Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

Time for some Lib Dem sunshine

It’s been a bloody awful three years. Politics dominated by the psychodrama in the Conservative Party over Europe and the splits in a Labour Party which refuses to declare whether it is for Brexit or Remain.

Finally, the sun shows a willingness to break through the storm clouds of British politics. A strong vote for us with a high turnout could see us beat the Brexit Party.

This whole campaign has been an absolute joy. We’ve had the clearest message – vote Lib Dems to stop Brexit – with its fruitier alternative, Bollocks to Brexit – and we have been able, for the first time in years, to approach doorsteps with confidence. It’s been such a good feeling. People have spontaneously told us that they are voting for us and you can see in their eyes that they are pleased about it.

All of you who have been involved in the campaign have played an absolute blinder. Our candidates have been energetic and spirited. In Scotland, Sheila Ritchie has travelled thousands of miles and led campaigning in paces where we haven’t been seen for years. She so deserves to win.

It’s been an exhausting campaign, coming for many people on the heels of the local elections.

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Leadsom’s resignation – is history repeating itself?

Ten years ago, as polls closed in the local and  European elections, it looked like a coup against the unpopular Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown was underway. At 10pm, James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary resigned.

Peter Mandelson, the Prince of Darkness himself, came back from the sidelines to knock heads together and take the temperature of the resentment against Brown down to merely simmering for the remainder of his time in office.

I did wonder if we were about to see history repeating itself when Andrea Leadsom resigned this evening.

We shall see how many of the Cabinet are left in post at the end of Friday. Although if there was a good time for a government to implode on eve of poll, when they are in single digits in some polls and facing a hoofing is probably it.

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Heidi Allen reveals she offered to quit as Change UK Leader over tactical voting row

Heidi Allen gave an extraordinary interview to Channel 4 news tonight. 

You normally use your eve of poll interviews to talk up your own party. Instead, she told of a split within the group over recommending tactical voting to maximise Remain support. Allen wanted the party to endorse the Liberal Democrats outside London and the South East.

You have to wonder if the majority who were against it were the same people who blocked a Remain alliance in the European election.

From the New Statesman:

Allen believes the party should encourage Remain voters to back the Liberal Democrats outside of London and South East, where Change UK are polling strongest and thus stand the best chance of picking up MEPs.

Her fear, shared by Sarah Wollaston, is that Change lacks the requisite support to win seats elsewhere and could instead act as a spoiler. She warns: “Putting all the votes in one direction doesn’t always necessarily create the result that you want. If the next party further down in the polls isn’t still big enough to win a seat, you can end up, if you’re not careful, giving more votes to the Brexit parties.”

In private, she has always been clear that her strong preference is for cooperation with the Lib Dems. Earlier this week she even admitted that there was every chance that Change might not exist in its current form by the time of the next election. On the basis of current polling it is difficult to disagree. The party will be lucky to return a single MEP to Brussels and, faced with a Liberal Democrat revival none of its leading lights had anticipated, has failed to make serious electoral headway. As Allen herself says, it is a “really, really difficult time”.

Allen’s mother grew up in Germany as Hitler rose to power. She had stories about how people revered him because he promised all sorts and she clearly sees parallels with populist parties and people today. She clearly feels a sense of duty to stand up to the populists with what she called calm and moderate politics.

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Former top civil servant Gus O’Donnell explains why he’s voting Lib Dem in the European elections

It’s been really lovely to have all the celebrity endorsements we’ve had in recent days – Katy Brand, Emma Kennedy, Susan Penhaligon, Bamber Gascoigne, Greg Dyke and Simon Callow.

However, when people who know exactly how government works urge a Liberal Democrat vote, then it’s really getting serious.

For six years, Gus O’Donnell served as Cabinet Secretary, the highest ranked civil servant in the country, under three Prime Ministers, Blair, Brown and Cameron.

He now sits in the House of Lords.

In an unprecedented article for Times Red Box (£), he explains why he feels it is his “civil duty” to vote Liberal Democrat on Thursday:

I have made clear that since the executive and parliament have so far failed to find an acceptable form of Brexit, I reluctantly believe the only way to bring the country together is to give the people the chance to approve any final deal in a referendum. My view remains that leaving the EU is on balance bad for the country for economic reasons and because of its impact on our global influence.

