Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

The hunt for certainty

Theresa May has been telling MPs that they need to vote for her deal to give certainty.

That has always been hogwash because the Withdrawal Agreement kicks so much about our future relationship with the EU down the road as to be virtually meaningless. In fact, the very existence of the much maligned backstop is proof that it resolves very little and leaves us worse off.

But now, Theresa May’s quest to get her deal through the Commons is even more blighted. When she told Conservative MPs that she intended to step down ahead of the next election, she was probably thinking maybe sometime in 2021. The way some of her MPs, even those who supported her, are talking tonight, she’s got until March.

That adds even more uncertainty into the mix. We have no idea who will lead the negotiations shaping our future relations with the EU. Just imagine that Tory members elect Boris who thinks the chaos of no deal is just what this country needs? At least now we can revert to our membership of the EU but after March 29th we won’t have that safety net.

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PM Confidence vote – open thread

I’m going to call it now. Theresa May is going to win and win big tonight. That is not going to mean that all is peace, harmony and love in the Conservative Party. Today’s extraordinary scene between James Cleverly and Andrew Budgen showed the toxicity of the atmosphere.

Even if Theresa May was going to limp home, winning by one vote, she would stay on. Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t even have the confidence of half of his MPs and he manages it. I just hope that the Tory Remainers have extracted some concessions – maybe even a commitment to a People’s Vote – in return for their support. A convincing win would mean that she didn’t have to pander to the ERG anymore and could seek to build bridges across the House. If she’s told Tory MPs tonight that she isn’t going to contest the 2022 election and she can’t be challenged, then she has nothing to lose by going for a much softer Brexit, perhaps EEA, than she had envisaged. Whether she will take that course, because she’s not known for her flexibility, remains to be seen.

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So it looks like there might be a Tory leadership contest after all…..

The rumours have been circulating all evening, but if Kuenssberg and Peston are now saying it, there has to be some plausibility to the story:

Our Layla got a bit over-excited:

How very unlike the Conservative Party to embroil itself in its own self-indulgent civil war at a time of national crisis.

Of course, even if the ERG has managed to get itself sufficiently together to submit the letters and settle on a chosen candidate, maybe even one who has had a haircut recently, getting the letters in is only the first part of the job. They then have to persuade a majority of their Tory colleagues to back them to force a leadership contest. Apparently there was a huge amount of cheering coming from their meeting last night, and we can probably assume that it wasn’t because they were happy that Joe Sugg had got to the final of Strictly.

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Bottle it Day: Lib Dems react

Rather than face certain defeat now, Theresa May shelves plans for a Commons vote on her Brexit deal in order to try to stave of likely defeat in a few weeks’ time.

Lib Dems have been reacting to developments.

Vince Cable confirmed that we would support Labour in the unlikely event that our so-called opposition actually decided to move a motion of no-confidence in the Government.

The Prime Minister’s authority has drained away. It is the duty of Jeremy Corbyn to call a vote of no confidence in the Government, which Liberal Democrats would support.

After that Liberal Democrats will continue to press for a People’s Vote. MPs from all parties should join us in giving the people a final say, with the option to remain in the EU.

Welsh leaderJane Dodds said that the only way to resolve the Brexit embarrassment was a People’s Vote:

Brexit has become a national embarrassment. Negotiations with the EU have been chaotic since day one, but this is a new low. The fact Theresa May has postponed the vote on her deal to avoid defeat shows there is no support for her Brexit deal in Parliament.

Delaying the vote on her Brexit deal is an unprecedented blow to Theresa May’s authority, but it solves nothing. There is no majority for any Brexit deal in Parliament and now no majority for Brexit at all amongst the public. Whilst this remains the case, no Brexit deal will get through Parliament.

The only solution to the ongoing Brexit crisis is going back to the people. We must give the people the final say and the opportunity to choose an Exit from Brexit. This is the only solution and the Prime Minister should immediately back it.

