Baroness Sue Miller writes: Lib Dem Conference should debate UN nuclear treaty

This week the Federal Conference Committee will decide whether to allow Conference to debate the UK joining the UN multilateral nuclear disarmament Treaty.

Lib Dems, like the other main parties, have been unwilling to be seen as unilateralist but since the Trident debate a most important new initiative from the UN has changed the nuclear weapons landscape.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, supported at the UN General Assembly by 122 countries, will place nuclear weapons in the same category as other WMDs -illegal under International  law.  Also,  importantly, it provides a framework and a pathway to their eventual total elimination. If we are to live up to our statement that we support multilateral disarmament, internationalism and a long term view we must debate and, I believe, support it.

The Treaty grew out of three Conferences on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear War. As the scientists, medics and civil society examined various scenarios it became starkly clear that now, with more powerful weapons, more countries possessing them and a modernisation programme planned in several countries the scenario was even bleaker than at the height of the Cold War. Even a limited regional nuclear exchange would have environmental consequences for agriculture that would lead to the risk of billions starving. They also found that no medical response could be adequate. As the International Red Cross said as the UN debated the Treaty

The treaty alone will not make nuclear weapons disappear overnight. But it delegitimises their role in the world today and provides a strong disincentive for their proliferation. The treaty signals to all that any development, modernising, testing, threat or plan to use nuclear weapons by anyone is completely unacceptable.

The timescale is important and practical. Nuclear states will not relinquish their weapons overnight. In the current febrile atmosphere of Russian/Chinese /US relations there are likely to be decades of work to do the create the necessary trust, verification and de escalation. 

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William Wallace writes: Stopping Brexit isn’t enough – we have to help the left behind

Larry Elliott in the Guardian the other day declared that the Remainers don’t have any answers to the problems of the Left Behind in Britain.  He didn’t bother to claim that the Leavers had any answer either.  Their commitment to deregulation (with abolition of the Working Time Directive one of their first targets) will hit marginal workers in insecure jobs; their hopes of cutting public spending will increase the gap between rich and poor and starve education and health of resources.

But what do those of us who support Remain offer the Left Behind?  Remember that the highest votes for the Leave campaign came in England’s declining industrial towns, and in the county and seaside towns that have also lost out from economic and social transformation.  Middlesborough, Skegness, Canvey Island and Wisbech all returned over 80% of votes to leave.  It was easy for the Leave campaign to encourage them to blame the globalised ‘liberal elite’ for their woes; they have lost out from globalization, and feel patronised and neglected.  Some of their grievances are justified; others are not.  The selling off of social housing and the incursion of private landlords into what were once Council housing estates is not a consequence of European rules or of immigration.  But the loss of the stable employment that their parents and grandparents had IS a consequence of open frontiers and technological change, and successive governments of all parties have failed to invest enough – in education and training, in housing, in infrastructure, in supporting the growth of new local entrepreneurs – to spread the prosperity of the South-East and the metropolitan cities across the rest of the country.

Liberal Democrat peers tackled these issues in a working party over the past year, the report of which is attached here.  We have submitted a resolution for the Spring conference to take the debate within the party further.  Our analysis, and our proposals, cut across several policy areas.  Greater investment in education and training, from pre-school to further education, is central.  Long-term finance for local start-ups, of the sort that the British Business Bank was intended to provide but which also needs nurturing at regional and local level, is essential.  A revival of social housing is urgent.  Most difficult of all, we have to find a way of rebuilding political trust: a revival of local democracy within communities that feel abandoned by all parties and agencies of government, and that see politics as a game conducted by well-off and well-educated people in London.

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Two cheers for Liberalism: Thoughts from Torbay

What will 2018 bring for my party? That’s a question every local party Chair has probably asked themselves already, as we paused to reflect on the turbulence and mayhem (no pun intended) of 2017.  Local elections will be on many party officers’ minds, as it is in my neck of the woods, where work on finalising our pool of candidates for 2019 is already underway.  The prospect of another General Election- seen by the bookies as more likely in 2019 than 2018- will never be far away.  And Brexit will muddle on while the contradictions of the process become ever plainer to see.

In my Christmas stocking was Nick Clegg’s “How to Stop Brexit”- a gift from someone who truly knows me well.  No sooner had I read it then a new hero emerged to back the Lib Dem call for a referendum on the Brexit deal – in the unlikely form of Nigel Farage.

If ever you wanted proof that the wheels are wobbling on the Brexit bandwagon, look no further.

