Tag Archives: the times

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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The Times: Lib Dem digital operations “closest to Team Obama”

The way the parties approach digital campaigning is examined in today’s Times (£), which is very complimentary about the Liberal Demcorats’ operation, saying that it is closest to the gold standard in this area, the Obama campaign.

Thanks to their strong ground intelligence, the Liberal Democrats have been able to come closest to the “micro-targeting” of individual voters pioneered by Team Obama. Yet data protection issues and lack of money present stumbling blocks for British parties as they try to match his campaign’s success.

Soon-to-be Marathon Man Austin Rathe is quoted:

Closest to the Obama model are the Lib Dems, who have a wealth of data gleaned from a long focus on door-knocking and detailed canvassing. In 2011, the party decided to shell out a “seven-figure sum” on Connect, a voter database used by the Obama campaign. It then paid a data company to identify the Facebook profiles of as many voters as possible. Rather than asking the site to target a broad range of people, the Lib Dems can provide lists of individuals to be targeted with a particular message.

On the day of the autumn statement, the party paid to push a story about a road expansion in front of 11,000 target voters in Berwick. “We will never put out a blanket email or Facebook post,” says Austin Rathe, a Lib Dem staffer. “We will make sure you see something you care about, whether it’s on the environment or climate change.”

What? You mean there are things I don’t see? Definitely in the huff now.

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LibLink: Stephen Tall: Ignore the Liberal Democrats at your peril, and don’t write them off

Stephen Tall has been writing for the Times’ Red Box on Liberal Democrat prospects for the election. He makes the point that although commentators seem keen to ignore the party, we may yet be serious players in the next Parliament.

However, the Lib Dems’ 120+ polls reveal something Ashcroft’s polling has neglected: naming the candidate makes a big difference for the Lib Dems. In seats as diverse as Labour-facing Cambridge and Tory-facing St Austell and Newquay, asking voters to think about whose name will actually appear on the ballot paper is enough to flip these seats into the Lib Dem column.

Even in Scotland, where the SNP surge could flatten all before it, the party rates its chances of holding a clutch of seats, such as Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine. Oh, and anyone betting against Charles Kennedy needs their head examined.

The margins, though, are wafer-thin. On a good day, with a following wind, the Lib Dems could hold up to 40 seats (though few expect the final tally to be quite that high).

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The Times: “Lib Dems are great survivors”

Writing in the Times (£), Philip Collins makes some predictions about the Liberal Democrats’ fortunes. He reckons we’ll be part of a coalition with the Conservatives after the general election. I suspect party members will have a different feeling until we see what’s on offer. Collins also has some fairly unpalatable recommendations for the party, such as ditching climate change.

He reckons we won’t face the wipeout many predict:

The party’s own polling is the clue to the relentless optimism of its senior personnel. Where they have a presence on the local council and the sitting MP, the Lib Dems are competitive. Ukip will help them against the Tories and the electoral system that Lib Dems have always hated is coming to their rescue. There has been a lot of speculation about where Nick Clegg will go after the election. My own bet is Sheffield Hallam, about once a fortnight.

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Tall and Lindsay make the Liberal Democrat “power list”

The  Times (£) today publishes its list of the Top 50 most influential Liberal Democrats which has been compiled by blogger turned LBC presenter Iain Dale. This site’s two co-editors and our Associate Editor are both in it.

At 33, Stephen Tall is described thus:

Last year Tall replaced Mark Pack as co-editor of the hugely successful Liberal Democrat Voice, the must-read site for party activists. A research associate at CentreForum, he is usually more at home with the politics of David Laws than of Simon Hughes, but rarely picks factional fights as a critical friend of the party who prefers to talk up its achievements rather than knock them down.

This is all fine except its not accurate that he replaced Mark Pack. They worked together for several years.

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: We must embrace Putin to beat Islamic State

Paddy Ashdown has been writing in the Times about the need to get Russia onside in the fight against Islamic State.

Russia has so far been excluded from our coalition that is fighting Islamic State (Isis). Why? It has a dog in this fight, too — arguably a much bigger one than we have. Sunni jihadism is roaring away in the Russian Islamic republics of Dagestan and Chechnya, almost as much as in Iraq and Syria. We in Europe may be concerned about jihadis returning from the battlefield. But Russia is one of the battlefields.

