Category Archives: News

Local Government is facing what could be an existential crisis. How can it be saved?

Some of you may think that the title of this piece is another example of hyperbole. You might be right as the local government has faced crises before. However, as someone with 30 years’ continuous service as a local councillor, I do think that what we have come to expect concerning local services could be something we will in future only read about in history books unless something is done to reverse the downward spiral.

Especially since WW2 governments of all political hues have over the years progressively emasculated local councils, not only by taking many of their responsibilities away from …

Also posted in Local government and Op-eds | Tagged | 36 Comments

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.

Also posted in Op-eds | 23 Comments

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:

Also posted in Op-eds | 4 Comments

London Liberal Democrats announce timetable for GLA/Assembly selections, positive action for BAME candidates

The next known challenges for London Liberal Democrats are the Mayoral and GLA contests in May 2020. These are unique elections in British politics, with nearly nine million people electing one person to lead the City and twenty-five Greater London Assembly members (fourteen elected from constituencies, eleven from a top up list).

Being the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor is a high profile role needing a candidate of the highest calibre and we will have a rigorous process to ensure that our candidate will cope with the scrutiny that the election will bring.

The London Regional Executive places a great importance on …

Also posted in Selection news | Tagged , and | 31 Comments

Welcome to my day: 30 July 2018 – stockpiling words for a future shortage?

It’s been a very pleasant weekend in mid-Suffolk, with a Branch garden party to attend in Needham Market, a fascinating lunch with a new friend talking about Brexit and wider geopolitics and an intriguing dinner party, but it’s now time to return to work, as the week begins anew. And what have we for you today, I hear you ask?

It hardly seems like two years since the last London Assembly elections, but it really is, and as a sign of how seriously the Regional Party are taking 2020, we today can announce the schedule for the selection of the Party’s …

16 Comments

Changes to the Membership Incentive Scheme

Since its launch in 2013, the Membership Incentive Scheme has helped our party not just grow, but thrive. 

The money from it has helped local parties grow their membership, fight campaigns and demand better for their communities.

In recent years, we’ve seen a worrying trend developing though. More and more local parties stopped actively recruiting new members.

This is concerning – because part of the original intent of the scheme was to help build strong, local teams that would win elections.

At the request of the relevant State Party Committees, we have therefore been exploring options to revise the current incentive scheme.

Under the …

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From the new chair of Federal Finance and Resources Committee

In common with other political parties, the Liberal Democrats have more than one ‘Treasurer’. Many of you will know Mike German as the ‘Party Treasurer’ responsible for fundraising and Dinesh Dhamija who is Mike’s deputy. Both Mike and Dinesh are responsible for getting ‘money in’ to the Party and you will have seen them at Federal Conference and at other fundraising events. Behind the scenes sits the Chair of the Federal Finance and Resources Committee (FFRC) who is responsible for ‘money out’ and, as far as the law and the Electoral Commission is concerned, is the ‘Registered’ Treasurer (RT) of the party. The RT is a non-executive (unremunerated) position which has oversight of the Federal Budget, the Federal Audit, and Compliance (including PPERA and GDPR). An active role, the RT has the final sign-off to mark donations as permissible or impermissible for Electoral Commission purposes.

Peter Dunphy has been fulfilling the RT role most ably for a number of years but is moving away from London and felt that the time had come to hand over the reins to somebody else who could be more available to London HQ on a regular basis. The RT is a position elected by the Federal Board and, after a hustings and a vote in May, I was elected to the position to succeed Peter formally on 1st July of this year.

I have spoken at Federal Conference many times, am treasurer for Newbury and West Berkshire Liberal Democrats (since 2015), sit on the local party executive, am vice-chair of my local Parish Council, and am an approved candidate for West Berkshire District Council in the 2019 elections. Until recently I was also co-chair of the Liberal Democrat Entrepreneur’s Network and with Andrew Dixon (President), and Tilly McAuliffe helped to grow the membership of that organisation to such a point that it became one of the largest donors to the Party in the 2017 election.

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Horizon Europe – a potential blow for British science and technology?

