Category Archives: News

A trio of damning reports on impact of Government’s welfare reforms

Joseph Rowntree FoundationThree reports published today on the impacts of the Coalition Government’s welfare reforms should concern anyone who is interested in creating a fairer society.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation publishes two reports on wider welfare reform in general and the Bedroom Tax in particular which should inform those who are responsible for the Liberal Democrat manifesto as well as our ministers.

photo by: HowardLake
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Maria Miller resigns – but is that all that needs to happen?

Rt Hon Maria Miller MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and SportThe writing was on the wall for Maria Miller in the 33rd second after she began her grudging apology last Thursday. Even if she had shown the required amount of contrition, the very fact that a system which allowed a committee of MPs to water down the Standards Commissioner’s judgement looks, even if it isn’t, motivated by self interest, by the privileged protecting their own.

At no point did she, or David Cameron, show any signs of “getting it”, of showing any understanding why the original issue was a serious matter.

By allowing it to become a battle between the Conservative leadership and the Tory right, one in which the latter has triumphed, Cameron has weakened his own position.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 21 Comments

Pauline Pearce on the Daily Politics Show

Pauline Pearce was the studio guest in Monday’s Daily Politics. She deals with questions on Iain Duncan Smith’s latest reforms of the welfare system, and on Nigel Farage and the EU.

Half way through the show there is a profile of Pauline, which explains why she became known as the Hackney Heroine. It is followed by a discussion between her and David Lammy about the Hackney riots – I leave you to decide who won!

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Imprints on online political ads?

Do you remember Bingo graphic that Grant Shapps tweeted last month, which not only went viral but attracted a lot of parodies?

At the time nobody commented on the fact that the ad did not have an imprint. Party activists all know that any printed political literature must have a ‘Published, promoted and printed …’ imprint on it, and not having one can be a criminal offence during election time. And yet there is no such requirement for online ads.

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Jeremy Browne’s liberal regime to get Britain fit for the global race

Jeremy Browne bookAs we reported last month, Jeremy Browne has been using his time since he left government last October productively, writing a book on what he sees as the challenges facing Britain over the decades ahead, and the liberal approach that her believes is necessary in response to them. The book, Race Plan: An authentic liberal plan to get Britain fit for The Global Race, is published today by the think tank Reform.

The conundrum facing Britain is outlined neatly in the book’s first few chapters and can be summarised thus: world power and economic strength is shifting, from the Western powers that dominated the last century, primarily east, to Asia, but also south, to South America and Africa. On a whole range of indicators — productivity, educational attainment, global influence — Britain is losing out or is danger of doing so to these ambitious, focussed countries.

How do we respond? Do we accept relative decline as an inevitable consequence of globalisation? Or do we rethink our approach and seek to maintain the competitive advantage and influence on the world stage that we have grown used to? Browne’s answer is emphatically the latter, and he is clear on what form that response should take: it should be distinctly, “authentically” liberal.

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In full: Nick Clegg’s speech to Welsh Conference

Nick Clegg speaking York Some rights reserved by Liberal Democrats“We meet on the eve of a new tax year” is no conventional beginning to a political speech. However, Nick Clegg spoke to Welsh Liberal Democrats as taxpayers were about to get a Liberal Democrat tax cut which they’ll notice in their pay packets in 3 weeks’ time. He went on about it for quite some time, as you would expect, given that it was a major pledge on the front of OUR manifesto. He said that Cameron and Osborne, who are …

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The three things Nick Clegg would change about the EU

Nick Clegg York Q&A Some rights reserved by Liberal Democrats13 hours after leaving the debate stage last Wednesday night, Nick Clegg was back on his regular Call Clegg radio show. The show had been nominated twice in the Radio Academy Awards to be presented next month.

The first caller, Caron from West Lothian, (who might she be, I wonder?) made the point that she was highly amused by David Cameron trying to pretend that he was the voice of reason on Europe when his plan was to sell all our employment rights down the river and then give us a referendum.  Her question to him was that although he’s a powerful advocate of the EU, he acknowledges that it’s not perfect,

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Ros Scott speaks out against food waste

Food waste 215 million tonnes of food wasted in the UK each year.

122 million tonnes wasted in the industrialised world (which makes the British contribution of an eye-wateringly high proportion).

The latter figure is equal to the entire food production of sub-Saharan Africa.

