Mark Pack: How we decide to ask people where to campaign

Why it matters

A stark fact from this May’s local elections: just 97 more people switching from our opponents to us would have given us outright control of three more local councils.
That is the brutal reality of first past the post elections. Votes in the key places count for much more than votes in safe seats and in lost causes.

It is why we want to get rid of first past the post. To do that, we first have to win under first past the post. That means concentrating our efforts where they can make the most difference to how many seats we win.

Asking people to help in the right places

Having people from other areas come to help them is a key part of any successful target seat campaign at a general election. It is also the best way to value and respect people’s time – by directing it to where it will have the most impact.

But asking people to go to the right places is not straightforward and it is something we did not get right in 2019. So here is how we are approaching the task this time around.

Running through all this is a simple dilemma. For five general elections in a row, the party has been too optimistic about how many seats it was sensible to target (and although there was rightly lots of wisdom after the event, much of the pressure internally from members during each of those campaigns was to be more optimistic, not less).

Yet the Conservatives, our main opponents in our target seats, are currently polling at a level which, if reflected on polling day, will see them get their worst result since the roll out of letterboxes.

To guide the campaign through this, a wide range of sources of information therefore is being used: what the results on the new boundaries would have been in 2019, local election and devolved bodies election results since then, all the public MRPs published (more than 10 already!) with their seat-by-seat figures, our own private polling and of course the data coming in from our canvassers on the doors and phones.

As well as using all those sources of information to get a balanced overall view of our best prospects, we then have to divide up possible help sensibly. Each target seat is allocated a number of other constituencies where members and supporters are asked to help them.

Because we have to balance the amount of help to each place accordingly – and because of course transport options and travel times vary depending on where in a constituency you live or work – this sometimes means that the seat people are being asked to help is not the nearest or quickest to get to.

If there is another seat you would like to head to because it is easier to get to, because a group of friends are also campaigning there or to return some favours for previous help in a local election, by all means drop an email to [email protected] and the team can confirm if it is indeed a seat we are in with a serious chance of winning and encouraging people to go to.

If you cannot make it in person, help on the phones is also very valuable. You can sign up for our group phoning sessions here or again email [email protected] to be put in touch with the local team in a target seat who can give you details of who to phone.

Building our capacity

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12 June 2024 – today’s press releases (Scotland and Wales)

  • Scottish Liberal Democrats call for climate-focused industrial strategy
  • “Free transport the key to fighting child poverty” – Welsh Lib Dems
  • “We cannot fail our children in the fight against racism” – Welsh Lib Dems

Scottish Liberal Democrats call for climate-focused industrial strategy

Scottish Liberal Democrat deputy leader Wendy Chamberlain today laid out her party’s plans for a new industrial strategy “which has tackling the climate emergency at its heart” during a visit to a clean power-start up.

Wendy Chamberlain was at PlusZero, a Harris-based company specialising in the production, distribution and operation of green hydrogen.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats would support science, research and innovation, particularly among small businesses and start-ups with an interest in zero-carbon and environmental technologies, by:

  • Investing in energy storage, including green hydrogen, pumped storage and battery capability;
  • Continuing to participate in Horizon Europe and joining the European Innovation Council, both of which have a big focus on hydrogen as a breakthrough technology;
  • Aiming for at least 3% of GDP to be invested in research and development by 2030;
  • Improving joint ministerial work on new cross-cutting policies such as the UK industrial strategy.

Wendy Chamberlain said:

The UK can lead the world with innovation and ingenuity. Liberal Democrats will put tackling the climate emergency at the heart of a new industrial strategy, cutting emissions and driving a strong economic recovery.

Businesses and entrepreneurs should be supported to create clean well-paid jobs in every part of Scotland.

While other parties abandon their climate commitments, only the Scottish Liberal Democrats have a plan that can give businesses the certainty they need to invest in products and unlock their global potential.

We need to seize the economic opportunities of net zero now. We simply can’t afford for the UK to be left behind on green skills and the industries of the future.

“Free transport the key to fighting child poverty” – Welsh Lib Dems

This week in the Senedd, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have reiterated their calls for free public transport for everyone under the age of 25.

A recent report from the Senedd Petitions Committee highlighted the positive impact that affordable transport could have towards fighting child poverty.

According to the report, public transport fares in Wales have skyrocketed up to 74% over a 10-year period.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have claimed that, because most under-18s rely on buses and trains, exorbitant costs are barring access to education, jobs, and essential activities.

Speaking in the Siambr, party leader Jane Dodds MS citied the free bus scheme in Scotland as an example of the positive benefits that free public transport can have.

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12 June 2024 – today’s press releases

  • GDP: Conservatives have utterly failed to deliver the growth promised
  • Ed Davey calls for young carers to receive education support as latest TV broadcast released
  • Thames Triathletes sickness: Environment Agency investigation needed
  • Craig Williams bet on election date: Sunak must suspend him
  • Conservatives: Record of failure on defence
  • Sky Leaders’ Debate: Sunak “out of touch” on NHS waiting lists

GDP: Conservatives have utterly failed to deliver the growth promised

Commenting on the latest GDP estimates, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney said:

As Rishi Sunak’s time as Prime Minister peters out, so does the UK’s economic growth.

The Conservatives have utterly failed to deliver the growth they repeatedly promised, instead presiding over stagnation and economic misery for hardworking families across the country.

The Conservatives’ manifesto shows they simply lack the ambition and vision to get the economy moving again. It’s clear for voters across the country that the only way to make it happen is to vote them out of office on 4 July.

Ed Davey calls for young carers to receive education support as latest TV broadcast released

  • Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey speaks to carers in latest TV broadcast airing later tonight
  • Liberal Democrats propose Young Carers Pupil Premium, ensuring carers keep up with their learning
  • Ed Davey, who cared for his mother as a child, says the plans will help young carers fulfil their potential
  • Up to three in 10 (27%) of young carers are missing school

The Liberal Democrats will announce plans for young carers in England to receive extra funding for their education as part of a major expansion of the pupil premium. The policy would support over 50,000 children with caring responsibilities to catch up on their learning.

