Author Archives: Harry Hayfield

My response to the debate on motion F7 (Regulation of cannabis)


Note: you can view the debate here, about 2 hours 48 minutes in.

First of all, kudos to our party. Who else would not only discuss an issue that is usually swept under the carpet, but broadcast that debate live on the Internet and then keep it there for everyone to watch / listen to. As a result, I shall summarise my thoughts on each of the speeches.

Norman Lamb MP (Norfolk North) is of course, absolutely correct. Reports of this nature take a long time to compile and the panel who came up with this report should be applauded for their efforts. He is also right to bring up the fact that several members of the current Cabinet, through public statements, have admitted using cannabis and therefore are guilty of hypocrisy. Therefore, in conclusion what Norman said is entirely correct, we need to have a debate, and a debate is precisely what I applaud.

Lee Dargue (Birmingham, Edgbaston) who summed up his amendment by saying “What Norman said” which is succinct and to the point, and he is right. We started the conversation about the mental health of this nation and I have to admit that conversation seems to have come to a bit of a grinding halt post general election. However, whilst recognizing that “fourteen year olds are having sex” and that “fourteen year olds are doing drugs”, I would like to counter that when I was fourteen I was not doing drugs nor having sex and I put that down wholly to being brought up by my grandparents and therefore believe that closer family discussions on these subjects would be an avenue to explore.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 25 Comments

My personal thoughts on Motion F7

I have lived with my grandparents all my life and as a result, especially since 2005 as I have been their registered carer, I have moved wherever and whenever they have moved and this means that since I became a Liberal Democrat in 1992, I have been all over the place.

However, there is one small downside to this and that is being able to get to big Lib Dem events. In those 24 years I have only managed to attend one regional conference, three Welsh conferences and no federal conferences or special conferences, which brings me to the reason for this (as the Americans would say) op-ed: Motion F7 at the conference in York discussing the paper launched a few days ago entitled “A Framework for a Regulated Market for Cannabis in the United Kingdom“.

Now, let me make this clear from the get go, having read the report I agree with a large number of things. For instance, “Each year, criminal gangs generate billions of pounds from the illegal drug trade – money which in turn funds organised crime. And each year thousands of people receive convictions for drug possession which will harm their education and employment prospects for the rest of their lives” is absolutely true.  Similarly “Liberal Democrats argue that we need an evidence based approach to drugs law, one which is based on independent and scientific advice, rather than fear and prejudice” is a statement I think we can all agree on.

However, I have to draw the line at the conclusion of the report that cannabis should be legalised and distributed via dedicated retail outlets, social clubs and via home growing.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Opinon: #libdemfightback is for old and new members working together to rebuild the party

Aye, I can remember the good old days for the Liberal Democrats. Eighteen percent popular vote share, twenty members of Parliament including one in Liverpool. Aye, golden days indeed.

When you are the baby of your local community council and eligible for the long service award at the annual membership awards at the age of 40, it can make you wonder if it’s time for me to rest on my laurels and let the fightback be done by these new 16,000 members.  If that is the case, then I am sorry but that is not how we work because (and this may come as a surprise to our new members) this is fightback number five.

Fightback number one lasted from 1951 – 1966, a time when it was not only impossible to get people to vote Liberal but also impossible to even find someone to stand for the Liberals. At the 1955 general election, we only managed to field a hundred and ten candidates but by 1964 we were managing to field almost a full slate of candidates and in 1966 we won twelve seats across the UK, our highest post war level.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 14 Comments

Opinion: Mr Cameron call a general election – we relish the challenge

I am pretty sure that everyone can remember where they were at on 7 May 2010. I, for one, was being staggered as I caught up with the results overnight that the Liberal Democrats had polled a staggering six million votes, the highest number of votes since the days of the Alliance. I was running at more or less 24% of the national vote and winning seats such as Redcar, Burnley and Bradford East and coming oh so close in seats such as Ashfield, Swansea West, Derby North. At the same time as that was happening, Nick Clegg came to …

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged and | 21 Comments

Opinion: The Alternative Vote – a staging post towards STV

Quote from the 2005 General Election Manifesto:

We will extend this fair voting system (STV) to all local elections in Britain, and to the House of Commons …”

And, indeed, as a long-term aim that’s a very sensible move – but as we know both in Wales and Scotland you cannot suddenly change from one situation to another without first making progress.

