Author Archives: Tahir Maher

Has the PM Really Completed a Brexit Deal?

On hearing that a technical deal had been done for Brexit Jacob Rees-Mogg said that “it is a failure of the government’s negotiation position, it is a failure to deliver on Brexit…”

The news is that the technical deal has been done and the document is over 200 pages long. It is reported that there will be a meeting on Wednesday (14th March 2018) at 2:00 pm with the Cabinet to discuss the proposed technical deal and at the same time ambassadors of the 27 EU countries will also get copies of the deal. It is being speculated that the government …

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HS2 – Is it worth it?

I have been ambivalent about HS2 and working in the rail industry was somewhat biased towards the idea of building a high-speed rail link. I am not always convinced with the arguments when people say we can spend funds better elsewhere as I find such arguments lack a follow through or a wider perspective (yet I propose to do precisely that in this article). However, the astronomical costs of HS2 are making me question if there is a viable business plan anymore. The drive for its build now seems to be political rather than economic.

The Department for Transport (DfT) says there will be almost 15,000 seats an hour on trains between London and the cities of Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds, trebling the current capacity. The plan was HS2 would connect London to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, and the East Midlands.

The first phase timing was considered ambitious by the Public Accounts Committee which is due to be opened by the end of 2026 for high-speed travel between London and Birmingham. Subsequent phase to Manchester and Leeds could start being built in the middle of the next decade, with the line to be opened by 2032-33. The cost of phase one (London to Birmingham) has already increased from £16bn to £22bn (an increase of 38 percent) due to the amount of tunneling required and purchase of land. The total cost of HS2 at the moment is expected to be £52bn. Although an article in the Sunday Times quoted one of the people who work at DfT, who made the estimates, who now says that the full cost could be well over £100bn.

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Theresa May – Austerity is Over

Austerity wasn’t because of economic necessity but a political choice. The economic argument was that if you save your money/reduce your spend, you can clear your debt otherwise we were told we would end up like Greece. This view was accepted by Osborne resulting in this long period of austerity. It should be noted that in 2012 a report by IMF said that austerity had been a mistake. A better approach would have been to reflate the economy which would have left it in a better place to pay off the deficit. The report also said that the UK couldn’t end up like Greece because the debt was in its currency. The UK could raise loans through UK bonds (the problem with Greece is that they are in the Eurozone and share their currency with a number of countries, but there isn’t a euro bond. Each of the Eurozone countries still uses their own market to raise loans from bonds. External institutions who want to buy eurozone currency bonds are attracted to countries like Germany (although the interest rates are very low) while Greece has to significantly increase their interest rates to attract investors to buy their bonds, although it’s for the same currency.  The consequence of this is that Greece has youth unemployment near 50 per cent and Germany has youth unemployment close to 3 per cent because the bonds have to be serviced and interest paid on them).

This has been the most prolonged period of austerity post-war. The UK’s deficit peaked at 10% of GDP and Osborne in 2010 unveiled cuts of  £110 billions of fiscal cuts – public service cuts and tax increases (VAT). It wasn’t wholly a success as growth stagnated and unemployment rose. The Bank of England couldn’t reduce interest rates any further to stimulate the economy. Austerity measures did what austerity does, it contracted the economy, and this was the choice accepted by Osborne.

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London Brexit March Voice of the People – Heard

Brexit March in LondonI remember before the Sunderland result on the night of 23rd June 2016 (Brexit referendum) Nigel Farage was being interviewed, and he thought Leavers had lost. During the interview, he stated that because the results were so close and even though his side had lost he would continue to call for another referendum to leave the EU.  Ever since our entry into the EU in 1973 there have been increasing calls from Tories (in the main) to leave the EU regardless of election manifesto’s and commitments from party leaders to stay in the EU. What gets me is the mantra of the Leavers who repeatedly say that they won the referendum, the people have spoken, and now we have no right to dispute the will of the people. They forget their hypnotical stand, when they stood against the will of the people, on the issue over the decades.