Washington friends tell me that the reason for this reluctance to draw in Russia is the personal animus between presidents Putin and Obama. If so, get over it. A wider coalition that includes the Russians, actively or passively, could open the way to a UN security council resolution, provide the best means of limiting the spread of the crisis and vastly enhance our horsepower in resolving it.

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Are the Greens to the Lib Dems what Ukip is to the Tories?

image“As Ukip is to the Tories, so can the Green party be to the Lib Dems.” That’s a sentence I wrote here, almost seven years ago, on 3rd November, 2007.

In The Times, Sam Coates has looked at how the quiet rise of the Greens in recent months – the party polled just ahead of the Lib Dems in May’s European elections – might hurt the Lib Dems at the May 2015 general election.

An analysis of the European election results shows the Green vote strengthening and consolidating in the

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Nick Clegg doesn’t want his children to follow him into politics

Nick Clegg in a London schoolThere are a couple of reports today of an interview Nick Clegg has given to the Radio Times. The publication itself, in its teaser, has him saying that, being a protective parent, he doesn’t want to see his children following him into politics because of its tough and hostile environment.

I’m like any parent. The first, most visceral instinct you have as a parent is you want to protect your children, and politics is a very rough business you know. It’s absolutely not for the faint-hearted

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The Times interviews Maajid Nawaz: “I am planning to become a quite respectable Liberal Democrat MP”

maajid-navazToday’s Times carries an in-depth interview with Maajid Nawaz, Lib Dem candidate for the three-way marginal London seat of Hampstead & Kilburn, and co-founder and chairman of the Quilliam Foundation, the counter-extremism think tank. (Readers may have caught Maajid’s excellent performance on BBC1’s Question Time on Thursday night.)

You can read it in full here (£), but here are a couple of excerpts for those who can’t read beyond the paywall:

Maajid Nawaz can understand why two aspirational Muslim brothers from Cardiff have ended up going on jihad in Syria. Born

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Opinion: Did SLF call for leadership ballots in The Times? Er, no.

Social Liberal ForumI do not buy any of Rupert Murdoch’s products as a general rule, and this decision seems to have been vindicated by their printing a fictionalised account of a letter printed in today’s edition, actually the Social Liberal Forum’s first statement on the events of recent days.

Our statement  calls for a serious re-examination of party strategy which many of us feel is the key factor behind last week’s appalling election results. It was agreed by the SLF Council who have a range of views about the LibDems4Change petition. For the record, …

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Gove and Laws write for Times: We are committed to free school meals policy because evidence shows it helps kids achieve more

20120907-FNS-LSC-0544On his various media appearances this morning, Nick Clegg has been asked whether he ordered Michael Gove and David Laws to write an article setting out the background to the free school meals policy. He  said on Call Clegg that he had suggested it to them that they clarify the situation to reassure parents that the policy will be delivered on time.

This comes after a febrile few days when Dominic Cummings, Gove’s former Special Adviser, has been telling everyone who will listen that this was a policy drawn up pretty much …

photo by: USDAgov
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++BREAKING: Antidisestablishmentarian Times and Telegraph reveal new danger posed by 150 year-old Liberal pledge for separation of Church and State

times tele disestablishmentIs there no actual news happening today? Sounds a stupid question. I mean, the US has accused Russia of deliberately destabilising Ukraine, affordability tests for new mortgages are going to be toughened, and the state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland has vetoed big bonuses for staff. All important, interesting stories.

Then I looked at today’s Times and Telegraph, both of which lead on whether the Church of England should remain the established state church.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a diverting issue. A little over five years ago, …

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On Sarah Wollaston’s naming and shaming in The Times of “very aggressive male bloggers”

sarah wollastonBlogging is back in the headlines again today. Dr Sarah Wollaston, the feistily independent Conservative MP for Totnes, has hit back at those online critics who denounced her role in the trial of her fellow Tory, Nigel Evans, acquitted this week on all charges of sexual assault and one of rape.

In an interview with The Times, Dr Wollaston was keen to stress that she was in no way challenging the verdict in the case, adding that she empathised with Mr Evans and his ordeal. She confessed, however, that the

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The verdict of Philip Collins, chief speech writer for Tony Blair, on Nick Clegg: “the Deputy Prime Minister should be applauded by all liberal voters”

Nick Clegg Q&A 19Philip Collins uses his column in today’s Times to write something not often written on that paper’s pages (or anywhere else for that matter): praise for the Lib Dems in Coalition. Here’s the paywalled link, and here’s a glimpse behind the paywall of what he has to say:

It is therefore a serious defence of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats to commend them for things that would have happened had they not been there. It is in the nature of things that have not happened that we

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What Jeremy Browne did – and DIDN’T – tell The Times about the Lib Dems

the times browne pointlessLib Dems ‘are pointless’ – that’s today’s Times front page lead, reporting an interview it carries with Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne.

