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Tim Farron’s email to party members on Syria

This has just come through from Tim Farron:

The decision every politician dreads is whether or not to send brave servicemen and women into military action in defence of our country.

When the Government asked MPs to support extending airstrikes into Syria in 2013 to target Assad, I refused to provide that support. I was not convinced at that time our intervention was properly effective, nor that it would be backed by a diplomatic effort to establish a lasting peace or prevent more suffering than it caused.

In response to that deep-rooted scepticism last time, I wrote to the Prime Minister last week together with Nick Clegg, Paddy Ashdown, Ming Campbell, Kirsty Williams and Willie Rennie setting out five principles against which the Liberal Democrats believe the case for extension of military action against ISIL in Syria should be based.

It is my judgement that, on balance, the five tests I set out have been met as best they can. I will therefore be asking my parliamentary colleagues to join me in the lobby to support this motion.

I have written in more length about how I have reached my decision. I hope you will take the time to read it here (note: and copied at the end of this post).

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++LDV Members’ Survey on Syria – 67% oppose airstrikes now BUT…(and it’s a big but..)

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think about whether Liberal Democrat MPs should support air strikes against Daesh in Syria. 975 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

We wanted to test feeling in the party about whether and in what circumstances members would back airstrikes in Syria. Over two thirds said that they would oppose them in current circumstances, with less than a quarter in favour. However, when we looked at a Syria where there was a real post war plan, or a more coherent army of ground forces to support, that changed radically, with most members who expressed a preference supporting using UK air power to defeat Daesh. Only 10.7% of people agreed that we should never back airstrikes, with 75% answering “no” to that question.

There is very strong backing for Tim Farron’s Five Tests, with two thirds of members saying that they were “about right.”

Here are the answers in full:

Do you think that Liberal Democrat MPs should vote to back UK airstrikes in Syria in the following circumstances:

Before a wider solution to the Syrian Civil War is in place (ie now)

Yes 24.31%

No  67.18%

Don’t know 8.51%

As part of an agreement with other states to end the war

Yes 56.51%

No 31.28%

Don’t know  12.21%

Only to support a wide coalition of ground troops

Yes  46.46%

No  35.28%

Don’t know 18.26%

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Tim Farron writes… continuing the fight against the affordable homes flog off


I made it clear over the summer and in my conference speech that housing and homelessness would be a top priority for me as leader. I said we would oppose the Right to Buy extension to Housing Associations and fight the Government tooth and nail in the Lords.

The fight is now well underway. I have been speaking in Parliament and will continue to lead our campaign in the House of Commons. After Christmas the legislation will be debated in the Lords, where our Lib Dem team will aim to cause the Government serious problems – which they have shown us in the last few weeks that they can do!

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Willie Rennie’s message for St Andrew’s Day – a plea to help refugees

Saltire and Forth BridgeToday is St Andrew’s Day. Here is Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie’s message to the people of Scotland:

Our Patron Saint was born in the village of Bethsaida, a short distance from the troubles in today’s Syria.  As we celebrate St Andrew’s day this year, millions of people across Syria and the Middle East need our help.

Last week I visited an Edinburgh charity which has been collecting clothes for refugees who have made the perilous journey from Syria to Europe.

In many respects they embody the values that St Andrew taught. Tolerance. Generosity. Openness. We need Scotland’s two governments to follow their example.

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The case for Syrian air-strikes: not overwhelming, but strong enough

In the early hours of 21 August 2013, rockets began to land in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. The civilian population of Syria had now become used to this, since Bashar al-Assad had decided over 2 years earlier that in response to a peaceful uprising against his totalitarian rule he would prosecute the most brutal military campaign by a ruler against his people that this century has seen. But this attack was different: the rockets were filled with sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent.

When the images of the hundreds of people killed and thousands injured began to circulate, there was international outrage of a level not so far seen in the Syrian Civil War. Momentum gathered for a military response. Obama’s red line had been crossed. Enough was enough.

Only it wasn’t. Obama dithered. Miliband played politics. Assad survived to kill another day.