On Saturday the will of the people was on display (see photo above right). Leavers had a march, on Saturday, where at best about a 1000 people attended, on the same day Remainers had a demonstration in London where about 700,000 people participated from all parties and people from all walks of life.

So, what are the facts at the moment and why did so many people come out on a march. The simple answer is that Brexit negotiations are a shamble. After the failure of Theresa May to put a deal together for the EU to vote on by 24th October she hinted at an increase to the transition period; whether it’s 18 months or a year. However, before that, we need to get a withdrawal agreement. We need to get a technical separation of the UK from the EU which involves:

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Backstop to the Backstop

Monday afternoon Theresa May in parliament looked like a rabbit caught in headlights because it became clear she had no answers. There was plenty of blusters, but it was also clear that she was very unsure of herself. Taking stock on some of the comments made reveals the misdirection by Tory politicians. Do you remember Liam Fox claiming that a free trade deal with the EU would be “the easiest in human history?” Alternatively, David Davis who envisaged that we would by now have signed dozens of free trade deals with many countries, in fact, they were queuing up to sign trade deals with us. The Tories have employed the tactics of smoke and mirrors while concealing how hapless they have been.

I remember May’s speech outside No. 10 after she lost the last election, I thought the tone of her speech rather than being conciliatory was aggressive and quite inappropriate for someone who had just lost the general election. I went back to look at it again, and I note this extract:

“If we don’t get the negotiation right, your economic security and prosperity will be put at risk, and the opportunities you seek for your families will simply not happen. If we do not stand up and get this negotiation right we risk the secure and well-paid jobs we want for our children and our children’s children too.”

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Train Delays

I must have done something wrong in my previous life because for the last 15 years or, so I have been (it feels like I have been condemned) to travel to work by train. Firstly, it was from Solihull and now from Wokingham to London. My local train from Earley (which comes from Waterloo) to Reading arrives on time no more than 8 to 9 times a year. Approximately 60 per cent of the trains to London are late getting into Reading. However, coming home the trains do leave Paddington on time and get to Reading more or less on time – I can’t complain about my journey back.

I live about 30 miles from London. My trains going to work are invariably late, I often don’t get a seat, and the cost for the national rail ticket is more than £4000. I will no doubt start dreaming “We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to your journey!!”.

Nearly one in three trains across Britain are late, and delays on some routes affect more than half of journeys.  So why are trains delayed? The reasons seem to be because the infrastructure like track, signals, tunnels, overhead lines, trains etc., have been poorly invested in and that has resulted in worn out trains running on crumbling infrastructure. Although the rail companies are modernising and buying some new trains it doesn’t seem to be well managed and often results in further delays.

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Plastic Pollution

Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson Tim Farron said about the “latte levy”:

“We’ve been calling for this for years and the Conservatives have continued to do nothing – each year over 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away and I now hope a small levy will finally be introduced to slash this waste.”

There is public support for using tax to reduce waste for single-use plastics. Firms that use unrecyclable plastic should be taxed to drive them to use other forms of packaging. This is part of the government target to abolish all plastic waste by 2042. The proposal is to use the funds raised to research into new recyclable/degradable plastics.

As Tim suggested, we need a tax on coffee cups that are very difficult to recycle. This is to deter the massive waste of plastic use that is having such a detrimental effect on our environment. This call follows the successful introduction of the 5 pence tax on plastic bags, by the Lib Dem, that has dramatically reduced their use.

From 2005 firms have had to buy a packaging recovery note (PRN), those firms who manufacture packing waste, to help offset the cost of dealing with the packaging. The PRN was to drive firms to more greener packaging. We, as a party, should push the government to increase the PRN to drive manufacturers to develop and use recyclable plastics.

