Author Archives: Nick Harvey

Want to get involved in running the Federal and State Parties? The clock’s ticking…

There are just eleven days left to get your nominations in for the candidates you’d like to see elected to Party committees.

If you need a reminder of which roles are up for election, here it is:

Top of the bill is Federal President, to take over from Sal Brinton on 1 January and serve for 2020, 2021 and 2022. This is a major role chairing the party’s Federal Board, protecting and representing members, and acting as guardian of the party’s interests. Hustings will be held throughout the country during the two-month campaign, and candidates may raise and spend £20,000 campaigning …

Posted in News, Party policy and internal matters and Party Presidency | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Get Ready For Our Three-Yearly Internal Elections

Our three-yearly round of internal party elections gets underway when nominations open this Thursday (12 September), ahead of the party conference at Bournemouth – which is traditionally the opportunity to gather signatures on nominations. (A new online nomination process is also being trialled, alongside the old-fashioned paper method).

Every member of the party gets the opportunity to vote in these elections, which are largely on-line.

Top of the bill is Federal President, to take over from Sal Brinton on 1 January and serve for 2020, 2021 and 2022.  This is a major role, chairing the party’s Federal Board, protecting and representing members, and acting as guardian of the party’s interests.  Hustings will be held throughout the country during the two-month campaign, and candidates may raise and spend £20,000 campaigning for the job.

The party’s senior Federal Committees for the next three years are also up for re-election:  Federal Board members (15); Federal Policy Committee members (15); Federal Conference Committee members (12); and Federal International Relations Committee members (6).

These elections will run concurrently with the Presidential election.  There are no hustings or campaign budgets for committee places, but candidates are entitled to submit a short manifesto which will be posted on the election pages of the party website and on a ‘click-through’ when members cast their votes.

Members in each of England, Scotland and Wales will also elect one State Representative to the Federal Board.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 6 Comments

Nick Harvey writes…Reorganisation at Lib Dem HQ

Party members may have read on political websites that Lib Dem HQ is in the process of carrying out a reorganisation, which sadly will see a reduction in the number of staff at our headquarters. 

In common with both other parties we have seen a dip in our income in the year after an election, made all the more acute after two elections (and a referendum) in two years. Donation fatigue and lower revenues are understandable at this point.

This is a phenomenon we have seen many times before.  Politics is a cyclical business, with parties consolidating after elections and …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 24 Comments

Introducing the General Election 2017 Election Review

After the 2015 election disaster, a comprehensive post mortem led by James Gurling analysed what had gone wrong and made a huge number of detailed recommendations of what should be done differently next time.

However, the snap election of 2017, coming just two years later and out of left field, meant that we were still recovering from 2015 and had not had much chance to implement many of those changes.

Another disappointing result demanded further analysis, although a snap election was a very different challenge. So the Federal Board concluded that a review should be relatively ‘quick and dirty’ and sit alongside the 2015 review in informing future decisions.

Finding someone completely uninvolved in the election to lead the review proved an impossible task, and in the end Gerald Vernon-Jackson failed to dodge the bullet and was appointed just after the Bournemouth conference. Three months having already elapsed since polling day, Gerald was asked to produce something fast. He mustered a strong team and over a long weekend of intensive work they interviewed some 58 stakeholders from across the party.

Their report was produced quickly off the back of that evidence-taking and serves as a candid appraisal of the snap election campaign. It was formally received by the Federal Board and sent to the Federal Campaigns and Elections Committee and Federal Audit and Scrutiny Committee to inform ‘lessons learned’ exercises.

Some eyebrows were raised at the anecdotal character of the report, but in fairness to Gerald and his team it was exactly what it said on the tin: a coherent synopsis of the perceptions of 58 stakeholders and the panel itself, drawing together the common threads from the accounts they heard. It does not purport to be a comprehensive analysis of the sort conducted after 2015, and was always designed to sit alongside the earlier report in providing a route map for future campaigns.

Posted in News | Tagged | 30 Comments

Changes to the Membership Incentive Scheme

Since its launch in 2013, the Membership Incentive Scheme has helped our party not just grow, but thrive. 

The money from it has helped local parties grow their membership, fight campaigns and demand better for their communities.

In recent years, we’ve seen a worrying trend developing though. More and more local parties stopped actively recruiting new members.

This is concerning – because part of the original intent of the scheme was to help build strong, local teams that would win elections.

At the request of the relevant State Party Committees, we have therefore been exploring options to revise the current incentive scheme.

Under the …

Posted in News | Tagged | 1 Comment

Changes to payment for Connect and Salesforce

Since becoming Chief Executive, I am trying to streamline our operations and cut out unnecessary waste.  With limited resources, we need to be agile and dynamic, to simplify processes and maximise the time, money and effort we devote to campaigning.

Currently, local parties are either invoiced or debited for Connect and Salesforce. Processing all this and then chasing it up involves significant staff time and pointless bureaucracy.

