Tag Archives: international

Working together – What I learned at the LYMEC’s Young Leaders Summit

Three weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend the Young Leaders’ Meeting in Budapest hosted by European Liberal Youth (LYMEC). The aim of the weekend was to work on LYMEC’s manifesto for the upcoming European elections, as well as to make contacts and receive valuable training on campaigning and leadership.

Our first evening was comprised mostly of introductions, both to each other and to each other’s national political situations. The president of youth wing of the Hungarian liberal movement Momentum welcomed us, highlighting how hard it was to be liberal openly in the current situation in Hungary, with a far right prime-minister and government. He also spoke about the sacrifices he had to give personally in order to promote liberal and Eurocentric politics in Hungary. Throughout the weekend, we heard emotional and inspiring stories from various national leaders and members of the bureau; for example, LYMEC’s policy officer, Antoaneta Asenova, spoke about the countdown to Bulgaria joining the EU and how the national bank displayed a countdown timer, emphasising the support for a European and outward-looking country. It seemed a harsh contrast to many of the Brexit countdown timers we have at the moment in the UK, and it reinforced that now, more than ever, we need to work with our European allies in order to continue to promote internationalism in the UK and  also how fundamental Europe is to our vision as liberals.

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Paddy Ashdown: China vs Trump could cause Pacific conflict

Paddy Ashdown has been in Hong Kong this week, talking to the Foreign Correspondents Club about international relations and how the relationship between the Chinese leadership and Donald Trump could unfold. It’s not a pretty sight. Here is his speech in full. He revisits the theme of many of his speeches in recent years about the change in the global balance of power as China’s influence increases. He also has some candid and critical comments about the UK’s time governing Hong Kong.

Peace in the Pacific Region, and very probably the wider world, will depend on two questions.

How will the United States cope with decline?

And how will China fulfil her potential as a super power.

Not long after I returned from Bosnia in 2006, in the middle of the era of small wars, I was asked if great wars were now a thing of the past. I replied no; unhappily the habit of war, large and small, seems inextricably locked into the human gene. But I did not believe that, once we were passed the fossil fuel era, the most likely place for a great conflagration would be the Middle East. If we wanted to see where future great wars might occur, we should look to those regions where mercantilism was leading to an increase in nationalist sentiment and imperialist attitudes, as it did in Europe in the nineteenth century. The only region in the world, I concluded, which matched this description, was the Pacific basin. Nothing I have seen in the intervening decade alters this judgement.

We live in one of those periods of history where the structures of power in the world shift. These are almost always turbulent times and all too often, conflict ridden ones too. How new powers rise and old powers fall, is one of the prime determinants of peace in times like this. The Pacific basin is about to be the cockpit in which this drama is about to be played out

The United States is the most powerful nation on earth and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. But the context in which she holds that power is completely different from what it was. Over the last hundred years or so – the American century – we have lived in a mono-polar world dominated by the American Colossus. This is no longer true. We live now in a multi polar-world – by the way very similar to Nineteenth century Europe where balance among the five powers – the so called Concert of Europe – meant peace and imbalance meant war.

We have seen this before. The end of the European empires after the Second World war led to great instability and much conflict, not least in this region. Britain, by and large, accepted her decline and, mostly, dealt with it in a measured and civilised fashion. We will come onto what that means for Hong Kong in a moment. France, by contrast lashed about soaking first Indo China and then North Africa in blood. The Belgians were even worse in the Belgian Congo.

How the United States copes with her relative decline from the world’s only super power, to primus inter pares in a multi-polar world, is one of the great questions which will decide what happens in this region in the next decade. President Obama seemed to understand this. President Trump, it seems does not. His policies of isolationism, protectionism and confrontation towards China are foolish and dangerous. It is foolish because he is abandoning American leadership of the multilateral space and that will not strengthen America as he suggests, but hasten her decline. Its is dangerous because US isolationism will weaken multilateral instruments which are the only means of resolving conflicts and tackling global problems, such as climate change.

China’s position as a mercantile super-power is already established. It was inevitable that she should now seek to consolidate her trading strength by becoming a political and military super power, too. This is a perfectly natural ambition. It’s the way super powers behave – indeed it’s the way they have to behave to protect their position. This therefore, should not, in and of itself, be a matter of alarm or criticism.

