Tag Archives: general election 2015

Out on the campaign trail with Jo Swinson

The Spectator’s Isabel Hardman went up to East Dunbartonshire to go campaigning with Jo Swinson recently. Her piece is pretty balanced and fair and gives quite an insight into Jo on the campaign trail

Now, I know what a whirlwind Jo is and how much work she gets through and how many doors she knocks on. I went across to help many times during the 2005 campaign. She was so disciplined and even if she met her own high targets, she wasn’t happy unless she’d done even more.

Her campaigning experience comes across in Hardman’s profile as does her name recognition:

Swinson is also a proper local campaigner. Everyone we meet seems to have had a problem that she’s sorted out. ‘You fixed my drains!’ is something several householders exclaim as they open the door (they mean she got the council to do it, I assume, though Swinson does tell one man she used to be a girl guide, which makes me wonder if she has actually personally fixed some drains too). Even the voters who aren’t backing her say ‘I’ve got to say, you do a lot for this area. Well done.’

She also behaves like someone used to pounding pavements. When we’re knocking on doors in a sheltered housing complex, she makes sure that the fire doors don’t swing noisily shut after her, instead shutting them gently herself. This is the sort of thing people who don’t bother to knock on doors very often don’t do, because they don’t realise how much striding noisily through someone else’s property annoys them.

Hardman reckons Labour MPs are so non-plussed because they’ve never had to campaign, but it’s clearly Jo’s forte.

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Opinion: Why do I still care?

It is difficult to stop caring coming, as I do, from generations of politically active Liberals and having taken up the baton myself back in 1983. In 1997, I was handed the reins of the Scottish Lib Dem website which meant I was in sole charge of the content and design of the site. I ran it until 2008 when I resigned in disgust at the changes, and censorship, mooted by a newly-formed website committee. Since then, I have allowed my membership to lapse but, until now, have always voted Lib Dem.

Being in a coalition took Westminster Lib Dems by surprise in 2010 but it need not have done. They have, of course, done wonders as a brake on Tory policies but they will never have any credit for what they have done. What is particularly frustrating for me is that I had pointed out how to advertise their role in a paper I circulated in January 2005 because, by that time, there had already been Lib Dem Government Ministers for five years.

How easy it would have been, back then, to have had permanent footers on every London press release pointing out that the person in charge, in Scotland, was a Lib Dem.  How easy it would have been to have our Education spokesperson MP stop waffling on about what he would do and start saying this is what our Minister is doing, in Scotland.  No-one else was going to do so, no Westminster Minister was ever going to admit to covering only part of the UK, the only people who could blow the Lib Dem trumpet were the Lib Dems themselves and they failed, miserably.

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Sarah Smith, a brave and committed Liberal Democrat candidate fighting the election while undergoing cancer treatment

There’s a really moving profile of Liberal Democrat candidate Sarah Smith in today’s Observer magazine. Written by her stepsister Catherine Mayer, it tells of how she is combining fighting the election with a gruelling course of Chemotherapy after being diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer just after party conference in October last year.

Sarah is not the only candidate fighting the election with such a diagnosis. I know of two others who have had Cancer diagnoses in recent months and are continuing with their duties. The way that they have handled it has been a real example to us all.

Sarah is fighting the seat of Dover and Deal and has been open about her diagnosis and hopes that she will be able to help others and raise awareness.

Surely she should now devote her energies to recovery or, if that proved elusive, draw up a bucket list? People in her situation book trips to Rome or the Galapagos rather than yearning to tramp the streets of Dover and Deal.

Sarah laughed at the comparison but remained obdurate. Her candidacy had validity before her diagnosis, she said, and she refused to accept that illness would stop her from being effective. Her local party agreed so she posted an open letter to constituents revealing her condition. “I am telling you about this because I want to be open about what is happening to me, and because my treatment will undoubtedly affect my campaign. It will be harder for me to get out to meet you on the doorstep, although I will do that as much as I can.”

