A Fairer Share for All Working Group: The road to a liberal Britain

I joined the Liberal Democrats in November to help to create a more liberal United Kingdom. At a time when protectionism and populism are on the rise, not just in the UK but around the globe, it is crucial that we have liberal answers to the difficult questions.

Despite being 10 years on, we are still hungover from the financial crisis. There has been a major squeeze on incomes, structural changes that have damaged towns and the generational divide has grown.

Because of this, I decided to apply to join the A Fairer Share for All working group. Even though populism is …

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Horizon Europe – a potential blow for British science and technology?

One of the more obscure (at least as far as the general public is concerned) areas of worry resulting from Brexit was British participation in Horizon 2020, the European Union’s Programme for Innovation and Research, which invested significant sums into European research and development programmes, linking researchers across the Union for that purpose. The transitional period appeared to allow British participation until its end, even if Conservative politicians seem determined to put that in doubt.

Now, the European Commission are proposing a new version, Horizon Europe, intended to take the programme forward in …

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Five bigger problems for young people than tuition fees

I don’t think anyone could deny that young people are getting a raw deal. But every time the conversation turns to young people, the go-to issue is tuition fees.

There are so many issues which have a much greater impact on young people than tuition fees, especially those from low-income backgrounds.

Here are 5 examples:

1. A lower minimum wage

The minimum wage of £7.83 per hour is far too low. But the rate is even lower for Under 25s. For 21-24 year olds it is £7.38, and for 18-20 year olds it is £5.90.

Maybe (at a push) you could justify a lower …

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Welcome to my day: 23 July 2018 – the heat is, apparently, on…

The grass in my garden is looking a bit distressed, and the oasis of a new centrist party is looking like a bit of a mirage. But life goes on, and so does Liberal Democrat Voice. So, what have we got for you today?

Ben Andrew kicks us off with some suggestions that would help the young amongst us. And yes, he does touch upon student finance, but his focus is on earlier years too.

We have news on proposals for Horizon Europe. “What’s that?”, I hear you ask. Well, it’s a major funding programme, supporting collaborative research and development across the …

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #525

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 525th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (15-21 July, 2018), together with a hand-picked seven you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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Should I jump into a debate with transphobic “feminists”? No.

Imagine for a moment that a group started up in your local area wanting to ban you – just you, personally –  from the local post office. You would probably find it odd, a bit unnerving, but you would probably shrug it off. The campaign grows and now they’re banning you from the local supermarket, then the pubs, then the town centre as a whole – except for one hour a week when you’re permitted to enter. You start to get hate mail and threatening messages on your phone from the campaign group. Then your local Lib Dem Executive starts talking to this campaign group, to get to the bottom of the problem. Your local party Chair says that the campaigners seem to be sincerely worried about your presence in town, and the local party are going to debate the issue.

How would this make you feel?

Something similar is happening.

The Government has begun its consultation to amend the Gender Recognition Act. The proposed changes would allow transgender people to amend the details on their birth certificates more easily. This would probably be done by a process involving a statutory declaration like the ones that exist already in countries like Ireland, Norway and Malta. At the moment, if you want to change your gender on your birth certificate you enter a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare where a panel that you don’t even meet decides whether to allow your application, with no right of appeal. 

This consultation has kicked off a wave of controversy that is deeply unpleasant.

Of course there are the normal bigots and hate-filled rants filling the internet. That’s sad, but hardly out of the ordinary. What’s new this time is the much more seductive approach of the “feminists”. (I’m putting that word in quote marks because I do not buy into the idea that these people are feminists at all.)

These faux-feminist campaign groups say they are concerned about the unintended consequences of changing the Act. They are worried that non-transgender men will somehow abuse the new legislation to argue their way into women-only spaces. They say that they are concerned about how the needs of cis women and trans women intersect. (Cis meaning that your gender identity matches the gender you were assigned at birth.) And some of these groups add on other concerns about gender roles and protecting children from misguided gender confusion or hormone therapy.

