Earthquake in Austria

Austria Hofer

 

Last Sunday, the post-war consensus in Austrian politics was swept away. Nobert Hofer, from the far right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), came top with 35% in the first round of the presidential elections and faces a run off Alexander van der Bellen, a former leader of and supported by the Greens, who received 21% and came first in most cities including Vienna. Turnout was a respectable 69%. The campaign for the second round ballot on May 22 is likely to be bruising and divisive. Forecasts suggest that Hofer will win.

This was no earthquake as the FPÖ had performed well in local elections last October. This time Hofer’s result was significantly better than the polls had predicted. The Greens were also pleased with van der Bellen’s result. NEOS, our young sister party, had backed Irmgard Griss who came third with 19%. They are now supporting van der Bellen ‘for the Republic’.

Austria van Bellen

The candidates supported by the two main parties came fourth and fifth with around 11% each. The Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) have provided all previous presidents since the Second World War and are currently governing together in a grand coalition. The coalition is now responding by tightening asylum laws and building more border fences.

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Tim Pickstone writes…Help make the difference next Thursday

Farron  in EdinburghAll Liberal Democrats will remember what it felt like on Friday 8th May last year, the morning after the terrible 2015 General Election results .

This Thursday is our first big chance to build a more positive story about the progress we’ve made since, with voters going to the polls in one or more elections right across the UK.

A lot has been said about the Lib Dem ‘fightback’, but in politics it is elections that matter and our opportunity to ensure the Party makes a massive step forwards from 2015.

How well we perform next week will largely be up to us: Lib Dem members, activists and helpers.  We will make the difference between Lib Dems getting elected, or the opposition winning.

Thousands of people – candidates, activists, helpers, party staff have already been working hard for months.  But to get across the finish line we need everyone to help. 

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WATCH: Norman Baker’s Reform Club’s hard-hitting song “Give War a Chance”

Norman Baker’s band, The Reform Club has a new album, Never Yesterday, out. Today, they release a very professional looking video.

Watch the hard-hitting song Give War a Chance which satirises the activities of a “peace envoy” and is published ahead of the Chilcott Report which we are sure will be published at some point this millennium. Norman plays the role of the envoy to absolute perfection. And there are tanks. Real tanks.

Of the song, Norman says:

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LibLink: Kirsty Williams’ pitch for Welsh Assembly votes

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has set out the party’s stall in an article for Wales Online.

First of all, she says that devolution hasn’t delivered what it should have done. She highlights the key problems:

The Labour Welsh Government is the longest surviving government in Europe. It is bankrupt of ideas, tired and with flawed priorities – 17 years in power, yet no vision for Wales’ future.

One needn’t look any further than Labour’s crusade to ban the use of e-cigarettes, all while NHS waiting lists continue to grow and health services are failing.

People, rightly, expect their Welsh Government to deliver effective public services and economic stability. Yet NHS waiting lists in Wales remain the longest in the UK, our schools’ standards have fallen in the international league tables and our economy continues to lag behind that of our counterparts.

She wants a Parliament that listens to people:

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Farron makes pitch to centre left voters – support Lib Dems for good local councillors and effective opposition to Tories

Farron in Edinburgh Western 28 April

At about 8:45, Tim Farron made a flying visit to Alex Cole-Hamilton’s campaign HQ in Edinburgh Western. He did notice that the SNP office next door was  already in darkness.

The visit had an additional bonus for us as the campaigns staff from Scottish HQ pitched up yesterday afternoon and pronounced the place not tidy enough to receive the leader and proceeded to tidy it up for us. No doubt we won’t be able to find anything this morning.

Tim was highly impressed with what he’d seen, which is definitely a compliment given the amount of campaigning that goes on on his patch.

He also told us of his visit to Cardiff Central and candidate Eluned Parrott where he visited a refugee centre and played football with some of the refugees.  We know how strongly he feels that we should be doing more to help refugees from conflict and particularly those children already in Europe. He told us how he’d just been speaking to one of the “Windermere Boys”, a group of young men who were welcomed to the Lake District after being rescued from the death camps at the end of World War 2. They had gone on to build successful lives for themselves, serving the community in many ways, too. Helping people in these desperate circumstances is, Tim said, the least we can do.

This morning, he is visiting a nursery in Cowdenbeath with Willie Rennie, with the challenge from us that he has to at least match Willie Rennie being interviewed on a slide at our manifesto launch.

First, though, he was up early to be on both Radio 5 live and the Today programme to talk about the Lib Dem local election campaign. He made a very clear pitch to centre left voters, asking them to lend their vote to the Liberal Democrats. For that, they’ll get a brilliant local councillor to represent them locally and the appalling Tory government would be held to account He emphasised how the Liberal Democrats had shown more gains in votes and seats in local council by-elections since last May than anyone else. 

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Even the Daily Mail thinks the Government isn’t doing the right thing by child refugees

Who ever would have thought that the Daily Mail of all publications would come to the conclusion that the Government has got it wrong on helping the child refugees already in Europe?

Today’s editorial does repeat at length a good bit of its usual anti-immigration, anti-Merkel and anti-EU rhetoric, so you’ll still need a shower after reading it. Even despite all that, it comes to this rather startling conclusion:

But every sinew of our hearts tells us it’s a gesture that must be made — while every child we take will mean a life of hope in place of despair.

Mr Cameron should consider that of all the countries in the Europe, Britain has the longest established tradition of offering sanctuary to refugees from war and oppression.

It urges the Government to accept Alf Dubs’ further amendment which was passed in the House of Lords on Tuesday night.

There are numerous petitions going round the internet asking the Government to do the decent thing and help some of these children. However, Alf Dubs has created one on the Parliamentary petitions website which has at the time of writing collected almost 40,000 signatures in two days. It says:

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LibLink: David Laws – The road to student retention

David Laws has been writing for Times Higher Education focussing on the worrying number of disadvantaged students dropping out of higher education:

The UK government’s target to double the number of disadvantaged young people going to university by 2020 is laudable. Access to higher education offers a platform for young people to succeed and is central to establishing a meritocratic society.

Nevertheless, while access provides the foundations, it doesn’t build the house. If we’re really serious about meritocracy, we have to be ever vigilant about what happens to young people once they are at university too.

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