Tag Archives: shirley williams

Lib Dem Peers rebel as Government defeated on Welfare Reform

The Government has suffered a series of defeats in the House of Lords tonight on various aspects of the Welfare Reform Bill.

The House of Lords was discussing amendments relating to the Employment and Support Allowance.

The Guardian reports that 3 Liberal Democrats, Jenny Tonge, Matthew Taylor and Roger Roberts voted for an amendment which protected young people’s right to claim Employment and Support Allowance.

The Government was also defeated on their one year time limit for claiming Contributory ESA. This was increased to two years by the amendment. The Liberal Democrat rebels were Dee Doocey and Jenny Tonge.

The third defeat was …

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VIDEO: Paddy Ashdown, Shirley Williams and Julian Glover on the Liberal Democrats, recession and The Guardian

You can now watch again in full one of the best fringe meetings from the party conference, which saw Paddy Ashdown, Shirley Williams and the then Guardian editorial writer Julian Glover launch a new history of the party and its predecessors, Peace, Reform and Liberation.*

Julian Glover gave a very funny speech about his newspaper’s love/hate relationship with the party – “So there you have it, 150 years from The Guardian and the Manchester Guardian calling on the Liberal Party and the Liberal Democrats to be brave, radical; praising the party’s policies and then writing it off as irrelevant”.

Shirley Williams turned to the history of America and of the 1930s, drawing lessons for the current economic difficulties, including why American history has made her a supporter of coalition government in the UK.

Paddy Ashdown’s speech included a collection of his favourite liberal quotes and why the lessons contained in them are still highly relevant to contemporary liberal politicians, ending with this exhortation:

The thing that we have in our party title – liberal – goes back thousands of years. You should be proud of that. It should give us strength, and it should make us campaign even harder … Henry Gibson once said, ‘You do not go out to battle for freedom and truth wearing your best trousers’. Sometimes I think our party wears its best trousers too much. This is our heritage and it is also our message today – and we should be proud of it.

Here is the meeting in full to watch, and chances are it is much better than quite a few of those Christmas TV repeats you’ll otherwise find yourself watching…

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LibLink | In praise of… Shirley Williams

One of this week’s Guardian leader columns, ‘In praise of…’, was deservedly dedicated to Shirley Williams, a Lib Dem peer, founding member of the SDP, and former Labour education secretary. Here’s a snippet:

Forever running late, but with a warmth that ensures she’s forgiven, Williams has great faith in reasonable compromise. She has pursued a more softly-softly approach towards the dreadful health bill than we have advocated. But survivors of the SDP’s internecine wars recall a wily chair perfectly capable of calling a crunch vote when an awkward customer had gone to the loo, and it is too early to judge

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In other news…

On the NHS:

Liberal Democrats may win a key concession on the controversial Health and Social Bill before the legislation is passed, PoliticsHome has learned.

Sources have indicated that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, including key rebel Baroness Williams, have struck a deal which would allow Lib Dem peers currently opposed to the legislation to secure changes to the role of the Health Secretary. They are currently concerned that the Bill will mean the Secretary of State is not responsible for ensuring that patients across the country receive the same services and standards of care.

PoliticsHome understands that the responsibility of the Health

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Baroness Liz Barker writes… The Health and Social Care Bill in the Lords

I have spent my entire working life in the field of health and social care. For many years I worked for Age Concern and for all my time in the Lords I have been a member of the Health and Social Care team. I am, and always will be, a passionate supporter of an NHS which is free at the point of need and open to all regardless of their ability to pay.

Although the Health and Social Care Bill only came to the Lords this week I have been working on it for several months along with Liberal Democrat colleagues, including …

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Opinion: If the cap doesn’t fit, don’t wear it

The NHS Emergency Motion which was not debated at Conference in Birmingham had a clause that stated the cap on Private Patient Income (PPI) by NHS Foundation trusts should be retained. Shirley Williams has since stated that this is one of four main aspects of the bill which she will be trying to change in the House of Lords.

