Author Archives: Paul Walter

+++Final results – Lib Dems gain a stonking 703 councillors, 11 councils and 19% of the national vote, amid 1334 losses for the Tories and 82 losses for Labour


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Here are the final May 2nd council election results, now that all the results are in.

The Lib Dems are UP by a stonking 703 (net) seats, with 688 holds, 683 gains and 7 losses. We’ve gained control of 11 councils. We have become the largest party in a “no overall control” situation in 5 further councils.

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++Lib Dems win Teignbridge

The Lib Dems have just won Teignbridge District Council from no overall council.

We gained 10 seats, while the Tories lost 11 seats. An independent gained one seat.

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++3pm update – Lib Dems win control of Mole Valley District council



The news has just come in that the Liberal Democrats have won control of Mole Valley District Council. We gained 8 seats, while the Tories lost 9. There was one gain for an Independent.

So, the status is currently:

With 162 out of 248 councils declared:

The BBC say we are on 19% of the national vote with the Tories and Labour tied on 28%.

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First successful recall petition means there will be a parliamentary by-election in Peterborough

Official portrait of Fiona Onasanya crop 1
Former MP Fiona Onasanya

For the first time, a recall petition under the Recall of MPs Act 2015 has been successful. There will be a parliamentary by-election in Peterborough.

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Ann Widdecombe: “I’m truculent, I’m succulent, I am a star”

With Ann Widdecombe’s adoption as a candidate for the European Parliament by the Brexit party, it seems timely to give another outing for this wonderful sketch by Victoria Wood from her Christmas 2000 one-off “Victoria Wood and all the trimmings”. This was well before Ann Widdecombe left politics for a career in celebrity television, most notably sweeping the floor (literally) on Strictly Come Dancing. So this was quite a prophetic work, and a piece of typically gentle genius by the much-missed Victoria Wood.

Posted in Humour | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Panic amongst Conservative councillors up for election next Thursday: ‘We’re an endangered species…We’re doomed…It’s extraordinarily bad’

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There are some signs of panic in the ranks of Conservative councillors who are up for election next Thursday.

Councillor Alan Law of West Berkshire Council wrote to the Telegraph on 23rd April:

SIR – I am a member of an endangered species: a Conservative councillor standing for re-election on May 2.

Harry Phibbs on Conservative Home has been regularly talking to Conservative candidates on the ground, finding considerable disquiet:

…among most of the councillors and candidates I spoke to the prevailing mood was still downcast. Seasoned campaigners were shocked by the level of anger they encountered on the nation doorsteps – invariably from Brexiteers who felt betrayed.

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Conservatives do badly in last by-election before May 2nd – UPDATED

There was one council by-election yesterday, in the Belle Vue ward for Shropshire Council. This is a long-standing Labour-held ward.

The Liberal Democrats were represented by James McLeod:

Posted in Local government | 6 Comments

Change UK plan to grab the Lib Dems’ money, members and policies – leaked memo

The Mail has published a leaked memo from Change UK which sets out its current strategy in relation to the Lib Dems.

It is a bit of a shock.

We were hoping that there would be co-operation between Change UK and our party.

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Greta Thunberg to Parliament: “Is my microphone on?”

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Here is the full text of Greta Thunberg’s speech to Parliament today, via the Guardian:

My name is Greta Thunberg. I am 16 years old. I come from Sweden. And I speak on behalf of future generations.

I know many of you don’t want to listen to us – you say we are just children. But we’re only repeating the message of the united climate science.

Many of you appear concerned that we are wasting valuable lesson time, but I assure you we will go back to school the moment you start listening to science and give us a future. Is that really too much to ask?

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In praise of The Gambia and the Economic Community of West African States

A fishing boat is unloaded at the Gambian fishing town of Tanji

Three years ago I wrote about a visit to The Gambia in West Africa which was bitter sweet. As always the country itself, and the people of The Gambia, were charming. However, the country was in the last days of a dictatorship which lasted for 23 years. Indeed, I left out the name of the country in my article to avoid any problems with future entry.

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Sending thoughts of sympathy and support to all those affected by the Sri Lankan horrors


The photo above shows the view from the Sri Lankan Independence Memorial Hall in Colombo. The flag flying is the Buddhist flag. I took the photo last November. The Memorial Hall is very much a centre of national events in Sri Lanka. Annual Independence celebrations are held there. It is a very peaceful place. When I visited, children played in the hall while families sat admiring the sunset.

That peacefulness is very much a keynote of Sri Lanka. The majority Buddhist religion is pervasive in its emphasis on meditation and spiritual development. The people of Sri Lanka are generally very peaceful, easy-going and welcoming to strangers. While I was there, there was a full blown constitutional crisis ongoing, with the President and Prime Minister involved in a stand-off which was eventually settled (in the Prime Minister’s favour) by the Supreme Court. If you weren’t reading the news, you wouldn’t have known that anything was awry – life went on peacefully and cheerfully as usual across the country.

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Ruby Wax is appointed Chancellor of Southampton University – with a focus on mental health

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This is very refreshing news. American actress, comedian, mental health campaigner, lecturer and author, Ruby Wax has been appointed Chancellor of Southampton University.

Southampton University is a research-intensive establishment with around 25,000 students. It is a founding member of the leading Russell Group of British Universities. Its notable alumni have included Chris Packham, Jon Sopel, Justine Greening, Brian Eno and Dame Wendy Hall. Previous Chancellors have included the 4th and 7th Dukes of Wellington.

