Category Archives: Op-eds

Poll suggests if Labour backs Brexit it could fall behind Lib Dems

Ok, so get your pinches of salt out, because you’ll need them, but a story in The Sunday Times (£) suggests that Labour could lose its place as the official opposition to the Lib Dems if Labour backs any sort of Brexit deal.

The YouGov survey of 5,000 voters, commissioned by the People’s Vote campaign, shows that support for Labour could fall from 36% to 22% if they helped the Tories to pass a compromise deal with Brussels like the one advocated by Theresa May.

Under those circumstances, the Lib Dems would soar from 10% to 26% — their highest rating in any poll since they entered coalition government with the Tories in 2010.

The poll shows that Labour’s supporters want a People’s Vote by a margin of almost three to one — and an even bigger proportion would stay in the European Union if they were given the chance.

Alex Cole-Hamilton urged Labour to think again:

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Christmas Competition – Why be a Lib Dem?

To talk about reasons why everyone else should join the party, I assume I should start by discussing the reasons why I joined myself. I joined the party shortly after Jeremy Corbyn’s second Labour leadership election, seeing no future for myself in the Labour Party, I began to search for a new political party to call my home. Being vaguely close to the political centre, I knew from the start it wouldn’t be the CPGB or UKIP, not being from a region that has a regional party, I assumed the SNP and Plaid Cymru wouldn’t be too pleased with a …

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Tony Greaves writes…Home rule for the north

The North of England is the second English region after London and the south-east together, and has 15 million people—three times as many as Scotland and five times as many as Wales. It shares considerable cultural, economic and social cohesion and history, and many current problems. This is about the North as such because the North should stand together as a whole.

What we have is asymmetric devolution. Scotland, and to a lesser extent Wales have increasingly become functioning units of a federal system, except there is no federal system for them to be the units of. This is not a system that is sustainable in the long run. We still have a highly centralized state, not least in England, with a number of peripheral anomalies. If I call Wales and Scotland peripheral anomalies, I do so with admiration that they have been able to break free from the grip of London to the extent that they have. Then we have gimmicks such as EVEL (English Votes for English Laws in the House of Commons).

Some people believe the answer is a federal system with an English Parliament, but the result of that would in due course be the complete detachment of Scotland and Wales. And it would do nothing to change the concentration of economic and political power within England. We have had a series of feeble initiatives such as the attempt by John Prescott to set up a North-east Assembly with no powers, which was rightly rejected. Labor set up government regional offices in which civil servants from different departments sat in the same buildings and talked to their bosses in London rather than to each other. There was the coalition’s regional growth fund and its local enterprise partnerships—nobody really noticed them.

The North is being fragmented into city regions but it is not devolution: it is almost entirely the reorganisation of local government. It is the concentration of power within local government, with all power going to the big cities, but what is that except the power for those involved to carry begging bowls on the train to Whitehall and Westminster and, if they are lucky, to go home with their railway fares? As power is concentrated in big cities through city regions and mayors, the people who suffer in the North of England are those in the areas on the edges, and the places in between. Particularly towns, which have lost so much of their civic culture, power and society in recent years.

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Christmas competition How can we reduce inequality

Reducing inequality is something that all politicians even Conservatives say they are in favour of.

They even produce figures to try and demonstrate that government measures are having a positive effect.

The reality, of course, is that over the last forty years or so inequality has got worse particularly in economic terms.

Wealth gives access to things like better quality health and education leading on to employment opportunities that the poorer in our society can only dream of.

This is combined with a trend since the Thatcher years of a decline in access to things like relatively well-paying jobs and decent, affordable housing for the masses.

Put on top of that the cuts in welfare then you reach a stage where the United Nations commissions an investigation into poverty in the nation.

Liberals have a proud history of tackling inequality the Beveridge plan of the 1940s being just one notable example and we must now come up with a new Beveridge type plan for the 21st century.

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Courage Calls…

A few weeks ago I was invited by Christine Jardine MP to visit Westminster as her #AskHerToStand delegate. The event was to commemorate the centenary of the Qualification of Women Act, a defining moment in British politics when women were allowed to stand for parliament for the first time.

