Author Archives: Mark Valladares

I’m a veteran Party bureaucrat, having joined the old Liberal Party at university. And, perhaps not entirely surprisingly, I’ve held a range of positions since then - everything from Secretary-General of the Young Liberals to being a member of the ALDE Party‘s Financial Advisory Committee. Returning Officer, Presidential consort, committee secretary, you name it, I’ve probably done it. These days, I’m a parish councillor in a (very) small rural village in Suffolk’s Gipping Valley, and a member of the Party’s Federal International Relations Committee. Never let it be said that life is dull…

Why not ignore the Government’s call to return to the office?

Last week, Government MPs and the forces of darkness Daily Mail were calling on civil servants to stop lazing around at home and get back to work, in part as an example to the private sector, and perhaps as support to their friends in the commercial property sector.

Meanwhile, many sectors are recognising the challenges and opportunities that allowing their staff greater flexibility in terms of where they work bring. I would argue that, ultimately, there are a number of key issues that will determine whether or not our office culture can, will or should adapt.

The end of “command and control”?

Can you trust your staff to perform their duties without being physically overseen? Remote management relies on a more adult relationship between manager and managed, and the use of management data to spot poor performance will become ever more important. That gives organisations, especially Government departments, an incentive to be more selective in their target setting, and focus more on customer outcomes over administrative box-ticking exercises, on quality over quantity. That in turn offers the hope of better, more efficient government.

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Bienvenue dans ma journée: 18 October 2021 – the Cantons de l’Est edition

Good morning, everyone! Liberal Democrat Voice is brought to you today from a less-travelled part of southern Quebec.

Obviously, moderation is going to be a bit erratic, as I’m five hours adrift and trying to combine my day editor responsibilities with a crash course in being an evil step-grandfather, so do bear with me.

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Welcome to my day: 11 October 2021 – testing, testing…

Good morning, everyone! Yes, everybody’s second favourite bureaucrat is back, with more to amuse, engage and challenge our readers. Caron thinks that I’m unavailable today but, if you promise not to tell her otherwise, I’m sure that we’ll get away with it. I will be slipping away for a PCR test later, so moderation might be a bit slower than usual today. Bear with me…

Iain Duncan-Smith thinks that I should get off of my Pelaton and get back to the office. Apart from the fact that I don’t own one (and at upwards of £1,350 plus £39 per month, I don’t think it likely that many civil servants will, given the median Civil Service salary was £28,180 in March 2020), does the location of my desk really trump my efficiency?

Admittedly, this does come from the man who said in the House of Commons in the debate on the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill that;

if there is anything about this arrangement that we have not now debated and thrashed to death, I would love to know what it is.

Posted in Site news | 2 Comments

Welcome to my day: 4 October 2021 – some days are diamonds, some days are rocks…

It’s the start of a new week here at Liberal Democrat Voice, although I am reminded that the week starts on a Sunday in Portuguese. And after the excitement of last week – who would have thought that so many of you are passionate about moderation? – I’m left with a challenge to follow that up. Luckily, I’m not alone…

Apparently, Chris Loder, the Conservative MP for West Dorset, believes that our supermarkets are at fault for the issues regarding supply of foodstuffs to shelves;

I know it might not feel like it in the immediate term. But it is in our mid and long-term interest that these logistics chains do break.

It will mean that the farmer down the street will be able to sell their milk in the village shop like they did decades ago. It is because these commercial predators – that is the supermarkets – have wiped that out and I’d like to see that come back.

Posted in Site news | 5 Comments

The Young Liberals need you (terms and conditions apply)!

This year’s Young Liberals elections are up and running, with nominations open until 4 October and the winners being decided by 25 October.

Naturally, here at Liberal Democrat Voice, we not only don’t endorse candidates, but maintain strict neutrality, working with Returning Officers to ensure that, as far as the pages of this organ are concerned, we don’t tilt the electoral playing field towards, or away from, individual candidates.

However, we do want to encourage all eligible members to take part in these upcoming elections, be it as a candidate or a voter. Many of us have worked with, or held positions in, the Young Liberals over the years and, as an opportunity to contribute to the success of the wider party, but also to take an active role and learn new skills, they offer a space for anyone to get engaged.

There are seventy positions up for grabs, at Federal, State and Regional levels, each with a different skillset required, from policy roles to representation, from organisation to leadership, from design to communication, and all will be key to building up the campaigning capacity and strength of the organisation as a potential General Election nears.

