Author Archives: Iain Donaldson

20 years on from the “Bolton Seven” case

On 12th January 1998 seven men from Bolton were convicted under sexual offences legislation that clearly discriminated between gay sex and heterosexual sex.

I phoned the office of Liberal Democrat MP, Dr Evan Harris, to alert him to the plight of these men and he agreed to help their cause. Evan tabled Early Day Motion 117 and questioned the Attorney General to raise the plight of these men in Parliament.

Early day motion 717
SEXUAL OFFENCES LAW
• Session: 1997-98
• Date tabled: 02.02.1998
• Primary sponsor: Harris, Evan
That this House notes with grave concern the case of the Bolton 7 who were convicted following private, consenting, victimless homosexual behaviour; notes that the prosecution was brought under the age of consent legislation found to be a breach of basic human rights by the European Commission of Human Rights and under the ban on homosexual relations involving the participation or presence of more than two persons (section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 1967), which violates Article 8 of the ECHR – the right to privacy; notes that the 1956 and 1967 Sexual Offences Acts unfairly discriminate against homosexuals; calls for equalisation of treatment of homosexuals and heterosexuals under the criminal law; and, in the light of the Government’s decision to give the House a free vote on the age of consent and not to contest the ECHR ruling, calls for the police and Crown Prosecution Service to use their discretion and suspend prosecutions under the gay age of consent legislation until Parliament has reconsidered; and believes that custodial sentences in the case of the Bolton 7 and other such cases of consenting homosexual behaviour are not in the public interest nor in the interests of justice.

The Liberal Democrats were not alone in raising the plight of these men, Outrage ran a major national campaign and Amnesty International stated that were the men to be imprisoned they would be declared prisoners of conscience. These campaigns may well be the reason why the men did not receive custodial sentences, although three of them had their names added to the sexual offences register.

In 2000, six of the men appealed to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the prosecutions against them had violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights by interfering with ‘the right to respect for a private family life’ enshrined in article 8 of the Convention. They were subsequently awarded compensation.

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Nuclear fudge on the Lib Dem stall

Bismark is quoted as having said that “politics is the art of the possible” and in perpetuating a nuclear defence policy that can never be realised, the Liberal Democrats  have succeeded in stepping out of the debate on nuclear weapons.  The policy of having a part time submarine which probably isn’t carrying any nuclear warheads is neither possible nor deterrent.
 
This position is the sort of contingency that is adopted by fence sitters who do not expect ever to have to implement the policy that they have adopted and quite frankly for a party that aspires to government it is an entirely unsustainable policy.
 
There are in fact on the nuclear debate only two main questions, do we want a nuclear based defence policy or not?  If the answer is yes then the policy of the Liberal Democrats is not that policy as it means in reality that we leave the warheads at home until after war has been declared.  If the answer is no then the policy of the Liberal Democrats is not that policy as it retains the warheads.

Fundamentally we are saying that we want to negotiate away warheads that we will never use and will never have the opportunity to use and so we have taken our warheads out of any possible multi-lateral agreement.
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Sir Gerald Kaufman R.I.P.

 

From Iain Donaldson, Chair of Manchester Gorton, Central and Blackley Liberal Democrats:

It is with great sadness that we heard of the death yesterday of Sir Gerald Kaufman, Member of Parliament for Manchester Gorton.

I first met Sir Gerald over 30 years ago when he visited (then) Wright Robinson High School whilst I was studying in the sixth-form.  I can honestly say that despite our having been political opponents for the many years I have known him he was a kind and gentle man whose acerbic wit was always used in good humour to promote the causes close to his heart.  He was also a devoted servant of the people of Manchester Gorton.

Over the years we have worked together where we agreed and opposed each other where we disagreed but on all occasions I found him to be as courteous as he was determined.

At this time I would like on behalf of the Manchester Gorton, Central and Blackley Liberal Democrats to convey our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Sir Gerald Kaufman and to his colleagues in the Labour Party.

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The human right to freedom of speech is now under threat!

“Ridiculous” you no doubt think, this is another of the Liberal elite trying to spread scare stories.

Well, if that is what you think then take a look at the Government Petitions website today.  A Conservative Councillor has launched a petition calling on the Government to amend the Treason Felony Act to make supporting UK membership of the EU a crime.

The petition states:

Amend the Treason Felony Act to make supporting UK membership of the EU a crime.

The Treason Felony Act be amended to include the following offences:
‘To imagine, devise, promote, work, or encourage others, to support UK becoming a member of the European Union;
– To conspire with foreign powers to make the UK, or part of the UK, become a member of the EU.’

It is becoming clear that many politicians and others are unwilling to accept the democratic decision of the British people to leave the EU. Brexit must not be put at risk in the years and decades ahead. For this reason we the undersigned request that the Treason Felony Act be amended as set out in this petition.