Christine Jardine asked the PM why, if she could change her mind over the backstop, the people couldn’t be given the chance to vote again:

Wera Hobhouse asked how many of the people who voted to leave in 2016 voted for her deal:

Tim Farron was unimpressed with the Labour Party:

And on a lighter note, the Lib Dem Press Office has been on form today:

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WATCH: Vince Cable speak at People’s Vote rally in London, slams “insane, inflammatory and dangerous” talk of riots if Brexit doesn’t happen

After all the earlier discussion about the People’s Vote campaign, Vince actually ended up speaking at their big rally at the Excel Centre this afternoon. 2500 people turned up at the rally which was co-hosted with Best for Britain.

Vince called Jeremy Hunt’s comments that there would be riots if we didn’t leave the EU “insane, inflammatory and dangerous.”

He said that we were moving closer to a People’s Vote, which was now even been talked about by Cabinet Ministers as a possibility.

Watch the whole event here – Vince is on at 8 minutes in.

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Updated: Why is the People’s Vote campaign sidelining Lib Dems?

It’s fair to say that some party members have been expressing concern on social media about a perceived detachment between the Liberal Democrats and the People’s Vote campaign.

Why is it that Caroline Lucas is representing the campaign on the Channel 4 debate tonight? Why was Vince missing from the petition event in Downing Street? It’s not a great way to treat the party who kicked off the campaign for a final say on the deal in the Summer of 2016.

Late last week, Liberal Democrat MPs were criticised by the campaign for putting down an amendment to Labour’s amendment calling for a People’s Vote.

The People’s Vote campaign is not backing the move because they want to wait until the deal is rejected because they think that they will have a better chance of securing a referendum then.

They may be right. But in a febrile and unpredictable environment, why wouldn’t you make sure that you have the option of putting it on the agenda?

Paul Waugh is wrong in this report when he says that:

Crucially, it adopts the prime minister’s proposal and just makes it conditional on a second referendum. Unlike other amendments, it does not reject May’s deal.

It doesn’t. It is an amendment to Labour’s amendment so if both were passed, the motion passed by the House would read:

This House declines to approve the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship because itfails to provide for a permanent UK-EU customs union and strong single market deal and would therefore lead to increased barriers to trade in goods and services, would not protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, allows for the diminution of the United Kingdom’s internal and external security and is likely to lead to the implementation of a backstop provision in Northern Ireland that is neither politically nor economically sustainable; declines to approve the United Kingdom’s leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement; and therefore resolves to pursue every option, including a public vote as endorsed by the Labour Party Conference 2018, that prevents the United Kingdom’s either leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement or leaving on the basis of the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House.

We don’t know yet if our amendment will be debated or even put to the vote but we have at least got a People’s Vote on the order paper so that the House has a chance to get it into the mix.  I think we need to trust our people to know what they are doing. They are the ones having the conversations in Parliament and they will know what is possible. 

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Willie Rennie pulls Lib Dems out of Scottish budget negotiations

While all eyes are on a key vote on a proposal put forward by a minority government at Westminster this week, another political drama looms. On Wednesday  the Finance Minister of a minority government at Holyrood will present his budget.

Derek Mackay is going to have a hard time getting his proposals through. All Willie Rennie asked for as a preoondition to negotiaions for Lib Dem support was that they just drop the idea of an independence referendum in this Parliament, fulfilling a key part of our manifesto. It chimes with what we are hearing consistently on doorsteps – that people don’t want to go through 2014 again. They want to concentrate on getting rid of Brexit.

The arguments that all parties apart from the Conservatives, have united behind in the Scottish Parliament against Brexit apply equally to breaking up the UK. While you don’t expect the SNP ever to give up campaigning for independence, keeping it off the agenda for the time being is as sensible for them as it is good for the country.