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You just can’t tell some people…

Well, that’s been a lively enough day. And here are some thoughts at the end of it…

Firstly, we have a comments policy. I do wish that some people would read it before trying to pick a fight with me. Admittedly, it does make moderation so much easier if I just reject those comments challenging our moderation decisions, but it’s such a waste of everyone’s time. Let me repeat, do not use the comments sections to challenge moderation decisions – it detracts from the discussion at hand and tends to make the complainant look rather churlish.

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Today, lorry drivers, tomorrow?…

And so the Government have announced a temporary visa scheme for lorry drivers, intended to avert an emerging crisis in the run-up to Christmas. It’s probably a bit late for Fireworks Night, but will it have any significant impact in the now less than three months until Christmas?

That’s going to depend on a number of factors;

  • Cost – are these visas going to be free? Because, if there is a shortage of drivers across Europe and beyond, the market will determine whether or not an individual driver will choose to work here rather than in, say, Germany. The cost of a visa is a factor in that calculation, especially for a short term opportunity – the visas will only cover the period until 24 December, according to reports.
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 8 Comments

Moderation and the politics of gender and sexuality

There has been some controversy on the pages of Liberal Democrat Voice over the past few weeks about articles on gender and sexuality issues, and especially in terms of how comments have been, or not as the case may be, moderated. It would be fair to say that our decisions have not met with universal approval.

And, from the perspective of a member of the Editorial Team from a rural community somewhat lacking in diversity, such debates offer up a real challenge.

Yes, judgements are pretty simple where the comments policy is obviously breached – there are some of our readers who really cannot grasp the fact that their tone and language is offensive to a reasonably tolerant person, or who simply cannot resist the temptation to be gratuitously offensive.

Posted in Site news | Tagged | 23 Comments

Liberal Democrats and the world – the video!

In late July, the new Chair of the Party’s Federal International Relations Committee, Dr Phil Bennion, wrote in these pages of the Party’s renewed commitment to internationalism. It isn’t just words, as there’s now a video which outlines some of the work being done at home and abroad to promote our internationalist agenda, and here it is…

You may notice your friendly neighbourhood Day Editor at about 1:27 in…

* Mark Valladares is a directly elected member of Federal International Relations Committee and part of the Party’s delegation to the ALDE Party Council.

Posted in Europe / International, News and TV and film | Tagged | 1 Comment

Welcome to my day: 27 September 2021 – it’s not going terribly well here, is it?

Good morning from Suffolk’s Gipping Valley where, in exciting news, I’m preparing to go to the office to work for the first time since last March. It’s going to be an odd sensation, as I’ve become a touch reclusive, but needs must, as they say.

Results from Germany indicate progress for our sister party in Germany, the Free Democrats, with the prospects of lengthy negotiations over the formation of a new administration. Will it be “Jamaica” – CDU/CSU, Greens and FDP – or “traffic light” – SPD, FDP and Greens – or is there another combination that can get across the line? At least the Alternative für Deutschland have been pushed into fifth place…

Elsewhere, San Marino has legalised abortion, albeit only up until the twelfth week of gestation, with a 77% vote in favour. And, on another brighter note, Swiss voters have decisively voted in favour of same-sex marriage in a nationwide referendum.

Posted in Site news | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

So, if Afghanistan was a mistake, what should we do next time?

Amidst the shambles that is the Johnson Government’s response to the collapse of the former Afghan government, the focus is – quite rightly – currently on getting as many people out as quickly and efficiently as we can whilst the incoming Taliban administration is willing to allow it. But, having set the wheels in motion, and determined who we want to evacuate and how many we should offer sanctuary to, we need to turn our attention to the question of why we should intervene in the affairs of another sovereign nation and how we can effectively achieve any set of clearly defined goals.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 23 Comments

Another “Alston Report” – why some of you may not be using buses any more…

It is just over two years ago that a Liberal Democrat Peer, made the following intervention;

My Lords, the reality on the ground is that rural bus services have been in decline for some years now, to the extent that there are many quite large villages which no longer have any kind of bus service at all. Have the Government made any assessment of the impact this is having on residents’ ability to access essential public services such as health and education?

