Tag Archives: featured

Sam Gyimah MP writes: Why it would be a fatal error for Parliament to pass Boris Johnson’s Deal in three days

In the almost 10 years I have been an MP, I have never seen the timetable for debating a Bill become such an issue.

But, it’s not just because it’s to do with Brexit.

Let’s be clear…the Deal we are debating is a constitutional treaty between the UK and the EU and its 27 member states that will set the foundations for our lives for decades to come. It is not like any deal that most people have been familiar with or negotiated in their time.

There are actually two deals here – two Brexits being negotiated. We have the deal for Northern Ireland, which is soft-Brexit, and the deal for the rest of the UK which is clearly a hard-Brexit.

So, we are being asked to analyse each deal on their own, how they interact together and how they link us with the EU in three days?

It shouldn’t be acceptable for the Government to give us this little time to properly scrutinise their plans. Nikki Di Costa, an expert on Parliamentary procedure and close advisor to Boris Johnson, said only a few months ago that four weeks isn’t enough time to debate Theresa May’s deal, so 72 hours is absolutely shocking and an affront to our democracy.

To put this in perspective, we will have spent longer discussing the Wild Animals in Circuses Act, something which affected 19 animals at the time of debate, than debating the future of our country.

A line often used by Brexiteers is that we have had three years to debate this. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

This is the first time we have seen the actual wording of the deal. What we have been debating up until now are the different ways we could leave the EU, but the Deal we have been presented with this week is the first time we have seen the actual plan and the legal consequences that flow from that and it needs proper scrutiny.

The Government is trying to weaponise the emotional aspect of this debate by saying ‘Get It Done’. But we have to get real and understand what this Deal will mean in the months ahead.

Boris Johnson will be able to go for No Deal in December 2020 and Parliament will not be able to stop it – all he has to do is fail to present any Free Trade Deal to Parliament and we will simply crash out.

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WATCH: Jo at People’s Vote march: We must stop Brexit and build a brighter future

After the Parliamentary shenanigans yesterday, Jo Swinson spoke to the People’s Vote rally in Parliament Square. She told not just the crowd but the country to have hope, that we can stop Brexit and have a brighter future.

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Three reasons to back Mark Pack for President

When I first met Mark Pack almost three decades ago he made quite an impression. I was campaigning to become Chair of what was then the Young Liberal Democrats and attempting to secure his support. Unlike most others at the conference, Mark did not seem particularly interested in the hackery of student politics, but wanted to know what I was going to do, rather than simply what I thought, or what faction I was in.

I’ve no idea if Mark voted for me, but I’d like to think he did.  And 28 years later, with the roles reversed, I’m delighted to say I will certainly be backing Mark to be our next President.

There are three main reasons why I believe Mark is the stand-out candidate.

Firstly Mark is a born campaigner and communicator. His record within the party is unrivalled, both as a trainer and advisor and also as a foot soldier. There aren’t many places across the country where Mark hasn’t delivered an expert training session or a bundle of leaflets, or in many cases, both. I’ve attended his sessions and also trained alongside him. He motivates people and knows his stuff.

Our party is at a crossroads, with so many members, both old and new, impatient to grasp the current political opportunities and meet the social, economic and environmental challenges facing us today. With his core vote strategy, Mark has been ahead of the curve in seeking to build our support across the country.

Secondly, Mark knows the party inside out. He understands the different needs of members geographically, demographically and politically. Importantly to me as a councillor for the past 24 years and now a council leader, I know that Mark recognises the huge role of local government. He understands localism and knows that much of the excellent campaigning going on in the Lib Dems is outside any Parliament. 

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WATCH: Second online presidential hustings

Yesterday a second online hustings took place between party Presidential candidates Christine Jardine and Mark Pack.

You can watch the whole thing here.

This weekend, there are in person hustings in Plymouth, London, Lancaster and Bedford. You can find details here.

And if you can’t get to a hustings, you can question both candidates in the official Lib Dem Internal Election Discussion Group on Facebook here.

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Why I am backing Mark Pack to be President of the Liberal Democrats

Mark has a wisdom, experience and detailed knowledge about the Party. He knows the party at all levels: federal, state, regional and local. He understands the different issues facing Wales, Scotland, England – he gets devolution and is hungry to support local government across the UK. I know Mark will understand the need to listen to members and not assume he knows best.

