Category Archives: News

16 January 2019 – today’s press release

Cable: Either Corbyn backs Brexit or he backs the people

Responding to the defeat of Jeremy Corbyn’s vote of no confidence in the Conservative Government by 325 votes to 306 votes, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable said:

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party cannot procrastinate any longer. Either he backs Brexit or he backs the people.

He has a responsibility, to get off the fence and provide some effective opposition.

The only serious option is what the Liberal Democrats have been calling for since the 24th June 2016, a people’s vote with the option to remain in the

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Confidence trick

There were many times during this afternoon’s Vote of No Confidence debate when I wanted to throw something at the television. I didn’t, because the only things close by were expensive and belonged to my employer.

This country is facing the biggest crisis since World War 2 and the Government and Opposition spend the afternoon slinging insults at each other, pantomime style. When we face a no-deal fall off a cliff which will kill people. Fiddling and burning or what?

It was hardly the stuff of Gladstone, of Lloyd George, of Churchill as Jeremy Corbyn finally moved his motion of no confidence. The Government happily gave it five hours of debate. It was only obliged to give an hour and a half, but wasting time is all it’s got at the moment. The Conservative benches also got to be the most united they have been since last July.

I know that Vince signed Corbyn’s motion of no confidence. He kind of had to. I mean, if you’re asked if you have confidence in the government that brought you Windrush, the hostile environment, the rape clause, the benefit freeze, the disastrous implementation of Universal Credit and that’s before you even get to the Brexit clusterbourach, then the only possible answer is “no flipping way.”

However, I’d have amended it to say I have no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition either. I can’t actually remember a time when the Government and the Opposition have been so simultaneously useless.

Apparently, Corbyn is going to keep laying down motions of no confidence as a distraction from having to take a position on the People’s Vote and May thinks she can get away with putting tweaked versions of her deal to the Commons. Does anyone get the irony here? They are happy to keep asking the same questions while stubbornly denying the people the chance to mark the Government’s homework.

Alistair Carmichael confronted Corbyn beautifully on the issue during his speech:

What should we do if Corbyn keeps putting down vexatious motions of no confidence? Well, to be honest, we have to vote for them. If we don’t, that’ll be the one time Corbyn will have got the DUP on side. After that disaster in the Summer we simply daren’t give Labour the chance to say that we backed the Tories.

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Theresa May needs an LBJ

After the historically unprecedented defeat of May’s Brexit deal, what comes next?  In her speech to the House of Commons, Theresa May promised not to run the clock down and to reach out to senior parliamentarians to work out what Brexit deal could pass the House of Commons.  Unfortunately, this promising development was immediately undercut by briefing that she wished to maintain her “red lines” which just can’t be done if she wants to get a Brexit deal through Parliament.

It was said of Lyndon B Johnson that nobody knew better how to count votes in a legislature – an essential political skill in the USA where a division between the executive and the legislature is the norm.  Theresa May desperately needs an LBJ to tell her what deal can be passed in Parliament.

However, without claiming I have the skills of an LBJ, the size of the defeat makes it clear that she needs to switch 116 votes without losing any.  This rule out any minor fiddles and means she needs to find a group with that many votes to pass any legislation.  There are lots of smaller groupings with interesting ideas, but they don’t have the votes.

The only possible options with those kinds of votes are as follows:

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Paddy And Tony A Cautionary Tale

Paddy Ashdown became the leader of the Liberal Democrats in 1988. He inherited a party which was not in a particularly good place.

The merger of the Liberal Party and the SDP had been difficult, to say the least, poll ratings were low.

Worse still Dr David Owen continued to lead a separate force supported by MPs Rosie Barnes and John Cartwright.

Thatcher appeared to be going on forever, still with a comfortable Commons majority and showing no signs of going anytime soon.

Labour under Neil Kinnock was modernising a party very much on the left.

Dreams of breaking the mould seemed a long way off for the newly formed Lib Dems. However, the space for a radical party of the centre-left still exited if it could be rebuilt.

The Continuing SDP were seen off within a short period following humiliation in a byelection in which they finished behind the Monster Raving Loony party, and despite a surge in the 1989 European elections, the Green challenge came to nothing.

By the 1992 General Election, the good ship of Liberalism had steadied, and the crisis seemed to be a thing of the past.

Then two years later Tony Blair came onto the scene.

Paddy quite rightly viewed Blair’s project of positioning Labour more in the centre as a challenge that couldn’t be ignored, and he sought to build a new relationship based on cooperation.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Sarah Ludford Internationalism and social justice is the liberal way

A cracker of a speech from Sarah Ludford looking back at Liberal figures all the way back to the repeal of the Corn Laws:

My Lords, normally I would try to reflect speeches from across the House in my winding-up, but this evening I will concentrate on the Liberal Democrats. This is partly because the loss of our late colleague Lord Ashdown is much on our minds. Obviously the primary grief is felt by Jane and the family, but we too, his political family, are nothing short of devastated. We badly miss his voice. Tweets of Paddy’s from two months ago remain online; I am afraid they are not complimentary about the governing party, saying,

“and so our beloved country is once again held to ransom by squabbles in a Tory Party who give rats in a sack a bad name”,

and,

“the great unravelling begins. If you want a playbook for what next, look to the Tory civil wars of the Com Laws in 1846”.

