Tag Archives: featured

Opinion: This isn’t just an economic recovery, this is a Liberal Democrat economic recovery

IMF Head Christine Lagarde is the latest outside observer to praise Britain’s economic recovery. Sitting on a panel with George Osborne yesterday she praised the UK Government’s unyielding adherence to unprecedented austerity, the stern fortitude with which the harsh economic medicine had been delivered by an iron Chancellor, ignoring all calls for mercy…

Except no, she didn’t. In fact quite the opposite. Far from crediting unbending austerity for the UK’s exceptional recovery she applauded the UK Government for having shown flexibility and balance. She commended the UK for “adjusting to the economic reality in order to provide the right balance of spending cuts, revenue raising and in the order, in the proportion and in the pace that is appropriate to the economy.”

She’s right. For different reasons it often suits both Conservative and Labour voices to paint a picture in primary colours of undeviating adherence to Plan A. But this caricature is wrong. The reality is more nuanced and rather more Liberal Democrat. The Coalition has shown commendable flexibility, for example in reversing some of the capital spending cuts that were inherited from Labour once it became clear they were holding back the recovery. The Coalition has balanced cuts with carefully targeted stimulus. And above all it has been willing to forego substantial amounts of tax revenue and even slow the pace of austerity in order to help create jobs and encourage people to take them up.

This approach has worked. Liberal Democrat policies and influence have been at the heart of it. Three of the five key politicians deciding economic strategy in this Parliament have been Liberal Democrats. Liberal Democrats should be proud of this. It should be front and centre of our election campaign.

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Five observations about last night’s debate

I actually enjoyed last night’s BBC Debate much more than I expected. Sure, I was livid that Nick Clegg had been excluded, but it was the price that had to be paid for David Cameron taking part in any debates at all. It was an interesting affair. There was no huge drama but it was mostly conducted in reasonable style. Nicola got her chance to bid for a coalition, Ed got the chance to rebuff her so honour was satisfied on that score. Conservative spin doctors trying to extrapolate post election chaos from that display just looked silly.

It told only half a story, though. Each of the four smaller party leaders outlined their own narrow (and in the case of Farage abhorrent) interests. The ideal coalition partner, who would govern for the whole country with fairness, responsibility and respect for civil liberties was not in the room. We have his pitch, though. I just wish the party would put the speech he made at the manifesto launch on Wednesday on You Tube. Particularly this bit:

At its heart is one word that is absolutely central to what Liberal Democrats believe: opportunity. No matter who you are, where you were born, what sexuality or religion you are or what colour your skin is, you should have the same opportunity to get on in life. We want to tear down the barriers that stop you from reaching your potential. We want to smash the glass ceilings that keep you from achieving what you want to achieve. Your talent and your hard work, not the circumstances of your birth, should decide what you can be.

Here are five quick observations from me about last night’s event.

Nigel Farage was a disgrace

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Beware of Blukip

blukip

 

Nick Clegg has today been warning voters to Beware Blukip.

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Manifesto: What a Liberal Democrat United Kingdom would look like in 2020

Manifesto Lib Dem visionThe preamble to the manifesto looks at what Britain would look like in 2020 if Liberal Democrat policies were implemented. It certainly sounds like a country I want to live in. I am pleased to see that it is seen as a priority to tackle the culture of everyday sexism with decent, mandatory sex education.

I certainly like the look of our “five year plan” – although I might have preferred it if we didn’t call it something quite so Kremlinesque. Here it is in full. 

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Liberal Democrat manifesto – detailed costings published

The Liberal Democrats have published the detailed costings for their 2015 manifesto here.

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Nick Clegg: We don’t think it’s fair to make the poorest pay for the wealthiest

Nick clegg on Last LegAs David Cameron rolled out another Tory tax cut for the wealthiest in society, Nick Clegg showed where the Liberal Democrat heart lies by setting out Liberal Democrat plans to deal with the deficit without causing more hardship for the poorest. On welfare, the party intends to make £3.5 billion worth of cuts but these will be targeted at the wealthiest pensioners with the withdrawal of Winter Fuel Allowance and free tv licences from households with a higher rate taxpayer. He said that you have to look at who pays to see where a party’s values lie:

So who is asked to pay is one of the most revealing things a political party can tell you about its values

Who wins and who loses, who will make the sacrifices and who will reap the rewards, tells you where a party’s heart really lies.

