Category Archives: Site news

Welcome to my day: 17 January 2022 – “I wanna be the Leader

Roger McGough wrote the poem which, perhaps, sums up the current Conservative dilemma better than most;

I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I’m the leader
I’m the leader

OK what shall we do?

Johnson became Leader, because he was seen to be a winner of elections – and when you look at his previous opponents, you could see why. His record of actual achievement in office? Not so great but, if surrounded by good people, it could work. It cannot now be said that he is surrounded by good people.

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2021 – the year in review: December

The Party was throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at the North Shropshire by-election. And, with the gratefully received co-operation of the Conservatives – Non-local candidate? Check. Hapless campaign? Check. – the bookies were suggesting that we were marginal favourites to achieve the 26.4% swing required to snatch the seat. Our campaign team were taking no chances, with “private briefings” somehow reaching the media.

And the wheels were really falling off the Conservative wagon, with defections, endorsement by the Guardian and a visit from the Prime Minister in which he failed to remember his candidate’s name.

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2021 – the year in review: November

Normally, reports of the Commons Select Committee on Standards are approved without much drama but, in what turned out to be a catastrophic misjudgement, Conservative MPs were whipped on an amendment to a report which would, effectively, let Owen Paterson off the hook for breaching Parliamentary rules forbidding paid advocacy. He was as guilty as all hell in the eyes of many, despite his aggressive campaign to prove otherwise. Instructions had come from the very top, with suggestions that the Prime Minister was attempting to nobble the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

It worked, sort of, with the vote won. But, with thirteen Conservative MPs voting against, and nearly another one hundred either absent or abstaining, it looked pretty awful. As Andy Boddington put it, the Commons had lost its moral compass. Amidst widespread public and media outrage, Boris did what he so often has done, sacrificing a colleague to save his skin with a screeching, tyre shredding u-turn. Paterson almost immediately resigned his safe North Shropshire seat, creating an unexpected opportunity. Recent election results suggested that Labour might be the credible contender. Andy disagreed… vehemently.

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2021 – the year in review: October

As October opened, the petrol shortages were beginning to recede, but words like cabotage and haulage were reaching public consciousness. A patina of incompetence was beginning to stick to the Government – it turns out that listening to experts, making plans and carrying them out was a better way to run the country than just perpetually reacting to things as if they were a surprise. It also meant that a few people were reminded what those foreigners had been doing all that time.

The Wayne Couzens murder trial had resulted in a whole life sentence at the end of September, but the response of senior policing figures drew much criticism. Miranda Roberts explained some of the more alarming issues and offered some very useful advice, whilst Wendy Chamberlain offered a perspective that, perhaps, only a former police officer could have.

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2021 – the year in review: September

I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Party conferences – I’m not a policy wonk nor am I a frequent speaker, no more than half a dozen times over more than thirty years – but I appreciate that, for many, there’s something about being surrounded by your fellow Liberal Democrats that inspires and encourages.

But if politics is about changing lives for the better, it wasn’t a bad conference. Abolishing conversion therapy may not impact directly on many, but for those it does affect, it is life changing. Building more houses, especially more affordable housing, …

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2021 – the year in review: August

As Western forces withdrew from Afghanistan, hopes that the Afghan Government could stand on its own two feet proved to be entirely illusionary, as did the Afghan Army. And whilst it could be reasonably said that no British Government could have dealt well with such a collapse, the failure of the Conservatives to honour their commitments was a reminder that their policy aim was almost solely to get to the next afternoon.

It started with the failure to evacuate those Afghans who had assisted our troops as interpreters, as Ed Davey noted. The challenge of how to evacuate U.K. nationals and their dependents proved difficult, as key players were either on holiday or blind to the issues. Our Foreign Affairs Editor, Tom Arms, wrote a masterful summary of the consequences of the Taliban victory, setting out the geopolitical issues. Perhaps he should have been our Foreign Secretary…

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2021 – the year in review: June

The Chilterns were once covered in forest, if my geography lessons are remembered correctly, which meant that the recycled paper going through doors across Chesham and Amersham was now coming from elsewhere.

