Death In The Afternoon

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Just before I was born my parents made the decision to move from their home town of Reading to an isolated South Oxfordshire village which is where I grew up.

My widowed grandmother also joined us which was great as I was very fond of her. I attended the local primary school which on the whole I enjoyed, reading was a passion.

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Comrade Dominic

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In the Soviet Union they had one in every ministry, factory, communal farm, university, school and military unit.

They were called commissars. Their job was to insure that workers stuck to the party line. They called it democratic centralism; a reversal of Western democracy.

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Rising above politics as usual

The decision to not rush the leadership election has allowed a welcome space for a discussion on the strategy and philosophy of being a Liberal Democrat in 2020. I am a new member having joined just last month. I do not pretend that my views carry any more weight than any other member, and probably less than those who have worked so hard for the party. Nonetheless, the opportunity to contribute ideas to the direction the party should now take was part of the reason I joined.

Post-Brexit we have a clean slate. The challenge is to apply the timeless principles …

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The spring conference motions explained

Over on the party website, Conference committee chair, Geoff Payne has provided a helpful rundown of the motions to be debated at the spring conference in York in the weekend of March 13th-15th.

Here are his summaries of the motions, which party members can access in full via this page on the party website:

F4 – Hong Kong
This motion introduces new party policy on the human rights situation in Hong Kong. It calls for:

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | 14 Comments

2020 Federal Committee election results

Back on January 20th, our President Mark Pack told us about opportunities for members to get involved in running the party. It seems there was a very good response to this, with many members putting themselves forward to be on federal party committees and such like.

Those nominated were put forward to the voting Federal Board members, and the following people have been elected to serve:

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Mark Pack writes… Lisa Smart takes over as chair of the Lib Dem Communications and Elections Committee

Welcome to Cllr Lisa Smart (on the right in the photo), freshly elected as the new chair of the Federal Communications and Elections Committee (FCEC).

She’s written a piece for the party website introducing herself and her priorities:

Last week I received a call at home. I’d been fighting for a blue disabled parking badge for a local man with a hidden disability. He’d filled in all the forms, the reply came back, “Sorry, computer says no…” He’d complained, the reply still came back, “Sorry the computer still says no.” Then something

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Election Review team announced

A short while ago the Federal Board announced that Dorothy Thornhill would be leading the Review of the recent General Election.

Dorothy was the first directly elected Mayor of Watford, a post she held for 16 years until 2018. Since 2015 she has served as a Lib Dem peer in the House of Lords.

Dorothy has now announced the members of her Review team, and a wonderfully diverse bunch they are:

Carole Ford I joined in 2015 and since then have stood as a council, Scottish parliament and GE candidate.  I am the Scottish spokesperson on Children and Young People,

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Rejoining the EU will be right… but it’s too soon to push for it

Nothing has emerged since the start of the referendum campaign to suggest that Brexit promises anything more than serious harm — to the British economy, British culture and Britain’s standing in the world. That didn’t change at 2300 on 31 January.

But the way forward is more complicated than switching from #RevokeArticle50 to #RejoinEU — and not just because the process for rejoining is not so simple.

Polling suggests that a majority have been opposed to Brexit for some time. Some of those will be relieved that the indecision is over, but many will not have changed their minds. But …

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Winning in local elections

 

Whilst the General Election results were disappointing, we have a set of local elections in May which present our party with an opportunity – to rebuild trust with the electorate ahead of future national elections.

It will most likely be 2024 at the earliest when the next election is, assuming the Government remove the Fixed Term Parliament Act, so that gives us four years to win in local elections across the country and show the electorate that we can be trusted to represent them well at a local level.

Historically, we have done well in parliamentary constituencies where we have done well locally, a point which Paddy drove home time and time again in his speeches and books. Perhaps this is not surprising, given how hard working our councillors are. The same hard-working nature cannot be said for Labour councillors.

In places like Sheffield, we have a real chance to deny Labour a majority. In May last year, we were able to win in the South East of the City, which we have not done for a long time. As well as this, we gained seats in the North of the City too. Hopefully, we can replicate that this year and continue to make gains which will prevent Labour’s control.