It is natural too – and good – that China should seek to fill the vacuum of leadership in regional and global multilateral institutions left by President Trump’s retreat from this space. It is far better for us all to have an engaged China, than an isolated one.

The last great strategic opportunity faced by the West was the fall of the Soviet Union. We should then have reached out to engage Russia, to draw her in, to help her re-build and reform. Instead we foolishly treated Moscow with triumphalism and humiliation, orchestrated largely by Washington. The result was inevitable and he’s called Vladimir Vladimirovic Putin.

We are now faced with a second equivalent opportunity. Can we reach out to build constructive relationships with a rising China?

On the face of it, the signs have been hopeful.

China has seemed keen to be a good world citizen. She has engaged constructively in multilateral institutions – look at the WTO as an example; look at her support for the UN Security Council resolution on sanctions for North Korea; look at her engagement with international forces to tackle the scourge of the Somali pirates around the Horn of Africa; look at her participation in international disaster relief – for instance in north east Pakistan; look at her involvement with UN peace keeping to which she has committed more troops under multi-national command than the United States and Europe combined. Yes, they are mostly in Africa where she has good reasons to want to keep the peace. But there is nothing new in that. Western nations too only send troops to keep the peace, where it is in their interests to do so.

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Observations of an ex pat: Alliance 101

The Western Alliance is in disarray.

Americans are sick of picking up the tab for protecting a rich Europe from a communist threat which no longer exists. Europe is terrified at being abruptly left in the lurch facing a corrupt, authoritarian Russian threat which has replaced the communist one.

In the meantime, Britain, the traditional number two in the Western Alliance, voted Brexit and pulled the rug out from under the EU–the political and economic arm of the alliance’s European end.

It is time for a refresher course in the Western, or Transatlantic, Alliance. It is time for a re-examination of the purpose of the alliance. So here goes, Alliance 101.

Franklin Roosevelt had a vision of a post-war world run through a United Nations headed by World War Two allies—America, Britain, China and Russia. France was a reluctant afterthought.

Each of the “great powers” was given a permanent seat in the newly-formed UN Security Council. With the seat came implied responsibility for a slice of the world—America was the Western Hemisphere; Britain (with French help) Western Europe, Africa and the Middle East; Russia Eastern Europe and Central Asia and China the Far East.
Unfortunately the dream was nothing more than that. A Britain prostate from two world wars still had to organise a peaceful retreat from empire. The French were in a mess. The Chinese were in a bigger mess and faced a civil war. Only the Russians and Americans emerged better off.

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Observations of an expat: The hip-thigh bone theory of the world

It is time to explain my hip thigh bone theory of the world.

The theory is based on the 1920s African-American  spiritual “Dem bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones.”

The ditty in turn was based on a Biblical passage in which a collection of dry bones reassemble themselves   before the astonished eyes of the prophet Ezekiel .

The foot-tapping, hand-clapping spiritual is a roof raiser in evangelical churches around the world. It is also a popular song in young children’s anatomy classes.

But to my mind, Its main value is as a perfect metaphor of how the  rapidly shrinking and interconnected world has become increasingly dependent on its constituent parts (or bones) working together.

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Observations of an ex pat: And so it begins…

And so it begins. Or at least it will on Friday January 20th when Donald Trump stands, on the steps of the US Capitol building, places his hand on The Bible and swears to protect and uphold the constitution of the United States.

The US presidential inauguration is a celebration of American democracy and the peaceful transition from one administration to the next. There are parades, marching bands, waving flags, an inaugural ball and a bevvy of Hollywood stars.

Not this time. Oh yes, all the above will occur as usual. But in addition a million-plus protesters are expected to descend on Washington DC to political disown the elected President of the United States. “Not our President” they will shout.

And all the indications are that the forthcoming inaugural weekend  is a mere curtain raiser for the global thrills and spills to come. If you enjoy life on the edge, than you are living on the right planet at the right time. 

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The Ebola crisis – we need to hear about the heroes

Two years ago, I was quarantined. Following a trip to Nigeria (and the privilege of working with the DFID funded ESSPIN programme), I returned feeling a little unwell and, before I knew it, people in biohazard suits were bundling me into an ambulance. Fortunately it was not Ebola and, in fact, just a slightly embarrassing case of man-flu. However, I was still extremely grateful for a responsive NHS keeping me safe.

