Category Archives: News

Another thank you email from Paddy

I got another nice email from Paddy Ashdown yesterday, which I thought I’d share with you despite its horrendous apostrophe fail. I was vaguely annoyed with this assertion, though:

 I believe that you, the campaigners, candidates and staff of our party could not have done more, or done it better than you did.

Our staff and on the ground campaigners are fabulous. They all worked with absolute commitment. But no campaign ever gets it all right. We do need to look at the effectiveness of what we did. You have to do this even if you win! Are your campaign methods getting a little tired? Blue letters, for example, may have had their day. I remember the wow factor that they had when we first used them but that was getting on for two decades ago. What’s the next Wow Factor?

I have a lot of time for Paddy and  I actually sent him a note thanking him earlier this week because I think he deserved it. When Nick appointed him as Chair of the General Election Committee in 2012, I was thrilled. He set about making sure that each of our held seats was as prepared as it possibly could be to fight the General Election. He set them targets and some of them complained noisily. However, he made sure that they had the capacity and the infrastructure to hold our vote up.


Opinion: It was one week ago today but it feels like longer

We have been here before.

My last full time commitments with the party were the back-to-back by-elections of 1982 that saw us make significant gains on the Tories and beat one Anthony ‘Tony’ Blair into third place with a message of change and a better alternative, followed by the sting of an all-too-foreseeable but nonetheless devastating loss on a point of principal.

I don’t recall much about the Beaconsfield by-election.  But I do recall that in Mitcham and Morden I arrived exhausted from the previous campaign. We set up shop in what had been, I think, a grocer’s on one of the busier streets of Merton. Volunteers came from across the country to help save the seat of the one MP who had resigned when he left the Labour Party to join the SDP. Frankly, we never stood a chance, but that campaign helped solidify the very foundation upon which the Liberal Democrats were built – that principles matter.

I stayed in the campaign office during the count. I was too tired and too depressed to see the point of watching Angela Rumbold start her parliamentary career. When he returned to our office, Bruce Douglas-Mann thanked everyone. And then, off script, he told us that while ‘you can regret making a promise, you can never regret keeping one.’


Liberal Reform: The leadership campaign is too important for factional infighting

Liberal Reform issued this statement following Tim Farron’s announcement that he will contest the party leadership election:

From the Board of Liberal Reform:

“The party now has two excellent candidates to choose from for leader, both with many strengths. We believe that whichever candidate is elected will need to lead a united party into battle against the Government and to expose the fake progressives of Labour and the SNP.

In this spirit, therefore, we do not believe it is appropriate for Liberal Reform to endorse a candidate in this contest and would urge other groups to take the same view. The need for unity in our task of rebuilding makes this leadership election too important for it to descend into factional infighting.

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#NewMembersDay New member Anna out on the Tower Hamlets campaign trail already – and how you can help

Elaine & Anna campaign in Tower HamletsThe #libdemfightback has been incredible since last Thursday. As well as being astounded at over 100 people joining Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats in less than a week, we’ve been straight back out on the doorsteps talking to people as part of my campaign to become Mayor on 11 June. We’re finding that we’re getting a great reception, as Thursday’s result has driven people to realise that we share so many of our core values. Our new members are joining us at each event as well – full of enthusiasm, energy, and new ideas that will help reinvigorate our party. The photo shows us out with new member Anna Ovsyanikova, who is holding the clipboard.

Tower Hamlets has always been a borough full of contradictions. We live in the shadows of the City and Canary Wharf yet we have the second highest unemployment rate in London and 49% of our children are living in poverty. With a Tory government now in power preparing to slash the pupil premium that brought over £70 million to our local schools and further cuts to welfare, it’s even more important that new ideas and liberal values are at the heart of our Town Hall.

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10,000 new members since polls closed last Thursday!

phoenixWe’re entering nosebleed heights. Here’s what Austin Rathe, from party HQ, just told members:

This is absolutely incredible: since last Thursday, 10,000 people have joined the Liberal Democrats to begin the fight back.

