Is David Steel right about the Liberal Democrat attitude to a future coalition?

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As if Austin Rathe didn’t have enough to do…

Austin RatheAustin Rathe is, as many of you will know, the Head of Member and Supporter Development at Lib Dem HQ. He has presided over an increase in membership over the last couple of years and is the architect of the incentive scheme which makes it worth local parties’ while putting lots of effort into recruiting members.

He is someone who works almost every hour imaginable and is often to be seen responding to queries raised by members not just through the usual channels but on social media, too.

He’s a very busy person and you can’t really imagine him sitting still for more than 5 seconds. I did wonder, though, when I saw that he was planning to run the London Marathon this April whether we were working him hard enough. Or, alternatively, whether we were working him too hard if he thought that running 26 miles was something he’d do for a rest.

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Miriam Gonzalez Durantez meets Miranda Sawyer

There’s an interesting interview between Miranda Sawyer and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez in the Guardian this weekend.

They meet at an Inspiring Women event on sport at the aquatics centre where the Olympics took place and, separately, in Miriam’s office.

Miriam talks about the attitudes in the Spanish village where she was brought up, where people pitied her working mother.

Her mother was the object of some local sympathy. “People felt sorry for her because she had to work,” González Durántez says, “but she wanted to. My mother has taught three generations in the village. I am never going to make so much of a difference.”

Actually, many of the women González Durántez knew had jobs – they just weren’t paid. Both her grandmothers came from rural communities where women laboured in the fields. Her maternal grandmother brought up eight boys (one died) during the Spanish civil war. “She was a tiny, dynamite woman,” González Durántez says. “Always vivacious and positive, a lesson in life.”

Though democracy came to Spain after Franco died in 1975, old-fashioned attitudes took a while to wither. At her school, “when boys did sport, girls did knitting. And boys, when they behaved badly, were sent with the girls.” González Durántez enjoyed reading and music – she played an hour of piano every day (“I say this to my children, who do half an hour a week!”). As the eldest child of the mayor, she was very much part of village life: “I organised things for the little kids, I helped my father in politics, I tried it all. A race or something, there I was. I wasn’t very good at running, but I tried it all.”

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In full: Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference – personal stories which show the good Liberal Democrats have done

This is Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie’s speech just delivered to the party’s Spring Conference in Aberdeen. It’s full of real, practical accounts of how the Liberal Democrats have improved people’s lives. 

George is a young man. He lives in the Borders.  George works hard but is not rich.  He earns £12,000 a year.

Before Liberal Democrats were in Government he used to pay over £1,100 income tax. But this year it will be cut to £200.

George is not alone.  Over 2 million Scots have had their income tax cut.

I believe fair tax is necessary for a fair society.

It makes work pay, so people can stand on their own two feet.

It is what liberals are for – giving everyone the opportunity to get on in the world.

Without Liberal Democrats in Government this would not be possible.

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Tim Farron’s UKIP opponent resigns, citing claims of “open racism” and “sanctimonious bullying” within the party

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Paddy Ashdown carves out a new career as a literary reviewer

He’s been a marine. He’s been an MP and party leader. He’s an election campaign chief and a successful author. Paddy Ashdown has now shown that he can be an effective literary critic. As you would expect, his comments are direct, no-nonsense and pithy – and required journalists and bloggers to put content warnings on their missives from Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference in Aberdeen.

From the Scotsman:

The former SNP leader’s book The Dream Shall Never Die recounts his experiences in last year’s independence referendum campaign.

The book was published yesterday, with Lord Ashdown telling the press he had been reading it on his way to the conference.

During a media briefing, Lord Ashdown said: “I was reading Mr Salmond’s biography on the way up. It’s not very good, is it?

“In my view, I think it is an extraordinary exercise in self-congratulation.”

He then went on to describe the book as “the longest exercise in literary masturbation since politics began”.

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In Full: Alistair Carmichael’s speech to Scottish Liberal Democrat conference: “Liberalism is needed more than ever”

Here is Alistair Carmichael’s speech to Scottish Conference in which he says the party will confound the doom-mongers and sets out why we can be proud in our records in Government. He paints a grim picture of life with the Tories governing alone and, after praising Willie Rennie, tells us  “Let’s go win.”

Good afternoon, Conference.

It is good to be back in Aberdeen.