It’s a far cry from the days when we were growing up. Any waste at all horrified my Granny. She went to the shops every day and bought what she needed for that day and no more. Most of what she bought was relatively locally produced, unprocessed and fresh.

photo by: Nick Saltmarsh
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The Nigel Farage Paradox: the higher his public profile, the lower is public support to leave the EU

Nigel Farage

Here is the Nigel Farage paradox: the more that Ukip’s media profile, poll rating and party membership has grown over the last two years, the more that support for the party’s core mission – that Britain should leave the European Union – seems to have shrunk.

    Sunder Katwala, director of British Future (New Statesman, 3 April 2014)
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In Full: Kirsty Williams’ speech to Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference – Proud, passionate and “hungry for Welsh success”

rally kirsty williams 1This weekend, Welsh Liberal Democats have held their conference in Newport. One of these years, I must try and get there because it sounds great fun.

Kirsty Williams closed Conference this afternoon with her leader’s speech. A few weeks ago, I linked to an article she wrote for St David’s Day which expressed her pride in her nation with such positivity that I suggested that those in the pro-UK campaign in Scotland should take note. She was every bit as proud and passionate today. She outlined the Labour governments …

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Norman Lamb: “As a Lib Dem, I want to eradicate gay conversion therapy”

Norman Lamb, Minister for Consumer AffairsNorman Lamb has told the Guardian that he will do all he can to eradicate referral to gay conversion therapy in NHS England:

Gay conversion therapy is abhorrent and has no place in a modern society, according to the health minister Norman Lamb, who has asked for assurances from NHS England that GPs do not make any referrals for such treatment.

photo by: bisgovuk
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Liberal Democrat peers support asylum seekers’ right to work

Advocates disrupt transfer of asylum seekers from VillawoodThe Immigration Bill is currently going through its final stages in the House of Lords. On Thursday, Liberal Democrat peers, led by Roger Roberts, tried to amend it by inserting a clause which would have entitled asylum seekers to work after 6 months.

Roger told me that he was not able to press the amendment to a vote because it received no support from either Labour or Conservative front benches. This, he felt, was grossly unfair given George Osborne’s desire for full employment and Labour’s …

photo by: kateausburn
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Lord Navnit Dholakia appointed as Chair of the Diversity Engagement Group

Some rights reserved by Keith EdkinsIt’s been announced tonight that Baroness Sal Brinton is stepping down as Chair of the Diversity Engagement Group. Nick Clegg paid tribute to her work in the role:

Her hard work and dedication have clearly demonstrated the commitment of the party to becoming more representative of British society, and ensuring that the targets set for increased diversity are met. The Leadership Programme is a significant and important part of that dynamic, giving outstanding candidates from under-represented groups the skills that they will need to win seats in

Also posted in Party policy and internal matters | 1 Comment

Scotland mourns Margo MacDonald MSP

Contains Scottish Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0.There won’t be a dry eye anywhere in Scottish politics this afternoon. Margo MacDonald, the spirited, warm-hearted, funny, plain-speaking, independent minded MSP for Lothians died this lunchtime.

Margo shot to prominence after winning the Govan by-election in 1973. Although she lost her seat in the General Election 2 months later, she made an impact on Scottish politics. She never returned to Westminster, but has been one of the real stars of the Scottish Parliament over the last 15 years. She …

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Chart of the day: how spending on day-to-day public services will have been cut by 37% by 2018-19

It is simply not true – as our critics on the left pretend – that we are slashing and burning the state. By the end of this Parliament, public spending will still be 42% of GDP. That’s higher than at any time between 1995 and when the banks crashed, in 2008.

    Nick Clegg, 10th March 2013

It’s a soothing line from Nick Clegg, designed to reassure Lib Dems that the Coalition’s austerity programme is simply curbing the spending excess of the Blair/Brown years.

photo by: Images_of_Money
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Sarah Ludford MEP writes… on roaming charges and net neutrality

Smartphone bar.Liberal Democrats have long championed ease of communication and information exchange, and been alert to threats to online freedoms. Both at Westminster and in the European Parliament, we have fought aspects of measures to combat child sexual exploitation or copyright infringement which could infringe on internet access rights.

