Cracking the WHIP

There’s a new kid on the block, and it’s called WHIP (website, Twitter, facebook). First watch this video:

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Opinion: The reason I was nodding so much behind Tim Farron on Thursday

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 16.25.58I’ve always been a massive fan of Tim Farron. Like many, it started off watching his 2014 Conference Speech as Lib Dem President and only grew as I saw him being awarded Lib Dem MP of the year by the PatchWork foundationand fighting along side Caroline Lucas to improve mandatory PSHE in Schools over that year. It’s for that reason that, when I saw all these articles titling Tim as the ‘Bookies Favourite of next LD Leader’, I knew I would support his leadership campaign, whenever …

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Opinion: Tim Farron’s Gut Liberalism

 

Last week I was on the train heading up to Guildford for a special opportunity to meet Tim Farron, potential leader of the Lib Dems. As I travelled I was nervous as any young party member would be. I was about to meet my first real big name in politics, someone who had taken his place in Parliament, someone who had sat on BBC Question Time, someone who had played the political game against numerous reds and blues. But what I did not expect was the passion I was going to feel after this meeting.

Tim spoke as he did a few days later after winning the candidacy about a new type of liberalism he wanted to introduce. This new type of liberalism was less a theoretical frame work but more an emotion and rejuvenation of what being Liberal meant. He coined this new experience, Gut Liberalism.

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Jack Straw to be part of Freedom of Information review

Nicholas Winterton, Cyril Smith (1928-2010) and Jack Straw, Members of Parliament for the textile towns Macclesfield, Rochdale and Blackburn respectively, stand outside 10 Downing Street in London on 10th June 1980.

Over the weekend the Cabinet Office announced a review of the Freedom of Information Act. Now it is always sensible to check any act that promotes civil liberties against actual practice. But alarm bells started ringing when the members of the review panel were revealed.

Chief among them is Jack Straw, who brought in the Act in 2000 as Home Secretary. But he is now saying that “inquiries about ministerial communications and the formulation of government policy should not be allowed any more”. I’m sure I am not alone in thinking that the secrecy surrounding the development of government policies, especially the role of lobbyists, was precisely why we needed freedom of information. He has also said that citizens should be charged for FoI requests. Interestingly ‘a Labour source’ has distanced the party from his appointment, saying that Straw is acting in a personal capacity, and not representing the party, and that “If the government were genuinely interested in improving the workings of the act, it should have chosen a more balanced panel.”

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Opinion: Three small ways in which a British Bill of Rights could improve on the Human Rights Act 1998

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The title of this piece is fairly self-explanatory. As such, I shall get straight into the substance of my proposals:

1) Whereas any interference with a person’s human rights must be “necessary in a democratic society” according to the Human Rights Act 1998, let’s replace this test with “necessary in a free and democratic society” in the forthcoming British Bill of Rights

In recent years, it has become apparent that many in political life, as well as in our judiciary, would benefit from a liberal nudge when it comes to deciding cases involving our civil liberties. For the sake of brevity, I am not going to revisit every controversy in this regard, but suffice it to say, the Brown Government’s proposals for 42 days pre-charge detention, the Coalition’s plans to sanction “annoying and nuisance” behaviours in public places and the current Government’s proposals to turn Ofcom into a censor rather than review body were / are extremely concerning given our cherished status as a free country.

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #423

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 423rd 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 (12-18 July, 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:

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

7 ver 4 fullMany thanks to the 16,700 visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

And the new leader of the Liberal Democrats is… (180 comments) by Caron Lindsay 

“Soggy Syriza with sandals”? Thanks, Danny, for giving George Osborne another stick to beat us with (45 comments) by Caron Lindsay

Channel 4, Cathy Newman, Tim Farron, Sex and Sin (133 comments) by Joe Otten

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Farron’s first Sunday media marathon

Tim is doing the media rounds this morning with interviews on Marr, Murnaghan (at 10:20) and John Pienaar (at 10:35).

Here are some tweets from his Marr appearance:

adding that he wanted them to join the Liberal Democrats to fight the Tories on the appalling things that they are planning on doing.

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Bold new graphics for a new leader

There’s a lovely new range of graphics in a whole new style. Well done to the creative types in the party who have put them together, mainly from quotes from his speech on Thursday night. They are very pretty. And there’s not a Stronger Economy, Fairer Society in sight.

