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.

The dilemma of obesity

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The issue of obesity presents liberals with a dilemma. On the one hand obesity has serious health effects which have impacts not just on individuals but also on health service costs. On the other hand, body confidence campaigns encourage people to feel good about their bodies and condemn fat shaming.

So how can we, as a nation, reduce obesity while still respecting individual freedoms? Where is the balance to be found between societal and individual responsibilty?

We have been here before, of course. There were similar debates around seat belts, motorbike helmets and smoking. In all three cases public well-being eclipsed individual liberty. So the Government can enforce the use of helmets, against the will of any riders who don’t want to wear them, not on the grounds of the risk to the individuals but because of the huge cost to health and social services of dealing with accident victims. The harm to others is a collective harm.

George Monbiot was writing on this subject last week. He refers to this photo from 1976 of people sunbathing on Brighton beach, and says that it:

… appeared to show an alien race. Almost everyone was slim. I mentioned it on social media, then went on holiday. When I returned, I found that people were still debating it. The heated discussion prompted me to read more. How have we grown so fat, so fast? To my astonishment, almost every explanation proposed in the thread turned out to be untrue.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 46 Comments

Happy Anniversary!

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It’s hot, and our regular supply of posts from you, dear readers, seems to have melted away. But we can’t let today go by without acknowledging the 70th Anniversary of the NHS.

Of course, we can’t do it justice in a short piece, but we can be proud that, for all its faults, we do still have a system that is not only valued at home but also admired by other countries. Indeed, many nations now have systems of health care which are universal and free at the point of delivery, even if they differ in the methods used to achieve that.

Yes, of course there are anomalies in the NHS – dental care and prescriptions are often not free, social care is still not integrated properly with medical care, treatment is rationed by Clinical Commissioning Groups, too many services are outsourced.

But what has always astonished me is the fact that this blatantly socialist project, vilified by many at the time (including the majority of doctors), is now seen as an essential component of British life by people from across the political spectrum. And what saddens me is that the American right still don’t understand why we love it, and have dismantled the progressive systems that Obama carefully constructed.

The challenge over the last 70 years has been for the NHS to keep in step both with research and with societal changes, and that challenge will go with it into the future.

So it is appropriate that Vince Cable has chosen today to highlight quite a niche subject – access to fertility treatment for female couples.  He has written to Sir Andrew Dillon, the chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, about ‘shared motherhood’. This is a treatment that involves one partner donating an egg which is then carried by the other partner, so that both women are physically involved. At the moment it is only available privately at a cost of £6000 per cycle.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 14 Comments

LibLink: “The supply of social housing has almost dried up” – Dorothy Thornhill

If, when I was Elected Mayor of Watford, you had asked me what kept me awake at night, I would have said the number of families we had in bed and breakfast (it was once a matter of pride that there were none), and whether we had enough temporary accommodation.

Dorothy Thornhill (now an active parliamentarian in the House of Lords) has been writing in PoliticsHome about her worries about the supply of social housing. She writes:

It tells its own story that the rise in evictions from the private sector is now the top reason for people ending up in council temporary accommodation. Private rents are now out of reach for too many working families. The supply of social housing has almost dried up.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged | 15 Comments

On feisty and ditzy women

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Helen Mirren once told the Daily Express:

Two phrases I hate in reference to female characters are ‘strong’ and ‘feisty’. They really annoy me. It’s the most condescending thing. You say that about a three-year-old. It infantalises women.

I’ve been pondering on a long list of words that are only ever used to describe women. ‘Feisty’ is top of that list, but there are many more that worm their way into our everyday conversations.

At work women in senior positions are described as ‘ambitious’, ‘bossy’, ‘strident’, ‘shrill’, ‘abrasive’, ‘pushy’, ‘sassy’, ‘bitchy’ or ‘bolshy’. In contrast, women lower down the pecking order are said to be ‘bubbly’, ‘airhead’, ‘cute’ or ‘ditzy’. These are all words that are rarely used about men and they all have negative connotations.

There is also that give away phrase ‘very intelligent, but …’ (a variant of which pops up in the Helen Mirren interview), which implies that bright women must have compensating features, such as a sense of humour, to be acceptable.

And of course, we all know that the word ‘hysterical’ derives from the Latin for a womb, so can only be used of women, along with ‘hormonal’, ’emotional’, ‘highly strung’, ‘sensitive’, ‘illogical’ and ‘irrational’, not to mention ‘menopausal’.

