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Happy 40th Birthday, Alex Cole-Hamilton

Today, Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western, Alex Cole-Hamilton turns 40.

I have to confess to being slightly traumatised by this – much more so than by my own imminent Golden Jubilee.

You see, I don’t feel 50. I feel about 28. And I’m in much better shape physically and mentally than I was at 28, so it’s all good here. And the waiter at the Indian last night referred to me as a “young lady.” Even better.

Alex’s big day, though, provides inescapable evidence of the passage of time. I can’t help but remember that I first met him when he was a young lad fresh out of university. Now he’s a 40 year old father of three.

He hides it well, though. He’s probably even more irrepressible now than he was back then.

I’ve asked some of his friends to help me come up with 40 Legendary Alex Moments. Sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy a meander through the life of someone who is guaranteed to bring a smile to whatever is going on. Happy Birthday, Alex:

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Vince takes the stage with a strong “Exit from Brexit” line

Vince is not our almost leader any more. Just after 4pm, Sal Brinton announced that there had only been one nomination received and therefore he was our actual leader.

Having one of the country’s most credible and authoritative experts on the economy at a time when the economy is at risk is no bad thing.

We will certainly see a change in style from Vince. He won’t be as Tiggerish as Tim, but he’ll fight the recklessness of the Tories and Labour and promote our Liberal Democrat values with energy and optimism.

Vince has huge intelligence, a way of telling it like it is that makes sense to people and a wicked sense of humour. I feel much more optimistic than I did on 9th June that we can actually get somewhere.

Watch this afternoon’s proceedings here. You can see speeches from Sal, Tim, Jo and Vince.  Some key points from Vince’s speech are below.

There is a huge gap in the centre of British politics and I intend to fill it. As the only party committed to staying in the single market and customs union, the Liberal Democrats are alone in fighting to protect our economy. It will soon become clear that the government can’t deliver the painless Brexit it promised. So, we need to prepare for an exit from Brexit.

Theresa May wants to take Britain back to the 1950s while Jeremy Corbyn wants to take Britain back to the 1970s. I will offer an optimistic, alternative agenda to power the country into the 2020s and beyond.

We have a government that can’t govern and an opposition that can’t oppose. Labour and the Conservatives have formed a grand coalition of chaos, driving through a hard Brexit which would deliver a massive blow to living standards.

Both parties have abandoned mainstream economics. I want to put economics back centre stage.

Under my leadership the Liberal Democrats will be at the centre of political life: a credible, effective party of national government.

We have doubled our membership and our new members have given the party enormous energy. I want to give leadership to that energy, hitting the headlines and putting our party at the centre of the national debate.

 

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What now for moderate politics and discourse?

“Emily Thornberry just took down the entire Tory party in 45 seconds” says the caption. Below is a video of Emily Thornberry at the despatch box at yesterday’s prime minister’s questions performing, it has to be said, very well.

It is the sort of thing we all see dozens of times every day, scrolling through our social media feeds whilst we wait for out train, lie in bed or pretend to listen to a friend’s anecdote.

Posted in News | 27 Comments

Alistair Carmichael MP writes…The truth about those “secret Tory talks”

A couple of weeks ago I was due to meet with one of my counterparts in the Conservative whips office. These meetings are routine and are not normally the subject of comment.  This particular meeting was intended to deal with allocation of offices between the parties for MPs to use. In fact the meeting did not go ahead although I DID meet the Government Chief Whip’s Private Secretary (known inside the bubble as the usual channels).

The meeting that did not happen (mundane though it was) somehow found its way into the Daily Mail who proceeded to speculate wildly about whether the meeting was indeed a sign that the Lib Dems were now cosying up to the Tories to stitch up a secret coalition deal.

Of course at that time the Conservatives were trying to negotiate a deal with the DUP, negotiations were going badly (due mostly to their own mismanagement).  Briefing the press in this way was a mark of the desperation with which they were seized.

So when I read in the Times yesterday that Tim Farron’s chief of staff Ben Williams had met with his No 10 counterpart Gavin Barwell last Thursday I took it with a pinch of salt. Not least because I knew that Ben was in Leeds on Thursday.

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Well that didn’t take long! Vince answers the Brexit, freedom of movement and single market questions

Vince Cable is likely to be the sole nominee for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats. It is good to see, though, that he’s behaving like he is in a contest. He’s aware of what’s on the minds of members and activists  and responds accordingly. People had raised concerns about his position on freedom of movement and the single market and he answers them here in a pragmatic and straightforward way. He also explicitly says that Brexit could be avoided if we are willing to consider some changes to the status quo.

