Just deserts at Conservative Conference

Last week Ed Davey called on the Conservatives to cancel their Conference and sort out the economic mess they had created.

After days of rebellion, doom and u-turns, I bet they wish they had listened to him.

They aren’t getting the best press, that’s for sure, but then they don’t deserve it.

Kwasi Kwarteng’s feeble attempts at humour in his speech belie any contrition. And I doubt many of those who are now condemned to years of high mortgage payments will feel that either he or Liz Truss truly do get it.

The u-turns on the 45p tax rate and the publication of the OBR forecasts, although major events, are not the only things that need to change.

The Conservatives are showing themselves up as way nastier than they were when Theresa May gave her warning to Conservative Conference a whole twenty years ago.  This generation of leaders seem to have taken it as encouragement to become even worse.

For example, party Chairman Jake Berry had this to say to people struggling to pay their bills this Winter:

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3 October 2022 – today’s press releases

  • Departing Conservative ministers handed over £410,000 in redundancy pay
  • Davey: Kwasi Kwarteng must resign so botched Budget can be scrapped
  • Conservative ministers slammed for holding 67 parties as British economy implodes
  • Kwarteng speech: Laughing about the turbulence is an insult to millions

Departing Conservative ministers handed over £410,000 in redundancy pay

Former Conservative ministers are set to be handed more than £410,000 in redundancy payments, new analysis by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

This includes £18,860 for Boris Johnson, £16,876 for former cabinet ministers including Priti Patel and Michael Gove, and £14,491 for the former Solicitor General Alex Chalk.

The Liberal Democrats have called on Johnson and other outgoing ministers to forgo the thousands of pounds in redundancy payments, so the money can be used to support struggling families instead.

Under the Ministerial and Other Pensions and Salaries Act 1991, those resigning from office are entitled to 25% of the annual salaries they were paid when holding that office. Analysis by the Liberal Democrats suggests that, across government, this will lead to a total bill to the taxpayer of at least £410,642.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office Spokesperson Christine Jardine, said

It is outrageous that as families cut back on food and heating, outgoing Conservative ministers are being awarded thousands of pounds, many of them after just a few weeks in the job.

It seems Liz Truss is against handouts for the British people, but not for her Conservative colleagues. Once again it’s one rule for Conservative MPs, another for everyone else.

Former ministers are given financial security, while struggling families and pensioners are facing economic chaos, higher bills and collapsing health services.

Outgoing Conservative ministers should do the decent thing and pass up their payoffs for the good of the country.

Davey: Kwasi Kwarteng must resign so botched Budget can be scrapped

Responding to Kwasi Kwarteng’s refusal to resign this morning despite his U-turn over the 45p tax rate, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

Kwasi Kwarteng didn’t listen when people’s mortgages soared, the pound tanked and the economy nosedived. Now he’s only acting because of internal rows at the Conservative party conference.

It just shows the Conservatives are totally out of touch with the country.

The Chancellor has lost all credibility and must resign now. Then Parliament needs to be recalled so we can scrap this rotten Budget, offer extra help to struggling mortgage borrowers and ensure our NHS and schools get the funding they need.

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New Journal of Liberal History just published

The autumn issue of the Journal of Liberal History has just been published. Its contents include:

Cromwell’s statue and the fall of the Liberal government in 1895. Maybe you think that controversies over political statues are a feature only of recent years? You’d be wrong. William Wallace recalls how the erection of the statue of Oliver Cromwell outside the Houses of Parliament helped bring down Lord Rosebery’s Liberal government in 1895.

Solving the ‘problem’ of the twentieth century. In the 1930s European governments appeared to have a stark choice: appease the rise of Nazi Germany or prepare for war. But maybe there …

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So, no abolition of the 45p rate after all…

45p tax cut U-turn: Now scrap corporation tax cut and bankers bonuses too

Responding to Kwasi Kwarteng’s U-turn on abolishing the 45p rate of tax, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

This humiliating U-turn comes too late for the millions seeing their mortgage rates soar because of this botched budget.

The Conservatives must now cancel their conference and recall Parliament, to sort out this mess for the sake of the country.

The corporation tax cut and the bankers bonus rise need to be scrapped and we need a clear plan to help mortgage borrowers cope with eye-watering interest rate rises. It can’t be

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Welcome to my day: 3 October 2022 – any fool can cut taxes…

And so it becomes clear that, in order to cut taxes in a way that “disproportionately benefits the wealthy”, there will have to be cuts in public spending. In truth, that’s exactly what you’d expect from the boys at the Institute of Economic Affairs, given their belief in a small state.

