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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2015 Autumn Conference – Some first impressions



shared values



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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

Tracking voters in 2010 and 2015


If anyone is still interested in mulling over the results of the General Election, this is some analysis that helps to answer two questions: which parties did 2010 voters choose in 2015? And the subtly different question: who had 2015 voters chosen in 2010? I am looking at the proportion of each party’s total vote in each case. (Thanks to David Howarth for pointing me towards the underlying data, following my previous column on this topic).

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 5 Comments

Lib Dem Jobwatch Special: Fancy working in Tim Farron’s constituency office?

The W4MP website has news of not one but 3 opportunities to join Tim Farron’s constituency team in a spectacularly beautiful part of the country.

Here are details of the posts:

CASEWORKER FT: To assist with the provision of a confidential casework service to the MP in response to advice surgeries and constituents correspondence, telephone calls and emails.

CONSTITUENCY ASSISTANT FT: To assist the Communications Officer and Casework team and the MP to encouraging active engagement with the people he represents. Engagement will be through media work and communications with constituents that are electronic, written, verbal and activity based

CASEWORK / CAMPAIGNS ASSISTANT FT: See above for casework part of the role. Campaigns Assistant: To assist with the MP’s work throughout the constituency and to assist with the provision of practical campaigns support to the MP and local party including literature production and delivery and media work.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton wins best speaker in Charles Kennedy Memorial Debate

ACH in GUU debateIt still feels surreal and wrong to be attending a Charles Kennedy Memorial anything, but on Friday night I headed to Glasgow University Union to see the debate set up in his honour. After a gin and tonic in the beer bar, which, unlike in Charles’ day now plays intrusive music, I headed up to my seat in the gods. The floor of the chamber was filled with people in their bling and black tie who had been lucky enough to get tickets for the dinner which was to follow the proceedings.

The motion was

This House believes that the UK should remain within the European Union:

Speaking in favour were Scottish Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, our candidate for Edinburgh Western Alex Cole-Hamilton, theatrical Tory MEP Ian Duncan and Alistair, soon to be Lord, Darling. The opposition were made up of businessman John Mills, sociology professor Neil Davidson, Heather Whiteside, a former GUU Debates Convener and Graham Stringer MP.

Ming Campbell, wearing some pretty spectacular tartan trews, was in the chair.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Why we need to make conference accessible


This year conference was the most attended, compared to previous years. I myself attended conference for a day or two. As a student I did find it somewhat grudging to pay nearly £500 for three days to attend. I did however not find it massively damaging to my wallet, this is not the case for many members of the party.

Due to the fact I could afford to go (and as a voting rep) it meant that I as an individual had more of a voice than those who couldn’t travel to Bournemouth. One member one vote passed which is great! But it still means that only those who can afford to take time off work, and the cost, will be able to make use of this. As a democratic party surely conference should be accessible. Why should members not be allowed to use their vote because they can’t afford sky high travel prices or a hotel in a tourist town or even to take time off work?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

VIDEO: The three minutes of Tim’s speech where he speaks with raw rage about refugees

People have been requesting this clip. Click below for the three minutes of Tim’s conference speech when he spoke about refugees. The video starts when the passage starts. The passage ends at 31’32 with a standing ovation and then the video continues with the rest of the speech if you want to see it.

Posted in Conference | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments

Challenging this Conservative-led narrative on the economy


  • Building the green economy to take Britain forwards sustainably.
  • Improved support for victims of domestic abuse.
  • Better access to vocational and further education.
  • Providing sanctuary and support to those fleeing conflict and drought.

We can (I suspect mostly) agree that these are good aims for us as a party, and that Lib Dems back in government would work hard to deliver on them. But they all cost money.

Posted in News | Tagged | 45 Comments

Result – Lib Dem London Assembly list selection

With a hat-tip to Mark Pack, here is the result of the internal Liberal Democrat party election to select the order of candidates for our London Assembly list:

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , and | 16 Comments

LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 6

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Charles Kennedy memorial debate tonight – how you can watch live

Charles Kennedy on HIGNFYI’m on my way o Glasgow to attend a debate to be held in memory of Charles Kennedy. The subject will be one which was very close to his heart – “This house believes that the UK should remain within the European Union.”

The debate takes place in the very Chamber where Charles debated as a student. During his lifelong association with Glasgow University, he served as the Glasgow University Union’s President and, much later, for an unprecedented two terms as the University’s Rector.

From the GUU website:

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Housing policy must cover more than just building more houses

The Liberal Democrats need a better housing policy.  The proposed policy on building many more houses that was (rightly) debated at Conference is not sufficient. The other policies in the Liberal Democrat manifesto had weaknesses.

The housing situation today is the cause of some of the biggest problems we have in delivering on fundamental Liberal Democrat  principles of ‘the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals’ and on the ‘just distribution of economic rewards’ – let alone getting ‘value for money’ for the state.  Jeremy Corbyn has identified affordable housing as his first priority in his early statements and PMQ’s.  However the housing situation is not just unsatisfactory for the far left and the poor:  it is unsatisfactory for all (except maybe for the rich and the private landlords).  We in the Liberal Democrats should be leading the search for agreed centre left policies to do something about it.  

