Category Archives: News

The Liberal Party and the First World War – event in London next month

War gravesIn this year, a hundred years since the coming of war in August 1914, the conflict is remembered chiefly for
 its impact on the millions of ordinary men, women and children who were to suffer and die and over the following four years. Lives were altered forever and society transformed. But the war had political consequences too: empires fell, new nations emerged and British political parties and the party system underwent profound change – a transformation which plunged the Liberal Party into civil war and caused it to plummet from a natural party of government to electoral insignificance within a few short years.

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Shouldn’t Parliament Square be for protesters?

Parliament square by Paul WalterThe name Donnachadh McCarthy means something to those of us of a certain age. Donnachadh was once a Liberal Democrat and he was proper Awkward Squad. I spent many hours arguing with him on Cix, which was where all online Liberal Democrats hung out back in the day. Quite often I agreed with him and even when I didn’t, I realised that he was the sort of pain in the backside that every leader needs. Liberals have always been particularly bad at venerating their leaders. Willie Rennie described us, the day he became Scottish leader, as a party that doesn’t want to be led.

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Liberal Democrat storms to by-election win – in the House of Lords

House of Lords - Some rights reserved by UK ParliamentWe have a new Liberal Democrat Parliamentarian tonight after a by-election win. It’s a wee while since we could say that. But it’s a very different type of by-election and one that raises more than a little disquiet. I have to say I find it pretty objectionable that you can get a seat in Parliament not through election by actual voters but because of the circumstances of your birth.

The House of Lords Act of 1999 left 92 hereditary peers in place after the Labour government backed down from full reform. That’s the Labour party, blocking reform at every turn whether in government or opposition. When one of them dies, there is a by-election held to admit a new one. The electorate is the whole House of Lords.

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Kirsty Williams questions Welsh First Minister on “lack of ambition” for young people

Kirsty WilliamsKirsty Williams seemed choked with the cold when she questioned First Minister Carwyn Jones yesterday but her fighting spirit was undiminished as she took him to task for what she called his government’s aspiration towards mediocrity rather than excellence in the wake of the annual Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission report which said that poorer children in Wales were significantly less likely to obtain 5 GCSE’s including Maths and English. Even at the age of 3, children in Wales were falling behind those in England and Scotland in terms of vocabulary. While children in England caught up with those in Scotland by the age of 5, children in Wales fell further behind.

In his response, Mr Jones had to point to the “Pupil Deprivation Grant” as being part of the solution.

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Lord Andrew Phillips writes…Reflections from the campaign trail in Clacton

Clacton beach huts photo by Nick PageI have a lifelong affinity with Clacton. It was the nearest seaside resort to my hometown of Sudbury, but more relevantly I was parliamentary candidate for the Harwich division, as it was then called, which included Clacton, in the General Election of 1970 (albeit for Labour – I saw the light three years later!)

On the face of it one should want to forget all about the Clacton results as quickly as possible. But there are some bright spots, and some insights which may be worth sharing.

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ALDC’s by-election report: 16 October 2014

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)Last week saw ten principal by-elections contested across the country with the Liberal Democrats recording two victories. In York, former city council leader Andrew Waller was re-elected following a resounding Lib Dem victory in Westfield Ward, defeating the Labour Party candidate by 1,216 votes in second place. Andrew who had lost his seat in the 2011 local elections, polled 60.2% and was able to capitalize on a fall of 28.3% for Labour’s vote share from 2011 to give the party their ninth councilor in York.

The Liberal Democrats were also victorious in Rutland with Sam Asplin narrowly winning in Whissendine by 13 votes (51.8%) ahead of the Conservatives. Sam now joins Gale Waller as the party’s second representative on Rutland Council. Turnout was at 34.7% which is the highest of the known turnouts for this week’s by-elections. Prior to the by-election, the ward had an Independent councillor which led to Sam’s team attempting to market itself as a source of opposition to the Conservative run council. Whissendine is a compact village with an electorate of around 1,100 voters which allowed the local Liberal Democrats to run a strong, largely leaflet based campaign. Sam’s Agent John Hughes said, ‘We saw it as being better to give all voters several leaflets than to see maybe half of them once on the doorstep’. The Lib Dem team also stated that they managed to take advantage of apparent complacency on the part of their Conservative opponents, who had expected an unopposed victory.

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Is this the front page of the next Lib Dem manifesto?

Ryan Coetzee, recently appointed the Lib Dems’ General Election Director of Strategy, was snapped today clutching papers which look like they might reveal the party’s top four priorities for the 2015 manifesto.

The four priorities read:

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A sneak preview of the Scottish Autumn Conference Agenda

This year’s Scottish Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference takes place much later than usual. It’s been delayed by the Referendum and will take place in Dunfermline on Saturday 22nd November. There’s just about enough time for Presidential candidates to come and chase some last minute votes.