And, despite a huge lead in the polls, Conservative MPs were becoming a bit fractious, with a rebellion in the Commons over cuts to the overseas aid budget. The tensions between the new ‘Red Wall Tories’ and the traditionalists were beginning to emerge, and this theme became more and more a talking point as the year went on. William Wallace highlighted some of those tensions.

A week out …

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2021 – the year in review: May (part 2)

On 5 May, a candidate was chosen for what looked, on paper at least, like an uphill struggle at best – Chesham and Amersham was a historically safe Conservative seat where, even in our best years, 30% of the vote reflected the high-tide mark. The next day, Amersham Town Council went from having no Liberal Democrat councillors to being Liberal Democrat controlled. But it was a genuine long shot, right?

The notion of a Progressive Alliance became much talked about, and Peter Wrigley made a persuasive case for one. The problem, as is so often the case with such an idea, is that Labour’s idea of a big tent comes solely in red with roses around the door. Perhaps, as Stephen Barber considered, a realignment of British politics was on the cards. It did feel a bit optimistic, given that a thoroughly unlikeable Conservative administration seemed strangely popular.

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2021 – the year in review: May (part 1)

Conservatives 10% ahead in the polls, a set of English County elections in friendly territory for them, a disrupted campaign phase. It was going to end badly, right?

But it didn’t, as Liberal Democrat groups across the country demonstrated that, if you worked hard, had a clear strategy and took advantage of the resources available from ALDC, you could win seats from the Conservatives despite their air war advantage. Across the country, complacent Conservative administrations fell, and although the overall result was pretty much break even – a small net gain – it felt like a win. In fact, whilst the Conservatives were up more than 200 councillors overall, those gains were at the expense of Labour, whilst the night’s other big winners were the Greens, albeit from a low base. Which reminds me, Theakes promised to run round his kitchen naked if we made net gains – is there a record of this event?

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2021 – the year in review: April

‘Twas the month ‘fore elections
And all cross the land
Were Liberal candidates
With leaflet in hand

A neutral observer might have warned against much in the way of optimism five weeks before polling day. A by-election in Hartlepool was unlikely to offer much cheer either, although Andy Hagon took up the gauntlet for the cause. And, of course, COVID still stalked the land.

The Liberal Democrats took a stance against vaccine passports, which appeared to run counter to public opinion, but was at least consistent with the Party’s long held views on ID cards. The debate was just another reminder that modern-day Conservatives appear only to happy to argue against taking away the freedoms that benefit them whilst happily removing freedoms from everyone else. Their hypocrisy in that regard was to haunt them as the year went on.

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2021 – the year in review: March

A legend passed away unexpectedly. Heavens, he could be troublesome – cantankerous, occasionally outrageously rude, but if any one person represented the sheer bloody-mindedness of Liberal Democrat campaigners, it was Tony Greaves. A peerage did little to change him other than to allow him a platform to make life miserable for hapless Government ministers. We still miss him but, as Molly Nolan noted, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Another remote Federal Conference saw Ed Davey outline his vision for the country. Some of you weren’t impressed but then again, some of you aren’t actually Liberal Democrats. Meanwhile, my colleague, Paul Walter offered an insight into the mechanics of intervening in a debate and mused about the lack of a conference bar. Take my advice, Paul, and find a local brewery that delivers…

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2021 – the year in review: February

It’s my personal view, albeit a controversial one, that Dawn French was the worst thing that ever happened to Parish Councils. That changed in February, when a meeting of an obscure Parish Council in Cheshire went viral. I noted that not all Parish Councils are like that, whilst Ruth Bright reminded us that all levels of government have their share of unpleasantness. Who would have thought that the County Officer of an Association of Local Councils would become a celebrity? But Jackie Weaver rode the wave of publicity and did more to publicise the sector than anyone could have dreamed of.

COVID restrictions were still an utter shambles, with leaflet delivery allowed, then not allowed. The Government in Westminster might have been useless and, quite possibly, corrupt, but Kirsty Williams was working hard right to the end, planning for Welsh education.