At the time, the Ebola epidemic was a terrifying prospect with a wide range of possible outcomes. One of the worst scenarios I heard was that the largest annual gathering of people in the world, two million Muslims (including many from West Africa) attending the Hajj, could have become a focal point for a sudden and rapid spread of this deadly disease.

Fortunately, this did not happen and we have been blessed to see the Ebola epidemic contained, controlled and eradicated, with the MSF closing their final projects (supporting survivors) earlier this month. We were lucky, but it was not by chance that a pandemic was prevented; it was due to the bravery, commitment and skill of the medics and military who risked their own lives to prevent a disaster. 

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Only liberals can stem the tide of ethnic nationalism in Bosnia

International Office_with textOn the surface of it, you couldn’t be blamed for feeling pretty grim about the results of the recent local elections which took place on 2 October in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In both semi-autonomous regions, the biggest winners were the large, ethno-nationalist parties who managed to maintain and entrench their positions as the major political force in their region. Perhaps most symbolically of all, the city of Srebrenica, where the infamous genocide of over 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks by the Bosnian Serb Army of Republika Srpska took place in 1995, has elected its first Serb mayor since the end of that conflict, triggering alarm amongst the Bosniak population and a resurgence in public expressions of Serbian nationalism.

Bosnians were voting for mayors and municipal councils in Bosnia’s two semi-autonomous regions – the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation. These regions have their own governments, presidents and parliaments, although they remained linked by shared federal institutions. The regions were empowered to largely run themselves after the end of the Bosnian War to maintain relative peace between the two largest ethnic groups in Bosnia.

In Republika Srpska, the Serbian nationalist party, the Independent Social Democrat’s Party (SNSD), successfully shored up their support through a nationalistic – and since declared illegal – referendum campaign for keeping the date of January 9th as the national day of the Republika, which took place just days before the election. The SNSD’s pro-Serb rhetoric has only strengthened, with incumbent President Milorad Dodik campaigning on a promise of Republika Srpska’s secession from Bosnia. The results show that such nationalistic rhetoric still holds a lot of power, with the SNSD winning 11 more mayoral posts and 30% more municipalities since the 2012 local elections.

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LibLInk: Jeremy Purvis: West’s response no match for Lebanon’s crisis

Lib Dem Peer Jeremy Purvis recently visited Lebanon, an already struggling country which has taken so many refugees from the conflict in Syria. Here he writes for the Scotsman about his experience.

The scale of the flow of refugees into Lebanon cannot be understated. Amnesty International puts the figure at more than 1.5 million. The flow of refugees into the country is proportionately the equivalent of the US taking most of the population of Mexico (little good a Trumpian wall). The number of refugees that the UK has accepted pales into insignificance by comparison.

Driving along the Syrian border area I

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Zambia: one too many close calls for democracy?

Zambia 1Democracies in the developing world must often overcome a number of hurdles on the road to maturity and development as a stable state. Peaceful elections, a vibrant civil society, regular transfer of power, and fair service delivery are all key indicators of democratic development. No doubt, differences in the maturing of democracies should be considered based on local realities, and a so-called Western roadmap must not be the only lens through which we view this development.

But has the southern African country of Zambia, rich in copper and with plentiful tourism potential, had one too many close calls in its democratic development? Does Zambia and its people need to rethink their political path?

The most recent August 11th elections certainly give that impression.

This year’s General Elections resulted in the incumbent Edgar Lungu (Patriotic Front – PF) winning the presidential race by just over 2.5%, enough to avoid a second-round run-off. The liberal opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), led by Hakainde Hichilema, also lost the last presidential by-election by a mere 27,757 votes. Those early presidential elections were called after the passing of former President Michael Sata in 2014. On the surface, these results appear to be a sign of political maturity, with an election called upon President Sata’s death and an apparently democratic process in place for political succession.

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Bosnia’s Nasa Stranka visits York

Nasa Stranka in YorkOne of the highlights of this year’s Spring Conference for us as a Local Party, led by our deputy group leader Cllr Ann Reid, was hosting some representatives of our Bosnian sister party, Nasa Stranka.