As it turned out, the Government rather hadn’t. But now, Philip Alston, along with colleagues Rebecca Riddell and Bassam Khawaja, has published “Public Transport, Private Profit – the Human Cost of Privatizing Buses in the United Kingdom”. And, as someone who lives in a village which lost its last scheduled bus service a decade or so ago, you might not be surprised that I took rather more interest than might otherwise be the case.

But, of course, it’s not just small, rural villages that are now cut off from the bus network. As the authors note, some 3.34 million people could not reach any food stores within fifteen minutes by public transport. That adds costs for the rural poor, adds traffic to the roads and leads to those who can’t drive for whatever reason to be forced towards larger communities in order to function more easily.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 15 Comments

Pandemic restrictions are over… sort of… Where do we go from here?

You might find yourself wondering why, when the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Health are all self-isolating, and new cases have reached the peak levels seen last over the New Year, today is a good day to declare as “Freedom Day”. And yet, for all of the bombast that the Prime Minister offered in the days leading up to today, even he is now quoted as saying;

So please, please, please be cautious. Go forward tomorrow into the next step with all the right prudence and respect for other people and the risks that the disease continues to present.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 20 Comments

Welcome to my day – 19 July: Freedom (to ignore the consequences) Day?

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the new “new normal”, when we’re all encouraged to throw off the shackles of Covid restrictions and return to our old lives. That is, unless you’re immuno-compromised, or minded to take into consideration that those around you might be cautious, or unvaccinated, or… well, you know the rest…

So, what have we got today?

Katie Hopkins (you remember her, yes?) is awaiting her deportation flight from Australia, having been flown in by a local television station to take part in their version of Celebrity Big Brother (and yes, the definition of “celebrity” is clearly being stretched gossamer thin here). Flouting Australia’s incredibly tight quarantine rules was one thing – telling the world via Instagram that you were doing it and deliberately so quite another. What is it about faux-libertarians and consequences?

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ALDE Party eCouncil – a comfortable seat, a nice cup of tea and a cast of hundreds…

Friday morning and, for those of us that aren’t naturally early risers, the hour time difference between Brussels, the nerve centre of the ALDE Party, and the United Kingdom was the cause of a slightly hurried morning routine for your correspondent.

First, there was a rather sad piece of business, as the Congress was asked to make a decision on how to proceed following the sad demise of Party President Hans van Baalen. There had been some consultation as to whether or not a by-election should take place to fill the vacancy, amidst rumours that a candidate was already “working the room”, and our delegation had concluded, having read the Statutes, that it should wait until the regular Autumn Congress, on the basis that the post would have been up for election then anyway.

We apparently weren’t alone, as Congress voted pretty overwhelmingly to postpone, leaving the senior Vice Presidents, Senator Timmy Dooley from Fianna Fáil and Ilhan Kyuchyuk MEP from the Bulgarian Movement for Rights and Freedom, to act as joint President for the time being.

Posted in Europe / International | Tagged | 1 Comment

ALDE Party eCongress opens today with policy discussions

Whilst the observant amongst our readers will be slightly puzzled by the headline, the postponed 2020 ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe) Party eCongress opens this afternoon in offices and homes across Europe with the first of two working groups to consider eleven of the twenty-two resolutions submitted for debate, as follows;

  • Responsible and smart spending for sustainable growth and jobs
  • Open Hearts, Open Minds and Open Borders – The Core of the European Idea
  • Spending reviews as a path towards prioritizing durability
  • Religions and LGBTI Rights: A Liberal Perspective
  • Towards a more inclusive society:

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Roman Protasevich abduction – time for Britain to act?

The criminal hijacking of a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, with a Belarussian anti-government activist on board has led to calls from across Europe and beyond for firm action to be taken against the Belarus Government led by Alexander Lukashenko, whose agents advised the flight crew that there was a bomb onboard, and then seized Protasevich and his partner, Sofia Sapega, whilst the plane was on the ground in Minsk.

Layla Moran was quick to call upon Dominic Raab to respond;

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe, in advance of today’s European Council meeting, demanded;

  • The immediate release

Posted in Europe / International and News | Tagged , , and | 9 Comments

Welcome to my day – 10 May 2021: reasons to be cheerful?