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Robert Adamson – A Remembrance

The Liberal Democrats can hold their head high on the progress we have made to support women in the party and LGBTQ; I am now getting more positive with the party’s commitment to supporting ethnic minorities. However, the poor relation in all this is the support for disabled members. I don’t believe that there is the focus on disability issues as there is for other groups. Few in the party made it their mission to raise the issues that disabled people face, more than Robert Adamson.

A small tribute to Robert by Gemma Roulston the current Chair of Lib Dem Disability Association (LDDA):

Robert Moray Adamson was a carer who himself was diagnosed with MS. Robert never let the disease stop him taking a very active role in the party not only as Joint Chair of LDDA but with other party bodies like the English Party. Robert worked arduously to help and improve the lives of anyone with or without disabilities.

Robert and I worked well over these last two years together on LDDA business. When Robert was approached by Your Liberal Britain, about how to make their sessions at conference accessible, Roberts comments were taken up not only by them but by FCC too. With all the issues that Robert was going through he didn’t, however, agree with the right to die.

Robert has been Chair, Secretary, as well as newsletter editor of LDDA. He was always there for anyone with a kind word, good advice and was supportive. This year the Autumn conference in Brighton didn’t feel the same without him. Robert made a difference to people.

I recall that Robert wrote an article on being a candidate at Darlington entitled “The sitting candidate”, Robert was a kind, thoughtful and a humorous man. Robert’s one wish for LDDA was for it to be a SAO.

God bless Robert, rest up and enjoy not having to deliver leaflets, or have to herd cats.

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Labour, Tory Leadership Vacuum

Thresa May is leading a divided party not wishing to be led and is heading in the opposite direction to anywhere she wants to go. Jeremy Corbyn is trying not to lead his party on Europe when his party is calling out for leadership. Vince is trying to get the party ready to take opportunities from a perceived moderate move from voters who are fed up by the dogmatic and squabbling Tories and leaderless Labour. Voters are moving away from the Tories because they have no agreed Brexit strategy, the can’t go to Labour as their 1970’s socialist tentacles have reappeared, and they won’t come to the Lib Dems as they perceive, wrongly, we are too small to make a difference. What a horrid dilemma. The country is being led by a Tory piped piper who is perilously taking us closer to the cliff edge.

YouGov polled in July asked voters what their top three priorities for the EU negotiators were:

  • Allow British companies to trade with EU without tariffs/restrictions – 42%
  • Allow the UK to make its own deals with other countries outside the EU                   – 40%
  • Maintaining co-operation with EU on anti-terrorism / security                                     – 38%

(Immigration came in fourth with 29%).

For Brits abroad, 31% of Remain voters thought it was an essential requirement to agree a solution for them for those who voted for Brexit it was 8%. Labour supporters (28%) were more concerned about this than Lib Dem (25%).

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2018 Brighton Conference – Affordable Housing

This was my second conference as a member of the Federal Conference Committee (FCC). I had just joined FCC for the Spring conference and was really an observer. For the Autumn conference, I was involved from the start. The whole thing was well organised, and the team work well together (you have to give credit where credit is due). There were approximately 2400 members – more or less in line with previous year.

One note of sadness, I learned about, was the passing of Robert Adamson (Chair of the Liberal Democrat Disability Association).  My Condolences to the bereaved family. Rest in Peace Robert.

Other than the sad news about Robert I enjoyed the conference. I enjoyed the interaction with the members, late-night meals and the different parts of the conference I was involved in. Outside the hall, I did see a lot of homeless people which I found distressing. Listening to a journalist on the TV talking about the Lib Dems he speculated that our policies need to reflect the concerns people talk about in pubs. One of the examples he gave was affordable housing, interesting he didn’t mention Brexit. I had the opportunity to speak to Gina Miller, we discussed why she had launched her new website “end the chaos”, she said she did this after listening to thousands of people and was surprised to learn that majority of them didn’t even know what Brexit was. The website was set up to provide core facts.