The preliminary agenda has just been published and it’s busy. Six policy debates, two keynote speeches, a  devolution discussion, a thank you reception for our former MEP George Lyon and two lunchtime fringe meetings crammed into one day.

The policy motions include:

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Linda Jack drops out of race for party president

linda-jack-6The election for the new president of the party is underway. Ballot papers will be sent out on Friday  to all members of at least one year’s standing to everyone who was a member on the qualifying date at the end of September.  

Candidates had to collect 200 nominations from conference representatives across at least 20 different local parties, with no-one allowed to nominate more than one. Traditionally the candidates try to get the requisite signatures at Autumn Conference, but this proved to be a particular challenge this year.

Linda Jack has issued this statement:

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Conference Speeches: Vince Cable: Liberal Democrats have brought compassion, common sense and competence to Government

Continuing our series of Conference speeches, today it’s the turn of Vince Cable. He announced an increase in pay for apprentices, talked about the benefits of migration and spelled out the difference between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. He talked about what the Liberal Democrats have brought to the Government and exhorted us to be proud about it.

You can watch here, and the text is below:

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“Durántezmania – that has legs” and other compliments for Miriam

Miriam González Durántez by Cabinet OfficeIt seems that Miriam González Durántez’s interview the other day has impressed a couple of Fleet Street columnists.

In the Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff says Miriam is “electrifying.”:

I’ve seen Miriam talking to girls at an Essex comp about raising their sights. She was electrifying. In a world where successful women are regularly portrayed as ball-breakers, lonely, or just underdressed, she makes working motherhood look thrillingly fun and achievable, if not easy. (She’s big on graft). And for teenage girls, she explodes the myth that men won’t want you if you’re clever. She doesn’t rush, surrendered wife-style, to kiss Clegg for the cameras after a party conference speech: she waits for him to come to her – and he does.

In person she’s funny, frank, mischievous, and enviably fearless. She doesn’t care how people judge her: she simply can’t see why she can’t have what men have, professionally and personally (which is of course why a certain kind of man hates her).

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Conference Speeches: Lynne Featherstone: I have been able to do über-Liberal things in Government

Lynne FEatherstone 2007 Brighton conference by Liberal DemocratsConference may have been a week or so ago but we still have some keynote speeches to post. Lynne Featherstone spoke about the work she had done to help the most vulnerable people across the world with great humility. She said she had been able to introduce über-liberal policies but was also keen to pay  tribute to Danny Alexander and Nick Clegg for getting the economy on track.

She spoke powerfully about what she’s dong to protect women and girls around the globe and talked with great humility, saying that whenever she meets people in desperate circumstances she’s very aware that that could have been her. “I didn’t choose where I was born” she said. Here is the video and the text is below:

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Voters give Liberal Democrats credit for tax threshold rise according to IPSOS-MORI poll

We all heard David Cameron and George Osborne take credit as often as they can for the raising of the tax threshold during this Parliament but a poll from IPSOS-MORI with fieldwork done after our Conference shows that the public just aren’t buying the Tory claims. 41% give the Liberal Democrats the credit for the policy compared to just 26% for the Conservatives as this graphic shows.

ISPOS-MORI tax threshold poll

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Liberal Democrat Lucy Care answers questions from NUS students

The National Union of Students is questioning candidates across the country via the medium of Twitter as part of its build up to next year’s General Election.

The idea is that they will take one marginal seat at a time and ask each of its candidates a series of ten questions. The  candidates will then tweet their replies. The first such event took place last Wednesday involving the candidates from Derby North, including our own Lucy Care. Tackling the subject of tuition fees in 140 characters and doing it justice was quite a challenge but Lucy managed it.

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LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 7

Congratulations to George Murray and Jon Featonby, who lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 7, with 421 and 419 points respectively. They’ve opened a bit of a gap at the top — but just 18 points separate the next 8 places.

LDV FANTASY FOOTBALL_7

There are 149 players in total and you can still join the league by clicking here.

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Danny Alexander, not Vince Cable, designated Lib Dem shadow chancellor (oh, and no Lib Dem reshuffle)

speech danny alexander 6The Guardian’s Nick Watt reports today the long-trailed announcement that Danny Alexander, Lib Dem chief secretary to the treasury, will take on the role of the party’s shadow chancellor at the 2015 election:

Nick Clegg has decided that Alexander, his closest ally in the cabinet, will be the Lib Dem Treasury spokesman during the campaign and will face George Osborne and Ed Balls in any television debates on the economy. … The Lib Dems insisted that the election roles for Alexander and Cable were consistent with their cabinet roles. A Lib Dem spokesman said: “We are enormously fortunate to have two talented and well-known ministers on economic matters that are recognised and respected by the public. By the next election Danny Alexander and Vince Cable will have both served for five years as chief secretary and business secretary respectively, so they know their areas inside out. It therefore makes complete sense that they should continue in those roles during the election.”