The Conservatives appear to believe in making the poorest and the most vulnerable in our society pay for the wealthiest.

Labour appear to want the next generation to pay for the mistakes of this one.

The party is keen to show itself as the compassionate, responsible adult in the room when it comes to balancing the books. They have come up with a detailed plan which should appeal to both Labour-leaning and Conservative-leaning voters in key marginals – and both in Scotland where there is increasing evidence of people being prepared to vote tactically to stop the SNP.

Also included are plans to make non-doms pay more which make more sense than Labour’s garbled plan announced this week, and to reform the Barnett Formula to make it fairer to Wales.

Here is his speech in full:

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LBC Women’s Debate: Lynne Featherstone gets Harriet Harman to admit she’s “happy” with Rachel Reeves’ plans to be tougher than Tories on benefits claimants

Last night’s 90 minute LBC women’s debate was, on the whole, well-mannered, informative and a billion times better than anything Michael Fallon had had to say.

Lynne Featherstone was our representative,  Nicky Morgan represented the Tories, Diane James UKIP and Harriet Harman was there for Labour.

I liked the 5 minute “Ask me Anything” segments where each candidate had to ask questions of the others. If I’m going to criticise, some of the questions were too long. If you are going to ask an awkward question, make it brief and make your opponent squirm for longer. Harriet Harman did keep her question brief, though – she asked Lynne which thing that Labour did in government did she like most and which thing she’d voted for in the Coalition had made her feel most uncomfortable. Lynne praised Labour’s Equality Act and said the Bedroom Tax was the most difficult thing. She did remind Harriet that it was Labour who had introduced the principle into the benefit system. She added that Liberal Democrats had had to hold their nose and vote for things that they didn’t like, but we’d always made them better than they would have been.

When the tables were reversed, Lynne asked Harriet whether she agreed with Rachel Reeves’ comments  that Labour would be tougher than the Tories on benefits claimants. Iain Dale emphasised Lynne’s point by saying to Harman that she must have winced at that. But when reminded of Reeves’ comments, she said

If that’s what she said, I’m happy to go along with that. She’s absolutely excellent and she sees things as I do.

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Opinion: Why I’m voting Liberal Democrat on 7th May

With less than a month to go until the general election and postal voting starting next week I thought I would write a quick piece on why I’ll be voting Liberal Democrat on the 7th of May.

First of all I think the party shares my values more than any other. I care about public services, but I also care about taxes and being self-employed I don’t like overly burdensome regulation.

I care about both my security and my privacy and feel that I shouldn’t have to choose between one and the other.

I don’t want a party that favours privatisation so much that they are willing to sell assets or contracts on the cheap, or so against it that they are willing to run things inefficiently just so they can say they haven’t used any private firms.

Locally Liberal Democrats become embedded into their communities. Community politics is a fundamentally Liberal Democrat principle.

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A foreign-policy-free election?

RAF lightning II aircraft photo by defence imagesFor all its crudeness, the barrel bomb has to be one of the most brutally effective weapons around. An old oil drum, filled with that now all too familiar combination of explosives and steel detritus, dropped onto its fuse-laden nose from a helicopter, it seems, kills and maims in just the right proportions to terrorise those left behind.

It is little wonder, then, that the barrel bomb is Bashar al-Assad’s weapon of choice in his effort to wear down those parts of Syria with the impudence to have thought they could do better. It tells you all you need to know about the man that, having discovered that the wretched things seem to be particularly effective when aimed at young children, the regime, like so many despots before, has found schools to be an especially desirable target.

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The two most talked about things from last night’s Scottish Leaders’ debate and two things the press got wrong about Willie Rennie

At Wimbledon, you generally, if you’re lucky and it hasn’t been raining, get a day between matches. This isn’t the case for Scotland’s political leaders. After a two hour marathon on STV in Edinburgh last night, Nicola Sturgeon, Jim Murphy, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie head to Aberdeen where they will face another hour of debate, joined by the Greens’ Patrick Harvie and UKIP’s David Coburn. The moderator will be BBC Scotland’s James Cook, who took a bit of a pasting from cybernats for daring to suggest that he’s had SNP sources tell him that a Tory Government would be the best option for their independence cause.