(These provisions to become law the day the United Kingdom leaves the EU).

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North West Liberal Democrats Conference Spring 2016

Members attend regional conference to debate policy, receive training, question the decision makers in the party, and, of course, to socialise with old friends over a cup of tea or an excellent lunch.

On Saturday, following the opening of North West Liberal Democrats Conference by the Deputy Leader of Stockport Council, we heard an upbeat presentation from Sir Vince Cable about the work the Liberal Democrats did in Government, and where we go from here.  This was followed by a presentation by former North West MEP Chris Davies on the progress of the #intogether campaign to keep Britain in the EU.  …

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Will North West Region choose to become a state party?

The Liberal Democrats are a growing party and week on week new colleagues join us in the battle to create a democratic and liberal nation in which success is founded on merit, policy is founded on evidence and citizens are treated equally.

This party has always championed the concept of subsidiarity, decisions being taken as close as possible to the people they affect. We were the party that pressed hardest for a North West Regional Parliament, and we are the party that in government delivered Devo-Manc and real prospect of Devo-Merseyside. It is not our preferred option of devolution and it does not devolve enough powers, but it is a beginning in the quest to achieve the Liberal Democrat ambition of a Federal United Kingdom within a Federal European Union.

The North West Region finds more General Election candidates than the Party in Scotland, the Party in Wales or the Party in any other region in England. We not only fill our own seats but we also export candidates to other regions and train candidates for other regions.

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All women shortlists

At Liberal Democrat Conference in York this weekend I have been told by a number of women that they would not want to be the candidate for a seat that selected from an all women shortlist.  I have some news for them, most of them won’t be.  The motion passed means that of the around 580 seats that the Liberal Democrats will contend 8 must have all women shortlists.

I will now issue a direct challenge to those women, don’t walk away from the party but instead as there are up to 572 seats not selecting on all women shortlists so choose one of those seats and get selected as a Parliamentary Candidate.  However, my challenge goes much further than that because right now we only have enough approved candidates who are women to fill a quarter of those seats so at the same time convince another woman who is capable of standing for parliament to do the same.

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The counter bias proposed in the All Women Shortlist motion will not in itself be enough to achieve balance

Spring Conference Agenda 2016The membership of the Liberal Democrats is almost 50% male and 50% female (I say almost because we have a number of members who are non-binary (they do not define as male or female) and I will say up front that when I refer to “all women shortlists” this does not mean I am excluding these non-binary candidates, I want and would strongly encourage them to seek selection.

The Liberal Democrats also instinctively seek parity between men and women (it is noticeable that not one man felt he could do a better job than the excellent women candidates who stood for election as Party President in 2014.  This was not out of some arranged plot visited upon us from Lib Dem HQ, it was simply a conclusion that we all reached of our own volition.

Why then can we not achieve gender balance in our parliamentary candidates by the same gut instinct?  Well actually we want to but there is disagreement as to how we go about it.

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Community Politics – putting people first

Liberal Democrats believe that the state exists to serve and enable individuals to live their lives to the full.  Our starting point is the individual. We want to find ways of enabling and encouraging each person to fulfil his or her own potential.

We believe that men and women have an immense, largely unrealised capacity for self-direction, self-cultivation, self-understanding and creativity.  People are not sheep to be flocked, cattle to be herded or oxen to be led; it is inhuman to reduce people to the status of objects to be manipulated, directed or discarded.

It is the right of every human to share the liberty and the opportunity to experiment, to experience, to learn and to influence his or her surroundings. This is the ethos that drives the Liberal Democrats.  It is not about having one’s own way; it is about having a way that is one’s own.

A liberal community does not dictate how people should live, but liberates people to live as they please so long as that in doing so they do not impinge upon the freedoms and rights of others.  It does not provide for the needs of the citizen, but rather enables the citizen to provide for their own needs.

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It is time to press for full gender and sexual equality in our law and administration

The case of Tara Hudson, a transgender woman who has been sent to one of the most violent all male prisons in the country for an admitted assault, highlights once again the need for British law and administration relating to gender dysphoria to be overhauled.

As a cysgender gay man I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to live with a condition where you experience discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between your biological sex and gender identity, but I don’t have to live with medical condition in order to understand the impact …

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Conference: what worked, and some suggestions for improvement for the future

I believe in giving praise where praise is due, and so I would like to congratulate all the party staff, companies, businesses, volunteers and particularly the members of Federal Conference Committee (FCC) on their delivering the most enjoyable, welcoming and member friendly conference I have attended in my 27 years in this party.

