Tim Farron is on Question Time tonight – join our open thread

If you have been impressed by the way that Tim Farron has responded to the slough of nastiness, prejudice and general not getting it that was the Tory Party conference, you can watch him tackle the Tories (and the SNP) in person tonight.

I have long since given up watching when Melanie Phillips is on for the sake of my health and sanity. However, tonight, I will hide all hard objects (to protect my tv screen) and watch Tim talk sense. He has always been very good in that sort of environment.

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What’s your favourite liberal poem?

It’s National Poetry Day today so we thought it might be worth asking you to nominate your favourite poem with a liberal message. What poem has moved you or made a liberal point in a unique way. Let us know in the comments.

We also thought you might like to see  this piece from 2012 in which Edis Bevan looked at the poetry of Denmark’s Piet Hein. We are nothing if not good Europeans.

In a mad world, remember Denmark’s Piet Hein. Theoretical physicist, poet, wartime resistance activist, mathematician and simply a human being in all its warmest glory. His short poems (Grooks) have a haiku-like quality, reflecting on the simple complexities of life, and as a consequence of real politics as it hits real people. I have cherished these gems for a long time, and wonder if other Liberal Democrats might find them helpful.

His first ever Grook was published in the newspaper Politiken under the Nazi occupation of Denmark. It was

Losing one glove
is certainly painful,
but nothing
compared to the pain,
of losing one,
throwing away the other,
and finding
the first one again

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Ignore the spin – social housing is still under threat from the Conservatives

Tim Farron has put David Cameron’s new housing policy under the microscope and found it wanting. We should take notice of what he says because he knows a lot about housing, the issue that brought him into politics and has made his number one priority. Writing in the New Statesman, he says:

This is still an economically illiterate and socially divisive policy with devastating consequences, which was flung into the Conservative election campaign in a last minute attempt to grab some votes by invoking memories of Thatcher.

Firstly, selling off housing association homes does nothing to address the national emergency in housing. The huge shortage

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LibLink: Jo Swinson: Shared grandparental leave risks dads missing out

Jo Swinson has cast a critical eye over George Osborne’s plans to extend parental leave to grandparents in an article for Personnel Today.

As minister responsible for introducing shared parental leave just 6 months ago, Jo explained why they hadn’t included grandparents at that time:

When the legislation was being debated in Parliament we looked carefully at extending leave to non-parents, and rejected that change for good reasons. If it is no longer to be about developing parental bonds, then why draw the line at grandparents? Shouldn’t leave then be shareable with aunts, uncles or friends?

Important though other carers and relatives are, parents have a unique role in a child’s life.  Shared parental leave is also about addressing the historical lack of workplace provision for men to fulfil their roles as fathers.

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Piggate: Miriam González Durántez and a cheeky recipe

mum and sons
The Evening Standard deserve full marks for spotting a certain recipe on a food blog which is run by Miriam González Durántez and her sons.

Posted in Humour | Tagged | 3 Comments

The battle for a better Europe starts in Bournemouth

International Office_with textWith the EU-referendum likely to be less than a year away and the prospect of a Brexit a real and frightening possibility, the question of Britain’s role in Europe is more pressing than ever. The European Union was one of the most widely discussed issues at the conference, including the official launch of the Lib Dem Remain campaign.

In order to bring a more international perspective and explore the issues further, the Liberal Democrats International Office brought together a distinguished panel consisting of Sir Graham Watson, President of the ALDE Party and former Liberal Democrat MEP, Andrew Duff, Former Liberal Democrat MEP, Catherine Bearder, Liberal Democrat MEP and Lucy Thomas, Campaign Director for Business for a New Europe (BNE). The event was chaired by Baroness Julie Smith, Lib Dem Spokesperson on Defence in the House of Lords.

Opening the debate in front of a huge audience in a packed room, Iain Gill, Head of the Lib Dems International Office, emphasised the importance of EU membership to the UK, and the crucial role that liberal networks such as ALDE and Liberal International will play in campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU.

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Willie Rennie and Kirsty Williams challenge Scots and Welsh Tory leaders to disown Theresa May’s “borderline xenophobic” comments

Tim Farron was quick to condemn Theresa May’s speech yesterday, saying that she, not immigrants, were damaging to social cohesion. I think it was one of the most disgraceful speeches we have ever heard from a Home Secretary and, let’s face it, Jack Straw, John Reid and David Blunkett had already ensured that the bar was in the gutter. At the time of writing, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition has not yet deigned to challenge her.