I’m am invariably involved running campaigns, advising on strategy, mentoring candidates as well as delivering leaflets and knocking on doors. In by-elections over ten, twenty years and in every General Election since 1992 Mark has also been involved offering advice, sharing knowledge, providing training.  His commitment to the success of the Party is total.  And I trust his judgement.

Mark is one of the people I ring for advice. I have been an activist for thirty years and have known Mark since 1992. I know that when I ring him, text him, email him he responds thoughtfully, honestly and helpfully. He teaches and leads – his leadership is faithful, genuine and sincere and I value that.

I have been a parliamentary candidate in a black hole seat, in a target seat, a councillor, a candidate, I have run and led parliamentary by-elections, been an agent – at every step of the way I have learnt from Mark, Sharing knowledge with him brings within it the energy and the spark of a new idea,  When I speak to Mark, work with Mark, ask for advice, I learn something new and explore a new avenue and am more successful and more innovative.

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Why we need #worldmentalhealthday

“I’ve got the headache from hell.”

“I’m full of the cold”

“I feel incredibly anxious today”

“My stomach is killing me.”

One of these is not like the others.

We are generally pretty comfortable about sharing when we’re feeling physically unwell, but not so if we are feeling mentally unwell.

I’m not going to lie, I have found these last few months really difficult. I’ve often felt overwhelmed and anxious. In fact, earlier in the Summer, I thought my mental health was going to collapse completely.

The last thing I was expecting from my campaigning trip to Brecon and Radnorshire was to come back feeling restored, refreshed and energised.

I’m not better, though. More days than not, I feel anxious.

And just like many people with physical ill health, I go to work and edit this site and go about my daily life.

The Winter months are generally more difficult than the Summer ones. A fall on ice quarter of a century ago has cast a very long shadow. Going outside when it’s snowy and icy is so exhausting that I’m often fit for nothing by the time I get where I’m going. I have to get used to operating on empty and living in a near permanent state of high anxiety.

And when people diminish what that is like, and laugh about it, it makes life so much more difficult. When people tell you to pull yourself together, they have absolutely no idea how much you are already doing that.

I also think that it is getting easier to talk about things like Anxiety and Depression. Try and say you are suffering from Psychosis and you will often realise very quickly that stigma is thriving.

So that’s my take on World Mental Health Day. This year’s theme is suicide prevention, in particular the acronym WAIT, as Christine Jardine describes:

Alex Cole-Hamilton mentions the importance of listening:

Jo talked of the importance of being able to talk openly:

Jane Dodds has long championed measures to end loneliness and social isolation:

Luisa Porritt and Layla Moran shared their struggles with Anxiety and Depression:

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Heidi Allen joins the Liberal Democrats

You kind of know when you get a WhatsApp message inviting you to a Federal Board briefing at 9pm that someone is about to be joining us.

I think most of the Board guessed right this time:

Heidi becomes the 19th Liberal Democrat MP.

To be honest, when I’ve heard her talk about people who are really struggling with compassion and empathy, I’ve felt like she’s one of us.

In an interview with the Independent, she says that another 20 want to follow her:

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Christine Jardine writes: A president who listens

Waiting for the outcome of the nomination count for Party President felt a wee bit like that scene from The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon explains about Schrodinger’s Cat.

You know, where as long as the box is closed the cat is both dead and alive.

The relief when they cat was actually alive, and I was nominated, was huge.

Now is when the work really starts, in listening to what you want from your new President, and whether I fit the bill.

I have no illusions about how much work is involved, or what it will take to continue to build the wide movement we all want.

But I also know how important it is that the membership has a strong, clear, effective voice. A president who speaks for the members, but more importantly, one who listens to what they want and communicates that to the leadership.

We have a fantastic team at HQ with so many bright, capable people whether it’s in campaigns, fundraising, policy or the press team.

I see the President’s role there as facilitating what they do.

Not directing the operation, after all they are the ones with the expertise, but supporting and making sure that they have what they need from the party infrastructureMost of all I see the President as the link between the members, the staff, the parliamentarians and the public

Communication is the key, both within the party and to the outside world.

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Mark Pack writes…Winning at every level: the Lib Dem recipe for success

We should never forget that elections at all levels matter. They directly give us the chance to implement our vision for a liberal democrat society in more communities, and they also are the springboard to future success in elections at other levels. We saw that so clearly this May, where put more Lib Dems into power and set us up win a record number of MEPs, not to mention putting us very much back on the national political map.

