Tag Archives: featured

Double by-election success and a new 18 year old councillor for the Liberal Democrats

The #libdemfightback continues with two good by-election wins in the south east. First of all, Neil Houston held on to the Long Ditton Ward of Elmbridge Council:

LIB DEM – 770

CON – 611

GRN – 79

UKIP – 61

And in Seaford, in East Sussex, 18 year old Isabelle Murray, who wasn’t even old enough to vote in May, won the Seaford Central ward on the Town Council by quite some margin.

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What could a Jeremy Corbyn victory mean for the Liberal Democrats?

A reasonably-new Conservative government lurches to the right. The defeated Labour Party elects its most left-wing leader in a generation. There is a new sense of opportunity in the party as the centre-ground seems to be opening up. At conference the leader’s uplifting speech ends “Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government”…

That was David Steel in 1981, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and Michael Foot the leader of the Labour party. The excitement was real, but it didn’t happen. Our actual breakthrough waited until “New Labour” was electable and people were no longer frightened into voting Tory.

Pragmatism says we should wait to see who Labour elects, and what the actual effects are before getting too excited or worried. But thinking about the prospect of a Jeremy Corbyn victory could help us in our journey. I’ll offer two thoughts as starters:

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Jack Straw to be part of Freedom of Information review

Nicholas Winterton, Cyril Smith (1928-2010) and Jack Straw, Members of Parliament for the textile towns Macclesfield, Rochdale and Blackburn respectively, stand outside 10 Downing Street in London on 10th June 1980.

Over the weekend the Cabinet Office announced a review of the Freedom of Information Act. Now it is always sensible to check any act that promotes civil liberties against actual practice. But alarm bells started ringing when the members of the review panel were revealed.

Chief among them is Jack Straw, who brought in the Act in 2000 as Home Secretary. But he is now saying that “inquiries about ministerial communications and the formulation of government policy should not be allowed any more”. I’m sure I am not alone in thinking that the secrecy surrounding the development of government policies, especially the role of lobbyists, was precisely why we needed freedom of information. He has also said that citizens should be charged for FoI requests. Interestingly ‘a Labour source’ has distanced the party from his appointment, saying that Straw is acting in a personal capacity, and not representing the party, and that “If the government were genuinely interested in improving the workings of the act, it should have chosen a more balanced panel.”

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Farron’s first Sunday media marathon

Tim is doing the media rounds this morning with interviews on Marr, Murnaghan (at 10:20) and John Pienaar (at 10:35).

Here are some tweets from his Marr appearance:

adding that he wanted them to join the Liberal Democrats to fight the Tories on the appalling things that they are planning on doing.

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Bold new graphics for a new leader

There’s a lovely new range of graphics in a whole new style. Well done to the creative types in the party who have put them together, mainly from quotes from his speech on Thursday night. They are very pretty. And there’s not a Stronger Economy, Fairer Society in sight.

The first comes from a comment he made on Twitter to a Liberal Youth member which sums up his feelings on same sex marriage:

Farron Love is love

 

Farron graphic 2

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LDVideo: Tim Farron’s first speech as Liberal Democrat leader

Here it is in full, courtesy of Sky News – Tim’s first speech, delivered to a packed Islington Assembly Hall. I followed it on Twitter while I was on a train and it was giving me goosebumps so you might need to sit down with a cup of tea to watch the whole thing. Full of passion and energy and purpose and articulating an practical, relevant, optimistic, joyful liberalism.

A member of the audience fainted at one point and was incredibly apologetic but Tim was quick to reassure him and make sure he was ok.

There is a transcript on the party website, reproduced below for ease.

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Tim Farron is the new Liberal Democrat leader

BBC News announcement of Tim as leader

Congratulations, Tim, on being elected leader of a party that doesn’t often want to be led at one of  the most challenging times in its history.

And here’s the official tweet:

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Conference controversy guaranteed – Renewal of Trident to be debated

Full details of the agenda for Autumn Conference will be released in due course, but reports on social media say that a motion calling for Trident not to be renewed at all will be debated.

If passed, this would mean an end to a succession of fudges on the issue in recent, and not so recent, years.

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Opinion: Voting reform must take a back seat to maintain #LibDemFightback momentum

Standing at a North London bus stop the evening after Britain went to the polls, I overheard a man give his take, on David Cameron’s surprising majority, to a friend:

You see people that don’t live in cities just don’t understand…they’ll always vote right-wing.

