Winter elections

The last time there was a General Election in December was in 1923. The BBC has a fascinating account of the event.

It was not a particularly cold winter, more dull and drizzly than crisp and blindingly white, although there were occasional snow and sleet flurries with December seeing a mean temperature of 3.9C.

Houses were decorated with festive bunting and heated by coal fires, shopping streets bustled with rattling trams and women wore ankle-length skirts and cloche hats.

The Representation of the People Act five years previously had given them the vote, although not all women – only those aged 30 or over who owned property worth at least £5, which accounted for about two thirds of the nation’s women (full voting rights would come in 1928).

Back in 2012, Mark Pack brilliantly developed a suggestion I had made to the LDV team and reported the Government’s proposal to move the day of local elections from May to February. There were howls of protest until someone noticed the date.  I particularly loved the final sentence:

As a planned cost saving measure, if the last Thursday in February falls on a leap day, the elections will be skipped and all incumbents automatically re-elected …

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Rob’s Liberal Democrat rap

Liberal Democrat Rob Castell thought he would be standing against Dominic Grieve in Beaconsfield. However, he stood aside when the election was announced. Dominic Grieve has been an important pro-Remain voice in the Commons, crucial to stopping Brexit. He is standing as an independent and the Liberal Democrats locally and nationally agreed not to oppose him.

Rob has been campaigning with Dominic Grieve, who is picking up much unexpected support.

Rob’s generosity in standing aside is clear. He has been a great and positive presence on social media during the campaign, though. Recently, he was put in touch with the producers of Politix and Chill, a new BBC Sussex podcast for young people. They asked him to write and record a rap about politics. Two others, from the Conservatives and Labour, were also invited to do so and they were judged by talent scouts.

Rob told me that it was a great experience and he hopes it will make politics more accessible for young people.

Watch it here.

The words to Rob’s rap are below:

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Can the Greens’ Universal Basic Income tackle poverty?

The Greens in this election are promising in their manifesto “a Universal Basic Income, paid to all UK residents to tackle poverty and give financial security to everyone”. They state that their Universal Basic Income (UBI) will replace the current benefits system. And they will phase it in over five years. The rates are £89 per week for working age adults, and £178 per week for pensioners. They will provide an unstated amount as a supplement for people with disabilities and lone parents. For families earning under £50,000 there will be £70 per week for each of the first two children and £50 for each additional child. However, it seems they are not paying Housing Benefit to new claimants once UBI has been introduced. Their manifesto states that they will, “Continue to pay Housing Benefit to those who received it before UBI was introduced, so that they can cover their rent (page 50).

For those in full time work the £89 a week is in fact only £40.92 a week because the Income Tax Personal Allowance of £12,500 would be scrapped.

They estimate the cost of the UBI, the supplements and free childcare at £86.2 billion. They state they will provide 35 hours of free childcare for all from the age of 9 months. This is more than we are promising because we are only providing free childcare for working parents for children aged 9 months to two years. This is estimated to cost £12.3 billion in 2024/25. Therefore the Greens are spending less than £73.9 billion to introduce their Universal Basic Income while abolishing Housing Benefit for new claimants.

The Greens benefit reforms will leave most people who would qualify for benefits today in poverty. Using the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s figure in their
“UK Poverty 2018” updated by inflation for April 2019 the poverty levels excluding housing costs per week are:

Single person no children £157.62
Single person with two children £325.88
Couple with no children £271.58
Couple with two children £439.84

Turning to the Greens’ proposals these are what people would receive if not working:

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Steve Coogan campaigns for Lib Dem Oli Henman in Lewes

As part of an initiative to encourage tactical voting, comedian Steve Coogan joined Liberal Democrat candidate for Lewes Oli Henman for a campaigning session:

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10 December 2019 – the overnight press releases

  • Lib Dems: Brexit is already costing our public services more than £350 million a week
  • Swinson warns of Johnson threat to human rights
  • Business backs the Liberal Democrats
  • Lib Dems are listening to Gen Z’s climate emergency fears