The first comes from a comment he made on Twitter to a Liberal Youth member which sums up his feelings on same sex marriage:

Farron Love is love

 

Farron graphic 2

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The men who bankrolled the Liberal Democrat Leadership campaigns

So, I went looking for the Register of MPs’ Interests earlier today. My intent was not particularly noble. My heart was bleeding to such an extent over Tobias Ellwood’s penury that I just wanted to check if there was anything in there that might help help him out. Bless him, he only had the £3.5k for being in the Territorial Army to help supplement his £90k ministerial salary. His wife is only a corporate lawyer, too. I really don’t know how they manage. And, of course, Tobias is so full of empathy for his fellow poor people that he’s more than happy to walk through a voting lobby and freeze their benefits for four years while he picks up a £7000 pay rise.  Can you hear those violins? But at least he will get more of his money taxed at the lower rate this year, as George Osborne has taken pity on him and made sure that he’s increased the amount he can earn before he pays higher rate tax.

It turns out there’s a brand new Register out, released on Wednesday, so I thought I’d look our lot up. Nothing terribly exciting, except that at least some of the donations to the leadership campaigns have now been registered.

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Talking Tim on Radio Scotland

Yesterday, I went on the Stephen Jardine show on Radio Scotland to spill all Tim Farron’s secrets and discuss his prospects with Stephen and John Crace from the Guardian. Sadly, I didn’t quite get through all of them, but that at least means I have them for another time.

You can listen to it all here from about 1 hour 18 minutes in. Do feel free to laugh at me criticising the party’s election messages for use of too many body parts and then using two myself in fairly quick succession.

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In Full: Tim Farron’s speech, transcribed by Joanne Ferguson

Since she joined the party in May, Joanne Ferguson from Hamilton has thrown herself into Lib Dem life. She’s stood for election in Liberal Youth, she’s been to hustings meetings, policy roadshows and worked like a demon for Tim Farron’s leadership campaign. She’s also written twice for us.

I wanted to put a full transcript of Tim’s speech from the rally. The one on the party website is good enough, but I decided to go for the one Joanne did on her blog because of her commentary and because of the effort she put in to doing it. So, enjoy.

“Shall I … Do you want me to say something? Is it a cunning ploy to make sure we get a standing ovation by just … making you stand?

Wow, well look, for years I stood where you are now. I joined this party when I was sixteen. I watched some great liberal leaders give some incredible speeches: Steel, Ashdown, Kennedy, Campbell, *he looks at Nick* Clegg. Imagine following in their footsteps. To say it’s an honour is an understatement of epic proportions. I remember sitting in the winter gardens at the Blackpool conference, watching Paddy give his first leader’s speech when I was 18. I remember feeling not just inspired but incredibly guilty, because I’d left home in Preston that morning, and there on the kitchen table was my round of Focus leaflets and I’d not delivered them yet. I got home and discovered that my mother had done them for me … just … bless her.

So I get to lead the party I joined as a kid. Thank you, thank you very much. I will work every day to repay the trust you have put in me, but there is someone else I want to say thank you to as well, and that is Norman. *clapping* There’s more. *more clapping*. Norman is an outstanding liberal who’s been a mentor of mine since I was first elected in 2005. I got really bored of hearing myself speak during the leadership campaign, but I never got bored with Norman. As I consider Norman’s achievements on improving mental health, I am reminded how vital it is that we win elections so we can make that kind of difference again. If there were more Norman Lambs in politics, people’s opinions of politicians would be so much better. They said of Jo Grimond that he gave politics a good name. Now I don’t go around comparing people to Jo Grimond lightly, but Norman is exactly in that mould. I am proud of his achievements in government. I am incredibly proud to work alongside Norman as we rebuild our party. To Norman and all of his team, you fought a brilliant campaign. We owe you a massive debt of thanks.

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LibLink: David Steel: Tim Farron is a man of conviction and a risk taker – that’s why he got my vote

David Steel has written in the Guardian about why he backed Tim Farron and what he thinks he’ll bring to the party:

That level of deep commitment which Farron obviously has, combined with his organisational skills and northern public persona, has all the ingredients of a successful leadership. I speak as one who sat in a gloomy Commons party of six after the 1970 election debacle, three of us clinging to majorities under 1000. It took time, but we turned that round, and went on both to increase our numbers and form the significant Alliance with the SDP and eventually the new united party, which at elections under Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy and Clegg reached new heights of public support. The same can happen again.

A colleague said to me during this contest: “But isn’t Farron a bit risky?” I responded that that may be so, but what the party needs at this time is a risk-taker, not afraid to revisit more traditional Liberal policies – on Trident, on Europe, on industrial democracy, on land value taxation, on the pursuit of a more just society, and on the need for a federal constitution including a new upper house.

It will be a long and at times painful journey, but with Tim Farron inspiring and leading it I see grounds for real hope and optimism.

