The past can be useful

My wife, Ruth, has had a collection of boxes, originally some 30 strong, in which she stored both personal and political stuff, waiting for the opportune moment to open them and sort out the treasure trove within.

That job is now underway and there are minutes of both NLYL and ULS as well as a huge collection of newsletters produced by all manner of Liberal activists in the late sixties and seventies. Radical Bulletin, Gunfire, New Outlook, Liberator and a whole raft of local stuff from Young Liberal and Liberal Student groups from Scotland to Cornwall. It even included some copies of Clockwork Orange, a Manchester ULS publication that I started in 1971/2 and that was then carried on by Pat Coleman.

Political discourse in the 60s and 70s was carried out by meeting and pamphlet.

Ruth reminded me that Young Liberal branches often met weekly to discuss politics and campaigns, actually campaigned most weekends and met up socially as well.

There were frequent conferences on political issues and both the Young Liberals and the Liberal Party had council meetings on a regular basis (the ‘Council’ was the policymaking body between Conferences), primarily on political issues.

Liberal Party Constituency and branch meetings were at least monthly. In short, our politics centred on meeting together, talking about ideas and putting them down on paper for discussion in order to get out and campaign together.

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: A People’s Vote is the only way for our country to move forward

Alistair Carmichael emerges from the shadows of his Chief Whip’s role to make the case for a People’s Vote in the Herald in his own inimitable style. First he sets the scene.

Instead of trotting out platitudes (“Brexit means Brexit” – remember that one?) and promising the undeliverable to the insatiable on her own right wing and the DUP (we shall leave the Customs Union AND have no hard border between the North and the South AND we shall have no border in the Irish Sea) she could have built a consensus in the House of Commons.

There are two obstacles to sorting this out – one is May’s intransigence. The other is Jeremy Corbyn:

Challenged in yesterday’s confidence debate the self-styled Leader of The Opposition was unable to say whether, in the event of winning his general election he would press ahead with Brexit or not. That apparently would be up to his party.

When I asked him then if he would follow the policy endorsed by his party members at their conference in September and back a people’s vote after the confidence motion had failed his answer was also less than unequivocal.

As they might have said aboard the Starship Enterprise, “It’s leadership, Jim, but not as we know it”.

The Lib Dems first came up with the idea of a People’s Vote two years ago and it didn’t exactly catch on:

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Observations of an ex pat: Dead, not buried

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead. It is just not buried.

The Prime Minister hopes to raise it Lazarus-like and present herself as a political Messiah. But her deal has been shot, knifed, strangled, knocked over the head with the candlestick and thrown into a ditch.

To put the chances of a political miracle into perspective, let us look at the next worse defeat in modern British political history.  The current British government lost by 230 votes. The next nearest defeat was in 1924. Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government  had dropped a prosecution against John Ross Campbell, editor of the communist newspaper “The Workers’ Weekly” after he published an article calling on the British armed forces to mutiny in support of a socialist revolution. In that case the majority against the government was a mere 160.

Theresa May likes to portray herself as strong and stable leader with a Churchillian touch of the British bulldog.  A better description would be bull headed.

Parliament has given the Prime Minister until Monday to perform her miracle and come up with a Plan B. She has responded by calling a meeting of all party leaders that will dispense with red lines and reach a compromise, breathe new life into the EU Withdrawal Bill and win over 230 dissenting members of parliament.  If this miracle were to happen the result would be a horribly stitched Frankenstein monster .

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17 January 2019 – today’s press releases

  • Davey: UK facing energy crunch
  • Cable: Corbyn determined to play party political games
  • Lib Dems: Outrageous that army reserves are on standby due to Tory Brexit mess
  • Lib Dems: Only way forward is through a People’s Vote
  • Govt back-payment for modern slavery victims is too little too late
  • Cable: Government wrong on People’s Vote timetable

Davey: UK facing energy crunch

Responding to the news that Hitachi have stopped work on the Wylfa plant, former Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy Ed Davey said:

Japanese businesses have warned about Brexit’s economic consequences since the 2016 referendum, so this latest set back to the Conservatives’ energy policy is

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Liberal Anti-Fascism

The death of Pawel Adamowicz marks a turning point.

With the rise of the right there has been a spike in political violence in Europe and in the US. Bombs are being thrown, people threatened, and people killed in the name of so-called “populism”. The moment Adamowicz’s killer linked his actions with allegations levelled at the Civic Platform group of politicians is the moment when it became a political act.