But the truth is too much of our organisation, especially at the federal level, often defaults to acting as if only the next Westminster contest really matters.

It’s understandable why over-stretched staff, tight budgets and busy volunteers can fall into this trap. But to build sustained, long-term success across all of England, Scotland and Wales, and to get even more Liberal Democrat policies put into action in even more communities, we need to think broader and longer-term. The next general election is crucial. But so too are the local elections coming next May, the next Scottish Parliament elections and the next Welsh Assembly elections – not to mention the general election after next. 

Seeing all these elections as part of one overall mission for the party is a central part of the core votes strategy which David Howarth and I pioneered after the 2015 debacle and which has underpinned our recovery. Concentrate on those who share our values so that we build a durable, sustainable bedrock of support across all elections – and on which specific campaigns can then add the personal votes of candidates and tactical support. Stick with that task and we’ll be ready to win bigger, year after year.

That political strategy requires an organisation to match. That’s why improving and enlarging our organisation is at the heart of my pitch to be President and the five priorities I’ve set out (read them here)

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Sam Gyimah MP writes… Distorting reality is no way to run a country


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Steve Jobs, the legendary founder of Apple was often described as using a ‘reality distortion field’ to convince himself and others to believe almost anything. Employing the techniques of bravado, hyperbole and sheer persistence, he could make an impossible task seem possible.

Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s Chief strategist – a known fan of tech titans such as Steve Jobs and Elon Musk – seems to want to employ these techniques in pursuit of Brexit at any price and to crush the hopes of Remainers.

The Government’s multi-million pound advertising campaign telling us all to ‘Get Ready For Brexit’ on October the 31st is designed to subliminally suggest to the voters that this is the only option open to us. Everything we know points towards the fact that there is no orderly way to leave the EU by that date. Despite this, the Government’s social media, radio and TV adverts are running every day, as if in total denial of reality.

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Lord William Wallace writes: How do we renew our battered democracy?

This is as huge a constitutional crisis as anyone could imagine. A Prime Minister without a parliamentary majority has attempted to avoid parliamentary scrutiny by closing Parliament for all but the last two weeks before we are due to leave the EU, with or without a deal.

The Supreme Court has defended the sovereignty of Parliament against a Prime Minister who lacks a parliamentary majority. Lady Hale’s judgement was very firm: ‘the effect on the fundamental democracy of our country is extreme’. Parliamentary accountability – the continuing process of dialogue and scrutiny of government policy – is ‘at the heart …

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Party awards for Lizzie Jewkes, Roderick Lynch, Alice Bridges-Westcott and Bernard Greaves

One of the best bits of Federal Conference is that bit just before the Leader’s Speech (before the bit where they pass round buckets and demand all your money like you have any left at the end of Conference) where the Party President announces the winners of the Party Awards.

It was great to see some fantastic people honoured this year:

First up was the Patsy Calton Award, awarded by Liberal Democrat Women in honour of Patsy Calton, our much loved MP for Cheadle who died in 2005.

Sal said:

The winner has been a party activist, parliamentary candidate, and member of a number of party bodies, including Lib Dem Women.
She has achieved what few do. She challenged UK government policy in relation to tax, through her speeches and work in the Liberal Democrats.

At one conference she spoke about the potential to lift ordinary men and women out of poverty, by changing the income tax threshold, persuading Conference to make it party policy, and it was also in the 2010 Manifesto.

David Cameron famously mocked the idea until, in coalition, the idea was taken up through meetings with Conservative Ministers, who eventually agreed to make the change.

For ordinary people, particularly low-paid women, this has been an amazing and effective way to help families and part-time workers.

For her outstanding contribution, the nomination for the Patsy Calton Award is made to the amazing Lizzie Jewkes.

The Harriet Smith Award is open to any member who has never achieved elected office, but has served our cause with excellence and commitment.

I was thrilled to see Roderick Lynch, Chair of the Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality win.

This year the winner of the Harriet Smith Award is a nationally recognised businessman/entrepreneur and was nominated by many people this year due to his tireless work fighting against racism. .

He reaches out to diverse communities that are under represented and has successfully launched a black history month campaign that went viral, passed diversity conference motions and transformed our party’s approach to race equality.

Described by those who nominated him as a man of integrity and candour who works very hard. He is a man with infectious passion, a role model for members of colour, and particularly for future MP’s. One person described how he is ‘helping others flourish and find their path in the party as a black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic person’.

