Tag Archives: general election 2019

In praise of opponents – and a plea for the future

I believe in robust debate and in holding our opponents to account. Those who have campaigned with me will know that despite my light-hearted personality, I’m not prone to giving much ground. Scrutinising our opponents is a vital part of politics and our democracy is worse off if the tough questions aren’t asked.

But after a divisive election, in a time of damaging and sometimes poisonous debate, I want to do something just as important as robust campaigning. I want to offer praise and thanks to my opponents. In Cheltenham we managed to squeeze a large number of hustings into the campaign. I spent a lot of time debating with Alex Chalk (Conservative) and George Penny (Labour), and I exchanged messages of goodwill with Tabi Joy (Green), who had stood aside as part of the Unite to Remain initiative. In what can sometimes be a dehumanising process, regular meetings with opponents renewed my respect for everyone who took part.

So here goes:

To Alex, I thank you for continuing your service in Cheltenham when many expected you to do a ‘chicken run’ to a safer seat. I will always respect you for engaging with pro-European campaigners who protested at your office, though I disagreed strongly with your stance on the Brexit debate. Others would have found an excuse to run away and it is to your credit that you engaged in face-to-face conversation. I also congratulate you on campaigning on schools and the environment. We won’t always (or even often) agree on the way forward, but I want you to succeed.

To George, I admire your bravery in standing for parliament so soon after leaving university. You mastered the craft of debating at the hustings remarkably quickly and clearly have a gift for communication. You did not deserve to become the first ever Labour candidate to lose a deposit in Cheltenham. I know that when you stand in a winnable seat you will make a fine MP.

To Tabi, I owe you huge thanks for being part of the Unite To Remain initiative. Stepping aside was a huge political and personal sacrifice to make. I’m only sorry your big-hearted gesture and our campaign didn’t help deliver more MPs from our two parties. When we did share platforms before the election in events focused on the EU and the environment, you spoke with great passion and knowledge.

And onto the future:

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Sal Brinton on the next steps for the Liberal Democrats

Party president Sal Brinton has emailed party members tonight to let them know what is happening with the general election review and leadership election.

The Federal Board discussed both yesterday.

We decided that everyone was knackered over the election and needed a rest over Christmas. The Federal Board meeting in January will look again at when to hold the leadership election but the feeling was that we aren’t in a massive hurry. The process takes around 9 weeks once it is kicked off.

I think this is a good idea. The 2015 leadership election was conducted when we were all still grieving after the result and was a pretty gruesome affair as a result.

We need to rest and recharge before we do anything.

Here is Sal’s email.

I want to thank you for all your hard work over the last six weeks. Everyone did everything they could in this campaign but the result has been deeply disappointing.

Despite Liberal Democrats gaining 1.2m votes and our share of the vote increasing in every region of the UK, we are now one seat down compared to 2017. Under a proportional system, we would now have 84 MPs.

In many contests, we achieved some of the biggest ever swings in election history. But in six tight races, we lost by just a few hundred votes.

For me, Jo missing out by just 149 votes was heartbreaking. In her time as Leader, she gave us hope about a new progressive politics. If you missed her moving speech you can see it here.

We also lost too many other exceptional MPs: Jane Dodds, Tom Brake, Stephen Lloyd, Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Sarah Wollaston, Sam Gyimah, Philip Lee, Angela Smith and Antoinette Sandbach. Each had made their mark as outstanding MPs standing up for liberal principles. We will miss them all.

And of course, to see the Conservatives win a majority after their disgraceful campaign is appalling. As was Nicola Sturgeon’s awful reaction to Jo’s news.

Our task now is to learn and look ahead.

Under the Party Constitution, if the Leader loses their seat, the Deputy Leader in the Commons and the President jointly take on the role of co-interim Leader. Ed Davey and I are already working closely together.

I am delighted to say that Mark Pack has been elected as Party President from 1 January, and I will hand my share of that role to him then.

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How are you bearing up?

Two days on from the sheer awfulness of Friday morning, how are you bearing up?

I have not yet finished with the crying. I spent much of Friday in tears. I’d got home from the count at about 7:30 after nipping in to Scottish HQ at Clifton Terrace to await the results from Orkney and Shetland.

