Author Archives: Mathew Hulbert

Why the Centre must hold

It’s easy, after an electoral setback such as that we suffered last week, to look for easy answers and quick solutions.

The truth is, there are none.

We need a proper analysis of what the raw data tells us and, yes, we need some soul searching about the prospectus we put to the people and the personnel (behind the scenes and in front of the cameras) that came up with and sold-or failed to sell-the message.

But on one thing, I argue, we can be clear. The Centre must hold firm.

As I prepare to enter my fourth decade (I turn forty on Leap Year Day 2020…or just ten in actual birthdays celebrated!), I’ve shifted my political thinking from when I first joined this party almost a decade ago.

Though my values and principles absolutely remain broadly Centre-Left, I no longer believe that ‘the Centre’ is-at best-some meaningless phrase or-at worst-a mushy middle which appeals to only a few. I now understand that the broad Centre (Centre-Right, Centre, and Centre-Left) is still where most voters are.

Of course, in elections, especially this one, given who the leaders of the two main parties were, it can feel as if the extremes are the new status quo. But most voters still want a government that’ll run a sound economy, deliver investment into public services, be a responsible player on the world stage, and do what’s right by the Climate.

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Being “tolerated’ is not enough

So, this past weekend I was reminded that there are still spaces where you’re vulnerable as an LGBT+ person and there are still people who believe that to be a gay man as I am, indeed to be any member of the Queer community, makes you somehow ‘wrong,’ somehow ‘broken,’ somehow not ‘normal.’This past weekend I was on a panel debating people who, because of their interpretation of their religion’s code, cannot ever accept, affirm and celebrate me for who I am and who I love.

I got told that I was to be ‘tolerated.’

I don’t wish to be ‘tolerated.’

‘Tolerated’ means that you’re not accepted or wanted, but people will put up with you if they have to.

I challenged these views robustly. ..and other tropes which I won’t repeat here, because of how offensive they are…but it reminded me that being publicly LGBT+, especially as an activist, can leave you in a very vulnerable position.

Now, other people at the event couldn’t have been more supportive, more gracious, more accepting.

I’m not sorry I took part.

Because if there’s no one there to challenge prejudiced views, how are they ever overcome?

But, I did come home and have a bit of a weep.

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We’ve come so far, but the fight for full equality for LGBT+ communities is far from being over

We’re now on the second day of LGBT History Month 2018.

One of the things that makes me most proud to be a Liberal Democrat is our record on LGBT+ rights and equality.

We have, indeed, always been there on these issues…leading the way, with pioneering policies and brave advocates.

From campaigning for an end to discriminatory legislation such as Section 28, which barred the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools, to enacting Same Sex Marriage legislation during the 2010-15 Coalition Government (by far, in my humble opinion, the best thing we did in office)…thank you, Lynne Featherstone!

From LGBT+ Lib Dems, to activists, Councillors, Parliamentarians and Ministers, Lib Dems have, overwhelmingly, been on the right side of history when it comes to the need for full equality for all of our communities.

As a gay man, I’ll always be so, so proud that it was Lib Dems in government who helped to ensure I and millions like me became as near to fully equal under the law as we’ve ever been.

The Labour government which proceeded the Coalition also deserves a good deal of credit on this agenda, to be fair.

But until everyone is equal, none are equal.

We must remember that in one part of these islands, Northern Ireland, Same Sex Marriage is still illegal…as the DUP, which props up the UK Tory government, continues to block progressive change in the province.

And until trans and non-binary folks are respected and made equal under the law, then we Lib Dems still have much work to do.

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My speech to the Nottingham Rally for Europe

This is the speech I gave on Saturday to the Nottingham Rally for Europe.

I’m Mathew Hulbert.

Proud Leicestershire lad.

Proud East Midlander.

Proud Brit.

Proud European.

Proud internationalist.

And, yes, Mrs May, a proud citizen of nowhere.

Also, a proud Liberal Democrat.

Proud that my party-alone of the major parties-has remained resolutely Remain; before, during and after last year’s Referendum.

A Referendum, let’s not forget, that was called by David Cameron not to determine a soaring point of principle, but to get him out of a political tight corner; to appease the europhobic Right-flank of his party and counter the then popularity of UKIP.

