Tag Archives: conservatives

2 April 2024 – today’s press releases (part 1)

  • Stealth taxes to drag 1.6 million pensioners into paying income tax
  • Sunak laughing on radio: Stop hunkering in offices and call an election
  • Cole-Hamilton: No one should have to wait 12 hours at A&E
  • More than 1,900 stuck in hospital

Stealth taxes to drag 1.6 million pensioners into paying income tax

1.6 million pensioners are set to be dragged into paying income tax due to the government’s stealth tax freeze by 2027/28, new research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The House of Commons Library analysis looks at the impact of the Chancellor’s decision to freeze the personal allowance at £12,570, the rate at which people start paying tax. Without the stealth tax freeze, the allowance would have risen to £15,220 in the coming financial year (2024/25) and up to £15,990 in 2027/28.

The analysis estimated that around 1.2 million pensioners will be dragged into paying income tax in 2024/25. By 2027/28, 1.6 million additional pensioners will be paying income tax compared to if the Personal Allowance had been increased in line with inflation.

The latest DWP figures show there are 12.7 million people receiving the state pension. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, well over 60 per cent of these pensioners now pay income tax, up from around 50% in 2010. The research found 8.5 million people over the age of 65 were now paying tax on their income, up from roughly 4.9 million in 2010.

Separate analysis from the Resolution Foundation has found that the freezing of income tax thresholds will leave the average taxpaying pensioner £1,000 worse off by 2027-28, or a collective hit of £8 billion.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

These stark figures reveal the stealth tax bombshell facing pensioners under this Conservative government.

Older people who have worked hard and contributed all their lives are now being clobbered with years of unfair tax hikes.

Jeremy Hunt’s pensioner-punishing Budget will not be forgotten come the next election. The Conservative Party faces a reckoning at the ballot from older voters sick of being taken for granted.

Sunak laughing on radio: Stop hunkering in offices and call an election

Responding to Rishi Sunak laughing at being asked when the next General Election will be on BBC Radio Tees, Liberal Democrat local government spokesperson Helen Morgan MP said:

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8 January 2024 – today’s press releases

  • Sunak Connect speech: “An arsonist offering to put out the fire”
  • Welsh Lib Dems demand action in South Wales fire service scandal

Sunak Connect speech: “An arsonist offering to put out the fire”

Responding to Rishi Sunak’s Connect speech in Lancashire this morning, where the Prime Minister urged voters to continue voting for his party, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

Rishi Sunak is like an arsonist offering to put out a fire. This mess is the fault of Conservative Prime Ministers crashing the economy, hiking taxes and letting the NHS crumble.

He is living on another planet. Just how out of touch is he? It’s clear now Rishi Sunak thinks everything is fine and nothing should change.

This chaotic Conservative government has had long enough to get their act together. Enough is enough.

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Rivers of Blood Mark II

There has been a lot of publicity this week about Tory factionalising and Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s apparent positioning for the party leadership, after the Tories’ expected 2024 GE loss of power.

However, there has been a lot of muddle in the media about which faction proposes what and why. What is really going on ? Clearly if Braverman’s far right platform is to be opposed, what exactly are we opposing ?

The start point is to remember that the jostling of Tory MPs is missing the point. The competition is between different sets of interests, which MPs attach themselves to in order to advance politically. Each set of interests has their own narrative (sincere or not) as to why the UK is seemingly in steep decline and why the Tories are currently unpopular.

There is a group of interests that broadly revolve around international finance, the City and global investment groups. They support privileges for investment banks and are unfussed about monopolies, or high state debt. Sunak vaguely might be placed here.

There is a Thatcherite free market group supported by industry and commercial interests; many being victims of monopoly and fiscal problems. Folks might put Liz Truss in this group.

There is a small military-orientated group, and a small social libertarian group which are both rather limp politically.

Braverman is closer to the expanding Neo-Conservative group, supported by think tanks in Washington DC. They are unfussed about BOTH markets and monopoly finance, sanguine about fiscal risks, and are supported by groups linked to global wars of choice, and by US/UK armaments interests. It is funded via opaque donation intermediaries (although leaks have shed light on the actual international donors).

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Could the Liberal Democrats be part of the Official Opposition by 2025?