The problem is that, instead of dealing with economic models and “rational behaviour”, the proponents of the policies coming out of Downing Street are faced with people and a vast array of existing inequalities. The societal model is not perfect at the outset, and thus the theoretical concept is flawed. It is not possible for people to simply work more hours, or get better paid jobs, if those hours, those jobs, are not available or accessible.

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ALDC By-Election Report

It was a busy week for by-elections with 9 principal Council seats up for grabs – and some great Lib Dem results.

We start with a brilliant double victory in Warrington. Two Lib Dem held seats were being contested in Grapenhall ward and both were brilliantly retained by new Lib Dem councillors Helen Speed and Mark Browne who together polled over 56.4% of the vote (almost a 10% increase in Lib Dem vote share. Well done to Helen, Mark and the local team in Warrington!

Warrington MBC, Grapenhall ward
Liberal Democrat (Helen Speed and Mark Browne): 1073 & 1047
Conservative: 524 & 462
Labour: 193
Independent: 60

We had another great Lib Dem hold on Harborough DC as Lib Dem Geraldine Whitmore won Market Harborough Logan ward – increasing the Lib Dem vote share by over 10%! Well done and congratulations to Cllr Whitmore and the local Lib Dem in Harborough.

Harborough DC, Market Harborough Logan ward
Liberal Democrat (Geraldine Whitmore): 582
Conservative: 382
Labour: 250
Independent: 60

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Tom Arms’ World Review

UK

The freshly minted British Conservative government of Liz Truss is on the ropes. They have only themselves to blame. The “mini-budget” of Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has plunged the economy into a downward spiral. The pound is plummeting. Interest rates are rocketing. People are literally on the cusp of losing their homes, and the problems of the world’s fifth largest economy is having a knock-on effect around the world.

The Opposition Labour Party has soared to a 20-point lead in the opinion polls. The Truss-Kwarteng policy of borrowing billions to cut taxes in the middle of a recession has been totally rejected by the markets. One reason for the traders’ emphatic thumbs down is Kwarteng’s refusal to support his budget with an assessment by the independent Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR). Such support is usually a pre-requisite for any budget announcement. The market has interpreted its absence as a sign that the chancellor knew that the OBR would refuse its seal of approval.

Well, now the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, has demanded that Kwarteng organise a retrospective OBR report by the end of October at the latest – and, if the OBR report is as scathing as the statements emitting from the corridors of the Bank of England and the International Monetary Fund – amend the budget accordingly. In the meantime, the Truss-Kwarteng duo are doing what every politician does these days when caught in a mess of their own making – doubling down and blaming someone else. In this case Ms Truss has hummed and hahed through a series dramatically misjudged local radio interviews. Putin, Ukraine, covid and world energy prices – everything except Brexit – were blamed for the reaction to the budget. But the fact is every other developed country has the same problems (except self-inflicted Brexit) and they have succeeded in propping up their troubled economies. The markets, therefore, have decided that Britain’s problems can be ascribed to political competence.

Baltic

Who blew up the Baltic Sea gas pipe lines on Tuesday? And who is the legal victim? It is almost universally agreed that the explosions were sabotage that involved a state military operation. But which state? Officially neither the Russians nor NATO are pointing a finger, but both are implying that the other is responsible. Sweden said it detected Russian submarines and surface vessels in the sabotage area shortly before the explosions. Russia retorted with a claim that there were even more NATO naval forces in the neighbourhood. Furthermore, the UN Security Council meeting to discuss the issue has been called by Moscow.

The identity of the attacker is important because the attack occurred in Danish territorial waters which means that it can be construed as an attack on a NATO member. On the other hand, it was an attack on Russian property and so Moscow might be able to claim that it was a NATO attack against them. It is quite possible that we will never know who was responsible because revealing the identity would further escalate the Ukraine War.

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Lib Dems mark Black History Month

Black History Month starts today and this year its theme is “Time for Change: Action not words”

From the Black History Month UK website:

To get to a better tomorrow, we can’t just focus on the past. The past is in the past. We can acknowledge and learn from it, but to improve the future, we need action, not words. We need to come together around a shared common goal to achieve a better world for everyone.

This year’s Black History Month in October is more important than ever. It’s not just a month to celebrate the continued achievements and contributions of Black people to the UK and around the world. It’s also a time for continued action to tackle racism, reclaim Black history, and ensure Black history is represented and celebrated all year round.

For those of us looking to be better allies, the message is clear:

Being an ally means moving beyond short-term or performative gestures and taking real, long-term action. In the workplace, in places of education and learning, and in the public sphere, this means having policies in place that achieve real outcomes.  As an individual, it means actually practising what you preach. In the wake of 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests, many organisations and individuals committed to tackling racism.