A fundamental belief of Liberal Democrat philosophy is the right to free speech and the right to question things. But our belief here needs to go hand in hand with some common sense, sensitivity and caution. Because this is one area where engaging with people’s concerns can actually cause harm and hurt.

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On Vince, the Lib Dems and this supposed new party

The Sunday Times reports (£) that the reason missed that vote the other night was because he was at a meeting discussing the formation of a new centre party.

A few brief thoughts from me:

First of all, I think that if it is finally going to get off the ground, @libdems need to know about and work with it where it shares our values. It would be daft to stand against each other in an anti-Brexit election.

It may be that we can only work together on the anti-Brexit stuff because @libdems couldn’t work closely with a party that didn’t have a clear strategy to tackle poverty and inequality, tackle climate change, reform our political system & champion human rights & civil liberties.

So it’s very sensible for Vince to be in the discussions. He may be telling them that the best thing they can do is join the Liberal Democrats because we already have the campaign infrastructure and the Commons presence and experience.

If Vince wants @libdems to co-operate closely with any new party – and we’ve heard about lots of these which have never got off the ground – he will have to persuade our Conference to vote for it and there will be some spirited resistance.

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My passion for bold and radical Liberalism reaffirmed, as my time as SLF Chair comes to its end

Last September, Paddy Ashdown said that since the coalition, the Lib Dems had not managed to have even “one big, dangerous idea”.  He said in a blog for Lib Dem Voice:

Unless we are prepared to be realistic about where we are, return to being radical about what we propose, recreate ourselves as an insurgent force and rekindle our lost habit of intellectual ferment, things could get even worse for us.

 It prompted him to launch the Ashdown Prize in March this year, and the winner was announced in June—Dorothy Ford, who proposed an idea on food waste which will be debated at the Autumn Conference.  In a blog on Lib Dem Voice, Caron Lindsay said that though the idea was “worthy”, it was “neither radical or new”.  This dearth of new ideas has been besieging the Lib Dems since 2010, and little seems to be changing.

At the Social Liberal Forum, we have been keeping the flame of new liberal ideas burning since the Lib Dems went into coalition with the Tories in 2010.  We feel that new ideas and renewal/rethinking of old liberal ideas is vital to being the radical force that Liberalism should currently be and always has been.  

I have been known by my colleagues to have said on various occasions, since I became Chair of the SLF in 2016, that “there has never been a more important time for Liberalism than now”.  I passionately believe this, so as my time as Chair draws to a close, and as nominations to the new SLF council are underway, I am re-affirming the vital importance of new, bold, radical ideas that will keep Liberalism as the relevant and necessary force in British politics that it needs to be.

The book that the SLF published earlier this year, Four Go In Search of Big Ideas, was significant for several reasons: it showed that there are many progressive, liberal people out there thinking radically, coherently and sensibly about what we need to do next as a society; that we do not need to be tribal, but can work with others to generate progressive ideas; and that liberal and progressive thinkers are and always have been the people to move politics forward in this country.

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See the Brexit supporting rich people bankrolling the Conservatives

If you are incredibly rich and want to influence the Government, you can, for a cool £50k per hear join the Conservative Party’s Leaders’ Club.

This buys you some pretty major access to key players in the Government:

The Leader’s Group is the premier supporter Group of the Conservative Party. Members are invited to join Theresa May and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, post-PMQ lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches.

The Conservatives have now published the list of government ministers who have attended events  with these very rich people, who include key backers of Brexit, associates of Vladimir Putin (him again) and even a partner of Jacob Rees-Mogg, since the 2017 General Election. They were able to dine and chat with Theresa May, You have every great office of state represented – May, Boris, Amber Rudd and Philip Hammond along with Liz Truss, Greg Clark, Jeremy Hunt and others.