As Christine’s delegate, I think I won the Golden Ticket. Where some guests were only able to spend five minutes with their MP, I was welcomed for the entire day. Christine and her assistant, David Evans, were generous with their time and insight despite having to navigate an ever-changing diary. Filing copy for the Corstorphine Grapevine was sandwiched between an emergency debate on Yemen and PMQ’s. Christine joined me in the audience at an #AskHerToStand event, but quickly realised that there wasn’t a Lib Dem MP on the panel. She nipped out to get us a drink and when I looked up she’d joined the stage! She never misses a beat in representing her constituents or the Lib Dems.

My trip to London was exactly one year after I made the decision to join the party. It was something that I had wanted to do for a very long time, but for many people joining a political party is a scary thing and I was one of them. 

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Federal Policy Committee report – 12 December 2018

FPC had a full and varied last meeting before Christmas on Wednesday night.

We started with a broad overview of the overall financial implications of our policy platform: our priorities for spending and how we would find the resources to pay for them. This ranged widely over a number of areas including spending on welfare and health. We had a particularly good discussion of the best way of supporting education. We also reviewed our various tax proposals, with the 1p on income tax for health as the headline commitment, and also drawing together various other proposals on tax recently approved by conference.

Next up was the motion and paper on Race Equality which we will be proposing to spring conference. This has some excellent analysis and proposals to tackle the deep and difficult issues in this area, and will be published with the agenda for spring conference. Many thanks to Merlene Emerson and the working group who have developed these.

We had a useful conversation with Paul Noblet, the chair of the working group A Fairer Share for All, ranging widely over the territory of this group. The group has taken evidence on and is discussing various proposals to help the least well off, both through the benefits and tax system and other ways. It will publish a consultation paper on its proposals before spring conference.

We had a brief but useful discussion with Mike Tuffrey – who co-chaired the policy working group that wrote the Good Jobs, Better Businesses, Stronger Communities paper – about some work he is supporting to look at the big economic questions facing the country, including the challenges of new technology, the relationship between business and society, and what the role of the state in the economy should be. This is at an early stage but it it is hoped that in due course there will be some proposals to contribute, that take the ideas in the original policy paper further forward.

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Brexit in British and World evolution

This article was due to appear in September when I asked for a second referendum, but I delayed it as I thought at the time that it would appear as purely academic. Political reflection has evolved since then.

The Prime Minister repeats endlessly her political mantra that Brexit will bring a brighter future and happy tomorrows. The student of history knows how costly any secession or independence can be, with usually an array of sweat, tears and too often blood, even with the best plans. This was precisely the sense of my question to FM Nicola Sturgeon at the RSA recently: ‘If Scotland would be independent, have you made any plans to project the country in the future?’ To alert her of the dangers of such program more than know about them. Matthew Taylor, who moderated, said ‘Very big question’ then turning to her ‘I suspect the answer is ‘yes’’!. She of course replied ‘Yes, is the answer to that question….’. Mrs May, to whom I pointed out I could ask the same question for Brexit, would have equally said ‘yes’. As a member of a family who has helped reformed two states, Egypt (1920’s) and Brazil (1958), and created one republic from scratch – the First Republic of Armenia (1918-20) – I will humbly point out that any such project is a costly adventure no matter how well prepared you are and even if you are on the ‘right side of history’ to quote Mr Obama during his inaugural speech

It is on the latter point I wish to dwell. World history, including the European one, has a flow and some like Lord Heseltine, see it very well. President Roosevelt once formulated it with the vocabulary of his time: ‘You can delay the development of civilisation, but you cannot stop it’. The world, whether one likes or not, tends towards unity even if this is in the future. The European idea is a step towards this unity; Brexit a delay triggered by those who consciously or unconsciously react to this global change: Open border and this free movement which Mrs May wants ended, mingling of nations at an increased pace, decentralisation of the financial world and education, etc… Even the French Prime Minister recently stated that English is the ‘Langua Franca’ of the world – a true revolution considering the onerous ‘Francophonie” program which aims to restore the influence of French in international circles.

