Tag Archives: featured

Verdict on Vince’s first year

Yesterday was Vince Cable’s first anniversary as leader – the paper anniversary, so that should encourage us all to go deliver lots of leaflets for our Exit from Brexit campaign over the next wee while.

We undoubtedly have the grown-up in the room as far as British politics is concerned. While the Tories’ toxic civil war leads them to force a catastrophic economic meltdown on the country and Labour stands by and lets them do it, Vince has been tirelessly making the case for us to get out of this mess.

Two years on from the Brexit referendum, if it was all going well, if the Government really was enacting this “will of the people”, we wouldn’t have polls showing significant support for a People’s Vote on the final deal.  We even have polling showing that Remain would win the sort of three way referendum Justine Greening was talking about by the same margin as the Scottish independence referendum was won.

Our arguments are prevailing and our poll ratings are edging slowly towards double figures, but we haven’t had the massive breakthrough we’d all like to see.

Why is that and what can Vince do about it in his second year?

Creating waves

Vince’s piece for us yesterday showed that he has been talking a lot in the past year about issues that matter to people. Housing, health, inequality, public services as well as Brexit.

What we need over the next while is a thread that ties all these things together in a way that shows what we stand for – a radical, bold, reforming party that champions freedom from poverty, co-operation, internationalism, human rights and giving people power over their own destinies. We must do this with vigour and passion and show that we will never settle for anything less.

We need to show how our broken democracy has got us into the mess we’re in and lead the way out.

Vince has a reputation for being scholarly and academic with speeches more like lectures than political orations, but he can deliver the goods and create some waves:

I’d like to see him elaborate on the things that get him this sort of attention like this from Spring Conference:

Too many were driven by a nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white, and the map was coloured imperial pink.

Their votes on one wet day in June, crushing the hopes and aspiration of the young for years to come.

He was absolutely right to say it and we need to hear it more often. We need to hear more of the “young are being shafted on Brexit” and he needs to show that Jeremy Corbyn is just as responsible for what is happening as Theresa May and her Brexiteers.

He needs to take more risks and say more audacious things.

He got a whole load of attention back in February for asking the PM if the NHS would be protected in any trade deal with Donald Trump. He’s not yet exploited the potential of that line and he could do worse than take Willie Rennie’s terrier approach to these things. He just keeps asking the question at every opportunity.

That Lib Dem Process thing

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Vince Cable writes: Lib Dems will be at the forefront of political realignment

It is a year today since I became party leader, and a great deal has happened since.

Thanks to the efforts of so many of our members and campaigners, we had the best set of local election results of the three main parties in England in councils gained and the best overall for us in fifteen years.  We have every reason to hope that next year will be better still – we are already preparing.

The by-election in Lewisham East was our best against Labour for a decade.  Local council contests each week continue to reinforce the positive message our surveys are giving us.

Whatever toxicity attached to the Lib Dem brand after the Coalition has substantially dissipated.  Large numbers will vote for us if they think we have a chance of winning and if there is an effective campaign

As well as winning elections, we are setting out big ideas to change the country.  A few weeks ago, I detailed an ambitious but realistic approach to house building, describing what could be achieved without the impediment of ideological prejudice.

I have also launched a series of initiatives to confront the issues thrown up by the new digital economy and deal with the ‘data giants’; a group is looking at how best to support lifelong learning for people whose future is potentially subject to the upheavals of technological change; another will soon look more broadly at the impact of new technologies like AI and how best to respond to them.

On the core economy, I have set out a revised approach to fiscal and monetary policy which builds on, but does not destroy, existing structures.  We have carried out serious work on land value taxation, which will come before Conference in the Autumn. And I have described how in practice we create a corporate structure which is best described as ‘responsible capitalism’.

On public services, Liberal Democrats continue to lead the argument about the mechanics for funding health and social care with the advice of leading figures in health policy. The Federal Policy Committee has recently set up a new health working group to take forward their work, and to continue our leadership role in mental health policy pioneered by Norman Lamb. Layla Moran, our education spokesperson, has published proposals to address the concerns of parents, teachers and schools, which we endorsed at conference.