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 30 Comments

Pizza, Politics and Alistair Carmichael

Watford pizza and politicsWith a move to Hull University looming I’m one of the many who reluctantly had to miss out on Conference this year. However some solace was found in Watford Liberal Democrats organising a “Politics and Pizza” evening, with Home Affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael as a special guest.

Politics and pizza is a fantastic combination of two of my biggest interests and it seemed very popular with the rest of the local party as well. The venue was nearly filled and what a lovely venue it was! It’s the finest mix of library and bar you’ve ever seen. The only downside was having to spot the door to the venue tucked between two larger and far more “shiny” shops. Big thanks to Cllr Peter Taylor playing “Spot the Liberal Democrat” at the door and helping me and a few others who nearly managed to walk past.

As the pizza arrived, people merrily chatted with each other between bites and I was lucky enough to be offered a seat at Alistair’s table. After a brief discussion amongst ourselves at the table where Alistair asked about ourselves – all but one of us at the table were new or at least younger members – it was time for the main event to begin. After a brief introduction from Peter, who had worked for Alistair in the past,  Alistair stood up to talk to us.

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Generation Bournemouth: Thoughts of a new member after Conference

I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first political conference. I thought maybe I’d go and I’d be on my own all weekend. Perhaps the people who’d been going for years would look down on somebody with less than five months in the party. Or they’d be politically narrow minded, not wanting to discuss views that differed from their own.

I should have had more faith. Within hours, I’d made a group of fantastic new friends. Party members, councillors, even Tim Farron and Paddy Ashdown told us how grateful they were to have us and how the surge in membership had given new life to the party.

I spoke to many people with different views to my own – sometimes absolutely opposing views – but those discussions were all pleasant, rational, and ended with an agree to differ and an offer of a drink. Nobody called me a ‘Tory’ if I said Britain should maintain a nuclear deterrent, or dismissed me as a ‘leftie’ for supporting our EU membership.

Posted in News | 7 Comments

Tim Farron talks about housing in his first party political broadcast

If you were travelling home from Conference on Wednesday afternoon, still excited by Tim Farron’s speech,  you may have missed his first party political broadcast. He repeated some of the themes from that speech, referring to his childhood and the importance of decent housing in a liberal society.

So here it is:

Posted in Lib Dem TV | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Core vote: A dangerous mirage?

Currently the need to establish a core vote seems, akin to motherhood and apple pie, to be so obviously a good thing that it cannot be questioned. However, at the risk of upsetting friends and others alike, let me raise some concerns.

Firstly, there is the simple truism that in a First Past the Post system you cannot win by playing to your core vote, even if you have one. That is a lesson Republicans and Democrats in the USA have to relearn from time to time. It is a lesson the Conservatives had to learn after Thatcher when Ian Duncan Smith, Michael Howard and even William Hague pandered to the right. It is a lesson Labour had to all so painfully learn after the Bennite manifesto of 1983 dubbed the ‘longest suicide note in history’. The Corbynistas may have to learn it all over again.

Secondly, how long does it take to ‘build a core vote’? The affluent Conservative core vote has always existed with the addition of a section of the working class following astute action by Disraeli from his passing of the Second Reform Act of 1867 onwards. Labour’s core vote –primarily lower income, urban and unionised- was uniting behind them over a century ago; especially after the Liberal Party collapse left the field entirely clear after 1922. How long would it take the Liberal Democrats to establish the loyalty of a similar core vote and at what cost? Some have suggested we should pursue our core even if it puts off ‘mainstream’ and/or floating voters. Really? We should fight elections not to try and win but to try and build a long term core vote?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 34 Comments

Conference: what worked, and some suggestions for improvement for the future

I believe in giving praise where praise is due, and so I would like to congratulate all the party staff, companies, businesses, volunteers and particularly the members of Federal Conference Committee (FCC) on their delivering the most enjoyable, welcoming and member friendly conference I have attended in my 27 years in this party.

I particularly liked and would like to see at all future conferences:

From the moment you arrived people explained what was happening and when, FCC and Federal Executive members were available front of house to hear what members wanted to tell them;

In the conference hall every technicality of the debate was clearly explained as it happened so nobody felt out of their depth;

In the fringe meetings every acronym and every bit of jargon was explained, it isn’t just the new members who are helped by that everyone benefits.

On the whole this conference gave us a lot to build on, and here are some of my suggestions for the future:

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ALDC Campaigner Awards: Winners announced

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)The winners of the ALDC Campaigner Awards 2015 were presented at the ALDC AGM at Conference by Simon Hughes, celebrating the best campaigning teams from across the Country.

From excellent Focus leaflets to superb online campaigns, the awards giving our excellent local campaigning parties the recognition they deserve.

This year’s awards were handed out to

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    TCO Yes but that variation is not uniform. Some areas are allowed to provide different sorts of schools and others aren’t. Nicked from Wiki, but...
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    David Wallace The party gave us a conservative government (albeit a fairly moderate one) in exchange for the Tories agreeing to implement some liberal policies....
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    Paul, Europe is a wonderful continent with diverse countries and great people. I worked in Europe for part of each week for decades. The EU...
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