At our recent party conference in York we adopted a call for a Digital Bill of Rights, noting that ‘the internet has the power to liberate, to educate, to bring people closer together, and to boost our economy’. The threat in our sights …

31 Comments

Opinion: How we made policy on asylum issues

Advocates disrupt transfer of asylum seekers from VillawoodEver wondered how party policy is made? I was on the “Immigration, Asylum and Identity” Policy Working Group, and the process has taken a whole year. Living in the north east, I daren’t begin to add up the cost of the fares, and food on the move, for meetings every 10 days on an evening in London, but it was an opportunity to get some good and Liberal policies for the Party for those asylum seekers who seek sanctuary in the UK.

Between March and …

photo by: kateausburn
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The Swiss Wheeze: the Better Off Out argument that’s full of holes

Swiss CheeseIf only we were Switzerland, eh? That’s the dream of the Better Off Out brigade, who long for its freedom as part of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). And it’s a tempting offer: all the benefits of free trade with EU member states, and (if you believe Nigel Farage, Dan Hannan et al) none of the risks.

Except it’s not quite that easy, as The Economist highlighted when it investigated Britain’s options.

photo by: Filter Forge
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Lord James Palumbo’s maiden speech

"Frozen Poetry" - Houses of Parliament, LondonIt is a tradition for LDV to bring its readers copies of our new MPs’ and Peers’ first words in Parliament, so that we can read what is being said and respond. You can find all of the speeches in this category with this link. On 6 March, Lord Palumbo made his maiden speech in the House of Lords during a debate on the contribution of women to economic life. His words are reproduced below.

Lord Palumbo of Southwark (LD): My Lords, I thank my …

photo by: Gaurav Pradhan
Also posted in Parliament and Speeches | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

Nick v Nigel, Round 2: My second thoughts

clegg farage lbcLast week, there was no doubt in my mind that Nick Clegg won the debate – he quite simply out-classed Nigel Farage, and YouGov’s poll showed Labour and Lib Dem voters agreed (though not Tory and Ukip voters).

This week, it was much more evenly matched. The early part belonged to Nick. With the focus on the Ukip leader’s praise for Vladimir Putin as a “brilliant operator”, Nigel Farage was always going to be on the back-foot. He was, and Nick was able successfully to claim the calm …

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Opinion: It’s official – Lib Dems are “most successful and influential” in Europe

Europe Day - European Union - Some rights reserved by Niccolò CarantiAhead of the second EU debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage this evening, a timely new report has found that Liberal Democrats are the most influential British party in the European Parliament.

The analysis of MEPs’ voting records from VoteWatch Europe over the past five years by think tank Policy Network, finds that Liberal Democrats are the “most successful coalition partner” in the European Parliament and “have played a central role in policy-making in both Westminster and Brussels.”

As …

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 6 Comments

Nick Clegg talks of shock and disappointment at Sheffield’s Labour council refusing to accommodate vulnerable Syrian refugees

Syrian refugee children fleeing the violence in their country with their families pose for a picture on February 20, 2012 at a partially set up camp in Mafraq city, near Jordan's northern border with Syria.From today’s Guardian:

Nick Clegg has accused Labour council leaders in Sheffield of refusing to take a single refugee from Syria under the coalition government’s vulnerable persons relocation (VPR) scheme.

The deputy PM and Sheffield MP is furious that Labour put pressure on the coalition government to do more to help Syrian refugees but is refusing to offer practical help locally. Refugees have been arriving from Syria in the past few weeks under the government scheme.

photo by: FreedomHouse
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So how’s my scenario 3 – a Tory lead of 6% by May 2015 – working out then?

Time to dust down a post from last December looking at scenarios for the 2015 election based on current polling – two of which pointed to the Conservatives being likely to take a poll lead in the next year.

(NB: as then, please note my huge caveat – “the extent of the polling science on display here is me playing around on an Excel spreadsheet.”)

In particular, I was curious what might have happen to my third scenario in the meantime. So pasted below is what I wrote in December, but I’ve updated the graph to add the last four months’ average poll leads to see how they fit the trend-line. (The answer is pretty well.)

Scenario 3

File this under the heading “a bit of fun… probably” – let’s look at the whole parliament and insert a polynomial trendline to take us through to May 2015. Here’s what happens:

tory lead in may 2015 scenario 3

Under Scenario 3, then, the Conservatives bounce back from their mid-term slump to lead Labour by 6% come the next general election. It couldn’t happen – could it?

