What’s going on in Andalusia

Andalusia is to the PSOE as Scotland was to the Labour Party: an area where they could take people’s votes for granted to help them waltz into power at the national level. The recent elections, brought forward from March, meant they could use the region as a litmus test for future national elections and seek to take advantage of Pedro Sánchez’s honeymoon period after the vote of no confidence in July.

The PSOE has governed Andalusia since 1980. Many Lib Dems in Labour and Tory fiefdoms will be well aware of what that length of time in power does to a party, and there have been ongoing corruption cases. This resulted in Ciudadanos breaking their agreement with the PSOE, as sufficient advances had not been made on rebuilding people’s confidence in Andalusian democracy. At the time of the last elections in 2015, the PSOE got 47 seats and Ciudadanos 9, with the majority being 55.

Which brings us, more or less, to where we are at the moment, with a spectacular increase in seats for Ciudadanos from 9 to 21. Numerically, the PSOE remains the largest party, but it’s resoundingly clear that it’s time for a change in Andalusia. Despite Susana Díaz’s scaremongering about the right-wing bogeyman coming to destroy the region, and Podemos’s attempts to classify the entire centre-right as being ideologically identical to fascism, Ciudadanos’s candidate Juan Marín ruled out any kind of pact with Vox. This is because, clearly, the kind of Macron-style European liberalism Ciudadanos leads on in ALDE is the polar opposite of Abascal and Le Pen’s politics.

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The Question

A public vote on Brexit seems to be gaining in popularity; no longer just a view of those undemocratic Lib Dems it is now in the mainstream.  However there is no consensus on the question(s) to be asked in a referendum.  Many options are being floated and I believe the Lib Dems should have a consistent view that can be propounded in Parliament and elsewhere.

Most questions seem to be chosen at random and do not reflect any underlying principles.  I would suggest the following principles: 

  • All three options currently available (Remain, Leave on May’s terms, Leave with No Deal) should be on the ballot paper.  Some have suggested ignoring a No Deal Brexit.  Doing this would ignore the wishes of a sizeable proportion of the electorate and would lay the referendum open to claims of misrepresentation.
  • Only options available without further negotiation should be included.  Otherwise we are voting on something that may never be available like in the 2016 referendum.  Thus we can exclude the current Labour option which is unclear and which, in my opinion would not be acceptable to the EU (its somewhat ‘cakeist’).  Also to be excluded would be a ‘managed’ No Deal which would have to be negotiated.
    • The question should not be the same as last time.  The main argument of the opposition is that a second referendum is undemocratic because the people have already spoken.  Lib Dems have already been clear on this.  The first referendum established that the government should negotiate terms for leaving the EU.  Another referendum has the objective of judging those terms, the final terms, when these are negotiated.  This is the way unions conduct labour disputes, how people buy houses and many other decisions.
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The People’s vote is not in the bag, alas

A People’s Vote is looking increasingly likely, but it’s outcome is not in the bag, especially if there are three options. 

There’s a warning in a comment from Gina Miller: “We discovered that a vast swathe of people who would vote for no deal across the country would do so because their perception is that no deal means remaining”

https://twitter.com/EPinUK/status/1068471165918826496]

As a strong supporter of full EU membership, the danger is that I seize on every opinion poll that suggests Remain would win in a People’s Vote. But the polls are still uncomfortably close: Remain is ahead almost everywhere, but not by nearly enough. The tracking at whatukthinks.org

This  shows Remain on 36%, Leave on 33% and “don’t know” at 31%. That’s too close. Over at BrexitCentral number are being quoted that show Leave in a strong position. My twitter feed showed a BMG poll putting Remain at 52% and Leave at 40%, with the gap widening, but BMG also have a more fine-grained poll  

BMG / Independent Poll: Latest EU voting intention figures show Remain ahead of Leave

showing 51% against a second referendum, and “Canada Plus” as the preferred option for all age groups except those under 34. 

Back in the summer, Andrew Duff was counselling caution on a referendum, with a view to a new political party putting the case for re-joining the EU in a future General Election.  He has a point: the huge danger is that we lose a referendum and people discover what has been lost only after actually leaving.