By winning seats and then doing the job we have the privilege to do, we can show residents that we will not take them for granted, we will listen to them and we will help to make their lives that little bit better. Whether it be cutting bushes back so that a wheelchair user can access a path, building a partnership between the local residents and police force or pointing residents in the right direction when they have a problem with housing or council tax. We can make a difference and it is this difference which will help to build a new alliance of Lib Dem voters.

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Anti-Semitism  and the IHRA Definition

In September 2018 the Federal Board of the Party adopted the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Association) definition of anti-Semitism.  It did so following the recommendation of the Home Affairs Select Committee in its report of 2016 that government and public bodies should adopt this definition, with certain caveats.  The definition has been adopted by many universities and local authorities and the UK Government has recently putting pressure on those public bodies that haven’t to do so in the near future.

The basic working definition reads:

Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.

The definition is normally published with examples of manifestations of anti-Semitism – some of which refer to Israel.  The Home Affairs Select Committee was concerned that the definition might lead to charges of anti-Semitism being levelled against those who criticised the actions of the Israeli government and recommended the addition of two caveats to the definition if it was to be used by UK public bodies, as follows:

24. We broadly accept the IHRA definition, but propose two additional clarifications to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained in the context of discourse about Israel and Palestine, without allowing antisemitism to permeate any debate. The definition should include the following statements:
1. It is not antisemitic to criticise the Government of Israel, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.
2. It is not antisemitic to hold the Israeli Government to the same standards as other liberal democracies, or to take a particular interest in the Israeli Government’s policies or actions, without additional evidence to suggest antisemitic intent.

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The best thing about the Green New Deal you never knew and why this could be our new superpower

Short of living under a rock since Greta Thurnberg started getting regular visits from her school attendance officer, everyone knows what the Green New Deal is; a government led transformation of our carbon intensive economy to a green one providing lots of well paid jobs in the process.

A few of you might have your suspicions about how it could be paid for ranging from:

  • hope (economic boom, so taxes!)
  • to panic (it’s the bees!  We need to ignore the cost and just get on with it!)
  • to cynicism (ahhh, I remember the first Green Deal).

You’d all be wrong.

The Green New Deal should be paid for in the same way we pay for Quantitative Easing (or to give it its proper name, Enriching The Rich Because Trickle Down).   At the stroke of a keyboard, money will appear in the government’s accounts, ready for spending into our hot little hands.

OMG!   But what about the money we’ll owe China?   Haven’t the boomers already screwed the planet?   Don’t let them add to the debt mountain!

Keep Calm and Read On.   Economics 101 has meant that you think about an economy like a household budget.   Money is earnt, then spent.   The difference every month is the deficit, the cumulative figure is debt.

Debt is bad.   Debt needs to be paid back.   Debt means higher taxes.   Too much debt means higher interest rates!   I don’t care what Ford Prefect says, PANIC!

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By-election news

There were six local by-elections yesterday.

First the good (ish) news:

Milford, Waverley council, Surrey, caused by the death of an independent councillor. As you can see the winner was endorsed by the Lib Dems.

But I’m afraid it was not good news in the rest of them.

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Observations of an Expat: Ireland

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Ireland, we were told by Boris Johnson and his coterie of Leave campaigners, was not a problem. It was a non-issue dreamt up by the Remainers as part of their fear campaign. The Good Friday Agreement, they said, was secure along with the future of the union.

Then Boris drew the EU-UK border down the middle of the Irish Sea and threw Northern Ireland’s Protestants to the nationalist wolves. It was not the first time that a British Prime Minister was prepared to sacrifice Ulster for the benefit of England. During World War II, Winston Churchill, offered unification in return for Irish entry into the war on the side of the Allies. Eammon de Valera refused because he thought Churchill would be unable to deliver on the pledge.

This week Sinn Fein – the political wing of the IRA – emerged as one of the victors in a three-way tie in the Irish general election. A unified island was not a major part of their campaign. In fact, it was conspicuous by the virtual silence on the subject. Instead the nationalists focused on a left-wing agenda of increased spending on public services and housing in contrast to the long-established 100-year duopoly of the centrist parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

But make no mistake it. A united Ireland free of British control remains the heart and soul of Sinn Fein. It is the reason that it was formed back in 1905. And pre-World War I support for the nationalist cause in the southern two-thirds of the Ireland was the reason that Sir Edward Carson was able to mobilise 100,000-plus members of the Ulster Volunteer Force to threaten a civil war unless the six Protestant-dominated counties of the north remained part of the United Kingdom.

