Johnson: Imperious, impervious and delusional

Our prime minister is beleaguered, only he doesn’t know it. He told the press pack in Rwanda that he intended to remain as prime minister until the mid-2030s. With members of his cabinet scheming against him and negative approval ratings in opinion polls, that looks unlikely.

Both Johnson and some Conservative MPs are in denial about the message sent by the government by the public in Thursday’s twin by-election defeats. At least two of Tory MPs have blamed the Tiverton and Honiton defeat on the “girls” (MPs to you and me) that shopped Neil Parish for his tractor porn antics in the chamber. Another said they didn’t see the defeat coming because “people were lying on the doorsteps”. How out of touch can the Tories be?

Other MPs recognised that the bond of trust has been broken between the prime minister, the Conservative party and the voters: “People think he’s a liar and a shady bugger.”

As Richard Foord said on Thursday: “It’s time for Boris Johnson to go. And go now.” The departure of the “shady bugger” is long overdue.

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Is GDP almost everything?

In 1968, Bobby Kennedy made a much-celebrated speech in which he denigrated Gross National Product (GNP, now usually replaced by Gross Domestic Product, GDP) as a measure of America’s well-being. He said:

… counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them … Yet does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials … it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile …

Financial Times columnist Janan Ganesh voices his disdain for this view in a recent article:

Yes – GDP is almost everything: The recession should kill off the romantic idea that growth is a mixed blessing.

He says, rightly, that wealthy countries tend to do better on indicators such as homicide rates than poor countries. Yes, poor countries do badly on a range of social indicators. But Kennedy was talking only about America. The richer we are, the less an increase in wealth boosts our well-being.

Ganesh also says:

The looming recession will be painful. But it will also drive a certain kind of post-materialist humbug from polite discourse. Growth will be harder to dismiss as a bean counter’s tawdry obsession when there is so little of the stuff to go round.

Yes, growth will be missed if it’s replaced by recession – growth is good for the feel-good factor and not everyone is post-materialist.

Recession would hit poor people in the rich world hard but we don’t need growth to eliminate most rich-world poverty. We just need to be fairer and more generous to people whose earning power is low.

Ganesh doesn’t mention the costs of growth – such as the demise of the stable physical climate in which our civilisations have evolved. We seem to be getting into a zone where we lose our ability to limit global warming and where our physical environment deteriorates eventually to where the present human population can no longer be supported. The change may be so rapid that, for one or more generations, perhaps in most of the world, human life will be nasty, brutish and short. Whatever the scale of the resulting fall in GDP, the decline in human well-being would be catastrophic.

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Roe vs Wade struck out as illiberal forces gain ground

There was no surprise about yesterday’s decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn the historic Roe vs Wade decision. The ruling, which ended half a century of constitutional protection for abortion, had been leaked the beginning of May. The ruling, from which three Democrat judges dissented, is expected to further divide the nation ahead of November’s midterm elections.

The verdict does not make abortion illegal in the USA but it does allow individual states to pass their own laws restricting abortion to the earliest weeks of pregnancy or situations such as rape.

The ruling is likely to stoke further tensions in a country that is increasingly polarised. It could also presage the overturning of other rights such as same sex marriage and access to contraception.

The Roe vs Wade decision dates to 1973, six years after Liberal MP David Steel introduced the Abortion Act as a private members bill in the House of Commons. Lord Steel has since argued for further liberation of the law. But abortion remains controversial in the UK with regular protests outside abortion clinics.

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ALDC by-election report, 24th June

Thursday was a brilliant day to be a Liberal Democrat! Building on our strong start to the year, we won every principal authority seat we were contesting, in addition to the ground shaking win in Tiverton and Honiton! The result in Tiverton and Honiton, over-turning a 24,000 vote majority, handed the Tories their worst by-election defeat in history. What a result! Congratulations must go out to all our teams across the country who worked so hard for these results.

We start off on Shropshire Council, where newly elected Lib Dem councillor Mark Williams gained the Highley seat from the Independent – from a standing start! The Lib Dems didn’t stand last time, so this really is a fantastic result. Congratulations to Mark and the Shropshire team.