I then went home and wrote this, almost falling asleep many times as I did so. Then, after three hours’ sleep, spent the afternoon crying and talking to various people. Then Jo spoke and I cried some more. How on earth she managed to come up with something so well thought through after what she had been through is incredible.

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My first thoughts on the way forward

As I start writing this post, it is less than 24 hours since the polls closed and that dreadful Exit Poll was published so this is to some extent a first draft of what where I think we got it wrong and why we must not assume that we have 4 years to prepare for the next General Election. I am writing and publishing it to start a discussion rather than be dogmatic about what needs to be done, so please join in and give our new President and new Leader a start in working out how to move forward.  Also I haven’t focused on policy issues, more on processes as that is where I think we need to learn the lessons.

This was the third General Election since I joined the Lib Dems and I could not be as engaged this time as I had been in 2015 & 2017 for work and  personal reasons. This gave me a better opportunity to observe what was going on this time with the knowledge of having been a candidate myself before.

Firstly, I don’t think we should attach any blame to the incredibly hard-working teams up and down the county both in target seats and in “no hope” ones. From what I saw, many people went above and beyond what could be expected of volunteers. Yes, I am sure mistakes were made and I hope every seat holds a post-mortem in the new year to look at what they could do better. That said I am not sure, even if they did everything they could do and did it exceptionally well, it would have made a substantial difference.

This brings me to my second and main point. General Elections are decided by  what voters see on television, look at on social media, read in the newspaper and hear in the radio, probably in that order. Sadly for us, much of the access to these outlets, especially television & newspapers, is controlled by a media that since 2010 has been hostile to us and done its best to misrepresent us and exclude us. I don’t think this will change in the next few years. We can’t simply moan about it. We need to factor it into our plans for the next General Election. And, as we cannot be sure the next Election will not be until May 2nd 2014, we must start getting those plans ready in January.

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Rollercoaster

I’m just in from one of the worst nights of my political life. Don’t get me wrong, at my count, Liberal Democrats in every seat increased their vote share. For election after election, I, as Scottish Party Treasurer, would have to set aside a ridiculous amount of money that could have been spent on campaigning to cover lost deposits. Not many of them this time around.

Any other time we would be celebrating a bigger increase in vote share than any other party.

It is kind of ridiculous that a rise in the Conservative vote of 1.2% was met with 50 extra MPs while a rise in the Liberal Democrat vote share of 4.2% resulted in  one fewer parliamentarian.

And it’s truly bloody awful when that one parliamentarian is your leader of just 4 months. Jo took a courageous stand on Brexit and offered radical, generous spirited, liberal policies on other issues. Yet she lost out to the SNP by just 149 votes. There are no words to describe how heartbroken I feel about her loss from Parliament.

There is a cruel irony that many of the women she encouraged now make up the majority of our  parliamentary party. She’s delivered on one of her key interests to make the party more diverse but won’t be able to work with them in Parliament.

The night ranged from the shock of the exit poll to the relief that our data was more accurate. Christine Jardine eventually won with an increased majority. Yet just an hour’s drive away, our leader lost by 149 votes. Could we have done more to persuade people to go there to shore up our vote? We’ll hever know.

The sickening, stomach churning moment when that exit poll suggested that there would be no Liberal Democrat MPs in Scotland at all  We’d hoped for five – and we got 4 when we gained Wendy Chamberlain in North East Fife. She enters Parliament along with a second term for Sarah Olney.

Other lows included  not winning Sheffield Hallam, both Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger losing their seats. And Tom Brake losing Carshalton after 22 years by approximately 400 votes.

I’ll crunch some more numbers later, but it is worth noting that we might have had several more seats and Boris Johnson might have had some fewer if we had stood aside, say, in Chingford and Wood Green  against Iain Duncan Smith or the Greens had too aside in Sheffield Hallam. For future elections, we’ll need to work to ensure that we minimise the number of Conservatives in Parliament.

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OPEN THREAD: Your thoughts on the election campaign and the results as they come in

via GIPHY


Bat shit crazy.

Getting up in the dark to deliver “Good Mornings” for two hours before dawn.

This task was leavened by a vague blob in the darkness besides the A4. He was a blob of anoraks, waterproof trousers and ski hats at 7am in front of me as he approached a 4*4 which had arrived to collect him for work:

You must have covered a lot of ground

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Was this the craziest election of our lifetime?

Embed from Getty Images

10pm, 12 December.