This was done around the world by taking the time to learn about the black experience and additionally, in the UK, this included learning about the historical legacy of colonialism and slavery. That was an important step forward, but it won’t fundamentally change institutional racism today.A number of recent reports have called out racism across a range of sectors, from international aid and education to healthcare and policing. As a society, we all know there is a problem with institutional racism. Now we need to work together to tackle it.

Stonewall have produced a really good guide on being a good ally to black LGBT+ people.

Lib Dem AM Hina Bokhari set out what Black History Month means to her:

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Tim Farron set to run London Marathon for air ambulance charity

Our former leader really is a glutton for punishment. Last year he ran the London Marathon, raising over £5000 for the Brathay Trust, a social enterprise supporting young people in Cumbria.

And tomorrow he plans to do it all again:

This time, he’s fundraising for the Great North Air Ambulance and has already raised more than £3000.

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Lib Dem social media ad calls on Conservatives to cancel conference and sort out their mess

On Thursday we reported on Ed Davey’s call for the Conservatives to cancel their Conference and get on with sorting out the mess they have created in the economy. We will all feel the effects of their recklessness in the months and years to come.

The party’s comms teams have backed this up with this social media ad. If you haven’t seen it in your feeds, that’s probably a good thing as party members and supporters aren’t usually the target audience of our campaigns.

Conferences are supposed to be a moment to showcase the best your party has to offer, to make the most of that spot in the media. The sight of Conservatives drinking champagne while people face soaring bills and find it increasingly difficult to get a mortgage will not, we suspect, go down particularly well with voters.

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Observations of an Expat – Russia: Chinese Vassal

Russia’s dependence on Chinese markets, sanctions busting finance and political support is turning it into a vassal of Beijing.

The bromance between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin was unbalanced to begin with. The Chinese economy and population are ten times that of Russia.

Russia is a primary commodity producing country which makes it more susceptible to the economic winds of change should its raw products – mainly grain, gold, oil and gas – drop. China, on the other hand has emerged as an advanced, complex economy which is far more dependent on good relations with its Western markets than on relations with Russia.

The only arena in which the Russians have been perceived to have the upper-hand in the Sino-Russian relationship is in the defense arena. But now that is on the wane. Putin’s litany of Ukrainian failures has severely damaged Russia’s reputation for military prowess.

Nuclear weaponry is the only arena in which Moscow retains an overwhelming advantage with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. But rest assured that the Chinese are just as worried as everyone else about Putin’s threats to use nukes, and is applying the maximum political pressure to deter him. They will gain nothing and lose everything by allying themselves with a country that uses nuclear weapons to illegally annex another country’s territory.

The one thing holding the Xi and Vladimir together is their mutual suspicion/hatred of the West coupled with a firm belief that the days of Western liberal democracy are numbered and the rise of firm autocratic governments is inevitable. For that reason, China is unlikely to ditch Russia, but it will extract a hefty price for its support.

The question is: What is the price? For a start, Russian oil and gas. Since the 1980s most of Moscow’s energy exports have headed west to Europe. Russia is already redirecting 76 percent of its oil which formerly went to Western Europe. China has upped its annual Russian oil imports by 135,000 barrels daily. But the Chinese – like the Indians – are being offered discount prices to keep them on board. China will demand that they pay even less, and if Russia continues to lock itself out of Western markets than the law of supply and demand will support their case.

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30 September 2022 – today’s press releases

  • Truss urged to hold mortgage lender summit in Number 10 as millions left in “anxious limbo”
  • OBR forecasts: Economy left “flying blind” for two months
  • Calls reiterated for Welsh Government to Close Qatar Offices After Death of British National

Truss urged to hold mortgage lender summit in Number 10 as millions left in “anxious limbo”

The Liberal Democrats are urging the Prime Minister Liz Truss to host an emergency summit with mortgage lenders in Number 10 this weekend, instead of heading off to Conservative Party conference.

The call comes as hundreds of mortgage products have been withdrawn from sale since the Government presented its mini budget last week.

Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

The Conservatives have plunged our country into an economic crisis and what’s worse is that the damage is purely self inflicted.

Rather than head off on a jolly to party conference this weekend, Liz Truss should hold an emergency meeting with mortgage lenders in Number 10 to fix the chaos caused by her budget.

Millions of people are being left in an anxious limbo. Some are struggling to get the mortgages they need to get on the housing ladder while others are being left worried sick about losing their homes, all because of this Government’s catastrophic failure.

It would be unforgivable for Conservative ministers to sit around talking amongst themselves instead of taking action to sort out this mess.

The buck stops with the Prime Minister, she must not leave innocent mortgage borrowers to pick up the bill.