Posted in Op-eds | 25 Comments

LibLink: Layla Moran “Airbus shows businesses are running out of patience with our Government”

Layla Moran has been writing on Huffpost on the fallout from Airbus’s announcement that it will pull out of Britain (with the loss of thousands of jobs) if there is no transition deal on Brexit.

She writes:

The difficulty for those of us campaigning against an extreme Brexit ripping us out of the world’s largest market is that not enough people feel that the economy is nose-diving.

Take Airbus. It is looking for a breakthrough later this week at the European Council meeting, or else. It was a brave announcement, that if we don’t secure a decent trade deal, it is likely to move factories and jobs abroad – brave not for the act of leaving but for coming out and saying it.

So why did Airbus risk such an announcement? Because this wasn’t a threat. This was the first stage of its disinvestment from the UK; the risk of a no-deal Brexit is now simply too great, and too soon. Even a company the size of Airbus cannot afford to risk £1billion a week.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged , and | 27 Comments

Gosport findings ‘shocking and devastating’

We have all be shocked by the revelations about the inappropriate treatment of elderly patients at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. Here is Norman Lamb talking about the way the NHS closed ranks when he was Health Minister, and how he called for the enquiry that has just been completed.

We also have some quotes from him:

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 6 Comments

Carry on Brussels – David Davis asks Vince Cable to ‘sack’ Catherine Bearder

Last night’s episode of ‘Carry on Brussels’ on Channel 4 featured our own MEP, Catherine Bearder. Unfortunately she was juxtaposed with UKIP Press Officer, but it makes for entertaining viewing.

Catherine is seen gathering support amongst her European allies for her Exit from Brexit campaign.

The documentary demonstrates the links that Catherine has with Guy Verhofstadt MEP, the European Parliament’s chief negotiator on Brexit. He is a former Prime Minister of Belgium, but of more importance to us, he is the Leader of ALDE, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe, which is the political group in the European Parliament to which UK Liberal Democrats are affiliated.

Catherine is shown greeting him as a friend in various meetings, including one with a UK delegation including Lindsay Northover (our Foreign Affairs spokesperson in the Lords), Sarah Ludford (former Lib Dem MEP) and Graham Tope.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 7 Comments

Brilliant result in Richmond – and high hopes for Kingston

Liberal Democrats have gained control in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, leaping from 15 seats to 39. This is in spite of the deal with the Greens which allowed them to take 4 seats.


Historically we controlled Richmond from 1986 to 2002, then from 2006 to 2010.

Meanwhile, in nearby Sutton, which we have controlled for the last 28 years, we retained control, though with fewer seats than before, dropping from 45 to 33 out of 54.

Liberal Democrats: 33 (-12)
Conservatives: 18 (+9)
Independents: 3 (+3)

Attention now turns to Kingston upon Thames which lies between Richmond and Sutton. Their count starts at 10am today, and we have hopes of taking back control there as well.

Posted in News | Tagged | 6 Comments

Come and taste the coffee

Some of the local election candidates in Kingston upon Thames (plus an MP)

I have been rather quiet on Lib Dem Voice recently – and for very good reason. Two high profile election campaigns having taken up a great deal of my time and attention.

In last year’s snap General Election I headed up the digital campaign to get Ed Davey re-elected in Kingston & Surbiton. We developed new ways of working, made excellent use of many of our new members, and created a social media campaign that has been quoted as a model for other local parties to follow. And this May we intend to take back control of Kingston Council, having lost it to the Tories four years ago. With a longer lead time, and all the experience we had gained in 2017, we have been able to plan a full digital campaign, which we have never before attempted for local elections.

So that’s my excuse!

But I am editing LDV today, so I am shamelessly using this platform to call for support. And it is not just for Kingston. In the three South West London boroughs of Sutton, Kingston and Richmond the Lib Dems are all aiming to take control from the Conservatives (or hold on to it, in Sutton’s case) in May. We want to see that yellow banana on the map again. Since last June we now hold three of the five constituencies that make up the three boroughs, and we lost Richmond Park by just 45 votes, so it appears the voters like us.

Posted in Campaign Corner and News | Tagged , , and | 9 Comments

Are you wearing odd socks today?

Today is World Down Syndrome Day and this year across the world people are wearing odd socks to celebrate difference. So if you got dressed this morning before you realised, then maybe you can change one of those socks when you get home? #lotsofsocks, #WDSD18.

