Tag Archives: conservatives

Willie Rennie accuses Conservatives of trying to pull the UK apart

For the third time in ten days, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has hit out at the Conservatives, accusing them of putting party before country and risking the future of the United Kingdom they say they want to keep together.

Their actions are very different, though. Last week, Michael Fallon talked up the entirely ridiculous suggestion of a deal between Labour and the SNP on Trident with the aim of persuading swing voters in middle England to vote Conservative. They also sent their Scottish leader campaigning in North East Fife, a seat they know that they can’t win. Willie Rennie said at the time:

Just the other day the Scottish Conservative Leader was visiting North East Fife claiming they can win.  It’s a seat the bookies say is a close race between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.  The Tories are also rans.  The only result of their reckless actions would be to divide the non-SNP vote and let the SNP win.

Yesterday, Willie described the Conservative plans for English votes for English Laws as “unstable and reckless.”

We agree that there does need to be a stronger voice for England in parliament.

But we will not entertain a Conservative attempt to gerrymander those votes in order to give the Conservatives a majority say on these important matters when they don’t command a majority of peoples’ votes in England.

Like all other forms of devolution in the United Kingdom any change must be based on fairer proportional voting, not Tory plans to create a majority by the back door. The Conservatives unstable and reckless reforms threaten to undermine the future of the UK.

And, finally, today, he condemned a Conservative poster being shown in England, saying that the Tories have joined the SNP in trying to pull the country apart.

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Sir John Major certainly knows about parliamentary mayhem

If I was doing one of these word association games, the first word that comes into my mind when I think of Sir John Major is “b******ds”. This Guardian report from 1993 reminds us of the frustration he felt as a Prime Minister who was frequently embroiled in parliamentary mayhem, not knowing whether he was going to be able to win crucial Commons votes. Except it wasn’t nationalists, pesky or otherwise, who caused him the problems. It was his own party.

Mr Major: “Just think it through from my perspective. You are the prime minister, with a majority of 18, a party that is still harking back to a golden age that never was, and is now invented (clearly a reference to the time of Mrs Thatcher’s leadership). You have three rightwing members of the Cabinet who actually resign. What happens in the parliamentary party?”

Mr Brunson observes that Tory MPs would create a lot of fuss, but that Mr Major is prime minister. He could easily find three new cabinet members.

Mr Major then bares his soul. “I could bring in other people. But where do you think most of this poison is coming from? From the dispossessed and the never-possessed. You can think of ex-ministers who are going around causing all sorts of trouble.

“We don’t want another three more of the bastards out there. What’s Lyndon Johnson’s maxim?…”

Major’s words might be aimed at scaring Middle England into voting Tory while annoying Scottish voters into voting SNP to give the Conservatives more chance of winning that increasing elusive parliamentary majority, but what it actually does is remind us how dangerous the right wing of the Conservative Party, especially if combined with UKIP and the likes of the DUP, could be. A tiny Tory majority would give the likes of Nadine Dorries and Peter Bone the run of the place, a point well made by Nick Clegg last week with the launch of the Blukip site. Frankly, the Blu on its own is bad enough. The Kip would only be the sour on top of the bitter.

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Tories seem to be shredding their claim to economic competence with each new spending commitment

The Tories have gone on about economic responsibility and controlling spending for long enough. It’s bizarre, then, that their list of dubiously funded post-election spending commitments is getting longer by the day.

It’s not enough to say that the NHS will get the £8 billion it needs out of the proceeds of a stronger economy alone as Jeremy Hunt did this morning. That’s like making a commitment on a foundation of fresh air and marshmallow.

Asked how the Conservatives would fund the pledge, he said the economy had been turned around and pointed to investment in the service during the last Parliament, when the government guaranteed an above-inflation increase in funding.

He said: “If you want to be sceptical about the commitment, look at the track record.”

It’s not as if the global economy is in a particularly robust position to be able to rely on that.

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Opinion: The Conservative campaign – some concerns

 

It is an opportune time to take issue with some of the key planks of the Conservative campaign.

Mr Crosby, who likes simple messages, has primarily put forward just two.  The first is that the Tories have a long term economic plan.  The second is a clever cartoon presenting Miliband as a puppet in Salmond’s pocket.

It might perhaps be argued that George W Bush, who repeated endlessly that Saddam Hussein was in league with Al-Qaida, was the original inspiration for the “Long Term Economic Plan” campaign.  Surveys showed that a majority of Americans came to believe a story known to be entirely false.  Constant repetition of the untruth helped Bush justify the invasion of Iraq.

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What’s the scariest outcome of the General Election?