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2021 – the year in review: January

Welcome this mini-series, in which we’ll take a look back at the LDV year through our own personal prism. And where more obvious to start than at the beginning…

2020 had not been a particularly easy year, but you always want to start a new one with some enthusiasm, and Caron introduced us to something that was going to become pretty big as the year went on, the Maraphone. Perhaps it was a coincidence that the Government tried to ban leafleting a week later… We weren’t benefiting from local government by-elections either, as they’d been suspended due to Lockdown 2 – the sequel.

January also saw the culmination of Republican attempts to steal the 2020 Presidential election, one which was far closer than we had hoped it would be. But, despite what some would describe as a coup attempt on 6 January, democracy triumphed… just. Some of the lessons learned from the campaign as a whole were brought to us by John Surie, a member of Liberal Democrats Overseas.

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Welcome to my day – 20 December 2021: there’s no business like snow business…

Greetings from Westbrook, Maine, where your friendly neighbourhood Day Editor is on grand-parenting duty for a few days. As you can see from this picture of the town’s library, we’ve had snow, about six inches of it. Luckily, it seems as though most people here own a snowplough, or have one bolted to the front of their truck, so there hasn’t been much disruption.

As I left Britain, the news of the North Shropshire by-election was just beginning to sink in and I’m reminded a bit of the 1992-97 Major administration. In the sense of a Government out of good ideas and mired in bad behaviour, there is an easy comparison, but whereas the Major administration contained some capable ministers and was led by a man whose word could be relied upon to a great extent, you can hardly say that about this administration. Mind you, whoever leads the Conservative Party is going to have to reconcile the irreconcilable – those contradictory promises made to deliver Brexit are no easier to untangle now than they ever were.

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Welcome to my day: 13 December 2021 – hey, I just met you and this is crazy…

Gosh, is it Monday already? Apparently so, although the weekend seems to have passed me by. Here in Creeting St Peter, the Christmas social calendar has fallen foul of people’s not entirely unreasonable preference that Christmas isn’t put at risk, with Saturday’s coffee morning cancelled and Friday’s pub night likewise.

Once again, you get a definite sense that the Government is several steps behind public opinion but then, given that they’re currently struggling with the definition of a party, or truth for that matter, and with Liz Truss evidently on manoeuvres for a potential leadership contest, it would be impressive if they could metaphorically walk and chew gum at the same time.

On this day in 1577, Sir Francis Drake set out to circumnavigate the globe, making himself wealthy in the process and rather upsetting the Spanish. This day in 1864 saw Paraguay declare war on Brazil, setting off the War of the Triple Alliance. With Paraguay eventually facing off against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, it didn’t end well, with estimates suggesting that Paraguay lost up to 70% of its population through battle casualties, disease and starvation. And, on a more optimistic note, 13 December 1920 saw the establishment of the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

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Welcome to my day: 6 December 2021 – “Fire The Cannons!”

Good morning, gentle reader!

It’s a murky start in the Gipping Valley this morning, but your day editor is alert and eager for a new week.

So, where to start? As Iain Roberts, once of this parish, noted on Twitter;

It seems that we’re now into Government as angels dancing on the head of a pin, as ministers desperate try to define the word ‘party’ in such a way as to meet regulations that certainly weren’t broken. The fact that such gatherings were banned altogether doesn’t seem to register but, if reminder was ever needed, it does emphasise that rules are apparently for …

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Welcome to my day: 29 November 2021 – the sun is out, the sky is blue…

Good morning(ish) everyone, and welcome to another Monday. I had been hoping that this would be coming to you from Mumbai, as I was supposed to be at a family wedding on Friday, but something about a pandemic…

Ah well, never mind.

Today is the 276th anniversary of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army occupying Carlisle. They had also reached Manchester at this point, but the high water mark of that uprising wasn’t far away. The Sonderbund War ended on this day in 1847, when the canton of Valais surrendered to the Swiss Federal Army. And, one hundred years later, the United Nations General …

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Welcome to my day: 22 November 2021 – an unexpected use for lettuce

Good morning, gentle reader (although not all of you seem to be particularly gentle at the moment…)!

Yes, Monday comes around again, as inevitable as a tax return – by the way, the deadline for online submission is just ten weeks away – and thus it is my turn to keep the site turning.

