Author Archives: Michael Taylor

The hole in our democracy

There is an increasing hole in our democracy, a place where election candidates and political parties are finding increasingly difficult to reach. I refer, of course, to gated communities and those many high-rise blocks where access is by code or fob.

This is not assisted by owners and managers of these houses making it almost impossible to contact them to seek access. I have personally been escorted off the premises by officious caretakers who point blank refuse to give details of who manages the blocks. Now whether this only applies to political parties with whom they disagree, I have no idea.

Sometimes, there is a way round this problem. Some blocks have a trades button that operates for a few hours in the morning and enable those in the know to get in. Sometimes, it is possible to persuade a resident to let you in. (However, as I found out in a gated community in Mid Beds, that doesn’t mean they leave the gate open long enough to get out and I found myself having to climb over the gate!)

There are some rights, I am led to believe, in the Representation of the People Acts that purport to give candidates access to voters, but they are difficult to enforce, and obdurate officials simply stonewall and refuse to give access.

I now think this is a case for legislation to ensure that candidates and campaigners get access to every property to deliver leaflets and to canvass. If such houses were obliged to display at their access gates the name, address, phone number and email of the company managing the block (with suitably large fines for non-compliance) and those property managers were obliged to arrange access for election campaigners within say 48 hours of a request (again with large fines for non-compliance), then this problem might be solved.

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The other elephant in the room

We all know that one of the topics the leadership don’t want us to talk about is the EU. But there is another very important matter to voters that we say almost nothing about either, taxation.

There was a time, when I was a young Liberal and just starting out on the employment trail when we proudly supported a progressive income tax system as both fair and certain. When I started work, basic rate was 33% and the top rate was 98%. We told people, quite rightly, that the tax was necessary to pay for public services. Then along came Thatcher and Laffer with his ridiculous curve and suddenly we have joined the ‘tax is bad’ viewpoint and we have become terrified of even suggesting that our policy programmes WILL require tax rises. Sure, we talk about taxes on the banks, or windfall taxes on utilities or taxing fatcats, but we simply don’t engage in the task of reminding people that their taxes are not a dreadful burden, but actually necessary to pay for the services we (and they) want.

It’s almost as if we now share the view of a US citizen interviewed about tax, who said ‘Why should I pay tax, the government should find the money!’

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Reflections after a Conference – a challenge to the Lib Dems

Editor’s Note: Mick wrote this piece after the Brighton Conference in 2018 and sent it to me recently as he felt it was still relevant today. Apart from the fact that Brexit is now an (at least for now) inescapable reality, he’s right.  We need to be radical and punchy to deliver the liberal, fair, more equal society that we want to see. I’m reminded of the Liberal not Moderate t-shirts that some of us wore proudly around that Conference…

After a short period at the Lib Dem conference I am still in Brighton for a couple of days. Brighton is quite a good place to reflect on the state of the UK.

Thinking back, Brighton used to be in much better nick than it is now. Many pavements are cracked and broken, many of the houses and hotels look run down and in need of repair and renovation. The seafront is not particularly special and the West Pier is still a burned out shell. Here, in one of the UKs premier resorts, there are many homeless people on the streets and many beggars as well. Hardly the sort of Britain that we Liberal Democrats want to see!

Recycling largely takes place by means of unsightly bins strewn around the streets and the former green-run council’s recycling policies made a mockery of recycling anyway.

I suspect that much of this is the result of austerity, especially the massive cuts to the finances of the local council that no longer enable it to respond to the needs of the Brighton and Hove Community.

Brexit will hardly improve matters, because hotels and restaurants here rely heavily on European workers and they may not be available after March 2019.

Although I have no direct information, I suspect that housing is expensive and that many people, especially the young, have no hope of getting on the housing ladder and live in the private rented sector with its high prices and insecurity of tenure.

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How to find candidates

I note that Mark Pack is trying to persuade the party to run many more candidates in local elections. He’s quite right. No-one, as far as I know, has suggested how you do this. In this article I offer my take on how to get candidates from scratch.

So, what do you do to get candidates? Ideally, you would have started this process at least 6 months before the election, but the methodology is the same. September is also a good time to start because we often have a useful boost in interest because of the party conference.

