Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Cable causes controversy over Uyghurs comments

Our beloved former leader Sir Vince Cable took to a new right wing tv news channel last night to have a pint with Nigel Farage.

During that interview he basically said that we shouldn’t call the brutality that the Chinese authorities are inflicting on to the Uyghur population genocide. He said:

“The use of the word genocide is not right here. There is terrible human rights abuse in many countries of minorities and China is one of them and they have abused those minorities for sure but calling it genocide is hyping the language.”

I wonder if he would consider that Amnesty International were “hyping the language” in their report last month in which they described China’s treatment of the Uyghurs as “crimes against humanity.” Over 160 pages, they outlined horrific human rights abuses:

Agnes Callanard, Amnesty’s Secretary General said:

Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities face crimes against humanity and other serious human rights violations that threaten to erase their religious and cultural identities.

“It should shock the conscience of humanity that massive numbers of people have been subjected to brainwashing, torture and other degrading treatment in internment camps, while millions more live in fear amid a vast surveillance apparatus.”

In February, the BBC reported on allegations of systematic rape in detention camps:

Tursunay Ziawudun, who fled Xinjiang after her release and is now in the US, said women were removed from the cells “every night” and raped by one or more masked Chinese men. She said she was tortured and later gang-raped on three occasions, each time by two or three men.

Earlier this year, the US Government described the treatment of the Uyghurs as genocide in its annual report on global human rights practices:

Genocide and crimes against humanity occurred during the year against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang. These crimes were continuing and include: the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians; forced sterilization, coerced abortions, and more restrictive application of China’s birth control policies; rape; torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained; forced labor; and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.

With that sort of evidence, it’s not hard to see why Vince’s comments have provoked some controversy in the party, even from a senior MP.

Alistair Carmichael said on Twitter that while Vince was a long standing colleague whose views he valued, on this he was wrong:

Other members and party bodies criticised his comment too:

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Suzanne Fletcher on her lifelong mission to speak up for the most vulnerable people

Suzanne Fletcher is one of the hardest working, humanitarian, compassionate people I have ever known. She has devoted her life improve living conditions for the poorest people with the least power.

Her local paper, the Darlington and Stockton Times, has done a wonderful profile of her as part of their series of features inspired by Middlesborugh Soroptimists’ list of outstanding local women.

Suzanne talked of her own experience of poor housing when she was small:

“We lived in an awful place, near the slag heaps,” says Suzanne. “It was difficult and dangerous as there was so much pollution in the air. Coal gas came up through the cellar, our plants died, as did my pet mouse, and the curtains rotted. My mother and father were both hardworking and did their best to keep everything clean, but when we complained the authorities didn’t listen. They considered our living conditions to be fine.

“The noise and swearing from the police cells at night kept us awake. My mother would prepare meals for the prisoners. They were sometimes sent back uneaten, but she was determined they would be treated with dignity.”

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Willie Rennie: “A cheerful voice for a more decent politics”

Willie Rennie has done two major interviews this weekend talking about his decision to stand aside as Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and his hopes for the future.

The Times (£) leader had praise for him yesterday, too:

It is to be hoped that Mr Rennie remains active in public life. He has been a cheerful voice for a more decent politics and his brand of low-key, relaxed liberalism is more necessary than ever. After a summer running in the hills he should return to the fray, ready to play his part in building a bigger and better centre.

Willie spoke to Magnus Linklater for the paper (£) and talked about his hope that Labour and the Lib Dems would work more closely together to present a progressive, pro-UK alternative to the nationalism and populism of the SNP and Conservatives:

“I think working together with Labour on issues of common interest would be a good thing,” he said in an interview with The Times. “I wouldn’t run before we can walk. But build confidence between the parties and also amongst the electorate to show we’re getting our act together.”

This is about trying to show that for middle Scotland there is something better and stronger than the Conservatives or the SNP, that it’s got energy, it’s got momentum, it’s got ideas, and that’s the most important thing, so people know that if they vote for it, it will be worth it,” he added. “The actual mechanism is less important — it’s the energy behind it that matters.”

