Tag Archives: liberal democrats

We need to show that we are not a one-trick Brexit pony

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As a new member (I joined in June) Brexit, or rather stopping Brexit, was one of the reasons I joined. Yet this wasn’t the sole reason. Likewise my new colleagues have no doubt been pushed ‘over the line’ by our strong Anti-Brexit stance.

Yet, what happens post Brexit?

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A Remain Alliance and opportunities for the Lib Dems…..detail may not be quite there but Lib Dems are poised for massive breakthrough

On Friday night the Spectator’s Coffee House blog carried a piece by Nick Cohen about a Remain Alliance. It had details of all sorts of seats being divved up between us, Plaid and the Greens.

My first thoughts on reading that was that it was at best speculation. I mean, why on earth would anyone leak plans for a Remain Alliance to the heart of the Brexit-supporting media, I can’t imagine. Anyone can sit down with a bit of paper and the 2017 election results and work out where it might make sense to stand one Remain candidate. It’s not rocket science.

The official party response says:

These reports cited by Nick Cohen are inaccurate in many ways. As the strongest remain party we are committed to stopping Brexit and are actively talking to those in other parties, and none, to achieve this.

I mean, Unite to Remain is pretty open about what it is trying to do and I would be very surprised if there wasn’t some sort of arrangement in some seats. But that has to get buy-in from all sorts of people, not least the local parties involved. Just by way of interest, if you delve a bit deeper into that organisation, you will see that its director is one Peter Gerard Dunphy who, until last year, was the chair of our Federal Finance and Resources Committee. He left us to join the Change UK project earlier this year but is still on friendly terms. His motivation is more to bring about the massive change in politics than any falling out with the Lib Dems.

Today’s Observer carries a story saying that we are changing our strategy for a general election in the wake of new research which shows we could be in play in a couple of hundred seats. It mentions specific seats that we could be targeting, including Dominic Raab’s heavily Remain seat

The article basically says that we are changing our election strategy and trying to raise money. Now, if we weren’t doing these things, there would be something far wrong given that we could be facing an election within weeks. The election of a brilliant, engaging and dynamic leader with a strong message, and our victory in Brecon, should make those jobs a lot easier.

The article carries quotes from three senior Conservatives who suggests that the Tories could lose seats to us as voters are horrified at the hard right direction of the current Cabinet. This from a former Cabinet Minister:

The route the PM and Dominic Cummings have taken is really blind to the fact that you’ve opened up this yawning chasm in the centre of politics,” said one. “The Lib Dems have always been at their best in a crisis.”

And more:

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Boris Johnson is the most vulnerable Prime Minister to enter No 10

Boris Johnson reminds me of an old school bully of mine. Behind the confidence and malcontent facade of someone who knows he can exploit those less fashionable (my politics never helped) lies the hidden fragility. The pursuit of popularity and the insatiable desire to be liked create a deep personal weakness, the lack of authenticity or character, masked by the charade of charm and affability. Eventually the act wares off, and he is left as a lamentable figure, destined for either a melancholy reprisal of his previous life or a painful self-evaluation. You nearly end up feeling sorry for him. Nearly.

Boris Johnson shares many of the same traits. His lifelong desire to become Prime Minister has meant that his principles can be shifted to suit the beliefs of whatever crowd he wants to please. His Euroscepticism can be traced back to his early years as the Brussels correspondent for The Telegraph, where he found that plainly ludicrous stories could get him a loyal and supportive following. Later, as London mayor, he promoted an image of himself as a liberal, pro-European leader, who was in favour of the single market. Sir Nicholas Soames begged him to pledge his support for Remain, even offering to run any future leadership campaign. Later Soames would say that he knew that Johnson never backed Leave in his heart, and was trying to appeal to the Tory grassroots to win them over for the leadership. Johnson has always moulded his political stances to please a certain crowd, and his desire to be popular could well be his downfall.

With no mandate for the job from the British public, Johnson’s assuredness about getting another deal from Brussels is severely displaced. Any hope avoiding the backstop will not pass the approval of the twenty-seven member states and will also fall in Parliament. Theresa May’s deal with a smiling face may well be the only way forwards, but it would be soon discovered by Johnson’s hardline comrades to be a betrayal of their interests. Then the government as a whole could be brought down. 

Any plans for an early election may also prove fatal. The Brexit Party still has a large support base, and a split between them and the Tories could easily let the Lib Dems through in many marginal constituencies as the unequivocal vote of Remain. This could also lead to the dangerous situation of Johnson being able to defeat Labour and command a majority through the Lib Dem surge. Whatever the scenario, no Tory leader can expect to win a large majority, with a threatening Brexit Party and the resurgent Lib Dems. It gives Jo Swinson a huge chance to capture a mood that can transform the party’s fortunes. The first past the post system has always dogged their chances, but a strong Remain Alliance could have important consequences for the future of the country, as the Brecon by-election showed. 