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Liberal Democrats should campaign against benefits “rape clause”

George Osborne’s decision not to impose the cuts to tax credits may be welcome but in many cases is only putting off the agony. As research from the Resolution Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows, working families with children still stand to lose more than £1300 a year, more than £100 every month. Nick Clegg spelled this out when he was in Oldham campaigning for Jane Brophy this week:

He’s just delaying it by smuggling the cuts into Universal Credit. I think we played an important role and a leading role in firstly, identifying the problem and then opposing it unambiguously.

I wasn’t (surprised at the decision). But they’re doing half a beastly thing instead of a beastly thing.

Actually, it’s more of a beastly thing than that. The cap on the childcare element at 2 children remains and, with it, an issue which was first highlighted by SNP MP Alison Thewliss back in July. There is a rather sinister devil in the detail which has not been removed by the Autumn Statement, the so-called “rape clause.”

This says:

the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC will develop protections for women who have a third child as a result of rape or other exceptional circumstances

Someone sitting in an office in Whitehall has actually thought this, written it down and others have presumably thought it was practical enough to include. I actually despair.

So, how exactly is a woman supposed to prove that she has been raped, given that conviction rates are so low? Alison Thewliss has repeatedly questioned the Chancellor on how exactly this will be implemented, most recently after the Autumn Statement on Wednesday. Osborne replied:

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Making the right decision on Syria

In some ways, the decision on whether to back the Government’s proposals to bomb Syria is one of the hardest the party has ever had to take. I’ll be honest, I don’t think that the case has been properly made in either long term strategy for Syria or in protecting the innocent civilians, many of whom are women and children. That is not to say that I can’t be persuaded. This is no Iraq where for months beforehand I just instinctively felt that it was the wrong thing to do. It’s a very complex set of circumstances and it’s very much a case of making a judgement call on the least worst option.

This piece is not about the rights and wrongs of the situation, though. It’s how we reach our position and how we conduct ourselves before, during and after. There have been things that have impressed me in the past few days, and things that have set off a few alarm bells. Tim Farron has not, I think, put a foot wrong. His reasoned approach with his five tests give credibility and authority and, unlike any other party, has given the government serious questions to answer. He has also been seriously engaging with people on Twitter and offline too.

From what I can see, the Liberal Democrat members seem to be pretty evenly split on whether to support airstrikes. There are sincerely held and well-argued points of view on both sides. So how do we get to a decision we can all live with? There are a couple of things that I think would help and a few things creeping in occasionally that certainly don’t. 

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Farron on HIGNFY: Live blog

Tim Farron on HIGNFY It’s almost 9pm and time for this week’s hotly awaited Have I got News for You. Have you got your popcorn and glass of wine ready? We’re about to be off…

So Tim’s on Paul’s team..

If you are only just seeing this now and haven’t watched the programme, you can do so here on iPlayer.

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Stephen Tall’s Diary: liberal jottings on the week’s big events

Spending Revue Reviewed

‘You make your own luck,’ goes the saying. In which case, and only in this respect, George Osborne truly has started a “march of the makers” because he’s one hell of a lucky Chancellor. Had the independent Office for Budget Responsibility not lavished on him a £27 billion fiscal (and notional) windfall, this week’s Autumn Statement would have been far more wintry. As it was, he was able to play out the role of Santa, albeit a very Tory version: snatching away fewer of the kids’ presents in order to re-gift them to their grandparents. For this was a spending review which confirmed this Government stands shoulder-to-shoulder with pensioners (who vote, in droves) while shrugging its shoulders at the plight of the younger, working poor (who often don’t vote, and if they do probably vote Labour anyway).

Yes, the tax credit cuts were jettisoned for now — take a bow all those who’ve campaigned against them because it took concerted action to persuade the House of Lords and a few Tory MPs with a social conscience to stand up to this government — but, really, they’ve just been deferred. Once universal credit has been implemented (assuming that Godot-like day ever arises) the Resolution Foundation calculates eligible working families with children will be £1,300 a year worse off (even taking into account the so-called ‘national living wage’ and planned increases in the tax-threshold). Which might sound bad, but that average actually conceals far worse news for some. For instance, a single mum working part-time on the minimum wage will receive £2,800 a year less by 2020 under the Tories’ plans, while a working couple on the minimum wage with three kids will lose out to the tune of £3,060. Meanwhile the pensions ‘triple lock’ (of which Lib Dems have often boasted) will guarantee that pensioner benefits grow to more than half of all welfare spending.