Farage, (somehow overlooked in the New Year’s Honours…) has spotted something that most Brexiteers have yet to grasp: the need to prepare for Parliament rejecting the government’s Brexit plans on the deal.  He sees, quite rightly, that there is every prospect of Parliament taking back control and refusing a deal that would leave Britain bound by rules it could no longer influence, with reduced trade and uncertain co-operation on everything from nuclear safety to counter-terrorism.

And we know his simple solution- no deal and the disaster of rupturing access to our biggest export market overnight.

That’s why 2018 has to be the year we fight Brexit.  As David Davis said “A democracy that cannot change its mind ceases to be a democracy”.  Plenty of folk thought that taking back control of our fishing grounds, ending payments to Brussels and having an extra £350m a week sounded like a good deal.  As these turn out to be delusions, we should be brave enough to say let’s let the nation think again.  

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Jane Dodds writes….Wales has a by-election and we need your help

There is a by-election for the Welsh Assembly in the North Wales constituency of Alyn and Deeside on February 6th.

This is an opportunity for the Welsh Liberal Democrats to begin their revival and renewal after a challenging time.

The election is being fought in difficult circumstances following the suicide of the Labour politician, Carl Sergeant in November, and his son has been selected as the Labour candidate in the by-election.

We have a brilliant candidate in Donna Lalek, who joined the party just over a year ago, was born and brought up in the constituency,is a founder member of the Liberal Democrat inspired “Everyone Matters” movement and is a community councillor.

This is a plug for your support as we desperately need more help in every part of campaigning.  Sal Brinton has been to support us, and Vince Cable comes up at the end of January.

You will be warmly welcomed if you can make it up to North Wales, so please think if you can join us.

The by-election is not only an opportunity for us to build capacity as a party, but is the first opportunity in a constituency election to consider how issues such as how the Brexit negotiations are beginning to impact on an area that voted out. 

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Prospects for an early General Election and a referendum on the terms of Brexit  

In the previous three posts in this series, I examined the Brexit legislative process, prospects for the EU negotiations, and the state of public opinion and Labour on Brexit. Lastly, what are the prospects for a referendum on the terms of any deal and an early General Election stemming from the ongoing Brexit crisis?

Nigel Farage recently toyed with the possibility of a ‘second’ referendum. Whilst ostensibly suggesting it might settle the Brexit debate for a generation, his real motivation is to have a referendum before the poor withdrawal deal being negotiated becomes obvious to a substantial majority of voters, and while the two largest parties maintain their ‘have your cake and eat it too’ support for Brexit. Some argue, perhaps even more importantly, that a referendum allows Farage another chance to be in the national spotlight, perhaps again as UKIP leader.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | 11 Comments

The Expiry Date of a Referendum Result

There are two democratic principles that, taken together, demand a referendum on the deal. The first is that a democratic decision should be enforced, and the second is that no democratic decision has an indefinite mandate.

The first principle, taken alone, is being used by the Conservatives and Labour to oppose a referendum on the deal. This is the argument:

In 2015 the Conservatives won the general election promising a referendum. The 2015 parliament voted to hold this referendum. In 2016 a referendum was held. In 2017 the same parliament voted to trigger Article 50.

The process has constitutional legitimacy at every stage.

What …

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Inquiry needed into questionable decisions around Carillion – Cable

Responding to reports that Carillion is to go into liquidation, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

In the light of today’s announcement that Carillion plc has gone into liquidation, Vince Cable has called for urgent action;

The government must now take responsibility for the big contracts run by Carillion, or re-tender them, to keep the supply chain going and protect thousands of jobs. Ministers must minimise the damage to the capacity of the construction industry.

We also urgently need a parliamentary inquiry into some of the very questionable decisions made in the past few months, not least the award of

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  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 17th Jan - 5:25pm
    It reminds me of the story of the old bull and the young bull, who were standing at the top of a steep meadow, looking...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 17th Jan - 5:14pm
    Churchill was 65 in May, 1940 (76 when he formed his last administration). Gladstone was 82 in July 1892. Perhaps young Master Fowler should reflect...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 17th Jan - 5:03pm
    @ Sue Miller"Lib Dems, like the other main parties, have been unwilling to be seen as unilateralist". By the narrowest skin of its teeth -...
  • User AvatarAndrew Melmoth 17th Jan - 5:01pm
    -Dav They gain the security that those rights won't be undermined and undercut by competition by other European countries.
  • User AvatarGlenn 17th Jan - 4:53pm
    I meant half out, rather than half in.
  • User AvatarGlenn 17th Jan - 4:51pm
    Arnold Over half of remain voters also want to end free movement. Support for it is a minority neo-liberal hobby horse. Personally as a leave...