Whilst much Liberal Democrat attention is focussed upon North Shropshire, we’re in the last ten days of the campaign in Old Bexley and Sidcup, where Simone Reynolds is flying our flag. She improved our vote share from 3.3% to 8.3% in 2019, and it would be nice if she could keep the third place she gained then.

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Welcome to my day: 15 November 2021 – it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Good morning, gentle readers, as the days get shorter and the nights that little bit gloomier. Certainly, they’re not short enough for the Conservatives, even as they are definitely gloomier.

I have to admit to wondering whether there was anything that the Government could do that would shake the British public out of its apparent lethargy. A botched Brexit? Apparently not. A shambolic management of the pandemic? Seemingly, no. But, as it turns out, they had found a “long fuse” means to undermine themselves – greed.

It does astonish me that some Conservative MPs are so wilfully negligent of conflict of interest …

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Welcome to my day: 8 November 2021 – knowing it’s wrong and doing it anyway?

I was, I admit, slightly surprised by the response of some Conservatives to scrutiny over the “Paterson affair”. Nadhim Zahawi first admitted live on television that he hadn’t read the Standards Committee report before, then upon it being pointed out to him that he’d voted to reject it anyway, then stated that he had “looked at it”, whatever that means. Meanwhile, Alex Chalk, the MP for Cheltenham, sent an e-mail stating that Owen Paterson was wrong to lobby ministers on behalf of companies employing him, that it was wrong to conflate his case with the question of amending the disciplinary system for MPs, and that it was wrong to impose a three-line whip for the vote. What he didn’t mention was that he voted as ordered.

One might begin to wonder if Conservatives have gained the view that it really doesn’t matter what they say or do any more, given that the pollsters still show them leading regardless.

But the hare is running in North Shropshire now. Is it winnable for the Liberal Democrats? Well, we’ll never know if we don’t try, and you wouldn’t envy the Conservative candidate – are they loyal to Owen Paterson, or do they condemn him?

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Welcome to my day – 1 November 2021: forgetting to finish the heading…

The sun is shining in the Creetings this morning, and whilst it’s not exactly warm, a bit of sunshine does lift the spirits somewhat. It’s also nice to be back after a week off – the jet lag is just fine, and thank you for asking.

The COP26 event dominates the political agenda this week, naturally, and whilst our own Government is sending out decidedly mixed messages – reducing air passenger duty on short haul flights? Really? Having to be embarrassed into acting on sewage discharges into rivers and coastal waters? – there are a lot of people counting on action …

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Bienvenue dans ma journée: 18 October 2021 – the Cantons de l’Est edition

Good morning, everyone! Liberal Democrat Voice is brought to you today from a less-travelled part of southern Quebec.

Obviously, moderation is going to be a bit erratic, as I’m five hours adrift and trying to combine my day editor responsibilities with a crash course in being an evil step-grandfather, so do bear with me.

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Welcome to my day: 11 October 2021 – testing, testing…

Good morning, everyone! Yes, everybody’s second favourite bureaucrat is back, with more to amuse, engage and challenge our readers. Caron thinks that I’m unavailable today but, if you promise not to tell her otherwise, I’m sure that we’ll get away with it. I will be slipping away for a PCR test later, so moderation might be a bit slower than usual today. Bear with me…

Iain Duncan-Smith thinks that I should get off of my Pelaton and get back to the office. Apart from the fact that I don’t own one (and at upwards of £1,350 plus £39 per month, I don’t think it likely that many civil servants will, given the median Civil Service salary was £28,180 in March 2020), does the location of my desk really trump my efficiency?

Admittedly, this does come from the man who said in the House of Commons in the debate on the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill that;

if there is anything about this arrangement that we have not now debated and thrashed to death, I would love to know what it is.

