Freedom of movement and liberal overreach

Not every nuanced political point is a dog whistle for it’s crude cousin, and case in point is Nick Clegg’s recent column in the FT, arguing that the EU needs to consider wider caveats to the principle of freedom of movement that already exist, for its own sake and not just to improve the prospects of rapprochement with the UK.

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Liblink: Baroness Thomas… ‘do away with hostile atmosphere’

Over at Politics Home, Celia Thomas criticises the assessment process for Personal Independence Payments, highlighting the very large number of decisions that are found wrong on appeal and the ‘hostile atmosphere’ for claimants.

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Tim Farron MP writes: Lib Dems would restore decency and dignity for refugees

The sight of refugees arriving on the Greek coast in 2015 will never leave me. It’s not the sort of thing you forget.

Parents and children were packed onto makeshift boats in search of safety, fleeing Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and other brutal conflicts around the world.

This isn’t a ‘refugee crisis’, even if that is what we have ended up calling it. It is a crisis of violence and persecution, with dictators and murder squads killing and displacing families across the world. Refugees are the human face of what has gone so badly wrong. 

Refugee Week is underway (it is World Refugee Day tomorrow), which is a timely reminder of Britain’s role supporting people who have been forced to flee their homes, both in the work we do in refugee camps around the world and in how we treat asylum seekers who make it to our shores and ask for help.

The current system lacks decency and dignity. The Lib Dems would restore these values.

Firstly, and crucially, the quality of asylum decisions is nothing short of a national scandal. The Home Office wrongly refuses people sanctuary so often that around 40% decisions are overturned on appeal each year. The result is that people who have already endured so much are left scared and uncertain, when they should have been promised safety here much more quickly. 

This can’t be allowed to continue. The whole process needs reform, from top to bottom.

We shouldn’t just focus on decisions, though. Even as the government focuses on improving integration in our country, for example, asylum seekers are barred from working. 

Work helps people integrate, learn English, and contribute to society – all things asylum seekers badly want to do.

So let’s join-up government a bit better and give people the chance to work if their asylum claim is delayed. There is nothing liberal about forcing people who can work to sit around all day doing nothing. 

Plus we should celebrate what we already do well, and plan for how to do more of it.

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Unpicking the great mish-mash of policy wheezes

The trouble with HM Treasury is that it “is simultaneously short-termist, obsessed with controlling spending, but unable or unwilling to do anything to boost growth … fixated on ‘policy wheezes’, short-term fixes and initiatives, and over-centralised”.

And don’t take my word for it. This was the innovation thinktank Nesta’s judgement in 2014, as quoted by Duncan Brack in his essay on Greening Government in the SLF book Four Go in Search of Big Ideas.

I became fascinated by why the government machine creaks so badly, and takes such poor and contradictory decisions, during the coalition years. And particularly during period I was working for the Cabinet Office in the Treasury, on public service choice.

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Victory declared for ‘upskirting’ Bill

(R-L) Vince supports the “upskirting” bill with campaigner Gina Martin, sponsoring MP Wera Hobhouse and Ms Martin’s solicitor, Ryan Whelan

The Liberal Democrats have declared victory in their bid to make ‘upskirting’ a specific criminal offence.

Following Tory MP Christopher Chope’s shocking move to block Wera Hobhouse’s Bill last week, the Justice Minister met Wera Hobhouse this afternoon and, on behalf of the Government, agreed to take her Bill through Parliament.

Wera said:

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The decline of local journalism may mean more than just a lack of transparency…

Amidst the drama of Brexit, the Guardian covered a report from the US which may well have gone unnoticed by many. “Financing Dies in Darkness? The Impact of Local Newspaper Closures on Public Finance.”, published by academics from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Chicago on 8 May, might not, on the face of it, seem of great import, but I would suggest that it gives those of us who care about local government some cause for concern.

