Category Archives: News

Willie Rennie and Greens’ Patrick Harvie support launch of Open Rights Group Scotland

WR  at ORG Scotland LaunchScottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie and Greens’ co-convener Patrick Harvie both attended the launch of Open Rights Group Scotland yesterday. Immediately after First Minister’s Questions, they gathered in a smoke-filled Garden lobby (the cafe was having an indoor barbecue to celebrate the start of the Summer holidays) to talk to journalists and pose for photographs.

As the SNP Government ramps up its plans for a National ID database that’s more powerful and intrusive than anything Labour ever came up with, and as Edinburgh plans to integrate all its CCTV systems, there is a lot for the digital rights organisation to do.

Willie Rennie said:

The way in which we work, socialise, buy products and use services has changed dramatically since the digital revolution.

But government and politicians have responded at a snail’s pace and have failed to ensure the rights of citizens, consumers, journalists, businesses and children are protected online.

I am delighted to be part of the launch of Open Rights Group Scotland. It will help drive digital rights up the agenda in Scotland so that we can build a fairer society which enshrines civil liberties in every part of our lives.

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Lamb and Farron reply to Lib Dems for Seekers of Sanctuary

The Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary (which you can join here) has put some detailed questions on asylum, immigration and humanitarian matters to the leadership candidates. Here are their answers.

 We appreciate that there are now far less parliamentarians, but will you ensure when organising teams that there is a spokesperson that covers asylum related issues?

Norman’s reply:

Absolutely, yes.  I want our party to rebuild the reputation we won under Paddy for speaking out clearly and consistently on the difficult international issues we face as a country.

We must lead the way in challenging the appalling humanitarian disaster across the Mediterranean, with thousands of desperate North African migrants drowning in their attempts to flee civil war and famine, crossing the sea in tiny boats.

We must also keep up pressure to improve our system for handling asylum applications, ending long delays that can leave people’s lives on hold for many months while they wait for a decision.

We have a fantastic team of peers, and I know they are determined to play their part in speaking out for our party on these important issues.

I would also want to work with members of Lib Dem Seekers of Sanctuary to support the group in speaking out itself on behalf of the many members who feel strongly about Britain’s asylum policies.  And as leader I would take a close personal interest, adding my own voice to make sure our party is heard and – most importantly – in working to achieve real change and make sure Britain fulfils its responsibilities to those threatened by violence and conflict around the world.

Tim’s reply:

Yes, absolutely. The Liberal Democrats must make the case for a compassionate, open United Kingdom when it comes to asylum seekers – if we don’t, no one else will

I have frequently raised these issues in Parliament, including as the party’s Foreign Affairs spokesman in the run-up to the election. For example, I wrote an article for the New Statesman about the horrors of hundreds of people dying in the Mediterranean, and the urgent need for Britain to work with our European partners to save lives rather than turning our backs. You can read it here:

So yes, if I am leader I will make sure that a consistent, compassionate Lib Dem voice is heard loud and clear on these issues.

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Farron and Lamb send third all member emails

The leadership candidates have sent their third official emails. You can read the first two here and here. 

First of all, the Returning Officer’s information:

Below are the top lines and links in the third of four emails from the candidates that I am distributing on their behalf.  I do this in my role as the Acting Returning Officer for this election.

Also please find below contact details for how you can find out more about each of the candidates.

Ballot papers are being dispatched today so you should receive your ballot paper by post within the next week.   With your ballot there will also be a copy of both candidates’ manifestos.

Our ballot counters must receive your complete ballot paper by 2pm on July 15th for it to count.

Many thanks for participating in this important election.

Tim Farron’s letter

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Opinion: Why I am backing Tim Farron

Politics is not a sterile intellectual exercise where the best policy wins and people applaud the cerebral magnificence of the victor.  It is a messy dirty business, where people’s lives are changed, hopefully for the better but far too often for the worse.

My parents divorced while I was a teenager and I spent time being brought up by a single parent.  I got lucky.  I was never cold, I never went hungry and I always had a roof over my head but I do remember making sure to keep 50p coins so that we had some for Mum’s electricity meter and I didn’t have a room of my own for a number of my teenage years.  I slept in the living room under the stairs.  As I say, I got lucky, I ended up with four parents and was the first person in my family to go to University.