 You can read the whole article here. 
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Sal Brinton’s message for Eid-ul-Fitr

Party President Sal Brinton issued the following message for Eid-ul-Fitr.

As the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end, I would like to wish Muslims in the United Kingdom and all over the world a happy Eid-ul-Fitr.

Eid is a joyful occasion and a time for family, friends and neighbours to come together and celebrate the common values that unite us in our humanity.

But even during this festive time, the attitude of Muslims to remember those in parts of the world less fortunate than us is exemplary.

Throughout Ramadan, Muslim communities collect and distribute Zakat-ul-fitr so that all Muslims are able to

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Opinion: Historia est Magistra Vitae: no Grexit, no Greece

The last few days showed the EU as a very resilient organisation: the Bundestag had just approved the Greek bailout, after Finland, France and Austria. But it also showed EU stretched to the breaking point: there is no Grexit but there is no Greece either.

Let us step back and look at the recent past from the future perspective through the prism of the UK. 100 years hence the history of the UK could read like this:

At the beginning of the 21st century the UK was the only state able to offer an alternative to the Franco-German concept of unified Europe. But, rather than introducing UK’s own concept based on liberal values, individual independence and social liberal policies, the UK spent its energy on questioning the EU concept (so called ‘opting out’) and fighting in-between themselves under the then Conservative leader Cameron. This meant that the UK was not offering any viable alternative and completely lost its direction. With the diminishing role of the USA, the Anglo-Saxon governance model, so prevalent during 19th and 20th centuries ceased to play any meaningful role as ‘the bureaucratic super-state’ took on an ever increasing role.

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Opinion: High Court rules DRIP legislation introduced by Liberal Democrats in government is unlawful

Last year there was widespread criticism from Liberal Democrat members  towards the parliamentary party’s support (with the honourable exception of the four Lib Dem MPs) for emergency DRIP surveillance powers.  A fair number of us warned our parliamentarians that the legislation seemingly did not comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.  In addition to the warnings that came from those of us within the party there was an open letter from leading UK internet law academic experts  and widespread criticism from civil liberties groups.

Norman Baker who was then a minister of state at the Home Office minster

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Channel 4: Cathy Newman, Tim Farron, sex and sin.

Tim Farron had a grilling yesterday on Channel 4 news from Cathy Newman on his personal position on some moral issues. There’s been some criticism of Tim for sounding a little bit evasive on this, and indeed suggestions have been coming into Voice for better answers that he might have given.

Now I don’t know exactly where Tim personally stands on this, but I have no reason to doubt that he is basically a liberal dealing with the sensitivities of the “traditional Christian” view rather than the converse. My apologies for use of these terms, no doubt there were and are many traditional Christians around who are sound on LGBT+ rights and abortion, and many old liberals who are not. But you know what I mean.

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The Independent View: Tim Farron’s election as leader provides hope that the party will embrace and enhance the green roots held dear by members and activists.

Congratulations to Tim Farron, an MP who has long championed environmental causes. His voting record, especially during the coalition years, was consistently green. In 2013 Farron was one of 16 Lib Dems to rebel and back a 2030 decarbonisation target. How different the energy politics landscape would look had more Lib Dem MPs (and later peers) joined him and ensured there was now a decarb target in the statute books to provide long term certainty for investors in the face of growing short term uncertainty.*

But that was then. With Tim Farron at the helm we look forward to the party adopting stronger green positions, such as Farron’s repeated pledge to oppose fracking. Most importantly – and in a move that puts clear water between him and Andy Burnham, the leading candidate for the Labour leadership – Farron’s opposition is on the grounds that burning shale gas is incompatible with tackling climate change:

Shale gas will only have a future in the UK if we abandon, or significantly scale back, our climate targets – and that’s something that I hope every Liberal Democrat would oppose

This is the sort of clear leadership sorely needed in the fight against climate change and the pressing need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Only the Greens and Plaid Cymru have made so clear the climate change rationale for opposing fracking (in addition to the more widely accepted risks to communities’ air, water and peace).

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LibLink: Simon Hughes: A message to Tim Farron: Unite, inspire and enthuse

Simon Hughes was one of the first people to endorse Tim Farron for leader. He’s written an article for today’s Independent in which he outlines what he thinks Tim should do next:

The new leader knows what to do. He must and will unite, inspire, and enthuse the party, involving supporters of both candidates in one big campaign for liberalism, determined to rebuild – and quickly. The clarion calls dreadfully muffled in the last year must be heard in all our communities: freedom, democracy, respect for our planet, a decent quality of life for all, and much greater equality in our still horribly unequal country. We must turn our policy and philosophy into practice where we govern and into campaigns where we do not. We need a massive housing programme of council, social rent, and other affordable housing, and help for the mentally ill. We must champion political reform to restore the link between voters’ views and election results. We must be the party of internationalism and of Europe, and a movement which values those who have chosen to live here.