The authors summarise their report as follows;

The loss of monitoring that results from newspaper closures is associated

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A gentle ramble through Mrs May’s arithmetic…

I’m a mathematician by training, and work professionally with numbers. And, because I find testing arithmetic projections entertaining, I thought that I might play with the proposed “£20 billion for the NHS”. See what you think.

Firstly, I should note that that £20 billion isn’t for you, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, although the Barnett Formula might mean that there is more money available for you too.

I’ll assume that the BBC’s figure of £114 billion for NHS England’s budget is accurate, and note that the Office for Budget Responsibility is predicting that inflation will be fairly constant at 2% per annum …

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Welcome to my day: 18 June 2018 – now you see it, now you don’t?

I was told on Saturday that there was going to be an announcement of £20 billion for the NHS, and my first response was incredulity. “Where does that come from?”, was my question.
But sure enough, the announcement has come, and whilst the proposal for finding this sum is, how can I put it, less than entirely concrete still, it has complicated the arithmetic of opposition to Brexit. I’ll take an initial look at the numbers later.

It’s expected that the Lords could be sitting as late as midnight, as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill returns for consideration of Commons amendments. Will …

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #520

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 520th 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 (10-16 June, 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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Theresa May shamelessly takes up discredited Leave campaign slogan

Most of my memories of the Leave campaign involve the blatant lies it told. 77 million Turks, we were told, would pretty much be here the day after we voted Remain, according to their literature. And the biggest lie of all was emblazoned on the side of a bus. £350 million a week for the NHS.

It was the thought of more money for our beleaguered NHS that prompted many people to vote Leave, something confirmed by Vote Leave’s director, Dominic Cummings.

Within hours of the referendum result, that pledge was in tatters. Nigel Farage distanced himself from

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Christine Jardine: Why I support equal marriage and transgender rights

Here’s Christine Jardine speaking to Edinburgh’s Pride march yesterday. One of these days, I’ll remember to hold the phone round the other way.

She was speaking at the Mercat Cross on the Royal Mile to a vast, sparkly and bright crowd. As always the atmosphere was incredible.

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The Thorpe Affair – What if?

I am one of those with a fascination for history, who sometimes indulge in the practice of ‘What if?’. Some of you may know what I mean; but, if not, here are a few examples. Let’s start with 1066. What if King Harald had actually defeated Duke William of Normandy at the battle of Hastings? Scroll forward some eight hundred years and ask yourself what if President Abraham Lincoln had not attended Ford’s Theatre on that fateful night in April 1865? What if Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s driver hadn’t taken a detour in Sarajevo in June 1914 or what if Adolf Hitler hadn’t shortened his speech at the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich in November 1939 and left early? And finally, more recently and perhaps nearer to home, what if Nick Clegg hadn’t accepted David Cameron’s ‘generous offer’ in May 2010? I’m sure you get the idea.

So, you might say, what has this got to do with Jeremy Thorpe and the Liberal Party? Well, what if, following a massive surge in support (around 20% of the popular vote) which, thanks to FPTP, resulted in only a derisory 14 MPs, he had managed to win over his colleagues and the party grassroots and accept the offer of Ted Heath to join a coalition government following the ‘Who governs Britain’ general election of February 1974?

The ‘baby boomers’ will surely remember the early 1970s, which started out with Heath’s surprise victory in the ‘70 General Election, when his government embarked upon a race for growth with the infamous ‘Barber Boom’, that, despite the inflation it eventually unleashed, especially in the housing market, appeared to many, even up to the summer of 1973, to be bearing fruit in economic terms, despite storm clouds on the horizon.

What really derailed the ‘project’, besides the Heath government’s inability to deal effectively with Trades Union militancy and ineffective management, was the OPEC oil embargo following the Yom Kippur War between the Arab states and Israel in October 1973 which saw oil prices quadruple in a matter of months, thus presenting unions such as the NUM with an open goal. Just to think that, only a few years earlier, the Economic Minister of the booming West German economy, Karl Schiller, had confidently claimed that “the future belongs to oil”.