The SNP lost 21 seats in the 2017 General Election as Scottish people reacted with horror to the prospect, floated by Nicola Sturgeon, of another poll. All tests of opinion so far suggest that they would lose another referendum, which is why they won’t call one. The problem is that if they explicitly say they’ll delay, their own people will kick off.

So they wouldn’t agree Willie’s pre-condition. And so Willie has withdrawn the Lib Dems from the negotiations.

From the BBC:

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said he had met Mr Mackay and Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes on two occasions “to explore what could be done” with the budget.

Mr Rennie said his party had been willing to “step in to help address the problems that have been mounting since the SNP came to power 11 years ago”.

This included investment in education and mental health services, an improved deal for councils and action to help tackle staffing shortages in hospitals and schools.

But he said the talks ended when the SNP politicians “could not agree to even a short cessation in their independence campaign”.

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Rennie, Cole-Hamilton and a racing car. What could possibly go wrong?

When Willie Rennie and Alex Cole-Hamilton get together in a car, fun and mayhem usually result. Their General Election stunt in a De Lorean was just such an example.

Today they were both at the Scottish Parliament when double Formula One World Champion Mika Häkkinen, showed up with a racing car to launch a festive campaign to encourage Scots to never drink and drive known as #JointhePact. The initiative encourages people to make a commitment never to get behind the wheel if they’ve had a drink. In the 10 years it has been running, 14 million people have apparently signed up around the world.

Willie and Alex were quick to take over the car.

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Stephen Lloyd resigns Lib Dem whip over Brexit deal

According to BBC South East’s Helen Catt.

It’s because of what he called “irreconcilable differences” between what he sees as his obligations to his Eastbourne constituents and the party’s anti Brexit position.

Stephen promised his constituents, a majority of whom voted to leave that he wouldn’t block Brexit. Perhaps the party’s mistake was allowing him to stand on that basis in 2017.

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Why Delia could be the People’s Vote campaign’s most potent advocate

Three weeks on Tuesday, I’ll be preparing my family’s Christmas dinner, as I have done for the last three decades, by following the instructions in my battered and splattered copy of Delia Smith’s Christmas. You know, I bought the updated version a few years back, but it’s the old one I always reach for.

In a dark cupboard, as I write, it’s Delia’s Christmas cake that’s slowly maturing, helped along with the occasional injection of brandy, waiting for me to ice it on Christmas Eve.

We’ve started every New Year for decades with her Filet de Boeuf en Croute. In fact there was one year we didn’t and that was a bloody awful one. We won’t be doing that again.

You get my drift. Generations of cooks have grown up to instinctively trust Delia. Her recipes work and they’ve become engrained in many a family’s rituals.

So when she appears on the political programmes telling us that Brexit is a recipe for chaos and we should have a People’s Vote and choose to stay in, with the same passion as she’s enthused us into buying every cranberry or lime in the country in years gone by, we’re going to listen to her.

Here she was on the Andrew Marr Show this morning:

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Are you stressed out by Brexit?

A social media post by a friend of mine, citing Brexit-induced stress for lack of sleep made me realise this week that I feel the same way. Even if I don’t reach for my phone to check the headlines if I wake up in the middle of the night, the impending disaster facing the country is never far from my mind.

Then this morning an email arrives in our inbox telling us about Headspace’s new meditation packs for stressed out British people with one targeted at the almost three quarters of us who cite Brexit as something that is worrying them.

I’m not sure that a few moments’ meditation will help with the worry about what happens to our already crumbling public services if, as every forecast suggests, we will be worse off and we don’t have the people here to work in them.

I guess those of us who want to stay in the EU should be stressed. While the chance to get out of this mess has never been bigger, there’s a pretty tortuous process ahead over the next few weeks to get there. It’s a bit like the three dimensional chess they played on Star Trek: The Next Generation. When is the best time to play the People’s Vote card? In the Times on Friday, Matthew Parris said that Tory MPs should wait until after the deal has been defeated to come out for another vote and definitely shouldn’t do it now:

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Some thoughts on the passing of a decent President

I’ll be honest, I was distraught when George H W Bush won the 1988 presidential election. I had so been hoping for an end to Republicans in the White House after 8 years of Reagan. I didn’t think his Vice President was going to be much of an improvement. I was annoyed that hard-hitting negative advertising combined with poor strategy and misjudgement of what constituted a good photo opportunity had cost Mike Dukakis.

