were taking. He’s not breaking any confidences here. Plenty of Labour supporters are having serious fears for their party’s future.

But he’s careful …


Conference Countdown 2015: Agenda 2020 at conference: your chance to have your say

We’ve written here before about the Federal Policy Committee’s ‘Agenda 2020’ exercise – a major consultation within the party on Liberal Democrats’ basic beliefs, values and approaches. Our political philosophy is the backbone around which we build our policies on specific issues, and a vital part of our fightback.

A short consultation paper, Agenda 2020, and an accompanying set of essays setting out the personal opinions of a range of individuals within the party are both available on the party website.

The paper sets out a brief description of the Liberal Democrat philosophy and outlines the policy challenges the country, and the party, will face over the next five years. Responses to the paper can be submitted via the website, but we are also discussing it at two consultative sessions during the Bournemouth conference. Each of them will give you an opportunity to give us your thoughts on what’s in the paper, what you like, what you don’t like, and what’s missing.

It’s not terribly obvious from the conference agenda how the sessions will be run, so we thought it would be useful to outline them here.

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Governance review – more exciting than you think, honest.

I often think that if any executive body wanted to do some real power grabs, it would circulate them in a document entitled “Governance review” in the hope that nobody would actually read them and work out what they meant.

Actually, you don’t get away with that in this party where we have been known to have quite a bit of an obsession with constitutional geekery and process. I often feel that we get too tied up in the wording of tiny parts of the constitution and not enough in its practical application and the culture we need to foster to make the party work well. In a party that values openness, transparency and accessibility for government, we don’t have nearly enough of them in the way we run our party.

Party reform was a massive issue in last year’s presidential election campaign. We all know we want to do something different, and the Governance Review now underway is designed to work out the precise details for reform. How can we say that we are run by our members when only a select few are even eligible to stand for some of the most important power-wielders? Are we truly making the most of the talents and professional skills of our members?

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Why I am a Social Democrat

Poor boy afraid
Social democrats know that to fight poverty you need a vibrant economy. It is the goose that lays the golden egg, and it flourishes with freedom, but it stagnates in a factory farm.

Social democrats don’t just do poverty reduction as a minor act of charity, it is central to what drives them. But a true social democrat won’t just throw money at the problem, they will look for what works.

For a short period, I worked in the field of international development. When listening to those who had worked in

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Caroline Pidgeon announced as Lib Dem candidate for London Mayor

Caroline PidgeonThe party has announced that London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon will stand for the Lib Dems in the London Mayoral election next year. Her campaign will focus on housing supply, childcare and air pollution.

Caroline said:

London is a great city, but the huge potential it offers is not available to everyone.

We need to tackle the brain drain to London’s economy caused by too many women not returning to work in part due to the high cost of childcare. We also need to end the scandal of too many young people struggling to rent, let alone buy a property.

Unless we tackle these barriers London will continue to be a city that serves the few, not the many.

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What’s in the Conference issue of Liberator?

Issue 374 of Liberator is on its way to subscribers and will be on sale from our stall at the Bournemouth conference.

This issue’s free sample online content is the Commentary on what the party is for if when it shares national power it can survive neither a coalition with the Conservatives nor, a generation ago, a pact with Labour. A second Commentary provides some hopefully helpful guidance for new members.

Also available is Professor Alex Marsh’s article on how government policy is squeezing poor people out of affordable homes.


The new issue also includes:


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Spin doctors urgently needed to manage an inspiringly authentic car crash

Yes, it’s another Corbyn post. Sorry about that.

But there’s the thing. Politics is absolutely fascinating at the moment. If Burnham or Cooper had won the Labour leadership, we would have had the same old Blair-like triangulating platitudes. Instead, we have inspiring authenticity from Jeremy Corbyn.

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Man standing up and being quiet in top button shocker

What passes for news at the moment is pretty lamentable. Actually, it’s not just at the moment. The tabloid news agenda has its own way of taking our focus off what really matters in this world. Any responsible press would be highlighting the even greater hardship and poverty faced by those households whose tax credits are being slashed by the Government. Also this week trade unions face unfair and illogical restrictions which, if applied to the rest of our democracy, would mean we couldn’t have a legitimate government. Both those changes will make lives really difficult for the least powerful people in our society both at home and at work.