So I would be supporting Remain in such a vote, which brings us to the European elections. I am extremely disappointed that while the Brexit party is an obvious choice for dedicated Leavers the Remain vote is potentially spread across many parties.

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Susan Penhaligon backing the Lib Dems this Thursday

Embed from Getty Images

More than four decades on, I can still remember Susan Penhaligon’s performance as Prue Sorenson in Bouquet of Barbed Wire. I watched it far too young and didn’t get most of it as the themes were way too adult but she is up there with Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who as far as I am concerned.

Susan is the cousin of Liberal MP David Penhaligon who was killed in a car crash in 1986. The shock of that day is another strong memory in my life.

She stopped supporting the party during the coalition years, but, in a tweet tonight, Vince announced that she is voting Lib Dem on Thursday.

Vince had also noticed our earlier post about Simon Callow:

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WATCH: Lib Dem Stop Brexit rally with Tim, former Labour MP backing Lib Dems, Layla and Vince

Well that came round quickly. Although not a minute too soon for my feet and my back and my knees. I am knackered physically and emotionally but there’s just two days left in what should be the most important election of our lifetimes. As Tim Farron says, it’s our chance to change the Brexit story from how we deliver Brexit to how we stop it and bring the nightmare to a close.

So it was (allegedly) the last big Lib Dem rally of the campaign, although my spies tell me that something pretty good is planned for tomorrow.

Watch here – and fast forward through the first few minutes of silence and intermittent chatter.

It’s been a wee while since we were treated to a good old fashioned Farron barnstormer. He talked about his son studying for his history exam, about the cold war. Tim said to him that thanks to the EU, six countries which once had nukes pointing at us are now sitting round the table arguing about fishing quotas. If there were no other reason to stay in the EU, that would be enough, he said.

Yesterday, former Thurrock Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay announced he would be voting for the Lib Dems because of the inability of the Labour Party to prevent a damaging Brexit. Tonight he took the floor at the rally. He likened it to making an offer about a house and then discovering it had dry rot or asbestos and then deciding against it. Despite his great affection for Labour in his half a century of membership, he slammed the lack of clarity about whether it backs a People’s Vote.

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Two thirds of Tory members want a no deal Brexit so voting Lib Dem to stop Brexit on Thursday is more important than ever

There are many reasons to vote Lib Dem on Thursday, but sending an indisputable “Stop Brexit” message, showing that the country has changed its mind, is even more important when you consider the recent YouGov poll of Tory members. 

These people, and these people alone, get to choose the next Prime Minister.

And two thirds of them want to visit on us the catastrophe of a no deal Brexit.

84% of them want to deny us our say on the final Brexit deal.

These mostly affluent, older people are quite happy to play Russian Roulette with all of our lives and there are plenty leadership candidates prepared to promise them what they want.

We’ve been saying all along that a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote to stop Brexit. It sends an indisputable message to the Government. It can’t be confused with Scottish independence. And if you want to Remain, why would you even vote for the Brexit Labour Party?

It is worth dropping everything and doing whatever you can to secure a huge Lib Dem vote in your area.

This election is not just about getting lots of MEPs for us, it is about the future direction of our country. It’s about showing that the public is absolutely and irrevocably opposed to the course Tory members want to take.

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Bamber Gascoigne: This is the essential moment to support the Lib Dems

Last week, Katy Brand and Emma Kennedy backed the Lib Dems in the European elections. .

Last night, award winning star of stage and screen Simon Callow said he was backing us as the only party to have offered leadership and clarity on remaining in the EU.

And today, University Challenge legend Bamber Gascoigne adds his voice to the growing list of people saying that they are voting Lib Dem this time – a list that also includes former Tory Cabinet Minister Michael Heseltine and Times columnist and former Tory MP Matthew Parris.

Bamber said:

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Simon Callow backs Lib Dems in European elections as “only party to have offered leadership and clarity on remaining in EU”

Simon Callow by Mark, Flick CCL

One of Britain’s finest actors has backed the Lib Dems in the European election.

Simon Callow, whose performances include Gareth in Four Weddings and a Funeral, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA, Sir Edward Tilney in Shakespeare in Love and a role which will appeal to many Lib Dems – Charles Dickens in two episodes of Doctor Who – said:

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Labour panic as Lib Dems advance into second nationally and first in London

The Lib Dems have overtaken Labour in another poll, this time another massive one, in the Observer:

Lib Dems were on 17% ahead of Labour on 16% and the same poll put us in first place in London and ahead of Labour as the choice for Remain voters.