In politics, we see a ‘paradigm shift’ occur generationally, which we are now seeing with the Conservatives in office, but not in power. Labour is a party heading for power, but not yet in office. Where do we as Liberal Democrats stand in this generational event, or could it be an event of a political realignment which usually happens once in a century? 

Antony Hook has started a serious debate about our long-term vision after the General Election. This article seeks to furtherer this debate, and will prove to be controversial to some readers. However, as Liberals we believe in free debate, as this is a fundamental right in a free and fair society and it is in this spirit, this article should be read. 

This article presumes that there will be two seismic political events next year, on which I will focus on the second one:

  1. General Election
  2. Conservative Leadership Election

With Keir Starmer likely to be Prime Minister after the General Election, the Conservatives will have a leadership election, which will lead to a civil war within their party. As Conservative Home points out, One Nation MPs have fallen out with the Conservative Grassroots. This has been further illustrated by Tim Montgomerie, who wrote that

He (Nigel Farage) got quite the reception. I’m convinced party members would choose him as leader if they could.

Rishi Sunak has even left the door for Nigel Farage to return to the Conservative Party. It is evident that Farage is seen as the doyen of Conservatism, and Liberal Conservatives may need to find a new political home after the General Election.

Despite One Nation Tories pledging to hold Suella Braverman (or Liz Truss) to account if she is elected, they are more likely to have more in common with the new cohort of Liberal Democrat MPs who will be elected at the next General Election, as they will be representing their traditional heartlands

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The rise of the poli-bots

With Hollywood actors and writers striking over AI, and many of our favourite TV shows and movies consigned to the cutting room shelf for now, I wanted to draw your attention, dear reader, to the truly serious implications of this – the role of AI in politics.

For those of you who have not been keeping up on the latest scientific literature, this was all foreseen by the writer Michael Crichton in Westworld, his searing firsthand account of how robots replaced cowboys in the American west. Yes, it’s been going on for years, but as long as it was only cowboys, no one cared.

Now AI has come for the creatives who previously had the monopoly on smiling, crying and running away from rampaging dinosaurs, and it’s potentially worse for the politicians who, hitherto, were the only ones capable of delivering their trademark smile, wave and a soundbite.

For these oppressed Hollywood wage slaves, forced to struggle on a mere $20 million per movie, it was enough to drive them out of their e-Limousines and onto the picket line. What will it take to make politicians follow them?

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Accelerating economic decline and the political long game

Conservatives of all shades seem resigned to being in opposition after the next General Election. Apart from minimising losses by trying to trip up Kier Starmer, what is the strategy ? What are they thinking about the future, and are there any useful potential implications for other parties ?

The idea gaining traction amongst some senior Conservatives is that, since the economic fundamentals are so bad, conditions for almost all of the population will continue to deteriorate during 2024 and 2025. 

Therefore it is better to get Starmer and the Labour Party into government as early as politically possible. The logic goes that after six months or so, high expectations of a Labour government will lead to disappointment, and Labour will start to be blamed … initially for not reversing the decline, but then gradually for the decline itself.

Adding to this idea amongst some Conservatives is the view that a Starmer-led Labour Government, boxed in by right wing authoritarian factions, public sector trade unions, Corbyn supporters, and ‘internationalised’ donors, is not in a position by itself to work out how to manage the continuing decline, let alone reverse it. This will result in a Starmer government relying heavily on Treasury and Bank of England officials to handle the worsening crisis; the same folk who have brought the UK to this point in the first place, it is claimed. 

Therefore, the view goes, the scene is set for a new and refreshed Conservative Party back in government soon. This seems to be the leading Tory ‘long game’ strategy; by the time the next election comes along three to five years from now the public will be blaming the new 2024 government.

This strategy is clearly predicated on three main things.

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Welcome to my day: 17 July 2023 – “the things that pass for knowledge I can’t understand”*

I have to admit that I’ve been struggling for inspiration of late, which might explain why Mondays have been a bit devoid of content for a few weeks. I’m also rather busier than I had expected, what with my responsibilities in the town and parish council sector, a Parliamentary candidate selection to manage and a day job. But all you can do is keep trying, so here I am to start another week…

There are times when you wonder what a group of politicians are really thinking. For instance, the “New Conservatives” are seriously proposing to restrict the number of foreign care workers allowed into the country, with the expectation that this will drive up salaries in the sector and entice British workers to fill the gap. Sounds simple, right?

