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

7 ver 4 fullMany thanks to the 14,700 visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

The Times: The Lib Dems are “great survivors” (51 comments) by The Voice

The Independent View: Commons must debate Medical Innovations Bill before election (59 comments) by Dominic Nutt

Guardian’s coverage of Lib Dem election campaign accentuates the negative (52 comments) by Caron Lindsay

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Parliamentarians “gorging” on a maximum of one and a bit chocolate bars a week? I don’t think so.

chocolateYou have to wonder who thinks up freedom of information questions like “How many chocolate bars do the catering outlets in Westminster sell?” But the Sunday Times (£) reports that somebody has asked precisely that question and that the number of chocolate bars bought in 2013 and 2014 totals just under 200,000. This leads them to conclude that our MPs and Peers are “gorging” their way through some massive chocolate stash. It’s like we’re meant to see them as some sort of court of Henry VIII busting out of their breaches.

In fact, I was surprised that the amount is so low. Let’s think about it. There are 650 MPs and 800 members of the House of Lords who attend regularly. Even if we only count them, that’s 1450 people. That only allows them 69 chocolate bars a year each. It’s not even two for every sitting week. When you add in all of their staff (and most MPs will have at least one person in their Westminster office) and all the visitors to the place, it reduces that amount even further. Maybe they’d all be happier if they ate more chocolate, not less.

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Back to the days of toxic factionalism in the Labour Party – will they ever learn?

I’ve always felt that the Labour Party would be much more effective if they could put their energies into fighting the problems the country faces rather than fighting each other. We all remember the schism between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair from Day 1 of their administration which overshadowed everything they did. Do you remember the time when they decided to show everyone what good friends they were in the run up to, I think, the 2005 election, sitting  together uncomfortably on the GMTV sofa.

Today the Sunday Times (£) shows us that toxic factionalism is still alive and well in the Party. Brown and Blair couldn’t even get on when things were going well for them. The two Eds, Miliband and Balls are apparently at daggers drawn and Balls may face demotion after recent blunders:

A shadow cabinet member said if Miliband becomes prime minister he should move the shadow chancellor and accused Balls of behaving with “contempt” towards colleagues and “undermining the leader’s agenda”.

Frontbenchers attacked Balls last night for committing Labour’s two worst gaffes of the election campaign so far.

They said his reputation as a “safe pair of hands” had been shattered when he failed to name a single Labour business backer and told voters they should get a receipt for work done cash in hand, both of which attracted ridicule.

Senior figures also expressed frustration and incredulity that Balls has dug his heels in over funding a cut in English tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 a year — three years after Miliband first backed the policy and with the announcement due at the end of this week.

Insiders say a meeting between Miliband and Balls last Wednesday, which many hoped would settle the policy, had “ended badly”.

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Lord Avebury’s personal story – why he wants the option of assisted dying

eric aveburyLiberal Democrat peer Eric Avebury, a great friend of this site, has been talking to the Dignity in Dying website about why he feels so strongly that assisted dying should be an option, to help him avoid a “very terrible” death from his blood cancer.

I am committed to campaigning for terminally ill, mentally competent people to have the right to an assisted death. I have an incurable disease, a form of blood cancer called myelofibrosis, where the inside of the bone marrow turns to fibre and it no longer produces blood, so you suffocate. I have been told that it can be very terrible in the last stages.

It is a debate that the public have been engaging in for many years and finally Parliament has decided to catch up. I have had my own conversations with my family. My wife comes to all my consultations and we have discussed assisted dying. She knows that the ideal would be to have a peaceful death at home and for palliative care to deal with any serious pain, but if it doesn’t she would respect my decision to have an assisted death – assuming the Bill is passed by then. I am not keen on the idea of travelling to Switzerland and we haven’t discussed that option. My four children know my views and don’t object to them either.

I obviously have a personal stake in the Bill and the future of the assisted dying campaign. Currently I am not in the latter stages of my illness and I am very hopeful that this year will not be my last.

I am confident that, when this time comes for me, assisted dying for terminally ill people will be a legal right in the UK, and I will be able to plan the death that I want.

