ALDE Party Council, Vilnius 2024 (part 1) – greetings from a galaxy not far away…

Readers, please note that this is not an official report of the Council meeting last weekend, but represents my report back.

One of the things that I observed from my two years as consort to the Party President was that, if you’re chairing a potentially fractious group, especially a political one, it really helps to be able to spot potential disagreements beforehand, allowing you to have those critical conversations prior to the meeting, and to consider how best to manage the debate.

The ALDE Party isn’t entirely like that, as was demonstrated on Saturday morning.

But, having gathered in Lithuania’s charming capital, we did have more than a Council meeting to attend. My weekend started with a session sponsored by the European Liberal Forum, discussing what a liberal narrative for the next five years might look like, including our own Sal Brinton. Sal talked about our current campaign, noting that it had liberal values at its heart, offering concrete proposals to improve our public services and the environment.

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We need to be ready to take on Labour

As we likely approach an incoming Labour Government, Liberal Democrats must not waste any time before turning our campaigning firepower on Labour.

The helpful zeitgeist in this General Election has been the self-destruction of the Conservatives. However, the quiet non-aggression between ourselves and the Labour Party needs to end at 10pm on 4th July.

At times it has felt extremely lonely fighting Labour in the last decade. As the party races to win the Blue Wall, Red Wall communities are abandoned in too many areas between an awful Labour/Conservative/Reform dog fight. Liberal community politics in Labour-held cities and towns is absent except …

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Welcome to my day: 24 June 2024 – it would take a heart of stone, wouldn’t it?

Greetings from Lithuania, where your Day Editor is currently located following a rather enjoyable weekend away on Party business. Think of it as one of the side effects of a snap General Election…

Having spent much of the weekend surrounded by European liberal colleagues asking optimistically after our prospects, I’ve been talking them down a bit. After all, I’ve been around a long time and I know that the evil Tories always have something up their sleeves to unleash upon us at the moment of greatest vulnerability, usually courtesy of their mates in the right-wing press.

And yet, and yet, I fret that something beyond our control might harm our prospects. However, despite my vague disquiet, our campaign still appears to be running as smoothly as you could reasonably ask, and our key messages continue to resonate.

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Stolen Signs

When I was canvassing for Charlie Maynard, the Lib Dem candidate in Witney and West Oxfordshire, I asked a lady who has traditionally voted Conservative but is voting Lib Dem if she’d put a sign in front of her house.

“I’d rather not,” she said. “There’s a man across the street who takes down signs he doesn’t like, and I don’t want to get into a fight with him.”

“How about a small sign that you can stick to the inside of your front window?” I asked. “Surely he wouldn’t put a rock through it?”

She declined, looking like she thought he just might. A couple of days later, the Lib Dem sign in front of my house disappeared. Her neighbour is getting ambitious! I thought, and What’sApped the canvassing group to request two replacement signs to make a point. It’s happened at my house and all over, the newly elected Lib Dem local councillor replied, and brought two signs right away. He showed me CCTV footage of a person in a white shirt on a bike pulling away from his house with his sign. Does that lady’s neighbour ride a bike? I thought. Does he have a white shirt?

But who the person in a white shirt on the bike is, and if he or she is acting alone – based on the number of signs disappearing, she or he would have to have a very fast bike – isn’t really what matters, although it would of course be good if she or he or they are caught for attacking the right to express one’s views.

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Doctor Who actor endorses Lib Dem candidates and compliments Ed Davey

There were some bleary eyes in many campaign headquarters yesterday after many of our campaigners had stayed up beyond midnight to see the finale of this year’s all too short series of Doctor Who. There are a lot of Doctor Who fans in this party.

They will be interested to know that actor, writer and director Nicholas Pegg, who has spent much of the past 20 years as a dalek operator on the series, has endorsed two Lib Dem candidates in Devon, where he lives. He also had some very positive things to say on Twitter about Ed Davey’s performance on Question Time this week.

He said:

I continue to be impressed by Ed Davey. He’s not a sensation-seeking populist quote machine. He’s not rising to the bait thrown by a patently partisan presenter, and he’s dealing superbly with her pugnacious interruptions. He’s a grown-up. He’s a proper politician.