Bear in mind that there are already 165,000 vacancies in the social care sector, that local government is buckling under the financial burden of paying for social care, that unemployment is pretty low in large parts of the country and that there are, frankly, easier ways of making a living, and you realise just how daft such an idea is.

And now, in their desperation to drive down net migration figures, the Government have turned to foreign students, making Britain a less attractive destination in a competitive global further education market. I am reminded that British universities have been driven to recruit more and more overseas students in order to balance their books and so, universities are being urged to cut the number of “low value” courses offered to bridge the resulting gap. Because, once again, Conservatives are giving the impression that they don’t like foreigners, don’t believe in choice – you’re paying for an education, so why shouldn’t you have one that you want? – and actually can’t think beyond the initial impact of their prejudices.

Are they really attempting to tear everything down before the next General Election?

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Voting Liberal Democrat for the first time

Since I was eligible to vote, I have voted for the Conservative Party. Local elections, by-elections, General Elections; I’ve always “voted blue, no matter who”. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is the influence of my grandparents who have always voted Conservative. The other reason is easier to identify; as someone always interested – and now working in – law, the fact that the Conservative Party has always been identified as the “party of law and order” naturally drew me to them.

I won’t lie. I have never delved too deeply into the individual policies of the party. I started voting Conservative and didn’t stop. I followed Conservative MPs on Twitter and Facebook, I read “right leaning” newspapers and, for a period of time, I joined the local party association and gave my support as a local activist. I was even asked, where I used to live, to consider standing for the council (albeit as a paper candidate).

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Political chaos and political reform

If you haven’t read the extracts from Anthony Seldon’s forthcoming book on Boris Johnson’s mismanagement of government, being serialised in the Times and Sunday Times since Saturday, you’re missing something that you can usefully quote next time you come up against a Tory candidate. Seldon is not a commentator who can be dismissed by the Right as a ‘leftie’ intellectual. Biographer of Margaret Thatcher, former vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, son of one of the founders of the Institute of Economic Affairs, he is a pillar of the conservative establishment. (Full disclosure: his mother canvassed for the Liberals in the Orpington by-election, and Michael Steed and I stayed there for a week.) The extracts quote from insiders who knew what was going on.

And it’s devastating. Chaotic, with an incompetent prime minister dependent on an adviser (Dominic Cummings) who despised him almost as much as he despised Parliament and the conventional rules of constitutional government, and with a new partner/wife with her own political views and expertise. It portrays inability to take clear decisions at the centre or to implement them through Departments, with an inbuilt tendency to bypass ministers and civil servants whenever possible and to prioritise presentation over substance. This was politics as a permanent campaign, rather than a recognition that government is complicated and unavoidably slow-moving.

The Conservatives campaigned in 2017 and 2019 on a platform of strong and stable single-party government, against what they portrayed as the chaos of coalition – by which they meant a Labour government dependent on the SNP. What they’ve inflicted on the UK is the chaos of single-party factionalism, compounded by dreadful leadership choices in both Johnson and Truss. Opinions on May and Sunak are a little less negative, but both have been hamstrung by internal conflicts within the parliamentary party between a dwindling bunch of pragmatists, a group of ambitious cynics and an ideological right. The defenestration of Raab suggests that the chaos will roll on to the 2024 election, likely to be postponed to the latest possible date by continuing squabbles between ‘realos’ and ‘fundamentalists’.

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The Republican colonization of the British Conservative Party

Liz Truss has just made her second visit to Washington since she stepped down as prime minister: this time, to deliver the ‘Margaret Thatcher Freedom Lecture’ to the Heritage Foundation.  She pleased her audience by declaring that ‘It was Anglo-American individualism that made the world prosperous…Low taxes, limited government and private enterprise were what won the Cold War’ – and warning that ‘stagnation, redistributionism and woke culture’ are weakening the West in the coming struggle with China.

There are many untruths in such a statement.  It was Rooseveltian social democracy, on both sides of the Atlantic, that secured and revived democracy to win the Cold War.  The Thatcherite revolution swept in as the Cold War was ending, low taxes aided by the ‘peace dividend’ of cutting spending on defence.  ‘Woke culture’ is an invention of the American right, with racial undertones.  ‘Redistributionism’, otherwise known as progressive taxation, is an essential element of any democratic economy and society, resisted only by radical libertarians and authoritarian free marketeers.  But she was no doubt at home with her ideological Republican audience, far more than she would have been with almost any audience in London.