The politics of Brexit is moving slowly but substantially in our direction.  Where our calls for a final say on the deal for the public were once derided, more and more people are now joining with us in that campaign.  A highlight of my year was addressing the 100,000 people amassed in Parliament Square for the People’s Vote march.  We remain the leading political force arguing that whatever the parliamentary wranglings over detail, the best course for Britain is to stop Brexit altogether.  Giving the people a choice at the end of this dismal negotiating process is the best way to obtain an exit from Brexit

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Vince: Keep fighting, keep hoping. We will win

Here’s the Lib Dem contingent at today’s People’s Vote march. There were lots of us there. It was an incredible atmosphere as we filled Parliament Square and beyond to listen to speeches from Tony Robinson (who actually said “I have a cunning plan”), David Lammy, Caroline Lucas and our own Vince Cable.

This event seemed like a real step up from previous ones. 100,000 people turned out demanding a People’s Vote. The key message was that this is not a done deal and we absolutely can get out of it.

This kicks off a Summer of campaigning across the country.

Here’s Vince speaking:

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Dick Newby: We will not rest until we have stopped Brexit

In the final throws of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, MPs were left focusing on just one issue – the significance of just two words in relation to a parliamentary Motion that the Government would bring forward in the event of ‘no deal’ with the EU on the term of Brexit.  

The two words were “neutral terms”—a phrase, incidentally, which most of us have never heard before. The view of the Lords was that “neutral terms” would prevent the Commons having the opportunity to express a view on the merits of the Government reaching no deal in the Brexit negotiations, and on what should be done next. The Government argued that their formulation was necessary to preserve the constitutional role of Parliament and that anything else would mandate the Government in completely unacceptable ways.

Between the Bill leaving the House of Lords on Monday evening and it returning to the Commons on Wednesday afternoon, the Government clearly thought deeply about this matter and realised that their understanding of parliamentary procedure on Monday was flawed. They produced a Written Ministerial Statement which, in lay man’s terms, says that it will be up to the Speaker to ​decide whether or not any government Motion would be amendable, and that, in any event, there is nothing to stop the Commons debating any Motion that they want to on this issue. We have since seen a battle of spin as to whether this represents a significant climbdown by the Government or whether winning the vote represents a victory. 

I sincerely wish that Dominic Grieve had supported his own amendment on Wednesday. But if I am disappointed, neither the Government nor Parliament can take any satisfaction from what happened. 

This week’s events demonstrate the contempt in which the Government hold Parliament. First, they try to muzzle it by putting “neutral terms” into the Bill. Then, fearing defeat, they publish a Written Ministerial Statement just minutes before the debate in the Commons which rips up their earlier justification for using the “neutral terms” ploy. At every turn they demonstrated their only consistent characteristic: the determination to survive to another day. If there were a World Cup in kicking the can down the road, the Government would win it hands-down. But the can cannot be kicked down the road for ever.

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Tim Farron MP writes: Lib Dems would restore decency and dignity for refugees

The sight of refugees arriving on the Greek coast in 2015 will never leave me. It’s not the sort of thing you forget.

Parents and children were packed onto makeshift boats in search of safety, fleeing Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and other brutal conflicts around the world.

This isn’t a ‘refugee crisis’, even if that is what we have ended up calling it. It is a crisis of violence and persecution, with dictators and murder squads killing and displacing families across the world. Refugees are the human face of what has gone so badly wrong. 

Refugee Week is underway (it is World Refugee Day tomorrow), which is a timely reminder of Britain’s role supporting people who have been forced to flee their homes, both in the work we do in refugee camps around the world and in how we treat asylum seekers who make it to our shores and ask for help.

The current system lacks decency and dignity. The Lib Dems would restore these values.

Firstly, and crucially, the quality of asylum decisions is nothing short of a national scandal. The Home Office wrongly refuses people sanctuary so often that around 40% decisions are overturned on appeal each year. The result is that people who have already endured so much are left scared and uncertain, when they should have been promised safety here much more quickly. 

This can’t be allowed to continue. The whole process needs reform, from top to bottom.

We shouldn’t just focus on decisions, though. Even as the government focuses on improving integration in our country, for example, asylum seekers are barred from working. 

Work helps people integrate, learn English, and contribute to society – all things asylum seekers badly want to do.

So let’s join-up government a bit better and give people the chance to work if their asylum claim is delayed. There is nothing liberal about forcing people who can work to sit around all day doing nothing. 

Plus we should celebrate what we already do well, and plan for how to do more of it.

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‘A definite buzz” in Lucy Salek’s Lewisham LIb Dem Campaign HQ

Have you managed to get to Lewisham East yet?

