Category Archives: News

Austin Mitchell gives a masterclass in taking your constituents for granted…

That sound you can hear is the wailing of Labour campaign organisers in Grimsby as they work out how to deal with outgoing Labour MP Austin Mitchell’s latest bout of Foot in Mouth disease.

From the i:

From the shuttered-up homes by the once bustling fish market to derelict harbour-side factories, politicians of all stripes admit privately that the east coast town alternates between being forgotten and taken for granted in Westminster.

It’s a narrative that Ukip is pushing hard and one that the Lincolnshire town’s veteran MP, Mitchell, unwittingly reinforced by telling the Independent on Sunday that Labour would win the seat “even” if they selected a “raving alcoholic sex paedophile”.

We knew that Labour have a real sense of entitlement to power that is most unattractive. Breaking their fiefdoms in Scotland by introducing STV for local government is one of the best things the Liberal Democrats have ever done in government. Labour are finding that years, decades of neglect and taking voters for granted is coming back to bite them on the bum. The thing is, I don’t see much sign of their attitude really changing that much.

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Liberal Democrats ensure government gives added protection for journalists’ records

Police will need to get a judge to give them permission before they access journalists’ phone records, according to the BBC.

A temporary measure means officers must follow the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and get legal permission to obtain any communications data.

The move comes after strong criticism of the way police were using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to access journalists’ sources.

The Home Office said it was an “interim solution” ahead of the next parliament.

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Appearing on the Big Debate talking about ISIS, alcohol at football matches and decriminalising drugs

Yesterday, I went to Paisley in Renfrewshire to be part of the panel for Radio Scotland’s Big Debate which is the Scottish equivalent of Any Questions.

Also on the panel were shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, local SNP MSP George Adam and Peter Murray from the Media Trust.

I did try to persuade presenter Gordon Brewer that he should “accidentally” call Douglas Danny in homage to Jo Joyner who made an error with someone’s name in the EastEnders live episode the other night but he was having none of it.

It was a much more thoughtful and less combative discussion than usual. George Adam did try to do the “let’s blame Westminster” thing that SNP people are prone to do but that was about it. We talked about ISIS and whether we could negotiate with them. I said that I didn’t think that would be on the agenda any time soon but whatever we did should be carefully thought out with very clear objectives. I talked a bit about the article from the Guardian the other day which told of the horrible conditions under which women are supposed to live. I also emphasised that we need to be very careful not to fuel Islamophobia given that ISIS are about as representative of Islam as the Westboro Baptist Church are of Christianity.

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Pauline Pearce seeks nomination in Hitchin

The “Hackney Heroine” Pauline Pearce has applied to be the Liberal Democrat candidate in Hitchin for the General Election:

From the Hertfordshire Mercury:

Pauline Pearce – dubbed the Heroine of Hackney – could stand as the Lib Dems’ candidate for Hitchin in next year’s General Election.

The Hackney resident, who moved from Hitchin eight years ago, said: “Plain and simple, it’s home to me.

“I’m a Hitchin girl, I know quite a bit about the issues down there, especially concerning the youngsters.

“I want to help kids and let them know what they can do to open their eyes and turn their lives around.”

Miss Pearce has yet to be formally selected to contest the Hitchin and Harpenden seat, currently held by Tory Peter Lilley, but hopes are high.

She became a symbol of Londoners’ outrage at the wave of criminality which followed the death of Mark Duggan in 2012.

After the clip went viral, she was courted by politicians and community leaders, even expressing her intention to stand for Lib Dem president.
Pauline has since been elected to the Party’s Federal Executive.
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Some more secret party elections you can stand in – act by noon next Friday, 27th February

There are some more secret elections happening. We feel it’s our duty to disseminate the information as widely as possible.

Here are the details of the positions available and how to get yourself nominated:

All persons elected to these posts will hold office for the calendar years 2015 and 2016.

For the election of:

  • One Vice-Chairs of the IRC
  • Three members of the SAO Review Group
  • Two members of the FE Candidates’ sub-group (meets with JSCC)
  • One representatives on ALDE Congress
  • Two representatives to the LI Congress

The election regulations approved by the Federal Executive in May 2009 are attached for information.

Nominations must be supported by two voting members of the outgoing or incoming Federal Executive, a list of whom is attached, and must be returned, with 75 word statements , no later than 12 noon on 27 February 2015 to David Allworthy, [email protected]. Scanned nominations will be accepted.