With all that going on, I can’t quite put into words how much I am struggling to give a nano-hoot, let alone two, to caring whether the Leader of the Opposition sings the National Anthem or not. As a liberal, I’m uneasy about enslaving anyone by conformity. Had he been playing Candy Crush (does that still exist?), I might have felt that was inappropriate behaviour for the circumstances, but if he doesn’t want to sing, why force him? Respectful silence is fine by me.  Of course, we do live in a world where Jeremy Corbyn can do no right, so if he had sung, the right wing tabloid press would have had a go at him for singing God save the Queen when he believes in neither a God nor a monarchy. Even less important is whether his top button was tied.  Maybe I should be pleased that a man has his appearance criticised for a change, but it is vacuous.

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Conference Countdown 2015: Would you abolish One Member One Vote if it was already in place?

A good test of a proposed new rule is to imagine: if it was already in place, would you be convinced by arguments to abolish it? So imagine with me that the Liberal Democrats had one-member, one-vote (OMOV) in place, instead of our conference representatives system, for electing our federal committees and for voting at party conference. A world with all party members able to vote in both.

It would not be nirvana. You can imagine some being concerned about the time and cost involved in coming to conference and the members who therefore miss out. You can also imagine complaints when ballot papers come round that members do not know enough about what the candidates are like or their track records.

So take one more step down imaginary lane with me and picture me at a podium in front of you, laying out all these problems and revealing – hooray! – I have an answer.

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After Corbyn, what’s left with the Liberal Democrats?

There has been a tendency in recent years for the Liberal Democrats to define the party in relation to others. We will give a heart to the Conservatives and a brain to the Labour Party. Look left, look right, then cross.

There will be those who will argue that the election of a left wing MP to the Labour leadership means that the Lib Dems will have to keep close to the the centre. Any temptation to reposition itself on the left wing of British politics after leaving the coalition should be resisted.

Immediate reactions of this nature should be avoided as should any crass remarks about the ‘economic illiteracy’ of ‘Corbynomics’. Corbyn’s approach is rooted in serious economic thinking. Whether people disagree or not is a different issue but illiterate it is not. To that end Sal Brinton’s response to Corbyn’s election was both disappointing.

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Amendments selected for Conference agenda


The final meeting of Federal Conference Committee prior to us all heading to Bournemouth took place this Saturday, where amendments were debated and selected. One big difference from the motions selection meeting is that debate is more rapid, with 73 amendments, 9 emergency/topic motions, 12 questions to federal bodies and one appeal to deal with.

When discussing motions the ultimate decision is a yes or a no, but with amendments there is also the option of accepting it as a drafting change. This only applies to simple and uncontroversial changes, often clarifications, and means it does not need to be voted on and can simply be published in Conference Daily. Drafting amendments should not be substantial, so even a non-controversial amendment to update the motion based on events since the agenda was published still needs to be formally voted on.

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Jennie Rigg nails it


Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here

refugees welcome

So on Saturday I and a couple of hundred other Liberal Democrats made an appearance in London to take part in the refugee solidarity march taking place there, as well as countless other cities around the UK and Europe. Credit should go to Zack Polanski for organising the event and for Kelly-Marie Blundell for doing the hard task of organising a couple of hundred Lib-Dems throughout the event. In fact credit to all those who helped out whose names I’ve either forgotten or never learnt that helped keep us all together and organised; I once heard it said that herding cats was easier than organising Lib Dems, so full credit to them.

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Willie Rennie on “dark, secretive” Better Together and “despicable” Cameron

Willie Rennie has gone to town on the Better Together pro-UK campaign in an interview for the Sunday Herald. He described it as “dark” and “secretive.”

Labour had a dark campaigning style. It was very secretive. Everything would be last minute. You would never be told much about what was going on until it happened. We all suffered. The Tories and ourselves suffered more, but some in Labour were out of the loop as well.”

You mean an inner circle ran everything? “Yes. It was Blair and Rob . People like that were making decisions and had this addiction to secrecy.

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Funding the fightback – take a cheque for Tim

Going to Conference?  then please Take a Cheque for Tim.

We need to wake up to the fact that if we don’t start funding the Party now, right this minute, then Tim and our colleagues are going to be working on the fightback as if with one hand tied behind their backs. Take a cheque (your own or a Local Party cheque, a cheque from a wealthy donor if you know one…., any cheque will do) to conference and we can make a big statement of our intent to make sure Tim has the funds he needs. I plan to take a small cheque to Tim and I hope and that you will too. 