His own vote in this election is going to Lib Dem Paul Arnott in order to beat the Conservative in Exmouth and Exeter East:

In the new constituency of Exmouth & Exeter East, I shall be voting for the Lib Dem candidate @paularnottLd, a well-known and well-liked Devon councillor with years of local experience. The Electoral Calculus website predicts a close run, but only Paul Arnott can beat the Tory.

He is also supporting our by-election winner Richard Foord to win in the new constituency of Honiton and Sidmouth:

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Access our manifesto

The BSL version of our manifesto has now been launched.

The web based manifesto can be read here.

You can also download other versions from this page (scroll down to the bottom), including Braille, clear print, plain text and easy read versions and as a normal pdf.

The costings of our manifesto can be examined here.

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So what has Ed Davey been up to today?

He has been building bug houses! Not as eye-catching as falling into water, but still a good ploy to talk about housing.

Over in The Guardian he is seen wearing a halo. Martin Kettle writes: “The Tories are fixating on Reform. They should be focused on a far bigger threat” – meaning the Lib Dems.

If wartime analogies are your thing, you could say that the Conservatives have a Singapore problem. Before the second world war, the British empire armed Singapore to fight naval battles against Japan. Famously, most of Singapore’s heavy artillery faced out to sea. But in 1942, the Japanese army overran Singapore from the rear, coming in from the Malayan mainland.

Today, the Tory high command and many supporters, especially in the media, look fixedly out to sea at the advance of Reform. As a result, they have all underestimated the threat from the Lib Dems at their rear. Even now, the Conservatives have not understood that Ed Davey is a far bigger danger to their majority than Nigel Farage.

Yesterday he met trainees who were making chilli jam at the Nickel Support community interest company in Carshalton, which works with adults with learning disabilities.  Interestingly different …

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First Past the Post failed English local democracy this year

This May the Liberal Democrats made remarkable gains in local elections across England. From winning the second highest number of seats in councils up for election (pushing the Conservatives into third place) to returning to third place in the London mayoral election and winning our first ever London Assembly constituency seat, the Liberal Democrats are on the cusp of regaining our place as Westminster’s third largest party come 4 July.

That rise is a major story of the 2024 local elections, one deserving more media attention. But the story of how the elections were skewed by First Past the Post must also be heard.

Once again our archaic voting system distorted the link between citizens and their representatives, an outcome that will be seen again in July. Take a look at Fareham council where the Conservatives secured a majority of seats on just 41% of votes cast. Then there’s Plymouth where Labour won a majority of seats up for election on 44% of the vote. Lib Dem-run councils aren’t immune from this either. That’s not to take away from the hard work of local campaigns across the country (if anything we often have to work harder under the current voting system and two-party system to win seats!), but to recognise we operate within a flawed system. First Past the Post consistently warps the link between seats and their votes just as much at the local level as at Westminster.

Furthermore, this May we also saw the consequences of the government’s Elections Act, which abolished the Supplementary Vote for mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections. The Supplementary Vote was far from perfect – preferential voting would be preferable for single-member executive positions if we are to have them at all – but it gave mayors and PCCs a broader mandate than they otherwise would have. In the first ever York and North Yorkshire election this year, Labour’s David Skaith became mayor on just 35% of the vote – on a turnout of less than 30%. If we are to have directly elected executive mayors, it is vital they have a broad mandate to represent their region effectively. The status-quo isn’t delivering but there are alternatives to our failing First Past the Post system.

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The Liberal Democrat Manifesto: Politics for the Common Good

In 1912 Britain was a surprisingly shabby place. Despite the country’s immense foreign possessions and vast export trade, the UK was suffering the enfeebling effects of a drastic readjustment of global trade. In the decades to come, these economic tides would cause the British Empire to recede into the history books. But for the Edwardians, these future chimes of doom were felt first as industrial sluggishness and mass hardship. The grand Imperial centre was witnessing an explosion of poverty, malnutrition, and ill-health, decaying infrastructure and insecure work.