I’ve made no secret of my view on this: there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Vince Cable should have continued in the role he held in 2010 as the party’s shadow chancellor. He is, quite simply, head and shoulders above any of his colleagues when it comes not only to understanding the British economy, but, just as crucially, explaining it in a way that is both credible and distinct from the Tories.

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Danny Alexander’s stroll on the Grassy Knoll and other great #dannyswalks

Twitter is evil. We all knew that, right?

And it can be very funny.

And even evilly funny.

Out of the most innocent and an assuming of gestures, it can make a Big Internet Thing.

And so it was when all that Danny Alexander did was change his cover photo. He picked an image of him walking alongside Loch Morlich, near Aviemore in the heart of his Highland constituency.  In the shadow of Cairngorm mountain itself, he strolled, casually dressed.

And then Hannah Thompson, who you may remember is the woman whose brilliant campaign against revenge porn is about to change the law to make it an offence, casually mused:

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Miriam Gonzàlez Duràntez on faking it, elites and inspiring girls

Miriam Gonzàlez Duràntez by Liberal DemocratsThere’s a great interview in the Standard with Miriam Gonzàlez Duràntez. It irks me slightly that Charlotte Edwardes doesn’t even get 20 words into her article before she mentions what Miriam is wearing. At least she got “top corporate lawyer” in there first, so I guess that counts as progress.

All the papers have picked up on what Miriam said to a group of young women – telling them that women have been faking things for years so they should fake self confidence. It’s  about feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

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How to further improve our comments threads: your suggestions please

Fingers on keyboardHere at LDV Towers we try hard to ensure that the comments threads on the site do not descend into the angry, abusive examples that are all-too prevalent around the web. As such, we have a clearly stated policy and the LDV team takes a fairly active approach to the moderation of comments. This takes up a sizeable amount of the team’s time (not least because those who post comments that breach our policy are inevitably more likely to transfer their rants to emails to us!).

Speaking albeit not entirely objectively, I think we do a decent job of keeping the worst of comments off the site, so (we hope) people can come here without fear of being personally abused.

However, speaking personally I think there is more we can do, in one area in particular.

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Massive swing from Labour as Liberal Democrat Andrew Waller regains Council seat in York

There’s some really good news from York today. In a by-election, former Liberal Democrat Group Leader, who lost his seat in the City’s Westfield ward in 2011, regained it in spectacular style, with a 24.8% swing from Labour.

The result in full is:

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Berwick candidate Julie Pörksen seeks views on post-16 transport

Julie PorksenThe issue of transport so that over 16s can get to school and college is one close to Berwick Liberal Democrat PPC Julie Pörksen’s heart. She told us why earlier this Summer:

In the eighties, being a rural Northumbrian kid, I used to get the school bus to Ponteland, and just stayed on it for sixth form. Those wanting to go to college had to find their own way. Raising the age of participation and encouraging parity between a sixth form and a college education can only be a positive step for the opportunities and career and life choices for our young people.

If we are not to discriminate between 16-18 year olds in urban and rural areas across the whole country we must guarantee their rights to access free state education – and free transport is an integral part of that access.

So let’s be about action not just words – lets change the law and actually enable everyone to get on in life.

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Learning six languages changed my life

rally paddy 01The Guardian is hosting an exhibition called “The Languages that changed my life” at its office in London. This interests me as I was both good at and fascinated by languages at school and I now have a teenager who almost obsessively studies language, learning Swahili, French and a bit of Mandarin Chinese for fun.

Paddy Ashdown has written a piece for the Guardian’s exhibition  about how his language learning has enhanced his life. There are a couple of quite funny anecdotes. Just be thankful he didn’t make one of them at a diplomatic reception or there might have been an international incident:

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Jeremy Browne to stand down as MP: what Lib Dem bloggers have made of his decision

Jeremy Browne with beard AD LIBJeremy Browne’s decision to stand down as MP for Taunton Deane at the next election surprised many in the party. Ed Fordham wrote a tribute to Jeremy’s long service for the party on LDV here today — and the Lib Dem blogosphere has also had plenty to say. Here’s a selection…

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A setback for UKIP in the European Parliament, courtesy of one Latvian MEP…

After the European Parliament elections in May, there was a scramble amongst the political groupings in Brussels to gather enough MEPs (twenty-five) from enough countries (seven) to achieve recognition as a political group, with two groups in particular, the European Conservatives and Reformist Group – ECR (which includes the Conservative Party) and the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group – EFDD (which includes UKIP) competing to attract individual MEPS to reach the required number of countries. At one point, it looked as though the EFDD would fall just short, but the recruitment of the Latvian Farmers Union MEP, Iveta Grigule, was enough to satisfy the eligibility clause.