Forget the phone, email, text or any other sort of social media. In 40 years of candidate hunting I have recruited only one person using all these approaches. You have to go and call on people, unannounced and ask them. If you try any other approach, they will say no. Lots of people have not accepted the no contact in advance rule and wonder why they fail. “Oh, but it’s rude not to phone in advance, they might not be in, we may be wasting our time” or similar are all guaranteed to result in the person saying no. Believe me, as one of the most successful candidate recruiters in the country, I really do know what I’m talking about.

But how do you know who to ask? Mostly, you don’t. Connect and EARS both have functions that enable you to create lists of people who have been canvassed LIB DEM and voted at least twice recently. It may not be a big list, but it works for me. Secondly, look for activists in local causes or clubs and societies. Thirdly ask everyone you call on if they can think of some else to ask. Of the 13 people I recruited in 2019, only 3 were active party members at the time of asking. 3 were activists in local charities or organisations and the rest came from the lists of people who we thought had supported us.

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The case for state ownership or control of water and electricity

As many friends know, I now live in a seaside town in Greece.

I have been reflecting on the cost of living here and, in particular, the cost of water and electricity, compared to the UK.

I have just paid my first water bill. For six months I have paid 37€. It’s not that I don’t use water, I do. I have a washing machine and a dishwasher, I clean the car, I water the garden and of course I shower and shave daily. Compare that with the £25 a month I was paying in Mytholmroyd, which I left just over a year ago. I suspect it’s gone up now.

My most recent electricity bill was 134€ for a month and the Greek government subsidies me by 159€ a month. My house is all electric with AC units which double up as heaters in the winter and there are pumps on both the cold-water supply and the solar water heating panel. My cooker is electric. I believe that were I still in the UK I would be paying around £450 a month for my previous flat. This means that electricity in 74% more expensive in the UK even if I had no subsidy in Greece. With the subsidy my electricity bill is 280% less than in the UK.

Now, Greece is not a particularly wealthy country. It recently went through a major financial crisis and much that the state had done before has been lost. Water, however, is run by local councils. In the UK water is owned by private companies and the costs are exorbitant and the directors grossly overpaid.

My electricity company in Greece DEH is the former state-owned electricity company. Yet, it is not charging grossly inflated prices and people are being helped with their electricity bills. Sure, it’s slow to act and there are power cuts sometimes (mainly due to weather like thunderstorms), but it is providing a service at affordable prices. It is clearly regulated and behaves reasonably.

The conclusion I draw from this is twofold.

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We really must stand up for the NHS

The NHS is once again in the news and not in a good way. It is fast becoming a basket case with ambulances unable to deliver critically ill patients to hospital in anything like acceptable times, operations often delayed with unacceptable waiting times, people unable to make GP appointments and now a series of strikes because the Tory Government cries crocodile tears instead of funding the NHS and its staff properly.

There is a dangerous myth that has been around in our politics for far too long that the public sector is inefficient and that as much of it as possible …

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Are we becoming like North Korea?

I have just sat through almost every debate in the auditorium of Spring Conference and have been struck by the lack of real debate. This is primarily because nothing remotely controversial is put to the conference. We get votes in favour of between 80 and 99% in favour of policy motions and even in favour of amendments.

The only time a vote was even remotely close was on whether or not to HEAR a request for a reference back!

The most enthusiastic anyone got to debate issues was on how to reform the party structure.

I have been a party member since 1964 and have attended many assemblies (Liberal Party) and conferences (Liberal Democrats). I don’t think I look back with rose tinted spectacles, but I have a clear recollection of closely argued debates where a few votes either way determined the outcome. The late Edward Dunford once said that you could see the audience swaying one way and then the other as a debate progressed.

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Tolerance and free speech

When I joined the Liberal Party, as a young Liberal, in 1964, I joined a party that wanted to build a society where all possessed liberty and none should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

The party expected broad agreement with the ideas of a Liberal society but tolerated people who had a variety of views on the issues of the day.