Shropshire Council, Highley ward
Liberal Democrat (Mark Williams): 630

Conservative: 279
Labour: 239
Green Party:

Next to Waverley Borough Council – Hindhead, where Lib Dem Julian Spence also had a fantastic night – winning 54.6% of the vote and taking the seat from the Conservatives. Congratulations to Julian and the team for a brilliant GAIN.

Waverley Borough Council, Hindhead
Liberal Democrat (Julian Spence): 537

Conservative: 446

We also had another phenomenal night in Kingston, where there was a deferred election on new boundaries. Once again, the team smashed it, taking all three seats that were up for election. Congratulations to Cllrs Mark Durrant, Dongsung (Robert) Kim, and Lesley Heap!

Kingston upon Thames London Borough Council, New Malden Village
Liberal Democrats: 1217, 1184, 1182

Green Party: 827
Kingston Independent Residents Group (KIRG): 724, 703
Conservative: 427, 372, 327
Labour: 436, 429, 37

We also had some fantastic results on both Godalming and Haslemere Town Councils, with Tom Kiehl holding our seat in Godalming, and Conrad Waters gaining a seat from the Conservatives in Haslemere. Congratulations to both teams!

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Victory Rally in Tiverton

You can watch this live (or on catchup) from 11am today on BBC News or Sky News.

“It’s time to show Boris the door”

 

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Tiverton and Honiton: “It’s time for Boris Johnson to go” – Foord speech in full

In a calm, reasoned and powerful acceptance speech, newly elected Lib Dem MP for Tiverton and Honiton has a message for Boris Johnson:

Tonight, the people of Tiverton & Honiton have spoken for Britain. They’ve sent a loud and clear message: It’s time for Boris Johnson to go. And go now.

Ours is a great country and there’s no greater part of it than Devon. But every day Boris Johnson clings to office, he brings further shame, chaos and neglect…

I also have a simple message for those Conservative MPs propping up this failing Prime Minister: The Liberal Democrats are coming.

Foord said the cost of living crisis is hitting hard, including in Devon.

He also paid tribute to Ed Davey for his leadership: “You believed from the start that this result was possible. You rallied our troops and led from the front.” The contrast with Boris Johnson who shied away from meeting voters in Tiverton and Honiton was left unstated.

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Tiverton and Honiton & Wakefield aftershocks: Dowden goes (updated)

There will be news breaking throughout the day as the political establishment cogitates on the results of by-elections and fallout begins.

The first Conservative to fall on his sword is Oliver Dowden, until this morning chairman of the Conservative Party. He told Boris Johnson earlier this morning:

“Yesterday’s parliament by-elections are the latest in a run of very poor results for our party. Our voters are distressed and disappointed by recent events and I share their feelings. 

“We cannot continue with business as usual. Somebody must take responsibility and I have concluded that in these circumstances it would not be right for me to stay in office.”

Is Dowden a sacrifice to distract attention from the failures of Boris Johnson or are Conservatives finally saying enough is enough and walking away from the chaos at the head of the party and government?

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Labour takes Wakefield

Simon Lightwood has won the Wakefield by-election overturning the Conservative majority of 3,358 to deliver a 4,925 majority for Labour. He won 13,166 votes, while the Conservative Nadeem Ahmed received 8,241 votes.

This will be cheering news for Keir Starmer, who has been recently taken flak from his own MPs for being boring. It also begins the process of retaking seats in the Red Wall lost to the Tories in 2019.

Our thanks to Jamie Needle for offering Wakefield voters the option to vote Liberal Democrat.

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Tiverton and Honiton: The results in full

Full results of Tiverton and Honiton by-election which saw a Liberal Democrat gain from Conservatives.

Electorate 81,661; Turnout 42,591 (52.16%, -19.71%).

  • Richard Foord (Lib Dem): 22,537 (52.91%, +38.14%)
  • Helen Hurford (Conservative): 16,393 (38.49%, -21.72%)
  • Liz Pole (Labour): 1,562 (3.67%, -15.88%)
  • Gill Westcott (Green): 1,064 (2.50%, -1.34%)
  • Andy Foan (Reform): 481 (1.13%)
  • Ben Walker (UKIP): 241 (0.57%, -1.06%)
  • Jordan Donoghue-Morgan (Heritage): 167 (0.39%)
  • Frankie Rufolo (For Britain): 146 (0.34%)

The Lib Dem majority was 6,144 (14.43%).