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Opinion: My problem with Scotland’s “Named Person” plan

The other day I commented on a Facebook post about areas we share with the SNP, mentioning my concerns about the SNPs plans for every child in Scotland to have a “named person” who is their point of contact with the social services. Caron Lindsay mentioned that Euan Davidson had written for this site in support of the measures, and invited me to post a response. I made sure I had the facts right (some of which I had to be corrected on but didn’t change my overall view) and got started. To the best of my understanding, the named person would be someone the child could contact if they had a problem that they needed confidential help from. It could also be to obtain information on subjects that may be either too sensitive or too awkward to discuss with parents. I agree with what is trying to be achieved here, but I don’t think this is the way to do it. Here is why.

On May 15th 2015, I finished my final secondary school exam. I was finished school. I was an adult? I would never have a teacher again. Lecturers, sure, but I would never again be in the situation where I would have to ask someone if I was allowed to go to the bathroom. Some of my teachers I would miss more than others because I had grown to trust them enough to act in the same way around them as I would around my friends. Some teachers I still showed restraint around, as if I was an employee of theirs. You would think that my guidance teacher, whom I was supposed to approach with any problems, would belong to the first category. This was far from the case.
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Who are your human rights heroes?

Liberty is looking for nominations for its 2015 Human Rights Awards.

Here’s what you need to do by 5pm tonight:

We’re looking for the NGOs, the national campaigners, the local activists, the volunteers or professionals who are working on human rights issues – whether it be inspiring or organising, providing support or challenging misconceptions. Often individuals and organisations work tirelessly and with little recognition – this is our chance to thanks them for all they do, and shine a light on this crucial work.

Past award categories have included Human Rights Lawyer of the Year, Human Rights Young Person of the Year, and our ‘Close to Home’ award, which acknowledges those who battle for the rights and freedoms of their own families, streets and communities. These categories are not fixed so please nominate anyone you believe deserves recognition for their work to protect, promote or broaden understanding of human rights.

Who is eligible?

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Liberal Democrats win three by-elections in Kingston, Wrexham and Battle

Well, that was a turn up for the books. Liberal Democrats in Kingston have stormed to victory in the Grove Ward by-election. The Tories threw the kitchen sink at the ward, even sending Chris Grayling and Sol Campbell there along with a huge amounts of activists, but their vote was pretty embarrassing to be honest.

UKIP: 58
Greens: 88
Conservatives: 688
Labour: 223
Lib Dems: 1577

In Wales, we took a seat from Labour by some margin.

And in Battle, Cllr Kevin Dixon regained the seat he lost in May:

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LDVideo: Tim Farron’s first speech as Liberal Democrat leader

Here it is in full, courtesy of Sky News – Tim’s first speech, delivered to a packed Islington Assembly Hall. I followed it on Twitter while I was on a train and it was giving me goosebumps so you might need to sit down with a cup of tea to watch the whole thing. Full of passion and energy and purpose and articulating an practical, relevant, optimistic, joyful liberalism.

A member of the audience fainted at one point and was incredibly apologetic but Tim was quick to reassure him and make sure he was ok.

There is a transcript on the party website, reproduced below for ease.

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Tim Farron is the new Liberal Democrat leader

BBC News announcement of Tim as leader

Congratulations, Tim, on being elected leader of a party that doesn’t often want to be led at one of  the most challenging times in its history.

And here’s the official tweet:

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Leadership update: How they count the votes

The party is catering for all the process geeks amongst its membership well this afternoon with an explanation of exactly how the votes are being counted. The result is expected in the next hour:

All of the ballot papers have been returned directly to Electoral Reform Services (the commercial arm of the Electoral Reform Society) who are running the election for us.

Ahead of the count, the ERS opened all of the returned envelopes, and put the votes into batches of 100 ready for counting.

The count is conducted by ERS staff as is supervised by a small team from party HQ (Tim Gordon our CEO, Darren Briddock from the party’s compliance team and Austin Rathe form the membership team) along with the agents and additional observers from each of the two campaigns. The count is a sterile environment, so representatives from both campaigns will have to hand in their mobile phones before entering the count area – hence why you won’t hear anything during the count!

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What you can do while waiting for the new leader to be announced.

Fed up waiting for the result of the leadership election? Here’s something to take your mind of it whether you’re a Tim or a Norman supporter.