Aberdeen is where I attended party conference of the Scottish Liberal Party for the first time here in 1983.

The party was very different then.   In fact it was a different party – liberals and social democrats were still in different parties.

The Scottish Liberal leader then was Russell Johnston.

The party Chair was Ross Finnie and the vice-chairs included a couple of young turks called Jim Wallace and Malcolm Bruce.

What ever became of them?

 

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Nick Clegg: Governing with Labour and the SNP would be a recipe for “insomnia and instability”

The Guardian is doing a series of interviews by Phoebe Greenwood with the leaders of the parties, in the run-up to the general election. This week, it is the turn of Nick Clegg. There is a sixteen minute video of the discussion, plus a couple of summary reports.

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Paul Strasburger stands down from Lib Dem Lords group pending investigation of fundraising allegations

Lord Strasburger has temporarily stood down from the Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords pending investigation into allegations to be made in a Channel 4 Dispatches programme which have been reported in the Telegraph. This involved another undercover operation involving a reporter posing as a businessman. Lord Strasburger has denied doing anything wrong.

From the BBC:

In a statement published by the Liberal Democrats, Lord Strasburger said: “Whatever Channel 4 may say in their Dispatches programme, I do not think I have committed any offence.

“Having said that, I believe that we should all be accountable for what we do,

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LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 29

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Nick Clegg and a dancing troupe in Gravesend filming of promotional video

It appears that the Liberal Democrats have turned parts of the centre of Gravesend into a film set. The News Shopper has the details:

The Lib Dems have been filming in Parrock Street car park for the last two nights, which confused residents who spotted a white, double decker bus and film crews.

They also filmed in the area around Windmill Street, Railway Place and Manor Road, where traffic management was in place both nights from 5pm.

A dancing troupe and the Lib Dem party leader are expected to be filmed today, as long as the smog does not interfere.

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Opinion: Netanyahu’s rejection of peace must mean British recognition of Palestine

On ‘Call Clegg’ this week Nick robustly declared that “if Benjamin Netanyahu now unilaterally has decided to rule out the prospect of a Palestinian state then I think it is inevitable that British parliament, as it voted a few months ago, should rule a Palestinian state in.” The contrast with Cameron’s (is it unthinking or calculated?) support for Netanyahu’s hope-destroying election victory is both massive, and very welcome. It is great to see the Liberal Democrats standing up for the peace process rather than for an obstructionist right-wing government.

It has become a cliché to say that ‘paradoxically Netanyahu’s election victory is a good thing’: that with the emperor’s new clothes exposed for what they are, there can be no more pretending that there is an Israeli partner for peace.

I’m not so sure. There is no evidence that a prime minister who openly exploits prejudice against Israel’s Arab citizens will suddenly show any serious commitment to a negotiated solution to the conflict. And just as those of us who support an end to the illegal and divisive policies of the occupation want a just peace for the Palestinians, we also recognise that such an outcome will be to Israel’s benefit too. We want a safe, decent and prosperous Israel as a genuine partner for Palestine: an Israel which is becoming ever more unequal, racist, militarised and beholden to its extremists cannot be a partner for peace, let alone a decent place for Israelis to live. This election result is a tragedy for both sides.

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Stephen Williams takes on 38 Degrees over “highly misleading campaign”

Just hearing the name 38 Degrees will, undoubtedly, make at least the candidates among LDV’s readership shudder. For the luckily unfamiliar, 38 Degrees is a campaigning group which mobilises individuals, primarily in an effort to bombard MPs and candidates with, often, hundreds of identical emails. Those of us involved in politics will have long heard the frustration of those on receiving end, who rightly complain that the campaigns are often only loosely based on facts, and selective ones at that, and often fit with Labour’s similar shaky narratives. The campaign against TTIP is probably the prime example.

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Opinion: Cyril Smith – Liberal Democrats should allow scrutiny of all party archives

As late as last year there were people defending Cyril Smith’s reputation on Liberal Democrat Voice.  Well now we know beyond all reasonable doubt that the old Liberal Party had its own Savilesque character – it is just that none of us knew, in fact none of us even had an inkling. None of us could possibly have known and none of us could possibly have had an inkling. Could we?

