Tag Archives: david steel

Michael Moore reselected for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

Michael Moore MP with apprentices Cameron Collins and Mark Tully at Mainetti 30 08 1349 years ago today, the Liberal Party created a political earthquake in the Borders when David Steel won the Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles by-election as the Liberal Democrat History Group remembers:

In the winter of 1963-64 a vacancy arose for a Liberal candidate in the much more winnable Scottish Border seat of Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, whose Conservative incumbent, C. E. M. Donaldson, was elderly and ailing. Steel jumped at the chance to move and in January 1964 was adopted as the Liberal candidate. He failed to win the seat from the Conservatives at the general election of that year, but nonetheless moved his home to the Borders and took a short-lived job in television with the BBC. The death of Donaldson in December 1964 gave him his opportunity. Steel won the byelection in March of the following year with a handsome majority. He held the constituency (subsequently re-drawn and re-named Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) at the eight general elections from 1966 to 1992 before bequeathing the seat in 1997 to Michael Moore (q.v.) after more than thirty years in Parliament.

Twenty years after the by-election, David Steel announced he was stepping down as MP and Michael Moore was selected to fight the seat which he won in 1997.

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Should MPs be allowed to take their babies into the voting lobby?

There’s been a bit of controversy over the issue of breastfeeding in the House of Commons and taking babies into the voting lobby sparked by comments by Jo Swinson, who gave birth to her son Andrew on 22 December. The argument goes that you can take a sword into the Commons voting lobby, but not a baby. On face value, it sounds like yet another way in which Westminster needs to be dragged into the 21st century.

Jo said to the Guardian:

“I think it’s been lovely the way people have been really supportive in parliament of my pregnancy,” she said. ” I think some of the structures of the institutions of the House of Commons probably don’t make it as easy as it could be, in particular that you don’t get maternity cover. As a minister, I get cover for my work … but nobody else will be being the MP for East Dunbartonshire.”

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In full: David Steel’s lecture on the centenary of Jo Grimond’s birth

Liberal Democrats including Alistair Carmichael (ok, so he lives there), Willie Rennie, David Steel and Nick Clegg have headed to Orkney this weekend to celebrate 100 years since the birth of Jo Grimond, the man credited with building up the Liberal Party after is demise. David Steel gave a lecture in the Firth Church at Finnstown and Nick Clegg spoke at a dinner last night.
Steel’s lecture, outlining Grimond’s  crashes through our normal word limit, but I think it’s worth reading the whole thing to get an insight into the history of the Liberal Party and into both Grimond’s and Steel’s

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LibLink: David Steel…New type of Union needed

The Scotsman carries an extract from David Steel’s Presidential Address to the David Hume institute in which he talks about the need for constitutional reform of the whole UK to give real power to its constituent parts. I was particularly struck by this passage where he talks about distribution, not devolution, of power:

Many of my former constituents would quite comfortably consider themselves a Borderer first and then a Scotsman. And the same incidentally applies for Borderers born south of the Tweed in Northumberland in relation to Englishness. Politicians at their peril dictate identity and culture. People can quite comfortably consider

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The 1983 election: highlights and hindsight

I spent more of my bank holiday than is healthy watching the rerun of the 1983 election on BBC Parliament.

When I lived through it, I was an innocent and idealistic 15 year old. I really believed people would be so outraged that the Alliance had polled 7 million votes, finishing marginally behind Labour but with about a ninth of their seats. As Shirley Williams said, it was “absolute rubbish.” Surely we would have PR within a decade?

Thirty years on, it depresses me that we are no further forward. Westminster remains the last bastion of first past the post, for Scots …

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An earlier Letter from the Leader

Liberal Democrat members now receive a weekly letter by email from the party leader, Nick Clegg. I found a 32-year-old example of a “Letter From the Leader” to party members – one from David Steel on 27 February 1981. (Click to enlarge photo)
image
Without email, Steel asked for Local Association Chairmen (sic) to “take an early opportunity to read and discuss at appropriate constituency executives and other meetings.”

He noted that the party was campaigning on “unemployment and cuts” (today it is “jobs and growth”). Presumably, this observation was really a …

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Michael Moore’s Westminster Notes

Every week Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore writes a column for newspapers in his Borders constituency. Here’s this week’s edition.

