Tag Archives: featured

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.

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In full: Nick Clegg’s Liverpool speech

Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather when I read this tweet:

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Jo Swinson saddles up her feminist high horse…

Two pictures you might like. First, Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister Jo Swinson:

Jo Swinson

And now, a feminist high horse.

See what I did there?

Jo Swinson has been going for the Daily Mail readers’ vote. She can certainly speak the paper’s language, as you can see from this parody press release from her office. Will editors get the joke?

Mother of one, Jo Swinson gave a speech today wearing a shocking pink dress and a new pair of heels.

While looking desperately in need of a ‘calming down dear’, Swinson railed against the established privilege of men in power and their unconscious inability to experience what discrimination was really like.

She did not say that government should determine what editors can publish. But it could have been what she meant really.

Swinson suggested that the Tories were too afraid to back a ‘feminazi’ clampdown on Fleet Street’s dinosaurs.

Swinson who last year abandoned her Ministerial post for six months on maternity leave, has persistently shown herself to be the possessor of radically liberal ideas as well as a feminist high horse.

If you want to see what she actually said in her speech, it’s all here.

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Anti-TTIP protestors reach #ldconf. A reminder of why they are wrong

At a previous party conference back in the autumn of 2013, Lib Dem party members voted overwhelmingly for a motion committing the party to wholeheartedly supporting the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

As we all (particularly parliamentary candidates, thanks to 38 Degrees) know, a massive campaign has appeared since then opposing the agreement, ostensibly over concerns that the NHS will somehow be threatened. Protestors were out in force outside the conference centre here in Liverpool, and given the number of members I saw signing the petition they were handing around, I thought it might be useful to set out again why those protestors are so wrong, not just in their opinion but on the facts.

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In pictures – the conference so far #ldconf

Scroll down to view. Firstly, Paddy declares that the parrot is not dead:

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#ldconf gets under way: Rally live blog

Rally entertainment Spring Conference Liverpool March 2015 Photo by Liberal Democrats
I’m sitting in the auditorium between Paul Walter who is taking photos which by the magic of technology will illustrate this post later, and Deborah from Derbyshire, who’s at her first Conference. She’s been saying what a wonderful atmosphere it is here. In front of us Nick Clegg, Jo Swinson and Paddy Ashdown are watching the singers who are entertaining us with bright and uplifting songs. It’s a little bit of West End musical magic to make us smile.

We’ve already had a video where some of the fantastic Team 2015 volunteers who staff the LDHQ phone banks tell us about themselves. Including some guy called Nick who said he was the Deputy something or other.

Mustang Sal

And now we have Sal Brinton making her first platform speech in her new role. She enters the hall on her wheelchair to the strains of Ride, Sally, Ride. She managed to get from Mustang Sally to Ian Fleming to modern politics in her opening paragraph.

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Opinion: Fiscal consolidation and the Liberal Democrats

Newly minted coins by James Cridland james.cridland.net
Over the past few days, questions have emerged about the Liberal Democrats’ proposals for fiscal consolidation. Liberal Reform felt it would therefore be helpful to clarify what the challenges are, to explain how some of the figures are derived and to help people understand what the scale of the problem is.

Which deficit are we cutting and how much does it cost?

All three political parties have committed to eliminating the budget deficit over the next parliament. There are two things that divide the parties, however:

  • The speed of the consolidation – in what year will the budget be balanced
  • The definition of the “budget deficit.”

The Liberal Democrats have committed to eliminate the budget deficit by 2018-19. The Labour Party have postponed consolidation to 2020 and the Conservatives are being vague about when in the next parliament the budget will balance. The Lib Dems position reflects current government plans.

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A double boost for Julian Huppert’s re-election campaign

Julian Huppert MPTwo bits of good news for anyone who wants to see Julian Huppert re-elected as MP for Cambridge.