E.M. Forster memorably dramatized this national condition in his 1913 novel Maurice through the metaphor of the tumbled down country house of Penge. This once-grand seat of the genteel Durham family is now beset by staff-shortages, leaky roofs and pathologically complacent owners. And to compound the estate’s troubles, the working-classes over whom the Durham’s bestow their parasitic patronage no-longer see the point of their old masters. The aristocrats grumble that the scullery maids have become unreliable while the game-keepers have gone socialist. As Forster puts it wryly: ‘ people had the air of settling something; they either just had arranged or soon would arrange England. Yet, the gate posts, the roads…were in bad repair, and the timber wasn’t kept properly, the windows stuck, the boards creaked.’ Plutocratic pretentions were finally hitting the cold and unforgiving buffers of economic reality. It is impossible to read Forster’s description of this sad and decaying estate without seeing something of ourselves.

Since the 2008 Financial Crisis the UK economy has stuttered along, struggling with low productivity, stagnant wages and a rising tide of social need. But if we find ourselves resolutely within the walls of Forster’s dilapidated Penge, the avoidable shabbiness of the Edwardians points us towards something like a remedy. Forster knew (and in time would become part of) a new circle of intellectuals, often dubbed ‘the New Liberals’. In the face of an ‘individualism which ignores the social factor in wealth’, that depletes ‘the national resources’ and deprives ‘the community of its just share in the fruits of industry’ (L.T. Hobhouse), New Liberals sought to establish a new set of political principles:

  • Wealth is produced by a dynamic partnership between personal initiative and social organisation
  • Society possesses common goods which must be met collectively
  • Government (on behalf of society) has a right to demand a reasonable portion of private wealth in recognition of the social dimension of all personal initiative

As Hobhouse summarised this posture: ‘The prosperous businessman who thinks that he has made his fortune entirely by self-help does not pause to consider what single step he could have taken on the road to his success but for the ordered tranquillity which has made commercial development possible, the security by road, and rail, and sea, the masses of skilled labour, and the sum of intelligence which civilization has placed at his disposal …If he dug to the foundations of his fortune he would recognize that, as it is society that maintains and guarantees his possessions, so also it is society which is an indispensable partner in its original creation’.

And yet an atmosphere of structural individualism pervades our lives. Common needs are repeatedly neglected and common sources of prosperity are frittered away. The country is ailing, with an extractive economy, characterised by high rents, low savings and even lower investment. The jaded house-maids and socialist gamekeepers have morphed into precarious renters who yearn for a humane collectivism to rescue them from what Forster called the rootless ‘civilisation of luggage’.  This was once the grand mission of our public services, but they are looking increasingly threadbare and dysfunctional, with their maintenance falling on shoulders that simply cannot bare them.

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Guardian features Lib Dem Calum Miller in article on Lib Dem blue wall strategy

An article in today’s Guardian features Lib Dem candidate in Bicester and Woodstock and also has a wider look at the other seats where we are competitive.

Knocking on doors in the community on the fringes of Bicester, just north of Oxford, the Liberal Democrat candidate spoke to locals with all manner of political backstories and motivations, some who had previously voted Tory, Labour or neither, as well as those who had either backed Brexit or wished to remain.

All, however, had arrived at a common conclusion: this time they would vote for him, to try to defeat the Conservatives.

And this is not a unique feature of this constituency:

While the Lib Dems are cautious in their predictions and finite in their campaign resources, with a fair electoral wind a swathe of nearby ultra-true blue seats could also turn yellow.

Calum talks about the conversations he is having on the doorsteps:

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A “herbivorous showpony” – behind the scenes of the Scottish Manifesto launch

As we reported yesterday, the Scottish Lib Dems launched their manifesto at the beautiful Craigie’s Farm near South Queensferry. If you are in the area, do pop in for a visit, pick some fruit, enjoy the gorgeous views and buy some lovely food and drink from the shop and cafe. You can even order online.

The event looked great. There were a couple of hiccups though.