David Steel book launch

Last week I attended the launch of the latest biography of David Steel in Westminster, this one written by David Torrance.  At the event I was pleased to be able to thank David publicly for the support and inspiration he has been to me over the years.

The book, to which I contributed the foreword (but otherwise none of the writing or research!) is certainly a testament to all David has achieved in his political career and, as his successor as Borders MP, I owe him a significant debt of gratitude. This new biography reflects on what I believe to be one of the most important and diverse political careers of recent times and I would encourage everyone to get a copy and give it a read!

Grocery Code Adjudicator

In my constituency, farming is an extremely important industry and as local MP I have been campaigning for fair prices for our farmers in a market which, for too long, has been balanced in favour of big supermarkets.  This is why last week I welcomed further progress on the Government’s Grocery Code Adjudicator Bill which received its Second Reading in the House of Commons.

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Opinion: Farewell to Lib Dem News

As a former Editor, I’m sad to see that Liberal Democrat News is now compiling its final issue.

The idea of a weekly newspaper began in 1947.There were numerous attempts to axe it. I fought off at least two, and it was only thanks to the likes of David Steel, John Pardoe, and the ALC, that the treasurer was persuaded otherwise in the 1970s. Then, the party was financially bust, despite Trevor Jones delivering a string of remarkable by-election successes that

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In other news… on Jess Ennis, Judy Steel & other stories

Here’s a round-up of stories we haven’t had time to cover on the site this past few days…

Campaign to rename Tudor Square in honour of Jess (Postcode Gazette)

Sheffield politicians want to rename Tudor Square in honour of Jessica Ennis. The Liberal Democrats have backed a campaign which went viral on twitter on Saturday night, following Jessica’s victory in the women’s heptathlon. The suggestion follows calls by Nick Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, that Ennis be granted Freedom of the City. Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Sheffield Council, said: “Every Sheffielder will have been bursting

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Lord Rennard: “There’s no substitute for democracy”

Liberal Democrat peer and campaigning guru Chris Rennard went on Radio 4 yesterday to respond to the Earl of Glasgow saying that we should back down on Lords reform.

Lord Rennard said that there have been  plans for an elected Lords were not Nick Clegg’s alone and that there had been efforts to reform the upper House for 50 years before Nick Clegg was born.

He took a mild swipe at his Liberal Democrat colleague Lord Steel when asked about the latter’s plans to limit the reforms to allowing voluntary retirement and sacking those peers who don’t attend. Those things, said Rennard, …

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Opinion: Why are we waiting?

We have played the waiting game before. It didn’t work in the 1980s, and it won’t work now.

In the 1983 Election, the Alliance reached a high water mark with a 26% vote. But there was discord. The Liberals, who won most seats, felt they should take the lead. The SDP, with their heavyweight experience, saw things differently. Problems grew when Owen took over, refused to collaborate properly, and set out to undermine theAlliancefrom within. A stalemate developed, and a waiting game began.

The Alliance announced to a stunned public that two-headed leadership was the new future. Their slogan “Not Left, Not …

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Lord Tyler writes… Only the Government’s Bill can take the hereditary principle out of Parliament

There has for some years been a conceit in the House of Lords that the place could gain stature and authority simply by doing a bit of tidying up at the edges, and by ending the hereditary principle. There has been a further conceit that this work can be done without controversy or delay.

Our own David Steel has been a doughty proponent of this approach, as a logical precursor to more comprehensive reform. Last Friday, he gave Peers their best opportunity ever to prove that it could work.

Yet the Lords showed itself resistant even to the modest changes on offer. …

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The failure of David Steel’s Lords reform measure is good news

The attitude of former Liberal Party leader David Steel to Nick Clegg’s House of Lords reform proposals has been lukewarm at best. Although the party he headed up repeatedly called for a democratic upper house, Steel has not been supporting Nick Clegg’s attempt to turn those often made demands into policy. He even signed a cross-party letter against the proposals that was published the day of Clegg’s formal announcement.