The colonization of the British right by American ideas and American money is one of the most worrying developments in national politics.  We cannot tell how far the well-funded think tanks of the right depend on US funding, since none of them publish where their funds come from.  Policy Exchange has a US Foundation to ease US giving, and the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Institute of Economic Affairs have close US links.  There are rumours that US Evangelical bodies have promoted and funded ‘family-friendly’ campaigns against abortion and trans rights, in the ‘battle against woke culture’.  And the links with the Conservative Party are evident, in the flow of MPs and advisers to Washington conferences and of American visitors to events over here.

From May 15-17 the US-led National Conservatism movement will hold its seventh conference in four years, this time in London.  Its listed keynote speakers include Kevin Roberts, the president of the Heritage Foundation, together with Suella Braverman, Michael Gove, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Douglas Murray (author of ‘The War on the West’). Other speakers offer a parade of right-wing thinkers from the UK and elsewhere. The most important intellectual figure is Yoram Hazony, an Israeli-American philosopher and Old Testament scholar, whose writings on national conservatism reject much of the enlightenment tradition as well as the tenets of liberal thought.

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Survation: Majority of Conservative councillors dissatisfied with own party’s performance

This week Survation reported the results of a survey undertaken in the last month. They polled 710 councillors of all parties across the UK. The results are interesting, if painfully predictable for the Tories.

Survation asked the councillors to assess the local performance of their party in 2022. Liberal Democrats came out with a net satisfaction rating of +92% (which is remarkably high); Labour councillors had a net satisfaction of +73%, but the Conservatives came in with a miserable +21%. Note that this is their assessment of their local performance for which they were responsible.

If you think that last figure is low, it gets far worse when councillors were asked about their party’s national performance. On that, the Conservative councillors net satisfaction is a staggering -53% (note the negative). In fact 72% of Tory councillors said they were somewhat or extremely dissatisfied with the performance of the Conservatives nationally, compared with only 19% who were somewhat or extremely satisfied.

Labour and Liberal Democrats managed net satisfaction ratings of their party’s national performance of +65% and +56% respectively.

The survey also explored the favourability rating of the various party leaders. You can read more detail in the report, but it is worth mentioning how the main party leaders were viewed by Lib Dem councillors: Not surprisingly Ed Davey had a net favourability of +80%, while Keir Starmer achieved +5%, and Rishi Sunak was on -76%.

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25 October 2022 – today’s press releases

  • Liz Truss’s legacy: Dossier reveals damage done in 50 days of failure
  • Sunak speech fails to reassure public worried about winter ahead
  • Reshuffle: Stop “revolving door” payouts to Conservative ministers

Liz Truss’s legacy: Dossier reveals damage done in 50 days of failure

  • 932,000 people seeing their mortgage rise
  • 176,000 more people on NHS waiting lists
  • 365,000 hours of sewage discharges

The Liberal Democrats have published a dossier on Liz Truss’ legacy, showing the damage done to the country during her 50-day premiership.

The analysis shows over 930,000 people saw their mortgage rise due to the Government’s botched mini-budget, the number of people on NHS waiting lists grew by 170,000 and 6.2 million people waited over two weeks for a doctor’s appointment.

A shambolic Home Office oversaw 27,000 unsolved burglaries, 492,000 more victims of fraud and 1,100 police officers leaving the force. The Government also oversaw sewage being dumped a staggering 51,000 times into rivers and waterways across the country, for a total of 365,000 hours.

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The Conservatives fail because they think they know best.

One of the characteristics of this awful government is that they manage to present even ideas with a modicum of sense in a way which ensures they will be unpopular.

Yesterday we had a classic example in the news that the new Health Secretary, Thérèse Coffey as part of her ‘Plan for Patients’ is planning to allow pharmacies to prescribe antibiotics (and other drugs) in some cases. It has also come out that she has said that she has handed out her own antibiotics to friends who were feeling unwell in the past. Reaction to this news has been swift – Stephen Baker, Professor of Microbiology at Cambridge said widening access to antibiotics was ‘nuts’ and Professor Penny Ward, of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine was equally scathing: “The Health Secretary really should take the time to familiarise herself with what is a difficult topic”

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William Wallace writes: The chaos of single-party government

Conservative HQ has briefed the media that it plans to attack other parties in the next election campaign for offering ‘a coalition of chaos’ instead of the ‘strong and stable’ single-party government the UK has benefitted from since 2015.  Liberal Democrats should be rubbishing this fantasy.