The swing from Conservative to Lib Dem was 29.93%.

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Tiverton and Honiton: “The Major from Uffculme” wins for the Lib Dems

Congratulations to Richard Foord and the Lib Dem team on a convincing win in mid-Devon. Richard took the Lib Dems from third place to a majority of 6,144 votes. It is a stonking win and with Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire completes a hattrick of by-election victories. Foord comfortably overturned the 24,239 majority won at the December 2019 general election by former Tory MP Neil Parish – who was forced to resign after he was seen viewing pornography in the House of Commons.

One resident is quoted by the Express as calling Richard Foord “the Major from Uffculme, a good local bloke.” That moniker might stick.

Tonight also saw local council gains in Highley, Kingston and Waverley.

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Tiverton and Honiton: Lib Dems call victory

3.00am. The count is still underway. The result not declared. But the Lib Dems are claiming victory in Tiverton and Honiton. Helen Hurford is reported to have locked herself in a room to avoid the media.

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While you are waiting …

While you are waiting for news from Tiverton & Honiton we can also offer you some encouragement from two other elections, on top of the excellent result in Highley in Shropshire.

First, from the London borough of Kingston upon Thames. Last month Lib Dems had a resounding victory by winning 41 of the 45 council seats. But the contest in one ward, New Malden Village, was deferred after the death of an independent candidate just a few days before polling day, leaving the three seats still vacant.

This created a rather odd campaigning environment – our squeeze message evaporated as there was no danger of another party taking control. Predictably, opposition literature emphasised the fact that people could now abandon tactical voting and vote with their hearts. The other parties also homed in on the very small opposition on the Council, which needed to be strengthened – a fact which had also worried the Lib Dems, as we have always seen Scrutiny as a function of the opposition.

This is traditionally a Conservative facing area, the small Labour representation having been wiped out completely in 2010.

So we are delighted to report that not only did we win all three seats convincingly, but the Conservatives were knocked into third and fourth places by a coalition of Greens and Independents.

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Lib Dems take Highley in Shropshire

Some good news to begin the night while we wait for the Tiverton and Honiton result.

Congratulations to Mark Williams who takes Lib Dem number of the unitary Shropshire Council to 14, the second largest party. This was a hard fought campaign for a seat the Conservatives wanted to win, after they lost 12% of their seats in the 2021 all up council elections including the then council leader who was ousted by a Lib Dem. Late last year, the Conservatives lost the North Shropshire constituency to Helen Morgan.

Helen was among the large team of campaigners from across Shropshire and beyond that leafleted and canvassed in the constituency from the day the by-election was called after the resignation of an independent councillor.

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Fantasy dinner party – who would be your guests?

On Monday, the Conservatives held their summer party fundraiser. The top lot was dinner with Boris Johnson and his rivals Theresa May and David Cameron. The Dinner of the Century – so-called to avoid inviting Johnson critic John Major – went for £120,000 to a donor who appears to be too embarrassed to be named publicly.

Setting aside the important point that it is somewhat sick to splash out £120,000 on a dinner when the money could have been more usefully donated to foodbanks, the event has got Newsmoggie thinking.

Who would you select as your guests at your own Dinner of the Centuries? Note the plural here. You are allowed to invite people whose public role was in the last century and even fantasise about inviting long dead people.

Please include a brief explanation for your choice. No essays please!

The best entries will receive an appreciative purr from Newsmoggie.

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Food banks and posh nosh

On Monday, the Conservatives held their summer party fundraiser. The top lot was dinner with Boris Johnson and his rivals Theresa May and David Cameron. The Dinner of the Century – so-called to avoid inviting Johnson critic John Major – went for £120,000.

This was of course a fundraiser and at such events silly things go for silly prices. But the symbolism cannot be missed. Three prime ministers tucking into posh nosh with someone who has £120,000 in spare change while people are struggling to feed themselves and queuing for the food bank.

News of the Dinner of the Century broke on Wednesday, the day before 36 Shropshire organisations, including councils, food banks and support groups, published an open letter on the cost of living crisis. They are pleading for more help for rural communities, for longer term help and for those in relative comfort to think of ways they can help others.

