Brexit, due process and the role of Parliament

Liberal Democrats should be leading the fight in both Houses of Parliament by demanding that a proper legislative process is followed which assesses the benefits, costs and risks of Brexit but also ensures that Brexit, if there has to be one, can only occur if, concurrently, the pitfalls in the constitutional framework exposed during the last 18 months are satisfactorily addressed.

A specific set of overarching rules would need to be put in place ideally before any Brexit can reasonably be implemented.

We should explain to the general public that Brexit is not only bad for the economy, our jobs and our rights but that it would be inappropriate to impose Brexit unless it is done alongside constitutional reform.

We are confident that voters will understand and support us if we tell them that our mission is to oppose Brexit and to ensure that Brexit, if there has to be one, is dependent upon due process and on a new constitutional framework.

The lesson learnt from Brexit: which constitutional reform

The Brexit process has exposed the pitfalls and deficiencies in the role of Parliament and the current constitutional framework.

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What Brexit means for women

Recently, an event was held in London, to discuss Brexit, and its effect on the rights of women and what might change following its implementation. As a participant, I had arrived with the view that it would be difficult to change the law as it stood, but new laws might be affected.

For the last 43 years, most if not all of our Equalities legislation has come through the European Union. For women in particular, that has changed both their entitlements and rights as matters from equal pay to maternity leave have been secured by that route. It is astonishing to think that women, up until that legislation was passed, had more rights in Anglo Saxon England than in the 800 or so years that followed the Norman invasion.

What transpired at the meeting caused much anxiety among those present. For it is the case that, as most if not all of our Equalities law emanates from Brussels. It has been adopted into UK law, so can be cut back by use of new powers currently going through Parliament.

There are several risk areas, according to the Fawcett Society, which cover rights at work, women’s economic life, safety from attacks and racism. Those explicitly protective of women such as the Pregnant Workers Directive, or indirect protection such as that provided by The Part Time Worker Directive and the Agency Directive, which protects pension rights, written contracts giving details of working hours and pay and parental leave. It matters for those working part time, where the majority are women.

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Our new PPB: The one with Vince’s hat

We have a new Party Political Broadcast to coincide with our Conference. It’s set in a creative agency in a meeting where they are trying to decide how to brand the Lib Dems. It’s got its quirky bits and is clearly set to appeal to the young, professional types.

The production quality is absolutely excellent. This could end up being the new Gold Blend series…

You can catch it on the actual telly at 18:25 on ITV and 18:55 on BBC1.

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Five quick observations about Vince’s speech

Having covered Not the Leader’s Speech, it is only fair to give you the chance to see the actual Leader’s Speech again. It was very different in style from the bouncy style of Tim Farron, but no less compelling to listen to.

You can watch it in full below and the text follows. There are four quick observations I’d like to make, first, though.

Firstly, note that PR has been displaced as our number 1 ask on political reform by votes at 16. By doing so, Vince emphasises his commitment to ending intergenerational unfairness. He talked about how young people had had no say in their future which had been limited by older people voting for Brexit.
He wants to ensure that they have a say in future decisions.

This all makes perfect sense as it is achievable and something that has been our policy for as long as I can remember anyway.

I might have been inclined to take the joke about us inviting Corbyn to join the Anti-Brexit People’s Liberation Front out. It was a joke aimed at highlighting Corbyn’s lefty student style of politics, but it didn’t work out of context and jarred slightly when I saw it on tweets from the BBC.

Thirdly, he did acknowledge that the issue of student fees was still a problem for us. A review is fraught with problems as it then has to come back to Conference and the whole thing is gone over again and the papers write about it all over again. Of course, he couldn’t do anything else or he’d have been accused of trying to make policy over the heads of Conference but it is to be hoped that this review happens very quickly. If David got his skates on and had something ready for Spring, that would be entirely satisfactory. The whole thing is a risk, but less of a risk than doing nothing. We have to be seen to be taking this one on.

Fourthly, he wants us in Government. On our own. A big ambition, but I’d rather see him say that than say that he wants us to go up a wee bit in the polls. We have to show what a Lib Dem world would look like.