Welsh Liberals (even as far back as 1910) advocated devolution for Wales and, thanks to the stages in devolution (the first Welsh Secretary of State in the 1960s and the Welsh Grand Committee), when devolution was offered in 1997 Wales accepted it. Similarily for our long-term aim of STV, we should recognise that the Alternative Vote is progress towards that aim. As such, when the Prime Minister speaks in the Commons today I shall be looking online for sites that are looking for supporters of AV to sign up to support a YES vote in a referendum.

So how would AV help the Liberal Democrats in a general election? Well, it just so happens that in May 2009, a poll was published asking questions that could build up a profile of second votes. Using that poll, here’s an alternative version of the swingometer showing what would happen in a general election on swings from 10% to Lab to 10% to Con under the existing first-past-the-post, and under the Alterantive Vote.

(Data calculated using UK-Elect on transfers calculated from ComRes poll of May 2009. The first section is FPTP, the second section is AV and the third section is the change between FPTP and AV by party.)

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 19 Comments

Opinion: I wonder why Labour is warming to electoral reform?

So Labour will be holding a consultation process on the benefits of a secondary vote, compulsory voting and voting at the weekends then? Well, I think I can guess what this exercise will say:

“It’s a wonderful idea, I’m suprised we didn’t think of it before!”

To which I would answer: “Because First Past the Post gave you two landslide majorities!”

Assuming that they continue with the late Roy Jenkins’ recommendation of Alternative Vote, it soon becomes obvious why Labour are now warming to the idea. At the next election (working on the new boundaries) Labour will start off with 349 MPs, …

Posted in Op-eds | 27 Comments

Local elections 2008: a preview

No doubt you were looking at your newspapers yesterday, and feeling not very happy about this poll in The Sunday Times:

YouGov poll reports 16% lead for Conservatives : Con 43% Lab 27% Lib Dems 16%

My reaction to this poll is “Whoopee!”

Now before you think the worst, no, I have not succumbed to the charms of David Cameron, nor will I contest the forthcoming local elections as a Conservative. No, I will be contesting the local elections as a Liberal Democrat because in several councils across the country that poll suggests we could well have another barnstormer of a local …

Posted in Local government and Polls | 18 Comments

Opinion: A humble appeal to all Lib Dem leadership candidates

I live in the constituency of Ceredigion located on the western coast of Wales, and in 2005 we were one of the 16 Liberal Democrat gains that helped propel the Liberal Democrats to the best ever performance by the party in over 80 years. And yet the reason it was a gain was that in 1992 the newly founded Liberal Democrats lost the seat to Plaid Cymru.

During the next few months, we will be told by all the candidates standing how they will appeal to Conservative voters, how they will appeal to Labour voters, and how they will appeal to …

Posted in Leadership Election and Op-eds | 9 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Tristan Ward
    All good news. My Local Party is fighting a Kent County Council by-election in Willmington (north west Kent - near Dartford and easily accessible from London...
  • Steve Trevethan
    Might a necessary factor in considering the quality of a democracy be equity of wealth? How real is our democracy when 31% of our children go hungry, week afte...
  • James Fowler
    Good summary from William Francis. Have you read Keith Middlemass's series? They're a bit dated, but very interesting....
  • John Grout
    We should not be surprised that people who are the subjects of a debate want to be part of it - it’s also not unsurprising that they won’t want to debate, p...
  • Andrew Melmoth
    @Simon McGrath But that's not the whole story. The government can set the redistribution rules in an effort to tilt the system in their favour. For instance ...