The data seems to be matching up with the many anecdotes from across the country, this one from Alistair Campbell on Channel 4 News last night:

Labour voters will be reading the Observer’s leader this morning which has harsh words for the party and uncomfortable truths for Labour remainers.

There are those in the Labour party who maintain it is a Remain party. As much as they may wish this to be true, they are deluding themselves. Labour is a Brexit party, under a Eurosceptic leader who has unequivocally committed the party to trying to deliver Brexit.

The party clearly realises that winning over Labour remainers is keen:

You can tell Labour have the wind up them because they are going for us on the Sunday morning programmes.

But when asked if they are a Brexit party or a Remain party they disappear in a cloud of waffle.

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Get your Bollocks to Brexit t-shirts

 

So I have actually been out in public wearing this.

It’s the most on message I’ve been in years.

The t-shirts were designed by the amazing Jennie Rigg and are available here. 

They are good quality and I ordered mine last weekend and it arrived on Tuesday.

Any money Jennie makes from the site gets put into Pride materials for LGBT+ Lib Dems – although it does cost her to run the site as well.

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European elections poll puts Lib Dems in second ahead of Labour

The most recent YouGov opinion poll puts us in second place in the European elections ahead of Labour.

From a sample of over 7000 people, YouGov (for The Times) found::

From The Times (£)

The Lib Dems appear to be picking up support from Labour and Green voters after Sir Vince Cable argued that opponents of Brexit should vote for his party.

YouGov interviewed 7,192 British adults between Sunday and Thursday this week. When asked whom they would support in the European elections, 35 per cent said the Brexit Party, up 1 point on the week before.

Lib Dems were on 16 per cent, up 1, Labour on 15 per cent, down 1, Greens on 10 per cent, down 1, Conservatives on 9 per cent, down 1, Change UK unchanged on 5 per cent and Ukip unchanged on 3 per cent.

The decline of the Conservatives into single figures is likely to increase the panic in the party’s high command, with 62 per cent of Tory voters in the 2017 general election now saying that they will vote for the Brexit Party in the European elections. Only one in five who backed the party at the last general election is sticking with the Tories in the European elections.

It’s only one poll, though. To go along with the couple at the weekend the one that had us on 19% and the other couple this week.

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Lib Dems target Labour remainers

So we’re doing the sensible thing and going after the votes of Labour voting Remain supporters in the next few days.

We have the help of numerous actions and comments by senior Labour figures over the past three years, most especially Bailout Barry himself. You haven’t been allowed to forget that Labour Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner told Tory Minister James Cleverly that Labour were trying to bail the Tories out on Brexit.

Just in case it has slipped your mind for a nanosecond, here is the actual clip:

The Huffington Post reports that candidates and campaigners will be stepping up their efforts to persuade Labour supporters to back us in this election:

The eight-page document is being sent to candidates and grassroots activists as Vince Cable’s party aims to convince “increasingly soft” Labour votes.

The document, which is to be issued with Labour attack leaflets, collates pro-Brexit quotes from Labour’s frontbench MPs, including from supporters of a second referendum, such as Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry.

It also outlines in detail the party’s voting record on a second referendum and soft Brexit options, underlining that Corbyn’s MPs were whipped either to abstain or to vote with the Tories on 29 key Brexit votes.

Pro-EU Labour activists reacted with dismay when Corbyn refused to back a remain stance in the party’s Euro elections manifesto, with the leader sticking to the line that a second referendum would be “an option” if cross-party Brexit talks fail.

The local elections, meanwhile, saw the Lib Dems win more than 700 seats, leaving Cable confident of gains in the May 23 EU-wide poll.

They have a quote from Ed Davey:

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Christine Jardine on Question Time tonight…how you can join in the fun and spread the Lib Dem message

We have a Lib Dem MP on Question Time tonight!

Christine Jardine is heading to Elgin, a city about 40 miles south east of Inverness. It’s in the heart of the Moray constituency. Typically, the BBC, finds the most Brexity place in Scotland to go to. Remain squeaked home with 50.1% of the vote. Every constituency in Scotland voted to Remain, most of them by a much larger margin.

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Aiming high: Scottish Liberal Democrats launch “Stop Brexit” manifesto

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are the only party in Scotland who want to keep Scotland in the UK and the EU.

