Author Archives: Paul Walter

In an historic decision, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court rules that the President’s dissolution of parliament was illegal

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This follows on from my post on November 29th.

The Sri Lankan Supreme Court has just ruled unanimously that President Sirisena acted illegally when he dissolved Parliament and called early elections.

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Dominic Grieve’s amendment saves us from an uncomfortable Christmas

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Amongst last Tuesday’s excitement of Theresa May attempting a “Charles the First”, it was easy to miss the significance of Dominic Grieve’s Brexit amendment:

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The Economist backs a People’s Vote

A Leader article in this week’s Economist argues for a referendum on Theresa May’s proposed deal:

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Party identifies 14 key MPs who could swing People’s Vote

House of Commons 2010

Christine Jardine has written to party supporters asking them to email 14 key Tory MPs who the party reckons could swing a vote for a People’s Vote in the House of Commons next week. The 14 MPs voted both remain and leave in the 2016 EU referendum and are:

Leave:

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Devstatingly powerful Commons speech from Margaret Beckett

Last year in the “Article 50 debate” we featured the text of Kenneth Clarke’s Commons speech, because it was so good.

Today, we again highlight a speech from someone in another party. Labour’s Margaret Beckett made a calm but devastatingly powerful speech in the Brexit Commons debate. She lays into Theresa May’s Brexit negotiating strategy, saying:

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LibLink: Miriam blasts Cameron and May

Over on theGuardian’s “Comment is free” website, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez very powerfully berates David Cameron for his arrogance in calling the EU referendum. Then she lays into Theresa May for her “citizens of nowhere” and “queue jumpers” remarks.

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Sri Lanka: A presidential attempt to subvert parliamentary democracy

My photo of the entrance to the Sri Lankan President’s House in Colombo last week

I’m just back from a glorious holiday in Sri Lanka. Going around this beautiful island, one could have been forgiven for not realising that there was a national constitutional crisis going on. Every where was peaceful and there was no sign of even the odd protest placard, even in the capital of Colombo. The Sri Lankan people are extremely friendly and peaceful. I did notice some particularly passionate TV debates, as I flicked around the channels to find the cricket, and the papers were full of the latest machinations in Parliament.

I hesitate to summarise the details of the Sri Lankan constitutional crisis. Wikipedia provides an excellent narrative.

In the words of the BBC:

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People’s vote: the vital importance of preferential voting

The possibility/probability of a people’s vote seems to be increasing.

Minds are starting to be focussed on what would be on the ballot paper in such a referendum. A good guess seems to be:

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Paddy’s blistering tweet about Jacob Rees-Mogg and the ERG

It’s not often we feature a single tweet but this classic blast of high octane Paddy deserves its own post!:

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May’s Brexit deal is the best the Tory party can produce, but there are better options for for the country

The Guardian recently offered an interactive tool which allowed readers to guess how many votes May’s deal would get in the House of Commons. (Apologies that I cannot find the link to the tool at the moment).

I had a fiddle around with the tool. What was astonishing is that whatever way one tweaked the tool, May was about 50-60 votes short of a majority. The basic problem is that there is a chunk of Tories, and probably DUP members, who will vote against the deal. The only way to make up the shortfall caused by those votes against, is for …

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I don’t think we’ve heard the last from this guy….

Beto O’Rourke gave Ted Cruz a run for his money in the recent race for the Texan US Senate seat. He comes from the border town of El Paso.



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A fresh new voice in Washington DC

Ilhan Omar has just been elected as US Representative for the 5th district of Minnesota. Along with Rashida Tlaib, elected for Michigan’s 13th district, she is one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to the US Congress.



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Even through bleary eyes, I can see a blue wave

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Well, I’ve stayed up, clicking refresh like a hyper-ventilated gerbil for the last six hours, so you didn’t have to….

The Democrats have comfortably won control of the House. The Republicans have gained ground in the Senate. The Democrats have so far flipped four governor’s mansions, including in Kansas, where Laura Kelly beat Kris Kobach.

Is it is a Blue wave? Taegan Goddard of Political Wire says it is, quoting some convincing figures. The New York Times estimates the Democrat vote margin, based on nationwide House votes, as +7.6%. These last elections were considered “waves”:

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House of Lords questions: Young mental health, the post-Brexit Promised Land and the interloper in the dining room

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House of Lords “Oral questions” don’t get a lot of publicity. However, they happen every weekday when the House is in session. All the seats tend to be full – most of the peers are “on parade”. Some pithy debates do take place.

It is very easy to dismiss the House of Lords but it is one half of our bicameral parliamentary system and has a lot of influence. There is a form of civility in the Lords which does not come over in the Commons during its more active sessions (e.g. PMQs). There is reasonably intelligent debate and some passion. There is also collegiate teamwork. There is very little intervention from the Lord Speaker.