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The polls open in Tiverton and Honiton, Wakefield and local by-elections

It is 7.00am and the polls have opened in the two headline by-elections of today. The Lib Dems have been prioritising their efforts in Tiverton and Honiton in mid-Devon, with hundreds of activists and most of the party’s MPs turning out to deliver leaflets and knock on doors. Labour’s interest of course has been in Wakefield where it hopes to begin taking back the Red Wall seats it lost in 2019.

Both by-elections were triggered by MPs resigned in disgrace.

Keir Starmer has said a victory in Wakefield “could be the birthplace of the next Labour government”. If Labour win, Starmer can face down his critics in the constituency and in the shadow cabinet who describe him as “boring”.

Ed Davey is under no such pressure – the Lib Dems having secured two impressive by-election victories in Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire within just over a year. He has been very active in all the campaigns, including in Tiverton and Honiton. He is also more social and comfortable with voters than Starmer appears to be.

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Our first year in office

It is now just over a year since I became leader of Oxfordshire County Council following momentous May 2021 election results that changed the political landscape in the county and led to the formation of the Oxfordshire Fair Deal Alliance, led by the Lib Dems in partnership with the Greens and Labour.

The intervening period has proved to be one of real achievement but also huge challenges – indeed the list of national and international developments since spring 2021 alone is quite breath-taking. All of them have had an impact in one way or another on our daily lives and budgets and on the services that we provide locally.

The recent publication of our Annual Performance Report for the 2021/22 council year provides a reason to pause and reflect on what has happened since the Fair Deal Alliance took on the running of Oxfordshire County Council.  We are immensely proud of what we have been able to achieve in such a short time, and the following are just a few examples of our work as Lib Dem led county council.

One of our top priorities on forming our administration was to put action to address climate change right at the very heart of our work. We’ve launched a pilot for Britain’s first zero emission zone in Oxford.  We’ve won a bid for 159 new electric buses which will serve Oxford and its surrounding areas.   We’re delighted that more than 70 villages and some urban areas throughout the county have signed up to request their streets are reduced to 20mph speed limits after an initiative we agreed last Autumn. We have been ranked as a gold tier council in Uswitch’s first annual Green Council Report, which looks at the commitment of local authorities to be more environmentally sustainable

Tackling inequalities in Oxfordshire is another priority that we wanted to focus on immediately. Our award from Stonewall for promoting LGBTIQ+ inclusion in our workplaces and our nomination in the Local Government Chronicle (LGC) awards for the innovative initiatives in our equalities, diversity and inclusion framework show that we are becoming nationally recognised for such work.

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On the road

Beth Rigby, the Political Editor at Sky News, has been chatting with Ed Davey.

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Ed Davey: Johnson and Shapps pretend they can’t end the rail strikes. That’s nonsense

The train strike has already had a devastating impact on businesses and on the general public.

Ed Davey has written an article in The Guardian under the headline: Johnson and Shapps pretend they can’t end the rail strikes. That’s nonsense.

He writes:

The Liberal Democrats are against the rail strikes and if a summer of discontent is not to turn into a winter of discontent and full-on stagflation, ministers must step back from the brink.

The position of lower-paid workers across our country should be at the forefront of ministers’ thinking – not that of the highest earners in the City, whose pay and bonuses the government announced this week would not be limited in any way.

The solution?

The solution to such distressing stories is clear: instead of strikes, there should be dialogue between government ministers and union bosses.

Ministers must now clean up their own mess. Liberal Democrats are calling for an emergency Cobra meeting to kickstart a practical compromise and to keep Britain moving.

And here is Christine Jardine (our Treasury spokseperson) telling the BBC what Grant Shapps and the Government should do. It is a national emergency so it would be appropriate for Cobra to meet.

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Tiverton and Honiton byelection: rural communities itching for chance to cast protest vote

By Tabitha A. Baker, Bournemouth University

Tiverton and Honiton in Devon has long been a Conservative stronghold. But the Liberal Democrats believe they have a good chance of taking the seat in an impending byelection. The vote follows the resignation of former MP Neil Parish, who admitted to watching porn in the House of Commons chamber.

My research in the south-west of England suggests the party of government has every reason to be worried. The discontent and even resentment towards the political class have been palpable for some time.