Tim Farron: Britain needs to roll up its sleeves to help refugees

Yesterday, Tim Farron went to the Refugees Welcome rally:

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Which former Lib Dem Cabinet Minister disagreed more often with Danny Alexander than George Osborne?

The Journal of Liberal History is a serious academic publication. When it arrives on my doorstep, I know I have an enjoyable couple of hours with a cup of tea learning about interesting events and people in the history of the Liberal Party, SDP or Liberal Democrats.

The issue of the publication which will be on sale at Conference is no less worthy and serious, but my reaction to it was unusual. Within a few minutes, I was hyperventilating and my eyes were out on stalks at what I was reading. Seriously, they should have sold serialisation rights to the press.

You see, this issue covers the Coalition and its aftermath. Adrian Slade spent May and June persuading many  former ministers, including all of the Cabinet ministers bar Carmichael – and by all, that includes Chris Huhne – to give their take on how the Coalition had worked, or not, as the case may be. Some of their interviews are more predictable than others, but all are candid. Some are almost painfully defensive, others offer a wince-inducing verbal hiding. Who was the former Minister who said:

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Liberal Democrats must demonstrate our “BaME consciousness”

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Leader and Sadiq Khan as the Mayor candidate will enthuse many BaME voters who had previously been members or supporters of Labour to return, but not alone, but with their friends and families.

Visible BaME communities are not impressed, in fact they are turned off, by the ‘tit for tat’ inter-political squabbling, so I very much hope that our Party does not participate in such trivia against Jeremy Corbyn and his new team.  They are if anything a new ally against Toryism.

The Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD) is here to continue to assist the Liberal Democrat Party to positively reform and progress, and we are hopeful that under Tim Farron’s leadership our repeated offers of support will now be firmly grabbed with both hands.

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Sal Brinton and Willie Rennie respond to Jeremy Corbyn’s election

So, that was emphatic. Corbyn wins Labour leadership election with 60% of the vote and a massive lead in all three categories of the vote. The first Liberal Democrat reaction has come from Party President Sal Brinton:

The Corbyn style of politics may generate a lot of noise but only one thing keeps Government in check – credible opposition.

As Labour abdicates its responsibilities, the Liberal Democrats will offer the serious, responsible and economically-literate alternative this country badly needs.

We will find common cause with the millions of people who do not support this Government and need a party to represent them.”

She added:

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How did Liberal Democrat MPs vote on the Assisted Dying Bill?

Yesterday the House of Commons voted to reject the Assisted Dying Bill at its first stage by a majority of 330 votes to 118.

How, then, did Liberal Democrat MPs vote? It should be noted that although the party has policy in favour of assisted dying in England and Wales, our MPs’ right to vote according to their conscience is enshrined in both motions. We have been criticised in the past for publishing who votes what way in these sorts of votes, but the information is a matter of public record and there is no reason that we shouldn’t draw it to our readers’ attention.

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Norman Lamb MP writes…Why I support assisted dying

You will have probably heard by now that the Assisted Dying Bill was defeated in Parliament this afternoon by a margin of about three to one.

The scale of victory for opponents of the Bill was almost exactly the same as when it was last debated in 1997. This is remarkable, given the degree of public support for reform – over 80% according to a poll earlier this year. I respect the deeply held convictions of those who oppose assisted dying but I can’t help but reflect on how out of step with public mood Parliament appears to be on this issue of such profound importance.  And before anyone reacts – yes I understand we have a representative democracy and I know that it cuts both ways. I am deeply relieved that Parliament has always rejected hanging!

I used to oppose assisted dying. I shared the concerns of many people about the risk this could pose to vulnerable individuals under pressure from greedy relatives. However, in recent years my views have been challenged.

During my time as a Health Minister and my years as a Member of Parliament I have heard the testimonies of people with terminal conditions, often in great pain, who wanted the right to end their suffering with dignity and in a way of their choosing. Listening to these stories has forced me to confront the principles at stake.

Ultimately, the question surely is: should it be the individual or the state who decides? For me, as a Liberal, there can be no doubt. I know that I would want the right to decide for myself, so I cannot deny it to others.

As Care Minister, I was completely focused on improving end of life care, an area of medicine too often neglected in the past. I had to address really serious concerns about how the Liverpool Care Pathway had been applied in many hospitals as a one size fits all protocol.