The same goes for the murder of the MP Jo Cox. These are symptoms of the augmentation of what we deem as populism to a far more reactionary line of thinking, which will end, organically, in all out fascism. These exact paths have been trodden before.

What can liberals do about it? Adamowicz’s life was one of political action. As a student he organised protests and strikes across Poland during the time of Soviet occupation. He was a champion of minority rights and those of the LGBT community. He was, for all the things he did and said, a good man. I say that we ought to follow his example.

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The path to victory lies through Brexit Britain. As Remainers, we need to show them we’re on their side

This week in Parliament we might just have scored the first victory in our long march to a People’s Vote. Now, if a referendum is truly close at hand, the hard work must now start: we need to convince Brexit Britain that it ought to change its mind.

Sure, Remain’s supposedly got an eight-point lead in the opinion polls. But that was true in 2016… plus ça change?

To win, we must convince Leave voters in places like the East Midlands town of Wellingborough, where I live and had the pleasure to be Lib Dem candidate at the last General Election. In many ways this ought to be natural Remain territory: it’s a diverse town, with both a mosque and an ornate Hindu temple. Local voters elected New Labour in 1997, electing a MP who called for the legislation of cannabis, and we even host an annual Pride event in a town centre park. Yet we voted Leave by 63% and are represented by arch-Brexiteer and Sven-Goran Eriksson lookalike Peter Bone.

How did this happen? When you speak to ordinary voters, the mystery becomes clear. Yes, it is true that some voters talk of immigration, a lost identity or misplaced notions of ‘lost sovereignty’. For most Brexit voters, however, the root causes of Brexit are emphatically human: they feel let down and left behind by politicians in Westminster and (yes) Brussels, and they feel buffeted from the consequences of a fragile global economy. Above all they feel they’ve lost control.

These are people who see ever more fragile employment, with an explosion in zero-hour contracts and ten years of pay restraint, coupled with impossible house prices. They see an education system failing to deliver practical skills, with FE colleges where funding has been cut to the bone and where those without a degree are ever more marginalised. In town centres they seem the places they are proud of become ever more empty, bereft of the brands with which they are familiar. And, as they struggle to take control over their lives, is it any wonder that the pledges and half-truths of the Leave campaign were so attractive?

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Jamie Stone teases DUP over confidence and supply arrangement

Our Jamie Stone is known for his inimitable comic timing and sense of humour.

Last night he earned himself a telling off from Speaker John Bercow after he waved a credit card at DUP leader Nigel Dodds who was extolling the virtues of the confidence and supply arrangement which saved Theresa May’s Government. The agreement famously bought the party off with an extra billion quid over five years for Northern Ireland.

It seemed that even Dodds was trying hard not to laugh at Jamie’s gesture:

Speaker John Bercow may have been amused too, but he intervened:

Mr Stone, that is very unseemly behaviour. Normally you behave with great dignity in this place; calm yourself, man—get a grip.

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Dutch Parliamentary Brexit-watchers roundly condemn flippancy towards British people

As everybody reading the excellent study of history since Caesar’s times of the North Sea trade by Oxford historian and former BBC journalist Michael Pye, “The Edge of the World: How the North Sea made us what we are” can attest, the trade relations between the British/English and the Dutch (Frisians) Celtic tribes was the beginning of 20 centuries of close economic and ethnic ties. The DNA of inhabitants of areas from Kent to York is indistinguishable from that of people living in Friesland and Holland in the Netherlands; and Frisian is halfway the English and Dutch language. Migration and trade in wool, cloth, grain, herring, etc., been going on, even when Napoleon didn’t want it to (1803-1813); John Locke wrote important (Liberal) books seeking shelter here.

Ever since the 4th Anglo-Dutch war (1780-’84), the Dutch have recognised the British as their senior and vital partner in those economic and cultural relations; and the Dutch pressed general De Gaulle to admit England in the EEC for those same reasons.

But one aspect of how the Dutch see the British people and British politics has been fundamentally changed by the way the UK has been handling the Brexit problem, from the Referendum campaign in spring 2016 to the present day. That can be concluded by what 3 of the 4 official “Brexit Watching delegates” of the Dutch parliament said on Dutch public radio on Wednesday, 14th of January 2019; coincidentally those 3 were from parties of the present Dutch government coalition, so important advisors of both parliament and government.