He talked about how much Scotland had changed in the past decade or so – and not for the better:

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ALDC Conference – a must for anyone who wants to be a Lib Dem Councillor

If you are hoping to be a Lib Dem Councillor next May, you really need to be a member of ALDC, the Association of Lib Dem Councillors and Campaigners. They have all the tools you need to win and you will be able to access all of them and attend their brilliant online training if you join.

They are having an online conference for members which includes their AGM on Saturday 4th September. There are sessions on things like how to win, how to make a difference in your community and local government in Europe.

ALDC Chief Executive Tim Pickstone said in an email to members:

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Willie Rennie stands aside as Scottish Lib Dem leader

After more than a decade in the role, Willie Rennie announced this evening that he is standing aside as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Watch his statement here:

He leaves while he is still incredibly popular within the party – and the tributes he has received from outside it show how valued he is across politics.

When he took over in 2011, he inherited a party that had been given the hoofing of its life in the Scottish Parliament elections, reduced from 16 MSPs to just 5.

The small group he led had a big voice, though. Over the years, the Scottish Lib Dems have been the go-to people on issues like education and mental health. Willie’s dogged persistence, challenging Scottish Ministers week in and week out on issues like police centralisation, college places, mental health waiting times, childcare and free school meals shifted government policy on many occasions.

He stared wipeout in the eye in the Scottish Parliamentary elections of 2016. If you had told me we would emerge with 5 MSPs from that election after the disaster of 2015, I would not have dared to believe it. But he showed what he could do with a bright and optimistic campaign which include him launching the manifesto while running down a soft-play volcano and being interviewed on a slide. When his photocall at a city farm was overshadowed by two amorous pigs, journalists were given a packet of Percy Pigs each at the next big event.

His commitment to improving the party’s diversity saw him ensure that we had all women shortlists for both 2017 and 2021 elections, a gender balanced team of spokespeople and serious money invested in diversity projects in each year’s Scottish budget. He put his own neck on the line to get these measures approved by Conference. He needed a two thirds majority and he got it by basically ringing everyone who had registered and talking them round.

And he has travelled the length and breadth of the country so many times supporting candidates at every possible level of election. He’s encouraged people to stand who have now been elected. He has led campaigning with boundless energy, enthusiasm and a huge smile.

I am incredibly sad to see him go, but I can understand that after 10 years of unrelenting graft, he relishes the chance to do something a bit different. He’ll stay on as MSP for North East Fife, of course – but don’t expect him to stop speaking out on th issues he has championed.

And as a campaigner who has been responsible for many of the party’s successes over the past three decades, his skills in that direction will be in demand.

So what now?

The Scottish Executive will set a timetable for a leadership election in which any of the party’s other three MSPs will be eligible to stand.

But for now, let’s look at some of the lovely things people are saying about Willie:

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Daisy Cooper slams “barmy brainwashing” One Britain event

When I heard that some schoolchildren in the UK are going to be asked to sing a song saying how great Britain is on Friday, to be honest, I thought someone was just having a laugh. Surely nobody could be so crass?

I was wrong. As The Independent reports,

The Department for Education this week announced it would encourage schools to celebrate One Britain One Nation Day on 25 June.

Celebrations for the event include singing a song called the “OBON Day Anthem 2021”, which ends with the children repeatedly chanting, “Strong Britain, great nation”.

It also includes the chorus: “We are Britain and we have one dream, to unite all people in one great team.”

I find the whole thing nauseating.

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Key dates for Scottish Autumn Conference

Yesterday Scottish Conference Convener Paul McGarry announced in an email to members that our online Autumn conference will take place online on 8th and 9th October.

So the key deadlines are:

Drafting advice: 16th July at noon

Constitutional amendments: 16th July at noon

Motions deadline: 12th August at noon

You can get your ticket here. And the first timer rate for Scottish members is but a mere pound.

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WATCH: Liam McArthur talks about his Bill to legalise assisted dying

Orkney’s Lib Dem MSP this week lodged a bill in Holyrood which would enable assisted dying in Scotland. This would enable terminally ill, mentally competent adults to have an assisted death.

Here he is talking about it to the BBC.

This is a subject that is obviously emotive and needs to be handled with compassion and sensitivity. I can’t think of anyone better than Liam to do this.

He is very thoughtful and wise and will take concerns about the measure very seriously and try to address them as best he can.

