Author Archives: Mary Reid

Mary Reid was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, and has developed websites for several parliamentarians and Lib Dem organisations. She manages the annual conference for the Social Liberal Forum.

What can we do about skills shortages? (and what about the clotted cream?)

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At one level the answer (to the first question) is simple. As individuals, our ability to find a job, and succeed at work, depends on each of us having skills that are needed by an employer. As a society our economic well-being depends on a population that collectively has the skills that match current industry requirements. And our future prosperity depends on people using entrepreneurial skills to develop new industries and opportunities for employment.

So our complex education system – encompassing school, further education, universities, adult education and workplace training – should be designed to teach students and employees the skills society demands. One of Government’s roles must therefore be to identify the broad range of skills that are needed, to commission courses in those skills and encourage students and employees to take them up.

So why do we still hear about the skills shortage in this country?

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

Meet Vince Cable

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The lovely digital team at HQ have interviewed Vince Cable.

He spent his childhood immersed in chocolate, it seems.

I grew up in York, which was then very much an industrial city. Its factories supplied the country’s railway carriages and fed its appetite for sweets. I grew up breathing the all-pervasive smell of sugar, cocoa and vanilla.

My first home was a small terraced house close to the Terry’s chocolate factory. My father Len was a craftsman at Rowntree’s chocolate factory whilst my mother Edith packed chocolates for rival firm Terry’s.

I arrived at the University in York at about the same time as Vince left for university and career, and I have fond memories of Tuesdays, which was chocolate making day at Rowntrees. Walking through the town was like being bathed in chocolate.

After Cambridge he ended up in Glasgow where he became a Labour councillor. He was one of the first Labour members to join the SDP.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 20 Comments

Autumn Conference agenda and directory now available

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The agenda for Autumn conference in Bournemouth has now been published online. This contains the full text of all the motions that will be debated, as well as speeches and other events in the main hall. The conference runs from Saturday 16th September to Tuesday 19th September.

Now is the time to arrange a meeting with your local party to discuss amendments you might like to submit. The deadline for submitting amendments to motions, and also for emergency motions, topical issues and questions to reports, is 1pm on 4th September. As always, you would be wise to ask for drafting advice for amendments in advance, and this is available up until 21st August.

You can also download the Conference directory, which lists the fringe meetings, training sessions and exhibitors.

If you haven’t attended conference before then it is not too late to register. The registration fee for first-timers remains the same throughout the booking period, whereas the fees for returnees rises in steps. First-timers also get invited to a number of events designed to introduce them to conference, to the venue and to each other.

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Sarah Olney on returning to normal life

The New Statesman is running an article titled “I’m very much out on my ear”: what it’s like becoming an ex-MP. It interviews a number of people who lost their seats, but the focus is heavily on Sarah Olney.

Apparently, Theresa May apologised to Tory MPs who lost in the debacle that was the June General Election.

While May was referring to her Conservative peers, losing a seat is an experience also familiar to Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney. The former MP for Richmond Park made headlines by overturning Zac Goldsmith’s 23,015 majority in the December 2016 by-election – only to lose the seat by 45 votes six months later.

“I don’t get any money at all,” she says. “I got paid up to 8 June and then nothing. I don’t qualify for loss of office allowance or statutory redundancy because I wasn’t there for long enough. You have to have been there for at least two years.”

Olney, who intends to look for a new job after the summer holidays, describes herself as a “little bit cheated” by the snap election. “I was expecting – especially when we had a Fixed-term Parliaments Act – that parliament was going to last until 2020. So to suddenly find that it’s changed means that you don’t qualify for anything.”

Posted in News | Tagged | 25 Comments

Want to see Norman Lamb in lycra?

It is dangerous for politicians to make pledges during an election campaign. I’m sure you all know what I am talking about – Stephen Tall’s pledge to run naked down Whitehall.

And then there was Vince Cable’s hat.

But Norman Lamb rashly said he would join a zumba class if he won his seat in North Norfolk, which, of course, he did.

But he did it!

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 1 Comment

James Davidson – a Liberal MP in Scotland who should not be forgotten

The Times has carried an obituary for a former Liberal MP for Aberdeenshire West. You can be forgiven for not having heard of him because he served as MP from 1966-70 and he died at the age of 90.

But having read his story I really wish I had known him. Here are some extracts:

A British naval attaché was on a 1,100-mile train journey from Murmansk to Moscow in the early 1950s when he got talking to a young captain of artillery in his carriage. “We had lunch together and he asked if I would like to bring a girl from the embassy to come to have dinner with him and his fiancée,” recalled James Davidson. “Then, 48 hours before I was due to go, the phone rang and it was him. He just said, ‘This is Sergei. I am afraid we cannot meet you. I am sure you understand.’ And he hung up and that was the end of that.”

On another occasion Davidson and a colleague went for a walk in the forest and were stopped by soldiers armed with Kalashnikovs who tried to make them sign a confession that they had deliberately gone into a forbidden area. “But that was not true, there were no signs,” he protested.

More than a decade later, and back in Britain, Davidson discovered that the Russians had not forgotten their suspicions. Now serving as a Liberal MP, he was proposed as a member of a parliamentary Anglo-Russian friendship society, but the Soviets refused to accept him.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

LibLink: William Wallace gives the William Beveridge Memorial Lecture

William Wallace – one of our eminent peers – delivered the William Beveridge Memorial Lecture at the Social Liberal Forum Conference a week ago.

Professionally William was a professor in International Relations at the London School of Economics, and he has worked as a visiting professor in Universities around the world. So you would be right in expecting his lecture to be intellectually rigorous and thoroughly relevant to social liberals.

He took as his theme the question: Is a liberal and democratic society compatible with globalisation? You can read the full text of his lecture here, but here is a taster.

He sets the question firmly in an international context:

Dani Rodrik, one of my favourite economists – a Turk teaching at Harvard – wrote some five years ago that we may be discovering that democracy is not compatible with unconditional globalization; and that if we have to choose, we must prefer democracy and open society to globalization.  I take that as my text, and will explore its implications for Liberals, who believe in open societies and international cooperation but also in individual freedom within settled communities.   I have a second text, which is President Macron’s declaration that France must support a market economy, but not a market society’ – which is a good phrase for us to adopt in Britain, when Corbynistas are close to rejecting the market as such and the Conservative right sees the market as governing social provision.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged and | 15 Comments
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    A bit late, but relevant to our discussion on a European army: an article (in English) in a German newsmagazine on lacking NATO-readiness. Seen in...
  • User AvatarEd Shepherd 21st Oct - 9:32am
    All this talk of visits to Buckingham Palace and hobnobbing with chums in Brussels or Strasbourg or listening to the anger of Hilary Clinton is...
  • User AvatarWilliam Fowler 21st Oct - 8:51am
    Well, no discipline in school, no discipline at home and immunity from criminal prosecution for kids adds up to... I must admit I do admire...
  • User AvatarCatherine Jane Crosland 21st Oct - 8:33am
    Paul, thank you for this article, and for your fascinating and moving series of articles for black history month. This story about Martin Luther King's...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 20th Oct - 11:50pm
    Paul and David, at it again, getting me at it too , with much thanks ! A remarkable story , the unplanned speech, don,t ever...
  • User Avatarfrankie 20th Oct - 10:36pm
    Sheila, Time ticks on and everyday the leave case is shot to pieces. As reality bites the only thing that seems to be keeping Leavers...