It’s all over bar the counting.

It was an election where we heard of plonkers. Joshing. Post stratification. An election where blocks of ice made more a contribution to the climate emergency debate than most politicians.

There were false facts. False fact checkers. Tony Blair unbelievably accused parties of peddling fantasies. We didn’t see much of Jacob Rees Mogg. Lifelong Tories recommended voting against the Conservatives.

This article is not about political parties and policies. It’s about political antics. Things that have caught my attention. No doubt you have your own anecdotes and experiences to share!

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Bamber Gascoigne supports Sarah Olney in Richmond Park

University Challenge legend Bamber Gascoigne has thrown his support behind Lib Dem candidate Sarah Olney in Richmond Park.

“It’s very important that we win back Richmond,” says Bamber who presented the hit TV quiz show for 25 years.

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This week, fight for our values on social security 

As we enter one last push before the election, it’s important to remember why we’re doing this. It’s tempting to clamp down into an unhelpful, wearying “shut up and deliver leaflets” mode, but really the best way to get motivated and to motivate others in politics is to have something to fight for. For me, the Liberal Democrats’ social security policies are exactly such a motivator.

A good safety net that liberates people from poverty and the threat of income insecurity is an absolutely crucial part of a liberal society. One of the reasons why coalition-era cuts in this area were so damaging for us as a party is that it jarred strongly with our natural position fighting for a society that supports and enables and empowers people. As liberals, we believe in people being supported to choose their own paths in life, and few things disempower people like time and energy and health being absorbed by a lack of good living standards. Fortunately, five years on, we’ve responded to that challenge, and are now exactly where we should be, leading the two main parties in having the most progressive welfare system plans on offer according to a Resolution Foundation analysis.

First, we have a plan to fix the system so it’s fit for purpose. Our root and branch reforms to Universal Credit, reducing the waiting time from weeks to days and scrapping the two child cap and bedroom tax, would rapidly and significantly improve people’s lives. Simply spending more on raw benefit levels is also urgently needed, and something that our Liberal Democrat MPs will fight for in the next parliament.  Since 2016 we’ve also been committed to the even bigger step of abolishing the benefit sanctions system: it is unconscionable, no matter what the circumstances are, that people should be left with insufficient income to live on. 

One area we’ve talked about less, nestling among the wide constellation of official Lib Dem policies not explicitly mentioned in the manifesto, is the longer term future of the system. As of Autumn Conference, our long term plan is to pilot turning the standard element of UC into a guaranteed minimum income, removing all claiming conditions other than income level. This is a natural evolution of policy from the abolition of sanctions, and also fits with our policies on lifelong learning and providing living cost support for startup businesses: by piloting an unconditional minimum, we will be looking towards having a single, streamlined system that will provide people with new opportunities, as well as giving people the stability they need to take care of themselves and those around them.

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Rob’s Liberal Democrat rap

Liberal Democrat Rob Castell thought he would be standing against Dominic Grieve in Beaconsfield. However, he stood aside when the election was announced. Dominic Grieve has been an important pro-Remain voice in the Commons, crucial to stopping Brexit. He is standing as an independent and the Liberal Democrats locally and nationally agreed not to oppose him.

Rob has been campaigning with Dominic Grieve, who is picking up much unexpected support.

Rob’s generosity in standing aside is clear. He has been a great and positive presence on social media during the campaign, though. Recently, he was put in touch with the producers of Politix and Chill, a new BBC Sussex podcast for young people. They asked him to write and record a rap about politics. Two others, from the Conservatives and Labour, were also invited to do so and they were judged by talent scouts.

Rob told me that it was a great experience and he hopes it will make politics more accessible for young people.

Watch it here.

The words to Rob’s rap are below:

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Can the Greens’ Universal Basic Income tackle poverty?

The Greens in this election are promising in their manifesto “a Universal Basic Income, paid to all UK residents to tackle poverty and give financial security to everyone”. They state that their Universal Basic Income (UBI) will replace the current benefits system. And they will phase it in over five years. The rates are £89 per week for working age adults, and £178 per week for pensioners. They will provide an unstated amount as a supplement for people with disabilities and lone parents. For families earning under £50,000 there will be £70 per week for each of the first two children and £50 for each additional child. However, it seems they are not paying Housing Benefit to new claimants once UBI has been introduced. Their manifesto states that they will, “Continue to pay Housing Benefit to those who received it before UBI was introduced, so that they can cover their rent (page 50).