I have been a supporter of assisted dying for a long time. I don’t feel that I can say to someone that they must endure unbearable suffering before their inevitable death if they don’t have to. I went to a Dignity in Dying event at the start of the Holyrood campaign where Prue Leith described how horrendous it was for her brother David who died in great pain because of a brain tumour. At that same event, sisters described the intolerable suffering which preceded their mum’s death from oesophageal cancer. I really think that people should be able to choose a more controlled, dignified death.

I do get, though, that we need to make sure that disabled people, who are already marginalised don’t feel even more so. Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy had this to say:

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Chesham & Amersham: a Lib Dem WIN we’ll be talking about for years

Sarah Green MP.

That sounds so good.

Who would have thought that we would have turned a a huge Conservative majority and to one of over 8000 for us?

I am sitting here blubbing like anything. My first thought went back to Murray Walker’s comment about having to stop because he had a lump in his throat when Damon Hill won the F1 world championship back in the day.

I am not just ecstatic that we have won the most audacious and spectacular by-election win for generations. I am thrilled to bits that Sarah, who is pretty much where I am on most issues, is going to be a brilliant addition to our parliamentary team.

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And first the Council by-elections

The first of six council by-elections declaring tonight was a good start – a hold, albeit by a mere 6 votes in Somerset West and Taunton’s Old Cleeve and District

Great news from Somerset – Lib Dems HOLD Somerset West and Taunton Old Cleeve and District: Lib Dem Steve Griffith 500 44.9%
Conservative 494 44.3%
Independent 120 10.8%

And so close in Devon

Thanks to Helen Arundell for standing in these two postponed elections in Norwich:

 

There should be another result from Tandridge but I can’t find it anywhere right now. We’ll update this post tomorrow with that, the Kent result and East Garioch (pronounced Geary) …

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Chesham & Amersham: a campaign we’ll be talking about for years

Every so often a by-election campaign comes along that will be remembered for generations. Orpington in the 60s, Edge Hill in the 70s, Hillhead in the 80s, Littleborough and Saddleworth in the 90s, Dunfermline in the 2000s, Eastleigh in the 2010s. Many of them came at critical moments for the party, maybe at times when we were a bit down in the dumps. And at those times the party comes together and runs a spirited and joyful campaign that everyone talks about for years afterwards.

Chesham and Amersham comes on top of, to be honest, unspectacular elections in Scotland, Wales and English Councils in May.  It would be a massive ask to win it. This is true blue territory, after all. A year and a half ago, we got less than half the Tory vote, finishing in second place. In 2017, just 4 years ago, we got 13%. We need the sorts of swings we were getting in the 90s to win.

But we’ve given it our best efforts. We’ve run a good old fashioned Liberal Democrat by-election campaign at full pelt in the middle of a pandemic. I’ve seen so many comments about how the warmth of the welcome was matched by the efficiency of despatch with leaflets or canvassing pack.

From as far apart as Edinburgh and Cornwall, activists flocked in their thousands to help Sarah Green’s campaign. It was clear that this was a campaign everybody wanted to be a part of. My tiny contribution was to help host the nightly maraphones, where people from Orkney to Cornwall made thousands of calls.

 

I was very touched that Simon Foster from Southampton dedicated 50% of his sterling contribution putting up stakeboards to me as I couldn’t get there. But the loveliest gesture was friends of Erlend Watson, our campaigning legend who has been a key and beloved presence at so many by-elections, taking his place in this campaign. Natasha Chapman and Olly Craven from Lincoln were Team Erlend. Erlend himself is recovering well from major surgery and we hope to see him back at a by-election or Conference before too long.

The positive feedback from voters was incredible. Phoning voters and asking them to put up stakeboards is far from my favourite sort of campaigning activity, yet I couldn’t believe how easy a sell it was.

The Tories have been doing all sorts of expectation management.

Sometimes you can do every single thing right in a campaign and not get the result you deserve. Sarah Green and her campaign team richly deserve a victory. Let’s hope that they get it. She’s been a fantastic candidate – impressing voters on the doorsteps and motivating her army of helpers. One activist, bitten by a dog the other day, was very surprised that she took time out of her day to phone them and make sure they were ok.

