Revoking Article 50 would not break our democracy

So the Government was defeated twice last night, which paves the way for MPs to set the agenda on Wednesday.

However, it managed to see off a perfectly reasonable amendment from Margaret Beckett which would have made sure that the House would have had control of what would have happened if we got to 7 days from the deadline with no deal in place.

This amendment was defeated by 3 votes. 8 Labour MPs voted with the Government against it.

The fact that so many votes are so finely balanced is really worrying. Theresa May would see getting her Brexit deal through by one vote as a victory. That would mean probably a decade of uncertainty and a whole generation pretty much sold down the river.

If you are making a major life choice, for example getting married or, I guess, the more appropriate analogy is getting divorced, you have to be sure you are doing the right thing.

MPs are obviously conflicted so the obvious answer is to preserve the status quo before any further damage is done. We are at the point where revoking Article 50 is the only option we have.

That would have its problems, for sure. People do have some genuine concerns that such a move would be harmful for democracy.

I hope I can allay some of those fears.

Every credible large sample poll has put Remain in the lead in the last few months. Over 5.5 million people have felt moved to sign a petition which essentially calls for the government to just make Brexit stop. Twice in 5 months the streets of London have been filled with hundreds of thousands of protesters.

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2012: Under an EU deadline & government collapse, the Dutch parliament grabs the reins Part 1

I never in my wildest dreams thought it possible that, after the English Civil War, any English or British parliament would intervene while a government was collapsing (and straining under an EU deadline), grab the reins and impose its preference. But that’s what I’ve just been watching live on the March 25th late BBC News and Newsnight.

It reminded me of the only instance in Dutch politics when, with an EU/EMU deadline looming, the government lost its majority; with the party giving confidence and supply stalking out and staying out, and opposition MP’s saved the day.

In this two-piece article, I’ll explain what happened; I think it goes to show that with responsible opposition parliamentarians involved, parliament taking the initiative from an amputated government can be positive. 

It was 2012, two years into the first (Mark) Rutte government ( with ministers from VVD (car-loving Liberals) and CDA (Christian Democrats), and with Geert Wilders’ PVV giving the support to make up a majority (76 of 150 Commons seats) but without ministers. VVD and CDA had a coalition agreement; PVV supported most of it, but abstained on the foreign bits: (1) Dutch ISAF participation in pacifying Afghanistan (in Kunduz province and (2) European politics: anything remotely related to growing an “ever closer union” as professor Desmond Dinan describes it in his EU history handbooks, starting with EMU. And the PVV got our development aid lowered below the UN norm of 0,7% of GDP.

In 2011, Rutte got the foreign bits of his policy through parliament with the support of D66 (social liberals), GroenLinks (centrist-progressive Greens) and ChU (Orthodox and green protestants); this was afterwards called the (opposition part of the) “Kunduz coalition”.

Being a faithful EMU member in the Greek EMU crisis, and under the EU’s Stability & Growth Pact, the EMU rule book, we had to submit the outlines of our 2013 Dutch budget-package to Brussels and the ECB in Frankfurt by the end of April for clearance: did we adhere to the tough EMU/SGP budgetary norms we were subjecting Greece, Spain and Ireland to?  If we missed the deadline or didn’t adhere to norms, a EMU fine of a billion euros threatened.

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The weekend everything changed…

What a weekend!  It really does feel different now – claims of “the will of the people” have never sounded more hollow, the 2016 referendum result never more stale.  The online petition to Revoke Article 50 has topped 5 million signatures, dwarfing all the pro-Brexit petitions combined by a massive margin.  Over a million travelled from all over the country to march for a People’s Vote while Nigel-No-Mates struggles to muster 50 for his “Brexit Betrayal” march.

And just look who’s marching.  On Saturday there were young people everywhere – twenties, teens and younger.  All demanding a say, all demanding a brighter future.  Now study the photos (if you can bear to) from one of Farage’s sad little gatherings and tell me how many you spot under the age of 40.

A better Prime Minister, one with charisma and genuine leadership qualities, would have built a cross-party consensus for a Norway-style soft Brexit and would be taking us out of the EU with a deal that a majority would accept (if reluctantly).