Firstly, he had to quickly increase his fundraising target after a steady flow of donations took him within easy grasp of his original aim very quickly after his Back Julian site was launched.  He now hopes to raise £15,000 and is well on target to meet that.  The positive video, showing a busy team waving placards with all the reasons to vote for Julian, from civil liberties, to equalities, to science, drug policy reform. Every one of us actually has an interest in him being there because of his massive contribution on the national stage. In fact, the plea on his site is almost under-stated.

photo by: Policy Exchange
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Stephen Gilbert MP writes…It’s time to let Britain fly

Often the debate on airports expansion in London and the South East focuses on Britain’s connectedness with the wider world and our increasing need to be able to easily reach far flung emerging market destinations such as Brazil and China. That need is no doubt critical if we are to build a stronger economy in the future, but there’s one important aspect of the debate that often gets neglected – Britain’s internal domestic connectivity and the need to link places like Newquay, Inverness and Liverpool to our thriving capital city.

Indeed I believe this important aspect of the debate goes to the very heart of how the regions and nations of the UK could benefit hugely from airports expansion in London and the South East if done in the right way.

As the MP for Newquay and St Austell I know all too well how important our air links are with London. This is equally the case for regions all across the UK. Domestic routes between London and the regions are a vital economic driver. In my constituency Newquay Airport brings over £50M to the local economy every year and my local airport’s links with London airports are a fundamental driver of its commercial success. If ever we lost our links with London, then the very viability of the airport itself could potentially be put at risk.

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Tony Greaves writes: What happens if …?

House of Commons. Crown Copyright applies to this photo - http://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/4642915654/There’s growing talk in Conservative and Labour circles about a minority government. Let’s make an assumption about numbers – not a prediction, just approximate numbers based on current polls: Con 275, Lab 275, LD 35, SNP 40, UKIP 5, Green 2, Speaker 1, all the Northern Irish 17 (of which the present numbers are DUP 8, SF 5, SDLP 3, All 1).

Take out the Speaker and assume that Sinn Fein get five again, and the target for an overall majority is 323. On these numbers a majority Coalition looks hard to achieve – though don’t underestimate the ability of politicians to moderate or even overturn pre-election statements when it comes to getting into government. But add the heightened level of distaste in both Conservatives and Labour for both the concept of coalition and recent practice (at least in Westminster) and the idea of a minority government is not a fantasy.

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The Herald: “All power to the Lib Dems for standing up for our liberties”

Willie Rennie - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsHerald columnist Ian Macwhirter is not known for writing nice things about Liberal Democrats. In fact, I think it actually causes him pain to do so. It is always welcome when someone who is not your biggest fan says nice things about you. He was very complimentary about Willie Rennie the other day. As someone pointed out on my Facebook when I posted this originally, “All Power to…. is not the most civil-liberties friendly headline, but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

As James Baker wrote a few weeks ago, the Scottish Government were trying to sneak in plans for what is effectively a massive ID database capable of even more surveillance than that set up by Labour. Once Willie got to hear about it, he set about questioning it and used a rare Liberal Democrat opposition day debate in Parliament to highlight the issue. He called for the creation of such a database to be the subject of primary legislation. He was never going to win, because, you know, SNP overall majority and all that – and they don’t take kindly to rebellion or even criticism from their parliamentarians – but he inflicted a bloody nose on the Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

Macwhirter wrote:

I think now we have an answer to what the LibDems are for: they’re the only major party, Greens aside, that really takes issues of civil liberties seriously, as we saw yesterday with their debate on the Scottish Government’s plans effectively to create a national identity database.Leader Willie Rennie’s motion to stop the measure being rushed through without proper parliamentary scrutiny succeeded by 65 votes to 60 in the Scottish Parliament after an intelligent and thoughtful debate; a rare occasion on which Deputy First Minister John Swinney was sent back to think again

We need parties that keep a vigilant eye on government. Labour has never quite got this privacy thing having been, for most of its existence, a party very much of and for the big state. The Tories are supposed to be the party of the individual but their law’n’order populism, hostility to immigration and preoccupation with state security have made them suckers for any agency – police, spooks, tax authorities and so on – that wants to snoop into our affairs.