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Productivity isn’t everything: understanding the growth debate

Economic growth is at the heart of the current political debate. And yet growth is a complex aggregate statistic, and few people take the trouble to pick apart what is actually happening to it, as opposed to speculating what in theory might be happening. That has created a vacuum into which think tanks, economic commentators and politicians project their own hobbyhorses without fear of serious challenge. So what really is going on?

The main mistake people make is to assume that the main driver of growth is productivity. This is exemplified by the famous quote from American liberal economist Paul Krugman: ”Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything.” Cue a furious debate on a “productivity puzzle” or “gap”, especially here in Britain – supported by  unreliable productivity measurements. Productivity is such a heterogeneous and hard-to measure phenomenon that measurements depend heavily on assumptions – and it is hard to understand their significance anyway. Prior to the crash, for example, improvements to Britain’s measured productivity depended almost entirely on two narrow sectors: financial services, whose profits proved largely illusory, and “business services” a shadowy sector the real value of whose output is hard to be sure of.

But help is at hand. American economist Dietrich Vollrath decided to pull apart growth figures to settle the debate on why American growth had slowed so much in the 21st Century compared to second half of the 20th – this debate isn’t just a British thing. As it happened, he had his own hobby horse which he was convinced was behind the issue – the growing market power of large companies. Vollrath found that two thirds of the decline in growth rates (1.25% per annum per capita at the time he was doing the work – a very similar figure to the UK) was down to demographics – the proportion of working people to the population as a whole, which has been declining as the dynamics of the baby boom work themselves out. Nearly half of the rest was down to what economists call the “Baumol effect” – named after an economist who pointed out that increases in productivity lead to a shift to economic sectors with lower productivity. As we get more efficient at making mobile phones, for example, we don’t buy more mobile phones – we spend the surplus on things like healthcare or designer clothes instead. Incidentally, he found little evidence that his own hobby horse, market power, had much effect, and none that tax changes and deregulation did – except changes that restricted worker mobility, and especially restrictions to house building. He called the two principal phenomena the problems of success and published his findings in a book: “Fully grown: Why a Stagnant economy is a Sign of Success.” This was rated as one of The Economist magazine’s books of the year for 2020, though its writers have failed to take its findings to heart.

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Tory councillors walk out of cost of living debate

So this is what happened at Westmorland and Furness when Liberal Democrats tabled a motion on the cost of living crisis.

The motion was passed and fully supported by all the remaining councillors.

Tim commented:

Our country is facing the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation – politicians of all stripes need to work together.

For Conservative councillors to abandon the meeting is an appalling dereliction of duty and sadly shows how out of touch their party is with the needs of people in Westmorland, Furness and Eden.

The Conservative Group explained that “the meeting had exceeded its time limit and the chair had invited members of the group to leave the meeting which they did due to having other commitments.” Strange then that it didn’t apply to all the other councillors.

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“The Tories are the most economically right-wing major party in the developed world”

According to John Burn-Murdoch in the FT “The Tories have become unmoored from the British people“. The charts are very telling and worth looking at. You can see them here but best to go to the FT itself.

Through the mini-Budget Liz Truss has moved the Conservatives to the right of Brothers of Italy and US Republicans, and even to the right of Bolsonaro’s party in Brazil.

This is set alongside a chart showing the position of British voters on the two axes of social and economic values. Even the most right wing of Conservative voters are not in sympathy with Trussonomics. Lib Dem and Labour voters lie even further to the left, of course. In numerical terms, the Truss Government scores 9.4 out of 10 (far right), whereas Conservative voters average 4.2, and British voters overall have an average score of 3.2.

The Tories have plotted a course to the very edge of the economic map, and when they scan the horizon there is nobody to be seen.

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What does the economic chaos mean for us?

Yesterday’s YouGov poll gave Labour an unprecedented 33 point lead over the Tories. With Lib Dems dropping to 7% you might think that is bad news for us, but, as we all know, polling is granular, and it actually increases our chances in Blue wall seats.

In the Guardian, Gaby Hinchcliffe reports on our chances in Surrey, driven by fears over fracking as well as the cost of living (which has now gone far beyond high energy prices).

For in his (Jeremy Hunt’s) South West Surrey seat and Dominic Raab’s Esher and Walton, plus neighbouring Guildford and Woking, Lib Dems are snapping closer to Tory heels.

Seats like this only really wobble in a crisis, as happened in the mid-1970s after economic turmoil under Ted Heath, and in the 1990s after the last sterling crisis. The combination of economic chaos and threats to the green belt is theoretically a gift to them. But is it enough to collapse the “blue wall”, that small but strategically important set of Tory-held seats where Labour can’t win but the Lib Dems just might?

