Category Archives: Op-eds

A playlist fit for a new leader

Those of us watching the announcement of our new leader last Monday were treated to an excellent playlist while we were waiting for the result to be declared.

Listen here and watch Jo’s fantastic acceptance speech.

The long delay, was, I understand, the wifi in the venue not being quite up to the job of giving us the result instantaneously at the touch of a button. But we got there in the end. And we got to listen to some really good tunes while we waited nervously.

At one point, my son actually came through and said “Why are YOU listening to such cool music?” To be fair, I don’t listen to music that often. I’m mostly into podcasts or Radio 4. However, when I do, my son has to endure my random collection of trash and musical theatre.

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Jo Swinson gives Jeremy Corbyn a lesson in opposing a terrible Government

Jo Swinson has had a very effective first six days as Lib Dem Leader. She’s been popping up all over the media and the fact that both Labour and SNP supporters alike have gone for her big time shows that they know she is a massive threat to them.

This morning, viewers of Sophy Ridge on Sunday will have seen Jeremy Corbyn offer his usual tired and hand-wringing approach to Brexit and his less than robust approach to anti-semitism in his party.

Immediately afterwards, they had Jo on. She was clear, engaging and she answered the questions put to her.

Here are some of the highlights:

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The Great Hack: What we should take away

If you have  a Netflix account it’s likely you’ve already seen The Great Hack.  This near two hour documentary  details the Cambridge Analytica scandal and examines the wider issue of our rights to our data. For many Liberal Democrat campaigners and Pro-EU activists who have kept up with this whole scandal, what the documentary revels is not new  but it leaves us with a cause that should be a natural rally for the Liberal Democrats.  It creates a foundation for meaningful policy regarding the giants of Silicon Valley and how our democracy and use of social media can work in harmony with each other. 

The Great Hack hints towards a potential path for the party which links our belief in economic liberalism and property rights along with our belief in privacy and personal freedom. Currently the data which we willingly leak onto social media is just skin deep for the user but behind the curtain this data is valuable information for advertisers and campaigners to ensure that the ‘right’ advertisement on visible on your Facebook or Twitter news feed. Globally this can range from the harmless like a good deal for a tent on Amazon to horrific and extreme cases where military personal in Myanmar manipulated users  using Facebook to facilitate genocide towards the Rohingya people.

Every day in the UK we see thousands  drawn into arguments online  and very little room is left for compromise or compassion. To paraphrase Carol Cadwalladr, in an effort to connect people, these social media moguls have instead facilitated on driving us apart. This has allowed for a sense of invincibility of consequence to our words and a thin layer of anonymity where we dehumanise to an extent those we disagree with and pander to those we do. It is vital that the Liberal Democrats start to lead the charge on how we should be thinking of social media differently as this is now here to stay and will be (already is in some cases) a central part of our lives.

 To start we need to explore the idea of breaking down Facebook’s monopoly of social media as Sir Vince Cable has mentioned in the past. Even though since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke Facebook’s users took a very minor hit, those same users appeared to just simply switch to Instagram which is also owned by Facebook. Secondly we must be fighting now for a major review of our electoral law and its relation to social media especially after the Culture Committee expressed the current laws are not ‘fit for purpose’.

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Referendums: Getting it right next time

No one needs any help demonstrating the problems with the current ad–hoc manner in which the UK conducts referendums.

But while it might be tempting to argue that the best solution is simply to stop having them, there are problems with that approach. 

First, I’m not at all sure it is politically sensible, or intellectually honest, to say that since lies, fraud, and gross misconduct constituted the bulk of the Brexit campaign the solution is simply to have no more referendums. There have been lies, fraud, and misconduct in political campaigns since electoral politics began. The solution has always been to find better ways to conduct the campaigns, not to scrap the practice.

The Liberal Democrats are a party fundamentally committed to opening up political discourse, and to doing so responsibly. Referendums are fraught with peril and, ironically, run the risk of being distinctly undemocratic, but that does not mean there cannot be a role for them as part of a broader expansion of legitimate political expression.

And as recent votes in Ireland have shown, to take one example, referendums can play a crucial role in securing progressive social gains.

As another example, here in Massachusetts, where I now live, voters last November defeated by an overwhelming majority an attempt by fundamentalist Christian groups to repeal a law designed to protect transgender people by allowing them to use the restroom of their choice in any building open to the public.