The latest policy announcement comes as Ed Davey’s new Party Election Broadcast airs tonight on BBC and ITV, with the party leader hearing from carers.

In the film, Ed Davey, who cared for his mother as a child and now cares for his disabled son, hears from a young carer who struggles to balance their learning with caring responsibilities.

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WATCH: Our new Party Election Broadcast featuring health and carers

A “Young Carer’s Premium” to help young carers in school is just one of the measures the Lib Dems would implement to help and support carers. In the latest video he talks to a young woman, in the middle of her A levels, who cares for her autistic brother.

Ed said:

When I speak to young carers and listen to their experiences, it’s clear they have so many skills and so much to offer. But many just aren’t getting the support they need to balance their education with caring for loved ones.

“We need to support those who give so much of their time to caring. No young carer should fall behind the rest of their class.

“Our plans for a Young Carers Pupil Premium would help these fantastic young people fulfil their potential. I am proud that the Liberal Democrats are putting a fair deal for young carers at the heart of our plans.

Here’s the broadcast in which he talks to people across the UK with experience of caring and cancer services.

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How you can help elect more Liberal Democrat MPs

So far the Liberal Democrat campaign is going well. Our leaders are knocking it out of the park in the way they are communicating our values to the voters. Let’s just have another look at Ed’s highly personal Party Election Broadcast which shows how his experiences have shaped his values – and why our manifesto focuses so heavily on health, care and carers.

Last Friday our Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper made every word count as she represented the party in the BBC Election Debate.

Last night Alex Cole-Hamilton earned praise from the New Statesman for his performance in the BBC’s Scottish equivalent. They said:

Alex Cole Hamilton, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, quietly emerging as the most impressive performer in the latest Scottish leaders’ debate.

Here he is talking about our plans to improve mental health:

We shouldn’t get too excited about the polls, but who doesn’t love a poll that puts us on 15%, just 3 points behind the Conservatives and 2 points behind Reform? It is a sign, though, that people like what they are seeing of us.

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11 June 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems call for “Clean Water Authority” to tackle sewage dumping and overhaul failing water industry
  • Conservative manifesto: no one will believe what they’re promising
  • Suspected drug deaths increase by 10%

Lib Dems call for “Clean Water Authority” to tackle sewage dumping and overhaul failing water industry

  • Ed Davey announced plan to launch the Clean Water Authority, a tough new regulator with powers to tackle sewage dumping and reform the water industry in England and Wales
  • Water companies would be required to publish real-time data on the volume of sewage they dump into rivers
  • Analysis reveals Conservative MPs voted over 1,600 times against tougher measures to tackle sewage dumping in last Parliament
  • Leader Ed Davey said the bold proposals “will end the Conservative sewage scandal once and for all” and clean up our waterways

The Liberal Democrats have today announced plans to launch the Clean Water Authority, a tough new regulator with powers to take decisive action against failing water companies over the sewage scandal.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton’s opening statement in Scottish Leaders’ Debate

The BBC is holding a debate between the five main party leaders in Scotland tonight.

Here is Alex Cole-Hamilton’s opening statement:

“People ask me why I’m always smiling – why, when politics is such a serious business the Liberal Democrats seem to enjoy it so much.

“Well, the simple reason is we love what we do. Serving our communities is why we get up in the morning.

“In the next Parliament we’ll be working for a better Britain, to restore your faith in politics and fix our broken relationship with Europe.

“We’ll get you fast access to GPs and dentists, and give our nation’s carers a fair deal.

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This is the Liberal blueprint we desperately need to solve our housing crises

The preamble to the Liberal Democrat constitution states the party exists to ensure “no-one shall be enslaved by poverty”. The many housing crises we currently face are plunging millions into poverty, substandard homes and an unfair and unaffordable housing market. People suffer worse health, children don’t receive the opportunities they deserve and our economy is less productive because our housing sector is broken. Fixing the housing crisis is central to creating the more equal and fair society our party believes in. I was delighted to read the Liberal Democrat manifesto for the 2024 General Election. It offers a clear, comprehensive, and pragmatic roadmap to addressing the housing crises that have long plagued our country.

The commitment to building 380,000 new homes annually, including 150,000 social homes, is particularly significant for cities like London where in a councillor. Every day I see how the lack of good quality homes residents can afford is leading to worse health outcomes, forcing families into temporary accommodation and schools to close and leaving swathes of young people living with parents or in poor quality shared housing. The chronic shortage of genuinely affordable housing has driven up costs and poverty and made home ownership a distant dream for many. By advocating for new garden cities and community-led developments, the manifesto promises to inject much-needed diversity and sustainability into urban planning, ensuring that growth benefits all residents. Liberal Democrats should be proud to be a YIMBY (yes in my back yard) party – we need a lot more homes and a lot more variety of homes to solve the many different housing challenges we face. It’s great to see the party committing to being the party of home building – that’s the liberal approach to the housing crisis.

The manifesto’s focus on renters’ rights is another critical area. In my borough (Southwark) we have tens of thousands of social renters who are ignored by the Council and housing associations, so I’m especially delighted to see greater protections proposed for social renters. We need better enforcement of standards, quicker repairs and greater transparency and accountability. The proposed ban on no-fault evictions and the establishment of three-year tenancies as the norm will provide much-needed stability for renters. Many of our residents live in constant fear of sudden evictions, disrupting their lives and communities. Creating a national register of licensed landlords will further enhance accountability and improve living conditions across the rental sector.

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WATCH: Lib Dem manifesto launch

In case you missed it, here is all the fun of the manifesto launch.  The text of Ed’s highly personal speech about his experience of caring for both his mum and his son is below.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Gaza War

Sometimes the most shocking statements are the most obvious. Especially when they are spoken by those encumbered with having to be the most diplomatic.