Neil Sherlock, a former adviser to Nick Clegg, fought South West Surrey for the Lib Dems in 1992. He remembers the thrill of feeling the tide running his way, until the last few days when voters suddenly got cold feet. “They’d say, ‘I’d love to vote for you, but we’re not having that Neil Kinnock’,” he recalls. The Lib Dems thrive under opposition leaders who don’t scare their voters, a description that increasingly fits Keir Starmer. But still, though they came within a few hundred votes of snatching South West Surrey in 2001, it’s always hovered just beyond reach.

The YouGov poll may be a bit of an outlier, so we need to watch the general trend, of course. However the vultures are gathering.

For example, a petition to Parliament to “Call an immediate general election to end the chaos of the current government” is already well past the 100,000 threshold that triggers a debate in Parliament.

As we reported yesterday, Ed Davey has called on Liz Truss to cancel the Conservative conference and recall Parliament so MPs can debate the economic crisis.

And there are rumours that letters of no confidence in Liz Truss have already been sent to the 1922 Committee. Although the rules state that a leader should not be challenged for at least a year after a contest, there is nothing to stop the Committee changing the rules.

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29 September 2022 – today’s press releases

  • Davey: Truss must cancel Conservative conference to deal with economic crisis
  • Revealed: 32 crumbling hospital buildings including in PM’s backyard
  • Truss in complete denial on BBC Local Radio round
  • Liz Truss refuses to guarantee people’s pensions are safe
  • Fracking interview: Truss shows contempt for rural communities

Davey: Truss must cancel Conservative conference to deal with economic crisis

Ed Davey demands Liz Truss and her ministers spend time fixing the budget as new research finds Government energy bill support will be wiped out by higher mortgage bills

Typical family faces £2,000 rise in mortgage bills following last week’s disastrous budget

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has called on Liz Truss to cancel the Conservative party conference this weekend, and instead recall Parliament to vote to fix the disastrous mini-budget. The party is also calling on the Government to bring forward a rescue package for homeowners unable to pay higher mortgage bills as a result of last week’s budget.

Ahead of the energy price cap rising on Saturday (1st October), new analysis by the Liberal Democrats reveals the predicted rise in mortgage bills is more than double what the Government has offered to support households with their energy bills.

The Government has pledged to freeze energy prices at £2,500 for the average household, which would have equated to around £1,000 support for the average household.

However, the fallout from last week’s budget is predicted to force the Bank of England to raise interest rates to as much as 5% next year, costing the average mortgage borrower on a Standard Variable Rate a staggering £2,100 per year. Those on an average tracker mortgage would face an even higher annual increase of £3,000 per year if interest rates rise to the predicted 5% next year.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

There is no way the Conservative Party can hold their conference whilst the British economy nosedives. The arrogance of Liz Truss and Conservative Ministers is frankly an insult to millions who now face higher bills as a direct result of last week’s budget. From this weekend they will abandon their posts in Downing Street, leaving a mess behind them and heading for the cocktail parties and mutual back-patting of the classic conference season.

In one fell swoop, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng crashed the economy, trashed the pound and paved the way for record interest rate rises.

Innocent mortgage borrowers will be left to pick up the bill of this gross incompetence. It is time Parliament is recalled and new measures passed to save families and pensioners unable to cope with this mortgage crisis. This botched budget cannot survive any longer.

Revealed: 32 crumbling hospital buildings including in PM’s backyard

  • Dangerous roofs not set to be replaced until 2035, Freedom of Information request reveals.
  • Hospitals in the Prime Minister’s and Health Secretary’s local areas have roofs at risk of collapse.
  • Liberal Democrats call on Government to fix the budget to save NHS from real-terms cuts amid rising inflation

32 hospital buildings across the country are fitted with dangerous roofs at risk of sudden collapse, data uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed.

The Freedom of Information request has revealed that 32 buildings at 19 NHS Trusts are fitted with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) which is said to be ‘structurally weaker’, ‘lightweight’ and ‘cheaper’ than a regular fitting. NHS England has also revealed that the dangerous roofs are not set to be fully replaced until 2035.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, near Liz Truss’s constituency, is the worst in the country with four buildings fitted with the dangerous material. The chief executive of the hospital has previously likened the material to a “chocolate Aero bar” with bubbles that could break and collapse at any point. Liz Truss this morning refused to guarantee that the hospital would be fixed in an interview with BBC Norfolk, adding that she couldn’t make any promises on the Health Secretary’s behalf.

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Truss car crash interviews on BBC local radio on cost of living and fracking

Having absented herself from the media for days, the prime minister chose to defend her decisions and Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget on BBC local radio. Truss appeared on breakfast shows on BBC Radio Leeds, Norfolk, Kent, Lancashire, Nottingham, Tees, Bristol and Stoke. Her media advisers clearly thought local radio would be a soft touch with presenters more used to talking about a church fete. So very wrong. The interviews were sometimes excruciating. You could hear pauses at times, as she struggled to find her scripted reply and to remember which radio station was interviewing her.