Mayer outlines what Sarah has been through in the last 6 months:

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Senior renewable energy figures support Lib Dem involvement in next Government

Twenty figures from the renewable energy industry have written to the Independent on Sunday to say that they want Liberal Democrats to be involved in the next Government because of our record, in adverse circumstances, in this one. They said:

When the Coalition took office, both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats pledged to make it the ‘greenest government ever’.

Liberal Democrats kept to that pledge. Under the leadership of the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey, they have consistently acted to make this country cleaner, greener and more open to investment in renewables.  Some £37 billion has been invested in renewable energy, supporting 460,000 jobs as of 2013, reducing our carbon emissions and improving Britain’s energy security.

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Nick Clegg, coalitions and the SNP: too much egg in the pudding?

Nick Clegg has been talking about how the Liberal Democrats will not be part of a coalition which has to rely on the support of the SNP or UKIP.

He outlined his position in an email to members this afternoon:

You’ll see in the news today some comments I made about us not entering into a post-election coalition that relies on life support from the SNP or UKIP.

Over the next 12 days the media are going to become more and more obsessed with who is prepared to do a deal with who. This only goes to underline what we all know – nobody is going to win this election – which makes the number of seats we win even more important.

As we have always said, the party with the most votes and the most seats in this election has the first right to seek to form a Government. The British people would rightly question the legitimacy of a coalition that didn’t allow the party with the largest number of seats and votes the opportunity to attempt to form a Government first.

I’m proud that the Liberal Democrats have proved we can form a strong and stable coalition government, able to bring prosperity to Britain.

Just like we would not put UKIP in charge of Europe, we are not going to put the SNP in charge of Britain – a country they want to rip apart.

We’re a democratic party. In the end, the decision to form a coalition rests not with the leader but with the party.

So let’s not get too distracted – I’m going to spend the next 12 days supporting our candidates and making sure we win as many seats as possible. I know you will as well.

If you’re not already helping a target seat, why not sign up to make some phone calls from home this week and help get out our vote? Every call you make will help one of our fantastic candidates.

Thank you for everything you’ve already done, and everything you’re going to do in the next 12 days.

Nick

The fact that he’s done such an email to members shows that he realises that this will be a controversial stance. Aren’t we, after all, the party that believes in coalition and if we’re doing politics differently, should we not reject the binary “one big party/one little party approach. Should we not be championing a more inclusive, pluralist approach, after all?

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So how worried should we be about the Ashcroft poll on Bristol West?

Lord Ashcroft has released a further six constituency polls today. There is serious Liberal Democrat interest in only one of them – in Stephen Williams’ constituency in Bristol West. The results make depressing reading, showing Stephen in 3rd place behind the Greens. The figures, after they’ve been through Ashcroft’s magic manipulator, his not very transparent methodology.

Ashcroft Bristol West poll bar chart

 

As always he doesn’t use the candidate’s name, which makes no sense during an election. Let’s face it, the voters will be filling in ballot papers with the candidates’ names on them. Not only that, he doesn’t even name the constituency.

Party sources are quite bemused that Ashcroft hasn’t even tailored the poll to suit the seat. For example, with UKIP not a key player, he still asks if people have received literature from them. Yet the Greens are supposedly on 25% and he didn’t bother to ask if people had heard from them.

There’s also a feeling in the party that the truth on the ground isn’t as gloomy as the raw data would suggest for 3 reasons:

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Lib Dems react quickly to Cameron’s “brain fade” West Ham moment

David Cameron had one of those moments on the campaign trail this morning. This is what happens when you are too used to reading your speeches off an autocue, I guess. He was talking about how he wanted to see Britain at ease with multiple identities.

From the Guardian:

Where you can support Man Utd, the Windies and Team GB all at the same time.

Of course, I’d rather you supported West Ham.”

