Tag Archives: willie rennie

Rennie: Liberal Democrats have the momentum

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has  declared that momentum has given the Liberal Democrats the upper hand in the snap general election.

Since the announcement on Tuesday of a snap election 8,000 people have joined the party with membership more than double than what it was before the election in 2015.  The party also raised £500,000 in just 48 hours.

In an email to members, Willie wrote:

Nobody was expecting the announcement on Tuesday but the calling of the general election has given the Liberal Democrats real momentum. A staggering  8000 new members joined the party in the 48 hours after the election was called as people have flocked to us in a bid to change the direction of this country. No other party has seen such a surge.

The upcoming election comes on top of the 30 council by-elections that the Liberal Democrats have gained since last year, including in Scotland. And who could forget that historic by-election victory in Richmond, overturning a Tory majority of 23,000 to be the voice against the Conservative hard Brexit.

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Article 50 invoked: Lib Dem reaction: The fight goes on

So, the deed is done, but the Liberal Democrats aren’t giving up the fight.

Here’s how senior Liberal Democrats have reacted:

Tim Farron – The people must have their say

The world needs liberal democratic values – this is something Churchill, Thatcher and others rightly decided that Britain could deliver from our place at the heart of Europe.

I believe the Prime Minister is twisting the will of the people, leaping into the abyss without any idea of where our country will end up.   In her statement the Prime Minister admitted we would lose influence as a result.

Theresa May has chosen the hardest and most divisive form of Brexit, choosing to take us out of the Single Market before she has even tried to negotiate.

Membership of the Single Market was not on the ballot paper last June, yet without a mandate she has chosen to rip Britain, our businesses and our people out of the world’s biggest market.

It is still possible for the British people to stop a hard Brexit and keep us in the Single Market. And if they want, it is still possible for the British people to choose to remain in the European Union. Democracy didn’t end on 23rd of June – and it hasn’t ended today either. The people can have their say over what comes next.

It is a tragedy that Labour are helping the Conservatives in doing this damage to our country.  They no longer deserve to be called the Official Opposition. Britain deserves better than this.

Catherine Bearder MEP: The clock is ticking – but it can be stopped

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Willie Rennie goes all Alice in Wonderland AND uses the F-word

Have you ever thought that what Parliament really needs is a few more Alice in Wonderland references?

This afternoon the Scottish Parliament started a two day debate on whether to call for a Section 30 order, the device that would enable them to hold a second independence referendum. Theresa May has said that “now is not the time” in much the same tone of voice as she said “brexit means brexit.”

It’s funny, because, as Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles pointed out today, they’ve managed to clear 2 days of parliamentary time for this (although the length of the debate was something we agreed with) at a week’s notice and put so much effort into setting it all up, yet we’ve gone 445 days without a mental health strategy. Priorities, and all that.

I started watching the debate as Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale started speaking. Of all poisoned chalices, hers is the biggest. She’s one of the most caring, articulate, engaging politicians I’ve come across, yet she’s lumbered and with and constantly undermined by Corbyn. During the last referendum, I watched her speak particularly to women’s groups and she was fantastic at putting across a positive case for the UK. She and Willie Rennie are both very good at that but they were both sorely under-used on the national stage.

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Rennie and Farron react to Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement on the second independence referendum

It looks like either a second referendum on Scottish Independence in 5 years is on its way. Either that or an indefinite stalemate between the Tory Government in London (who must give permission for the vote) and Nicola Sturgeon’s nationalist government in Edinburgh.

This was inevitable ever since the Brexit vote. That a large majority of Scots voted to remain in the EU was always going to lead us to this place. Nicola Sturgeon built a very big tent in the hours after the result was declared but she and her ministers spent the rest of the Summer dismantling it piece by piece. They talked about independence incessantly. Now, they’re a nationalist government. They are not going to give up on independence because they lost a vote any more than I’m going to give up on the EU.

You have to govern for all of your people, though and, at the moment, there is no sign that anything like a majority of the  Scottish people want an independence referendum. For many, relationships from the division and polarisation of the last one are only just healing over.

Willie Rennie and Tim Farron have both been reacting to today’s announcement. Willie said:

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Rennie’s independence referendum risk: why it may well be a good thing

There’s a phrase that goes “Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.” I have sometimes said to Willie Rennie that I think he’s being too safe and that he needs to take more risks. He’s taken a pretty big one this morning by saying in no uncertain terms that Liberal Democrat MPs at Westminster will vote against a Section 3o order, the mechanism that would allow the SNP to hold another Scottish independence referendum. Certainly, the Tories will no longer be able to say, as they have been falsely alleging for the past year or so, that we have gone soft on independence.  Showing Scots that they have a progressive pro UK party prepared to stick by its word is a good thing.

So why is this a risk? Well, there’s nothing more likely to get Scottish backs up than being told by Westminster that they can’t do something. If that actually happened, it might drive people to support having another referendum, even if they didn’t want to leave the UK. At the moment, though, every poll suggests an increasing number of Scots who don’t want to go through the divisive trauma of 2014 all over again. Willie’s announcement is very much in keeping with both our principles and public opinion. That’s actually a point that the didn’t make in his Sunday Politics Scotland interview, but worth pointing out.

Our party is and always has been a pro UK and pro EU party.  We are against leaving the UK  for all the same reasons that we are against leaving the EU – we believe in partnership and collaboration and see nationalism and isolationism as a recipe for disaster. We explicitly ruled out supporting another referendum on independence in our Holyrood manifesto last year and there is no way we could go back on that. Reneging on key manifesto promises has not gone so well for us before. It’s therefore entirely logical and consistent that we would oppose independence at every opportunity to do so.

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WATCH: Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference

It was a speech full of warmth, positivity and passion. Willie Rennie knows that a second referendum on Scottish independence needs the positive, emotionally resonant pro UK argument that was so lacking in 2014. He planted the Lib Dem flag in the progressive pro UK/pro EU space in Scotland, saying that we represented the views of the Scottish people. The challenge for the party is to turn that into votes. Watch his full speech here.

The text is below:

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Today at Scottish Conference -“Turning back the tide of division”

Scottish Liberal Democrats gather in Perth today for our Spring Conference. Some of us gathered last night and enjoyed a delicious meal in a French restaurant. Sorry if I breathe garlic fumes on everybody I meet today.

We meet just seven weeks before every council seat in Scotland is up for election. A better than expected result in last year’s Holyrood elections, with solid parliamentary work on mental health, education and justice since has heartened the party but the national opinion polls are yet to show any significant movement in our favour.  The political environment up here is very different from south of the border where we have the advantage of being the only party standing up against the Tory and Labour compete with each other to get to the Brexit cliff first.

Up here, the SNP are making a great deal out of the fact that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain. Of course they are going to use it to call for independence although even a former nationalist leader said this week that they were being forced into it at the worst possible time.

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    Dizzying and exciting. I do hope HQ systems withstand the strain of all the new members.
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