By permitting the question and conducting the referendum, voters had the opportunity to affirm the actions of their legislature and governor and stop in its tracks the type of hate and fear that festers when it can pretend to a legitimacy it does not possess.

Wary of referendums as I am, I’m not proposing a radical overhaul of the UK political system to allow for the types of confirmatory votes we hold here in Massachusetts, where we can also vote by referendum to instruct the legislature to introduce legislation.

Massachusetts, incidentally, makes it much harder to initiate a referendum question than do many U.S. states and, in many cases, and wisely so as the government problems caused in referendum-happy states such as California help demonstrate.

Referendums shouldn’t happen often.

They should only happen with good reason.

But there are times when they might well be appropriate.

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We Lib Dems need to oppose austerity

The Liberal Democrats are the party of David Lloyd George, John Maynard Keynes and William Beveridge. We are the party that laid the foundations of the welfare state and pioneered support for Keynesian economics, which strived to create an economy of public investment in infrastructure, growth and full employment. Our party’s history is one which is staunchly against ‘slash and burn’ austerity.

Of course, during the Coalition Government, the party’s leadership supported the austerity programme of David Cameron and George Osborne. This continues to be used against us by supporters of other progressive parties, not least Labour, despite the fact that Labour also supported austerity. I hope no-one joined the Liberal Democrats to introduce the ‘bedroom tax’, support the benefits cap, cut legal aid, cut housing benefit to young people, introduce assessments for disability benefits or to support benefit sanctions. It is not a nice thought, but whether you think Coalition austerity was right or not, it has ruined people’s lives and led to thousands of preventable deaths.

Coalition austerity was not compatible with the liberalism of Lloyd George, Keynes or Beveridge and many Lib Dems opposed austerity during the Coalition Government. Since the Coalition, the party has clearly begun to move away from austerity. This began in 2015, when the Liberal Democrats opposed the Conservatives’ Welfare Bill, while Labour abstained. In the general election of 2017, our party was committed to reversing more welfare cuts than even Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. 

At our Autumn Conference last year, the ‘Demand Better’ policy motion committed the party to ‘a better society, in which everyone is supported in times of need, with an end to austerity’. Those three words, ‘end to austerity’, are absolutely essential if we are to win over more Remain voters, most of which vote for progressive parties. They are as important as the other two words for which our party is known for, ‘Stop Brexit’. Indeed, austerity has helped to fuel the rise of Brexit populism and therefore if we want to stop Brexit, we must end austerity.

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“Is he all talk and no trousers?” Jo’s first question to PM Boris

Jo Swinson had her first chance to question Boris Johnson today, as he made his first statement as Prime Minister.

Here’s the full exchange from Hansard:

The 3 million EU citizens are our family, our friends, our neighbours, our carers, yet for three years they have been made to feel unwelcome in our country. They deserve better than warm words and more months of anxiety. They deserve certainty, now. The Prime Minister has made assurances, so will he back the Bill of my Lib Dem colleague Lord Oates, which would guarantee in law the rights of EU citizens? Or is he all talk and no trousers?

The answer pretty much confirmed that that was indeed the case.

The Prime Minister
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her own election and join her in insisting on the vital importance of guaranteeing the rights and protections of the 3.2 million who have lived and worked among us for so long. Of course, we are insisting that their rights are guaranteed in law. I am pleased to say that under our settlement scheme some 1 million have already signed up to enshrine their rights.

Jonny Oates explained earlier this month why his Bill was much better than settled status.

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A peek into Jane Dodds’ Llandrindod Wells office

This time last week, I was delivering leaflets in Llandrindod Wells. I would love to go back, but family circumstances make it impossible before the by-election next Thursday.

So, it would be really great if someone would go in my place. Or even if lots of people went in my place. They really need to talk to as many people as possible. The little conversations you have with people can answer their questions and move them from potentially not voting or voting for someone else, to voting for Jane. And Jane is definitely worth voting for.

I want to see someone with her wisdom and kindness on our benches. She is so committed to tackling poverty, inequality and loneliness – as well as getting better health and transport services and better connectivity in this huge and gorgeous rural constituency. Catch up with the chat I had with her here.

If you do head to Brecon you will meet some lovely people. Here is the team at work in the Llandrindod Wells office last Sunday..

Every time the shelves look like they are getting empty, they fill up again.

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Sal Brinton writes…Tell us who you think deserves Party Awards

Do you know someone special who deserves to be recognised by the party?

Yes, it’s party awards time!

