Author Archives: Paul Walter

I went to the pub…light the blue touchpaper and stand well back

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I figured that last weekend would be a bit crowded in pubs, so I reserved time in my (not-so)busy diary to visit the pub yesterday. Monday is the new Saturday.

All went well. The pub I visited seem to have lots of measures in place, and well-trained staff.

I enjoyed an excellent couple of pints of a local brew (Loddon Brewery’s Citra-Quad, since you ask). I had a meal which was obviously well-familiar with the inside of a microwave but still, as they used to say, “filled a hole”.

So far, so uncontroversial.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 32 Comments

+++Wera Hobhouse pulls out of party leadership race

This was tweeted by Wera Hobhouse a few minutes ago:

Posted in News | Tagged and | 42 Comments

My heart leapt for joy when I saw that statue chucked into Bristol harbour

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Sunday’s event in Bristol was exceptional.

I am not going to be mealy-mouthed about it.

My heart leapt for joy when I saw that damned statue unceremoniously chucked into the harbour.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 69 Comments

If we, as a nation, do not now properly fund the NHS, all our clapping will look like deep hypocrisy

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I’m an enthusiastic Thursday 8pm clapper. The NHS and key workers deserve it. And its good to see our neighbours more than usual.

But there comes a point when one has to ask: Well, do we keep on clapping every Thursday or actually show our support for the NHS and Care Homes where it counts – through our bank accounts?

Time and time again, over the last seventy years, the public have rejected greater public spending including for the NHS. Just a whisper of an income tax rise has been enough, in most cases, to ring the death knell on the chances of a party coming to power. Time and time again, governments have kicked the ball of proper public funding of elderly care into the long grass.

Posted in News | 83 Comments

“An accident waiting to happen” – comprehensive, astute and blunt panel report on the 2019 elections

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Over the weekend, I have been thoroughly reading, and inwardly digesting, the 61 page panel report on the 2019 elections.

I started making notes of passages which would make good quotes for this article. But my list was soon very long. Pulling out pithy quotes turned out to be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 56 Comments

+++Output from General Election review expected on Friday

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It is understood that output from the party’s General Election 2019 Review panel will be published this coming Friday.

Posted in News | 39 Comments

On pandemics and health, we need to look to South Korea – Phil Hammond “MD” in Private Eye

Dr Phil Hammond
Dr Phil Hammond

Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, the “MD” column, written by Dr Phil Hammond, in Private Eye has provided a refreshingly astute and wise commentary on the crisis.

The latest issue of Private Eye is out now. I have recently subscribed to it, so I receive my copy without leaving home. Sheer luxury! (As an aside, someone once asked me to name the thing or service which I had bought or used for the longest period in my life. I came up with Lloyds Bank and Private Eye, of both of which I have been a customer since I was 17 years old. Some 43 years. Crikey – that makes me feel old.)

MD’s latest commentary covers two pages and is very interesting, as always.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 7 Comments

Covid-19 five tests: By sleight of hand, the government seems to be trying to remove the spotlight from testing and PPE issues

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You would have thought that the government’s five tests for moderating the lockdown have stayed the same, wouldn’t you?

Well, think again.

Comparing Dominic Raab’s reading of the five tests on Tuesday with his original announcement of them on April 16th, there is at least one significant difference:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments

Should we be taking population density into account when comparing countries on Covid-19?

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May I first offer my sincere sympathy to all those who have been directly affected by Covid-19 through their own illness or through loss or illness of loved ones. This is a truly terrible illness and my heart goes out to all those who have suffered, as well as the many NHS, care and key workers who have put their life on the line to help others.

One of the horrible sides of the pandemic is that it is often reduced to slides of statistics. When reducing thousands of individual tragedies of people’s lives cut cruelly short to graphs, it is terribly superficial. So I apologise for writing a post about the numbers. Behind every fatality there is the story of a beloved human being leaving behind grieving loved ones.

I suspect it will be many years before the full picture of this pandemic and our (human beings’) handling of it becomes clear.

When comparing countries, it seems now that poor old Belgium is top of the list of Covid-19 death rates. (Originally it was the USA, based on sheer absolute figures, which was a bit bonkers given the size of the country).

However, even though it is many moons ago, I remember the odd school geography lesson telling us that the Low Countries have a very high population density. So, surely the disease is bound to spread more quickly when the population is much closer to each other.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 17 Comments

Do we need to be careful about “Liberal Drinks”?

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I wonder if anyone has had a think about “Liberal Drinks” and, in particular, about the impact of meeting up over drinks (or, these days, “virtual drinks”). Is it possible that this puts off some people from becoming more involved in the party?

Of course, “drinks” can mean non-alcoholic drinks. But the implication is that “drinks” means alcoholic drinks. This is underlined by such events normally being in pubs.

I’m not asking for such events to be curtailed.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 18 Comments

Fresh police guidance says that it’s OK to drive a reasonable distance for exercise

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Following on from a couple of posts here about policing the Covid-19 restrictions, the police have been issued with fresh guidance on the matter, as reported by the Guardian:

Police chiefs have told officers that people should not be punished for driving a reasonable distance to exercise, and that blanket checks were disproportionate, in a bid to quell a row about heavy-handed enforcement of the coronavirus lockdown.

