It’s time to take on Labour

I recall a local by-election in an inner London area many moons ago. No names no pack drill although a few might work it out.

In that by-election we extensively campaigned by leafleting and knocking on doors. Our canvass was comprehensive and our campaign, by an excellent local community campaigner, was superb.

On the day there we had so many people that there wasn’t enough work to go round – thus, two people were telling on each polling station and knocking up was done by rota. Sounds brilliant doesn’t it – we must have won, mustn’t we? Well we came a strong 2nd behind Labour.

Who was the agent? Piers Corbyn brother of Jeremy.

It was similar to another national byelection. Again the same conditions prevailed. Again we came third to Labour.

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown – While Russia launches airstrikes Britain’s position on Syria remains an inglorious failure of diplomacy

Paddy Ashdown has been writing in the Independent about this week’s developments and diplomatic stand-offs regarding Syria. He said that the west has allowed its influence to be diminished by successive failures:

We bluster in the UN, Washington and London about willing the ends, but we have nothing left but bombs to will the means. The levers to make things happen in Syria now lie in Moscow and Tehran – all we are left with is a bomb-release button at 30,000ft.

This is a diplomatic failure of inglorious proportions. Historic proportions, too, since the result will inevitably be another ratchet down in the West’s influence, already grievously diminished by our failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. One would have thought that we would have learnt the lessons of those defeats. But, still – sadly, stupidly – when the West sees a problem in the world its first instinct is to bomb it.

He asks what some great foreign secretaries of the past would have done:

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Yes to countering extremism, no to the Counter-Extremism Bill

The Conservatives are set to announce further details about their Counter-Extremism Bill over the course of their party conference.

Countering Islamist extremism is crucial, to protect both those who are vulnerable to radicalisation and those who could be harmed by a terrorist attack. I don’t want to see another child lured from the UK to join ISIS – nor do I want to see people killed and families torn apart by such reckless hatred and extremist violence.

It is quite right for the UK Government to take action. But while the country needs a counter-extremism strategy, the Conservative’s proposed approach should provoke concern among liberals – and I think the Liberal Democrats should push for an alternative approach.

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The Lib Dem legacy: right to 30-day refund becomes law

The BBC reports:

New consumer protection measures – including longer refund rights – have come into force under the Consumer Rights Act.

For the first time anyone who buys faulty goods will be entitled to a full refund for up to 30 days after the purchase.

Previously consumers were only entitled to refunds for a “reasonable time”.

There will also be new protection for people who buy digital content, such as ebooks or online films and music.

They will be entitled to a full refund, or a replacement, if the goods are faulty.

The Act also covers second-hand goods, when bought through a retailer.

People buying services – like a garage repair or a haircut – will also have stronger rights.

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The Conservatives are trampling on Churchill’s legacy

Winston Churchill once said that the “mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country”. A “calm, dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused, and even of the convicted criminal” was a symbol of “the stored-up strength of a nation and sign and proof of the living virtue in it”.

Under this government, however, we as a nation are increasingly departing from the values espoused by Churchill, and enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which made Britain a leading light on a global scale in the field of civil liberties. The Conservative government’s attack on the Human Rights Act, its lack of conviction in defending our membership of both the European Union and the ECHR and the stance it has taken in the face of the current humanitarian crisis created by the flow of refugees into Europe all illustrate the deeply concerning path onto which this government is leading our country. All of these developments in the brief period since a new majority Conservative government was formed in May have demonstrated more clearly than ever why this country needs the Liberal Democrats.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 13 Comments

We’re all “Preamble Lib Dems”

There has been a very minor outbreak of people using the label “Preamble Lib Dem” to describe themselves.

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Entente Nucleaire?

We have had a lot of articles about Trident in the build up to conference. Now the motion has now passed with amendments, conference has commissioned a working group on what to do without Trident. The group has been asked to assess strategic threats; how best to promote non-proliferation and disarmament; the implications for Britain’s defence commitments to both NATO and our European alliances; and the scope and implications of other kinds of nuclear deterrent. Here is a proposal to consider.