We’ve seen over the Summer how the Welsh and Scottish Tory leaders have set themselves apart from the wilder rhetoric coming from senior Conservatives, such as the “swarm” comments of the Prime Minister. Their Liberal Democrat counterparts Kirsty Williams and Willie Rennie have challenged them to dissociate themselves from Theresa May’s comments.

Kirsty said:

Andrew Davies must speak out against Theresa May’s outrageous speech or we must assume that he shares her views. He was right last month to call for extra help for refugees fleeing the crisis in Syria, but his position is at odds with the borderline xenophobia we heard from the Home Secretary.

Britain is socially, culturally and economically richer for our outward looking, tolerant approach. Yet this Conservative government is whipping up fear and mistrust.

Willie added:

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LibLink: Tim Farron: The Tory conference is ignoring the humanitarian crisis unfolding on our doorstep

Tim Farron has written for the Independent about how the Tory Conference is ignoring the humanitarian crisis. This was written at the same time as Liberal Democrat Chief Whip went to Calais with a car full of items donated by Liberal Democrat staff.

They will say, over and over, that Jeremy Corbyn will bankrupt your country, steal your job and surrender to Britain’s enemies. They might even have a go at him for not singing the national anthem. And while I might agree that the Islington North MP lives in an economic fantasy land – a land far removed from fiscal reality – these Tory tactics are a smokescreen; and not a particularly sophisticated one. You can bet your bottom dollar they won’t be talking about the biggest single issue facing Europe today – the refugee crisis.

They will simply not discuss developing a proper international plan to help the hundreds of thousands of migrants scattered across Europe or the millions of people trapped in Middle Eastern tented camps. But with this help and support must come a diplomatic strategy to deal with nations like Syria whose barbaric civil war is uprooting millions of people.

Diplomacy is not done at the barrel of a gun or from 30,000 feet it is done by supporting moderate opposition and working with regional actors to make sure we do not play into the IS narrative. Together with a humanitarian response must come a diplomatic strategy. One strand cannot work without the other.

He outlined the action he wants to see:

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David Cameron’s speech open thread

David Cameron makes his 10th speech to Conservative Party Conference. His ministers have already sickened many with comments on immigration, young people’s productivity and justifying cutting benefits for poor people by suggesting that they need to work harder. Let’s not forget that the Tories have already given a massive cut in Inheritance Tax for the very wealthy.

It’s almost as if the Tories think they are off the hook. They can say what they like because they feel no threat from Jeremy Corbyn. They feel that their election campaign for 2020 is written. All they have to do, they think, is put out leaflets with his “nuclear button” comments. Will there come a point, though, when that just can’t help them? I certainly hope so.

And before he even gets up, I’m annoyed. The BBC’s Jo Coburn gave us some commentary on Samantha Cameron’s outfit as she and Dave walked over to the Conference Centre. Why?

I guess the question is whether the world will actually last through the speech – a Christian group has predicted its demise today, although that would be unfortunate given that it’s the Bake Off final tonight.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 43 Comments

A woman’s place at Conservative Party Conference – walking with Dave, not talking on panels

Two interesting reports from Conservative Party Conference. First, Isabel Hardman writes for the Spectator that new MPs, many of them highly qualified professional people, are not taking kindly to being put on a rota for walking with David Cameron between buildings. Yes, dear readers, such a thing actually existms.

It appears that the women are none too pleased at being used as “arm candy” while the men are annoyed at being excluded:

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Jim Hume questions Scottish Government on gender identity clinic waiting times

If you are a young transgender person still at school, struggling to come to terms with your gender identity, you need specialised help pretty quickly. You should not have to wait a minimum of 7 months to see a specialist. If you are older, you should not be told that the waiting list is a year.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume has highlighted this as another area in which the Scottish Government is failing to meet its 18 week target for referrals. This one will take a lot of thinking about as there are so few specialists in the gender identity field. They will have to come up with some long term plans to recruit and train more.

Kaleidoscot reports on Jim’s call for the Scottish Health Secretary to review provision for transgender people:

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Adrian Sanders to stand in Torbay council by-election

Exactly a month ago, the party lost one of its most successful campaigners when Ruth Pentney from Torbay died. Her son Nicholas wrote a wonderful tribute to her here.