Amid anger at some forces setting up checkpoints and using drones to target people visiting rural beauty spots, the guidance reissued and updated late on Tuesday aims to forge more consistency across 44 forces in England and Wales.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 35 Comments

On thing we did really well for the 2019 general election – raising shedloads of dosh

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There is nothing quite as wonderful as money.
There is nothing quite as beautiful as cash.
Some people say it’s folly,
But I’d rather have the lolly.
With money you can make a splash.

Eric Idle (Monty Python), “The Money Song

If you haven’t already done so, it is worth having a look at the Electoral Commission’s reports of Q4 donations to the political parties.

The Liberal Democrat report is particularly fascinating.

Between 1 October and 31 December 2019, the party received donations totalling ÂŁ13,372,664 from 433 donors. That is more than the Labour party received in the same period.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

How should we interpret the official advice as to whether a short drive to a walk is permissable?

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West Berkshire Liberal Democrat Councillor Tony Vickers has written the following on a public Coronavirus Facebook group:

I would contest the advice of TVP (Thames Valley Police). Where do these Regulations say anything about not using a car or limiting the distance one can travel to take exercise?

…There is some confusion about how to interpret the official advice on staying at home when it comes to one of the four allowed exceptions : to “do one form of exercise”. As the Council’s appointee on the Local Access Forum (LAF), which has a statutory duty to advise all public bodies on access to the countryside, I am personally interpreting this as follows. This advice only applies to people feeling well and with no special risk factors.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 34 Comments

In a liberal society, should police be using roadblocks and drones to enforce the virus lockdown?

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The Guardian reports that the police are using roadblocks and drones to enforce the virus lockdown:

Derbyshire police tweeted drone footage taken near Curbar Edge, in the Peak District, and said they had checked the numberplates of vehicles in the car park and found that some cars were registered to addresses in Sheffield, a 30-minute drive away.

…In North Yorkshire, police said they would set up checkpoints to determine if drivers’ journeys were essential. The move was being introduced to ensure motorists are complying with government restrictions, North Yorkshire police said.

Officers will be stopping vehicles and asking motorists where they are going, why they are going there, and reminding them of the message to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives,” the force said in a statement. The checkpoints will be unannounced and could be anywhere across the county.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 57 Comments

Going ever-so-slightly “stir crazy”?

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We’re very fortunate to have modern communications technology in the current crisis.

Here’s a few ideas of things you could try to break up your days at home. Please use the comments to share any of your own ideas.

Yesterday, I did some very energetic exercises with Joe Wicks, the body coach. He is doing a 9am session aimed at children not at school, but it also suits adults and he is at pains to reassure people not to over do things and simplify the exercises if they are too strenuous.

Before yesterday, I had only ever seen Joe Wicks in photos on the front of his many books.

I have to say it was a pleasant surprise to hear his cheerful broad Essex accent and his very motivating chatter!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 4 Comments

Can volunteering be safe currently?

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The homeless and the needy have been victims of the current crisis. Many rely on volunteers to feed them and provide warm clothing, tents etc.

But volunteers are often over 70 years old or constrained by safety measures related to the Coronavirus.

For about eight years, I have worked voluntarily at a local drop-in centre for the homeless and needy. Our normal service involves 20-45 people thronged into a small hall, cheek by jowl. So, we had to stop that. Fortunately we are continuing our service by giving out bags of ready-to-eat food. But we’re having to get the clients to queue outside two metres apart, place the bags on a table by the door and retire, liberally wash hands and disinfect surfaces.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 7 Comments

+++Open thread – Boris Johnson’s speech to the nation at 8:30pm

Boris Johnson is speaking to the nation at 8:30pm. Some expect him to announce a “lockdown”.

Please comment below as the speech unfolds….

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 17 Comments

If Jacinda Ardern can do it, why can’t Johnson?

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a complete lockdown of her country from Wednesday. Only essential services people will be allowed outside their homes.

New Zealand currently has 102 reported cases of Covid-19, with zero deaths from the disease.

The UK currently has 5,683 cases with 281 deaths. (Figures from John Hopkins University).

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 171 Comments

Remembering the three day week

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Recently, a youngster asked me if I remembered anything like the current crisis in the past.

I had trouble remembering anything like it. The 1967 Foot and Mouth outbreak? The 1963 big freeze?

I can only just remember 1963 and the image of a car in 12 feet of snow by our local golf club.

Of course, my mother lived through the war and is still going strong.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 18 Comments

On a lighter note, a 73 year-old French book is flying off the shelves…

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Albert Camus (centre)

The Guardian reports:

…the global threat of the coronavirus is sending today’s readers towards novels about epidemics in droves. Publishers around the world are reporting booming sales of books including La Peste (or The Plague by Albert Camus), as well as Stephen King’s The Stand and Dean Koontz’s “frighteningly relevant” The Eyes of Darkness, which has become the subject of conspiracy theories online owing to its prescience.