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Austin Mitchell gives a masterclass in taking your constituents for granted…

That sound you can hear is the wailing of Labour campaign organisers in Grimsby as they work out how to deal with outgoing Labour MP Austin Mitchell’s latest bout of Foot in Mouth disease.

From the i:

From the shuttered-up homes by the once bustling fish market to derelict harbour-side factories, politicians of all stripes admit privately that the east coast town alternates between being forgotten and taken for granted in Westminster.

It’s a narrative that Ukip is pushing hard and one that the Lincolnshire town’s veteran MP, Mitchell, unwittingly reinforced by telling the Independent on Sunday that Labour would win the seat “even” if they selected a “raving alcoholic sex paedophile”.

We knew that Labour have a real sense of entitlement to power that is most unattractive. Breaking their fiefdoms in Scotland by introducing STV for local government is one of the best things the Liberal Democrats have ever done in government. Labour are finding that years, decades of neglect and taking voters for granted is coming back to bite them on the bum. The thing is, I don’t see much sign of their attitude really changing that much.

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Liberal Democrats ensure government gives added protection for journalists’ records

Police will need to get a judge to give them permission before they access journalists’ phone records, according to the BBC.

A temporary measure means officers must follow the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and get legal permission to obtain any communications data.

The move comes after strong criticism of the way police were using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to access journalists’ sources.

The Home Office said it was an “interim solution” ahead of the next parliament.

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Appearing on the Big Debate talking about ISIS, alcohol at football matches and decriminalising drugs

Yesterday, I went to Paisley in Renfrewshire to be part of the panel for Radio Scotland’s Big Debate which is the Scottish equivalent of Any Questions.

Also on the panel were shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, local SNP MSP George Adam and Peter Murray from the Media Trust.

I did try to persuade presenter Gordon Brewer that he should “accidentally” call Douglas Danny in homage to Jo Joyner who made an error with someone’s name in the EastEnders live episode the other night but he was having none of it.

It was a much more thoughtful and less combative discussion than usual. George Adam did try to do the “let’s blame Westminster” thing that SNP people are prone to do but that was about it. We talked about ISIS and whether we could negotiate with them. I said that I didn’t think that would be on the agenda any time soon but whatever we did should be carefully thought out with very clear objectives. I talked a bit about the article from the Guardian the other day which told of the horrible conditions under which women are supposed to live. I also emphasised that we need to be very careful not to fuel Islamophobia given that ISIS are about as representative of Islam as the Westboro Baptist Church are of Christianity.

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Pauline Pearce seeks nomination in Hitchin

The “Hackney Heroine” Pauline Pearce has applied to be the Liberal Democrat candidate in Hitchin for the General Election:

From the Hertfordshire Mercury:

Pauline Pearce – dubbed the Heroine of Hackney – could stand as the Lib Dems’ candidate for Hitchin in next year’s General Election.

The Hackney resident, who moved from Hitchin eight years ago, said: “Plain and simple, it’s home to me.

“I’m a Hitchin girl, I know quite a bit about the issues down there, especially concerning the youngsters.

“I want to help kids and let them know what they can do to open their eyes and turn their lives around.”

Miss Pearce has yet to be formally selected to contest the Hitchin and Harpenden seat, currently held by Tory Peter Lilley, but hopes are high.

She became a symbol of Londoners’ outrage at the wave of criminality which followed the death of Mark Duggan in 2012.

After the clip went viral, she was courted by politicians and community leaders, even expressing her intention to stand for Lib Dem president.
Pauline has since been elected to the Party’s Federal Executive.
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Some more secret party elections you can stand in – act by noon next Friday, 27th February

There are some more secret elections happening. We feel it’s our duty to disseminate the information as widely as possible.

Here are the details of the positions available and how to get yourself nominated:

All persons elected to these posts will hold office for the calendar years 2015 and 2016.

For the election of:

  • One Vice-Chairs of the IRC
  • Three members of the SAO Review Group
  • Two members of the FE Candidates’ sub-group (meets with JSCC)
  • One representatives on ALDE Congress
  • Two representatives to the LI Congress

The election regulations approved by the Federal Executive in May 2009 are attached for information.