One of the more obscure (at least as far as the general public is concerned) areas of worry resulting from Brexit was British participation in Horizon 2020, the European Union’s Programme for Innovation and Research, which invested significant sums into European research and development programmes, linking researchers across the Union for that purpose. The transitional period appeared to allow British participation until its end, even if Conservative politicians seem determined to put that in doubt.

Now, the European Commission are proposing a new version, Horizon Europe, intended to take the programme forward in …

Also posted in Europe / International | Tagged , and | 2 Comments

Welcome to my day: 23 July 2018 – the heat is, apparently, on…

The grass in my garden is looking a bit distressed, and the oasis of a new centrist party is looking like a bit of a mirage. But life goes on, and so does Liberal Democrat Voice. So, what have we got for you today?

Ben Andrew kicks us off with some suggestions that would help the young amongst us. And yes, he does touch upon student finance, but his focus is on earlier years too.

We have news on proposals for Horizon Europe. “What’s that?”, I hear you ask. Well, it’s a major funding programme, supporting collaborative research and development across the …

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LISTEN: To Pauline Pearce talking about finding productive outlets for anger on Woman’s Hour

Liberal Democrat Federal Board member and Hackney mayoral candidate Pauline Pearce was on Woman’s Hour yesterday talking about how she channeled her anger into her campaign against knife crime.

She talked about how she was so angry that the 2011 riots had stopped her doing her community radio show, her escape from chemotherapy and radiotherapy and focus for her campaign. That’s what motivated her to rail against the unfocused

She had been campaigning on knife crime long before her son became victm to it. She described how her personal experience intensified her anger and she had to “put the sensible hat on.”

Her involvement in politics and the Liberal Democrats gave her a bigger platform to campaign on and an understanding of how things worked that helped her anger to be put to productive use.

Listen here from around 25 minutes in.

And if you want more Pauline, listen to her Ted Talk from 6 years ago:

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WATCH: Layla on the need for inclusive sex and relationships education

This week the Government started consulting on relationships and sex education. For years, Liberal Democrats have argued that it is vital that every child has access to information that includes everyone, where LGBT+ people are included and which covers issues of consent and life-saving information about safe sex and contraception. Education spokesperson Layla Moran encourages responses and highlights how Lib Dem Education secretary Kirsty Williams has done this in Wales.

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Reform the Reformers – Part 1 Policy making

The business world has its special expressions for what politicians call ‘reform’. ‘If you are standing still you are going backwards’ for example. In Japan there is the business concept of ‘kaizen’, translated as ‘continuous improvement’.

The UK Liberal Democrats are a reformist party. People join the party because they wish to improve things and solve problems.

By contrast some people join political parties to preserve the status quo, or a prior status quo. It’s not so common in business. I sometimes wonder if the CEO of the communist East German state company that made the famous plastic 2-stroke Trabant car, had a business philosophy of ‘continuously staying the same’.

The Liberal Democrats might find even greater success if they focused even more on their primary job of ‘reforming’. That means doing even more to solve problems and make improvements for the general public. Liberal Democrats are keen to tell the public about their liberal values and democratic principles. It is not always easy for the public to make the connection between Lib Dem values and principles, and improvements to their lives; how those principles and values solve real problems.

There is scope for improvement here.

The Lib Dems will surely do better if they are perceived more as a problem-solving service for the public. Indeed, at a recent Liberal International meeting in Berlin a spokesperson for the German FDP explained that this conclusion at a strategy meeting a few years ago led to their revival as a political force.

With the UK Lib Dems the deployment of our values and principles in solving problems, is undertaken by a relatively open policymaking system. This is where one might look for the scope for improvement.

The rules of an organisation reflect its culture.

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Your Conference venues for next year are…..

I am delighted to announce the venues for Federal Conference in 2019.

For the Spring, we will be returning to the York Barbican.   It is a venue that enjoys consistently positive member feedback, located, as it is, in a magnificent city.  The conference hotel will be the Novotel York Centre Hotel.  The dates for conference will be 16th to 17th March 2019.

Autumn Conference 2019 will be held in the Bournemouth International Centre.  As with York, it is a venue well known to us and we are really pleased to be returning to what is a great seaside location.  The conference hotel will be the Marriott Highclff.  The dates for Autumn Conference will be 14th to 17th September 2019.