But that time has passed.  May’s Brexit plans have turned to ashes on a pyre of incompetence, intransigence and infighting.  The people have stared into the abyss of a hard Brexit, and while a few still want to jump, most are stepping back and turning away.

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LibLink: Layla Moran: It’s time for the UK to recognise the state of Palestine

Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, the first MP of Palestinian descent, has written for Politics Home about why the UK should recognise the state of Palestine:

As things stand now the peace process is nowhere to be found. It is a fallacy to think that there is still an ongoing peace process and the international community are ignorant if they think anything else. The political agenda has been hijacked by extremists on both sides and I am very clear that as a part of that, Hamas must go: their presence is setting the dialogue back considerably.

With this breakdown of the peace process, and the US now missing from the international effort, it is more important than ever that the UK steps up and uses its influence and voice. The UK can help restore a sense of hope for Palestinians, we can help bring the parties back to the negotiating table, and we can help level the playing field. But we can only do that if we recognise the state of Palestine. Saying that we believe in a two-state solution without recognising one of those states ourselves would be laughably hypocritical if it weren’t so damaging.

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Let’s look more towards European Liberals for the future of the Liberal Democrats

In our fight for an Exit from Brexit, British liberals have been denied the opportunity to fight for a renewed and more liberal Europe. Since the Brexit Referendum, the raison d’être for British liberals has been to remain in the European Union. We have been pulling out all the stops to avoid a hard-Brexit, maintaining and improving the security, prosperity and opportunities brought by our membership of the world’s single market and customs union. But Europe is the future, and it is European Liberals who will be the real change makers of the next European mandate. Let’s look to European …

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Brexit: bad for doctors, worse for patients, but there is hope

The medical profession has always been staunchly opposed to Brexit. Even before the 2016 referendum the British Medical Journal predicted dire consequences, and whilst the pro-European tone was slightly subdued in the immediate aftermath, criticism has become more vehement as the process dragged on.

Last week the BMJ reported on a meeting of 150 doctors in Belfast who found “little to feel positive about”, not least the bizarre prospect of emergency ambulances being stopped when they crossed a hard border. A leading article (pictured) considered the plight of EU-qualified doctors who comprise …

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A more effective and compassionate approach to immigration and asylum

Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary held a joint fringe meeting at Lib Dem Conference in York with Social and Liberal Forum, addressing the Immigration Bill currently being debated in Parliament.

Ed Davey MP spoke of some of the impact that Brexit would have on immigration issues, and how he was using some of the new Lib Dem policies in the debates around the Bill.

Only some amendments would be allowed, those that fit in with the “Long title” of the Bill, which ties it to European issues. Success on many of the amendments to the Bill will depend on full support from Labour though.

There is the big problem of those without settled status from the EU who are living here. If they haven’t applied and gone through system there will be huge problems by 2020 for them. It is outrageous to take existing rights away. A declaratory system would be a much better way. Talking of the proposal of the ending of free movement of labour, he spoke of how this was going to impact on those from the UK who worked in the EU.

Interestingly, whilst talking about the benefits of immigration, he also talked about how people’s attitude to immigration is beginning to change as the impact of Brexit is becoming more apparent. People are realising there is a real benefit to immigration as the impact on loss of health care staff is going to affect them and their friends.

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23-24 March 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

Cable: We are now a Remain country

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable today kicked off the ‘Put It To The People’ march by declaring to supporters that the UK is a “Remain country”.

The Liberal Democrat leader joined hundreds of thousands of supporters, including Liberal Democrat campaigners, MPs and Peers, who descended on London from as far as Redruth in Cornwall to Wick in Scotland.

Speaking at the march, Vince Cable said:

We are now a Remain country. 60% now want to Remain and reform from within. Nearly 90% of young voters who weren’t allowed to vote in 2016 would

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Eradicating race inequality

At Conference last weekend, my maiden speech as Vice President was in support of a Motion on a race equality policy paper: Eradicating Race Inequality produced by Merlene Emerson, Baroness Hussein-Ece and the Race Equality – Policy Working Group. 

I talked about my experience, as a young barrister, of seeking to comfort a Caribbean grandma who couldn’t bear to watch her young, black grandson being sentenced for possession of a knife. 

A knife he’d felt forced to carry to protect himself from gangs. 