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No Vince, I don’t want a “Gina Miller-type figure” parachuted in to be our leader (and it’s not worth a special conference)

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The Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool. It was here in 1988 that a special Liberal party conference was held to decide to merge the party with the SDP*

One of the frustrating things about the debate over Vince’s two constitutional proposals** is that I am yet to hear Vince come out and actually outline why they are needed. This is maddening. It is especially maddening because I greatly respect Vince and normally he is very good at articulating ideas and proposals.

Instead, we have vague “smoke and mirrors” mutterings about somebody out there circling the political scene with a vast shedload of money which they want to chuck at a “centre movement”. We have got to pull up our socks and be part of this “movement”. And we only have two months to do it, because otherwise we’ll miss the boat and the shedload of cash will go to someone else. We’ve got to be like Justin Trudeau and the Canadian Liberals. We need to allow someone like Gina Miller to come in and lead the party so that people see us as a new centrist movement.

Well, this is all vague nonsense. Vince, or someone, should come out and be specific about all this. Who is this person (or people) with the money? What do they want? Name the people who could be our leader outside of the House of Commons – not just now – name anyone in the last fifty years outside the Commons who could have had a shot at being our leader.

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“Brexit is not inevitable. It can be stopped.” – People’s Vote march: ‘700,000’ rally for new Brexit referendum

Here’s a selection of other tweets from today’s march:

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Book review: “Fear” by Bob Woodward


“Fear” by Bob Woodward traces Donald Trump’s campaign to be US President from March 2010, then follows his Presidency until March 2018.

This is a very readable book. The text is set out with plenty of space between the lines, so that it feels like an “easy read”. The chapters are organised by subject, often looking at policy areas in turn. It is skilfully concise. I found it a “page turner”.

It is a serious book. Scores of “deep background” interviews of White House insiders were carefully transcribed and used. There are 28 pages of sources quoted. As Clive James once quipped:

Woodward checks his facts until they weep with boredom.

This is not a rag-bag collection of tales told out of school about Trump. It is a sober record of Trump’s campaign and the first fifteen months of his presidency. Woodward describes the White House process of policy evolution in such depth that the reader emerges with a better understanding of the Trump presidency.

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Michael Palin’s superb documentary on North Korea

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Channel 5 have surpassed themselves in presenting Michael Palin’s two-episode programme on his travels in North Korea.

It is a surprise to find the great Python on Channel Five, but the show reminds one of his enormous skill at presenting charming and informed pictures of foreign places.

Palin makes clear, up front, that he and his crew went where they were allowed and an “entourage” of five or six North Korean government officials accompanied them, supervising their filming and every word said on camera.

Posted in TV and film | Tagged | 3 Comments

Liberal Democrat Voice fringe meeting: Trans rights are human rights

The panel at our fringe: from left to right: Back row: Caron Lindsay, Liberal Democrat Voice editor (Chair), Sarah Brown, LGBT+ Lib Dems, James Morton, Scottish Transgender Alliance, Emma Ritch, Engender and, front row, Sal Brinton, Liberal Democrat President.

Most of you may notice the odd advert on Liberal Democrat Voice. These help LDV to contribute to the Conference Access Fund, making it easier for those of modest means to attend Lib Dem conferences. With the advert funds, we also sponsor or host fringe meetings at conference.

At Brighton on Saturday, we hosted a fringe meeting in the Hilton hotel entitled: “Transgender and intersex rights – spotlight on the media”. This fringe meeting reflected something we feel very strongly about at LDV Towers: that when people come to our fringe meetings they should be well fed and have good drinks! There were some very good nibbles and drinks at the back of the room.

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Conference motion: Reforming our party’s disciplinary processes

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There is now a superb summary of all the conference motions on the Liberal Democrat website. This allows you to see, at a glance, the final passed motions, incorporating any passed amendments.

One really important motion was that on the party disciplinary process.

This process was initiated by a motion at 2016 conference to review the party’s disciplinary processes. There have been reviews conducted by Helena Morrissey, Ken MacDonald and Isabelle Parasram. The review was delayed by the 2017 general election. The process was debated at the 2018 Spring Conference, where it was referred back for further work.

The Federal Board has appointed a steering group on Sexual Impropriety Complaints, as recommended by Isabelle Parasram.

The motion at the Brighton conference seeks to set up an independent disciplinary mechanism with trained adjudicators and investigators. There will be a strict logging process for complaints, with time limits for resolution.