The fact is that, unlike Liberal Democrats, whose hallmark is openness to the world, Tories have long been split between international and insular tendencies; that continues today. Some talk, admittedly, about “global Britain” but this seems more about resurrecting the Empire—or at least the Anglosphere—than a true spirit of international and multilateral co-operation. Modern Liberal Democrats can still subscribe to the words of the radical Liberal Richard Cobden, who cited among the benefits of repeal of the Corn Laws that,

“it would introduce through mutually advantageous international trade a new era of international fellowship and peace”.

That sentiment endures, both as the rationale for the European project after 1945 and in the DNA of the modern Liberal Democrat party; no wonder the two are so well-aligned. As my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire said last week, a global Britain should be within, not against, a global Europe. Hence one of Paddy’s successors, my noble friend Lord Campbell of Pittenweem, insisted in this debate last Wednesday:

“I am passionate about remaining in the European Union. I venture to observe that I am just as passionate about remaining as those who are passionate about leaving. I respect their passion and, in turn, I expect them to respect mine”.—

Another previous leader, Jo Grimond, in his book The Liberal Future 60 years ago, wrote:

“Liberals dissented from the original decision not to take part in the Iron and Steel Community. A Liberal foreign policy towards Europe would be based on the firm belief that Britain is a part—a leading part—of Europe”.

But it was not just Liberals in our Liberal Democrat heritage who carried the flame for Europe. My noble friends Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank and Lord Taverne came via the Labour Party and the Social Democrats. They reminded us in this debate how they were part of that brave contingent of 69 MPs who defied the Labour leadership and its three-line whip to vote to join the then European Community in 1971. My noble friends Lord Wrigglesworth and Lord McNally, also once SDP, stressed internationalist principles too. They were led by Roy Jenkins, later our Liberal Democrat Leader here in Lords. In the epilogue to his European Diary as President of the European Commission, Roy recounts the formation of the SDP, noting simply and unremarkably that,

“the SDP and its Alliance partner maintained a wholly committed European position”.

Roy Jenkins also harks back much farther in our political roots when, in his biography of William Gladstone, he quotes from Gladstone’s Midlothian campaign, when he was much concerned about atrocities in the Balkans against Bulgarians and Montenegrins. Gladstone, he records, spoke of a,

“nation called to undertake a great and responsible duty”,

in regard to “the peace of Europe” and the need for,

“right and justice to be done”.

These are uncanny echoes of Paddy Ashdown’s insistence that we had to take an interest in the Balkan wars of the 1990s and take on a responsibility to protect in particular the Kosovars and Bosnians being subjected to ethnic cleansing on our continent.

In her very generous comments about Paddy Ashdown in her debate on the western Balkans last Thursday, the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, said:

“During the Bosnian War in the 1990s, most politicians, including some from my own party, pontificated from a distance. Lord Ashdown went in and out of Sarajevo during the longest siege in modern history, across a risky mountain route and through a tunnel burrowed into the city”.—

Hence, when my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire wrote a slim Penguin tome for the 1997 election called Why Vote Liberal Democrat?, in words he could repeat today, he wrote:

“Nostalgia for an imperial past, combined with hostility to closer cooperation with Britain’s neighbours, offers no credible way forward … Liberal Democrats are internationalist by instinct and by intellectual conviction … We believe that Britain can achieve more through sharing sovereignty and pooling power than by standing alone … Britain is a European country. Our international interests and responsibilities start with our concern to promote peace, stability and prosperity within Europe, in partnership with our European neighbours”.

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Ruling for the Thanet South case

With all the other political high-jinks in Westminster, the long-awaited judgement in the Thanet 2015 General Election expenses case has probably not caught the attention of those most likely to be affected by it – Candidates and their Agents.

In brief, this outcome challenges some of the most commonly held interpretations of the electoral law. Moreover, it requires urgent parliamentary attention BEFORE any new poll.

Liberal Democrat activists may like to be reminded that even the Conservatives now accept that the current legal position cannot be allowed to continue. In the last few days of the June 2017 General Election (when the extent of charges was still in doubt) the Conservative Party issued the following statement:

“There is broad consensus that election law is fragmented, confused and unclear, with two different sets of legislation and poor guidance from the Electoral Commission. Conservatives are committed to strengthening electoral law.”

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15 January 2019 – today’s press releases

You never quite want to believe the predictions, especially when they are in your favour, but it can’t be argued that tonight wasn’t a massive rejection of the May deal. Here’s what was said in the aftermath…

  • Cable: This is the beginning of the end of Brexit
  • Brexit Must be put Back to the People – Welsh Lib Dems (see here)
  • Cable: After Govt defeat the only way forward is a People’s Vote (see here)

Cable: This is the beginning of the end of Brexit

Responding to the no confidence vote tabled tonight in the House of Commons, Leader of the Liberal Democrats …

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WATCH: Jo Swinson argue with Labour’s Richard Burgon

It’s not the wisest thing in the world to take down someone who agrees with you and is instinctively going to do what you want.

Shadow Labour Justice Spokesperson Richard Burgon was excessively grumpy with Jo Swinson this evening.

Having gone on about how the big enemy was the Conservatives, he chose to then go on the attack about the Coalition. You’d never think that Labour had been propping up the Conservatives and enabling their Brexit shambles. Any half competent main opposition party would have made sure that Theresa May was coming back from Buckingham Palace in a taxi within an hour of tonight’s vote.

Jo handled it really well.

Jon Snow intervened to tell Richard hew as being “awfully beastly.”