Lib Dems: Brexit is already costing our public services more than £350 million a week

The Liberal Democrats have revealed that Brexit is already costing the government £380–470 million a week – money that could have been spent on the NHS instead.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has estimated that GDP is £55–66 billion lower this year than it would have been without Brexit, mainly …

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9 December 2019 – today’s press releases

Apologies to our regular readers for the temporary disappearance of this regular feature – I was away and had some surprisingly poor internet access. Anyway, on with the show…

  • Liberal Democrats set out ambitious spending plans to tackle the climate emergency
  • Lib Dems: Brexit leak on Northern Ireland checks shows Johnson is lying to the public
  • Lib Dems: Johnson refusing to look at picture of sick child shows mask has slipped
  • Question Time debate shows Jo Swinson is a next generation leader

Liberal Democrats set out ambitious spending plans to tackle the climate emergency

The Liberal Democrats have …

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Jo’s best bits from the Channel 4 Debate

Channel 4 held an “everything but Brexit” debate last night.

Jo represented us. Labour sent Angela Rayner, the SNP Philippa Whitford and both of them basically decided to gang up on Jo over the coalition rather than defend their own policies. Moderator Cathy Newman seemed to join in the pile-on at times.

The Conservatives and Brexit Party couldn’t even be bothered to turn up. It was quite bizarre when she read out bits of the Conservative and Brexit manifestos when they were not represented and able to be properly scrutinised.

Here are some of Jo’s best bits.

 

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Citizenship – a human right

It is Liberal Democrat Party policy to bring forward legislation to create overseas constituencies and votes for life for the British diaspora abroad. The Election Manifestos of 2017 and 2019 are explicit on this matter. Currently, British citizens living outside the UK loose their right to vote in Parliamentary elections and referenda after 15 years of absence; their enfranchisement ceases. After BREXIT, Britons living in the European Union will loose their local voting rights (European Parliamentary and Municipal Elections) and as they pass the 15 year threshold, they become completely disenfranchised for life. Is this democratic? No, this is an …

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Jo Swinson on brilliant form on transgender rights

If you haven’t seen this clip, it’s worth watching. Jo is on brilliant form as she responds to an LBC caller who criticised boys wearing skirts. As Nick Ferrari wades in about “national security” and risks for British citizens in Saudi Arabia, Jo is passionate and concludes:

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Time for Smart Tactical Voting

Tactical voting was essential in helping me to win four Parliamentary elections in a row, and its absence led to the defeat of so many of my colleagues along with myself in 2015.

The danger in this election is that a simple ‘let’s unite to kick out the Tories’ could well end up with a hung Parliament that has more Leavers than Remainers in it.

Those who advocate such a simple solution to change the Government need to examine precisely whom it is they are helping to elect.

My first preference is for a Liberal Democrat majority Government. If I can’t have that, …

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The most frustrating thing about Jo Swinson

Jo Swinson was on Sophy Ridge this morning, setting out very clearly that every single Liberal Democrat MP elected on Thursday would be absolutely focused on stopping Brexit.

She emphasised that Liberal Democrats could stop Boris Johnson getting a majority.

She also defended our policy of revoking Article 50 if the Liberal Democrats won a majority, saying that it was the most popular option amongst remainers, including Labour remainers. She could have mentioned that 6 million people signed a petition to do just that just a few months ago so the idea clearly has support.

Here are her highlights:

Sophy Ridge asked her about …

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Observations of an ex pat: Whither NATO?

“The most successful military alliance in history” is one description. Another is “brain dead.” And a third is “obsolete.”

The fact is that all the above descriptions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation are correct in varying degrees along with “guarantor of peace in Europe” and the “military heart of the Western Alliance.”

It is also true to say that the alliance is in crisis. To paraphrase Dean Acheson’s description of post-imperial Britain, NATO won the Cold War and has yet to find a new role in the world.