Worse still, there are grotesque and unjustifiable anomalies in the sums that local parties, both large and small, are paying for these digital

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , and | 12 Comments

A longer read for the weekend…Sir Nick Harvey on NATO in the era of Trump, Putin, Brexit and Corbyn

At Spring Conference in York, Sir Nick Harvey spoke at a Liberal Reform fringe event asking what now for NATO in the era of Trump, Putin, Brexit and Corbyn. With his kind permission we reproduce his remarks. Please do share your thoughts in the comments.

Do Brexit, Trump and the rise of populism in Europe signal a disintegration of western institutions? Has NATO become irrelevant or do we need it more than ever at a time of Russian expansionism?

Two notable quotations are of relevance to these questions: Mao Tse Tung’s assertion that, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” and von Clausewitz’s observation that “War is the continuation of politics by other means.”

It is a sobering thought that the UK’s real defence spending figure is now below 2% of GDP, and across the EU it is much less. By contrast, Russia spends 5.4% of its GDP on defence. Be in no doubt that President Putin is now involved in a major power play on the global stage.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 15 Comments

Nick Harvey writes…Trident: The real gamble with the nation’s security is making a currently purpose-less weapon a financial priority

TridentFor some, there is no greater symbol of the United Kingdom’s enduring role on the world stage and continued military relevance than the Trident nuclear weapons system. For others, Trident is the last unreformed bastion of Cold War thinking. It is a symbol of a bygone era of fear, instability and sky-high defence spending to hedge against an unpredictable Soviet threat.

Despite the Cold War ending; Russia and the UK de-targeting one another; multiple treaties the UK has signed up to committing to a reduction in nuclear weapon stockpiles; and a £100bn price tag which will in time account for 10% of the MoD’s budget while our Armed Forces are in desperate need of updated kit; the Tories and Labour both refuse even to entertain the notion that the status quo might reasonably be questioned.

As evidenced by yesterday’s news, they instead choose to scaremonger and point-score over what might be traded in a future coalition. Top military chiefs have also expressed their disdain at the recent headlines. The two parties are prioritising the impressive feat of kicking around the country’s most expensive political football, rather than participating in a rational conversation about whether the assumptions upon which like-for-like replacement rests are logical or relevant to the threats Britain faces today.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 26 Comments

Sir Nick Harvey writes…Difficult questions for all parties on defence spending

Today in the Commons I sat through impressive speeches from across the benches echoing concerns about the UK’s expenditure on defence – principally, our predicted failure to meet NATO’s 2 per cent of GDP target on defence spending in the approaching financial year.

There was little expectation that defence would become a big election issue, but less than two months ahead of polling day all the parties share the headache that a commitment to maintaining the 2 per cent target looks frankly impossible. With the assumption that further cuts will have to be made across the board, there are serious implications for the kind of role the UK wants to play in the world and how we are going to defend our global interests.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 37 Comments

Nick Harvey MP writes… We mustn’t let eurosceptics spoil useful defence co-operation with our EU partners

Today in London the UK’s foreign and defence secretaries, Philip Hammond and Michael Fallon, will meet their French counterparts, Laurent Fabius and Jean-Yves Le Drian. Of course, there is nothing particularly out of the ordinary about this meeting: in reality, UK and French Ministers meet frequently at various EU and NATO summits.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 8 Comments

Tribute to Jeremy Thorpe

NPG x167152; Jeremy Thorpe by Walter Bird, Copyright National POrtrait Gallery, London some rights reservedJeremy Thorpe’s funeral was held last Wednesday at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster. It was attended by around 400 people including all five leaders of the Liberal party and the Liberal Democrats who succeeded Jeremy Thorpe: David Steel, Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy, Ming Campbell and Nick Clegg. There was a gathering afterwards at the National Liberal Club. The following tribute was delivered at the funeral by Nick Harvey MP, and is reproduced here at his suggestion.

It is a great honour to be asked to say a few words today about the political life and times of Jeremy Thorpe, though I do so with considerable humility as many present here witnessed and lived the Thorpe era first hand, whereas I was still at school at the time.

To describe Jeremy’s footsteps as giant ones in which to follow in North Devon would be a huge understatement.

Posted in Obituaries | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

Nick Harvey writes: Making free school meals work

school mealsYesterday in Parliament I joined with the Children’s Society to chair a roundtable to discuss the Government’s new free school meals policy.

Announced at last year’s Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference, from the start of the next school year (2014/15) all children at infant school in England will receive a free school lunch. The policy, which is projected to cost around £1bn over the next two years, will apply to all children aged 4-7 regardless of their family’s income.

Yesterday’s event brought together MPs with experts in the fields of education and nutrition …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

Nick Harvey MP writes… Robert Gates poses stark defence question to UK: Do we want to be a real military partner or a nuclear power and nothing else?

Former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning decrying the UK’s defence cuts. He said the squeeze meant the UK could no longer be a ‘full spectrum’ military partner of the US, acknowledging that our relationship with the US has been fundamentally altered.

A sceptic would quickly dismiss the comments of a man currently promoting his memoirs, but Gates makes a wider point about what exactly we want to be doing with a smaller defence capability.