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A very strong hold in Oxfordshire

Oxford Liberal Democrats pulled off a brilliant hold last night, getting over 60% of the vote.

Congratulations to Cllr Stefanie Garden

There was a bit of a Conservative surge in Bury but we managed to hold our own in terms of vote share as …

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Dinosaur found at Westminster

The BBC’s Nicholas Watt seems to have been trawling the bars of the Parliamentary Estate looking for dinosaurs. And he struck gold.

Oh.My.Days.

I have a list of suspects, although that grows exponentially if we’re including Lords.

I have been saying for a while that we should paint in primary colours, that we should say what we really feel and not be too subtle.

Our Press Office stepped up to that plate tonight. Do not read on if you are easily offended.

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George Dunk’s memorial service to take place this Saturday

George Dunk was a much-loved presence on the Lib Dem scene for decades. I first knew him through his wife, Sandra, who was the Party’s fantastic candidates officer. She died very suddenly in 2004. He was such a kind and funny man who always had a story to tell and he is incredibly missed. He died at the end of April.

This Saturday, his memorial service will take place at St James Church, Bermondsey, Thurland Road, SE16 4AA at 11:30 am. It’s just off Jamaica Road, and three minutes from Bermondsey tube station.  There will be a gathering in a local pub …

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A young person’s ideas for a better online Lib Dem presence

The digital profile of the Liberal democrats is not making use of the huge opportunities the internet provides. I am a young Liberal Democrat who is often annoyed at our lack of digital presence as a party. This is a time where, due to our small number of MPs, we aren’t often appearing on the mainstream media and so it is the best possible time to start creating media of our own. A strong social media presence has two key benefits for the party. It will solidify our base of support with current members and simultaneously attract new ones.

The main problem with our current social media strategy seems to me to be a lack of tailoring to each individual platform so with that in mind here would be my recommendations for each platform.

YouTube

 Perhaps the greatest untapped goldmine the Lib Dems have is YouTube. The thing one must understand about YouTube is its current trend towards long form content. An example of this would be the series of interviews done by James O’Brien for Joe.co.uk. One recent interview was with Nick Clegg and gained 26 thousand viewers yet cost almost nothing to produce.

Why doesn’t the party dig out a camera, a microphone, have a young party member sit down and interview each MP for an hour. If it only gets a few thousand views no money has been wasted and a few thousand people have had the chance to listen to a Liberal Democrat point of view. Produce a podcast version of it and release that too. If Ed Miliband’s podcast can get 100,000 downloads surely, we can get into the marketplace too.

An important thing to remember is the right are already doing this, look at the recent news on UKIP or a half an hour interview with Katie Hopkins that gained 300 thousand views. This is an untapped goldmine of exposure, crucially aimed at a younger audience, that we are wasting.

Twitter

The twitter presence for the Liberal Democrats is on the whole good, the Lib Dem Press Office account being the highlight. The thing to remember about twitter is it is the opposite of YouTube. On YouTube users sit for hours watching long form content but twitter is about short, snappy and if possible humorous posts. I would change two things, firstly make our tweets funny, punchy and sharable to attract more people and gain more publicity. We need more “Stalin to Mr Bean” type tweets. Secondly, and this may seem a small detail, subtitle our twitter videos. People use twitter when they’re on the bus or walking down the street and so often won’t listen to the audio of videos, every Labour party video is subtitled for this reason, we need that too.

Reddit

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Why the Party should reject calls to sign to the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

In July 2017, a UN Conference on Nuclear Weapons comprised of 124 states voted 122 – 1 – 1 in favor of creating a Treaty to ban nuclear weapons; only The Netherlands voted against, and Singapore abstained. Though the Conference Vote itself results in no legal obligations on the UN Member States, the Treaty opened for signature on 20 September 2017.  As of today, 59 states have signed it, and 11 have ratified it; 90 days after 50 states have ratified the Treaty, it will come into force – currently a distant prospect.

Kevin White wrote an article for LDV on 11 July highlighting his second attempt backed by 156 party members to get FCC to consider a motion at Autumn Conference committing the Party to “to campaign for the UK to add its name to the list of signatories to the Treaty” – and presumably ratify the Treaty.