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Jo Swinson’s speech to conference – in full

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Vince Cable’s speech today to the party conference in Brighton – in full

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Journalistic consensus is that Vince said “exotic spresm” instead of “erotic spasm”

“Check against delivery” is printed at the top of every pre-released speech. Vince’s speech today was advanced emailed with the phrase “erotic spasm” included – referring to the dreams of extreme Brexiters.

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Why are there giant snails around Brighton? #bemoresnail

Members hurrying from conference chamber to fringe meeting hall in Brighton have asked the question:

Why are there giant colourful snail sculptures dotted around Brighton?

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Gina Miller, the next leader of the Liberal Democrats – not

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Gina Miller, businessperson and Brexit campaigner, just received a long and strong standing ovation, after delivering a spirited speech at the party conference in Brighton.

Ms Miller was quick to quash media reports that she might be angling to be the next leader of the Liberal Democrats. Those rumours have presumably been spread by people who know absolutely nothing about our party.

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Federal People Development Committee explains supporters proposal

Last night at 6:15pm I went to the truly vast Oxford hall within the Brighton Hilton. You could almost hold the FA Cup Final in the Oxford Hall, it is so big.

There was an excellent meeting, chaired by Miranda Roberts, which explained the supporters proposal.

Miranda is the chair of the Federal People Development Committee. She took us through the process. There was a briefing on a similar scheme in Canada and within the UK Which consumer organisation.

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Greenham Common: A unique reminder of the Cold War opens to the public


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Over the weekend, Greenham Common Control Tower opened to the public as a permanent visitor centre, set up to share the story of Greenham Common.

Greenham and Crookham Commons cover a thousand acres of open, public land in Berkshire. Inhabited in prehistoric times and used for cattle grazing for centuries, the Commons were turned into an airfield in 1942 and used by the RAF and USAAF during the Second World War. The airfield was used a springboard for glider-borne troops landing in France on D-Day. General (later, President) Eisenhower visited the troops at Greenham on the eve of D-Day and made his famous “The Eyes of the world are upon you” speech there.

But, perhaps, Greenham’s most famous period was during the Cold War from 1951 to 1992. The runway was extended to 12,000 feet long in 1980. This was thought to be the longest aircraft runway in Europe at the time. The base was home to many aircraft, most notably the B-47 Stratojets, which were capable of routinely flying 3,000 mile long missions. Around 4,000 American air personnel and their families lived at Greenham at its height. The base was effectively a US town. They drove on the right and had their US groceries flown in from the States by Galaxy transport plane.

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India’s demonetisation: a monumental cock-up

Imagine if Theresa came on live TV at three o’clock this afternoon to say that, from seven o’clock this evening, all five and ten pound notes will be banned and cease to have any value as free currency.

There would be mayhem.

Now imagine if such an action was taken in a country with a population twenty times that of the UK, with an economy that is almost entirely cash-based – with virtually no card or internet transactions.

Well that is what happened in India in 2016. I was there just a few days after the announcement. I wrote a “Postcard from India” for LDV, which said:

…we arrived just a couple days after a major monetary change by the government. To wrong-foot terrorists and criminals, there has been a monumentally huge exercise called “demonetisation”, going on across this, the second most populous nation in the world. All the old 500 and 1000 rupee notes have been withdrawn from circulation at two hours’ notice.

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Vince refers to “false rumours” and says “I’m not stepping down anytime soon”

On his Facebook page, Vince Cable has said:

There have been false rumours lately. As this statement says, I’m not stepping down anytime soon.

He’s linked to this article in the Independent

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable is not planning to quit the party “any time soon”, party sources have said after reports he will use a September speech to announce he is stepping down.

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Paddy gives short shrift to tyrant-slaying boast attributed to Brexit minister

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In yesterday’s Sunday Times (£) there was a report of an interview with Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. The interview was conducted by Tim Shipman and the report was entitled:

Dominic Raab: I saw off bully Slobodan Milosevic. Michel Barnier needs a softer touch

Now, I should preface this post with the proviso that The Times has form in regard to inaccurate précis via headline. It could be that the Sunday Times has now been infected with that dodgy headline disease.

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  • User AvatarSean Hagan 19th Jan - 6:11pm
    @Michael BG - thank you for clarifying the basis of your calculations surrounding the parliamentary arithmetic. However, although your numbers seem to add up (give...
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    Jayne MANSFIELD: Flattering as it is to be compared to Buddy Holly, the image is of me, aged 18, speaking at the 1968 Liberal Assembly...
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    @Katherine Pindar - yes indeed, wise words (again) from Sir John who, in hindsight, was perhaps a rather better ex-PM than he is generally given...
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    @ Simon Hebditch "or am I wrong ?" No, Simon, you are completely correct............. yet some of the early middle aged Lib Dem establishment just...