Also posted in Polls | Tagged , and | 20 Comments

Liberal Democrat membership grows by over 500 in first quarter of 2014

Lib Dems winning hereLiberal Democrat membership hit 44,000 in the first quarter of 2014, a rise of more than 1500 since the beginning of 2013. Parties in government tend not to increase their membership and last year’s results for the Liberal Democrats were the first time in recent history that this had been done.

This is in no small part down to new financial incentives to local parties if they increase their membership. If they have more members, they get more money to spend on their local campaigns. That means that they …

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Liberal Democrats put mental health on the agenda in Holyrood and Cardiff

Phrenology head - mental health - Some rights reserved by evansvilleWe know that mental health has always been one of Nick Clegg’s top priorities. His first major speech as Liberal Democrat leader was on the subject. In the coalition, he, Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb have been pushing forward improvements to mental health care from making sure people in crisis see health professionals and not the inside of a Police cell, to a massive expansion of talking therapies to action to tackle the stigma that still exists.

A friend of mine has recently had some time off work for Depression. She wrote on Facebook, and asked people to share, the following:

What I do want to say is that until being off work for eight weeks with depression is regarded on equal footing with the same period of time off with a physical ailment of any kind ( from a hip replacement, to heart attack,stroke, badly broken limb, severe diabetes, or any of countless medical conditions ) then we will all suffer individually and as a society.

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Tim Farron “will withdraw party’s support for Bedroom Tax”

Bedroom tax demo , all the photos taken with a iphone 5Ok, so we’ll overlook the Guardian’s inaccurate headline. Have they learned nothing from years of watching our policy making process? Tim Farron doesn’t have the power to do what the Guardian says he’s done:

The Liberal Democrat president, Tim Farron, will withdraw his party’s support for the bedroom tax on Wednesday, saying it has caused “huge social problems.”

I think he’s right, of course. It might just about be ok if there were suitable smaller properties for people to move into, or if …

photo by: paul bevan
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It’s #NickvNigel Round 2 and we have bingo and billboards

Nick v Nigel Round 2 poster

Today the second debate on EU membership takes place between our Nick Clegg and UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

The image you see before you will be beaming down on commuters and shoppers in Tottenham Court Road, one of London’s busiest areas from around now. At least I think that’s the case. I’m only from Scotland.

It’s also fair to say that no social media timeline will be safe from the image of Cameron and Miliband missing

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Opinion: We can conquer unemployment

unemploymentIn 1929, Lloyd George launched We Can Conquer Unemployment, the policy document that was to form the basis of the Liberals’ election campaign.

This week, George Osborne said “I am committed to securing the “fullest” possible level of employment by helping business to create new jobs and cutting taxes.”

Nick Clegg has said “… many people had accepted real terms pay cuts in recent years to safeguard their jobs and the government must continue to support them as well as creating the climate for new jobs. All I want is the maximum number of people to be employed in the economy and the minimum number to be jobless.”

Just as the productivity gains of the decades prior to the financial crash, were largely captured by the wealthiest in society, so too has the benefit of the asset price inflation generated by monetary policy accrued to the holders of capital at the expense of wage earners and savers.

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In the media today, April 1st

spiralThe Guardian reveals plans for Scotland to switch to driving on the right after Independence. The article includes a video (which we can’t embed here) and uses a natty Lego model to explain how the crossover from left to right at the border will work .

To ease the transition, Scottish transport planners, under strict conditions of secrecy, have begun drawing up plans for a series of spiral interchanges at the major border transport nodes. These will transition drivers to the correct side of the road – whether travelling south–north or north-south – and avoid cross-border crashes – “a PR disaster worse than horsemeat in haggis”, according to one planner.

It is understood that another proposal involving traffic light sequencing has been rejected. Instead of red, amber, green, it would have become red, amber, blue. But there was a fear that this would be adopted south of the border by the Conservatives and so lose any distinctiveness.

13 Comments

Opinion: What’s the right balance of smile and frown?

facesJonathan Freedland in an article for the Guardian raises the critical subject of the right balance between positive and negative campaign messages and their effectiveness on the body politic. He does so in the context of September’s Scottish referendum over concern that the ‘NO’ campaign is increasingly characterised by fear, in spite of the fact that the overall message is ‘Better Together’.

The debate now under way has a resonance that extends beyond Scotland, touching all democratic politics. When opposing a proposal, or a government, what’s the right balance of smile and frown?

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