Last night’s debate took place in the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. The format was a bit weird. There was a 20 minute session at the start where the moderator, Bernard Ponsonby, had a chat with some people in the audience and then put some questions to the leaders. Then they each had a 10 minute session on their own, giving a statement and taking 8 minutes of audience questions. That dragged a bit, to be honest. Then there was a 45 minute Question Time style free for all. It wasn’t as relaxed and well-behaved as the one at Glasgow University last month, but there were a few noteworthy moments. The most talked about on social media was the man in the crowd wearing a false moustache. Who could it be?

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The Independent View: An apology from 38 Degrees

On 26th March, the staff team at 38 Degrees posted an image to our Facebook page, attempting to simplify the confusing debate on pledges to fund the NHS. Unfortunately, we got the numbers jumbled up and drew criticism from several different political parties – including Lib Dems on this website. This is an apology and an attempt to explain where we went wrong.

Our graph compared NHS funding pledges for 2015-16 from the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour, against the additional £8bn of funding that NHS England says it needs by 2020. We ended up comparing apples and pears. Lib Dems quite reasonably complained that presenting the information in this way obscured their flagship pledge to match that £8bn target by 2020. Both Labour and Conservatives have avoided matching that pledge.

Labour supporters also complained. We showed the Labour figure on the graph as £2.5bn – based on their pledge of £2.5bn in the “time to care” fund. But Labour says this £2.5bn is additional funding – £2.5bn on top of what the government has already said it’ll spend. And it’s due to be realised much sooner than 2020 (though it seems it’s disputed exactly when). So they argued that their bar on the graph should have shown them £2.5bn higher than the Conservatives or Lib Dems. Meanwhile, some Green Party and UKIP supporters complained that we’d failed to feature their positions at all.

It’s extremely hard to compare like-for-like pledges on NHS funding, given the different timescales and assumptions on which each of the parties claims are based. It’s well nigh impossible to compare them through the medium of one, simple bar chart which conveys all the relevant information.

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged and | 12 Comments

In which Tim Farron shows excellent judgement

Tim Farron was interviewed on Sky News today from beautiful Kendal and did a fantastic job of talking up the party’s chances, saying Britain needed “moderate, sensible, compassionate” Liberal Democrats in government, deflected the leadership speculation stuff and showed excellent judgement when confronted with Paddy’s rather intemperate interview of a couple of weeks ago. He also talked about the difference Liberal Democrats can make in power, citing the example of his local Lib Dem councillors building 1000 council houses, making a massive difference for 1000 families despite the opposition of the Tories.  Enjoy:

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Swinson and Willott hail start of shared parental leave – but this isn’t the end of the work to be done on this issue

I’ve always said that shared parental leave is one of those policies that ticks all the stronger economy, fairer society and opportunity for everyone b boxes. It’s an entirely liberal thing to give people the choice as to what is right for them and their family rather than have the state dictate it for you.

Today is the day that this policy, first passed at Liberal Democrat conference in 2009, becomes a reality. Jo Swinson, the Minister who took the legislation through Parliament, had this to say:

This is a momentous step forward for families and for parents in work. Shared parental leave can make an incredibly positive difference in a child’s life and help both mums and dads make the best decisions for them and their families.

Men and women will no longer be tied to what history dictates their traditional roles should be with mum holding the baby while dad goes out to work.  Parenting is a shared endeavour and now dads have the opportunity to spend more time with their new baby in those vital early weeks.

Shared parental leave is my proudest achievement in government, and I’m delighted that it is now a reality.

The Liberal Democrats are the driving force behind this change, and we’re pushing to go further in the next parliament. We want to champion the role of dads, and triple paternity leave, giving all fathers an extra month to spend with their child.

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Nicola Sturgeon faces similar press trashing to Clegg in 2010 – but with added misogyny

I might have some fairly fundamental disagreements with Nicola Sturgeon on the best future for Scotland, but I have a great deal of time for her as a human being and as a politician. She is a much cleverer tactician than Alex Salmond ever was. I am perfectly happy to argue with people on their political outlook, but I’m not struck on the sort of nasty personal mudslinging that we see at PMQs, or in Labour’s deeply misleading personal attack on Nick Clegg last year and I sure as hell am not going to make up my mind how to vote based on how someone eats a bacon sandwich. Nor, I suspect, are the rest of the population.