Our winner is the Chair of the Lib Dem Campaign for Race Equality. So Conference please, welcome to the stage Roderick Lynch.

The President’s Award went to someone who has arguably done more than anyone else to establish us as the party of LGBT rights.

Here is how Sal introduced him:

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Jo Hayes – why I am a candidate for Federal Party President

I was a founding member of the Liberal Democrats and have worked for it as a volunteer ever since. Over 30 years, I have done everything from deliver leaflets to chairing the Women Liberal Democrats and serving on the Federal Policy Committee, the Federal Executive, the International Relations Committee and the ALDE Council delegation. I’ve been a Borough Councillor and stood in General and European elections. I am currently Chair of the East of England Region. I think you could say I’m a Liberal Democrat to my bones.

I am also a barrister, practising from the same chambers I shared with the late Lord Willie Goodhart, one of the main draftsmen of our Party constitution. I have spent my career and Lib Dem life fighting for people’s constitutional rights. I am a fighter who uses the law and rules the way they are designed to work, for the people. I used equality laws to force Tony Blair’s Attorney-General to abandon the system of patronage used to appoint barristers for government work, and adopt a fairer, more transparent system.

Some of you may know me for my Remainer’s Diary blog. If so, you’ll know of my tenacity and dedication to the Remain cause. I want to see our party in government and then help Jo Swinson rebuild our nation, both democratically and socially. That is why I’m throwing my hat into the Presidential ring now.

A President’s role is not, primarily, a campaigning one, but a strong President provides the governance that makes our campaigning more effective, governance that guides and protects the party from top to bottom. It is our proud boast that the Liberal Democrats Party belongs to its members, all of them. As President, I will work to ensure everyone in party feels they have a stake in our movement, that they are heard and that their talents are embraced.

As President, I want to safeguard our values in practice, seeking to make our Party organisation a happier place. For example, I want to:

  • Devolve decision-making to as near the grassroots level as practicable.
  • Ensure transparency over appointments, complaints, outcomes and Appeals Panel rulings.
  • Ensure each component body in the party carries out its responsibilities without interference.
  • Bring in the advice and expertise when we need it, to avoid mistakes.
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“Taliban” is a racist epithet: Thornberry’s words were potentially harmful not just hyperbolic

On September 19th, the Shadow Foreign Secretary claimed, “The Lib Dems have gotten kind of like the Taliban, haven’t they?”. She was referring to a motion Autumn conference passed – and which Jo Swinson emphasised in her speech – stating that the Liberal Democrats would revoke article 50 if they won a majority at the next general election.

As I tweeted at the time, the only people to refer to me (a person of colour) as “Taliban” are racists and now, Emily Thornberry. It is likely that Thornberry’s comments will get lost in the everyday to-ing and fro-ing of political discourse such as it is in the UK.

However, what it normalises is that it is OK to shout “Taliban” at a Liberal Democrat. Indeed, it will probably normalise it being shouted at any and all Remainers because if you are the sort of person to shout a racist epithet in the street, that justification will more than suffice. And I would be interested to know how she intends that I differentiate between racist hate crime and people simply shouting at me for my political beliefs if I do suffer that sort of abuse.

It is also why I am concerned by the #DangerousExtremist Lib Dem activists are currently using, satirising the BBC Question Time audience question on whether we were a “dangerous and extreme party”. I am unsure how comfortable people of colour in the Lib Dems will feel about jokingly calling themselves extremists when it is a stereotype many genuinely have to live with. 

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Spreadsheets and vicious beasts – the not very secret lives of Lib Dem #dangerousextremists

So, Emily Thornberry said the Liberal Democrats had “gotten kind of Taliban” in an interview with The House magazine.

Now, hang on a wee minute here. There might be another Taliban, who have a woman leader who talks about creating a more loving country, who state clearly what they are going to do if they win a majority in an election because, you know, democracy. But Google hasn’t heard of THAT Taliban. It only knows about the murderous, misogynistic  brutes who terrorised Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

Thornberry’s comments show how Labour have really lost the plot. Maybe she is jealous that her party can’t have as clear a policy to stop Brexit because Brexiteer Jeremy Corbyn wants it to happen.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, this was an actual question on Question Time last night:

So, a party that is threatening to crash us out of the EU on 31 October, “do or die” risking food and medicine shortages is not as extreme as us who have said we’ll put a stop to this nonsense by democratic means.