People who lived near me and who I grew up and went to school with were not so lucky.  I saw people who had their potential wasted because they got to school hungry, or with a cough caused by damp in their home or who moved from school to school as their parents moved from house to house.  As a councillor in central Liverpool I saw the reality that hits people who cannot get a decent home, the damage to their families and the narrowing of their life choices.

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Opinion: Liberalism – a modern answer to a classical question

Liberalism.  “You can’t define it.”  “It’s too wishy-washy. “Too centrist. “Too woolly.”

The words of my A level students when they begin their course on Political Ideologies each year. The good news here is that there is a definitive answer. One that students have to learn for their exams.

Firstly, the common values to all sorts of Liberalism. Liberalism is a centrist ideology which is based on the twin values of individualism and a negative/selfish but rational view of human nature.

All liberals also believe in democracy in some form, tolerance, some rights, freedom (see below), and limited government. Not the size of Government, but the fact that all liberals are suspicious of government. Therefore, they believe in check and balances such as codified constitutions, and a separation of powers and devolution, for example.

Liberalism’s first form was classical liberalism. When it came to the size of government, this was very small – the nightwatchman state.  Government should be like a security guard, only awake at night, to preserve our liberty.  This nightwatchman state had 3 functions:

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Opinion: Is faith a problem?

One of the themes which has recurred in the leadership election debates is the question of faith, which I have been hearing in terms of comments on Tim Farron’s Christianity, whether this is a good or a bad thing, how Liberal it is to make an issue over that, and how that places him in relation to Norman Lamb describing himself as agnostic.

This territory is very familiar. For some years I was Secretary of the East of England Faiths Council and very much involved in the engagement of faith and governance. But I have also spent some years doing one-to-one spirituality work, which leaves me very conscious of how much more complex these things are in the realities of an individual.

Religions in general, and Christianity in particular, cover a wide range, from those for whom “believing” something makes it a “true” to those for whom faith is about a deep rootedness which lets them be both resilient and flexible. Desmond Tutu, Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama are shining examples of the latter — Nelson Mandela might be an even more striking example of someone whose Christian faith enabled him to step well beyond that label.

I’ll pick up two contrasts:

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: Cameron’s shocking example of self-serving politics is biggest threat to union

Alistair Carmichael has written a devastating attack on David Cameron in today’s Herald, accusing him of “psychopathic ruthlessness” and of “one of the most egregious pieces of self-serving politics ever seen” in stoking up English nationalism. It’s strong stuff.

At 7am in the morning of September 19, following the referendum result, the Prime Minister emerged to thank the people of Scotland for sticking with one of the most successful political unions the world has ever seen and to reaffirm his commitment to its future. This was his time to tell the people of a continuing UK that he understood what had

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Video: Nick Clegg’s interview on LBC

Nick Clegg was interviewed on LBC this morning. Some highlights:

  • He had no idea what was coming. He thought that 20 seats would have been a bad result:
  • He was blindsided by the exit poll and first thing he did was have a cigarette
  • He doesn’t regret for one millisecond going into government
  • Labour in Sheffield laughed and cheered when Vince Cable lost his seat
  • He’s immensely proud at stats showing narrowing of attainment gap because of pupil premium
  • He put defeat solely down to Tory scaremongering about SNP and SNP surge in Scotland
  • Public have been “really generous” to him since election result
  • Predictably, he didn’t back anyone for leader, saying we have two brilliant candidates
  • He wants to serve his constituents and support the new leader
  • There was a horrible phone call from someone asking about his personal security and insinuating he didn’t look after Charles Kennedy enough. Nick gave him really short shrift, quite deservedly.
  • A call from a new member, who had actually voted Tory as a tactical vote and was horrified at the result so joined Lib Dems 2 days later
  • He said make-up of Parliament was “dotty” but Labour and Tories would block any attempt to reform it unless they were forced into it
  • He wants to speak out on civil liberties (and will be opposing Snoopers’ Charter in Commons today), EU and mental health

Here’s the video. Enjoy.