Nationally links between our two parties are already well-established, with joint working around campaigns, training and promoting women in politics. But for anyone who doesn’t follow Bosnian politics as closely as we do….

Nasa Stranka (‘Our Party’ in Bosnian) was founded in 2008 to offer an alternative to the dominant nationalist parties, and over the past six years has established itself as the leading socially liberal and progressive voice in Bosnian politics. Nasa Stranka is also a shining example of achieving gender equality, with 46% female representation at the local level.

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For International Women’s Day: These are not token women

One of the main factors in the defeat of a proposal for all-women shortlists in 2001 was a spirited campaign by the then youth organisation. Jo Swinson led the way wearing a pink t-shirt saying “I am not a token woman.” Jo has now, after many years of putting her heart and soul  into improving the party’s diversity, come to the conclusion that all-women shortlists are a short term necessary part of the mix.

There are many myths about all-women shortlists, but one in particular is the refrain you often hear – that we need to have the best person for the job. People seem to think that positive action of this sort means that you are somehow settling for second best. When you think about it, that’s quite insulting. Do we really think that of the 111  MPs we have elected, that only 19 women were actually good enough to make the grade? Do we think that the one time we managed to send a gender-balanced team of MEPs that the women were not as good as the men? Women like Liz Lynne who had already been an MP and Sarah Ludford, who was a member of the House of Lords and went on to be a massive voice for human rights and civil liberties?

I thought it might be good to celebrate some women from around the world who have had the chance to excel nationally and internationally because of specific measures to improve gender balance. I’ve had a lot of help from Flo Clucas who is the President of ALDE’s Gender Equality Network in preparing this, so thanks to her.

Let’s start at home with Labour.They are doing best on gender balance with 43% women on their Westminster benches and have commonly used all-women shortlists since 1997.

Stella Creasy

Elected as MP for Walthamstow in 2010, Stella Creasy has shown herself to be a powerful parliamentary performer and scourge of payday lenders. She stood for Deputy Leader last year.

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Baroness Ros Scott writes…Up for the new challenge

Liberals from across Europe have been meeting in Budapest for the annual Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe,  including a sizeable delegation of Lib Dems led by Party President Sal Brinton.

ALDE has 55 member parties from across the continent,  49 members of the European Parliament, 5  European Commissioners and 7 Prime Ministers. There’s also a local government group in the shape of Committee of the Regions, and a network of Liberal Mayors.

A recent decision to trial an individual membership scheme has gone from strength to strength, with over 1,500 joining up already.

On Saturday, after a intense campaign, I was lucky enough, and honoured, to be elected as one of the new Vice-Presidents of ALDE,  which means serving as a member of governing body, the Bureau.

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What they don’t tell you about TTIP

Countless articles, emails and campaigns have expressed anger about TTIP. This is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which would cover over 800 million people in the EU and US, as well as helping determine the shape of future agreements the world over. There are numerous concerns – some entirely misguided, some merely exaggerated – and from reading the literature of campaign groups like 38 Degrees it might be hard to know whether there are any benefits at all from this trade deal. So supporters of free trade need to straightforwardly spell out some of TTIP’s advantages.

In particular, lost among the scaremongering and obscure debates has been the very foundation of TTIP: an abolition of almost all the remaining import and export tariffs between the US and EU. It’s true, as both supporters and opponents of TTIP say, that tariffs are only a part of the deal: harmonising regulations (without lowering standards) is now often more important. But when the entire process is under attack, the scrapping of tariffs should not be glossed over. I hope it’s not too insulting to suggest that many of those attacking TTIP or signing petitions (not to mention those who haven’t heard of TTIP) may have no idea that it includes the scrapping of import and export tariffs.

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown – While Russia launches airstrikes Britain’s position on Syria remains an inglorious failure of diplomacy

Paddy Ashdown has been writing in the Independent about this week’s developments and diplomatic stand-offs regarding Syria. He said that the west has allowed its influence to be diminished by successive failures:

We bluster in the UN, Washington and London about willing the ends, but we have nothing left but bombs to will the means. The levers to make things happen in Syria now lie in Moscow and Tehran – all we are left with is a bomb-release button at 30,000ft.