Here’s some of the reasons they gave for joining:

Charity from Edinburgh said, “I joined the Lib Dems because Nick Clegg was right in his speech – we need liberal values now more than ever.”

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Opinion: This is our #LibDemFightBack

Fightback54kAs a long-time supporter of the Liberal Democrats I decided to join the party about two weeks before polling day. I was a member of the BBC project “Generation 2015” which was giving young people aged 18 – 24 the chance to get their voices heard and put across what matters to them when it comes time to cast their – or should I say our – votes and I came across so many passionate people my age and some a lot younger than me who were members of the parties they supported. Even though those who had the most influence on me were members of the Conservatives and the Labour party their support was one of the main reasons I wanted to join my party and make a difference.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 13 Comments

Opinion: Eight things for Liberals to consider

From the crossroads of shock and grief lead two paths: on one lies anger and resentment, on the other, resolute determination to progress.

It is that latter path that liberal-minded people, and the Liberal Democrat party that provides their best home, must now take.


Norman Lamb running for leader

Norman Lamb has this evening confirmed that he will be a candidate in the leadership election.

It is widely expected that Tim Farron will also put his name forward, but he has not confirmed that yet.  Nominations will not formally open until this Wednesday and will close on 3rd June.

The full timetable for the leadership election is here.  Anyone who has joined the party by 3rd June may vote.

An amazing 8000 people have already joined, or rejoined, since polling day. You can join here.

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#Libdemfightback isn’t just for newbies

I joined the Liberal Democrats as a Scottish Liberal Party member on merger and have held a membership ever since. Like many, I am keen to turn my grief at last Thursday’s results (and, being honest, the results of the last Scottish Parliament elections too) into determination that liberalism is too important to be allowed to die. But, unlike the much appreciated surge of new members, I can’t join a party I am already a member of.

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A word about the deputy leadership

I know all the attention is on the Leadership at the moment, but I think it’s worth considering the Deputy Leadership, particularly as our 8 MPs will be discussing this tomorrow night. My guess is that they just won’t bother electing a deputy at this point before we have a leader. That would certainly be the sensible thing to do. However, I think that we should do something different.

The Deputy Leader is, in fact, “The Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons.” This post is only referred to in passing in Article 9 of the Federal Constitution:

  1. The Parliamentary Party in the House of Commons shall consist of all Members of that House in receipt of the Party’s whip. Its Leader shall be the Leader of the Party elected as provided in Article 10. It shall be entitled to make such regulations (not being inconsistent with this Constitution) as it thinks fit for the conduct of its own proceedings. In particular, these regulations shall make provision for a Chief Whip and, if thought fit, a Deputy Leader of such Parliamentary Party.

I think we should open up the post of Deputy Leader to a much wider pool. Peers, MSPs, AMs, London Assembly Members, MEPs, Mayors and Councillors should be able to stand with the electorate being that whole group of people. There are two reasons for that.

First of all, it makes us less Westminster-centric and shows that we value all the levels of government equally, as ends in themselves.

Secondly, it might well give us a more diverse leadership team. Our Commons party is all-male, all-white and are pretty much all around the same age.

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Operation Phoenix

phoenixIt’s been a few days now and hopefully most of the hurt is over, though for some it’ll take a long time. Jobs have been lost and decades of work finished overnight. The country lost some of its best MP’s, and we lost some of the best of our own.

I’ve heard a lot of people saying that we’re dead. We’re wiped out in politics. Insignificant. Clearly the 6000 people who have joined us didn’t get that particular memo. And it’s lit a fire in me personally and I’m sure many more people feel similarly invigorated.

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Rennie and Williams back “brilliant communicator and outstanding campaigner” Farron

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie, and Welsh Liberal Democrats leader Kirsty Williams, have today endorsed Tim Farron to be the next leader of the federal Liberal Democrats.

In a joint statement, they said:

Thursday’s results were devastating for the Liberal Democrats.

Our pain is eased by the knowledge that our liberal gains in government will endure.

Despite our loss our party remains optimistic, hopeful and confident about what we can achieve on behalf of Britain.

However, we now have to earn the right to be listened to again.