Finally, the best bit of the speech for me was this:

We know, of course, that our call will be resented by the Brexit fundamentalists.

We will be denounced as traitors and saboteurs.

I’m half prepared for a spell in a cell with Supreme Court judges, Gina Miller, Ken Clarke, and the governors of the BBC.

But if the definition of sabotage is fighting to protect British jobs, public services, the environment and civil liberties, then I am a proud saboteur.

It’s very bold and I hope we all use that quote as often as possible from now on.

Vince had 3 things to do at this Conference. He had to firmly establish us as the Party of Remain – unequivocally fighting to stay in the EU. Secondly, he had to showcase his credentials as the foremost economically literate grown-up on the political scene in this country. He did that. Thirdly, he had to showcase a wider commitment to sort things out for those people who voted Leave because they are struggling. He has put tackling inequality, most particularly wealth and inter-generational unfairness, front and centre of what he wants to achieve. As Jo Swinson said on Sunday, an exit from Brexit is necessary but not sufficient.

He did all three of these things extremely well.

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When the Leader crashes Not the Leader’s Speech

In a tradition dating from the Coalition years, certain members of the Awkward Squad gather in a local hostelry as the Liberal Democrat Leader gives his keynote speech to Conference, watch the event on Twitter and determine the point at which they would have walked out had they been in the hall.

These days, the potential for walkout has significantly reduced, but no self-respecting Awkward Squad would ever say that it had ebbed away entirely. Leaders must be kept on their toes at all times, after all.

And so, yesterday, they gathered in the best real ale pub in the Bournemouth, the Goat and Tricycle, which had been the venue for my Golden Jubilee drinks on Friday night.

Being liberals, they don’t mind if those of us who love the occasion of The Speech turn up afterwards to discuss it and everything else in the entire universe afterwards.

What they don’t usually get is the leader turning up too. 

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In full: Kirsty Williams’ speech to Conference

The Lib Dems’ only Cabinet Minister, Kirsty William, Cabinet Secretary for Education in Wales, addressed Conference on Sunday. Here is her speech in full.

Introduction

I would like to open this speech with a thank-you to Tim Farron for his leadership over what, unquestionably, has been the toughest period this party has ever faced.

At our lowest point, Tim stepped up to the plate, helping reverse our fortunes.

In an unexpected election, Tim nearly doubled the number of seats we held in Parliament, and took our membership to over 100,000. A record.

As I look across the room and see plenty of new faces, Tim can rightly be proud of the liberal vision that he put forward that attracted so many new people to our party.

I would also like to thank Mark Williams. Wales has lost a tremendous MP, and a strong advocate for radical Welsh Liberalism.

Mark worked tirelessly for the communities of Ceredigion, dealing with thousands of pieces of casework, leading major campaigns such as changing the legal definition of child neglect, and continuously being a strong voice for rural Wales.

Mark, we thank you.

Now, conference, despite our solid performance in the General Election, it is clear that many shifted back to the old way of doing things: red versus blue. Left versus right.

Increasingly, people are feeling powerless, neglected, excluded.

Some look to exploit those fears. Exploit them with easy answers. Tell them it’ll all be ok if we just turn back the clock.

Sometimes back to the 1950s, sometimes 1970s… sometimes the 1670s if you’re Mr Rees-Mogg.

But liberal values haven’t gone away. The populist voices have just got louder. Shouting down all that disagree.

Too often, especially in recent years, the louder voice has won the day.

Well here’s an idea – isn’t it time the liberal voice was heard again?

There are people across Britain looking for reasons to support us.

We must provide the leadership Britain needs, standing up for what is right.

It’s our turn to be loud.

Building a coalition that fights for fairness. Fights for reason. Fights for tolerance.

Conference, we must fight to win today’s arguments – so that we can win for tomorrow.

Education

It’s 75 years since William Beveridge published his ground-breaking report.

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Vince: I’m a proud saboteur

Vince Cable’s debut Conference speech as leader will be very different from Tim Farron’s. We won’t find him bouncing about the stage. His style is quieter but no less compelling and interesting to listen to.