Instead, Steel has been pursuing a different, much more modest, line – arguing that some modest reforms can be secured and they should be banked immediately as radical reform will take …

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David Steel, bombing Greenland and regulating cats

It being over four years since I last read David Steel’s speech to the Liberal Party Assembly of 1976, I thought it was time I did so again. As you do.

And yes, once again, it is the bombing of Greenland and the cats which caught my attention:

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LDVideo | Party political broadcasts from the 1960s: Bonham Carter, Thorpe, Grimond & friends

Round 2 of our trip down PPB memory lane. Yesterday we trawled the 1950s, and today it’s time for the 1960s to take centre-stage…

Liberal Party election broadcast 1964 (with Frank Byers, Mark Bonham Carter, Jeremy Thorpe and Margaret Wingfield — alas, with some sound issues)

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LDVideo | Election archive special… the 1980s

Yesterday was the 1960-70s, today we fast-forward to the 1980s…

1982 Liberal Party political broadcast

(Available on YouTube here.)

1983 election: Party leaders on the campaign trail (incuding Roy Jenkins at 1:05)

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Lords reform: the Liberal Democrat trio announced

Over the weekend Mark Valladares blogged about the three Liberal Democrats being appointed to the Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament carrying out pre-legislative scrutiny committee on Lords reform:

From the Lords, representing the constitutional wonk tendency (in a good way), Lord Tyler is the first of the two nominees. Paul has been leading calls for a complete overhaul of the Second Chamber for a very long time and is one of the Party’s foremost constitutional experts…

From the Commons, that rather unusual beast, a former member of the House of Lords, John Thurso. As he has already been abolished once,

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Liberal Youth: appealing to Lib Dems everywhere

Conferences are a foundation stone of being a Liberal Democrat. There have been some really huge and important ones – Brighton, 2002, where we laid out a principled position on Iraq; Llandudno, 1981, where Shirley Williams and David Steel spoke passionately in favour of an alliance; Sheffield, 2011, when we opposed the NHS reforms. Conference is the best way for the membership to exert their influence over the leadership. Past leaders, from Steel to Ashdown, from Kennedy to Clegg, have often feared Conference for the skill and passion with which it has put its arguments. And so the tradition of …

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LibLink: Tyler versus Steel on Lords reform

During the week The Guardian ran an exchange between Liberal Democrats Lord Steel and Tyler – the former Liberal Party leader urging the Lib Dems to drop the party’s long-standing policy (and the Liberal Party’s before that) to introduce elections for the Lords, and Tyler responding.

Here’s a sample:

Steel: I am old enough to recall the defeat of Lords reform proposals through getting bogged down in the Commons in a war of attrition led by Michael Foot and Enoch Powell, and I fear the same may happen to these. There is no public clamour for the changes…

Tyler: Westminster is such an

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House of Lords reform: taking a look at the details

Yesterday Nick Clegg unveiled the Government’s proposals for reforming the House of Lords, an idea that David Cameron is on record as fully backing.

The mere idea of introducing elections for half of our Parliament is shocking enough for some (letting the public decide who rules them? what a radical idea) that the details have understandably so far got relatively little attention.

So what are the highlights of them?

First, the Lords will be small – 300. That makes sense given how enormous the combined number of MPs and Lords is in Britain at the moment compared with other democracies (see this chart from the Economist which shows how Britain has far fewer people per Parliamentarian than any of the other countries in the survey).

Second, STV (yes, STV) is proposed as the electoral system. The small size of the Lords means that STV can be used without having to get into the sorts of huge numbers of candidates on ballot papers that you see in federal party committee elections. The experience of drawing up constituencies boundaries for the London Assembly (also much larger than Westminster constituencies, though for other reasons) also suggests that the constituencies can be drawn up fairly quickly and easily.

Third, the plan is for elections by thirds, coinciding with general elections. This minimises the cost of Lords elections and maximises turnout, which are good motivations, but it comes with two other knock-on effects: more votes for minor parties and the possible collapse of election expense controls unless there is major reform.