As someone from the countryside who has now voted for a hat-trick of different parties, I took offence in a quietly British way to his throwaway analysis of the left’s failure to make gains outside of London. And yet of course he had a point, too.

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Dangling on a rope, pulling pints, catching the tube – photos of Nick Clegg by the party’s official photographer

nick clegg with diver 17th April 2015 Photo by James Gourley from Liberal Democrats CCL Flickr photostream
James Gourley worked for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats as our official photographer until May.

He’s put up some super photos on this blog post.

Nick is seen at Go Ape where he famously went during the election, on the campaign bus, behind the scenes at Conference, sitting on the Government benches in the House of Commons, feeding a sea lion, waiting to catch a tube. He was even smiling when he was doing that!

You can see him delivering leaflets, blowing up balloons, rehearsing his speech for conference and much more.

The photos capture the mood of the moments beautifully and are well worth a look.

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Opinion: Fox Hunting Vote Crucial to Lib Dems’ Reputation

Animal rights groups are reporting a planned vote re: fox hunting in the UK, with David Cameron hoping to appease hunting lobbyists by watering down the current legislation. The vote is scheduled for Wednesday 15th July leaving activists little time to fill petitions) and co-ordinate letter writing appeals to mobilise sympathetic MPs.

But how will the Lib Dems vote?

In terms of an outright repeal, the Daily Telegraph reported last month their belief that all eight remaining Lib Dems would vote to keep the law intact. But this is not a repeal, per se, but rather a set of amendments to bring existing practice in England and Wales “into line” with that in Scotland. At present, hunts in England and Wales have been allowed to ‘flush out’ foxes, along with certain other animals, under the auspice of pest control, as long as they are shot as quickly as possible. However, while hunts in England and Wales are limited to using just two hounds for such, the number of dogs that can be used in Scotland is unlimited. With pressure from rural constituencies in particular, will some of the remaining Lib Dems be convinced to vote in favour of the amendments?

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Surprises are not the same as radicalism – or where George Osborne went wrong

Yesterday’s budget certainly had plenty of surprises. But it says something about the state of our politics that not allowing sensitive information leak ahead of the budget speech counts as a political success. Because surprises — rabbits out of hats — are not the same as radicalism, whatever much of the media, or Osborne himself, would have us believe this morning. The budget, when looked at more closely, was notable for its timidity, not its profundity.

In identifying the nonsense of those on low wages paying relatively large amounts of tax, only to receive it back with interest in tax credits, the chancellor identified a genuinely ridiculous (and illiberal) legacy of Gordon Brown’s time at the Treasury.

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Opinion: SLF Conference: Why social justice must be at the heart of re-booting liberalism

social liberal forumThe Social Liberal Conference was held on one of the hottest days of the year so far but not even good weather could have kept me away from joining fellow Liberal Democrats for a day termed as ‘Re-booting Liberalism’. I am a social Liberal because I believe strongly in social justice as a means of addressing the problems of inequality. This must be our fight as a party if the Liberal Democrats are to gain relevance and support from the electorate in the coming years.

The keynote speech was a William Beveridge memorial lecture and was delivered by Baroness Claire Tyler. The whole speech can be found here. Her words as follows set the tone for the day:

I think it is entirely appropriate to be revisting Beveridge at a conference entitled ‘Rebooting Liberalism’. It’s neither regressive nor intellectually lazy to be looking to the past as we seek to move forward. Far from it – we are fortunate to have an incredibly strong intellectual tradition within the party and in seeking to both clarify and communicate exactly what we stand for, we could do much worse than draw on the ground-breaking work of one of the grandfathers of modern Liberalism.

The morning sessions were split into roundtable discussions, open sessions and two fringe events. A very generous and yummy lunch was served. It was a great time to network, catch up with friends and be canvassed for GLA votes.

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Grayling: I’d rather face 56 SNP MPs than 57 Liberal Democrats

Yes, you read right. Chris Grayling did say that, not on lobby terms to a journalist but in front of the entire world in the Commons this afternoon.

His comments came during the debate on the Government’s plans to railroad through English Votes for English Laws secured by our Alistair Carmichael. He used an obscure Commons device to discuss the process rather than EVEL itself.

The Government basically chickened out of the vote today. They were heavily defeated by 291 to just 2. The vote isn’t binding but the Government’s plans sounded more ill-considered and incoherent as the debate wore on.