Nominations must be supported by two voting members of the outgoing or incoming Federal Executive, a list of whom is attached, and must be returned, with 75 word statements , no later than 12 noon on 27 February 2015 to David Allworthy, [email protected]. Scanned nominations will be accepted.

David Allworthy, Deputy Acting Returning Officer, 20 February 2015

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An inspiring talk for a Saturday morning – John Loughton on his journey from poverty in Edinburgh to talking to world leaders

John Loughton grew up in poverty in Edinburgh. He is a truly inspiring character. In this video he talks about his life and how he founded a youth leadership organisation that has worked with thousands of young people across the world.

John is a member of the Liberal Democrats and if you look at his Wikipedia page, you’ll see just some of the things he’s done and the powerful circles in which he has moved.

 

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LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 25

There’s no change at the top, as George Murray’s Marauding Fullbacks continue to lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 25, with 1,491 points, just ahead of Jon Featonby and Sam Bowman.

But let’s also hear it for three players outside the top 10: Will Barter (Mid-Table Meanderer) had the best week’s performance, with 70 points. Honourable mentions go to Max Wilkinson (Regency Spa Town) and Richard Farrance (Wirral_Rovers), with 68 and 67 points respectively.

LDV FANTASY FOOTBALL 26

There are 161 players in total and you can still join the …

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The Times: “Lib Dems are great survivors”

Writing in the Times (£), Philip Collins makes some predictions about the Liberal Democrats’ fortunes. He reckons we’ll be part of a coalition with the Conservatives after the general election. I suspect party members will have a different feeling until we see what’s on offer. Collins also has some fairly unpalatable recommendations for the party, such as ditching climate change.

He reckons we won’t face the wipeout many predict:

The party’s own polling is the clue to the relentless optimism of its senior personnel. Where they have a presence on the local council and the sitting MP, the Lib Dems are competitive. Ukip will help them against the Tories and the electoral system that Lib Dems have always hated is coming to their rescue. There has been a lot of speculation about where Nick Clegg will go after the election. My own bet is Sheffield Hallam, about once a fortnight.

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STV report talks up Tory chances in seats the party has written off

The Scottish Conservatives meet in Edinburgh today for their Conference. The other day, the STV political correspondent filmed with them and talked up their chances in seats like Argyll and Bute and West Aberdeenshire. He can’t have realised that those seats are among five Lib Dem seats in Scotland that appear on the list of seats that the Tories are not targeting in Scotland as Mark Pack reported last week.

The Tories have also written off their chances in Edinburgh West, Ross, Skye and Lochaber and North East Fife.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott described the Tory leak as a “letter of surrender”:

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Nick Clegg top British politician in Mumsnet poll

Nick Clegg is the leading British politician on a Mumsnet poll. Sadly, it’s not for voting intention. The Mirror has the story:

Over at Mumsnet, one user started a thread asking “Am I being unreasonable to ask which politician would make the best lover?” There were over 400 replies and we added up the mentions of each name for you. The results are in…

American President Barack Obama beat all local politicians to come out top with 22 votes.

Nick “Clegg-over” Clegg makes a close second, showing he’s kept his sex appeal since 2010 despite the battering his political reputation has taken.

Perennial sex favourite Gordon Brown (he’s Scottish, the accent is kind of sexy) is third.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire writes….Liberal Democrats’ investment in education has been socially progressive

I took part in a five-party panel at York University the other weekend, organised by the University’s Politics Society, in front of a packed lecture hall with over 200 students.  No other panellist or questioner mentioned the subject of tuition fees, believed by some Liberal Democrat activists (and right-wing journalists) to be an issue that hangs like an albatross round Nick Clegg’s neck. The overwhelming impression I came away with, reinforced by informal conversations with several students after the meeting, was not that we face an outraged student body which can never forgive us for the tuition fees ‘betrayal’, as the NUS would like to portray it; it was of a student body which is switched off from party politics, unsure of whether to vote or not, but with some intelligent questions to ask.  ‘I wasn’t planning to vote until I came to this’, one student told me afterwards, ‘but maybe now I will.’