David Allworthy, Deputy Acting Returning Officer, 20 February 2015

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An inspiring talk for a Saturday morning – John Loughton on his journey from poverty in Edinburgh to talking to world leaders

John Loughton grew up in poverty in Edinburgh. He is a truly inspiring character. In this video he talks about his life and how he founded a youth leadership organisation that has worked with thousands of young people across the world.

John is a member of the Liberal Democrats and if you look at his Wikipedia page, you’ll see just some of the things he’s done and the powerful circles in which he has moved.

 

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LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 25

There’s no change at the top, as George Murray’s Marauding Fullbacks continue to lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 25, with 1,491 points, just ahead of Jon Featonby and Sam Bowman.

But let’s also hear it for three players outside the top 10: Will Barter (Mid-Table Meanderer) had the best week’s performance, with 70 points. Honourable mentions go to Max Wilkinson (Regency Spa Town) and Richard Farrance (Wirral_Rovers), with 68 and 67 points respectively.

LDV FANTASY FOOTBALL 26

There are 161 players in total and you can still join the …

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The Times: “Lib Dems are great survivors”

Writing in the Times (£), Philip Collins makes some predictions about the Liberal Democrats’ fortunes. He reckons we’ll be part of a coalition with the Conservatives after the general election. I suspect party members will have a different feeling until we see what’s on offer. Collins also has some fairly unpalatable recommendations for the party, such as ditching climate change.

He reckons we won’t face the wipeout many predict:

The party’s own polling is the clue to the relentless optimism of its senior personnel. Where they have a presence on the local council and the sitting MP, the Lib Dems are competitive. Ukip will help them against the Tories and the electoral system that Lib Dems have always hated is coming to their rescue. There has been a lot of speculation about where Nick Clegg will go after the election. My own bet is Sheffield Hallam, about once a fortnight.

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STV report talks up Tory chances in seats the party has written off

The Scottish Conservatives meet in Edinburgh today for their Conference. The other day, the STV political correspondent filmed with them and talked up their chances in seats like Argyll and Bute and West Aberdeenshire. He can’t have realised that those seats are among five Lib Dem seats in Scotland that appear on the list of seats that the Tories are not targeting in Scotland as Mark Pack reported last week.

The Tories have also written off their chances in Edinburgh West, Ross, Skye and Lochaber and North East Fife.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott described the Tory leak as a “letter of surrender”:

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Nick Clegg top British politician in Mumsnet poll

Nick Clegg is the leading British politician on a Mumsnet poll. Sadly, it’s not for voting intention. The Mirror has the story:

Over at Mumsnet, one user started a thread asking “Am I being unreasonable to ask which politician would make the best lover?” There were over 400 replies and we added up the mentions of each name for you. The results are in…

American President Barack Obama beat all local politicians to come out top with 22 votes.

Nick “Clegg-over” Clegg makes a close second, showing he’s kept his sex appeal since 2010 despite the battering his political reputation has taken.

Perennial sex favourite Gordon Brown (he’s Scottish, the accent is kind of sexy) is third.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire writes….Liberal Democrats’ investment in education has been socially progressive

I took part in a five-party panel at York University the other weekend, organised by the University’s Politics Society, in front of a packed lecture hall with over 200 students.  No other panellist or questioner mentioned the subject of tuition fees, believed by some Liberal Democrat activists (and right-wing journalists) to be an issue that hangs like an albatross round Nick Clegg’s neck. The overwhelming impression I came away with, reinforced by informal conversations with several students after the meeting, was not that we face an outraged student body which can never forgive us for the tuition fees ‘betrayal’, as the NUS would like to portray it; it was of a student body which is switched off from party politics, unsure of whether to vote or not, but with some intelligent questions to ask.  ‘I wasn’t planning to vote until I came to this’, one student told me afterwards, ‘but maybe now I will.’

Since nobody else did, I addressed the tuition fee issue.  I said that we had found it impossible to persuade our Conservative partners in the coalition to pay for this, against the background of a yawning gap between revenue and expenditure in 2010, and had therefore focused on striking a deal that was as progressive in its impact as possible; that the package had ensured that graduates only start to pay back when they are earning good money; that the rise since then in the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university has shown that we got that right; and that there was no no way any future government would want to take us back to free fees in the face of other competing demands for government funding.  I went on to say that we had worked in government to put money into ‘the other 50%’ – the young people who never go to university; that doubling the number of apprenticeships, paying a Pupil Premium to encourage schools to put more resources into helping those who most need it, and expanding nursery education to give children a better start in life had proved to be more progressive and cost-effective than free fees for the better-off.

photo by: flickingerbrad
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SNP branch encourages its members to take pictures of Labour canvassers and put them on social media

Something very rare happened to me on Sunday afternoon. So rare that it hasn’t happened at all in the almost 15 years I’ve lived in my house. That it happensd at all is indicative of a jitteriness in politics. Yes, a Labour canvasser turned up on my doorstep.