Asked to clarify his loyalties after his speech, which he read from an autocue, Cameron replied: “I had what Natalie Bennett described as a brain fade.

I’m a Villa fan … I must have been overcome by something … this morning.

But there we are, these things sometimes happen when you are on the stump.

It’s the sort of gaffe that anyone could make and it’ll make us all laugh for 30 seconds and move on. Although I do wonder if Conservative peer Karren Brady, who’s vice-chairman of West Ham, had anything to do with it.

Those digital geniuses at Lib Dem HQ have reacted quickly though to give that amusing moment a little extra traction. They’ve done a few amusing “page not found” jokes before. Here is today’s:

David Cameron Aston Villa

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Willie Rennie accuses Conservatives of trying to pull the UK apart

For the third time in ten days, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has hit out at the Conservatives, accusing them of putting party before country and risking the future of the United Kingdom they say they want to keep together.

Their actions are very different, though. Last week, Michael Fallon talked up the entirely ridiculous suggestion of a deal between Labour and the SNP on Trident with the aim of persuading swing voters in middle England to vote Conservative. They also sent their Scottish leader campaigning in North East Fife, a seat they know that they can’t win. Willie Rennie said at the time:

Just the other day the Scottish Conservative Leader was visiting North East Fife claiming they can win.  It’s a seat the bookies say is a close race between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.  The Tories are also rans.  The only result of their reckless actions would be to divide the non-SNP vote and let the SNP win.

Yesterday, Willie described the Conservative plans for English votes for English Laws as “unstable and reckless.”

We agree that there does need to be a stronger voice for England in parliament.

But we will not entertain a Conservative attempt to gerrymander those votes in order to give the Conservatives a majority say on these important matters when they don’t command a majority of peoples’ votes in England.

Like all other forms of devolution in the United Kingdom any change must be based on fairer proportional voting, not Tory plans to create a majority by the back door. The Conservatives unstable and reckless reforms threaten to undermine the future of the UK.

And, finally, today, he condemned a Conservative poster being shown in England, saying that the Tories have joined the SNP in trying to pull the country apart.

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Danny Alexander’s note to Liam: We won’t let you or the Tories screw up the recovery

Five years apart, two letters tell a very different story. David Laws found this on his desk at the Treasury:

 

Liam Byrne's note

 

Danny Alexander got round to replying today:

Danny Alexander's reply

As George Crozier pointed out last week, this recovery is very much a Liberal Democrat recovery:

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Danny Alexander says HSBC worries about UK leaving EU show dangers of Conservatives and UKIP

HSBC has said today that it might consider pulling out of the UK and cited uncertainty over Britain’s position in the EU as part of its reasoning. From the Guardian:

HSBC, Britain’s biggest bank, has issued a stark warning about the economic risks of the UK pulling out of the European Union as it revealed it was considering moving its headquarters out of London.

The surprise announcement of a full-blown review into where the bank should base its operations will stun politicians on the general election campaign trail.

HSBC listed the economic uncertainty created by the risk of the UK going alone – a blow to the Conservatives which have pledged to hold an “in-out” referendum on the EU.

It would be a massive deal if HSBC were to leave as 48,000 jobs would go.

Danny Alexander said that this highlighted the dangers of a Conservative/UKIP government:

Today’s HSBC announcement confirms fears that businesses have over a swing to the right and the prospect of a ‘Blukip’ coalition pulling us out Europe.

David Cameron, held hostage by UKIP partners and the right wing of his party, would drive the country further towards a ‘Brexit’ – which would hit both jobs and business.

As I revealed today, the markets and businesses are increasingly showing their concern at the prospect of an unstable government.

Only stable government with the Liberal Democrats in the mix will stop Britain from being pulled sharply to the right with Nigel Farage, or to the left with Alex Salmond.