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Nick Clegg back on LBC at 9am today

For over two years, Nick Clegg owned that Thursday morning 9 am slot on LBC as he spent half an hour taking calls from the public, It was a brave thing to do and he did it really well.

This morning, he’s back there in what’s billed as his first major interview since the election.

You can watch it here and we’ll certainly be discussing it later.

What are his plans? Will he get involved in the EU referendum campaign? And he ‘s bound to be asked, as the ballot papers hit members’ doorsteps, what he thinks of the leadership contest. Don’t expect him to endorse anyone, though.

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Guardian revelations about Clegg, Cable and the Lib Dem election catastrophe

Well, as the ballot papers get sent out in the leadership election, the Guardian publishes a series of revelations tonight about the last year of the coalition and the aftermath of the European elections.

Apparently Nick Clegg was ready to resign in the wake of the European elections and was talked out of it by, among others, Paddy Ashdown and Tim Farron. Certainly at the time, the feedback that Federal Executive members gave at our post Euro disaster meeting was that there was no appetite in the wider party for a leadership election, but they did want things to change.

Vince Cable, it transpires, did know about the Oakeshott polls.

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Lib Dem Leadership: Big name endorsements for each camp as ballots are posted to members

Ballots for the Liberal Democrat leadership hit members’ doorsteps from tomorrow.

With that in mind, both camps have unveiled big name endorsements. From the Lamb campaign, he kind of unveiled it himself in his inimitable style:

It isn’t the biggest surprise in the whole world. During our Spring conference, he was pretty critical of Tim. Paddy becomes the latest party establishment figure to support Norman Lamb.

At the start of the campaign, Tim Farron unveiled a list of over 100 parliamentary candidates who had supported him. On Monday he announced the support of over 200 councillors, council group leaders and elected mayors like Dorothy Thornhill and Dave Hodgson. The Westminster Bubble may have gravitated towards Norman, but Tim has significant grassroots support.

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Lib Dem Leadership: Farron and Lamb campaigns covered in Welsh media

Norman Lamb and Tim Farron have been featured in the Welsh media.

Norman’s comments were reported in Walesonline.

He talked about drugs policy:

We have a really crazy situation where there are very many people who end up criminalised and with their careers blighted when actually half of the Government will have taken drugs in their early years… This is put down as a youthful indiscretion if you’re a fully signed-up member of the middle classes, but there are many of their fellow citizens who have criminal convictions for doing the same thing.

He says he regrets signing the tuition fees pledge:

I don’t think we should have signed it in the first place. It was pressure from the campaigns department to sign this…

I should have stood up to that.

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Six fight for Lib Dem London Mayor nomination

Six candidates have bave applied to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London. They are:

Duwayne Brooks OBE.

Brian Haley. A strong communicator, comfortable with diverse communities. Stood to be selected as Lib Dem mayoral candidate four years ago. [email protected]

Teena Lashmore. From Hackney, criminologist working in resettling those released from prisons and detention centres andsafeguarding children. [email protected]

Caroline Pidgeon. Leader of the Liberal Democrats on the London Assembly, specialises in transport, policing and housing. www.carolinepidgeon.org@CarolinePidgeon

Marisha Ray. Known as the Lib Dem crime fighting chief in her area and for work preventing teenage knife deaths. http://www.libdemvoice.org/author/marisha-ray  [email protected]

Paul Reynolds. Paul is an international government reform and anti-poverty specialist; an Iraq war ‘veteran’ and former Smithfield Market trader. www.THEfuture.london

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Opinion: Wear a yellow flower to honour a Lib Dem friend

A few years ago I gave a training session at Wyboston for target seat candidates on the role of the PPC.  I tried to make it interesting, thought provoking, even different. One of the roles I had on my slides was attending funerals of long standing activists.  The idea aroused some discussion with a couple of those present dismissing the idea, and one person present saying they were going to concentrate on the living only.  Well I would still believe that one of the roles of a PPC is to attend funerals of long standing activists.  Let me explain.