In an email to members tonight, Ed Davey expressed his pride in the campaign we ran:

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Blood donation gets more equal and inclusive

I was smiling a lot on Monday. On World Blood Donation Day, in the middle of Pride Month, the blood donation rules changed so that they were the same whatever your sexuality.

A decade ago, men who had ever had sex with men were completely banned from giving blood. The rules have been gradually relaxed since then but we now have a more equal system based on a level playing field.

This means that many gay and bisexual men can now give blood, whereas before we lost out on their donations.

This applies over England, Scotland and Wales.

My friend Euan was one of them.

Euan was involved with the then Liberal Youth Scotland’s Freshers campaign to end the blood ban in 2010. The year before, LYS had brought a motion to Scottish Conference calling for an evidence based, scientific approach to this issue.

They kept pushing on this. Euan and his co-President Hannah Bettsworth led a campaign on the issue when they were co-Presidents of LYS a few years later.

It made me really happy that their campaigning over years worked. These things are now decided on the basis of scientific evidence because people campaigned and took up the issue.

The Liberal Democrats have been working to bring this about for 15 years.

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Chesham and Amersham is THE place for Lib Dems to be this weekend

There is nowhere I would rather be at the moment than Chesham and Amersham. Well, maybe not doing what is becoming known as the “Mark Pack” delivery run which is apparently vertiginous, taking in both sides of a valley. Our party president tackled it the other day and other alumni include Kevin Lang, who was Wendy Chamberlain’s campaign manager.

A Lib Dem by-election campaign at full pelt with the prospect of a win is a thing of joy and you really, really want to be part of it.

One  previous by-election victor is there:

 

People are heading there from all sorts of places. I know three people who are there from Edinburgh this weekend, on top of another three who have already visited.

Sadly, I can’t leave home at the moment, but I am spending time making calls and hosting some of the daily Maraphones. Last night, I was phoning people who had already been there, thanking them and asking them to go again. That was not the most difficult sell in the world and it was great to see people changing their plans and saying they’d jump on a train or a tube to go and help get Sarah Green elected.

It was particularly lovely that so many of them volunteered how impressed they had been with the campaign team. They loved the efficiency of the operation and the warmth of the welcome. It’s also clear that Sarah Green is an exceptional candidate. People who had been canvassing with her said how brilliant she was on the doorsteps.

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Jane Dodds questions First Minister on preventing violence against women

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds used her first question as a Member of the Senedd to the First Minister to demand action on ending violence against women and girls.

This comes at a time when Operation Encompass, an initiative set up to notify schools if domestic abuse has taken place in pupils’ homes, report that there has been a huge rise in Public Protection Notices to do with domestic abuse to 2254 from September 2020 to March 2021 compared to 1043 during the same period in the previous year. The impact of Covid-19 appears to be severe.

What actions, Jane asked,  will the Welsh Government take to end violence against women and girls, particularly within black, Asian and minority ethnic communities?

After Mark Drakeford talked about an increase in funding that the Government had put in place, she followed up with:

Can I just follow that through with a focus on what’s been happening in this COVID time? We all know that there’s been a significant increase in the need for refuge places, in the need for services, and better, more focused responses to those women and children who are coming forward after these lockdown periods. I’m particularly interested to hear what issues and services will be targeted into rural areas, where we know that there are particular shortages of those effective responses and services.

You can watch the exchange here at about  32 minutes in.

Afterwards, Jane said:

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End of an era as Matthew Clark leaves Holyrood

When I first arrived back in Scotland in 2000, Matthew Clark worked in the Lib Dem staff pool in the Scottish Parliament, then deputy to a certain Willie Rennie. He went on to serve as a senior special adviser in those happy days of the Lib Dem/Labour coalition. Out of Government, he became Chief of Staff to the Lib Dem Group, a role he’s held since 2007.

He actually started out as a very young councillor in Southampton and he and Willie first met at the Christchurch by-election where Willie was the campaign manager and Matthew had the job of developing the railway survey. In 1993 he became, at he age of just 25, chair of the Hampshire Police Authority.

I can’t quite believe that I’m about to go to his leaving do. He’s decided that he’s going to retire – and, after 6 Scottish Parliament elections, 2 referendums, and 6 General elections, all of which he’s had a major role in producing our manifestos and messages for, he certainly deserves a break.