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Parliament debates Mental Health First Aid

The Backbench debate on incorporating Mental Health First Aid into First Aid At Work legislation is scheduled to take place this morning in Parliament.

The Government statement on this is here, with a debate pack pdf link at the bottom entitled, “Mental health first aid in the workplace”.

One of the reasons I entered politics, as a career musician, was my concern over mental health care and the lack of provision for those experiencing mental ill-health.

In March 2015 I successfully amended Liberal Democrat party policy on Mental Health to include incorporating mental health first aid into physical First Aid at Work courses.

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16 January 2019 – today’s press release

Cable: Either Corbyn backs Brexit or he backs the people

Responding to the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn’s vote of no confidence in the Conservative Government by 325 votes to 306 votes, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party cannot procrastinate any longer. Either he backs Brexit or he backs the people.

He has a responsibility, to get off the fence and provide some effective opposition.

The only serious option is what the Liberal Democrats have been calling for since the 24th June 2016, a people’s vote with the option to remain in the

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What should Vince say to Theresa?

So Theresa May is going to be meeting with party leaders tonight and over the next few days to find a way forward on Brexit.

Which party leader is best qualified for facing her down on daft ideas? Our Vince sparred a lot with her when they were in Cabinet together. She hated immigration. As business minister, he saw its benefits and fought for student visas. 

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Confidence trick

There were many times during this afternoon’s Vote of No Confidence debate when I wanted to throw something at the television. I didn’t, because the only things close by were expensive and belonged to my employer.

This country is facing the biggest crisis since World War 2 and the Government and Opposition spend the afternoon slinging insults at each other, pantomime style. When we face a no-deal fall off a cliff which will kill people. Fiddling and burning or what?

It was hardly the stuff of Gladstone, of Lloyd George, of Churchill as Jeremy Corbyn finally moved his motion of no confidence. The Government happily gave it five hours of debate. It was only obliged to give an hour and a half, but wasting time is all it’s got at the moment. The Conservative benches also got to be the most united they have been since last July.

I know that Vince signed Corbyn’s motion of no confidence. He kind of had to. I mean, if you’re asked if you have confidence in the government that brought you Windrush, the hostile environment, the rape clause, the benefit freeze, the disastrous implementation of Universal Credit and that’s before you even get to the Brexit clusterbourach, then the only possible answer is “no flipping way.”

However, I’d have amended it to say I have no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition either. I can’t actually remember a time when the Government and the Opposition have been so simultaneously useless.

Apparently, Corbyn is going to keep laying down motions of no confidence as a distraction from having to take a position on the People’s Vote and May thinks she can get away with putting tweaked versions of her deal to the Commons. Does anyone get the irony here? They are happy to keep asking the same questions while stubbornly denying the people the chance to mark the Government’s homework.

Alistair Carmichael confronted Corbyn beautifully on the issue during his speech:

What should we do if Corbyn keeps putting down vexatious motions of no confidence? Well, to be honest, we have to vote for them. If we don’t, that’ll be the one time Corbyn will have got the DUP on side. After that disaster in the Summer we simply daren’t give Labour the chance to say that we backed the Tories.

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Theresa May needs an LBJ

After the historically unprecedented defeat of May’s Brexit deal, what comes next?  In her speech to the House of Commons, Theresa May promised not to run the clock down and to reach out to senior parliamentarians to work out what Brexit deal could pass the House of Commons.  Unfortunately, this promising development was immediately undercut by briefing that she wished to maintain her “red lines” which just can’t be done if she wants to get a Brexit deal through Parliament.

It was said of Lyndon B Johnson that nobody knew better how to count votes in a legislature – an essential political skill in the USA where a division between the executive and the legislature is the norm.  Theresa May desperately needs an LBJ to tell her what deal can be passed in Parliament.

However, without claiming I have the skills of an LBJ, the size of the defeat makes it clear that she needs to switch 116 votes without losing any.  This rule out any minor fiddles and means she needs to find a group with that many votes to pass any legislation.  There are lots of smaller groupings with interesting ideas, but they don’t have the votes.

The only possible options with those kinds of votes are as follows:

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Paddy And Tony A Cautionary Tale

Paddy Ashdown became the leader of the Liberal Democrats in 1988. He inherited a party which was not in a particularly good place.