Since nobody else did, I addressed the tuition fee issue.  I said that we had found it impossible to persuade our Conservative partners in the coalition to pay for this, against the background of a yawning gap between revenue and expenditure in 2010, and had therefore focused on striking a deal that was as progressive in its impact as possible; that the package had ensured that graduates only start to pay back when they are earning good money; that the rise since then in the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university has shown that we got that right; and that there was no no way any future government would want to take us back to free fees in the face of other competing demands for government funding.  I went on to say that we had worked in government to put money into ‘the other 50%’ – the young people who never go to university; that doubling the number of apprenticeships, paying a Pupil Premium to encourage schools to put more resources into helping those who most need it, and expanding nursery education to give children a better start in life had proved to be more progressive and cost-effective than free fees for the better-off.

photo by: flickingerbrad
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SNP branch encourages its members to take pictures of Labour canvassers and put them on social media

Something very rare happened to me on Sunday afternoon. So rare that it hasn’t happened at all in the almost 15 years I’ve lived in my house. That it happensd at all is indicative of a jitteriness in politics. Yes, a Labour canvasser turned up on my doorstep.

Clearly they are feeling that they have to try after years of just assuming that the votes will pile up in their favour. That is probably a good thing. Mind you, the one who came to us will have to do something about the look of sheer incredulity on his face when I told him I was voting Lib Dem.

He was such a rare sight, and his look was so funny, but it never occurred to me to take his photo and stick it on social media. Because that would be creepy, even if it were to be one of a handful of times I’d ever seen one on my doorstep. It would be quite intimidating as well. As a political activist, I guess I understand what it’s like for a fellow political activist. the massive chunk it takes out of your life. I may not agree with the opposition, but there’s a bit of empathy there.

The SNP in Edinburgh Western have no such qualms, though. According to the Daily Record, they asked their members to ask Labour canvassers 3 questions and take the photos of any who “lied”:

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Nick Clegg on the Liberal Democrats’ vision for a world class early years education system

Nick Clegg has made a major speech on early years education and  child care to the Pre-School Learning Alliance. He pointed out that as a result of Liberal Democrat input, an extra £1 billion has been put into child-care in this Parliament and that only the Liberal Democrats would protect that level of spending in the next Parliament. In contrast, the Conservatives would cut it, at a cost of £625 per child. Not only that, but welfare cuts would affect low income families.

Here are the main points of his speech:

Over the last five years, we’ve made it one of our biggest priorities in this Government to ensure that every child – whatever their background or circumstances – gets an equal shot at the successful future they deserve.

Disadvantaged background start to bite early:

 So much so that, if you’re a child born into a poor family in this country, you will already have fallen behind a child with richer parents by the time you’re 2 years old.

That’s before you step anywhere near a classroom and it has absolutely nothing to do with your talent or potential – just the circumstances of your birth. Without focused action to change it, that gap between you and your peers will continue to get bigger as you grow up. So that when you turn up, proudly wearing your new uniform, for your first day of school, you will be well over a year behind your better-off classmates. Morally and economically, we simply cannot afford for so many children to have their future written off like that in this country.

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Opinion: Don’t sell social housing

A Conservative housing policy is likely to exacerbate London’s housing crisis because it proposes to sell more social housing.

If we can sell homes at a discount of 70 – 80% of the ‘market value’, then what does that say about the market?  Simply put: London’s housing market is over priced – most likely by similar amounts.

At the University College of London’s seminar: “How Should we Respond to Rising Inequality” last month, political economist Will Hutton, David Goodhart and Sir John Gieve discussed reasons behind rising housing costs.

They talked about the impact of unmanaged markets, lack of supply, cartels in house building, land values underpinned by dysfunctional finance markets etc and unmanaged banking and finance systems. This is compounded by a lack of political will and vision.  Essentially, our government lacks the ability to ensure low costs housing remains in an ‘open market economy’. If these opposing forces can come together and agree, it is time housing policies do too.