Gone are the days when the Lib Dems could require a distributional analysis to ensure the pain of cuts was shared around to ensure that, as far as possible, Britain was all in it together. It’s George’s Show now. It’s just a shame some of his luck won’t rub off on those “hard-working families” he’s soon going to clobber.

Rational actors

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Join drive for new kindertransport to save refugee children from Syria

Tim Farron has written a moving, compassionate and persuasive article for Jewish News in which he calls for an initiative to help bring Syrian refugee children to safety in the same way as Jewish children under threat from the Nazis were brought to Britain in the 1930s.

In 2014, of the 13,000 unaccompanied children who were registered in Italy alone, 4,000 of them went missing. Refugee and migrant children in these circumstances are incredibly vulnerable, and there is a real risk that these missing children were subject to trafficking, forced labour and exploitation. Europe cannot continue to let this happen. If the UK government will step up and accept just 3,000 of these children, who have been processed by UNHCR and have been confirmed as having no identifiable family, then we can go on to press the rest of Europe, and indeed the world’s, governments to do the same.

Every politician in this country is agreed the Kindertransport, which brought over unaccompanied Jewish children from Germany in 1938, was the right thing to do. Now we need a new Kindertransport to save another group of vulnerable children, and send a clear signal of the renewal of the British values of which we are so proud.

He started off by wondering what it would take for him to leave his life and all he knows to seek refuge in a strange place:

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Brian Paddick writes… Chairman Mao might have backed Labour’s ID card plans, but Lib Dems won’t

In the House of Lords today, Labour tried to resurrect the National Identity Card scheme with some support from the Conservative benches. The Government Home Office minister countered that it was too expensive and ineffective in that those we would most want to carry an ID card are the least likely to carry them.

Liberal Democrats object to the compulsory carrying of identity cards on principle, as an infringement of the liberty and the right to privacy of those lawfully going about their business but there are other reasons why a national identity scheme should remain dead and buried.

Not one of the tragic deaths or horrific injuries inflicted by terrorists in recent times in the UK could have been prevented had a national identity card scheme been in place.  The identities of the bombers and would-be bombers of the London transport system in 2005 were quickly established. The identities of the murderers of Lee Rigby were never an issue.

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Liblink: Tim Farron on the five things Lib Dems want to see in the Spending Review


Tim Farron has been writing today in the Huffington Post.

The simple fact is that nearly half of the cuts George Osborne will make aren’t necessary to get spending under control. Instead that are motivated by an ideological drive to shrink the state. That’s a big departure from the decisions Liberal Democrats took in Coalition.

He outlines the five things that he would like to see in the review:

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Tim Farron MP writes: We need a holistic approach to eliminate domestic violence once and for all

Today is the Comprehensive Spending Review and all eyes will be on The Chancellor. However, it is also the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, marking an issue that affects all of us in the UK and across the globe.

Here in the UK domestic violence continues to be a horrific, often hidden scar on our society. Websites such as Counting Dead Women are a terrible reminder of the human cost of violence against women. Figures show that one in four women will suffer domestic abuse in their lifetime and two women are killed by partners each week. It is incomprehensible to me that more isn’t being done to eliminate this abhorrent crime.

We need to make sure that women feel they can speak out and get the help they need so they aren’t left trapped in their own homes. Women’s Aid have said that on average a woman will have suffered 35 separate incidents of domestic violence before going to the police. We need to ask ourselves why.

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Farron’s five tests to secure Lib Dem support for UK action in Syria

Falling on David Cameron’s desk this afternoon is a letter signed by all current and living former leaders of the Liberal Democrats in which they outline the five key tests the Government must pass in order to secure the party’s support for airstrkes in Syria.

