Author Archives: Paul Walter

Conference pays heartfelt and fulsome tribute to Paddy

There were 20 minutes set aside this morning in the main hall to pay tribute to Paddy Ashdown.

In the front row for the session were Jane, Kate and Simon Ashdown.

(Baroness) Liz Barker presented the salute to our founding leader with a quiet and heartfelt voice. She emphasised that this was a tribute to a partnership – Paddy and Jane.

The section started with a video on the big screen. Relaxed and sincere tributes came from Ed Davey, Nick Clegg, Tony Blair, Jane Ashdown and (Baroness) Cathy Bakewell (who worked with Paddy during his early days as an MP in Yeovil).

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The Ronseal of British politics – A storming speech from Jo

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I was “up in the gods” for Jo’s speech this afternoon in Bournemouth.

The first thing to say is that the speech seemed to me to be visually very powerful. Jo is a commanding, strong presence on stage. She stands centre stage, with no lectern or notes, barely glancing visibly at the distant autocues. Her posture and gestures are bold and decisive.

And her speech was bold and decisive.

In the round, I thought her speech was a barnstormer.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 10 Comments

ALDC hosts ground-breaking Gin Tasting

Alistair Carmichael MP has hosted a Whisky Tasting at conference (and elsewhere) for many seasons.

This year, the Association of Liberal Democrats (ALDC) responded to the recent explosion in the gin market by hosting a Gin Tasting – called “Ginning Here”. This was heralded as the first political gin tasting ever.

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Glee Club remembers Paddy


This was the lovely cover of the new edition of the Liberator Song Book, circulated at last night’s Glee Club.

One of the hosts quipped during the proceedings:

You know, at this point we could really do with someone telling a ten minute joke.

There was such a void.

We just needed Paddy to walk in and announce that he was telling his joke:

For positively the last time.

Paddy, you are sorely missed.

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+++Now Sam Gyimah sings “The Land” at Glee Club

Sam Gyimah is the third recent defecting MP to get up on stage this evening at the Glee Club. He said that his wife had told him that under no circumstances should he try to sing. But, bless him, he joined in singing “The Land” as our video below shows. So he is now the third defecting MP to do his initiation and become a proper Liberal.

Posted in Conference and Humour | Tagged and | 21 Comments

+++The first defectors are initiated in the Liberal Glee Club tradition

Live from the Conference hotel:

Sarah Wollaston and Luciana Berger have just had the guts to be subjected to initiation by Glee Club. They got up front to sing a special new version of “‘Twas on a Monday morning…” which has been adapted to the continuous flow of defectors to the party….

Posted in Conference and Humour | Tagged , and | 12 Comments

Could we at least be told which particular disused Cornish tin mine our donations to the party are being thrown down, please?

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My wife and I once gave a small donation to a Nuns’ mission in Kenya that helps the desperately poor. A week or so later we received a hand drawn card which had been signed by all the nuns in that mission, thanking us most effusively for our donation. It was the nicest thank you we have ever received and we treasured that card for months.

Recently I made a donation to a re-wilding project in Scotland. I received not one, but two personally signed thank you letters, one from the treasurer and one from the chair of the project. They were both long letters, explaining how my money would be spent. One of them said: “Your donation arrived at a crucial time for us, so was particularly welcome.”

Posted in Op-eds | 22 Comments

Sam Gyimah explains why he joined the Liberal Democrats

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A few hours before his stunning unveiling as the latest Liberal Democrat MP, Sam Gyimah told The Observer why he has joined the Liberal Democrats:

Centrists are being cast out of both main parties. Lots of people are politically homeless. Who can you work with to build a movement?

Posted in Conference and News | Tagged and | 31 Comments

Sam Gyimah MP joins party at thrilling conference rally

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I have been staggering along to more conference rallies than I care to remember. But tonight’s conference opener was the most thrilling rally I have been to.

Hard on the heels of Sal’s fantastic presidential swan song, Tim Farron was on fire as he started it.