If one starts from the assumption that NATO is a force for good than it is essential that the alliance re-discover its role in the world. To do that it needs to re-evaluate the circumstances and values that led to its formation 70 years ago; examine how the world has stayed the same; how it has changed; and then change and adapt.

In 1949, the world was only four years out of a world war. America had emerged enormously wealthy, militarily powerful and armed with the world’s first true weapon of mass destruction. Its ideological enemy the Soviet Union had absorbed Eastern Europe and seemed poised to send its steamroller army across the rest of the devastated continent. It was four months away from detonating its first atomic bomb. Britain—which had been charged with the responsibility of protecting post war Europe—was broke and broken, and appealed to America to fill the vacuum. China was soon to “fall” to Mao’s communists and slip behind a bamboo curtain for 30 years. Former enemies Germany and Japan were as distrusted as the Soviet Union. There were only 59 members of the United Nations as most of the future 193-strong membership was still colonies.

NATO had a clear purpose: To protect the democracies of Western Europe from Soviet aggression so that they could recover from a devastating world war; preserve the shared values of economic and political liberalism; protect traditional markets and prevent a third world war. Lord Ismay, NATO’s first Secretary General, declared that the purpose of the alliance was to “keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down.”

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Santa Rennie delivers festive lump of coal to SNP

It wouldn’t be an election without Willie Rennie doing something eye-catching.

And today, he took part in a Santa dash in Glasgow.

 

He placed the SNP firmly on the Naughty List for the decline in public services since they have been in government and suggested that they’d be getting a lump of coal on Christmas morning.

The only reason that the SNP want to talk about Brexit is because their domestic agenda is truly abysmal.

Hundreds of children are waiting far too long for mental health treatment, the third Police Authority chair in three years has resigned and we are falling down the international education rankings.

This Christmas the SNP deserve a lump of coal for the way they’ve mishandled these services. Our teachers, nurses and police officers are working hard day in day out but they don’t get the support they deserve from an SNP government which has independence on the brain.

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TV legend Esther Rantzen backs Luciana Berger

Television presenter Esther Rantzen is throwing her support behind the Lib Dem candidate in Finchley and Golders Green. She said:

As a floating voter myself, I believe we need to support outstanding individuals to ensure we elect the best politicians with integrity and determination.

Although I do not live in her constituency, I am greatly impressed by Luciana’s courage and commitment in standing for election when she has in the past as an MP suffered appalling abuse and prejudice.

She has put herself in the firing line for fearlessly exposing anti-Jewish racism.

It might have been tempting to decide to leave politics when women, especially Jewish women, have come under so much vicious attack. Instead she has decided to fight prejudice and resist hatred and xenophobia.

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How YOU can help the Lib Dems get more MPs this week

There’s just five campaigning days left in the General Election. All of a sudden you seem to go from “Oh yikes, how the hell will I survive 5 weeks of this?” to “Oh Yikes, there’s only five days to do all this?”

What matters to us all on Friday morning is the number of Lib Dem MPs we have. Noble third places count for nothing.

If you are not in one of the seats we hope to win on Thursday, please either get to your nearest one, or make phone calls from your own home into it. The party has set up a nice tool to let you know which one you should go to.

I have always done this. Sometimes, my local party where I live has not been happy about this. I remember the horror in the West Lothian local party in my first election when I moved there when I said I was heading to Edinburgh South. We didn’t win there in that election, but we were a top target and laid the groundwork for wining the Scottish Parliament seat two years later.

When I lived in the East Midlands, I worked in the target seat of Chesterfield which we  won in 2001.

At this stage of the campaign, we need to make sure that the target seats win. What you have done already will have helped you build for next time. And it can be hard, when you have put lots of effort into your local campaign to leave it and head elsewhere.

But if you can be part of winning a brighter prospect, that will also help you in more ways than one. Firstly, a good result for the party helps us all. More MPs = more influence in Parliament. For the country that is a good thing because it gives us the chance to stop Brexit.

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Pest control and security cameras

Here at Lib Dem Voice we receive some intriguing emails, especially those from people wanting to place a post to help their search engine status.  Here are a couple we have received this week.