In his article, George Cunningham argues that the international situation has changed enough that we should retain our nuclear capability after a broader re-evaluation of defence policy.

And George Potter writes that our stockpile is overshadowed as a deterrent by America’s NATO-wide umbrella, but enough of a threat to hostile nuclear powers to single the UK out as a target.

My sympathies are with the unilateralists. The reports and rumours I have read about outdated protocols, lax discipline, and the resulting almost-accidents are enough to make the blood run cold. The presence of nuclear weapons and their destructive force is a permanent risk to all of our lives. In an ideal world, we would use the scrap to plough our furrows. (In an ideal world, the radiation would make the crops super-big.)

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Jeremy Corbyn’s kinder, more caring politics in action #1 Tom Watson

Well that didn’t take long.

Barely 12 hours after I wrote last night that Jeremy Corbyn had given us something to throw back at any Labour nastiness, Corbyn’s own deputy Tom Watson took a right pop at us in his speech to Labour Conference.

From PoliticsHome:

I did go too far though when I compared the Lib Dems to a Banarama tribute band. Some people were angry, and I accept that I crossed the line. What I said was demeaning, unjustified and wrong. Siobhan, Sara, Keren – I should never have compared your tribute acts to that useless bunch of lying sellouts, the Lib Dems and I’m sorry.

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Not satisfied with snatching their milk in the 70s, the Tories now seem set to steal the lunches of children

Remember how Mrs Thatcher put an end to free school milk in the 1970s? Our parents really should have known then, shouldn’t they? Anyway, the Tories appear to be getting ready to ditch the free school meals introduced by the Liberal Democrats two years ago.

Tim Farron has written for the Huffington Post making it clear why he thinks that free school meals are important:

Children from all backgrounds, rich and poor sitting down for lunch together, ending any stigma of young pupils having to admit they receive free school meals is a good thing. I will not sit by while the Conservatives equivocate on this. My party is utterly opposed to it’s removal.

The Tories are taking an axe to the education budget at the expense of children’s learning.

Not satisfied with snatching milk in the 1970s, they now seem set to steal the lunches of children.

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Jo Swinson to take part in Willie Rennie’s gender balance working group

Willie Rennie has announced the four members of his working group into improving gender balance which he announced last month. He made it clear that he wants to see the party adopt a raft of measures including all women shortlists. Today he met with the Women 50/50 campaign to discuss improving gender balance.

What’s interesting about the make-up of his working group is that it includes people who have historically been sceptical about measures such as all women shortlists. If they support his plans, it will be a very clear message to the party that it is time for serious change. I would be very surprised if they didn’t come up with other measures, such as intensive support for the campaigns of female candidates. They should make sure that they consult LGBT Plus Lib Dems to ensure that the plan that emerges is fully inclusive for transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid and non-binary people.  Steering clear of long-term proponents of procedural measures to achieve gender balance may well be a clever move by Willie.

The members of the working group are:

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Former Lib Dem Councillor tells his story of coming to UK as a teenage refugee

We’ve heard a lot of Liberal Democrats urging a compassionate response to the refugee crisis but for former Brent Councillor Paul Lorber, it’s personal.

He told the Brent and Kilburn Times about his family’s escape from Czechoslovakia and how he found safety in the UK:

He said: “I had no wish to go. I had a happy childhood in Czechoslovakia and did not want to leave all my friends and everything else I had known.”

His parents, who had both survived the horrors of Nazi concentration camps in the Second World War- his mother Auschwitz Berkenau and his father Sachenhausen- knew the risks of bringing up a Jewish family under a violent dictatorship and wanted a secure future for their sons.

After their first attempt to cross the Austrian border was blocked by a stand-off with a Russian tank his father was forced to falsify exit papers which claimed he was taking them on holiday to Yugoslavia…

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Corbyn: No horses were scared during delivery of a speech full of Liberal Democrat policies

For the first time in a long time, I watched a Labour leader’s conference speech this afternoon and didn’t cringe with horror. To be fair, that’s because he kept name checking Liberal Democrat policies. He even said that the agreed with Paddy Ashdown over airstrikes on Syria.