If you are one of the party’s many thousands of members in London and you haven’t been yet, head down in the next few days to help Lucy Salek get the best result we can on Thursday.

There has been a pretty vigorous Lib Dem campaign. In just a month, Lucy has managed to get name recognition and has been out and about in the community. There have been a LOT of leaflets highlighting how the Liberal Democrats are committed to giving people the final say on the deal while Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party is giving the government a free pass to the most chaotic Brexit possible.

She had a former by-election winner with her this week:

Polling will take place in the wake of Tuesday night’s votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill so there will be nowhere for Labour to hide.

The New European soaks up the campaign atmosphere:

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Review: A very English Scandal

I was glued to the screen for the three instalments of “A Very English Scandal” – not least because I was at party headquarters during the later years of Jo Grimond’s leadership and am the last remaining active member of the small cabal that tried, somewhat quixotically, to prevent Jeremy Thorpe becoming leader in January 1967. I was also a party officer in the later stages of his leadership. Our opposition to Jeremy at the time had nothing whatever to do with his homosexuality, which simply did not figure in any discussion. It was entirely to do with his lack of political depth and his capricious authoritarianism which was difficult, and at times unpleasant, to accommodate. I was glad that there was coverage of Thorpe’s principled stand on anti-colonialism which was always commendable. A lot of the reminiscences since the film stress his undoubted communication skills and his showmanship but, alas, these are not key attributes of leader. Also, it is clear that there was the most remarkable compartmentalisation with the Norman Scott saga being contained entirely within the parliamentary party separate from the problems we had to cope with at headquarters. My obituary of Jeremy Thorpe can be found here. 

Taken as a whole the programmes covered the period well. There was inevitable compression of the material which sometimes gave a skewed perspective, and Russell Davies’ “dramatic licence” led him to treat some of the rumours and speculations of the period as facts. The one serious misrepresentation is that of Emlyn Hooson who is portrayed as a sly politician always seeking an opportunity to topple Thorpe in order to take over the leadership. He certainly wanted to be leader – he stood against Thorpe in January 1967 – but I know of no evidence that he took any action with a view to causing his resignation for selfish purposes. I went back over all my files and publications and there is no such indication in any of them. In fact, Emlyn’s leading role in discrediting Norman Scott at the now infamous meeting with Scott in February 1971 had the effect of entrenching Thorpe’s leadership. Emlyn was, in fact, a man of considerable intellect and principle.

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Lewisham East: Why I came for an afternoon and stayed for the whole campaign

Great atmosphere, great training, great opportunity

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks volunteering on the Lewisham East campaign. There is a tremendous buzz at the by-election HQ, with more and more volunteers passing through the doors every day. I came down to volunteer for an afternoon, but saw the impact we were having and have stayed for the remainder of the campaign. 

Members and activists are still clearly on a high following this year’s successful local elections – our best in over a decade. They’re bringing optimism, good humour and a real sense of fun to this campaign on a daily basis.

Best of all, there’s been a really good mix of helpers: Young, old. MPs, peers. Seasoned campaigners and newbies like myself. Regardless of their experience, the team here are offering unmissable hands-on training opportunities – so that volunteers are not only having a great time and making a difference, they’re also developing their skills and returning to their seats equipped with extra tools to help them win.

Thankfully, the days of simply treating volunteers like delivery machines have gone. You’re guaranteed a warm welcome, a decent coffee and more cake than you can imagine!

It is our wonderful candidate, Lucy Salek, at the centre of it all, setting the tone. Always smiling, always listening and always buzzing with energy.

This by-election represents a huge opportunity for the party. Not only can we make a considerable dent in Labour’s majority, but we can send a clear message on Brexit, putting real pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to do the right thing on the biggest issue we have faced since World War II. 

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A Very English Scandal

There are two incontrovertible facts concerning the Thorpe saga. First, that the dog Rinka was shot dead. Secondly, that Norman Scott wasn’t. Everything else depended upon the various and varying accounts of a number of highly unsatisfactory witnesses.