Ruth wouldn’t stop working even immediately after electoral victory. Her energy really was that boundless. On election night 2010, I stayed awake long enough to see the Torbay result come in. I was pleased but in no way surprised that Mum had done it again and Adrian had been re-elected. Contented that Torbay was to remain in Lib Dem hands, I went to bed. A few hours later, at approximately 3.30am, I woke to the sound of someone busying themselves somewhere in the house. To my astonishment, I found Mum doing the domestic errands that had been neglected over the course of the election campaign. Apparently, the fact that she had been awake for around 36 hours at this point did not seem to bother her. This was frankly staggering and perhaps even a little bit scary!

Now a by-election is to take place for her Council seat. The candidate will be the man she got elected so many times, Adrian Sanders, the former MP for Torbay. He represented the ward way back in 1984. The Western Morning News has more:

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LibLink: Tim Farron: It’s Theresa May, not immigrants, who is really damaging Britain

The unpleasant rhetoric of Theresa May’s speech this morning has given every liberal what we Scots call “the dry boak” Her remarks were not measured, not reasonable and entirely designed to win over that small proportion of the population who are members of the Conservative Party.

Anyone who knows anything about the immigration system will know how difficult it is to actually get into this country. Married couples often have to endure years of separation before (and it’s not inevitable that they will be) they can live together in this country. The strain put on families is intolerable. People who have endured unimaginable hardships and abuse are often turned away when they come here seeking sanctuary.

Tim Farron has spent the day standing up to May’s inaccurate, misleading and shocking speech. He’s written an article for Politics.co.uk in which he says there is someone damaging Britain – and it is not immigrants:

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Reaction to Theresa May speech

It is a sobering thought that this country might have two Conservative women prime ministers before there is a single one of another party. Today Theresa May made her pitch, and here is some of the reaction.

Posted in News | 29 Comments

Is education at the centre of Lib Dem philosophy?

The preamble to our constitution says no-one should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. These three go together. So, when we put Education among our top priorities, we must get it right.

Thus, poverty can prevent some people from getting the benefits of a good education, while conformity to a backward-looking community can inhibit an individual’s educational development. In September 2013, RISE (Research and Information on State Education) concluded that 80% of the difference in performance of school pupils was due to factors outside the school. Our schools and colleges cannot on their own, solve the ills of society.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 35 Comments

Tory flip-flop on infrastructure planning


In 2008, the Labour government established the Infrastructure Planning Commission to oversee nationally significant projects in England and Wales.

In 2010, the Tory manifesto pledged the abolition of this unelected body to be replaced by an “efficient and democratically accountable system that provides a fast-track system for major infrastructure projects”.

This was one of the Tory planks of the coalition agreement and the Infrastructure Planning Commission was duly abolished in 2012.

A National Infrastructure Commission was promised by Labour in their 2015 manifesto. The Conservatives did not include it in their so-called ‘long-term economic plan’.

Today, we have George Osborne delivering on Labour’s promise – and doing a U-turn just three years after abolishing a very similar unelected body.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 7 Comments

LibLink – Giles Wilkes: £93bn of corporate welfare? What nonsense

Giles Wilkes, who was a special adviser to Vince Cable and chief economist at CentreForum, is now a leader writer at the Financial Times (which usually charges an online subscription). One of his recent editorials has been transferred to the free blog section so we are able to bring it to you.

Labour should be wary of giving credence to a very suspect number.

The £93bn figure now routinely used to evaluate the scale of “corporate welfare” in Britain is badly misleading. If the Labour Party is to re-establish its economic credibility, it needs to give the number a very wide berth.

First of all, the very concept of “corporate welfare” is tricky and question-begging. When applied to individuals, welfare is easy to understand – it means payments from the state provided on the basis of need.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged and | 36 Comments

Jeremy Corbyn and the emperor’s new clothes

The outgoing executive director of CentreForum, Nick Tyrone writes an interesting blog post about Jeremy Corbyn and the nuclear button issue:

The crucial moment of this year’s Labour conference came not via a speech or indeed anything that happened inside of the hall. It occurred in an interview Jeremy Corbyn gave to the BBC yesterday morning. When asked, if he were prime minister would he ever use nuclear weapons, he gave a straight answer: “No”.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 55 Comments

An optimist’s view of globalisation


After 25 years of globalisation it should be self-evident to all that rapid technical advances and global competition creates winners and losers in society. I’m very proud to belong to a party committed to speaking up for those who are not benefiting from this brave new world, but even more exciting is the chance we have to be the party which best articulates how Britain can compete and win.

