what a cruel night
and so unexpected.
Friends and colleagues
so much expertise
as if on a whim.
what a cruel night
and so unexpected.
Friends and colleagues
so much expertise
as if on a whim.
Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 429th 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 (23-29 August, 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:
How to beat the SNP (61 comments) by Joanne Ferguson
Eleven new Liberal Democrat peers announced (54 comments) by Caron Lindsay
The crowded centre left (101 comments) by Joe Otten
Tim Farron came to Scotland on Thursday and spent an hour taking questions from party members at a very hastily arranged event at Party HQ in Edinburgh. Even though it hadn’t been organised until Tuesday afternoon, there was standing room only. A fair proportion of the audience was made up of new members.
He spoke about our place as a party, positioning ourselves as a party of economic credibility and compassion ready to stand up to the authoritarian governments in London and Edinburgh. His words complemented what Willie Rennie was saying about us being at the heart of the radical centre in his speech on Wednesday.
It was very clear that he had been very strongly affected by his trip to Calais. His frustration at the misrepresentation of these vulnerable people in the press and by Government ministers was clear.
He promised to be back in Scotland many times for campaigning in the lead up to the Holyrood elections.
Here is a Storify thingy which covers the highlights:
I am more than a little irritated by an article in the FT in which three of our eight MPs are quoted. They are all talking about the need for the Liberal Democrats to stick to that centre ground and not try to move to the left of Labour if they elect Jeremy Corbyn.
When on earth was that ever going to happen? How on earth could you outflank Corbyn from the left? He is an old fashioned socialist. He wants to nationalise everything, leave NATO, dispense with any sort of fiscal caution. To go any further left would involve Five Year Plans, hammers, sickles, a whole load of red and a Politburo. That’s not really our usual style, shall we say. The notion that Tim Farron would actually try and do this is risible, yet we have three of our MPs and perhaps an un-named fourth constructing a straw-man.
One un-named MP is quoted thus:
The Times (£) has reported the death of Walter James, who was the Liberal Party candidate for Bury in the 1945 General Election. As such, he is thought to be the last Liberal candidate from 1945 to pass on, leaving, it is believed, just two candidates surviving from that election, both of them from the Labour party: Denis Healey and Jeremy Hutchinson, now Baron Hutchinson of Lullington.
I am rather embarrassed when I see members of my own gender rushing into comments threads about women’s rights/safety with “This is sexist against men”/”What about men/everybody”-type comments.
A) It’s boring. B) It’s embarrassing. Do they not realise how stupid they look?
I didn’t actually get to see a news bulletin until 10pm last night and when I did, I was livid. Language matters. The 59 men, 8 women and 4 children who suffocated in that lorry were human beings and yet they were being described as “migrants” not people. Had those people been British, there would have been wall to wall news coverage of the tragedy for days. Already it’s slipping down the pecking order in the news bulletins along with the news of the drowning of another 200 people in the Mediterranean.
Calling these people “migrants” is both inaccurate and dehumanising. It’s inaccurate because most of them are refugees. Let’s face it, if you live in Syria you find yourself caught between a brutal government and barbaric ISIS. Amnesty’s most recent report on Syria outlines just how bad things are.
Syria’s internal armed conflict continued relentlessly through the year and saw both government forces and non-state armed groups commit extensive war crimes and gross human rights abuses with impunity. Government forces deliberately targeted civilians, indiscriminately bombarding civilian residential areas and medical facilities with artillery, mortars, barrel bombs and chemical agents, unlawfully killing civilians. Government forces also enforced lengthy sieges, trapping civilians and depriving them of food, medical care and other necessities. Security forces arbitrarily arrested or continued to detain thousands, including peaceful activists, human rights defenders, media and humanitarian workers, and children, subjecting some to enforced disappearance and others to prolonged detention or unfair trials. Security forces systematically tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees with impunity; thousands of detainees reportedly died due to torture or harsh conditions. Non-state armed groups, which controlled some areas and contested others, indiscriminately shelled and besieged areas containing civilians perceived to support the government. Some, particularly the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) armed group, carried out indiscriminate suicide attacks and other bombings in civilian areas, and perpetrated numerous unlawful killings, including summary killings of captives and suspected opponents.
There was great disappointment amongst Liberal Youth members earlier this month as they were told that they were too late to notify LDHQ of their voting reps for Federal Conference. The organisation has a number of voting places allocated to it as young people often find it difficult to get elected to the role by a local party as they are more likely to move home or to be away studying half the year.
They had not been aware of the original deadline and over the past few days have made their case to LDHQ and the Federal Conference Committee. Some local parties also missed out because they hadn’t realised there was a rush.
This afternoon, Party President Sal Brinton announced that the deadline would be extended until Monday 7th September at midday.