The BBC theme music swings with a jauntiness which matches Jeremy’s brown titfer. The story is based upon Peter Bessell’s discredited account in court. Bessell was extracted from California to give evidence on the promise of an immunity from arrest for fraud, and with £25,000 in his pocket from the Telegraph plus the promise of a further £25,000 if Jeremy were to be convicted. From the prosecution point of view, he was a nightmare witness but they called him anyway, more in hope I would think, than with any confidence he could withstand George Carman’s withering cross-examination. What material for a defending counsel! Bessell bombed. One anecdote must have gone down well with the jury: he told them that Thorpe had initially proposed to have Scott poisoned in a pub but that when it was pointed out to Jeremy that it would not look good if Scott fell off his barstool dead, he replied that the hired hit man should simply enquire of the barman the way to a convenient mine shaft. Even though the BBC show was played as farce, that revealing gem of Bessell’s evidence was omitted.

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The Ashdown Prize – how there can be more than one winner

Yesterday, the winner of the Ashdown Prize was announced. This competition was run by Your Liberal Britain with this aim:

In the face of such daunting forces, we must find radical new solutions to protect the power of the citizen – over their own lives, over the decisions that affect them, over the world around them.

This is the Liberalism of tomorrow – the Liberalism Britain so badly needs.

To that end, the Ashdown Prize for Radical Thought will be awarded to the boldest new policy idea that best empowers the citizen in the Britain of today and tomorrow.

Over the Bank Holiday …

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Vince on how the Lib Dems are transforming British politics – but can we do better?

In an article in the New Statesman, Vince outlines the three elements necessary to transform British politics from its current divisive, dystopian, dysfunctional state.

The first is following the example of the Canadian Liberals who went from third place to Government in just a few years.

Justin Trudeau was the result of a concerted effort to open up the Liberal Party to a wider support base through open primaries for the national leadership and MPs.

He talks a lot about open primaries these days although we’ve yet to see proposals of how this would work in practice and already many of our …

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Today on Lucy Salek’s Lewisham campaign…and why you should go to help her soon

I have a friend who’s heading down to Lewisham for a few days today to help Lucy Salek. She’s travelling 400 miles to work in a by-election in London. Why?

Well, the sooner you get there, the bigger the impact. We’ve had a fair few people out this weekend – 3 figures – which isn’t bad. We need more, though, to show that we are aiming high and taking the fight to the pro-Brexit Tory and Labour parties.

It’s those early days of a by-election where we can lay down a statement of intent. If people get lots of stuff from us early on and we create a bit of a buzz, we have more chance of a really good result. In Dunfermline in 2006, we were able to establish our credentials in the first couple of weeks and went from strength to strength after that.The more we can be seen all over the constituency and the more leaflets people get from us and, most importantly, if they find us on their doorsteps, the bigger the chance of a successful result. So if you possibly can, do get down early and often.

There’s also a purely selfish reason why you should go now – to see what happens in the early days of a big campaign. See if they are trying out any new quirky things, get some samples of early literature to crib from in your campaign.

Oh, and you will have massive amounts of fun too. I’m probably not going to get there in person but I have donated and I will be making calls.

Lucy has been campaigning tirelessly since she was selected. Today she was talking to people at a farmers’ market.

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Lord Martin Thomas writes….Jeremy and me

We are going to hear a lot of adverse things about Jeremy in the next few weeks. But I doubt even Hugh Grant can portray the style of Jeremy as he really was. He was a terrific campaigner. It was typical of him to swish in on a helicopter to support me in West Flintshire in 1970, to make a speech on the stump and to swish out again, leaving the gathering gasping for breath and hugely impressed.

He had one amazing political attribute – an abiding memory of your name and always, …

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How YOU can help Lucy Salek in Lewisham this weekend

Enthusiastic Liberal Democrats are heading to Lewisham to help our fabulous candidate Lucy Salek who has already started campaigning with a visit from Vince Cable earlier this week.

There’s lots going on this weekend. Here’s how to help. This was originally posted as a comment by Michael Andrewes here:

There are details on how to help the by-election here and here – including delivery this weekend and how to make phone calls from home etc.

Labour have pushed back their selection from last Wednesday to 9.30am tomorrow according to Labourlist.

But as I posted the neighbouring Conservative MP for Beckenham, Bob Stewart has conceded, defeat saying on Sunday Politics London that they had “absolutely no chance” on BBCSunday Politics London – leaving it a two horse race between us and Labour.

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Dr Michael Thrasher: “The Lib Dems have a strong basis for saying they are back.”


Dr Michael Thrasher has said on Sky News:

You would have to say the Lib Dems have done well.. The Lib Dems have a strong basis for saying they are back.

