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Why I’ve always gone to help in target seats

This is the 9th General Election in which I’ve been politically active. Let’s not think about how old that makes me! You can also add 4 Holyrood elections to that. I missed out on the first one because I was living in England and just about to give birth. That didn’t stop me running a committee room in Chesterfield on polling day, though. Nor did it stop me doing stuff for the Newark by-election that never was.

I’ve just been reflecting on all these campaigns and maybe I should write about each one individually at some point.

In each election, I have made sure that my effort is concentrated on target seats, even if that has meant travelling on a daily basis. The reason for that is that I’ve always been very aware that I know that what matters the day after polling day is the number of bums we have on seats in whatever legislature we’re in. I could not have it on my conscience to lose a key target by a few hundred votes while I’d concentrated on getting single figures in percentage terms in my home seat. Believe me I have seen that happen several times.

Building that momentum throughout the campaign needs extra help. I will be forever grateful to the wonderful people from across the East Midlands region who travelled several times a week to Chesterfield in 1997, or the Lothian people who travelled to help us in Edinburgh South in 2001 and 2005. Martin Garnett, who’s our candidate in Erewash again today, was part of that Chesterfield support team in 1997.

That help from outside ensures that can establish ourselves as the challenger, that we can out-campaign the opposition and put ourselves in a winning position. It means that we can talk to more voters and build that all-important impression of a growing campaign. Every single day of the campaign, extra people are needed to boost local capacity and sow the seeds of victory.

I would go as far as to say that if you are spending the majority of your campaigning time in a seat that is not a target, you are actually doing the party more harm than good.

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Tributes to Emily Price

The Aberystwyth Liberal Democrats and particularly its strong and close-knit branch of Young Liberals are in shock today after learning that the incoming Vice-Chair of the Welsh Young Liberals (IR Cymru) Emily Price died in hospital last night.

She had been taken ill after being elected as a Town Councillor in Aberystwyth last week.

On social media, I see her described as beautiful, gentle, kind, funny, someone who was going places – clearly someone who was a popular and well-loved member of her community.

Last Monday she handed in her university dissertation. She had been going to do her Masters in the town next year.

Mark Cole, who’s an Honorary President of IR Cymru, paid tribute to Emily:

Emily’s sudden and tragic loss is incomprehensible.

Emily was a real character and she was a beloved member of the Aberystwyth University students group of which she was until recently the President.

She had helped lead a revitalised society that put so much effort into recent Parliamentary, Assembly and Council campaigns. But she also led a renaissance in the social activities of the group – I haven’t known such a close-knit and family-like group of liberal students in Aberystwyth for many years and Emily was very much the happy matriarch of this growing brood of young liberals.

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Let’s say no to a Coronation of Chaos

Strong and stable leadership is not always a good thing. I mean, the government of the former soviet union was pretty strong, and for decades, stable. And May’s press team is not exactly behaving like it thinks it is in a democracy.

Seriously, though, what do we expect of our Prime Minister when approaching a negotiation of such complexity as managing Brexit so that we ordinary people don’t end up suffering dire consequences for decades? How should she and her ministers behave as we try to rebuild trading relationships with the world from scratch, as we find ourselves isolated and disadvantaged. Frankly, standing in the middle of Downing Street and whining that those nasty Europeans are out to get us is about as irresponsible as it gets.

That is just window dressing at the end of the day. Ramping up tensions ahead of negotiations with cavalier disregard is one thing. Once they get in the room, if there are sufficient grown-ups around, this mess can be cleared up. There is a bigger worry, though. Our lot seem to be approaching this without a realistic strategy of what they can achieve.

I was interested in this translation of the FAZ story about the Juncker/May dinner. Basically, our government seems to be saying “we’ll pretend to leave, and pay you nothing but we won’t really leave and it’ll all be fine.’

The article is worth reading in full, but here is one of the key points. Theresa May apparently wants Brexit to be a bit like the Boris having and eating cake scenario:

Protocol 36 is an addition to the Lisbon Treaty, the last of the great reforms of the European contracts. It summarises various special provisions, on of which concerns the Brits. They had reserved the right to opt out of all domestic and legal policies. Back then, this agreement was sold as a defence of British sovereignty. However, London had immediately opted back in to two thirds of the fifty affected acts of law — out of pure self-interest. This had been kept fairly quiet. May imagined future relationships with the EU in a similar way. While she wanted Britain to make an official hard cut she wanted the country to still be included in matters of its own interest.

Juncker saw two options now — either remain silent and thereby possibly support May’s illusions, or to hit back at her. He decided for the latter.

That’s bad enough on its own, but our lot are playing silly brats over the money as well:

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What were you doing 20 years ago today?

Some of you reading this won’t even have been born in 1997, or have been too young to take part in the General Election that year.

20 years ago today was a blistering hot day in Chesterfield. I was knocking up all over town.

I had spent most of the campaign doing front of house in our brilliant little office which was happily situated right next door to a pretty decent Italian restaurant. Several times we ordered food from them and they brought it across on proper plates, with real cutlery. A total luxury for an election office.

We had been working hard to get Tony Rogers elected in Chesterfield. Over the previous few years, we had really been challenging the local Labour hegemony, winning by-election after by-election. While New Labour were very much ahead in the polls, it was very much Old Labour who ran the Derbyshire town.