Sarah Olney started something this afternoon when she took the BBC to task:

Others piled in to say talk about their dangerously extreme habits:

There was definitely a few common themes around animals and cheese

 

I did wonder about the tanks thing. That could be a bit dodgy. And I got a bit more than I bargained for.

That cat is the height of a the story building!

Do feel free to add to the #dangerousextremists meme with what makes you these things.

You can always count on Cole-Hamilton to show off:

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Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett writes…Why do I want to be President of the Liberal Democrats?

Many of you may be asking the same question and I’m going to be honest. When I came to conference last weekend we only had two candidates Mark Pack and Richard Kemp – two very able, respectable and hardworking members  to which I’m not going to criticise in any way shape or form. 

However, the optics from a diversity and media perspective were awful – no diversity, no women, no ethnic minorities, no visible disability or invisible disability known and with the current furore over our LGBT+ group no candidate standing up for our party as the leading LGBT+ campaigning  in the race – so sometimes you have to stick your head above the parapet and say it’s time someone does …. 

So that’s what I decided to do on Sunday afternoon and thankfully we now have both Prue Bray and Jo Hayes In the race too.. 

So what is my platform going to concentrate on –  I’m going to be decidedly frank.

Our outgoing President Sal Brinton has done her best and I thank her for all she’d done but there are elements where I believe the internal machinations of our party have overwhelmed the role – and I believe the role should be split in two. There is a  fundamental role for dealing with the difficult internal party dynamics alongside chairing the internal Federal Board – as well as the external representation to the media and membership around the country. These two are profoundly different roles and I will thank Gordon Lishman for his insightful Liberator article which really got me thinking. 

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What Boris Johnson should have said to Omar Salem

I have nothing but sympathy for Omar Salem, the dad who confronted Boris Johnson today. Watch the video on the Guardian, here. Omar’s wee one is only a week old, but was admitted as an emergency. When she got to the ward, she wasn’t seen by a doctor for hours. I can’t imagine Omar would have got much in the way of sleep.

It is absolutely terrifying when someone you love is seriously ill. You need to have confidence in the care that they are getting.

I know.

Three years ago, my husband was very seriously ill and spent 51 nights in hospital. He had some superb care from  truly exceptional people. But occasionally things went wrong. This was invariably because of under-resourcing.

I’ll never forget the day that I was on the ward at just before 5pm and I saw one of the health care assistants getting ready to serve dinner. She had been on night shift the day before until 8am that morning. Because the ward was so short staffed, she’d gone home for a couple of hours’ sleep and gone back in to do the lunches because there was nobody else to do it.

That is simply not safe – for her, mostly.

Other stuff went wrong as well. I won’t give you the gory details, but if you only have one person of a particular grade on duty overnight in an entire hospital, they can’t be everywhere they are needed and vital stuff just doesn’t get done.

If Nicola Sturgeon, or then Health Secretary Shona Robison, had turned up on the ward on one of these days, I might well have given them a piece of my mind. As a worried wife, and a human being, not as a Liberal Democrat.

And if I had done that, I reckon Shona and Nicola would have shown me some kindness. They’d have asked questions and listened. Because they are actually kind and empathetic human beings, and because they know that it is important to handle these things well.

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Conference pays heartfelt and fulsome tribute to Paddy

There were 20 minutes set aside this morning in the main hall to pay tribute to Paddy Ashdown.

In the front row for the session were Jane, Kate and Simon Ashdown.

(Baroness) Liz Barker presented the salute to our founding leader with a quiet and heartfelt voice. She emphasised that this was a tribute to a partnership – Paddy and Jane.

The section started with a video on the big screen. Relaxed and sincere tributes came from Ed Davey, Nick Clegg, Tony Blair, Jane Ashdown and (Baroness) Cathy Bakewell (who worked with Paddy during his early days as an MP in Yeovil).

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The Ronseal of British politics – A storming speech from Jo

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I was “up in the gods” for Jo’s speech this afternoon in Bournemouth.

The first thing to say is that the speech seemed to me to be visually very powerful. Jo is a commanding, strong presence on stage. She stands centre stage, with no lectern or notes, barely glancing visibly at the distant autocues. Her posture and gestures are bold and decisive.

And her speech was bold and decisive.

In the round, I thought her speech was a barnstormer.