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Opinion: On the campaign trail with Jenny Woods and Meri O’Connell in Reading

Jenny Woods and Meri O'ConnellLast September, the Greater Reading party was gearing up to select its Prospective Parliamentary Candidates for the two seats in our area: Reading East and Reading West.  It was the fevered period just before the Scottish referendum, yet discussion about the looming General Election was increasing, including discussion of the number of women in Parliament and ongoing debate about women in the Liberal Democrats in the light of past events.

I was therefore delighted when Jenny Woods and Meri O’Connell were selected, enthusiastically and overwhelmingly, to stand for Reading East and Reading West.

Jenny is that rare thing in politics (less so in Lib Dem politics, it seems!) – a scientist, specialising in sustainability and policy making.  She joined the party in Reading in 2010 out of sheer frustration with how politics deals with science and funding.  She made her mark on the 2012 Spring Conference by proposing a policy amendment against the incipient Snooper’s Charter.  It was thanks to her that Julian Huppert and the rest of the party were able to take up the fight and kill it in Parliament; it is directly thanks to her efforts that the Snooper’s Charter and its cynical successor are not law.

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Paddick: Tories are playing a dangerous, divisive game over English votes for English laws

I still feel aggrieved that in the immediate aftermath of a bruising referendum campaign, our Prime Minister, rather than say something comforting and unifying, came out and picked a fight with Labour over English votes for English laws. Today, the Tories are highlighting their plans to resolve the constitutional conundrum. From the BBC:

Under the Conservatives’ proposals, the line-by-line scrutiny of new bills would be reserved for MPs from the nations affected by the legislation. A new grand committee of all English MPs – or English and Welsh MPs where appropriate – would also have to approve any legislation relating only to England.

Mr Cameron will promise firm proposals within 100 days of forming a government, which would be “fully implemented” by the time of the Budget in March of the following year.

Speaking on Question Time, Scotland’s Finance Minister John Swinney said the proposals ignored the fact that elements of income tax policy that will still apply to the UK as a whole would remain reserved to the Westminster government.

Labour says the issue should be considered along with other potential changes by a constitutional convention after the election.

The Liberal Democrats favour a grand committee of English MPs, with the right to veto legislation applying only to England, with its members based on the share of the vote.

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Shirley Williams highlights SNP’s failings in government

SCaron and Shirleyhirley Williams has written to the Times (£) to highlight that the SNP has not been as successful in government as it would like people to believe. She highlights failures on student debt, class sizes, the NHS and, importantly for anyone of a liberal mindset, its many failings on civil liberties.Here’s her letter:

The election campaign in the United Kingdom has been seriously impoverished by the absence of any detailed analysis south of the border of the SNP’s record in government.

Today the Scottish NHS is in crisis, with targets for cancer treatments not being met. More than 1,000 beds have been closed in Scottish hospitals since 2012. Last year, expenditure on the NHS in Scotland fell by 1.2 per cent while in England it rose by 4.4 per cent. Expenditure on training nurses and midwives in Scotland has been cut by 11 per cent.

In education, the SNP pledged to limit primary school class sizes to a maximum of 18 — a pledge it made when it first came into government in 2007. In fact, class sizes have risen in every year since 2010.

University students have been saddled with greater debt because they have to start repaying their loans once their incomes reach £16,500, while the figure in England is now £21,000. Worst of all, part-time college places have been cut by 130,000 — a travesty at a time when the UK needs skilled women and men to get the economy back on track. The SNP has not even met its unambitious target to build 6,000 affordable homes, despite the obvious need.

Additionally, the SNP’s troubling record on civil liberties has been further extended by its efforts to build an identity database based on NHS records. Its creation of a single national police force has been to the detriment of local policing and communities they serve; Highlanders have been aghast at the sight of armed police undertaking routine duties on their streets. It is a bigger insult that local communities’ calls to reverse the policy were ignored.

The SNP now seeks to present itself as a party with a strong interest in the future of the UK. Its own record makes that very hard to believe.