A vote is scheduled to take place on amendments to Commons standing orders which would prevent MPs from outside England voting  on matters deemed by the Speaker to be English only. This, Carmichael and many other speakers argued, was tantamount to foisting a massive Constitutional reform on the UK without proper scrutiny.

The Government is doing it this way because it knows that its plans would come unstuck in the Lords if it tried to do it by primary legislation.

But back to Grayling’s comments about preferring the SNP to the Liberal Democrats. It’s hardly a surprise. If the Lib Dems had 57 MPs, the Tories wouldn’t have a majority and would not be able to inflict this and many other types of prejudice-stirring measures on us.

This is what he said to the SNP’s Pete Wishart:

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Geeky Alistair Carmichael secures Commons debate on English votes

Just over an hour ago on his Facebook page, Alistair Carmichael wrote:

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Opinion: Regaining lost trust – the five-year campaign trail ahead

 

We all know the gloomy picture: I don’t need to re-hash the scale of our losses, or present you with the same statistics you know so well. Let’s leave it like this: we don’t just have to win back seats and votes.

We have to find a way to win back lost trust, in the face of anger, disappointment and – perhaps worst of all – plain disinterest.

That means finding a way to signal a clear break with the past, but without disowning the party’s achievements in government. It means offering a distinctive alternative to the Tories and Labour, but without chasing after protest votes. And above all, it means working out what we can say to make people listen, when many don’t even want to give us the time of day.

So – how should we go about it?

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Opinion: Should we bomb ISIS positions in Syria?

 

Thursday’s news reported Michael Fallon’s statement to the House of Commons raising the possibility of another Commons vote on bombing Syria. Friday’s zoomed in on the one minute of silence to honour the victims of the shooting in Tunisia.

Quite how bombing ISIS positions in Syria would prevent a gunman doing crazy things near the other end of the Mediterranean is not quite so clear. Announcing this just before a public marking of the deaths sounds like a plea for revenge.

Later on Thursday Radio 4 interviewed two Conservative MPs about the possibility of bombing Syria, one who voted for this and one who voted against in 2013 — overlooking the idea that the proposal now is to bomb the positions of ISIS, who oppose President Assad’s regime.

photo by: The U.S. Army
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Social Liberal Forum holds hustings for Farron and Lamb

The Social Liberal Forum Conference ended yesterday with a 90 minute hustings between Tim Farron and Norman Lamb. Both men turned up dressed in very similar clothes. As I tweeted at the time, if they had been women, we’d never have heard the end of it.

It was a lively event, not least because they did allow questions from the floor that hadn’t been submitted in advance – and they allowed supplementaries. The candidates were both put under more pressure than they had been at any other event I’d seen so far. There is nothing wrong with vanilla ice cream, but if the other hustings were that, then this one was Chilli and Dark Chocolate ice cream – rich with flavour and full of warmth. When I say warmth, I am not referring to the temperature in the room. The air-conditioning was broken, leading Nick Barlow to make one observation:

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Russia, ISIS, globalisation and the EU – Norman and Tim answer foreign affairs questions

LDV recently put some questions on foreign affairs to the two leadership contenders. Here are their responses.

1. Can you summarise in around 100 words what a liberal foreign policy looks like in your view?

Tim Farron:

Liberals are proud and passionate internationalists because we believe in the rights of all people – no matter what they look like, what they believe or where they are – to live in peace, free from poverty, ignorance and conformity. We understand that only by working with other countries through strong international institutions can we make that a reality and build a fairer, greener, freer world.

It is in neither Britain’s interests nor the world’s to close ourselves off, but also that intervention abroad must be rooted in international law, decided through international institutions and clearly justified on humanitarian grounds.

Norman Lamb:

Our Party is proudly internationalist. Our leaders have often been lone voices, Paddy demanding rights for British citizens from Hong Kong, Charles opposing the Iraq War, Nick in taking on Nigel Farage‎

I share these courageous liberal values‎. Liberal values are universal – they do not respect borders.

For me Britain should play a global role and prompt Europe to do more for peace, in tackling poverty and climate change, and in standing up to oppression.

We must also be able to defend those who need our protection, our allies, and ourselves. Enduring adequate funding for our armed forces means debating Trident’s future when our world is far more threatened by terrorists and cyber attacks than by nuclear war, and pursuing reform to make sure our forces are effective and efficient.

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Guardian revelations about Clegg, Cable and the Lib Dem election catastrophe

Well, as the ballot papers get sent out in the leadership election, the Guardian publishes a series of revelations tonight about the last year of the coalition and the aftermath of the European elections.