For those in full time work the £89 a week is in fact only £40.92 a week because the Income Tax Personal Allowance of £12,500 would be scrapped.

They estimate the cost of the UBI, the supplements and free childcare at £86.2 billion. They state they will provide 35 hours of free childcare for all from the age of 9 months. This is more than we are promising because we are only providing free childcare for working parents for children aged 9 months to two years. This is estimated to cost £12.3 billion in 2024/25. Therefore the Greens are spending less than £73.9 billion to introduce their Universal Basic Income while abolishing Housing Benefit for new claimants.

The Greens benefit reforms will leave most people who would qualify for benefits today in poverty. Using the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s figure in their
“UK Poverty 2018” updated by inflation for April 2019 the poverty levels excluding housing costs per week are:

Single person no children £157.62
Single person with two children £325.88
Couple with no children £271.58
Couple with two children £439.84

Turning to the Greens’ proposals these are what people would receive if not working:

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Steve Coogan campaigns for Lib Dem Oli Henman in Lewes

As part of an initiative to encourage tactical voting, comedian Steve Coogan joined Liberal Democrat candidate for Lewes Oli Henman for a campaigning session:

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Jo’s best bits from the Channel 4 Debate

Channel 4 held an “everything but Brexit” debate last night.

Jo represented us. Labour sent Angela Rayner, the SNP Philippa Whitford and both of them basically decided to gang up on Jo over the coalition rather than defend their own policies. Moderator Cathy Newman seemed to join in the pile-on at times.

The Conservatives and Brexit Party couldn’t even be bothered to turn up. It was quite bizarre when she read out bits of the Conservative and Brexit manifestos when they were not represented and able to be properly scrutinised.

Here are some of Jo’s best bits.

 

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The most frustrating thing about Jo Swinson

Jo Swinson was on Sophy Ridge this morning, setting out very clearly that every single Liberal Democrat MP elected on Thursday would be absolutely focused on stopping Brexit.

She emphasised that Liberal Democrats could stop Boris Johnson getting a majority.

She also defended our policy of revoking Article 50 if the Liberal Democrats won a majority, saying that it was the most popular option amongst remainers, including Labour remainers. She could have mentioned that 6 million people signed a petition to do just that just a few months ago so the idea clearly has support.

Here are her highlights:

Sophy Ridge asked her about …

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Santa Rennie delivers festive lump of coal to SNP

It wouldn’t be an election without Willie Rennie doing something eye-catching.

And today, he took part in a Santa dash in Glasgow.

 

He placed the SNP firmly on the Naughty List for the decline in public services since they have been in government and suggested that they’d be getting a lump of coal on Christmas morning.

The only reason that the SNP want to talk about Brexit is because their domestic agenda is truly abysmal.

Hundreds of children are waiting far too long for mental health treatment, the third Police Authority chair in three years has resigned and we are falling down the international education rankings.

This Christmas the SNP deserve a lump of coal for the way they’ve mishandled these services. Our teachers, nurses and police officers are working hard day in day out but they don’t get the support they deserve from an SNP government which has independence on the brain.

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How YOU can help the Lib Dems get more MPs this week

There’s just five campaigning days left in the General Election. All of a sudden you seem to go from “Oh yikes, how the hell will I survive 5 weeks of this?” to “Oh Yikes, there’s only five days to do all this?”

What matters to us all on Friday morning is the number of Lib Dem MPs we have. Noble third places count for nothing.

If you are not in one of the seats we hope to win on Thursday, please either get to your nearest one, or make phone calls from your own home into it. The party has set up a nice tool to let you know which one you should go to.

I have always done this. Sometimes, my local party where I live has not been happy about this. I remember the horror in the West Lothian local party in my first election when I moved there when I said I was heading to Edinburgh South. We didn’t win there in that election, but we were a top target and laid the groundwork for wining the Scottish Parliament seat two years later.

When I lived in the East Midlands, I worked in the target seat of Chesterfield which we  won in 2001.

At this stage of the campaign, we need to make sure that the target seats win. What you have done already will have helped you build for next time. And it can be hard, when you have put lots of effort into your local campaign to leave it and head elsewhere.