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Lord William Wallace writes….Money, money, money

Liberal Democrats achieve remarkable successes on the foundation of determined campaigning, enthusiasm, and passionate promotion of liberal values.  But money also matters.  And shortage of money, compared to Labour and (above all) the Conservatives, is one of the major obstacles to a political breakthrough.

Last year our federal party raised £6.2m, and spent £6.5m.  That meant some painful cuts in staffing, as well as missed opportunities in media projection, campaigning, and organisation.  Those who complain in commenting on Lib Dem Voice postings that our media team are failing to make the most of our rise in the polls do not know how small our media team is at present, and how wonderfully effective they are for their size.  We could do with a larger leader’s office, a larger policy development team, and a much larger team of regional and field organisers to help and support local activists in their campaigns.  But all that requires money.

Press reports on problems within the Labour Party’s headquarters have noted that Labour has over 400 HQ staff.  Lib Dems currently have 60, working flat out to support the party throughout the country, to service our members, and not least to make sure that we fulfil all our legal obligations as a regulated political organisation.  

Labour had significantly expanded its paid staff between 2016 and 2018, and also doubled the size of its leader’s office – partly on the back of the impressive surge in party membership, which (as reported to the Electoral Commission ) brought in £26m in fees in 2017.  This was still, however, less than a third of its total income.  Fundraising and donations, most importantly from trade unions, brought in £25m, public support for its role as a major opposition party (‘Short’ and ‘Cranborne’ money) brought in £8.5m, and conferences and other events contributed most of the rest.  The slump in Labour’s membership in 2018-19, together with a decline in donations, has now left the party with a widening gap between increased spending and declining income.

The Conservatives are more like a centralised campaigning organisation than a membership-based party.  They declared an income from membership subscriptions in 2017 of only £835,000: that’s a little more than £6 per member on their estimated membership.  They received more in legacies than that.  But the bulk of their income comes from major donors: a total of £30m in donations in 2017, much of it in five- or six-figure sums from a few hundred individuals.  J. C. Bamford, the excavator company chaired by Lord Bamford, is one of its largest donors, giving £1.5m in the three months before the 2017 election.  Labour analysis shows that a high proportion of major Conservative donors are hedge fund managers; others include wealthy Russians, and Middle Eastern millionaires, with homes in London.  EC figures show that the Conservatives received £7.5m between October and December 2018 from 230 donors: more than our entire income last year.

The Brexit Party is a limited company controlled by Nigel Farage.  It reports £2.75m in online donations (each below £500, thus not reportable to the EC) through PayPal in the first half of 2019, as well as several larger donations – including £200,000 from Jeremy Hosking, a City financier who finances a number of right-wing causes.  The Financial Times on July 26th reported that Farage  has just launched ‘World4Brexit’ at an event in New York, attended by leading figures on the hard right of US politics (Peter Thiel, the CEO of PayPal, is a supporter).  Farage is already attacking the Electoral Commission for querying his fund-raising methods, claiming ‘an Establishment stitch-up.’

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LibLInk Kishan Devani: Jo Swinson, our future Prime Minister

Just over a year and a half ago, Kishan Devani joined us from the Conservatives.He writes for AsianLite International about Jo’s election as leader and what that means for the Liberal Democrats and the country:

It was evident to me and all those present we were not looking at the leader of a UK political party, but in fact, we were witnessing the making of an international leader who can take on world issues and still care for the injustices felt by people domestically. Her courage to call out Trump so openly shows that she is not scared to take on

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LibLink: Jo Swinson: The Lib Dems represent modern Britain and we’re aiming for the top

It’s been a busy first week as leader for Jo Swinson.

She’s questioned two Prime Ministers, been all over the media, headed to Brecon and Radnorshire to campaign with Jane Dodds ahead of the by-election next Thursday and has found time to write for the Evening Standard as well.

She contrasted the hype and the reality of our new Prime Minister:

Earlier this week, when Boris Johnson, London’s former Mayor, finally got the keys to No 10, he promised a Cabinet that represents modern Britain. But as all Londoners know, promises made by Johnson tend to be less impressive in reality than they are in rhetoric. In his reshuffle this week, he gave jobs to people who have supported the death penalty, who have bragged about not being a feminist, and who are completely opposed to abortion even in cases of rape. He has also sacked the only LGBT+ member of the Cabinet.

It shouldn’t surprise us that these are the people Johnson picked. Just look at him and what he has said. He has compared Muslim women to letterboxes and described elite women athletes as “glistening like wet otters”. He is determined, despite all the evidence on how damaging it will be to our economy, to pursue a no-deal Brexit. And yesterday, when I asked him to fulfil his reassurances that the three million EU citizens — our friends, family and neighbours — would retain their rights after Brexit, and to back a Lib Dem Bill to that effect, he was all talk and no trousers.

It’s enough to make anyone cry -but there is hope.

From Aberdeen to Cornwall, and everywhere in between, I’ve met so many people who believe that Britain should celebrate our differences, not just tolerate them; who believe that we should embrace the cultural diversity that has made Britain great, and who believe that we are at our strongest when we work with our European neighbours, not when we turn our back on them.