What’s interesting is that if you look at the group of guests they are almost all men.

As the campaign group Open Britain said in its analysis of the guest lists:

The publication reveals that super-wealthy donors being wined and dined by Theresa May and senior ministers include a host of speculating hedge funds, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s business partner at Somerset Capital Management, and the wife of Vladimir Putin’s former deputy finance minister.

One dinner guest, Hardy McLain, attended dinners in 2017 and 2018 and previously donated £20,000 to the Vote  Leave campaign. The firm he founded was previously linked to attempts to “profit from Brexit uncertainty”.

Another, Dominic Johnson, who attended two dinners in 2017, is the co-founder of Somerset Capital Management – an investment firm set up by hard Brexiteer and Chairman of the ERG Jacob Rees-Mogg. Somerset was recently reported to be warning their clients about “considerable uncertainty” as a result of Brexit, and set up a new fund in Ireland, which benefits from EU financial passporting rights.

Edmund Truell, who attended dinners in 2017 and 2018, owns a Swiss-listed private equity business called Disruptive Capital which has a mission statement to ‘exploit market uncertainty’ to generate returns.

In total some 81 figures paid a total of £7.4 million to the Conservative Party for access to exclusive dinners with the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet Ministers since the General Election 2017.

Lib Dems have long talked about getting the big money out of politics. Our 2017 manifesto said we would:

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LISTEN: To Pauline Pearce talking about finding productive outlets for anger on Woman’s Hour

Liberal Democrat Federal Board member and Hackney mayoral candidate Pauline Pearce was on Woman’s Hour yesterday talking about how she channeled her anger into her campaign against knife crime.

She talked about how she was so angry that the 2011 riots had stopped her doing her community radio show, her escape from chemotherapy and radiotherapy and focus for her campaign. That’s what motivated her to rail against the unfocused

She had been campaigning on knife crime long before her son became victm to it. She described how her personal experience intensified her anger and she had to “put the sensible hat on.”

Her involvement in politics and the Liberal Democrats gave her a bigger platform to campaign on and an understanding of how things worked that helped her anger to be put to productive use.

Listen here from around 25 minutes in.

And if you want more Pauline, listen to her Ted Talk from 6 years ago:

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Verdict on Vince’s first year

Yesterday was Vince Cable’s first anniversary as leader – the paper anniversary, so that should encourage us all to go deliver lots of leaflets for our Exit from Brexit campaign over the next wee while.

We undoubtedly have the grown-up in the room as far as British politics is concerned. While the Tories’ toxic civil war leads them to force a catastrophic economic meltdown on the country and Labour stands by and lets them do it, Vince has been tirelessly making the case for us to get out of this mess.

Two years on from the Brexit referendum, if it was all going well, if the Government really was enacting this “will of the people”, we wouldn’t have polls showing significant support for a People’s Vote on the final deal.  We even have polling showing that Remain would win the sort of three way referendum Justine Greening was talking about by the same margin as the Scottish independence referendum was won.

Our arguments are prevailing and our poll ratings are edging slowly towards double figures, but we haven’t had the massive breakthrough we’d all like to see.

Why is that and what can Vince do about it in his second year?

Creating waves

Vince’s piece for us yesterday showed that he has been talking a lot in the past year about issues that matter to people. Housing, health, inequality, public services as well as Brexit.

What we need over the next while is a thread that ties all these things together in a way that shows what we stand for – a radical, bold, reforming party that champions freedom from poverty, co-operation, internationalism, human rights and giving people power over their own destinies. We must do this with vigour and passion and show that we will never settle for anything less.

We need to show how our broken democracy has got us into the mess we’re in and lead the way out.

Vince has a reputation for being scholarly and academic with speeches more like lectures than political orations, but he can deliver the goods and create some waves:

I’d like to see him elaborate on the things that get him this sort of attention like this from Spring Conference:

Too many were driven by a nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white, and the map was coloured imperial pink.