But if you can be part of winning a brighter prospect, that will also help you in more ways than one. Firstly, a good result for the party helps us all. More MPs = more influence in Parliament. For the country that is a good thing because it gives us the chance to stop Brexit.

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The Lib Dem pitch to the rural left

Those of us who are left of centre in rural areas are often completely missed from political discourse, despite our long history of distinctive political belief.  Rural people are, obviously, spread out both geographically and economically. We live in smaller communities and have much smaller workplaces. The result of this is a more individualistic yet supportive community where people rely on themselves first and their neighbours second. Liberal philosophy is ideally placed to appeal to these rural values, giving a hand up when needed while getting out the way when not.

How can our liberal message best appeal to the many areas of the country that are represented by the Conservatives yet badly let down by their safe seat apathy?

Our economic message must fit both rural reality and rural values. We must build a framework that allows small and micro businesses to thrive by busting monopolies that are especially damaging in rural areas. Across the country, monopoly power is costing ordinary people billions. The uncompetitiveness of the energy market costs the country £1.7bn but the renewable revolution allows us to rebuild the energy market around communities and their needs, returning the profits of relatively small-scale renewables to the areas in which they are based. A new model of distributive rather than concentrative markets must be built, in which ownership and control are shared widely through mutuals, cooperatives and small enterprise.

We must also build the infrastructure rural areas need to succeed. Our support for universal high-speed broadband as well as better public transport is vital to helping fledgeling businesses to survive, while we also need to be building affordable and social housing to ensure we can halt the rural brain drain. I, myself, am an example of that drain, moving from the village I grew up in to the nearby city of Lincoln for work and to study.

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Jo Swinson shines in Andrew Neil interview

Jo Swinson was 3 when Jeremy Corbyn became an MP in 1983. That longer experience did not help him when he faced Andrew Neil last week. He was tin-eared, evasive and failed to connect with the audience.

Boris Johnson can’t even be bothered to show up.

In contrast, Jo was amazing tonight. Neil didn’t hold back, asking her some very tough questions. She answered every single one with clarity, competence and candour. She was very clear that she hadn’t got it right on everything  in the coalition and said the word that politicians so rarely use – sorry.

At the same time, she articulated a proper, liberal, internationalist message, showing how we are open, generous spirited and inclusive.

I have known Jo for long enough to know that she never gives up. Our election campaign has not seen the rise in the polls we deserve, given that we have a manifesto that is more redistributive than Labour’s, is the most economically competent and is much better on social justice than anyone else’s. A lesser leader could have turned their face to the wall. That is not Jo’s style. She and we will keep fighting for every single vote right up until 10pm next Thursday night.

Here are her best bits:

And we can stop Brexit We did it twice and we can do it for good:

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Dom Joly: I’m backing Lib Dem Max Wilkinson in Cheltenham

Dom Joly, the TV comedian, is throwing his support behind the Lib Dem candidate in Cheltenham, Max Wilkinson:

For so long, due to our ridiculously unfair first-past-the-post electoral system, my vote has meant nothing when cast in a constituency with a massive majority for the sitting MP.

This is why I’m so excited, having just moved to Cheltenham, to feel that my vote really can make a difference in this Lib-Dem/Tory marginal. I am putting all my support behind the Lib-Dem candidate, Max Wilkinson, as I think he will make a superb local MP.

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Jo’s best bits from the BBC Debate

Seven leading figures from the various parties competing in the election took part in a televised debate from the National Assembly of Wales.

We are a site made up of Lib Dem supporters. Of course we are going to back our leader. But she surpassed even our expectations.

Her opening statement offered hope, and a country where everyone is valued regardless of religion, who they love or the colour of their skin, working with our closest friends to save the planet, nurturing the bonds in our family of nations, protecting the vulnerable.  A proper liberal vision.

She had the line of the debate.

She didn’t mention that it was a horror show, though…

And here’s her closing statement:

She highlighted why Lib Dem spending plans were not only effective, but added up.

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Election Diary 3: Into the final stretch

Harold Wilson stated more than fifty years ago that a week was a long time in politics, and in a general election campaign this is especially true. There are just under two weeks left until the country goes to the polls, and a huge proportion is still up for grabs in this most divisive election. It is also the most important since Margaret Thatcher’s election in 1979, which fundamentally changed Britain, for better or worse. 