The merger of the Liberal Party and the SDP had been difficult, to say the least, poll ratings were low.

Worse still Dr David Owen continued to lead a separate force supported by MPs Rosie Barnes and John Cartwright.

Thatcher appeared to be going on forever, still with a comfortable Commons majority and showing no signs of going anytime soon.

Labour under Neil Kinnock was modernising a party very much on the left.

Dreams of breaking the mould seemed a long way off for the newly formed Lib Dems. However, the space for a radical party of the centre-left still exited if it could be rebuilt.

The Continuing SDP were seen off within a short period following humiliation in a byelection in which they finished behind the Monster Raving Loony party, and despite a surge in the 1989 European elections, the Green challenge came to nothing.

By the 1992 General Election, the good ship of Liberalism had steadied, and the crisis seemed to be a thing of the past.

Then two years later Tony Blair came onto the scene.

Paddy quite rightly viewed Blair’s project of positioning Labour more in the centre as a challenge that couldn’t be ignored, and he sought to build a new relationship based on cooperation.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Sarah Ludford Internationalism and social justice is the liberal way

A cracker of a speech from Sarah Ludford looking back at Liberal figures all the way back to the repeal of the Corn Laws:

My Lords, normally I would try to reflect speeches from across the House in my winding-up, but this evening I will concentrate on the Liberal Democrats. This is partly because the loss of our late colleague Lord Ashdown is much on our minds. Obviously the primary grief is felt by Jane and the family, but we too, his political family, are nothing short of devastated. We badly miss his voice. Tweets of Paddy’s from two months ago remain online; I am afraid they are not complimentary about the governing party, saying,

“and so our beloved country is once again held to ransom by squabbles in a Tory Party who give rats in a sack a bad name”,

and,

“the great unravelling begins. If you want a playbook for what next, look to the Tory civil wars of the Com Laws in 1846”.

The fact is that, unlike Liberal Democrats, whose hallmark is openness to the world, Tories have long been split between international and insular tendencies; that continues today. Some talk, admittedly, about “global Britain” but this seems more about resurrecting the Empire—or at least the Anglosphere—than a true spirit of international and multilateral co-operation. Modern Liberal Democrats can still subscribe to the words of the radical Liberal Richard Cobden, who cited among the benefits of repeal of the Corn Laws that,

“it would introduce through mutually advantageous international trade a new era of international fellowship and peace”.

That sentiment endures, both as the rationale for the European project after 1945 and in the DNA of the modern Liberal Democrat party; no wonder the two are so well-aligned. As my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire said last week, a global Britain should be within, not against, a global Europe. Hence one of Paddy’s successors, my noble friend Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, insisted in this debate last Wednesday:

“I am passionate about remaining in the European Union. I venture to observe that I am just as passionate about remaining as those who are passionate about leaving. I respect their passion and, in turn, I expect them to respect mine”.—

Another previous leader, Jo Grimond, in his book The Liberal Future 60 years ago, wrote:

“Liberals dissented from the original decision not to take part in the Iron and Steel Community. A Liberal foreign policy towards Europe would be based on the firm belief that Britain is a part—a leading part—of Europe”.

But it was not just Liberals in our Liberal Democrat heritage who carried the flame for Europe. My noble friends Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank and Lord Taverne came via the Labour Party and the Social Democrats. They reminded us in this debate how they were part of that brave contingent of 69 MPs who defied the Labour leadership and its three-line whip to vote to join the then European Community in 1971. My noble friends Lord Wrigglesworth and Lord McNally, also once SDP, stressed internationalist principles too. They were led by Roy Jenkins, later our Liberal Democrat Leader here in Lords. In the epilogue to his European Diary as President of the European Commission, Roy recounts the formation of the SDP, noting simply and unremarkably that,

“the SDP and its Alliance partner maintained a wholly committed European position”.

Roy Jenkins also harks back much farther in our political roots when, in his biography of William Gladstone, he quotes from Gladstone’s Midlothian campaign, when he was much concerned about atrocities in the Balkans against Bulgarians and Montenegrins. Gladstone, he records, spoke of a,

“nation called to undertake a great and responsible duty”,

in regard to “the peace of Europe” and the need for,

“right and justice to be done”.

These are uncanny echoes of Paddy Ashdown’s insistence that we had to take an interest in the Balkan wars of the 1990s and take on a responsibility to protect in particular the Kosovars and Bosnians being subjected to ethnic cleansing on our continent.