Frankly, Wendy Chamberlain should get danger money for appearing with leaders. In 2021, Willie Rennie accidentally hit her with a shinty ball during a photo opportunity for the Holyrrod Elections.

Yesterday, they let Alex Cole-Hamilton loose with a tractor. When Ed Davey did similar for the local elections last year, he demolished a mock up of a blue wall. Alex nearly demolished his deputy leader, not once, but twice.

The BBC have a video here.

Thankfully Wendy survived and she was much more forgiving than we would have been. Later she and Alex recorded a video about the event:

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ALDE Party Council preview – consequences, consequences…

There’s always something to distract you during a General Election campaign. And, in my case, that’s the ALDE Party Council meeting that will take place on Saturday in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital. Yes, we’ll be sending a full delegation, albeit with an element of substitution, including a guest Baroness, but flights have been rearranged to keep absences as short as possible.

The main topic of conversation is going to be the fallout from the European Parliament elections last week, and the impact on Europe’s direction in the coming years. Whilst Renew Europe might not …

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Cole-Hamilton and Chamberlain launch Scottish Manifesto with focus on carers, warm homes and agriculture

 

Alex Cole-Hamilton and Wendy Chamberlain have launched the Scottish version of our manifesto.  

At a farm inAlex’s Edinburgh constituency (photo of Alex driving a tractor to follow), they set out plans to fix the broken care system, invest in Scottish agriculture and ensure everyone has a warm home.

At the heart of the proposals is a £500 million rescue package for care, enabling people to be released from hospital, relieving pressure on the NHS and giving a fair deal to family carers. It will:

  • Create a new Carer’s Minimum Wage, boosting the minimum wage for care workers by £2 an hour;
  • Give unpaid carers a fair deal, lifting Carer’s Allowance/Carer Support Payment by £1,040 a year and removing the earnings cliff-edge.

Other key proposals include:

  • Establish the world-class mental health services Scotland needs, meaning every school pupil has fast access to a mental health counsellor, new mental health staff working alongside GPs and A&Es, and extra help for businesses, backed by £150m from taxing social media companies;
  • Deliver £170m more for Scottish agriculture;
  • Generate an extra £1 billion in capital funding for Scotland which  could be used to build new local health facilities, tackle the housing emergency, end the scandal of crumbling concrete in public buildings, and stop sewage dumping.
  • Make homes warmer and cheaper to heat with a ten-year emergency upgrade programme, starting with free insulation and heat pumps for those on low incomes.

At the launch, Alex said:

Every vote for the Liberal Democrats at this election is a vote to elect a strong local champion focused on getting you fast access to GPs and dentists, and giving our nation’s carers a fair deal.

We will stop sewage being dumped in our rivers, lift up Scottish education, and deliver warm homes that insulate you from the cost of living crisis.

Our vision is of a better Britain where we work in partnership, restoring your faith in politics and fixing our broken relationship with Europe.

Just like they Conservatives, the SNP have got to go. Only the Scottish Liberal Democrats can beat the nationalists in huge swathes of Scotland.

Hope and change are just around the corner, you only need to vote for them. Back the Liberal Democrats for a fair deal for you, your family, and for Scotland.

On the plans to fix care and the NHS, Alex added:

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EU nationals and the Lib Dem manifesto

I wonder how often any of us actually read political parties’ manifestos. I agree; we have much better things to do. I also know that so many of us are simply fed up with reading stuff that promises lots and delivers very little.

However, I do believe that it is our democratic responsibility to ensure that we educate ourselves and vote in any elections in line with our moral, social and political conscience. This can be achieved by being well informed and not only by voting with our gut feeling.

Although this issue will not entertain a lot of people and it will not win many seats across the Parliament, I feel that for many of us it is hugely important. I am delighted that the Lib Dem Manifesto makes so many concrete pledges in relation to the lives of many European nationals living in Britain.