While the national polls aren’t looking great for the Liberal Democrats, to say the least, in key seats there’s more of an air of, if not confidence, at least hope. Campaign teams are busily getting on with what needs to be done for them to win their seats, buoyed by increasing membership and a never-ending list of jobs to do. Ben Lazarus, who write the Telegraph’s Morning Briefing tried to fathom the other day what he called the “Lib Dems’ curious optimism”:

For a party that, since 2010 has now lost three quarters of their support, the Liberal Democrats seem remarkably calm. There are reasons for this. They know that a hung parliament could give them real power again after May . And, according to YouGov’s Peter Kellner,  despite the abysmal polling, there are two factors that may help them save more of their seats than those headline figures suggest. First, the party usually gains support nationally during election campaigns. The party benefits from TV exposure – although they no longer have the advantage of being a protest party unaffected by the rigours of government, it is likely their exposure by the main broadcasters will still be an aid. Second, Liberal Democrat MPs often have a strong personal following. Where Lib Dems are seeking re-election, their chances are often better than the national polls suggest; the party is deliberately playing to this strength, fighting lots of local campaigns instead of a national one.

With all the talk about Ukip and the Greens, the Lib Dems are sometimes forgotten.  But don’t rule them out.  They may prove more resilient than many expect, and thus play a pivotal role in the messy events that follow the election.

And it’s about what goes on following the election that I want to think about. I wrote last week that we need to keep our options open and not throw any babies out before the bath has even been run. While I understand the logic that letting the SNP be in charge of the UK would be a bit like letting Farage take charge in Europe, we don’t know what orders the people are going to give us, what hand we are going to be dealt. And, frankly, we will have to find the best future for liberal democrat ideas within that. It might be in government, it might not be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Opinion: What might happen after May 7th

This article appeared earlier as a comment on our “Electoral fruit machine” post and is reproduced here with permission from the author.

(After May 7th) I believe the Lib Dems will have more than 20 seats and less than 40, with many polls and commentators going for somewhere around the 30 mark, at the moment. From all the qualitative data I’ve seen so far that seems a fair estimate in political science. Anything less than 20 would be a shock, as Lord Ashcroft’s polling indicates that this is not going to happen.

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What will the electoral fruit machine* come up with on May 7th?

This post is reserved for new and infrequent commenters. “Infrequent” is defined as having posted less than five comments in the last month.

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Nick Harvey: ‘If you think we are going to spend another five years being shafted (this time) by Labour, you’ve got another think coming’

The Liberal Democrat coalition negotiation team leave Cowley Street HQ for the fourth day of discussions with the Conservatives May 10th 2010.

Earlier this week we highlighted Nick Harvey MP’s report “Beyond the Rose Garden”. In it, he recommends a range of changes in arrangements for any future coalition governments.

In the wake of his report’s publication, Nick has now given an extensive interview with Huffington Post

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Lib Dems Telegraph splash: EU bashing “weak, opportunistic and fundamentally un-British” say Ashdown, Ludford, Brinton, Farron and 90 Lib Dems

Even Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t have taken the isolationist path that David Cameron’s Conservative party is romping its way down, according to 90 Liberal Democrats in a letter to the Telegraph today. The letter states:

David Cameron’s recent speech on European immigration is the latest in a series of desperate moves from a Conservative Party in full-scale panic.

We’ve had: “Go home or face arrest” vans. We’ve had: if you are from the EU and want to move to Britain, go and register at a police station. We’ve had: if you’re out of work, even for a few months, go back to where you came from.

In her Bruges speech in 1988, Margaret Thatcher said: “Britain does not dream of some cosy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the Community.”

What happened to that Conservative destiny? The dual menace of the Tory headbangers and the rise of Ukip.

There is nothing patriotic about bashing immigration from Europe. It is opportunistic, weak and fundamentally un-British. Migrants from the EU claim less in benefits than people born in this country. They are a massive net positive to the British economy. The Tories are scared to admit this. They have lost all sense of political courage – and that is why people have lost confidence in them.

We, the undersigned Liberal Democrats, konw that the real patriotic case is for Britain to remain in Europe; our jobs and our economic future depend on it.

photo by: rockcohen
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Cameron and the Tories show us what Government by Daily Mail would look like

It seems very strange to have watched three leaders’ speeches before our own Conference has started. We normally go first in the Conference season but thanks to Mr Alex Salmond and his choice of referendum date, we are bringing this conference season to an end. For once, Nick Clegg gets the chance to have the last word.

Farage, with his dodgy wireless microphone, was as full of himself as ever, even more so when he had a defecting Tory MP to brandish. This was in sharp contrast to Ed Miliband’s clumsy performance. And then we had Cameron. Standing in front of a dark backdrop, looking at his most charming, delivering a speech that had passion and promise. It didn’t just have a melody. It had the whole darned symphony. But he and his ministers have this week painted a picture of a Britain that I really don’t fancy living in, a country where government by Daily Mail values is the norm.