Hat-tip: Commenter, Michael1.


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+++We’re now up 75 seats and four councils!




From the BBC summary at 18:21 with 149 of 150 councils declared:
Labour 2296 up 55
Tories 1330 down 26
Lib Dems 536 up 75
Greens 39 up 8
UKIP 3 down 123
Others 142 up 11

We have gained control of Richmond, Kingston, Three Rivers and South Cambridgeshire and won the Mayoralty of Watford.

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Manchester: Your children are watching….

You certainly can’t accuse Lib Dems in Manchester of shirking in this election campaign.

The party hopes to build on its one councillor, former Withington MP John Leech, who has provided the sole opposition to Labour’s 95 councillors since his election in 2016.

They’ve produced a hard-hitting film highlighting the worst of Labour’s excesses and offering a better way forward for the city.

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What the Lib Dems offer Manchester

Manchester Liberal Democrats have launched their local elections manifesto. Details of their policies on subjects like homelessness,housiing,  refugees and schools follow.

The Liberal Democrats hope to make gains on the Labour-suffocated Council. Labour currently has 95/96 seats. The 96th is held by our own indefatigable John Leech, who was MP for Manchester Withington until 2015. There are all-up elections next Thursday.

John said of the manifesto:

Our campaign is about everyone and everything that makes Manchester the great city it is today; a strong local community, a celebration of diversity and non-conformity.

Liberal Democrats care passionately about our local communities because it’s where we live and it’s what we believe in. We will always put local people first and it’s about time our council did too.

On the 3rd May, we have a chance to elect a council that leads from the front; that cities around the world look up to; where we celebrate diversity, house the homeless, welcome the desperate and build a future for our children. But only a vote for the Liberal Democrats can break this one-party state and build that vision.

Key Pledges:
ON REFUGEES AND OUR MORAL DUTY:

  • Immediately develop plans to house 50 at-risk families from refugee camps. In the long-term, we will also investigate how best to house as many orphaned child refugees as possible.

ON EU CITIZENS:

  • Demand the Brexit secretary guarantee the rights of EU citizens and maintain our stance on a referendum on the Brexit deal.

ON TRANSPORT AND ROADS:

  • Use some of the estimated £50million Manchester Airport dividend to establish a SmartTransport Development Fund dedicated to offsetting heavy carbon transport.
  • Introduce for a young commuter’s price cap, so they never pay more than half the hourly living wage rate to commute to work.
  • Crackdown on lazy road re-surfacing.

ON HOUSING:

  • Demand all developments over 15 dwellings meet the 20% affordable quota, and where not economically viable, force the developer to contribute financially to the benefit of the local community.
  • Guarantee safe, affordable housing for young people transitioning from foster care to adulthood.

ON HOMELESSNESS:

  • Launch an investigation into all emergency housing applications to make sure that no one slips through the net.
  • Use council-owned premises to house every rough sleeper in Manchester before approving any further city centre developments.
  • Provide an administration address to every homeless person so that they can take the first step in getting their life back on track – this means they can begin applying for jobs.
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+++Three Lib Dem by-election gains from the Tories tonight


We’ve been live posting some of the results tonight but here are the headlines:

The Liberal Democrats have picked up three seats from the Tories in today’s by-election results:

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Paul Tyler writes…Was the Brexit poll compromised?

That is the question the Conservative Chair of the investigating Commons Select Committee asked last weekend.  Hitherto, his Ministerial colleagues have seemed determined to turn a blind eye to all the recent revelations of possible illegality by Leave campaigners.

Will they be more forthcoming this afternoon ?     My Question to be discussed in the Lords reads as follows:

“Lord Tyler to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are satisfied that current electoral law adequately prevents the misuse of personal data in United Kingdom elections and referendum campaigns”

The HOUSE magazine has published some background for this mini debate:

The revelations come thick and fast.   Daily – sometimes it seems like hourly – we learn that our personal data may have been misused in ever more controversial ways.  In particular, ingenious development of Facebook material appears to have played a key role in targeting both positive messages and contrived attacks in the Trump election campaign AND to secure the Brexit result of our own 2016 EU Referendum.