To move forward we need a fresh start. With that in mind we call on Tim Farron

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An apology to contributors and commenters

This is by way of a pre-rebuttal …

Here at LDV we have been overwhelmed by wonderful contributions from readers, and it is taking time for us to go through them all, so please bear with us. As the Monday editor I have been sifting through about thirty posts just today. Not surprisingly, many of them make very similar points, so I am trying to select ones that add something new to the debate.

So please understand if we don’t respond immediately to you, or are unable to post your contribution.

We have a similar issue with comments. Every time I check the comments …

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New Leader election timetable

An email came out from Chief Executive Tim Gordon today outlining the timetable for the election of the new leader.

I am in awe of these members of staff who have been working like mad for months on end and are still keeping going through this weekend. They are brilliant. I know this is utterly churlish on my part but I feel I must, though, point out that dates with “of” in them make me feel a tiny bit queasy.

Here it is in full:

Dear Caron,

Following the agreement of the Federal Executive and the party’s returning officer I am pleased to be able to confirm to you the timetable for the election of a new party leader.
Opening of nominations 13th of May 2015
Close of nominations 3rd of June 2015
Dispatch of ballot papers 24th of June 2015
Deadline for ballot papers to be returned 15th of July 2015
Count and declaration of the winner 16th of July 2015
Any member who joins the party before the close of nominations is able to vote in the election, so this is a fantastic time to ask local supporters and former members to join the party. The easiest way for them to join is online at
If you have any questions regarding this process, please get in touch via
Best wishes,
Tim Gordon
Chief Executive

PS. You’ll have heard from Austin earlier that this morning our membership passed 50,000. People are joining us today who have never been involved before, and everyone who joins now is going to get a vote in the leadership election. So why not forward this email to a few friends now and ask them to join? All they need to do is go to

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@ALDEParty Council – mourning our losses in the bosom of our family and friends

I was the first of our delegation to reach Oslo, having concluded that there was little I could practically do to help at home by then and, arriving at the venue for the Friday evening fringe meeting, I was braced for the questions. “What went wrong? What will happen now? Who will be the new leader?”. And yes, I expected some sympathy, although the offer of political asylum in Norway was unexpectedly kind.

Perhaps, just perhaps, opening the event with a debate on the future of Liberal Europe was just a little too raw given events at home, but I did take the opportunity to ask the panel the question, “My political party has just suffered a near-death experience. What single piece of advice would you give me?”. The answer, rebuild from the floor. Rebuild your branch structure, develop some clear, liberal messages, give your members and activists something to believe in and campaign for.

Also posted in Europe / International | Tagged | 3 Comments

Party membership passes 50,000, with over 5,000 new members since Thursday

Lib Dem membership 50,000About 80 people an hour have been joining the party since the polls closed on Thursday, taking membership levels back up to those last seen in about 2011. Even the 2010 surge following the leaders debate only took membership up to just over 60,000, so if these extraordinary increases continue we may find ourselves completely reversing all the decline that occurred in the first couple of years of the coalition.

Party chief executive Tim Gordon has just emailed members with the timetable for the leadership election that will now take place (see below) and all those who join the party before 3 June will be able to vote.

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Opinion: Bloody but unbowed, we must pick our battles quickly

The pain of Thursday night and Friday morning will take a long time to heal. But politics, like time, is an ever-rolling stream, and while our party’s dreams may have died long before the opening day, there is never the luxury of standing still or turning inwards.

Already, and encouragingly, this already seems to have been reflected in a groundswell of renewed support from more than 2000 party members. I myself, as a formerly rather passive Liberal Democrat, feel deeply ashamed of my lack of active campaigning when it was needed most. We absolutely need to turn those feelings of guilt and anger into action.

The question will be where to focus our efforts. I want to argue that picking our battles deliberately and quickly is vital.

Twitter and Facebook might be full of people pointing out the unfairnesses of First Past the Post; people might even be actively questioning the legitimacy of the Conservatives’ majority. But that is irrelevant. The reality is that we have a Tory government, and probably for most of the next five years – unless they try to repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act they claimed as a major achievement in their manifesto.