So, let’s just consider that for a moment.

People’s lives, their jobs, their homes, our whole economy, were put at risk because of the internal machinations of the Tory party.

Never have so many been likely to lose out because of the actions taken by such a cowardly few.

And now Mrs May, who was supposedly Remain but her rhetoric of late favours a Hard Brexit, wasn’t able to tell a radio interviewer this week how she’d vote if the Referendum was held again today.

Well, she may not have the courage of what remains of her convictions, but I do.

I was Remain on June 23rd last year and I’m still Remain today.

I’m Remain not because the European Union is perfect-no human institution ever is-but because the EU has been the greatest man-made force for peace and for progress in human history.

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Mathew’s Musings 22 September 2017

I’ve been to the vast majority of both spring and autumn party conferences since I joined the Lib Dems back in March 2010 and I can honestly say I enjoyed the one that ended in Bournemouth, on Tuesday, the best.

I think I’m finally starting to work out the ebbs and flows of conference; when best to put in a speaker’s card with a chance of actually being called; when to take time out with friends and not fill your whole rota with yet another fringe meeting (as good as they almost always are); how to network with like-minded fellow travellers to push a cause/campaign, and so on.

Like many of us, when I first went to Conference (Birmingham, Autumn 2011) I was overawed by seeing MPs (we had more of them then) and Ministers (yes, we had them too) I’d only previously seen on TV…and you could actually go up and talk to them (and the nicer ones would even reply.)

I was pleased, in Bournemouth, to grab a few words with Tim Farron in the Conference bar on one of the evenings.

I told him how sorry I was that he’s no longer our leader and that he’s a good man with much more to contribute to our cause.

His ex-leader’s platform speech reminded me (though I didn’t need to be) just what a talented orator he is

And, yes, as ever with a Tim Farron speech, I shed some tears whilst in the hall listening to it.

Tim has the ability, when speaking, to touch people’s hearts…that talent must continue to be put to the good of the party.

Vince Cable’s speech didn’t make me cry, but it was statesmanlike, full of vision and direction, but also with a clear economic message which-unique among our current Commons team-Vince is perfectly placed to provide.

There is always a danger, especially for us, that our Conference sees us talking to ourselves but getting little to no coverage beyond the Conference walls.

I hope Vince’s speech, at least, got and gets a wide airing.

It is a message that will inspire liberals and social democrats across party lines and those with, currently, no party affiliation.

The road back, for us, is a long one…but, with Vince at the wheel, we have steady hands and a sensible head to take us along the next part of the journey.

And, the bad news…<

After such a great party conference, it was disappointing to see our latest Party Political Broadcast.

I know some members like it…and it may play well in hipster London, but in vast swathes of the country, I venture, people will be left untouched

The whole appeal of Vince Cable is that he’s a serious man for serious times.

We should be redoubling on that message at every opportunity, not seeking ways to ‘promote’ what he’s not.

He’s not (particularly) hip or ‘down with the kids.’

He’s serious, he’s statesmanlike, he’s an ideas man.

I’m all for ensuring voters know about the rounded personality of leaders…such as Vince enjoying dancing and skiing, but basing a whole PPB around the hat that Vince wears, I personally think is just a bit naff.

That we (I assume) spend not inconsiderable amounts of money for ‘professionals’ to  come up with such guff, really does make you wonder.

The new PPB is like a clique which most people don’t belong to and end up just feeling alienated against.

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Mathew’s Musings: Commentary on this week’s news

Who speaks for the poor?

Of all of the words spoken, written and broadcast in our public discourse this week, a fifty minute oration stands head and shoulders above the rest.

It was a speech made by the anchor of ITN’s Channel 4 News, Jon Snow; who I certainly believe is probably the best journalist active in the UK media today.

He was in Edinburgh to give the 2017 MacTaggart Lecture at the city’s annual Television Festival.

Mr Snow’s theme was that a media elite…just like elites in politics, the law and so on, but arguably more important due to just how influential the media is today…is disconnected from large swathes of those it broadcasts and publishes to, especially the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society.

His address, to a hall of media professionals, is the most powerful I’ve heard in years.

Time and again he spoke truth to power…even when that truth asked serious questions of him and his profession.