I particularly liked and would like to see at all future conferences:

From the moment you arrived people explained what was happening and when, FCC and Federal Executive members were available front of house to hear what members wanted to tell them;

In the conference hall every technicality of the debate was clearly explained as it happened so nobody felt out of their depth;

In the fringe meetings every acronym and every bit of jargon was explained, it isn’t just the new members who are helped by that everyone benefits.

On the whole this conference gave us a lot to build on, and here are some of my suggestions for the future:

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Opinion: Issues for the promised party governance review

Before the election we were promised a review of how the party operates, and if the Federal Executive is doing its job properly then we should be hearing at some point in June how each of us can contribute to that process.  Here is a little bit of my input as to where we can go from here.

Firstly we need to commission the development of a registered voting system for the Conference app that can be used for all internal elections.  The BBC and ITV have managed to develop such apps for voting in their competitions and shows and registering the vote to an individual shouldn’t be that difficult.

Secondly, all committees should be elected on the basis of one member one vote.  The idea that vested interests such as parliamentarians, councillors or specified organisations can have places reserved at the top tables in a party that prides itself on every member having the same say is nonsense.  Our elected representatives should be answerable to the party that secured their election, not stacking its committees to make it answerable to them.
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Opinion: Delivering a stronger economy and a fairer society

Liberal democrats

The Liberal Democrat pre-manifesto contains a lot of good policy, but what it is lacking is the narrative to pull all those disparate threads into a single powerful statement of who we are and what we stand for.  In this short article I will try to provide just that.
In 2010 we knew that our country was headed for a major recession and that the first priority of the Liberal Democrats in government must be to protect the poorest whilst setting in place the infrastructure necessary in order to re-grow our economy, close the deficit and start to repay the national debt.  That is why we have invested so heavily in cutting taxes for the poorest, improving education for all our children and ensuring that we research new technologies to keep us at the forefront of innovation so that as the world comes out of recession this country is able to meet the new demands.
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Opinion: Decision making in the Liberal Democrats

libby on the wall3

The Liberal Democrats could be on the verge of a major change in the way in which we conduct our internal business.  We have already decided to move to OMOV for Federal Conference, and that will result automatically in all members of the party being eligible to stand for the elected positions on our Federal Executive.  We have also already decided to move to no less than 30% female representation for the elected seats on the FE, which will automatically weight the FE to at least 15% women (a token gesture by people who don’t understand the issue).

I have proposed, as a part of my agenda for election to the FE that we should move to having all seats on the FE directly elected and on a 50/50 +1 split of male to female members.
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Opinion: How about some real fairness in our tax system?

On 27th August as a party of the new Liberal Democrat media strategy of Manifesto by a Thousand Statements, in the name of the party it was announced that The Liberal Democrats have set out plans to introduce a trio of wealth taxes which will help to cut the deficit whilst ensuring fairness in our tax system.  I fully understand the need to wipe out the deficit, and the need for the wealthiest to bear the greatest burden in achieving that, but let us not confuse that with making our tax system fairer.

National Insurance is a tax on income.  It is paid at a rate of 11% on earnings between £7,956 per year and £ 41,865 per year above which it drops to just 2%.  Surely integrating NI into Income Tax, thereby raising the basic threshold to the proposed £12,500 and reducing the rate of payment substantially (we are always told that the richest 10% pay the highest burden in tax) would be a way of  ensuring fairness in our tax system.  This is a measure that would have a direct impact on the daily lives of the majority of our citizens, rather than just playing to the politics of envy.

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Opinion: The manifesto and our target demographic

ξυπνήστε (alarm clock) by BatholithI have just registered for conference, and that got me thinking about our 2015 Manifesto.

When he first became leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg defined our target audience as being ‘alarm clock Britain’, a demographic that was derided at the time as being undefined and totally incomprehensible.

Had he defined our target demographic as being ‘people aspiring to improve their situation who are in work on low to middle incomes’ would he have meant the same target group, and what have the Liberal Democrats in Government achieved that is of benefit to that demographic?

The first thing that the Liberal Democrats in Government have achieved for that target group is the ring-fencing of the education budget, the introduction of the pupil premium, and the extension of pre-school education to 3 year olds.

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Opinion: Suggestions for the 2015 manifesto – how we can do more for low paid working people than Labour

This article was orgininally, mistakenly attributed to Obhi Chatterjee.

libdemmanifesto 2010 wordleI have just registered for conference, and that got me thinking about our 2015 Manifesto.

When he first became leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg defined our target audience as being ‘alarm clock Britain’, a demographic that was derided at the time as being undefined and totally incomprehensible.