This week President Joe Biden publicly stated what everyone knows but he has been reluctant to confirm: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dragging out the Gaza War as a way to stay in office.

He might have also added that the war is keeping Netanyahu out of prison as he has been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. As long as he is prime minister he cannot be tried.

The latest Israeli opinion polls indicate that if an election were held in Israel today Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition would win 46 seats compared to the opposition parties’ 68 seats. But, at the same time, polls show strong support for the war and its goal of eliminating Hamas. If Netanyahu achieves the total destruction of the enemy then the voters might just forgive him for creating the conditions that allowed the 7 October attack to happen.

Biden’s comments came in an interview with Time magazine and only a few days before he announced another plan to end the Gaza War. This one is in three phases.

Phase one would last six weeks and include a total ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. Some hostages would be released. Hundreds of Palestinians would be released from Israeli prisons and there would be an immediate and massive influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Under phase two the remaining hostages, including soldiers and the remains of any dead hostages would be released and the IDF would complete its withdrawal from Gaza. Phase three would involve reconstruction which would last three to five years. The two-state solution is not mentioned in this latest plan.

Despite the fact that President Biden has made it clear that there would be no future role for Hamas, the terrorist organisation has said that they view the plan “positively.”  Biden claimed that his phased proposal had been endorsed by the Israeli government, but then a spokesperson said: “Israel has not changed its conditions to reach a permanent ceasefire. That will only happen after our objectives are met including destroying Hamas’s military and governing capabilities.” He added that that is estimated to take seven months.

Meanwhile, a new front is opening on the border with Lebanon. Actually, it is an old front, but the fighting between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel is worsening. Hezbollah is now using explosive drones which are more difficult for Israel’s iron dome to stop and can reach further south. Israel, for its part, is levelling the southern Lebanese city of Sidon. Within the Israeli cabinet there is talk of creating an Israeli-occupied “security zone” in southern Lebanon, similar to the one Israel maintained until 2000.

The US has responded to the Lebanon threat with another three-part plan. First part is a ceasefire to allow residents on both sides of the border to return to their homes. Phase two is US economic assistance for financially-strapped Lebanon and the final phase calls for a newly demarcated border to improve security.

The problem is that the negotiations are with the Lebanese government while the power is with Iran-backed Hezbollah. They are unlikely to accept any ceasefire until a truce is agreed and implemented in Gaza. And, as President Biden acknowledged, that truce is against the political interests of Bibi Netanyahu.

European Parliament

Europe’s far-right is expected to sweep the board in this weekend’s elections to the European Parliament. This could mean problems ahead as a centre-left council and commission clash with a right-wing parliament.

This didn’t use to be a problem. It used to be that the European Parliament was a talk shop with limited oversight powers. The real power lay with the member states through the European Council which in turn effectively appointed the President of the European Commission and the 27 commissioners.

But over the years, increasing pressure has meant that more and more power is vested in the directly elected parliament rather than the indirectly elected council. Parliament has progressed from an advisory body to a co-decision maker.

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Observations of an Expat: Modi – The Winner Loses

Narendra Modi won and lost India’s general election.

His Baharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost its absolute majority in parliament. But with the help of 23 smaller parties has cobbled together a working coalition.

But more importantly, the BJP lost big in the expectation stakes. Modi’s party was predicted to romp home with 400-plus seats. This would have given the BJP the super majority it needed to complete the transformation of India from the world’s largest democracy to an autocratic Hindu nationalist nation.

As it is the BJP dropped from 303 to 240 seats. And, to add insult to injury, some of its biggest losses were in the BJP heartland of Uttar Pradesh.

Modi faces additional problems. A big chunk of his new coalition partners are secularists. They do not share his Hindu nationalist vision. This will make it difficult for 73-year-old Narendra Modi to achieve his goals in what is almost certain to be his third and final term as prime minister. And because Modi has stooped to cult politics to realise his ambitions, there is no BJP successor in sight.

Modi’s failed expectations has several causes. As usual, economic is near or at the top of the list. At a macro level India looks fantastic. GDP growth is an astonishing 8.4 percent a year.  There are 200 Indian billionaires, putting the sub-continent third behind the US and China. But trickledown economics have failed in India just like everywhere else. Twenty-two percent of Indians live below the world poverty line. The per capita income is $2,023 a year.

The number and quality of India’s higher education institutions has dramatically increased from 723 in 2014 to 1,113 in 2023. But so has youth unemployment figure at 23.22 percent. Many of the young people brandishing impressive university degrees have been forced to return to the countryside and poor paying agricultural jobs. So yes, there is a growing national pride. But its benefits are diluted by growing inequalities.

Another problem is the caste system which has inflicted Indian society for centuries. The British colonials imposed an affirmative action programme which was later enshrined in the Indian constitution. This provided a guaranteed quota in parliament, jobs, education and other sectors for the Dalits (untouchables), other low castes and minorities such as Christians, Muslims and Anglo-Indians.

The problem was that no one knew for certain the size of the pool of Dalits in order to calculate a reasonable quota. This is because that there had been no caste census since before independence in 1947. Last September, however, there was just such a census in the Bihar state. It revealed that the size of the Dalit caste was much larger – and thus more of a problem – than expected.

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7 June 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Davey: Sunak leaving D-Day early a “dereliction of duty”
  • Lib Dems pledge to create new National Parks
  • D-Day: Lib Dems call on Sunak to donate Hester £5 million to a veterans’ charity
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats commit to returning UK to Erasmus
  • Lib Dems call for new protections for rivers and coastlines as sewage dumped over 83,000 times in Welsh waters last year

Davey: Sunak leaving D-Day early a “dereliction of duty”

Responding to reports that Rishi Sunak left D-Day commemorations in Normandy early, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

One of the greatest privileges of the office of Prime Minister is to be there to honour those who served, yet Rishi Sunak abandoned them on the beaches of Normandy. He has brought shame to that office and let down our country.