The Tories seem to recognise threats to civil liberties when in opposition. Their spokeswoman Liz Smith MSP is opposing the latest plans from the Scottish Government as “identity cards by the back door”.

The SNP are similarly schizophrenic. They opposed the introduction of a national identity database in 2005 when it was proposed by Tony Blair’s Labour government. But once the Nationalists got into government they started succumbing to the same pressures to tighten up all round and, of course, to praise our wonderful police, as Nicola Sturgeon did last week.

That would be the same wonderful police, by the way, whose senior management are, for the second time, being hauled back before a parliamentary committee for failing to deliver what they said they would. On both stop and search and armed police they have not kept their word and their chief constable has not shown an acceptable attitude towards scrutiny.

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Nick Clegg’s message for International Women’s Day

Here is Nick Clegg’s message for International Women’s Day. The text is underneath.

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Norman Baker gets musical to highlight dangers of animal extinction

Norman Baker's Animal CountdownLewes MP Norman Baker has taken to music to warn us all of the dangers facing some animals we take for granted. Lions, tigers, elephants and rhinos are under threat. I spent 99p on it and it’s actually very good. You can find out how to download Norman Baker’s Animal Countdown here and the video, which I can’t embed, can be watched on You Tube here.

Norman wrote an article for Politics Home ahead of his Adjournment Debate last night in which he outlined what needed to be done:

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Clegg: I’ll take Cameron’s place and defend government’s record if he’s too important to take part in the debates

Nick in suit on call cleggDavid Cameron has moved the goalposts on the leaders’ debates so many times that they are now not even on the pitch any more. They’re nestled somewhere in between the burger stand and the toilets. His final ultimatum is so obviously his get-out clause and it’s unsurprising that he’s done it because he wasn’t very good at it last time, frankly.

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LibLink: Nick Clegg and Richard Branson: We have been losing the war on drugs for four decades. End it now.

Nick Clegg Glasgow 2014 by Liberal DemocratsIn a major keynote speech today, Nick Clegg will call for responsibility for drugs to be moved from the criminal justice system to the health care system. In that, he has the support of Richard Branson and the two men have written for the Guardian’s Comment is Free section. First of all, they show how the current system is both wasting money and failing:

 Since the “war” was declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, we have spent over £1tn trying to eradicate drugs from our societies. Yet the criminal market continues to grow, driving unimaginable levels of profit for organised crime. We devote vast police, criminal justice and military resources to the problem, including the incarceration of people on a historically unprecedented scale.

In many parts of the world, drug violence has become endemic. As Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, visits the UK, we should remember the estimated 100,000 people killed in Mexico alone since 2006. Yet tragically, the sum total of enforcement efforts against drug supply over the past 40 years has been zero. Efforts at reducing demand have been similarly fruitless. Here in the UK, a third of adults have taken illegal drugs and the gangs are doing a roaring trade. The problem simply isn’t going away.

While other countries around the world are rethinking their approach, Britain remains stubbornly, truculently wedded to the old way, with tragic human consequences:

And yet we desperately need better solutions in this country. One in six children aged 11 to 15 is still taking drugs; 2,000 people die each year in drug-related incidents; the use of unregulated “legal highs” is rampant.

At the same time, the police are stopping and searching half a million people a year for possession of drugs, prosecutions of users are close to record levels, and prison cells are still used for people whose only crime is the possession of a substance to which they are addicted. This costs a lot of money, which could be better spent on treatment and on redoubling our efforts to disrupt supply. And it wrecks the lives of 70,000 people a year who receive a criminal record for possession and then find themselves unable to get a job.

As an investment, the war on drugs has failed to deliver any returns. If it were a business, it would have been shut down a long time ago. This is not what success looks like.

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What’s your funniest canvassing story?

The Divine Ms Duffett, editor of Ad Lib magazine, and one of our team,  is looking for help from Liberal Democrat Voice readers. She wants some light-hearted stories of canvassing camaraderie. What is your funniest or weirdest canvassing experience?

Let us know in the comments. Your experience may be published in some yet to be defined communication to members so keep it reasonably clean.