Their votes on one wet day in June, crushing the hopes and aspiration of the young for years to come.

He was absolutely right to say it and we need to hear it more often. We need to hear more of the “young are being shafted on Brexit” and he needs to show that Jeremy Corbyn is just as responsible for what is happening as Theresa May and her Brexiteers.

He needs to take more risks and say more audacious things.

He got a whole load of attention back in February for asking the PM if the NHS would be protected in any trade deal with Donald Trump. He’s not yet exploited the potential of that line and he could do worse than take Willie Rennie’s terrier approach to these things. He just keeps asking the question at every opportunity.

That Lib Dem Process thing

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WATCH: Layla on the need for inclusive sex and relationships education

This week the Government started consulting on relationships and sex education. For years, Liberal Democrats have argued that it is vital that every child has access to information that includes everyone, where LGBT+ people are included and which covers issues of consent and life-saving information about safe sex and contraception. Education spokesperson Layla Moran encourages responses and highlights how Lib Dem Education secretary Kirsty Williams has done this in Wales.

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Vince Cable writes: Lib Dems will be at the forefront of political realignment

It is a year today since I became party leader, and a great deal has happened since.

Thanks to the efforts of so many of our members and campaigners, we had the best set of local election results of the three main parties in England in councils gained and the best overall for us in fifteen years.  We have every reason to hope that next year will be better still – we are already preparing.

The by-election in Lewisham East was our best against Labour for a decade.  Local council contests each week continue to reinforce the positive message our surveys are giving us.

Whatever toxicity attached to the Lib Dem brand after the Coalition has substantially dissipated.  Large numbers will vote for us if they think we have a chance of winning and if there is an effective campaign

As well as winning elections, we are setting out big ideas to change the country.  A few weeks ago, I detailed an ambitious but realistic approach to house building, describing what could be achieved without the impediment of ideological prejudice.

I have also launched a series of initiatives to confront the issues thrown up by the new digital economy and deal with the ‘data giants’; a group is looking at how best to support lifelong learning for people whose future is potentially subject to the upheavals of technological change; another will soon look more broadly at the impact of new technologies like AI and how best to respond to them.

On the core economy, I have set out a revised approach to fiscal and monetary policy which builds on, but does not destroy, existing structures.  We have carried out serious work on land value taxation, which will come before Conference in the Autumn. And I have described how in practice we create a corporate structure which is best described as ‘responsible capitalism’.

On public services, Liberal Democrats continue to lead the argument about the mechanics for funding health and social care with the advice of leading figures in health policy. The Federal Policy Committee has recently set up a new health working group to take forward their work, and to continue our leadership role in mental health policy pioneered by Norman Lamb. Layla Moran, our education spokesperson, has published proposals to address the concerns of parents, teachers and schools, which we endorsed at conference.

The politics of Brexit is moving slowly but substantially in our direction.  Where our calls for a final say on the deal for the public were once derided, more and more people are now joining with us in that campaign.  A highlight of my year was addressing the 100,000 people amassed in Parliament Square for the People’s Vote march.  We remain the leading political force arguing that whatever the parliamentary wranglings over detail, the best course for Britain is to stop Brexit altogether.  Giving the people a choice at the end of this dismal negotiating process is the best way to obtain an exit from Brexit

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LibLink: Wera Hobhouse: Solving the housing crisis means using the empty houses we’ve already got

Housing spokesperson Wera Hobhouse has written for the Huffington Post about how a Liberal Democrat amendment passed in the Lords this week will help alleviate the housing crisis.

Politicians have a moral obligation to help solve this crisis, and one part of the process must be bringing empty properties back into use. Of course, we must build more homes – 300,000 per year to be precise – but bringing empty properties back into use is an excellent way in the short-term to help families in desperate need of a home, whilst saving valued green belt land from development. Equally, by bringing empty homes back into use, we can help regenerate struggling communities. After all, regions with the highest number of vacant dwellings are often also the areas that have been left behind in terms of economic growth.