Opinion: Political education is essential to get young people into politics

Disengagement in politics is a growing concern, especially for my generation. Many claim they don’t know how the system works, who to vote for or don’t feel that their vote can make a difference. Thus, action needs to be taken to engage young people in politics and the as a Lib Dem member I am convinced that they are the right party for the job.

The problem stems from schools, there is a lack of political and economic education, which I feel should be made compulsory. No one told me what first-past-the post was or how the House of Lords works. My passion for politics provided me with the drive to learn and become engaged – so much so that I’m doing a degree in it! Undoubtedly, not everyone shares my passion, we all have differing interests, but that doesn’t mean that students shouldn’t be provided with political education. In Wales, learning Welsh is compulsory until 16, yet politics didn’t feature on my curriculum once during my time in school. Surely being educated in the political system that governs my country, is just as if not more important that learning a second language. Students should be made aware of the importance of voting, learn about how the economy works and the role both economics and politics play in their lives.

It is very easy to say that young people don’t care about politics, when the truth is that many don’t understand politics because no one cared enough to tell them about it. Not only this, it is often argued that politicians reward older generations for their votes with fuel allowances, whilst my generation seem to gain very little. This excludes young people further from the political sphere, as a lack of political education combined the feeling of disregard for young voices creates further disengagement. 

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There’s a whole load of hat eating going on in the world

Paddy Ashdown will probably never live down his statement that he’d eat his hat if the exit poll was right. On Question Time last night, they made him actually do it. Sort of. Here’s the video, from the Telegraph:

He’s not the only one who has eaten a hat in the last day or so. Remember that nice Mike Beckett, candidate for Scarborough and Whitby whose cartoon we featured a couple of months ago? He had a bit of a special birthday during the election and decided to celebrate it with a hat-shaped cake.

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A message from Willie Rennie

This message came out from Willie Rennie to all Scottish members this afternoon. As ever he strikes the right tone:

Scotland has lost liberal giants. Our Members of Parliament were local champions with powerful liberal voices. They enriched the political debate of our country.

I am sad for the loss to our party, to their communities and to the politics of our country. I know they will make a contribution to rebuilding our strength.

We can proud of many of our achievements in government. We brought stability, unity and decency in tough economic times.  Getting the economy back on track and doing it fairly, the biggest tax cuts ever for workers, the green investment bank, big childcare expansion, big pension increases, ending child detention at Dungavel, a multi-billion pound international budget guaranteed and more powers for the Scottish Parliament are just the start of a long list of achievements.

We have an ongoing duty to the people who voted for us to promote liberal values.

That duty is even important in the face of a Conservative majority at Westminster, already planning to bring back the Snoopers Charter that we blocked in Government.

And in the Scottish Parliament the job goes on with the centralising and often illiberal agenda being pursued by the SNP.

We will heed the lessons and message of the election result.

It has been a body blow to our party but that over 2,000 new members have joined the party in just one day gives me great hope.

Thank you for your tireless support throughout this and every campaign. That we came so close to victory in many seats is a testament to your campaigning efforts.

Our vision for Scotland is hopeful for the future, founded on opportunity and liberty for all. It is a positive prospectus.

A year from now we have an opportunity to grow. The Scottish Parliamentary Election campaign starts today.

Best wishes,

Willie Rennie MSP

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Charles Kennedy writes… The night of the long sgian dubhs

I am very fond of political history. If nothing else, we can all reflect on and perhaps tell our grandchildren that we were there on “The night of long sgian dubhs!”

I would very much like to thank my home team. They have been so energetic, dedicated and selfless to the task. Indeed, with them, I would like to thank the very many over the years who have made possible the previous seven successful general election campaigns locally.

I spare a thought for, and this is true of so many constituencies, for members of staff. It is one thing for elected representatives to find themselves at the mercy of the electorate; it is quite something else for the other loyal and skilled people who, sadly, will in due course be searching for employment. I wish them well and stand ready to help. I am sure that their professionalism will stand them in good stead.

