Tag Archives: david steel

David Steel on Northern Ireland abortion law

David Steel

We’ve just caught up with an interview with David Steel on the BBC Northern Ireland political show The View. (The interview starts 17:58 minutes in)

David was responsible for introducing the Abortion Act in 1967, which made abortion legal up to 28 weeks, later reduced to 24 weeks. But the law was never extended to Northern Ireland where the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 still applies. Under that law a woman who procures her own abortion is guilty of a felony and can be given a prison sentence of life, or for up to two years ‘with or without hard labour, and with or without solitary confinement’. Current regulations permit termination only if the woman’s life is at risk or if continuing the pregnancy would put her long-term health at risk.

David says:

I think they’ve got to face up to the fact that the law in Northern Ireland is simply ridiculous – 1861 – and it is time they came up at least to 1967, if not 2016.

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LibLink: David Steel: We need liberalism more than ever

David Steel has written an article for the Scotsman explaining why liberalism is needed more than ever in the face of both domestic and international challenges. He praises both Tim Farron and Willie Rennie and urges liberals to “re-assert themselves and support them.”

His comments about the SNP also struck a bit of a chord with me. It’s not just that they stitched up the Scottish Parliament with their majority, giving themselves control of the committees so that they couldn’t be effectively scrutinised, it’s their general attitude to politics. They are reminiscent of Labour in the ’80s and ’90s, with such a sense of entitlement to power and objection to even the mildest, most evidence based criticism. Yesterday, we had three shouty nationalists in the space of a couple of hours in our office. Clearly such intimidatory tactics are designed to spook us. Actually, we enjoy the fact that they are clearly rattled by the scale and success of our campaign. It is very like the days in Derbyshire when Labour thugs would shout at you as you delivered leaflets and it’s sad to see that kind of politics.

Anyway, back to David’s article. He wrote:

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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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LibLink: David Steel – Six ways Nick Clegg steered the Liberal Democrats to disaster

On the Guardian Comment is Free, David Steel has a must-read article with remarkably perspicacious observations:

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Peter Preston reminisces about David Steel’s by-election victory half a century ago

Former Guardian editor Peter Preston has been reminiscing about the Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles by-election 50 years ago which was won by a young David Steel. He’s been to the opening of a new exhibition celebrating the by-election and muses on the difference between politics then and now.

First, he sets the scene:

Fifty years ago, as a neophyte Guardian reporter, I covered the Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles byelection that catapulted David Steel into parliament. Now I’m back in Selkirk to open an exhibition celebrating his victory: a kind of still living artefact in a mini-museum full of faded speeches, posters and promises. Ah yes, I remember it well. The eerily youthful “boy David” who went on to lead the Liberals through that pact; wildly enthusiastic meetings, 300 or more strong, greeting big hitters – George Brown, Lord Hailsham, Jo Grimond – up from the smoke; an enthusiasm and a turnout (81.5%) with referendum intensity.But the past is not an island – even in a chilly mansion-cum-embryo-arts-centre perched by a loch. For the clan gathering to congratulate the old boy (aka Lord Steel of Aikwood) is large and intriguing. Here’s George Reid, the early SNP warrior who succeeded Steel as presiding officer in the Edinburgh parliament. Here’s Tam Dalyell of the Binns, Labour’s superlative stoker of backbench trouble through four decades. Here (well, at least expected soon) is Ronald King Murray, 92, who lost his Labour deposit but went on to win laurels as lord advocate. Here are canvassers who tramped the streets of Galashiels, folk with a memory leaning on a stick.

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Is David Steel right about the Liberal Democrat attitude to a future coalition?

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In Full: David Steel’s eulogy for Lord George Mackie

Lord George MackieWe are grateful to David Steel for sending us his eulogy to Lord George Mackie who died at the age of 95 last week. 

One of the noticeable traits of George Mackie was his reluctance to talk about his wartime exploits in Bomber Command.  We of a younger generation wanted to hear more of the events which led to his remarkable survival and the awards of the DSO and DFC, but the tales had to be coaxed out of him. He was never boastful.

It is a huge privilege to be asked to speak here about his role in politics – for me it is a small labour of love, because I owe my entire political career to him.  In 1962 when I had just graduated in law but had no intention of becoming a lawyer he offered me a one year post as assistant secretary of the Scottish Liberal Party at the princely salary of £895.  Because Alec Douglas-Home as new PM delayed the election it turned out to be two years during which I was heavily involved in several by-election campaigns and in fund-raising.

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