I am thinking right now of all those veterans and their families he left behind and the hurt they must be feeling. It is a total dereliction of duty and shows why this Conservative government just has to go.

Lib Dems pledge to create new National Parks

  • The Liberal Democrat manifesto will include a pledge to create at least three new National Parks, with additional funding to boost the National Parks budget
  • Ed Davey said that the proposals would help “protect our beautiful countryside for the next generation” and make good on the “broken promises of the Conservative Party”
  • The party sets out plans where the Chilterns, Surrey Hills, and North Downs could be among the first new National Parks created in 14 years

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to create new National Parks across England, Ed Davey will announce today.

The policy would lead to an expansion of National Parks by adding at least three new parks to the existing ten in England, with new funding of £50m a year for new and existing National Parks.

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“When they go low, we go high”

The Leader’s Debate on Wednesday was a miserable affair. In fact, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the whole hour.

It wasn’t so much what they said, which was pretty predictable, but how they said it.  The tone was one of bad tempered school boys itching for a fight. Insults were exchanged – sometimes quite subtly, but they still landed. In fact Sunak and Starmer lived up to everyone’s stereotype of opposing politicians, substituting personal attacks for carefully argued criticism. It wasn’t helped by the chairing which seemed to egg on the sparring.

One response that we hear on the doorstep to this way of doing politics is “Why don’t they all work together to solve the problems?”. Of course that is possible, as the work of many unsung Parliamentary committees demonstrate, but for major policy areas and budget setting the scrutiny role of the opposition is absolutely essential. Indeed, the presence of an effective opposition is a benchmark for democracy. But effective opposition does not have to include personal animosity.

The layout of the House of Commons doesn’t help. It is designed for adversarial debate, with the opponents only kept apart by the statutory two sword lengths between them. The architecture encourages personal attacks on the people sitting opposite, and indeed the structure of PMQs is designed to work in that very space.

Last week I attended the funeral for a former Labour councillor. In fact I had chosen her to be my Deputy when I was Mayor, and we had developed a good friendship. At the reception afterwards I met up with former Labour councillors and activists, and a former Tory Mayor, and we all greeted each other warmly. It is perfectly possible to have respect for members of other parties and to recognise that we share some fundamental values about community and democracy. This can, and did, translate into lively debates in the Council Chamber, but conducted in a courteous manner. Passion and compassion are not incompatible.

And then we come to election campaigning. When parties are pitching themselves to gain the support of their voters it is important that they address policies held by other parties. That, of course, is very different from having a go at the candidates themselves.

Some of you will recognise an LDV theme here. We ask commenters to “Play the ball, not the (wo)man”.

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6 June 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems pledge to transform parental leave with £2.4 billion investment including doubling of statutory maternity pay
  • Hester: How low can the Conservatives go?
  • Conservative announcement “not worth the paper it’s written on”
  • Welsh Lib Dems commemorate 80th anniversary of D-Day
  • Temporary NHS staff spend reaches record high under SNP
  • Cole-Hamilton: SNP Government must accept failures on M9 crash

Lib Dems pledge to transform parental leave with £2.4 billion investment including doubling of statutory maternity pay

  • The Liberal Democrat manifesto will include a plan to transform parental leave, including doubling Statutory Maternity Pay to £350 a month
  • Proposals also include increasing paternity pay and creating an extra use-it-or-lose-it “dad month”, to encourage more fathers to take parental leave
  • Ed Davey says Lib Dem proposals would give parents “the choice and flexibility they need”

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has announced his party’s manifesto will include an ambitious plan to transform parental leave, including doubling Statutory Maternity Pay to £350 a week and introducing a use-it-or-lose-it “dad month” of paid leave for new fathers.

The party’s bold plans for reform also include making paid parental leave day-one-rights at work, rather than the current 26 week period which means those in new jobs don’t qualify, and extending them to self-employed parents.

As well as raising Statutory Maternity Pay, the Liberal Democrats would increase paternity pay to 90% of earnings and create a new use-it-or-lose-it “dad month,” encouraging more fathers to take parental leave. The party argues this would increase choice for families and help more new fathers take time off work to spend time with their child in those crucial first weeks and months, in turn helping Mums to stay in their chosen careers.

Currently, low rates of statutory maternity and paternity pay are not high enough to give parents a real choice, while the UK’s two weeks of statutory paternity leave lags far behind most advanced economies. Around a quarter of fathers are not eligible for paternity pay, either because they are self-employed or because they have not been with their employer continuously for six months.

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The European Parliamentary Elections 2024: all EU citizens are equal, but some are more equal than others

Between 6-9 June 2024, nationals of 27 member states are voting in the European Parliamentary elections. These are the first European elections to be held since Brexit: I had the privilege of standing in the South East of England in 2019.

Millions of EU citizens living in the UK are  eligible to vote  in these elections, and many, like myself, will be casting their votes using postal votes, proxy votes, voting in person in  embassies/consulates, and/or e-voting – the available method(s) depending on their member state’s arrangements. In contradistinction, Italians would need to travel back to Italy to vote, despite being able to vote from abroad for national elections, generating justifiable anger.

Worse still, in five EU member states, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, Denmark, and Bulgaria, national legislation prescribes that most of their citizens residing in a ‘third country’, which the UK now is, are legally disenfranchised. These countries tend to follow the pattern they adopt for their national elections. Of the four nations of the UK, this legal reality is particularly challenging for Northern Ireland, given that, pursuant to the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement, anyone born in NI may choose to be Irish, British, or both; hundreds of thousands of residents of Northern Ireland hold Irish citizenship.