Here in Camden we have a strong and sociable local party – food and drink are a large part of our staple campaign diet – we try to make it fun, we have a scheme whereby if you can’t go, but can afford it, you pay to attend and those less able to afford are given free access.
With this sociability goes a sense of family – this is something I often hear Liberal Democrats talk about up and down the country – well so with family we pay our respects when they pass away.
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Sal Brinton’s message for Ramadan

Party President Sal Brinton has recorded a message of thanks and support to British Muslims for their holy month of Ramadan. The text is below.

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Opinion: Performance v Effectiveness: How the Lib Dems can (and must) fight smart

In the run up to the election, I sent numerous emails to activists in Hornsey and Wood Green, congratulating them for hitting ‘green’ in all our HQ-monitored key performance indicators (KPIs).

We were model pupils. Bar membership, I think we hit green every month, on every indicator.

And it’s no wonder. We worked so hard – and the campaign was the biggest that Hornsey had ever seen: in terms of numbers of activists on the ground, number of doors knocked on, and pieces of literature produced and delivered.

We were more organised and more targeted in our approach than ever before. We couldn’t have worked harder.

In fact, the one thing that didn’t hit ‘green’ was the only thing that really mattered – the result. That was a big fat (-10,000) red.

This pattern was true of many other seats – and as a local campaign manager, I’ve put a lot of thought into why this happened.

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Tim Farron and Norman Lamb face a live audience on Victoria Derbyshire

This morning leadership candidates Tim Farron and Norman Lamb appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC2. They were quizzed by Victoria and a live audience. See how they got on below:

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Brian Paddick upsets the Daily Mail over drugs policy. Oh what a shame.

Brian Paddick is not some hippy anarchist. He used to be the Assistant Commisioner of the Metropolitan Police for goodness’ sake. He knows, therefore, about what works in trying to tackle drug addiction. And it’s not the futile “war on drugs” which successive governments have insisted on waging. Prohibition just doesn’t work. All the evidence points to that. Drug users who need help should get it through the health service not the prison service.

Funnily enough, the Daily Mail doesn’t much like his plan to amend the government’s ridiculous law banning legal highs.

This afternoon, Brian moved his amendments to the Bill. Here’s his speech in full:

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Caroline Pidgeon and Duwayne Brooks launch campaigns to be Liberal Democrat London Mayoral candidate

Today the race to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor has had two entrants. Current London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon and former Lewisham Councillor Duwayne Brooks have thrown their hats into the ring.

Duwayne Brooks linked to an exclusive interview with ITV News in a tweet

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Greg Mulholland MP writes…Free on Friday evening? Join Tim Farron’s online Q & A

Tim Farron and Greg MulhollandThis Friday will mark three weeks until the Liberal Democrats have a new leader. Other than the many visits and hustings he’s doing to meet as many party members as possible, this Friday evening, 6.30pm-8pm, Tim’s also doing an online Q&A live via webcam. I’d highly recommend signing up, and you can do so via this link.

In this election, I am proud to back Tim Farron to take the party forward and get us back to our winning ways. Why do I trust Tim to do that? Simply, because it’s what he’s always done. It takes a solid campaigner to end 95 years of Tory hold on a constituency- that’s what Tim did when he won Westmorland & Lonsdale for us in 2005, the same year I was elected for Leeds North West.

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Probe into “undue spiritual influence” in Birmingham election

 

An election petition has been launched into the May 2015 local elections in Birmingham. I want to be clear about a few things at the outset.

These proceedings are all about principles of public importance and the protection of democratic elections. It is about preventing future recurrence of kinship voting swaying bloc votes in favour of a political party. It is about the corrupt practice of providing fertile battleground for Pakistani political parties to flex their muscle during local British elections. It is about undue spiritual influence installing fear in the minds of the voter that if they don’t vote the party endorsed by the spiritual leader, punishment awaits them in the afterlife. It is about the illegal practice of segregation of men and women at political rally in contravention of the Equality Act 2010. These practices have no place in modern politics and for any political party to turn a blind eye to such practices amounts to selling values for votes.