You would not expect a Willie Rennie manifesto launch to be boring. Sadly, there were no farm animals, but he and Alex Cole-Hamilton had a race up a climbing wall in Ratho, near Edinburgh.

It’s a great picture!

The prospects for the Scottish Lib Dems have not looked this good in years. The field work from the ComRes poll at the weekend had us in joint second with the Brexit Party, which gives us a real chance of getting party legend Sheila sent to Brussels.

There is clearly everything to play for in the next 9 days. There are record numbers of doors being knocked the length of the country. My spies tell me that Borders candidate Jenny Marr’s local party is vying for the top spot in terms of doors knocked along with the Edinburgh West and East Dunbartonshire.

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Today is Thank your Campaign Organiser Day

Lib Dem campaign organisers are amazing.

They work incredibly hard. Those who do get paid for it don’t get paid nearly enough  for what is effectively a project management job. They have to herd the Lib Dem cats to deliver objectives on the way to electoral success.

They are so dedicated to their jobs, too. I will never forget the day one young organiser, who had been led astray by older and less wise party activists (for once, not me), turning up at the office about 3 hours after they went to bed a little green around the gills to spend the day in a room with a thumping risograph churning out thousands of leaflets.

If you are moaning about tiredness and sore feet as most of us are at this stage of an election, your organiser will have been up before you to make sure you have what you need to do your bit of the job and will be going to bed after you because they need to clear up and prepare for the next day.  And, often, because the organiser is the one pulling everything together, they get caught in the crossfire of competing ideas and ambitions, so they require diplomatic skills of UN standard.

I am sure that many of you will have stories of appreciation to share about your organisers in the comments. Ours in Edinburgh West, Ed, is a total diamond who makes you want to get out there and knock on doors. He is efficient and calm and you just don’t want to let him down. At Conference, I found out from his university colleagues that he would have them out there canvassing no matter how hungover they were.

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Remembering John Smith 25 years on…

Twenty five years ago today, I was at work when someone came in and said that Labour leader John Smith had died. I was so shocked and sad at the loss of someone that, as far as I knew, everyone, no matter what party they were in, liked and respected.

He was a thoroughly decent man who, as Shadow Chancellor and Leader of the Opposition, handed the backsides of Tory ministers to them on a plate on a regular basis, but could also engage in constructive dialogue and had good relationships with them. I often wonder what would have happened if he had become Prime Minister, as he almost certainly would have in 1997. His administration may not have had the pizzazz of the Cool Britannia vibe, but I suspect it would have been very steady and not subject to the destructive factionalism that undermined Tony Blair.

The House of Commons held a debate to mark the 25th anniversary of his death. Our Christine Jardine spoke for us.

Twenty-five years ago, I was a young TV reporter standing in a car park in Aberdeen with a camera crew waiting to interview Tony Blair. We knew that John Smith had had a heart attack that morning and we hoped that Tony Blair’s delayed arrival would bring a statement that all was fine and that John Smith would recuperate and be back soon. Sadly, by the time Tony Blair did arrive, we knew he had a very different outcome to relay to us. My thoughts that day, as on this day, were not merely about politics. I come from a family of three girls who lost their dad to a sudden heart attack at 44, and my thoughts were, and still are, with his girls. I am sure that the hon. Member for Edinburgh South would agree that, wherever Scottish politicians gather, at some point we get to talking about John Smith and what might have been—the country that might have been, the Labour party that might have been, how devolution might have developed differently, how the Labour Government might have acted differently—but we must always remember those lives most closely affected by losing him.

I do not claim to have known John Smith well, but when I was a young reporter he always gave me time and treated my often naive questions with respect, and he never ever patronised me—something we should all think about as Members. I particularly remember one evening when I was a reporter at Radio Clyde and had to phone him about the latest speculation about whether Neil, now Lord, Kinnock, was about to step down as Labour party leader. Once he had dismissed it as nonsense and said there was no way he would comment on such a ludicrous suggestion, he spent about 20 minutes, maybe half an hour, just chatting with me, putting me right about the situation and telling me what was actually going on in British politics and what I should be aware of. I came away from that conversation, which he did not have to have with me, better informed, and from then on in my career, I had much greater insight into and respect for British politics. I was not the only one, and I do not think it was just because I was a graduate of Glasgow University. I was not the only journalist in Scotland who had for John Smith the sort of respect and admiration the rest of us can often only aspire to. Other Members have spoken about the grief felt across Scotland among politicians. I cannot speak for the politicians of that time—I was not one of them, I was a journalist—but every single one of us felt that day that we had lost something that we perhaps had not valued enough. We saw him as a politician committed to an ideal but with a tolerance, understanding and commitment to people and communities that we would do well to emulate here.​