Four years later, I stayed up all night watching the results, elated as Bill Clinton won a commanding victory. By that time, it wasn’t that I couldn’t stand Bush. In fact, I’d grown to respect his ability to form international alliances and show restraint and generally be a safe pair of hands at a time fo the most amazing global transformation. I was saddened how he had been pushed to the evangelical right by a bruising primary contest in a party which was then showing that it was capable of going to some very dark places.

Of course, as America’s economy suffered and people got poorer, he didn’t respond with the sort of social democrat policies that I would have liked. Then again, neither did Clinton. America just never has been in that place. I have never been able to understand why the provision of health care that’s free at the point of use by the state is such a controversial idea.

But Bush’s presidency had been a force for international good. I was glad that his Secretary of State James Baker was at least prepared to try to curb the excesses of the Israeli Government and to get people round the negotiating table, laying the groundwork for the Oslo Accord. 

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Updated: Two strong holds for Lib Dems in by-elections and a GAIN

While Layla was putting in a storming performance on Question Time, her Oxfordshire colleagues were finishing off polling day in Wheatley ward. We were seeking to defend the seat we won by a whisker last year. Could Tim Bearder hold on?

Well, yes. By quite a lot.

It shows how well served the people in the ward have been by our Kirsten Johnson these past 18 months.

We also had a super hold in Aylesbury for Anders Christenson.

We can definitely forgive his Mum her moment of pride:

Typically, the gain happened after I went to bed…congratulations, Dominic Skinner.

And Christina Raven didn’t win, but she made a huge leap forward in Welwyn Hatfield. The Tories will be worried now.

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Brexit shambles descends into debate farce

You really couldn’t make up the state of British politics at the moment. The monstrous shambles that is Brexit is bad enough. A governing party riven by toxic split. An opposition that should be 20 points ahead in the polls but is excelling itself only in being more useless than the Government.

In recent days there has been talk of a tv debate between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn but even that can’t be sorted out. At the time of writing, Theresa May’s going to be on the BBC while Corbyn is cosying up to ITV, saying he wants it all over for the I’m a Celebrity final. I mean, really, the biggest substantive difference between the two is over which channel hosts the debate.

Certainly, if it ends up on the BBC, the trajectory of the evening will be markedly downward from Doctor Who to Strictly to the My Brexit’s bigger than Your Brexit despairathon.

It looks as though David Attenborough’s Dynasties will be booted to a later date. In a quiet but lovely corner of the internet, the wonderful Richard Flowers imagined the debate with an Attenborough voiceover:

Here… in the bleak midwinter… we see the skeletal remains of a Prime Minister being picked over by the vultures from her own Party, whilest a lst sheep in a loose collection of flappy organic rags bleats incoherant mantras about a Jobs First Bexit… And all about them, the country dies…

Vince, Nicola Sturgeon and the People’s Vote campaign are all rightly narked that they are being left out. I mean, after all, why wouldn’t they want to show an alternative opinion that might bring in more viewers?

This evening, Sal Brinton and Nick Harvey have written to BBC Chairman Lord Hall to suggest that the debate as currently planned might breach Ofcom rules. I’m not sure about that, because there’s no actual election, but the party is seeing legal advice. Here’s the text of their letter. 

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Vince: We stand with women who have experienced physical or sexual violence

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. From now until Human Rights Day on 10th December. there are 16 days of activism against gender based violence.

UN Women suggests 16 ways we an all help, from telling our stories to raising awareness to helping women affected by violence.