Had he defined our target demographic as being ‘people aspiring to improve their situation who are in work on low to middle incomes’ would he have meant the same target group, and what have …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 98 Comments

Opinion: Licensing the private sector housing market would be more effective than 3 year tenancies and a rent fix

Matilda HouseMuch has been said about Ed Miliband’s latest proposal to grant 3 year tenancies and cap rent rises over the three years but it’s not that bad an idea as a part of a package of measures to tackle the housing crisis. The key problem is that Mr Miliband’s solution would have to be regulated and yet Labour has consistently blocked the introduction of regulation for the private sector housing market.

We need to ensure that all rented accommodation (private, social, co-operative, lodging or council) meets standards of service …

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Opinion: The first of the big four commitments for the front page of the manifesto

Lib Dem manifesto WordleTime and again we have been asked what four key commitments we should make in our manifesto for the next General Election.

I am of the opinion that, whilst until recently the idea that Liberal Democrats could go into a General Election campaign with the simplification of the tax regime as a cornerstone of our manifesto would have been laughable, as we near the end of our first term of Government in over 70 years that should be where we find ourselves and what’s more it should be a key commitment in our manifesto.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 27 Comments

Opinion: Reflections on the new Party website

logo_lgThe first thing you notice on the new party website is the new logo. There is a history in the Liberal Democrats of changing the logo to reflect a change in the Leader and as this new logo appears to be being rolled out over several months one wonders if this is a pre-emptive strike by the grey suits in Lib Dem HQ? As a part of that change we appear to have again opted for an expensive bespoke typeface that will be beyond the budget of most local parties and will create the impression of disconnect between the team on the ground and the team at LDHQ. There is nothing wrong with Calibri or Cambria, guys.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 16 Comments

Opinion: Help me deliver a workers’ bonus

Nick Clegg has this week called for a further increase in the basic tax threshold of £500, which would cost around £1bn and put an extra £10 a week into peoples pockets. It is a good call but it’s not the best call.

National Insurance is in theory is a tax that is hypothecated to pay for our pensions, our unemployment benefits and other aspects of social security, but in reality all of our social benefits are subsidised out of general taxation. What it does however do economically is constrain the poorest paid in our society in …

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats have a unique position on co-operatives. We should use it.

At party conference I asked Nick Clegg why the word ‘co-operative’ appeared only once in our economy paper and not at all in the resolution presenting that paper to conference. He advised me to write my views on a postcard and send them to him, and this is that postcard.

The third clause of the preamble to the constitution sets out the underlying principles of economic liberalism clearly and concisely:

We will foster a strong and sustainable economy which encourages the necessary wealth creating processes, develops and uses the skills of the people and works to the benefit of all, with a

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Letter to Nick Clegg – Secret courts and bedroom tax

Dear Nick,
Following the vote in Parliament last night the Prime Minister demonstrated how to graciously step back from a position and accept the will of our democratically elected representatives that Britain should not engage in the folly of military intervention in Syria.To step back, accept that you have lost the vote, and so quickly return to the task that parliament has set is not in my view a sign of weakness, it is a clear sign of strength and dignity that will serve the Prime Minister well.

At our Spring conference this year you faced two major votes where you disagreed

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Opinion: An open letter to Nick Clegg on Syria

Dear Nick,

Today Parliament is considering international action in Syria and you will take the most important decision of your leadership of the Liberal Democrats.

It would seem to me that there are four clear questions that must be answered before any military intervention is launched in Syria.

Is there compelling evidence of Assad’s guilt?

If compelling evidence of Assad’s guilt emerges, has an international arrest warrant been issued under international war-crimes law?

Have all non-military avenues for extradition to The Hague failed?

Has the Security Council sanctioned the necessary action to execute the arrest warrant?

Right now there appears to be no compelling evidence of Assad’s …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged | 39 Comments

Opinion: Secret courts and the detention of David Miranda

For a number of years where it was felt that taking a case into court may result in information being divulged that could harm national security successive British Governments have settled out of court.
 
This Coalition Government decided that this approach was too costly and so resolved to introduce closed material procedures, or secret courts, for civil cases brought by citizens against the intelligence services.
In these secret courts the citizen will lay their case before a Judge, who will then sit in private with the intelligence services present but the Citizen not, and consider evidence that may never have been seen

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 9 Comments

Opinion: Tackling Labour’s Pensions Deficit

The Coalition Government is currently coming under fire for cutting public sector pensions, but the truth is that pensions funding was cut 13 years ago by Gordon Brown when he launched his raid on pension schemes.

Until the last Labour Government came into office the accrual of interest on pension funds was not taxed — pension schemes could build up funds more quickly than other modes of investment in order to pay out benefits when members retired. Labour changed that and taxed interest on pension investments as it accrued; pension schemes which had aimed at paying out a …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 6 Comments
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    I like Bournemouth as a place but I agree with John. It's a long way from Yorkshire!
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    Alex, I get what you are saying, and yes, what Labour did was far more damaging, and it isn't accurate or fair to say we...