Speaking as a multilateralist who has consistently opposed Trident replacement on the grounds that it is too expensive – it will consume between a quarter and a third of the MoD procurement budget each year between now and the mid-2030s – and Trident is a level of capability that the UK no longer needs. As an academic international lawyer, I understand the attraction of a Treaty that would ban nuclear weapons and lead to global nuclear zero – an aspiration that I fully support.

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The Big Brexit Squeeze

We all know The Squeeze; when we alert voters to the binary choice forced on them by First Past the Post, asking them to drop their preferred option and settle for us.

The Squeeze runs through Brexit. Theresa May tells the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that they might loathe her Brexit proposals, but the alternative is Corbyn.  A wider, presumed “Leave,” the audience is told the alternative is “no Brexit at all.”As that would suit me down to the ground, I am told that HARD Brexit awaits if I fail to get behind whichever fantasy proposal is currently touted.

The biggest squeeze of all, though, maybe around the corner. The government nears collapse; a collapse that would leave the UK rudderless, unable to agree on any deal and, so, inexorably be sliding into a calamitous No Deal Brexit. A General Election, under the First Past the Post system that did so much to create the crisis, would not help. FPTP enforces the party blocks, limiting the choice of the electorate which it then further distorts.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 5 Comments

Reforming National Insurance Contributions

There has been much talk recently about how we are going to raise money to fund public services, and National Insurance Contributions (NIC) is usually the option the Treasury takes. This is predominantly because the public see NICs as something distinct from general taxation.

However, continually raising NICs hurts the income of working people, depresses wages and is generationally unfair.

NICs is only levied on those aged 65 and under, this explains to an extent why it is still seen as a contribution rather than a tax. However, with life expectancies rising and insufficient pension savings, people are working much longer. Raising …

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 19 Comments

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.

Also posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

Tories cheat like a Vote Leave campaign over crucial customs union vote

This country is currently on a path to economic self-destruction because of a narrow vote to leave the European Union in 2016. Today we discovered that the Vote Leave campaign had cheated. And, by the way, that monumental news isn’t even on the BBC’s front page any more.

Tonight, this country was helped along its path to economic self-destruction  because of a narrow vote – 307-301 against an amendment which would have kept us in a customs union with the EU after Brexit. The desperate Tory government pulled a particularly dirty trick to win that vote.

The pairing system has long been a civilising feature of our Parliament. When an MP is indisposed for some reason or needs a night off, they can be paired with an MP who would vote the opposite way. Imagine the sorts of circumstances that you might need that in – maybe a dying parent, or a sick child, or your own illness, or being on maternity leave. Tonight, Jo Swinson, whose baby is just two weeks old, was paired with Conservative Party chair Brandon Lewis. He voted in the crunch votes. He didn’t vote in the earlier votes.  Jo was justifiably furious:

The incident even got a Twitter moment.

After a couple of hours, Lewis tweeted that it had been an honest mistake:

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Whip issues apology over Trade Bill vote

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael has issued a statement following yesterday’s vote on the Taxation (Cross-border trade) Bill:

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Rebecca Trimnell picked as PPC for Gloucester

Local resident Dr Rebecca Trimnell has been picked to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for Gloucester at the next General Election.

Rebecca, who lives in the Westgate area of the city, was chosen by Lib Dem party members from a shortlist of two at a selection meeting in the city on Saturday night. She will take on Conservative MP Richard Graham and Labour’s Fran Boait at the next General Election, which could happen at anytime between now and 2022.

Rebecca, 39, who lives in the shadow of St Oswald’s Priory, is a former researcher …

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Welcome to my day: 16 July 2018 – are the tectonic plates of British politics shifting?

An opinion poll this weekend showed a significant shift from the Conservatives to UKIP, which perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise given the reaction to Theresa May’s proposals for Brexit. If, and one cannot be too cautious here, it is an early sign that Brexit supporters will desert the Conservatives if she proceeds as outlined, the beneficiaries are likely to be Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Of course, it might also cause Theresa May to revert to a more hardline approach…

But, whilst the experts and the commentariat pick through the entrails, we’ve got a website to run. And we start …

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Now is not the time for the BBC to be cutting back its political programmes

This week the BBC announced changes to its political programming. When I say changes, I mean cuts. BBC Parliament will just cover Parliament and the devolved assemblies when they are sitting and the UK wide Sunday Politics is axed.