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Siobhan Benita launches her campaign to be Mayor of London

Today Siobhan Benita has launched her campaign under the slogan “Love London Better”. And what a breath of fresh air she would be in the capital.

As she said:

London dares to be different. It has so far delivered three very different Mayors who have captured Londoner’s hearts and minds in different ways. What could be more different than a Liberal Democrat female mayor? It’s time.

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These are the conditions of liberty and social justice …

Earlier today Adrian Sanders mentioned the Preamble to the Constitution of the Liberal Democrats. That’s quite a mouthful – and sounds deadly boring – but all party members can read on their membership cards a short extract from this document:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

In fact, this is the first sentence of one of the most beautiful pieces of political writing in English. When people ask me what Lib Dems believe I always point them towards it.

Recent posts appearing on Lib Dem Voice have demonstrated some of the turmoil within the party following the General Election and Brexit. We could all benefit from taking ourselves back to our fundamental values before seeking a way forward.

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Get Liberalism done

It’s over, finished, done, our membership of the EU has ceased to be. This is very sad for our wonderful team of MEPs and their staff, it’s heart-breaking for those who support the idea of ever closer union, and very worrying for anyone concerned that the uncertainties of the future are going to harm our country, economy and standing in the world.

Dwelling on what might have been has become something of a preoccupation for many Liberal Democrats, myself included. I won’t forget where I believe responsibility lies for our and the nation’s current predicament. Sir Nick Clegg and his advisors were directly answerable for losing so many seats in 2015 that handed Cameron a majority that enabled him to hold the EU referendum.

Brexit gives many of us a chance to close one very disappointing and depressing chapter and to open a new, positive one. It is a golden opportunity for all of us to realign both our purpose and our image. If anyone is in any doubt as to why this is necessary just look at where we were before the 2010 General Election and compare to today.

Alongside the loss of thousands of Councillors and political control over billions of pounds of national, regional and local government spending, losing our place as the third party in the Commons cannot be understated. We have not overcome the loss of House privileges, media coverage and money that came with it, and our ability to do so has been hindered by competition from other parties such as the Greens, Ukip/Brexit, and Independents as well as the Nationalists who became the third party in 2015 and have held on to it.

We have been defined by the coalition years and our opposition to Brexit to the exclusion of all else for far too long. The time has come, to coin a previous slogan – to get Liberalism done.

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Liberal Democrats – for a better tomorrow

Chuka Umunna Campaign launch

It’s 2020 – a new year, a new decade. Once more, and I know it’s already February, I feel the urge to reflect on the gains and losses of the general election last year and set out why I believe that there has never been a better time to be involved in politics.

I think we can all agree: the general election result was disappointing. There is no way to spin it. We lost the election. We didn’t win the argument, despite the largest national increase in vote share of any party. In Tom Brake, Chuka Umunna, Jane Dodds, Sam Gyimah, Luciana Berger and Jo Swinson, to name a few, we lost some skilled and hardworking local MPs, but that shouldn’t deter us from moving forward and building a liberal movement to tackle the forces of nationalism and populism in this country when Labour fail to rise to the challenge.

There is so much to fight for. Like over 3.6 million people across the country, I chose a more progressive politics, because I believe that in a time where waves of nationalism are engulfing our politics, it is our duty as Liberal Democrats to challenge and hold this Government to account actively. While we may not have many MPs in the Commons, we should set ourselves no limit to what we can achieve when we work together, including with people in other parties with whom we share values.

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An Arsenal Of Democracy

In 1940 US President Franklin D Roosevelt coined the phrase ‘An Arsenal Of Democracy’ as a reaction to the twin threats of Fascism and Communism in a time when large parts of the globe were living under brutal dictatorships. That century had seen the Bolsheviks triumph in Russia, the Nazis in Germany and the Francoists in Spain. Portugal was under authoritarian rule, and France invaded by the Germans lived under the yoke of Hitler’s appalling regime. In Europe, Britain stood alone in what were the darkest days of WW2. It wasn’t until America entered the war that the tide started to turn and with the war eventually won democracy was restored to many of the places that had lived under authoritarian rule. The collapse of the Eastern Bloc, 45 years later, brought freedom to even more countries and some celebrated ‘the end of history’, but they were wrong. In many ways, 1990 could be viewed as a high point.