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WATCH: Lib Dem MPs talk about today’s vote

Our people have been out and about today, talking about the run-up to the vote and its aftermath.

Layla on the beginning of the end of Brexit

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Vince: This is the beginning of the end of Brexit

Well, that was quite something. I had thought the estimates of a 200+ majority against were expectation management, so a defeat of less than 100 looked great.

But, no. The vote was lost by 230 votes. The biggest defeat in living memory.

A Government with a competent main opposition party would be in serious trouble.

But what was Theresa May’s instinctive reaction? She started talking about how this put EU citizens at risk. I mean, really. She turned them back into bargaining chips. I, for one, am not having that.

Jeremy Corbyn has finally won a motion of no confidence but when that is lost tomorrow, he will have to make up his mind whether to back a People’s Vote or not. We can only hope that he will listen to the almost 80% of his members who want Labour to back that.

Jo Swinson was the first Lib Dem to say anything after the  vote – she raised a Point of Order to  how Parliament could assert its authority to bring about a People’s Vote. In his response, Speaker John Bercow seemed to indicate on his reply that he would allow amendments to that effect.

Vince confirmed that he had signed Corbyn’s motion of no confidence and would support it and challenged the Labour leader to get behind a People’s Vote.

Brexit is becoming a national humiliation.

Liberal Democrats have campaigned since the referendum to give people the final say on Brexit. Theresa May has failed to persuade her party, failed to persuade Parliament and failed in her attempts to scaremonger MPs to back her.

The Prime Minister now needs to pull her head out of the sand and start acting responsibly by taking the ludicrous threat of a no-deal Brexit off the table. The only way forward for the country is through a People’s Vote where people have the right to choose to stay in the EU.

It is also time for Jeremy Corbyn to find his backbone, drop his plans for a Labour-led Brexit, and back our calls for a People’s Vote.

Willie Rennie also called for a People’s Vote to ensure that the Prime Minister couldn’t just look to her party to sort it out:

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Lib Dems vs Brexit Joan Walmsley: The people must have an informed choice

Joan Walmsley tackled the “will of the people” argument in her speech.

The noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, asked us to be optimistic. I would not be a Liberal Democrat if I were not.

I have great respect for the House of Commons and am optimistic that next week honourable Members will do the right thing. They will vote against making their constituents poorer, damaging the future of their young people and removing this country’s influence in Europe. They will vote against Mrs May’s deal and reject the disaster of leaving the EU without a deal. Let us be clear, to use a favourite phrase of which the Prime Minister is so fond, especially when she is about to obfuscate: our economy would suffer both from her deal and no deal.

Our economy is not just some economist’s theory. It provides the means to protect the most vulnerable, the young who need education, the old who need care, the unemployed who need benefits and jobs, the poor who need affordable homes, the workers who need efficient transport to work and decent pay, and all of us who rely on the NHS. All this is threatened by every possible form of Brexit. It has become clear over the past two and a half years, to all who are not too blind to see it, that the deal we have as members, and could keep if we wish, is the best we could get with our biggest trading partner, neighbour and friend. Let us not be lured by the fantasy that we will negotiate beneficial trade deals around the world that would more than make up for loss of trade with the EU. This is a typical unicorn promised to the electorate by a campaign funded by money about which very serious legal questions are being investigated. Through our EU membership, we have trade deals, not just with 27 other countries, but with 88. All those would go if we left the EU without a deal.

I respect the way in which Mrs May has tried to get a good deal while leaving the EU. But she became the architect of her own failure when she stated her red lines, which made it impossible for her to take us out of the EU without damaging our economy and curtailing opportunities for our young people. She has given two and a half years of respect to the “will of the people” ​as she puts it, although I find it hard to understand how someone who is so keen on the will of the people is so reluctant to ask them for it.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Menzies Campbell: Deal does not deliver promised utopia

Ming Campbell’s take on the Brexit deal was that it didn’t deliver what was promised and put the UK in a much more precarious international position.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, not least because he drew attention to the absence to any reference either to Wales or Scotland in the documents with which we are concerned.

I have wondered to what purpose I would be here, and I suspect my purpose now is served by the opportunity to support the amendment put down by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon. Nothing of substance has changed since the earlier debate. Although I have had the opportunity to look very quickly at the document produced in relation to Northern Ireland just before this debate began, I can see why the Government perhaps chose not to put it out before, because it really does not bear any serious interpretation, not least of course because the matter of the protocol is still covered by the advice issued by the Attorney-General on 13 November last year. Paragraph 16 states that—I am reading short—

“in international law, the Protocol would endure indefinitely until a superseding agreement took its place, in whole or in part”.

That remains the legal position. The document of today can have no effect of any kind on that.

As we consider these matters, the authority of the Prime Minister diminishes almost before our eyes. There was a government defeat last night and another one this afternoon. One thing which has certainly changed as a result of Brexit—and I hope your Lordships do not find the advice too alarming—is that you can throw away your copy of Dicey and, if you are lucky enough to have a copy of John Mackintosh’s seminal work, The British Cabinet, you need not have much regard to that, because the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility has now been abolished by this Cabinet. It reminds me of the old Latin tag, “Quot homines, tot sententiae”—although, in these more enlightened days, one should perhaps say, “Quot personae, tot sententiae”. The Cabinet is now apparently at liberty to contradict the Prime Minister and to take issue with Cabinet colleagues, and for all that to be played out in public. It is no wonder that the Prime Minister’s capacity for negotiation has been adversely affected. If she loses next week’s vote on the document with which we are concerned, it may not be a constitutional crisis, but it will most certainly be constitutional chaos.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: David Steel on “the complicated lunacy of Brexit”

David Steel did not mince his words in his contribution to the Brexit deal debate in the Lords. He talked about the need for Government to do something to help those who were struggling.