Clearly they are feeling that they have to try after years of just assuming that the votes will pile up in their favour. That is probably a good thing. Mind you, the one who came to us will have to do something about the look of sheer incredulity on his face when I told him I was voting Lib Dem.

He was such a rare sight, and his look was so funny, but it never occurred to me to take his photo and stick it on social media. Because that would be creepy, even if it were to be one of a handful of times I’d ever seen one on my doorstep. It would be quite intimidating as well. As a political activist, I guess I understand what it’s like for a fellow political activist. the massive chunk it takes out of your life. I may not agree with the opposition, but there’s a bit of empathy there.

The SNP in Edinburgh Western have no such qualms, though. According to the Daily Record, they asked their members to ask Labour canvassers 3 questions and take the photos of any who “lied”:

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Nick Clegg on the Liberal Democrats’ vision for a world class early years education system

Nick Clegg has made a major speech on early years education and  child care to the Pre-School Learning Alliance. He pointed out that as a result of Liberal Democrat input, an extra £1 billion has been put into child-care in this Parliament and that only the Liberal Democrats would protect that level of spending in the next Parliament. In contrast, the Conservatives would cut it, at a cost of £625 per child. Not only that, but welfare cuts would affect low income families.

Here are the main points of his speech:

Over the last five years, we’ve made it one of our biggest priorities in this Government to ensure that every child – whatever their background or circumstances – gets an equal shot at the successful future they deserve.

Disadvantaged background start to bite early:

 So much so that, if you’re a child born into a poor family in this country, you will already have fallen behind a child with richer parents by the time you’re 2 years old.

That’s before you step anywhere near a classroom and it has absolutely nothing to do with your talent or potential – just the circumstances of your birth. Without focused action to change it, that gap between you and your peers will continue to get bigger as you grow up. So that when you turn up, proudly wearing your new uniform, for your first day of school, you will be well over a year behind your better-off classmates. Morally and economically, we simply cannot afford for so many children to have their future written off like that in this country.

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Willie Rennie MSP writes…You wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, so you wouldn’t put the SNP in charge of the UK

If you ask me about coalitions and the SNP, I will keep it simple.

Just as you wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, you would not put the SNP in charge of Britain. It’s not going to happen. Anyway, the SNP leader at Westminster told an interviewer from the New Statesman last week that he wasn’t interested. So, it’s definitely not going to happen.

I know from long years in politics that parlour style discussions about hypotheticals and coalitions don’t translate onto the doorsteps.

We’re in the Liberal Democrats because we want to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, …

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Call Clegg makes Nick “more approachable and familiar” than any other leader

call cleggPraise for Nick Clegg and his Call Clegg show is found in Gillian Reynolds’ radio review column in the Telegraph today:

Call Clegg, the weekly live phone-in on LBC hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg but steered by Nick Ferrari, was a novelty when it started two years ago but has achieved unexpected wonders. It’s allowed a sliver of regular direct access to a politician in a position of power. (Not much power, you might say, but, admit it, more access than anyone else in this situation would allow.)

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Opinion: In praise of Jenny Willott

Jenny Willott, Ruth and Orla Bright, 2004The Liberal Democrats of course have a dismal record electing women, particularly women with young children. We have, therefore, to be truly thankful to Jenny Willott (and her family) for salvaging our reputation in a single television programme. Last night on Michael Cockerell’s “Inside the Commons” we saw her juggling work and motherhood in a way that has rarely been portrayed so honestly. Seeing her collect her son from the House of Commons nursery (and then having to leave him on the lap of a colleague while rushing to an unexpected vote) might have made parliament seem remote. In fact many parents would have watched that scene and been reminded of their own work/family balancing act.

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Layla Moran shows the benefits of the Liberal Democrats drive to deliver 2 million apprenticeships

Liberal Democrat candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon Layla Moran was on Channel 4’s political slot tonight talking about apprenticeships. She interviewed apprentices, including Paige McConville, the 2 millionth apprentice. She also interviewed business owners who told her of the high value training apprentices receive and how having apprentices benefits us all as they provide the skills the economy needs to grow.

You can watch it here:

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Scottish Liberal Lord Mackie of Benshie dies at 95

Lord George MackieLiberal Democrat peer Lord George Mackie died today at the age of 95. As the Herald reports:

A famous Liberal Democrat peer Lord Mackie of Benshie has died aged 95, a decorated airman with Bomber Command in the second world war as well as a renowned farmer.