Things have moved on a lot since then, but on 12 December Carole Cadwalladr drew attention to a piece in Private Eye saying that two of Cambridge Analytica’s key data scientists, Tadas Jucikas and Brent Clickard, are now in business with UKIP’s ex-MP Douglas Carswell and Vote Leave’s former Chief Tech Officer Thomas Borwick. It’s hard not to read that also as preparation for a referendum.

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17 December 2018 – today’s press releases

Another week begins, and the Press Team are back on the frontline.

I am reminded that press releases are not all that our Press Team do, thus what you see here is not a full reflection of their work. There are specialist press releases not necessarily appropriate for a wider audience, and the team work with editors and journalists to gain better coverage, or to bring issues to their attention, and support our Parliamentarians when they interact with broadcast or print media too.

Anyway, on with today’s selection for you to enjoy…

  • Lib Dems: Case for a People’s Vote has spread to very

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Wanted: A Leader of the Opposition who doesn’t help the Government wreck the country

It’s really hard to imagine an old revolutionary socialist keeping a right wing government in power, enabling them to take a destructive course virtually unhindered.

Really, at the moment, any decent opposition would be miles ahead in the polls. They would be taking advantage of every bit of parliamentary trickery they could to thwart the Government at every stage. Especially a government that doesn’t have a majority.

But, no. Everything Jeremy Corbyn does just helps out Theresa May.

Take his pretendy- No Confidence motion that he said he’s putting down today.. If you want to take down the Government, you do what it says in the Fixed Term Parliament Act and put down a motion of no confidence in the Government. The Commons Library has prepared a useful guide on how to do it. It’s not difficult.

He’s not done that. He’s done the equivalent of taking a marshmallow to a duel by making his motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister. It might succeed but nobody will care.

Nobody knows whether a proper motion of no confidence would succeed. The DUP might well back Theresa May but the Tory MPs from the 17th century could decide to bring her government down so that they can pursue their goal of not very splendid isolation. We just don’t know until we try. I actually think it is unlikely that Tory turkeys would vote for Christmas. Mind you, Corbyn doesn’t actually want to be in a position where he has to sort this mess out because his chances of commanding a majority in the Commons are even less than May’s. If there was an election, what manifesto would Labour fight on?

So, if he put down a proper motion of no-confidence and it failed, he would then have to go to the next thing on the list – a People’s Vote, which is the last thing on earth that an old socialist brexiteer like him actually wants. 

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King John’s Christmas Presents

For some years now I have been in the habit of making Christmas presents for friends and relatives, which usually take the shape of home made fragrances. This year I thought I would adapt my hobby to raise some money for my favourite cause, the People’s Vote.

Basically I am giving a few of these items away, on the understanding that the recipients will make a donation to the campaign. This is a win-win situation in that I feel I am doing my bit to help the country out of its quagmire, whilst the People’s Vote gets some cash and …

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The Enable Fund: a helping hand for disabled candidates

On 3 December 2018 the Government launched the Enable Fund to help disabled candidates with the additional costs they face when standing for political office. This can include BSL interpreters, personal assistance costs, accessible technology, additional transport costs and the like.

Any candidate with a serious physical or mental impairment can apply to the fund. However, any grant awarded must be used to overcome specific obstacles faced by the disabled person. It can’t be spent on campaigning or campaign materials. It exists to help disabled candidates overcome the many barriers to standing for elected office, and as a visually impaired …

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Brexit: are the young being taken for granted?

The deadline is fast approaching for the end of negotiations and commencing of the transitional period after the 29th March. To many, time is running out for the government to bring back a deal that would minimise the economic uncertainties that are seen to ensue after Britain withdraws its membership from the European Union. Moreover, the government have had two years to devise a plan that suits the interests of all, but in that time it can be seen that they have merely delayed the process for as long as possible in hope that the EU would make compromises. In …

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Class politics, race and UKIP-phobia

We should always take class seriously, especially in England, if we want to understand the society we live in and the route to a fairer and happier society. That is not the same as taking class as a key driver for the creation of a political party, philosophy or programme.