So far Ministers have hidden behind a reassuring report from the Electoral Commission about the conduct of that referendum.  However, that was issued months ago, long before the detailed analysis from Carole Cadwalladr of The Observer began to gain traction, and the whistleblowers from Cambridge Analytica, AIQ and the Leave campaigns emerged to give their evidence.   Since the turn of the year the alleged network of illicit collaboration has caused the Electoral Commission, the Information Commissioner and the House of Commons Culture Media & Sport Select Committee to open new investigations.  The latter, led by Conservative MP Damian Collins, is being especially pro-active, and their witness list in the next few days is itself an indication of the vital role Parliamentary Select Committees can now play.

Despite apparent BBC attempts to minimise the significance of all this increasing weight of evidence (presumably because other media have provided the investigative journalism) there are signs of growing public unease.   Have we as nation been conned, just like so many in the US ?    Has our personal data been “scraped” for this purpose ?   Are our very strict laws, which seek to protect our elections and referendum campaigns from being bought by billionaires and foreign governments, up to the job?

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The Independent View: Thank you Dorothy!


Watford Mayor Dorothy Thornhill visits the Vibe 107.6FM studios.

Whether you’ve lived in Watford all your life or just a few years, you will probably notice the transformation of the town. Over last sixteen years Dorothy as Mayor has made Watford the town it is today.

In 2006, I set out to bring Watford its own brand new local radio station. The idea was to try and convince the regulator Ofcom that Watford could sustain a full-time community radio station, predominantly aimed at under 35’s. It was important that the station was presented in an upbeat, vibrant way that would encompass the feel of the town. With this in mind, I led a team of volunteers to put together four trial broadcasts from 2006 to 2010. Shortly after our final trial broadcast, we had the opportunity to apply for a full-time broadcasting licence, which we applied for and won in 2010. Vibe 107.6 FM officially launched full time on 11th August 2011 and is still on air today.

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Announcing the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality

Saturday 9th June is the day when a new campaign to end racial disadvantage within the Party begins. It will replace Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and operate as the Liberal Democrat Campaign for Race Equality.

This move has been inspired to some extent by the work done by Lord John Alderdice which states starkly that the Party has so far failed to properly ensure that it is representative of all the racial groups in our country. The new name demonstrates a new sense of purpose and direction and gives a clear indication that the organisation welcomes membership from everyone in the party who recognises that more needs to be done to enable the party to reflect the diversity of our communities at every level.

For those of us – and there are many in the party – who have spent decades campaigning against racism, it is shocking to comprehend that what we are still fighting to achieve, in the year 2018, is genuine equal opportunity and integration.

As the Alderdice Report points out, there is much to be done at every level in the party to make the organisation more inclusive and bring in a diverse new generation of activists. Tomorrow’s leadership is created from today’s new recruits and so we intend to create a positive plan to assist local parties in diverse areas to reach out to communities that are currently under-represented. We will be keen to talk to successful, integrated local parties to distil their experience.

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++Stunning win for Dr Kate O’Kelly in Chichester and two other encouraging first-time performances in yesterday’s by-elections


Many congratulations to Dr Kate O’Kelly and the team for a superb win in the Rogate by-election for Chichester District Council yesterday! This was the first time that the Lib Dems have contested this seat in eleven years, and my goodness what a stunning performance going from zero to 55.8% of the vote!

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Baroness Sally Hamwee writes: Developing a distinctly liberal policy on immigration

If you follow the detailed development of party policy you may be aware that the deadline for written responses to the party’s current consultation papers passed yesterday although the online consultation remains open until 1pm on 12 April. As a member of the Immigration, Refugees and Identity working group I wanted to thank all of those who submitted such thorough responses to our own paper.

LDV has carried some articles about the paper and this seems a good moment to offer my own perspective on some of the criticisms that have emerged – which is by no means to dismiss comments or to attempt the final word, just another part of the process.

The group has taken evidence from a range of experts covering immigration law, the workings of the immigration system, refugees, integration and social cohesion, including attitudinal studies of those who have seen their communities evolve one way or another, due to demographic change. The approach that we have taken in the consultation paper has been informed by this.

We are seeking to develop a distinctively liberal policy on immigration, refugees and identity that is humane, treats people fairly and is effective. It is very clear to me – both from the evidence we have taken as well as any number of stories in the press over the past year and, most important, what I have heard direct from individuals and organisations working in the area – that the current system is failing on all three of these criteria.  The government actively promotes a “hostile environment”; that makes me ashamed. It is one thing to seek to establish a controlled immigration system, but quite another to set up a system which is widely perceived as xenophobic. The UK should be trying to build its reputation as open-minded, open-hearted and welcoming of migrants, for hard economic as well as simple human reasons.