He was a chairman of the Caithness Glass company and a hotelier at John O, Groats.After the war he took over a farm at Benshie in Angus and subsequently set up a cattle ranch at Braeroy near Spean Bridge.

George Mackie, from a renowned farming family in Aberdeenshire, was elected as MP for the old Scottish Liberal Party in Caithness and Sutherland in1964. But he served only until 1966 when Harold Wilson’s Labour Government went back to the country to seek a larger majority. Mackie lost narrowly.

In 1974 he was offered a life peerage. His brother John, who had been on the Labour benches while he was in the House of Commons, also arrived in the House of Lords as a Labour peer.

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Stephen Tall and I on the Westminster Hour

On Sunday night, Stephen Tall and I were on the Westminster Hour discussing the party’s prospects for the coming election and beyond. You can listen to the whole thing here. They also have a shorter clip of Stephen talking about the dilemma facing the party about portraying itself as a “split the difference” party. He rightly said that concern about it is something that unites activists on both sides of the party but on the other hand we aren’t going to win the election outright so we have to claim the centre ground between the other two.

In my contribution on this issue, I said that there was a place in our campaigning for showing what we’d stopped or would stop. We had done so very effectively in coalition with Labour in Scotland. However, we had to show our heart as a bold, radical liberal party.

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Lib Dem Cllr wins world meat pie championship with vegetarian recipe

Lancashire county councillor David Whipp has won the World Meat Pie championship, which travelled this year all the way to Barnoldswick, Lancashire. Winning a world meat pie contest with a vegetarian pie is simply out of this world.

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Opinion: Refugees are people too

I recently watched a television programme in which Ross Kemp looks at the situation in Calais, where thousands of refugees are seeking to gain access to the UK in the most dangerous manner.

I have no special knowledge of the situation there, nor from what they are fleeing – who can? But I do know that seeing the programme has made me deeply ashamed of being European. Not being a citizen of the European Union, but being a member of a large community that has not yet addressed the issue of how we can help people in such dire straits.

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New issue of Liberator out now

Liberator Feb 2015 coverThe latest 32-page issue of Liberator, the independent radical liberal magazine, is on its way to subscribers.

This issue will also be on sale at spring conference in Liverpool.

Live sample contents from Liberator 370 online are:

Commentary, on how the Lib Dems’ appear to be positioning themselves as the only party with no distinctive profile in the general election.

The lead story from Radical Bulletin is on whether, in the event of another coalition, the ‘triple lock’ is now quite what it appears to be.

The sample feature Survivors’ Guide, sees Roger Hayes suggest how Lib Dem candidates can avoid the worst of the bucket of ordure voters are about to tip over them.

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Paul Tyler reminds the Guardian that Labour ruined Lords reform

House of Lords - Some rights reserved by UK ParliamentEarlier this week, a Guardian editorial called for a pre-election pact between the parties on the size and proportions of the House of Lords.

The piece complained about the cost of the peers and the size of their House.

The Commons itself is very large. But the size of the Lords is the real problem. There is no other bicameral legislature anywhere in the world in which the upper house is larger than the lower house. The case for change is overwhelming – morally, democratically and on every other ground.

Liberal Democrat peer Paul Tyler wasted no time in reminding the Guardian of a thing or two – namely that if Labour hadn’t behaved like toddlers, we would be on the way to our first Lords elections in just a few weeks’ time:

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Snapshots from the Lib Dem campaign trail

Lib Dems being out campaigning is such a normal thing – we have always been proud of our all year round work ethic. So what have our councillors and candidates been up to this weekend?

It seems to have been lovely weather everywhere:

Martin Horwood and his team were out in his Cheltenham constituency:

But, look, how sweet is this? He still found time to remember someone special:

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Nick Clegg and the woodland craft class

Ease yourself gently into Sunday with this video of Nick Clegg helping Oxfordshire schoolchildren with their woodland craft class. He was there on Thursday with Oxford West and Abingdon candidate Layla Moran ahead of the manifesto front page launch.

Ok, so there’s no hard policy, but it’s pleasant and the kids seem to know quite a lot about him.

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Did Charlie Whelan really put his cigarette into Ed Balls’ coke can?

The Telegraph has unearthed an STV documentary on the early days of Labour in the Treasury in 1997. It makes fascinating watching for all sorts of reasons. It feels not unlike an episode of The Thick of It, with Ed Balls a bit like Ollie Reeder to Whelan’s Malcolm Tucker. Everyone looks so young, Gordon Brown particularly.  Ed Miliband has become significantly less geeky over time, too.