It has been the greatest privilege of my adult and public life to have served, for 32 years, as the Member of Parliament for our local Highlands and Islands communities. I would particularly like to thank the generation of voters, and then some, who have put their trust in me to carry out that role and its responsibilities.

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Opinion: A new hope for electoral reform?

Much will be said and written about what happened on the 7th. But we need to think about what happens next now. We have been heavily defeated, and it would be easy to allow that defeat to set the mood and leave us paralysed. We must not let that happen.

The electoral system has delivered a result that bears little resemblance to the popular vote. Our own defeat has been amplified by this – as has been pointed out elsewhere, our parliamentary presence was within 25,000 votes of being wiped out entirely. Imagine, two million votes for no representation at all. We need to work with the others who have been disenfranchised by the electoral system. The Greens, who went home with one seat for one and a half million votes. UKIP, who won the support of almost four million people but who also get but a single seat. The SNP might have benefited hugely from the system, but they are now looking at their seats being rendered powerless by EVEL, and also support reform

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5pm update: the final score

We need to complete our roll-call of Lib Dem target seats.  Tessa Munt lost to the Conservatives in Wells, Andrew George also lost in St Ives, and Julie Pörksen failed to take the seat in Berwick, previously held by Alan Beith.

That leaves us with just eight MPs:

Nick Clegg

Tim Farron

Norman Lamb

Greg Mulholland

Tom Brake

John Pugh

Mark Williams

Alistair Carmichael

We do have to congratulate them for bucking the trend, and to wish them all the best in the future as they uphold Lib Dem values in the Commons – but it is difficult for anyone to feel joyous when surrounded by the carnage.

The updates since close …


Sal Brinton – Libby is our phoenix

Sal Brinton Sal @ Crohns & Colitis Rec _2 CROPPED Nov 13Here is Party President Sal Brinton’s video address to members this afternoon:

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Nick Clegg resigns as leader

Nick Clegg has said that he needs to take responsibility for the “crushing” election result for the Liberal Democrats and he resigned with great dignity.

He said that the election had been crushing, much more so than he expected and he had to take responsibility for that. He then went on to quote Edinburgh Western candidate Alex Cole Hamilton’s tweet after the 2011 Scottish election. Alex said that if the price of his defeat was that no child would spend a night in an immigration detention centre again, then he accepted it with all his heart. Nick gave a passionate defence of the good things we’d done in government and said that he thought history would judge us more kindly than last night.

He then talked passionately about the need for British liberalism. He acknowledged it wasn’t faring well against identity politics and the politics of fear but it was really needed.

Fear and grievance have won. Liberalism has lost. But it is more precious than ever and we must keep fighting for it.

It is easy to imagine there is no road back. There is.

This is a very dark hour for our party but we cannot and will not allow decent liberal values to be extinguished overnight.

We’ll update this post with reaction to Nick’s resignation. I’ll write at greater length about his leadership when I’ve had some sleep, but I have huge admiration for the man. He has borne the difficulties of the last five years with dignity, good grace, humour and resilience. He has been ridiculed by vested interests from left and right. You could argue that any Liberal Democrat leader in such a position would have faced exactly the same. He’s made mistakes, from the Rose Garden to secret courts to the bedroom tax to the one that everyone associates with him. Here’s his statement in full.

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ALDE Party Council preview: remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue…

Whilst most of you will either be at your count (and good luck to you all!) or sitting in front of a television set or a computer watching the results come in, your correspondent will be in a hotel room in Oslo. Yes, it’s time once again for liberals from across Europe to gather and tell the British how sorry they are for the result/share the love and tell us things will get better/express surprise at how well we did (delete as appropriate). And despite exhaustion and uncertainty, a small, depleted and wholly male delegation will be there to fly the Liberal Democrat flag.

So, what are we there for, apart from the joy of discovering that a second mortgage is required to buy a beer?

Council will be opened with a speech from the Prime Minister of Norway… who isn’t a member of our host party, Venstre, but is leader of the Conservative Party. That said, the ruling minority coalition of the Conservatives and the Progress Party has a confidence and supply arrangement with Venstre and the Christian Democrats in the Storting to ensure its survival (and you thought that British politics was complex?).