There’s been a lot of discussion about train safety for women over the last week or so after the publication of statistics showing a rise in the number of sexual assaults on trains and the subsequent controversy over Jeremy Corbyn’s comments on women-only carriages.
However, we haven’t heard much from some very influential organisations about this, surprisingly so. The train companies themselves have been pretty silent.
Liberal Democrats Kelly-Marie Blundell and Daisy Cooper took to Twitter to question them.
— Kelly-Marie Blundell (@KellyMarieLD) August 28, 2015
The party’s Federal Policy Committee is looking for party members to take part in policy working groups to develop policy in three particular areas:
From an email sent to party members today:
On Monday, a memorial service for Charles Kennedy was held in Dingwall, a town just north of Inverness which he had represented for the whole of his 32 years as an MP. His constituency office was there and over 300 people turned out to remember their former MP. Music was provided by the Kiltearn Fiddlers, who played a piece of music written by Charles’ father when he was elected to Parliament in 1983. The Dingwall Gaelic Choir also sang. It was quite an emotional occasion, but also full of laughter as memories of Charles were shared.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie paid tribute to Charles. Before the service, he gave an interview to STV. The wonderful scenery in the background shows the Cromarty Firth with views down to the towns of Maryburgh, Conon Bridge and Dingwall, an area represented by excellent Liberal Democrat councillor Angela Maclean.
Willie was keen to share many of the things that had been said about Charles by so many across the political spectrum since his death to show, as he said, how much he meant to the world. He also had a list of what he called Charles’ Greatest Hits – his funniest and wisest sayings. Here is his tribute in full.
Yesterday, the news was released about the latest tranche of appointments to the House of Lords. The Liberal Democrat peers will be, as they always have been, constructive and conscientious. Where we agree with the government we shall support them and where we don’t we shall work to amend and if needs be oppose.But the principle matters, Liberal Democrat peers were appointed on the pledge ‘to abolish themselves’.
The Lords has two functions. To revise and to hold the Executive to account. The first it does quite well, the second it does not at all – how can it when, by definition, it is a creature of the Executive?
The Lords is wholly undemocratic and will never have the legitimacy it needs for a healthy democracy until this is changed.
Every party in their manifestos hints at reform or abolition of the second chamber, but the Liberal Democrats are the only party committed to it. So today we recommit our party – and its new Peers – to working actively for the reform of the House of Lords and ideally its abolition in favour of an elected second chamber. We urge the other parties to join us in this effort.
The ever-energetic and helpful Dr Mark Pack, formerly of this parish, has published a very informative update this morning on the subject of the election of our Greater London Authority candidates:
Emails with online voting links have been landing in London Lib Dem members’ inboxes over the last day.
As many will know, there is an excellent motion on Human Rights to be debated at the Bournemouth conference. I have set out the motion below this post.
I have one query which readers may be to help me with.
It pertains to this section of the motion:
Conference resolves to:
…C. Retain the Human Rights Act unless it is replaced with a Bill of Rights which incorporates and builds on those rights set out in the ECHR and oppose any attempts by Conservatives to introduce a British Bill of Rights which does not achieve this.
Tim Farron was up in Scotland today, on his first visit since becoming leader.. He hosted a roundtable session in Edinburgh with the Scottish Refugee Council, Amnesty and the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group. Issues discussed included devolution and refugees, making asylum work for women and what political parties could do in the UK and Scotland to campaign for fairer treatment of vulnerable refugees.
Here they are having their discussions:
— Scot Lib Dems (@scotlibdems) August 27, 2015
Amnesty’s Scottish Director welcomed the meeting:
— Naomi Mc (@NaomiMc) August 27, 2015
After the meeting, Tim said:
Congratulations to all of the new Liberal Democrat Peers announced today. They will strengthen our existing excellent team in the Lords, fighting for a democratically elected second chamber while in the meantime using their power to provide a check on the government and its worrying assaults on the poor, on our civil liberties, and on the environment.
It’s also good to see recognition for those in our party who have served our communities and our country so well – Sir Vince Cable, Dame Annette Brooke, Ben Williams OBE and others.
What is depressing and wearily familiar, however, is the missing women.
But surely our Lords list is balanced? 5 out of the 11 nominations (45%) for the peerage go to women, which is progress I suppose – of the 40 people nominated to the Lords under Nick Clegg’s leadership, just 17 (43%) were women.
And 45% women wouldn’t be so bad if the existing Lords group was well-balanced, but of our 101 Peers, just 35% are women – so we’re still far from equality.
The dissolution honours have been published in full. When Vince Cable publishes his new book next month, he will do so as Sir Vince. There’s also a knighthood for Danny Alexander.