The Telegraph article is full of derision for Labour’s removal of regulatory powers from the Bank of England.  That principle seems fine to me, and fairly logical. If you give the bank the power to set interest rates independently, then you need to get someone else to do the regulation. Labour’s failure to build an effectively regulatory framework for the banks can’t be pinned on that.

There is an arrogance about the way they went about it. The Permanent Secretary of the time was clearly worried about all this change. If you are going to reform, you need to just get on and do it, but they did seem to be enjoying smashing the established order a little bit too much.

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Lib Dems “a vital option for the electorate” – Independent

An editorial in yesterday’s Independent will give both heart and motivation to Liberal Democrat troops heading out on to the doorsteps this weekend.

Its acceptance that our fate is sealed for this election will irritate those teams of canvassers in our key seats who are finding a good response on the doorsteps. Those of us who have been around for a while will know that our demise has been predicted at virtually every election.

They demolish Jeremy Browne’s theory that we need to position ourselves on the centre right, highlighting the unprecedented successes of Charles Kennedy’s time as leader.

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LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 25

No change in the top 10 this week, with George Murray’s Marauding Fullbacks continuing to lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 25.

But let’s also hear it for three players outside the top 10: Will Barter (Mid-Table Meanderers) had last gamesweek’s best performance, with 70 points. Honourable mentions go to Max Wilkinson (Regency Spa Town) and Richard Farrance (Wirral_Rovers), with 68 and 67 points respectively.

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ALDC’s by-election report – 12 February 2015

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)Three principal council by-election were held yesterday. In Cambridgeshire (CC), the Conservatives comfortably held their seat in Bar Hill ward, polling 46% of the vote to finish 536 votes ahead of the UKIP candidate. Fiona Whelan finished a close third with 13.9%, an improvement on the party’s vote share in the ward’s previous election in 2013 of 5.4%.

The contest in Oswestry East ward in Shropshire (UA) once again saw the Conservatives secure an easy hold, with their candidate finish 411 votes ahead of second place Labour with 47.5% of the vote. Lib Dem candidate Amanda Woof registered 16.5% to finish fourth, with the party not fielding a candidate in the ward’s 2013 election.

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Jeremy Browne isn’t going quietly…

Jeremy Browne has used an interview with the Independent to continue his love-in with Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats. The headline says he called Nick Clegg “insipid” but he didn’t use that word directly about the leader. However, he did say something that will probably find some sympathy across the whole party. I’ve often said that we need to be passionate about who we are and not define ourselves by who we are not so that we’re just pushing ourselves as moderating influence on the other parties. I don’t like it when a speech is memorable for its mention of which body parts we share out. I do like it when we say what we are about.

Browne makes a similar point:

We are defining liberalism as the precise mid‑point between conservatism and socialism. Whatever liberalism is, it is not defined by where the other parties choose to pitch themselves or by measuring the distance between them and splitting it in half.

All we offer is a desire to water down their strong views. We offer an insipid moderation. Whichever party is the biggest one, we will stop them implementing a large number of their ideas. It is entirely negative. It is a deeply conservative position. We have become the most small-‘c’ conservative party.

Where I part company with Browne is his assertion is that this makes us more conservative than the two parties who have resolutely junked political reform whether it be electoral, party funding or to the House of Lords, throughout this Parliament. On devolution, it’s our party which has driven more powers for Scotland and Wales. You don’t find a conservative party creating opportunities for disadvantaged kids in school or transforming the way we deal with mental health.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarLucy Nethsingha 2nd Mar - 12:28pm
    Lots of interesting comments above. The democratic deficit is a major problem for the combined authorities we have seen so far. Large directly elected councils...
  • User Avatarexpats 2nd Mar - 12:14pm
    I don't know about second homes but vast numbers of ex council houses are now in the hands of 'buy to letters'...The financial advice channels...
  • User AvatarRoland 2nd Mar - 11:56am
    "The symptoms of ‘local’ in England have kept the inefficiencies of centralisation from public view. " We've just had another example of this in this...
  • User AvatarKelly-Marie Blundell 2nd Mar - 11:51am
    Very kind, thank you David.
  • User AvatarRoland 2nd Mar - 11:47am
    The issue isn't really about invited speakers, but about what actually happens on campus. The biggest pain in my student days were the 'socialists' who...
  • User AvatarRoland 2nd Mar - 11:37am
    @Jack - "Why exactly should people get tax breaks to buy a second house when they retire?" I suggest you talk to a financial/pension's advisor...