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Welcome to my day: 17 June 2024 – and we have liftoff?…

It’s been an unexpected campaign in many ways. And whilst, as a member of the Party’s Federal Council, I’ve been fortunate to be in receipt of briefings from the centre about campaign strategy for some time, my expectations were not high. It was feeling like a bit of a grim slog to pry loose a bunch of limpet Tory MPs for, the most part, somewhere far from my corner of East Anglia. Certainly worthwhile, and certainly necessary, but not necessarily designed to make spirits soar. Discipline was, and still is, the watchword.

But, there was the consolation that we were going to be on the front foot this time. There was a sense that, even if we weren’t going to reach the heights of the turn of the century, we were going to improve our position significantly in terms of seats at least.

So, colour me surprised to find that this campaign has been far more fun than I could have dreamed of. Yes, a degree of grim determination is still in order – leaflets and canvassing don’t do themselves – but there is a certain joie de vivre that I don’t think many of us could have anticipated. Ed is seemingly living his best life which, compared to the crabbed, cautious approach of Keir and Rishi, our modern day political Chuckle Brothers, does at the very least give the impression of self-confidence and a sense of fun. And campaigns should be enjoyed. Did you have Jason Donovan describing Ed as sexy on your “bingo card” for the campaign.

Much kudos must go to the Campaigns Team who, with our social media team, have entertained and engaged us, the media and, somewhat unexpectedly, the public.

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Ed Davey on Kuenssberg: Lib Dems could make real gains at this election

It was Ed Davey’s turn to be interviewed by Laura Kuenssberg this morning.

Her first question was from a sub post master who actually compared Ed to Boris Johnson because of the various attention grabbing stunts. How can this encourage trust?

Ed replied that all these stunts have engaged people.

We’re talking about social care and cost of living and the environment. I am determined in all the seats we can win that people hear about what the Lib Dems stand for from our local champions. We could make real gains at this election.

We are taking the voters’ concerns really seriously. I don’t take my self too seriously but we don’t take ourselves too seriosly. When I came down that slide, we were talking about our policy on improving mental health for children. We want to see a qualified mental health professional in every school, paid for by rise in Digital Services Tax.

Kuenssberg asked him about the protections for whistleblowers in the Lib Dem manifesto and pressed him (again) on his actions when he was Post Office minister. Those proposals are:

Ensure justice for the victims of scandals and prevent future scandals, including
by:
• Providing full and fair compensation to all victims of the Horizon Post Office
scandal and the Infected Blood scandal as quickly as possible.
• Protecting whistleblowers by establishing a new Office of the Whistleblower,
creating new legal protections, and promoting greater public awareness of
their rights.
• Introducing the Hillsborough Law: a statutory duty of candour on police
officers and all public officials, including during all forms of public inquiry and criminal investigation.

Ed responded that it was vital to protect whistleblowers because it was the
whistleblower from Fujitsu whose evidence in 2015 provided a huge step forward for the sub-postmasters getting justice. Their revelation that the Post OFfice was lying to ministers was crucial to getting this sorted.

He said that he took Alan Bates’ issues really seriously and was the only one who put his concerns to the Post Office in any level of detail but he was lied to.

We need to change the system – we have seen it in contaminated blood and Hillsborough. You can’t run a system if people are lied to. Lib Dems have led on whistleblower protection and duty of candour.

Kuenssberg then turned to the issue of carers, and acknowledged how Ed had talked of his own caring experience.

However, she challenged him on the Coalition Government’s record. During 2010-15, social care spending had been cut in real terms. Did he regret that?

Ed could point to the Care Act of 2014 which, he said, would have improved care for people from 2015-16 as something we had contributed to that made life better for carers and those they care for. He added that we had stopped the Conservatives making the exact cuts to the social security budget that they made with indecent haste when we were out of the picture.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

Gaza

 Benjamin Netanyahu and the Hamas leadership share a common interest: It is to neither’s advantage at this stage to end the Gaza War. But neither is in either party’s interests to be seen as the bad guy.

In the case of the Israeli prime minister it is the fact that once the war is over he will face an overpowering clamour for a general election. It is an election which he will almost certainly lose as the Israeli electorate will hold him to account for the events that led up to the October 7th Hamas attack.