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Tim Farron’s campaign video

Tim Farron has launched his Leadership campaign video today.

 
 

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Lib Dem fightback is strong in Kent  

liberalyouth2015In the South East we took a bit of battering, just like the rest of the country. On Thursday, 18th June 2015 Kent Liberal Youth held a #liberalpint event in Maidstone. Considering everyone is saying that the Lib Dems are slowly dying out, it’s not the case for Kent Liberal Youth. We had over eleven new members who were under the age of eighteen, plus another five who were over eighteen.

We had a great discussion on what issues we were passionate about, we had members say they were passionate about drug reform, education, civil liberties, campaigning against secret courts and being liberal.

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Suffolk Liberal Democrats – building a stronger Party for a brighter future

SuffolkSo, we’d got all of these new members, and they were still flooding in. It was just what we had wanted over the years, a whole new bunch of enthusiastic Liberal Democrats keen to do things. And yet, there was a nagging doubt in my mind, a memory of new, keen people in the past who had come, been confronted with a tradition of doing things a certain way, or given a pile of leaflets, and who had then drifted away. This time, it was going to be different.

But, in Suffolk, where distances are greater and members rather more spread out, it wasn’t enough for the Local Parties to be left to run their own events, we wanted something that would bring people together, old and new, from across the county, but which would help all of our members to engage in all of the work of the Party, and to allow us to tap their skills and enthusiasm.

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Liberator questionnaire to Lamb and Farron

Issue 372 of Liberator is on its way to subscribers and takes a hard look at the lessons to be learnt from the fiasco of 7 May.

For the free sample content for this issue we’ve done something different from normal and posted Tim Farron’s and Norman Lamb’s answers to the questionnaire we sent them. You can see their answers here.

We aimed to try to get responses that shed some light on where they think the party stands now and what sort of party they want to lead, rather than opinions on specific policy issues. Both were given the same questions and allowed up to 1,500 words to use as they chose to answer them.

The questions were:

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Norman Lamb’s campaign removes two volunteers for alleged misuse of personal data for negative push-polling

So just over 24 hours ago, I was sitting in a packed room with hundreds of Liberal Democrats from all over the North East Region. We had all been treated to an excellent two hours of debate between leadership candidates Tim Farron and Norman Lamb. They had each shown the best of themselves. Norman’s thoughtful, intelligent analysis and ideas, his determination to give a voice to the voiceless, Tim’s tub-thumping, barnstorming adrenaline rush of a speech underpinned with good ideas and things that would make Quentin Letts from the Daily Mail hyperventilate. It was great. We truly do have two hugely talented contenders.

Tonight, though, a shadow has been cast over the contest as Norman Lamb has had to suspend two volunteers for misuse of the membership data. The Telegraph has the story:

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Carmichael and Davey blast Tories’ withdrawal of subsidies for onshore wind

A few wind turbinesWe know that during the coalition years the Liberal Democrats ensured subsidies for onshore wind. The Guardian managed to give precisely 2 and a  bit lines at the bottom of their report to Ed Davey. He was the Energy and Climate Change Secretary who fought tooth and nail to protect renewables, but there’s no mention of that. Ed is quoted as saying:

Anti-wind power Tories will put up electricity bills, cut green jobs and reduce investment.

Alistair Carmichael also took the Tories to task for what he called a “lamentable sop to the Tory right.”

This is full-throttle Tory energy policy.

Their decision to end the renewables obligation for onshore wind is a backwards step for the UK’s energy mix.

It is a lamentable sop to the Tory right-wing who would sooner have us concede the battle on climate change than commit properly to renewables. This blinkered and outdated view of the world is bad news for the environment, but it is also bad news for jobs and investment.

In coalition government Liberal Democrats blocked these madcap Tory ideas. In opposition, we will lead the campaign against them.