Clips from it, rightly, did the rounds on social media but the speech in its entirety deserves a wide viewing/reading.

It really is worth 50 minutes of your time:

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Mathew’s musings…Commentary on this week’s news

A climate of denial

It was good to see former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in the UK yesterday, for the British debut of his new film ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ and he was touring the broadcast media studios to promote it.

Mr Gore is one of the most knowledgeable and trustworthy non-scientist voices on the impending doom that is man-made climate change and the urgent changes we need to make to stop it.

He’s dedicated his post-political life to raising this worldwide issue and using his significant platform and very high profile to encourage today’s political leaders to ensure it remains at the top-or very near it-of the agenda.

Sadly, due to Brexit and the ‘election’ of Donald Trump, this most important issue we all face-impending and potentially life-threatening catastrophic global warming-has increasingly been an also-ran in our political debate and news agenda.

That’s why this latest film from Gore and his team-a follow-up to his 2006 documentary ‘An Inconvenient Truth’-couldn’t be timelier or more needed.

In an interview with the excellent LBC mid-morning presenter James O’Brien yesterday Gore alleged that the BBC are ‘Climate Change deniers’ due to them embracing a ‘false equivalency’ between experienced and knowledgeable experts on the subject-such as himself-and those he alleges (and it’s hard to disagree with him) of being deniers…such as former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Nigel Lawson.

The ‘Today’ programme team, on BBC Radio 4, put Lawson up against Gore yesterday morning…as if they are both of equal standing on the issue when they quite clearly are not.

As I pointed out in a recent piece in The New European newspaper, by seeking ‘balance’ BBC News (and, to be fair, other broadcasters) often actually give greater weight to one side/point of view than its merits deserves.

They skew true debate.

This is one such case.

95-plus per cent of climate scientists agree that the global warming we’re experiencing is down to the actions and gross irresponsibility of human beings.

How dare the BBC give equal weight, respectability and air-time to echo-chambers of the tiny minority who try and argue that climate change isn’t man-made?

I’m all for the representations of minorities, usually, but, in this case, the BBC is deeply irresponsible for creating an equivalency which demonstrably doesn’t exist.

Do I think the BBC is institutionally climate change denying? No, I don’t.

But do I think they need to look seriously and urgently at their version of ‘balance’? Yes, I very much do.

Climate change is real. It is, overwhelmingly, caused by the actions of human beings. We, all of us and especially political leaders and governments, must do all in our power to stop it.

Before it’s too late.

Doing sweet FA

Last weekend I watched an excellent-but soul-destroying documentary on BBC Two (I love the BBC, by the way, I just get annoyed when it lets itself down…re my commentary above.)

It saw the former Welsh rugby captain Gareth Thomas, a hero of mine who I was fortunate to meet a number of years ago, one of the first UK professional sportsmen to come out as gay, exploring homophobia in football and what, if anything is being done to stop it.

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Mathew’s Musings – commentary on this week’s news

No s***, Brexit

This week, two significant individuals have told various truths about the impending catastrophe that is Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union and have both faced ridicule and scorn for daring to do so.
Firstly Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, expressed the statement of the obvious that uncertainty due to Brexit is already having a negative effect on the UK’s economy.

Well, no s*** Sherlock.

The growth forecast has been revised down and the pound has fallen.

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Mathew’s Musings -commentary on this week’s news

Fifty years on

As many (if not all) of you will know, this week marks fifty years since the partial decriminalization of homosexuality.

As an out and proud gay man, it is humbling to remember the efforts of so many people…most of whom didn’t live to feel the joy of (near) equality but who nonetheless kept up the fight and the campaigning in the hope that future generations of gay and bi men and women would.

I shed a few tears this week thinking of all the people who were demonized, criminalized, abused, and died, just because of who they they were and who they loved.

There’s still much more to do, of course, from doing more to tackle homophobic bullying in schools, to further acceptance in institutions such as the Church, recognition and rights for non-binary individuals, and further rights and equality for Transgender people.

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Mathew’s Musings -commentary on this week’s news

Our new leader

I wish Vince all the luck in the world, in what is one of the most demanding jobs in politics today…ensuring we get enough coverage to break through and continue the Lib Dem Fightback which Tim Farron made a such a good start on during his time in the top job.