Over the next 16 feel free to share your experience or tell us what you are doing to help stop gender based violence. Send any posts to [email protected] in the usual way.

It was really good to see Vince make a statement in support of this today:

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #536

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 536th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (18-24 November, 2018), together with a hand-picked seven you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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Lembit Opik says he could stand for President of Estonia

This week, Lembit Opik has hinted that he could make a return to politics – in Estonia this time. He suggested that he might be interested in standing for President of that country.

From the BBC:

Mr Opik said he had been asked to consider being either a member of the Estonian parliament, or to consider running as president.

“One position is just to be a member of parliament, which I would not mind doing,” the 53-year-old said.

“There are 101 MPs and they do work in coalition, so it is not very partisan.

“The other position is president of Estonia. It is more than just a non-executive role – I could make quite a big splash.

“I have not got a campaign plan but I have said I would be interested. It’s not an appointed job, I would have to stand for it.”

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Dear Theresa, If your deal is so great, why not let the people vote on it?

As I write, the European Union has just agreed the Brexit Deal. I’m a bit sad that it’s all happening on what would have been Charles Kennedy’s 59th birthday. He’d have had something to say about all of this.

Ahead of the meeting, Theresa May wrote to the nation telling us why we should all back her Brexit deal. Unfortunately, her letter is all spin and no substance. She paints a picture of a happy, reconciled nation moving forward after Brexit. She uses this phrase “works for everyone” a few times. She might as well have promised a unicorn on every street corner. Jeremy Corbyn’s Magic Money Tree was more real than the benefits open to us after Brexit. May’s own foreign secretary, on Andrew Marr this morning, couldn’t say that we’d be better off after Brexit. He only went as far as the deal “mitigates most of the negative impact.” If that is the best we can do, why bother. Why not just forget the whole thing?

The biggest problem with her deal is that we actually have no idea what we will end up with further down the road. Most of the big decisions – on future trade, on Northern Ireland, take place after we have left. Imagine getting married without having some common ground on whether you are going to have children, what sort of life you are going to live, where you are going to live?  That would be a recipe for disaster. So is this deal.

Anyone who remembers the last time that lot left office will remember that public services were on their knees and the gap between rich and poor was enormous. Their cuts to public services, particularly in the last three and a half years that they’ve been on their own, and their cruel slashing of social security give the lie to any desire to make a country that works for everyone. We really can’t trust them with our future. Most egregiously, she spins us a line on the NHS:

Instead, we will be able to spend British taxpayers’ money on our own priorities, like the extra £394 million per week that we are investing in our long-term plan for the NHS.

I’ll leave it to Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, a GP herself,  to debunk that one.

What annoys me most is the bit about how wonderful it is to end free movement. That will have a massive impact on areas like NHS and social care. We are going to end up having real staffing problems in the NHS. The  Royal College of GPs backed a People’s Vote the other day, citing concerns about patient safety:

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What to buy the Lib Dem Feminist for Christmas

So your inbox will no doubt have been overflowing with Black Friday deals that aren’t that great these past few days.

And this coming Monday is apparently when we all buy our pressies online.

Good to see the Lib Dems get into that.

An email from Jo Swinson dropped into my inbox this morning:

97 years ago, Margaret Wintringham took her seat in the House of Commons as the MP for Louth in Lincolnshire.

She was the third woman ever to be elected as an MP, the second ever to take her seat, and the first British woman to become an MP.

She was the Liberal’s first woman MP

In Parliament, she campaigned to extend the Representation of the People Act 1918 to all women over 21, as it was for men. She campaigned for equal pay for equal work and for girls as well as boys to receive state scholarships.

Our women leaders in the Liberals and the Liberal Democrats have been revolutionaries. And this year, the 100 year anniversary of (some) women getting the vote, we want to celebrate the last 100 years of amazing Lib Dem women in the party.

Want to be part of the celebrations? We’ve designed this t-shirt to proudly celebrate our Lib Dem feminist heroines.