I’m struggling to imagine how the party will cope without him. They say nobody’s indispensable, but he might well be the exception that proves the rule.  He knows pretty much everything there is to know about Scottish politics.

I just marvel at the way he brings so many disparate sources of information together and makes coherent messages out of them. He’s been a total powerhouse of policy, assisting on every major policy initiative and pulling together things like Menzies Campbell’s commission on Federalism, and its predecessor the Steel Commission back in the day.

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Lembit Opik “expelled” from Lib Dems for advising Tories how to beat us

Controversial former Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik has reportedly been expelled from the Liberal Democrats after he spoke at a Conservative Party event on how to beat the Lib Dems.

From Nation Cymru:

Lembit Öpik, who used to be the MP for Montgomeryshire, upset his former colleagues when he claimed the party had become a “become a parody of itself” and suggested that there is “currently no vaccine against stupidity”.

In the run up to the Senedd election, he spoke at a ‘How to Stop the Lib Dems with Lembit Öpik’ event organised by the Conservative Party.

He was introduced by former Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling, Conservative Member of Parliament for Epsom and Ewell.

I feel quite sad about this because I remember the good times. I first came across Lembit in the early 90s when he was so focused on growing the party’s membership and was making a name for himself in the north east.

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So how might a progressive alliance work?

In today’s Guardian, our Layla Moran, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Labour MP Clive Lewis argue that we need progressive parties to come to an arrangement to beat the Tories.

Meanwhile the rightwing parties have consolidated, after the Tories swallowed the Brexit party whole. But progressives remain split, competing for the same voters – we divide; they conquer.

And yet poll after poll shows there is a progressive majority. We need to shape and win that majority.

This is why citizens are now using their votes wisely, to back the best-placed non-Tory; and why, under the radar, local parties are campaigning tactically to best direct their resources.

They argue against the tribalism that prevents progressive parties working together:

Old politics holds us back. The Labour rulebook demands the party stands candidates in every seat, regardless of whether doing so guarantees another Tory win. Local parties should be allowed to decide. But tribalism runs deep everywhere, and trust takes times to grow, with the inevitable result of another likely general election loss. We cannot allow that to happen. This self-defeating tribalism must go. While well-intentioned, party bureaucracies could be the last bastions of the old politics to fall. If this needs to be a grassroots alliance, then so be it.

Part of the problem with the idea of a progressive alliance was that loads of people think it’s a fab idea, but nobody has been able to set out how it might work in practice. But in recent years, there have been some good examples of where parties have worked together to our mutual gain.

Layla’s arrangement with the Greens in Oxfordshire has helped both parties and hurt the Tories badly. From Lib Dem wins in Oxford West and Abingdon in 2017 and 2019 to a joint administration of Lib Dem Labour and Green ousting the Tories from power in Oxfordshire County Council in May this year, this is a shining example of how a progressive alliance can work in practice. The test will be whether they can govern as cleverly as they have campaigned.

During the leadership election last year, Layla talked about how she had made great efforts to win over the Greens in the run up to her win in 2017. She went along to their meetings and talked to them and answered some tough questions. She put the effort into building up strong relationships with them on the ground.

However, the Unite to Remain effort at the 2019 election was doomed to failure, mainly because Labour refused to get involved and partly because it was imposed on seats in a way that was never going to work.

The last time Caroline Lucas faced a Lib Dem in her Brighton Pavilion seat was in 2015. Her then opponent Chris Bowers went on to co-edit The Alternative, an argument for a more progressive politics with her and Labour’s Lisa Nandy. I interviewed both Chris and Caroline for Lib Dem Voice back in 2016.

No progressive alliance would work without the co-operation of the Labour Party. In 1997, we and Labour by and large kept out of each other’s way except in places like Chesterfield where we were genuinely fighting each other for the seat. I was involved in that campaign and our move forward then put us in pole position for Paul Holmes to win in 2001.

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One way to increase your chances of winning in 2022’s local elections

If you are standing in next year’s local elections, which include every Council seat in Scotland and Wales and London’s boroughs, you will want to give yourself the best chance of winning.