It’s been a tough decade or so to be a Liberal Democrat – losing sucks, and watching your friends and colleagues fight unsuccessful campaigns doesn’t exactly raise the spirits. But this year felt a bit better, despite the losses in some places, some familiar faces were pictured smiling, and there were plenty of new faces doing the same. We’ve demonstrated some relevance and proven that, with hard work, spirit and persistence (and, occasionally, a fair wind), Liberal Democrats can win pretty much anywhere.

That’s not to say that the results are great. Caron, who knows far more than I ever will …

Posted in Site news | 4 Comments

Hans van Baalen (1960-2021)

It has been announced that Johannes Cornelis “Hans” van Baalen, President of the ALDE (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe) Party, passed away this morning after a short period in hospital, having recently been diagnosed as suffering from cancer.

A member of VVD (The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy), he served as a member of the Dutch Parliament between 1999 and 2002, and from 2003 until 2009 until he took his seat in the European Parliament. His political career started as the International Secretary of VVD, the first step in what became a love of international politics that saw him rise to the top of European and international liberalism.

Posted in Europe / International, News and Obituaries | Tagged and | Leave a comment

A European Super League – do politicians need to step in?

The breaking news that a group of the most prestigious football clubs across Europe (in reality, Western Europe) are expected to announce the formation of an elite league has triggered widespread reaction across the British (actually, make that English) political spectrum. As Ed Davey put it;

Indeed, all three Party leaders have publicly condemned the proposal.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 35 Comments

21 March 2021 – the day’s press releases (part 2)

  • Reverse “deadly” aid cuts, say Liberal Democrats
  • Liberal Democrats call for greater measures to increase accessibility in education
  • Government must commit to 10k refugees a year, Liberal Democrats say

Reverse “deadly” aid cuts, say Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have called on the UK Government to reverse “unprincipled, unjustified and downright deadly” cuts to international aid.

The motion passed at its Spring Conference reaffirmed the Party’s commitment to the UK contributing 0.7% of GNI on Official Development Assistance and slammed the merging of the Department for International Development with the Foreign Office.

It also demanded the UK Government play a ‘proactive role in debt forgiveness and relief initiatives’ for developing countries struggling with the economic and health impact of Coronavirus.

Speaking after the motion was approved, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and International Development Layla Moran said:

The UK’s global reputation is disappearing fast. The decision to cut aid to the world’s poorest is not only wrong but short-sighted and strategically incompetent. The Conservatives are putting nukes before prosperity.

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21 March 2021 – the day’s press releases (part 1)

  • A real-terms pay cut is an insult to NHS workers
  • Patel must drop proposals to restrict right to protest
  • Liberal Democrats call for Autism support

A real-terms pay cut is an insult to NHS workers

Liberal Democrats have pressed the Government to give NHS workers a proper pay rise during an emergency motion passed at the party’s Spring Conference.

Munira Wilson MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Health, Social Care and Wellbeing, welcomed the motion being passed:

A real-terms pay cut is an insult to all the NHS workers who have gone above and beyond during this time of national crisis.

This Government seems obsessed with wasting millions of pounds on vanity projects yet can’t find a penny more to give nurses a proper pay rise. What kind of Prime Minister prioritises a new multi-million pound press conference room and expensive flat renovation at the expense of giving nurses a pay rise?

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

20 March 2021 – the day’s press releases (part 2)

  • Government must fix its response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Liberal Democrats review to plot paths to closer relationship with EU
  • We must get serious on Russia for the sake of our democracy

Government must fix its response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Liberal Democrats have called on the Government to fix its response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the Party’s Spring conference.

The proposals include plans to fix the Government’s approach to self-isolation through better and more generous support; ensure Test and Trace makes better use of local government; and securing the rollout of surplus vaccines to the world’s poorest countries.

The party also called for an immediate independent public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic, as promised by the Prime Minister last autumn.

Munira Wilson MP, Lib Dem Spokesperson for Health, said:

The Government failed to learn the lessons of the first wave of the virus and they did not act to stop the pain and suffering this terrible disease inflicted on the UK in the second.