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Further steady fall in unemployment

Yesterday’s monthly update from the office for national statistics shows unemployment down 97,000 in the last quarter of 2014 and by 486,000 on a year earlier.

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Willie Rennie MSP writes…You wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, so you wouldn’t put the SNP in charge of the UK

If you ask me about coalitions and the SNP, I will keep it simple.

Just as you wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, you would not put the SNP in charge of Britain. It’s not going to happen. Anyway, the SNP leader at Westminster told an interviewer from the New Statesman last week that he wasn’t interested. So, it’s definitely not going to happen.

I know from long years in politics that parlour style discussions about hypotheticals and coalitions don’t translate onto the doorsteps.

We’re in the Liberal Democrats because we want to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, …

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Opinion: Are you a STEM champion?

Do we need more scientists and engineers in government? The question is a tough one. Of course it’s easy to find examples of scientific illiteracy in parliamentary debate, and it can be frustrating for followers of politics to see policies adopted seemingly without any framework to test their efficacy in a structured and unbiased way (though there has been some progress in that area). On the other hand, MPs without science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) backgrounds can be great advocates for science and engineering, and are perfectly capable of debating technical issues with great insight and sensitivity – Conservative MP Jane Ellison, for example, handled the recent debate on mitochondrial donation admirably.

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The Independent View: Commons must debate key Medical Innovation Bill before election

Maurice Saatchi’s Medical innovation Bill has caused controversy and inspired a passionate debate on how doctors and scientists can and should speed up medical advance for currently incurable diseases.

The Bill is designed to do two things. First, it will offer clarity and confidence to doctors who want to innovate and move away from standard procedures.

When might that be relevant? In most cases standard procedures work and innovation is unnecessary. There is a vast quantity of scientifically validated data which supports standard medical procedures.

But in some cases – specially for rare and incurable diseases –  there is little scientific data and no effective treatments. In such cases, a doctor and the patient may face a choice, between applying the standard treatments, even though they are known not to work and will lead only to death, or to try something new.

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Call Clegg makes Nick “more approachable and familiar” than any other leader

call cleggPraise for Nick Clegg and his Call Clegg show is found in Gillian Reynolds’ radio review column in the Telegraph today:

Call Clegg, the weekly live phone-in on LBC hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg but steered by Nick Ferrari, was a novelty when it started two years ago but has achieved unexpected wonders. It’s allowed a sliver of regular direct access to a politician in a position of power. (Not much power, you might say, but, admit it, more access than anyone else in this situation would allow.)

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Opinion: In praise of Jenny Willott

Jenny Willott, Ruth and Orla Bright, 2004The Liberal Democrats of course have a dismal record electing women, particularly women with young children. We have, therefore, to be truly thankful to Jenny Willott (and her family) for salvaging our reputation in a single television programme. Last night on Michael Cockerell’s “Inside the Commons” we saw her juggling work and motherhood in a way that has rarely been portrayed so honestly. Seeing her collect her son from the House of Commons nursery (and then having to leave him on the lap of a colleague while rushing to an unexpected vote) might have made parliament seem remote. In fact many parents would have watched that scene and been reminded of their own work/family balancing act.

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Guardian’s coverage of Liberal Democrat General Election campaign accentuates the negative

So what does the Guardian do to cheer itself up when a poll has shown Labour support is falling? Ah yes, they just write about how rubbish life is for the Liberal Democrats. Words like perilous, doom and resigned are peppered through the piece. I’m not suggesting that our prospects are the best they’ve ever been, but so much of what’s written about us is not so much “glass half empty” but “no liquid anywhere near the glass.”

I’d like to think that when Patrick Wintour and Nick Watt were doing their research for this, they were shown the vibrant Team 2015 operation, the busy and spirited things going on across the country in our key seats and that they just chose not to write about it because it doesn’t fit in with the pessimistic narrative. There are many things about the party’s campaigning that it can take a huge amount of pride in. There are bright and talented people in HQ who are doing the best they can with the material available to them. Did Wintour and Watt get to talk to the Austin Rathes and Steve Jollys of this world? I hope so.