Prior to the conclusion of the withdrawal agreement, I highlighted the ramifications of this scenario. In my role as Chair of the charity ‘New Europeans UK’, we have recently held at Stormont, the seat of the Northern Ireland Assembly, an event entitled ‘EU citizens – rights and wrongs’, which explored the effects of Brexit on voting rights of EU citizens in these European Parliament Elections. The event was co-sponsored by members of several NI political parties, and featured alongside civil society activists a representative of the Irish republic.

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Campaigning – and thinking about what we are campaigning for

Most readers of LibDem Voice, now that the election campaign is under way, will be opening its messages as they come in from leaflet delivering or canvassing.  So far the weather has been good, and there’s been real advantage where we’ve managed to be the first on the doorstep to voters disillusioned with politics and parties.  In spite of the growth of social media and the internet, face-to-face discussion remains key to winning  voters’ support.

Voters are much less willing to come out to public meetings than they were a generation ago.  In the 1979 campaign, when I was mainly working on policy in Liberal HQ, I spent a long weekend driving from village to village in the Skipton constituency, as the warm-up speaker to usefully large groups of people gathered in village halls to hear Claire Brooks, the candidate, when she arrived; as you can imagine, she got later and later as the evenings went on.  Now contact has to be doorstepping, or electronic, or by phone, or by personalised leaflets wherever possible.  Helen and I have just finished hand-addressing our first chunk of envelopes for a target seat. Like other older readers (no doubt), I’ve been banned from the frenetic leaflet-delivery and canvassing that used to mark my campaign participation; now I’m a backroom helper.

It’s a characteristic of the Liberal Democrats that everyone mucks in on tasks like this.  I recall folding leaflets with 8 others round a large dining room table in Sheffield a campaign or two ago, and reflecting that everyone at the table had at least a doctorate, including the lady in a headscarf who had collected me from the station.  Yesterday we were writing with a committee member of the National Liberal Club, and someone who explained ‘I’m not actually a Liberal member; I’m a tactical voter.’  We also serve, who only sit round and fold leaflets or write blue envelopes.

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5 June 2024 – the Scottish and Welsh press releases

  • Scottish Liberal Democrats launch plans to end SNP’s sewage scandal
  • Rennie responds to SNP’s national education agency announcement
  • “Vaughan Gething must go” – Welsh Lib Dems react to no confidence result

Scottish Liberal Democrats launch plans to end SNP’s sewage scandal

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton and deputy leader Wendy Chamberlain have today said the SNP Government is “neck-deep in failure” as they launched their party’s plans to clamp down on sewage dumping in Scotland’s rivers during a campaign visit to the River Almond.

Research by the party shows that sewage was dumped in the River Almond for a total of 148 hours in 2023 alone. This figure could be much higher as only one part of the river is monitored for sewage overflows. Residents living near the Almond claim that the water has become discoloured, stating that “foaming and fungus” had appeared in its surface.

Across Scotland, there were more than 21,000 sewage dumps logged in 2023 alone, up from 19,676 in 2022. However, the problem is likely to be far worse because only a small fraction of sewage discharges are monitored.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have launched plans for a Clean Water Act that would see:

  • Scotland’s Victorian sewage network updated;
  • Every sewage dump monitored and published with binding targets for their reduction;
  • A blue flag system for Scotland’s rivers;
  • A complete ban on the release of sewage in protected areas such as bathing waters.

The proposals for Scotland are part of a UK-wide campaign by the Liberal Democrats to clean up waterways and get governments to take action.

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5 June 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Ed Davey calls for 62-day cancer treatment guarantee as NHS target missed for 100,000 patients
  • Ed Davey pledges to be “voice of carers” as he opens up about personal experience of care
  • Sunak a “pound shop Boris Johnson”: Ten times the Conservatives have misled the public with dodgy figures
  • D-Day: Davey sets out plans for veterans and military personnel
  • Revealed: Commuters have faced £1,100 ticket bombshell since 2019 as Lib Dems pledge to freeze rail fares
  • Family taxes: Conservative stealth rises have left everyone worse off

Ed Davey calls for 62-day cancer treatment guarantee as NHS target missed for 100,000 patients

  • The Liberal Democrats have announced that their manifesto will include a pledge of a legal right for cancer patients to start treatment within 62-days
  • Ed Davey says “far too many patients are still waiting far too long to start treatment” and that the “Liberal Democrats will make improving cancer care a top priority”
  • Almost 100,000 cancer patients waited longer than 62-days to begin treatment last year

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has announced his party would give cancer patients a legal right to start treatment within 62-days after an urgent referral.

Ed Davey said his party would make “improving cancer care a top priority,” adding the issue was deeply personal to him having lost both his parents to cancer as a child.

Currently cancer care targets are routinely missed, with almost 100,000 cancer patients last year waiting longer than 62 days to begin treatment after an urgent referral, the worst on record. The 62 day target has not been met since 2015.

The Liberal Democrats would introduce a legal guarantee that 100% of patients will be able to start treatment within 62 days from urgent referral. The new cancer treatment guarantee would be enshrined in the NHS constitution, which already sets out a number of other patients’ rights. It would place a legal duty on the Government and the NHS to put the policies and resources in place to ensure the patient can start treatment within 62 days.

The manifesto pledge will form part of a plan to improve cancer care services with an additional £4bn invested over the next five years.

Liberal Democrat Leader, Ed Davey said:

Like millions of people, my life was turned upside down by cancer, which took both my parents from me when I was young. I know how painful it feels to see your loved one left in limbo – diagnosed with cancer but waiting months for the treatment they need.

Every day counts in a battle against cancer. But far too many patients are still waiting far too long to start treatment after being diagnosed as cancer delays soar to the worst levels on record.

Despite all the progress by our incredible scientists and NHS staff, the UK still lags behind other countries when it comes to cancer survival rates – and these delays are a major reason why. That’s why the Liberal Democrats will make improving cancer care a top priority, and fight every day for better care for you and your loved ones.