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged , , , and | 1 Comment

20 March 2021 – the day’s press releases (part 1)

  • Small businesses must be at the heart of our recovery
  • Liberal Democrats champion a fairer deal for consumers
  • Liberal Democrats call for emergency £2.6bn carers support package
  • Small businesses must be at the heart of our recovery

    Liberal Democrats have passed a motion at their Spring Conference calling for a comprehensive package of support for small businesses and the self-employed, including:

  • Dedicated support schemes for the worst-affected sectors, such as hospitality, tourism, charities and the creative industries.
  • More support for businesses as we return to normal, by extending business rates relief, VAT reductions and tax deferrals.
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19 March 2021 – the day’s press release

We haven’t been publishing Party press releases for a while now, as we weren’t receiving any. However, the ‘teleprinter’ has suddenly sprung back into life…

Government letting down disabled workforce

Liberal Democrats have backed a new policy at its Spring Conference demanding better support for the disabled workforce.

The motion noted that the Chancellor’s ‘Plan for Jobs’ in response to the pandemic made only one reference to disabled people and “contained nothing to address the specific challenges facing disabled people”.

The Liberal Democrats are proposing a range of measures to support disabled people into work, including a Jobs Guarantee for unemployed disabled people …

Posted in News and Press releases | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Reflections on my day – 15 March 2021

Usually, if I can, I write something at the beginning of the day. Today, however, I didn’t, as I wanted to leave space for Caroline Pidgeon’s powerful piece on violence against women.

And, at the end of the day, having looked at the comments, I’m pretty depressed. A series of men either blaming a small minority, or changing the subject, or just being blind and deaf to the words of those who actually suffer from abuse and violence. Bluntly, it isn’t a small minority of men, unless they’re awfully active given the statistics indicating that most women have been victims. And let’s change the subject, why don’t we? Anything rather than face the fact that, because of the behaviour of some men (yes, I know, not all… nada, nada, nada), women and girls make decisions that restrict their freedom of action because of the risks that exist. We, as a society, need to address that and, sadly, because the overwhelming proportion of violence against women is at the hands of men, the attitudes of men have to change. Some of you whose comments suggest that your liberalism is more polite veneer than instinctive – acknowledging that some of you aren’t liberals anyway – make me more than uncomfortable. The word is embarrassed.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 24 Comments

Corporation tax – is Rishi Sunak having a Laff(er curve)?

It was Private Eye, perhaps unsurprisingly, who nailed the Conservative U-turn on corporation tax rates. They note Boris Johnson’s quote at the Conservative leadership hustings on 5 July 2019 that;

Every time corporation tax rates have been cut in this country it has produced more revenue.

Perhaps Rishi Sunak wasn’t listening, or perhaps he thinks that the Laffer curve is a bit old hat, but the proposed increase in corporation tax effectively reverses most of the Coalition Government’s cuts in tax rates – George Osborne inherited a basic rate of 28% and a small profits rate of 21%. If the Laffer curve …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 36 Comments

The Party’s disciplinary processes – justice delayed is justice denied?

It sometimes seems as though the Party has been adjusting its internal conduct and discipline system since its foundation. And, of course, you have to have one because not everyone is reasonable, and people don’t always behave reasonably towards each other in an organisation where the idea is to convince people of the rightness of your views, to win the argument, if you like.

The problem is that, with any process, you have to supply the resources to make it work, and if the experiences of too many people are to be believed, that simply isn’t the case currently. It would be very easy to blame the professional staff responsible for managing the system but, from painful personal experience, I can vouch that they are too few in number to manage the flow of complaints, and too dependent on volunteers to fill all of the roles that the process requires.

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 3 Comments

Welcome to my (International Women’s) Day – 8 March 2021

Heavens, is it Monday already? Apparently so, and not just any Monday, but International Women’s Day, so there’ll be some content to reflect that, courtesy of our Editor-in-Chief.

I should take this opportunity to point readers towards Parliament’s celebrations of both International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month Although, somewhat curiously, both Houses will be marking it with debates on… Thursday.

Otherwise, I’ll be offering some thoughts on the Party’s disciplinary processes – which reflect some comments I’ve received from others who will remain nameless but may recognise the points that I’m making.

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Vaccine passports – good, bad or indifferent?

I was challenged by one of our readers, having opined on the Shamima Begum situation, to apply a similar logic to the question of vaccine passports and whether or not they should be mandatory. And I suppose that my answer is a fairly straightforward one – that they shouldn’t be made mandatory.

That’s the simple answer. A more complete answer is rather longer.

Throughout the pandemic, there has been a sense that politicians, and the Government in particular, are following public opinion rather than taking a lead. And I suspect that, with regard to a vaccine passport, public opinion is going to determine how much they impinge on day to day life.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 54 Comments
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