Elections are not won in the 4 weeks of the short campaign. They take long and careful planning and hard work.

One of the best ways to plan the best campaign for your ward is to listen to everything ALDC (the Association of Liberal Democrat Campaigners) tells you. They know everything there is to know about how to run a brilliant local election campaign and win.

If you want to be a councillor next May, I would strongly recommend you attend their Kickstart weekend from 2-4 July. It’s the first big in person event since Covid hit us and they will be sticking to whatever restrictions are in place at the time.

It’s really helpful to get inspiration and ideas from others so actually being there to swap tips with other campaign teams is going to be such an important part of our 2022 preparations.

It’s at he Yarnfield Park Training and Conference Centre near Stone in Staffordshire.

Here’s ALDC’s chief executive Tim Pickstone talking about the event:

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Campaign highlights illegal online advertisiing

I suspect many people, including me,  aren’t as clued up on how their personal data is used as they should be.

The idea that everyone should know what data is held about them and have a say in how it will be used is a very liberal one.

In fact, it was a liberal government in Estonia which brought in liberal information laws which ensure citizens have the right to see who has accessed the information about them that government holds.

Today is the third birthday of GDPR, which was supposed to give us all a much better say on how data about us is used.

But the Open Rights Group has teamed up with others across Europe to highlight the continuing problem with online advertising systems violating our privacy rights.

They explain what is going on in a video which suggests that our data is being shared with all sorts of third parties without our knowledge or consent.

They want the EU Parliament to pass the ePrivacy Regulations which would limit this.

I think it’s a really important issue to highlight. I’m still heartbroken that we don’t have MEPs in there fighting for change on these sorts of issues at EU level.

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Hay Festival highlights – including Vince Cable on Money and Power

Until last year, I’d never been to the Hay Festival, much though I’d have loved to go to the beautiful Welsh town. I drove through it when I was in Brecon and Radnorshire for the by-election in 2019 and would love to spend more time there.

Anyway, the pandemic has meant that the annual festival has had to go online and is free to access. Although when I say free, there is a danger that you end up buying many books.

Last year, I registered for so many events and enjoyed them all. This year’s event starts this Wednesday, 26th May, and goes on until 6th June.

The beauty of this is that if you are working from home, you can have the events on in the background – but they are available to listen to for 24 hours afterwards.

I also have a subscription to the Hay Player (only £15 for the year) and many events end up there after the Festival is over.

I’ve spent some time this morning browsing through this year’s events. On 3 June, from 1-1:50 pm,  our Vince Cable will be talking about his book Money and Power: The World leaders who changed economics. From the programme:

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Join the Sarahphone today!

Having spent most of my Saturdays this year hosting maraphones and making a lot of calls to voters, I might have reasonably expected a few weeks off.

However, the Chesham and Amersham by-election is well and truly upon us. The writ was only moved a week ago on Wednesday but already the postal votes are about to go out.

Every election these days has two polling days – when the postal votes land and on the actual day when people go to the polling station.  And with more people choosing to vote by post in these Covid times, postal vote polling day is more important than ever.  That is why Lib Dem MPs have been heading there this week:

Christine Jardine and Daisy Cooper have also been there in the past few days.

So it stands to reason that we need to speak to as many of these postal voters as possible before they pick up that envelope from their doormats.

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Jane Dodds campaigns for Sarah Green in Chesham and Amersham

Jane Dodds knows what it’s like to fight – and win – a parliamentary by-election. The entire party got behind her campaign to win Brecon and Radnorshire in 2019 so she’s returning the favour by heading to Chesham and Amersham to help Sarah Green. Sarah is a fantastic candidate who would make a brilliant addition to our Westminster Parliamentary Party

Activists are following Jane’s example and heading to the constituency in significant numbers. There are just 4 weeks till the by-election and the more help we get early on, the better our chances.

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Stephen Lloyd announces he will not seek reselection for Eastbourne

Stephen Lloyd served as Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne from 2010-2015 and 2017-19.

He was a fantastic champion for the town and a brilliant campaigner who won against the odds in 2017. He promised his voters that he would not stand in the way of Brexit, even though he was a remainer and he kept that promise.  That was not the path the party was on and for a time, he did not take the Liberal Democrat whip in the Commons. There was no animosity, though, and he remains a highly respected figure within the party.