Previous analyses of electoral geography identified rural and non-metropolitan areas as having higher levels of support for Brexit and populist parties, citing a backlash against the status quo for these trends. It’s clear from my interviews over the past few years that voters are looking for any opportunity to make their feelings known to the main political parties through protest votes.

The exceptional circumstance of the 2016 EU referendum is a case in point. Rural voters saw a unique opportunity to express their frustrations about years of local decline by voting against the government’s position on Brexit.

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Mark Pack’s monthly report – June 2022

Tiverton and Honiton

We saw last year what a huge boost it gave to the party getting two new excellent MPs elected in Parliamentary by-elections. It’s good for their constituents and also good for the party’s prospects across the whole country.

We’ve also seen this month how Conservative MPs have failed to do what our country needs – to remove Boris Johnson from 10 Downing Street.

Which is why the latest contest in Tiverton and Honiton is so important for us all again. The single most effective thing you can do in the next few weeks to help bring about his demise – and to help the party win in your own patch – is to help Richard Foord get elected on 23 June.

Many of the team have gone straight into this campaign from the May local elections, without the chance to pause for the hoped for break after those. Thank you hugely to everyone who is stretching themselves to give Richard the best of chances of winning.

Thank you too to Jamie Needle and the team in Wakefield, fighting a carefully targeted campaign there which I’m sure will help the continued growth of our council group on Wakefield Council.

Treating our staff well

Some good news to report on party staff: the federal party has been awarded the ‘excellence’ status by the Good Work Standard for how we go beyond legal minimum requirements in looking after staff.
With the amount of change since the 2019 election plus all the strains of lockdowns, it’s been a particularly tough few years for our staff. But standards such as this show how we’re taking seriously making the party a good and happy place to work.

Welcome to Cllr Mike Cox and Chris French

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Neck and neck in Tiverton and Honiton

From an “exclusive” by David Parsley in today’s i:

“After speaking with 6,000 constituents in the Devon seat over the weekend, pollsters for the Lib Dems put their candidate Richard Foord on 45 per cent of the vote, level with the Tories’ Helen Hurford.

“This latest survey of voting intentions suggests the Lib Dems have closed the two-point gap between themselves and the Conservatives that existed at the same point last week.”

Richard Foord said:

This by-election is a very close fight between myself and Boris Johnson’s candidate.

David Parsley continues:

“If the Lib Dems do reverse the huge Tory majority, it would be the largest by-election turnaround since Labour won Liverpool Wavertree from the Conservatives in 1935.”

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Tiverton & Honiton: Observer and Davey call for tactical voting

The Observer leader column today calls for voters in Tiverton and Honiton to vote tactically for the Lib Dems and voters to tactically vote for Labour in Wakefield.

In an editorial that does not pull its punches, the Observer describes Conservative MPs who voted to keep Boris Johnson in office as “morally myopic and politically foolish”.

“A double whammy of byelection defeats will frighten Conservative MPs in red wall seats and those traditionally true blue. A scare, the bigger the better, is exactly what the Tories need before this government slithers into even worse degeneracy.”

The newspaper says there is no shame in tactical voting. While “political outcomes are distorted by an antique and unfair first-past-the-post electoral system”, voting tactically is the only way to mobilise “the anti-Tory majority”.

The Tories are running scared and Johnson is running so scared he flew to Ukraine rather than face his own Red Wall MPs on Friday. But nothing is certain until the votes have been counted. It is time for that final push.

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Tom Arms’ World Review 19 June 2022

Cheeseburgers and cars without seatbelts

Big Macs are a thing of the past for Muscovites.  McDonald’s—along with 400 other Western businesses—shut down their Russian operations as part of sanctions against Putin’s War in Ukraine. But the Russians have come with an answer. They have simply taken over the McDonald’s outlets and handed them to oligarch Alexander Gorvov. The golden arches have been pulled down and Coca-Cola and Big Macs are off the menu. But there is some consolation for Russian carnivores– a double cheeseburger is 30 roubles cheaper. However, the rebranding of McDonalds does not mean that sanctions are failing. For example, this week the Russians launched what wags are calling the “anti-sanctions car”. Because of Western sanctions Russian car maker Lada cannot import key components. So the new Lada is without seat belts, air bags, an anti-lock braking system or electronic stability control. It is, however, cheaper. Set against these inconveniences is the fact that Russian oil and gas exports have provided the regime with a $26 billion trade surplus in the first five months of this year. However, at the same time, economists believe that sanctions will start to bite by the end of the year and Russian GDP will have shrunk by ten percent.  If this happens then Muscovites may not be able to afford cheap cheeseburgers or cheap cars