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Christine Jardine: Make medical cannabis available for all who need it

The Home Secretary should make medicinal cannabis available to all who need it, says Christine Jardine, after Sajid Javid granted an emergency licence for Billy Caldwell to be treated with the drug. His supply had been confiscated by customs earlier this week.

Christine is supporting her constituentKaren Gray, whose son Murray has Epilepsy and needs the drug to control his seizures:

Sajid Javid has done the right thing for a young boy enduring unimaginable pain.

These treatments can have enormous benefits for patients like Billy Caldwell and my constituent Murray Gray.

The Home Secretary should now take common sense steps to ensure

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Could you help take the Party’s training to the next level?

Last year I became Chair of the new Federal Training Committee, set up to make sure the Party’s training meets our long term needs. I have to admit that delivering training is one of the most fulfilling things I do as a Liberal Democrat. Whilst winning elections is intoxicating, there’s nothing quite like bumping into someone months after a training event and hearing them excitedly tell you about the next steps you’ve inspired them to take.  

Do you have ideas about how to take the party’s training up a notch? Do you want to ensure the party offers the training you need, when and where you need it? Then why not join us to make sure we all have the skills needed to win elections and deliver Liberal values to our country at a time when they are so desperately needed.

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Vince’s message for Eid al-Fitr

Apologies for not putting this up yesterday – it appeared after we had set up for the day – and it was one of THOSE days where we couldn’t get online.

So, a belated Eid Mubarak to all who have been celebrating.

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Triple win in deferred Council election for Lib Dems

Good news from Southwark:

Well done to our new councillors.

In Doncaster, …

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Radical Liberalism and Taxes

Radical Liberalism is a distinctive philosophy that presents a superior alternative both to capitalism in its established form and to socialism. Existing capitalism, as propounded by the Conservatives, and socialism as proposed by Labour, are systems both based on the concentration of property and power in few hands.
The central principles of capitalism in its purest form are the free exchange of goods in an unregulated market; limited taxes to pay for limited government, and
private ownership of property.
The central principles of socialism are government control or regulation of the market; high taxes to pay for expanded government services; and government ownership …

Posted in News | 55 Comments

Wera Hobhouse slams lone Tory MP for pointlessly sabotaging “upskirting” bill

Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse has slammed an ‘out of touch’ Tory for sabotaging her Bill to make upskirting a specific sexual offence today.

Having secured the Government’s support for her Bill to make upskirting a specific offence, it was expected to pass through the House of Commons today. The Bill comes off the back of Gina Martin’s campaign, which she started after falling victim to the crime last summer.

However, in a shocking move Tory MP Christopher Chope, known for objecting to the second reading of the Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill, defied the Government and Number 10 by opposing the Bill, preventing it from proceeding to the next stage.

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Lib Dems wins three seats on Southwark Borough Council in delayed election


Many congratulations to Humaira Ali, William Houngbo and Damian O’Brien on being elected to Southwark Borough Council in the new London Bridge & West Bermondsey Ward. This election yesterday was delayed from 3rd May following the sad death of Conservative candidate Toby Eckersley. Well done to the local Southwark team on achieving this great result while also helping in our very strong showing in the Lewisham East by-election. This result means that, overall in Southwark, we made a net gain in seats for this year’s elections.

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Christine Jardine on why medical cannabis should be legalised

In Christine Jardine’s Edinburgh West constituency, there’s a little boy called Murray. He has severe Epilepsy. Medical Cannabis could make a huge difference to his life, alleviating the seizures he suffered on a daily basis.

Christine has been helping Murray’s mum, Karen, campaign for a change in the law. She writes in the Edinburgh Reporter about why this is so important:

In my constituency a little boy called Murray Gray has won the hearts of the public through his very similar plight. A rare form of epilepsy which could be eased if the law were changed.