He announced yesterday that he would not seek re-selection when the local party chooses its parliamentary candidate for the next General Election.

He said:

After a great deal of thought I have finally decided that, after 19 years serving as both your parliamentary candidate and MP, I’ll not be seeking re-election at the next General Election.

It has been a huge privilege serving Eastbourne & Willingdon and I have loved every minute of it. Many thanks for your support over the years, I really am very grateful.
I will continue keeping doing what I have always done and what still remains the most important thing for me; playing an active role in our community to support our wonderful town.

It will though, no longer be either as your parliamentary candidate or member of parliament. That ship has sailed…..

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Willie Rennie; I will work for a liberal country – an open, internationalist, reformed, caring, fair and green country

Yesterday the Scottish Parliament chose its First Minister. Nicola Sturgeon was always going to win, although she is one short of an overall majority. Willie Rennie announced his intention to stand against her because “Most people did not vote for the largest party and it is important that their voices are heard.” Conservative leader Douglas Ross followed suit.

Willie gave a really strong speech, setting out the sort of country he wanted Scotland to be. He addressed the deep divisions in the country, which is pretty much split down the middle on independence and attacked both SNP and Conservatives for reinforcing these divisions.

The Conservatives, he said, were the biggest threat to the Union, rather than defenders of it.

That is certainly true. The SNP and the Conservatives need each other to take attention away from their failing governments and on to a bitter fight over the Constitution. Willie was right to call it out and to give a vision of what Scotland really could be like.

Nicola Sturgeon was pretty graceless, to be honest, attacking both of the leaders who dared to oppose her personally rather than on ideas. She proved Willie’s point, really. And his generous words when she was elected are a stark contrast to her disrespect:

It has been an extraordinary time with extraordinary pressures, both Covid and political. I have admired Nicola Sturgeon’s personal leadership through the pandemic; she has made life-and-death decisions every day. I was impressed by the clarity of the communications and I agreed with the caution, too.

The fact that we have political differences in the chamber should not prevent us from respecting each other, and we should appreciate the personal sacrifice that comes with public service and office. Of course, that personal sacrifice pales in comparison with the many struggles that our constituents face every day, but it is sacrifice nonetheless, so I thank Nicola Sturgeon for that service and offer my support as well.

I suspect Scotland will look back on Willie’s speech in 5 years’ time and realise that there was a lot of truth in his words.

I want Scotland to be a liberal country where everyone can live as they wish, not held back by prejudice or expectations, and where every person can achieve their potential, lifted up by a healthy body and an educated mind.

I want an open and outward-looking Scotland, not one that blames its neighbours for our problems. I want a country that looks to the needs of people next door and around the world, and of people in the future, and not just to our own interests today. I want a Scotland with people who come together to overcome the enormous challenges that time throws our way. That would be my driving philosophy as First Minister.

I would start by putting recovery first. The people who are waiting up to three years for mental health treatment need recovery to come first. The friends and family of the 1,256 people who lost their lives in a single year to drugs deserve our attention. Those who are looking for work cannot wait. Those who are desperate for a hip replacement or cancer treatment cannot wait, nor can those who wait for a good education and nor can future generations who want a healthy planet. They all deserve our focus, because they cannot wait behind another debate on the constitution. That is why I would put recovery first.

When no single party has a majority, no one should assume a right to the office of First Minister. Most people did not vote for the largest party, so it is important that their voices be heard today. I stand for nomination as First Minister with great hope, but with a liberal dose of realism.

This country is divided like never before—right down the middle, according to the polls and the election. Yet the situation is worse than that: hardened supporters on both sides cannot understand each other any more. They have stopped listening to each other, and the election campaign entrenched those differences. The Scottish National Party’s materials often featured Boris Johnson more than Nicola Sturgeon. The Conservatives were more interested in attacking Labour and the Liberal Democrats than in trying to win over SNP supporters. They both stoked up people’s fear, which resulted in thousands of people voting for one extreme for fear of the other.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 18 Comments

8 Lib Dem GAINS in Oxfordshire – including Tory Council Leader’s seat

Lib Dems in Oxfordshire have taken 8 seats from the Conservatives and are now just one seat behind them.