Every year at Autumn Conference we hand out prestigious party awards to members who have done some of the most outstanding work in the party. Going above and beyond the call of duty time and time again.

But, as always, we need you to nominate the people that you think are blazing the way in the party.

The deadline for nominations has been extended to 31 July and the nomination form and submission details are on the party website 

There are four awards announced by me as President.

The President’s Award is open to any party member elected to public office and who has demonstrated excellence and commitment over the years.

The Harriet Smith Liberal Democrat Distinguished Service Award is open to any member never elected to public office who has demonstrated longstanding and outstanding service to the party.

For both these awards, the panel will be looking for outstanding commitment and service to the party. We are seeking people who deserve recognition for their hard work, long service & demonstrable dedication to the party at any level.

The Belinda Eyre-Brooks Award is given to recognise and celebrate the efforts of people who work for our elected representatives in their local areas – from local party employees, to political assistants to council groups, to people working in MPs’ constituency offices.

The Dadabhai Naoroji Award is presented to the local party that has done most to promote BAME participants to elected office as councillors, Assembly Members, MPs, MSPs or MEPs. Please note – this award is to a local party, not to an individual, so please think about those local parties that are making a great effort to involve different communities in their work. Regions and State Parties nominate local parties, so tell them about a local party that should be nominated.

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Coalition? Who cares?

coalSo the Lib Dem leader election is over and predictably Labour have gone full on coalition grievance mongering in response. They’d have done this whoever won, no doubt somewhere in Labour HQ there is an unused “This is what Ed doesn’t want you to know” video.

It seems to have fallen a bit flat, which is a good sign that people are reacting less viscerally but that doesn’t mean all is fine, it just means people are prepared to think about it.

People are listening to us again. 

The coalition and austerity will come up and we need to be able to address it. To be fair, we owe it to the public and ourselves to address it.

It’s unarguable that austerity happened whilst we were in coalition. Cuts were made and these cuts made people’s lives harder. It’s legitimate to care about that, irrespective of the reasons behind our decisions.

Every time I’ve heard Lib Dems address this I feel we still haven’t found a way of talking about it that recognises this legitimacy and can start rebuilding bridges.

When someone raises austerity we react as if they are asking us why we supported the policies of austerity. We talk about the economic climate, we talk about the lack of options, we talk about the fact we were in coalition and had to compromise, or maybe about how every party intended to make cuts.

Sometimes we make these points well, sometimes not so well but the real problem is we are addressing it from the wrong perspective. 

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No deal Brexit preparations: Dutch look closely but don’t see much (Part 1)

Whoever looks at British-Dutch relations, especially in trade and food (herring), you see a relationship dating back to the Roman Empire, with the Frisians (a tribe in the North of the present Netherlands) kicking off the chain of English/British-Dutch relationships. 

The modern relations can be traced back to the British-Dutch anti-Spanish alliance of queen Elizabeth I (sending over her confidant Leicester) in the Treaty of Nonsuch (1585; see Jonathan Israel’s book about the Dutch Republic; Clarendon/Oxford University Press; Oxford, 1995, p. 218-230). This treaty was implicit recognition of the Republic; and the shenanigans between Leicester and the Dutch stadholder and his minister Oldebarnevelt in 1585-87 gave definite form to the Republic, until then a confederation of rebel provinces. It ended up with Leicester returning home; but Nonsuch was reinforced and broadened in the 1598 Treaty of Westminster.

The Low Countries’ principalities trading with England (Flanders, Zeeland, Holland, Friesland) were all smaller than England, and this didn’t change with seven rebel provinces forming a republic; especially because shortly afterwards, under king James I, the union between England and Scotland started being formalized until the Acts of Union (1707). So the Dutch and Flemish peoples are used to look very closely what happens in their big neighbor  the UK, especially as it affects our (Dutch) trade relations (re-exporting a large part to the rest of the EU), and our and their national economy. The UK is around three to four times bigger than the Netherlands if you look at our populations and economies (GDP).

The hard Brexiteers around Boris Johnson are emphasising, now that a No Deal Brexit on their holy grail date of 31st  October seems ever more likely, that the British government is even better prepared than under the March Brexit deadline. 

We Dutch simply don’t believe them, because we see at best a piecemeal, halfhearted if not comically incompetent British preparation (hiring a shipping company without ships, aiming to disembark at a British port city that on BBC TV News does look more disheveled that well-prepared for intensive disembarkation operations).