I assured her then that her grandson would be treated fairly, but had no idea that my words were as hollow then as they would be if I said them now, some twenty years later. 

The statistics are shocking:

  • BaME people are the most likely in our society to become a victim of crime or to fear becoming a victim* (leading to disproportionate numbers of BaME people feeling forced to carry a knife for protection)
  • rates of prosecution and sentencing for black people are three times higher than for white people **

It is clear that our criminal justice system, like politics, is broken.

I am glad that the Motion was passed and that there was such overwhelming support for it. It provides an excellent blueprint for our policy work in this area going forward. 

Registered supporters’ scheme

I later had the chance to speak in support of a registered supporters’ scheme. 

I acknowledge that there were many aspects of the Motion that were controversial and I will leave it to those better qualified to address those particular points. 

My viewpoint was in relation to attracting more BaME voters, members and candidates to our Party.

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Getting rid of May doesn’t resolve the worst thing about her deal

The papers are full of speculation that Theresa May’s days as Prime Minister are numbered. So far so like every other day for the past year or so.

If current reports are to be believed, up to 11 members of the Cabinet are poised to replace her with David Lidington, Michael Gove or Jeremy Hunt pending a leadership contest in the Autumn.

This was always the danger though. If she got her deal through, she would always have been quietly – or not- dumped later this year and the new leader would preside over negotiations with the EU on a longer term trade deal. It is likely that that leader would be someone who was acceptable to the ERG. That means they would be after all sorts of impossible unicorns like a free trade deal where they had to comply with absolutely none of the EU’s rules.

There is no way the EU would agree to the carefully crafted single market being compromised – and nor should they. The level playing field across Europe is a very good thing and leaving it is an act of folly.

But it’s not only trade deals with the EU that need to be forged. It’s trade deals with the rest of the world. We would be at a distinct disadvantage negotiating on our own with China and the US. Vince keeps citing the example of Switzerland whose access to Chinese markets is next to nothing while the Chinese access to Swiss markets is almost total.

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Layla responds to rumours about 2013 incident

In a tweet last night, Layla Moran set out what happened at the 2013 Autumn conference. There had been rumours and speculation about it for some time.

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Jo: Our children deserve better than Brexit Britain

British people don’t often take to the streets in massive numbers. And when they do it twice in six months, you would hope that those who represent them at any level take note.

750,000 in October. Estimates of a million today. From Wick to Cornwall and pretty much everywhere in between.

You would think that if there was a real desperation to leave, there would be another million supporting that cause. But there isn’t. Nigel Farage was surrounded by a couple of dozen people on Sky News.

In contrast, apparently there are still some people to leave Park Lane after the march has finished and dispersed after many speeches in Parliament Square.

Our Deputy Leader Jo Swinson delivered a speech. It is brilliant to see her do so with baby Gabriel in his sling.

Earlier she had spoken to Sky News:

Our former  Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey spoke about how important it was to be part of European efforts to tackle climate change.

This is one of my favourite pictures of the day:

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Excitement builds ahead of pro EU march

They’re coming from all over the country to London to make their voices heard. Have an amazing day, everyone!

Welcome to the party, Clifford.

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Happy marching, everyone – and what you can do if you can’t go

Just over five months ago, I set out for London on a beautiful, sunny morning just so I could walk from Hyde Park to Parliament Square. That relatively short stroll took me about 4 hours. Sharing it with 700,000 like minded people was one of the best experiences of my life.

We were marching then for a People’s Vote. Today, the “Put it to the People” march takes to the streets of London as we face the very imminent prospect of leaving the EU in circumstances which will make us poorer and smaller in spirit as well as pocket. The behaviour of our Prime Minister this week, pitting this rather nebulous concept of “the will of the people” against MPs who are (mostly) trying valiantly to avert disaster, has been a source of national shame. The Prime Minister who says that the people “voted for pain” rather than for £350 million a week for the NHS needs to be shown how strongly we feel about staying in the EU.

I would love to be in London today but a difficult family situation means that I simply can’t be 400 miles from home. I will absolutely be there in spirit though. Those who are marching will show that it is possible for huge numbers of people to gather to make their point with  joy and kindness.