You might imagine, therefore, that Jeremy Browne had at some point in his interview said the Lib Dems “are pointless”. But if you read the article you’ll be disappointed. He doesn’t say it. That a newspaper with the reputation of The Times should put in quotation marks made-up quotes is quite something.

However, the headline isn’t based on nothing, even if one of the words attributed to …

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Times reports Lib Dem “infighting” but misses out David Laws’ dismissal of their “highly misleading” story

Yesterday, the Times reported that the Liberal Democrat leadership were preparing to ditch policies from our manifesto which wouldn’t get agreement from either the Conservative or Labour parties. I wrote of the dangers of such a move, arguing that our manifesto needed to be brimming with liberalism.

David Laws, who chairs the manifesto group, wrote on the party website that the Times story was highly misleading.

The latest example of this is the highly misleading article on the front page of today’s Times (18 February) under the headlines ‘Lib Dems Axe pledges for coalition deal’ and ‘Lib Dems seeking policies to

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Nobody else will speak up for liberalism, so our manifesto has to be brimming with it

lib dem manifesto tax cutI find myself bemused by this report from today’s Times (£) which suggests that Liberal Democrats would steer clear of any policies that both the Conservatives or Labour disagreed with in our manifesto for next year’s General Election.

The article reports a conversation with a Liberal Democrat source:

He conceded that the party was not going to win a majority at the next general election, but said it was vital that it left open the opportunity of working with either of the other two parties. “We need to

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Quilliam Foundation to sue after Maajid Nawaz’s and other staff members’ personal information went up on government website

maajid-navazThe Times reports (£) that in the week when Liberal Democrat candidate Maajid Nawaz was subject to death threats after tweeting a cartoon of Mohammed, the Department of Communities and Local Government erroneously published his personal mobile number as part of a response to a Freedom of Information request:

It has now been revealed that in the week following the tweet — as Mr Nawaz received daily death threats and a bounty was declared on his head in Pakistan — the Department of Local Government and Communities (DCLG) posted his personal

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How can we do politics better?

There’s been a spate of articles and comments by Liberal Democrat politicians which, at a guess, isn’t co-ordinated, but they all address the same themes – the problems with the way that we do politics and lack of trust in politicians and institutions.

Paddy Ashdown told the Times (£), reported also for free in the Guardian that public faith in British institutions was “crumbling into dust” with some very harsh words for the BBC and NHS:

The BBC is revealed as an organisation which can’t manage its own affairs, misspends public money and seems to have been complicit in aggrandising

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Times: “The increasingly confident and powerful Mr Clegg”

Anyone who watched Prime Minister’s Question Time or listens to Call Clegg regularly will know that Nick Clegg is often in relaxed, confident mood these days. He answers questions with ease and authenticity.

Writing in today’s Times, Alice Thomson writes about the “increasingly confident and powerful Mr Clegg” in a way that makes you think she doesn’t really like it.

But the bizarre paradox is that the more scandals they have overcome and the worse the Lib Dems do in the polls, the more confident their high command has become.

She doesn’t really take into account that national polls don’t really mean that …

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An engagement is announced…..

From today’s Times (£):

Ed and Russell Times cropped

Mr E T Fordham, of course, is  better known to us all as Ed, vice-chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats who, along with many others from that organisation, took pride of place in our Equal Marriage Roll of Honour.

We knew of his and Russell’s happy news already, of course, because Julian Huppert had told the world about it during the Commons’ final passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and been told off by the Speaker. The exchange is recorded forever

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LibLink… Willie Rennie: Scots are great, independence will not help us to be greater.

Willie Rennie has been writing in the Times about the Scottish independence referendum. One of the charges that gets levelled at anyone opposed to independence is that we think that Scotland is too poor, too wee or too stupid to go it alone. Except nobody on the pro-union campaign actually thinks that. The SNP use it as something to bash the opposition with but it’s a straw man and a flimsy one at that.

I have never heard any spokesman for Better Together say “Scotland is too wee, too poor and too stupid” but I have heard people on the doorsteps

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Andy Murray, Virginia Wade and my experience of a small dose of Everyday Sexism

So last night I tweeted this:

In response to this Times front page:

andy murray

It got a fair few retweets, including from Graham Linehan (@Glinner) and Danny Baker (@Prodnose), and my timeline started to get busy. Responses fell into two camps.