Meanwhile this doesn’t stop us taking poverty utterly seriously. I was born in the poorest part of Newcastle, spent my working life as a Methodist minister in some of the poorest communities of the North of England, and In May this year I was elected for the third time in one …

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16 December 2018 – today’s press releases, or not…

A quiet Sunday, as the media speculate on how each of the myriad routes towards a range of potential outcomes might be navigated, and various Conservative MPs operate independently of their own leader. We used to take some vague pride in the stability of our governments, but no longer, it seems…

And so, instead of news, I offer more music. The lute music was popular, or at least, someone indicated that they liked it, which is as good as, I suspect. So, let’s try something from a century or so later, a Bach Prelude for harpsichord…

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #537

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 537th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (9-15 December, 2018), together with a hand-picked seven you might otherwise have missed.

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

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

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Lib Dem Lauren Pemberton-Nelson explains why ethnic minority women need a People’s Vote

A couple of years ago, Lauren Pemberton-Nelson, then just 18 years old, stood for us in a by-election in the ward of Faraday in Southwark. She did well – getting an 8.2% rise in our vote share.

This week, she’s written for the Gal-Dem site outlining why women of colour really need a People’s Vote to stop Brexit.

I thought her piece deserved a bit more exposure. Here’s an extract:

Discussions about Brexit at state policy level, as with much political discourse in the UK, has so far been dominated by the perspectives of white men. The Brexit Secretary and his predecessor are both white men and the majority of the current cabinet is made up of white men. Women, meanwhile, have been critically underrepresented in the Brexit debate as well as politics more broadly, and our lack of representation has not been recognised. Only two UK members of the European Parliament and less than 4% of MPs are black and minority ethnic (BME) women. Furthermore, there are no women of colour in the cabinet: there simply are not enough BME women politicians to represent us in the Brexit debate.

As the Brexit negotiations reach a crucial point, it becomes ever more apparent that Brexit will have a major impact on our lives. However, it is also increasingly evident that marginalised people have been neglected from having a say in the process. A minority of politicians have been vocal about the impact of Brexit on ethnic minorities and women, such as Layla Moran and Chuka Umunna who said that the “price” of Brexit has been normalised hatred against BME communities. As it becomes clearer that Brexit could be accompanied with further increasing hate crime whilst reducing the rights and freedoms that ethnic minority women have, it’s more important than ever that all voices are represented in a vote on the final Brexit deal.

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Poll suggests if Labour backs Brexit it could fall behind Lib Dems

Ok, so get your pinches of salt out, because you’ll need them, but a story in The Sunday Times (£) suggests that Labour could lose its place as the official opposition to the Lib Dems if Labour backs any sort of Brexit deal.

The YouGov survey of 5,000 voters, commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign, shows that support for Labour could fall from 36% to 22% if they helped the Tories to pass a compromise deal with Brussels like the one advocated by Theresa May.

Under those circumstances, the Lib Dems would soar from 10% to 26% — their highest rating in any poll since they entered coalition government with the Tories in 2010.

The poll shows that Labour’s supporters want a People’s Vote by a margin of almost three to one — and an even bigger proportion would stay in the European Union if they were given the chance.

Alex Cole-Hamilton urged Labour to think again:

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The Government doesn’t have a mandate for Brexit – the state of play in current and former Lib Dem seats

New analysis  for Best for Britain, Avaaz and Hope not Hate which breaks down the results by constituency, has our most comprehensive picture yet of how the country would vote in a People’s Vote.

The results call the mandate to leave the EU into question. Two thirds of constituencies would now back remaining in the EU.

Our research shows that the country has moved significantly since 2016, with two thirds of constituencies in Great Britain now wanting to stay with our existing deal.

There is majority support for a final say for the people in every single one of the 632constituencies analysed in this research. This research also shows that, in the event of a people’s vote, staying in the EU would win by 56% to 44% leave – the highest level of support for staying in the EU since the June 2016 vote.

For the first time, England joins Scotland and Wales as having a majority of constituenciesthat support membership of the European Union; clear evidence that the question of the 2016 EU referendum needs to be revisited.

So how does this affect current Lib Dem seats.

Those that voted Remain have got more Remainy.

Tom Brake’s which voted to Leave would now Remain.

Norman Lamb’s North Norfolk has seen the Remain vote go up by 6% to 47.7%.