What has emerged from the review I initiated is a new approach which focuses completely on the priorities and needs of the individual patient. There is a strong consensus now that, at the end of life, the patient’s wishes come first – on resuscitation, on where to die and so on. How odd then, that when it comes to the most profound question of all, we deny the person the right to decide.

The current legal situation is not just a messy compromise; it is cruel and wrong. We put families into the most invidious position. If they act out of compassion in helping a loved one to die, they still face having their home declared a ‘crime scene’ and then face an investigation which could go on for months, interfering horribly with the process of grieving. The DPP guidelines talk about ‘the suspect’. Surely we can’t put people through this.

Some people, of course, travel to another country to end their life, if they can afford it. But even that is, surely, grotesque – expecting a dying person to travel to an alien clinic in another country, when they could be at home with loved ones. For those who can’t afford to travel, they face the dreadful choice of soldiering on, perhaps in great pain and loss of dignity – or commit suicide. A Labour MP today wrote of how his own father ended his life in this way. Surely, again, this is intolerable.

Another concern people often raise is that giving people the right to die would somehow distract from, or conflict with, steps to ensure excellent palliative care. But good palliative care and assisted dying are in no way incompatible. It is up to Parliament to ensure that we invest enough in palliative care. In Oregon, where assisted dying has been lawful for many years, there is better access to specialist palliative care than in most other states.

John Stuart Mill wrote: “The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

I will keep campaigning for that sovereignty to be respected at the end of life, despite the defeat in Parliament today.

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If left-wing is anti poverty, how is Corbyn left-wing?

Most left-wingers I meet think of left-wing politics as being about reducing poverty. If that’s left-wing, then I regard myself as a left-winger.

They usually only believe in a bigger state, because they think the state is the best way to help the weakest in our society.

That can be true, but it depends how far you take it.

In my previous article “Is evidence-based policy losing out to populism?”, I argued that two supposedly left-wing policies, which Jeremy Corbyn has proposed, could actually increase poverty. Raising the national minimum wage beyond the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission will probably increase unemployment, particularly for the unskilled who will increasingly have difficulty finding work. And printing money to fund capital projects will risk a return of the curse of high inflation.

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Vince Cable co-authors anti Trade Union Bill article with TUC chief

Well, there’s a turn-up for the books. A former Business Secretary teams up with the head of the TUC to warn about the draconian effects of the Trade Union Bill introduced by the Government.

In an article for the Guardian, Vince Cable and Frances O’Grady say that the Bill is trying to resolve a problem that doesn’t exist. Anyone who was brought up in the 70s would surely find it hard to argue that today is even remotely as bad as it was then. They say:

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Stephen Williams says IPSA allegations of debt are wrong

Former Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West Stephen Williams found himself on a list released by IPSA, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, of 26 MPs and former MPs who had had debts to them written off. He was the only Liberal Democrat to appear on the list. The BBC report said that he owed £209.18.

Stephen took to Twitter to tell a journalist from Sky News that there had been an error and that he did not owe any money.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: George Osborne’s Living Wage is a trick and workers have been betrayed

Very, very strong words from Nick Clegg this lunchtime in an article on the Standard. He talks about how the Liberal Democrats’ carefully constructed initiatives to help people into work and eliminate the poverty trap have been swept away by George Osborne.

He starts by outlining why he thinks work is so important:

Work is not just an economic necessity. It brings identity and self-reliance. It is a spur to ingenuity and a catalyst for growth. Work demands the learning of new skills. It sustains communities and nourishes families. Without work, society crumbles.

He goes on to say what the Liberal Democrats did to help people into work:

That is why seven years ago — shortly after I became leader of the Liberal Democrats — the party started arguing in favour of lifting the income tax personal allowance. It seemed a little technical at the time — harder to explain than headline-grabbing reductions in tax rates — but the aim was simple enough: working taxpayers, especially those on low pay, should keep more of the money they earn as an incentive to work.

It seemed indefensible at the time that the taxman was taking money off you the moment you earned £6,035. The rest, as they say, is history: the aim of lifting the tax allowance to £10,000 and beyond became the principal tax reform of the Coalition. It took millions of people on low pay out of paying income tax and proved to be so popular that the Conservatives now claim it was their idea all along.

He said he thought that that legacy of the coalition years would be safe, but was horrified at the budget:

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