Well, of course I bought the t-shirt. It has some of my favourite people on it, from Cambridge’s  excellent Sarah Brown to Christine Jardine who is fighting for State Pension equality for women and co-sponsoring the bill which aims to give Northern Irish women access to abortion, to our energetic and fabulous President Sal Brinton to my first political hero Shirley Williams to Lynne Featherstone who fought for same sex marriage, to first Liberal woman MP Margaret Wintringham to Wales’ progressive Education Secretary Kirsty Williams. 

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How you could make Lib Dem policy

Have you got a burning idea that could make a positive difference to people’s lives?

If so, then why not write it down, get some supporters and submit it as a motion to Liberal Democrat Spring Conference.

The lovely people at the Federal Conference Committee will even give you drafting advice.

The motion deadline for Spring Conference isn’t till 9th January, so why am I telling you this?

Well, FCC, lovely as they are, don’t give drafting advice over Christmas. Everyone deserves a break, after all. So you have to ask for that by 19th December. That’s less than a month away, and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll procrastinate for ages before actually writing anything down.

All you need to know can be found here.

If you have never written a motion for Conference before, have a look here

There are years’ worth of examples.

Basically the first part of your motion outlines the problem, then you say what we believe, the underlying principles that we’ll use to develop our solution and finally, a section calling for various actions to sort it all out.

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Vince tells PM: Brexit Deal is “pathetically weak”

Vince Cable questioned the Prime Minister yesterday when she made her statement on the political declaration of the EU withdrawal agreement. He highlighted one particularly worrying aspect of it:

This is essentially an agreement to have an agreement, and it is full of worryingly vague aspirations. How, for example, can the Prime Minister justify paragraph 24, which relates to medicines, chemicals and aviation safety, where we currently have strong agreed co-operative standards? She has managed to negotiate an agreement to

“explore the possibility of cooperation”.

That is pathetically weak, and it will cause great anxiety to millions of people who depend on high standards of safety.

Ultimately, this deal is a massive kicking of big issues into some very long grass. Nothing will be decided before we leave the EU. This makes it more important than ever that we stop Brexit.

May’s response just emphasised how uncertain this all is:

In relation to these negotiations, we are not able to put legal texts together until we have left the European Union and are no longer a member of the European Union—that, of course, is what we will be able to do when we leave on 29 March 2019.

Brexit is a leap into the fog. We owe future generations better than this.

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The London List results are out

And we have Team London. Here are the Liberal Democrat candidates for the London Assembly List in 2020. It’s great to see such a diverse team. It’s no surprise that the brilliant Caroline Pidgeon topped the poll.

New Merton Councillor Hina Bokhari, who wrote about her first 100 days here, got to second place with an energetic campaign on the ground and on social media.

Lewisham’s Lucy Salek, who got such a good result in the by-election earlier this year, is in third.

Outgoing London Regional Chair Chris Maines is fourth and Federal Board Vice Chair Joyce Onstad is …

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For Transgender Day of Remembrance

November 20th every year is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, where we stop to remember those transgender people who have lost their lives over the past 12 months because of who they are.

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Review: Inside the Foreign Office, Part 1

“More than fifty shades of diplomacy.”

So says Britain’s Ambassador talking about the nuances of international relations in a BBC documentary about the Foreign Office, the first part of which was shown last week.

It opens just after the 2017 election, with Boris addressing the assembled ranks in the Foreign Office. Typically, he talks about the fate of the Conservative Party in front of impartial civil servants.

He talked about wanting to go to Tehran – and we all know how his dealings with the Iranians ended up for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

The Permanent Secretary, Sir Simon MacDonald, talked about the nature of diplomacy, describing how 17th century ambassador Sir Henry Wootton “Am ambassador is an honest man sent aboard to ie for the benefit of his country.” MacDonald pointed out the triple entendre –  lying meant lazing about and sleeping around as well as not telling the truth. His modern take was that the art of diplomacy is “letting other people have your way”

Sir Simon talked about the changing status of UK – how we were the biggest, most important power before World War 1. It’s all changed since then.