First, Pedants (and I mean this affectionately here), who pointed out it isn’t just Virginia Wade who’s been written …

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Ashdown says package offered to Afghan interpreter doesn’t “fulfill our debt of honour”

A couple of weeks ago, we reported that the Government had changed its mind and would allow Afghan intepreters to settle in this country. This is something that Paddy Ashdown and Nick Clegg had argued for vociferously.

However, as details of the scheme have emerged, they have been dismissed as insufficient by various people, including Paddy Ashdown as the Times (£) reports:

Senior politicians have accused the Government of mistaken priorities in their handling of safeguards for British Army interpreters when UK forces leave Afghanistan.

Only those interpreters who were still in British service on December 19, 2012, will be offered 

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“Lib Dems give Mansion Tax threat over terror bill” says Times

Today’s Times carries a story (£), with not very much substance to it, that the Liberal Democrats have threatened to team up with Labour to vote on the Mansion Tax if the Conservatives team up with Labour to force through the Communications Data Bill so loved by Theresa May and which has been rejected by Nick Clegg on 3 occasions now. The first was when he refused to let it in last year’s Queen’s Speech as a full bill, ensuring it received detailed scrutiny by a parliamentary committee. The second was when the Parliamentary Committee rejected the measure out of …

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Nick Clegg and Paddy Ashdown say that Afghan interpreters should have the right to live in the UK

Almost exactly four years ago, Nick Clegg, as an opposition party leader, led a debate in Parliament in which the Labour Government was defeated on its plans to restrict the rights of Gurkhas to settle in the UK. David Cameron was keen to get himself into the photos with Joanna Lumley at the time.

Four years on, and Clegg and Cameron have opposing views on whether Afghan interpreters who helped our soldiers in that country should be allowed to settle here. Today’s Times (£) reports that the Prime Minister, along with Theresa May and Philip Hammond are against allowing …

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Times: ‘Cameron is told to drop snooping on web users’

Today’s Times front page is dominated by the news that nine cyber-security experts and academics have issued a stark warning to David Cameron to halt ‘sweeping plans to hand the security services the power to snoop on emails, website visits and social media sites': “they remain as naive and technically dangerous as when they were floated by the last government,” they warn.

times web snooping

The paper notes the opposition both of Nick Clegg — who highlighted his disagreement with the draft Bill last December — and of Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert, who points out: “Where we lead, other countries would follow, snooping on their citizens’ legal activities. … The case for these proposals is massively out-weighed by the cost and the harm to privacy, here and overseas.”

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Thatcher museum to be housed in former Liberal Democrat HQ?

Way back in 1981, when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, the SDP was formed and took up residence at 4 Cowley Street, just round the corner from the Houses of Parliament. That building became the home of the Liberal Democrats after the 1988 merger between the Liberals and Social Democrats.

Today’s Times carries a report which suggests that our former headquarters could house the proposed museum to Margaret Thatcher. However, if you read the article in full, it amounts to little more than a bit of gentle stirring by Conor Burns, the Conservative MP who is a strong proponent of the …

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LibLink…Paddy Ashdown: If you’re opposed to drones, then think again

In Liberal Democrat circles, when Barack Obama is discussed, it’s generally agreed that he’s doing a grand job except for the not insignificant matter of the extra-judicial killings and the use of unmanned drone attacks.

Paddy Ashdown has expressed a different view writing in today’s Times describing drones as the most “democratic” weapon ever invented.

As a lifelong peace-loving hippy, you’d expect that I would have been the first to head Paddy’s advice:

 war is a revolting practice and cannot be discussed without using revolting words. So the squeamish and those morally offended by all violence should look away now.

I didn’t, though. Partly …

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LibLink… Paddy Ashdown: It’s not a fight against “us”, it’s Islam vs Islam

Mali rebel - License Some rights reserved by MagharebiaIn an article in today’s Times, Paddy Ashdown concedes that David Cameron is probably right that the so-called War on Terror (a term Paddy dislikes) will go on for another decade. Paddy argues that we need to recognise that the way western countries have been operating doesn’t work. What is needed now is to recognise that the fight is between different factions of Islam. It should be our job to help out moderate governments where we can.

He outlined why the “invasions, main battle armies and occupation” of

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