Resistance in Ukraine

Winston Churchill called it the Special Operations Executive and ordered it to “set Nazi-occupied Europe alight.” Eighty years later Volodomyr Zelensky has created the Special Operations Forces (SSO) and ordered it to set Russian occupied Ukraine alight. They are doing just that. They are responsible for dozens of attacks on Russian airbases and have blown up railway tracks, bridges and radar stations. Eight Russian soldiers died from poison pies baked and distributed by a little old lady. She was an SSO operative.  So far, the Ukrainian resistance has claimed the lives of more than 150 Russian soldiers, and as the war in the south and east heats up so does the SSO-organised resistance. They are even reputed to be responsible for mysterious fires at military facilities across the border in Russia.

Rivers are one of the world’s most effective natural barriers, especially in war torn Ukraine. The current 60-mile long frontline is dominated by the Siversky Donets River. The Russians have to cross it to control the Eastern Donbas Region. Ukrainian civilians trapped by Russian artillery have to cross it to reach safety and Ukrainian soldiers have to cross it in the opposite direction to fight the Russians. Key to control of the river is mastery of the city of Sieverodonetsk which is currently the scene of street fighting and heavy Russian bombardment. 500 civilians—including 40 children—are trapped in the city’s Azot Chemical factory. The Stalinist era plant is well stocked with food, medical supplies and a labyrinthine network of tunnels; much the same as the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol. The roughly 700 defenders of Mariupol have disappeared into Russia, and a similar fate probably awaits the soldiers and civilians in Sieverodonetsk.  Diplomats, however, are trying to organise their rescue out of the city and across the Siversky Donets River and to Sieverodonetsk’s sister city of Lysychansk. With the river between the city and the Russian forces, Lysychansk will be easier to defend.

Boris Johnson in trouble

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Matthew Parris opines on how Lib Dems can win by wooing Tories

Columnist Matthew Parris has been wandering a bit in recent years, step by step getting further away from the Conservative Party which he once represented as an MP. He was MP for West Derbyshire from 1979 to 1986, leaving politics to pursue a career in journalism. Since then, criticism of the Tories and their pursuit of Brexit have two of the major themes of his columns. Parris left the Tories in 2019, saying he was going to vote Lib Dem.

The week before the North Shropshire by-election, he wrote:

“We’ve got a wrong ’un in Downing Street. Does anyone have the balls to dislodge this impostor, or must cowering Tory outsource their courage to the voters of North Shropshire next week?”

We know what happened in North Shropshire. Today in The Times, Parris turns his attention to the Tiverton and Honiton by-election.

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Observations of an ex pat: I am an immigrant

I am an immigrant. I emigrated from the United States to the United Kingdom on the 12th December 1971.

I had studied for a year in Britain 18 months before and fell in love with the country and one of its citizens and moved back despite the dreary weather and traffic jams.

I did not flee a Middle Eastern, African, Central Asian or East European War. I did not turf up at Heathrow claiming political persecution or risk crossing the English Channel in an inflatable raft. Neither was I escaping a life of poverty in an African mud hut. In fact, if I had stayed in America I would probably be enjoying a comfortable country club existence.

Nevertheless, I feel an affinity with Africans, Asians, Hispanics, or any person from any race or country who left their homeland to seek a new life. It is not easy to leave the safety net of cultural familiarity, family and friends.

If you are born to a country your acceptance is automatic. As an immigrant you have to constantly prove your worth and justify your decision to uproot your entire life and start afresh.

I feel I have succeeded. I started an international news agency which launched the careers of well over a hundred journalists. My children are all a credit to me as are the 200 boys and girls—many of them now young men and women– who have passed through my scout group over the past 20 years.

I am not boasting. In fact, I don’t regard myself as particularly unusual. Immigrants in every country have outstanding records of contributing to their adopted homelands.