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Liberal Democrats launch Manifesto for Disabled People

Manifesto for Disabled PeopleNick Clegg launches the party’s Manifesto for Disabled People today. In the foreword, he writes:

Liberal Democrats believe that no matter who you are, where you come from and what your circumstances, you should not be denied the opportunity to fulfil your potential.

It is essential to break down the unfair divisions in our society, yet disabled people in Britain today still face significant barriers to getting on and living happy, independent lives.

Providing opportunity for everyone is the test of a liberal society.

In Coalition Government, I am proud of the important progress Liberal Democrats have made in driving improvements.

From fighting to protect schools and teaching budgets, to investing £400m in carers’ breaks, or launching the No voice unheard, no right ignored programme to ensure people with disability, autism and mental health conditions get the best care possible.

But we can and must go further.

In Government again, we will ensure that disabled people get the support and help they need to find work, whether it is supporting those who want to work, or ensuring fairer assessment and support of those who can’t.

We will work to improve the benefits system for disabled people, ensuring assessments are truly fair, with quick access to financial help for those who cannot work.

We will move towards an integrated health service with more joined up care, more personal budgets so people have more control over the care they need, and delivering equality of care for mental health patients.

Only the Liberal Democrats will create opportunity for everyone by building a stronger economy and a fairer society. Labour will borrow too much, risking the economy. The Tories will cut too much, threatening public services and sacrificing the least well off.

We are determined to stick with the approach we set out in 2010
– a fair way of restoring the nation’s finance. The fruits of Britain’s recovery must be felt by all – providing disabled people with real opportunities to achieve their potential, and the support they need to live happier, more fulfilling lives.

The key measures are:

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Kelly-Marie Blundell on walking the high wire: “It was absolutely terrifying but not so bad after the first fall”

You will be relieved to know that Guildford Liberal Democrat candidate Kelly-Marie Blundell survived her tightrope walk in one piece. She was very brave indeed, getting back on after she fell off. That sort of persistence, courage and determination is definitely what you need in an MP.

The event has been covered in the media, on the BBC’s Election Live page (at 15:26 today):

Kelly-Marie on the High Wire

 

And on the Guildford Dragon:

Guildford’s Lib Dem candidate for Westminster showed her skills at holding the balance of power this morning (April 22) with the help of the Moscow State Circus.

33-year-old Kelly-Marie Blundell’s only previous experience has been walking the political tightrope between left and right.

She said: “I have never even done anything like this before, not even gymnastics.

“It was absolutely terrifying but not so bad after the first fall. Actually, it was easier than I thought.”

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Does anyone give a hoot about the Grant Shapps furore? Even if the Lib Dem press office and Nick Clegg make us laugh

Grant Shapps, a Conservative who’s been getting himself into all sorts of scrapes for some years now. That is, of course, if he can remember his name. 

We’ve clearly got to that stage of an election where the journalists just want to have some fun. Rather than discuss the major issues of the day – remember that hundreds of people have drowned in the last week – the media is all in a spin about a Guardian story which suggests that Shapps is behind a Wikipedia profile which has edited the pages of various Conservatives, including Shapps, to either add or remove critical or embarrassing facts.

The Lib Dem Press Office responded with great humour and have had some great plaudits for it:

And even Nick Clegg got in on the act, saying rather mischievously at his press conference that:

Well, Grant Shapps has fervently denied that he had anything to do with it. He himself does not have the time apparently to edit his own Wikipedia entry. I’m prepared to believe him. It could have been someone else. Michael Green for instance.

It is all very funny, but how many votes is this going to win for anyone? Will people actually change their vote based on this? Does anyone outside the Westminster media bubble actually care?

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Nick Clegg outlines pay rises for public sector workers

Public sector workers would be guaranteed pay rises of at least the rate of inflation if the Liberal Democrat had their way. Nick Clegg is to give the details of the plan today. This would mean a minimum pay rise of £350 for a nurse on £25,000, £420 for a police officer on £30,000 and nearly £500 for a teacher on £35,000 over the next two years. After that, the government would recommend to pay review bodies that they give above inflation increases so that wages can rise in real terms.