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Christmas Competition: Taking On the Demagogues

We seem to be in an age of populists – from Brexiteers in the UK to authoritarian voices in parts of Europe and beyond, to Donald Trump in the US. Wherever there is a problem, there’s someone to blame, and it’s usually minority groups and the vulnerable – those with the quietest voices – that get blamed.

This development has potentially dangerous consequences – populist leaders fomenting an atmosphere of distrust, resentment, and hatred. At home politicians and newspapers see “traitors”, “saboteurs”, “enemies of the people” and little green men hiding under the bed. We all know where this can lead. “Ordinary”, “hard-working” people whom populists claim to represent only get to have their say once – then the barriers go up, dissent is silenced or drowned out by all-dominant official media (or government-friendly oligarchs buying media space); human rights disregarded and power abused and corrupted. Liberals, people of a broadly liberal outlook, are getting thoroughly sick of all this mean-spirited grumpiness and nastiness. Their stomach-churning rhetoric serves to remind us why we are liberals.

We cannot necessarily blame “technology” or “social media” for this malaise – populist demagoguery has driveled out of traditional outlets such as the Sun, the Mail, the Express and Fox News for decades.

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What is your leverage?

Yesterday’s phoney war over the leadership of the Conservative Party has got me thinking. The hardline Brexiters (confusing referred to in the media as just ‘Brexiteers’) sought to remove Theresa May over the desirability of the Brexit deal she has achieved with the European Union. This is not their Brexit; they are betrayed; they must show how angry they are.

But I still wonder if there was any more substance than that. Could a hardline PM have got a better deal? They claim they could, but how? The EU has made little if any concession to the UK, and their position today is much as it was before the vote. The Leavers promised us the EU would fold quickly and they were wrong, and that is their fault, not the EU’s.

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What is a movement?

In the discussion – and sales talk – around the party reform proposals, people often talk of creating a movement, sometimes equated to a supporter scheme. Sometimes, as in that video, it’s presented as an alternative to a political party. There is a danger of positive language being repeated till people stop asking what it means. So what is a movement and how’s it different from a political party?

“Movement” suggests moving – towards some shared goal. Parties can do that, but you can’t have a movement for not changing things much. Movements require mass participation.

Any party can call itself a movement. In France in 1945, some traditional parties were blamed for France’s unpreparedness for the war and others for collaborating. So a new party was called the “Mouvement Republican Populaire” – People’s Republican Movement. It was organised as a traditional party with mainly unclear goals.

Parties have a defined membership, organisation at local and national levels, a leader or leaders and some process for choosing people with particular responsibilities. Movements may or may not have these things.

Many movements campaign for something narrowly defined. Consider the 19th century movements for abolition of slavery in the UK and the US. The UK movement worked through traditional parties. The US movement founded its own parties (Free Soil, then Republican). Other genuine movements include the Feminist movement, the Green movement, CND and nationalist separatist movements. Some have formed parties, others not.

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In an historic decision, the Sri Lankan Supreme Court rules that the President’s dissolution of parliament was illegal

Embed from Getty Images

This follows on from my post on November 29th.

The Sri Lankan Supreme Court has just ruled unanimously that President Sirisena acted illegally when he dissolved Parliament and called early elections.

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Love, actually

A message to Theresa May & all Britons on Brexit

Here is a video column from the D66 (Dutch Social-Liberal, pro-European sister party), featuring Kees Verhoeven, our MP for European Affairs.

Hope you enjoy!

https://twitter.com/D66/status/1072408573475463168

#makelovedontBrexit

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CHRISTMAS COMPETITION: LOCAL ELECTION MESSAGES FOR 2019

I for one am hopeful that we can make gains not least because the last cycle of these particular elections coincided with the last General Election and we all know how that turned out.

So what are the critical messages that Liberal Democrats must attempt to get across between now and next May?

Well, firstly the obvious one is to emphasise our commitment to community politics particularly in wards and districts where we are trying to build up support for the first time.

The slogan ‘Working all Year round not just at Election Time’ is one that sums up our approach and needs to feature prominently in our campaigns in 2019.