But Lib Dem peers would be wrong to press for retention of the cap. Even for those who want to preserve a strongly public sector provided NHS the retention of the Private Patient Income (PPI) cap makes no sense.

The cap limits the …

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Adrian Sanders is still right

With the reduction in number of MPs back in the news, so too is the question of how many ministers there are. As I wrote in October last year:

I agree with Adrian Sanders and 22 Conservative MPs
Yesterday in Parliament Adrian Sanders and 22 Conservative MPs voted to reduce the maximum number of ministers allowed in the Commons in line with the forthcoming reduction in the number of MPs

Without a cut in the number of MPs on the government payrolls, reducing the number of MPs will increase the government’s power over Parliament when the whole thrust of other reforms is, rightly, that …

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LibLink: Shirley Williams – Why this flawed bill threatens the very future of the NHS

Writing in today’s Observer, Liberal Democrat peer Shirley Williams says:

As the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill has ground on, the doubts and questions that accompany it have become ever more difficult to address. This is a bill that has been subjected to a listening exercise, extensive consultation and a report by Steve Field, chairman of the Future Forum, redrafting by Parliament, more than 100 hours of debate, and dedicated efforts by the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, and the Liberal Democrat minister of state for social care, Paul Burstow, to amend it to meet the worries Lib

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Shirley Williams revisits her childhood haunts

BBC Radio 4′s latest series of “The House I Grew up In” (which revisits the childhood neighbourhoods of influential Britons) includes an episode featuring Liberal Democrat Peer, Shirley Williams.

Shirley Williams, now Baroness Williams, returns to her childhood homes in London’s Chelsea and the New Forest. Her mother was the writer, Vera Brittain, whose most famous novel – Testament of Youth – was a best-seller when Shirley was a child in the 1930s. Her father, George Catlin, was an academic and and an instinctive feminist whose own mother had been an early suffragette, ostracised by Victorian society. He was a

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LDVideo: Vince and Shirley’s war on Murdoch, while Nick savages PCC as “busted flush”

There’s no doubt about the big story this week: Rupert Murdoch being forced to close the biggest-selling British newspaper in a brazen bid to ride out the illegal hacking story that threatens his media empire.

Vince Cable’s prophetic powers first came to prominence during the economic storm that came close to collapsing the banking system. Last December, he accidentally went on the record to make clear his wish to clip Rupert Murdoch’s wings. Ironically, it was the Telegraph’s widely condemned subterfuge which stopped Vince in his tracks, and prevented his ability to hold to account the company where illegal hacking was rife. Here’s what he inadvertently revealed to the Telegraph last year:

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LibLink | Shirley Williams: After all the arguments, where next for the NHS?

Shirley Williams writes in the Times today of her strong support for Future Forum’s recommendations for NHS reform, and suggests that listening exercises may be the way forward for future policy-setting:

Like many others, I was sceptical about the listening exercise. It seemed to me a way for the Government to win time so that it could rethink its proposals for NHS reform in the light of great scepticism from medical organisations, distinguished think-tanks, health service managers and staff, and, not least, doctors.

My concerns were not justified. The Future Forum, chaired by Professor Steve Field, himself for many

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LibLink | Shirley Williams: Lib Dems should take credit for thwarting Lansley

Shirley Williams, writing today in the Independent, says that the Liberal Democrats can be proud of their influence on NHS reforms:

Liberal Democrats, from our party’s grassroots to its leadership, can be proud of the influence we have exerted to change the Government’s NHS plans. It is clear now that the proposals that will be taken forward are dramatically different to those originally proposed.

The implications of Andrew Lansley’s massive health proposals, setting England’s health system on the path to a market in health care rather than a public service, were very slow to sink in. The complex, extensive and sometimes almost

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Tamed and reshaped – Clegg on the NHS White Paper

Speaking last night at an excellent anniversary dinner to mark 25 years (yes, 25 years) of Liberal Democrat control on Sutton Council, Nick Clegg said the party has been successful in taming and reshaping the NHS reform plans.