The main changes are outlined here:

A new team giving better digital and social coverage – including podcasts – of politics and parliament for audiences who are increasingly getting their news online, especially on mobiles. In an era of concerns about misinformation and ‘echo chambers’ this is designed to bring trusted impartial political coverage to younger audiences

A new daily political programme –

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WATCH: Christine Jardine speaks to anti Trump demo

It was a fine day at the Trump protest yesterday. The photo shows some of the Scottish Lib Dem contingent before we went to the pub to watch sports and drank ridiculous amounts of Prosecco.

My favourite banner was so rude that I definitely can’trepeat it here. To paraphrase, it suggested a name we might like to call the President if only he had warmth and depth.

Our speaker at the demo was Christine Jardine, MP for Edinburgh West. Here she is quoting Bobby Kennedy saying that we don’t need division and hatred but wisdom, compassion and love.

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We need a two pronged approach to Brexit

Theresa May’s travails suggest we may be close to a breakthrough on Brexit, but we need a new strategy. Normally if you’re making progress, your strategy is working, but something different is required for the final push. Let me explain.

There’s only one way to make sense of Brexit, and that’s to realise that it has nothing to do with the UK leaving the European Union. Or only peripherally. How else does one explain a situation that is already making Britain poorer, hitting hardest those keenest on being out of the EU? How else does one explain the vehemence with which anti-EU views are held, and the ease with which the supposed facts underlying this vehemence can so easily be discredited? And where will we go when we’ve left the EU but the very things the Leavers voted for – primarily lower immigration and greater sovereignty – just don’t happen?

Brexit is largely a protest. Not exclusively – there are some reasonable people who believe we’d be better off outside the EU (though the ones I’ve met have a fairly garbled understanding of how much sovereignty the EU actually has), and the future of the EU is itself somewhat hazy. But Brexit is Britain’s version of the rust belt revolt, a revolt partly based on genuine hardship, and partly motivated by how things seem. Traditional sources of work have gone, workers in eastern Europe and the developing world are paid a pittance to undercut British workers, immigration is out of control such that you can’t get to see your doctor but those who speak a different language have no difficulty, and the shop you knew in your childhood as a hard-working grocer’s is now a delicatessen run by someone from abroad. Oh and those City-types in London are doing rather too well for themselves.

It doesn’t matter how much of this is true. The fact that it seems to be true is enough. Add the growth of social media that allows the spread of views that go unchallenged, plus the relentless anti-Europe bombardment from certain tabloids, and even the most cogent anti-Brexit arguments fail to dent many people’s visceral commitment to it.

The result is that if Brexit implodes and we end up not leaving the EU, there will be masses of anger against the liberal elite, which could create a very dangerous situation. And in electoral terms, the result of an exit from Brexit could be an even bigger backlash against the Liberal Democrats than we suffered in 2015. Getting a referendum which we then win (and getting it may prove easier than winning it) won’t be enough to see off this anger. Somehow we have to separate membership of the EU from the sense vast swathes of Britain’s rust belt have that no-one is listening to them.

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  • User Avatarsuzanne Fletcher 20th Aug - 6:47pm
    @George Potter. Yes it is long, but no way were we going to be the people to say that some bits did not matter !...
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    @Peter Martin Hi Peter, Thank you for your comments. For the sake of clarity, are you the same Peter Martin who commented last year on...
  • User AvatarMichael 1 20th Aug - 6:14pm
    @Mark Seaman The point about car manufacture is that it requires a large investment in a plant. So there tends to be one (or two)...
  • User AvatarGeorge Potter 20th Aug - 6:06pm
    With apologies to Suzanne and LD4SOS, my understanding is that their amendment is 3 pages long. In all my time in the party I have...
  • User AvatarPeter Martin 20th Aug - 5:53pm
    @ Grahame Evans, Yours is a rather convoluted argument. Low interest rates and a lowish exchange rate are a sign of weakness in an economy...
  • User AvatarPeter Hayes 20th Aug - 5:24pm
    I agree with Martin, the summary is useful. If you read ConsevativeHome and LabourList BTL you see that our comments are relatively moderate! Labour has...