Author Archives: Martin Thomas

Settling Disputes

The block over which the government are now stumbling is called ‘dispute resolution‘. There is substantial disagreement between the negotiators of the United Kingdom and of the European Union.

On the one hand, the EU has proposed that the European Court of Justice should be the final arbiter in the construction of the withdrawal agreement and any future problems, because it says that the agreement will embody many provisions of EU law: the CJEU has declared itself to be the only binding interpretative authority of EU law.

On the other hand, the United Kingdom has argued that it is unacceptable that the appeal body, the final resolution body, should be a court whose judges are drawn only from the continuing EU member states. That is the nub of the matter.

Of course, the issue is bedevilled by the irrational demonisation of the European Court of Justice, first by those who campaigned to leave the EU and later by the Prime Minister, who has lost no opportunity to declare that leaving the jurisdiction of the CJEU is one of her red lines. I have never understood how that court could have been painted in such scarlet colours. In the first place, its function has never been to lay down draconian law which binds us all in servitude, but to interpret law which, even if it starts with the Council of Ministers or the Commission, has been subjected to a democratic process in the European Parliament. The United Kingdom has, since joining the EU, had full representation in these three bodies.

Secondly, we have always provided a distinguished judge to sit on the court. Sir Konrad Schiemann, the former United Kingdom-nominated judge of the court between 2004 and 2012, said in evidence to the Lords EU Committee that,
“in the Luxembourg court the tradition is that you lose your nationality the moment you join the court, which makes no distinction between judges of one nationality and another. … The tradition was that you were not there to plug the point of view of your national Government. That was not your job. Your job was to try to decide the law in the light of the general European interest”.

That, indeed, is the way in which the Court of Justice has operated: it is not a court of competing national judges.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

A Very English Scandal

There are two incontrovertible facts concerning the Thorpe saga. First, that the dog Rinka was shot dead. Secondly, that Norman Scott wasn’t. Everything else depended upon the various and varying accounts of a number of highly unsatisfactory witnesses.

The BBC theme music swings with a jauntiness which matches Jeremy’s brown titfer. The story is based upon Peter Bessell’s discredited account in court. Bessell was extracted from California to give evidence on the promise of an immunity from arrest for fraud, and with £25,000 in his pocket from the Telegraph plus the promise of a further £25,000 if Jeremy were to be convicted. From the prosecution point of view, he was a nightmare witness but they called him anyway, more in hope I would think, than with any confidence he could withstand George Carman’s withering cross-examination. What material for a defending counsel! Bessell bombed. One anecdote must have gone down well with the jury: he told them that Thorpe had initially proposed to have Scott poisoned in a pub but that when it was pointed out to Jeremy that it would not look good if Scott fell off his barstool dead, he replied that the hired hit man should simply enquire of the barman the way to a convenient mine shaft. Even though the BBC show was played as farce, that revealing gem of Bessell’s evidence was omitted.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 27 Comments

Lord Martin Thomas writes….Jeremy and me

We are going to hear a lot of adverse things about Jeremy in the next few weeks. But I doubt even Hugh Grant can portray the style of Jeremy as he really was. He was a terrific campaigner. It was typical of him to swish in on a helicopter to support me in West Flintshire in 1970, to make a speech on the stump and to swish out again, leaving the gathering gasping for breath and hugely impressed.

He had one amazing political attribute – an abiding memory of your name and always, …

Posted in News | Tagged and | 32 Comments

Brexit and Welsh Devolution….

Martin Thomas attacked the government over their poor planning for devolution around Brexit. This is the speech Lord Thomas gave in the House of Lords.

Paragraph 20 of the Memorandum of Understanding of October 2013 states:

The UK Government will involve the devolved administrations as fully as possible in discussions about the formulation of the UK’s policy position on all EU and international issues which touch on devolved matters.

The annexed Concordat on Co-ordination of European Union Policy issues – Wales reads:

B2.5 ..the UK Government wishes to involve the Welsh Ministers as directly and fully as possible in

Posted in Parliament | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Another glimpse of Liberal history

Martin Thomas and Jo Grimond, 1964

Once upon a time, just about when Vince was leaving school, the then Liberal prospective candidate for West Flint, Maldwyn Thomas, (later Sir Maldwyn), resigned to go into business only six weeks before the 1964 general election. So much had been spent in promoting “M Thomas”, that it seemed a good idea to the local executive to ask me to step into his shoes.

Last week, Rhys Lewis who had pushed out leaflets for me as a boy, contacted me out of the blue after 53 years, and caused me to turn up my mum’s scrapbook where she had pasted the cuttings of my adoption speech from the Rhyl Journal. It was the 4th September 1964. I was 27, married with a six week old daughter.

We had a hereditary peer as Prime Minister. My Tory opponent, Nigel Birch, told me how much he detested visiting old people’s homes: “I have a sensitive nose, you see”, he said. The telly was black and white and a third channel, BBC 2, had started up only months before. Homosexual conduct was a crime – all our hearts were young and gay. England had yet to win the World Cup.

Posted in Liberal History | 34 Comments

A bit of Lib Dem history

Embed from Getty Images

The sad passing of Jim Davidson recently brings back memories, as I write this here in Aboyne in  the heart of his former constituency.

“We can’t have another Welshman as leader of the Liberal Party” said Jo Grimond. When Jo resigned as leader in 1967, there were two contestants to replace him: Emlyn Hooson and Jeremy Thorpe. The electorate was the Parliamentary Party of twelve Liberal MPs. Initially, Hooson had the support of  six of them which, if he voted for himself, would make him the clear winner.