I remember another occasion when I was sent to a pub in Airdrie—if memory serves—on the occasion of John Smith’s first response as shadow Chancellor. I was sent out to get public reaction to what the local MP was going to say, and I came away with a picture of a man regarded in his constituency as “one of us”, as somebody who understood his constituency and spoke for his constituency. He knew exactly what they wanted to hear and what they needed. I contrast that with the detached, two-dimensional picture that politicians often can project today. Maybe we need a little more of whatever it was that John Smith had, because he had something special that gave him a place in the hearts of journalists, politicians, the community and everybody in Scotland.

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Ed Davey slams Conservatives on climate change on Any Questions

Ed Davey was on Any Questions last Friday night.

The first question from the audience in Cambridge was about climate change.

Former Conservative Brexit Minister Suella Braverman hailed her party’s action on this.

I thought when I listened to it that Ed’s reply was going to be interesting.

Well, it was pretty forensic. He highlighted how the Conservatives had undone so much of the good work he had done as Climate Change Secretary and how important it was that we remain at the European table to have global influence.

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European election poll puts Lib Dems ahead of the Conservatives

There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.

Don’t get too excited, but look at this…

It is only one poll.

Although another by the same company on Westminster voting intention yesterday gave us a similar rise and the Tories a similar fall.

Let’s hope that we are starting to build momentum, because the size of the Brexit Party vote is scary.

It is quite incredible that we have a poll in which the two main parties only command a third of the vote between them.

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ICYMI: The Lib Dem Lowdown for new members

Welcome to the 1300 people who have joined the Liberal Democrats in the last day or so since our local election gains surpassed all our expectations.

It’s actually been really heartwarming to wake up every morning for the last few weeks and see a whole rush of “I just joined the Lib Dems” posts on Twitter.

Every so often I roll out this post, which is basically a rehash of an article that I first wrote in May 2015 when many joined the party in the wake of the General Election result. I thought it might be useful to tell you a little bit about how our party works and give you a bit of an idea of the opportunities open to you. If you are not yet a member, if you like what you read, sign up here.

What do we believe?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of organisation, the best statement of who we are and what we’re about can be found in the Preamble to our Constitution which underlines how we believe in freedom, opportunity, diversity,  decentralisation and internationalism. Here’s a snippet:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely. We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms. Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject allprejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

We have a fierce respect for individuality, with no expectation that fellow Liberal Democrats will agree with us on every issue. We expect our views to be challenged and feel free to challenge others without rancour. We can have a robust debate and head to the pub afterwards, the very best of friends.

Obviously, our priority at the moment is to stop Brexit, but there is so much more to us than that. That bit about no-one being enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity shapes everything that we do.

Your rights as a member

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Friday fun: What could you talk about for 30 minutes with no prep?

I was captivated by this on Twitter last night.

My initial response:

Though I could add in things that Alex Cole-Hamilton has said that made me laugh, the amazing brilliance of the Lib Dems in coalition…. in Scotland 1999-2007, fighting Labour in Chesterfield 1992-2000, Willie Rennie, farm animals and all.

I thought about adding in “Amazing Women in the Lib Dems” but I only have 30 minutes, not 30 days. And if you added in awesome women from other parties – Kezia Dugdale, Alison Thewliss, Caroline Lucas, Stella Creasy and Harriet Harman just for starters – then the whole enterprise would take a lot longer.

And my god I want to her Jennie do 30 minutes on Tom and Jerry. Can we please start crowdfunding for the fringe meeting at Bournemouth now?

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WATCH: Unleashed – the Lib Dem campaign to stop Brexit

This morning, my family’s postal votes arrived. I’ve had a postal vote ever since I didn’t vote in the 1997 election because I was too busy helping in a target seat. I suspect Mrs Pankhurst would have approved, but I was determined that I would never again fail to have my say.

Never has that vote felt more precious. I want this country to say very clearly on 23 May that we want to stop Brexit, that we want to stay part of the remarkable institution which champions peace, human rights and democracy.