Last year was the first year since the recession that the number of empty homes in England did not decrease. This is unsurprising. Tory Government cuts to local authorities hamper their enforcement capabilities. All dedicated empty homes investment programmes, programmes that my colleagues in Coalition fought tooth and nail for including my predecessor in Bath Don Foster, were severed in 2015. It was a 2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto promise to reduce the number of empty homes by 250,000, and that is something they delivered in Coalition and can be incredibly proud of.

t is clear something must be done. The Liberal Democrats strongly supported the calls to double the council tax on empty homes, but now we have gone one step further. Yesterday in the House of Lords, the Liberal Democrat amendment, which increases council tax the longer you leave it empty, has been adopted and passed by Parliament. There are of course exemptions, for example where a resident is in residential or nursing care or when a member of the armed forces serves overseas for long periods. These premiums on council tax are not statutory. Councils have the flexibility to apply them or not.

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Reform the Reformers – Part 1 Policy making

The business world has its special expressions for what politicians call ‘reform’. ‘If you are standing still you are going backwards’ for example. In Japan there is the business concept of ‘kaizen’, translated as ‘continuous improvement’.

The UK Liberal Democrats are a reformist party. People join the party because they wish to improve things and solve problems.

By contrast some people join political parties to preserve the status quo, or a prior status quo. It’s not so common in business. I sometimes wonder if the CEO of the communist East German state company that made the famous plastic 2-stroke Trabant car, had a business philosophy of ‘continuously staying the same’.

The Liberal Democrats might find even greater success if they focused even more on their primary job of ‘reforming’. That means doing even more to solve problems and make improvements for the general public. Liberal Democrats are keen to tell the public about their liberal values and democratic principles. It is not always easy for the public to make the connection between Lib Dem values and principles, and improvements to their lives; how those principles and values solve real problems.

There is scope for improvement here.

The Lib Dems will surely do better if they are perceived more as a problem-solving service for the public. Indeed, at a recent Liberal International meeting in Berlin a spokesperson for the German FDP explained that this conclusion at a strategy meeting a few years ago led to their revival as a political force.

With the UK Lib Dems the deployment of our values and principles in solving problems, is undertaken by a relatively open policymaking system. This is where one might look for the scope for improvement.

The rules of an organisation reflect its culture.

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Your Conference venues for next year are…..

I am delighted to announce the venues for Federal Conference in 2019.

For the Spring, we will be returning to the York Barbican.   It is a venue that enjoys consistently positive member feedback, located, as it is, in a magnificent city.  The conference hotel will be the Novotel York Centre Hotel.  The dates for conference will be 16th to 17th March 2019.

Autumn Conference 2019 will be held in the Bournemouth International Centre.  As with York, it is a venue well known to us and we are really pleased to be returning to what is a great seaside location.  The conference hotel will be the Marriott Highclff.  The dates for Autumn Conference will be 14th to 17th September 2019.

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A very strong hold in Oxfordshire

Oxford Liberal Democrats pulled off a brilliant hold last night, getting over 60% of the vote.

Congratulations to Cllr Stefanie Garden

There was a bit of a Conservative surge in Bury but we managed to hold our own in terms of vote share as …

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Dinosaur found at Westminster

The BBC’s Nicholas Watt seems to have been trawling the bars of the Parliamentary Estate looking for dinosaurs. And he struck gold.

Oh.My.Days.

I have a list of suspects, although that grows exponentially if we’re including Lords.

I have been saying for a while that we should paint in primary colours, that we should say what we really feel and not be too subtle.

Our Press Office stepped up to that plate tonight. Do not read on if you are easily offended.

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Leadsom, Lewis and Smith in trouble over Jo Swinson pairing scandal

Remember when the Tories cheated in order to win the tight vote in Parliament, just like Vote Leave cheated to win the EU Referendum?