My Lords, exactly three weeks ago today as I was leaving the House to go home for the Christmas Recess I passed three people sleeping in our entrance to the Underground station. It was reported next day that one of these had died in the night—on our own doorstep! That typified for me the paralysis of the Government over these last two years, as they have had to concentrate on dealing with the complicated lunacy of Brexit. Homelessness, the delays in the NHS, the chaos on our railways, the shortage of teachers in our schools, even the lack of legislation to deal with drones, and so many other issues, have had to be neglected while every department of government struggles with the consequences and divisions of Brexit.​

In one of our debates at the end of last year, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, told us that it was for Parliament to assert itself and get things sorted out. It could, for example, revoke Article 50. He is of course correct, but that is one option over which the Commons should hesitate, because it would mean Parliament contradicting the referendum result. That is why, although like the late Paddy Ashdown I was initially doubtful, I have come around to the view that a people’s vote is necessary to take that decision. I do not for one moment believe the scaremongers about civil unrest, provided that we hand it back to the people to decide whether, in the light of all the realities, they really wish to leave the European Union.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Christine Jardine We all deserve better than this deal

It was almost midnight when Christine Jardine finally got to her feet to make her speech. She talked about how her constituents are even firmer in their view that we should remain in the EU and, crucially, she highlighted how the deal fails Leave as well as Remain voters. She called on MPs to rise to the enormity of the occasion and do what’s best for the country.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami). I rise to oppose the Government’s motion and to give largely the speech that I was due to make a month ago, when the vote was pulled. My stance has developed over the past two and a half years, during which my party has campaigned consistently in Parliament and in communities across the country for the people, not the politicians, to have the final say.

As we approach the denouement of this Brexit drama—or perhaps it is a tragedy—my thoughts drift back to 24 June 2016. What prompted the country to vote for Brexit? I agree with the hon. Member for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns). An entire generation faced the prospect that their children and grandchildren would not be as well off as they were, having been left behind and failed by globalisation. More than two years ​later, I do not believe that this Government have provided either any solutions to those issues or a coherent way ahead.

We have heard a lot this evening, mostly from Conservative Members, about delivering on Brexit. May I plead with them that actually we have something more important in this House to deliver, and that is the wellbeing of the country? When the electors go to the ballot box and send us here, it is not simply to follow an instruction; it is to have the courage to do what we believe is right for us, for them and for the entire country. That is where we are just now.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Roger Roberts says young people must have a say

Last year, Roger was on the front page of the Daily Mail for upsetting the Brexiteers.

Now, the octogenarian Liberal Democrat had two of the most prominent Tory Brexiteers in the Lords intervene on him in his speech.

My Lords, those who argue for this deal say that the people have voted and that we must honour that. The people voted two and a half years ago, when they were a different constituency. Many of them have now departed and millions more are now eligible to vote. Therefore, we are disregarding the views and the future of many of these young people. Not only that but we are withdrawing from the European Union, which means that we are withdrawing their European citizenship. These young people were born into European citizenship.

Lord Lilley (Con)

Does the noble Lord intend to have a referendum every two and a half years?

Lord Roberts of Llandudno

That is not my intention, of course, but I shall mention something in a moment that might go in that direction. As I said, we are denying young people their voice in this issue. People change their minds. Even Prime Ministers can change their minds. The Commons were to have a vote in December; now they will have a vote in January. If the people are not allowed to change their minds but the Prime Minister and parliamentarians are, we are denying a democratic right to the people.

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14 January 2019 – today’s press releases

As we start another week, is there an emerging consensus on where we go next? Tomorrow sees the meaningful vote in the Commons, whilst tonight saw a somewhat less meaningful one in the Lords, although it perhaps offers a portent of what is to come…

  • Cross-party group publishes legislation for People’s Vote
  • Cable: Research shows UK companies hit hard by ‘Leave’ vote
  • Lib Dems: EU letter changes nothing
  • Lords defeat ’embarrassing setback’ for Theresa May

Cross-party group publishes legislation for People’s Vote

A cross-party group of MPs has today (January 14th) published legislation to bring about a ‘People’s Vote’ referendum on the Government’s Brexit deal in …

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“Those who seek to divide us will never win. We know Britain is better than this”

Clear, can-do, liberal.

You know how I’ve been banging on for ages that we need to tug on people’s heartstrings?

Well, finally, we produce a compelling video that tells people who we are and what we are for.

From the happy, optimistic days of 2012 to the xenophobic post Brexit hate, our decline is shown, complete with Farage, Rees-Mogg and Johnson.

Then there is a strong statement of solidarity with our EU national friends, family, work colleagues. 

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Chris Fox The vulnerable and less well off are most at risk from Brexit

We continue our look at how Lib Dem parliamentarians are arguing against the Brexit deal and for a People’s Vote.

In this instalment, Chris Fox debunks Tory clams that a no-deal Brexit wouldn’t cost jobs and highlights that the poorest will suffer most.

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and I look forward to working with him when we move into Committee on the Trade Bill.