Many other postal votes will have landed on doormats today. So it’s pretty convenient that the Lib Dems kicked off their European campaign with a staggering display of both passion and competence.

People woke up this morning to a bloody good write up in the Guardian.

Buoyed by strong results in last week’s local council elections, and unencumbered by the nuance of Labour’s position, Cable insisted the Lib Dems were the best-equipped party to challenge the message of Nigel Farage at the poll later this month.

“We are clearly the best organised, we have been leading the People’s Vote argument for three years and we’ve been the pro-Europe party for 50 years. We are credible and people recognise our unwavering clarity and commitment.

“We are taking it very seriously, we have a high-pressure social media campaign where we are doing more than Farage’s people,” he said, adding, “we are out of the traps early, and expect to do well.

And he outlined why we are the best place to deliver the maximum remain vote.

He has faced criticism for failing to make the media impact of his predecessor, or improve the Lib Dems’ poll ratings. But he hailed last week’s strong local election results as evidence that a steady approach of rebuilding the party from the bottom up is finally paying dividends.

“Infrastructure and organisation really does matter,” he said. “The lesson for other parties is you can’t function without that. There is no future sitting in London sending out messages.”

The manifesto launch tonight was brilliant. Four speeches. All passionate and delivered with heart. Sal Brinton talking about how the Lib Dems had stopped the Tories using Brexit legislation to undermine the NHS.

Ed Davey talking about the importance of stopping Brexit so that Britain can be a powerful force in the EU in the fight against climate change. I actually got a bit sad when he was speaking because he did so much to combat climate change in government and then the Conservatives, left to themselves, have unravelled so much of it.

He also spoke about the importance of co-operation across the EU to tackle crime. Why, he said, do Brexiteers like criminals so much.

Jo Swinson gave a totally heartfelt speech about a visit to Bucharest. Her wonderful dad, Peter, was there to help the Romanians prepare for EU membership. She told how he had taken her to the People’s House, an outrageous structure built as a vanity project by Romania’s dictator while so many of his people lived in destitution and absolute poverty.  She talked about the role of the EU in bringing peace across Europe, in Northern Ireland, bringing former enemies together.

The EU has been at the forefront of promoting human rights, liberal values and democracy, she said. The EU is the hope that made once warring countries work together and which is the cornerstone of the Good Friday Agreement. In a time of “strong men” leaders, now is not the time to be turning our back on European leaders who share our liberal values.

There are more relaxing ways to spend your 76th birthday. I thought Vince was actually going to cry when the audience sang Happy Birthday to him, but he went on to deliver a fantastic speech highlighting the clear Stop Brexit message that is driving the Lib Dem campaign. He said that nobody, not even the most ardent Brexiteers, were doubting that we would be worse off if we left the EU. The only thing is that these Brexiteers weren’t going to be the people who paid the price. It would be people much poorer and more vulnerable than they were.

The Lib Dems, he said, will be unapologetic about backing the four freedoms. The right we have to work and live across Europe was championed by Mrs Thatcher. The current Conservative Party has moved so far to the right that they are disowning the single market Thatcher created.

He said that while the Lib Dems will campaign to stop Brexit, this election is about returning a group of Liberal politicians from across Europe who will lead the fight against populism.

He highlighted the crucial EU role in making the likes of Google pay their taxes.

We won’t solve the Trump problem, he said, by grovelling to him and throwing him lavish state visits, but by standing up to him as part of the EU.

He set out our unique pitch – as the biggest and best organised of the Remain parties who has been fighting for for EU values for 50 years.

Watch the whole thing here

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Stopping Brexit and beyond – the Lib Dem European election manifesto is out!

 

The very first line of the Liberal Democrats’ European election manifesto says exactly what we want to do:

Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote to stop Brexit and stay in the European Union.

For the first time in a long time, we are off the leash. We are fighting an election saying exactly what we want and not dressing it up in nuance and equivocation.

We’ll look at each section of the manifesto in more detail over the next few days. It looks at what our MEPs will do if we succeed in stopping Brexit. Which is a good idea, because if we do manage to stop this nonsense, we’ll need to get a lot better at communicating what they are doing and how that benefits all of us.

The introductory section packs a punch, setting out our internationalist values:

The Liberal Democrats’ vision for Britain is a country that has remained at the heartof a dynamic European Union. A country where everyone can afford somewhere tolive, in a safe, clean and friendly neighbourhood. A country where high-quality health and social care, good-quality childcare, lifelong education, reliable transport and clean air are all part of a contract between government and citizens. A country with a new politics – taking on entrenched power and privilege and delivering a fair deal for everyone.