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WATCH IN FULL – Jo Swinson’s speech to conference today

Here is the ITV version of Jo’s speech:

You can also watch the Guardian version as follows, with cutaway shots, by sliding the bottom time slider to 33’31”:

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Full text – Jo Swinson’s first conference speech as leader

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ALDC hosts ground-breaking Gin Tasting

Alistair Carmichael MP has hosted a Whisky Tasting at conference (and elsewhere) for many seasons.

This year, the Association of Liberal Democrats (ALDC) responded to the recent explosion in the gin market by hosting a Gin Tasting – called “Ginning Here”. This was heralded as the first political gin tasting ever.

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Glee Club remembers Paddy


This was the lovely cover of the new edition of the Liberator Song Book, circulated at last night’s Glee Club.

One of the hosts quipped during the proceedings:

You know, at this point we could really do with someone telling a ten minute joke.

There was such a void.

We just needed Paddy to walk in and announce that he was telling his joke:

For positively the last time.

Paddy, you are sorely missed.

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+++Now Sam Gyimah sings “The Land” at Glee Club

Sam Gyimah is the third recent defecting MP to get up on stage this evening at the Glee Club. He said that his wife had told him that under no circumstances should he try to sing. But, bless him, he joined in singing “The Land” as our video below shows. So he is now the third defecting MP to do his initiation and become a proper Liberal.

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+++The first defectors are initiated in the Liberal Glee Club tradition

Live from the Conference hotel:

Sarah Wollaston and Luciana Berger have just had the guts to be subjected to initiation by Glee Club. They got up front to sing a special new version of “‘Twas on a Monday morning…” which has been adapted to the continuous flow of defectors to the party….

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Prue Bray writes: Why I am running for President

In all my 25 years in the Liberal Democrats I  never imagined that we would reach a point in 2019 where not just our membership of the EU but parliamentary democracy itself would be under threat, with us as the only UK party offering any sane solutions.  People are flocking to us, as our fantastic local and European election results show.  They are looking to us to provide hope and to stop the mad descent into the nightmare that British politics is rapidly becoming.

It is absolutely crucial that we continue to rise to the challenge.

We have had a huge influx of members.  We welcome them to our army of activists, and now need to harness their skills and enthusiasm alongside the knowledge and experience of our existing members.  If we can succeed, and can equip everyone with the tools they need in the 21stcentury, we will have built an unstoppable fighting force of activists.

To weld the party together, from Penzance to Lerwick, from Cardiff to Margate and everywhere in between, is not an easy task.  We need more multi-way communication, we need to use information better,  we need to spread knowledge and best practice, raise money, and support each other’s campaigning across England, Scotland and Wales.  We need to attract even more members and voters by looking more like the country we wish to represent, and we need as a party to show that we embody our values of fairness, openness and respect for others in our own behaviour and practice.

A president cannot do all that by themselves.  But they can lead the way.  I want to be a president who enables others, who encourages, facilitates, and builds teams.  A president who empathises and listens to individuals but holds the line on rules and procedure, needed to protect us all.   A president who wants decisions at all levels to be based on evidence, sound financial practice, expert knowledge and risk assessments.  A president who ensures that all voices are heard and all views considered.

I have already led a major committee in the party, as well as having had a wide range of roles from Local Party Chair, to Council Group Leader and parliamentary candidate. You can judge my ability to deliver on these aspirations on my record and my past actions and behaviour.

The Preamble to the Federal Constitution says that as a party “we champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.“

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Sam Gyimah MP joins party at thrilling conference rally

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I have been staggering along to more conference rallies than I care to remember. But tonight’s conference opener was the most thrilling rally I have been to.

Hard on the heels of Sal’s fantastic presidential swan song, Tim Farron was on fire as he started it.

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Take 2: Mark Pack writes…Why I want to be Party President

Apologies to Mark – we accidentally crashed his time at the top of the page with an ad for our fringe (do join us at 1pm in the Dorchester North at the Marriott asking what sacrifices we are prepared to make for the planet.). So it returns to the top of the page for an hour or so. 

Although Liberal Democrat conference has only just started, I already feel a bit like a child who has wandered into a chocolate shop, bubbling with excitement at what they can see all around. Here in Bournemouth, that excitement comes from bumping into so many brilliant – and wonderfully diverse – prospective candidates, so many of whom many even be MPs by Christmas. What a Christmas present that would be for them, their communities, the party and the nation: a massively expanded voice for liberalism at the heart of Parliament.