Here is the letter in full:

In advance of your statement outlining your plan for military intervention against ISIL in Syria, we are writing to outline the criteria against which we will judge our response to your proposals.

As you will know our party has maintained a consistent position that airstrikes alone will not defeat ISIL in Syria. Deployment of lethal force should never be used simply as a gesture. It has to have effect, and to have effect it has to be part of a wider strategy, especially on the diplomatic front.

We are encouraged by the fact that the Government has at last decided to explain the details of that strategy and look forward to hearing what this is.

The five conditions below give the UK the best chance at having an effective strategy to counter ISIL and make serious progress in ending the Syrian civil war. We call on you to embed them into your plans before they are brought to the House of Commons on Thursday.

These conditions are:

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Baroness Ros Scott writes…Up for the new challenge

Liberals from across Europe have been meeting in Budapest for the annual Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe,  including a sizeable delegation of Lib Dems led by Party President Sal Brinton.

ALDE has 55 member parties from across the continent,  49 members of the European Parliament, 5  European Commissioners and 7 Prime Ministers. There’s also a local government group in the shape of Committee of the Regions, and a network of Liberal Mayors.

A recent decision to trial an individual membership scheme has gone from strength to strength, with over 1,500 joining up already.

On Saturday, after a intense campaign, I was lucky enough, and honoured, to be elected as one of the new Vice-Presidents of ALDE,  which means serving as a member of governing body, the Bureau.

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Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Our best weapons against terrorism are unity, tolerance and compassion

Last Friday’s sickening Paris attacks shocked us all. They weren’t just attacks on France, but attacks on our shared values and way of life. Seeing such horrific tragedy being inflicted on a city that so many of us associate with joy, love and freedom has been deeply upsetting. At the same time, it has been profoundly moving to see the courage and resilience of the French people and the solidarity shown with them from around the world, including in the UK.

When emotions run high, it is important that our responses are made with great care and with a cool head. Most of all, we must remember that the central aim of these attacks was to sow division and conflict in our societies.

Provoking resentment against refugees and Muslims, as is being done by the likes of the Daily Mail with its despicable cartoon likening refugees to rats, is exactly what these terrorists want. This fosters a cycle of prejudice and hatred, playing into the hands of the far right and extremists across Europe. We as Liberals must not fall into this trap, but fight it at every turn.

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Stephen Tall’s Diary: liberal jottings on the week’s big events

Labour pains

“Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns.” So said every liberal’s fantasy US president, Jed Bartlett – surely someone in Team Corbyn is a West Wing fan? Clearly not, or they might have advised the Labour leader not to think-out-loud in TV interviews this past week, especially when the thoughts which frothed forth were so, well, thoughtless. Of course it would have been “far better” if Mohammed Emwazi (“Jihadi John”) had been tried in a court of law. It’s just that the absence of an extradition treaty with Isis makes that a bit of a challenge (unless Jezza’s up for a bit of cheeky rendition). And of course no-one is “happy” with the idea of a shoot-to-kill policy being operated by the UK police or security services — but, then, that isn’t the actual policy.

What the last week has revealed is that Corbyn is incapable of moving beyond the glib agitprop sloganeering of hard-left oppositionalism. That’s probably not surprising after 32 years as a backbencher never having (or wanting) to take responsibility for a tough decision. But it remains disastrous for the Labour party, which needs a plausible prime minister as its leader, and disastrous for the country, which needs a plausible alternative government. I’ll confess a sliver of me is enjoying the schadenfreude of watching Labour self-immolate as a result of the self-indulgent stupidity of its membership in handing the leadership to someone painfully obviously unfit for the office. But the responsible part of me knows that, for all our sakes, Labour needs to get real again, and quickly.

Time for Tim

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Tim Farron’s full speech on the economy: the radical gems that weren’t in the extracts

In days of yore, 6 months ago, if the Liberal Democrat leader made a keynote speech on the economy, the journos would be there in force. While there was a bit of coverage on the Guardian and BBC, it was nowhere like it used to be. So, I guess that means it’s up to us, and by us I mean all Liberal Democrats, to get the word out. The first section of this piece has some commentary on the speech and the full text is at the bottom.