One tweet in particular from the many in my timeline who are heading to London made me very happy indeed:

I suspect that he won’t be the only one.

But what can you do if, like me, you can’t go?

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The two most important questions to ask Lib Dem leadership candidates

My wife keeps up with the news, but she can’t recall the last time she saw a national story about the Lib Dems. As Labour and the Tories struggle to hold themselves together, the Lib Dems fight simply to be heard. For most people in the country there is a fading memory of a liberal voice where the party used to be.

With the party’s leadership election looming, that matters. There will be a big temptation among activists to make the contest a battle of ideologies. “Which candidate is closest to my beliefs?” members will ask, endlessly dissecting policy statements, tweets and voting records.

Don’t do it. Your ideology is really important, but the harsh truth is that it doesn’t matter whether our new leader shares it or not. Other things matter more.

Our new leader being heard by the millions of people like my wife matters more. Our new leader connecting with those people, giving them a sense that the Liberal Democrats is for people like them and is fighting for the things they care about: that matters more. A leader who ticks every one of your ideological boxes but fails to connect with the voters will do your cause no good at all.

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1906 General Election: The zenith of liberalism

As we approach Brexit day, whenever it finally occurs, it is important to remember the struggles and victories that have defined the political liberalism that is at the core of the modern movement in Britain. One such famous example is the landslide victory for the Liberal party in 1906. 

If 1951 was the nadir of our history, then 1906 was surely one of the many high points. The creed which we might call ‘Gladstonian Liberalism’ was at its intellectual apogee, but the new ideas of social liberalism and equality were also beginning to flourish and resonate with the populace, with the rise of the new trade unions and the Labour Party forwarding the cause of worker’s rights and the voice for the less well-off in society. These new ideals were often supported by the Liberal Party, with Henry Campbell-Bannerman saying in 1903 that ‘we are kindly in sympathy with the representatives of Labour.’ 

This new political environment was changing Britain from the Victorian era into the 20th Century, although later moves on the continent would of course lead to disaster. In 1906, Campbell-Bannerman had only been Prime Minister for a month and a half having replaced Arthur Balfour, and consolidated his position as a reformer, with his controversial stand on the Boer War at the turn of the century. 

Balfour had resigned in the hope of seeing the Liberals split as his party had done so, but no such divisions were seen, and the widespread unpopularity of the Conservatives was echoed in the election result. Campbell Bannerman started the campaign with the following speech at The Royal Albert Hall:

Depend upon it that in fighting for our open ports and for the cheap food and material upon which the welfare of the people and the prosperity of our commerce depend we are fighting against those powers, privileges, injustices, and monopolies which are unalterably opposed to the triumph of democratic principles.

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#RevokeArticle50 is now Lib Dem policy

As Theresa May twists and turns in Europe trying to square the Brexit circle, it’s worth noting what isn’t going to happen – any agreement in Westminster on her Withdrawal Agreement today, Friday 22nd March.

The House of Commons petition to Revoke Article 50 notification has become a record breaker with over 2 million signatures,repeatedly bringing the petitions website down and attracting thousands of signatures per minute. Many organisations are shifting to support revocation, and it seems this Saturday’s march will contain more Revoke groups than those supporting a fresh referendum.

Our party leadership has repeatedly claimed that we are marching for a Peoples’ Vote, which they call the “only way out” of Brexit. They have confused the goal – an Exit from Brexit – with just one possible mechanism to deliver it. The debate has moved on, and the party risks looking irrelevant to the Remain movement in these vital days.

The Lib Dems’ Brexit policy has included an option to revoke Article 50 notification since Autumn 2018, when it was introduced by ordinary members as a policy amendment, then opposed by the party leadership. Last week in York, Liberal Democrat members voted for Brexit spokesperson Tom Brake’s policy on Brexit. This updates our option to revoke:

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The Independent Group won’t explain what they stand for, but we need to

In February’s issue of Prospect, Chaminda Jayanetti asked: “We know what the Independent Group are against—but what on earth are they for?” They’re not going to give a clear answer any time soon. Why should they, when being all things to all people will draw in new supporters?

It’s different for us. What we believe has been consistently misrepresented for nine years. We have to explain clearer what are we for, if we are to correct this.