It appears that after her very good performance in Thursday’s Leaders’ Debate that Nicola Sturgeon is, highly predictably, being done over by the right wing press in much the same way that Nick Clegg was in 2010. Remember Nick Barlow’s wonderful way of dealing with that – the #nickcleggsfault meme on Twitter where Clegg was blamed from everything to the weather to the cat being sick?

Of course, Nicola is getting much different treatment to a man. Her clothes come in to it. The Daily Fail describes her as a “glamorous power-dressing imperatrix.” Wow. A woman goes out wearing smart clothes. How remarkable. Of course, if she rocked up for FMQs in Parliament in her jeans, they’d have something to say about that, too. On appearance, women really can’t win.

The Telegraph’s splash is a bit different. Last night, when I read their account that she’d told the French ambassador that she’d prefer David Cameron to be Prime Minister, it didn’t seem right to me. Apart from anything else, the Nicola Sturgeon I know has more sense than to be so indiscreet. The paper bases its story on a memo written by a UK Government official who wasn’t even at the meeting in question and who actually doubts its veracity. It’s all very third hand and clearly questionable.

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Well, it is April 1st

We’re pleased many of you enjoyed our little prank today.  To maintain the joke we kept all most of the comments in moderation, but have now released them, so you can go back and see who fell for it.

For some readers the penny only dropped when they read our new comments policy for today.

Here is a round-up of some other April Fools that we liked across the media:

The Guardian tried to get us to believe that Jeremy Clarkson had turned environmental campaigner.

Pink News told us that Nick Clegg had joined Grindr for the duration of the election.

And scientists at Cern say May The Force be with EU.

Mark Pack had a beautifully crafted piece about how the party was using automated technology. The first part was almost plausible. we rumbled it at the robo-calling and the end is hilarious.

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38 Degrees get it badly wrong on Lib Dem funding for NHS – but don’t do nearly enough to put it right

Everyone makes mistakes. That’s a fact of life. However, when you do, you need to properly acknowledge it and make amends.

One of the key Liberal Democrat priorities for this election is that we would fund the £8 billion that the NHS in England needs. In fact, we’re spending more than that on health because  there are Barnett consequentials giving about another billion to Scotland and Wales. It’s not difficult to understand.

Last Thursday, campaign organisation 38 Degrees put up a graphic on its Facebook page which compared party’s pledges against what the NHS needed. The figure cited for the Liberal Democrats was just £2 billion, a mere quarter of what we intend to spend.  This has now been shared by over 1400 people and has been seen by many, many more.

Many people have pointed out the glaring error in their graphic. To each comment, the organisation has made an individual reply:

38 Degrees apology over NHS

 

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Former LGBT+ chair Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett becomes Britain’s first openly HIV positive candidate

Adrian Hyyrylainen-TrettI am feeling incredibly emotional this evening. What I’m feeling ranges from intense pride in a friend whose courage in telling his story will help others, to equally intense, ice-cold rage at what he has had to endure over the years. Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett is the Liberal Democrat candidate for Vauxhall. He is a former chair of LGBT+ Lib Dems. Tonight, he has spoken to Buzzfeed about the bullying he suffered at school, how this led him to contemplate suicide at the age of just 14 and how his mental health deteriorated during his early adult life. He tells how he contracted HIV 11 years ago.

The fact that Adrian’s health has improved, he has found happiness in his personal life and professional success will be an inspiration to other young people who are suffering in the same way. I understand a little bit of what it’s like to be that teenager everyone hates who thinks the world would be so much better without her. Except when I was a teenager, nobody talked about this kind of stuff and I thought I was alone and the feelings I had were because I was a bad person.

You need to read the whole interview. It’s powerful, eloquent and very, very frank.

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What is happening today, then?

 

At midnight last night Parliament was dissolved. Members of Parliament are expected to clear their desks and retreat to their constituencies, if they are re-standing, or to go and help new candidates.