Posted in Conference | Tagged , , , and | 7 Comments

Lib Dem gain from Tories in Andrea Leadsom’s constituency


Well done to Mark Allen and team on a fantastic victory in Middleton Cheney. They won the South Northamptonshire seat from the Tories in yesterday’s by-election. This was despite local MP Andrea Leadsom campaigning hard for the Tory candidate (see above).

Posted in Local government | Tagged | 8 Comments

That Brexit conference motion in full – and links to all the papers for Bournemouth

Here below is the Conference Brexit motion in full. It is motion F17 “Stop Brexit” to be debated at 11:50 on Sunday. In the main Conference Agenda document, this motion simply appears as “F17 Europe” with no detail. This was to allow a motion to be written closer to conference that is up-to-date. The motion text appears in the Conference Extra document which has now been published.

You can find all the Conference papers here and the excellent Conference app is available for iOS/Apple and Android. With the app you can read through the agenda and fringe meeting list. You can then add items to your phone calendar so you can assemble your “wish list” of conference activities all in one place and get the usual reminders etc.

Posted in Conference | Tagged and | 14 Comments

An unusual piece of street furniture seen in Sheffield


Like most of us, I have spent an inordinate amount of time wandering around the streets of England and Wales. But last week in Sheffield was the first time I have seen one of these.

It is really remarkable.

Posted in Local government | Tagged | 12 Comments

In case you missed it… How the Welsh did for Margaret Thatcher

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Sheffield diary – the campaigning importance of Fry’s Chocolate Cream four packs

Laura Gordon in the Sheffield campaign HQ

Yesterday morning I caught the bus out to the HQ. After a most welcome cuppa, I packed up my rucksack and went off with a full load of leaflets and targeted envelopes.

Posted in Parliamentary by-elections | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Sheffield diary

After a smooth train trip, helped by the debut of my senior railcard (yes, I know I only look 90!), I arrived in Sheffield on Monday evening.

I’m staying in a “super budget” hotel in the city centre, with which I am greatly impressed – mainly due to the price tag of £20 a night.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

LDV at Sheffield Hallam on this important day

I seem to have a habit of arriving in places on milestone days. I arrived in Llandrindod Wells on the day the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election writ was moved. Today I have arrived in Sheffield Hallam on the day the MP is expected to resign (2:30pm is the crucial moment).

Posted in News | 3 Comments

More photos from #StopTheCoup protests across the country

The range of large protests across the country today is incredible. It is particularly heartening to see Lib Dems marching alongside those from other parties and none.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 6 Comments

And there’s more! #StopTheCoup protest photos from across the country part 3

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“If Clitheroe is protesting it must be bad!!!” – Lib Dems join #StopTheCoup protests across the country

Here are a selection of photos from Lib Dems joining #StopTheCoup protests across the country today:

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Jo Swinson joins Judicial Review of prorogation launched by Gina Miller, with Sir John Major and Tom Watson

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Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson has added her name to the legal challenge from Gina Miller aimed to prevent Boris Johnson from suspending Parliament. This follows yesterday’s High Court announcement that the case would be considered.

Jo Swinson said:

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Please sign the petition against proroguing Parliament

Earlier today, I signed the petition against proroguing parliament and about 150,000 people had also signed it. I’ve just looked and now 604,612 people have signed – and it’s going up all the time! (P.S As I published this post it had gone up to 622,453)

Please do sign the petition here – it just takes a few seconds.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 66 Comments

Jo Swinson joins 120+ MPs in signing Church House Declaration to defy Johnson attempts to close Parliament

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From The Guardian’s Ben Quinn:

Boris Johnson was described as a threat to the very nature of British democracy at a cross party meeting of MPs who signed a pledge to an alternative parliament in the event of the prime minister shutting down parliament to make a no deal Brexit happen.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 29 Comments

Norman Lamb to stand down as an MP at next election

Norman Lamb has told the Eastern Daily Press that he will not stand for election again:

Sir Norman Lamb, who was elected under the Liberal Democrats for North Norfolk 18 and a half years ago, said Brexit had stalled so much of parliament’s business he no longer felt other issues got the time they deserved.

Sir Norman, 61, spoke exclusively to this newspaper to announce he would not be standing at the next election – which he expected before the end of the year – but also to launch his next endeavour to help improve mental health care in the county.