The trails sent out last night in my opinion missed out the best bits of the speech. The whole thing covered a huge amount of ground from entrepreneurship to mass migration to climate change to inter-generational fairness to massive investment in infrastructure to housing. There were also some key elements that weren’t there quite as strongly as I’d have liked, for example on the living wage and tackling poverty and inequality. He spoke of these things in his Beveridge Lecture to the Social Liberal Forum two years ago.

He cast the Liberal Democrats as the party of small business, innovation and creativity, while the Conservatives were the party of corporatism:

The fact is that the Tories aren’t really pro-free market capitalism at all.  They are pro-corporate capitalism.

They are there to fight not for entrepreneurs, not for innovators who oil the wheels of the market, but for the status quo.

In recent years, a common criticism of the Liberal Democrats is that we have been way too establishment. Tim Farron sets out that we are no such thing, likening us to entrepreneurs as the insurgents:

So I say “let the Tories be the Party of huge complacent corporations”

The Liberal Democrats will be the Party of Small Business, the party of wealth creators, the insurgents, the entrepreneurs.

And there’s a good section about challenging power, government or corporate:

We are in politics for precisely the opposite reasons to the Tories: to challenge orthodoxy and challenge those with power, while they support orthodoxy and established power – in business, just as in politics.

Because here is the truth – it doesn’t matter if it is big government or big business, the fact remains, too much power in the hands of too few people means a bad deal for everyone else.

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Lynne Featherstone writes… Tories’ huge backward step on climate change

A few wind turbines
Today the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, will give a speech to update us all on the Government’s energy policy. What she will say has been widely trailed and it contains some seriously bad news.

The last six months have seen a relentless and systematic unravelling of the excellent work done by Ed Davey to develop the green economy. The Government is now going one step further to deprioritise decarbonisation as a main goal, in favour of making energy security its number one priority. It does not seem to realise it is possible to deliver on both.

Amber Rudd will say she plans to curb the growth of renewable industries even further, with the logical conclusion that there must be an increase in nuclear and gas to meet energy needs. This means expensive subsidies paid to other countries, rather than investment in renewables in the UK, and also fracking.

The most baffling aspect of the Government’s abandonment of the renewable sector is the fact there is such a strong business case for investing in green industries. We might understand their actions if it was just about environmental concern, which Conservatives have never been strong on, and we know of the power wielded by backbench climate-change deniers and fossil fuel lobbyists. But to ignore the long-term economic case in favour of short-term cash gains is extraordinary. The UK has been a world leader in this sector and continuing to invest and develop these job-creating industries while we have a competitive advantage and while the costs of producing renewable energy are plummeting is simply good economic sense.

photo by: vaxomatic
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Tim Farron MP writes…If we allow fear to win, then really we have lost


In the aftermath of the atrocities on Friday, my thoughts remain with the families of those killed and injured. As the world watches on in collective horror and mourning, the families and friends of those who are lost will be dealing with their own private grief, and among the discussions of international response and foreign policy consequences we must not forget that each of the 129 who have died is a personal tragedy as well as a global one.

As events unfolded over the weekend the political stage was crowded, in most cases with people simply responding to events, but also with those desperately using it to justify their own positions or forward their own agendas.

It is critical that political leaders here in the UK fight the temptation to do the same, and instead work together to understand the facts before attempting to state with confidence what should or shouldn’t be done, at home and abroad, in response to the attacks.

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Solidarity with Paris

French flag

For the second time in ten months, we have been shocked by events in Paris.

People doing what we are all lucky enough to be able to do on a Friday night – head out for a meal, to a football match, to a gig – meet death and violence.

I just felt heartbroken watching events unfold last night, thinking of all those people, of the emergency services coming to their aid, of President Hollande, whose shocked face spoke for us all, for those waiting for news of their loved ones.

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Liberal jottings: Stephen Tall’s weekly notebook

Status Quo’s winning record

Painful though it might be for liberals to admit the fact, Britain is a fundamentally conservative country. Opposition is more often expressed with a tut or a sceptically-arched eyebrow than a revolution. And then things generally revert to how they were before. Which is why, though I’m more careful these days about predicting what will happen next in British politics, I remain sure ‘remain’ will win the EU referendum.