In the past seven years we have suffered two early elections and three prime ministers – with a fourth now coming into office.  We have had four Chancellors of the Exchequer, five foreign and business secretaries, and six cabinet ministers for education – seven if we include Michele Donovan’s two-day term.  Junior ministers have turned over at an even faster rate, many moving on after less than a year without time to learn their jobs.  Rapid shifts of policy, inconsistent announcements on priorities, officials having to start again briefing new ministers often arriving without any relevant expertise about their responsibilities: chaotic government by any definition.

We can expect another round of ministerial churn in the coming week.  In 2019, what’s more, 21 MPs were suspended from the Parliamentary Party.  Only 10 had the whip restored; two former chancellors and two other former cabinet ministers were among those expelled from the party.  Ken Clarke remarked that the party that expelled him was no longer Conservative; ‘it’s the Brexit Party, rebadged.’

At a Liberal Democrat Business Network gathering last week people were telling me how they longed for the stability that a coalition government might offer after the twists and turns, factional plotting, and inconsistent ministerial directives they have suffered since 2015.  We are likely to face more infighting after the embittered leadership contest we have seen this summer, which will make it even harder for the Conservatives to present themselves as a model of stability at the next election, and easier for us to make the case for institutional change to give Britain better government.

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Are Lib Dem concerns different from the Tories and Labour? Tory yes, Labour not so much

Most of us have gotten fed up with the deluge of opinion polls of late. On top of the usual run of surveys, there are all those surveys for the leadership election. Many seem designed to fill newspaper columns rather than advance the debate or help the unrepresentative few chose the next prime minister.

But two surveys caught my eye this week. A YouGov tracker illustrates what we know or perhaps guess about political priorities. Voters for all three parties believe that the economy is the most important issue, with the greatest concern among Lib Dems. But fewer than a quarter of Tories think that the environment in among the top three issues facing the country, compared to half of Lib Dems and Labour voters. There is not a huge difference between the parties on concern about health but the Lib Dems are the most concerned. When it comes to being concerned about immigration and asylum, the Tories are in a league of their own.

Another YouGov survey for Times Radio shows that Lib Dems prefer to shop at Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. Labour supporters prefer Asda and Morrisons. As for the Tories, they are all over the place.

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Food banks and posh nosh

On Monday, the Conservatives held their summer party fundraiser. The top lot was dinner with Boris Johnson and his rivals Theresa May and David Cameron. The Dinner of the Century – so-called to avoid inviting Johnson critic John Major – went for £120,000.

This was of course a fundraiser and at such events silly things go for silly prices. But the symbolism cannot be missed. Three prime ministers tucking into posh nosh with someone who has £120,000 in spare change while people are struggling to feed themselves and queuing for the food bank.

News of the Dinner of the Century broke on Wednesday, the day before 36 Shropshire organisations, including councils, food banks and support groups, published an open letter on the cost of living crisis. They are pleading for more help for rural communities, for longer term help and for those in relative comfort to think of ways they can help others.

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Lies, condescension, repeat – the new mantra of the Conservative Party

In 2016, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove claimed that Brexit would allow us to cut VAT on energy bills.

On Wednesday 18th May, the Tories voted against the Liberal Democrat motion to cut VAT on energy bills, highlighting yet again, the lies that Brexit was built upon. The claim by Johnson and Gove that Brexit would allow us to cut VAT on energy bills implies that being an EU member didn’t allow us to do so previously; despite Belgium cutting VAT on electricity bills while being a member of the EU. Another Brexit lie propagated at the time of the referendum was the “removal of red tape”, later proven to be false by the rising administration costs facing British businesses.

This has highlighted how out of touch the Tories are with the British people.

Despite pensioners feeling abandoned by the government, Sir Ed Davey making clear that tax hikes are the last thing Londoners need and Sir Keir Starmer stating that Johnson is “choosing to let people struggle”, the advice from Home Office minister Rachel Maclean for citizens dealing with the cost of living crisis is… get a better job.

Oh…

When turning the attention to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, her advice is… to get a “high-paid job”.