One of the seats was that of the County Council Leader in Woodstock.

To add to Tory miseries, they also lost a seat in affluent Chipping Norton to Labour.

And there could be more..

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

Election results: Current state of play

While there have been some bright spots, it’s not been the greatest set of local election results for us. It’s not been the worst, either. Maybe it was the best we could have hoped for given the circumstances.

The year ahead of any set of elections is crucial. You want to be building your campaign from at least a year out. Being locked down for most of that year under a stay at home order in the middle of a pandemic is not conducive to doing that.

A set of elections held as the country opens up again and people are getting their vaccinations and many are having their wages paid by the government is going to benefit the people who are organising the vaccine rollout and paying those wages.

I thought it might be useful to look at the current state of play.

London

We now have two assembly members. Hina Bokhari, one of the first three Muslim women to be elected to the London Assembly, joins Caroline Pidgeon, who has been an Assembly member since 2008.

Our brilliant mayoral candidate, Luisa Porritt, came fourth behind the Greens Sian Berry.

Wales

After a nail-biting few hours after we lost our sole constituency seat, Jane Dodds was elected to the Senedd on the Mid and West Wales list. It would have been an absolute disaster if we had no parliamentary representation in either Senedd or Westminster.

England

We went into this defending 580 Council seats. There are still some important councils like St Albans and Oxfordshire to count today, so our current total of 524, a net loss of 8, is set to rise. It looks overall as if we will gain slightly, but nothing like the heady days of 2019 when we gained 700 seats.

There are many bright spots within this. In Guildford, for example, we doubled our County Council representation in the parliamentary constituency once held by Sue Doughty.

I was particularly excited to see us gain two County Council seats in my old campaigning ground of Chesterfield. It reminds me of the 90s when we kicked the Tories out of the town completely and eventually took control of the Borough Council.  Ed Fordham will be familiar to LDV readers and I’m thrilled to say that he overturned a 600 Labour majority to win his county seat.

In a climate of Tory gains across the rest of Derbyshire, we gained the seat lost to the Conservatives in 2017 so Chesterfield is once again a Tory free zone.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 26 Comments

Scotland results open thread

The current state of play in Scotland is that the SNP is well ahead and will be forming the next government. We don’t know yet whether they will get an overall majority on their own or will need to rely on the Greens for support.

The Lib Dems ended last night on 4 constituency MSPs, with absolutely stonking victories by Willie Rennie and Alex Cole-Hamilton. Alex got the highest ever vote of any MSP in the history of the Scottish Parliament, a record that Willie had previously held for a few minutes yesterday afternoon.

These are huge personal votes of confidence in our amazing MSPs.

Today we learn if we are going to get any list seats. We need 5 MSPs to be counted as a parliamentary group. We made it by the skin of our teeth last time. It’s going to be a stressful day.  We’ll keep you updated but there is unlikely to be any news until much later in the day – late afternoon, early evening.

I will be spending the day at my count in Almond Valley. We got 2.9% in 2016, so actually keeping my deposit would be a major achievement. We just missed out on that yesterday in the other West Lothian seat in Linlithgow where we went up 1.1% to 4.5%.

See you later with some more news…

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 53 Comments

Jane Dodds makes it into the Senedd

So I updated the Welsh results post at 10:30 last night and went, exhausted, to bed.

At that point, the Mid and West Wales result, our only hope of a seat in the Senedd, hung in the balance – and the mood music I was hearing was not positive. We were very worried that, for the first time in its history, there would be no Lib Dems in the Senedd.

Just after midnight, though, everyone else breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

LISTEN: Christine Jardine on Any Questions

Christine Jardine was on Any Questions on Friday night, answering questions about the Scottish elections, the PM’s flat redecoration

Here are some of her best bits;

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Daisy Cooper smashes it on Question Time

Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper was on Question Time this week and won the support of so many audience members, particularly for her evisceration of the Government over its failure to help leaseholders affected by the cladding scandal. She was really excellent on everything from care homes to the Covid crisis in India to the Boris Johnson flat refurb.  Here are some of her best bits.

 

Posted in News | Tagged and | 16 Comments
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