Ed Davey pledges to be “voice of carers” as he opens up about personal experience of care

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has today pledged to be the “voice of carers” as he said care will be at the heart of his party’s manifesto.

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“You can get through if you’ve got love” – a Party Election Broadcast with a difference

Love and tenderness are not words you generally associate with Party Election Broadcasts.

Our one, to be broadcast tonight is the exception. Ed Davey tells his story of life as a carer for his mum and his son. He talks about the millions in similar situations, keeping going with love. That, he says, is who I will fight for every day. It’s just incredible.

From The Guardian

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Neglected Assets: A case for a radical rebalancing and reform of our Tax System

In a twist worthy of a Shakespearean comedy, The Financial Times—yes, the very bastion of capitalism—has thrown its weight behind the call to increase taxes on the wealthy. It’s as if Ebenezer Scrooge himself woke up, not just offering Bob Cratchit Christmas off, but also turned his business into a consumer mutual. 

This surprising endorsement underscores a deeper, more troubling reality: the Tories have, over time, alienated their once staunchest supporters — pragmatic economic thinkers and investors. The people who’d toast their morning coffee to the Conservatives, secure in the knowledge that their financial acumen was reflected in sound government policy. 

However, even the FT don’t try to hoodwink their audience against their own interests; understanding the reality of how years of economic stagnation has impacted our country and the wealth imbalance. 

The Tories have managed to estrange themselves so far from these stakeholders, pushing them away with a series of economic imbalances that act more like tragicomedies than strategy. Gone are the days when Tories  were seen as reliable economic stewards. 

The Tories seem intent on peddling narrow, faux-capitalistic dogma than fostering real, sustainable growth. The FT would appear to not be as easily fooled. They understand that the economy needs careful tending, like a well-pruned garden, not the reckless abandonment of letting a child  loose with garden shears. 

The article claims that parties need to the bolder on the economy. Now you might think, bold from FT writers, we’ve all been here before; savage tax cuts, privatising the police force, parading with “We Love Liz” t-shirts and having a national “Margaret Thatcher day”. Except no. Instead, amongst many other arguments, the article states that arguments by the right that better economic rebalancing and higher taxes will impact the economy is just nonsense. They say that due to the state of public finances and a public interest to see robust investment into public services that we need to be honest about increasing taxes if we are going to prevent going through a cliff-edge. They have even argued that due to lack of private investment that it would be in our interest if a major re-balancing of wealth in this country through a series of targeted tax rises on the wealthy be implemented as the government can efficiency invest into the economy. The extreme position the Tories have left us in means we have no major infrastructure going on in the UK – the need is obvious. 

While it stop short of calls for any kind of Wealth Tax or increasing top earners’ tax rates it, the author argues that we should be looking at reforming our overly complex tax system which courts the favour of people with big pockets and good accountants. Amongst its arguments was  using revenue to bring VAT down and combining NI and Income Tax together. 

I have always been a strong advocate of reforming our tax systems.  The current tax system is deeply unfair where wealthy individuals who make their earnings by selling assets pay less tax than someone who is on a paid salary but earning considerably less. 

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4 June 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Long-term sickness risks £18 billion black hole under Conservatives as Lib Dems call for mental health MOTs
  • Debate: The country deserved better than that
  • Cole-Hamilton: SNP’s mishandling of health costing the economy
  • Welsh Lib Dems react to school year announcement
  • Cole-Hamilton: SNP have failed to get to grips with A&E crisis
  • Mental health treatment targets missed again
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats: SNP must go further and faster with rail travel

Long-term sickness risks £18 billion black hole under Conservatives as Lib Dems call for mental health MOTs

  • The Liberal Democrats announce regular mental health ‘MOT’ checks at key points in people’s lives including for new parents and retirees
  • Ed Davey said the Prime Minister’s “failure to cut NHS waiting lists is damaging the economy” and party’s new commitment would “help people get back to work”
  • Analysis reveals that over the course of the next Parliament long-term sickness could cost the economy £18.3 billion

Record levels of long-term sickness under the Conservatives are set to blow an £18.3 billion black hole in the public finances over the next Parliament, new analysis by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The party said it shows that Rishi Sunak’s failure to bring down NHS waiting lists is holding the economy back and costing taxpayers billions.

Each person out of work due to long-term illness costs an average of £5,200 in lost tax revenue, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. The latest figures show a shocking 2.8 million people were out of work due to ill health in February 2024, up around 700,000 compared to the start of this Parliament in 2019. It means the rise in long-term sickness under the Conservative Party is leading to a staggering loss of almost £3.7 billion in lost tax revenue per year, or £18.3 billion over the next parliament.

Rishi Sunak recently admitted the government has failed to cut NHS waiting lists with 6.3 million people still waiting for treatment, double the number since 2015. Over 1.35 million (53%) of those inactive because of long-term sickness reported that they had a mental health condition such as depression, bad nerves or anxiety.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the introduction of regular mental health check-ups at key points in people’s lives when they are most vulnerable, to help tackle the root causes of the mental health crisis. This would include new parents, children and young people, men in their 40s, carers and retirees, all of whom are at high risk of mental ill health.

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Ed Davey opens up about juggling the LibDem leadership and caring for his teenage son

Ed Davey has given an extremely moving interview about caring for his teenage son, while leading the Liberal Democrats.

Click below for some clips. You can find a full article and more clips on the ITV News website.

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3 June 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Ed Davey launches plan for free personal care to end hospital crisis and help people stay in their own homes
  • Chamberlain: Liberal Democrats will restore public service to our politics
  • McArthur responds to SNP Government scrapping recycling target
  • Alex Cole-Hamilton’s opening statement in STV Leaders’ Debate

Ed Davey launches plan for free personal care to end hospital crisis and help people stay in their own homes

  • Liberal Democrats announce groundbreaking plans to offer free personal care to all those who need it
  • Ed Davey will put care at the heart of the Liberal Democrats’ plan for the country, becoming the first ever party to have a dedicated chapter in manifesto on care
  • Latest figures show over 12,700 hospital beds taken up by patients ready to be discharged with some waiting months
  • The party’s flagship social care announcement will be funded by reversing tax cuts given to big banks by the Conservatives

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey will today launch a bold plan to fix the social care crisis, including providing free personal care to help elderly people stay in their own homes for longer.