In her very generous comments about Paddy Ashdown in her debate on the western Balkans last Thursday, the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, said:

“During the Bosnian War in the 1990s, most politicians, including some from my own party, pontificated from a distance. Lord Ashdown went in and out of Sarajevo during the longest siege in modern history, across a risky mountain route and through a tunnel burrowed into the city”.—

Hence, when my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire wrote a slim Penguin tome for the 1997 election called Why Vote Liberal Democrat?, in words he could repeat today, he wrote:

“Nostalgia for an imperial past, combined with hostility to closer cooperation with Britain’s neighbours, offers no credible way forward … Liberal Democrats are internationalist by instinct and by intellectual conviction … We believe that Britain can achieve more through sharing sovereignty and pooling power than by standing alone … Britain is a European country. Our international interests and responsibilities start with our concern to promote peace, stability and prosperity within Europe, in partnership with our European neighbours”.

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Ruling for the Thanet South case

With all the other political high-jinks in Westminster, the long-awaited judgement in the Thanet 2015 General Election expenses case has probably not caught the attention of those most likely to be affected by it – Candidates and their Agents.

In brief, this outcome challenges some of the most commonly held interpretations of the electoral law. Moreover, it requires urgent parliamentary attention BEFORE any new poll.

Liberal Democrat activists may like to be reminded that even the Conservatives now accept that the current legal position cannot be allowed to continue. In the last few days of the June 2017 General Election (when the extent of charges was still in doubt) the Conservative Party issued the following statement:

“There is broad consensus that election law is fragmented, confused and unclear, with two different sets of legislation and poor guidance from the Electoral Commission. Conservatives are committed to strengthening electoral law.”

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15 January 2019 – today’s press releases

You never quite want to believe the predictions, especially when they are in your favour, but it can’t be argued that tonight wasn’t a massive rejection of the May deal. Here’s what was said in the aftermath…

  • Cable: This is the beginning of the end of Brexit
  • Brexit Must be put Back to the People – Welsh Lib Dems (see here)
  • Cable: After Govt defeat the only way forward is a People’s Vote (see here)

Cable: This is the beginning of the end of Brexit

Responding to the no confidence vote tabled tonight in the House of Commons, Leader of the Liberal Democrats …

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WATCH: Jo Swinson argue with Labour’s Richard Burgon

It’s not the wisest thing in the world to take down someone who agrees with you and is instinctively going to do what you want.

Shadow Labour Justice Spokesperson Richard Burgon was excessively grumpy with Jo Swinson this evening.

Having gone on about how the big enemy was the Conservatives, he chose to then go on the attack about the Coalition. You’d never think that Labour had been propping up the Conservatives and enabling their Brexit shambles. Any half competent main opposition party would have made sure that Theresa May was coming back from Buckingham Palace in a taxi within an hour of tonight’s vote.

Jo handled it really well.

Jon Snow intervened to tell Richard hew as being “awfully beastly.”

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WATCH: Lib Dem MPs talk about today’s vote

Our people have been out and about today, talking about the run-up to the vote and its aftermath.

Layla on the beginning of the end of Brexit

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Vince: This is the beginning of the end of Brexit

Well, that was quite something. I had thought the estimates of a 200+ majority against were expectation management, so a defeat of less than 100 looked great.

But, no. The vote was lost by 230 votes. The biggest defeat in living memory.

A Government with a competent main opposition party would be in serious trouble.

But what was Theresa May’s instinctive reaction? She started talking about how this put EU citizens at risk. I mean, really. She turned them back into bargaining chips. I, for one, am not having that.

Jeremy Corbyn has finally won a motion of no confidence but when that is lost tomorrow, he will have to make up his mind whether to back a People’s Vote or not. We can only hope that he will listen to the almost 80% of his members who want Labour to back that.

Jo Swinson was the first Lib Dem to say anything after the  vote – she raised a Point of Order to  how Parliament could assert its authority to bring about a People’s Vote. In his response, Speaker John Bercow seemed to indicate on his reply that he would allow amendments to that effect.

Vince confirmed that he had signed Corbyn’s motion of no confidence and would support it and challenged the Labour leader to get behind a People’s Vote.

Brexit is becoming a national humiliation.