And then, once he is out of office, Netanyahu is likely to exchange the prime minister’s official residence for a prison cell via a trial on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust. Fleeing the country is not an option because by then the International Criminal Court will have issued an arrest warrant for war crimes – unless he flees to America.

With Hamas the story is different. There are two wars being fought in the eastern Mediterranean. One is on the ground and in the air over a strip of land 26 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. The other is a war in the court of international public opinion. Hamas is losing the first and winning the second.

The longer the military war continues. The greater the disproportionate losses in human terms between Palestinians and Israelis and the greater the victory for Hamas. Already it has secured diplomatic recognition of a Palestinian state from six EU countries—Norway, Spain, Slovenia, Cyprus, Sweden and Ireland.

Hamas has repeatedly proven that it puts political objectives before Palestinian lives. A string of historical precedents would have told them that the October 7th attack and the taking of hostages would have resulted in a highly disproportionate number of dead and injured Palestinians. It is also clear that Hamas has used hospitals, schools and Palestinian civilians, as shields.

So, where does that leave the prospects for peace and the diplomatic brokering of the US, Egypt and Qatar? At the moment US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is focused on the lack of Hamas’s enthusiasm for the latest peace proposal. Hamas say they have responded with “positivity” but Blinken says that the Hamas’s “positivity” includes “unworkable” changes.

Part of the latest problem is ownership of the plan currently on the table. It was announced by President Biden. But in his announcement he said it was an Israeli plan. However, as Hamas’ has been keen to point out, no Israeli official has publicly endorsed the plan.

In fact, official Israeli pronouncements continue to focus on continuing the war until Hamas’s “governing and military capabilities have been destroyed and the hostages returned.” There is also the political problem that Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners will withdraw from the government if the plan outlined by Biden goes ahead. This would result in an election which Netanyahu would lose.

Israeli problems and positions in turn appear to be in direct conflict with a Hamas demand that Israel commit in writing to ending the fighting before it agrees to any plan from anyone. Until this deadlock is resolved and the Americans come up with a plan that allows both sides to achieve the aims they want without fighting, then the war continues.

Ukraine

Shortly after the Russians invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the West froze $325 billion in Russian assets.

Almost immediately the call went out to hand the money over to Ukraine to finance its war against Russia. But there was a problem with this tactic which can easily be summed up with one word – hypocrisy.

Putin was being condemned for contravening international law with his naked war of aggression. But confiscating Russian assets and handing them over to Ukraine would also break international law. And respect for international law is at the root of what Ukraine and the West is fighting for. Putin wants to create a world where might is right. America and its allies want to retain a world based on respect for international law.

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Ed Davey: “Lib Dems are a progressive, liberal party and we believe in investment in public services”

There’s a great interview with Ed in the Observer today. He talks about how the Liberal Democrats will hold Labour to account and push them to do more radical things in the next Parliament. In fact, he says some Labour people want more of us there to keep a cautious Labour Government on track.

He sets out what the Lib Dems are about:

“We are a progressive, liberal party and we believe in investment in ­public services,” Davey said. “We believe in making taxes fairer, and we believe in really transformative environmental action. I think people who want to see that level of change in our country can vote Liberal Democrat knowing that we’ll have lots of Lib Dem MPs in the next parliament championing that.

“Frankly, if you want the change, I think we’re offering the most ambitious change. I even have Labour people saying that they’re really Labour people, but they hope we get lots of Liberal Democrat MPs in because they can hold the Labour party to account.”

Where would we push them to go further? Issues like the two child cap, and closer relationships with Europe.

“On things like our relationship with Europe, the Liberal Democrats are passionately pro-European. It’s been a tragedy that we have seen the Conservatives poison that relationship with our closest friends and allies. Are we going to campaign for a better trade deal with Europe? Yes. Are we going to campaign for allowing young people to move across Europe with an agreement on youth mobility? Yes we are.

He’s not getting wildly over-excited about polls which show the Conservatives in third place, citing their deep pockets and capacity to get their message out in the last two and a bit weeks of the campaign.

However, Davey said it would be a “historic mistake” to underestimate the Conservatives, despite some high-profile mishaps during their campaign.