So, whilst the majority view in the party was against capital punishment, in favour of legalising abortion, divorce law reform, decriminalisation of consenting homosexual relations between adults and of joining the EEC, there were those who differed from majority party opinion on any of these issues and argued them passionately.

MPs were expected to follow their consciences on social issues and were not whipped on them.

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Electoral fraud – the truth about personation

I doubt that one in a hundred readers of LDV have ever heard of a tendered ballot paper, let alone seen one.

Electoral law makes provision at EVERY election for the issue of tendered ballot papers, sometimes known as pink ballot papers.

If you go down to the polling station to vote and the presiding officer says to you, “I’m sorry, but I can’t give you a ballot paper because you’ve already voted”, what do you do? The answer is that you can insist that you haven’t voted, and the presiding officer must then offer you a ‘tendered’ ballot paper. This is the same as the white ballot paper, but for two things.

  1. It is a different colour (usually pink)
  2. It is stored separately from the white ballot papers.

How is it counted? The answer is that it isn’t, unless the election is challenged in an electoral court. In that case, the original ballot paper is found and compared with the tendered ballot paper and the tendered paper is the one that is counted. Now of course you might quite correctly argue that this breaks the secrecy of the election, but it does give an element of protection against personation, that is the attempt to impersonate a voter and vote instead of him/her.

I have been involved in an election where tendered ballot papers were issued. This was in a big city in 2008, in a local election where the Lib Dem candidate lost by less than 120 votes. The election had many strange features, but it became clear that a party had engaged in personation by finding out who wasn’t going to vote and sending someone to vote for them. Following this narrow win, I asked the returning officer if there had been any tendered ballot papers issued and there had. He also told me it happened in many wards in the city.

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It’s a question of honour

I have been involved in Liberal and Liberal Democrat politics, mostly as an activist, councillor and parliamentary candidate, since 1964. During that time there have been thirteen different Prime Ministers, none of whom I agreed with politically at all. Until the advent of the current PM, all of them behaved in a civilised fashion and played the game according to the rules.

There was a time when if you broke the law, or lied to parliament, you resigned. How honourable John Profumo now seems, when compared to the present incumbent of 10 Downing Street. Profumo, for those of you too young …

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The Luciana Phenomenon

I attended the fringe meeting to meet Luciana Berger MP in a small room fit for perhaps 30-40 people. Whoever thought that would be enough at a Lib Dem Conference for a meeting with the dynamic, young Jewish MP who had just joined the Lib Dems after 10 years as a Labour MP?

The room was rammed to the doors with another huge group outside the open doors. It was clear that Luciana hadn’t expected such a welcome. The room was so crowded that the person due to chair the meeting couldn’t get in!

A chair, who happened to be from Luciana’s constituency in Liverpool took over and we had an hour of intense questioning from the audience. Luciana answered all the questions with no evasion or missing the point. She told us what her skills were and about her journey to join the Lib Dems. Those of us who were there were left in no doubt as to her commitment to our party.

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Where will we get and use volunteers?

The next election, whenever it is, could see major gains by the party, or not.

What’s the difference between the two outcomes? In my view it is knocking on doors. In the Brecon and Radnor by-election, although we won, we did not knock on enough doors, but almost certainly delivered far too many leaflets. Yet every measure of how to win people over to our cause says that we will do it by talking person to person, either on the doorstep (best) or over the telephone.

In their book, Rules for Revolutionaries (recommended by Mark Pack), Becky Bond and Zack Exley talk about distributed organising, which explains how the Bernie Sanders Team used vast numbers of volunteers – 80% of whom had never been involved in politics – as the mainstay of their organisation, giving them equal roles with paid professionals, and built a volunteer organisation that could contact over 100,000 by email at one go and could run a voter registration operation in every state as well as GOTV.

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YOU are needed NOW in Brecon and Radnorshire

I  have just spent 3 days in Brecon and Radnorshire working out of the Llandrindod Wells Lib Dem Office. The reception on doorsteps is very good, but there are a lot of people who have yet to decide whether they will back Jane Dodds or to stay at home. What the campaign needs in the next few weeks is data and that means lots of people knocking on doors.