It is therefore little surprise that two main parties have recently shifted their focus going into the final weeks and days of the campaign. Labour, despite Jeremy Corbyn’s increased poll ratings, has not garnered enough support to pose a real threat to Boris Johnson’s plans for majority rule. His party has now focused its attempts on retaining its Northern Leave-voting seats, which could give the Lib Dems an opportunity to heavily target previously Labour-supporting Remainers. The huge spending pledges have not caught the public’s imagination as much as Corbyn and Seumas Milne would have wanted, nor have their plans for large-scale renationalization. Or, for that matter, the party’s disgraceful failure to combat, let alone admit to, its anti-Semitism. 

A new poll, employing a method that accurately predicted the 2017 election result claims that the Lib Dems are on course for thirteen MPs if the election were held today. If true, this would a disastrous. After the recent successes in European and local elections, such a poor showing would mean that the Remain voice would have virtually no voice in Parliament, and would, I fear, mean the final failure of the Remain campaign as a whole. 

The party’s pledge to revoke Article 50 is one of the main reasons for this slump. Speaking to even the most ardent Europhiles, I have found a disquiet about the policy. For Jo Swinson to succeed, she needs to position herself as the moderate, opposing both the extremes of Corbyn and Johnson. Supporting revoking does exactly the opposite. It presents the Liberal Democrats as un-democratic, ignoring the first vote and not allowing even a second. Much anger in the public at this extreme turn has meant that a rethink is needed if the current poll figures are to be reversed. 

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Dan Snow and Deborah Meaden back the Lib Dems

Two well kent faces from the world of television have backed the Liberal Democrats in the General Election.

Historian and broadcaster Dan Snow says:

And Dragon’s Den’s Deborah Meaden is also voting for us this time:

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James Gurling writes…What should Liberal Democrats learn from the MRP?

Every General Election campaign has a ‘hold your nerve’ moment.

And last night’s YouGov MRP polling announcement is one such moment.

It’s a wake-up call for anyone who doesn’t want to see a Tory Brexit being delivered in two weeks’ time.  And we can’t pretend it doesn’t have challenges for our position.

But the situation is always more complicated for Liberal Democrats. Our national seat campaigns are being rolled out in a heavily focused way.

We can see from recent seat polls in places like Finchley & Golders Green and Wimbledon that, when voters in those specific constituencies are asked how they are voting, we are doing much better than this model suggests.

Because our target seat campaigns are so focused in key areas, it makes it hard for data modelling like MRP to pick up our activity. What is clear is that our local seat activity is shifting significantly more votes our way in these seats than across the UK as a whole. And we know from 2017 that the number of doorstep conversations is the greatest indicator of electoral success.

A General Election isn’t a single UK-wide poll. It’s 650 separate races, and modelling like MRP will not necessarily identify the differences in what is going on in communities up and down the country, where people are struggling to decide how best to simultaneously stop Brexit, avoid a Corbyn Government and deny Johnson a working majority.

Voting choices that seem obvious in one seat are anathema in another.

MRP data modelling is very different in character to traditional polling which we tend to be more familiar with.

Multiple Regression and Post-stratification modelling is an extremely clever way of producing estimates of opinion for defined geographic areas by combining information from huge national samples (but very small constituency samples) with authoritative data from sources such as ONS and the Census.

The MRP authors themselves attach a significant caveat to their report stating “Our sample is large enough that we can identify patterns that occur across relatively small numbers of constituencies, but the largest model errors are likely to occur in constituencies with very atypical patterns of voting.  Some examples of these are seats where there is a high profile independent candidate (e.g. Beaconsfield) or where there appears to be a new pattern of local competition in this election (e.g. Kensington)”.

In short, to work properly MRP requires a high degree of interpretation by professional analysts.  And assumptions at the margins, can make huge differences when extrapolated out across a national position.

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What’s in a (Net Zero) date?

One of the questions that’s likely to be asked in tonight’s Channel 4 environment leader’s debate is about the target date by which the UK should reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions. In the summer the government legislated for 2050. In September Liberal Democrat conference voted for our policy paper Tackling the Climate Emergency, which argued for 2045. The Labour conference voted for 2030 (though that’s not in their manifesto). The Green Party has gone for 2030, and Extinction Rebellion campaigns for 2025. 