Our message to residents is that if they vote for a Liberal Democrat councillor, they will get a representative devoted to doing what is best for them and their area. A familiar message but one that only we as Liberals can say with conviction.

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Christmas Competition: Promoting ‘Terminally Green’

Oh, let us be, eventually, recycled,

Let us be with nature quite serene,

In a cardboard box,

To feed our hollyhocks,

Let us be quite terminally green.

 

Oh, let us be eventually recycled,

Don’t let us be like some old plastic bag,

If we should become quite ill,

Don’t put us in landfill,

We can’t be an environmental drag.

 

Oh, let us be eventually recycled,

We’ll stop this global warming in a trice,

Carbon footprints left behind?

That’s not what’s on our mind,

We want to be environmentally nice.

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A People’s Vote: What is the Question?

I have just attended my first anti-Brexit protest, a rally where MPs from all the main parties except the SNP called for a People’s Vote.

The call fell on sympathetic ears, but the speakers were pretty vague about the question “the people” were to answer.

Lib Dems were the first to demand that, given the impossible promises made in the Brexit campaign, once a deal had been negotiated voters should be given a chance to say whether that was a version of Brexit that they wanted, and whether, in the light of the outcome of negotiations, they wanted to change their mind on whether to leave the EU or not. Others have been slower to catch up, but it looks as if an ‘endorsing’ referendum might now be the only way forward.

In that case, what should the question(s) be?  I had assumed that “People’s Vote” with all its resources might have a preferred answer, but (presumably to hold their alliance together) their website is not yet specific.

Lib Dems are not so constrained, and we are in a position now to decide where we stand, so that we can continue to take the lead.

The apparent difficulty is that there are three possible ways forward: no deal, May’s deal, and no Brexit.

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Brexit: The forgotten option

Now, I am not normally the person to rush to the front of the queue offering ideas to help the conservative government bail itself out from an inevitable political meltdown. However, in a deep-felt belief that we all need to put the needs of the country before our political self-interest, I wish to suggest an option that not only offers a lifeline to Theresa May but also provides the hope for a brighter future for our country: Albania Plus.

Think about it. At a stroke, we would do away with all the problems of an advanced economy. We would phase out high-tech industries, scientific advancement and all that nasty complicated stuff associated with the ‘supply chain’. Once we stop trading as an advanced international economy, we will no longer have endless streams of imports and exports travelling the highways and byways of the country.  This will not only reduce congestion on our roads, but it will also avoid the need to turn the M20 into a lorry park. Problem solved.

In the lead up to the referendum we were told that Brixit would bring multiple benefits: improvements to the NHS, reduced immigration and we would ‘take back control’ our laws.  No more meddling by bureaucrats in Brussels!

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Christmas Competition: Why Be A Liberal Democrat?

The answer is simple: we are the only party centered on people who trust people to change their lives, their communities, and their government. This message resonates with millions, and it united the Radicals, Liberals, Social Democrats, Whigs and Peelites that form the rich tapestry and history of our party.

We trust people to know best what their conception of the good life is. We believe that consenting adults can chase their happiness – our only role is to enable them to do so and get out of the way. Whether that meant legislating for same-sex marriage so consenting adults can make choices about their lives or creating the Start-Up Loans programme, so entrepreneurs can access finance to launch their businesses and change the world – that’s where we are about.

We don’t see local authorities as administrative bodies that exist to deliver schemes agreed in Whitehall. We believe that truly local government is a way for people to take control of their communities, to shape and transform them. It is why we created City Deals giving local government powers to invest in schemes that will revitalise their areas and create badly needed jobs. It is why we made it easier to create town and parish councils – to give residents a framework through which to organise and run their towns and parishes; to bring to life the community politics that Lord Greaves and Gordon Lishman pioneered.

It was our belief in people that led the Whigs to fight for the Reform Act 1832, why the radical wing of the Liberal Party rose up to fight for the Reform Act 1867, why our movement agitated for universal suffrage, and why the SDP-Liberal Alliance continued a decades-long struggle for voting reform. It’s why the Liberal Democrats today stand as the biggest party fighting for Votes at 16 and for fairer votes. It is why we back devolution on demand – so communities can take control of services and stand on their own two feet, but only if they choose to.