Tory Chairman Brandon Lewis, paired with Jo Swinson who was at home with her two week old baby, should not have voted on Tuesday night. He honoured that in the first few, but in the really crucial ones, on the European Medicines Agency (which the Government lost) and the customs union, (which the Government narrowly won), he cast his vote. Now, had he voted in the earlier divisions, Alistair Carmichael, our Chief Whip, might have noticed …

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George Dunk’s memorial service to take place this Saturday

George Dunk was a much-loved presence on the Lib Dem scene for decades. I first knew him through his wife, Sandra, who was the Party’s fantastic candidates officer. She died very suddenly in 2004. He was such a kind and funny man who always had a story to tell and he is incredibly missed. He died at the end of April.

This Saturday, his memorial service will take place at St James Church, Bermondsey, Thurland Road, SE16 4AA at 11:30 am. It’s just off Jamaica Road, and three minutes from Bermondsey tube station.  There will be a gathering in a local pub …

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Baroness Shas Sheehan writes…Lib Dems lead the opposition to Brexit

This week I was chatting to a (pretty senior) press person about the forces of gravity holding Lib Dem polling figures below the double-digit mark. 

Their response was that we were playing it too safe and needed to do something alarming. This was whilst waiting for the Commons’ votes on Monday night. Neither of us thought for one moment that that event might be our current leader and our former leader missing a Commons vote on a Jacob Rees-Mogg amendment designed to make the cobbled together Chequers agreement even less palatable to the EU. The Government won the vote by a whisker – just 3 votes in it. 

So, the fact that 17 Labour MPs went awol and 4 (if you include Kelvin Hopkins) voted with the Government, was lost in the excitement of Vince and Tim having been let off the whip by prior arrangement at a point when it had been deemed safe to do so, and Jo had been paired.

Of course, had it been realised that Labour were going to, unexpectedly, oppose the Government (a rarity when it comes to Brexit legislation) and the vote was going to be a close one, then our arch-remainer leader and former leader would have been in the lobbies. So, the expected, comfortable, Government victory margin was reduced to three. 

It’s a shame they missed this vote, but let’s not despair – we are nowhere near the end of the long Brexit road. There are opportunities aplenty coming up when Vince will be leading our Commons team trying to stop the Government taking a wrecking ball to our economy for a pipe dream.

It’s becoming clearer by the day that the only logical end to this sorry saga will be for the public to have the final say. This has been the Lib Dem position from the start.

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Another way out of the Brexit mess

I have never been on an aeroplane and I do not have a passport, but think of myself as a European. I am also a patriotic Englishman and I love the country in which I was born. My father came here at the age of seven with a sun-darkened skin and speaking with a Greek accent. He was born in Smyrna in 1922. His life, and those of his parents, and my mother’s parents, and my partner’s grandparents were all scarred and disrupted by war and conflict, the consequences of which still reverberate in our lives today.

And now my country has embarked upon a course which could have terrible repercussions for new generations to come. Our government, if that is what it is, appears to have no consistent strategy and no realistic vision of the future. Theresa May, like Donald Trump, shamelessly argues that black is white, and an hour later that white is black, and gets away with it. How can this be! Partly it is because there is no opposition in the Commons worthy of the name: Harold Wilson, Roy Jenkins, Dennis Healey, Jim Callaghan and Ted Heath would have eviscerated the third raters who now sit on the government benches in a matter of hours. But it is also because there seems to be no plausible way out of the situation the referendum landed us in.

I was on the People’s March, but I don’t support the Party’s policy of a  referendum on the deal. Leaving aside Justine Greening’s absurd proposal for three options, if a second referendum again supported Leave it would at least settle the matter, but although a Remain vote would ameliorate the economic disaster that will otherwise afflict this country it would deepen the divisions that the referendum created and poison our political system for decades to come.