House of Lords. Photo: Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of ParliamentFourth, the argument over 80% elected versus 100% elected has yet to be settled, though the proposals in effect defaults to an 80% option. Either way, it is also proposed that a reduced number of Bishops (and only Bishops; i.e. not including other religions) continue to sit as ‘ex officio’ members. In other words, there are some strong Conservative voices for special provision for the established Church, and Liberal Democrats in government have taken the view that a compromise on this point is worthwhile in order to get Lords reform.

Fifth, the proposals are for people to be elected for 15 year terms and then banned from standing again. I’m dubious about the virtue of this given how often at election time people want to cast a verdict on how politicians have behaved in the past and one term only means, once elected, there’s an awful lot of leeway to be indolent without any comeback. But being elected in the first place is itself a major step forward.

There are plenty of other details in the proposals, which you can read in full below, though my eye was caught by this:

Members of the House of Lords would continue to be deemed resident, ordinarily resident and domiciled (ROD) for tax purposes.

You could call that the Ashcroft Triple Lock.

Overall these plans are good – and it’s worth remembering how badly wrong Lords reformers got it in the 1960s by opposing reforms because they though better ones would come along. The subsequent 50 years showed that to be an stupendously misplaced view.

Less good is David Steel’s actions yesterday. Though Liberal Party leader through many years when the Liberal Party wanted elections for the Lords, he joined joined a cross-party group opposing any elections for the Lords. He’s wrong. It’s as simple as that.

House of Lords Reform Draft Bill

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Electoral reform news: peers don’t like democracy, but Labour candidate who lost on vote transfers backs AV

From The Independent:

Clegg: peers are holding Government hostage…

In acrimonious clashes, they warned the Deputy Prime Minister that they would fight his proposals every step of the way…

The show-down – described by one participant as “Daniel in the lion’s den” – came at a meeting between Clegg and members of a cross-party group campaigning against the plans. More than 50 peers from all major parties were present, including the former Liberal leader Lord Steel of Aikwood.

Shock news there, that peers who are against elections are against plans to introduce elections – though the presence of David Steel is disappointing.

Meanwhile, the …

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Lord Rennard writes… Lord Blackadder, Baldrick, by-elections and reform of the Lords

The House of Lords debated (again) this week the second reading of David Steel’s Bill to make some very modest and minor reforms to the House of Lords.

I compared the process of by-elections to elect hereditary peers to the campaign run by Lord Blackadder to elect Baldrick in the rotten borough of Dunny on the Wold. David Steel’s Bill would end these by-elections and allow peers to retire voluntarily. A much more fundamental draft Bill for Lords reform is expected early next year.

But this debate showed again how hard it will be to achieve fundamental reform of the House of Lords.

The …

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Musings from the Front Bench…

I have supported the Liberal Party and its successors since the General Election of 1950, although I did not follow a political career. Instead, I was involved in the railway and bus industries before moving into academia at the Universities of Salford and Oxford.

My entry to the House of Lords was a complete surprise. It took place over a two year period, and the process began with an interview with John Harris and Bill Rodgers, the then Chief Whip and Leader in the House respectively. Having been sworn to secrecy, I was asked firstly whether, if appointed, I would promise …

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Daily View 2×2: 17 May 2010 (with bonus ‘Prophet Steel’ video)

Happy Monday morning, everyone, and welcome to the first full week of Lib Dem / Conservative coalition government. Let’s get down to the news …

One Big Story

Lib Dem members give overwhelming thumbs-up to coalition government agreement

The Daily Telegraph has a fair-minded report proving that extraordinary things really can happen in the new politics (and in stark contrast to the snarkiness of the Grauniad):

… members voted “over-whelmingly” in support of the deal with no more than a dozen of the 2,000 delegates opposing the deal in a show of hands at the gathering in Birmingham. Speaking after the vote, Mr Clegg said: “It is a big step. There are lots of unknowns, there will be bumps and scrapes along the way”. He said the party’s special conference had taken a “very, very important decision” to approve the coalition “which is utterly new in modern British political history”. .. It is understood the while 100 members had quit the party since the deal was signed – a further 400 had joined.