There’s no doubt that Vince has pretty good name recognition among the general public (for a politician, anyway) and is clearly a trusted voice on the economy, something which hasn’t always been the case for our leaders.

As the star of a past Christmas edition of Strictly Come Dancing, we can but hope that Strong and Cable Vince will glide across the political scene and ensure that liberalism and social democracy not only survive but thrive in the form of the Liberal Democrats in the years ahead.

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Tories downgrade youth policy

I was astonished and saddened to discover this week that the Government appears to have downgraded the importance it gives to Youth Policy.

The ministerial role in which Youth Policy is included, the Civil Society brief, has been moved by no-mandate Prime Minister Theresa May from the Cabinet Office to the so-called ministry of fun, the Department of Culture of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS.)

When based at the Cabinet Office, youth policy was at the heart of government.

Now, of course, this didn’t by any means guarantee good decision-making on youth-related issues and, indeed, I disagreed strongly (and continue to do so) with the Tories doing virtually nothing to safeguard the future of vitally-needed out-of-school youth services and the role of professional youth workers.

But I think it a clear downgrading of youth policy that it’s been moved to DCMS.

Youth Policy, by its very nature, covers a full range of issues and to see it moved to a ministry whose sole focus is culture, media and sport (as important as all three are) means, to me at least, that youth issues are set to be all-but forgotten by this government.

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Cuts to youth services? You couldn’t make it up


You really couldn’t make it up.

A senior Tory Cabinet member has bemoaned a local Council for making cuts to its Youth Service.

Iain Duncan Smith, yes the Work and Pensions Secretary, who according to reports believes people with debilitating and life-limiting illnesses can still work, has told a local newspaper that the “vitally important” provision must be saved. Read the story here.

I think the nail has finally been hammered in to irony’s coffin and it is being lowered into the ground.

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It’s high time this government acted to save vitally-needed youth services

I was very proud, at our party’s Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, to move a motion calling for revitalised and refunded youth services (things such as youth clubs, outdoor education, youth advice/information and so on) and supported the amendment to the motion which called for the funding of these services to be placed onto a statutory footing.

I was very proud of our party when the motion (as amended) was given unanimous support by Conference.
This helped to reinforce previous party youth policy which, in large part, is thanks to the work of my friend and colleague Linda Jack who has many, many years of experience in the youth and youth work sector.

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LoveProudly: An interview with Stephen Donnan about the fight for Marriage Equality in Ireland (North and South)

Tomorrow Ireland votes on whether to allow equal marriage. I recently interviewed Stephen Donnan who is one of the founders of LoveProudly , a grassroots group dedicated to marriage equality across all of Ireland. He is also a former Chair of the LGBT group in the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland.

Mathew: Stephen, tell us a bit about this new initiative.

Stephen: Well, basically, Mathew loveproudly was set up by myself and a number of other activists from Belfast, Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland to facilitate and support the calls for Equal Marriage in both Northern Ireland and in the Republic.

We want to promote and campaign for Marriage Equality and highlight the existing inequalities in the law in both jurisdictions, but in a positive and constructive way.

We don’t want to indulge in the campaign of fear and division; that isn’t what loveproudly is about and we want to follow in the example set by MarriageEquality and Equal Marriage NI.

MH: It sounds great, Stephen, so is this a cross-party campaign?

SD: It’s strictly independent of endorsing or being endorsed by any one political party.

I am not doing this within the confines of a political party, however we have had input and support from various political representatives across the spectrum and across the border.

MH: So what campaigning have you done and will you be doing?

SD: Our first aim was to get the message out about who we are and what we are aiming to achieve and I think we did that successfully when we launched on Valentine’s Day.

Our next step is formulating a plan with the two campaigns.

There is a Marriage Equality referendum in the Republic of Ireland on May 22nd and while we are optimistic we are still very far from an assured Yes vote.

We will be canvassing with the YesEquality campaign in the south and getting the word out on why a Yes vote is so crucial.

MH: How’s it looking in the Republic…and what influence has Equal Marriage having become law in England, Scotland and Wales had on people there?

SD: It is clear that we are living in changed times.