This is xxx, a writer and a big fan of your blog/website content https://www.libdemvoice.org . I’m reaching out to you because I wish to write an amazing blog post for your readers.

The articles ideas I had:

Pest Control Services
Residential Pest Control Services
Commercial Pest Control Services
Termite Control, Termite Treatment
Ant Control & Extermination

I would appreciate if you could allow me to write a guest post for you!

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That NATO Summit discord, in context

The recent NATO summit in the UK filled the headlines for a few days. What was the summit really all about ?

Arguments about low defence spending amongst some members, about perceived military weakness relative to Russia in the Baltic States, spilled out. There was even an apparent threat from Turkey to delay progress on the Baltic States issue until the rest of NATO accepted that Kurdish defence forces in Syria are ‘terrorists’.

After 70 years of NATO, the irreconcilable discord dominated.

The underlying problem is that members do not agree any more on what exactly NATO is for.   What is worse is that its members are in a kind of gridlock; there is little leadership on mutual interests, lots of taboo topics, and sticking plasters everywhere.

Spending spats are really disagreements about control; some members being reluctant to extend spending until there is more equal status in NATO decision-making.

The history is key.  NATO was never part of any ‘grand plan’ at the outset. Its formation & development after WW2 was something of an accident.  NATO’s origins lie with the 1947 Dunkirk Treaty between France and the UK, and then the Brussels Treaty Organisation (BTO) in 1948 which brought in the Benelux Countries, creating the Western Union (WU) with US support. The WU was precursor both to NATO and to EU defence cooperation.

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The Daily Mail could end Brexit

The recent news that the Daily Mail has bought the i newspaper for £49.6m has caused alarm and dismay to many. Is this the latest example of the extreme right tightening their grip on Britain’s print media, 80% of which they already own? It was, after all, the Mail’s long running, vengeful and ferocious campaign against the EU, under Paul Dacre’s editorship, that set the scene for Brexit.

It may be that Dacre finally overstepped the mark with his “enemies of the people” attack on our top judges, or it may be that his particular brand of burning anger was no longer necessary once the worst of his work was successfully done; at any rate many hoped that his replacement by the more pragmatic Geordie Greig would signal a change of heart at Britain’s most popular daily, and a less toxic approach.

Support for this view comes from a leading article in the British Medical Journal, and raises the interesting possibility that the Mail might one day be in the vanguard of a drive to reverse the worst calamity it ever backed: Brexit. The argument is that if the paper has seen the light and abandoned its long term support of the anti-vaxx lobby, anything is possible.

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Hugh Grant on the frustrating lack of progress in combatting press abuses since the Leveson Inquiry

When I interviewed Hugh Grant on Monday, I started by asking him a couple of questions about his work with the pressure group Hacked Off on press abuse.

Firstly, I asked how he thinks the campaign to curb press abuse issue is looking at the moment. Here’s his reply:

Well, it’s extremely frustrating that we got as far as we did. Hacked Off campaigned for a judicial enquiry. We got it. Leveson’s recommendations at the end of that were very mild really, on the spectrum of what he could have recommended. It was then a struggle to get them into law but finally, as you’ll remember, they were passed by the entire House. There was the Royal Charter, and then there was Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which I assumed, if the whole of Parliament has given it the thumbs up, must become law. It turns out there’s a technical glitch called “commencement”, which the Tory government managed to exploit, and they never pressed that commencement button.

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The Lib Dem pitch to the rural left

Those of us who are left of centre in rural areas are often completely missed from political discourse, despite our long history of distinctive political belief.  Rural people are, obviously, spread out both geographically and economically. We live in smaller communities and have much smaller workplaces. The result of this is a more individualistic yet supportive community where people rely on themselves first and their neighbours second. Liberal philosophy is ideally placed to appeal to these rural values, giving a hand up when needed while getting out the way when not.

How can our liberal message best appeal to the many areas of the country that are represented by the Conservatives yet badly let down by their safe seat apathy?