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So it looks like there might be a Tory leadership contest after all…..

The rumours have been circulating all evening, but if Kuenssberg and Peston are now saying it, there has to be some plausibility to the story:

Our Layla got a bit over-excited:

How very unlike the Conservative Party to embroil itself in its own self-indulgent civil war at a time of national crisis.

Of course, even if the ERG has managed to get itself sufficiently together to submit the letters and settle on a chosen candidate, maybe even one who has had a haircut recently, getting the letters in is only the first part of the job. They then have to persuade a majority of their Tory colleagues to back them to force a leadership contest. Apparently there was a huge amount of cheering coming from their meeting last night, and we can probably assume that it wasn’t because they were happy that Joe Sugg had got to the final of Strictly.

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Why a People’s Vote enhances democracy

Of course we should have a vote on the final Brexit deal. 

Because otherwise, we’re giving a free pass to the Brexit campaign of 2016 to say whatever they want, regardless of whether it’s achievable.

The Brexiteers could have promised 100% employment, free homes for everyone and class sizes of 10 if they wanted to. And then when the public voted for Brexit and none of this occurred, they could just say it’s too late. Brexit means Brexit. Anything else is frustrating the result of the referendum.

There comes a point when, if what was promised before the referendum is nothing like what has been achieved in reality, that mandate needs to be held to account. We need to know if the public support the actual Brexit which is staring them in the face – rather than the one which was pitched to them two years ago on completely different terms.

We clearly reached that point a long time ago. 

The Brexit campaign was based on a vision of Brexit which just hasn’t happened. £350 million to the NHS per week? A generous trade deal with the EU? An economically more prosperous country? None of that has happened. 

If the Leave Campaign had campaigned for May’s Brexit Deal, or for No Deal, they would clearly have lost under either circumstance. That’s why I don’t like it when people justify a People’s Vote by saying that the public have a right to change their mind. This isn’t about changing minds. This Brexit was never voted for in the first place. 

Our Prime Minister doesn’t support Brexit. Our Parliament doesn’t support Brexit. The only reason that we are pursuing this policy is because it is “what the people want”. When so much has changed since the vote in 2016, shouldn’t we at least check that this really is “what the people want”? What’s the harm – from a democratic point of view? If the public really do want this version of Brexit then they will vote for it. No one is overturning anything. The public will get their way.

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Lib Dem policy is to withdraw Article 50 if we can’t get an extension for referendum or extra negotiations

This seems to be a good moment to remind you all of the motion passed at Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton. Essentially, if we can’t get an extension for a People’s Vote, or for extra negotiating time to avoid a no deal, we think that Article 50 should be withdrawn. And the ruling from the European Court of Justice yesterday proves that it can be done.

Read, learn and inwardly digest this paragraph:

(Conference calls for)The Government to seek to extend Article 50 if required to legislate for a referendum on the deal, or to provide enough negotiating time to avoid a catastrophic no-deal scenario, and if such extension is not agreed to withdraw the Article 50 notification.

Here’s the motion in full:

Conference notes that:

A.The Conservative Government are making a mess of Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party are helping them to deliver this destructive Brexit.

B.Liberal Democrats campaigned to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum and have since campaigned for the people to have the final say on the Brexit deal, including the option to remain in the EU.

C.The Treasury have stated that a no-deal Brexit could require the UK to borrow œ80 billion more by 2033, the Conservative Government have begun releasing the 84 no-deal technical notes, and the UK health sector are stockpiling medicines in case of a no-deal.

D.The Chequers plan is unworkable, rejected by both the EU and Conservative European Research Group MPs.

E.A conclusive agreement has not yet been reached on many of the issues arising from the Brexit referendum, including Government red lines, and both sides have stated that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

F.Whilst the principle of a Northern Ireland backstop has been agreed, the UK’s plan to temporarily avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland has not been agreed and there is still no agreement on a long-term solution.

G.During the transition period, which is due to end in 2020, the UK will remain in the Single Market and Customs Union.