There is a major by-election in a key marginal seat in Kingston going on today.  It was caused by the death of popular Liberal Democrat Councillor Chrissie Hitchcock. Our candidate is Jon Tolley who owns a record shop and has massively high name recognition in the ward. He’s clearly very well thought of.

The Tories have thrown the kitchen sink at the ward and have stopped to all sorts of lows. Think this leaflet slating Jon Tolley comes from the Greens?

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“Soggy Syriza with sandals” – thanks, Danny, for giving Osborne a stick to beat us with

I almost choked on my Earl Grey this morning when I read Danny Alexander’s piece in the New Statesman in which he suggested that there was much to cheer in George Osborne’s budget. I wondered if he had forgotten that May, you know, happened?

The reason we lost so many seats to the Tories is,  at least in part,  that the people who voted for us no longer felt that we represented their values, the sorts of values that had seen us stand up for freedom and social justice. Those people turned to the Greens and Labour. Yes, of course the Tory tactics over the SNP were relevant but we kind of stoked that by legitimising it.

We also made a great thing during the election campaign of talking about our opposition to the Tories’ £12 billion welfare cuts proposals, much of which we had stopped in government. Now Danny suggests that we shouldn’t go out of our way to oppose them in opposition:

Neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats should envisage a future as a sort of soggy Syriza in sandals. I  don’t like some of the welfare reforms in the Budget, but to make it the political dividing line is to fail to recognise the views of most people.

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Lord Brian Paddick writes…Standing up for evidence-based policy on drug laws

Yesterday in the House of Lords I called a vote to change the government’s Psychoactive Substances Bill. The Conservatives and Labour refused to support the change and we lost the vote 314 votes to 95, which was a great result. So how can such a crushing defeat be good? Because we established, on the record, that neither the Tories nor Labour support a scientific, evidence-based approach to reducing the harm caused by drugs. And here’s why.

The Tory government, supported by Labour, is pushing through a draconian, authoritarian law that would ban any substance that changes the way you think or the way you feel (your mental functioning or emotional state). There is no doubt some of the substances that the legislation covers are highly dangerous, but Lib Dems do not support a blanket ban that could do more harm than good. Things normally consumed as food and prescription medicines are not covered but tea, beer and cigarettes would all be banned except for the fact that caffeine, alcohol and nicotine (and only those three things) are specifically listed in the bill as being exempt.

The government has made it quite clear that they do not intend to add anything else to the list of exemptions and the law also prohibits anyone from removing ‘the establishment’s drugs of choice’ from the exempt list. So despite the wealth of scientific evidence that shows how much more dangerous alcohol is than, say, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), both in terms of the harm it causes to individuals and to society, the government intends to use this Bill to ban it.

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Chris Huhne talks to Robert Peston and Eddie Mair about his downfall, prison, Balzac and phlegmatism

Huhne, Mair, PestonBBC journalists Robert Peston and Eddie Mair have teamed up over recent weeks to make a late-night Radio 4 interview show with a difference. Each week, the presenters take it in turn to choose a guest to be interviewed by them both — but the one not choosing does not know who the guest is until the recording begins. This week’s episode was the last in the series, and Eddie Mair’s guest of choice was Chris Huhne, formerly the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastleigh and energy secretary in the coalition, who was convicted in  2013 of perverting the course of justice, and sentenced to eight months in prison.

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Liberal Democrats should support a strong, member led trade union movement

Without trade unions. we wouldn’t have many of the rights we take for granted today. From parental leave to paid holidays to the right to strike, these organisations have helped build the case for better working conditions over the years. The right of workers to take action and withdraw their labour is an important one.

That’s not to say that unions always act sensibly. I grew up in the 1970s and was horrified by these mass meetings where people had to vote by raising their hands in front of everyone. If you didn’t agree with the scary leaders, would you not be terrified of what might happen to you if you voted against them? Abuse of power, wherever it happens, is offensive to the liberal mindset and what we had at that time was massive abuse of power by collectivist union leaderships. So, there were quite a few aspects of the Tory reforms of the 1980s that were helpful. Introducing secret ballots before strike action could happen was a very good thing. If Scargill had balloted the niners in 1984, the outcome might have been very different.

But now the Tories have come up with measures to completely undermine the unions. Even if we were having 1970s levels of strikes, some of these plans would not be appropriate. The requirement for 40% of those eligible to back the proposals imposes on unions alone a restriction not faced by the Government itself. Elected on just over a third of the votes of just over two thirds of the people, it is now free to impose its overall majority on all of us. Is that fair? It’s effectively questioning its own legitimacy but can’t see it.

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