Bluntly, not enough people are coming to help in this, the most likely Lib Dem by-election prospect of this Parliament. Jane Dodds, Leader of the Welsh Lib Dems is a top notch candidate and deserves much more support.

We need hundreds of people to go.

So my question to you, dear LDV reader, is when are you coming and how long can you stay?

If you want us to win this seat, then YOU have to offer your help. There is lots of canvassing to do, there are thousands of leaflets to deliver, there is clerical work in both the Brecon and Llandrindod offices to do.

I am utterly convinced we can win this seat. We held it almost continuously from 1985 to 2015 and the Welsh Assembly Member is Lib Dem Education Minister Kirsty Williams. The Tory candidate is the former MP who was found guilty of expenses irregularities and recalled by over 10,000 of his constituents. The Greens and possibly Plaid Cymru are not standing to boost the remain side and Labour haven’t won this seat for generations. The real threat probably comes from the Brexit Party, who may well mop up many of the Brexiteers as they did in the EU elections.

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The past can be useful

My wife, Ruth, has had a collection of boxes, originally some 30 strong, in which she stored both personal and political stuff, waiting for the opportune moment to open them and sort out the treasure trove within.

That job is now underway and there are minutes of both NLYL and ULS as well as a huge collection of newsletters produced by all manner of Liberal activists in the late sixties and seventies. Radical Bulletin, Gunfire, New Outlook, Liberator and a whole raft of local stuff from Young Liberal and Liberal Student groups from Scotland to Cornwall. It even included some copies of Clockwork Orange, a Manchester ULS publication that I started in 1971/2 and that was then carried on by Pat Coleman.

Political discourse in the 60s and 70s was carried out by meeting and pamphlet.

Ruth reminded me that Young Liberal branches often met weekly to discuss politics and campaigns, actually campaigned most weekends and met up socially as well.

There were frequent conferences on political issues and both the Young Liberals and the Liberal Party had council meetings on a regular basis (the ‘Council’ was the policymaking body between Conferences), primarily on political issues.

Liberal Party Constituency and branch meetings were at least monthly. In short, our politics centred on meeting together, talking about ideas and putting them down on paper for discussion in order to get out and campaign together.

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The case for Trades Unions

There has been for some time a substantial number of Liberal Democrats who think that Trades Unions are an anachronism. They are wrong.

In the neoliberal times in which we live, one of the main neoliberal aims is to weaken wage earners so that companies can force down wages, leaving lower wage earners poorer and at the mercy of unscrupulous employers. The result is zero hours contracts and poverty wages.

Trades Unions are a block to this neoliberal aim so, starting with Thatcher, they set about weakening unions and deterring people from joining them. …

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An open letter to Stephen Lloyd MP

Dear Mr Lloyd

I, along with many other of your fellow Liberal Democrats, have noted with considerable alarm, your intention to vote with the government on the issue of Brexit. Not only is this totally at variance with the party and the manifesto on which you fought the last General Election, but it flies in the face of your duty as an MP to vote in the best interests of your constituency and the country.

It is worth remembering the letter written by Edmund Burke MP to his constituents in which he examines the whole question of what an MP’s duty to his constituents is. Whilst it is well worth reading the whole letter the most salient point is:-

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

(Edmund Burke, Speech to the Electors of Bristol, 3 Nov. 1774)

I well understand your belief that you ought to keep a pledge made in the heat of an election campaign. (Though perhaps the experience of a pledge that bedevilled the party in coalition should have given you pause before making it).  However, the Brexit with which you promised to keep faith no longer exists. Instead there is an exit agreement that keeps almost none of the promises made by Brexiteers and in fact breaks one of the key promises, namely to get away from regulation by the EU. The reality is that the agreement that Mrs May wishes you to support leaves the UK having to obey all the EU rules, but having no say in their creation.

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Reflections on Brighton

After a short period at the Lib Dem conference I am still in Brighton for a couple of days. Brighton is quite a good place to reflect on the state of the UK.