Both Labour and the Tories continue to cling to the idea that we should maintain a full-scale Cold War …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 31 Comments

Nick Harvey writes on yesterday’s Army re-structuring announcement

With Britain’s combat role in Afghanistan coming to an end, so ends the predictability of our Army’s main effort. Looking beyond 2014, we need to restructure our armed forces to face an increasingly uncertain world: ready to intervene to protect our national interest, with the agile and adaptable ability to project force and prevent conflict, as set out in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

So yesterday’s Army 2020 announcement was about restructuring the British Army for the future. Contrary to many claims, it is not about personnel cuts.

Of course, we cannot avoid the fact that the economic situation …

Posted in News and Parliament | Tagged , and | 15 Comments

Nick Harvey MP: Vital need to keep open the seas of the Middle East

This is a truncated version of a speech delivered at RAND last Thursday. The full speech can be read here.

The UK has maintained at least two Frigates or Destroyers in the Gulf and Indian Ocean region since 1980. They now contribute to the Coalition Maritime Force based in Bahrain and comprised of sailors and ships from 25 nations.

Posted in Speeches | Tagged | 1 Comment

Nick Harvey MP writes on Carrier strike capability

Earlier this month the Defence Secretary announced that the MoD’s budget was in balance, for the first time in a generation. A number of tough but necessary decisions meant that the £38bn black hole inherited from the last Labour government had finally been eliminated – a major part of which was the decision to deliver Carrier Strike capability using a different type of Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) jet because of unacceptable cost growth and project delays. In particular, the Government has decided to change the type of jet which will fly off the Navy’s two new aircraft carriers – from …

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 8 Comments

Nick Harvey MP writes… Updating you on Trident

Today’s announcement that design contracts for the Trident successor submarines have been signed is being portrayed as the Coalition Government moving a step closer to a full Trident replacement.

In reality the final decision for Trident replacement is still years away. Until 2016’s Main Gate decision, the ‘point of no return’ at which contracts are finalised and billions of pounds committed, there are still important questions to be asked about the future of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

And if it wasn’t for Liberal Democrat influence in this Government, this simply would not be the case. It is because we are …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Nick Harvey MP writes: A hard look at defence spending

Today the Commons defence committee published a report criticising the MOD for decisions taken in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).  The report claims that recent defence budget reductions will leave our Armed Forces unable to execute the operations the Government sets for them post-2015.  
I disagree.
It is true that the MOD is reducing numbers of service personnel across the Army, Navy and Air Force and indeed the MOD has altered the equipment programme, which led to the deletion of Nimrod and Harrier.  But these tough decisions were necessary in order to address the black hole in the …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 17 Comments

Nick Harvey introduces… Forces Focus

Our 2005 Manifesto stated that one of our priorities was to look after our Armed Forces so they can look after us. At a time when our forces are committed to fighting on two fronts, as well as operations around the world, this holds just as true now as it did three years ago.

With continued operations around the world, defence remains at the top of the agenda and it is essential that the Government’s ‘duty of care’ to service personnel is fulfilled.

However, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have proved to be more challenging and more hostile …

Posted in Online politics | Tagged | 2 Comments


“Overstretched, underpaid and over there” might be an appropriate modern-day take on the infamous line of the Second World War, used in its original form to describe American GIs in Britain. With intense operations on two fronts, in Afghanistan and Iraq, combined with the cumulative effects of underinvestment by consecutive Conservative and Labour Governments, it is a phrase that pithily describes the modern predicament of our armed forces.

Our Armed Forces are a world-class fighting force, but they are not configured for sustained operations at the present rate. The situation has become so critical …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Opinion: Nick Harvey MP makes the case for an unamended Trident motion

All rational people must be sincerely and passionately committed to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, so destructive is their potential. The age-old debate is about how best to do this. The FPC motion for Harrogate is a combination of the best traditions of unilateralism and multilateralism.

For the first time in a decade the Party is proposing a radical reduction in the size of the British nuclear deterrent. By unilaterally cutting Britain’s nuclear weapons by 50% yet keeping our seat at the table, we have the best chance of driving forward a multilateral disarmament agenda.

Cutting our nuclear stockpile in half now would send a positive message to non-nuclear or aspirant-nuclear states that Britain will live up to its obligations under the NPT. It puts nuclear disarmament back on the international agenda, and commits Britain to leading preparations for the 2010 NPT review conference – as Robin Cook did running up to the productive 2000 conference. Labour failed to capitalise on that momentum – not least by supporting Bush in Iraq and tarnishing our reputation as an honest broker.

Posted in Op-eds | 11 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Nick Hopkinson
    Fully support this article....
  • Martin Gray
    It will go the same way as the PCC vote , local elections , & for that matter the past European elections .. Nobody is that really interested in all hones...
  • Robert Harrison
    I agree in general with Leon's proposals - he has however left out an important community - the position of UK citizens living abroad who would be unrepresented...
  • Tom Harney
    As far as the EU is concerned I will vote for the party which is prepared to explain clearly at every opportunity the financial damage that leaving caused this ...
  • David Le Grice
    A few major issues here: Trying to elect such large numbers in the first election would be incredibly unwieldy under STV anyone who's attempted to vote in fe...