I joined the party in 1985 when I was eighteen. Of course three decades on I do not remember every earnest conversation amongst my fellow Liberal students. What I do remember though is that in the entirely peripheral and uninfluential party circles in which I moved, “Hanger Smith” was viewed with contempt and wariness for supporting capital punishment and rejecting a woman’s right to choose. I never heard any rumours about him and sexual abuse, but there was a sense that he was an old local government bruiser who was somehow untouchable despite being totally out of sync with the mainstream of the party. 

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Independent: “Liberal Democrats do have a more balanced, pragmatic approach to the task”

This morning’s leader article in the Independent praises yesterday’s Liberal Democrat alternative budget and concludes that “five years in government have clearly matured the Lib Dems”:

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Tim Farron MP writes…The British people deserve more than Cameron’s weak leadership on EU

European FlagThis week marks David Cameron’s last European Council as Prime Minister before the General Election and let’s hope he avoids one last blunder. It is easy to forget, given the endless Tory arguments on Europe over the past five years, that in opposition David Cameron’s ambition was for the Conservative Party to “stop banging on about Europe”. This summarises Cameron’s position well – he is simply not interested and sees the EU purely as a party management issue. If the issue of Europe is quiet then it’s a good bet that Tory backbenchers will be too.

But this abdication of leadership has caused repeated humiliations for the Prime Minister and allowed the ranks of Tory backbenchers to drive the agenda, leaving their leader looking weak, lacking in ideas and clueless.

Constantly bullied from the back benches, Cameron has time and again stirred from his self-imposed slumber, woken up too late and then mistakenly “taken a stand” before being humiliated. Famously he “vetoed” a new EU treaty in December 2011 but the result was not the triumph he portrayed – the rest of the EU went ahead anyway and concluded the treaty without the UK, leaving a legacy of bitterness in its wake and representing a low point in British diplomacy.

photos by: rockcohen & rockcohen
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Opinion: Freedom of speech?

Southampton University is under attack: it is planning a conference on ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’  in April.  Paris University has been forced to cancel a conference entitled: ‘Israel Apartheid is real’.

I have recently attended two conferences on Islam, one of which also came under threat.

So when is free speech permissible and when not?

At my local university I have been shocked at the racist and Islamophobic comments made in talks and seminars by those who support Israel unreservedly.  Had I made similar comments about Jews and Judaism, I would have been thrown out.  Islam is no more homogenous than Judaism or Christianity  and the way it is practised is as much cultural, political and historical as any other. When I condemn Saudi Arabia or ISIS I am not condemning Islam as a whole, nor do I delegitimize Saudi as a State. On the contrary I am often defending Islam. When I criticise Israel, as a Jew myself, I am not attacking Judaism, I am criticising a regime that gives Judaism a bad name and when I criticise the USA, I am often criticising those who give Christianity a bad name.

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The Liberal Democrats could well be on course to improve our vote share to seats “bangs for the buck”

In the 2010 election, the Liberal Democrats were 14%, or a seventh, less effective at harnessing our vote share to win seats than we were in 2001. If you look at my table below you’ll see that, since 1983, 2001 was our best year for converting vote share into seats.

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Opinion: Could you save a life?

As a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate I have received emails from St John Ambulance and from the British Red Cross, both wishing to promote First Aid. But what about mental health first aid? With equal parity now being given to mental and physical health, shouldn’t First Aid include Mental Health First Aid?

I think so. And I am pleased that Lib Dems at conference thought so too, for we approved new mental health policy which included a clause I submitted with the support of Oxford East:

To consult with external bodies on the content of, and how best to include training in, Mental Health First Aid, with a view to incorporating elements of Mental Health First Aid into existing First Aid at Work courses.

Imagine the world before First Aid classes, before people were taught the recovery position and CPR. Before such training, if someone was ill people would flap and call for help. They would not get involved.

The same thing happens when people are in mental health crisis. People feel inadequate, have no idea how to help, and do not get involved.

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Danny set outs alternative Lib Dem budget

In a constitutional innovation, from the House of Commons dispatch box, Danny Alexander has today set out the Liberal Democrats’ alternative fiscal plans, as the Guardian reports:

Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, has taken the unprecedented step of standing at the Commons dispatch box to set out an alternative fiscal plan to George Osborne’s budget.

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Norman Lamb writes…A blueprint for a fairer society

1 in 4 of us will develop a mental health problem at some point in our lives – and 75% of these conditions develop by the age of 18. If people don’t get the support they need in childhood and adolescence it can have an impact on the rest of their lives.  
 