One line of criticism that has come through blogs and the consultation is that the paper is not ambitious enough and is seeking only minor adjustments to existing policy. This is not how I see it: the central proposal in the introduction to the paper is that we should promote a liberal and humane attitude towards migration that will enable people more easily to come to the UK for work, to be with their families and for sanctuary. Reference to procedure is because the group wants a policy that makes the migration process much more efficient (I include accuracy in that), while making sure that this isn’t abused by people smugglers who would bring vulnerable people here illegally. 

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Let’s celebrate another amazing Highland Lib Dem GAIN

Great news this morning which I’ve been unable to share with you until now because I’ve been at work.

There have been a few Lib Dem gains in the Highlands in recent years – Carolyn Caddick in Inverness South, Jean Davis in Aird and Loch Ness and Trish Robertson in Culloden and Ardersier. Today they were joined by Denis Rixson in Caol and Mallaig. This is a bit of Charles Kennedy’s old seat turned gold again and taken from the SNP.

I’ve been hearing from Lib Dems on the ground that it felt good, but I’m not sure anyone actually expected us …

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It’s Transgender Day of Visibility – why it should matter to every liberal

Today is the annual Transgender Day of Visibility. This afternoon, I’m heading into Edinburgh for the Trans Pride Scotland event and I’m really looking forward to seeing the stalls, workshops, talks and meeting lots of lovely people.

Today really matters to me. As a liberal, I instinctively strive for the rights of people to be able to express who they are without fear. When I was at university, so many of my lesbian and gay friends weren’t out. When I went to uni in 1985, technically homosexuality had only been legal for five years in Scotland. Homophobia still exists, but we have come a long way since then and we have a job of work to do to maintain and continue that progress.

While rights and recognition of transgender people have  improved in the last couple of decades, there is so much more to be done. Recent efforts to simplify the gender recognition system have inspired a bit of a transphobic backlash. Open any right wing tabloid these days and you’ll find scaremongering inaccurate bile which makes life so much more difficult for transgender people.

Imagine how you would feel if your very right to exist and be accepted as who you are was called in to question? Imagine how that must feel if you are a child or young person struggling to come to terms with your gender identity.

As a cisgender woman and a feminist, I’m not prepared to stand by why anyone is discriminated against and attacked. The words of Martin Niemoller are never far away from my mind and my love for my transgender and non binary friends is never far away from my heart.

The bottom line is that everyone should be able to express who they are, something very individual to them, as they see fit. They should be accepted and welcomed. For me, that’s a basic part of a liberal society.

I have been in total awe of my transgender friends these past few days. They have been under sustained attack on social media and have dealt with it with resilience, patience and humour. The bile and unpleasantness coming in their direction has been awful to see. That’s why I will always stand with them.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 6 Comments

A year to Brexit – time to remember that we could and should get out of this mess

A year ago, I watched in sorrow and horror as Theresa May triggered the Article 50 process, motivated more by keeping her restless Brexiteers in check than what was actually good for the country.

With just a year to go before we are scheduled to leave the European Union, most of the really difficult issues are unresolved and every day the problems become more apparent. From the Irish border to how we sell and buy the things we take for granted from abroad, to the reappearance of roaming charges to uncertainty over aviation to nuclear safety, we still don’t know how our post Brexit life will take shape.

That’s partly because Theresa May has chosen to pander to the hard right gung ho Brexiteer elements in her own party rather than build support for a more moderate cross-party approach.  The negotiating tactics have been ridiculous, disjointed and devoid of any sort of strategy. They are making this country look very stupid on the international stage which isn’t a good look for our forthcoming leap into isolation.

When you have an international trade war being ignited by a protectionist in the White House, surely you are better off ganging up with 27 of your mates rather than entering negotiations alone and powerless.

21 months on from the referendum, we know that Brexit is much more complex than was at first portrayed and there is little sign of a fawning world queuing up to offer us trade deals that are even half as good as the one we currently enjoy from within the EU.

People are brining up Brexit a lot on the doorsteps. They think it is a really bad idea, but think we are stuck with it. The message from Liberal Democrats today must be very strongly that we can get out of it – and we will. We have to offer tangible hope to people.