The groundbreaking policy would revolutionise the care system in England and alleviate pressure on the NHS, by providing free personal care for everyone who needs it. The plan would help more people to receive the care they need in their own homes and prevent people having to sell their house to pay for personal care.

Personal care covers nursing care, help with mobility, hygiene and medication, whether people are in their own home or a care home. Those needing residential care would still have to contribute towards their accommodation.

Ed Davey, who has been a carer himself throughout his life, said that too often family carers were being left to “pick up the pieces” because the care system wasn’t there for them. He added that fixing the care crisis is fundamental to tackling the crisis facing the NHS.

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As China continues its squeeze on Hong Kong’s liberties, how will an incoming UK administration respond?

I believe Hong Kong immigrants in the United Kingdom are paying a lot of attention to the upcoming UK General Election. Over 100,000 Hong Kong people have immigrated to the UK in the past few years. This will be the first time in their lives that they can directly participate in deciding who leads their new country. Obviously, the stance of each political party on Hong Kong affairs will influence how they vote.

On May 30th, the court in Hong Kong delivered a verdict on the Hong Kong pro-democracy primary election case. In July 2020, the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong …

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Welcome to my day: 3 June 2024 – social media, your hostage to fortune?…

We’re well into the second week of the campaign now, and whilst the polls don’t appear to be showing any signs of significant movement yet, there’s still that slightly nervous sense that, surely, the Conservatives have a trick or two up their sleeve to turn things around, even a bit.

Admittedly, having blown a whole bunch of the obvious advantages that being able to call the date of an election offer – the element of surprise being one, and choosing the best feasible scenario for persuading voters that things are getting better – and with time inexorably passing, you do begin …

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2 June 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Lib Dems call for new protections for rivers and coastlines as sewage dumped over 100,000 times in bathing water areas
  • Rennie writes to Justice Secretary following FAI report on M9 crash
  • Cole-Hamilton responds to £450m EU funding revelation
  • Cole-Hamilton speaks ahead of first Scottish leaders’ debate

Lib Dems call for new protections for rivers and coastlines as sewage dumped over 100,000 times in bathing water areas

  • Rivers to be given new protected status against sewage discharges with current government scheme branded “toothless”
  • Party uncovers water firms have discharged sewage over 100,000 times in current bathing water status areas
  • Lib Dems set out “boldest manifesto on cleaning up our rivers and coastlines”

The Liberal Democrats have announced a massive expansion of marine protected areas and a new Blue Flag status for rivers will be included in their general election manifesto.

In response to sewage being pumped into bathing water status rivers, the party has announced plans for new Blue Flag rivers, setting legally binding targets to prevent sewage dumping in those sites. Blue Flag rivers would give special protected status for swimmers and wildlife.

The current government bathing water scheme has failed to protect waterways from sewage discharges by only requiring increased water quality testing. Analysis by the Liberal Democrats has found since 2020, water companies have discharged sewage into bathing water areas 105,347 times, equating to a staggering 694,487 hours worth of sewage.

The two worst offending companies were United Utilities, which dumped sewage into the Lake District, and South West Water, found to be polluting beaches in Cornwall and Devon.

The Liberal Democrats are also announcing new plans to protect coastal marine wildlife, which would see the expansion of the blue belt of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to cover at least 50% of the UK territorial waters by 2030.

Marine environments are currently in a state of crisis due to sewage and plastic pollution. The new target on MPAs would be achieved by working in partnership with UK Overseas Territories, as well as mandating the government to monitor the sites.

The latest announcement on water quality follows the party announcing its plans to abolish Ofwat, introducing a new regulator with greater powers, as well as a ban on water company executive bonuses.

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Observer: Lib Dems pose biggest threat to high profile Tories

Andrew Rawnsley had a wee spin in Yellowhammer 1, the Lib Dem campaign bus on Friday and we must have been nice to him because he has written up a broadly positive report in the Observer which reflects well on our strategy and targets. Here are some of the highlights.

First, the stunts:

There is method in his malarkey. Much of the battle for the Lib Dems is persuading the national media to pay them any attention. If he has to play the good-for-a-laugh centrist dad to get himself on TV and in the newspapers, he reckons the pratfalls are a sacrifice worth making. You aren’t going to see Sir Keir Starmer on a paddleboard. Since no one thinks Sir Ed is going to be prime minister, he doesn’t have to do the gravitas thing. He also looks like a man who is enjoying himself, which is more than can be said for the stolid electioneering of his rivals.

Then our ambitions:

This time they have what one Lib Dem strategist calls a “small but perfectly formed” list of targets chosen with a wary eye on the party’s constrained resources and a clinical one on what it is realistic to aim for. In some previous elections, the Lib Dems have marketed themselves as the “plague on both your houses” party, equidistant between Labour and the Conservatives. Sir Ed characterises this as an “ABC election” (Anyone but the Conservatives) and is pitching his party as the “Tory removal service” in places where the Lib Dems are the principal challenger.

Our chances vs the Tories:

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Tom Arms’ World Review

South Africa

Three decades of ANC rule in South Africa look set to end. The final votes from Wednesday’s election have yet to be counted and are expected to be announced on Sunday. But the general consensus is that the party that ended apartheid will garner about 45 percent of the vote. Which means it is coalition time.

The downfall of the ANC vote is evidence of the well-worn political truism that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. In 2004 the African National Congress won 70 percent of the vote. It dropped to 57 percent in 2019 and is projected to drop between 10 and 15 points in this election.