First up for the prime minister was an interview with on BBC Radio Leeds. As the first of the day, it wasn’t so much of a car crash for Truss as the later interviews.

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What does the election in Italy mean for Europe?

Surprised? Predictable? Avoidable win for a right-wing party in the most recent Italian elections to their Parliament? Did we have time to think about the result of the elections? Have you registered the fact that it really is, in many ways, a historical moment for Italy and quite possibly for Europe. However, as there is so much going on at home, on our British soil, I don’t think that we are paying too much attention to a potential “tsunami of political changes and repercussions” across the sea.

I have a lot of sentiment for Italy. I remember that, as a young member of the Focolare Movement, Christian based organisation founded in Italy, I had a number of opportunities to visit Italy and travel in particular to Castel Gandolfo, a small town just outside of Rome. Magnificent buildings, incredible architecture and heritage; it all left a huge impression on me. I think that I appreciated Italy even more when I had an opportunity to live there, in Tuscany, between November 2004 and June 2005. I still travel to Italy quite a bit; I speak the language and I have a lot of Italian friends here in the UK as well as back in Italy.

So, what happened? It is very likely that Italy has just elected their first ever female Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni.

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Davey: Truss must cancel Tory conference to deal with economic crisis

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has called on Liz Truss to cancel the Conservative party conference which begins this weekend, and instead recall parliament to vote to fix the disastrous mini-budget. Lib Dems are also calling on the government to bring forward a rescue package for homeowners unable to pay higher mortgage bills as a result of last week’s budget.

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Outraged about failure in the party’s complaints system?  Try this…..

Ed: I am sure you will understand why we are pre-moderating comments on this post. We will not publish comments that name an individual, nor ones that clearly reference specific cases. 

As a party the Liberal Democrats believe firmly in evidence-based policy-making. We put huge amounts of effort into collecting and triangulating views and information, into scrutinising and testing ideas and suggestions, and into ensuring whatever policy proposals we put forward are robust and properly thought through, with all the consequences understood.

Given all that entirely rational, logical behaviour when it comes to policy. what on earth happens to the critical faculties of Lib Dem members when it comes to other issues within the party?  And specifically, just why is it that so many people simply lap up anything they are told if it is critical of the party’s complaints system?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am certainly not arguing that the complaints system is infallible. Nor am I arguing it should not be criticised.  All I want is for the criticism to be well-founded, and – preferably – constructive, rather than confrontational, which will improve nothing and generally just makes matters worse.

I am on record as not being a fan when the complaints system was originally set up in 2019. I thought the principle of having an independent system was right, but that the rules by which it was going to operate were not going to be effective. And even though It has evolved over the past 3 years, there are clearly still issues.

According to the report that was due to go to Federal Conference, the overwhelming majority of complaints are dismissed. This suggests that either people are submitting trivial or spurious complaints, or that they don’t understand how to submit a complaint or what evidence they need to provide. Much more needs to be done to explain the system to would-be complainants.

But also, panels sometimes come to some very odd decisions, not always corrected on appeal. But the fact that panels may sometimes make the wrong judgement doesn’t mean they always make the wrong judgement.

And, more pertinently, the fact that I or you may personally disagree with a decision doesn’t mean the decision must be wrong.  What makes us so sure we know better than the panel? They have seen all the evidence and heard from both sides. We haven’t.

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Lib Dem Councillors shortlisted for national awards

The Local Government Information Unit has released the shortlists for its annual awards and four Liberal Democrat Councillors have made the billing!

Lib Dem Voice’s Editorial team send our congratulations and good luck on the night to for Liberal Democrats:

Ruth Dombey – Sutton Borough Council (Leader of the Year)

Ruth was first elected in 2002 and has been Leader of Lib Dem led Sutton council since 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

Susan Goodchild – Central Bedfordshire District Council (Community Champion)

Susan has been a Councillor since 2005 serving on both Bedfordshire County and Central Bedfordshire District Council. She is the Governor of a local school and involved in a number of community groups.

 

 

 

 

 

Peter McDonald – South Cambridgeshire District Council (Resilience and Recovery)

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How to achieve Electoral Reform in the light of Keir Starmer’s obstructionism

On Monday, members at Labour’s Annual Conference voted in favour of a motion to replace First Past the Post with Proportional Representation in general elections. This comes after Unison, Unite, and the GMB, three of Britain’s largest trade unions, came out in support of PR in the months following the 2021 Labour Conference, where the withholding of such resulted in the failure of a similar motion despite nearly eighty per cent of Constituency delegates supporting it.