“I just think people who want real change should be cautious about the polls,” Davey said. “The Conservatives are not going to give up. They’ve got more money than any other party. They’re going to spend it in the last few weeks on attack ads on social media. Get ready. I remember 2017 when everyone thought Theresa May was going to get a landslide. I thought she was going to get a landslide. I didn’t expect to get re-elected in 2017. Certainly, Liberal Democrats are not going to take voters for granted.

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Republic of Ireland, Brexit and the EU Elections

A few weeks ago, I visited Dublin for the first time. The Republic of Ireland is a wonderful place. During my trip, I’ve learnt about the symbolism of the Irish flag. I visited the Society and State exhibition at Dublin Castle, which was truly fascinating! I now feel much stronger connected with the country, its culture, people, and at times very difficult history.

However, during my short stay in the capital, I immediately noticed a huge difference; the city was full of posters in relation to the upcoming European Elections. In contrast, in Britain, we spoke very little about these elections, which in my view, will have a major impact on the “European project” and the direction of the EU as a whole.

Apart from the Green and Liberal Democrats and of course the Reform Party, I am still surprised that the major “political powers” are avoiding discussing the B word. Yes, I get it, we left the EU. We can all agree that, with a bit of sarcasm, the journey has been a successful one! We have regained sovereignty, we are able to control our borders and the net migration has been reduced to tens of thousands…The current government produced 5 manifestos in the last few years. In all honesty, they have really badly let down the country, its people and the society as a whole.

Our politicians must realise that the relationship with our closest neighbours should be embedded in their policies. Every single subject that has been discussed at various national debates needs to be looked at also from the European perspective; immigration, employment, high and low-skilled economy. All of it is so closely interconnected. The most recent figures; NO growth in April, the NHS waiting list went up to 7.57 million people. Scary stuff. Would re-joining the EU help to address all of these issues? No, however it is impossible to square some of it without talking about it. I simply don’t buy the rhetoric of people like Mr Farage, who claims that the county must reduce the immigration to zero. Some of these promises are simply unachievable and unworkable.

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Observations of an Expat: Macron’s Gamble

Emmanuel Macron is either a fool, a political genius or – what is most likely – supremely arrogant. Or perhaps it is a confusing mix of all three.

His decision to call early parliamentary elections is – on the face of it – a gamble worthy of a high stakes Las Vegas poker game.

But then, within hours of the president’s televised announcement, things were looking up for Macron as France’s political right started tearing itself apart. Then there is the strong possibility that a far-right victory could prove to be the poisoned chalice that keeps Marine Le Pen out of the Elysee Palace after the 2027 presidential vote.

That must be Macron’s goal. He is barred from running for a third term, but he firmly believes that Ms Le Pen and her National Rally (RN) is an existential threat to France, Europe and the wider world. He is determined that his political legacy should not read: “The man who put Le Pen in power.”

Most pundits agree that Macron had to call an election soon, but they expected it in the autumnal afterglow of the Paris Olympics. The poll has been on the cards ever since Macron lost his parliamentary majority in 2022. Since then he has either had to shift to the right or resort to ruling by decree with Article 49.3. The latter meant that he would eventually face and lose a vote of censure which would have forced him to hold an election. This way he chooses the date and the context.

Marine Le Pen has worked hard to de-demonise the far-right National Rally founded by her father as the National Front. She went so far as to expel her familial predecessor from the party and changed its name to National Rally.

Bowing to opinion polls, she has even also diluted the party’s euro-scepticism. Calls for “Frexit” and withdrawal from the Euro have been abandoned. But some of RN’s other policies make it hard for the party to shed the extremist label. RN opposes French intervention in Africa; wants to leave NATO’s integrated command structure, supports economic intervention and protectionism; seeks a “privileged partnership” with Russia; is anti-globalist and supports a policy of zero tolerance on law and order issues.

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Birthday Honours – congratulations!

Huge congratulations to Chris White, a former member of the Lib Dem Voice team, who has been awarded an OBE. The citation reads: “Lately Member and Leader, St Albans City and District Council. For services to Local Government”.