Thinking back, Brighton used to be in much better nick than it is now. Many pavements are cracked and broken, many of the houses and hotels look run down and in need of repair and renovation. The seafront is not particularly special and the West Pier is still a burned out shell. Here, in one of the UKs premier resorts, there are many homeless people on the streets and many beggars as well. Hardly the sort of Britain that we Liberal Democrats want to see!

Recycing largely takes place by means of unsightly bins strewn around the streets and the former green-run council’s recycling policies made a mockery of recycling anyway.

I suspect that much of this is the result of austerity, especially the massive cuts to the finances of the local council that no longer enable it to respond to the needs of the Brighton and Hove Community.

Brexit will hardly improve matters, because hotels and restaurants here rely heavily on European workers and they may not be available after March 2019.

Although I have no direct information, I suspect that housing is expensive and that many people, especially the young, have no hope of getting on the housing ladder and live in the private rented sector with its high prices and insecurity of tenure.

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We need fair devolution

Wales and Scotland have a devolved assembly/parliament and a single tier of local government. Northern Ireland could have if their politicians would sit down and agree a programme of government instead of playing yahoo politics.

In England there is no serious devolution and the system of local government is a dog’s breakfast with elected mayors, police commissioners, the London assembly and a wide range of councils with different powers.

Yet a working party in the Liberal Democrats has managed to come up with an even bigger mess than currently exists because they won’t argue for radical change.

‘Devolution on demand’ is a recipe for years of argument, disagreement and no action. Does anyone seriously believe that holding referenda on whether an area wants devolution will lead to a successful vote? Of course not. The anti politician brigade will be in full cry and the claim that it’s just another obstacle to people doing what they want will be pushed to stop it. No! If we want devolution, we should say so and legislate for it once we get the chance. Look at any country with a proper federal system (and our brave working party don’t even utter that word) and you will see that their devolved governmental units have common powers and that they are entrenched in the constitution.

Now I accept that there needs to be discussion about the boundaries of the devolved government for England, even though I personally favour a parliament for Yorkshire. What is wholly undesirable is different powers in different regions, because that is a recipe for total confusion.

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Time to ditch Connect?

The party has used two systems for computer based campaigning. EARS, developed in the UK for UK elections and more recently Connect, which was developed for use in US and Canadian election systems. Some elections ago the party made a decision to start using Connect instead of EARS as its main computer tool for digital and on the ground campaigns. This was largely because at that time EARS had not been able to demonstrate that it could provide an internet based service of the sort the party wanted.

So there began an experiment with this USA based computer tool that promised much but often failed to deliver it. I know umpteen people who after many training sessions on this election software are no nearer being able to use it than when they started. There are a number of things that make Connect a failure.

  1. As it is web based, with no backups on computers in each constituency, when it crashes or when the servers go down, we’re stuffed. There is reason to believe that Connect going offline during recent General Elections cost us seats we might otherwise have held or won. There is nothing worse than losing all your data on polling day and that has happened more than once, often for several hours.
  2. You can’t actually get the data you want to deal with on screen in front of you in an easy readable format.
  3. The Connect system seems unable to cope with the requirement for stable walk orders and printing out canvass cards that bear any relation to what’s on the ground is, if not impossible, beyond the ability of many of its users.

Now to be fair, the one part of Connect that made many of us willing to persevere with it is Minivan. It really is superb to be able to canvass, knock up and take numbers on a tablet or a phone and for it to go straight onto the system. Even then that only works if you are connected to the system via phone or wifi.

The reality is that this software developed for the US and Canadian election systems has adapted poorly to the UK. However, in line with the oft-cited inability of politicians to admit mistakes, those who continue to push Connect, seem blind to the difficulties experienced on a daily basis by many who use it.

So much time and party money has been invested that there is a reluctance to look at any alternative

I would argue that the time has come to abandon Connect, because the EARS platform is now superior to it.

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The sixties

I just visited an amazing exhibition in Montreal at La Musee de Beaux Arts, entitled ‘Revolution’, all about the sixties, when I was a teenager. The revolution in question was the change in art, ideas, politics, power, dress, music etc etc that occurred in the late 1960s, which culminated in the 1968 student riots, Expo ’67 in Montreal and Woodstock.