Oh…

With so many having to choose between heating and eating, having to skip meals and some even having to leave their heating off entirely, the advice from the government is simply to “get a better job”. This echoes the now infamous, heartless speech from former Conservative Employment Minister Norman Tebbit, who told the Conservative Party 1981 Conference that when his father was faced with unemployment in the 30s, “he got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking till he found it”.

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Are the Tories planning an early General Election

A few days ago Jacob Rees Mogg suggested that a change of Prime Minister would lead to an early General Election. He must know this isn’t true: are we being softened up for one?

His remarks have been read as an attempt to stop Tory MPs in former “red wall” seats siding against Boris Johnson, but aren’t these the Tory MPs with the strongest incentive to ensure that their party has a leader who people support?

What he’s reported to have said on Newsnight is:

“It is my view that we’ve moved, for better or worse, to an essentially presidential system and therefore the mandate is personal rather than entirely party and any PM would be very well advised to seek a fresh mandate.” 

The Tories won in 2019 on a promise to deliver Brexit, and shouldn’t be able escape the consequences by going to the polls early. The unravelling of Brexit and the consequences of their handling of Covid will mean they are in a weak position when the next General Election is due, in 2024. Going sooner than that, while they have a comfortable majority, would attract criticism. But a General Election in the “honeymoon” period of a new leader could be sold as “democratic”. Supporters of opposition parties would — rightly — cry “foul”, but the Tories would be gambling on coming back with a reduced, but viable, majority. 

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The damage caused by this Government now includes psychological harm – we need them gone

This morning I was looking on Twitter at the heartbreaking messages from people who had not been able to see their loved ones before they died in May 2020 due to the Covid rules in force at the time, or to attend family funerals or visit relatives in care homes. These are deeply hurtful and scarring experiences.

I also thought to myself, how do most people feel about being told in the Spring of 2020 that they could, legally, only meet up with one person outdoors, now they know that there were parties with 30 or more people held in Downing Street at the very same time? Or about members of the public being fined by the police for breaking the same rules the Prime Minister introduced – yet broke – himself whilst, of course, concealing the truth from everyone?

I turned to thinking about Brexit and the damage and uncertainty caused to multiple interests, especially famers and fishing communities, but also to students and people who used to move regularly between the UK and the EU. This article is not about comparing the tragedies of Covid and Brexit, as Covid is infinitely worse due to the enormity of the loss of life and the associated heartache, but it is about the same way the Conservative Government has handled these two major catastrophes and continues to do so – and the kind of damage their duplicity has surely done to many people’s mental health.

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7 December 2021 – today’s press releases

  • Davey: PM must fess up over Xmas party
  • Williamson party: Met Police must investigate

Davey: PM must fess up over Xmas party

Responding to a new leaked video which shows the Prime Minister’s former press secretary joking about a party in Downing Street last Christmas, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey MP said:

People will rightly be furious with Boris Johnson, not just for holding a party during lockdown, but also for refusing to own up to it. Once again he shows it’s one rule for us and one rule for him, with the Conservatives continuing to take people for granted.

Whilst millions

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UPDATED – two North Shropshire Conservative Councillors defect

Well, well, well, what is happening to the Tories in North Shropshire? It is reported this morning that Anthony Allen, a Town Councillor in Market Drayton, has defected to Reclaim, who have claimed him as their first elected councillor.

Now, as a parish councillor myself, describing Mr Allen as a top Tory councillor, as Reclaim have done, is a bit like describing me as a senior figure in Suffolk local government, but it does give the impression of a Conservative campaign in disarray.

As reported by the Independent;

The 54-year-old cab company owner said his former party had “gone soft on illegal immigration,

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Bending the Constitution: can we make this a campaigning issue?

Austin Mitchell, a wonderfully maverick Labour MP, once described the British constitution as ‘whatever the government can get away with.’. A government with a big Commons majority can get away with a lot, so long as the polls remain in its favour. This government, above all this prime minister, has got away with a great deal so far, and intends to push its advantage a good deal further through changes in law and electoral regulation now before Parliament. As one of his Eton teachers remarked, Boris Johnson does not think that rules and conventions apply to him.

Press commentators have noted …

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Conservative candidates to be tested for conformity

Newsmoggie does not usually stray into Conservative territory, except to dig up gardens for essential purposes of course.

