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…

Police Bill – a good night for freedom… so far…

So far, so good, as the block of Labour and Liberal Democrat Peers, plus four dozen or so Crossbenchers, are solidly defeating the Government on its so-called “reforms” relating to the right to protest, amongst other things.

But first, Baroness Newlove’s amendment, including misogyny in hate crime law has been passed, as Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece celebrated;

A duty of candour for the police has been added to the Bill as well;

Moving on to the draconian limits on protest tacked onto this Bill by the Government, the amendment by Lord Brian Paddick, removing the proposed right for the police to ban or restrict …

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Welcome to my day: 17 January 2022 – “I wanna be the Leader

Roger McGough wrote the poem which, perhaps, sums up the current Conservative dilemma better than most;

I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I’m the leader
I’m the leader

OK what shall we do?

Johnson became Leader, because he was seen to be a winner of elections – and when you look at his previous opponents, you could see why. His record of actual achievement in office? Not so great but, if surrounded by good people, it could work. It cannot now be said that he is surrounded by good people.

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Email on Number 10 drinks party “adding insult to injury” – Ed Davey

Responding to reports by ITV News that Downing Street staff were invited to a drinks party in the Number 10 garden during the national lockdown on May 20 2020, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

This is yet more evidence that while the vast majority of people were sticking to the rules, those in Number Ten were breaking them.

It is a kick in the teeth for everyone who has sacrificed so much during the pandemic, from those who weren’t able to visit loved ones in hospital to nurses left wearing binbags as PPE.

To add insult to injury, on

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Welcome to my day: 10 January 2022 – tax doesn’t need to be taxing…

Good morning, everyone, and welcome!

Your day editor is a slightly wounded one today, as my right shoulder doesn’t appear to have taken kindly to being fallen on three weeks ago. A sign of increasing old age, I fear. But the show must go on, and so it will…

As the Government finds itself in a “cost of living” crisis, a series of decisions already made look like making matters worse. Freezing the personal allowance and tax rate thresholds will bring more people into the income tax bracket, and more into the higher rate bracket too, as noted previously.

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2021 – the year in review: December

The Party was throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at the North Shropshire by-election. And, with the gratefully received co-operation of the Conservatives – Non-local candidate? Check. Hapless campaign? Check. – the bookies were suggesting that we were marginal favourites to achieve the 26.4% swing required to snatch the seat. Our campaign team were taking no chances, with “private briefings” somehow reaching the media.

And the wheels were really falling off the Conservative wagon, with defections, endorsement by the Guardian and a visit from the Prime Minister in which he failed to remember his candidate’s name.

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2021 – the year in review: November

Normally, reports of the Commons Select Committee on Standards are approved without much drama but, in what turned out to be a catastrophic misjudgement, Conservative MPs were whipped on an amendment to a report which would, effectively, let Owen Paterson off the hook for breaching Parliamentary rules forbidding paid advocacy. He was as guilty as all hell in the eyes of many, despite his aggressive campaign to prove otherwise. Instructions had come from the very top, with suggestions that the Prime Minister was attempting to nobble the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

It worked, sort of, with the vote won. But, with thirteen Conservative MPs voting against, and nearly another one hundred either absent or abstaining, it looked pretty awful. As Andy Boddington put it, the Commons had lost its moral compass. Amidst widespread public and media outrage, Boris did what he so often has done, sacrificing a colleague to save his skin with a screeching, tyre shredding u-turn. Paterson almost immediately resigned his safe North Shropshire seat, creating an unexpected opportunity. Recent election results suggested that Labour might be the credible contender. Andy disagreed… vehemently.

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2021 – the year in review: October

As October opened, the petrol shortages were beginning to recede, but words like cabotage and haulage were reaching public consciousness. A patina of incompetence was beginning to stick to the Government – it turns out that listening to experts, making plans and carrying them out was a better way to run the country than just perpetually reacting to things as if they were a surprise. It also meant that a few people were reminded what those foreigners had been doing all that time.

The Wayne Couzens murder trial had resulted in a whole life sentence at the end of September, but the response of senior policing figures drew much criticism. Miranda Roberts explained some of the more alarming issues and offered some very useful advice, whilst Wendy Chamberlain offered a perspective that, perhaps, only a former police officer could have.