And in yesterday’s budget, Liberal Democrats acted decisively to make sure the best possible support is available, with £1.25bn of new investment in young people’s mental health services, and a clear blue print for delivering the transformation needed.
 
If we want to build a fairer society, where everyone has the opportunity to realise their full potential in life, we must ensure that young people with mental health problems get the help and support they need.
 
There are some really good mental health services for young people around the country. But too often these services are fragmented and under-resourced, and young people are simply not getting help when they need it.  A complete overhaul is long overdue.
 
Last year, I set up a Task Force to look at how we can link up mental health services with other advice services in the community, making it easier – and less daunting – for young people to seek help, and making sure they get the right support when they ask for it.
 
The task force brought together clinicians, counsellors, and mental health experts – but also, crucially, young people themselves with experience of mental health problems.  The charity Young Minds helped us work with young people to understand the problems they have faced getting help, and their priorities for change.
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Danny turns the tables on Balls on TV economy debates

On Sunday’s Andrew Marr show, Ed Balls caught the chancellor off guard when he all but forced him (in one of recent television history’s most awkward moments) to shake on an agreement to hold a television debate.

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Robin Teverson writes … Doing cold smarter

 

In the world of politics, energy is all too often around building shiny new power stations – whether gas or nuclear.  Rather more positively it is about renewables – erecting wind or solar farms, and wind arrays off-shore.

Just recently, with Lib Dems in Government and in charge of DECC, we’ve got rather more sophisticated. Nowadays we also think about the demand side of the equation. Why not spread demand more evenly and avoid having to build all that expensive excess capacity?  Or even better, increase energy efficiency to such a degree that we don’t need to generate so much power and heat in the first place.

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Opinion: Welsh Liberal Democrats need to be bolder in considering a coalition without Labour

 

This past week in Wales, political ears pricked up after Stephen Crabb (the Conservative Secretary of State for Wales) gave support to the idea of a Conservative, Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat coalition in the Senedd after the May 2016 elections.

The ‘rainbow coalition’ almost happened in 2007 – but has more recently seen to be off the table, so backing (as it were) from such a prominent politician has sparked off some debate.

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Twelve major improvements announced in the budget

There are twelve significant improvements announced in today’s budget:

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Victory for Lib Dems with announcement of world’s first tidal lagoon

The Chancellor has just announced that he will be opening formal negotiations which could lead to an investment of £1 billion in a world-first scheme to extract energy from tidal power.

Ed Davey has been working on this project for several years, so it is a great victory for Liberal Democrats in government, on the back of our other achievements on renewable energy. The UK is already the world leader on offshore wind, thanks to the Lib Dems.

The first tidal lagoon will be planned for Swansea Bay, as predicted in the Guardian this morning.

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Budget open thread

 

We will not be live blogging the Budget as there are plenty of other sources of live information. But readers are very welcome to add their own reflections in the comments section below.

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LibLink … Ed Davey: Britain must signal the beginning of the end for coal investment

Ed Davey Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterEd Davey writes in the Guardian:

For over 200 years, modern civilisation has been built on fossil fuels; now climate science says we must phase out fossil fuel pollution in just a few decades. That’s a colossal challenge – especially if we are to keep anything resembling current lifestyles while also ending the poverty that blights the lives of more than 1 billion fellow human beings.

We are already seeing a significant shift in thinking. The Rockefeller Foundation is divesting from coal and tar sands. Oxford University is considering similar action. And the Bank of England is analysing the impact on financial systems of fossil fuel investments becoming “stranded assets” – in other words worthless – if the world gets its act together on climate change.

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Debate likely to be the political Celebrity Squares option

seven candidates

US Republican Presidential nomination primary debate 2012
Don’t hold your breath at this stage, but it looks entirely conceivable that we have possibly got a robust plan for a seven-way leaders debate during the general election campaign. It could well be on April 2nd, although Labour have yet to agree.

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‘Almost certain that Tim Farron will be leader later this year’ – Stephen Tall

Tim Farron Nick Clegg 2010 Photo by Liberal Democrats Alex Folkes Fishnik photography

With his usual uncanny knack and impeccable insight Stephen Tall is bang on the money over on PoliticsHome:

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