Jo took aside Jim Davidson, the pleasant and talented recently elected Member for Aberdeenshire West, who was a Hooson supporter. Jo’s wife Laura had not forgiven the Welsh wizard, David Lloyd George, for supplanting her grandfather, Herbert Asquith, as Prime Minister in 1916 and splitting the Party.  Another Welshman as Leader was unthinkable. Jim succumbed to Jo’s pressure and with misgivings, as a memoir of Jo and Laura revealed in 2000, promised his vote for Thorpe.

Posted in Liberal History | Tagged , and | 15 Comments

Lord Martin Thomas writes…The House of Lords has the right to say “no” to Conservative/DUP Bills

In early 1868, Mr Disraeli became the Prime Minister of a minority Conservative government. Mr Gladstone, leading the Opposition, took his opportunity and thrust a Bill to disestablish the Irish Church through the House of Commons. The then Marquess of Salisbury advised his fellow peers that:

“when the opinion of your countrymen has declared itself, and you see that their convictions – their firm, deliberate and sustained convictions – are in favour of any course, I do not for a moment deny that it is your duty to yield. But there is an enormous step between that and being the mere …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Lord Martin Thomas writes…The moment the election turned

On the morning of Monday, 22nd May, we were tipped off that Theresa May was coming to the Memorial Hall in Gresford, an old mining village just outside Wrexham where we live. My wife, Joan (Baroness) Walmsley, and I headed off immediately to be part of this unusual and unheralded event – the last PM in Gresford was Ted Heath in 1970.

The entrance to the hall was manned by anonymous young men in dark suits and unsurprisingly our names were not on the printed list of expected attendees from the local Tory faithful. However, I pointed out that I was President of the Trust which built and owned the building and they obviously thought there would be more trouble if we were excluded. The local Tory candidate reluctantly agreed.

Joan was clued up about the dementia tax, since she had been debating it with Jeremy Hunt at Alzheimer’s Society meeting in London four days’ earlier. We thought we might raise the issue with Mrs May.

For the first fifteen minutes, the PM attacked Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbot in highly personal and insulting terms. The election was apparently between her personally and these reprobates. She was still in “strong and stable” mode. There was no “conservative” on the back cloth.

And then something surprising happened.

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

Lord Martin Thomas writes…The Red Army

I am six inches taller this week. Wales smashed Russia in Toulouse! Russia was our heroic ally during the war but for most of my adult life, we were living under the threat of a huge looming Stalinist empire.

I grew up with soccer, as we used to call it. Saturdays were school rugby in the morning, and the Boys’ Enclosure at the Wrexham Racecourse soccer ground in the afternoon. Tunnicliffe thunders down the wing, crosses to Les Speed in the centre who puts the ball in the net. At our end, the amiable Ferguson tries to keep his knees together in goal – he famously let one through his legs at Stoke in the FA Cup. Soccer was simple then.

Then Hungary with Pusckas put six goals past England in 1953 and the world turned upside down. Russia invaded Hungary  and Pusckas fled to Real Madrid. Soccer became Football. What you have to do now is  stroke the ball to each other in your own half, send it back to the goalie and back again –  intricate patterns of play with the only hope of a goal to wake up the crowd from a penalty, corner or free kick. 

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Lord Martin Thomas writes…“We beat them, why should we join them?”

In the late forties and fifties, when men and women had returned from war, babies boomed. The boomers were born in free NHS hospitals. Secondary education had been improved for them. Fees in the grammar schools had been abolished. There were jobs and apprenticeships for school-leavers. A few went to college free of tuition fees and with a healthy maintenance grant. The austerity of the post-war years slowly passed and rationing was abolished. Peace was maintained by a nuclear standoff between Soviet Russia and the Western powers. The boomers were lucky. Now they are retired, many on index linked pensions.

I was born in the thirties. I lived through the War. As a child, I vividly remember sheltering under the staircase at my home in Llangollen, listening to the rhythmic growl of German bombers passing overhead towards Liverpool. I heard bombs falling on a decoy airstrip in the mountains nearby. Britain standing alone meant dangerous isolation.

Later, there were Americans camped in the town. Free French forces were stationed near my school. Polish airmen were training on Spitfires at Borras nearby. There were detachments of Indian troops. Planes of many countries marked with the three white stripes for D Day, flew overhead. A huge combined effort of free peoples won the war.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 40 Comments

Lord (Martin) Thomas writes…Celebrating the opportunities of migration

Two years after the First World War, my father decided to emigrate to the United States to join his brother in Virginia. He was 18 years of age, barely out of Rhyl Grammar School and all the jobs in the locality had been reserved for demobbed soldiers.

So off he went from Meliden to join his brother who was already settled and working in Virginia. He sailed out of Liverpool on the SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria and landed at the immigrant reception centre on Ellis Island, New York. I have the record of his entry.

Posted in Op-eds | 1 Comment
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User Avatarfrankie 16th Nov - 8:55pm
    While many Lib Dem MP's did tag along with the Tories not all did. Some retain a moral compass On the day of his funeral,...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 16th Nov - 8:10pm
    @P.J. Yes you're right. R is for research rather than reform. But maybe reform would be a more worthy aim? Whether the £2k should be...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 16th Nov - 8:06pm
    "put on great fights in Dursley (Stroud) and thanks goes for their hard work campaigning and representing the party across the country." From 24.1% down...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 16th Nov - 7:49pm
    Well I'm sorry, Joe, it wont wash. "Making work pay" is more than doubtful - and the impact of UC is punitive in method and...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 16th Nov - 6:51pm
    Sorting out Universal Credit falls to Amber Rudd now. The new Work and Pensions Secretary said she had seen Universal Credit - "do some fantastic...
  • User Avatarpaul barker 16th Nov - 5:48pm
    A group of Academics at University College London have just published ther estimate of how long it would take to organise a Legal Referendum, they...