Author Archives: Alisdair Calder McGregor

Plan ahead – rail strikes planned for Spring Conference weekend

The railway workers’ union the RMT has announced a series of strikes planned for March and April.

The dates of the strikes are the 16th, 18th and 30th of March, and the 1st of April.

The first two dates are the Thursday right before conference, and the Saturday of Conference, both of which dates might impact those travelling to conference.

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Under new management – Federal International Relations Committee report

On Monday 6th of February, the Federal International Relations Committee (FIRC) met for its first formal session of the new year, and of the newly elected committee.

In a two hour meeting which was kept very nearly to time (an almost unheard of state of affairs in Liberal Democrat committees, in my experience), we dealt with a stack of both policy and procedural issues.

We formally approved the continuance of, and received reports from, our sub-committees on China and Ukraine; we also received reports from several other bodies where FIRC has either oversight or coordinating responsibilities, and from the Federal Party’s International …

Posted in Europe / International and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 1 Comment

Federal Policy Committee Report – 15 February 2017

Federal Policy Committee met on Wednesday 15th February. The meeting was slightly in advance of our normal cycle (it having been obviously felt that having a long FPC meeting on the evening before the Stoke-On-Trent and Copeland by-elections was a bad idea).

Sadly the combined effect of a Parliamentary recess and half term in some areas of the country led to a lower turnout than at the previous meeting with neither Tim Farron MP nor the regular compiler of these reports Geoff Payne being able to attend. In Tim’s absence the meeting was chaired by the committee vice-chair Duncan Brack.

The meeting as a whole was driven much more by discussion over future process than the previous meeting’s focus on policy matters for Spring Conference. In some ways Federal Policy Committee regards our pre-conference work as “done with”; we are now awaiting the input from conference on the policy papers, motions and consultation papers to shape how FPC will proceed. As such, much of our work this time was on preparation for post-conference work.

The shape of some of our subcommittees and working groups due to report back for Autumn Conference was fleshed out. Belinda Brooks-Gordon was elected as the Chair of the Policy Equalities Impact Assessment Group (of which I am also a member) which will review Policy proposals with an intersectional view of the impact of policies upon all diversity strands.

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What now for the Pro-EU Party?

Traditionally, at this point after a vote, Politicians start to mutter comments about “The will of the people”

I’m not going to.

Manifestly, the result of the EU referendum is not to our taste. However, I do not believe that it is to the taste of the voting public either – or at least, it won’t be once they’ve tasted the actual medicine that the Brexit campaign have prescribed.

The public have, throughout the EU referendum campaign, been systematically lied to, deceived and manipulated by the Brexit campaign. The warnings of the Remain campaign on the impact of leaving the EU were dismissed as “Project Fear” – and are already being proven horribly right, as the value of Sterling tumbles and the bleak reality of the economics of Brexit become apparent.

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Opinion: Rotherham would be an ideal place to hold England’s first STV elections

The problems caused by one-party states are many, but the behaviour of Rotherham Labour in failing to their residents by running a council that was simply “not fit for purpose” shows one of the worst possible examples.

The lack of political challenge to Rotherham Labour resulted in a council that lacked even the basic ability to serve local people. It stands as one of the clearest examples of the failure of the current English council elections system.

Eric Pickles has already announced that Rotherham will move to all-up elections from 2016, but this is insufficient to change the underlying problem of the lack of political challenge in Rotherham.

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Opinion: Limited Devolution may be ok for Manchester, but Yorkshire deserves better

Yorkshire DalesThe news that George Osborne is offering further powers to Manchester (if – and only if – they turn their backs on the democratic will of the people and implement an elected Mayor in spite of Manchester voting “No” to having one) has been enthusiastically accepted by the Manchester Labour Party, because, as with all local Labour parties, they very much prefer a government that cannot be scrutinized and wields power in secret, unaccountable meetings.

Yorkshire deserves far better than this Tory & Labour stitch-up of an end-run around democracy and accountability.

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Opinion: Seeking support for amendment on Constitutional Reform

imageSince last week, debate has been running high on where the UK needs to head to deal with the constitutional issues raised by the Scottish Independence Referendum.

As such, I’ve decided to put forward  (and my local party is backing) an amendment to the pre-Manifesto document (F30 on the Conference Agenda), aimed at altering Section 7 to reflect where we need to go to deliver our aims as a party.

One of the major problems with Section 7 of F30 as it stands, is that al the initiative in devolution is put into the hands of councils. I believe it’s inevitable that this would lead to gerrymandered councils in areas where a party can establish a one-party state. Can you imagine South Yorkshire Councils, after the recent scandals in Rotherham, having the ability to set their own boundary? This is a terrible idea, and would lead to a worsening of the democratic crisis in our country.

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PSA: Advance rail tickets for Glasgow are now available

Train at Alloa StationThe cost of Conference, especially of travel, can be a burden on those of us attending conference, so it’s worth noting that Advance tickets to get to Glasgow on the 3rd & back on the 8th of October are now available on the national rail website.

Advance will be the cheapest available ticket type, but can be used on the booked train only – no open transfers, so choose carefully!

Furthermore, if you are planning to travel with a friend in both directions, it’s a good idea to …

Posted in News | 7 Comments

Opinion: We are still living with the consequences of nationalised railways today. Turning back the clock will make matters worse.

Northern trainIn a letter to the Observer a group of Labour PPCs, including my opponent Joshua Fenton-Glynn, have proposed that the Labour should nationalise rail services.