Apparently Nick Clegg was ready to resign in the wake of the European elections and was talked out of it by, among others, Paddy Ashdown and Tim Farron. Certainly at the time, the feedback that Federal Executive members gave at our post Euro disaster meeting was that there was no appetite in the wider party for a leadership election, but they did want things to change.

Vince Cable, it transpires, did know about the Oakeshott polls.

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Liberal Democrat leadership: So what happens at a Lib Dem hustings meeting?

newcastle bridges by ratherbewalking
I was peeved when I saw that the Scottish leadership hustings were taking place this coming Saturday as I knew I had to be in London for a Federal Executive away day. In a moment of madness, though, I decided that I would make a trip to Newcastle for the hustings last Friday night. I am, after all, the FE liaison person for the North East region so it would be good to meet people there.

After a 90 minute train journey, a delicious Chicken Fajita in a place called Zapatista and a quick look at the Centurion pub next to the station to see the amazing Victorian tile work (honest), I headed to the Station Hotel a full hour before the hustings started. It was already buzzing with people. They were expecting so many to turn up that they had had to arrange a bigger room.

I managed to get one of the last seats in the room even though I’d got there so early. Strictly speaking, I might have spent too long drinking gin in the bar with my friend of two decades, Jo, where I also found out something about Tim Farron’s past that I didn’t know. I am now hunting down the evidence and when I find it, you will be the first to know. It’s not scandal, unless you count crimes against fashion in that category. 

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Lib Dem Leadership: Big name endorsements for each camp as ballots are posted to members

Ballots for the Liberal Democrat leadership hit members’ doorsteps from tomorrow.

With that in mind, both camps have unveiled big name endorsements. From the Lamb campaign, he kind of unveiled it himself in his inimitable style:

It isn’t the biggest surprise in the whole world. During our Spring conference, he was pretty critical of Tim. Paddy becomes the latest party establishment figure to support Norman Lamb.

At the start of the campaign, Tim Farron unveiled a list of over 100 parliamentary candidates who had supported him. On Monday he announced the support of over 200 councillors, council group leaders and elected mayors like Dorothy Thornhill and Dave Hodgson. The Westminster Bubble may have gravitated towards Norman, but Tim has significant grassroots support.

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Opinion: I’m a liberal so why should I feel excluded?

I am a Liberal, not just a Liberal Democrat, but a deep rooted Liberal. I believe in freedom of choice, freedom of expression. I believe in an individual’s right to privacy, to making choices that don’t hurt others. I believe in the self determination of life and of the right of the individual to end that right. I believe that everyone should be allowed to choose to live the way they are born and the way they choose, and for that to change as they grow and understand themselves better.  I believe that an individual should have the right to defend themselves against accusations and the right to a fair trial that starts from the premise of innocent till proven guilty. I believe in the individual and providing an opportunity for everyone to succeed no matter their background and without having to be measured by my understanding of success.

With all of this and more I am without a doubt in my mind a Liberal and I believe that the Liberal Democrats are the right place for me to express those beliefs and to fight for those beliefs. Yet at times, recently, I have felt like an outsider and at times been made to feel like I don’t belong in this party. I’m not a new member either, I’m chair of my Local party, have been on a number of welsh party committees and spoken at a number of our conferences. So why do I feel like I’m not welcome? Because I’m a man of faith.

Posted in Op-eds | 87 Comments

Opinion: The Tim I know and why I am backing him

It seems a long time since I sat in a Kendal pub and talked with a young 32 year old parliamentary candidate who had dreams of being our local MP. The Tories had been in power here for just short of 100 years and we thought that was enough. The District Council had a Tory leader and I was there to see if I could be persuaded to stand as a Liberal Democrat for my local Ward, to bring us a little nearer towards taking control.

It’s 13 years since that meeting, Tim’s now our MP and we run the Council. We’re building homes for local families, who previously were being forced out of South Lakeland, and we’re helping create jobs by having a strong local plan. Our targets are 1,000 new affordable homes to rent and 1,000 new jobs. We came into politics to change lives for the better and we’re doing that in South Lakeland.

We used to run many more councils across the UK, all with a good story to tell, and if we are to rebuild our party we need to take these councils back! That’s why I’m writing to ask you to join me in backing Tim Farron as our new party leader.

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Norman Lamb MP writes…We must renew, restructure and simplify the way our party works

I believe a priority for the new Leader of the Liberal Democrats is to renew, restructure and simplify the way our Party works. Some parts of the Party work well – others do not. Good practice should be shared and problem areas tackled.