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Coalition Years – The Good, The Bad and What of the Future

I wanted to do an article on the coalition years by looking at what we did well, what we could have done better and the consequence post-coalition. I want to make it clear that I was not in favour of an alliance with the Tories and would have preferred to have supported the Tories on a case-by-case basis (a bit like the DUP) with the main proviso that we get PR (and not a billion pounds) first before offering support. I would not have advocated joining the government because it’s difficult to critically question your partner in government and take credit for your policies. I wouldn’t quite go as far as holding up furry handcuffs as Linda did (I believe) in Birmingham but I felt it was a mistake to go into coalition with the Tories simply because they cannot be trusted.

Liberal Democrat cabinet ministers and other senior ministry proved their high calibre in government. They did a great job and were easily equal to any Tory minister. Our party brought forward some excellent initiatives that have benefited this country: the Green bank, pupil premium, increased support for mental health patients, same-sex marriage legislation and reducing the threshold where you start to pay tax to name but a few achievements.

Thirteen years of Labour government marginally increased pensions whereas we, led by Steve Webb, introduced the triple lock on the state pension. In the five years we were in government we built more homes than labour had done in the last thirteen years. Other achievements can be seen in an article written for LDV by Robin Bennett dated Friday 19th May 2017: https://www.libdemvoice.org/achievements-of-the-libdems-in-coalition-20102015-54382.htm

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Payday Loans

I feel quite pleased that Wonga went into liquidation. I am sad for their employees (as we all have families to support) but I am sure the directors will walk away with their egos bruised and millions from ill-gotten gains. Companies like Wonga are effectively no more than legalised loan sharks.

Looking at a quick comparison between payday loans for short-term loans the APR varies from 500 per cent to just under 1600 per cent a year. A survey by the Royal Society for Public Health ranked payday loans as having the most detrimental effect on mental health well-being. There are nightmare stories of people who have up to 8 payday loans to service their debts. On average people hold three payday loans at a time. Agencies that support and assist people with payday loans relates to loans that are over 100 million pounds for well over one hundred thousand people. Those in poverty already pay a poverty premium (the poverty premium is calculated to cost a low-income family on average £490 a year) therefore reducing costs from any spend is crucial for them as it allows more cash in their pockets. Increased inflation and low wage increases hurt low-paid families disproportionately and they are the ones most likely to use payday loans.

We can learn from the US here; fifteen states have banned payday loans. Although, in the UK, we have capped loans I for one would be in favour of a similar ban. However, we need to tackle payday loans, excessive credit card rates and charges from unauthorised bank overdrafts (I remember that at one time a large high street bank was changing equivalent to 4,500 per cent APR for an unauthorised increase to an overdraft). Limiting the harm payday loans can do is now even more important because of increased wealth inequality and a shrinking welfare state.

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OPINION – Poverty in the UK

Below are some troubling facts:

  • Over any ten-year period, there have only been two periods of worse wage growth (compared to the last ten years), and that was during the wars;
  • Currently, in the UK people persistently in poverty is equivalent to about 4.6 million;
  • The trussell trust has identified over 1 million people who are given three-day emergency food supplies;
  • The average FTSE chief executive earns 386 times more than a worker on the national living wage (UK living wage is £7.83 per hour);
  • More than 20 per cent of the UK’s working population earn a salary below the living wage;
  • The austerity program has reduced welfare spending, school building programs, spending in local government and increase VAT.

Furthermore, there are many people trapped in the “gig economy” and are working very hard for little reward. As unemployment goes down in the UK, the actual wage earned is also falling. The usual justification for CEO’s earning so much is that only such entrepreneurs create wealth. I believe that they are many who can do and this is not as unique as it is stated (I can think of more examples where CEO’s have raided or destroyed a company that created a world-class enterprise). I do agree that CEO’s should be paid and paid well but for FTSE companies 386 times more than a worker on the national living wage is irresponsible.

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Conference Message – Exit Brexit

Its conference season and the one time in the year when the Lib Dems get reasonably good news coverage. Our conference is first, followed by Labour and then the Tories. We need to get our message across about Brexit and not lose or have our message diluted by Vince’s announcement that he may or may not step down or lose the message to a difficult policy debate such as the one on immigration.