When the Minister was looking in our direction, he spoke about the need for clarity. I understand that his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defra is organising a new unit in his department with the express remit of “seeing through the fog” of Brexit. I also understand that the department is finding difficulty in recruiting people to take on this task. Meanwhile, the Government are stress-testing their own ability to create fog. We have already heard the lighter side of Project Grayling today but actually it is not funny; it is quite sad and rather pathetic that a government department led by a Minister is going out and trying to prove how serious the Government are about a no-deal exit, and doing it completely incompetently. I do not know who does due diligence in the Department for Transport but the big question is: who did due diligence on Chris Grayling?

Elsewhere, Iain Duncan Smith has been vocal about the benefits of a no-deal exit. He does not,

“believe that a single job will be lost”,

in a hard Brexit. It is not for me to challenge his belief system—I will leave that to the Lords spiritual—but I am able to refute what is clearly a false claim. Take, for example, a small engineering firm on an industrial estate just outside Hereford employing 30 people. It is very successful. Unlike some firms, the owner has looked long and hard at his situation and has talked in detail with his largely continental European customer base. He has prepared for no deal and the imposition of borders, tariffs and non-tariff barriers. In that situation, his plan is clear: he will make 10 of his staff redundant.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Dick Newby The World is looking at us with pity and amazement

The Lords have also been debating the Brexit Deal and, as in the Commons, Lib Dems have been arguing for a People’s Vote. This is Dick Newby’s contribution:

My Lords, it is somewhat odd to be debating an identical government Motion with a month’s gap, during which time, in the Brexit negotiations themselves and despite the announcements the Government have made today, there have been no significant developments whatsoever—a reality reflected in the Commons simply continuing its adjourned debate on the topic rather than having a new Motion or amendments.

There was therefore a temptation to simply repeat the speech I made on 5 December. I was attracted to this option by the true example of a vicar friend of my wife’s who, having preached a sermon on a Sunday morning, found that his colleague who was due to ​preach at evensong was taken ill during the day. Stepping into the breach and having no time to prepare a second sermon, he simply repeated the one he had given in the morning. He was therefore rather disturbed to see in the congregation one of the churchwardens, who normally only attended in the morning but who had had visitors for lunch who wanted to see the church. At the end of the service, the vicar greeted the churchwarden with some trepidation. The churchwarden approached the vicar beaming. “Another corker, vicar”, he said. It was clear that he had not listened to at least one, and possibly both, of the sermons. But I suspect that your Lordships’ House is somewhat more attentive than the average churchwarden, so I shall repeat neither the speech nor the exact arguments I made a month ago.

The challenge in fashioning another speech, however, is that, as far as the withdrawal agreement and political declaration are concerned, nothing of substance has changed. I am unaware of a single MP who threatened to rebel last time but has pledged to support the Government this time around.

Although nothing has changed in the agreement itself or the views of MPs, this does not mean that nothing has changed beyond Parliament. The first thing that has changed is that the Government have stepped up spending for a no-deal Brexit. Given that the Commons will never vote for a no-deal outcome, as evidenced by yesterday’s vote, the spending of billions of pounds against an outcome that is simply not going to happen was always going to be a colossal waste of public money. But the way in which the Government have chosen to do this has turned mere profligacy into farce.

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12-13 January 2019 – the weekend’s press releases

There haven’t been that many days of such high drama in Parliament to compare to the next few. How badly will Theresa May lose in the Commons? Will it be enough to force a change of policy? Can the Conservative Party cling together?

We’ll see soon enough but, in the meantime, here are the weekend’s press releases…

  • Grayling has lost the plot
  • Short-term sentences of 12 months or less must be scrapped now
  • Corbyn has failed the test of leadership
  • Cable: No-deal is a choice and the Govt can stop it

Grayling has lost the plot

Responding to claims from Chris Grayling that blocking Brexit could lead …

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Lib Dems vs Brexit – Ed Davey on what Paddy would have thought

Sir Ed Davey, in his speech against Theresa May’s Brexit deal, looked at it through Paddy’s eyes.

He also spoke about his experience of European co-operation when he was Climate Change Secretary when Putin was overstepping the mark in the Ukraine.

My friend, Lord Ashdown—Paddy—is being buried today in Somerset, so I hope that the House will allow me to speak about this deal as I think Paddy would have done. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) might not have known about the burial service, but my friend Paddy would have been able to apply his critical faculties to the deal and judge it on the basis of what was good for this country. That is what he would have done. I worked for him for nearly 30 years, beginning as his economics adviser, and when he talked about Europe, he talked about the way in which countries needed to co-operate and work together. Internationalism was in his liberalism. He talked about how, working with other countries, this country could regain sovereignty and regain control over global capitalism, and the multinationals that sought to undermine the interests of individual countries, people and corporations. His view was that we were stronger and had more control. That was his approach to the European Union.

However, things went much deeper than that. Paddy was a soldier and a diplomat, and he brought that experience and those beliefs to the European question. It was his commitment to peace and to patriotism—he loved his country—that made him such a strong pro-European. We see that in his books and his speeches when he talks about the dangers of rising nationalism and protectionism around the world. He worried about Trump, Bolsonaro and Brexit, and he thought that Britain being in the EU was one of the best ways of combatting those rises in nationalism and protectionism. In his work in Bosnia, he talked about how the EU’s institutions were bringing peace not just within that country, but within the Balkans. Indeed, if we look at what is happening, the EU is one of the magnets that is ending the hostility between those countries, and it can play a key role. It is an engine for peace, as it has been across Europe.