This is a diplomatic failure of inglorious proportions. Historic proportions, too, since the result will inevitably be another ratchet down in the West’s influence, already grievously diminished by our failures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. One would have thought that we would have learnt the lessons of those defeats. But, still – sadly, stupidly – when the West sees a problem in the world its first instinct is to bomb it.

He asks what some great foreign secretaries of the past would have done:

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Ed Fordham’s Letter from Belgrade

I am sitting in a hotel here in Belgrade eating my breakfast. It’s Serbia so meat is the dominant feature.

But I have just walked around the corner of the block to the hotel where they are issueing the accreditation to volunteers stewards who are marshalling the Pride March today and in the course of that short journey I have passed over 200 riot police (I stopped counting). The roads are closed and the streets ghostly quiet.

I am fairly confident here and know Serbia pretty well – but I found myself nervous, uncertain and even tearful as I walked through the streets. I was clutching my phone, hiding my camera and very mindful that as best I try I probably look like a visitor.

In three hours I will meet other friends who are LGBT activists in the Human Rights Council of the Liberal Democrat Party of Serbia whom I will march with. In London, the UK, much of Europe we can be confident of who we are and who we love. Here people, friends, folks I know, are fighting, literally, for the right to exist and be themselves.

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Liberal Democrats should commit to abolition of all global borders

The upcoming referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union is both an opportunity and a threat for the Liberal Democrats.  The party has an opportunity to define itself clearly as the most forward-thinking, internationalist force in British politics.  However, if it fails to do this then it risks looking like an irrelevant, also-ran defender of the status quo.

The 2014 European election campaign shows the threat that the party faces.  It was insufficient to simply argue that the European Union must be retained because it preserves jobs and helps our on-going effort to prevent climate change.  If we want to galvanise support then we have to offer a vision of the future, not simply a defence of the present.

Similarly, the Better Together campaign in the Scottish independence referendum ended up creating the impression in far too many voters’ minds that the Liberal Democrats and the other unionist parties were simply interested in defending the UK as it exists now.  That vote might have been won, but it was won in a fashion that did the victorious parties no good at all in Scotland.

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Baroness Liz Barker writes… International Office supports the next generation of female leaders from Mouvement Populaire party in Morocco

International officeLiberal Democrats do love a challenge. Not for us the easy life of safe seats and majority governments. Oh no, marginal and year round campaigning is the life for us.  So imagine that this is your task: to inspire women to stand for election to new regional councils, under an alternative list system, to be held in September, probably. The regulations for the new system  have yet to be finalised, but existing laws, under which all meetings of more than ten people have to be licenced and leaflets cannot be distributed without permission,  remain in force.

That is the task which Harakie Women, the women’s group within Mouvement Populaire, our sister party in Morocco, currently face.

Working with colleagues from VVD in the Netherlands and the FDP in Germany, the Liberal Democrat International Office has been supplying strategic and tactical support to the party’s potential candidates, coaching female candidates and providing them with the skills required to run an effective campaign.

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Opinion: Liberals must stand up to Russia over Ukraine

The weekend after the party gathered in Liverpool, Liberal Youth gathered in Leeds for our spring conference. There was plenty of campaigning, socialising and of course stimulating debates on policy. Stuart Wheatcroft has already written an excellent summary of the motion we debated and voted for on Ambitious Liberalism; for my part, I submitted a motion on Russia’s actions against Ukraine.

In writing this motion, I aimed to cover the two principal reasons I believe any self-respecting Liberal must stand against what Russia is doing in the region. Firstly, they are attempting to forcibly thwart the will of the Ukrainian people. When the Ukrainian people expressed a desire to look to the EU, they did not at the same time express a desire to go to war with Russia. They are seeking a better life; one bounded by democratic accountable institutions – the same promise extended by the EU to the former Warsaw Pact countries. In attempting to smear the Kiev government as a group of “fascists” as well as sending troops to occupy portions of Ukraine, Russia has attempted to corral the Ukrainian people into giving up these hopes for a brighter future.