Below we get a flavour of the thing he’ll be saying tomorrow, establishing us firmly as the Party of Remain.

On Brexit

“A disaster looms. Brexit. The product of a fraudulent and frivolous campaign led by two groups of silly public school boys living their dormitory pillow fights.

“And now, thanks to Boris Johnson, they have degenerated into a full-scale school riot with the head teacher hiding, barricaded in her office.

“In the real world, we have yet to experience the full impact of leaving Europe. But we have a taste of what is to come in the fall of the value of the pound.

“Foreign exchange dealers are not point scoring politicians. Their cold, hard, unsentimental judgement has been, quite simply, that Brexit Britain will be poorer and weaker after Brexit than if we had decided to stay in Europe.

“Brexit was described by the Brexit Secretary himself as an operation of such technical complexity that it makes the moon landing look simple.

“It is a pity that the Brexit landing is being managed by people who would struggle to get their heads around a toddlers’ Lego set. They live in a world of infantile fairy tales.

On Labour

“We might have expected better from Labour. Many people got behind them in June, expecting a better politics and a better future from him.  They are already being betrayed.

“Today’s Labour Party isn’t into problem solving; let alone governing. Jeremy Corbyn’s acolytes are focused on how to maximise the contradictions of capitalism.

“You don’t qualify for the Shadow Cabinet these days unless you have studied the Venezuelan guide on how to bankrupt a rich economy.

“No wonder they back Brexit. No wonder they lined up behind Theresa May, maximising the chance of chaos and disruption.

“Then a few weeks ago the moderates briefly penetrated the Corbyn bunker. They persuaded him that collaborating quite so closely with the class enemy didn’t look too good.

“So, they have a new policy: to stay in the Single market and Customs Union, possibly; or to leave, maybe. Or maybe to stay in for a bit, and then leave.

“I am trying to be kind here: I am trying to understand what they are trying to say. I think the current line is, we should transition to the transition gradually while we prepare for a post-transition world.

“This is what they mean by the smack of firm leadership on the biggest issue of the day.

“But if Jeremy Corbyn sits on the fence any longer, he is in danger of being sliced up the middle by the serrated edge.

“He would do better to get off the fence and refurbish his revolutionary credentials.  Jeremy – join us in the Anti Brexit People’s Liberation Front!”

Political adults

“What the people want. What the country now desperately needs is some political adults.

“That’s you. That’s us.

“Fortunately, we are not alone. There are sensible grown-ups in the Conservative party and the Labour Party and the Greens. And beyond them are millions of people deeply worried about what is happening.

“We have to put aside tribal differences and work alongside like-minded people to keep the Single Market and Customs Union, essential for trade and jobs;

“Europe’s high environmental and social standards; shared research; help for our poorer regions; cooperation over policing and terrorism.

“Europe, of course, needs reform but you don’t achieve reform by walking away.

“Our position is clear: the Liberal Democrats are the party of Remain.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarRoland 23rd Sep - 1:08am
    Who said Brexit would be easy? Peter did you pay attention to anything that leading lights in the Leave campaign said, such as: Nigel Farage,...
  • User AvatarJAMES COLE 23rd Sep - 1:03am
    A good speech by vince with the important themes raised, could've done with a bit more inspiration but not be all and end all ....
  • User AvatarRoland 23rd Sep - 12:59am
    I try to ignore Boris. His statements are largely of an emotional nature. I do not think he is trying to create a rational argument...
  • User Avatarfrankie 23rd Sep - 12:25am
    Actually I have it's an article in the Daily Mirror, the Guardian, the Independent et al. Unfortunately I'm on a mobile phone so to find...
  • User AvatarMalcolm Todd 22nd Sep - 11:42pm
    Actually, I regret the slightly ad hominem tone of that last remark, and I apologise for it. However, the substantive point stands - have you...
  • User Avatarpaul holmes 22nd Sep - 11:42pm
    @Tony Rowan Wicks. "..the best tech people we have to run every Constituency and Ward..." But that is precisely one of the major problems with...