Of course, as man who was born in Northern Ireland, Paddy would look at the threat to the Good Friday agreement with serious concern. Nearly 3,600 of our countrymen and women died in the troubles, but few have died since the Good Friday peace agreement. People inside and outside this House should think carefully about anything that puts that at risk. Paddy certainly did, believing that the EU was a way of gluing people together and moving away from past hostilities.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Vince Cable takes on the WTO Rules argument

We always like to record Lib Dem contributions to significant parliamentary debates when we can. There is no more significant debate than that going on over the future course of Brexit – or otherwise.

Vince spoke on the first day of the debate and he tackled the Brexiteers’ assertions that the WTO Rules are just fine if we have a no deal Brexit.And he should know, because he’s actually done trade negotiations. He totally demolishes the idea that WTO Rules a) mean much b) can be enforced and c) allow smaller countries to trade freely without being bullied by more powerful ones:

One problem of having extended debate and resumption of debate is that we are getting a lot of repetition and recycling of arguments that we have heard many times before. For that reason, I want to focus on one specific issue, which is the idea of World Trade Organisation rules and exactly what they mean. The term “WTO rules” is used casually in every pub, and in every radio interview I encounter, but I suspect that many of the people who use it are not at all clear what it means.

Before getting into the detail of that, I will make one general point about no deal, which was brought out rather brilliantly by the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), who got to the heart of this very well. He exposed the fact that no deal is actually a choice. It is not just something that happens; it is the conscious choice of a Government who could choose to revoke article 50, as the Father of the House keeps reminding us. That may be a difficult ​decision and a very unpopular one, but article 50 could be revoked, and by choosing not to revoke it, the Government will be choosing to have no deal, with all its catastrophic—or so they tell us—consequences.

Let me narrow down to the specific issue of what the WTO rules would be if we found ourselves in a no-deal world. The basis on which I speak is that many years ago, long before I came into the House, I was part of a small community of international trade specialists and got involved in negotiating the so-called Uruguay round and then the Doha round as part of the World Trade Organisation—or, as it was then called, the general agreement on tariffs and trade. I saw at first hand the way in which the WTO system operates. I realise that there is no longer just a small community of anoraks, which is what we were. A large number of people now consider themselves experts on trade policy, but the glibness with which the term “WTO rules” is applied leads me to believe that there are probably not too many anoraks, because there are some very real difficulties in applying WTO rules.

The World Trade Organisation is to trade what the United Nations is to peace. It has some admirable principles, but I think most Members, and certainly those on the Government Benches, would consider it seriously negligent of us to make our national defence dependent solely on the rules of the United Nations. Rules have to be enforced, and they have to be effective.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Layla Moran: I want an open Britain, not one that closes itself off

In full, below, Layla Moran’s speech against Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

It will come as no surprise to anyone, I am sure, to hear that I will not support the deal. I am determined to do everything I can to secure a people’s vote, with the option to stay in the EU and exit from Brexit. After all, that is what I was elected to do when I overturned a Tory majority of nearly 10,000 with the help of a progressive alliance of voters from across the entire political spectrum. I am still regularly stopped in the streets by constituents who just want an end to this mess. One lady said to me the other day, “I didn’t vote for this Brexit. Please make it stop!” Is not that the refrain we are hearing from everyone—“Make it stop”?

That is my issue with the deal. The Prime Minister’s deal has only 26 pages about what comes next. It will take years to get that right. Meanwhile, the fact that the air has been sucked out of this Government and the economy will continue to suffocate society. The very causes of Brexit—inequality, injustice, the incomprehension of parents that their children’s future will not be as bright as theirs—will continue to be ignored until this is over. We have to be honest with people: Brexit will not solve any of those issues.

There is only one way to make this stop, and that is a democratic exit from Brexit. Support for that, as much as many in this House are trying to ignore it, is growing. Poll after poll shows that the will of the people has changed since 2016. Add to that Russian interference, Cambridge Analytica, the leave campaign being fined for breaking electoral law and dodgy DUP donations, and is it any wonder that people are dismayed? Does that surprise us at all? In a democracy, as has been said, people should be able to change their mind. If they want to vote for this deal, let them, but if they want an exit from it and to keep the deal we already have, let them have that.

One group that Brexit affects more than anyone else is EU citizens in the UK. These people are our friends. They have built relationships and careers in this country. They deserve so much better than this shambles. Is it not shameful that they are being asked to pay £65 to continue to live in their own homes and stay in their jobs? Although I welcome the announcements of Oxford University and my local NHS trusts that they will pay the fee for their staff, it beggars belief that they even have to offer. How much public taxpayer money has been offered to overcome the charge? That suggests to me that the Government should scrap it now.

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Lib Dems vs Brexit: Jo Swinson “Even my five year old knows that unicorns aren’t real”

This week the House of Commons has been debating Theresa May’s deal. Liberal Democrats have been explaining why Brexit is a bad thing and why we need a People’s Vote.

Here’s Jo Swinson making one of her five contributions in the Chamber on her first week back from parental leave.

Two and a half years ago the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street and promised to tackle society’s burning injustices. I for one was glad to hear that speech, and I hoped that it would mark a real change in direction from this Government.