The focus for this conference should be on Brexit and how can we stop the UK leaving the EU. Lord Kerr believes that we can still withdraw the Article 50 letter without consequences especially if both sides agree.  The referendum was advisory, and therefore Parliament has the option to vote it down or reject Brexit. This is unlikely because the Tories on the right-wing of the party won’t allow this to happen plus they have the support of Democratic Unionist party and some Labour MP’s who support Brexit. The math is not there, especially if they fear a public outcry. Unfortunately, even as project lies unravels there are still many who still agree with the sentiment for leaving the EU no matter what the cost.

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Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel laureate

Aung San Suu Kyi received her Nobel Prize in 1991 for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.” No one at the time, other than some in Myanmar, would have disagreed with that. It was also a welcome achievement when she became the head of state in 2015. There was hope that someone, like her who had suffered so much, showed such determination to fight for freedom, would be a champion to improve the human rights in Myanmar. In her Nobel lecture, Aung San remarked: “Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.”

The treatment of the Rohingya people has been nothing short of genocide; according to a recent UN report. What makes it more shocking is that Aung San has been the state leader during these killing sprees. I understand that her power is limited because the Generals still retain substantial influence in the country but she still has legal recourse, and more importantly she has a powerful voice in the nation that could oppose these atrocities. Unfortunately, some of her recent comments have been supportive if not misleading for example saying that ‘terrorists’ are misinforming the world about what is happening in Myanmar or asking the US ambassador not to use the word Rohingya (this is denying their identity as an ethnic group although they have lived in Myanmar for centuries).

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Pick ‘n’ Politics

Supercool for Superdry

A co-founder of Superdry has donated £1m to the campaign for the People’s Vote. Julian Dunkerton said “we have a genuine chance to turn this around”. He went on to say that: “I will be paying for one of the most detailed polling exercises ever undertaken by a campaign so that more and more people have the confidence to demand the democratic right for their voice to be heard.”

The people’s Vote is being called for by members from all the political parties. They vote is being called for

prior to us making a final decision to leave on 29th March 2019.

F-F-F-F- Farage is back

Well he couldn’t keep away. Nigel Farage says he is coming back into front line politics because Brexit does not mean Brexit and Theresa May is selling the country out. It will be interesting if Farage again employs his successful scare tactics of East Europeans and 80 million Turkish citizens rushing across Europe to make their way to the UK. Such comments from project lies did us much harm but unfortunately worked. Farage in his deluded mind has come back to save the Brexit day. I just hope politicians, especially the media are a lot more robust in questioning Farage and not let him get away as a rent a quote but take his comments more seriously as there are many who take him to his word. His xenophobic comments have already cost this country gravely.

It should be noted that we currently stand at 8% in the yougov polls with UKIP at 6%. It will be interesting to see where the polls are by the end of the year.

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What Other Countries Think About Brexit (or is it “The Great British Break Off?”)

I wanted to look at what other countries (mainly taken at random) thought about UK’s Brexit. You should note that the comments made by other nationals are made from their point of view, and that should be respected, even though you may not agree with them.

The French mainstream politicians have shown little interest for our Brexit. Many feel it’s a good for the EU as the UK has never really wanted to integrate and Brussels will be a more comfortable place after we leave. There is little sympathy for the 300,000 plus French civilians living in London as they are, incorrectly, seen as tax avoiders.

India had said, when May went to India promoting UK trade links, that they are in no rush to do a post-Brexit trade deal with Britain and will demand easier access for Indians nationals to migrate to Britain as part of any future trade relationship. The Indian High Commissioner has since reinforced this view.

The Germans think of the Brits as fellow ‘Northerners’ that work hard, share similar values and have the misfortune of not being born in Germany 🙂  of all the EU countries, the Germans have taken the Brexit decision most to heart. They now firmly believe in the European project and anyone, who rejects it, is seen as rejecting them.