Think about it, by their very nature immigrants have proven through their actions that they are risk takers. They are adventurers. They are focused, determined and prepared to work hard to achieve their aims. Such people are assets to any community lucky enough to have them.

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ALDC by-election report: 17th June

After a post-Local Election lull, we are back on the campaign trail and our weekly insight into all things by-election are back on the agenda.

This week’s by-elections present a very mixed picture. We stood a candidate in all four principal elections, which is a great accolade to the Lib Dem ethos of standing candidates universally, but on the night, there were no victories to speak off. Nevertheless, good campaigns were fought, and progress was made across the board.

Over at Leamington Clarendon in Warwick, we returned our best result of a lacklustre evening. A commendable second-place finish, with an impressive 11.5% vote share increase, on a congested ticket is a fantastic return for Justine Ragany and the local team.

Labour: 1064
Liberal Democrat (Justine Ragany): 612
Conservative: 365
Green: 95
UKIP: 24

Labour HOLD

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Why does the PM need an Ethics Adviser?

Yes, indeed.

This reminds me of a question posed to my husband when he was Mayor. He was visiting a school and the Mayor’s attendant that day was also a children’s entertainer, and some of the children recognised him. One of them asked “Why does the Mayor need a magician?”.

But back to the Prime Minister. The role of an Ethics Adviser (technically the Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests) was established in 2006. The adviser is appointed directly by the Prime Minister.

The Independent Adviser on Ministers’ Interests is appointed by the Prime Minister to advise him on matters relating to the Ministerial Code. The post holder is independent of government and expected to provide impartial advice to the Prime Minister. (Terms of reference)

The previous Ethics Adviser, Sir Alex Allen, was asked in 2020 to investigate bullying claims against Priti Patel and had found that she had broken the Ministerial Code, which would normally result in resignation . Boris Johnson backed Priti Patel and stated that he had full confidence in her, so Alex Allen resigned.

And now a second Ethics Adviser appointed by Boris Johnson has resigned. Lord Geidt informed the Prime Minister of his decision on Tuesday and last night his resignation letter was published (after some anger at its delay).

The trigger for his resignation was when Boris Johnson asked him to approve a plan to extend tariffs on steel imports, which would have broken World Trade Organization rules.

Here is the key extract from Lord Geidt’s letter:

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“Mind blowing” errors in pensions

Are you using software on your laptop that dates back to the 1980s? It sounds unlikely, although some standard office applications do go back that far –  a pre-cursor to Word was first launched in 1983 but it has gone through massive development since then. Indeed everyone who uses it is aware of its frequent upgrades and patches.

However it seems the Government is still using software dating from the 1980s which has not been properly maintained and updated. The BBC reports that millions of people have been receiving an incorrect pension for years, because of the failure to update the Pension Strategy Computer System to take account of Graduated Retirement Benefit.

It seems the individual discrepancies may be quite small, with some pensioners being overpaid and others underpaid, but the accumulated impact could be large. And last year a different issue was found with the system which had resulted in substantial underpayments for 134,000 people.

But the truly worrying fact is that this error has been known about for at least 20 years. Apparently the DWP decided it would be too complicated to fix.

Steve Webb – the Lib Dem pensions guru and former Pensions Minister – says:

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One week to go in Tiverton and Honiton!!!

I rarely use exclamation marks when writing, but it is getting exciting! Next Thursday voters in Tiverton and Honiton will be heading to the polls. And the polls say we are only a couple of per cent behind the Tories. Although, the bookies have us as favourites, there is no room for complacency. It is time to get to Tiverton and Honiton if you can.

The HQs will be open from 9am until 8pm:

  • Tiverton at 8-9 Mountbatten Road, Tiverton EX16 6SW
  • Honiton at 118 High St, Honiton, EX14 1JP

If you need or can offer a lift for volunteers on polling week, please complete this form.

Campaigning next week won’t be helped by the national rail strike. Although notionally for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, services are expected to be disrupted for the entire week and overcrowded when they operate. Cue traffic jams at the usual bank holiday pinch spots to am from the south west. However, we Lib Dems are not put off by such matters. We are at the point of winning and we must win. We must pull off the hattrick of three by-election wins in a row.

 

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 5 Comments
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