There have been some excellent posts on Lib Dem Voice recently about how the Liberal values of an open multi-cultural society, devolution of power and being pro small enterprise are exactly those that help give the UK a competitive advantage.  I would like to hear even more however about the practical things the country is already doing brilliantly in the fields of science, engineering and research & development and how our policies would help press down on the accelerator even faster.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 21 Comments

Hawks and doves: equidistant foreign policy?

Five years ago, the Liberal Democrats held the centre ground in the coalition formation negotiations between left and right. Equidistance is a loaded word, one that cynics will laugh at as vacuous. However, five years later, neither of the two main parties seem sufficiently interested in foreign affairs.

This party could be equidistant between doves and hawks in foreign policy. To illustrate the dove-hawk twin hybrid, below are three examples. I am not necessarily endorsing the following as solutions and they are not exhaustive in terms of detail. They are merely prompts for a debate.

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Vince Cable’s “After the Storm – The World Economy & Britain’s Economic Future”

after the stormWider in scope and more ambitious in its reach, “After the Storm” is the acclaimed sequel to “The Storm” published after the financial crisis of 2008.  Having spent the last 5 years as Business Secretary within the Coalition Government (2010-2015), Vince has the added clout of first-hand experience introducing economic policies that have steered us out of the storm, not least an industrial strategy.

His professed motivation for penning a sequel were to update readers on the state of Britain’s economy in “a climate of guarded optimism,” and to share his insights, no longer bound by collective responsibility as Secretary of State at the Department of Business Innovation and Science.  Whilst the US and UK are expected to record 3% growth this year, Vince’s previous analysis of the underlying weaknesses still apply, such as UK’s over reliance on the banking sector and on the housing market for recovery and growth.

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A trio of embarrassments for the SNP

This week has not been a good one for Edinburgh West MP Michelle Thomson. For the third week running, the Sunday Times has reported on property transactions which are now being investigated by the Police. The solicitor who acted for Michelle Thomson’s company in many of these transactions was struck off last year. You can read the whole judgement in that matter here. It is also worth reading Labour blogger and solicitor Ian Smart’s commentary on the allegations contained within it.

Today’s paper highlights (£) a couple who had to sell their house after the husband was diagnosed with a bowel tumour which left him unable to work.

The inquiry is now likely to look into a transaction in 2009 that is unrelated to Hales. It involved a property firm linked to Michelle Thomson that arranged for her husband Peter to buy a flat in Edinburgh.

The sellers, Garry and Sandra Kelly, claim £32,000 was deducted from the purchase price of £105,000 to pay off a loan they say they never had. On Friday, this newspaper alerted Police Scotland’s financial crime unit to the transaction.

The transactions are now under police investigation and, earlier this week, Thomson stepped down from her role as the SNP’s business spokesperson and temporarily resigned from the whip. However, it appears that even if there were no illegality, the accounts from the people whose houses were bought by her company are damaging on their own. From today’s Sunday Mail:

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #433

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 433rd weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the seven most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (27 September -3 October, 2015), together with a hand-picked quintet, you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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15 years on – Lib Dems up the ante on the Human Rights Act

Parliament Acts by -JvL- FLickr CCLTim Farron tweeted on Friday:

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Video: Nick Clegg’s speech to conference

We previously carried the full text of Nick Clegg’s speech to the Bournemouth conference. Here below is the video of the speech, courtesy of the party’s conference YouTube channel.

I wasn’t in the hall for the speech.

Posted in Conference | Tagged and | 1 Comment

LDV’s Sunday Best: our 7 most-read articles this week

7 ver 4 fullMany thanks to the  11,800 visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

We’re all “Preamble Lib Dems” (90 comments) by Paul Walter

Corbyn: No horses were scared during a speech filled with Liberal Democrat policies (47 comments) by Caron Lindsay

Jeremy Corbyn’s kinder, more caring politics in action #§: Tom Watson (44 comments) by Caron Lindsay

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Does Scotland need Home Rule, or just to use the powers it has?

Siobhan Mathers, Scottish Liberal Democrat activist, former (and, I hope, future) parliamentary candidate and policy convener argues in today’s Sunday Times (£) that it’s time that Scotland got a full home rule settlement. She sets out what she means by that:

I will use the fiscal definition that Scotland under home rule should raise what it spends — self-sufficiency — and the sovereignty-focused philosophical definition of Steel: “The principle of home rule is different from devolution. Under home rule, sovereignty lies with the Scottish people and we decide when it is sensible to give powers to the centre on issues like foreign affairs and defence.”