Some think we’ve become the party of Europe, the EU-KIP party. But that’s a short-term issue for the moment. We need to explain about what we are for on the other issues of key concern to the electorate.

In the Social Democrat Group, we’ve been trying to answer this question. To think about social democracy in the Liberal Democrats, and why we are social democrats.

For me, social democracy means three things:
1) Protecting and helping the vulnerable
2) Making this work for the whole electorate
3) Doing what works over the long-term

These are important, and they are in tension with each other.

Who the vulnerable are will vary. Someone may be rich and powerful, but if they are being mugged, at that moment they are vulnerable.

We need to be careful about what kind of help we offer. When asked, those in poverty sometimes define it as a lack of choice and a lack of dignity. In this area, I think the Liberal tradition has a lot to teach social democrats.

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Observations of an ex pat: Frightened of fear

The Beatles sang: “All you need is love”, and young girls delicately placed flowers in the barrels of the guns of National Guardsmen. For a brief period in the 1960’s and 1970s we thought that love would emerge as the world’s overpowering human emotion.  That the words of Franklin Roosevelt—“all we have to fear is fear itself”– would pass into historical redundancy. And that Senator McCarthy’s commies under the bed witch hunt was an uncharacteristic historical blip.

Sorry, it was not to be. Fear is once again the overriding political emotion which is driving the thinking of the electorate and being ruthlessly exploited by the politicians.  In Britain, fear of immigrants, sovereignty and a loss of national identity drove people to vote for Brexit. Conversely, it is a fear of financial loss and political influence which is driving the Remain camp to continue opposing Brexit.  The country is hopelessly divided because both sides are terrified of the consequences of losing the argument.

In the United States Trump supporters are frightened of “invading” Mexicans who will take their jobs, destroy their identity, rape their women, force them to smoke, swallow and inject drugs and murder them in their beds.  The “invaders” from Mexico and Central America are frightened because they are being murdered in their beds, and on the streets, by gangs fighting each other for control of the lucrative drug trade into America.

Trump supporters are also scared of the Chinese, globalism, socialism, liberalism and the growing power of their own government. Opponents of Donald Trump are frightened of Trump. Almost everyone except Trump is frightened of climate change.

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Great hold in Durham with increased vote share

I’m on by-election duty for ALDC tonight. And the first result of the night’s six by-elections was a cracker.

Nicely done, Bev. Congratulations to you and your team.

And in Southend on Sea, there was an advance of nearly 10% for Carol White:

And great to be standing a candidate in Thurroci:

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What happened when Vince went to Brussels

While Theresa May spoke to EU leaders, Vince met fellow Liberal leaders from across Europe in Brussels today .

Here he is with Catherine Bearder afterwards:

Over on the party website, Vince wrote about last night’s meeting with Theresa May and other leaders except Jeremy Corbyn, whose fit of pique he described. He then takes us through his conversations in Brussels, including the applause when talk of revoking Article 50 was mentioned.

I emphasised to the danger the Prime Minister is placing both the UK and Europe in, by arguing for a short extension which simply postpones the cliff edge we have been facing. What is needed now is a long extension to Article 50, to permit a real rethink and a final public say on the deal.

It is very important on these occasions that we get the chance to remind liberals in Europe that the Brexit story is far from over domestically: government ministers will always say they are ‘delivering the will of the people’. In truth, the ‘no deal’ exit Theresa May is threatening us with would be a total distortion of that result, abandoning many Leave voters as well as the 16.1 million who voted Remain. Now, around 60% say they would vote for Remain rather than the deal or ‘no deal’, so the will of the people is changing.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for my European counterparts was when I articulated our own position – agreed at conference just last weekend. If there is no extension, and we are approaching the ‘No Deal’ cliff edge, Liberal Democrats are clear: we should revoke Article 50 rather than crash out. There was a ripple of applause in the room when I said as much. Revocation would be a major step, causing huge unrest, but it is preferable to leaving without a deal.

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First Time at Conference – York

As a new member, my first experience of a Liberal Democrat conference was by and large a positive one. I loved York, and the place I stayed was beautiful and, thanks to the Lib Dems, not at all costly. I am not at all well, having had recent serious health problems, but I hoped to get a few clues as to what the Lib Dems are about, and I did.