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What would Paddy do?

I’ve been rooting around the comments on LDV autopsies, finding myself in a contradiction. We “already have a horse”, I said – Sir Ed Davey – and could steal a march on whomever Labour appoint as the second of only two horses in the next No 10 race. I don’t believe it to be an anti-democratic appeal to ask new entrants and MPs with little or no public recognition to think about what the party needs before personal careers.

 We are in desperate need of realism. We really cannot go into 2023-24 expecting a majority. That would be a farce. It was not down to the withdrawal of the Brexit Party, destroying a “4 horse race” strategy. Did we genuinely believe Farage would abandon decades of attempts to leave the EU to cash in on some short term power move? The Brexit Party’s existence was an obvious threat to its own imperative. We could see that clearly enough to push for a win, so we must have known withdrawal was a highly likely possibility.

 So I’ve been trying to resolve my contradiction. We cannot win, but should not wait for a second horse to be appointed and trail after them, shaping our party in their image. I don’t believe those are positions that cannot be squared. I found myself asking: what would Paddy do?

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On story telling

Storytelling is one of the oldest human traditions. A good story engages the audience, communicates information and leaves a lasting impact. Stories spread either through small communities retelling it, with it evolving through each retelling or through mass media, which increases reach and minimises variation. Stories are everywhere, and with millennia of practice, we’re pretty good at telling them.

Stories are used as a lens to help people make sense of the world, and through relating to a character how they fit within it. When people vote for a political party, they listen to the stories about that party: Which story do they relate to? Which story is the one they want to be told? Which story is the most believable?

When a story is told, it is not said in isolation. A broader grand narrative will change how a story is perceived. As Liberal Democrats, we know what our story is. Our constitution’s preamble tells a story of progressiveness, liberty and community, so the challenge is telling this story in a way that feels relatable in the context of our current culture.

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Dwi’n hoff iawn o gerddoriaeth Gymraeg!*

So Happy (late) Welsh Language Music Day!

Ddydd Miwsyg Cymru Hapus! Happy Welsh Music Day to everyone! With it actually being celebrated last Friday, I was a sad to see minimal party coverage. Whilst it might seem somewhat trivial, niche and irrelevant to the ‘powers that be’ inside our Westminster HQ, or ‘too unimportant’ to those leading our party in Wales itself; it is, in fact, the opposite.

Posted in Events and Wales | Tagged | 6 Comments

The Party of Human Rights

Much has been made of the repurposing of the Liberal Democrats in the aftermath of December’s General Election.  Enter the Orange Bookers, the social liberals and the FBPE Europhiles all of whom are beginning to set out the course they feel the party should embark on as it looks to the future.

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Winning Here?

A poor performance at the recent general election and an imminent leadership contest has led to much soul searching within the Party. In recent weeks a number of articles in the press have rumoured potential leadership candidates and the ideas that they will campaign on.

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Liberal policies for a Liberal Party

With the leadership election approaching this an excellent opportunity to engage with wider debates about the direction for the party. Whilst many have argued for the party to be one for the political centre, I disagree.

History has shown that the British Liberalism does best when it offers a distinct and unique image (with a corresponding set of policies), that separate it from the Lab-Con duopoly.

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Will Boris Johnson’s popularity make us has-beens?

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I’m told that Boris Johnson was a positive factor in voters’ preferences at the last election. Apparently, it wasn’t just a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, they actually liked the captain of the ship.

To many of us, Boris Johnson is either a clown, a liar, or worse and therefore not exactly Prime Ministerial material. Not so, I hear; he is just the sort of chap an aspirational working class lad or lass would admire.

Not so much the public school boy, unkempt toff or even likable rogue. No, he is “the very model of a modern major general”. – Someone to lead us all into a post-Brexit national renewal – England’s green and pleasant land. Notwithstanding the record of his predecessors, he is the salvation of the Conservative Party, embracing the new dawn.

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The mandate of heaven and coronavirus

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At the risk of appearing crude, crass and unfeeling, this article is going to focus on the political and economic consequential dangers of the coronavirus. This should not be taken in any way as an attempt to belittle the deaths of 805 Chinese (as of the early hours of Sunday morning) or the grief that their friends and families are suffering. Every human life is precious. But as the death toll mounts and the quarantine is extending, the economy suffers and this suffering will result in political consequences.