H.The draft Withdrawal Agreement stipulated that EU citizens will have to apply for pre-settled or settled status and if they fail to do so will be at risk of deportation; Irish citizens do not have to apply but can if they choose to.

I.EU citizens, who are not Irish or Commonwealth citizens, living in the UK are excluded from voting in UK General Elections or referendums and voting rights have been left outside the scope of Brexit negotiations by the EU Commission.

J.The 2016 EU referendum gave no clear destination for Brexit, as the terms of the deal were not yet known.

Conference believes that:

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An open letter to Jacob Rees Mogg – remember the words of Jo Cox’s maiden speech before you criticise the EU

Today you described on Channel 4, freedom of movement as being and I quote “a poison” of the EU.

Let me tell you my own story. A language graduate who studied French at the University of Southampton and has lived twice in France – made easier by free movement. Someone who has spent more time working in Paris or Madrid than Scotland.

I married someone with an Italian passport who wouldn’t be in the UK were it not for free movement. Someone, who despite being a qualified teacher from her home country – came to study and took jobs which she …

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Tom Brake MP writes: About that “split” with People’s Vote…

To keep up to date with Brexit developments these days it is best to have social media on a drip-feed. News of resignations, plots, and leadership bids leak out there first.

It was no surprise, then, that social media was the first to pick up last week on an apparent split between the Lib Dems and the People’s Vote campaign. The ‘split’ was a small disagreement over the best way to maximise the prospects of securing a Final Say on the Deal through a People’s Vote.

But social media’s unsurpassed ability to pick up stories as they break is matched by an uncanny capacity to blow them out of all proportions just as quickly. Rarely has a greater storm been whipped up in a tinier tea-cup.

What caused this restlessness? Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment to the Prime Minister’s motion, in favour of a People’s Vote. Hardly a breach of the campaign objective!

There is total agreement between the Lib Dems and the People’s Vote on the need to maximise the chances of winning any vote on a People’s Vote amendment. But we can’t choose on Tuesday whether or not that is the moment to maximise support if the whole issue is left off the order paper. As things stand, we can choose whether to move it, based on changing circumstances.

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The Stephen Lloyd case shows there is no room for nuance in politics

Politics ought to be synonymous with good governance, but it’s not. It’s a game you have to play to get into a position where you can practise good governance. Politics doesn’t seem to have any room for nuances or counterintuitive positions, as the case of the Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd has shown.

Lloyd is a classic liberal hero. He can thank the NHS for the fact that he can hear anything – indeed that he’s alive – because it saved him when his hearing and his life were seriously threatened as a toddler. He therefore believes in public services through deep personal experience. He also mortgaged and remortgaged his house to allow him to fight the traditionally Conservative stronghold of Eastbourne. He failed to win the seat in 2005, won it in 2010, lost it in 2015, and won it back in 2017.

The way he won it back in 2017 has sown the seeds of his decision to resign the party whip. Bear with me on the detail, because this is very important.

At the start of the 2017 general election campaign, Lloyd worked out that the only way he was going to win Eastbourne was to accept that the Brexit issue was over, and that despite his own views – he was an enthusiastic campaigner for Remain in the 2016 referendum – he would respect the referendum result. He quotes voters who said to him ‘I’d happily have you as my MP but I voted Leave and if you’re our MP you’ll work to scupper Brexit in Parliament.’ He therefore made a pledge that if the government did a withdrawal deal, he would vote for it.

Viewed from today’s perspective, it might be considered rash, but the vantage point at the time was different. The prevailing narrative was that Theresa May had called the election because she knew she’d increase her majority, and the question was merely whether her post-election majority would be 30, 60 or even 100 seats. The idea that she might lose her majority seemed fanciful, and therefore Brexit seemed as good as done.

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Updated: Why is the People’s Vote campaign sidelining Lib Dems?

It’s fair to say that some party members have been expressing concern on social media about a perceived detachment between the Liberal Democrats and the People’s Vote campaign.

Why is it that Caroline Lucas is representing the campaign on the Channel 4 debate tonight? Why was Vince missing from the petition event in Downing Street? It’s not a great way to treat the party who kicked off the campaign for a final say on the deal in the Summer of 2016.