It was such brilliant fun. Very busy, of course. Paul Holmes as agent is never one to under-estimate anyone’s capacity for work. Legend had it that he took envelopes to stuff to a woman in the early stages of labour. He says he can’t remember doing such a thing, but nobody who knows him seems to have much trouble believing it. There was one time during the European campaign in 1994 when he decided that sorting out a million election addresses wasn’t enough work for us to do and he got us all stuffing envelopes for a by-election in Bradford South too.

He certainly liked to challenge us. You’d be in the middle of doing something and he’d come along with some mailing that needed to go out by the last posting time which was impossibly close. And we always stepped up and did it. We called him lots of names in the process, always to his face and he bore that with good humour.

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Vince Cable predicts second economic storm

Remember back in 2003, when Vince Cable was saying that at some point the economy would collapse because of the amount of consumer credit?

Well, he was right then and he’s now saying that we could be up for another Brexit fuelled crash.

The former Business Secretary, who hopes to win back his former seat of Twickenham, says that a combination of declining consumer confidence, job losses and inflation has the potential to outstrip the economic storm of the previous decade. That, if you remember, was the direst economic crash since the Depression in the 30s.

Vince said:

For Britain, the economic weather is arguably worse than it was before the credit crunch. The pound has plummeted, which is driving up prices and trapping consumers in a vicious Brexit squeeze.

Consumer confidence was all that kept the storm clouds away. But with job losses at everywhere from Deutsche Bank to Nestlé, that confidence is going to drain away further.

The Chancellor clearly has no confidence in the economic strategy of the government, because he knows that leaving the single market and customs union has the potential to devastate the UK economy.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton: Family cap and rape clause have no place in a civilised society

Yesterday the Scottish Parliament debated the Conservative cuts to tax credit which means that only two children per family are covered.

Every Scottish Conservative MSP voted for it, with many robustly defending the policy. Their line seems to be, as the Conservative candidate at my local council hustings said last week, that this is a compassionate (that’s the word she actually used) exemption. They are also saying that the woman doesn’t have to fill it in, it’s a third party. Well, have a look at the form and imagine how you would feel if it applied to you. You have to write down the name of your child and sign a declaration that “I believe the non-consensual conception exception applies to my child.” How you can do that without your mind drifting back to the traumatic circumstances of that conception? You are also then required to take the form to a third party to get them to fill it in. You are going to have to relive that ordeal. You may never have told anyone about it before and be worried about whether you are going to be believed. If implementation of a policy requires this sort of trauma, then the policy itself is clearly wrong.

There were many fantastic speeches from across the Chamber, including moving personal testimonies sent to MSPs like Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale.

The Liberal Democrats were represented by Alex Cole-Hamilton, who condemned these policies – and pointed out that during the coalition years, we had put a stop to their introduction:

I pay tribute to Kez Dugdale and Sandra White for offering very moving personal testimonies, and I congratulate the Scottish Government on lodging the motion. I assure it of the support of the Liberal Democrats. We will support Kez Dugdale’s and Alison Johnstone’s amendments, as well.

Who can forget Theresa May’s inaugural words in her tenure as Prime Minister? In her Francis of Assisi moment on the steps of number 10, she said of families that rely on tax credits in particular:

“If you’re from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. You have a job but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home, but you worry about paying a mortgage. You can just about manage but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school … I know you’re working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best, and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.”

In the two-child tax credit cap and the rape clause that underpins it, we see the measure of that commitment made flesh. I am certain that those words have now turned to ash in the Prime Minister’s mouth.

There are days in the chamber when we are debating welfare reform and social security matters in which I rise to speak with some trepidation and a recognition that there were times when my party, through dint of the coalition, participated in decisions and reforms that were distasteful to us as Liberals, but were far less egregious than those that our partners originally proposed. Members rightly lose no time in reminding me of that in colourful interventions. That is fair enough, but the untold story of our days in coalition is what never made it to the statute book thanks to Liberal Democrat resistance: regional pay, which would penalise any workers outside the south-east of England, inheritance tax cuts for millionaires and enhanced powers for employers to sack staff without notice or recourse to a tribunal.

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Baroness Joan Walmsley writes….Tories ensure more taxation without representation

It was Thomas Mayhew, minister of the West Church in Martha’s Vineyard, who coined the slogan “No taxation without representation” in 1750, capturing in that phrase one of the major causes of the American civil war.

Of course, this phrase reflected a clause of the Magna Carta, written in 1215.

British citizens who live outside of the United Kingdom are currently entitled to vote in elections for only 15 years after leaving the UK, but the Conservatives promised to extend this to lifetime enfranchisement in their 2015 election manifesto. The Tories said they were intent on “scrapping the rule that bars British citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from voting” and would introduce “votes for life”, opening up registration to more of the five million Britons who live abroad. (There are currently less than a quarter of a million overseas residents registered to vote.)

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    @ Eugene I think it is sweet of you to give us advice, but I don’t think you understand us, where is the evidence that...
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 29th May - 4:41pm
    @ Glen, I agree. Michael Howard and Michael Fallon have already raised the spectre of another war, this time with one of our, soon to...
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    @nvelope2003 " Here the Greens and Labour are still banging on about the coalition" There's been a fair bit of "banging on" about that on...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 29th May - 4:31pm
    "The Labour Party rejected any Progressive Alliance and has always rejected deals with other parties, something the Liberal Democrats would have been well advised to...
  • User AvatarMike Read 29th May - 4:05pm
    Good poster. How can I download it?
  • User Avatarnvelope2003 29th May - 3:15pm
    The Labour Party rejected any Progressive Alliance and has always rejected deals with other parties, something the Liberal Democrats would have been well advised to...