Nick Clegg has also rewarded Margaret Binks, his constituency office manager, Andy Sangar, his election agent and Ian Sherwood, a volunteer in his Commons office who had also served Ming Campbell and Charles Kennedy.
The list in full has been published here.
The Lib Dems are as follows:
Eleven new Liberal Democrat peers have been announced in the Dissolution Honours. Congratulations to them.
I will admit to being slightly annoyed at the fact that there are a majority of men – 6 men and 5 women. Surprisingly, there is no peerage for Fiona Hall, the former group leader of our MEPs, nor for Annette Brooke former MP for Mid Dorset and Poole North. We may find out that they had been offered a peerage and turned it down.
Most of the list is as we expected with peerages for the longest serving MPs Sir Alan Beith, Sir Malcolm Bruce and Sir Menzies Campbell. It had already been widely reported that Danny Alexander and Vince Cable had turned down peerages but they have had knighthoods instead.
Other than that there are a couple of very welcome surprises in the inclusion of Shas Sheehan and Dorothy Thornhill, both of whom are part of Tim Farron’s team of spokespeople.
Here is the Lib Dem list in full:
I’ve seen a number of comments recently about the financial cost of being a candidate. That is particularly sharp with people standing for parliament, but not limited to them.
As a party, we try to take diversity seriously. This is about justice and Liberal Democrat values. It’s pragmatic, in that we’re all diminished if we casually discard the talents of people from disadvantaged groups. There is also a bigger challenge: the changes we push for in society have to be made within the party and in our choice of candidates. Addressing problems this creates may not be easy, but is a first step to bringing change more widely. Addressing any problems this creates also helps us find ways to address barriers to change more widely.
One of the knotty points is around wealth.
The targeting of seats is unavoidable under our present electoral system, so there is no way round the fact that a high proportion of party’s resources has to be directed to winnable seats.
Away from target seats, the financial situation on candidates can be really difficult, especially when local parties are small and have limited resources. Yet it is also important to fight these seats, both to build up the party where it is presently less strong, and to be serious about being a potential party of government. I’ve seen guidance that potential candidates should not be asked what they can contribute financially to their campaign, as this discriminates against the less wealthy. But most parliamentary candidates work very hard in an election campaign and the pressure to end up putting more personal resources into the campaign can be intense — even if that pressure begins with them rather than anyone else. Anecdotes include someone saying they hoped there wouldn’t be another election soon as they had been self-funding and were more-or-less wiped out, and an agent asking the candidate to provide the deposit two days before the nomination form was to go in as if this was a perfectly reasonable request (and failing to register for their regional party’s deposit guarantee scheme).
In a speech to the Scottish Council for Development and Industry in Aberdeen yesterday, Willie Rennie claimed the radical centre ground for the Liberal Democrats, talking about Labour and the SNP fighting it out on the left, while the Conservatives move further to the right. He outlined a position that championed social justice while making sure that we lived within our means.
Willie now finds himself as the oldest political leader in Scotland at just 47 years old. Nicola Sturgeon is 46, Ruth Davidson 36, Patrick Harvie 42 and Kezia Dugdale 33. It’s certainly different from when I was growing up when most political leaders were in their 50s and 60s and the President of the USA was in his 70s.
The challenges for the Scottish Liberal Democrats are obvious. Standing firm in our own space and talking in a unique way about our issues is very important in post-coalition Scotland. I say standing firm, and not finding our own space as we have always been a radical centre ground party which champions individual freedom. Willie looks back to Gladstone, Asquith, Lloyd George, Russell Johnston, David Steel and Charles Kennedy as liberal inspiration.
There’s an interesting turn of phrase about our years in government:
There are some things I would soon forget about our time in government but our decision to put country before party for economic recovery is not one of them.
He then goes on to talk about the good things we did in Government and indeed the changes in SNP policy that his own parliamentary group of just 5 MSPs have driven.
Here is Willie’s speech in full:
It is desperately disappointing that to many people outside Westminster, the impression that they have of the House of Lords is that espoused by the press over the course of this summer following the reported behaviour of Lord Sewel.
In the days and weeks that have followed, we have seen many claims that Peers abuse their privileged position by not pulling their weight and not taking seriously the role that they are supposed to perform by virtue of their membership of the Lords.
This view is compounded by the fact that no member of the House of Lords has been elected by the general public to be in that position. And each and every one is secure in that membership for life. This is fundamentally wrong.
Regrettably, the good work of our Peers has been overshadowed by a few members of the Lords who, over the years, have shown disregard for their status and responsibility as public servants.
Christine Jardine put up one hell of a fight against Alex Salmond in the Gordon constituency this year. She got 1500 more votes than Malcolm Bruce had 5 years earlier and is in a very clear second place to challenge the SNP in the future.