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How will Boris fix the Irish border problem?

Boris ‘Kipper’ Johnson appears to believe that technological solutions can quickly be found for the Irish border problem. Everyone in the computer industry knows that is fantasy, which would lead to an orgy of criminality.

Right now, clever people are thinking about juicy ways to make money from a new land frontier, or just to cause trouble. My own taste runs more to throwing grit in bureaucracy than throwing mud at surveillance cameras, but readers can probably think of far worse things to do.

We should be thinking about another side to this issue. The day is not far off when all road vehicles will be permanently tracked, much as mobile phones and airliners already are. This will be part of the self-driving revolution, promised to reduce vehicle usage, air pollution, and road accidents. In principle, having a tracker in your car should be voluntary, but of course government and insurance companies will make it compulsory.

If Mr Kipper gets his way, every border-crosser in Ireland will be tracked. Not just vehicles and the commercial goods they carry, but also all passengers, human, animal, and explosive. There will be penalties for evasion, massive databases to be hacked by cyber-criminals, and huge scope for corruption. Mission creep will lead to facial recognition software, cross-correlation with phone data, etc.

But BoJo’s folly may have a silver lining. Back in 1964 the Smeed Report on Road Pricing spelled out how road users ought to pay the costs they impose upon others. It contained so much good sense that successive governments buried it, but Smeed’s ideas must prevail eventually. A future in which every vehicle is tracked (and charged) for every yard it moves is scary, but it would solve many problems near me in south-east London.

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LDV talks to….Jane Dodds

Last Saturday, I caught up with our wonderful Brecon and Radnorshire candidate Jane Dodds.

We talked about her campaign, her message to Plaid Cymru and Green voters and what she wanted to achieve for the area. Enjoy.

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A big thank you to Ed and Jo for championing Trans rights

As the dust begins to settle after the Leadership Election (and many congratulations to Jo and commiserations to Ed) there will, as usual, be time for some self-evaluation and reflection for the party, even if the other leadership election that’s happened means there might be a bit less of it than normal!

With that in mind I only have one thing to add to everything else that will be going on in the coming days and that’s a note of thanks to Jo and Ed for their unwavering support for trans people during the Leadership election. You both stood by us, unswervingly, even when it led to you getting so much abuse for that stance. It would have been so easy to step back and dial it down. To make vague equivocal noises about supporting equality. To throw us under the bus as we have been so many times before. Thank you for not doing the easy thing.

Both Jo and Ed showed yet again that the real essence of liberalism is doing the right thing and not the easy thing. Giving trans people a place to feel welcomed and at home at a time when we are so under attack in the media and everywhere we go was definitely not the easy thing for either of you to do. It has meant so much to the trans people I know in the party (and even quite a few outside it) to see you both prove that you will stand with us against those attacks, which frankly makes us unique as a party, and show conclusively that there is no place for bigotry and transphobia in the Liberal Democrats.

At a time when every other party has been backing down in the face of those attacks, you both stepped forward. Thank you for proving beyond a doubt that whatever your differences and whatever the future brings we have had a choice between two true liberals.

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Prime Minister Johnson – two potential glimmers of positivity


Embed from Getty Images

I could ramble on for ages on the negative aspects of Prime Minister Johnson. There are, however, two glimmers of positivity:

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Welcome to Jo

As everyone will have heard by now, Jo Swinson is our new Party leader. I want to congratulate her and also congratulate Ed Davey for a spirited campaign that he ran. I had several opportunities to watch both of them in hustings and to be honest both were impressive.

In her acceptance speech, the two points that struck home was when she said (I paraphrase) that “She had limitless ambition for the party” and “she would fight the next election to be the Prime Minister”.  I like such ambition as it gives focus.

This got me thinking, what values does the average …

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Boris is PM.   What comes next?

That depends on what Boris’s backers are planning. All we know for sure is that he appears intent on crashing out of the EU without any trade, immigration, transition or prior obligations arrangements.

We know something else. Boris has also presented his ‘WTO-Article-24-managed-no-deal-standstill-plan’. There has been lots of media coverage explaining why this plan is impossible, including myself on LDV.

Despite that, the Brexiteers are all still going on about this as if it is still feasible. Why?

As Boris’s recent interview with Andrew Neil suggested, he doesn’t know that his ‘standstill plan’ is not viable. His backers however know very well that this plan is just ‘Brexiteer social media fodder’ and a dead end.