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2021 – the year in review: September

I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Party conferences – I’m not a policy wonk nor am I a frequent speaker, no more than half a dozen times over more than thirty years – but I appreciate that, for many, there’s something about being surrounded by your fellow Liberal Democrats that inspires and encourages.

But if politics is about changing lives for the better, it wasn’t a bad conference. Abolishing conversion therapy may not impact directly on many, but for those it does affect, it is life changing. Building more houses, especially more affordable housing, …

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2021 – the year in review: August

As Western forces withdrew from Afghanistan, hopes that the Afghan Government could stand on its own two feet proved to be entirely illusionary, as did the Afghan Army. And whilst it could be reasonably said that no British Government could have dealt well with such a collapse, the failure of the Conservatives to honour their commitments was a reminder that their policy aim was almost solely to get to the next afternoon.

It started with the failure to evacuate those Afghans who had assisted our troops as interpreters, as Ed Davey noted. The challenge of how to evacuate U.K. nationals and their dependents proved difficult, as key players were either on holiday or blind to the issues. Our Foreign Affairs Editor, Tom Arms, wrote a masterful summary of the consequences of the Taliban victory, setting out the geopolitical issues. Perhaps he should have been our Foreign Secretary…

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2021 – the year in review: July

The month began with a lost deposit in the Batley and Spen by-election and an argument over whether or not our candidacy aided or hindered Labour’s narrow retention of the seat. For the record, I’m generally minded to prefer the arguments of the locals (including local councillor and past-President of ALDC, Baroness Kath Pinnock) over, for example, someone trying to apply data from Cambridgeshire. Competing hard for votes in predominantly Liberal Democrat/Conservative wards hardly seems likely to harm Labour turnout, but what do I know?

There were, however, successful by-election gains in Elmbridge, where a more than 24% swing …

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2021 – the year in review: June

The Chilterns were once covered in forest, if my geography lessons are remembered correctly, which meant that the recycled paper going through doors across Chesham and Amersham was now coming from elsewhere.

And, despite a huge lead in the polls, Conservative MPs were becoming a bit fractious, with a rebellion in the Commons over cuts to the overseas aid budget. The tensions between the new ‘Red Wall Tories’ and the traditionalists were beginning to emerge, and this theme became more and more a talking point as the year went on. William Wallace highlighted some of those tensions.

A week out …

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2021 – the year in review: May (part 2)

On 5 May, a candidate was chosen for what looked, on paper at least, like an uphill struggle at best – Chesham and Amersham was a historically safe Conservative seat where, even in our best years, 30% of the vote reflected the high-tide mark. The next day, Amersham Town Council went from having no Liberal Democrat councillors to being Liberal Democrat controlled. But it was a genuine long shot, right?

The notion of a Progressive Alliance became much talked about, and Peter Wrigley made a persuasive case for one. The problem, as is so often the case with such an idea, is that Labour’s idea of a big tent comes solely in red with roses around the door. Perhaps, as Stephen Barber considered, a realignment of British politics was on the cards. It did feel a bit optimistic, given that a thoroughly unlikeable Conservative administration seemed strangely popular.

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2021 – the year in review: May (part 1)

Conservatives 10% ahead in the polls, a set of English County elections in friendly territory for them, a disrupted campaign phase. It was going to end badly, right?

But it didn’t, as Liberal Democrat groups across the country demonstrated that, if you worked hard, had a clear strategy and took advantage of the resources available from ALDC, you could win seats from the Conservatives despite their air war advantage. Across the country, complacent Conservative administrations fell, and although the overall result was pretty much break even – a small net gain – it felt like a win. In fact, whilst the Conservatives were up more than 200 councillors overall, those gains were at the expense of Labour, whilst the night’s other big winners were the Greens, albeit from a low base. Which reminds me, Theakes promised to run round his kitchen naked if we made net gains – is there a record of this event?

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2021 – the year in review: April

‘Twas the month ‘fore elections
And all cross the land
Were Liberal candidates
With leaflet in hand

A neutral observer might have warned against much in the way of optimism five weeks before polling day. A by-election in Hartlepool was unlikely to offer much cheer either, although Andy Hagon took up the gauntlet for the cause. And, of course, COVID still stalked the land.