Many people today, especially young people it seems, criticise the sixties as a time of fantasy, forgetting what life had been like before the so-called swinging sixties. Before the sixties, (male) homosexuality was illegal, women were second class citizens, treated as appendages of their husbands especially in regard to finance, people were hanged for murder, computers and the internet were non-existent, books, plays and films were rigorously censored and non-white people were subject to overt harassment and discrimination. Who can forget the prosecution of the publishers of Lady Chatterly’s Lover – the book the prosecutor said you would not want your wives or servants to read! Or the shocking Tory campaign in Smethick in 1964, when the Labour MP Patrick Gordon-Walker lost his seat to a campaign of ‘If you want a ******* for a neighbour, vote Labour’.

During the sixties, homosexual acts between consenting adults in private were made legal, the Race Relations Act outlawed much discrimination based on colour or race, hanging was abolished, abortion was legalised up to 28 weeks and the voting age was reduced to 18.

The sixties saw an unprecedented revolution in fashion in which the UK through designers like Mary Quant and the Carnaby Street shops changed clothing forever from the somewhat staid post war styles to the modern ever changing fashions of today. The Women’s Liberation Movement started demanding equal rights for women and the end of patriarchy, which, in Britain, eventually led to the Sexual Discrimination Act and the Equal Pay Act in 1975.

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March for truth

I have now reached the USA on my round the world trip.

On Saturday, we joined our host, a nonagenarian veteran of the Democratic Party on a march for for truth. This march was one of over 150 in towns and cities all over the USA demanding that politicians and especially Trump start putting the people first instead of sectional interests, stop telling lies and that Congress start a serious investigation into the various allegations about Trump including how much tax he has (n’t) paid, his links with the Russians, the facts about health care and much more. Speaker after speaker …

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Loyalty and respect

Politics in the UK seems to be in flux following the Brexit vote. With the Tories split between remain and leave and Labour too busy squabbling amongst themselves to be effective it ought to be a time for the Liberal Democrats. Yet, so far, although we have seen many individual members of both the Labour and Conservative parties switch to the Lib Dems, only a handful of councillors and no MPs or MEPs have done so. Why is this?

I want to suggest that in the case of the Labour Party there are two factors; loyalty and respect

We often accuse the Labour Party of being tribal. The reality is that loyalty is ingrained in the psyche of Labour Party supporters and even more so in MPs. The worst thing that you can do is be ‘disloyal’. Crossing the floor is unthinkable for almost all Labour MPs and we need to recognise that this is a real factor in preventing people from joining us. When you couple this with the attitude of Labour people to what they perceive as treachery – for example the Lib Dems joining with the Tories in government – you begin to see how difficult it is to get people to come across, even if they share our values to a much higher degree than the values of the Labour Party.

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Time to start building for Britain

I am currently travelling for a year and am currently visiting India. This vibrant and growing economy has lessons for the UK. Everywhere you go there is building going on. New houses, new factories, new shopping complexes. In addition there is an ongoing repair programme for roads, public buildings, ancient monuments, temples. Sure, India still has slums, some schemes take an age to complete, but the thrust of the country is building for the future.

The government – at national, state and local level – is funding a lot of this work, in conjunction with the private sector and heritage and other charities and voluntary groups. What is clear is that government in all its forms has no problem with taxing its citizens and spending a chunk of the money on improving infrastructure, growing the economy, providing jobs and encouraging tourism. Compare that with Brexit UK. Governments of all hues have spent decades convincing us that tax is wicked and must under no circumstances be increased – especially for the rich – and that cuts in public services are vital for the health of the economy. As a result the building trade is on its knees, there is a chronic shortage of houses, public services are being trashed, the NHS is in crisis and vital infrastructure repairs and improvements are being put off into the distant future.

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What does Brexit mean?

Article 50 of the EU treaties, the one that sets out the terms for leaving the EU should perhaps have been read and understood by those arguing for Brexit, because a lot of rubbish is being spoken by people who ought to know better.

The full text is here

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.

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The myth of “the best candidate”

I think it is time to debunk the myth of ‘the best candidate’.

Many people in these various threads on the diversity motion say we would end up not selecting this mythical person if we were to allow AWS.

