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REPRISE For new members: The Lowdown: How the party works and what it has to offer

Welcome to everyone who has joined the Liberal Democrats over the past few days – over 1000 since our Conference finished and hundreds more yesterday in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election. It’s great to have you on board. We have so much to do to stand up to the most appalling Government I have ever known.

This is basically a repeat of a post that I did last year when many joined the party in the wake of the election result in the hope that it might be useful to tell you a little bit about how our party works and give you a bit of an idea of the opportunities open to you. If you are not yet a member, read it and think it sounds appealing, sign up here.

What do we believe?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of organisation, the best statement of who we are and what we’re about can be found in the Preamble to our Constitution which underlines how we believe in freedom, opportunity, diversity,  decentralisation and internationalism. Here’s a snippet:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely. We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms. Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject allprejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

We have a fierce respect for individuality, with no expectation that fellow Liberal Democrats will agree with us on every issue. We expect our views to be challenged and feel free to challenge others without rancour. We can have a robust debate and head to the pub afterwards, the very best of friends.

Your rights as a member

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Happy Bi Visibility Day

Bi Visibility Day 2016Since 1999, 23 September has been a day to recognize and celebrate bisexuality, bisexual history, bisexual community and culture, and all the bisexual people in our lives.

The day has gone by various names: Celebrate Bisexuality Day (or International Celebrate Bisexuality Day), Bi Pride Day, but has really become well-known to a broader audience in recent years as Bi Visibility Day. This has been extended in America to the whole week being known as Bi Awareness Week (and to some extent internationally, thanks to the internet; it’s been #biweek all over Twitter).

So Why Do Bisexuals Need Their Own Day?

Most non-bi people probably assume bisexuals are sufficiently included in other “days,” like Pride or IDAHOBIT (the International Day Against Homophobia, BIphobia and Transphobia). The councillors among you might have had requests for your town hall to fly the rainbow flag at such times.

But bisexuals suffer for being “lumped in” with LGBT all the time. Bisexuals’ experiences tend to differ not just from heterosexuals but from gay men and lesbians as well.

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How Brexit will ruin the British motorsport industry

F1 1Formula 1 motor racing is a major industry in the United Kingdom, and it is kind of something we can brag about. Between 2005 and 2015 every single world champion (bar one) drove a car which was designed, engineered and built in Britain. The Mercedes driven by Lewis Hamilton this season is built in Brackley near Silverstone, its engine and hybrid system comes from Brixworth near Northampton. This is just the tip of the iceberg, the British motorsport industry leads the world, it directly employs tens of thousands of highly skilled people across as many as 4,500 companies (probably more) and brings many billions of pounds into the UK economy.

The technologies being pioneered in Formula 1 have seen fuel efficiency improvements to levels which just two years ago were thought to be science fiction. These are gains which will in the near future be applied to mass market road cars around the world reducing CO2 emissions and pollutants across the board and all of these innovations are British.

But all of this is now under serious and immediate threat. The motorsport industry in the UK could be decimated by Brexit. Brexit you see means a lot more than Brexit (a made up word which first appeared in 2012) it means a substantial change to many areas of life and industry. Right now due to the dithering and indecision of our current leadership nobody really knows what the impact of Brexit will be, but it seems pretty obvious that the EU will take a tough stance against the UK as a lesson to other nations such as France and the Netherlands which are also considering their own futures in the union.

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Lord Dick Newby writes…We have more chance of breaking the mould of British politics than we had in 1981

House of Lords chamberIt was a great honour to be elected Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group in the Lords earlier this week. The challenge facing me and my colleagues is straightforward. How do we help the Party occupy as much as possible of the centre and centre left of British politics – ground which is currently vacant?

Obviously we can do our bit by trying to defeat or amend the worst of the Tory legislation. We face a Tory government unrestrained, Labour are not doing their job as the opposition. It is the Liberal Democrats who have to step up to the plate and be the real voice of opposition. We held the Government to account last session on tax credits, trade union reform and refugee children. We will seek to do so in coming months, for example on Investigatory Powers. And if we ever see any legislation promoting grammar schools, we can guarantee it a rough ride in the Lords.

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Conference Countdown 2016: Five things to do this weekend to prepare for Conference

This time next week, many of us will be heading down to Conference in Brighton. I won’t be as I have the particular joy of the 6:25 am flight from Edinburgh to look forward to on Saturday morning.