One of the weirdest things that happened to me on the doorstep was during the Dunfermline by-election in 2006. I had been kept on a tight leash doing casework by Ed Maxfield, co-author of 101 ways to win an election (worth buying for campaigning tips whether  you are a first time candidate or experienced activist). I always say that that election featured him emptying his in-tray into my desk every day but in reality we all worked our backsides off and had lots of fun. A couple of days before the election, they actually let me out for a while to do some canvassing. At the very first door I knocked on, out of approximately 40,000 in the entire constituency, I ended up chatting to someone to whom I’d already spoken that afternoon when he phoned the office to ask a policy question. I didn’t know where he lived, although I’d taken his phone number and email address.

He was a lot friendlier than the first door I ever knocked on. I was 15 years old and it was the 1983 election. I had wandered into the SDP/Liberal Alliance office in Wick to ask for a manifesto. I was already pretty sure I supported the party, but I wanted to make sure. I didn’t leave with a manifesto. I left with a pile of leaflets and a map. That was a really good bit of front of house work, I must say. Anyway, at the first house, the owner was out in the garden. I was a bit shy, but I put on my best smile and friendliest look and handed her the leaflet. She gave me the filthiest look and threw it on the bonfire. It was only later I discovered she was one of the local Tories.

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Julian Huppert writes … We must end indefinite detention for immigrants

Immigration detention
Looking back over the Coalition Government, one of our great successes is putting an end to the routine detention of children for immigration purposes. In 2009, 1,119 children were locked up in immigration centres, nearly 500 of them were under five years of age.

Not only have we ended this practice, but in the Immigration Act we made sure that if any future government wants to undo our reforms, they’ll have to do it the hard way by passing an Act of Parliament.

But the issue of immigration detention doesn’t and shouldn’t stop there.

The UK is an outlier in the EU as the only country that doesn’t have a time limit on how long someone can be detained under immigration powers. Ireland has a time limit of 21 days, France 45 days, Belgium two months and Spain 60 days. Even Russia has a time limit, albeit of two years.

photo by: Policy Exchange
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Lord Roger Roberts writes…A step towards abolishing the Azure Card

Azure cardLast November I wrote that we must abolish the Azure Card and secured a debate in the House of Lords to that effect.

For those who may be unaware, The Azure Card is a prepayment card provided destitute asylum seekers who require support because they are temporarily unable to leave the United Kingdom. It is a discriminatory and wholly inadequate system of support which the Red Cross – as well as many other refugee organisations have called to be abolished.

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Davey and Cable defend free speech at universities from Tory attack

Vince Cable Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterWe know that during the passage of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act, Liberal Democrat peers Sal Brinton and Margaret Sharp tried to amend the bill to strengthen the duty on universities to preserve freedom of speech. Senior Tories couldn’t see why that was so important, sadly.

The Observer reports that Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers, especially Vince Cable, disagree about the planned guidance to be issued to universities about what they can and can’t allow on campus.

In the Sunday

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IFS: Labour fees plan will not make any difference to repayments by the poorer half of graduates

Interviewed by Mark Mardell on the BBC’s World at One yesterday, Paul Johnson, Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies made these comments about Labour’s tuition fee plans:

photo by: schwglr
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Money saving expert Martin Lewis on Labour’s fees policy: ‘Poorer students will subsidise city investment bankers’

Here’s part of what Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, said on the BBC’s World at One today:

This is the worse type of politics for me. It is the politics that may appeal to people on the surface but it is financially illiterate…If any other party was launching a policy that effectively meant that poorer students would be subsidising city investment banking graduates, which is what this does, there would be protests in the streets and it would be led by the Labour party. I simply don’t understand how they’ve launched this.

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Ed Davey MP writes… Green energy auction paves way for 27 new renewables projects and thousands of green jobs across the UK

A few wind turbinesThis morning I announced the results of the first auction for green energy generation. The results are impressive – more clean energy at lower costs.

Thanks to this first renewable electricity competition of its kind, I have offered contracts to 27 renewable energy projects across the UK.  Enough to power 1.4 million homes and save the equivalent carbon emissions of taking 2 million cars off the road.