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Opinion: Tory plans to curb benefits for obese people and addicts is the opposite of enabling people to get on in life

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through charity work, in two different countries, it’s that imposing your moral code on other people simply does not work. Sometimes, people are going to do things that seem wrong, or misguided, or utterly reckless, to us. When they do, it’s our role not to judge them for it, but to give them the information they need to make their own informed choices.

That’s why I was so annoyed this week just past. In Spain, a colleague of mine told me that the media had whipped up frenzy around our organisation teaching young people to use condoms correctly. Meanwhile, back home in Britain, we have the Conservative party trying to push its own moral code through the benefits system. Both examples neatly explain what the problem is with moralising narratives in society.

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On the campaign trail… Guildford

kmb-nickbelfitt2This weekend, I introduced two new, keen politics students to the art of door-to-door canvassing in Guildford.

I wanted to make it clear that most people are pleased to see us on the doorstep, and are polite even if when they’re not supportive. In nine years, I’ve only had two people swear at me. The worst you’ll get is generally polite ‘not interested’.

Posted in Campaign Corner | 14 Comments

Layla Moran shows the benefits of the Liberal Democrats drive to deliver 2 million apprenticeships

Liberal Democrat candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon Layla Moran was on Channel 4’s political slot tonight talking about apprenticeships. She interviewed apprentices, including Paige McConville, the 2 millionth apprentice. She also interviewed business owners who told her of the high value training apprentices receive and how having apprentices benefits us all as they provide the skills the economy needs to grow.

You can watch it here:

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Scottish Liberal Lord Mackie of Benshie dies at 95

Lord George MackieLiberal Democrat peer Lord George Mackie died today at the age of 95. As the Herald reports:

A famous Liberal Democrat peer Lord Mackie of Benshie has died aged 95, a decorated airman with Bomber Command in the second world war as well as a renowned farmer.

He was a chairman of the Caithness Glass company and a hotelier at John O, Groats.After the war he took over a farm at Benshie in Angus and subsequently set up a cattle ranch at Braeroy near Spean Bridge.

George Mackie, from a renowned farming family in Aberdeenshire, was elected as MP for the old Scottish Liberal Party in Caithness and Sutherland in1964. But he served only until 1966 when Harold Wilson’s Labour Government went back to the country to seek a larger majority. Mackie lost narrowly.

In 1974 he was offered a life peerage. His brother John, who had been on the Labour benches while he was in the House of Commons, also arrived in the House of Lords as a Labour peer.

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Opinion: High impact campaigning – volunteering with Team 2015

Team 2015 posterI’m looking forward to the election with a fair amount of optimism. My response to disappointing election results in May 2014 was to join Team 2015, which in August had just begun to mobilise Lib Dem volunteers in preparation for the General Election. At this point the Team membership’s infectious enthusiasm far outweighed its numbers. It has since grown to include volunteers from across the country, and this has shaped my belief that we have a chance to do better in the election than critics and pollsters are anticipating.

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  • User Avatarpeter tyzack 27th Feb - 11:04am
    I found that whatever I was doing someone (opposition?) would report me.. classic was having a bonfire(quite a big one in fairness) and the fire...
  • User AvatarMoggy 27th Feb - 11:02am
    Slegehammer: useful campaigning tool :)
  • User AvatarRoland 27th Feb - 11:00am
    This really is a non-story! Unless Caron has not presented the full facts. "Councillors were free to offer all sorts of ideas which would benefit...
  • User Avatarpaul barker 27th Feb - 10:59am
    If anyone wants to read some real Labour bashing, can I suggest 2 Labour sites - Labour Uncut with "Labours campaign is a mess. So...
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 27th Feb - 10:54am
    I think this is excellent but over time, through reading arguments on here, I have changed my viewpoint. I now think we really need to...
  • User Avatarpaul barker 27th Feb - 10:48am
    Theres an interesting article on "Labour Uncut" on this issue - "A Labour/SNP deal would be a disaster for Britain & Milliband."
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