“I went to Downing Street with his Mum, Karen, to hand in a petition of more than 150,000 signatures calling for medical cannabis to be made legal.

“If it, or cannabidoil were available on license then Murray would not have to go through the multiple seizures which have interrupted his schooling.

“For Murray it could be life changing.

“And he is not alone.

“How many of us know someone who suffers from chronic pain?

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Wera Hobhouse wins Government support to make upskirting a specific sexual offence

Good news from Westminster – Wera Hobhouse’s Bill to make upskirting a specific sexual offence could closer to becoming law today when it receives its second reading in the Commons. Wera has won Government support for the measure but it requires to get through today without objection before it can proceed.

Wera has been working with campaigner Gina Martin and her lawyer Ryan Whelan on the details of law reform with the Ministry of Justice.

Wera today said she was “delighted” as the Government agreed to support her legislation to close any potential loopholes, in order to better protect victims and increase convictions:

I got involved in politics to change things that my constituents and I care about. I am incredibly grateful to Gina Martin for starting this campaign, and for giving me the opportunity – in my first year in parliament – to do exactly that.

The fact that the Government has listened to our calls is testament to the widespread consensus that there was a gap in the law that needed to be addressed. By working with Gina and ministers on the detail of my Bill, we have demonstrated that when we work together successfully we can make a difference on issues that really matter to people.

We all made the case for common sense. Now if someone is to fall victim to upskirting, the law will recognise them as the victim, and the police will be able to act immediately and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Gina Martin explained how she built her successful campaign:

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Observations of an ex pat: British shambles

What a shambles! Theresa May is clinging onto the north face of the parliamentary Eiger by her finger nails while Remainers bay for her blood on one slope and Brexiteers on the other.

The only thing keeping the prime minister on her increasingly precarious perch are behind-doors conflicting promises that must be kept secret because if they leaked Mrs May, the government, the conservative party and Brexit negotiations would tumble.

The Labour opposition, meanwhile can’t decide whether to oppose or join the government, and is, if anything, more divided than the Conservatives. Anti-European Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn instructed his MPs to abstain in key amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill—the essential piece of legislation needed to take Britain out of the EU.

In an unprecedented party revolt, six members of Corbyn’s front bench resigned to vote their conscience and a total of 90 Labour MPs ignored their leader’s instructions. Rebel Hilary Benn said: “There comes a point when we have to stand up and be counted.”

Then there is the Scottish National Party. Parliament allowed only 15 minutes to debate the government’s plans to take control from Brussels of legislation related to Scottish fisheries and environment  instead of devolving them back to the Scottish Parliament. The SNP leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, was expelled for refusing to sit down and shut up. The other 55 SNP members of parliament walked out with him and a ton of grist was poured into the Scottish independence mill.

Why is there such a chaos in the Mother of Parliaments? Is it because of Mrs May’s paper-thin majority? Is it because of Corbyn’s spinelessness on the overarching issue of Brexit?

No. It is because the Brexit policy is built on a false premise. It is a sandcastle built in a thunderstorm by political figures wearing nostalgia-tinted spectacles.

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19% swing from Labour to Lucy Salek in Lewisham East

Nice when your canvass returns are bang on, isn’t it?

We briefed the media this week that we were on 25% – and that is almost exactly what we delivered. Last year we lost our deposit in Lewisham East. This year we got a quarter of the vote.

Our actual number of votes went up by 2.5 times, too, from 2086 votes last year, although the turnout was less than half. Labour’s vote dropped from 32000 to 11000 and the Tory vote dropped from 11000 to 3000. That vote share bar chart is going to look very good.

And, courtesy of the wonderful Jon Ball making this Facebook post public, we have the Sky News one plus a picture of a very happy looking Alistair Carmichael.

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Lewisham East…what can we expect?