What I noticed most about my first experience was the under-representation of the country’s poorest and neediest and the abundance of the middle/upper middle classes. I wasn’t at all surprised – it’s a problem politics seems to have across the board. The people who should be making their voices heard the loudest, shouting and crying about deprivation and poverty, were not. They’re not anywhere, not present in the public discourse, not present on TV or only in passing. Its a deafening absence.

It`s an absence that’s been hitting me particularly hard since I started watching all Charlie Chaplin`s films. The tramp character he portrays represents the current state of the working classes better than any public figure in or out of politics. With his ragged clothes, tiredness, hunger and constant way of searching all his pockets for money in hope rather than expectation.

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Part 2: Rutte, from Cameron buddy to May’s stern advocate

The liberal Dutch parties VVD and D66 have two distinct identities and historical predecessors. The VVD is more a car-loving, classical-liberal party with, since 1990’s leader Bolkestein, anti-federalist EU instincts, and has less of an environmental record than D66, who premièred gay marriage and are electoral reformers, very similar to the Lib Dems.

Contacts between the Lib Dems and D66 (both social-liberal) are warmer and broader than the VVD-Lib Dems. In Chris Bowers’ biography of Clegg, VVD figures once (p. 104), whereas D66 & Lousewies Vander Laan are on pages  102-3, 104 and 266-7 as Clegg supporters, also in the Coalition.

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Supporters Pack now available

Voice received the following from HQ:

On Saturday at our conference, members voted to create an registered supporter’s scheme for the Liberal Democrats.

In the first 24 hours after we launched the scheme, more than 2,000 people joined in almost every single Westminster constituency in Britain.

More supporters are joining every hour.

To help you make the most of these new supporters, the Membership team at HQ have produced some resources for you – which you can access here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/supporters-local-party-guide

The launch pack covers everything you’ll need – from an explanation of what supporters are to template emails and social media graphics to help recruit even more supporters.

It also includes how to find the people that have become registered supporters in your area.

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May gets blunt Brexit warning from old Dutch ally & EU statesman Rutte: Part I

With the “Bercow Bombshell” (BB), his statement to the house on March 18th, quoting Erskine May’s 1844 anthology of Commons’ customary laws and Standing Orders, that Theresa May can’t have an eternal Groundhog Day rotation resubmitting her Brexit Deal, it has become impossible for May to offer anything new to the EU summit of March 21st.

According to Laura Kuensberg (late BBC evening news, March 18th), that means the EU has no reason to grant May a short prolonging of article 50, making it inevitable that the EU leaders will propose a long prolongation; which would result in a much softer Brexit (the UK having to remain subject to more EU directives, procedures and institutions than under the May deal).

To predict the mood of that EU summit, one can quote the French journalist in Newsnight (March 18th), who indicated that Le Monde, on March 15th, lost hope of May rescuing her deal, saying “let’s get cracking, let’s make a do-able (prolongation) arrangement”. Earlier, Macron said on March 13th that “the solution lies entirely in London”, which must offer a reason for prolongation to make him consider that. The French mood looks unwilling to tolerate any more British “one more heave” pleas for a prolongation; and to start asking concessions.

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A fairer share for all – Part Four – Improving working life and skills and investing in local services

This is the fourth and final part of my looking at the consultation paper, A Fairer Share for All. In part three I have set out my thoughts on the work allowance thresholds.

Turning to minimum wages, I believe we need to have regional minimum wages set at 70% of each region’s medium earnings. In 2020 the National Living Wage will be 60% of medium earnings. I believe that it would take about 7 years to increase the regional rates to 70% as some may have to start below 60%.

We should have a policy of providing free training or a guaranteed job to everyone who has been unemployed for more than 6 months. This should be voluntary. The training should be in an area where there are unfilled jobs within a reasonable travelling distance of the claimant. The guaranteed job should be so that the person keeps their skills up to date and not just to give them a job to do.

The paper states, “A 2016 government estimate that 51% of rural households do not have access to a bus route, compared with 4% of urban dwellers. At the same time, 30% of bus journeys outside London are undertaken by those with elderly or concessionary passes”. It also says that “it is now vital to ensure that traditional bus and rail links within and between our smaller towns and rural areas are properly funded to enable everyone to access services and employment opportunities”. However, the paper doesn’t set out that we should increase funding to local government so they can run rural bus services or that we should provide more rail links between towns. It doesn’t even say we should be building better rail links across northern England between Lancashire and Yorkshire.