The Liberal Democrats took a stance against vaccine passports, which appeared to run counter to public opinion, but was at least consistent with the Party’s long held views on ID cards. The debate was just another reminder that modern-day Conservatives appear only to happy to argue against taking away the freedoms that benefit them whilst happily removing freedoms from everyone else. Their hypocrisy in that regard was to haunt them as the year went on.

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2021 – the year in review: March

A legend passed away unexpectedly. Heavens, he could be troublesome – cantankerous, occasionally outrageously rude, but if any one person represented the sheer bloody-mindedness of Liberal Democrat campaigners, it was Tony Greaves. A peerage did little to change him other than to allow him a platform to make life miserable for hapless Government ministers. We still miss him but, as Molly Nolan noted, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Another remote Federal Conference saw Ed Davey outline his vision for the country. Some of you weren’t impressed but then again, some of you aren’t actually Liberal Democrats. Meanwhile, my colleague, Paul Walter offered an insight into the mechanics of intervening in a debate and mused about the lack of a conference bar. Take my advice, Paul, and find a local brewery that delivers…

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2021 – the year in review: February

It’s my personal view, albeit a controversial one, that Dawn French was the worst thing that ever happened to Parish Councils. That changed in February, when a meeting of an obscure Parish Council in Cheshire went viral. I noted that not all Parish Councils are like that, whilst Ruth Bright reminded us that all levels of government have their share of unpleasantness. Who would have thought that the County Officer of an Association of Local Councils would become a celebrity? But Jackie Weaver rode the wave of publicity and did more to publicise the sector than anyone could have dreamed of.

COVID restrictions were still an utter shambles, with leaflet delivery allowed, then not allowed. The Government in Westminster might have been useless and, quite possibly, corrupt, but Kirsty Williams was working hard right to the end, planning for Welsh education.

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2021 – the year in review: January

Welcome this mini-series, in which we’ll take a look back at the LDV year through our own personal prism. And where more obvious to start than at the beginning…

2020 had not been a particularly easy year, but you always want to start a new one with some enthusiasm, and Caron introduced us to something that was going to become pretty big as the year went on, the Maraphone. Perhaps it was a coincidence that the Government tried to ban leafleting a week later… We weren’t benefiting from local government by-elections either, as they’d been suspended due to Lockdown 2 – the sequel.

January also saw the culmination of Republican attempts to steal the 2020 Presidential election, one which was far closer than we had hoped it would be. But, despite what some would describe as a coup attempt on 6 January, democracy triumphed… just. Some of the lessons learned from the campaign as a whole were brought to us by John Surie, a member of Liberal Democrats Overseas.

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Welcome to my day – 20 December 2021: there’s no business like snow business…

Greetings from Westbrook, Maine, where your friendly neighbourhood Day Editor is on grand-parenting duty for a few days. As you can see from this picture of the town’s library, we’ve had snow, about six inches of it. Luckily, it seems as though most people here own a snowplough, or have one bolted to the front of their truck, so there hasn’t been much disruption.

As I left Britain, the news of the North Shropshire by-election was just beginning to sink in and I’m reminded a bit of the 1992-97 Major administration. In the sense of a Government out of good ideas and mired in bad behaviour, there is an easy comparison, but whereas the Major administration contained some capable ministers and was led by a man whose word could be relied upon to a great extent, you can hardly say that about this administration. Mind you, whoever leads the Conservative Party is going to have to reconcile the irreconcilable – those contradictory promises made to deliver Brexit are no easier to untangle now than they ever were.

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ALDE Party Council – the view from the cheap seats…

Billed as the first meaningful opportunity for European liberals to meet in person since the pandemic started, approximately one hundred delegates and senior figures gathered at the Westin Excelsior hotel in Rome to scrutinise the work of the Bureau and to make decisions about the running and finances of the ALDE parry, along with half as many again online. The British delegation was split fifty-fifty, with five delegates in Rome, and five scattered around England and Wales, including me.