First of all, a massive thanks to all the staff who have worked so hard to deliver a stellar campaign in Lewisham East. Then to Lucy Salek who has done so much to get herself known in the community. To get such name recognition on the doorstep in just over 6 weeks is incredible.

And also to people who have gone to help and those who have made phone calls.

So, sometime in the middle of the night we’ll find out the result. What would be a good one?

Well, given that we got 4.4% just over a year ago, which …

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Alistair Carmichael: Voting for what the SNP wanted would have left Scotland weaker

There’s been a lot of ill-informed nonsense on social media about the way the Liberal Democrats voted, or in fact didn’t vote, on devolution in the Commons the other night. I was going to write a post to explain it all but then found I didn’t have to, because Alistair Carmichael had done it for me, and better.

What I think was the problem is that we didn’t really get our story out in good enough time and allowed the SNP to put it about that we had somehow not stood up for Scotland. We need to learn from this and explain it all beforehand.

Actually, and unsurprisingly, the situation is very different. As Alistair explains here, if we’d voted the way the SNP wanted and had won that vote, we’d have gone back to the original clause of the Bill, which was awful because it would have repatriated all the EU powers to Westminster to be doled out from there. No thanks.

So, Alistair now takes us through what happened and comments on the extraordinary PMQs session yesterday.

There was a single motion voted on which was a government motion to agree with an amendment from the House of Lords (apologies some jargon is unavoidable here but I shall try to keep it to a minimum). This amendment related to the inclusion of a new clause in the bill dealing with the transfer of powers coming back from Brussels post-Brexit. I was not going to support that motion as there is not yet any agreement between the Scottish and UK Governments – the reason why Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament quite rightly voted against granting the legislative consent motion for the Bill.

At the same time, however, the Welsh Government HAVE reached agreement with the UK Government and that is what is now contained in the bill. If it is wrong to vote against the Scottish Parliament’s view then surely it is wrong to vote against the view of the Welsh Assembly. There was an amendment to the government motion from the Labour Party on the order paper that reflected the true position and it was originally my wish to vote for that. Unfortunately, however, that amendment was not put to the vote so, in the circumstances described, an abstention seemed like the appropriate thing to do. In this view we were joined by the Labour Party.

One further consideration. It may not have been what they intended but the actual effect of the SNP vote (if successful) would have been to restore the Bill to the position that it was in when it left the Commons – a much weaker position for Scotland than the one that the Bill currently provides!

There are serious points at issue here :

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Legacy of Grenfell

One year on from the tragedy of the Grenfell fire a public inquiry is underway to ascertain how such a thing could have happened in a modern building in the middle of London.

What has struck me about this whole event is the frustration and powerlessness that tenants and leaseholders express over the ability to control their own lives and safety.

Property tenure has changed greatly in recent decades. Right to buy has changed the composition of public housing developments. They will frequently include a mix of leasehold apartments, shared ownership and traditional …

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Parity of esteem for mental health – petition to change Health and Safety legislation

Back in 2016 I wrote a blog explaining my efforts to raise awareness of mental health first aid which led to an Early Day Motion being submitted by Norman Lamb MP.

There is now a further campaign led by MHFA England to change health and safety legislation so that there is parity of esteem between mental and physical first aid. Where’s Your Head At? is calling for every workplace to provide Mental Health First Aid as well as physical first aid.

The call is simple:

By law, all workplaces, schools and colleges must make provision around physical first aid. Why not the same for mental health?

Mental health issues including stress, anxiety and depression are the biggest cause of sickness absence in our society. Mental Health First Aid courses teach people to spot the signs of mental health issues, offer initial help and guide a person towards support. When support and treatment is accessed early, people recover faster and have better outcomes for their health.

Training people in mental health awareness and skills also helps to build an open and supportive culture around mental health. This can stop preventable health issues arising in the first place, and empower people with mental health issues to thrive in work.

We believe that mental and physical health should be treated equally – because we all have mental health. Let’s change the law to reflect this.