As Liberal Democrats, we rightly set high standards for ourselves on tolerance, equality, openness, accountability, and diversity.  But our party often doesn’t live up to them.

During this campaign people have been telling me that there wasn’t enough accountability within the party.  People had concerns about our central message and the way we fought the election – but it felt like there was no easy channel to get those messages through.  And where mistakes were made, it wasn’t clear who ultimately was responsible.

Few party members really understand how our party works.  There are so many committees with overlapping responsibility.  The process for election to many offices within the party is arcane.  If no-one knows how our party structures work, there cannot be effective accountability.

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Jim Wallace on Charles Kennedy: We loved you, we miss you, will we ever see your like again

I was expecting last night’s memorial service for Charles Kennedy at Glasgow University to be a fitting tribute to the man, to be dignified and formal. It was all of those things, but I didn’t expect it to have such a strong under-current of emotion and affection. A series of heartfelt tributes were punctuated with beautiful music and poignant poetry and the whole thing was woven together perfectly by the University Chaplain, Rev Stuart MacQuarrie. At each stage, he talked very personally about the aspect of Charles’ life that the next item would reflect.

What was so clear was the enormous love and affection that senior management, students and academics alike had for Charles. The students clearly felt that he had their backs. The Presidents of the Glasgow University Union and the Students’ Representative Council both spoke about his approachability and his work on their behalf.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell sat together. Each did a reading. Willie Rennie read a poem. Jim Wallace gave a superb tribute to Charles, talking about their experiences as Highland MPs and how they all travelled to each others’ constituencies to get a shared understanding of the challenges faced by each area. He also spoke about the example Charles in his manner towards others and how we could all learn from him:

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Video: Watch Farron and Lamb in action at leadership hustings

A few weeks ago, Tim Farron and Norman Lamb took part in a hustings in London for several hundred new members of the party. The video footage has finally been put online. It’s two hours long, so get yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up and enjoy. It’s particularly useful for those of you who can’t get to a hustings meeting. I’m particularly thinking of those in the Highlands who would have to travel to either Aberdeen or Edinburgh. The full list of official hustings events is here and there are other unofficial events where both candidates will be appearing.

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Baroness Kath Pinnock: Childcare Bill must focus on impact on children’s lives

Kath PinnockThe Childcare Bill had its Second Reading in the Lords yesterday. Liberal Democrat peer Kath Pinnock, in her first major speech in her new role as spokesperson for Children, outlined her concerns with it. Her long experience in local government gives her an understanding of how these things work and who has to organise them that many MPs will not have. She also made a very important point. The Conservatives often talk about childcare as being a mechanism to get women back to work without looking at either the practicalities for the women concerned or the impact of the lives of their children. She argued that the Bill must address more than the economic argument.

She also gets that often women work in low paid, unstable jobs either early in the morning or outside school hours and the system needs to be flexible enough to cope with that. She also outlines the cost of childcare in the school holidays, particularly the Summer.

The House of Lords will be particularly important in this Parliament as the Government does not have a majority there. They have a real opportunity to improve poor legislation.

Here’s Kath’s speech in full. 

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Lord Paul Tyler writes…Tackling the Tory Democratic Deficit

The advent of a Conservative government might once have meant no reform at all to our political system.  However, David Cameron is almost accidentally opening the door to a review of party funding regime, the electoral system and the procedures of the House of Commons.  During the Queen’s Speech debates, the Lib Dem team in the Lords has been tackling all three issues.

The Government wants to dry up some of the money available to Labour by placing restrictions on trade union funding.  The principle that trade union members should consent to their subscriptions funding a political party is quite right.  Yet it will be totally unbalanced to introduce that reform without something on the other side of the ledger, namely a cap on the large individual donations which fund the party arms race in spending.

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Congratulations to Liberal Democrats on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List

Many congratulations to the Liberal Democrats honoured into today’s birthday honours list.

We’ve already mentioned Simon Hughes, who is knighted.

Duwayne Brooks (pictured) receives an OBE for public and political service. Duwayne was our very prominent and energetic candidate for Mayor of Lewisham in 2014. He has been a councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham, serving as the lead member for the Liberal Democrats on the Safer Communities Board at the Local Government group, where he has also been Community Cohesion and PREVENT Champion. He has run a charity supporting victims of crime. Duwayne is a great example of a Liberal Democrat rolling their sleeves up to make their community better.

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