Posted in News | 24 Comments

Jo Swinson says cross-party talks were “very positive”

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The Guardian reports:

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has told the BBC’s World at One programme that the meeting in Jeremy Corbyn’s office with other leaders trying to stop no-deal Brexit was “very positive”. Swinson confirmed that the leaders did not discuss who would lead a caretaker government if the prime minister lost a vote of no confidence
She told the show:

Posted in News | Tagged and | 1 Comment

+++Cross party opposition talks end in agreement on the priority of legislation to prevent no deal

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Labour politicians in place in the room where the cross-party talks were held this morning

The following joint statement has been issued by the Labour Party, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Independent Group for Change following this morning’s meeting of their leaders:

The leaders of the opposition parties held a productive and detailed meeting on stopping a disastrous No Deal exit from the EU.

Jeremy Corbyn outlined the legal advice he has received from Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti which calls Boris Johnson’s plans to suspend parliament to force through a No Deal “the gravest abuse of power and attack upon UK Constitutional principle in living memory”.

Posted in News | 20 Comments

Surely there is a way that Johnson can give us a treat on Halloween, rather than a trick?

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WARNING: This article contains high amounts of hysterical optimism (or at least non-pessimism)

Here are, to my mind, three significant things about Boris Johnson in the context of the current Brexit dilemma:

1. It is conceivable that he harbours ideas of having statues of himself built in future. When grappling with the choice of being a politician or a journalist, he allegedly once said:

They don’t put up statues to journalists

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 27 Comments

The staggering amount of steelwork used in the Great Western railway electrification


I’m grateful to Andy Hyde who left this comment on our recent HS2 article by Peter Wrigley:

Posted in Photo feature | Tagged | 25 Comments

Closing Parliament to force no deal would be an outrage

You may have seen reports that Boris Johnson is considering closing Parliament for six weeks in order to block MPs from extending Article 50 for a further period.

Our Shadow Brexit Secretary Tom Brake remarked on this yesterday:

If Boris Johnson can find a kooky or irregular way to shut Parliament out of the Brexit process it will be an outrage.

No deal will destroy our economy, it will have a dramatic impact on the cost of living and it will mean less access to medicines that keep people alive. Parliament must be able to challenge Ministers on the damage it will cause.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 36 Comments

Jo proposes agenda for cross party “Stop No deal” talks led by Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday

Today the Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson has written to Jeremy Corbyn ahead of a meeting between opposition leaders in order to ensure that no option is off the table to stop No Deal.

Jo Swinson has proposed an agenda for the meeting requesting that it focuses on four critical points:

  • Strategy to take over the order paper to prevent No Deal
  • Plan to beat the government in a vote of no confidence
  • The steps that would need to be taken in forming an emergency government
  • Clarity on where all opposition parties stand on the matter of stopping Brexit altogether

Jo Swinson said:

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 50 Comments

Irish Travellers deserve our respect – just like any other ethnic group



(Above) #DontTeachHate short video from The Traveller Movement

I was very struck by this quote from Chris Baughurst of the Gypsy,Roma,Traveller Police Association (Thames Valley branch), speaking at the Green party Summer Gathering in Reading last Saturday:

We are the only ethnicity in this country where it is openly acceptable to denigrate us, people to say things, and no one bats an eyelid.

I recently dug through the Twitter archive relating to a recent event (which I will not specify, as it is now sub judice) and found over 100 separate incidents in the last week alone where Twitter users were (in arguable contravention of Twitter’s own rules) “abusive or harmful” in ‘directing hate towards a protected category’, in relation to Irish Travellers (a UK government registered ethnic group).

Most of the relevant tweets used a grossly derogatory word beginning with “p” or an abusive word beginning with “g” and ending in “o”. Some of the worst tweets combined those words with the word “scumbag”, the word “vermin” or a slang word for excrement. All made generalised remarks about the grouping and some expressed the view that drastic action should be taken against that group, in contravention of their basic human rights. (I have reported 90+ incidents to Twitter and I am now having to deal with a blizzard of emails from them asking for further information). The short video above gives even more graphic illustrations of such routine abuse, collated by the Traveller Movement.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 4 Comments
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