The most likely explanation is that it is part of the planned blame game. For the Brexiteer base and the dominant pro-Brexit press, being able to blame the EU for crashing out is vital to the patriotic tsunami that they have planned for our country. That is what the debunked ‘standstill’ is really for. This might also explain why Boris’s reported ‘first 100 days’ team seems to be populated with  TV and press executives & experts, rather than trade specialists.

Of course, parliament may still block no deal, forcing a general election. Then the Lib Dems have a different tasks. For now we have to plan for the worst.

What is the Lib Dems’ plan of action on 1st November if the UK has crashed out of the EU the day before?

To clarify, Boris’s advisers will probably attempt four paths.

One is some kind of interim EU agreement excluding (eg) services, and agriculture, but this will be full of hiccups, with outcomes anathema to the ERG.

The alternative would be a quick skeletal-but-broader trade agreement for a range of tangible goods reducing the negative economic effects of no deal in the hardest hit areas. Without a ‘divorce deal’ however, the EU, being in a strong negotiating position, will have a long list of demands and future revisions. To stay in power with Brexiteer support Boris will have to somehow conceal the detailed schedules to this potential mini-agreement.

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“Mandate”? A.B.dP.Johnson has a mandate from 0.14% of the UK population

There have been a number of Tory voices saying that A.B.dP.Johnson has a “mandate”. It is important to recognise that this “mandate” is from precisely 0.14% of the UK population:

For the record, those parroting the “mandate” word have included our old china plate, Dominic Raab on Radio Five Live (just after the result was announced) and Tim Montgomerie on Twitter:

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I’m delighted it’s Jo, even though I voted for Ed

I spoke at party conference in the Spring and said, amongst other things, that I had no idea why I hadn’t started sooner in politics. The truth is I knew full well.

Back in the early 1990s, when I had my first child at the age of 25, and a couple more in a short space of time, only one of us *had* to take time off straight after the birth. Maternity segued into parental leave after the second child. My husband and I have a pretty egalitarian household but it would have been financial suicide for us to use paid childcare that early in our lives- we would have ended up paying over not only my entire salary, but also some of my husband’s- it simply wasn’t financially viable.

After the first child, I went back to work, but it seemed that everywhere I turned I was on the “mummy track”, not expected to be ambitious, expected in fact to focus my entire world around my children. Which of course every new parent does. Paternity leave did not exist, even in my husband’s forward-thinking workplace. Society at large expected care of the children to be the mother’s, not the father’s, concern. The entirety of society was built around that premise- for example, my children’s school finished at 2:50pm- there was no after-school care because the headteacher thought children should be at home after that time. There was great judgement cast on mothers who worked when their children were small.

I started to be politically active 3 years ago. I’ve passed the age now where I care what people think about my parenting. Alongside my three now very accomplished 20-somethings, I also have a 9 year old and in 2019, no-one in the Liberal Democrats seems to think that puts me out of the running for anything. I’m older, and I live in a beautiful bubble of determination and bullheaded refusal to take any hints about how I *should* parent my fourth child. Society has also moved on slightly.

Every time I see Jo Swinson in passing, I mention to her how lovely it is to see her making speeches with baby Gabriel strapped to her front, how much of an inspiration it is to see her forging ahead babies and all. I I forget that I’m living in a bubble hewn from my own experiences.

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In full: Jo Swinson’s first speech as Lib Dem Leader: Don’t just shout at the television, join us and transform our country

Text below:

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And our new leader is…….Jo Swinson

 

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Cheers, Vince

His successor will be announced soon, but we really need to say a massive thank you to Vince for the work he has done over the past two years.

He took on a party which was not in the best place. He leaves a party which is rejuvenated, united, determined, confident and has given up equivocation and nuance in favour of a give zero hoots attitude that has paid dividends in terms of the number of members, councillors and MEPs we have.

I have had my disagreements with Vince during his time as leader. I felt that the emphasis on a supporters’ scheme was misplaced when what we actually needed to be doing was to tell our story better. But he did take the time to seek out views in the party and listen to people. Leaders are always going to do stuff that activists don’t like. It goes with the territory. Whoever wins today is going to annoy me at some point – and one of the candidates has been a really good friend for the best part of two decades.