Here they all are…

Wera Hobhouse Bath June 16 68.3% November 18 73.3%

Jamie Stone Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross June 16 50.6% November 18 60.1%

Tom Brake Carshalton and Wallington June 16 43.7% November 18 53.3%

Jo Swinson East Dunbartonshire June 16 73.3% November 18 79.7%

Christine Jardine Edinburgh West June 16 71.2% November 18 75.9%

Ed Davey Kingston and Surbiton June 16 58.45 November 18 65.2%

Norman Lamb North Norfolk June 16 41.7% November 18 47.7%

Alistair Carmichael Orkney and Shetland June 16 59.7% November 18 69%

Layla Moran Oxford West and Abingdon June 16 61.8% November 18 65.6%

Vince Cable Twickenham June 16 66.3% November 18 70.4%

Tim Farron Westmorland and Lonsdale June 16 52.5% November 18 56.8%

And what about seats we have held in the past? Here’s a few random examples from across the country.

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Christmas Competition – Why be a Lib Dem?

To talk about reasons why everyone else should join the party, I assume I should start by discussing the reasons why I joined myself. I joined the party shortly after Jeremy Corbyn’s second Labour leadership election, seeing no future for myself in the Labour Party, I began to search for a new political party to call my home. Being vaguely close to the political centre, I knew from the start it wouldn’t be the CPGB or UKIP, not being from a region that has a regional party, I assumed the SNP and Plaid Cymru wouldn’t be too pleased with a …

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Tony Greaves writes…Home rule for the north

The North of England is the second English region after London and the south-east together, and has 15 million people—three times as many as Scotland and five times as many as Wales. It shares considerable cultural, economic and social cohesion and history, and many current problems. This is about the North as such because the North should stand together as a whole.

What we have is asymmetric devolution. Scotland, and to a lesser extent Wales have increasingly become functioning units of a federal system, except there is no federal system for them to be the units of. This is not a system that is sustainable in the long run. We still have a highly centralized state, not least in England, with a number of peripheral anomalies. If I call Wales and Scotland peripheral anomalies, I do so with admiration that they have been able to break free from the grip of London to the extent that they have. Then we have gimmicks such as EVEL (English Votes for English Laws in the House of Commons).

Some people believe the answer is a federal system with an English Parliament, but the result of that would in due course be the complete detachment of Scotland and Wales. And it would do nothing to change the concentration of economic and political power within England. We have had a series of feeble initiatives such as the attempt by John Prescott to set up a North-east Assembly with no powers, which was rightly rejected. Labor set up government regional offices in which civil servants from different departments sat in the same buildings and talked to their bosses in London rather than to each other. There was the coalition’s regional growth fund and its local enterprise partnerships—nobody really noticed them.

The North is being fragmented into city regions but it is not devolution: it is almost entirely the reorganisation of local government. It is the concentration of power within local government, with all power going to the big cities, but what is that except the power for those involved to carry begging bowls on the train to Whitehall and Westminster and, if they are lucky, to go home with their railway fares? As power is concentrated in big cities through city regions and mayors, the people who suffer in the North of England are those in the areas on the edges, and the places in between. Particularly towns, which have lost so much of their civic culture, power and society in recent years.

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15 December 2018 – today’s press releases

My apologies for lateness, but it’s been Opera Night in Needham Market, and we’ve been kept up by an Armenian soprano… And no, that’s not a metaphor…

Only two today, but one of them turned up just before midnight, so don’t say you aren’t getting them fresh.

Lib Dems: Diplomatic move by Australian Government is ‘deeply unhelpful and disappointing’

Responding to reports that the Australian Government have recognised the state of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and plan to move their embassy there from Tel Aviv once a peace settlement is reached, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

This move from the

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Christmas competition How can we reduce inequality

Reducing inequality is something that all politicians even Conservatives say they are in favour of.

They even produce figures to try and demonstrate that government measures are having a positive effect.

The reality, of course, is that over the last forty years or so inequality has got worse particularly in economic terms.

Wealth gives access to things like better quality health and education leading on to employment opportunities that the poorer in our society can only dream of.

This is combined with a trend since the Thatcher years of a decline in access to things like relatively well-paying jobs and decent, affordable housing for the masses.