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++ Jeremy Browne to stand down as Lib Dem MP in May 2015

Jeremy Browne, Lib Dem MP for Taunton Deane, has announced he will not be standing again in May 2015. Here’s his tweet, complete with resignation letter:

Here’s Nick Clegg’s response to the news:

‘Jeremy Browne has decided that now is the right time to announce he will not stand at the next election and the Liberal Democrats wish him all the best for the future. The Deputy

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Opinion: The proposed televised debate format does not help pluralism

So, there will be televised debates prior to the 2015 General Election. The question that beckons is what form they should take. ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC are all set to host the party leaders, each with a different composition. Channel 4 have invited Ed Miliband and David Cameron, the BBC have added Nick Clegg to the mix and the trio becomes four as Nigel Farage will attend the ITV debate.

The big controversy, of course, is ITV’s decision to invite UKIP to their debate, given they have only one MP. Personally, I absolutely support the move. As Liberal Democrats we support a pluralistic approach to politics that welcome many democratic voices. Furthermore, UKIP have been able to ride on a wave of press hype that been allowed to ferment exactly because they have been the outriders of traditional political debate.  By inviting them into the fold in televised debates we are able to call UKIP out on the flaws in their policy platform. We can paint ourselves as the antithesis of UKIP’s insular and nationalist philosophy and appeal to those voters that oppose this view. Ultimately, the inclusion of UKIP offers an opportunity to bring the party to account.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Why we must reduce teachers’ workloads

Nick Clegg has been writing for the Times Educational Supplement on the need to make sure teachers’ workloads were more manageable. He recognised that most teachers put in much more effort than they get credit for:

There’s an outdated preconception, which hasn’t quite died out, that a teacher’s working day starts at 9am and finishes at 3pm, with 12 weeks off a year to recuperate. Yet, ask anyone who actually spends their days trying to inspire and educate a classroom of children and they’ll tell you a very different story.

They’ll talk about 50 hour working weeks, the unnecessary bureaucracy they have to deal with every day, the challenges of helping children, from all different backgrounds, get the skills they need and also the rewards, like that moment when you see a young boy or girl in your care thrive.

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Fancy seeing Adam Stachura dangling on a rope?

Scottish Director of Campaigns works very hard. He has had a referendum and a European election to deal with this year so he’s been putting in many hours. You can tell how much of a slog it’s been for him by what he chooses to do on one of his rare days off.

On Sunday, Adam and his partner Gemma will be abseiling down the 165 feet of the Forth Rail Bridge to raise money for the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  I never knew he had a head for heights. He doesn’t need to have on the golf course where he normally spends his free time.  This You Tube video quite accurately conveys the height and the wind and the conditions Adam and Gamma will face. I’m not embedding it because it gave me Vertigo, but it’s worth a watch. Just as an aside, the white building across the road is the Hawes Inn in South Queensferry where I had my wedding reception. 

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Lynne Featherstone on shortlist for Stonewall Politician of the Year

Lynne Featherstone at PrideOn 6th November, Stonewall’s annual awards ceremony takes place in London. Many Liberal Democrats have had their issues with Stonewall in the past, but I’d say that they are definitely improving. For example, it’s good to see Stonewall Scotland’s “Some people are Trans, get over it” t-shirts. They may have come late to the equal marriage party, but they got there eventually.  On top of that,  their resources for schools are excellent.  Stonewall Chief Executive, Ruth Hunt, who is doing some great work in making the organisation more inclusive, spoke at our Conference in Glasgow.

Up for Politician of the Year is our own Lynne Featherstone, the woman who set the country firmly on the road to same sex marriage. Alex Neil, the Minister who was responsible for the Scottish bill, is also nominated. As an aside, it was announced yesterday that the first Scottish same sex marriages will take place on Hogmanay. That’s not a huge amount of time to organise a party, but I’m sure some will manage it.

The shortlist in full is:

Lord Cashman
Lynne Featherstone MP
Lord Fowler
Kerry McCarthy MP
Alex Neil MSP

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What makes Nick’s work worthwhile: the Liberal Democrats’ Autumn PPB

The Autumn PPB film crews spent time following the Cleggster around. It’s not bad, and you can really see what makes him tick:

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    Sorry, David, I thought I was responding to anecdotes of your experience of LibDem internal politicking with anecdotes of my experience of the Greens. Having...
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