However, it seems as though Labour’s National Executive Committee will ignore the motion, preventing such a promise from becoming part of their next manifesto. With Keir Starmer saying that ‘it’s not a priority’, he plans to ignore the wishes of the majority of his party’s members, the red wall voters he needs to win back, and indeed the wider British public, and reap the rewards of disproportionate, unstable FPTP and gross Conservative mismanagement to win an unwarranted parliamentary majority.

As the next general election is likely to be upwards of two years away, the Labour leadership could yield to popular demands and adopt PR as official policy if pressure on them is maintained. Nevertheless, moving forward, we Liberal Democrats must consider our strategy for how to abolish FPTP given official opposition to such by one of the major parties against the wishes of its own supporters and its own self-interests.

Whilst FPTP is favoured by the larger parties for supposedly providing strong single party governments, recent history has proven otherwise. Seven out of the ten years of the 2010s saw the election of hung Parliaments, with the Conservatives losing their majority in 2017 despite increasing their vote share to 42.3% up from 36.8% in 2015. It may be possible that FPTP delivers unto Labour a plurality or a razor-thin majority, rather than a working majority. If we manage to poach enough blue wall seats, we would be the most palatable option for Labour as a potential coalition or confidence-and-supply agreement partner.

We should learn from our party’s previous experience with negotiating with a major party in achieving electoral reform. In 2010, we entered into coalition with the Conservatives on condition that a referendum be held over replacing FPTP with Alternative Voting. With still-majoritarian AV being a dissatisfactory substitute to both FPTP and Single Transferable Voting, our party’s preference then and now, the Conservatives and Labour alike depicted it as scary, confusing, and distracting. The defeat of AV wrongly signified for some, most notably David Cameron, the defeat of PR, stymieing momentum for years afterwards.

If we find ourselves in the same position again but with Labour, we must be more determined. If the Conservatives were the only adamantly anti-PR party in Parliament, and all others were broadly in favour of it, we could insist that electoral reform be achieved via a simple Act of Parliament without a referendum. A broadly pro-PR supermajority in Parliament would have sufficient a mandate to do so.

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Sorting out the mess

The country already had big issues to deal with before last Friday: price increases that are severely reducing the standard of living for many, a health service which is struggling to cope, climate change which is becoming more visible, and a  war in the Ukraine.

To this the government has added a completely unnecessary financial crisis. Another major unforced error following on from Brexit.

The best thing we can do to help sort out the mess is to get elected and to contribute in some form or other to a sensible and effective government. In this respect at least, the last week has moved us forward.

First, the Tories are making it easier for us to evict them (if more difficult to deal with the chaos once they have gone). They are backing policies that are both wrong and unpopular. Tax cuts for the rich. Incompetent economic management. Refusing to implement a windfall tax. Fracking. (Winchester, Wells, Lewes, Guildford and Esher are all interesting seats with fracking licences within the constituency or its hinterland)

Second, Labour is adopting reasonable political positions and has not yet messed up.  It would be naïve to assume that the Tories will lose (or that we will make significant progress) in the absence of a decent showing from Labour.  So it is therefore to be welcomed that hey had a largely successful conference this week on an electoral platform with many similarities to ours. There are obviously areas where policy is different, but there is a very large core we agree on. Look at the ‘pre manifesto’ prepared for our conference (Policy paper 149)  and Labour’s conference road map to a ‘Fairer, Greener, Future” and ask how much difference a neutral observer would see.  Conversely consider the clear water between what both parties are now saying compared to the Tories.  We know where we all stand.  (Labour members even voted in favour of PR – though it seems unlikely that this will be adopted by Starmer any time soon.)

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Apologies

We are very sorry out the outage overnight. Our technical wizards have been working on it and have now restored LDV to its former glory.

As usual, please email us on [email protected] if you spot any issues with the website. Sometimes all the team are either glued to Strictly, in a council meeting or out for a drink and miss these things.

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Labour backs PR? Don’t hold your breath

Yesterday, Labour’s conference a motion calling for its next manifesto to include a commitment to introduce Proportional representation for parliamentary elections.

On one hand, it’s good to see the Labour conference finally catch up with us. We have long supported giving voters the Parliament they ask for.

Labour have, of course, introduced proportional voting systems before, in the Welsh and Scottish assemblies. Directly elected mayors are also elected by supplementary voting.  However, they have stuck with first past the post for Westminster because why wouldn’t they when it benefitted them.

Yesterday’s vote is significant in that it shows that the voices calling for change are growing. However, Keir Starmer and the Labour leadership have basically made it clear that it has as much chance of appearing in the manifesto as handing out a free unicorn to every 7 year old.