Many are people I’ve campaigned with for years. Such old friends will, I hope, forgive me for being just as excited about how many are new to the party, bringing in a new generation of talent in the last few years. Melding together the old and the new – in members, in campaign tactics and in the ways we organise ourselves – is crucial for our long-term success. 

That’s why, at this pivotal moment in the party’s development, with a new leader, so many new members and such a huge increase in our political potential, I believe there’s a vital role for our next Party President in making this happen.

It’s very natural for the Leader and Chief Executive to get drawn into focusing so strongly on the next Westminster general election. It is crucial. But it’s not the whole story. We need to remember the other types of elections out there. And that there will be a general election after the next one too. 

We need to think broader and longer-term to bring the sort of sustained long-term success that will deliver a liberal society, a safeguarded environment and high-quality, responsive public services.

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Richard Kemp writes: Why I’m standing to be Party President

I was amazed to be told that the Federal Board has decided to run the internal elections for the Presidency and Party committees this Autumn. Yes, I know that they are due BUT I also know that they will be taking place when there are far more important things to do. There may just be some issues like stopping Brexit; welcoming new MPs to our Party and fighting a General Election that should take precedence. 

Had it been left to me I would have taken the opportunity to tell the Conference in Bournemouth that the Party would be postponing the elections until January and, I would expect, getting a rousing standing ovation from our front-line troops for doing so.

But perhaps it is because decisions like this keep getting taken that I want to stand to become the Party President in the first place. I first became interested in standing when our LGA Lib Dem Executive was told in March last year that the Party was proposing to send out three emails to the membership before the May elections all about Brexit campaigning and not one about local elections. Don’t get me wrong I believe that Brexit is important. As far back as 1975 I chaired the Liverpool ‘yes’ team in the EEC referendum of that year. Elections are even more important. Unless we get elected to councils and parliaments, we are a talking shop, a debating society.

The elections last year began the very public process of raising in people’s minds the full potential of the Lib Dems. The 175 gains and subsequent headlines led to repeated successes in council by-elections. That lead to this year’s huge gains in this year’s round, the election of Jane Dodds and the defection to us of 5 MPs including our own Luciana Berger MP in Liverpool Wavertree.

That’s the way I think that we can grow. We built our Party in the past street by street, community by community, ward by ward and then to parliamentary success. That’s the Lib Dem way and it’s the right way. Parliamentary successes caused by defections or Brexit will be short-term unless underpinned by a phalanx of Councillors and strong community action.

For 52 years I have been a front-line worker for the Party. For 37 of those years I have been a Liverpool Councillor. At times I have represented some of the most deprived communities in the UK. Now I represent a wealthier ward which includes the most famous Lane in the World! I lead the Lib Dem opposition on the council where we are clawing our way back to power against an increasing cult-like extremist Labour Party.

That has not stopped me doing things globally or nationally. For 10 years I was the UK representative on the World body for local government UCLG. For 8 years I was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in local government at the LGA. I now lead on health & social care at the LGA and regularly attend sessions of all sorts in both Houses of Parliament.

I believe that we need to change the way we do things nationally:

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Remembering Paddy

I still can’t get my head round Paddy being gone, even nine months on.

I am so glad I was in the room at Glee Club to see him tell the Joke in Brighton last September.

Paddy influenced a huge part of my development as a Liberal Democrat. I’ve been inspired by him, I’ve fought with him (yes, I dared answer back), I’ve admired the way he dragged us from an asterisk to a sizeable political force and then tried to do it all again. While I may have disagreed with him on a fair few occasions, I sought his counsel on many more.

I will never forget how, within seconds of me doing the Today programme at the nadir of our time in coalition, the aftermath of the 2014 Euro elections, I had an email from him praising me on my performance.

Every so often, he’d ring me up and tell me off or offer me some useful ideas. He was always worth listening to. I mean, he’d built a party from nothing and he’d put together a country in the aftermath of war. How could you not?

I was gutted that I couldn’t be at his memorial service at Westminster Abbey today. An impressive location for a giant.

As a party we fought the Major Government with a passion, but we knew that there was a respect between Major and Ashdown. It made me howl when I heard John Major’s tribute to Paddy today. While I opposed the Tories with my heart, Major reminds me too much of my Dad to ever dislike him. They both look alike and are incredibly kind and decent human beings. And the generosity and eloquence of his tribute to Paddy today cemented his place as one of my favourite people in politics.

Here are just some of the tweets from the service:

From our leader to one of our newest MPs

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