Many people,including some in that Brighton hall, wanted him to fail terribly today. Indeed, the Blairites were desperate for that to happen. Labour spin doctor Lance Price was quick to condemn the speech as one of the worst he had ever heard. Was he listening to something else? For sure it wasn’t an example of oratorical excellence, with perfect construction, but Corbyn did what he had to do today. No horses were scared in the delivery of the speech. The entire nation wasn’t petrified by the thought of  revolution coming to a street near them any time soon as the more excitable of our friends in the press have made out.

He clearly wasn’t used to having an autocue, but that added to the sincerity of what he was saying. We would be very foolish to underestimate Corbyn. As Gareth Epps reminded us, we tried underestimating the SNP and look where that got us in Scotland.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 47 Comments

Lib Dem Jobwatch special: Fancy trying to keep Tim Farron under control?

Every  leader does need someone they trust who can look into their eyes and tell them not to be an idiot. Or encourage them to do something that they are nervous about. Or boost their confidence when it wanes. Ben Rich has been doing that job for Tim Farron since he became leader in July, but it was only ever going to be a temporary role.

Tim is now advertising for a permanent  chief of staff. The official advert says:

The Chief of Staff will be able to provide high quality, insightful, senior counsel and strategic advice to the leader and work hand-in-hand with him to develop his vision and priorities.

A fuller job description gives the qualities considered essential for applicants:

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Alistair Carmichael election petition: new hearing ordered by judges

The judges who heard Alistair Carmichael’s application to dismiss the election petition against him delivered a partial judgement today and ordered that a further hearing take place. From the BBC website:

The judges have ruled that the language used in section 106 was “wide enough to encompass a statement made by a candidate about himself”.

However, they said they wanted to hear evidence about the two remaining issues before issuing a determination on the case.

These are whether the words were false statements of fact which related to Mr Carmichael’s personal character or conduct, and whether they were said “for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at the election”.

The judges said they wanted to hear evidence on these issues because each case had to be considered on its own facts.

You can read the entire judgement here.

Commenting on today’s news, a Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesperson said:

Alistair Carmichael will continue to play a full role in the new stages of the legal process that are ongoing, confident of a positive outcome. Alistair’s focus will remain working hard for his constituents and doing his job as MP for Orkney and Shetland.

Alistair will need even more help to pay the exorbitant legal fees. If you want to see a good man have a fair fight against well-funded opponents, you can donate to the fund-raising site started by his old friend Sheila Ritchie here.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 11 Comments

Jeremy Corbyn speech open thread

Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech to the Labour conference as leader is due to start shortly.

All such speeches are played to two audiences: one in the hall and one in the country. How Corbyn plays this will be particularly interesting, his being a candidate of the left wing core vote and, it is suggested by his opponents, putting two fingers up to moderate public opinion.

Posted in News | 26 Comments

Susan Kramer responds to John McDonnell speech

Susan Kramer - Some rights reserved by David SpenderLiberal Democrat shadow chancellor Susan Kramer has responded to John McDonnell’s speech at the Labour conference yesterday.

Posted in News | 60 Comments

The Independent View: rediscovering Grimond’s insights

At this year’s party conference, Tim Farron and Nick Clegg both argued that a huge new swathe of centre ground had opened up in British politics, with Labour shifting to the left and a newly emboldened Conservative government moving to the right. That is a risky assertion. It defines liberalism against its opponents, rather than for itself.

For a party battered, but not dispirited, by recent election results it is important that it defines itself with a positive vision for liberalism in the 21st century, not merely against its opponents’ positions.
If the Corbyn project collapses and Labour elects a more …

Posted in The Independent View | 14 Comments

William Wallace writes: Charities and public trust


Charities have been in the news this summer: first the ‘Olive Cook’ affair, raising the question of over-aggressive charitable fund-raising, which led to an active Daily Mail campaign, and then Kid’s Company, a charity which had run repeated deficits, depending on large cheques both from government and from major donors to bail it out, with trustees who seem to have been in awe of a charismatic chief executive.