The run of political and electoral success achieved by Liberal Democrats in Sutton is, as Clegg pointed out, a standing answer to anyone who doubts that you can achieve and then hold political power whilst continuing campaigning and staying true to your liberal roots. One of the key people in that success was Ruth Shaw, who Nick Clegg personally presented with the 2010 …

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It’s a busy Saturday for the spinners

With the new version of the government’s health plans due out on Monday or Tuesday, expect tomorrow’s papers to be full of pre-briefing from the different camps – the pro-Lansley Tories, the rest of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

The first of that trio are likely to have by far the toughest, verging on implausible, task given the major changes coming to the original NHS plans. The bigger media battle is between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats (or Cameron and Clegg if you prefer your politics in distilled personalised format) over the relative credit for those changes.

The news from the Liberal …

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Liberal Youth: appealing to Lib Dems everywhere

Conferences are a foundation stone of being a Liberal Democrat. There have been some really huge and important ones – Brighton, 2002, where we laid out a principled position on Iraq; Llandudno, 1981, where Shirley Williams and David Steel spoke passionately in favour of an alliance; Sheffield, 2011, when we opposed the NHS reforms. Conference is the best way for the membership to exert their influence over the leadership. Past leaders, from Steel to Ashdown, from Kennedy to Clegg, have often feared Conference for the skill and passion with which it has put its arguments. And so the tradition of …

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NHS reforms will be altered significantly and in a Lib Dem direction – Paul Burstow

The NHS Bill will be substantially changed – that was the message from Liberal Democrat MP and Health Minister Paul Burstow at Lewisham Liberal Democrats on Friday night. It won’t just be changed, he said, it will be changed in a distinctively Liberal Democrat direction.

At the heart of the likely changes is the role of Monitor, the proposals for which Paul bluntly said were got wrong first time round. Though he was careful not to directly criticise Andrew Lansley, he did say that the original proposals for Monitor were to adopt the model of regulator used with privatised utilities and …

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LibLink: Shirley Williams – The line the Lib Dems won’t cross on the NHS

Over at The Guardian, Baroness Shirley Williams has a piece setting out the problems she has with the government’s proposed NHS reforms, and four substantive changes that the Liberal Democrats would like to see made.

Here’s a sample:

First, the role of the secretary of state: as the excellent fifth report of the House of Commons health committee pointed out, the public, who pay for the NHS, look to the secretary of state to be responsible for the delivery of a comprehensive health service, one that is equitable, accessible to all, and free at the time of use. The National Commissioning Board will

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Who are the greatest Liberal Prime Ministers who never were?

Mark Pack reviewed Francis Beckett’s new counterfactual collection, The Prime Ministers Who Never Were, on the Voice earlier this week — 14 ‘Big Beasts’ who, had the chips fallen differently, might have become premiers.

The list is mostly inevitable with a couple of intriguing outsiders: Austen Chamberlain, J R Clynes, Lord Halifax, Oswald Mosley, Herbert Morrison, Hugh Gaitskell, Rab Butler, George Brown, Norman Tebbit, Michael Foot, Denis Healey, Neil Kinnock, John Smith and David Miliband.

Voice readers will notice one evident fact: there’s not a single Liberal (or SDP) name among them. In some ways it’s not that surprising. After …

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Shirley Williams writes… Why Vote Yes – So that voters aren’t taken for granted

Let me start by stating an undisputable truth; we live in a pluralistic society. Governments have recognised this in delivering our public services and in fostering multiculturalism. However, when it comes to how we vote for our politicians, we have been stuck with first past the post, and left with the patronisingly simple option of submitting a single cross.

Experts of voting behaviour in the past would have explained voting outcomes through ‘class’. Nearly everybody voted either Labour or Conservative. For example, during every election of the 1950s, at least 90% voted for the two main parties. Now barely two-thirds do. …

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The party strategy debate: rolling highlights

Note: If you’re catching up with this post after it was published, read it from the bottom up.