The recognition of same sex marriage in the rest of the UK, and in places as unimaginable as Slovenia and North Carolina, has had a massive impact on the debate here.

If Ireland and NI want to be seen as part of Europe, part of a diverse future where same-sex couples can celebrate their relationships freely and safely, then there’s nothing to lose from a Yes vote in the referendum.

Polls are showing that it will pass but that could lead to complacency and that would be fatal for us.

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Lib Dem MEP supports Fairtrade group in campaign to help sugar farmers after EU rule change

As Co-Ordinator of Lib Dem Fairtrade Future (LDFF) I’m proud to announce that we’ve launched a new campaign, Help Sugar Farmers, in support of a major effort from the Fairtrade Foundation (the governing body of Fairtrade in the UK) to get a fair deal for sugar farmers in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries following a European Union rule-change which-unless mitigation is provided-will likely lead to around 200,000 people being pushed into poverty.

I’m a proud pro-European but we have to be up-front when the EU makes decisions which adversely affect people both within the EU and-as in this case-beyond.

As noted by the Fairtrade Foundation, the EU has decided to do away with a cap on the amount of sugar grown in Europe which has previously helped to protect the livelihoods of sugar farmers (including around 60,000 who are part of the Fairtrade initiative) by enabling them good access to European markets.

LDFF supports the Fairtrade Foundation in calling for the EU to ‘lead a response which brings together businesses, other EU member states, governments in affected Countries, small farmers and civil society’ and to ‘provide new funding from the EU’s own development budget.’

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Michael Moore MP named as MP of the Year by Liberal Democrat Fairtrade Future

michael-moore-mp-secretary-of-state-for-scotlandMatt Whittles and I, as the co-founders of Liberal Democrat Fairtrade Future (LDFF), are delighted to announce that we’re awarding our first ever MP of the Year award to Michael Moore, the MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk.

We’re awarding him this honour in recognition of all of the hard work he’s put in to his Private Members Bill – currently working its way through Parliament – which will enshrine into law the UK’s promise to spend 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income on International Aid.

We couldn’t be more proud that it is a Lib Dem MP who has brought this Bill before Parliament and we fervently hope it gets signed on to the Statute Books.

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Opinion: Gough Whitlam: Farewell to a reformer

Gough_Whitlam_bust by WikiTownsvillian

I’m an avid consumer of the politics of other countries, including that of Australia which borrows so much from our Westminster system yet, viewing its Parliamentary proceedings on-line, some might say its politics are even more robust than our own.
I first became interested in Australian politics at around the time of the original coup when Julia Gillard became Prime Minister after ousting her own Party colleague Kevin Rudd.
Three years and three days later, of course, Mr Rudd got his own back when he took back the crown, albeit to shortly thereafter lose it again when his Labor Party lost the 2013 election.
Since then I’ve read up on a number of other former Prime Minister’s down under, from Bob Hawke to Paul Keating, from Robert Menzies to John Howard. Each, of course, led in their own style and according to their own philosophies and beliefs. But none were as mythologised as the Grand Old Man who has passed away today: E Gough Whitlam, Australia’s 21st Prime Minister.
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Opinion: Liberal Democrat Fairtrade Future welcomes hospital food announcement

Fairtrdae photo by nagillum

One of the things that makes me proud to be a Liberal Democrat is our belief in fairness.
The very first line in the preamble to our Party’s Constitution states ‘The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a free, fair and open society…’
I also love that we are an internationalist party.
Indeed the preamble goes on to state, ‘We look forward to a World in which all people share the same basic rights…’
For me these two elements of our founding principles come together the Fairtrade movement which I’ve long since championed.
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Opinion: Ontario Liberals show real Grit, win a fourth term and make history with the first elected LGBT Head of Government in the Commonwealth!

Ontario Premier Kathleen WynneCongratulations to our cousins in the Ontario Liberal Party in Canada who, overnight, have won a remarkable fourth term of provincial government and, at the same time, have made history with leader Kathleen Wynne becoming the first elected LGBT Head of Government in the Commonwealth!

Going into the election, the Liberals had been in a period of minority government and Wynne had taken over-a year ago from the by-then unpopular Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The party has been in Government in Ontario since 2003 and some pundits had predicted that the opposition Progressive Conservatives (I know, what an oxymoron, right?) would return to Government for the first time in over a decade…but Wynne and her team had other ideas!