Leaving aside for the moment the aspersion this casts on women candidates, let’s have a look at the best candidate argument and see if it holds water.

The first thing we need to consider is what wins elections at a parliamentary level? Is it the candidate or is it the campaign? I would argue strongly that it’s the campaign that is built around the candidate and the work that is put in by the team around the candidate that is most important. Of course a personable and hard working candidate is also an asset, but a new PPC will have almost zero personal vote and incumbency doesn’t kick in at all until someone has been elected more than once. Even if a local candidate has been an active councillor this will at best be in 10-15% of the seat and there is scant evidence that this transfers to the parliamentary contest. On this I speak with personal knowledge having been in just that position in 2001, where having been elected as a councillor is 1998 AND 1999, my vote in the 2001 GE was not much different in my ward than anywhere else in the constituency.

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What’s the use of an elections database if it isn’t up-to-date during an election!

Mick Taylor and fellow Todmorden Lib Dems out and about

Mick Taylor and fellow Todmorden Lib Dems out and about

I am currently helping in a small local by-election for Todmorden Town Council. Amongst the things I have been doing is making sure that we use Connect properly. Imagine my frustration then when I discovered that it is not possible to add the voters who have come on to the register just in time to vote in the by-election. I have taken this up with the powers that be but have been told that they can only cope with the once a month regular register updates.

So the only way we can deal with this small number of new electors is to do it ON PAPER. I have also discovered that there is no way to remove defunct postal vote information, except by individual voter, a slow and time-consuming process.

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Opinion: And you thought EVEL was difficult…

Manchester Town Hall ClockOur party has saddled itself with a totally unworkable policy on devolution, but the formulators and protagonists of devolution on demand simply don’t understand why it’s a passport to total confusion.

Let’s consider a future House of Commons where legislation is being considered for schools. A vote is needed. Ah, but not everyone can vote because there’s been some devolution.  Let’s see now. This legislation won’t cover Scotland and Wales or Northern Ireland, but neither will it cover Yorkshire (except for Selby which opted out), Cornwall, the city regions of Manchester and Birmingham (minus Solihull which didn’t join) and of course education is now the responsibility of the Mayor in London and a quango in the North East. So who exactly will be able to vote? And if an English Committee for English laws is OK in the Commons what will happen in the still unreformed House of Lords?  Will it be necessary to stop peers who come from the devolved regions from voting?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 25 Comments

Opinion: Sustainability, where do we go from here?

Economy-in-the-UKOur party is not addressing continued economic growth. Our leaders talk about growth solving our problems and recovering pre 2008 living standards, rather than about creating prosperity without growth. Growth through conspicuous consumption is still being sold as the road to recovery.

There are three real stumbling blocks:

  1. High living standards and rising prosperity extolled by almost all parties are only possible by expropriating the living standards of the world’s poorest.
  2. We depend heavily on the rest of the world, especially developing countries, for food and are still reducing farmland in the UK.
  3. Our energy supplies depend on unstable regimes in the Middle East and Russia and we have not begun to address self sufficiency in basic energy.
Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 52 Comments

Opinion: Time for Liberal Democrats to consider new claims about climate change

I have just finished reading what for me is the most thought provoking book I have ever read. I was totally unaware until I read The Chilling Stars by Nigel Calder and Henrik Svensmark that not only does the earth move round the sun, but that the sun moves round the Milky Way Galaxy that we live in. The discoveries of Cosmoclimatology turn the accepted theory about climate change on its head. It challenges the prevailing views about climate change held by our party and offers real scientific evidence that there are much larger drivers of climate change …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 78 Comments

Opinion: Liberal Left have short memories

Liberal Left want to be careful what they wish for. In 1977 Liberal Leader David Steel struck a one-year deal with Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan that the 13 Liberal MPs would support the Labour Government in votes of confidence and supply. In return a number of Liberal Policies, most notably PR for European elections, would be enacted. After the pact, the Liberals eventually voted for a motion of no confidence that brought down the government. In the subsequent general election we got 13% and 11 seats.

As an exercise in achieving our policies the results were mixed at …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 67 Comments

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