Our economic message must fit both rural reality and rural values. We must build a framework that allows small and micro businesses to thrive by busting monopolies that are especially damaging in rural areas. Across the country, monopoly power is costing ordinary people billions. The uncompetitiveness of the energy market costs the country £1.7bn but the renewable revolution allows us to rebuild the energy market around communities and their needs, returning the profits of relatively small-scale renewables to the areas in which they are based. A new model of distributive rather than concentrative markets must be built, in which ownership and control are shared widely through mutuals, cooperatives and small enterprise.

We must also build the infrastructure rural areas need to succeed. Our support for universal high-speed broadband as well as better public transport is vital to helping fledgeling businesses to survive, while we also need to be building affordable and social housing to ensure we can halt the rural brain drain. I, myself, am an example of that drain, moving from the village I grew up in to the nearby city of Lincoln for work and to study.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes… Voting tactically to end tactical voting

New polling for the ERS on #DemocracyDay today (Thursday 5th) shows that 80% of people feel they have little or no influence on how decisions are made, and 85% think our political institutions need significant improvement.

We now know that around a huge proportion of Labour supporters are likely to vote tactically (almost all for Liberal Democrat candidates) and a similar number of Liberal Democrats will do likewise (most for Labour candidates). These well-informed citizens are determined not to be cheated again by the absurdly anachronistic and unfair electoral system.

They wouldn’t have to vote tactically if a proportional system operated in this election. If we all enjoyed the STV preferential ballot which the Lab/Lib Dem Coalition introduced for local elections in Scotland almost every vote would count – there 95% of those who vote are represented by councillors they have helped to win. In England and Wales barely half can say that.

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Jo Swinson shines in Andrew Neil interview

Jo Swinson was 3 when Jeremy Corbyn became an MP in 1983. That longer experience did not help him when he faced Andrew Neil last week. He was tin-eared, evasive and failed to connect with the audience.

Boris Johnson can’t even be bothered to show up.

In contrast, Jo was amazing tonight. Neil didn’t hold back, asking her some very tough questions. She answered every single one with clarity, competence and candour. She was very clear that she hadn’t got it right on everything  in the coalition and said the word that politicians so rarely use – sorry.

At the same time, she articulated a proper, liberal, internationalist message, showing how we are open, generous spirited and inclusive.

I have known Jo for long enough to know that she never gives up. Our election campaign has not seen the rise in the polls we deserve, given that we have a manifesto that is more redistributive than Labour’s, is the most economically competent and is much better on social justice than anyone else’s. A lesser leader could have turned their face to the wall. That is not Jo’s style. She and we will keep fighting for every single vote right up until 10pm next Thursday night.

Here are her best bits:

And we can stop Brexit We did it twice and we can do it for good:

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Jo Swinson is impressive under the Andrew Neil grilling

Jo Swinson gave a very impressive performance under the grilling of Andrew Neil this evening on primetime BBC1. (You can view it here).

She was confident, offering contrition on the mistakes of the coalition and outlining the Liberal Democrat positions clearly.

There are plenty of past examples of car crash interviews with Andrew Neil at the helm. Jo did very well under his forensic questioning.

Here’s a selection of tweets reacting to tonight’s programme:

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Dom Joly: I’m backing Lib Dem Max Wilkinson in Cheltenham

Dom Joly, the TV comedian, is throwing his support behind the Lib Dem candidate in Cheltenham, Max Wilkinson:

For so long, due to our ridiculously unfair first-past-the-post electoral system, my vote has meant nothing when cast in a constituency with a massive majority for the sitting MP.

This is why I’m so excited, having just moved to Cheltenham, to feel that my vote really can make a difference in this Lib-Dem/Tory marginal. I am putting all my support behind the Lib-Dem candidate, Max Wilkinson, as I think he will make a superb local MP.