Put on top of that the cuts in welfare then you reach a stage where the United Nations commissions an investigation into poverty in the nation.

Liberals have a proud history of tackling inequality the Beveridge plan of the 1940s being just one notable example and we must now come up with a new Beveridge type plan for the 21st century.

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Reminder: Christmas Competition – deadline Monday

To celebrate and get in the mood for the festive season I thought that we could have a writing competition.  As many of you (on average at least 4,500 members visit the Lib Dem Voice site every day) write articles, read them or comment I propose a Christmas Article Competition.

The proposed Competition Rules are:

  • An Article should not be more than 550 words;
  • The article in each of the specified areas will be jointly judged by representatives identified as experts in that area by Lib Dem Voice and Lib Dem editors;
  • The starting date for the competition starts as of 28th November to 17th December;
  • The title of your article for the competition should start with the words “Competition: … followed by the title of your article”

Basic criteria when assessing each article will be:

  • The originality of the article;
  • That the article is within the stipulated maximise length required (550 words);
  • Generally, how well has the article presented its argument on the subject matter;
  • We will only accept one submission for each subject area per person (as stated below);
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14 December 2018 – today’s press release

Curiously, only one press release today, so without further ado…

‘Nebulous’ is but one word to describe the PM

Responding to the Prime Minister’s press conference, held after EU leaders withdrew sections of its draft conclusions, Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake said:

Having watched the Prime Minister’s botched attempt to negotiate with EU leaders, people up and down the country will be more concerned by Brexit than ever before.

To come before EU leaders without any documented proposals is galling. Calling the Prime Minister ‘nebulous’ is just one word to describe her.

Brexit will make people poorer and reduce

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Could the Scottish Tories back a #peoplesvote?

The Scottish Tories could be about to back a People’s Vote says the New Statesman’s Chris Deerin. 

He cites a “prominent” Conservative MSP as saying:

“When I look at what’s going on down south, I feel appalled and embarrassed,” one prominent MSP tells me. “I hate the English party. I’m horrified at the support for no deal being expressed by party members. I’ve stopped reading ConservativeHome.”

And they might back a second referendum if it is clear that Mrs May’s deal can’t get through Parliament:

Senior Scottish Tories believe the UK is on a trajectory to crash out of the EU without a deal, and that this could be fatal for the unity of the United Kingdom. I understand that they will back any measure that prevents no deal, and could publicly express support for a second referendum – if May’s deal can’t pass parliament – as early as next week. I’m told both Davidson and her stand-in Jackson Carlaw are signed up to this position. “No deal would be disastrous and jeopardise the union so we will reluctantly have to go back to the country and ask them,” says a source.

With Theresa May’s days already being numbered, the prospect of an ultra-Brexiteer as leader is not an endearing thought to her party north of the border:

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Courage Calls…

A few weeks ago I was invited by Christine Jardine MP to visit Westminster as her #AskHerToStand delegate. The event was to commemorate the centenary of the Qualification of Women Act, a defining moment in British politics when women were allowed to stand for parliament for the first time.

As Christine’s delegate, I think I won the Golden Ticket. Where some guests were only able to spend five minutes with their MP, I was welcomed for the entire day. Christine and her assistant, David Evans, were generous with their time and insight despite having to navigate an ever-changing diary. Filing copy for the Corstorphine Grapevine was sandwiched between an emergency debate on Yemen and PMQ’s. Christine joined me in the audience at an #AskHerToStand event, but quickly realised that there wasn’t a Lib Dem MP on the panel. She nipped out to get us a drink and when I looked up she’d joined the stage! She never misses a beat in representing her constituents or the Lib Dems.

My trip to London was exactly one year after I made the decision to join the party. It was something that I had wanted to do for a very long time, but for many people joining a political party is a scary thing and I was one of them. 

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Federal Policy Committee report – 12 December 2018

FPC had a full and varied last meeting before Christmas on Wednesday night.

We started with a broad overview of the overall financial implications of our policy platform: our priorities for spending and how we would find the resources to pay for them. This ranged widely over a number of areas including spending on welfare and health. We had a particularly good discussion of the best way of supporting education. We also reviewed our various tax proposals, with the 1p on income tax for health as the headline commitment, and also drawing together various other proposals on tax recently approved by conference.