Besides the profound benefit this will have to those suffering mental ill-health but remaining unsupported and undiagnosed, changing this legislation will also save businesses an estimated £35 billion per year.

Please consider signing the petition. It can be found here.

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An academic Brexodus is upon us

Lib Dem activist Dr Ruvi Zieglar has written for the Cherwell, Oxford University’s newspaper, on the effect of Brexit being felt by universities. Many European staff are leaving because of the uncertainties surrounding jobs, research funding and future prospects.

Ruvi says,

‘Brexodus’ is picking up speed: according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 130,000 EU27 citizens emigrated between September 2016-17, the highest number since the 2008 financial crisis.

Ruvi goes on to explain,

Nearly two years after the referendum, EU27 are still waiting for their post-Brexit rights to be secured….The draft Withdrawal Agreement hardly

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SNP stunt kills off chance of devolution debate

Well, I suppose a bit of drama at PMQs brightens up the day, but what exactly was the point of the SNP’s mass walkout and their leader depriving himself of a vote as one of the most crucial pieces of legislation ever to go through the Commons. Not only that, but he had an application in for an emergency debate on the devolution related issues that everyone except the Scottish Tories are livid about. That fell because he was no longer allowed to be there. Presumably the SNP decided that a walkout would get them more attention on the news than a 3 hour debate. It did, but when this news cycle is over, what have they actually achieved? The square root of bugger all, to be honest.

At the heart of all the fuss is the issue of what happens to powers that were enacted by the EU when/if we leave. There is no agreement between the two governments about what should come to Westminster and what should come to Holyrood. The Scottish people don’t seem to give two hoots either way, to be honest. However, the Scottish Parliament voted by a large majority (everyone except the Tories) for the Scottish Government’s Continuity Bill rather than give consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill. This means that the two Governments are not in agreement and the Tories think that the way to resolve that is for Westminster just to dictate what happens. That is simply not acceptable.

However, there isn’t likely to be a settlement that satisfies the SNP. Their prime motivation is to drive as many wedges as they can between the two Parliaments. The clue is in their name. Everything they do is about trying to get independence.

So today, Ian Blackford, the SNP leader, had a justified go at May at PMQs and then pulled one of the biggest diversionary Parliamentary stunts in the book – moving a procedural motion for Parliament to sit in private. That would have meant that the public galleries would have been emptied and that the broadcast would have been stopped, but only if MPs had voted for it. Speaker John Bercow decided to flambe the situation rather than calm it down. He was all over the place on the procedure. First of all he said that the vote should happen straight away. Then he said he was minded to have it at the end of PMQs. Then he gave the SNP a choice. They all said they wanted it there and then and he insisted it would happen later. If he had just held the vote in the middle of PMQs, the SNP would have lost it and normal service would have been restored. Instead, Bercow went over the top and threw Blackford out. I know I’m always saying that Bercow should be throwing people out, but not like this. I meant the people who jeer and behave like toddlers.

The result was that Bercow’s dithering gave the SNP much bigger headlines than they were expecting. The Speaker isn’t usually so ignorant of procedure. You might be forgiven for thinking that he knew exactly what he was doing. He certainly seemed quite chuffed with himself.

But this excitement will die down. And we’ll be no further forward.

Tim Farron has form for this sort of stuff and he thought they’d made a mistake:

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Paddy rallies the troops at Lewisham

It was great to spend a day campaigning for Lucy Salek in Lewisham East yesterday. It was my second time helping the campaign, greatly assisted by an off-peak Travelcard, which allowed fulsome use of the train, tube and bus. Tragically, there was a fatal incident on the line yesterday around Hither Green and Lee stations, meaning that I ended up, to my surprise, in New Eltham, at one point.

Anyway, our enormous HQ was brimming with volunteers all day. A hive of industry. There were people there from as far afield as Falmouth. It was particularly good to join in the traditional Blue envelope addressing work!

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