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Nick Harvey MP writes… We mustn’t let eurosceptics spoil useful defence co-operation with our EU partners

Today in London the UK’s foreign and defence secretaries, Philip Hammond and Michael Fallon, will meet their French counterparts, Laurent Fabius and Jean-Yves Le Drian. Of course, there is nothing particularly out of the ordinary about this meeting: in reality, UK and French Ministers meet frequently at various EU and NATO summits.

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Opinion: A liberal postcard from Athens

Sunday morning in Kifissia, one of the leafy northern suburbs of Athens, and the view from my bedroom balcony is blue sky with dark clouds looming – a fitting scene for this very important Greek Election Day.

A product of the oil industry in Aberdeen, I am one of many Scottish expats supporting the oil and gas industry around the world (and lets not mention oil prices!). I have been working in Greece for a little over a year and after commuting between the Athens of the North and the real Athens for a year, I have been resident (and paying tax!) in Greece since November.

Greece has been going through a tough time in the last five years, unemployment is high and wages are low. Though there are few signs of austerity in the posh northern suburbs, my Greek colleagues (I am a lawyer) have lost faith in their politicians and their economy. Much though they love their country, pessimism is rife.

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Tim Farron writes… Never has the political market been so crowded in the UK. Never has there been more space for a Liberal Party.

I cannot start this article without expressing my deep shock and concern for the families affected by the attack on Charlie Hebdo. It is stark warning that we can no longer take for granted the liberal order which our predecessors fought for.

It is a great honour to be appointed Foreign Affairs spokesperson and I want to thank Nick for giving me this opportunity. I am very aware that it is rare for foreign affairs to be the defining issue for most voters. But this election, as in so many other ways, is not running the usual course.

UKIP has brought …

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Botswana elections: Liberal Democrats help sister party and its “calm revolutionary of our time”

Three chiefs and justice gaborone botswana by BoHeMIoYesterday was polling day in the General Election in Botswana. 57 parliamentary seats are up for grabs along with council seats across the country. The Botswana Democratic Party has been in power since the country gained independence in 1966. The Liberal Democrats have been helping our sister party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy, which has been fighting the election as part of a coalition of opposition parties, the Umbrella for Democratic Change. In early August, their campaign suffered a huge blow when BMD leader and Vice Presidential candidate Gomolemo Matswaledi was killed in a car accident on the way back from a visit to Johannesberg.

Top Liberal Democrat campaigns guru Victoria Marsom, who has the by-election victories in both Brent and Eastleigh under her belt, has been working closely with the BMD for the past year as part of a project funded by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. She’s travelled to Botswana twice, once in June and she’s there now for this last week of the campaign. I had a bit of a surprise the other night when I found this from her on my Facebook timeline:

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A powerful message from Canada’s Liberal leader in response to Wednesday’s shootings

Canada flag License Some rights reserved by archer10 (Dennis)What would you want a liberal to say in the wake of shocking and violent events in your country? It must be something pretty close to Justin Trudeau’s words, full of dignity, wisdom and empathy.

Watch the video and see the excerpt below:

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Opinion: The future of the State

The Liberal Democrat pre-manifesto sets out our ambitions to take power from ‘the stifling hand of Whitehall’ and return it to citizens and communities: but does the state have the power it once did? Can we rely on having a strong state to implement our plans?

After the Second World War, the new architecture of the international order was based on bodies like the United Nations, the World Bank and the European Union. These have all developed upon states agreeing to share sovereignty, to trade individual power for the achievement of shared objectives. In more recent decades, states have devolved, out-sourced or sold off functions to other agencies or spheres of governance. Some 80% of business transactions now take place in the unregulated space of the transnational domain. How much state is there and how much power does it have?

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Baroness Kishwer Falkner writes: We should not repeat previous failures in Iraq in the hope that we might succeed this time

iraqEvery year, as the long summer recess approaches, those of us who cover foreign affairs speculate as to which international crisis will precipitate a recall of Parliament. This year we were spoilt for choice with Russia, Syria and Gaza dominating.  However when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) overran Mosul, the lack of any obvious course of action prevented a recall. But now as a US strategy has been revealed, there are some clear pointers about what the UK needs to consider in its response. We need to be clear about the implications of our action and its implications.