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May says she will work with Labour to find a scapegoat / break deadlock/kick can down the road (pick your own metaphor)

An extraordinary cabinet meeting today. Robert Peston called it possibly the most important cabinet meeting in 50 years. All ministers’ phones were confiscated and ministers were locked in a cupboard “until the PM had decided what they decided”, (using Peston’s words).

The PM says she is taking action to break the log jam by sitting down with Corbyn to agree a plan. …Either to agree an option to put to MPs or, if none can be agreed, agree a series of options to put to MPs, with the winner (which there probably won’t be) being implemented by the government.

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General election suggestion: Spinning the Rubik’s cube again is not going to solve the puzzle

Rubiks cube by keqs

This morning, Theresa May is holding an extended “political cabinet”. That is usually an indicator that the cabinet is considering initiating a general election. The meeting will start with a review of polling. I only hope that May either decides not to hold a GE or that parliament don’t support it. It will solve nothing whatsoever except to give false hope of a solution to the Brexit conundrum. It would be like this: You spend hours trying to solve a Rubik’s cube, then come within a few squares of solving it but, in frustration, you randomly spin the whole Rubik’s cube and set yourself back to the starting position. Nothing is solved.

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Friday fun – enjoy Jacob Rees-Mogg being given a history lesson

This is an excerpt from the Commons debate two days ago on the Letwin/Benn proposal to have a series of indicative votes on Brexit.

Jacob Rees-Mogg is wearing an extremely expensive suit and sporting his plummiest accent. He quotes history from the Tudor era, but subsequent events seem to have slipped his mind. He seems to have forgotten a little thing called “The Civil War”.

Fortunately, the self-deprecating, avuncular Oliver Letwin is on hand to give him a history lesson.

My own MP has a substantial supporting role in this video as the twinkly eyes behind JRM.

It is worth getting a cuppa and your favourite dunking biscuit with which to enjoy this priceless exchange….

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Indicative votes – where do they leave us?

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The Guardian has a breakdown of the indicative votes last night, and a tool so that you can find out how your MP voted.

First of all, the indicative vote process is very much to be welcomed. It should have happened a lot earlier and been repeated at regular intervals IMHO.

We are seeing a preferential voting system of sorts here – there will hopefully be a further “second round” process next Monday.

Last night’s vote showed the Customs Union and the People’s Vote option emerging as front-runners. I think we can be optimistic that this is the beginning of a positive process.

Yesterday we had Steve Baker, from the Conservative European Reform Group, saying:

I could tear this place down and bulldoze it into the river. These fools and knaves and cowards are voting on things they don’t even understand.

The problem is that he can’t have it both ways. People who want to “take back control” from the EU, need to decide what they want. They either want a Parliamentary Representative Democracy where the people elect representatives who then study the issues and decide upon them. Or they want a Swiss system of frequent, often repetitive plebescites. If Steve Baker wants to bulldoze parliament, what does he want in its place?

Vince Cable has provided a succinct summary of the situation now, describing last night as “A big win”:

Last night, the House of Commons predictably failed to alight on a single way forward on Brexit – but the centre of gravity is a lot clearer than it was.

A record 268 MPs voted with the Liberal Democrats for a people’s vote. This was the most popular vote of the night and got more votes than the Prime Minister’s deal has ever got.

While no proposal commanded a majority, the largest support is for a People’s Vote.

And we discovered yesterday that Theresa May is, at last, accepting the inevitable by preparing to leave office. Her dogged attempts to “deliver Brexit” – with Jeremy Corbyn’s help – have cost her her job.

Yet the Prime Minister nonetheless appears to be planning to make one final attempt at securing her deal tomorrow.

The fact she thinks she could have a chance of winning demonstrates the cynicism of her opponents in the Tory Party. Until very recently they were telling us – as an absolute principle – that they could not support her deal under any circumstances.

They now fear Brexit is at risk.

And they are right.

After three years of campaigning, public opinion has decisively moved in favour of remaining in the EU, with 60% indicating they would support staying in the EU in a new referendum, nearly 6 million demanding revocation of Article 50, and more than a million marching with us last weekend.

It is absolutely crucial that we keep campaigning and keep the pressure up on MPs in other parties to support us.

It is clearer than ever is that however, the Government proceeds the public must have the final say.

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++May to resign as PM before next phase of Brexit

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The Guardian reports:

Theresa May has promised Tory MPs she will step down as prime minister before the next phase of Brexit negotiations in a bid to get Eurosceptics to back her withdrawal deal.

The prime minister said she would make way for another Conservative leader, after listening to the demands of MPs for a new leadership team.

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++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.

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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.

Posted in Op-eds | 17 Comments

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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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMartin 21st Aug - 10:25pm
    @Michael BG very interesting point about the Federal Policy Committee I am sure that would make all the difference (yes that's right I am being...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 21st Aug - 10:13pm
    Votes at 16.
  • User AvatarMichael BG 21st Aug - 10:13pm
    David Warren, I wonder why you didn’t name the 2010 constituency as Reading East? I agree there is a lack radicalism in the party policy...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 21st Aug - 10:02pm
    Geoffrey Dron 21st Aug '19 - 3:49pm Vince Cable should say something about measles. Tim Farron had a Northern Ireland spokesman, at the heart of...
  • User AvatarMartin 21st Aug - 9:54pm
    @frankie, viz a viz housing benefit etc, absolutely on the nail.
  • User Avatarfrankie 21st Aug - 9:43pm
    Martin, We seem to be faced with Hobsons choice. Some people wish to spend money to help the poor, but without a plan. Others wish...
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