Vince has consistently been the grown up of British politics for way beyond these past two years to be honest. He knows everything and everybody and has been essential in developing the cross party working that’s been going on over Brexit. He has laid the foundations for collaboration that could put paid to this Brexit disaster once and for all. And it is his strong friendship with Chuka Umunna, forged in the years they faced each other at the Dispatch Box when Vince was Business Secretary, that facilitated Chuka joining us.

And he has been really clear about the behaviour we will not tolerate in the Lib Dems. Last Summer he wrote that bigots of any kind are not welcome in our party:

The lazy use of group stereotypes should be unacceptable to us all. But we must not be blind to the fact that these issues affect our party as well.

The Liberal Democrats have always been at the forefront of the fight for equality, and we have a record on these issues of which we’re very proud.

But sadly, the truth is that a very small minority of our own members do hold some views that are fundamentally incompatible with our values.

Our party’s constitution is clear:

We reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

As a liberal, I respect people’s rights to hold different views to my own, but my message to everyone is that racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, sexism, transphobia and bigotry are not welcome, and not tolerated, in the Liberal Democrats.

We should also say thank you to his wife, Rachel Smith, who has travelled the length and breadth of the country with him. Being a leader’s spouse is not an easy job.

On a lighter note of my favourite Vince moments was when he turned up at Not the Leaders’s Speech in Bournemouth in 2017. In a tradition dating back to the coalition years, certain of the Awkward Squad don’t bother with the Leader’s Speech at Conference. They gather in a hostelry and watch it on Twitter, working out at which point they would have walked out had they been in the hall. To be fair, the potential for walking out has significantly reduced in recent years, but anyway. It turned out that following a motion on pubs, a photo-op had been arranged with Vince for after his speech. In the same pub as NTLS.

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Chuka Umunna MP writes…Lib Dems are the only party committed to stopping Brexit and tackling the causes of Brexit

As the Conservative leadership contest draws to a close, with both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt putting fresh paint on the impossible red lines set out by the Leave campaign, the threat of a a No Deal Brexit is closer than ever.

Both candidates are disregarding all the facts about the disastrous consequences this would have for the UK, with Boris Johnson even searching for ways to suspend Parliament to circumvent MPs to run down the clock to exit day.

Such a move would not only be a democratic outrage, but herald one of the most destructive acts of self harm on the UK ever willingly committed by our government. 

On Thursday, the Office for Budget Responsibility published its fiscal risks report. Commissioned in 2015, the report sets out to analyse the risks to public finances over the short to medium term. 

This year, the OBR devoted an entire chapter to assessing the risk of a No Deal Brexit to the UK’s finances and the findings were jaw-dropping.

Here are just 10 things the OBR warns would happen under Boris Johnson’s No Deal Brexit scenario:

1) The UK would enter a “year-long recession” at the end of 2019, with real GDP immediately falling by 2.1%.

2) The value of the pound would depreciate by 10% immediately, and remain low until at least 2024.

3) Business investment would drop due to trade costs, economic uncertainty and loss of some export markets.

4) Residential Investment and consumer spending would fall as real household income is squeezed.

5) Productivity growth would become even weaker, and remain below current projections until 2024. 

6) The growth in earnings would slow even further and remain so for the first few years.

7) Real wages would become “significantly lower”, by as much as 2.5% by 2024 compared to the last forecast.

8) Borrowing would be around £30bn a year higher from 2020-21 onwards due to tax receipts falling. This means no fiscal headroom at all for any of the tax and spend promises of Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt, or to allow the government to end austerity.

9) The overall impact of a No Deal Brexit and then trading on WTO rules would be a hit to GDP of 5.9%.

10) If a No Deal, WTO Brexit was combined with a stricter immigration policy for EU citizens, this hit to GDP would rise substantially, potentially as high as 9% according to the Government’s own figures.

On top of this, Brexit has already resulted in a weak pound, which has lost 17% of its value against the dollar since the 2016 vote; higher inflation; big falls in manufacturing output, construction, and business investment; and we have not even left the EU yet. 

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Caron’s Brecon Diary 3

The reason you are getting this today and not yesterday is that I came across a problem faced by many voters in rural Wales – no wifi and not even a 4G signal. A good job that Jane Dodds is campaigning for better connectivity.

Saturday started with a quick coffee with Jane. We did film an interview, but for some reason I can’t upload it so I will have to find someone clever to help me. It looks amazing on my phone, though.

Jane also caught up with Margaret, at her first by-election after 60 years in the party and who had spent Friday in the pouring rain delivering letters to postal voters in Rhayader.