Late last week, Liberal Democrat MPs were criticised by the campaign for putting down an amendment to Labour’s amendment calling for a People’s Vote.

The People’s Vote campaign is not backing the move because they want to wait until the deal is rejected because they think that they will have a better chance of securing a referendum then.

They may be right. But in a febrile and unpredictable environment, why wouldn’t you make sure that you have the option of putting it on the agenda?

Paul Waugh is wrong in this report when he says that:

Crucially, it adopts the prime minister’s proposal and just makes it conditional on a second referendum. Unlike other amendments, it does not reject May’s deal.

It doesn’t. It is an amendment to Labour’s amendment so if both were passed, the motion passed by the House would read:

This House declines to approve the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship because itfails to provide for a permanent UK-EU customs union and strong single market deal and would therefore lead to increased barriers to trade in goods and services, would not protect workers’ rights and environmental standards, allows for the diminution of the United Kingdom’s internal and external security and is likely to lead to the implementation of a backstop provision in Northern Ireland that is neither politically nor economically sustainable; declines to approve the United Kingdom’s leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement; and therefore resolves to pursue every option, including a public vote as endorsed by the Labour Party Conference 2018, that prevents the United Kingdom’s either leaving the European Union without a withdrawal agreement or leaving on the basis of the negotiated withdrawal agreement laid before the House.

We don’t know yet if our amendment will be debated or even put to the vote but we have at least got a People’s Vote on the order paper so that the House has a chance to get it into the mix.  I think we need to trust our people to know what they are doing. They are the ones having the conversations in Parliament and they will know what is possible. 

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Willie Rennie pulls Lib Dems out of Scottish budget negotiations

While all eyes are on a key vote on a proposal put forward by a minority government at Westminster this week, another political drama looms. On Wednesday  the Finance Minister of a minority government at Holyrood will present his budget.

Derek Mackay is going to have a hard time getting his proposals through. All Willie Rennie asked for as a preoondition to negotiaions for Lib Dem support was that they just drop the idea of an independence referendum in this Parliament, fulfilling a key part of our manifesto. It chimes with what we are hearing consistently on doorsteps – that people don’t want to go through 2014 again. They want to concentrate on getting rid of Brexit.

The arguments that all parties apart from the Conservatives, have united behind in the Scottish Parliament against Brexit apply equally to breaking up the UK. While you don’t expect the SNP ever to give up campaigning for independence, keeping it off the agenda for the time being is as sensible for them as it is good for the country.

The SNP lost 21 seats in the 2017 General Election as Scottish people reacted with horror to the prospect, floated by Nicola Sturgeon, of another poll. All tests of opinion so far suggest that they would lose another referendum, which is why they won’t call one. The problem is that if they explicitly say they’ll delay, their own people will kick off.

So they wouldn’t agree Willie’s pre-condition. And so Willie has withdrawn the Lib Dems from the negotiations.

From the BBC:

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said he had met Mr Mackay and Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes on two occasions “to explore what could be done” with the budget.

Mr Rennie said his party had been willing to “step in to help address the problems that have been mounting since the SNP came to power 11 years ago”.

This included investment in education and mental health services, an improved deal for councils and action to help tackle staffing shortages in hospitals and schools.

But he said the talks ended when the SNP politicians “could not agree to even a short cessation in their independence campaign”.

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Caroline Pidgeon writes…What has gone wrong with Crossrail?

I don’t know what the Queen is doing today.

However, I know for certain what she is not doing.

Many months ago it was agreed that Crossrail (the Elizabeth Line) would officially be opened by the Queen today.

The Elizabeth Line, will cover 100 km from Reading and Maidenhead to the west of the capital and Heathrow, through new tunnels under Central London to Woolwich and Abbey Wood in the south-east of the city and Shenfield in Essex.

It will transform rail transport in London and the surrounding region, increasing passenger capacity by 10%, supporting regeneration and cutting journey times across the capital. It will, when finally open, deliver wonderful new trains, 200 metres long, the same length as two football pitches. It will also deliver 10 new stations and key improvements to many others, making all the stations on the route step-free and therefore accessible for everyone.