Against these targets, our policy can look rather cautious. 2045 seems like a long way away; doesn’t that mean that government will do nothing until a few years beforehand and then rush to hit it? I’m sure Lib Dem Voice readers know what’s wrong with that argument – although this was the approach that a Conservative minister genuinely suggested to Ed Davey when we were in government.

Arguing over the net zero target date in isolation is simplistic and misleading. In reality, reaching net zero will require enormous effort, stretching over decades and affecting all sectors of the economy; it’s not something you can leave to the last moment. The real debate we need to have is over how we plan to meet the target; what’s the policy programme that cuts emissions fast where we know how to, and lays the foundations for progress where we don’t yet know the right solutions? And when you start to think about what’s needed for electricity, heating, transport, aviation, industry, farming and land use – and how you persuade people to change the way they live their lives, because it isn’t only about government action – you start to understand why near-term targets like 2025 or 2030 are an unrealisable fantasy.

Liberal Democrats set out, in our policy paper and in the manifesto, how we can make rapid progress in cutting emissions from power generation, through accelerating the uptake of renewables, and in heat in buildings, through a massive energy efficiency programme. Between them we think we can cut UK emissions by more than half over ten years.

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What can we take from the MRP seat projections?

13 seats.

That’s what the  You Gov MRP seat projection says we’re going to get.

Not what we wanted to hear.  YouGov only spoke to a small number of people in each seat. Our campaign teams on the ground will have spoken to thousands more people over the last few weeks. They are likely to have a much more accurate idea of what is going on and I think that they will find these projections surprising.

But note the caveat from YouGov

The idea behind MRP is that we use the poll data from the preceding seven days to estimate a model that relates interview date, constituency, voter demographics, past voting behaviour, and other respondent profile variables to their current voting intentions. This model is then used to estimate the probability that a voter with specified characteristics will vote Conservative, Labour, or some other party.

This is a Brexit election though. Brexit is an issue which has split the country into Leave and Remain voters. Traditional patterns of voting for each party may well not apply.

I’m grateful to Morgan Griffith-David for doing this work for me so I don’t have to, but the poll only gives us 13 seats, it puts us in touching distance in another 23. This should concentrate the minds of pro-Remain voters. For example, Brecon and Radnorshire is projected as Conservative 49%, Lib Dem 35%, Labour 14%. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what Labour voters need to do to stop the Tories, whose vote is not split by the Brexit party this time.

These, and others, are the seats where Remainers really need to get behind the Lib Dems to stop Boris Johnson getting a majority which will enable him to inflict Brexit hell on the country.

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Restoring the benefit cuts – a look at our manifesto and the Labour Party’s manifesto

In 2017 we proposed spending more than the Labour Party on reversing some of the benefit cuts since 2010. This year the Institute for Fiscal Studies after looking at both of our manifestos concluded, that while we both increase benefit spending “to around its 2010 level … this money doesn’t go as far as it used to, because of underlying pressures pushing up benefits spending, including rising housing costs and a bigger population. Taking these into account, these pledges would only reverse around a quarter of discretionary cuts to benefits since 2010.”

According to the Labour Party’s costings they plan to increase spending on working-age social security by £8.4 billion by 2023/24 (page 4). (They just give a total without breaking the figures down.) In their manifesto they state they will scrap the benefit cap and the two-child limit, they will split benefit payments for couples, and they will restore fortnightly payments and paying the housing element directly to landlords (page 73).They will also end the ‘digital only’ approach for claiming benefits. All these reforms were suggested by Philip Alston the UN Rapporteur on extreme poverty in his report this year. Furthermore, they will scrap the bedroom tax and increase the Local Housing Allowance by an unspecified amount, end Work Capability and PIP Assessments and make sure these are done “in-house”. They will restore the extra money for those in the Work-Related Activity Group receiving Employment and Support Allowance cut by the Conservatives.

The Labour Party claim that they “will eradicate in-work poverty in our first term by tackling the structural causes of poverty and inequality, such as low pay and high living costs, while raising the floor provided by our social safety net” (page 59 of their manifesto). I couldn’t find in their manifesto what they would increase benefit levels to. I believe for a couple, one of which works 16 hours a week on Labour’s new National Living Wage of £10 an hour, for their income to reach the poverty line the couple’s benefit level would need to be increased by just over £46 a week (about 40%) even assuming work allowances were restored to their 2015 level for people without children. I estimate this would cost in the region of £11 billion a year.