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Traditional Tory voters in London are coming across to the LibDems

Siobhan Benita, our London spokesperson and 2020 mayoral candidate (right), has been campaigning for LibDem candidates all over London. Yesterday she spoke to me about how things are going. This was her assessment:

I think it is going really well. We’re definitely seeing, in some of our key target seats, what we’ve heard here (in City of London and Westminster), which is (that) especially traditional Conservative voters, are (coming across to the LibDems). (This is) not just about Brexit – what we were hearing in Kensington yesterday, for example with Sam’s team, and a lot of the older voters there who have only ever voted Conservative, were saying they don’t associate with Boris Johnson’s Conservative party – they don’t like him – they don’t like the lies he is saying – and for the first time ever – some of them had already postal voted – they’d already given us their vote. So I think we are definitely seeing that across the capital. The nice thing for me, I think as well, is that I know we are obviously strong in parts of London – say south-west London – we have traditionally been strong. I’m definitely getting that sense in the north as well, in Finchley and Golders Green it’s going to be really really exciting there too. So I am hoping that we can – you know – change the map across London and that we’ll be seeing yellow pockets across London, other than the south-west – but I think we’ll grow there as well.

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In pictures: Hugh Grant campaigning for Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger

Here, from Getty Images, is a slideshow of Hugh Grant’s visit to support Chuka Ummuna yesterday, and Luciana Berger on Sunday evening.

Please use the arrows to go back and forwards across the slideshow, and hover your mouse or finger over each photo to read its caption:


Embed from Getty Images

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Hugh Grant on Boris Johnson: Sinister, narcissistic and alarming with potentially no principles at all

Chuka Umunna and Hugh Grant talk with the press yesterday in St John’s Gardens, London SW1

“Could someone interview Hugh Grant tomorrow?” came the call from our esteemed LDV editor Caron, late on Sunday.

Well, one of the advantages of being gloriously retired is that you can often turn on a sixpence. So I jumped at the chance to interview the great man despite basic logistics issues such as “where” and “when” being still unclear. As these basics remained unclear as hours passed I realised I would have to bring forward my powers of initiative and assertiveness.

Fortunately, thanks to the great assistance of our old friend Dr Evan Harris of Hacked Off and Helen Davies, chair of City of London and Westminster Liberal Democrats, yesterday I was introduced to Hugh Grant as a “friend” and got my three minutes with him. You can hear the whole interview here on SoundCloud. (It includes a section about press abuse.)

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1 December 2019 – the weekend’s press releases (part 2)

  • Jo Swinson: Boris Johnson is running scared of scrutiny
  • Lib Dems: Tory no deal Brexit would increase national debt by £220 billion
  • Lib Dems: Johnson’s comments show that he despises the poor and vulnerable in our society
  • Swinson outperforms Johnson cheerleaders
  • Farage, Trump and Johnson singing from same misogynistic hymn sheet

Jo Swinson: Boris Johnson is running scared of scrutiny

Responding to Boris Johnson’s interview with Andrew Marr, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, said:

Given Boris Johnson’s dismal performance this morning on Marr it is no wonder he is running scared of Andrew Neil and refusing to be held to account in debates.

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What happens after 12 December?

It is clear that there are two possible broad outcomes to this General Election. The first is an overall Conservative victory. The second is no party with an overall majority, what the world will call a Hung Parliament.

There’s a subset of them both which is a repeat of 2017 where the Tories as largest party can get to an overall lead with the assistance of the DUP. The Irish borders issue (the main single reason we are now having an election yet almost completely absent from the election debate) may make that more difficult for Johnson though we must …

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30 November 2019 – the weekend’s press releases (part 1)

  • Ed Davey: Only the Conservatives would think it is the right policy to put rail fares up now
  • Swinson statement ahead of World AIDS Day

Ed Davey: Only the Conservatives would think it is the right policy to put rail fares up now

Responding to the news that rail fares will increase by 2.7% for millions of commuters on the 2nd January next year, Liberal Democrats Shadow Chancellor Ed Davey said:

With the railways in crisis and passengers continuing to suffer delays and cancellations on a daily basis, only the Conservatives would think it is the right policy to put fares up now.

It’s time

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