From The Guardian:

Before the vote, a senior Labour source downplayed the prospect of electoral reform even if Starmer wins the next election. “Anyone who thinks this would be a priority for the first term of a Labour government is kidding themselves,” they said.

However, what happens if, after the next General Election, Labour is short of a majority in the House of Commons. Obviously it depends on the exact numbers, but it is something we and the Greens could demand as the price of our support. From the Times Red Box this morning:

But Lara Spirit hears that those behind yesterday’s vote are jubilant. They don’t care, one admitted to her, about PR being in the manifesto, where its likely omission is currently considered fatal.

They wager that, should Labour win without a majority or with a slim and unstable one, Liberal Democrats and/or Greens will demand support for PR. And Labour will be forced to give it. In the eyes of those she spoke to celebrating yesterday, it’s now official Labour policy. In that scenario, how could they not?

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When it feels like we are all at sea…

I am struggling to contain my feelings about the new government and its first budget. Coming as it does after a mandate so limited in their numbers, from an electorate so isolated in their awareness, it is hard to take. Coming as it does, after the loss of the Queen, a great figure of real stability and decency at home, and amidst more threats from an appalling tyrant of mental instability and indecency abroad, I am personally and politically angry and worried. My natural tendency to see the best in people and situations is being tested. I cannot see two sides to this, and accept them easily as viable and explainable. I am being one sided and openly so. This is, in my opinion the worst government and budget I have ever seen and heard, in forty years of personal interest and or involvement in politics.

The school boy in his early teens joining a political party, who became the politics and history graduate able to understand the issues in depth, all throughout the era of Thatcherism, never felt the personal anger as much mingled with political despair, I feel today.

Now we feel all at sea! Thatcher had a mandate. Where is that for Truss?! I said it before, to those who yearned for the early demise of Boris Johnson, he was and is personally a man unfit to be Prime Minister, but he was and is politically a moderate fitted to politics. He sought a popular mandate and by fair means or foul, got it, and sustained it, because he is a populist who understands people he needs to target. The new government seemingly understands only its own ideology and vested interests. If It is to be described accurately as a result of its first budget, this government are in my view, fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible.

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Lib Dem Eastleigh wins Council of the Year award

Eastleigh Council has won the prestigious “ Council of the Year” award from the  Association for Public Service Excellence,  recognising its excellent performance in delivering front line council services. The awards receive hundreds of submissions every year and only outstanding councils, that have met the stringent criteria of the expert judges, are shortlisted for Council of the Year.

There are 22 Categories of award and as well as Council of the year. Eastleigh’s  Direct Services team won the  award for Transport and Fleet Maintenance and  the Council was  shortlisted in 4 other categories.

Accepting the award  on behalf of the Council, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Policy, Councillor Tonia Craig said:

Being recognised as Council of the Year is a superb accolade and reflects the commitment of our staff to deliver truly excellent frontline services. I would like to pay tribute to all our teams who work so hard to support communities and improving lives in our Borough – and to thank APSE for this recognition.

Eastleigh is one of the Party’s flagship Councils with has 34 Lib Dem Councillors  out of 39 and we have been in control since 1995.

You can see the Eastleigh Team receiving the award here:

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26 September 2022 – today’s press releases

  • Falling pound: Recall Parliament to fix failed Budget
  • Kwarteng must resign if pound reaches parity with dollar

Falling pound: Recall Parliament to fix failed Budget

The Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to urgently recall Parliament, so the Chancellor can fix his disastrous and out of touch Budget which has sent the pound plummeting.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

Last week the Chancellor announced a shambolic budget that gave huge unfunded tax cuts to big banks and the wealthiest while leaving struggling families and pensioners in the cold. As a result we are seeing the pound plummet into free fall

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Proposals for a Federal Upper House

Our party is committed to numerous constitutional reforms intended to better represent the people in Government and Parliament. A comprehensive and interconnected constitutional reform programme is needed now more than ever, given the damage inflicted by the Conservatives upon our Union and constitutional norms, and the prospect of Labour their own plan this month. Therefore, we should consider developing and reconciling our plans to House of Lords reforms and establishing ‘a strong, federal and united United Kingdom.’

A Senate of Regions would be preferable to the current Lords, over-representative of London, the South-East and the East of England and including members owing their positions to political favouritism or quid pro quos rooted in party donations. However, a fully and directly elected upper house may not be popular. The deliberative role of the current Lords will likely be undermined if all its members were forever bearing in mind re-election prospects. And, with sixty per cent of respondents in one survey believing that the Lords already had too many politicians, support may be found lacking for the establishment of an all-politician chamber incurring the same gridlock that plagues the US Congress. That is why we should consider reforming the Lords into a hybrid chamber, reduced in size to 300 members (for reasons that will become apparent later).

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