In Hubei Province there are an estimated 50 million people in quarantine. That is 50 million people who are now not working. Neither are they in the shops, restaurants or cinemas spending money. The Chinese government have imposed severe travel restrictions throughout the country and restricted gatherings in public places in every major city.

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A Westminster story – realism versus idealism in coalition and love

In 2015, I was developing a play inspired by the Greek tragedy of Antigone. I was captivated by the famous scene where Antigone’s Uncle Creon tries to stop her sacrificing her life by arguing reason, compromise and a realistic view of the world. She, however, does not relent and her idealistic principles lead to her death. I both admired her brave commitment to her unique moral compass and was equally frustrated by her lack of ability to compromise and save her life. This led me to wonder; what would a modern day ‘Antigone’ look like?

A coalition government seemed like the perfect context for this character and the question; when is it right to stand up for our principles at any cost and when is it smarter to compromise? In my view, the Lib Dems were brutally and unfairly punished in 2015. Perhaps their compromises could have been smarter, but does that mean their whole collaborative approach was at fault?

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Why didn’t remain politicians connect?

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What did the 2016 Remain campaign and the 2019 Revoke Article 50 position adopted by the Lib Dems teach us?

– That policies must engage people, not patronise them.

Let me explain.

Most analyses agree that Brexit will negatively impact the more deprived communities the hardest.

So the question being asked by so many people is this: why on earth did Cornwall, one the UK’s most deprived regions which receives so much funding from the EU, and which appears to have a lot to lose and little to gain, vote for Brexit?

The Leave message during the referendum may have been based on misinformation and lies but it was packaged as a message of hope for improvement and change. This was a stark contrast to the Remain campaign which consisted merely of warnings, hence it being dubbed ‘Project fear.’

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More by-election news

Well done and thank you to Andrew Matthews, who stood for the party in the Royal Wooton Bassett Town Council (North ward) by-election yesterday. This ward was last contested at the main elections in 2017 when the Tories took four of the seats and we took three. A vacancy occured in one ofthe Conservative-held seats, causing the by-election. The result was:

Thank you and well done also to Martin Jones who stood for us in the by-election for Spennymoor Town Council. The result was an extraordinary win for the Conservatives, who didn’t stand for this council in the last main set of elections in 2017 and the two by-elections since:

Posted in Council by-elections | Tagged | 11 Comments

New issue of Liberator out

Issue 399 of Liberator is on its way to subscribers and it’s a bumper 40 page issue, mainly given over to analysing the December general election and its consequences, and how the party handled both ‘revoke’ and ‘Jo Swinson could be your next prime minister’.

The free sample articles for this issue are by Simon Hughes on seeing the campaign unravel, and from Nick Harvey on what he thinks were the eight major errors made by the party.

Also in this issue new party president Mark Pack answers our questions and Peter Dunphy explains how Unite to Remain was put together.

Reflections on the general election also come from: Liz Barker, Tony Greaves, Ruth Coleman Taylor, Nigel Lindsay, Theo Butt Philip and many others.

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarNeil Fawcett 19th Feb - 12:42am
    @Ian - the Revoke policy didn't go through this committee. It was a combination of the parliamentary party and Conference that decided it.
  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 18th Feb - 11:26pm
    Paul Holmes, "What especially qualifies someone from the private sector or the military.." Have you not read Plato's republic?
  • User AvatarJoe Bourke 18th Feb - 11:19pm
    TCO, The old age dependency ratio is about 29% compared to 18% in 1960 and will continue to rise. At present, the retirement age is...
  • User AvatarMichael 1 18th Feb - 11:12pm
    The original article very massively overstates it's case. As Thatcher said, advisors advise, ministers decide. Clearly there is always a tension in a government or...
  • User AvatarJeff 18th Feb - 11:08pm
    marcstevens 18th Feb '20 - 9:52pm: In a mixed economy we should also be stating the case for some nationalisation including public ownership of the...
  • User AvatarTony Greaves 18th Feb - 10:23pm
    Have its terms of reference been published? A lot of people have said publicly what they think went wrong (seed the latest Liberator, passim). I...