The projects include offshore wind and onshore wind and solar, and will create thousands of green jobs.

photo by: vaxomatic
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The Independent View: “Bold liberal tax reforms for a stronger economy and fairer society” – a CentreForum essay by Adam Corlett

In a series of essays that CentreForum will be releasing over the next few months in anticipation of the book, The Challenges Facing Contemporary Liberalism: 2015 -2025, published today is the paper “Bold liberal tax reforms for a stronger economy and fairer society” by Adam Corlett, which can be read here. It is the third in the series; the first, On Blasphemy by Maajid Nawaz, can be read here, and the second, an essay by Tim Farron, Neil Stockley and Duncan Brack on green growth and climate change, can be read here.

Adam’s paper examines the tax system and identifies six key challenges facing any incoming government post-May 2015: simplifying income taxes; taxing investment intelligently; fixing corporate tax biases; reforming inheritance tax; taxing real estate; and making consumption taxes fair.

photo by: Alan Cleaver
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire writes….Liberal Democrats’ investment in education has been socially progressive

I took part in a five-party panel at York University the other weekend, organised by the University’s Politics Society, in front of a packed lecture hall with over 200 students.  No other panellist or questioner mentioned the subject of tuition fees, believed by some Liberal Democrat activists (and right-wing journalists) to be an issue that hangs like an albatross round Nick Clegg’s neck. The overwhelming impression I came away with, reinforced by informal conversations with several students after the meeting, was not that we face an outraged student body which can never forgive us for the tuition fees ‘betrayal’, as the NUS would like to portray it; it was of a student body which is switched off from party politics, unsure of whether to vote or not, but with some intelligent questions to ask.  ‘I wasn’t planning to vote until I came to this’, one student told me afterwards, ‘but maybe now I will.’

Since nobody else did, I addressed the tuition fee issue.  I said that we had found it impossible to persuade our Conservative partners in the coalition to pay for this, against the background of a yawning gap between revenue and expenditure in 2010, and had therefore focused on striking a deal that was as progressive in its impact as possible; that the package had ensured that graduates only start to pay back when they are earning good money; that the rise since then in the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university has shown that we got that right; and that there was no no way any future government would want to take us back to free fees in the face of other competing demands for government funding.  I went on to say that we had worked in government to put money into ‘the other 50%’ – the young people who never go to university; that doubling the number of apprenticeships, paying a Pupil Premium to encourage schools to put more resources into helping those who most need it, and expanding nursery education to give children a better start in life had proved to be more progressive and cost-effective than free fees for the better-off.

photo by: flickingerbrad
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Nick Clegg on the Liberal Democrats’ vision for a world class early years education system

Nick Clegg has made a major speech on early years education and  child care to the Pre-School Learning Alliance. He pointed out that as a result of Liberal Democrat input, an extra £1 billion has been put into child-care in this Parliament and that only the Liberal Democrats would protect that level of spending in the next Parliament. In contrast, the Conservatives would cut it, at a cost of £625 per child. Not only that, but welfare cuts would affect low income families.

Here are the main points of his speech:

Over the last five years, we’ve made it one of our biggest priorities in this Government to ensure that every child – whatever their background or circumstances – gets an equal shot at the successful future they deserve.

Disadvantaged background start to bite early:

 So much so that, if you’re a child born into a poor family in this country, you will already have fallen behind a child with richer parents by the time you’re 2 years old.

That’s before you step anywhere near a classroom and it has absolutely nothing to do with your talent or potential – just the circumstances of your birth. Without focused action to change it, that gap between you and your peers will continue to get bigger as you grow up. So that when you turn up, proudly wearing your new uniform, for your first day of school, you will be well over a year behind your better-off classmates. Morally and economically, we simply cannot afford for so many children to have their future written off like that in this country.

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Willie Rennie MSP writes…You wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, so you wouldn’t put the SNP in charge of the UK

If you ask me about coalitions and the SNP, I will keep it simple.