A few years ago, after our AV knock-back, I looked back at the history of referendums in this country (starting with the first ever UK plebiscite, the 1973 Northern Ireland sovereignty referendum). Doing so, I formulated what I’m going to call Tall’s Law in the hope it catches on (though Tall’s Rule of Thumb would be more accurate): “the public will vote for the status quo when asked in a referendum except when the change proposed in a referendum is backed by a coalition of most/all the major parties”. Come the EU referendum, we will see the Conservatives and Labour (to one degree or another) as well as the Lib Dems united in favour of Britain’s continuing EU membership. Sure, take nothing for granted — but a defeat for ‘remain’ would be an unprecedented occurrence. And precedent is a very British custom, for better and worse.

Burnham down

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London Region elections: Peter Ramrayka’s pitch for Chair

Peter Ramrayka for London Regional Chair for Continuity and Expertise – Grounded and Rounded

1. The ASKS of the Region
As we start the fight back The priorities of the Region must include: Looking at different ways to maximize campaigning; identifying fundraising streams to support our activities; working on maximizing the involvement of new members and in the process developing a distinctive London voice; supporting local parties and energetically working on diversity in all forms so that we truly reflect London’s demographics. A significant additional feature for the Regional Executive is to have a balance between old and new members- the former providing continuity and “institutional knowledge”, especially for the more prominent positions and the latter infusing the group with new ideas and challenges. The Chair’s position should be someone who has recent and direct experience of the key challenges of the Region, the ability to hit the ground running mindful of the imminence of the GLA elections, the ability to work well with and support the candidates on the GLA list, in particular the top three and some of the traditional chair’s skill of leadership, time commitment, communications and judgment.

How do I fit into those asks? – Meeting the Person Spec

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London Region Elections: Anuja Prashar’s pitch for Chair

I am standing for Chair of London region because after the European and local elections 2014 and GE 2015 election, Liberal Democrats need committed support and dedicated focus to rebuild local party capacity for important elections coming up in the next 3 years. The Chair will have a pivotal role, to build up local party teams for a series of campaigns, by providing them the resources and support needed to take their energy and turn it into election wins.

I have served as Chair of my local party for 3 years, executive of London region for 3 years, stood in a council by-election 2012, campaigned all over London as European list candidate 2013-2014, PPC in GE 2015, worked on several policy working groups and worked at many levels of the party – including chairing the GLA selection committee 2015 and representing Lib Dems at ALDE policy groups in Brussels. I have also seen what our new members can do if given the right institutional support at the local level. I have complete conviction that Lib Dems in London can regain and indeed acquire new political territory over the next 3 years. 

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London Region elections: Chris Maines’ pitch for Chair

The party has entered a new phase in our history, recovering from the electoral fallout of coalition, a new Leader, new members and a renewed determination to build a more tolerate and Liberal society.  Our first test in London will be the high profile Mayoral and Assembly elections. We have probably our best ever team, led by the experienced and highly regarded Caroline Pidgeon. For the first time Caroline, as our Mayoral candidate tops a well-balanced regional list to ensure a campaign focused on improving our representation at City Hall.  A London-wide election is always a challenge to the region; it needs to find the resources, fight for media coverage and ensure consistent messages across the capital. It is also a great opportunity to ensure we campaign in areas not used to Liberal Democrat activity and to motivate our thousands of new members.

I am confident that the Liberal Democrats will do surprising well in London next May. We will demonstrate to the media and the public we are back.

The role of regional Chair and regional party is look beyond the next 6 months. It needs to build the foundations for local parties to win back support, councillors, MEPs and MPs over the next 5 years. I have three priorities

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Tim Farron writes… Liberal Democrats can and must oppose a snoopers’ charter

snowdenLast week, Theresa May finally published the Investigatory Powers Bill. It isn’t surprising it has taken her so long to come back with a new Bill after we blocked her first attempt in 2012. At the time, I said the Liberal Democrats can and must oppose a Snoopers’ Charter. The 2012 bill was a disproportionate invasion of all our privacy, forcing internet service providers to keep a record of all your texts, emails and every website you visited.