But the country is not without Government. Ministers will continue to hold their posts right until a new Government is formed after the election, so we have the unusual sight, for Lib Dems, of some of our own remaining in power throughout the short election campaign.

photo by:
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Wow, Labour really are pandering to UKIP, aren’t they?

Didn’t they once used to be the party that talked about international solidarity amongst workers? Didn’t they once used to at least say they stood for decent, liberal, progressive values?

Those days are gone. Look what you can buy in their shop for £5. 

Labour immigration mug

It’s one of their key pledges in this election. The way to deal with UKIP’s rise is to challenge them with evidence, not pander to them.

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Alex Salmond postpones US book tour as Christine Jardine’s campaign goes from strength to strength

Salmond New YorkThe Herald reports that Alex Salmond has postponed a trip to the US to promote his book which had, incredibly, been due to take place in just 10 days’ time, after the start of the general election campaign.

His publishers pencilled in signings in New York and Toronto for the week after next, during the annual Scotland Week festivities.

Banff & Buchan MP Eilidh Whiteford was also lined up to appear at a hustings in Gordon, where Mr Salmond is the SNP candidate, during his absence.

Jean Marie Kelly of HarperCollins in New York said yesterday: “Unfortunately, we only have him in Toronto for one day and in New York for one day so a very whirlwind trip.

“We are just firming the exact dates and times, but all indications are the week of April 6.”

However after press enquiries to the SNP, Mr Salmond’s plans melted away.

His rival candidates in Gordon said a transatlantic tour mid-election would have demonstrated an ego “spiralling out of control”.

What’s interesting is that there seems to be some new law of the universe that requires every mention of Salmond’s book to be accompanied by Paddy Ashdown’s memorable review of it. The Liberal Democrat election chair said that the book was:

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We’re heading for a minority Labour government backed by the SNP

whitehall
The Guardian have a very useful web page called Election 2015: The Guardian poll projection. On it, each day, they update their state-of-the-parties graph with the latest polling data, which then flows into an infographic showing the parliamentary arithmetic and possible government options after May 7th.

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Clegg launches Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation

I think it’s fair to say that Nick Clegg may not exactly rock the tracksuit look, but he did do something very valuable today. In one of his last engagements as Deputy Prime Minister before the election campaign, he launched the Charter for Mental Health in Sport and Recreation aimed at kicking the mental health stigma out of sport. The video explains why:

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What Danny Alexander would say to his successor: “Jobs up, growth up, economy up, don’t screw it up”

We all remember the rather pathetic note that Labour’s last Chief Secretary to the Treasury left for his successor.

no money left

“I’m afraid there is no money left” he said. And he wasn’t a million miles from the truth.

Danny Alexander was asked yesterday at an event what he would put in a note to his successor. His reply was a little more, shall we say, motivating and inspiring, as the Vote Clegg, Get Clegg Facebook page reports:

At a meeting yesterday with Danny Alexander on the panel, he was asked what he would say in a note to his successor. Brilliant reply: “Jobs up, Growth up, Economy up, don’t screw it up”!

Posted by Vote Clegg, Get Clegg on Tuesday, 24 March 2015

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The attacks on Tim Farron need to stop – Vince Cable should know better

Tim Farron Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterNot even a charming account of his Friday dance class as reported by Buzzfeed’s Emily Ashton can assuage my annoyance with Vince Cable this morning. I have to say that he is an unusual candidate for my ire. His work rate of good, decent, liberal stuff in this parliament from stopping the Tories allowing employers to hire and fire people at will to strengthening consumer rights, tackling payday lenders and bringing in shared parental leave has been excellent. His economic wisdom and willingness to call out the Tories on their silly immigration targets has been much appreciated, as has his honesty about the realities of being in coalition with the Tories.

But he’s been the target of enough critical press briefings over the past five years to be aware of how destructive they can be. The fact that he’s prepared to put his name to trashing Tim Farron’s reputation and prospects doesn’t make it that much better. Speaking about the interview in which Farron was reported as saying that he’d give 2/10 for our handling of some aspects of the coalition (which is so totally out of character for Tim that I doubt its accuracy), Vince said:

“It wasn’t at all helpful,” Cable says bluntly. “I mean, he’s a very good campaigning MP, but he’s never been in government and has never had to make difficult decisions and I think his credibility isn’t great. You know, he’s an entertaining speaker and has a bit of a fan club. But I suspect he would not be seen as a very credible leader, at least now. Maybe in five, 10 years’ time, things are different.”