The event started with a speech from Sandro Gozi, the Secretary General of the …

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Welcome to my day: 13 December 2021 – hey, I just met you and this is crazy…

Gosh, is it Monday already? Apparently so, although the weekend seems to have passed me by. Here in Creeting St Peter, the Christmas social calendar has fallen foul of people’s not entirely unreasonable preference that Christmas isn’t put at risk, with Saturday’s coffee morning cancelled and Friday’s pub night likewise.

Once again, you get a definite sense that the Government is several steps behind public opinion but then, given that they’re currently struggling with the definition of a party, or truth for that matter, and with Liz Truss evidently on manoeuvres for a potential leadership contest, it would be impressive if they could metaphorically walk and chew gum at the same time.

On this day in 1577, Sir Francis Drake set out to circumnavigate the globe, making himself wealthy in the process and rather upsetting the Spanish. This day in 1864 saw Paraguay declare war on Brazil, setting off the War of the Triple Alliance. With Paraguay eventually facing off against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, it didn’t end well, with estimates suggesting that Paraguay lost up to 70% of its population through battle casualties, disease and starvation. And, on a more optimistic note, 13 December 1920 saw the establishment of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

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8 December 2021 – today’s press releases

  • PM press conference: Inquiry must look into all Downing Street parties
  • Covid pass app crashes days before vaccine passports introduced

PM press conference: Inquiry must look into all Downing Street parties

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has called for the Cabinet Office inquiry to be extended into all parties that took place in Number 10 last year, along with any that took place in other government departments.

It comes after Boris Johnson confirmed at a press conference today that he has only asked Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to look into the party that took place on December 18 last year, not an earlier gathering …

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ALDE Party Council preview – Rome(o), Rome(o), wherefore art thou, Rome(o)…

Holding any international meeting in a time of plague is a challenge, but when the rules are in such a state of flux as has been caused by the Omicron variant, there is a sense that you might be better staying at home. But, despite the requires for tests, passports and all the associated hassle, at least some of the party’s delegation to ALDE Party Council will be travelling to Rome for meetings on Friday and Saturday. It is a hybrid meeting so, for those of us who, for various reasons, can’t or won’t travel, it will be another series of sessions in front of laptops or PCs.

The key matters of business are;

  • finance – the 2022 budget is to be adopted
  • membership – we have two applications from parties in Georgia and Lithuania
  • urgency resolutions
  • the future of the ALDE Individual Members group

One of the joys of state funding is a degree of predictability, and the fact that the ALDE Party receives most of its income via a direct grant from the European Commission does make for a rather less fraught financial position than is the case for British political parties. All of the European political groupings are funded in the same way, with strict limits on corporate and individual donations, and as funding has become more generous in recent years, it enables more Europe-wide campaigning, albeit restricted to the confines of the European Union.

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7 December 2021 – today’s press releases

  • Davey: PM must fess up over Xmas party
  • Williamson party: Met Police must investigate

Davey: PM must fess up over Xmas party

Responding to a new leaked video which shows the Prime Minister’s former press secretary joking about a party in Downing Street last Christmas, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said:

People will rightly be furious with Boris Johnson, not just for holding a party during lockdown, but also for refusing to own up to it. Once again he shows it’s one rule for us and one rule for him, with the Conservatives continuing to take people for granted.

Whilst millions

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Guardian – vote Liberal Democrat in North Shropshire

It would be fair to say that the relationship between Liberal Democrats and the Guardian has been somewhat lukewarm for some time. The likes of Polly “that Liberal Democrat idea is very good, vote Labour” Toynbee have given us a thorough kicking for doing a bunch of things in coalition that Labour would have probably done had they not lost in 2010. But I digress…

Today’s Guardian editorial, headed “The Guardian view on a byelection test: Labour voters should back the Lib Dems”, is perhaps a sign that the pragmatists are at the editorial helm. In a forceful piece, they note;

But

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UPDATED – two North Shropshire Conservative Councillors defect

Well, well, well, what is happening to the Tories in North Shropshire? It is reported this morning that Anthony Allen, a Town Councillor in Market Drayton, has defected to Reclaim, who have claimed him as their first elected councillor.

Now, as a parish councillor myself, describing Mr Allen as a top Tory councillor, as Reclaim have done, is a bit like describing me as a senior figure in Suffolk local government, but it does give the impression of a Conservative campaign in disarray.