Just as you wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, you would not put the SNP in charge of Britain. It’s not going to happen. Anyway, the SNP leader at Westminster told an interviewer from the New Statesman last week that he wasn’t interested. So, it’s definitely not going to happen.

I know from long years in politics that parlour style discussions about hypotheticals and coalitions don’t translate onto the doorsteps.

We’re in the Liberal Democrats because we want to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, …

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Opinion: Tory plans to curb benefits for obese people and addicts is the opposite of enabling people to get on in life

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through charity work, in two different countries, it’s that imposing your moral code on other people simply does not work. Sometimes, people are going to do things that seem wrong, or misguided, or utterly reckless, to us. When they do, it’s our role not to judge them for it, but to give them the information they need to make their own informed choices.

That’s why I was so annoyed this week just past. In Spain, a colleague of mine told me that the media had whipped up frenzy around our organisation teaching young people to use condoms correctly. Meanwhile, back home in Britain, we have the Conservative party trying to push its own moral code through the benefits system. Both examples neatly explain what the problem is with moralising narratives in society.

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Opinion: High impact campaigning – volunteering with Team 2015

Team 2015 posterI’m looking forward to the election with a fair amount of optimism. My response to disappointing election results in May 2014 was to join Team 2015, which in August had just begun to mobilise Lib Dem volunteers in preparation for the General Election. At this point the Team membership’s infectious enthusiasm far outweighed its numbers. It has since grown to include volunteers from across the country, and this has shaped my belief that we have a chance to do better in the election than critics and pollsters are anticipating.

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Sarah Teather shows how to do an exit interview with dignity, empathy and thoughtfulness

Sarah TeatherSarah Teather’s announcement that she was standing down as a Liberal Democrat MP on the eve of our conference in 2013 did create some waves at the time. She was very critical of some of the things that the party had done in government, most notably welfare reform. Since then, she has done what she’s always done – been a strong voice speaking up for poorly treated asylum seekers and was a strong voice in the campaign against cuts to criminal legal aid.

She’s now done an interview with the Telegraph in which she talks about her time in Parliament. She’s thoughtful, reflective and does not show one trace of bitterness. In fact, she shows sympathy for Nick Clegg, despite the fact that he sacked her in the 2012 reshuffle.

Her appointment as Minister for Children meant that she could address special needs education, something which meant a huge amount to her personally:

Back in 2010, however, she found the new job a positive challenge, and felt a particular, personal, satisfaction in bringing forward legislation to transform the teaching of children with special educational needs.

“I have rather an odd educational background, I was very ill as a teenager, I missed four years of school so I suppose I have a particular affinity for children who, for one reason or another, had not found education an easy process.

“I spent a lot of that time wheelchair bound. For me it was a bit of a passion, that reform on special educational needs and disability.

She talked about her struggles over welfare reform, how she fought and won concessions and how she thought she was going to have to resign over the issue. I can understand her dilemma. I remember writing to one minister who might have gone over tuition fees to ask them to stay because of the good things they would be able to achieve for other people in their government role. For Sarah, she didn’t want to leave without making a difference for kids facing the same problems as she had.

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Opinion: Why Scots should worry about their national identity scheme

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 16.45.55One of the first things Liberal Democrats in government did was to scrap the UK wide National Identity Scheme. It would have been all to easy then for NO2ID to pack up, say job done and go home. Thankfully that didn’t happen and the remnants of the campaign instead carried on keeping watchful eye on developments of what has been coined the database state. The database state is the term we now use to describe the tendency of governments to try and use computers to manage and control society.  Another attribute of this database state is function creep. This is the phenomenon whereby a system setup for one discreet purpose starts to grow out of control expanding to be used for ever more administrative functions.

A perfect illustration of function creep can be seen with the Scottish National Entitlement Card (NEC). This card started off as a replacement to pensioners bus passes in cities like Edinburgh but quickly developed into a system for accessing Council services such as libraries. Now it has about 30 uses including proof of age,  paying for school lunches cashlessly and accessing leisure services. In all but name it is a National Identity Card.

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