But it seems that the Conservatives really don’t want another repeat of their glorious leader Boris Johnson. They have introduced psychometric testing for new candidates. While Newsmoggie is not an expert on such tests, they do seem aimed to introduce conformality and normality, treating potential MPs like dogs to be trained and not like us free roaming cats.

Would Boris Johnson pass a psychometric test? Michael Gove? Matt Hancock? Or even Daniel Kawczynski, who has had to apologise after imbibing alcohol before ranting at parliamentary officers.

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Young people deserve a better future

I joined the Conservative Party in the early 1970s at the time of the first referendum, and from 1999 served for ten years as an MEP. Last year, after increasing unease at the Party’s lurch to the Right, I joined the Liberal Democrats where I instantly felt at home. More Tories will surely follow, especially as so many are not renewing their membership given the clumsiness of the cabal currently at the top.

Conservatives are not the only ones to be unhappy: young people are being disadvantaged and even damaged by the triply toxic cocktail of Covid plus Boris Johnson plus Gavin Williamson.

Young people share the same aspirations my generation had for a decent job, an affordable home, and the chance to broaden their personal horizons – a future they could look forward to with confidence rather than despair.

However, today they are facing a job market which is bleak at best. Help to Buy is of little help to those in the midlands and north where more jobs are being lost, and home ownership may be a millstone to negative equity rather than a ladder to prosperity. The young in particular need help with reasonable rents. Big companies conveniently declare themselves bankrupt to renegotiate their rents downwards, but the young have no such options.

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No Rishi! The country does not share your values

In his speech to the Tory Party conference, Rishi Sunak made a bold declaration: “We share the same values. The Conservative Party and the country.” For a start the 57% of voters who didn’t opt for the Conservatives last December will disagree. But his statement also raises a key question: what are the values that today’s Conservative Party stand for? Anyone who takes a moment to look at Johnson’s Conservatives can see that the party of statecraft, the rule of law and fiscal conservatism no longer exists.

The rest of Sunak’s speech was surprisingly brief and light on policy. One thing he did emphasise was his commitment to balancing the books. But that didn’t seem to matter when it came to getting Brexit done or when announcing huge infrastructure spending.

They say they are about law and order, but have just voted to allow themselves to break international law. And Priti Patel’s speech at the weekend advocating an escalation of the hostile environment towards those seeking asylum made clear the Conservatives aren’t a party that looks out for the most vulnerable in society.

Part of the problem for the Conservatives is their own internal ideological divisions. On the one hand they have a raft of MPs in solidly safe seats who keep their heads down in public and quietly do as they are told, willingly voting for the Government every time. Some of these types also come from Lib Dem facing not-so-safe seats where their bacon was saved by Nigel Farage standing down his Brexit Party troops. 

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21 May 2020 – today’s press releases (part 1)

And if you thought that yesterday was intense…

  • Lib Dems: Tackling the climate crisis is at the heart of coronavirus recovery
  • Govt must reimburse missed tuition to student nurses called up to the frontline
  • 51,906 asylum seekers trapped on just £5.39 a day during coronavirus crisis
  • EU Settled Status deadline must be scrapped, as grants crater during coronavirus crisis
  • New stats show damaging impact of Priti Patel’s nasty immigration rhetoric

Lib Dems: Tackling the climate crisis is at the heart of coronavirus recovery

The Liberal Democrats have secured cross-party support for their calls for local authorities to be empowered to enact measures that would help tackle the climate emergency as well as recover from the coronavirus crisis.

The cross-party letter sent to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick states “we cannot simply return ‘back to normal’” and that “tackling the climate emergency is at the heart of our recovery”.

Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Climate Emergency, Energy and the Environment Wera Hobhouse initiated the letter, putting forward measures that include incentivising councils to support sustainable travel, revitalising high streets and allowing local authorities to close streets to traffic at allocated times.

Following the letter, Wera Hobhouse said:

We cannot return to ‘normal’ following the Covid-19 crisis. The measures introduced by the Transport Secretary to promote the use of sustainable transport are welcome, but without cross departmental buy-in they will fail to have a lasting impact on how we travel.

Posted in News and Press releases | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 1 Comment

Our Government is a Stage Magician

Onstage, the magician does not perform an act of magic (spoilers I know) but of distractions. Whilst the rabbit is being yanked from a top hat, the spotlight focused firmly upon its fluffy ears, the magician performs his deceit elsewhere. The Johnson administration has been doing this since it first stepped into Number 10, albeit without the rabbit (though I am sure Mr Rees-Mogg can provide a top hat).