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May statement open thread.

Well, the crest is still on the lectern. So no General Election then.

But…

And she said absolutely nothing new. Blaming anyone but herself for the mess.

Basically, no say for the people, no participation in the European elections. She wants to be out by June 30th.

She says that MPs haven’t said what they want. Not sure how much clearer our lot could have been – People’s vote…That at least is achievable, even if the Labour unicorns are not.

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Vince tells Sky that Corbyn walked out of meeting with PM because TIG were there

Vince Cable has just been on Sky News to say that the opposition leaders’ meeting with Theresa May was courteous but just went round in circles.

She was not willing to move at all.

So far so unsurprising.

But what was incredible was his revelation that Jeremy Corbyn was going to meet her with them. But as soon as he saw Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry there, he legged it.

So the country is in crisis and he is not prepared to behave like a grown up. I remember this sort of game playing in student politics days but not when the country is about to crash and burn.

It’s unbelievable.

I can’t actually believe the horrors that we have as PM and Leader of the Opposition.

I could not believe it when Theresa May said at Prime Minister’s Questions today that the Commons should stop indulging itself on Europe. Without a trace of irony.

It’s almost as if she had forgotten that we are in this mess purely because of the self indulgence of her party on Europe. David Cameron called the referendum to face own the right of his party and now we are all paying the price.

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Vince and other (non Labour) opposition leaders play hardball with May

Vince Cable, Liz Saville-Roberts, Ian Blackford and Caroline Lucas have been meeting the Prime Minister this evening. And they went in with intent to argue with her pretty robustly.

They basically said that Parliament should sit in continuous session until they can sort this out. MPs would not be bullied into making a choice between a disaster and a catastrophe.

And they added that they would bring forward a vote to revoke Article 50 “as a last resort”.

They issued a joint statement before going in to No 10.

The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Green Party have been working together and meeting regularly for the past two years since the EU referendum.

“We agree that the House of Commons must formulate a plan that will give the EU Council the confidence to agree a longer extension beyond 30th June, so that by the end of next week legislation can be in place to prevent a No Deal exit.

“Parliament should now sit in continuous session until it can reach a decision and set out a clear plan.

“We will be pushing for the House of Commons to support a referendum on remaining in the EU, others will put forward their own positions. If the Commons cannot agree, as a last resort we would be prepared to take steps to secure a parliamentary vote on the revocation of Article 50.

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A fairer share for all – ending poverty in the UK. Part Three

On Friday afternoon at our Federal conference, there was a consultation session on A Fairer Share for All – consultation paper. The consultation period continues until Sunday 31st March. I think members should email their comments rather than answer the questions the working group asks as I don’t think the questions cover all the areas that need commenting on.

The consultation paper doesn’t talk about levels of benefits (which I have done mainly in a-fairer-share-for-all-ending-poverty-in-the-UK-part-two-60199. The working group asks about reforming or scrapping Universal Credit. I think Universal Credit should be scrapped and replaced with a Working Credit for people of working age in work and all the old benefits kept. This new benefit should keep the 63% taper of Universal Credit but apply it to the new rates of benefit I set out in part two, where for every pound of net income a person loses 63 pence in benefit. However, the “work allowances” should be replaced with disregards and they should be the same for people no matter if they are receiving housing benefit. Instead of restoring the three ‘higher work allowance’ rates of £734, £536 and £647 a month I would replace both the higher and lower rates with £140 a week for claimants with children and those receiving Employment and Support Allowance.

Moreover, instead of the £110 a month for those without children, I would set it at £50 a week for each adult who is in work (therefore if both parents were in work they would have a weekly disregard of £190 a week. I wonder if the taper on housing benefit which would be the last element to be reduced should be higher. A very complicated system would be to apply to say a 70% taper to the first £70 of housing benefit a week, 80% of the next £70 and 90% of the rest (over £140 a week). The new Working Credit could be calculated every two weeks or every month as chosen by the claimant.

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