Next up was the motion and paper on Race Equality which we will be proposing to spring conference. This has some excellent analysis and proposals to tackle the deep and difficult issues in this area, and will be published with the agenda for spring conference. Many thanks to Merlene Emerson and the working group who have developed these.

We had a useful conversation with Paul Noblet, the chair of the working group A Fairer Share for All, ranging widely over the territory of this group. The group has taken evidence on and is discussing various proposals to help the least well off, both through the benefits and tax system and other ways. It will publish a consultation paper on its proposals before spring conference.

We had a brief but useful discussion with Mike Tuffrey – who co-chaired the policy working group that wrote the Good Jobs, Better Businesses, Stronger Communities paper – about some work he is supporting to look at the big economic questions facing the country, including the challenges of new technology, the relationship between business and society, and what the role of the state in the economy should be. This is at an early stage but it it is hoped that in due course there will be some proposals to contribute, that take the ideas in the original policy paper further forward.

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Brexit in British and World evolution

This article was due to appear in September when I asked for a second referendum, but I delayed it as I thought at the time that it would appear as purely academic. Political reflection has evolved since then.

The Prime Minister repeats endlessly her political mantra that Brexit will bring a brighter future and happy tomorrows. The student of history knows how costly any secession or independence can be, with usually an array of sweat, tears and too often blood, even with the best plans. This was precisely the sense of my question to FM Nicola Sturgeon at the RSA recently: ‘If Scotland would be independent, have you made any plans to project the country in the future?’ To alert her of the dangers of such program more than know about them. Matthew Taylor, who moderated, said ‘Very big question’ then turning to her ‘I suspect the answer is ‘yes’’!. She of course replied ‘Yes, is the answer to that question….’. Mrs May, to whom I pointed out I could ask the same question for Brexit, would have equally said ‘yes’. As a member of a family who has helped reformed two states, Egypt (1920’s) and Brazil (1958), and created one republic from scratch – the First Republic of Armenia (1918-20) – I will humbly point out that any such project is a costly adventure no matter how well prepared you are and even if you are on the ‘right side of history’ to quote Mr Obama during his inaugural speech

It is on the latter point I wish to dwell. World history, including the European one, has a flow and some like Lord Heseltine, see it very well. President Roosevelt once formulated it with the vocabulary of his time: ‘You can delay the development of civilisation, but you cannot stop it’. The world, whether one likes or not, tends towards unity even if this is in the future. The European idea is a step towards this unity; Brexit a delay triggered by those who consciously or unconsciously react to this global change: Open border and this free movement which Mrs May wants ended, mingling of nations at an increased pace, decentralisation of the financial world and education, etc… Even the French Prime Minister recently stated that English is the ‘Langua Franca’ of the world – a true revolution considering the onerous ‘Francophonie” program which aims to restore the influence of French in international circles.

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Christmas Competition: Taking On the Demagogues

We seem to be in an age of populists – from Brexiteers in the UK to authoritarian voices in parts of Europe and beyond, to Donald Trump in the US. Wherever there is a problem, there’s someone to blame, and it’s usually minority groups and the vulnerable – those with the quietest voices – that get blamed.

This development has potentially dangerous consequences – populist leaders fomenting an atmosphere of distrust, resentment, and hatred. At home politicians and newspapers see “traitors”, “saboteurs”, “enemies of the people” and little green men hiding under the bed. We all know where this can lead. “Ordinary”, “hard-working” people whom populists claim to represent only get to have their say once – then the barriers go up, dissent is silenced or drowned out by all-dominant official media (or government-friendly oligarchs buying media space); human rights disregarded and power abused and corrupted. Liberals, people of a broadly liberal outlook, are getting thoroughly sick of all this mean-spirited grumpiness and nastiness. Their stomach-churning rhetoric serves to remind us why we are liberals.

We cannot necessarily blame “technology” or “social media” for this malaise – populist demagoguery has driveled out of traditional outlets such as the Sun, the Mail, the Express and Fox News for decades.

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Observations of an ex pat: Wanted – Helmsman

The good ship Europa is without a helmsman, rudderless, and drifting aimlessly through the stormy seas, dangerous shoals and shark-infested waters of Brexit, immigration, a stagnating economy, Russian aggression, Chinese perfidy, American tariffs and Donald Trump’s unilateralism.