Outlining the plan, Nick Clegg said:

Workers across the public sector have made enough sacrifices. You have done your bit to help get the country back on track.

That’s why the Liberal Democrats believe it is time to end the era of pay restraint.

Under our plans, we will give all public sector workers – from teachers and nurses to social workers and police officers – pay rises that at least keep pace with the cost of living every year.

No more pay freezes or below inflation pay rises. We can do this because with the Liberal Democrats, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

For two years pay in the public sector will, at the very least, keep pace with prices. After that, we will make sure it rises above inflation – giving millions of workers a real terms pay rise for the first time in years.

If you are a public sector worker worried Tory cuts threaten your job, or Labour’s refusal to deal with the deficit means another year of pay cuts, then only a vote for the Lib Dems will guarantee you a fair pay deal.

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Lib Dem candidate Kelly-Marie Blundell to walk tightrope at Moscow State Circus

Kelly-Marie and friendKelly-Marie Blundell is nothing if not courageous and tenacious. For those of you who don’t know her, she’s our candidate in Guildford, a member of the party’s Federal Policy Committee and prominent member of the Social Liberal Forum. She’s been behind many of the excellent motions on welfare reform and food banks which have been passed at Liberal Democrat conference in the last few years.

She’s leading a lively campaign in Guildford, a seat held between 2001 and 2005 for the party by Sue Doughty. Just the other day, I saw that she was committed to many hustings meetings. But she’s managed to fit in fulfilling a lifelong ambition. Tomorrow morning at 9am, she’ll be doing this:

Clearly we are putting our parliamentary candidates under too much stress if this is what they do for a rest!

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The lighter side of the election

There is a bumper crop of funny election related things today. I hope that this cheers you up as you come in, tired, from the campaign trail.

Bizarre headline of the day

Clown seen running off with Liberal Democrat poster from the Telegraph:

In a Stroud Life article, Adrian Walker-Smith, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the Stroud constituency, said: “Our supporter was hanging out her washing in the garden when she heard a crack and saw a young man wearing clown trousers dashing along the street with the board.

I think Adrian may have been a little harsh with his suggested penalty, though:

We will replace the poster and will not be troubling the police, but if the culprit is identified we suggest the use of the historic Bisley lock-up.

Fancy turning Ed Davey into a scottie dog?

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Paddy Ashdown swears on the BBC seven times before noon

Paddy is a legend. “My old friend” he called John Major and then proceeded to outline in robust and pithy language how David Cameron would be beholden to 60 “b*****ds should the Tories gain a majority in the election. He said Major only had 16, but Cameron would have 60 troublesome right wingers to deal with and outlined the chaos that could then ensue.

The Huffington Post has transcribed all the offending excerpts.

If you watch no other Paddy interview this election, watch this one. It’ll make you laugh. And then read what I wrote earlier about the SNP and how people should just stop being scared of them – although there are three reasons I think people should choose Liberal Democrat sitting MPs over their candidates.

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Lib Dems on 48% in poll… really!

The Liberal Democrats are on 48% in a poll with the closest rival, the Greens,  trailing in our wake with just a third of that total.

Unfortunately, this is unlikely to change anyone’s vote. It’s in the Big Beard Poll on Keith Flett’s blog. Keith runs the Beard Liberation Front which earlier this year announced our Julian Huppert as the Parliamentary Beard of the Year.

The campaign says that it is entirely up to voters to decide but a key criteria is how Parties are prepared to go in signing up to the BLF Beard Friendly Britain Manifesto (below)

BLF Organiser Keith Flett said, “Of course the LibDem leadership is as clean shaven and suited as other parties but the LibDems still do retain some of their traditional hirsute following. The LibDem candidate for Cambridge Julian Huppert, for example, is a former winner of the Parliamentary Beard of the Year Award.”