Saturday was a bit dreich, as we Scots would say. Not as rainy as Friday but grey and damp. However there was some optimism in the Llandrindod HQ…

Actually, by the end of the day, the sun was shining, so it wasn’t misplaced.

I then went out with Jane, her aide Benny, John Dryden from Sheffield, Wendy Chamberlain, our wonderful PPC for the most marginal seat in the country, North East Fife, her organiser Celyn and the Chair of Scottish Lib Dem Women Ruth McElroy to canvass some gloriously beautiful villages.

Jane is so keen to get out to these places. She wants them to feel that they have been listened to and that she has made the effort to get there. She will continue to do that if she is elected as an MP. We started off in Llanbister and then headed to Felindre and Beguildy.

These conversations with voters matter so much. I spoke to a so many people over the weekend who were disposed to voting for Jane but there was a barrier in the way. For example, one man was concerned that stopping Brexit wasn’t democratic, even though he wanted that to happen. When I explained how we would do it through a People’s Vote, that barrier to him voting for Jane was removed. So we need to speak to as many people as possible to ensure that we get her over the line.

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Jo Swinson MP writes….A campaign we can all be proud of

We are nearly at the end of this Leadership election, with voting closing tomorrow. Regardless of who you’re supporting, I want to thank every member who has engaged with this campaign. Everyone who came to a hustingsmeeting, emailed a question to Ed or to me, posted onto social media or caught up with us on visits – thank you.

There is a golden opportunity ahead of our party now. I have been so excited to see all the new members coming to hustings meetings, hearing their questions, thoughts and ideas. We have a unique offer and vision for the country and people are open to our message. We can continue this growth and build our movement further together. We can stop Brexit and compete to win a General Election.

This campaign has reminded me of how strong our party can be. We have such a range of skilled, talented people working around the country. We still need to do more to harness the incredible knowledge and expertise that we have in our members and supporters. I’ve been really buoyed up by seeing so many local success stories everywhere we have been. I know the new members I have met are going to be adding to those success stories soon too.

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Caron’s Brecon and Radnorshire Diary – Day 2

I woke yesterday morning to heavy rain. Knowing that the jacket I had bought was not up to the job, I headed to the local charity shops to see if I could find something better.

I had almost given up hope when I found something perfect – for a fiver! I am not an outdoorsy type so I didn’t realise that I had got an absolute bargain until Pete Roberts, who is running the Llandrindod office, pointed it out as he sent me off with some letters to deliver.

Once those were done, I was sent off with a wonderful lady called Margaret from Cheadle to deliver in the gorgeous town of Rhayader. Round every corner and up every hill (and there are a lot of hills), is another view that brings joy, even in the rain.

Margaret told me that this was her first by-election. She joined the party shortly after arriving at Edinburgh University to study medicine sixty years ago. She saw a poster saying “What do Liberals believe?” and thought she might like to find out.

A young man was speaking at the meeting about how we should have more co-operation with our European friends and look after the environment. We are nothing if not consistent. Margaret liked the sound of that and signed up on the spot.

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How to help Jane Dodds win Brecon and Radnorshire

Here is all the information you need to know if you are able to come and help in Brecon and Radnorshire.

There are two HQs – one in the south at Brecon and one in the north at Llandrindod Wells. They are both open every day from 10am until 7pm:

Brecon HQ: 26 High Street, Brecon, LD3 7LE

Llandrindod HQ: Haslemere, Park Crescent, Llandrindod Wells, LD1 6AB

If you can’t come in person you can make calls from home by e-mailing: [email protected]

How to find us:

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Liz Jarvis on gaining the confidence to stand as a parliamentary candidate

This weekend, a group of Lib Dem women will gather in a hotel in Milton Keynes for a weekend which, for some if not all of them, could be life-changing.

The third Future Women MPs weekend in the last year or so takes place. I remember going on a weekend like that back in the 90s and I made friends for life as well as learned valuable skills.

Caroline Voaden, now an MEP, went on one of these events last year along with a load of young Scottish women.

As this takes place, Liz Jarvis, a London writer who joined us last year after a lifetime of supporting Labour, has written for The Parliament Project about her experience in the party and how a Parliament Project initiative helped her develop the confidence to stand:

Through Lib Dem Women I found a mentor from the party’s Campaign for Gender Balance; she was incredibly encouraging and gave me lots of invaluable support and advice for what I needed to do to achieve my goal of becoming an approved parliamentary candidate. She also helped me see that my imagined barriers to standing – my age, the fact I haven’t been a career politician – could actually be turned into positives. I also discovered the Parliament Project via Twitter, and was thrilled when I was accepted on to the 12 week online Peer Support Circles at the start of January.