Liberal Democrats watching the news to catch coverage of Tim Farron’s conference speech will have heard about the publication of a report on abuses of charitable fund-raising, which proposes a tougher regulatory regime.  I was one of the four members of that committee, at some cost to my summer.  Some had dismissed the Daily Mail campaign as another right-wing attack on progressive good causes.  We heard fund-raisers and major charity CEOs admitting that they had failed to monitor how the commercial agencies they employ handled telephone canvassing, that they had ignored the telephone preference scheme, and had overridden data protection in swapping contact details on donors.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 8 Comments

TTIP update: A Liberal in charge, and a new investor dispute proposal

Container Ship tradeYou can catch up with my previous pieces on TTIP here:

A new face at the negotiating table

It’s a few months since I last wrote here about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed trade and investment agreement currently being negotiated between the European Union and United States. It is Liberal Democrat party policy to support TTIP, so it is worth keeping up with developments in the negotiations.

Since my first post in July 2014, one of the most significant changes has been the replacement in November 2014 of Karel De Gucht as European Commissioner for Trade by Cecilia Malmström.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 39 Comments

Is aiming at Coalition shooting at the wrong goal?


I couldn’t go to Conference so listened to Tim Farron’s speech on i-player afterwards. What a great speech: full of idealism, commitment and determination. We’re so lucky to have Tim as leader.

But there was one thing that really worried me.  I had already seen reports in the news that morning that Tim was going to talk about getting back into Government again in 2020 – about how going into Coalition had been the right thing to do. Looking at the decimation of the Party and the loss of so many first-class MPs I am still not so sure about that, but leaving the past aside, is Coalition what the Lib Dems should be aiming for now, and more importantly saying what we are aiming for? I would generally say not.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 57 Comments

Being a LibDem in Black History Month 2015!


Our party will officially celebrate Black History Month 2015, with photos of members celebrating their Black Heroes hosted on our website.  Event lists with Black History Month information is being mailed out to Local Party Chairs – alerting them about the eclectic mix of theatre, music, film and talks etc., taking place during this celebratory month of October.  The information is an aid to encourage us to take this celebratory month and embrace new cultures and new members from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Posted in News | Tagged | 8 Comments

Is it enough just to denounce the Tory welfare cuts?

Since we left them alone in government, the Tories have ended housing benefit for the under 25s, frozen working age benefits for four years (effectively cutting them because inflation will slowly drive up the cost of living), and cut Employment and Support Allowance for new sick and disabled claimants by 30%.

They’ve introduced a minimum wage masquerading as a Living Wage, and even gone so far to rule that the full hourly rate should only be given to those over 25.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 20 Comments

Time to evaluate the privatisation of Royal Mail

The privatisation of Royal Mail was mooted by all the main political parties and finally happened under the last government.

Like a lot of the public sector, our postal service suffered from years of underinvestment and a failure to modernise.

The political consensus in the Thatcher years, and beyond, became public equals bad, private equals good.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 18 Comments

The future of the railways – a Liberal view

Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal for a People’s Railway has sparked interest and support, tinged with more than a little nostalgia for a past that really didn’t exist. Those who hanker after British Rail were clearly not there. It was the butt of national jokes about punctuality, cancellations, strikes and stale sandwiches. It was also serving a transport market very different from today. Rail journeys in Britain have doubled since 1997 and are set to continue rising rapidly. Freight traffic increases every year too. Our rail lines are the busiest and most intensively used in Europe if not the world. Britain has the only growing rail market in Europe. So when people adversely compare our structure with that in France or Germany it is worth remembering that they are declining businesses while every aspect of Brtish railways is growing fast and needs to do so, because of our growing population and if we are to have a successful economy.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 48 Comments

Liberty: It’s an economic issue


In light of recent events, one key question that has been flying about is where we fit into this new and radically changed political climate. Corbyn’s Labour may adopt more liberal policies on social issues such as mental health or LGBT rights, which whilst welcome gives us fewer unique campaigning avenues. Amongst all this, the economy is a key divider, and how we frame our policies may be crucial to our electoral revival or lack thereof.