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Edward McMillan-Scott writes…Postscript: The Tory Conference – more Euro-sceptic than ever

Edward McMillan ScottIt was a poignant watching the Tory Conference at Birmingham’s ICC on TV. After all, it was there at our Spring Conference in March 2010 that I became a Liberal Democrat, only to find my new party in coalition with the Tories two months later!

I described that as the happiest day in my political life: ‘the Lib Dems have tamed the Tory extremists’ I wrote as the Coalition Agreement was published, especially on the EU and human rights.

My impression is that the Conservative Party has made absolutely no progress …

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Opinion: The ECHR is a “British Bill of Rights”

Following the cabinet reshuffle earlier this month, the push from within the Conservatives to repeal the Human Rights Act and remove the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights with a British Bill of Rights in its place now seems firmly in the forefront of our political debate.

The most notable change was clearly William Hague’s surprise departure from Foreign Secretary and announcement that he would stand down as an MP next year but the most significant change was the sacking of Dominic Grieve from Attorney General. Serving as the Chief Legal advisor in the government, he had provided sound …

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Danny Alexander: UKIP is wrong on jobs, wrong on prosperity and wrong on security

Danny-Alexander

Today, The City UK publishes two reports which, they say, “show that leaving the EU poses very significant risks to the UK’s future, undermining economic well-being and the ability of business to grow and compete in world markets.” All in all, “A Legal Assessment of the UK’s relationship with the EU – a financial services perspective” and “Analysing the case for EU membership – How does the economic evidence stack up? predict a quadruple whammy of higher prices and unemployment, lower growth and wages should Britain leave the EU. That’s before you …

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Opinion: Britain needs jobs, not UKIP/Tory insults

Workers bankers london bridge - some rights reserved by zoonabar

Over 4 million British jobs depend on exports to the Single Market.

Those are the words of the Centre for Economic and Business Research regarding their recent report into British Jobs and the Single Market.

When we talk about this issue UKIP and the Tory Right throw around words like “liar”. When people do that it usually means they have lost the argument.

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Opinion: Nick, Nigel and the Hokey Cokey party

In common with many Lib Dem activists I have ambivalent feeling about Nick Clegg. I don’t feel that there is a strong case to either say that that no good had come from the coalition or from his leadership, or alternatively that it’s all been peachy. In my view it’s actually a case of what you think the balance has been between successes and disappointments, a debate where I sit roughly in the middle.

However Nick’s latest move – challenging Nigel Farage to a public debate on Europe – has my unbridled admiration, both morally and politically. Morally not only because …

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Coalition with Labour on, if they don’t “break the bank”

Tonight’s radio programme Nick Clegg: The Liberal who came to power has hit the news-stands for this apparent top line demand of any future coalition with Labour:

There is just no doubt in my mind that if there were a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, we the Liberal Democrats would absolutely insist that government would not break the bank.

More details can be found in the Mirror, Guardian and BBC, and other sources of news are available.

Let’s contrast the following comments by Nick on the Labour Party

I think they’ve changed. I think there’s nothing like the prospect

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Opinion: as Labour and the Conservatives play “Find the Lady” on immigration, what are we to do?

I must admit that the whole immigration debate bemuses me. As Labour and the Conservatives compete for the prize of being ‘not quite as tough on migrants as UKIP want to be’, some of my fellow Liberal Democrats respond by only talking of the benefits of migration, making the mistake of assuming that there is a rational debate to be had there.

The problem is that there isn’t – not now, at least. Instead, I suggest a different approach – holding the other three parties to account over their proposals. You see, I have concluded that most of the proposals will …

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Danny Alexander MP writes: We shouldn’t fritter away our EU influence when we can lead drive for jobs and growth

As the House of Lords debates the EU Referendum Bill, you may be forgiven for thinking that the Coalition Government has already legislated for a referendum. In fact we did – in 2011 Parliament passed the EU Act which holds that there will be a referendum if there is a transfer of powers from the UK to the EU. This is a sensible approach which means that the British people will get their say in a referendum when our terms of membership change.

At the time, Conservative Ministers strongly supported the EU Act and rejected attempts by their own backbenchers to …

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LibLink: Christine Jardine: Let’s be grateful for the EU

Former Special Adviser and current Scottish Euro candidate Christine Jardine writes in the Scotsman about what Europe means to her and how she first became aware of what it meant as a child:

For me, joining what was then the EEC was the beginning of a very different, more positive and much less life-threatening relationship with the Continent than the previous generations of my family had experienced.