We’re now in second group of countries not able to do much by themselves. So, clearly, it’s really sensible for us to be leaving an enormous collaboration of nations.

We then went to our UN mission in New York where aides were prepping Boris for talks with the Russians who had requested aid to rebuild Syria – which they have helped destroy. They discussed  various ways of how they could use that request to get rid of Assad and ensuing humanitarian access.

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Vince: Don’t let older generations impose their prejudices on young people

Vince did an interview last week that I expect he enjoyed more than most. The interviewer wasn’t Eddie Mair, or Andrew Neil, but his grandson Ayrton. As an ambassador for the I Will campaign , which aims to engage young people in social action, he took the chance to interview his Grandad.

Vince has always been pretty robust about how the older generation has shafted young people. He talked about how important it is for young people to get involved, engaged and to get out and vote.

Watch the video here:

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #535

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 535th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the five most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (11-17 November, 2018), together with a hand-picked seven you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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Theme of the week – First political memories

I was inspired to write this post by a conversation I had this week. My friend was talking about his earliest political memories in a house where Tony Blair was reviled. He first became aware of politics around the time of the Iraq war. He had never really been properly exposed to the Tories in his formative years and doesn’t have the same antipathy to them as I do.

It made me think about my first political memories and the impact they have on me now. I remember being taken along with my parents when they went to vote in one of the 1974 elections. I was also very aware of what was going on in the White House with the unprecedented resignation of a US President.

The first Government I was aware of was the Labour one of Harold Wilson and then Jim Callaghan. I knew that the economy went to hell in a hand cart at that time. I also remember being really frightened by tv pictures of these massive trade union meetings where everyone voted to go on strike. In a crowd like that, you daren’t not conform to expectations.

At around the same time, Alex Haley’s “Roots” was broadcast. I watched, horrified that human beings could keep other human beings as slaves and treat them with such barbaric cruelty. At around the same time, I also watched the Doctor wrestle with whether to stop the Daleks ever being formed. Alex Wilcock has always said that Doctor Who made him a liberal and I had a similar experience, fascinated by someone who travelled around space and time treating people well, encouraging respect and co-operation.

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Lib Dem Peers split on Lord Lester vote

This week, the House of Lords debated a recommendation from the Committee for Privileges and Conduct which recommended that Lord Lester of Herne Hill should be suspended from the House until 2022. The House of Lords Commissioner for Standards made this ruling about a complaint of sexual harassment against Lord Lester:

Applying the test of the balance of probabilities I find the complaint upheld, on the basis of the strong and cogent evidence of the complainant and her witnesses. I have carefully considered the challenges to this evidence, but do not find that those challenges undermine the strength of the evidence to any significant degree.

Lord Lester also admitted a further breach of the Lords’ Code as outlined in the Commissioner’s report which is annexed to the Committee report.

At a late stage in the investigation I was informed that Lord Lester had told another Member of the House, who knows the complainant, that it was she who had made the complaint against him. The Member confirmed that this had happened (Appendix AB) .

This was a breach of the confidentiality requirement in the Guide to the Code (paragraph 130), and I therefore asked Lord Lester to respond to the evidence of a breach of confidentiality. He replied:<
“As regards the allegation that I named the complainant to this is correct. I spoke briefly and privately to the Member. I apologise. I am not responsible for what occurred thereafter.”

Since the report has been published, the complainant, campaigner Jasvinder Sanghera has waived her right to anonymity. That was her decision to do so. It was not acceptable for Lord Lester to identify her to anyone during the investigation.

On Thursday, the Lords voted to send the recommendation back to the Committee for further consideration. 18 Lib Dem peers voted in that debate, 13 in favour of sending the recommendation back, 5 in favour of accepting it.