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Greg Dyke: Why I’m backing the Lib Dems

Greg Dyke, the broadcaster and former Director-General of the BBC is endorsing the Liberal Democrats in the General Election:

This is the most important general election in living memory. As a staunch remainer I’ll be supporting the Liberal Democrats partly because they are the leading anti-Brexit party but also because they have a progressive, centre-left, business friendly agenda. There is no way in a million years I could bring myself to support a party led by Boris Johnson, a man no-one should trust, or a party led by Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong anti-European pretending he’s not. This is our last chance to stay in the EU.

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Michael Heseltine: Reject Boris Johnson and vote Lib Dem

It’s been a weekend of high profile endorsements of the Lib Dems.

First, Alastair Campbell went canvassing with our Luciana Berger in Finchley and Golders Green:

Then Dominic Raab’s predecessor as Conservative MP for Esher and Walton backed Lib Dem Monica Harding.

From the Surrey Comet:

In a dramatic twist in the race for his old seat, Mr Taylor urged residents not to vote Conservative and said the Lib Dem’s candidate Monica Harding was “worthy of support” instead.

Monica welcomed Ian Taylor’s endorsement:

And last night, Michael Heseltine, always on the left of the Tory Party until he was ejected from it for saying he was voting for us during the Euros, announced he was doing the same again. 

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LISTEN: to Sarah Wollaston on Any Questions

Sarah Wollaston has been another wonderful addition to the Liberal Democrats. A former GP, whose passion for the NHS is matched by her knowledge and authority on it, she’s fighting to retain her Totnes seat as a Liberal Democrat.

She was on Any Questions? on Friday night.

Listen here. 

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Two things we learned from last night’s Question Time

Jo Swinson had the hardest job out of all the leaders on the BBC Question Time special last night.

First of all, the audience was stacked against her:

While all the leaders took some tough questioning, at least Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn had somewhere in the vicinity of a third of the audience backing them. For some reason UK audiences seem to like Nicola Sturgeon, but they don’t have to live with her chaotic government’s neglect of pubic services. Trust me, the grass is not greener up here.

The audience was never going to back Jo – but people watching would have seen a leader who was absolutely crystal clear about her position. And, uniquely, she was also prepared to admit where we and she had got it wrong in the past. Compare that to Corbyn’s failure to acknowledge that he had failed to tackle anti-semitism in his own party and Johnson’s failure to accept the consequences of the casual racism with which he peppers so much of his writing.

So it’s hardly surprising that much of the right and left wing press are using up their column inches attacking Jo instead of promoting their own candidate.

Jo was very clear that she was the Remain candidate on the ballot paper.

The first thing we learned last night, if we didn’t know it already, is that Labour is not a remain party. Jeremy Corbyn announced he would stay neutral on this deal that he’s going to negotiate. That is an astounding failure of leadership. By refusing to take a position, he lets everybody down.

The second thing we learned is that Jo Swinson shows grace, candour and passion under pressure. She has the hardest job last night and answered with kindness, empathy and clarity.  She made sure that she is the unequivocal voice of remain in this election.

Her performance will go down very well in the seats we hope to gain to deprive Boris Johnson of a majority. Don’t just take my word for it:

Diamonds are formed under pressure. Our Lib Dem diamond did us proud by going into that fire pit and handling the tough questioning much better than anyone else.

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  • User AvatarPeter 21st Jan - 6:06pm
    Positive discrimination is discrimination against others and is therefore unacceptable. The best candidate available should be selected regardless of race, gender or any other characteristics...
  • User AvatarGraham Jeffs 21st Jan - 6:00pm
    The trouble with AWSLs and that sort of approach, is that it can lead to the best candidate for a particular constituency not being selected....
  • User AvatarChris Cory 21st Jan - 5:56pm
    Tim, my apologies. It was not my intention to offend and I would rather focus on the excellent points you made in your piece. However,...
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    I see that the IMF two year forecast..... How is it possible to forecast two years ahead? It's like trying to forecast what acceleration of...
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    In my opinion the new centre party that could have been formed last year was not formed. Change UK was not it, nor are we....
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    Now watch de Pfeffle stuff the Lords full of de Pfeffle clones