The first smokescreens appeared before and during the 2019 General Election campaign. The inflammatory entitlement of bills as ‘surrender acts’ and CCHQ twitter posing as an independent fact checker meant nothing to crucial swing voters, but attracted uproar from political commentators and activists, distracting from meaningful issues. It was at this same time that the Conservative manifesto was published, detailing economic policies unlikely to please northern Labour voters the Conservatives were gunning for. However, the furore surrounding the aforementioned ‘nothing’ issues overshadowed scrutiny of the manifesto. The rabbit reared its head and hooked the audience, the magic worked. Johnson won.

Next, it was time for a reshuffle, and with it another conjuror’s trick. Despite padding-out support within cabinet, he accidentally booted his Chancellor. With David’s departure, audiences of microphones turned to the Prime Minister. The spotlight then fine-tuned its focus on government, when accusations of bullying and unfair dismissal were levelled at the Home Secretary. Yet, when media scrutiny was firmly locked onto the new cabinet, Johnson bamboozled again. Despite having gotten engaged three months previous, Johnson first officially announced his engagement to Carrie Symonds, enveloping the attention himself. On the 1st March, a day after the most senior Home Office civil servant accused Priti Patel of bullying and just a week after the Chancellor’s resignation, the front pages of The Times, Mail, Express, Sun and Telegraph were covered in lovers’ portraits of the happy couple. The announcement’s timing drowned mentions of Patel’s behaviour, keeping Johnson buoyant in the polls.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 5 Comments

The next general election will be a Conservative-facing one: some stats

Following the 2019 general election, we are now second in 91 seats, of which 80 are held by the Conservatives and just 9 by Labour (the other 2 are held by the SNP). Of the 10 seats where we are closest (less than 3000 votes behind), 8 are currently held by The Conservatives.

You can model some interesting seat projections based on various swing scenarios. As shown by Electoral Calculus:

In other words, when we take votes off Labour then The Conservatives win, Labour lose and we barely move. When we take votes off The Conservatives then they lose, we win and Labour also win.

From Labour’s point of view, the story is similar:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 28 Comments

Our MP voted against helping child refugees – and I’m angry

Our MP’s work on behalf of their constituents – or at least they are supposed to. That’s supposed to be an important principle of our democracy. But in recent days Cheltenham’s MP, Alex Chalk has voted and supported the government in NOT providing help to unaccompanied refugee children. I’m saddened, disappointed and upset, let me explain why.

Cheltenham has bucket-loads of kindness, empathy and compassion. This I’m sure is replicated across the country, and throughout our history this has been highlighted time and again in how we all have responded to natural disasters or humanitarian crisis.

Whenever and wherever …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 22 Comments

Wrexham and the rubble of the Red Wall

The article by the American BBC journalist,  Anthony Zurcher,  “Does UK hold clues to Trump’s Fortunes?referred to by John Leaver yesterday, compares Wrexham,  recently much in the limelight, with the rust belt in Trump’s America.

I   have lived in Wrexham all my life and fought the seat five times as a Liberal candidate. Due to the defection of Tom Ellis from Labour to SDP in 1982 and his choosing to fight the neighbouring South Clwyd seat, 1983 produced the closest three way result in the UK, with less than 2000 votes separating the parties. I was third. By the 1990s, Labour had lost control of the Council, and for a time,  Aled Roberts led an effective Lib Dem administration. Currently, it is led by independents.

In my youth, there were still 12 collieries in the Wrexham area, not least the ill fated Gresford. There was a steel works at Brymbo producing the highest quality steel for Rolls Royce aero engines. There were numerous  brickworks, two breweries and a leather works and, on the former wartime ordnance factory on the outskirts of the town, the Wrexham Industrial Estate was developing.

The heavy industry disappeared. In 1980, ten miles down the road at Shotton, nationalised British Steel axed 6,500 jobs, the largest redundancy in a single day in Western Europe. Brymbo closed in 1990 with a loss of 1,100 highly skilled steelworkers.   The last colliery at Bersham closed in 1989. The breweries and leather works were long gone. Were these closures due to malign Thatcherism, or international economic pressures and influences?  Labour holds fast to the former explanation.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 84 Comments
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