There are things that really worry me, reading the Lords debate. Regrettably, some of our peers chose to try to discredit the woman making the complaint. This led Ms Sanghera to say in today’s Sunday Times (£) that she felt a bit like Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who so bravely faced a Senate Committee to describe her experience of being sexually assaulted by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 23 Comments

Sunday morning interviews open thread

This morning, politicians are lining up to talk to the Sunday political programmes – but those in favour of a People’s Vote don’t seem to have been invited to the party.

There is no serious non Conservative psychodrama opposition to the PM’s deal and nobody saying that there is an alternative – we can be given the chance to accept or reject the deal so that the Government isn’t marking its own homework.

You would have thought that the Leader of the Opposition would have something important to say. Unfortunately, he poured cold water on the idea of a People’s Vote and said that he he didn’t know how he would vote in it. At the risk of sounding a bit too on message, we really do ned to demand better.

I may be annoyed with our Vince on various internal matters at the moment, but he is very clear that Liberal Democrats want a People’s Vote as a means of securing an Exit from Brexit. He knows that staying in the EU is in the national interest.  He should be invited on to make that case. I have no doubt that our people will have done all they can to get him on. You have to ask why he isn’t.

I am disappointed that Sophy Ridge is not pointing out to May that her Deal is effectively a Blind Brexit that pushes a lot of the important stuff, like our future trading relationship, into the very long grass, after we have left. This is why we need the option to stay in so that we can make a choice between continuing the trading relationship we have that has brought us prosperity, or whether we take a leap in the dark.

The CBI has been brought out to support the deal on the grounds of certainty for business. If we go for this deal, we don’t know what terms business will face in two years time. If we have a People’s Vote, and choose to stay in, we have as much certainty as it is possible to have about continuity of current arrangements within 6 months.

The sensible opposition to the Brexit deal is not being given an airing.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Friendship, addiction and Brexit: Alastair Campbell’s poignant and frank Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture

In the last 3.5 years, so many people have wondered what Charles Kennedy would have had to say about Brexit and our fight against it. A European to his core, he would have been such a strong and credible voice for Remain in the referendum.

Our politics is so much the poorer for his absence and in this party, his loss is particularly acute. People across politics and outside politics had so much time for him.

We didn’t find out until after he died how close he was to Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s Chief spin doctor. This was a relationship that transcended the fact that Charles was the leading opponent of the  Iraq war.

Last night Alastair Campbell travelled to Fort William to give the annual Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture.

He recalled when Charles asked him to think about running for Rector of Glasgow University when he stood down:

As his second term as Glasgow University Rector neared its end, he sounded me out as a possible successor. He said listen, your Dad was at Glasgow, your brother is the principal’s official piper, your name and your bagpipes give you a bit of Scottish cred, you get on with young people, and, you would love it.’

‘But Charles, what about Iraq?’

‘Oh, Iraq. Huh huh, yes, Iraq. I forgot you were part of all that, weren’t you? Ach well, not to worry.’

He touched on Brexit and what Charles would have made of it all:

On the day of his funeral, we were driving up to Fort William from Glasgow airport listening to the tributes across Good Morning Scotland. A constituent recalled asking him whether he intended to support or oppose the bedroom tax, and Charles saying he would oppose it. His reasoning was very simple. ‘It’s just wrong.’

And I think he would argue very strongly that it is just wrong if the government and Parliament press ahead with a course of action that they know is going to make people poorer, our country weaker, our standing in the world lower. I believe too he would have had no difficulty arguing against this notion that somehow it is anti-democratic to put the outcome of these negotiations back to the people, given the Brexit now on offer bears next to no relation to the false prospectus on which it was sold. MPs are there to lead not follow, and Charles would have led the argument that that far from it being anti-democratic to have a People’s Vote, it would be anti-democratic – just wrong– not to. So we keep fighting.

That wasn’t the main topic of his lecture though. He wanted to talk about mental health and addiction. 

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 11 Comments
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