The sessions were every fortnight, which was manageable, and I loved ‘meeting’ the other women and sharing our political journeys, as well as the assignments we were given, which were fun and challenging. Each session felt as though we were making progress and exchanging ideas and experiences was incredibly rewarding.

And it’s helped her on her journey in the Lib Dems:

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Von der Leyens promises to address some of the UK’s direst needs: Poverty, Social Security, Clean Air Cities

The speech by German minister Von der Leyen (VDL), the proposed president of the European Commission, appealing to the sceptical centre parties (Liberals, Social Democrats, Greens) in the European Parliament, brought the Brexit Party MEPs to howls of both approval and anguish, according to Dutch media.

When she regretfully accepted that the UK appears on the way out, Farage’s bench applauded wildly. But when she added that she is ready to extend negotiations beyond Halloween, those cheers instantly turned into jeers.

And in his response, Farage again trotted out the “EU = Soviet Eastern Bloc” trope, to which VDL responded “we can probably do without what you have got to say here”. Dutch media quoted VDL responding to Farage’s Orbanite allies:  “I didn’t expect to get your support”.

In her speech, and in the accompanying resignation of controversial EU insider/super-technocrat Martin Selmayr, many saw new points that address failings in the present EU procedures, decision-making and legislation:

  • Giving the European Parliament the right to initiative; possibly heralding a critical review of EU nomination, decision and policy making procedures;
  • Opening up a formal debate about transnational party lists and “Spitzenkandidaten” at the next European elections; and
  • Starting, in this Trumpian era, a debate in the EU Human & Civil Rights agenda about sexual violence and its female (and LGBTQ+) victims.

Which beggars the question: why leave the EU just when it finally addresses shortcomings and failures of its democracy and human rights?

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Radical yet practical ways to improve food production

The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission has published its final report, setting out radical yet practical ways to improve food production in the face of current challenges. They say

The actions we take in the next ten years, to stop ecosystems collapse, to recover and regenerate nature and to restore people’s health and wellbeing are now critical.

Our Future in the Land makes fifteen recommendations. First, under the headline “Healthy food is every body’s business”, they suggest a greater commitment is needed to growing our own food using sustainable agricultural practices. Increasing UK food production would help reconnect people to nature and boost all of our health and well-being. Further, community food plans should be established, bringing people together to meet their area’s needs.

The second headline, “Farming is a force for change, unleashing a fourth agricultural revolution driven by public values” includes recommendations such as establishing a National Agroecology Development Bank and formulating a ten-year transition plan to fully sustainable farming by 2030. In addition, the report highlights the role of farmers, saying that innovation by farmers should receive more backing and that every farmer should have access to advice through farmer support networks.

The report includes reference to the need to implement the ten elements of Agroecology as set out by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. These were developed by the UN to achieve Zero Hunger and other Sustainable Development Goals. I’m keen on the promoting the Circular and solidarity economy, to

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Ed Davey MP writes….My reflections from the Campaign Trail

This map may resemble the route of one of Ian Botham’s never-ending charity walks or the British leg of the Tour de France where the organiser forgets to place a finishing line. But it’s actually a record of my campaigning odyssey over the past year, through our fantastic local and European elections onto my campaign to become leader of our party.

I’ve loved every minute – from Aberdeen to Penzance. Like my hero Paddy Ashdown and indeed most Liberal Democrats, I’m happiest out of Westminster meeting people – or, when with our brilliant Brecon candidate, Jane Dodds, meeting the odd sheep while clambering barbed wire fences. (Have you been to B&R yet?!)

I’ve been gate-crashed in Nottingham by Steve Bray, the amazing Stop Brexit campaigner – so we performed a great Stop Brexit duet; I’ve climbed a wind turbine in North Cornwall whilst campaigning to decarbonise capitalism; and I’ve endured the vagaries of the rail network – as I’m calling for rail improvements to discourage internal flights, my campaign is flight-free, to the occasional frustration of my diary manager.

On Sunday, after a head-to-head with Andrew Marr, I sacrificed all prospect of watching the Cricket and Wimbledon to go and speak to members in Oxford – and was welcomed by a healthy crowd, despite the competition!

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