Final result – both amendment and motion passed overwhelmingly. The overall tenor of the debate was more good natured than might have been expected – people did not take the opportunity to express any unhappiness in strident tones, and the party being in coalition with the Tories until 2015 was accepted and expected, explicitly or implicitly, by all speakers. Tuition fees and NHS got mentions, but brief ones. Norman Lamb’s comments about the health debate (see below), however, were unexpected and welcome.

James Gurling, …

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Ten comments on Saturday at party conference

1. Being introduced at a meeting or in a debate as a “Minister” is still a plus point, often triggering a round of applause. People at conference like the fact that the party is in government.

2. The Social Liberal Forum (SLF) is growing quickly in influence in the party, partly thanks to a smartly organised set of fringe meetings, amendments and motions. However, the SLF is very keen to repeatedly stress that it is not anti-coalition.

3. The NHS debate was a decision delayed. All sides are happy with the idea that a conference debate is used to set out or …

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Conference preview: two of the coalition’s most controversial policies

Saturday morning in Sheffield this weekend sees the LibDem conference debating two of the areas of coalition which have generated the most controversy: the NHS and the future of the Disability Living Allowance.

The motion on the Disability Living Allowance (F4) has been slightly overtaken by events as the debate within government over the Welfare Reform Bill develops and in fact the plans in this area have in effect been sent back to the drawing board. That makes the motion all the more important, because rather than being simply a chance to cast a verdict on what the government has done, it is a chance to influence what is yet to be decided. The heart of the motion calls for “the Coalition Government to reinstate the Mobility Component or otherwise fund the mobility needs of those who cannot afford to do so themselves”.

Paul BurstowStraight after this debate comes one on the NHS (F5). The choice of Andrew Wiseman, Federal Conference Committee’s chair, to chair this debate is a good sign that this is expected to be one of the liveliest of conference as is the news that two Liberal Democrat MPs have signed an EDM expressing concerns over the policy.

Buried in the middle of the motion are lines 16-17 which says that “Conference welcomes the vision for the NHS set out in the Government’s White Paper”. That may be glossed over as a bit of padding between long lists of less controversial points or it may be the trigger for an all-out row, as also may be the amendment likely to be debated that is coming from ex-MP and doctor Evan Harris and Lib Dem peer Shirley Williams (who made her views clear in “I can’t support the coalition plan for the NHS“).

The gap between what the amendment calls for and what Liberal Democrats in government have been pressing for is not that large, however – and some have already expressed the view that the amendment may be a good route to getting more changes made to the health plans. That will provide a pointed choice for those promoting the amendment – whether to try to bring about change through aggressive antagonism or through emollient persuasion? And is modifying the government plans or setting out what a Liberal Democrat majority government would do their top priority?

The full text of both motions are in the Spring Conference Agenda and Directory embedded below.

Liberal Democrat Spring Conference Agenda and Directory 2011

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Opinion: Baroness Williams shows how to disagree with coalition policy with grace

One of the very reasons I became a Liberal Democrat in the first place was be cause of strong women within the party who held similar beliefs to my own. Baroness Williams is one of those women, but she has something else which is equally important in these times of coalition government.

Shirley Williams has a wonderful way of saying that she disagrees with the coalition without it being dramatic or overly sentimental. In her opinion piece in The Times she lays out her thoughts as to why she cannot support the coalition and its proposals for the National …

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LibLink… Shirley Williams on the coalition: Not one bed – two beds

The Guardian today has an interview with Shirley Williams, who at 80, continues to work full-time and is active in questioning the coalition government’s stance on academies, health and Trident:

If you give up what you most care about you start dying. It doesn’t matter what age.

Debate within the coalition on the key issues is a positive thing, insists Williams:

What we have to do is get as much as one possibly can of what Lib Dems believe into the coalition programme. It’s no good simply saying our role is to say no to everything.

Williams admits her surprise that the Liberal Democrats, of whom she was a founder, formed a coalition with the Conservative Party.