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Actually, this having the World Cup in England might be a good idea

I am not a huge football fan. Unless it involves Inverness Caledonian Thistle, I really don’t care and even then it’s more of a spiritual thing. I don’t actually need to watch 22 men kick the bag of wind around the field. But my antipathy to the game wasn’t the only reason my heart sank when I saw the new Liberal Democrat campaign, “Bring the 2018 World Cup to England” this morning.

Certainly, having just had a month of nothing but football anywhere, I was screaming for respite. It’s bad enough on the other side of the world but if …

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Paddy: “A problem caused by killing Arab Muslims won’t be made better by killing more with Western weapons”

rally paddy 01I had been waiting to see what Paddy Ashdown would have to say on Iraq because he’s probably the person in British politics who best understands the international complexities of all the world’s flashpoints.

On a day when Tony Blair is urging speedy action to deal with extremism, Paddy spoke to Sky News’ Murnaghan programme about what he thinks should happen. He was asked if Blair was right to be interventionist. His reply that intervening didn’t necessarily mean blowing things and people up:

I’m firmly interventionist because I believe

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Opinion: Ontario Liberals show real Grit, win a fourth term and make history with the first elected LGBT Head of Government in the Commonwealth!

Ontario Premier Kathleen WynneCongratulations to our cousins in the Ontario Liberal Party in Canada who, overnight, have won a remarkable fourth term of provincial government and, at the same time, have made history with leader Kathleen Wynne becoming the first elected LGBT Head of Government in the Commonwealth!

Going into the election, the Liberals had been in a period of minority government and Wynne had taken over-a year ago from the by-then unpopular Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The party has been in Government in Ontario since 2003 and some pundits had predicted that the opposition Progressive Conservatives (I know, what an oxymoron, right?) would return to Government for the first time in over a decade…but Wynne and her team had other ideas!

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Paddy: We’re one mistake away from war in Ukraine

Paddy AshdownWhenever there’s a horrible international situation, I always want to hear what Paddy Ashdown has to say. He’s very wise on all the intricate web of international relations, agendas and history. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s worth listening to because he’ll tell it exactly like he sees it. He makes it all so much more real.

He’s just been on Murnaghan talking about the situation in Ukraine. Unfortunately, he confirmed my feeling that the world is a very much more scary place this weekend.

He was very clear that one foolish mistake could tip a volatile situation into war. That, he said, could be one “trigger-happy” Russian soldier opening fire, a Ukrainian misjudgement of a situation. Something that could very easily happen in the heat of a tense moment.

He said that it wasn’t clear what the Russians were up to. He said it was possible, but unlikely, that their ambitions were limited to securing their international treaty defined rights of access to the port of Sevastopol rather than wider territorial gain. He likened Putin’s stance to Hitler’s over Sudetenland as opposed to the modern Western view that the fate of nations is subject to the view of its people.

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LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott MEP: Cameron’s EU policy plays into Putin’s hands

Edward McMillan Scott, Vice President of the European Parliament with responsibility for human rights and democracy has been writing about how David Cameron’s European policy has enabled Russia’s President Putin to develop his strategy for a Eurasian Union based on illiberal and anti-democratic values.

He opens by outlining the problems faced by Angela Merkel with the rise of the eurosceptic right wing AFD:

Events in Ukraine may still overshadow Thursday’s trip to London by Angela Merkel, during which David Cameron will seek her support for EU reform.  She will not be pleased that Cameron has allowed his Eurosceptics to continue talks with

Posted in Europe / International and LibLink | Also tagged , and | 11 Comments
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  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 16th Dec - 1:45am
    Sorry, I mean of course 'a Liberal ' in his youth, he wasn't psychic too!
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 16th Dec - 1:41am
    Well, Peter, the absurdity was just not taken account of, it seems. Yet a shrewd friend of mine, a Lib Dem in his youth and...
  • User Avatarfrankie 15th Dec - 11:55pm
    But David I seem to remember you were a fan of Bevan's quote about rats. That was a man who through bitter experience knew what...
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 15th Dec - 10:52pm
    @ Martin Typo, not intended
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 15th Dec - 8:35pm
    I wish he was !!
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 15th Dec - 8:26pm
    The cinema site in Tunbridge Wells has been cleared and covered with broken bricks. A new cinema cannot legally be built precisely where the previous...