Ship Europa is in desperate need of a captain who can repair the damage and set the ship back on a course which its bickering crew can agree upon.

Traditionally, the role has fallen to the one of the two continental giants—France or Germany—and sometimes, during calm and sunny periods—the  former rivals  together. Italy and Britain have played roles as first officers, providing political ballast to one or the other would be captains. There has even been the occasional triumvirate

Well you can forget about Britain. It is too busy jumping ship and setting off in the same storm-tossed sea in a leaky dinghy with a tenth  of the cargo. As for Italy, well its far left/far right coalition is busy drilling holes in the ship’s hull. Meanwhile, the newly recruited officers from Eastern Europe are plotting mutiny.

The crew and passengers had high hopes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and perhaps even higher hopes of the young determined-speaking French President Emmanuel Macron. The problem is that the ship is constructed as a collection of nation states held together by the collective will of its citizens. It is not a single unitary political structure.

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13 December 2018 – (not just) today’s press releases

You’d think that putting the day’s piece to bed after 11.30 p.m. should cover everything. But no, the Press Teams both in London and Cardiff had one last shot in the dying moments of yesterday, so I’m including them with today’s batch. Enjoy…

  • Theresa May Must Give the People the Final Say – Welsh Lib Dems
  • PM must now change course and offer people the final say
  • Soaring numbers of children trapped in temporary accommodation is shameful
  • Welsh Lib Dems Welcome Prostate Cancer MRI Scans
  • Govt must set out plans to avoid NHS winter crisis
  • Lib Dems demand MPs holidays are cancelled to vote on Brexit
  • Cable:

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What is your leverage?

Yesterday’s phoney war over the leadership of the Conservative Party has got me thinking. The hardline Brexiters (confusing referred to in the media as just ‘Brexiteers’) sought to remove Theresa May over the desirability of the Brexit deal she has achieved with the European Union. This is not their Brexit; they are betrayed; they must show how angry they are.

But I still wonder if there was any more substance than that. Could a hardline PM have got a better deal? They claim they could, but how? The EU has made little if any concession to the UK, and their position today is much as it was before the vote. The Leavers promised us the EU would fold quickly and they were wrong, and that is their fault, not the EU’s.

Posted in Op-eds | 32 Comments

If you were PM….

An interesting quiz popped into my inbox from those nice people at Unlock Democracy.  You have to imagine that you are PM – after all, that job may well be up for grabs in the near future.

You are presented with a series of policy dilemmas – would you rather do x or y? Actually, in some cases, I was a bit “NEITHER” or “NOT QUITE LIKE THAT” or “BOTH” but that is part of the fun.

It has a serious point:

Every day decisions affecting millions are made by a handful of ministers, while the rest of us struggle to have a voice. By taking the quiz and sharing it afterwards, we can spread the word about the need to bring power closer to the people.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 11 Comments

What is a movement?

In the discussion – and sales talk – around the party reform proposals, people often talk of creating a movement, sometimes equated to a supporter scheme. Sometimes, as in that video, it’s presented as an alternative to a political party. There is a danger of positive language being repeated till people stop asking what it means. So what is a movement and how’s it different from a political party?

“Movement” suggests moving – towards some shared goal. Parties can do that, but you can’t have a movement for not changing things much. Movements require mass participation.

Any party can call itself a movement. In France in 1945, some traditional parties were blamed for France’s unpreparedness for the war and others for collaborating. So a new party was called the “Mouvement Republican Populaire” – People’s Republican Movement. It was organised as a traditional party with mainly unclear goals.

Parties have a defined membership, organisation at local and national levels, a leader or leaders and some process for choosing people with particular responsibilities. Movements may or may not have these things.

Many movements campaign for something narrowly defined. Consider the 19th century movements for abolition of slavery in the UK and the US. The UK movement worked through traditional parties. The US movement founded its own parties (Free Soil, then Republican). Other genuine movements include the Feminist movement, the Green movement, CND and nationalist separatist movements. Some have formed parties, others not.

Posted in Op-eds | 2 Comments
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