Here are some top tips for pre-conference preparation which will help you get the best out of the event. Once you are in the fast moving frenzy of our four days in Brighton, it’s difficult to find the space to take stock and plan. Putting the time in now to work out what you want to do will pay dividends.

So, here are a few things you can do this weekend to make sure you are properly prepared. In no particular order…

Get your ticket for the Lib Dem Disco

Cambridge Lib Dems have captured the Saturday evening conference market with their annual disco. It is hilarious, with guest DJs competing against each other. Last year Jo Swinson triumphed in spectacular style. Buzzfeed were there to report it all and take video, so don’t be under any misapprehension that what happens at Lib Dem Disco stays at Lib Dem Disco.

I came second to Alistair Carmichael in the DJ competition 2 years ago. I went slightly off-message with the Disco theme as we were in Scotland. I thought it might be a really good idea to get lots of people who may have had the odd wee drink doing the Gay Gordons at 11 o’clock at night. When I suggested this to the organisers, they replied: “Your proposal for carnage is appealing.”

In the end it was pretty civilised and, thanks to Paul Walter, there is video.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | 5 Comments

Reversing Conservative cuts remains the big social security challenge

The conference policy paper on “Mending the Safety Net” contains lots of good stuff on a wide range of welfare policy, even if I say so as a member of its working group. But, at Conference and beyond, I think it’s important not to get distracted from the big issue of the £13bn of cuts planned by the Conservatives. Reversing these – and indeed going further – is what will make the biggest difference to people’s lives, to UK inequality and even to the economy (and hopefully win a few votes in the process). Within this, here are three goals that the party should be fighting for.

Increasing working-age benefits in line with inflation – and ultimately earnings

George Osborne announced that most non-pensioner benefits would be frozen at their 2015 levels for 4 more years. Even before the Brexit vote, this was expected to be a massive drag on living standards. But inflation over the next few years is now expected to be higher than previously predicted – driven by rising import prices due to the weaker pound – and unemployment is predicted to rise too. This means the freeze will be even harsher than Osborne intended. And if the economy at any point needs a boost through fiscal policy, cutting the incomes of poorer households would be just about the worst policy you can think of, as The Economist recently noted.

So the party should be pressuring the new Chancellor to scrap the freeze and increase working-age benefits in line with inflation. But the policy paper goes further and argues that benefits should ultimately rise in line with average earnings – alongside a return to some form of housing cost link for Housing Benefit (soon to be part of UC). This would help ensure that when the economy and tax receipts are growing, everyone shares in that and inequality doesn’t widen. It may sound boring, but choices about benefit uprating in the long-term can compound to be more important than almost any other welfare or tax choice for poverty and inequality.

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Tim Farron MP writes…A Liberal Democrat plan for Britain in Europe

Today, I am announcing a plan to keep Britain at the heart of Europe. First and foremost, I believe the British people should be given the right to vote on the government’s negotiated Brexit deal.

Voting for a departure is not the same as voting for a destination. This is not an attempt to re-run the first referendum; we must respect the result. But the British people should be allowed to choose what comes next, to ensure it is right for them, their families, their jobs and our country. Our relationship with Europe affects our economy, our security, climate change, our influence in the world and so much more.

Until people get that choice, we will hold the Conservative Brexit Government to account and fight to make sure that Britain gets the best deal possible. So I am also setting out our approach on everything from the triggering of article 50 to the rights of EU citizens in the UK. While all the other parties are ducking these vital issues, we are tackling them head on. These questions are simply too important to ignore.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarChristian 27th Sep - 9:18am
    I'd like to think Hillary won however Donald Trumps task was not to make any glaring errors which could hurt him later on. In that...
  • User AvatarDavid Garlick 27th Sep - 9:03am
    The Labour Party in Chaos is hardly worth a mention unless we have the policies to attract voters. They may not wish to vote labour...
  • User AvatarDavid Garlick 27th Sep - 9:00am
    Clearly there are two things at play. One is the need for a leader in whom people can place there trust but secondly a Party...
  • User AvatarBill le Breton 27th Sep - 8:57am
    Further to Paul and Glen, see this tweet from Anne Applebaum this morning: Anne Applebaum [email protected] 1h1 hour ago When reading news reports this morning,...
  • User AvatarGlenn 27th Sep - 8:42am
    I've never been a fan of these TV debates. They seem very stage managed and stilted. One of the worst ideas we ever imported from...
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 27th Sep - 8:35am
    @ Manfarang, I was not interested in the politics. I don't want to get into the politics. It was not possible though to be unaware...