Liberal Democrats have campaigned since the referendum to give people the final say on Brexit. Theresa May has failed to persuade her party, failed to persuade Parliament and failed in her attempts to scaremonger MPs to back her.

The Prime Minister now needs to pull her head out of the sand and start acting responsibly by taking the ludicrous threat of a no-deal Brexit off the table. The only way forward for the country is through a People’s Vote where people have the right to choose to stay in the EU.

It is also time for Jeremy Corbyn to find his backbone, drop his plans for a Labour-led Brexit, and back our calls for a People’s Vote.

Willie Rennie also called for a People’s Vote to ensure that the Prime Minister couldn’t just look to her party to sort it out:

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Lib Dems vs Brexit Joan Walmsley: The people must have an informed choice

Joan Walmsley tackled the “will of the people” argument in her speech.

The noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, asked us to be optimistic. I would not be a Liberal Democrat if I were not.

I have great respect for the House of Commons and am optimistic that next week honourable Members will do the right thing. They will vote against making their constituents poorer, damaging the future of their young people and removing this country’s influence in Europe. They will vote against Mrs May’s deal and reject the disaster of leaving the EU without a deal. Let us be clear, to use a favourite phrase of which the Prime Minister is so fond, especially when she is about to obfuscate: our economy would suffer both from her deal and no deal.

Our economy is not just some economist’s theory. It provides the means to protect the most vulnerable, the young who need education, the old who need care, the unemployed who need benefits and jobs, the poor who need affordable homes, the workers who need efficient transport to work and decent pay, and all of us who rely on the NHS. All this is threatened by every possible form of Brexit. It has become clear over the past two and a half years, to all who are not too blind to see it, that the deal we have as members, and could keep if we wish, is the best we could get with our biggest trading partner, neighbour and friend. Let us not be lured by the fantasy that we will negotiate beneficial trade deals around the world that would more than make up for loss of trade with the EU. This is a typical unicorn promised to the electorate by a campaign funded by money about which very serious legal questions are being investigated. Through our EU membership, we have trade deals, not just with 27 other countries, but with 88. All those would go if we left the EU without a deal.

I respect the way in which Mrs May has tried to get a good deal while leaving the EU. But she became the architect of her own failure when she stated her red lines, which made it impossible for her to take us out of the EU without damaging our economy and curtailing opportunities for our young people. She has given two and a half years of respect to the “will of the people” ​as she puts it, although I find it hard to understand how someone who is so keen on the will of the people is so reluctant to ask them for it.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Menzies Campbell: Deal does not deliver promised utopia

Ming Campbell’s take on the Brexit deal was that it didn’t deliver what was promised and put the UK in a much more precarious international position.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, not least because he drew attention to the absence to any reference either to Wales or Scotland in the documents with which we are concerned.

I have wondered to what purpose I would be here, and I suspect my purpose now is served by the opportunity to support the amendment put down by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon. Nothing of substance has changed since the earlier debate. Although I have had the opportunity to look very quickly at the document produced in relation to Northern Ireland just before this debate began, I can see why the Government perhaps chose not to put it out before, because it really does not bear any serious interpretation, not least of course because the matter of the protocol is still covered by the advice issued by the Attorney-General on 13 November last year. Paragraph 16 states that—I am reading short—

“in international law, the Protocol would endure indefinitely until a superseding agreement took its place, in whole or in part”.

That remains the legal position. The document of today can have no effect of any kind on that.

As we consider these matters, the authority of the Prime Minister diminishes almost before our eyes. There was a government defeat last night and another one this afternoon. One thing which has certainly changed as a result of Brexit—and I hope your Lordships do not find the advice too alarming—is that you can throw away your copy of Dicey and, if you are lucky enough to have a copy of John Mackintosh’s seminal work, The British Cabinet, you need not have much regard to that, because the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility has now been abolished by this Cabinet. It reminds me of the old Latin tag, “Quot homines, tot sententiae”—although, in these more enlightened days, one should perhaps say, “Quot personae, tot sententiae”. The Cabinet is now apparently at liberty to contradict the Prime Minister and to take issue with Cabinet colleagues, and for all that to be played out in public. It is no wonder that the Prime Minister’s capacity for negotiation has been adversely affected. If she loses next week’s vote on the document with which we are concerned, it may not be a constitutional crisis, but it will most certainly be constitutional chaos.

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What next?

Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead in the water. This has been true for a while, but with no obvious mandate for the Withdrawal Agreement, however it is tweaked, the political future for the Prime Minister looks bleak. Her steel and resilience have been tested many times before and have so far survived, but the seemingly hopeless situation before her now may be the final time that Mrs May bleats out her rhetorical tangents. With a government in disarray and a poignantly undecided Opposition, the Lib Dems need to find a logical and realistic Parliamentary solution to break the impasse.

There is not yet any majority for anything in the House of Commons. The next few weeks may well change that, but it shall be a time of unprecedented turmoil and uncertainty. Mrs May was perhaps correct to say earlier yesterday that no Brexit has a more genuine chance of getting through Parliament than no-deal. Let us hope so. That said, it will certainly take some trying to turn over the referendum result in such a short period of time. 

The hard-Brexit rabble have proved themselves to be zealous and ineffective over the year, and their logistical failures in the Commons are doomed to continue. If there is a majority for one thing on the green benches, it is that against no-deal. The very notion of not having a proper and palatable relationship with the largest trading block in the world seems impractical at best and economically cataclysmic at worst. The first mission of the small yellow-striped army inside the Commons should therefore be to rally against such an eventuality. 

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: David Steel on “the complicated lunacy of Brexit”

David Steel did not mince his words in his contribution to the Brexit deal debate in the Lords. He talked about the need for Government to do something to help those who were struggling.

My Lords, exactly three weeks ago today as I was leaving the House to go home for the Christmas Recess I passed three people sleeping in our entrance to the Underground station. It was reported next day that one of these had died in the night—on our own doorstep! That typified for me the paralysis of the Government over these last two years, as they have had to concentrate on dealing with the complicated lunacy of Brexit. Homelessness, the delays in the NHS, the chaos on our railways, the shortage of teachers in our schools, even the lack of legislation to deal with drones, and so many other issues, have had to be neglected while every department of government struggles with the consequences and divisions of Brexit.​

In one of our debates at the end of last year, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, told us that it was for Parliament to assert itself and get things sorted out. It could, for example, revoke Article 50. He is of course correct, but that is one option over which the Commons should hesitate, because it would mean Parliament contradicting the referendum result. That is why, although like the late Paddy Ashdown I was initially doubtful, I have come around to the view that a people’s vote is necessary to take that decision. I do not for one moment believe the scaremongers about civil unrest, provided that we hand it back to the people to decide whether, in the light of all the realities, they really wish to leave the European Union.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Christine Jardine We all deserve better than this deal

It was almost midnight when Christine Jardine finally got to her feet to make her speech. She talked about how her constituents are even firmer in their view that we should remain in the EU and, crucially, she highlighted how the deal fails Leave as well as Remain voters. She called on MPs to rise to the enormity of the occasion and do what’s best for the country.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami). I rise to oppose the Government’s motion and to give largely the speech that I was due to make a month ago, when the vote was pulled. My stance has developed over the past two and a half years, during which my party has campaigned consistently in Parliament and in communities across the country for the people, not the politicians, to have the final say.

As we approach the denouement of this Brexit drama—or perhaps it is a tragedy—my thoughts drift back to 24 June 2016. What prompted the country to vote for Brexit? I agree with the hon. Member for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns). An entire generation faced the prospect that their children and grandchildren would not be as well off as they were, having been left behind and failed by globalisation. More than two years ​later, I do not believe that this Government have provided either any solutions to those issues or a coherent way ahead.

We have heard a lot this evening, mostly from Conservative Members, about delivering on Brexit. May I plead with them that actually we have something more important in this House to deliver, and that is the wellbeing of the country? When the electors go to the ballot box and send us here, it is not simply to follow an instruction; it is to have the courage to do what we believe is right for us, for them and for the entire country. That is where we are just now.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Roger Roberts says young people must have a say

Last year, Roger was on the front page of the Daily Mail for upsetting the Brexiteers.

Now, the octogenarian Liberal Democrat had two of the most prominent Tory Brexiteers in the Lords intervene on him in his speech.

My Lords, those who argue for this deal say that the people have voted and that we must honour that. The people voted two and a half years ago, when they were a different constituency. Many of them have now departed and millions more are now eligible to vote. Therefore, we are disregarding the views and the future of many of these young people. Not only that but we are withdrawing from the European Union, which means that we are withdrawing their European citizenship. These young people were born into European citizenship.