BMW urged Angela Merkel to ensure that UK has a good deal as they are concerned that a failure to secure a good Brexit agreement with Britain could affect its £2.4bn annual exports from the UK. However, BMW has said if, after Brexit, customs delays are clogging up supplies they will seriously look to move – putting 8000 jobs at risk.

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What IF… We Leave with no Deal

If the Tories throw caution to the wind and somehow manage to leave the EU because they put dogma above the consequences of leaving with no deal, what will the impact of that be for us?  Below is a small account of the possible results of that action. I put this forward to reinforce why the Lib Dems are against Brexit and now (as another possibility has emerged) an exit without a deal.

Currently, there are no queues of countries enthusiastically waiting to trade with us (as the Leavers said they would be) and even if there where it will take …

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Greenhouse Effect – Global Carbon Trading

In 2005 the EU established a cap for carbon emissions and trade program. This cap set a limit on the CO2 industry and utilities could emit. The cap is to reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. A low cap will cost business, and a high one will have little impact reducing global warming. In 2017 the cap was 1.7 per cent annually that would reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030. In the EU carbon targets affect 11,000 energy and industrial plants.

With the trade program, each company has an emit target and can emit

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Boris’s Burka Bashing – Morally Malevolent

A while back my wife decided that she would start to wear the hijab. She never discussed this with me nor did I have any indication she wanted to wear one. She felt that as part of her spiritual journey that she should wear one. I was a bit surprised, but it was her choice. She wore the hijab for about three years and then decided to stop wearing it. Again, she didn’t discuss it with me and made her own choice (this time I was a bit annoyed – as I feared she might have stopped wearing it because of the response she got from the general public or colleagues at work). However, it was more to do with what she felt about her spiritualism than anything else. There are of course people who do require their partners/daughters to wear the hijab or the burka, but in the majority of the cases, it’s a personal choice for those who choose to wear it.

My culture is British, my social reference points are British, and I think in English, but if Pakistan were playing cricket against England, I would support Pakistan (as an English person who lives in Australia would support the English football team if it played against Australia). We live in a free society where we can express our free will as long as it doesn’t impinge on others. I suppose “impinge on others” is the key phrase here, in such instances, I always apply common sense to check my behaviour when considering others. However, for some, there is a robust instinctive intolerance and bigotry that’s devoid of common sense.

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Charities – Sexual Abuse

I have deliberately spent most of my career working for charities. I was lucky enough to hold some senior posts and feel satisfied that in my mundane daily work I was able to help charities to deliver much-needed assistance to the public. I believe in charities and have been for a while dissatisfied that governments have not supported charities better. Charities in the main are good value for money, and the service they provide is often essential for local communities, nationally and internationally.

It’s regrettable to read re charities revelations about the sex abuse scandal. It is even more shocking that …

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Reflections of Berlin

I was in Berlin last week, a sweltering week. I was immediately struck with the efficiency of their public services; there was eight of us on a boy’s holiday when we came out of the airport to catch a bus to our hotel; the buses arrived precisely on time and left on time.  We were still dithering when the first bus arrived, and we were told to stand back so the bus could go on time – lesson learnt.

Over the week we went on a number of tours that took us to the Bundestag, different locations to look at the wall, Checkpoint Charlie and Potsdam (where the KGB was and Putin until 1990). The guides were not afraid to make it clear: how Germany was split between the allies and the Russians, how Berlin was divided by the wall, the devastation that was left behind after the war and for years having an overt presence of foreign armies on their soil reminding them that they had lost the war. The interesting thing about this (and the same was noted from brief discussions with locals about the aftermath of the war) was that they didn’t seem to be any bitterness as they had accepted their fate (although one local was very adamant that the Germans had no control over their foreign policy). Obviously, there is animosity, but it was well contained.