Posted in News | Tagged | 1 Comment

The cost of football

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My two grandchildren both love football, and one of them takes it very seriously indeed. We all know the huge social and health benefits from taking part in sport and I have a great respect for all those parents who help to keep community sports clubs alive and kicking, as it were.

But children who love a sport also want to watch professionals playing, so it is very sad to learn that major clubs are effectively pricing out younger supporters. The BBC has published its annual report Price of Football 2017 and found that most ticket prices have remained steady. But in parallel it commissioned a survey of 18 to 24 year olds – all football fans – which showed that 82% said that the price of tickets was a barrier preventing them from going to more matches. OK, so I have jumped there from children to younger adults, because that’s the group that was surveyed, but the inference is that ticket price is a problem for young people in general.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 32 Comments

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

The tide is turning

 

The editorial in The Observer yesterday makes for interesting reading. Under the headline “The tide is turning against deceitful and incompetent hard Brexiters” it kicks off cheerfully:

What next from the lords of misrule, the Tory hard Brexiters who seem to be enjoying playing party political games with our futures while the world looks on bemused, if not baffled? Day after day, they stumble on, deaf to warnings on every side and blind to hard, objective facts – that delusions and jingoistic illusions do not a plan make. How did we get here? Is this the best Britain can do? The four Brexiters charged with plotting our political, economic and cultural future – Theresa May, Boris Johnson, David Davis, Liam Fox – cheered on by an undistinguished group of backbenchers, could hardly have had a less impressive three months since triggering article 50.

It cites:

Here is a report by the non-partisan Office for Budget Responsibility, warning that public finances are in worse shape than before the 2008 financial crash.

And here is the National Audit Office, the UK’s spending watchdog, predicting a “horror show” if Britain leaves the EU customs union without its own fit-for-purpose customs system in place.

Posted in News | 13 Comments

Leadership hustings – a chance to discuss the future of the party with Vince Cable

The first Leadership hustings will take place this Saturday in London.

Why a hustings, I hear you ask, given that there is only one candidate? Technically nominations close next Monday, so until then the advice is that we cannot assume that there will not be a contest (although, of course, the chances of a challenge are minimal).

The Social Liberal Forum Conference is holding the hustings at 1.30pm at Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, London, N7 6PA. Vince Cable has agreed to take part. If any other candidates do come forward before Saturday then they will, of course, be invited.

Whilst any party member is welcome to attend the hustings for free, we would love it if you could sign up for the whole day’s conference. In the morning the theme will be ‘The Retreat from Globalisation’ with some eminent speakers, while the afternoon will be devoted to more local issues including the Leadership election and a review of the General Election. You can register here: www.socialliberal.net/slfconf2017.

Posted in Leadership Election | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Will it be a hustings or a Meet the New Leader event?

Sal Brinton has explained that:

There will be a series of official Leadership hustings around the country (they are currently being arranged, so watch out for details near you), as well as some online or streamed events. In the last Leadership Election these hustings were very popular, as well as the SAOs who may also have social media Q&As with the candidates.In the event that there is only one nominated candidate we will discuss with them continuing with some of these dates as Meet the New Leader events.

The Social Liberal Forum has been quick off the mark. Our annual conference this year will be held on Saturday 15th July in London.

We had already rearranged the programme to include a slot for a hustings, and this will become a ‘Meet the New Leader’ event if there is only one candidate.  The latter seems the most likely outcome at the moment, but not all MPs have declared whether they are in or out, and someone may yet put their name forward to ensure a contest. We will know for sure by next Wednesday.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Leadership election

The timetable for the election of a new Leader for the Liberal Democrats has been announced. Here are the key dates:

Opening of nominations: 26th June (today)

Deadline for nominations: 20th July

Despatch of ballot papers to members: 16th August

Close of ballot: 11th September

Verification, count and declaration: 13th September

Posted in Leadership Election and News | Tagged | 16 Comments

Mystery posters in Somerset

Mark Blackburn is our man in Frome, in Somerset. It seems he has an anonymous supporter who has been putting up posters around the town. The word Hope appears beneath a portrait of Mark. The posters are numbered as a limited edition but not signed.

The Lib Dem team do not know who the artist is, who who has been setting them up, but they are delighted at the clear message of support.

Mark said:

We are also privileged to have one left in our HQs. Thank you to the artist who created it. Thank you for your support and your trust.

Posted in News | Tagged | 1 Comment

Is this the best email of the election?

As clickbait goes, it is rather eye-catching, and I was intrigued.

And the first sentence drew me in:

Theresa May is about to lock down the internet. Will you let her?