This idea displays an ignorance of the true cause of the problems with UK railways that beggars belief. Almost every issue with rail transport can be traced not to privatisation per se, but to nationalisation, or the insufficiently liberal privatisation foisted upon us by the Major government.

In the 1980s investment in rail was at an all time low, due entirely to the nationalised nature of …

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Opinon: The Calder Valley needs a modern transport system to maximise economic potential

The declaration that Hebden Bridge is the UKs ‘second city’ – lying at the heart of the suburbs of Bradford, Leeds & Manchester – has come as something of a shock to most people living there, including myself. However, underneath the hyperbole lies a serious point; that the Calder Valley lies in a sweet spot for ease of commute to the major employment centres.
But what the Calder Valley lacks – and what holds back prosperity and employment opportunities within it – is a modern, efficient transport system.
We are cursed on the Caldervale line which runs along the Calder Valley

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Call for amendments!

key_conference_registerIs there a motion on the LibDem Conference Agenda you are just dying to amend? Something that’s too Orange Book, too Soggy Democrat or just plain too Lembit for you to support?

I’d like to know about it!

On Sunday 2nd March, two days before the deadline for amendments, Calderdale Liberal Democrats Policy Working Group will meet – with our voting reps and ordinary members in attendance to debate the motions and any proposed amendments.

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Porn blocking comes in… and blocks the LGBT+LD website as porn

As many readers will remember, during the debate on motion F17 at Autumn Conference many speeches were made by technically inclined LibDem members describing how the proposed porn blocks would not work, and in particular would misclassify and block legitimate websites as containing pornographic content.

Just in case we needed confirmation that we were right, TalkTalk have provided it… by classifying the LGBT+LD portion of the party website as porn. In addition, the website of LGBT charity “London Friend” has been blocked. These are not isolated incidents. Wired has a more in-depth …

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Opinion: Teresa May’s Right Hand doesn’t know what her Hard Right hand is doing

teresamayThe leaks from the Home Office of Tory plans over immigration, rightly shot down as illegal by Nick , are the mark of a Tory Party abandoning moderate politics to placate its increasingly vocal right wing.

But the juxtaposition of Tory isolationist leanings with yesterday’s official announcement from the home secretary on modern slavery exposes the total lack of joined up thinking within the Tories on trafficking & immigration.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments

Opinion: Labour’s Living Wage really means the State taxes the poor more

This is – according to the Labour Party – the start of “Living Wage week”, a soundbite policy of the kind we’re now used to hearing from Labour.

Superficially, the idea of the Living Wage is simple and tempting. Figure out how much it costs to live, and force employers to pay that much.

Labour’s chosen method of doing this is to offer employers tax breaks – for a year  – if they comply with the Living Wage rather than the national minimum wage. However, as pointed out by the Adam Smith Institute, what we are actually dealing with is

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 33 Comments

Opinion: Labour’s energy freeze is terrible economics but excellent politics

Ed Miliband announced in his keynote speech to Labour Party conference that, if elected, he would force energy companies to freeze energy bills for 20 months.

Now obviously, from an economic liberal  perspective, this makes no sense.

Freezing energy costs is precisely the wrong way to go about dealing with the cost of living problem in this country. By freezing income while costs rise in the global upturn & the population expands to require greater supply, Miliband is depriving the energy companies of the capital they need to invest in the expansion of the system.

This will inevitably drive the energy supply industry …

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Opinion: Tory woes over the Eastleigh campaign continue

Channel 4 news are carrying a story highlighting Conservative Minister Nick Boles’ unease with the Eastleigh campaign’s “war on planning” strategy which he feels went against what he had been asked to do in government, and that he was asked to stay away from Eastleigh to keep the messaging on track.

This in itself is not that surprising, as the LibDem campaign (and even the media) knew that the Tory campaign was a double-back on their County Council and Government commitments and declared policies. It was pretty typical of their campaign, and of the overall shambles which is Tory …

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Opinion: How do Gove’s plans match up to Lib Dem policy?

Three months ago I penned my debut submission to LibDemVoice – There is much for the Lib Dems to support in Gove’s embryonic exam proposals – in the wake of the early leaks of Gove’s plans for the replacement of GCSEs. In that, I set out how Michael Gove’s policies matched up with Liberal Democrat Party Policy, and came to some conclusions on how Gove’s proposals would need to be altered to be in line with our policies;

The four criteria were:

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Opinion: There is much for the Lib Dems to support in Gove’s embryonic exam proposals

The leak to the Daily Mail of the education secretary’s proposals for replacing the current GCSE system has set off a predictable storm of fury from many quarters.

These proposals are – as Nick Clegg has laid out in forthright terms – not coalition policy, haven’t been discussed in cabinet, and haven’t been seen by the Lib Dem in the Department of Education, Sarah Teather.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Simon R
    @Katharine The reason some of us value (or to use your words: are preoccupied by) economic growth and supporting people to work is that without both of t...
  • Kevin Hawkins
    For those interested in taking a longer term view rather than one week’s results here is my monthly data for the last fifty local by-elections up to the end o...
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    Such a fine piece from Leon. As my friend and colleague vice chair of Liberal Democrats For peace In the Middle East , Mohammed Amin states, I too declare inte...
  • Paul Barker
    Ed hit the Tory nail on the head - excellent ! For those feeling down about our prospects - I used the prediction facility at Electoral Calculus. I assumed ...
  • Katharine Pindar
    It seems to me that our party, unlike the big two, should be representing the unheard, the quiet people. I think for instance of parents needing to stay at home...