As reported by the Independent;

The 54-year-old cab company owner said his former party had “gone soft on illegal immigration,

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Welcome to my day: 6 December 2021 – “Fire The Cannons!”

Good morning, gentle reader!

It’s a murky start in the Gipping Valley this morning, but your day editor is alert and eager for a new week.

So, where to start? As Iain Roberts, once of this parish, noted on Twitter;

It seems that we’re now into Government as angels dancing on the head of a pin, as ministers desperate try to define the word ‘party’ in such a way as to meet regulations that certainly weren’t broken. The fact that such gatherings were banned altogether doesn’t seem to register but, if reminder was ever needed, it does emphasise that rules are apparently for …

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30 November 2021 – today’s press releases

  • Storm Arwen: Govt “abandoning” rural communities hit by power cuts
  • Zahawi breaks yet another promise as school absences soar by 80,000
  • Bring back work from home to help save Christmas

Storm Arwen: Govt “abandoning” rural communities hit by power cuts

The Liberal Democrats have demanded that the Government provide emergency support to rural communities who have been left without power for days after Storm Arwen.

In a letter to ministers from Liberal Democrat Communities Spokesperson Tim Farron MP, Welsh Party Leader Jane Dodds MS and local North Shropshire candidate Helen Morgan, the party warns that rural communities in areas like North Shropshire are being taken for granted and “abandoned by the Government in their time of need.”

Tim Farron also raised the issue in Parliament yesterday and criticised the Government for failing to make an official ministerial statement on the issue.

The letter calls for ministers to step in and provide food, emergency accommodation and other essential supplies to vulnerable people on the ground impacted by the storm. It also urges the armed forces to be brought in to provide emergency electricity generators to communities until power is restored, and for the Government to provide additional support to engineers working hard to bring back power as soon as possible.

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29 November 2021 – today’s press release

PM must stop sale of vaccine manufacturing centre

The Liberal Democrats have demanded that Boris Johnson immediately steps in to halt the sale of the Vaccine Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Harwell near Oxford, describing the move as “short-sighted penny pinching.”

It was reported this morning that the centre is being sold off to recoup some of the money invested by the Government.

On a visit to the centre last year, Boris Johnson claimed that the new vaccine centre “will be able to manufacture enough vaccine doses for the whole UK population… which would transform how we beat this virus and prepare for future …

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Welcome to my day: 29 November 2021 – the sun is out, the sky is blue…

Good morning(ish) everyone, and welcome to another Monday. I had been hoping that this would be coming to you from Mumbai, as I was supposed to be at a family wedding on Friday, but something about a pandemic…

Ah well, never mind.

Today is the 276th anniversary of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army occupying Carlisle. They had also reached Manchester at this point, but the high water mark of that uprising wasn’t far away. The Sonderbund War ended on this day in 1847, when the canton of Valais surrendered to the Swiss Federal Army. And, one hundred years later, the United Nations General …

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26 November 2021 – today’s press release

Government must reverse £30m aid cuts to Southern Africa to help tackle new variant

The Liberal Democrats have demanded that the government reverse aid cuts and launch an emergency Covid support fund, to help countries in Southern Africa contain the new variant spreading there.

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats has found that the UK is slashing aid to Southern Africa and Zimbabwe by £30m next year, or by over a third (35%), a move the party described as “cruel and short-sighted.” In addition to this, UK aid spending on global health funding has been slashed by £243 million, from over £1.1 billion …

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  • matt
    @Lorenzo I thought about writing an article about it for LDV, but I am not that articulate and besides, I think after the last couple of years, people are we...
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    Matt Terribly poignant descriptions, you need to present these as articles or testimony of what you see, to the NHS, it may be govt that funds and leads, it ...
  • Neil James Sandison
    if they want to go down with Boozy Boris and the drinks club thats up to them ....
  • Charley Hasted
    Referring to people who ask you questions because they want to understand your opinions and stances on issues they care about as plastic liberals is not how you...
  • James Fowler
    I think this article is interesting and I applaud it. A year or so ago not many dared to challenge the dogma that the rules were there for everyone's benefit. N...