The Beard Liberation Front manifesto is as follows:

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Willie Rennie launches Scottish Liberal Democrats manifesto for a “Decade of Opportunity”

Edinburgh West is clearly the place to launch your election manifesto these days. However, when Willie Rennie, Mike Crockart and Jo Swinson launch the Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto it won’t be in a massive venue surrounded by an audience of cheering party supporters, it’ll be in the heart of the community, in a small business, in South Queensferry.

Ironically, it’ll be almost exactly opposite the spot across the Firth of Forth in North Queensferry where he gave his first interview as Scottish leader in May 2011.

Last year, Willie talked about a “sunshine strategy” and it looks like he’ll be getting plenty sunshine and 15 degree temperatures for the launch.

Willie said:

Liberal Democrats are driven by our ambition of creating opportunity for all.

Our prospectus to the people of Scotland is proudly Liberal Democrat. Standing on the record of progress in government and vision of the future.

In just five years we have got the economy back on track and done so fairly.  We are now closer to our ambition of creating opportunity for everyone.  But with wins for the Liberal Democrat in this election we can make it a decade of opportunity.

With Liberal Democrats we can create opportunity for children by investing in education especially in the early years.

With Liberal Democrats we can create opportunity for everyone by investing £800million in our NHS and bring mental health care to the fore.

With Liberal Democrats we can create opportunity for workers by creating even more jobs and cutting their taxes too.

With Liberal Democrats we can create opportunity for Scotland by delivering more powers to the Scottish Parliament.

These are Liberal Democrat ambitions because they build a stronger economy and a fairer society, in a stronger Scotland.

It is a positive offer to create a decade of opportunity for everyone in our country.

The manifesto can be read here.

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Video: 3 reasons to vote for Dorothy Thornhill in Watford

The Watford campaign team have given us all a lesson in how to do video campaigning this election. First there was this introduction to Dorothy as a person, and now there are three solid policy reasons to vote for her:

Three Reasons to Vote Dorothy from Think About It Films on Vimeo.

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The glamour of life on the campaign trail

From the Sunday Times Shippers Forecast (£)

The Forecast’s favourite ginger spin doctor, James McGrory of the Lib Dems, looked even more dishevelled than usual after a night bunked up at Nick Clegg’s constituency home. “I was stuck in a tiny child’s bed and Nick was ages in the shower,” he explained.

Clegg, who has quit smoking, has an incentive for McGrory — who still puffs away like a chimney — not to wash. “I just have to sit next to him,” Clegg told me. “It’s nicotine consumption by osmosis.

In a separate interview in the same paper, Nick talks about the impact on his children of his career:

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What is it about the Lib Dems that appeals to physicists?

We were intrigued to be told this week that of the 32 candidates standing in the election who have a background in Physics, 12 of them are Liberal Democrats. A blog on Physicsworld.com reveals all:

In the last parliament (2010–2015), five members of the UK House of Commons held undergraduate degrees in physics: Tom Brake, Don Foster and John Hemming (Liberal Democrats), Andy Love(Labour) and Alok Sharma (Conservative). Foster and Love are retiring this year, but the other three are standing again. They face re-election battles of varying difficulty, but overall, their chances of continuing to represent the Physics Party in parliament look relatively good.

As for the 28 29 newcomers in the running, three of them – Heidi Allen, Kevin Hollinrake and Chris Philp – are Conservatives contesting seats considered “safe” for their party. A fourth, Carol Monaghan, is the Scottish National Party candidate for Glasgow North West, where the nationalists enjoy a commanding lead in the opinion polls. Hence, my informed guess is that on 8 May, the Physics Party will have increased its representation by 40%, from five seats to seven.

What about the other hopefuls? Well, one or two of them (including physics teacher Layla Moran, who is standing for the Liberal Democrats in the ultra-marginal Oxford West and Abingdon constituency) might just eke out narrow wins, but most are going to struggle.