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A young person’s ideas for a better online Lib Dem presence

The digital profile of the Liberal democrats is not making use of the huge opportunities the internet provides. I am a young Liberal Democrat who is often annoyed at our lack of digital presence as a party. This is a time where, due to our small number of MPs, we aren’t often appearing on the mainstream media and so it is the best possible time to start creating media of our own. A strong social media presence has two key benefits for the party. It will solidify our base of support with current members and simultaneously attract new ones.

The main problem with our current social media strategy seems to me to be a lack of tailoring to each individual platform so with that in mind here would be my recommendations for each platform.

YouTube

 Perhaps the greatest untapped goldmine the Lib Dems have is YouTube. The thing one must understand about YouTube is its current trend towards long form content. An example of this would be the series of interviews done by James O’Brien for Joe.co.uk. One recent interview was with Nick Clegg and gained 26 thousand viewers yet cost almost nothing to produce.

Why doesn’t the party dig out a camera, a microphone, have a young party member sit down and interview each MP for an hour. If it only gets a few thousand views no money has been wasted and a few thousand people have had the chance to listen to a Liberal Democrat point of view. Produce a podcast version of it and release that too. If Ed Miliband’s podcast can get 100,000 downloads surely, we can get into the marketplace too.

An important thing to remember is the right are already doing this, look at the recent news on UKIP or a half an hour interview with Katie Hopkins that gained 300 thousand views. This is an untapped goldmine of exposure, crucially aimed at a younger audience, that we are wasting.

Twitter

The twitter presence for the Liberal Democrats is on the whole good, the Lib Dem Press Office account being the highlight. The thing to remember about twitter is it is the opposite of YouTube. On YouTube users sit for hours watching long form content but twitter is about short, snappy and if possible humorous posts. I would change two things, firstly make our tweets funny, punchy and sharable to attract more people and gain more publicity. We need more “Stalin to Mr Bean” type tweets. Secondly, and this may seem a small detail, subtitle our twitter videos. People use twitter when they’re on the bus or walking down the street and so often won’t listen to the audio of videos, every Labour party video is subtitled for this reason, we need that too.

Reddit

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Report Back on the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) Held on 14th July 2018

As a member of the FCC, I attended the meeting held last Saturday (14th July). My comments follow the more informative article by Zoe.

The main purpose of the meeting was to go through all the motions that had been selected for FCC to review for possible inclusion at the Autumn conference. Subject area split the motions (54 in all):  Business Innovation and Skills, Communities and Local Government through to Work, Social Security and Pensions (14 different policy areas, in all).

Each member of the committee was given a policy area(s) with internal party contacts (mine was, for example, a member of …

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Why the Party should reject calls to sign to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

In July 2017, a UN Conference on Nuclear Weapons comprised of 124 states voted 122 – 1 – 1 in favor of creating a Treaty to ban nuclear weapons; only The Netherlands voted against, and Singapore abstained. Though the Conference Vote itself results in no legal obligations on the UN Member States, the Treaty opened for signature on 20 September 2017.  As of today, 59 states have signed it, and 11 have ratified it; 90 days after 50 states have ratified the Treaty, it will come into force – currently a distant prospect.

Kevin White wrote an article for LDV on 11 July highlighting his second attempt backed by 156 party members to get FCC to consider a motion at Autumn Conference committing the Party to “to campaign for the UK to add its name to the list of signatories to the Treaty” – and presumably ratify the Treaty.

Speaking as a multilateralist who has consistently opposed Trident replacement on the grounds that it is too expensive – it will consume between a quarter and a third of the MoD procurement budget each year between now and the mid-2030s – and Trident is a level of capability that the UK no longer needs. As an academic international lawyer, I understand the attraction of a Treaty that would ban nuclear weapons and lead to global nuclear zero – an aspiration that I fully support.

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The Big Brexit Squeeze

We all know The Squeeze; when we alert voters to the binary choice forced on them by First Past the Post, asking them to drop their preferred option and settle for us.

