Author Archives: Paul Walter

++Three MPs quit the Conservative party to join the Independent Group (plus one more Labour MP)

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The Independent Group now has eleven MPs in it, the seven original resignees from the Labour party, Joan Ryan who left Labour last night and three Tory MPs who resigned from their party today. The Guardian reports:

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Book review: The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman, the bomb and the four months that changed the world


While in Washington DC, I made a pilgrimage to the large “Prose and Politics” bookstore in Connecticut Avenue NW. As one would expect, it was bursting with political books. I would have quite happily walked away with an entire wheelbarrow load of books, if my airline baggage weight limit had allowed it. In the end, I bought one paperback, which was “The Accidental President” by A.J.Baime about Harry S. Truman’s first four months as President in 1945. I was not disappointed. It is a brilliant book – a real page turner. By coincidence, Harry Truman lived with his family from 1941 until 1945 (including for the first few days of his Presidency) at 4701 Connecticut Avenue, which I passed on my way to the bookshop.

Harry Truman took over as US President in the most extraordinary circumstances. A.J.Baime quotes a Boston Globe reporter who wrote that Truman’s elevation to Vice Presidential candidate in 1944 was “one of the most amazing stories in American democracy”, adding:

It is the story of an average man, swept to dizzy heights against his will, a little bewildered by it all and doubting whether it is really true.

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++Seven MPs quit Labour and form “The Independent Group”

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From the BBC:

Seven MPs have resigned from the Labour Party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit and anti-Semitism.

They are: Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey.

Ms Berger said Labour had become institutionally anti-Semitic and she was “embarrassed and ashamed” to stay.

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US District of Columbia – taxation without representation


I’m just back from a nerd’s tour of Washington DC and Baltimore, Maryland. I was fortunate to fit in about 20 visits to notable locations, mainly political. The highlight was numerous visits to the US Capitol, so much so that the police started saying “Welcome back” to me at the security check-in! In particular, I witnessed a vote in the House of Representatives, complete with a sighting of Nancy Pelosi. By the way, there is something quite spooky, but also quite thrilling, about being the only member of the public left in the huge, cavernous, marble-clad US Capitol late at night.

During my visit, one thing which became strikingly apparent to me is the outrageous democratic deficit of the people of the District of Columbia (DC).

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Using colourful Pom-poms to remember Holly #TimetoTalk

Having five brothers and one sister means that I am lucky to have lots of glorious nieces and nephews, and, nowadays, great nieces and great nephews. I am a bit like “Great Uncle Bulgaria” in the Wombles.

But last July, we lost one of my nieces, Holly (pictured, right). Never mind me being her uncle, Holly’s passing has, of course, devastated her close family.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Is this the most powerful person in the USA? – and the quaint parlour game of American politics

Photo above by Gage Skidmore on Flickr CCL

A Floridian recently said to me that Nancy Pelosi is the most powerful person in America. I had to do a double-take. I thought she said that Nancy Pelosi was the most powerful woman in America. I thought this because people have been saying it for years. But, no, my American acquaintance actually said that Nancy Pelosi is the most powerful person in the USA.

Posted in Op-eds | 3 Comments

If you eat or have a pulse, a “no deal” Brexit is unconscionable and dangerous insanity

Over the last six months, I have come to see part of the British medical supply chain at close quarters. I have had a couple of mild medical complaints which have necessitated repeat prescriptions.

I won’t bore you with descriptions of endless mucking about on the patient website, trips up to the surgery and down to the pharmacist. Suffice it to say, being only slightly ailing in this country virtually demands taking on a second career to work the health system to your advantage. You become adept at queuing and sheer bloody-minded tenacity.

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Puzzling and concerning events in the USA which mark, perhaps, a watershed

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One has to ask what has been achieved by the longest partial government shut-down in US history. Thousands of devoted federal workers had a grim Christmas and January, many of them resorting to food-banks and second jobs.

And now it is over – Donald Trump has hoisted the white flag. His stalwart supporter Lou Dobbs observed that Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, “has just whipped the president of the United States”.

It has all been complete madness. The video below shows Senator Michael Bennet (Democrat – Colorado) making perhaps the most passionate speech I have ever seen. It is worth listening to at least the first ten minutes. It perfectly captures the insanity of the Donald Trump’s shutdown. It is such a brilliant speech that the video has now had more than 11 million hits and is the most watched congressional speech in the entire 40 year history of C-Span!

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How does Jeremy Corbyn compare to past Labour leaders?

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One of the frustrating things about the current Brexit episode is watching Jeremy Corbyn perform in the Commons. The other day, on the Twitterdome, I compared Mr Corbyn unfavourably with past Labour leader, John Smith. I think it is fair to say that if John Smith were currently Labour leader he would, by now, have delivered a rhetorical blow to Theresa May comparable to that which he dealt to John Major with this passage of one of his Commons’ speeches:

In response to the plummeting popularity of the Administration itself, revealed at Newbury and in the shire county elections, we have the Prime Minister’s botched reshuffle. If we were to offer that tale of events to the BBC light entertainment department as a script for a programme, I think that the producers of “Yes, Minister” would have turned it down as hopelessly over the top. It might have even been too much for “Some Mothers Do ‘Ave Them”.

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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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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJohn Marriott 20th Mar - 10:15pm
    The PM addressed the nation tonight. Why, oh why can’t she use an autocue? Her continually looking down at her notes smacks of insincerity. She...
  • User AvatarEddie Sammon 20th Mar - 9:56pm
    Time to revoke Article 50.
  • User AvatarTonyH 20th Mar - 9:40pm
    Shameful behaviour, but also very stupid. The TIGs have actually had very little media coverage since their launch, and their freshness was beginning to fade....
  • User AvatarRichard O'Neill 20th Mar - 9:38pm
    Corbyn seems much less bothered about the prospect of a No Deal than May is.
  • User AvatarDavid Warren 20th Mar - 9:19pm
    I have done a submission but have no way of knowing whether it has been received because I haven't received an acknowledgement. I did the...
  • User AvatarMichael BG 20th Mar - 9:18pm
    David Raw, Thank you for your positive comments. I have not done any computer modelling, nor do I know how to go about doing it.