In 1973 Europe was all about new money, counting everything in tens and hundreds and new equipment to learn with at school.

Yard sticks were out and metre sticks were in. No more inches. It was

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Telegraph: “Liberal Democrats believe party can oust several Tories”

Yesterday’s Telegraph has a report that the Liberal Democrats believe that they can win or win back some seats currently held by the Tories.

The seats mentioned are Oxford West and Abingdon, Winchester and St Albans. These seats have all selected their candidates, Layla Moran, Jackie Porter and Sandy Walkington. I could also add Richmond Park, where Robin Meltzer is working hard, campaigning against Heathrow expansion with the help of two neighbouring cabinet ministers. In Harrogate we have Helen Flynn and in Newton Abbot and Truro and Falmouth, Richard Younger-Ross and Simon Rix are in place. All these candidates are …

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Liberal Democrat MPs may be bound by the Coalition Agreement, but that shouldn’t stop us campaigning against judgemental Tory marriage tax break

Wedding ringsWay back in May 2010, I divided the Coalition Agreement into The Good, The Meh and the “Bring me the gin now.” What do you think the very first item on the “lock me in a cupboard with a bottle of gin when they vote on this list” was?

“We also agree that provision will be made for Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain on budget resolutions to introduce transferable tax allowances for married couples without prejudice to this coalition agreement.”

Ok, it’s tokenistic but the principle is so plain wrong that

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Lord Tom McNally writes…Liberal Democrats secure best possible deal for collaborative EU justice

The Commons votes tonight on whether the government should exercise the impenetrably-named ‘EU Justice and Home Affairs mass opt-out’.

While it sounds dry and technical, this decision is hugely significant as EU ‘JHA measures’ have been crucial in securing justice for hundreds of British victims of crime. These instruments have been prominent in the extradition of attempted London bomber Hussain Osman from Italy under a European Arrest Warrant, in coordinating via Eurojust the investigation into the Annecy killings and in Europol’s EU-wide investigation, ‘Operation Veto’, into match-fixing and corruption in sport.

The mass opt-out is not an ingenious new attempt by the …

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David Cameron says “I can be Prime Minister without Nick Clegg”

David-Cameron-and-Nick-CleggThe Telegraph has the news that the Tories have drawn up plans for a minority Government, should Nick Clegg be ousted and replaced by someone who is less sympathetic to the Coalition.

Apparently, Cameron’s advisers have told him that he could stagger along to 2015 without Nick Clegg, because the Liberal Democrats would still support the key reforms to state pensions and long-term care.

What they haven’t revealed is how much of the programme would have to be ditched.  I cannot imagine a full timetable of legislation in those circumstances.

The article once …

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Never on a Sunday?

Some little Englander MPs, as we know, are incredibly jumpy about anything they think might have come from Europe.  The latest in the line of Brussels bogeymen is the worrying advent of public activity at the weekend, which could – they say – cause all kinds of terrible problems.

The British Social Attitudes survey (not the dangerous ‘Eurobarometer’) has found that 45.7% of the public regard themselves as belonging to ‘no religion’.  Of those who do profess some faith, 57.5% say they ‘never or practically never’ attend meetings or services connected to their religion.  A further 20% say they do …

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Opinion: Against liberalism

Statue of David Lloyd George - Some rights reserved  by GabludlowI am a liberal. I believe in standing up for people and communities against over-powerful vested interests – in business, the State, the media, or the unions. However, I also believe that liberalism alone is an inadequate political philosophy, and an insufficient foundation for this Party.

The problem centres on our determination to play down the significance of Left and Right. We sneer that the concepts are simplistic. We seek to defuse or ignore left-right conflict. The inconvenient truth we deny is that Left and Right do matter, often enough to split our party.

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Opinion: We’ve got our strategy the wrong way round

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKLast Friday Lib Dem HQ sent out an email to parliamentarians, PPCs, council group leaders and other office holders about our party’s new message script. The full email, if anyone is interested, can be found herehere, courtesy of the Liberator.

Aside from the immensely catchy wordy message of “the Lib Dems are working to build a stronger economy in a fairer society, enabling every person to get on in life” (complete with an incredible 16 sub messages), a key point was this:

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Opinion: Cameron’s lurch to the right is Clegg’s opportunity

Party conference seasons are rarely memorable. Apart from Cameron’s “call that election – we will fight, Britain will win” bluff, which prompted Gordon Brown to call off the “election that never was” in 2007. Apart from a few leadership shocks – Ed Miliband’s pipping of his brother to the line on the shoulders of the trade unions in 2010 and the foundering of David Davis’ leaden leadership bid in 2005.

It may be premature to pass judgment on this conference season just yet. But it is a season that will be remembered for three things. Nick

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