What’s also interesting is the acknowledgement that the party decides policy. The leader can put their view forward, but it’s the party members who are in the driving seat. If he carries that philosophy through, he’ll probably be the first to have managed it, so good luck to him.

Anyway, here is his statement in full. I found it reassuring especially because it goes some way to speaking to the Leave voters whose consent we would need to turn this thing around. I hope he will come forward with a liberal vision to address the concerns which drove them to vote for Leave. Poor housing, low pay, stretched public services can all be fixed without leaving the EU. In fact, they can probably only be fixed without leaving the EU.

Anyway, here is Vince’s statement in full.

Since declaring my intention to stand for the Liberal Democrat leadership I have been overwhelmed by messages of support. In the strong liberal tradition I have also received a great many questions about my vision for the country and the party. The first and most immediate issue on all our minds is the UK’s future relationship with the European Union, and I therefore welcome the very direct questions from party members on this subject.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Will Labour Lords stick to their EU principles?

As the Lords prepared to vote this week on the Queen’s Speech, I have been asked often about whether the so-called “Salisbury-Addison Convention” applies during this Parliament, to proposals from a Government which did not obtain a majority in the Commons.

Briefly, the Convention holds that the Lords does not reject Bills predicated on manifesto commitments, nor introduce “wrecking amendments”. The convention was first formulated in 1945 between the post-war Labour Government and Conservative leaders in a heavily Tory- and hereditary- dominated House.  The Liberal group was never party to it.

Speaking in the Queen’s Speech debate, I urged Peers – Labour Peers in particular – not to be bound into believing that the Government’s Faustian pact with the DUP gives it the right to railroad legislation through Parliament.  Unlike the 2010 Coalition Government, this administration cannot claim that its composition enjoys anywhere near majority support in the country, and the ‘deal’ is in any case only on big ticket votes.  There is no agreed programme for government between parties who together can claim a mandate.  That means that the Official Opposition should see no need simply to roll over during parliamentary “ping-pong” at the very first whiff of ‘pong’ from the Commons!

On Brexit, I pointed out that Labour voters had a far more positive view of the UK’s relationship with the EU than the Labour leadership. Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell may still regard the single market as a capitalist conspiracy, but most of their supporters do not.  With some 69% now thought to support the UK’s continued membership of the EU customs union and 53% favouring a referendum on whether or not to accept the Brexit deal, the Lords will should be fearless in making sure the public is heard.  

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The leadership of Charles Kennedy

As nominations open for the sixth leader of the Liberal Democrats, the Liberal Democrat History Group’s meeting next Monday takes a look back at the record of its second: Charles Kennedy.

In many ways Kennedy’s period as leader, from 1999 to 2006, was a success. His opposition to the Iraq War – heavily criticised at the time by both the Labour government and the Tory opposition – proved entirely justified and in the 2005 general election he led the party to its highest vote since 1987 (22.0 per cent) and its highest number of seats since 1923 (62). He was a popular figure with the public, appreciated for his quick wit, self-deprecating manner, and careful understatement in an era when respect for mainstream politicians was rapidly eroding.

Posted in Op-eds | 11 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarPeter Martin 22nd Jul - 11:38am
    I think it's quite likely that there could be a fudge to somehow keep us in the EU for at least the next few years...
  • User AvatarDenis Loretto 22nd Jul - 10:45am
    Before any "referendum on the deal" it would be necessary for the 27 to agree that any decision by the British people to support the...
  • User AvatarDenis Loretto 22nd Jul - 10:19am
    I have no doubt now that it will in the end be considered necessary for the electorate to be given the final say and Vince...
  • User Avatarjayne Mansfield 22nd Jul - 9:57am
    @ Joe Bourke, As wealth becomes ever more concentrated in fewer hands, I find your comments about choice and freedom a sign of the pervasiveness...
  • User AvatarGeoff Reid 22nd Jul - 9:36am
    The blatant incompetence of the people allegedly in charge of exiting from the EU is nothing less than shocking. One of the reasons given for...
  • User AvatarThomas 22nd Jul - 7:40am
    Libdem needs a leader who does not merely aim to become a junior coalition partner but the main party governing alone. The last leader with...