Building a new liberal economics, distinct from Conservative or Labour strategies, is possible, and we need to do it by the simplest of methods – applying our own passion for personal liberty in the economic sphere. That means ensuring that neither corporate wealth, private wealth, nor the state are able to dominate people’s economic lives, and trying to make the position of ordinary individuals more economically powerful. That means a push to spread wealth and income more evenly without direct state control, by targeting ownership as a source of economic power.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #432

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 432nd 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 (20-26 Septmber, 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:

1. Lib Dems still in denial by Dan Falchikov on Living on words alone
Dan reckons we should have taken a different view on Trident.

2. By-Election Report 24th September by  Michael Powell on ALDC .
A few increased vote shares for Lib Dem candidates.

3. Charles Kennedy and the Liberator Songbook by Jonathan Calder on Liberal England.
Setting the record straight and also taking a well-deserved swipe at the “senior Liberal Democrat source” who dissed the Glee Club.

Posted in Best of the blogs | 2 Comments

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

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

I agree with Nick: I have left too (86 comments) by Michael Cooke

Jeremy Corbyn is not just unelectable (79 comments) by Joe Otten

IN FULL: Tim Farron’s speech to Conference today (14 comments) by Paul Walter

Posted in Site news | 1 Comment

Do not abandon us


Of the three Unionist parties, it has fallen to the Liberal Democrats to save encircled Scots fending off the militant hard leftists of the SNP frontline infantry. The Conservative and Unionist Party is useless in Scotland, and the once-paternal Labour Party has gone from noble guardian angel to patronising champagne socialist to near-death this May. Unionists have a ramshackle current incarnation: one MP per Unionist Party. SNP high command could not have believed their luck in May by not getting the grand slam all Scottish seats landslide; with three MPs, one from Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats, the “bad things come in sets of three” mantra writes itself. The plan now must be to prove that the Union cannot work. “Look, the only three Unionists cannot even work together, they’re so tribal,” the SNP will no doubt say in the coming months. Political POWs actually make for better propaganda than a full landslide massacre.

The Liberal Democrats are now destined for a faceoff with the SNP. The Tories had ruined themselves in Scotland years ago. Labour morphed into the “Red Tory” Party. Now, the Liberal Democrats are the only brand left.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 14 Comments

2015 Autumn Conference – Some first impressions



shared values



Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 1 Comment

A Defence of the House of Lords


There are many articles advocating Parliamentary reform and there are many points in them which I agree with. However all of them have called for the House of Lords to be replaced with an elected second chamber. While I agree that it requires significant reforms, I think that replacing it would be a huge mistake.

However it is set up, a system with two elected chambers inevitably ends with a power struggle between them, of which the Italian and US Senates are some of the best examples. Legislation is used for pointscoring or outright blocked, not due to flaws or voter opposition, but because of conflicting electoral agendas.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 19 Comments

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAlistair 6th Oct - 7:26pm
    The Tories can put their money where their mouths are and stop bringing in foreign political strategists.
  • User AvatarMichael BG 6th Oct - 7:24pm
    @ Psi I would hope that we wouldn’t want the government to pay for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants that were privatised. However if...
  • User AvatarPsi 6th Oct - 7:20pm
    Stuart "Surely Simon should provide evidence to back up his own assertions instead of others being called on to prove a negative, which doesn’t seem...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 6th Oct - 7:13pm
    David, The pramble says it already " ... we seek to balance the fundamantal values of liberty equality and community ..."
  • User AvatarCaron Lindsay 6th Oct - 7:07pm
    @stuart: James Kirkup has cleverly debunked almost everything Theresa May was saying.
  • User AvatarStuart 6th Oct - 7:06pm
    @Simon Shaw "I may have misunderstood it, but I assumed it was actually a surprisingly good explanation of what deterrence is all about" Possibly, or...