We could debate endlessly the reasons why people voted to leave the European Union, and of course they were varied. For many, however, there was a feeling that the system is broken, that working hard is no guarantee of getting on, and a fear that their children will end up worse off than they are, earning less, finding it harder to secure a decent home. People, rightly and understandably, feel angry about that. However, instead of the radical changes needed to our economy and society, the energy and attention of our Government have been sucked into the black hole of Brexit. Nothing has changed for those the Prime Minister vowed to help. Those injustices still fuel discontent. We have an underfunded universal credit system bringing misery to thousands. We are in the midst of a housing crisis in which many children are living in heartbreaking conditions and vulnerable people are sleeping on our streets—and dying on them, too. None of that will be resolved by leaving the EU. None of that will be resolved by the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.

The leave campaign said we would take back control, but to many of my constituents—to the mother of two who contacted me because she was worried about her family’s security after the Prime Minister called her husband a “queue jumper”; to the scientist concerned about jobs in Glasgow once the life sciences industry loses vital European funding; and to the businesses that do not even know on what terms they will be able to sell to our biggest trading partner in three months’ time—it feels like we are doing the very opposite.

Five years ago, I fought passionately to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom. Together, we are stronger. Our economy is more successful and our influence is greater. We can pool risks. Our businesses benefit from selling to a larger market, without barriers. We share values. We share our history. We share a desire for our loved ones in different parts of the country to be able to live, work and travel where they want with ease. I am certain that Scotland’s best future is in the United Kingdom, and for the same reasons I believe the United Kingdom’s interests are best served within the European Union.

In 2017, the people of East Dunbartonshire elected me to fight for Scotland’s position in the UK and for the United Kingdom’s position in the EU. That is the manifesto I stood on. The Liberal Democrats have led the fight for a people’s vote so we keep the benefits of our EU membership and remain a leading and influential member of the world’s most successful economic and political bloc. I am delighted that so many MPs from all parties are coming together and working beyond party lines for the public to have the final say on a deal, with the option of keeping our EU membership.

She was challenged by an SNP MP about independence at this point and continued

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Could you head up the new Lib Dem Racial Diversity Campaign?

The Party is finally starting to get its act together on racial diversity. Last week the Federal Board decided to properly set up the new Racial Diversity Campaign which aims to improve Lib Dem BAME representation in our various Parliaments.

So, the party has advertised for a Chair and two Vice Chairs of the RDC. Applications must be submitted quite quickly, by a week tomorrow and the Federal Board will meet the candidates on 28th January and make their choices shortly thereafter.

Here’s some more detail:

The Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC) will be the vehicle within the party which finds, trains and supports BaME candidates through to their selection and beyond to successful election.

Its principal aims are to increase the number of ethnic minority MPs, MSPs, MEPs, Assembly Members, elected Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners and. It would also work alongside ALDC to increase the number of ethnic minority Councillors and Council Leaders.

The Chair and Vice-Chairs of the RDC will be experienced in training and mentoring and have a deep knowledge of the party’s processes for candidates, from assessment through to fighting a campaign.

The successful candidates will be elected to serve until 31 December 2019 on a ‘casual vacancy’ basis. Fresh elections (for a number of posts including these) for a full three-year term will be held after the new Federal Board meets early in 2020.

Applicants for the roles of Chair or Vice Chair must be nominated by two members of the Federal Board, membership of which can be found here: www.libdems.org.uk/federal_board. You should send your nomination to the Party Governance Officer [email protected]

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In pictures: Lib Dems campaigning to stop this Brexit carry on

It’s kind of lucky that this weekend is a national weekend of Lib Dem action. Coming just 72 hours before Parliament makes the most momentous decision of our lifetimes – or not, we hope – it’s great to see that Lib Dems have been out on the streets making the case to stop Brexit by means of a People’s Vote.

Here’s some pictures from all over the country.

Remember how heavily Norman Lamb’s North Norfolk constituency voted to leave? Have a look at this.

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Could you be the Lib Dems’ Vice President BAME?

As part of the implementation of the Alderdice Report which aims to remove the barriers to participation in the party by members of BAME communities, the Party is looking to appoint a Vice President BAME.

They’ve advertised the role and the details of what it entails and how to apply are below:

The Vice President BaME will be a party ambassador and senior Board officer. They will work with various Federal and State bodies responsible for delivering diverse representation both internally and externally. These include Candidates Committees, the Candidates & Diversity Office and the Diversity Committee of the Federal People Development Committee.

The VP-BaME would also support the Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC) and Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality (LDCRE) in their work to promote more BaME representation both in internal party structures and externally in local, regional and parliamentary elections.

The VP-BaME will work closely with the Party’s Equalities Spokesperson to ensure that different BaME communities’ interests are represented, to highlight issues, engage ethnic minority voters and campaign for a better deal for them.

They will work with LDCRE to reach out to BaME communities, to enthuse them about the Lib Dems and attract them to become members and activists.  They will champion inclusion, and work with these recruits to help them empower each other and gain the knowledge and skills they need to be meaningfully involved.

The VP-BaME will listen to BaME communities’ views and work to ensure that they are reflected in Liberal Democrat policy making.

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Liz Barker’s tribute to Paddy Ashdown

In a House of Lords debate on the Western Balkans this week, Baroness Liz Barker paid tribute to Paddy Ashdown:

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, for this debate, which, sadly, is timely and appropriate. I thank her for giving me the opportunity to tell your Lordships’ House about an event that took place in Sarajevo on 27 December. Joseph Ingram wrote a report of it and he said this. Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina held a spontaneous commemorative service in the “iconic, reconstructed city hall”. The hall was,

“filled to capacity, and despite being nationally televised, had people lined up outside trying to be part of it. The ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’, a group that represents survivors of the most horrific massacre of innocent civilians on European soil since World War Two, had announced that they too intend to honour the work of this extraordinary human being”.