Credible politicians must be more consensual than extreme if they want to get things done, Cable suggests. He says pointedly: “The closer we get to an election and the more uncertain it seems, the more people will want people who are seen to be competent and reliable.”

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Landmark report makes powerful case for Lords and party funding reform

The Oxford University Department of Economics have just published a discussion paper entitled “Is there a market for peerages? Can donations buy you a British peerage? A study in the link between party political funding and peerage nominations 2005-14“. The authors are Andrew Mell, Simon Radford and Seth Thévoz

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Tim Farron MP writes…The British people deserve more than Cameron’s weak leadership on EU

European FlagThis week marks David Cameron’s last European Council as Prime Minister before the General Election and let’s hope he avoids one last blunder. It is easy to forget, given the endless Tory arguments on Europe over the past five years, that in opposition David Cameron’s ambition was for the Conservative Party to “stop banging on about Europe”. This summarises Cameron’s position well – he is simply not interested and sees the EU purely as a party management issue. If the issue of Europe is quiet then it’s a good bet that Tory backbenchers will be too.

But this abdication of leadership has caused repeated humiliations for the Prime Minister and allowed the ranks of Tory backbenchers to drive the agenda, leaving their leader looking weak, lacking in ideas and clueless.

Constantly bullied from the back benches, Cameron has time and again stirred from his self-imposed slumber, woken up too late and then mistakenly “taken a stand” before being humiliated. Famously he “vetoed” a new EU treaty in December 2011 but the result was not the triumph he portrayed – the rest of the EU went ahead anyway and concluded the treaty without the UK, leaving a legacy of bitterness in its wake and representing a low point in British diplomacy.

photos by: rockcohen & rockcohen
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The Liberal Democrats could well be on course to improve our vote share to seats “bangs for the buck”

In the 2010 election, the Liberal Democrats were 14%, or a seventh, less effective at harnessing our vote share to win seats than we were in 2001. If you look at my table below you’ll see that, since 1983, 2001 was our best year for converting vote share into seats.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 44 Comments

Budget open thread

 

We will not be live blogging the Budget as there are plenty of other sources of live information. But readers are very welcome to add their own reflections in the comments section below.

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‘Almost certain that Tim Farron will be leader later this year’ – Stephen Tall

Tim Farron Nick Clegg 2010 Photo by Liberal Democrats Alex Folkes Fishnik photography

With his usual uncanny knack and impeccable insight Stephen Tall is bang on the money over on PoliticsHome:

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Thanks Liverpool!

image

My photo of the stage at the replica Cavern Club, The Beatles Story, Liverpool.

When we visit a city for a conference, it has a significant positive impact on the local economy of that area. Our arrival is very well flagged up in advance with posters and publicity. Then when we arrive everyone knows we’re there due to the extra security presence and hordes of…..well let’s just say unusual looking people with yellow badges and bundles of papers wandering around.

Much of the time during the conferencee, the representatives are charging around like blue-bottomed flies chasing to the next debate or meeting.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 5 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarNick Collins 18th Apr - 8:05pm
    Perhaps you should have said "existing entrail": just a gut feeling on my part.
  • User Avatarstuart moran 18th Apr - 8:05pm
    George Crozier I am sure that you mean well but there seems to be a fairly broad consensus amongst academic economists that the austerity in...
  • User AvatarJonathan Pile 18th Apr - 8:02pm
    Great to see these photos - a good day to connect
  • User AvatarPeter Watson 18th Apr - 8:01pm
    @Peter Salmond "this issue is only fixed by looking into the long term and putting your ‘idealist’ hat on" The NUS could argue that this...
  • User AvatarStuart 18th Apr - 7:59pm
    Tabman "You mean apart from the constant screams of betrayal from the left because we had the temerity to choose a coalition partner that wasn’t...
  • User AvatarGeorge Crozier 18th Apr - 7:43pm
    Comment 5 Bill Le Breton - certainly agree with you about the damage uncertainty over UK EU membership is doing. I’m not sure I see...
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