She has now been selected to fight the Aberdeenshire East constituency in May next year for the Scottish Parliament.
A delighted Christine said: “Its very humbling to know that people are prepared to put their faith in you. I had a lot of support in the general election – 19,030 votes – and, while it’s clear we have a lot of work to do, I know those people, and the many others who have joined the party, are looking to us to repair the health service, improve education and protect jobs.
I am determined that the next Scottish Government will give us here in the North East a better deal on health, education, housing and more.
I’m a Liberal. I believe politics is not about nations or states it’s about people, about individuals and should always put them first.
Those are the things I want to change. That I will work to change and I will ask the electorate to help by making me their next MSP.
One of the highlights of the forthcoming conference, the Lib Dem Disco, has been mocked by the Daily Telegraph. Is there a higher accolade?
In an article which includes Paul Walter’s video of the Gay Gordons, played by one DJ Cazzie Sparkle (who finished second to winner Alistair Carmichael), but without crediting him for it, it’s fair to say that the paper is less than impressed:
An attendee of last year’s event told The Telegraph: “The music was mostly cheesy pop. It was like a school disco. YMCA, Macarena, Cha cha slide, B*witched were all on the playlist.”
“Farron started his leadership bid early by playing slightly edgy 80’s songs. The dance floor was mostly filled by Liberal Youth members, while most of the normal members milled by the bar due to a £15 price tag. Somebody paid for my ticket so I watched the sights”
“The Lib Dem presidency battle was on at the time so candidates were trying to show their cool side on the dancefloor, but in reality they looked more like extras on Coronation Street”
As I wrote on this site previously, here in York we recently entered into a joint administration with the local Conservative group to run the city. This has posed us with the large challenge of ensuring that our distinctive voice is heard locally and that we deliver on our promises to residents at a very difficult time for local government.
In the run up to the election we made it a key manifesto promise to protect Yearsley Pool, a valued community facility, from Labour’s proposed local cuts. We then also managed to secure this as a key priority for the Joint Executive.
I am now really pleased that we have now been able to deliver on this promise and have secured the long term future of this much loved community facility. We have put in place a clear commitment to Yearsley Swimming Pool, as part of the councils 13 year leisure contract – ensuring its future well beyond the next local elections.
Twitter is having one of its more febrile moments over Jeremy Corbyn’s plans for women-only train carriages.
I actually think that there are reasons to praise Corbyn for floating the idea.
First of all, it’s pretty good to see a male politician think that the issue of sexual assault on public transport is an important one that we should do something about. Where were the other politicians, including Liberal Democrats, when the statistics showing showing an increase in reported sexual assaults came out last week?
Secondly, look at what Corbyn actually said:
Some women have raised with me that a solution to the rise in assault and harassment on public transport could be to introduce women only carriages.
My intention would be to make public transport safer for everyone from the train platform, to the bus stop to on the mode of transport itself. However, I would consult with women and open it up to hear their views on whether women-only carriages would be welcome – and also if piloting this at times and modes of transport where harassment is reported most frequently would be of interest.
Our Youth Leadership Programme aims to develop a diverse group of young activists, and especially young candidates for elected office, with strong leadership and political skills and the capabilities to succeed as future leaders.
Participants in this programme come from diverse background and represent liberal parties and groups in Palestine, Egypt, Georgia, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco and Bosnia.
The “crowded centre-left” may seem an odd phrase to use when the Labour Party appears to be about to lurch off to the hard left, but there is some context here for both the self-indulgence of Corbynism, and for some of the decisions we will have to make as a party in the coming months.
Many, notably David Howarth and Mark Pack, have argued, in an otherwise very good paper, that the socially liberal, economic right is a desert, and we must be pitching our tent economically on the centre left.
As we announced here, Agenda 2020 is the name given to a project of the Federal Policy Committee to re-examine our timeless values. They have now published quite an interesting collection of essays (pdf here) to set the ball rolling, and are inviting further essays by the 5th October.
You might miss the essay collection if you have gone for one of the greener options for the conference agenda, or if you aren’t going to conference, but I must say they are interesting enough to put my natural cynicism for the project on hold for a while.
Rather than attempt a review, let me give you a little teaser of each. Quotes do not imply endorsement.
This is an extension of the implications of Popper’s open society, and its implications are profound. Society, public services and the economy are the same in this respect:
It was bad enough watching Ed Miliband rather out of his depth as leader of the Labour party. He seemed to sit back in his study quite a lot, talking with his inner circle. He did quite well at PMQs sometimes. But you got the impression that he wasn’t really fully in charge. This was made worse by unfortunate (and somewhat irrelevant) incidents such as the bacon sandwich episode.