The conference even earned plaudits from an unlikely source: ConservativeHome.com offered three cheers for the Lib Dems’ commitment to party democracy:

I take my hat off to the Liberal Democrats for the attempt to involve party members – the people who work so hard without expectation of office – in the decision to form a Coalition with the Conservatives. On a number of occasions Clegg met his MPs and party officers in a bid to hear their views and explain what he was doing. Today’s ratification of the deal will help bind the party into the fascinating Cameron-Clegg experiment. What a contrast with the Conservative Party where there has been next to no consultation of the party membership. Coming on top of Team Cameron’s various attempts to dilute Tory members’ role in membership selection it is all very disappointing.

Here’s how the BBC reported the day:

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LibLink: David Steel – Why we must make this coalition work

Over at The Guardian’s Comment is Free website, former Liberal party leader Lord (David) Steel offers his reasons for supporting the coalition government of Lib Dems and Conservatives:

We have successfully injected parts of the Lib Dem manifesto into the government programme and outlawed parts of the Tory manifesto, most notably bringing tax reductions to the poor rather than the rich and allowing the electorate itself to improve the voting system in future elections. … Nick Clegg had only one other option as leader – to sit in opposition, watch a minority Tory government struggling with declining sterling and share indices,

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David Steel on the last time there was a hung parliament

Lord (David) Steel recalled his involvement in the various negotiations during the 1970s, the last time there was an election which produced a hung parliament, in a letter to The Times during the campaign – it seemed worth dusting down in the current circumstances …

Sir,

Your leader today on hung parliaments contained a number of dubious assertions.

First, you say that in February 1974 Mr Heath’s offer of coalition foundered on his refusal to include electoral reform. As a survivor of those discussions I have to say that this was not the most determining factor. One was that even with the

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Brown’s silence on Megrahi: “absurd” says Clegg, “right” says Steel

Nick Clegg has today condemned Gordon Brown for issuing no statement following the release on compassionate grounds of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi:

Although the decision to release Megrahi was a Scottish one for which Gordon Brown was not personally responsible, the fallout puts the UK at the centre of an international storm.

“In these circumstances, it is absurd and damaging that the British Prime Minister simply remains silent in the hope that someone else will take the flak.”

He went further on this lunchtime’s BBC Radio 4 World at One, openly criticising the decision of the Scottish Executive, saying, “I find it difficult to accept that someone convicted in a British court of law should be released as he was.”

But speaking on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today Programme his predecessor Lord (David) Steel – a former presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament – defended the Prime Minister’s stance:

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YouTube ‘cos we want to: an SDP special

If the SDP had lived on*, 2009 would have marked its 18th** 28th birthday – which spurious segue is all the excuse we need to dust off three video clips tracing its rise and fall.

Let’s begin at the beginning, with the explosion of the ‘Gang of Four’ – Roy, David, Shirley and Bill – onto the scene, here holding their first press conference in March 1981:

For a year or more it really did seem as if the SDP might truly break the mould of British politics. But the party was shattered by the results of the June 1983 general election, winning only six seats. Here’s the start of the BBC’s election night results programme.

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YouTube ‘cos we want to: Jeremy, David and Paddy

Another instalment in our occasional series rounding up political videos doing the rounds – for this special Friday night edition, we’re delving back a little further into the archives to recall three of the great Liberal leaders of the past few decades.

First up, here’s the only clip I can find of Jeremy Thorpe, being questioned by a studio audience alongside Jimmy Saville (how times change):

By the way, if you’ve never seen Peter Cook’s magisterial ‘biased judge’ summing up from 1979 at the conclusion of the Thorpe trial, click here and enjoy 12 minutes of the finest satirical comedy ever staged.

Second’s up is David Steel, here represented by the famous excerpt from his leadership speech in 1981 – yes, that’s right, the “go back to your constituencies and prepare for government” one:

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CommentIsLinked@LDV: David Steel – The night Labour self-destructed

Over at the Daily Mail, former Liberal party leader Lord (David) Steel recalls the dramatic evening of 28 March 1979, when the Labour Government lost a confidence motion by one vote, and the then Prime Minister James Callaghan was forced to call an early General Election. It was this election that swept Margaret Thatcher to victory. Here’s an excerpt:

The tension was palpable, politicians from all parties talking and arguing with one another, all speculating about what was going to happen next.

I had never seen the chamber so packed before. Not one of us had the slightest idea what the

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