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Welcome to my day: 4 October 2021 – some days are diamonds, some days are rocks…

It’s the start of a new week here at Liberal Democrat Voice, although I am reminded that the week starts on a Sunday in Portuguese. And after the excitement of last week – who would have thought that so many of you are passionate about moderation? – I’m left with a challenge to follow that up. Luckily, I’m not alone…

Apparently, Chris Loder, the Conservative MP for West Dorset, believes that our supermarkets are at fault for the issues regarding supply of foodstuffs to shelves;

I know it might not feel like it in the immediate term. But it is in our mid and long-term interest that these logistics chains do break.

It will mean that the farmer down the street will be able to sell their milk in the village shop like they did decades ago. It is because these commercial predators – that is the supermarkets – have wiped that out and I’d like to see that come back.

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Moderation and the politics of gender and sexuality

There has been some controversy on the pages of Liberal Democrat Voice over the past few weeks about articles on gender and sexuality issues, and especially in terms of how comments have been, or not as the case may be, moderated. It would be fair to say that our decisions have not met with universal approval.

And, from the perspective of a member of the Editorial Team from a rural community somewhat lacking in diversity, such debates offer up a real challenge.

Yes, judgements are pretty simple where the comments policy is obviously breached – there are some of our readers who really cannot grasp the fact that their tone and language is offensive to a reasonably tolerant person, or who simply cannot resist the temptation to be gratuitously offensive.

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Welcome to my day: 27 September 2021 – it’s not going terribly well here, is it?

Good morning from Suffolk’s Gipping Valley where, in exciting news, I’m preparing to go to the office to work for the first time since last March. It’s going to be an odd sensation, as I’ve become a touch reclusive, but needs must, as they say.

Results from Germany indicate progress for our sister party in Germany, the Free Democrats, with the prospects of lengthy negotiations over the formation of a new administration. Will it be “Jamaica” – CDU/CSU, Greens and FDP – or “traffic light” – SPD, FDP and Greens – or is there another combination that can get across the line? At least the Alternative für Deutschland have been pushed into fifth place…

Elsewhere, San Marino has legalised abortion, albeit only up until the twelfth week of gestation, with a 77% vote in favour. And, on another brighter note, Swiss voters have decisively voted in favour of same-sex marriage in a nationwide referendum.

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Welcome to my day – 10 May 2021: reasons to be cheerful?

It’s been a tough decade or so to be a Liberal Democrat – losing sucks, and watching your friends and colleagues fight unsuccessful campaigns doesn’t exactly raise the spirits. But this year felt a bit better, despite the losses in some places, some familiar faces were pictured smiling, and there were plenty of new faces doing the same. We’ve demonstrated some relevance and proven that, with hard work, spirit and persistence (and, occasionally, a fair wind), Liberal Democrats can win pretty much anywhere.

That’s not to say that the results are great. Caron, who knows far more than I ever will …

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Welcome to my (International Women’s) Day – 8 March 2021

Heavens, is it Monday already? Apparently so, and not just any Monday, but International Women’s Day, so there’ll be some content to reflect that, courtesy of our Editor-in-Chief.

I should take this opportunity to point readers towards Parliament’s celebrations of both International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month Although, somewhat curiously, both Houses will be marking it with debates on… Thursday.

Otherwise, I’ll be offering some thoughts on the Party’s disciplinary processes – which reflect some comments I’ve received from others who will remain nameless but may recognise the points that I’m making.

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Welcome to my day – 1 March 2021

Welcome to Suffolk’s Gipping Valley, where another week starts. You may wonder about the picture, which comes courtesy of the Gateway 14 Residents Campaign Group. I’ve been spending the last week or so drafting my Parish Council’s seven page response to a planning application which is exercising local residents, which might reassure John Marriott that, despite my occasionally whimsical view of the world of parish councils, I take my responsibilities as Chair of my Parish Council very seriously.

We’ve got a busy day ahead of us, with articles on British pensioners overseas, …

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Welcome to my day – 8 February 2021

And the snow lay round about, crisp and deep and even…

Welcome to a wintry Creeting St Peter this Monday morning! For a rare change, we’re getting some of the worst of the conditions here, but the wood-burning stove is doing its job, there’s no shortage of coffee, and I can still get out for a walk, so service should be as normal.

We bring you today a story of a company that didn’t export anything, but has been caught up in the administrative nightmare that is Brexit. I used to handle double taxation …

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