I like the use of the word friendly, there. It’s a very warm, active word. It conjures up images of people talking to each other, helping each other out, of kindness. It’s a powerful concept and so much better than the horrible politics of “it’s their fault you haven’t got.”

Turning to the Government and official opposition, the manifesto does not mince its words:

Theresa May doesn’t care about Remainers – and doesn’t care about those who voted leave either. For almost three years she has been obsessed with trying to buyoff the right wing of the Conservative party…

…The deal she has put on the table shows just how damaging and costly Brexit will be, in contrast to the lies peddled by the Leave campaign. It is also clear that many of the reasons driving people to vote leave – worries about funding of the health service, anger at rising inequalities across the country, the feeling of being left behind – will not be solved by Brexit; indeed, they will all be worsened.

The Conservatives have spent half a decade trying to please UKIP and Nigel Farage. Jeremy Corbyn has his own Brexit vision: instead of opposing it, he wants to deliver it. The fact is that whether Labour Red or Tory Blue, Brexit is bad for the UK.

The manifesto goes on to set out what would happen if we did manage to stop Brexit. It includes calls for Europe to adopt a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050, for an emergency £7.5 billion Support Fund for those affected by Brexit uncertainty and the extensions of rights for EU citizens in the UK including the ability to stand and vote in elections.

Ahead of the launch tonight, Vince said:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 50 Comments

ICYMI: Labour’s Barry Gardiner telling Tories Labour were trying to bail them out on Brexit

Coming to  a Lib Dem risograph near you very soon, I would imagine.

Seriously, Labour’s shadow international trade minister told Tory James Cleverly ON LIVE TV that “We are in there trying to bail you guys out” on Brexit.

You could not make it up. No wonder reports from the talks earlier this week made them sound like a love in. And here is the moment where he actually says it:

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The Lib Dem Lowdown: A guide for new members – Local elections 2019 special

Welcome to the 1300 people who have joined the Liberal Democrats in the last day or so since our local election gains surpassed all our expectations.

It’s actually been really heartwarming to wake up every morning for the last few weeks and see a whole rush of “I just joined the Lib Dems” posts on Twitter.

Every so often I roll out this post, which is basically a rehash of an article that I first wrote in May 2015 when many joined the party in the wake of the General Election result. I thought it might be useful to tell you a little bit about how our party works and give you a bit of an idea of the opportunities open to you. If you are not yet a member, if you like what you read, sign up here.

What do we believe?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of organisation, the best statement of who we are and what we’re about can be found in the Preamble to our Constitution which underlines how we believe in freedom, opportunity, diversity,  decentralisation and internationalism. Here’s a snippet:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely. We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms. Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject allprejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

We have a fierce respect for individuality, with no expectation that fellow Liberal Democrats will agree with us on every issue. We expect our views to be challenged and feel free to challenge others without rancour. We can have a robust debate and head to the pub afterwards, the very best of friends.

Obviously, our priority at the moment is to stop Brexit, but there is so much more to us than that. That bit about no-one being enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity shapes everything that we do.

Your rights as a member

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From the Vault: The Thatcher years: My shame

It’s 40 years today since Margaret Thatcher walked into Downing Street as Prime Minister.

There was an 11 year old girl in Inverness who was really excited by this – especially by the notion that a woman could become Prime Minister was a very powerful one.

Ten years ago, for the 30th anniversary, I wrote this post describing my shame. I suppose, in my defence, I have spent most of my time since fighting the forces of small state, selfish conservatism.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but thirty years ago tonight, I, a fairly innocent 11 year old, went to bed and prayed for Mrs Thatcher to win the 1979 election.

I really didn’t understand much about politics then – the geekery and obsession didn’t take hold until about a year and a half later, when I had had enough time to rue my earlier enthusiasm. I did know that I wasn’t keen on Labour – there seemed to be nothing but strikes, and my dad hadn’t had a properly stable job for a good couple of years. My parents and Grandma were all enthusiastic Tories and it seemed that life would get better with a new Government.