Chris stepped down earlier this year having led the Lib Dem administration since 2019. He also served on Hertfordshire County Council for nearly 30 years.

Thanks to a reader who has told us that Janet Goldsbrough-Jones in Worthing has been awarded an MBE “for services to the community”. Janet is a long term Lib Dem activist and council candidate in Worthing, who is very active in the community. Congratulations to her too.

That’s all we have found so far, but we have probably not spotted other people that we should mention. Please email us on [email protected] and we will add them to this post.

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Liberator 423 is out

You can download Liberator 423 for free here. 

 

What’s inside this issue?

SEVEN WAYS TO EXPLOIT LABOUR’S FRACTURES

The Tories look finished, but Labour is not as united or powerful as it looks and the Liberal Democrats can exploit this if they are bold enough, says Roger Hayes

‘USELESS’ LEAVES

The SNPs recent fiascos have opened opportunities for other parties in Scotland, says Nigel Lindsey

PUB TALK AFTER 2 MAY

Crystal ball gazing may belong in the pub but the 2 May results give some clear pointers for what may be about to happen to each party, says Chris White

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The Overseas Vote: Please encourage your British family and friends abroad this weekend to register!

An additional 2.1 million Brits abroad will be eligible to vote at the General Election on 4th July, but many still don’t know about their new rights. There’s just five days left to get the word out and have them register, as registration closes on Tuesday at 23.59hrs UK time, whether at home or abroad.

The abolition of the 15-year rule – which had previously stopped the right to vote for any Brit who has been out of the country for longer than that – means that all British citizens abroad of voting age who have ever lived in the UK have their right to vote restored since January this year for general elections and some referendums.

This has more than doubled the number of eligible British voters abroad from approximately 1.4 million to about 3.5 million, a sizeable increase!

Please take action – send your family and friends abroad an email straight away or give them a call. They should go online this weekend and register at https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote if they have not done so already. They will be registered to vote at their last constituency address they lived in.

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Election heroes: Agents

We are now half way through the election campaign and most of us will be feeling a bit knackered.

Elections are a bit like the Tour De France. A massive daily effort with actual and metaphorical daily climbs and sprint finishes.

We thought we’d take a minute to appreciate the key people in the election in a series of posts which will hopefully sustain us through to polling day.

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William Wallace writes.. .Tax Cuts versus Public Investment and Services

The Conservative Manifesto confirms that they have dug in on tax cuts as their core offer to the voting public.  They know that this is an illusion, on which they would not be able to deliver if they won.  Opinion polls show that most of the public don’t think it’s realistic.  An IPSOS poll in early June found 68% of the public describing public services as ‘underfunded’ – confirming similar responses in multiple polls over the past year. 

Labour have been so frightened of the Daily Mail that they have committed themselves to holding almost all major sources of revenue to current levels.  They promise instead to fund increased spending out of future growth – a dubious prospect when UK growth is currently minimal and the global economy is being hit by wars in Ukraine and Israel and by the threat of a China/US trade war.  This has made the campaign so far surreal, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies (and the Institute of Government, and BBC Verify) pointing out the widening gap between promise and necessity, and with both major parties refusing to engage on where future cuts must fall.  Happily our manifesto has focussed on fair tax rather than low tax, and received compliments from the business pages for daring to do so.

Any of you who may be going to meetings with Tory candidates in the next three weeks can have a field day over the gap between rhetoric and reality.   Sunak’s party have promised to raise defence spending by 0.5% of GDP, and attacked Labour for its more cautious half promise.  Given the re-emergence of Russian threats to Europe and the current weakness of UK armed forces, such an increase is irresistible. So ask the Tory candidate what other budgets they will cut to fund this significant increase?  Education, when teachers are leaving in increasing numbers, universities in danger of bankruptcy, and apprenticeships less than half of what our economy needs?  Justice and prisons, which are already buckling from court delays, prison overcrowding, and probation understaffing?  Local government, where budgets have been squeezed to the point where key services are disappearing?  Or maybe the NHS, of all things?

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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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