Lord Lilley (Con)

Does the noble Lord intend to have a referendum every two and a half years?

Lord Roberts of Llandudno

That is not my intention, of course, but I shall mention something in a moment that might go in that direction. As I said, we are denying young people their voice in this issue. People change their minds. Even Prime Ministers can change their minds. The Commons were to have a vote in December; now they will have a vote in January. If the people are not allowed to change their minds but the Prime Minister and parliamentarians are, we are denying a democratic right to the people.

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When will Commons drag itself into this century?

It’s horrifying to think that an MP has been forced to delay her caesarean section in order to vote on the Brexit deal tomorrow.

Hampstead and Kilburn’s Tulip Siddiq told The Standard

If my son enters the world even one day later than the doctors advised, but it’s a world with a better chance of a strong relationship between Britain and Europe, then that’s worth fighting for.”

The Royal Free has been very clear on their legal and health duties. This is a high risk pregnancy and I am doing this against doctor’s advice.

Any idea that a pairing arrangement would be honoured was blown apart by Brandon Lewis’s failure to honour the agreement with Jo Swinson when her baby Gabriel was just weeks old last Summer.

People were also horrified to see Labour MP Naz Shah, who was sick and in pain, wheeled through the voting lobby.

There is a much more humane way of doing this – allowing MPs who are incapacitated in some way to cast their votes by proxy. Nobody should have to be taken to their place of work by ambulance to perform part of their duties.

Jo Swinson made it clear how she felt about the situation:

You have to wonder if they’d have been swifter to act if any of the babies due had been pm their side.

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14 January 2019 – today’s press releases

As we start another week, is there an emerging consensus on where we go next? Tomorrow sees the meaningful vote in the Commons, whilst tonight saw a somewhat less meaningful one in the Lords, although it perhaps offers a portent of what is to come…

  • Cross-party group publishes legislation for People’s Vote
  • Cable: Research shows UK companies hit hard by ‘Leave’ vote
  • Lib Dems: EU letter changes nothing
  • Lords defeat ’embarrassing setback’ for Theresa May

Cross-party group publishes legislation for People’s Vote

A cross-party group of MPs has today (January 14th) published legislation to bring about a ‘People’s Vote’ referendum on the Government’s Brexit deal in …

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“Those who seek to divide us will never win. We know Britain is better than this”

Clear, can-do, liberal.

You know how I’ve been banging on for ages that we need to tug on people’s heartstrings?

Well, finally, we produce a compelling video that tells people who we are and what we are for.

From the happy, optimistic days of 2012 to the xenophobic post Brexit hate, our decline is shown, complete with Farage, Rees-Mogg and Johnson.

Then there is a strong statement of solidarity with our EU national friends, family, work colleagues. 

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In War: Resolution, In Defeat: Defiance, In Victory: Magnanimity, In Peace: Good Will.

As Remainers, we have lived by the first two parts of Churchill’s famous saying from World War Two in our fight against Brexit. We have been by turns both resolute and defiant.

Now, on the verge of victory (not yet certain I know but looking more likely) we need to start looking at how we can be magnanimous and promote, hopefully, good will. To do this, we need to look at the reasons why some many areas outside the main metropolitan areas voted to leave the EU.

The lack of affordable housing, the concentration of economic development in the Home Counties …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarSuzanne Fletcher 18th Jan - 6:36pm
    very good, hope you post tomorrow how it went, and any press release please ?
  • User AvatarDavid Blake 18th Jan - 6:13pm
    "How sad that the party has become tame, centrist in outlook and anything but radical." Exactly. We knew what we stood for, which is not...
  • User Avatartonyhill 18th Jan - 6:12pm
    I'm biased because I am a printer, but I have observed over the past fifteen years or so that if an organisation switches to on-line...
  • User AvatarArnold Kiel 18th Jan - 6:11pm
    John Marriott, if a campaign attacks the economic existence and wellbeing of industrial workers, consumers, the sick, welfare recipients, the financial sector, northern Irish, and...
  • User AvatarGordon 18th Jan - 6:01pm
    @ Sandra Hammett (17th @ 2:49PM) “Remain and Reform” Absolutely! It’s a complete mystery to me that the party – that used to think of...
  • User AvatarMartin Land 18th Jan - 5:44pm
    Political Betting, see article in the New Statesman.