The reason for the collapse of the ANC vote is corruption, poor governance and economic mismanagement leading to a flight of capital and an unemployment rate of 37 percent.

Corruption reached its peak under the presidency of Jacob Zuma whose misuse of government funds led to his ousting in 2018. In 2020 he was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment for contempt of court. He served only three, but he is still barred from serving in parliament.

Zuma’s successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, made some progress towards resolving the corruption problem, but it was too little too late> Unemployment – especially among the urban youth – remains troublingly high. Zuma, in the meantime has emerged as leader of a new KwaZulu Natal-based political party, Umkhonto we Size (MK) or Spear of the Nation.

MK has surprised political pundits by beating the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) to take third place in the polls. Both the EFF and MK have adopted radical agendas which include the expropriation of white-owned land and widespread nationalisation. MK also wants to return more political power to the traditional trial chieftains.

MK took votes away from both the ANC and EFF. Another winner from this week’s was the Democratic Alliance (DA) who appear to have won the confidence the white South African voter. A fifth party is the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is—like MK– also based in Natal. The most likely coalition is between the IFP, Democratic Alliance and ANC.


Europe’s far-right parties appear set to sweep the boards in European Parliament elections held on 6-9 June.

Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy are on the rise. Marine Le Pen is current favourite to win the 2027 and her National Rally party is currently at 30 percent in the opinion polls. Viktor Orban’s Fidesz has a stranglehold on Hungary and Geert Wilder’s Party for Freedom won elections in the Netherlands. Far-right parties, in Spain, Belgium, Slovakia, Sweden and Austria are growing or having a stake in government.

There is, however, a chink, in the far-right armour: Germany’s Alternative for Deutschland (Afd) has swung too far to the right even for Europe’s far-right. Recently, there top candidate for the European Parliament, Maximilian Krah, said that members of the wartime SS were not automatically “criminals.” Krah is also being investigated by the police for accepting payments from China and Russia. His problems followed a secret meeting in a hotel outside Berlin where senior officials in the AfD discussed the mass deportation of non-ethnic Germans, including German citizens.

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Liberal Democrats pledge to reverse Conservative cuts to public health grant with £1bn a year to tackle “ticking time bomb” for NHS

  • Liberal Democrats pledge to tackle “ticking time bomb” for NHS with a major funding boost for the Public Health Grant
  • The party’s manifesto will include a commitment to increase the Public Health Grant which will help fund health checks for 40-74 year olds, health visits for infants and their mothers, and wider access to blood pressure tests
  • Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper said her party’s policy will reverse the “scandalous” cuts made by the Conservatives since 2015

The Liberal Democrats will today commit to reversing Conservative cuts to the Public Health Grant which funds vital health checks for infants, children, mothers, working age adults …

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1 June 2024 – today’s press releases

  • 100,000 households face mortgage rate hike by polling day as Conservatives face ‘blue wall reckoning’
  • Conservative community care annoucement papering over NHS cracks
  • Pride Month: Welsh Liberal Democrats pledge to keep fighting for a more inclusive society
  • Welsh Lib Dems call for more trains on Heart of Wales line
  • Cole-Hamilton: Liberal Democrats will deliver a fair deal for local communities

100,000 households face mortgage rate hike by polling day as Conservatives face ‘blue wall reckoning’

  • A typical mortgage holder will see their payments rise by £240 a month
  • Over 3,300 households a day set to see their mortgages rise between now and polling day on 4th July
  • Liberal Democrats warn that Rishi Sunak faces a “blue wall reckoning” with mortgage holders in key battleground seats among the hardest hit

100,000 households will face a mortgage increase between now and polling day on 4th July, House of Commons Library research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has found.

This amounts to an average of 3,333 households a day being hit with higher mortgage rates. It comes as the Bank of England maintained interest rates at 5.25% earlier this month. A typical mortgage holder will see their payments rise by £240 a month.

The Lib Dem-commissioned analysis by the House of Commons Library, based on data from the Financial Conduct Authority, found that households will face an increase to their mortgages ahead of General Election polling day on 4th July.

The Lib Dems said Rishi Sunak’s claim that his economic plan is working shows he is living in a “parallel universe,” at a time when families are saddled with hundreds of pounds a month more on their mortgage.

The party said the Prime Minister is set for a “blue wall reckoning” with the data showing Liberal Democrat – Conservative battlegrounds such as Taunton Deane, Tewkesbury and Steve Barclay’s seat of North East Cambridgeshire among the worst affected.

In total, households coming off fixed rate mortgages ahead of polling day will pay an additional £290 million in mortgage costs over the next year.

Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson, Sarah Olney said:

This Conservative government crashed the economy and now they are condemning hard-working households to a mortgage nightmare.

Rishi Sunak’s claim that the government’s plan is working shows he is living in a parallel universe, as every day thousands of families are seeing their mortgage go up by eye-watering amounts.

The Prime Minister is set for a blue wall reckoning in key battleground seats where fed up voters are ready to say enough is enough with this out-of-touch Conservative Government on 4th July.

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Recent Comments

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    @ Chris, Adam and David, So can we all agree (except perhaps Alex ) that being in favour of the EU does require uncritical support? This is a big problem...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Adam: I rarely read BtL comments in newspaper articles as they tend not to be representative of public opinion. All I can say is that such opinions as you have...
  • Adam
    "Given the avalanche of unending and captious criticism of the EU from the pro-Brexiteer nationalist establishment prior to Brexit, it’s scarcely surprising t...
  • David Allen
    Peter Martin, "In practice, we seldom, if ever, see any criticism of the EU from its supporters." Yeah, yeah, yeah. When the Tories make a political broa...
  • Chris Moore
    Given the avalanche of unending and captious criticism of the EU from the pro-Brexiteer nationalist establishment prior to Brexit, it's scarcely surprising that...