I quite liked the Liberal Party. The MP for Inverness, Russell Johnston, seemed to me to be a good man and the fact that a primary school child like me knew who he was was quite positive. He was also in favour of home rule for Scotland, which I always thought was a good thing. However, my staunch Catholic grandfather had told me time and time again, from the moment David Steel became Liberal leader, that he didn’t want babies to be born, so he had the same appeal for me as the Daleks. I literally would watch him on tv from behind a cushion. When I grew up and understood the issues involved, he became a lot less scary, but I actually thought he would pass a law forbidding people to have babies. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous, but in my defence, I had heard that in China you were only allowed to have one child, and I was only 11.

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ICYMI: Complain to BBC about coverage of Lib Dem local election win

There are two elements of the BBC’s coverage of the local elections that are simply ridiculous and need to be complained about.

The first is their oft expressed line that the message the voters were giving to the Conservative and Labour parties is that they wanted them to get on with Brexit.

So that would be why they voted in huge numbers for the party whose aim is to stop Brexit, then, is it?

The Liberal Democrats gained over 700 seats, a spectacular feat by any standards. We put in our best ever performance in terms of seat gain in a local election. The message is clear – a significant proportion of the electorate want this Brexit nonsense to be stopped.

The second

Seriously. The BBC’s flagship political programme has no guest from the Liberal Democrats on the weekend after we won a national election.

That has to be disgraceful by any standards.

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The 666 moment passed

There was a moment that I feared that we would end up gaining 666 councillors.

It happened.

Briefly.

But it quickly passed.

And the final total topped  700.

The Tories briefed the papers last weekend that they could lose 1000 seats. This, we all thought, was expectation management. We thought that our own 500 gains briefing to the press was about as good as it could get. And we were wildly pessimistic in the end.

I was thrilled to see my old mate and former Chesterfield Lib Dem MP Paul Holmes re-elected to the Council. And regular Lib Dem Voice contributor Ed Fordham elected as Councillor for Brockwell along with two ward colleagues.

Moor ward in that town has a history of close elections. I remember missing out on winning a seat from Labour in a by-election there in about 1994 by 17ish votes.

Look at how close we were to 9 gains there:

It’s a long time since we had a night like this.

But let’s just enjoy it as a stage on the journey. It’s not the end in itself. We need all Remainers to swing behind us on May 23rd to send a very clear message that Brexit can and must be stopped.

Posted in News | 13 Comments

WATCH: Labour’s Barry Gardiner to Tories on Brexit “We are in there trying to bail you guys out”

Coming to  a Lib Dem risograph near you very soon, I would imagine.

Seriously, Labour’s shadow international trade minister told Tory James Cleverly ON LIVE TV that “We are in there trying to bail you guys out” on Brexit.

You could not make it up. No wonder reports from the talks earlier this week made them sound like a love in. And here is the moment where he actually says it:

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 9 Comments

What a brilliant night – “the best local elections for the Lib Dems in a generation”

Four years ago, I was utterly heartbroken at this time in the morning. Not only had we lost almost all our MPs, but we’d suffered heavy losses in the council election.

Today, after spending most of yesterday in a darkened room whimpering in pain, I wake to absolutely brilliant results. Already we are up (at the time of writing) 271 councillors and most of the results aren’t in yet.

It’s not surprising that Ed Davey described the results on BBC Breakfast as the best local elections for the Lib Dems in a generation.

Some more of the highlights:

We seem to have surprised the BBC’s political editor:

A result we knew was on the cards a few weeks ago as it was clear that the Tory vote was disappearing like snow off a dyke.

And here are the very happy councillors:

Jacob Rees-Mogg has a Lib Dem councillor now.

Yvette Cooper’s backyard now contains Liberal Democrat Councillor Tom Gordon stormed to victory from a standing start in his home ward after moving down from Newcastle.

Three times the vote of the Labour Party. 9 times the vote of the Conservatives and Greens. And all that in just a few months’ spirited and energetic campaigning.

His former colleagues in Newcastle were delighted.

And here is Councillor Gordon:

 

Chelmsford’s result was simply outstanding – from 5 councillors to 31 and the Conservatives falling from 52 seats to just 21.

I have never been more glad to be proved wrong as far as Hinckley and Bosworth were concerned. They thought they might pull off overall control, but I thought that was a tiny bit ambitious, even with their ace team which has been honed to perfection over the years by former Lib Dem MP for Chesterfield, Paul Holmes. But they did it. It’s a fantastic result for Michael Mullaney and the team there.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 95 Comments
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