She says that there is no point waiting for the UK to sort out a federal structure for itself because it’s just not going to happen any time soon and that it’s in Scotland’s “enlightened self interest” to pursue full home rule to see off the demand for independence:

It strikes me as an act of misguided altruism to wait for the constitutional laggards, our bedfellows in the UK. Yes, it would be nice to help sort everyone else’s problems in how they relate to the constitutional parents in London, but it is not a priority for many.

During an air emergency, passengers are advised to put on their own oxygen masks before helping others. I would argue that Scotland’s relationship with Westminster is at such an emergency point and we need to pursue enlightened self-interest by focusing on our own problems first.

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Hannah Bettsworth’s speech to the Liberal Democrat Voice fringe meeting at Conference

20th Sep 2015 conference LDV fringeOne of the highlights of Conference for me was the Liberal Democrat Voice fringe meeting. We wanted to do something a bit more serious this year and, as foreign policy is a key interest of several of our team members, we decided to discuss how we forged a liberal foreign policy in these challenging times. What is liberal interventionism all about.

We are extremely grateful to our four speakers. Baroness Julie Smith stepped in at the very last minute so we especially appreciate her thoughtful contribution. We also heard from Lord William Wallace, from our Lords Foreign Affairs team, Nick Tyrone, now at British Influence, and Hannah Bettsworth, President of Liberal Youth Scotland, who specialises in international relations and has as special interest in gender mainstreaming, ensuring that the interests of women and girls are considered in every aspect of policy development.

Hannah’s speech was described by one member of the audience as one of the best on foreign policy he’d heard in a long time, so we thought it might be a good idea to reproduce it here. Hannah wants to credit Tim Oliver for his help and advice in pulling it together. Enjoy.

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Jo Swinson: Tories preferred SNP MPs to Liberal Democrats

The most successful parties in the UK at the moment are the Conservatives and the SNP, parties which are supposedly totally opposed in terms of values but who seem to be fuelling each others’ gains.

We know that Alex Salmond helped give oxygen to the Tories’ increasingly incredible and hyperbolic claims during the general election by hinting at demands he’d make of Ed Miliband. We know that the Tories spent a small fortune in seats they couldn’t win in Scotland in a strategy that could only have had the effect of ensuring that the SNP won.

There is a school of thought in this party that puts our atrocious result down to the Tory’s scaremongering about the SNP and Labour in coalition. Others say that this is a smokescreen and that actually our poor messaging was at fault. Actually, I think both were pretty strong factors and I think that we legitimised what the Tories were doing by running scared of it rather than calling it out for the nonsense it was.

The Herald reports Jo Swinson’s comments about the impact of the Tory campaign in her seat and others:

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Tributes to Denis Healey

Denis Healey was the first Chancellor of the Exchequer that I can ever remember. The 1970s when I was growing up seemed like very scary times and he seemed to be a wise and calm presence in all of that. It was only later that I truly understood the pressure he must have been under, even greater than Alistair Darling faced in 2008. Balancing the competing requirements of the International Monetary Fund and the trade unions and labour movement was not an easy job.

I remember that epic political battle between him and Tony Benn for the Deputy Leadership of Labour. It seemed to me as a 13 year old to go on for ever, far longer than the Labour leadership election seemed in 2010 or this year. The result when it came was knife-edge thin.

It seemed like such a nasty, hostile fight then, but it was good to hear that the two men were personally reconciled and that Tony Benn had been a great support to Healey five years ago when his wife Edna died. In fact, Healey had campaigned for Benn in Chesterfield during the 1984 by-election, saying at the time that:

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarStuart 8th Oct - 8:59pm
    @Psi "'another straw man' Which are the earlier ones you have identified?" I listed them earlier, clearly labelled. Since then you've come up with several...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 8th Oct - 8:58pm
    Hi Andrew, I don't want to talk about it much more under this article. I just think Cameron seems to have a sense of urgency...
  • User AvatarAndrew McCaig 8th Oct - 8:23pm
    Eddie, Concerning Syria, Cameron has been right about what, exactly? I have not noticed him say anything of substance tbh. Extending the bombing to Syria?...
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 8th Oct - 8:09pm
    Still a net gain, Peter:-).
  • User AvatarPeter Andrews 8th Oct - 7:59pm
    Damn it I have to put up with the awful Patel and the dreadful Phillips in order to watch Tim :(
  • User AvatarPaul Walter 8th Oct - 7:52pm
    Melanie Phillips! Wonderful! I look forward to a bit of a Phillips demolition job!