There is only one response offered – but then there can only be one way to reply to the question – NO.

So I clicked, I signed the petition, I shared on Facebook. If I wasn’t convinced after the first question, the email then went on to invite me to click two further buttons which repeated the message in slightly different ways.

But there is a killer PS:

PS: Based on user feedback, we’ve been asked to include more GIFs in our email, so as a special reward for joining our fight, we’ll send you something extra special.

Posted in General Election | Tagged | 1 Comment

A tale of two buses

 

Apparently that bus now looks like this:

 

Which might explain why Boris Johnson got a bit confused yesterday on Peston on Sunday.

Would you like to see him claiming that the Conservative manifesto promises £350m a week for the NHS? Of course you would.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 65 Comments

“Like your styles,” Harry should vote Lib Dem

 

In an interview with the Sunday Times magazine Harry Styles revealed his political views:

I’m probably going to vote for whoever is against Brexit.

I think the world should be more about being together and being better together and joining together, and I think it’s the opposite of that.

Apart from giving Lib Dem Voice an excuse to post a photo of the singer, it also gives us a chance to remind everyone of the power of the anti-Brexit vote, and how it worked for us in Richmond Park.

Posted in News | 1 Comment

David Davis accepts that we could leave without a deal

Yesterday on Peston on Sunday David Davis claimed that in the Referendum those who supported Leave were knowingly voting to leave the single market, ie a hard Brexit. That’s not what Liberal Democrats are hearing on the doorstep.

Davis also said that we might leave the EU without any deal at all, and we had to plan for that possible outcome.

You can watch the interview here, starting 6:20 minutes in.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Big beasts

A press release from the Liberal Democrats today announces that ‘Big beasts return to Lib Dem front line as Farron announces election campaign team‘.

I’m not sure whether Jo Swinson, Vince Cable and Ed Davey like being referred to as beasts – what sort might they be?

But here is the full list of the new General Election Campaign Team:

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 23 Comments

“Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats lead the doorstep fightback”

 

That’s the encouraging headline in today’s Guardian. And the timing couldn’t be better with everything to play for on 4th May in the local elections and the Manchester Gorton by-election.

In Cornwall …

… the tide appears to be turning.

The Lib Dems have won a succession of council by-elections in Cornwall and are now once again the biggest group on the council with 43 members, governing in coalition with the independents.

Lib Dem loyalists are buoyed both by the national party’s resurgence and by a report in the New Statesman claiming that Lynton Crosby, who helped the Tories into government in 2015, has warned the prime minister, Theresa May, that if she called a snap general election she would lose all the Lib Dem seats her party gained in Cornwall.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 1 Comment

The Garden Bridge – or Johnson’s folly

If you live outside London you might be unaware of the on-going row over the proposal for a Garden Bridge. The concept was supported by Boris Johnson, with celebrity endorsement. The project envisaged a pedestrian bridge located between Waterloo and Blackfriars Bridges, designed as a park.

The Mayor of London published a report last week, authored by Margaret Hodge, which identified major problems with the project and recommended that it should be scrapped. Costs have increased from £60m to over £200m, and the procurement processes were deeply flawed. What is more, the project was “driven more by electoral cycles than value for taxpayers’ money.”

Hodge said:

In the present climate, with continuing pressures on public spending, it is difficult to justify further public investment in the Garden Bridge.

Caroline Pidgeon had this to say about it:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 10 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGlenn 26th Sep - 8:21am
    Frankie' The problem a lot post-cold war end of history centrists thinking is that like Marxism it's based on the idea of the inevitability and...
  • User AvatarOld Liberal 26th Sep - 3:49am
    No Michael1, it really is much more than just a very clear message and massive massive hard work as Kingston shows. It is having a...
  • User AvatarMichael 1 25th Sep - 11:58pm
    @OnceALibDem Um.... I appreciate the point. We did do well in Haringey – up from 9 to 15 - and held our ground in Ealing...
  • User AvatarDan Falchikov 25th Sep - 11:19pm
    Possibly the least accurate account of any campaign I've ever been involved. No reference to the appalling arrogant previous Tory administration that switched voters off...
  • User Avatarfrankie 25th Sep - 11:06pm
    They must be improvers Glenn they wish to improve things. Unlike most Brexiteers who wish things to return to a by gone age. One set...
  • User AvatarAlex Macfie 25th Sep - 8:32pm
    Yes, take away the areas we gained and we made no gains at all. Funny that.