Vince Cable kicked off an Easter weekend of intensive Lib Dem campaigning on this issue, saying:

Today the Liberal Democrats are launching our biggest ever campaign outside an election.

Article 50 was triggered a year ago and since then few concrete steps towards a deal. May’s tactic of kicking the can down the road has meant that no tangible progress has been made, and year ahead is overloaded.

In the coming months, the country faces two critical issues. One is on membership of the Customs Union, which we must remain in, as it is essential to our supply chain industries and solving the matter of the Irish border.

The other is that it must be made clear what a ‘close transition’ truly means – at the moment it is just a messy vacuum.

The poorly-handled negotiations and the Cambridge Analytica scandal means that there is, rightfully, a heightened sense that any Brexit deal must be signed off in a test of public opinion. This must include the option of an exit from Brexit.

Willie Rennie said:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 13 Comments

We’ve given an eye-wateringly broad “Snoopers’ Charter” to big corporations


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As Lib Dems we have campaigned long and hard for curbs on the government’s power to snoop on our internet data.

Yet, most of us (not all) have personally given an eye-wateringly broad “Snoopers’ Charter” to big corporations – namely Facebook and Google.

I know, I have checked on my data held by Facebook and Google. You can do it too. Facebook had all my photos, posts, friends etc etc going back to February 2007. The data was 354 megabytes in size. That’s equivalent to 71 copies of the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 12 Comments

Review: Read Towards a Liberal Future by David Howarth and Bernard Greaves

In his conference speech, Vince Cable talked about having a party “fizzing with ideas.” But to be able to present a liberal vision with liberal ideas, you have to have a clear understanding of liberal values and of how they should be applied in every area of our lives. In Towards a Liberal Future, David Howarth and Bernard Greaves set out their view of what liberalism is all about. They look at how the party has failed to practice and communicate its core values and set out how we can fix this. I’m very excited to say that they have allowed us to share their book with you here.

The authors have a long history in the Party. It’s nearly 40 years since Bernard Greaves co-wrote “The Theory and Practice of Community Politics” and 10 years since he co-wrote “The Theory and Practice of Community Economics.” David Howarth is a former Liberal Democrat MP and Councillor who has returned to the academic life since he stepped down from Parliament. More recently, he’s developed the idea of Core Vote Strategy with Mark Pack and it’s no surprise that that plays a part in the book’s strategy for our recovery.

Vince seems to take the implied criticism in their analysis of how we got to where we are on the chin in his foreword to the book:

It starts from the proposition that the party has ‘lost its way’ producing an incoherent mixture of ‘local champions and national pragmatists’ (the latter, presumably including me, being the people who went into Coalition).

It seeks to revive the party’s long term vision and, in my view, does so brilliantly.

The authors don’t merely blame the coalition for our demise. That, they argued, started with the concentration purely on winning local elections without a national over-arching vision.

From where it all went wrong, Howarth and Greaves take us through a definition of liberal values and some examples of how we could translate them into various policy areas. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 21 Comments

Lloyd: Government must delay “horror” changes to mortgage support

Support for Mortgage Interest is a benefit given to people claiming Universal Credit or certain other income-related benefits who have a mortgage or who have taken out loans to make repairs to their home. It pays for the cost of interest on up to £200,000 of a person’s mortgage in order to prevent claimants from defaulting on their mortgage.

From next month, SMI will be replaced by a loan of the same value, which is repaid (with interest) when the property is sold.

It’s pretty cheap, as benefits go, costing the Government around £300 million a year. It is certainly about 3.5 times cheaper than letting someone’s home be repossessed and then having to pay housing benefit to put that household in the rented sector.

Apart from the whole principle being flawed, the implementation seems to have been botched as only around 10,000 of the eligible families have taken up the loan. Some people haven’t even been sent the information about it so that they can make an informed choice about whether to take the loan.

Our Work and Pensions spokesperson Stephen Lloyd said the whole thing was a horror and called for implementation to be delayed.

Every month we seem to be hearing yet more examples of this Conservative government being both mean-spirited and unintelligent; this mortgage interest benefit change is a classic example. It will force some homeowners into even more debt, and will force others to sell their homes putting themselves at the mercy (and cost) of their local council’s housing department. Which, naturally, will cost the taxpayer more in housing benefit than keeping them in their own house by paying mortgage interest payments. An absolutely ridiculous decision.

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