Yet, sadly all these benefits have been put on hold, while the cost of completing it (and lost passenger income for Transport for London) simply soars.

The costs of completing the project were already escalating earlier this year, but then on the 31 August, barely three months before the official opening of the line, it was suddenly announced that its actual opening date would be sometime in ‘Autumn’ 2019.   We still have no exact revised opening date.

For a project to be delayed, by such a magnitude and so close to its official opening, is quite incredible.

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Dominic Grieve’s amendment saves us from an uncomfortable Christmas

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Amongst last Tuesday’s excitement of Theresa May attempting a “Charles the First”, it was easy to miss the significance of Dominic Grieve’s Brexit amendment:

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Taking a gamble

There has been a long running and heated debate over the controversial Fixed Odd Betting Terminals that are sited in virtually every betting shop across the country.

The debate centres arround a proposal for restricting the maximum stakes on these machines to £2 down from the current £100.

This is opposed by the gaming industry.

They along with other opponents of the reform argue that it will drive the gambling addicts to online betting and also lead to job losses due to betting shop closures.

It is a fact that the profits from FOBTs have fed the growth in shops often in areas of deprivation and a lot of the people playing them are losing money that they can ill afford to.

So simply reducing the stake may not solve the perceived problem and may also have unintended negative consequences.

Gambling attracts people from all sections of society.

However the group that is of most concern are the cash-strapped unemployed who have time on their hands and spend it in the bookmakers.

The FOBTs appear to offer a route to extra money which is so badly needed.

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Observations of an ex pat: The Holmes Option

Sherlock Holmes offered the solution to the current Brexit conundrum admirably when he told Dr Watson in the Beryl Coronet: “when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

At the moment the two possibilities before parliament are the deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May and crashing out with no deal whatsoever. The latter would be the result of the rejection of the first if no plan B, C or D appears on the political horizon.

The first possibility will be rejected by parliament because it turns what used to be imperial Britain into a colony of a Europe dominated by historic enemies France and Germany.  The United Kingdom would be indefinitely tied to the EU and yet left without any say in the rules that govern it. Its ability to strike trade deals with other countries would be severely hampered and Northern Ireland would be effectively hived off. In return, the UK would regain control of its immigration policies.

We will call this deal Option One and, using the Holmes formula, rule it out as it is impossible that parliament will approve it.  So we move to Option Two, a no deal Brexit. First the plus side: Immigration is controlled. Trade deals can be negotiated. Payments to the EU are stopped. The European courts cease to have jurisdiction in Britain. Now the negatives: The economy will shrink by up to nine percent overnight. Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost as foreign companies move operations to EU countries. The pound will collapse. Inflation will rise. Troubles could restart in Northern Ireland and tariff barriers would go up between Britain and its main trading partners on the continent.  MPs would, in effect, be voting to make every single one of their constituents substantially poorer.

The only members of the House of Commons likely to consider Option Two are the members of the European Research Group. They total 62 out of 650 MPs. In fact, an overwhelming majority of the House of Commons—450—voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum. So Option Two can be placed firmly into the impossible box.

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Wera Hobhouse: The road to stopping Brexit

As an MP, do I have to vote for any Brexit that is put in front of me in parliament?

My duty in our representative democracy is to listen to the people and respect their views. It is also to use my own informed judgement of what is the best for my constituents and the country as a whole.

So to the question, my answer is no. If any Brexit brought to parliament is, in my judgement bad for my constituents and my country, I should not vote for it.

The Prime Minister is using a different argument. She says we have to leave the EU even if it bad for the country because the people voted for it. She suggests that the dutiful thing for MPs in light of the 2016 referendum is to vote for something that we believe is bad for this country. On the contrary, we have a duty to do the opposite.

Does this mean we defy the will of the people? No, because British democracy is a representative democracy and not just a direct democracy.

What we MPs cannot do on our own, however, in light of the referendum in 2016, is to choose to stay in the EU. We can legitimately reject any particular Brexit deal in accordance with our judgement but we cannot move from there and cancel Brexit by ourselves. This is the true meaning of the referendum result.

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Recent Comments

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