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Opinion: A liberal case for Regional Ministers

Over the past week or so there have been a number of newspaper reports about Labour planning to bring back regional Government Ministers if it becomes part of a new Government next year.

Though some have attacked this idea, I believe there is a liberal case for regional Ministers. A progressive Government of Labour and Liberal Democrats could work on such a project together, building up the various regions of the UK to ensure that all of our regions can compete in the global economy, as well as making sure that all of our people have a chance to make the most …

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Opinion: I will not hide…

rainbow flag on white background  : harvey milk plaza, san francisco (2012)Boy, has this been a tough week. This week I suffered some homophobia. This is tough to write.

It came in the form of an e-mail from someone who should know better, but sadly doesn’t.

Someone who believes their faith gives them the right to put pen to paper (or fingers to keypad) and accuse me of being immoral.

I’ve been lucky since I came out as a gay man, in 2011, in that I’ve faced very little homophobia (at least that …

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Opinion: Expansion of apprenticeships shows that Liberal Democrats are the party of young people.

Made by apprentices reception License Some rights reserved by ApprenticeshipsAs someone who believes tackling long-term youth unemployment and giving opportunities to young people should be the Liberal Democrats’ next great mission in Government, I very much welcome the news in the Budget of new measures to grow the number of apprenticeships in our economy.

These initiatives are set to create 100,000 more apprentices which is fantastic news for young people in communities up and down the Country.

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Opinion: Celebrating 28 special people in LGBT History Month

LGBT History MonthThis month is LGBT History Month, which exists to celebrate the lives of the LGBT Community.

As a gay man and, therefore, a proud member of that community, I wanted to mark this very special month in my own way.

So I decided that every day in February I would write a daily tweet and Facebook post about someone I look up to in our community…an LGBT Hero.

Among those I’ve already tweeted and posted about are a number of Liberal Democrats: Adrian Trett, the former Chair of LGBT+LDs and a …

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My Lib Dem stars of 2013 (3)

I’m sure many people will list MPs as their ‘Lib Dem Stars of the Year’ but I’d like to pay tribute to some other people without whom our movement would be much poorer.

Starting with my colleagues in Hinckley and Bosworth-the largest Lib Dem-run authority in the Midlands-led so ably by Councillor Stuart Bray, and to our excellent PPC, Cllr Michael Mullaney who gave two terrific speeches at Conference in Glasgow, one against the Bedroom Tax and the other on the importance of jobs. That’s my kind of prospective MP.

Next, to everyone in the Social Liberal Forum, especially our Co-Chairs, the …

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Opinion: We should all be born equal

Royal familyOf course the birth of a baby is a joyous occasion and only the most cold-hearted of person would fail to wish any new parents and their newborn well.

But, that having been said, today’s sycophantic media coverage of the Duchess of Cambridge’s going into labour has shown, yet again, that all too many journalists appear to lose their critical faculties when it comes to anything Royal.

They seem to forget that polls consistently show that a sizeable percentage of the population support a democratic alternative to the Monarchy, a Republic.

I feel …

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats for a republic

Liberal Democrats believe in democracy. Indeed ‘Democrats’ is in our title.

We believe in representative democracy, from parish councils to (though we’re still fighting for it) the House of Lords.

We believe those who make the laws of our land should be voted for by the people of our land.
Government of, for and by the people.

We believe this should be extended to those occupying the highest positions in British Government.

If we believe, as we rightly do, that no peer of the realm should be able to be a legislator just because of who they were born to or who …

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Opinion: left-leaning Lib Dems should be united, pragmatic and positive

The launching of the ‘Liberal Left’ group this week has already led to lots of comment, especially on Twitter.

Those on the Right of our Party have, rather predictably, condemned it as divisive and self-interested. You might expect me, as someone on the Left, to disagree with them. But I don’t, I think they are largely correct in their analysis, and here’s the reason why.

I believe we need a united, pragmatic and positive Left in the Liberal Democrats; which, I believe, despite the protestations of some, remains a centre-left Party. As a member of the Social Liberal Forum, I’ve seen that any …

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