I guess there are a number of positives for the Germans in all this. The Russians have now left, and the allies who still have armies stationed there are there as much to serve to defend Germany as anything else; the country has been reunited, and in the intervening years Germany has developed one of the strongest and robust economies in the world – so not so bad after all.

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Miscellaneous Announcements

I wanted to take the opportunity on a Wednesday to make some small and varied points/announcements that I feel will be of interest. My announcement for this week is about the:

Autumn Conference

The Agenda for the autumn conference launched online today. HO staff should be thanked for the hard work they have done to get this ready. The Agenda and the Directory can be found at https://www.libdems.org.uk/autumn_conference_2018

To help promote the autumn conference there is a Local Party Conference Challenge

Challenge Criteria:– Between the dates of 1 August and 31 August FCC would like to challenge all local

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Lib Dem warns democracy is at risk

The digital, culture, media, and sport (DCMS) committee has spent 18 months conducting an investigation from disinformation to the influence of social networks to targeted adverts during the Brexit referendum that played on people fears and prejudices. MPs rightly point out that this abuse is a threat to democracy.

The DCMS committee report is based on 20 oral evidence sessions, during which 3,500 questions were asked of 61 witnesses, and included a trip to Washington DC. The committee received more than 150 written submissions and numerous pieces of background evidence.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine has warned “democracy is at risk” if the report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee into disinformation and fake news is ignored.

Ms Jardine said:

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Report Back on the Federal Conference Committee (FCC) Held on 14th July 2018

As a member of the FCC, I attended the meeting held last Saturday (14th July). My comments follow the more informative article by Zoe.

The main purpose of the meeting was to go through all the motions that had been selected for FCC to review for possible inclusion at the Autumn conference. Subject area split the motions (54 in all):  Business Innovation and Skills, Communities and Local Government through to Work, Social Security and Pensions (14 different policy areas, in all).

Each member of the committee was given a policy area(s) with internal party contacts (mine was, for example, a member of …

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Time to Start the Blame Game

The plan presented by Theresa May at Chequers and the subsequent resignations by two of her senior cabinet ministers (Brexit and Foreign Secretaries) is more to do with them running for cover than resigning in exasperation. What Theresa May agreed with her cabinet was not in any way a soft Brexit option, it doesn’t resolve the Irish border issue and from all accounts will be rejected by the EU. The proposal will still involve the UK leaving the single market, ending free movement and limiting the role of the European courts.

The proposal is that we will accept part of the four principles set out by the EU. We want to stay in the single market for goods but not services, capital or labour. The plan is we will collect the EU tariffs until we get a system in place to set our tariffs, and until we do that we stay part of the customs union. The proposal for Ireland is still the software option that took the US a decade to develop costing over $10 billion and is used by a very small number of companies. As we run a surplus on services and not on goods, this will be further impetus for companies to move to Europe.

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Rees-Mogg: Back Seat Driver

Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg

I remember the first time I heard about Rees-Mogg, it was on Have I Got News For You where they were joking about Rees-Mogg taking his nanny with him when he went out canvassing. I was a PPC during the last election, and I remember when the results were coming in through the night when North-East Somerset results came in Rees-Mogg was standing there with a huge Tory ribbon. Even the Tories were disappointed when the BBC announced he had won. So how did a man who is a backbencher, considered eccentric and not particularly popular come to be in a position that he can threaten the Prime Minister?

Rees-Mogg was a minor player during the referendum but now as Michael Gove, and Boris Johnson (who has recently left government) are/were restricted to what they can say (believe it or not), It created a vacuum for Rees-Mogg to step into. Nigel Farage seems to be busy cultivating his relationship with the American President after failing (seven times) to get into parliament and is not seen on television commenting on Brexit as he once was.

The European Research Group (ERG) was set up In July 1993 by Sir Michael Spicer, in response to growing concern about Britain’s continued integration into the European Community through the Maastricht Treaty and its members include David Davies, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, Iain Duncan Smith and Sajid Javid among others. Jacob Rees-Mogg took over from Suella Fernandes as the Chair this year (Suella Fernandes resigned as a junior minister on 9th July as she was not happy with the Chequers agreement reached by the Cabinet on 6th July).