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Scottish Party elections: Sheila Thomson: My pitch for Convener

I am seeking election as Convener of the Scottish Liberal Democrats because I believe Scotland needs a strong Liberal Democrat party at all levels of representation from our individual communities, local authorities and Scottish, Westminster and European parliaments. To achieve this we need to ensure our party here in Scotland has a strong team supporting our members and the communities we live and work in, including the Scottish Executive, political leadership and staff team.

I have been a life-time supporter of liberalism, and I have a track record of over twenty years of party activism, working at all levels within the Scottish Party. I joined the Liberal Democrats because they were and remain the only truly liberal party, where we believe in allowing individuals to make their own choices, whilst ensuring that there is a safety net to help those who cannot manage without support.

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Scottish Party elections: Willie Wilson: My pitch for Convener

It is a privilege to have been nominated for the post of Convener of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. We find ourselves at a difficult time for the Party. Our electoral base, both at Holyrood and Westminster has been eroded and at Local Government significantly reduced since the last Local Government Elections. I have no illusions that the challenges we face are enormous, however, they need to be tacked with hard work, determination, co-ordination and targeting. This will help us tackle effectively the financial, electoral and organisational challenges we face. The Leadership of the Party needs to be a spearhead in this process. I consider that I have got the necessary experience, knowledge and skills to tackle the post of Convener.

The work will not be easy and will require a huge amount of effort from Office Bearers, MSPs, our MP, Local Councillors and activists throughout the country. I have now been a Party Member since 1966 and a Councillor since 1980. I currently am Chairman of the Association of Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners, Vice-Chairman of the Conference Committee, Chair of the Mid-Scotland and Fife Region and Secretary to our local party in Perth and Kinross. I also play an active role as a Returning Officer for the Party. Clearly, if I were to win the election for Convener, this workload would be reviewed!

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Reprise: For Remembrance Sunday, some reflections on my visit to the Tower of London poppies

It’s a year since I wrote the post below, but I wanted to repeat it this year partly because that brief hour at the Tower of London has stayed with me. The symbolism was compelling and should make us all think about the reality of war and what everyone affected by it goes through.

Poppies through BridgeLast Monday I was down in London for a meeting and had an hour spare to nip down to the Tower of London to see the poppy installation where 888,246 ceramic poppies have been laid out in an act of remembrance for all those who died in the First World War.

I found it incredibly moving. The atmosphere was one of humble quiet reflection. You know when you normally go to things, people can be pushing and shoving and trying to get the best view. Actually, here, everyone was respectful, giving each other space, despite the massive crowds.

I think what got me more than anything was seeing that this huge sea of red, made up of individual stems, symbolised one part of one side who lost their lives in the First World War.

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Making Liberal Democrat Policy – the Calderdale Solution

Flick through a Federal or Yorkshire Regional conference agenda these days and it’s likely that you’ll see Calderdale as the sponsor of several motions or amendments. This article shows how we’ve made that happen:

The short version for those who just want the how and not the why

  1. keep policy and admin totally separate,
  2. always involve people at every step of the way,
  3. have a definite aim to a definite deadline,
  4. have visible outcomes so people can see they are making a difference, and
  5. always make sure there is food/drink at every event.

The longer version: when I took over as chair of Calderdale one of my main frustrations was that most exec meetings went on for hours and hours and would get bogged down in policy arguments (as well as other off topic rambling discussions). It’s not that I don’t like policy arguments and rambling off topic discussions – I love them – it’s just that an exec meeting is not the time or place to be having them. Exec meetings should be about getting the boring admin stuff done and out of the way as quickly as possible.

When I mentioned this to him, Alisdair Calder McGregor recalled a solution that had been used in a couple of other local parties he’d been involved with, to greater or lesser effect: if you hive off policy to a policy working group then exec meetings go much better. So Calderdale’s policy working group was originally formed purely as a device to speed up exec meetingsWhat makes it so successful is a different story.

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