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LibLink: Shirley Williams – The new politics is pragmatic

Over at The Guardian’s Comment is Free website, Lib Dem peer Baroness Shirley Williams offers a realistic lament-cum-appraisal of the opportunities and risks facing the coalition government:

So now we embark on a new politics. The generation I belong to, steeped in ideology and partisan commitment, is passing away. My own vision was one of equality and social justice advanced by state action. The new politics is pragmatic, innovative, suspicious of state power, and holds to values rather than dogmas. … out of the intense negotiations, brilliantly conducted by Nick Clegg and his team, has come a shared commitment: a new

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Paddy Ashdown in existential shock at rally

A good conference rally is fun to attend and tricky to report on, simply because there should be nothing new. The audience ideally leaves reminded of the key messages and enthused to fight the good fight – there’s plenty of time for controversy over the rest of the weekend.

As in Bournemouth, the rally took on a glitzy feel: dry ice, bright lights, (relatively) slick presentation.

Lorely Burt opened procedings with a few jokes, and promise of holding her seat in Solihull, where the Lib Dems overturned a 9,400 Tory majority last time round.

Then a selection of …

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Opinion: But is it really time for a change?

Party strategists have bet heavily on their assessment that voters think it is time for a change.

Perhaps simplistically, they hold to the notion that British political fortunes are governed by a pendulum. You often hear them criticise what they term the blue/red red/blue swings, but privately they accept it as a fundamental ‘law’ of political physics and have allowed themselves to be governed by this supposed law these last two years.

2010 will be one of those ‘Time for a Change’ elections, they have deduced.

From that deduction they moved on to suggest that the Conservatives (to whom in their estimate the pendulum has swung) have won the argument among the British public that they, the Conservatives, are the party of change.

The next step in the analysis was to presume that attacks on Conservatives or Conservative policies would thus position the Liberal Democrats as against change and therefore implicitly pro the status quo and, deep down in voter consciousness, pro-Labour.

Among leading Liberal Democrat MPs this conclusion may have been conveniently close to their political preferences, for others – and I think we may include Cable in this – it makes for an agonising and uncomfortable position.

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Daily View 2×2: 27 November 2009

2 Must-Read Blog Posts

What are other Liberal Democrat bloggers saying? Here are two posts that have caught the eye from the Liberal Democrat Blogs aggregator:

Spotted any other great posts in the last day from blogs that aren’t on the aggregator? Do post up a comment sharing them with us all.

2 Big Stories

Hacker Gary McKinnon to appeal after extradition blow
The BBC reports that Gary McKinnon’s lawyers are to make a “last-ditch” attempt to prevent his extradition to the US. They are issuing judicial review proceedings next week after Home Secretary alan Johnson decided not to block his extradition on medical grounds.

Glasgow-born Mr McKinnon, 43, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is accused of breaking into US military computers. He says he was seeking UFO evidence.

Now of Wood Green, London, he faces up to 60 years in prison if convicted.

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#ldconf podcast: IPPR fringe

We were taping ippr‘s fringe with our own Editor at Large Stephen Tall along with some relative political unknowns – Shirley Williams, Menzies Campbell and Charles Clarke.

The ippr did say they were recording the event themselves, and their recording is probably better than ours, but I can’t immediately find it on their website.

Play
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The Shirley Williams story – Climbing the Bookshelves

Shirley William’s memoirs, Climbing the Bookshelves, is published on 24th September, and you can order it from Amazon using this link (and earn the party some commission). Today’s Sunday Times serialises the book: “the rebel ‘Gang of Four’ politician, reveals her maverick streak was rooted in a free-spirited childhood”. Here’s an excerpt:

I was a competitive child. I liked risk, matching myself against challenges. Climbing my father’s bookshelves to the very top was one such challenge. So later was amateurishly climbing mountains, breaking fingernails as I clung on to wet rock. Risk was one of several things that attracted me to politics when I was young, though I was also drawn to some obvious causes — poverty and inequality, lives limited by the accident of birth. …

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