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Willie Rennie: Look at the things we got right, not the thing we got wrong

Willie Rennie has given a candid interview to the Scotsman about the prospects for the Liberal Democrats and our record in government. Given the tuition fees question, he is apologetic but asks people to look at the whole picture:

Saying sorry isn’t a tactic,” he insists. “People who are annoyed with us will be annoyed with us, but they deserve an apology. Some will never understand or forgive. They’re entitled to do that. My only plea to them is look at all the things we’re getting right, not just the thing we got wrong.”

Repentance and sincerity are unnatural political bedfellows, but convincing Scotland’s electorate you mean what you say should be easier for a Fifer with a buzzcut than an Old Etonian.
There’s quite a sympathetic approach – the journalist suggests that he is a genial, robust and consensual presence at Holyrood, a bulwark against the SNP’s more illiberal instincts, but the party’s baggage hangs over him.
It could be understood if Willie were to try to put some distance between the Scottish party and them in Westminster, but he doesn’t, not just because it wouldn’t be credible, but because he wouldn’t do that to colleagues:
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Video: Charles Kennedy’s 30 years of service to the Highlands

Charles Kennedy’s team has put together a video of pictures from his 32 years as an MP. When I first watched it the other day, It actually made me cry when I watched it. That’s not just because it scares me to be old enough to remember things that happened three decades ago. It was quite something for me, growing up in Caithness, to have someone just 7 years older than me elected in the next constituency.

During the 1984 European election campaign, Charles Kennedy, Alan Beith and Bob Maclennan held a public meeting in Wick to support Russell Johnston’s campaign for the European Parliament. As the youngest member of the local SDP by some margin, I was invited to deliver the Vote of Thanks at the end of this meeting. It was one of my first ever public speeches and one which is probably not worth remembering. Before the meeting I was invited to High Tea at a local hotel with all the speakers. All my contemporaries at that time were mad on Wham, but I was completely starstruck by Russell and Charles.That was the same campaign I got into big trouble for inadvertently propping up a Russell leaflet on my windowsill. My parents were none too impressed when they discovered it after about a week of it being there. Funnily enough, my nephew tried the same trick (sadly for a different party) recently with similar results.

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Tweets from the campaign trail – 18th April 2015

It’s been a gorgeous day – and Liberal Democrats have been out and about campaigning across the country. Here are some of their tweets:

And look who joined Simon today:

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Leeds North West Labour candidate Alex Sobel has to make second apology for untrue campaign statements

We all make mistakes. It’s part of being human. What’s important is that you learn from them. And when political opponents make mistakes, there are times when you need to show a bit of understanding and “there but for the grace of God go I” attitude. Election campaigns are fraught and exhausting and those working on them make massive sacrifices. The chances of mistakes being made through sheer fatigue are quite high.

There are times, though, when a campaign doesn’t learn from its mistakes and it’s legitimate to point that out.

Alex Sobel, the Labour candidate in Leeds North West, has had to make two apologies in the last 10 days for putting out leaflets with two separate untrue statements on it.

The first time, Labour had to distribute 15000 copies of an apology to Liberal Democrat candidate and sitting MP Greg Mulholland for saying that he’d voted for a piece of legislation when he’d been on paternity leave. Greg Mulholland’s website has the details:

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Paddy and the hen party…

Over at the Staggers blog, Kevin Maguire recounts an encounter between Paddy Ashdown and a hen party on a London bound train after the first leaders’ debate:

…the former Royal Marine met his match on a train to London after the 2 April TV debate. Outgunned and outnumbered, the Lib Dem peer was forced to surrender to a Yorkshire hen party in fancy dress. On this occasion, a radar-lugged snout was settling down to hear Ashdown discussing campaign strategy on his phone when the carriage filled up with shrieking lasses. Captain Paddy hastily terminated the call with a giggly: “Save me! Save me!”

And that was before he was recognised:

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