Posted in Books | Tagged | 21 Comments

By-election win on Hedge End Town Council

Many congratulations to John Shepherd and team on winning the Hedge End Town Council, St Helens Ward by-election, on Thursday:

Posted in Council by-elections | Tagged | 1 Comment

Fascinating stuff at York!

It’s not too late to register for the York Spring conference, which is happening on the weekend of March 13-15th. You can register here.

We’ve already covered the main policy motions which will be debated in the main hall.

But there will be oodles of other stuff going on – both in the main hall and in rooms around and about the conference venues of the York Barbican, the Novotel York Center and the Hilton York.

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged and | 19 Comments

The spring conference motions explained

Over on the party website, Conference committee chair, Geoff Payne has provided a helpful rundown of the motions to be debated at the spring conference in York in the weekend of March 13th-15th.

Here are his summaries of the motions, which party members can access in full via this page on the party website:

F4 – Hong Kong
This motion introduces new party policy on the human rights situation in Hong Kong. It calls for:

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | 15 Comments

More by-election news

Well done and thank you to Andrew Matthews, who stood for the party in the Royal Wooton Bassett Town Council (North ward) by-election yesterday. This ward was last contested at the main elections in 2017 when the Tories took four of the seats and we took three. A vacancy occured in one ofthe Conservative-held seats, causing the by-election. The result was:

Thank you and well done also to Martin Jones who stood for us in the by-election for Spennymoor Town Council. The result was an extraordinary win for the Conservatives, who didn’t stand for this council in the last main set of elections in 2017 and the two by-elections since:

Posted in Council by-elections | Tagged | 11 Comments

Professor John Curtice: Revoke policy did not hurt Lib Dem popularity in election campaign

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The latest excellent edition of the Journal of Liberal History deserves this extra plug.

Professor John Curtice’s nine page study of the Liberal Democrat performance in the 2019 general election is a must-read.

You can subscribe to the Journal of Liberal History here.

As one might expect, it is thoroughly based on comprehensive psephological data and the article has a long list of bibliographical references.

Posted in Liberal History | Tagged | 58 Comments

Two Lib Dems break through onto Andover Town Council

Many congratulations to Luigi Gregori and Robin Hughes on being elected to Andover Town Council to represent the Harroway ward.

Up until today the town councillors have represented the Andover Independents Party and the Andover Alliance, with two independent members. So, Luigi and Robin are the first Lib Dems since the last main set of elections in 2019 at least.

Posted in Council by-elections | Tagged | 5 Comments

The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson

My nearest and dearest booked seats for us at “The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson” at the Nuffield theatre in Southampton this week.

It seems to be your type of thing

– said her nibs.

Well, as usual she was right. It very much was my type of thing.

Posted in The Arts | Tagged , , , and | 5 Comments

Good luck to Liberal Democrat candidates standing in by-elections today

In Seaford East Ward of Seaford Town Council (in Lewes district) there is a by-election today. Good luck to Maggie Wearmouth (above with some of her team) who is standing for us there.

Posted in Council by-elections | Tagged and | 9 Comments

The detail behind the YouGov poll showing Ed Davey ahead in the leadership stakes – thanks to @ProfTimBale

Last Tuesday, I referred to a New Statesman article about a YouGov poll showing Ed Davey well ahead in the future Liberal Democrat leadership contest.

I mentioned in the piece that I was unable to find the data behind the poll.

Julian Heather (@JulianHeather1) kindly messaged Professor Tim Bale at Queen Mary, University of London.

Posted in News | 10 Comments

Getting back on the horse – and saying thank you

Laura Gordon shows her fighting spirit with this tweet and begs the question – have you delivered your “thank you” Focus yet?

PS. As of this morning, 85.8% say Laura has got back on the horse!

Posted in Campaign Corner | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 11th Jul - 10:50am
    Peter Martin, If you want to understand the UK economy, pay attention to what British economists like Martin Wolf or Pau Johnson at the IFS...
  • User AvatarNigel Jones 11th Jul - 10:42am
    Agree Antony. There would need to be a plan to hugely improve public transport, especially buses for people to use their cars less. This needs...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 11th Jul - 10:10am
    @ Antony Watts, ".......a marvellous thing. Freedom of movement of people, goods, services and capital." The Treaty of Lisbon was just another step in the...
  • User Avatarrichard underhill 11th Jul - 9:31am
    Tom Arms | Fri 10th July 2020 - 1:48 pm "warned of anti-American Marxist infiltration of Black Lives Matter" So, is Donald Trump a Marxist?...
  • User AvatarRichard Easter 11th Jul - 9:21am
    Agree about the nonsense of defunding the police here. In fact Gideon Osborne did a better job of defunding the police with the cuts, than...
  • User AvatarRichard Easter 11th Jul - 9:19am
    I tend to ignore too much talk of "Marxists" in this day and age. It is very unlikely that even many socialists want the full...