The agenda for Council itself is unlikely to generate much excitement, although the membership application from the Liberal Party of Gibraltar is a welcome one, especially given their performance in the European Parliamentary election last year (the Liberal Democrat list – Gibraltar is part of the South West England region – gained 66% of the vote). There will also be a rationalisation of the Slovenes, as three of the five member parties there are expected to disaffiliate (they have, effectively, ceased to exist).

Also posted in Europe / International | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

9 am update: Where are we now?

There  are just two seats with Liberal Democrat interest left to declare and I think we’d be kidding ourselves if we thougth we were going to get anywhere with either of them. Tessa Munt’s Wells and Andrew George’s St Ives look like they will fall to the Tories.

Update: actually 3 – I forgot Berwick. There may be a possibility there, which would be great but I’m not overly hopeful, it has to be said.

So, our parliamentary party is:

Nick Clegg

Tim Farron

Norman Lamb

Greg Mulholland

Tom Brake

John Pugh

Mark Williams

Alistair Carmichael

The psychological effects of the loss of our heartlands will affect us for some time to come.

We will, of ocurse, need to evaaluate what went wrong, how we change and refresh our campaigning style and make ourselves relevant in a very difficult and challenging political environment.

The worst thing that could have happened has happened – a Tory overall majority. People who think the last five years have been a Tory government will soon see what they are like, particularly with their right wing unleashed to cause havoc. There will be a great need for liberalism as they seek to strip our human rights laws back to nothing and isolate us internationally.

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Election night update: 6am – what do we do now?

Charles Kennedy had to concede defeat by the SNP after representing in the wonderfully named constituency of Ross, Skye and Lochaber for 32 years. He will be sorely missed.  And we have lost another much valued minister in Steve Webb in Thornbury and Yate. David Laws lost his traditional LibDem seat in Yeovil while Danny Alexander crashed in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey.

Mike Crockart lost Edinburgh West, so did Simon Wright in Norwich South, John Hemming in Birmingham Yardley, Dan Rogerson in North Cornwall, Julian Huppert in Cambridge, Lorely Burt in Solihull, John Leech in Manchester Withington, Steve Gilbert in St Austell & …


Election night update: 5am – Nick Clegg safe, but many great campaigners are out

Contrary to some rumours Nick Clegg held on to his seat, but with a reduced majority.

The biggest shock of the hour was Vince Cable’s result in Twickenham where he was beaten by the Conservatives.

But there were more staggering losses of wonderful campaigning Liberal Democrats. Simon Hughes was beaten in Bermondsey and Lynne Featherstone in Hornsey and Wood Green, both by Labour. Adrian Sanders (Torbay), Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne) and Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) all succumbed to the Tories. And in Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine Robert Smith lost to the SNP.

Steve Bradley was unsuccessful in Bath, following Don Foster’s retirement.

But it was heartening to see Tom …


It’s 1966? 1964? all over again

We thought the exit poll of 10 seats for the Lib Dems was wrong

Now we are struggling to see how we will get there, to ten


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRichard Gadsden 26th May - 2:28pm
    Such a shame that you're not there to stand for Leader.
  • User AvatarMartin 26th May - 2:28pm
    Jo supports Tim, Lynne supports Norman. Both Jo and Lynne would have been excellent candidates, possibly better than either the two on offer. What Jo...
  • User AvatarHelen Tedcastle 26th May - 2:28pm
    @ John Grout The marriage referendum was framed by the yes campaign around 'rights' certainly but the area of the Irish constitution amended pertained not...
  • User AvatarPsi 26th May - 2:22pm
    Jonathan Pile “Wasn’t that part of the problem we were too right wing for our voters in Scotland, the North and outside of the South...
  • User Avatarg 26th May - 2:16pm
    This is why I can't be a Liberal, and why I despair so often at Labour. Any political party that doesn't see the equitable redistribution...
  • User AvatarGlenn Andrews 26th May - 2:15pm
    Demonisation of the rich is killing progressive politics?.... Must fall in the category of silent killer then.
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