The event was dedicated to one man. He was born in India. He grew up as a lad in Northern Ireland. He left school, joined the marines and became a captain, a diplomat and spy. Then he gave up everything and, after a period on the dole, went on to become a youth worker and eventually the gallant MP for Yeovil. In this House, we knew him as Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, but he was always Paddy.

He had a wide range of interests. He had forgotten more languages than most of us have ever learned. He could quote the poetry of John Donne at will. He was an informed and passionate supporter of activists for democracy in Hong Kong, when nobody else took any notice, and he packed more achievements into a lifetime than most of us could imagine, but he was always first to admit that the source of his great strength was Jane. In public she was a quiet figure, but to those of us who know her she is a charming, funny and formidable woman.

I will give you one vignette which sums up both of them. Like all good leaders, Paddy used to invite people in to advise him, talk to him and argue with him. In 1992 I was one of the small group. Early one morning, he posed us the question: should I go to Bosnia? We went round the room and we all said no. We gave him all sorts of reasons why it was a really bad idea, and I left the meeting certain of only one thing. He was going to go. We all saw the TV pictures recently, but what we did not know until we read his autobiography was that he had come under fire, as the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, told us. But he went because he saw a group of people being treated unjustly, and he thought that he could and should do something.

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Don’t leave it to someone else

At the end of last year, the local party in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk chose Jenny Marr to fight the seat at the next General Election.

She’s written about the importance of getting involved in the political process by voting and beyond for the Scot Women Stand website.

It’s another thing to add to the to do list, isn’t it?

And of course first you have to register to do it.

Then there’s the wading through of manifestos, trying to understand policies, which are not exactly the work of Shakespeare. Then there’s the appeal of Love Island or similar which are just too all-consuming to consider anything else.

Been there, got the t-shirt. Trust me, I understand.

But what is the alternative? Be left out? Let your voice go unheard?

I know its certainly true that many politicians need to be better at keeping in touch. But don’t allow the laziness of some to block your participation.

Your voice is worth so much more than that.

Women have the right to tell their story, and have fought for that right – some are still fighting. And part of that is through putting a cross on a ballot paper in the privacy of the polling booth.

It’s your school, it’s your health centre, it’s your money. And it goes deeper than that. It’s your grandma who can’t get her flu jab this year, it’s your child whose classroom is too small, or their resources too few. It’s your hard-earned taxes.

Don’t exclude yourself from the narrative. Don’t overthink it. Don’t leave it to someone else.

Sometimes someone in your life is a bigger influence than they were ever able to know.

My Grandad, who died when I was just eight, was a Cllr in the North of England.

He was an advocate for, and passionate defender of, local democracy and local government.

He believed in “parish pump politics”, of chewing the fat in the Market Square and fixing problems as a community. Before local government was reorganised, and Councils became much bigger, he said “We have our grumbles and grouses, but at least the system had a soul.”

More than that, the community had a voice, and used it.

They used it by voting.

Politicians are like everyone else. They have their strengths and weaknesses and certainly none of them are perfect.

And if you want to make sure the right ones are hired and fired coming polling day, you can.

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A Land Value Capture approach to Social Housing Provision

Shelter has published the final report of its cross-party commission on  Social Housing setting out the need for 3.1m new social homes over the next 20 years.

The report makes the case that council houses and social housing should be available to more than just the people in greatest need and those saving to buy. As well as the 1.3 million people it estimates are in greatest need because of hazardous homes, overcrowding, homelessness and disabilities, the new homes should be accessible to a further 1.2 million young people and 700,000 older people trapped in private rent. The commission puts the provision of housing on a par with health and education.

The plans have been costed at up to £225bn. But savings to the £21bn annual housing benefit bill and the economic boost created by the programme means it would pay for itself inside 40 years, according to fiscal modelling for the commission by Capital Economics

The analysis suggests that that two-thirds of the annual investment cost of £10.7bn a year would be clawed back through housing benefit savings and extra tax revenue and the programme would pay for itself in full after 39 years.

Delivering 3m+ social homes by 2040 will require half of the 300,000 annual house building target to come from the public sector.

Key to this objective is the cost of Land. Build costs of new developments have increased by more than 40% since the financial crisis almost entirely due to the cost of land.

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  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 17th Jan - 1:45am
    Expats, I think I have been clear that I support Libdem housing policy as updated last spring https://www.libdems.org.uk/spring-18-f4-local-government-housing This policy includes allowing receipts from the...
  • User AvatarMartin 16th Jan - 11:48pm
    Vince and our other parliamentarians need to remind Mrs May that her self imposed red lines are the stumbling block. We should not promise much...
  • User AvatarYeovil Yokel 16th Jan - 11:43pm
    “What should Vince say to Theresa?” - my reply would be unrepeatable, but my advice to Vince (not that he really needs it) is not...
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 16th Jan - 11:18pm
    It was a fair point from Gove, there was a tme when we favoured a referendum. To many we give the appearance of inconsistency on...
  • User AvatarJayne Mansfield 16th Jan - 11:11pm
    @david Warren, I must eat my words when I say that I do not detect a groundswell for a change in voting system. There was...
  • User AvatarFiona 16th Jan - 11:09pm
    David, no tying in knots required to distinguish between a vote to validate the details of a massive constitutional change and a vote to instigate...