The Squeeze runs through Brexit. Theresa May tells the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that they might loathe her Brexit proposals, but the alternative is Corbyn.  A wider, presumed “Leave,” the audience is told the alternative is “no Brexit at all.”As that would suit me down to the ground, I am told that HARD Brexit awaits if I fail to get behind whichever fantasy proposal is currently touted.

The biggest squeeze of all, though, maybe around the corner. The government nears collapse; a collapse that would leave the UK rudderless, unable to agree on any deal and, so, inexorably be sliding into a calamitous No Deal Brexit. A General Election, under the First Past the Post system that did so much to create the crisis, would not help. FPTP enforces the party blocks, limiting the choice of the electorate which it then further distorts.

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Reforming National Insurance Contributions

There has been much talk recently about how we are going to raise money to fund public services, and National Insurance Contributions (NIC) is usually the option the Treasury takes. This is predominantly because the public see NICs as something distinct from general taxation.

However, continually raising NICs hurts the income of working people, depresses wages and is generationally unfair.

NICs is only levied on those aged 65 and under, this explains to an extent why it is still seen as a contribution rather than a tax. However, with life expectancies rising and insufficient pension savings, people are working much longer. Raising …

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 19 Comments

What will the party debate in Brighton?

Federal Conference Committee met this weekend – unusually at Amnesty HQ in London rather than LDHQ – to set the Agenda for Autumn conference in Brighton.

If you have not yet registered, please don’t forget – conference runs from the 15th to 18th September, and you can sign up at https://www.eventsforce.net/autumnconference2018. Or, if you’d like to take advantage of our new refer-a-friend discounts, see https://www.libdems.org.uk/refer_a_friend

As noted in my reports on Spring conference, the snap election last year delayed progress on several policy papers which have now come through so time pressure was again an issue. This did mean that some good motions that would have fared better had there been more time were dropped early in round one of voting. I should also mention that a Nem Con decision does not mean that no members liked a motion. FCC runs largely according to consensus, where only issues that might be controversial or result in a close vote end up with a formal show of hands. If only one or two people are arguing for/against a motion, it is often not worth pushing it to a vote. Running 63 votes in round one alone would risk the meeting becoming a multi-day epic!

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | 11 Comments

“Vote Leave broke electoral law” – EU referendum needs to be annulled and re-run

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I’m sure readers can think of examples where election results have been declared invalid by the courts and had to be re-run.

The classic example was the 1997 Winchester election. At the general election, the returning officer declared Mark Oaten the winner by two votes. The court accepted the former Tory MP’s case that the failure by the returning officer’s staff to stamp 55 ballot papers with an official mark, leading to their rejection, cost him a win – also by two votes.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 42 Comments

Time to Start the Blame Game

The plan presented by Theresa May at Chequers and the subsequent resignations by two of her senior cabinet ministers (Brexit and Foreign Secretaries) is more to do with them running for cover than resigning in exasperation. What Theresa May agreed with her cabinet was not in any way a soft Brexit option, it doesn’t resolve the Irish border issue and from all accounts will be rejected by the EU. The proposal will still involve the UK leaving the single market, ending free movement and limiting the role of the European courts.

The proposal is that we will accept part of the four principles set out by the EU. We want to stay in the single market for goods but not services, capital or labour. The plan is we will collect the EU tariffs until we get a system in place to set our tariffs, and until we do that we stay part of the customs union. The proposal for Ireland is still the software option that took the US a decade to develop costing over $10 billion and is used by a very small number of companies. As we run a surplus on services and not on goods, this will be further impetus for companies to move to Europe.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments
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Recent Comments

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    Dav, Employers get away with paying as little as possible. The minimum wage in many warehouse jobs is actually the maximum and yes they try...
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  • User AvatarFormer Dem 23rd Jul - 3:41pm
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