 

photo by: vaxomatic
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Jim Wallace on Charles Kennedy: We loved you, we miss you, will we ever see your like again

I was expecting last night’s memorial service for Charles Kennedy at Glasgow University to be a fitting tribute to the man, to be dignified and formal. It was all of those things, but I didn’t expect it to have such a strong under-current of emotion and affection. A series of heartfelt tributes were punctuated with beautiful music and poignant poetry and the whole thing was woven together perfectly by the University Chaplain, Rev Stuart MacQuarrie. At each stage, he talked very personally about the aspect of Charles’ life that the next item would reflect.

What was so clear was the enormous love and affection that senior management, students and academics alike had for Charles. The students clearly felt that he had their backs. The Presidents of the Glasgow University Union and the Students’ Representative Council both spoke about his approachability and his work on their behalf.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell sat together. Each did a reading. Willie Rennie read a poem. Jim Wallace gave a superb tribute to Charles, talking about their experiences as Highland MPs and how they all travelled to each others’ constituencies to get a shared understanding of the challenges faced by each area. He also spoke about the example Charles in his manner towards others and how we could all learn from him:

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Double by-election win in Mole Valley

At the General Election, in Mole Valley, the Liberal Democrat vote fell by 14% while the Conservatives and UKIP shares increased.

There’s good news this morning though as the Liberal Democrats pulled off a convincing double by-election win for Holmwoods ward on the District Council. Congratulations to new Councillors Claire Malcolmson and Clayton Wellman. The local team is particularly pleased with the majority over the Tories. Here’s the result in full:

LD (Claire) 804

LD (Clayton) 768

Con 492

Con 458

UKIP 201

UKIP 180

Green 105

Green 78

Total votes 1594 (including 3 spoilt)

This constitutes a Liberal Democrat gain from UKIP and a hold. The by-elections were caused by …

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Why it’s worth being a member of the Liberal Democrats

The New Statesman is doing a series of features on membership of political parties. They feature Lizzie Jewkes, who was responsible for the current incarnation of the policy of raising the tax threshold. “Meet the ordinary political party member who will cost the Treasury £4 billion a year” says the headline:

She was in the auditorium during Nick Clegg’s first conference as leader of the party, in 2008. He mooted that £20bn of savings could be spent on reducing the rate of standard income tax.

“We all duly voted for this,” Jewkes explains. But discussing Clegg’s idea with a friend and fellow party member, Jewkes concluded they should be using those savings to raise the income tax threshold instead.

“It’s like a lightbulb went on,” she says.

Later that year, when Vince Cable – then the Lib Dems’ Treasury spokesperson – visited a regional conference Jewkes was also attending, she ran her idea past him. “He came as a keynote speaker and I just nobbled him when he was having a cup of tea,” she laughs.

“I said to him, ‘is there any reason we don’t do this?’ and he said to me, ‘ah, that’s my ultimate dream.’”

Jewkes wrote her idea up as a policy motion and submitted it to party conference in the summer of 2009. The party didn’t even wait until that conference to announce it.

“The next thing I know, Nick is on the news saying, ‘we have a new tax policy – first £10,000 tax-free’ And I thought ‘hold on a minute…’” says Jewkes of first discovering her policy had been taken on.

“I was just completely astonished,” she recalls. Yet she still never imagined it would become government policy.

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  • User AvatarManfarang 6th Jul - 3:00am
    I wonder how this named person will deal with a child from an ethnic and religious minority.
  • User AvatarJane Ann Liston 6th Jul - 1:04am
    The Scottish conference passed a motion a year or so back supporting an investigation into LVT as a replacement for Business Rates (as far as...
  • User AvatarT-J 6th Jul - 12:44am
    Any changes to the way the English party works must factor in ways to account for the regional diversity in England. Indeed, an additional English...
  • User AvatarGeorge Potter 6th Jul - 12:20am
    It was wishy washy in the sense that it had no sense of what powers would be involved, what model of accountability devolution would have...
  • User AvatarLittle Jackie Paper 5th Jul - 11:57pm
    Sorry if this is a dumb question. 'for England we have a wishy-washy “devolution on demand” policy, some regional parties with policies for their own...
  • User AvatarLittle Jackie Paper 5th Jul - 11:50pm
    'Importantly, we need to develop the best policy possible to help bring stability into the region as soon as we can.' Well...with respect (and I...
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