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YouGov Polls

Since the Brexit referendum media and politics seems to have turned anti-European but it seems that the public opinion is slowing starting to shift towards being more pro-European. There is increasingly despair among the public about the lack of leadership and success with the Brexit negotiations. Two years on from the referendum vote and we really don’t know where we will be and what will be agreed over the next 5 months. A YouGov poll has consistently found that about two thirds of those polled feel the negotiations are going badly.

Below I have collected a number of YouGov polls around Brexit. They make for interesting reading.

Surprisingly, a recent YouGov poll found that 31 percent of Tories say the government’s Brexit decision is wrong. This compares with 73 percent of Labour voters and 83 percent of Lib Dem voters. Because some voters think that the government now has a duty to implement the referendum 30 percent of Remainers want the government to go ahead with Brexit. Although, those who were undecided, during the referendum, are beginning to gradually favour staying in the EU.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged | 39 Comments

Cabinet Playing Whiff-Whaff with Theresa May

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians passed on through generations, says that “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”

Ministers are under pressure to spell out the type of relationship we should have with the European Union. The crunch summit at Chequers is for the Tories to settle their differences although they are strong views on both sides, this Tory summit is supposed to provide an agreed way forward. Michael Gove has alleged ripped up a document that explained the customs partnership proposed by Number 10. The Defence Secretary has told his department that if he doesn’t get the £20 billion he is asking for he will remove the Prime Minister (PM) as he made her, he can break her. The MoD budget for 2016/17 was £35.3bn, and because of the weak position of the PM we now have the US Defence Secretary, James Mattis, warning us that France would replace the UK as America’s closest ally in Europe if we don’t increase our defence spending. Moreover, then there is Boris with his bog roll comment and even worse his inflammatory private and a rather coarse dismissal of business concerns about Brexit.

The PM is getting bullied. How can we have a deal when groups within Cabinet are pulling in a different direction and believe they will achieve their objectives without any fear of consequence. Power is perceived and not something that’s tangible, a loss of that perception leaves the PM in a very vulnerable position and makes it very difficult for her to pursue an agenda and therefore lead. Talk about being pushed from pillar to post.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged and | 7 Comments

US needs a birthday present 

Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine has called on the Conservative Government to give the American people a “proper birthday present” by standing up to President Trump on human rights.

Ms Jardine made her plea as the US celebrates Independence Day on the 4th of July. The Liberal Democrat MP wants the Conservative Government to use President Trump’s visit to the UK next Friday to “promote the shared values between British and American people” and “condemn Trump’s treatment of migrant families and his comments on torture.”

Ms Jardine said: 

“The British and American people have a long history of shared values. Among the

Posted in LDVUSA, News and Op-eds | Tagged | 12 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 15th Nov - 12:11am
    We get it Martin, that you are very pro EU and Remain . But really, every organisation should be accountable with some scrutiny. Are you...
  • User AvatarGlenn 15th Nov - 12:00am
    Frankie What do you mean by "you wanted it hard", are the odd connotations in your phrasing deliberate? The last time it was something about...
  • User AvatarMartin 14th Nov - 11:46pm
    Caron Lindsay: "the EU needs its backside kicking in many ways" Perhaps it would be useful if you could explain. I am not at all...
  • User AvatarMike Norman 14th Nov - 11:46pm
    Speaking as a housing solicitor who has done duty desk at several courts in South West/Wales since this policy commenced: time and again, we hear...
  • User AvatarTonyH 14th Nov - 10:51pm
    Christine is very good in this interview. No running down the interviewer's rabbit holes, just clear, unashamed, principled and pro-EU.
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 14th Nov - 10:48pm
    Hold the phone, cancel the plane, stop the traffic An article by the editor says the EU needs it's backside k...k...ki....c I dreamt it?!