Those fundamentally liberal values — openness, inclusion, internationalism — are what truly represent the best of Britain, and it’s those values that I’m determined to fight for as leader of the Liberal Democrats.

And when she fights both Johnson and Corbyn, she is doing it as their equal.

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Lib Dems say Bollocks to Homophobia and Transphobia at London Pride

The first time I came across Pride in London was in 1992 and I was thoroughly captivated by the joyful and bright display.

Yesterday, Liberal Democrats gathered to celebrate the LGBT+ movement 50 years after the Stonewall riot. We were part of a huge and diverse march.

Brian Paddiick won the brilliant t-shirt competition

And new MEP Luisa Porritt had the best hat.

Both leadership candidates were there and very much in the spirit of things:

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ICYMI: Chuka Umunna joins the Lib Dems

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In case you had an early night last night and are wondering what’s going on, last night Chuka Umunna joined the Liberal Democrats.

Here’s the official announcement which came just after 10pm last night.

The Liberal Democrats are delighted to announce that Streatham MP Chuka Umunna has joined the party.

Chuka joins the Liberal Democrats, having held the seat since 2010. The Liberal Democrats recently topped the poll in London during the European elections and are extremely excited to gain this seat.

Commenting on his decision, Liberal Democrat MP Chuka Umunna said:

I have chosen to join the Liberal Democrats because it is at the forefront of a renewed, progressive and internationalist movement in British politics that shares my values.

Labour and the Tories are committed to facilitating Brexit, and Brexit makes ending austerity virtually impossible.  The Liberal Democrats are not – they were arguing for a People’s Vote and to remain in the EU from the very start.

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Chuka standing for the Lib Dems? Really?

The Mail on Sunday  seems very certain that Chuka Umunna, having left Change UK, is going to stand for the Lib Dems in Streatham.

This has about as much fact as anyone reading this site would expect from a Daily Mail story.

Let’s dial it back a little.

In order to stand as a Lib Dem candidate, you have to be a member of the party. Chuka isn’t. I suspect that if he wanted to join at some point in the future, we wouldn’t stand in his way.  I certainly wouldn’t be averse to that, as I said the other day and I quite like the idea of arguing against his suggestion that young people should have to do national service on the floor of conference.

There is also process to go through to be able to stand as a Lib Dem candidate.

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23 minutes left to have a say in Lib Dem leadership election

Next month it will be 36 years since I signed up to the Liberal Democrats on my 16th birthday.

My parents thought it was a phase.

I’m still here and I’ve long since given up caring what they think of my political beliefs, however much I love them.

This party, with its establishment busting, planet saving, freedom loving, poverty bashing ethos never fails to give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning and to try to make the world better and kinder and friendlier for everyone.

It absolutely warmed my heart to see 16 year old Emma  sign up to the party this morning.

This party has, over the years, infuriated and inspired me, provided me with most of my friends and found-family and basically is part of the basic infrastructure of my life.

And I found out today that one of the people who had first inspired me in politics died last night.

Chris was a leading light in Edinburgh SDP in the 80s.

I first met her on a training day in 1985. My first ever conference speech was in a debate on drugs in 1986. She proposed the motion and, as the hall emptied, I remember her ironically pointing out that people were leaving for their fixes of nicotine and caffeine.

She was a passionate internationalist, feminist and advocate for social justice. Her career was spent making life better for the most vulnerable, from Scotland’s voluntary sector to Bangladesh.

She actually left the SDP in 1986 to rejoin Labour. I couldn’t go with her but I was always going to be friends with her, wherever she was.  I never lost touch with her. However it was only in the last few years that Facebook reconnected us. It was brilliant. One Messenger chat and the years melted away.

She joined the Liberal Democrats to fight for our place in the EU after the referendum. But she was diagnosed with Cancer shortly afterwards. She couldn’t go to the People’s Vote march last October but she was there in spirit and her name was on a placard.

She’s one of the wisest and kindest people I ever knew and I am missing her very much tonight.

If you believe in the kinder, more compassionate politics, if you believe that our country is crying out for radical reform, if you believe that we need to throw the kitchen sink and more at saving our planet, if the thought of ensuring that no-one is enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity, then you might want to join us because those things are what we are about.

And if you do so within the next 20 or so minutes you can help choose our next leader. 

And Greg’ll be happy.

That will be not a million miles off 20,000 since the local elections.

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Lib Dems top Westminster voting intention poll

If I were the sort of person who used profane language, the air would be royal blue around me tonight.

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Building on the European Election results

The Liberal Democrat campaign for the European elections made an emotional connection with voters that the Remain referendum campaign missed. It spoke with clarity and trustworthiness. That’s in stark contrast to many people’s response to they dysfunction both tin the government and the Labour party. We need to connect with people in this space to help the country find a saner alternative.

After the European Parliament elections

The actual results were exciting, with pro-Remain parties getting more votes than pro-Brexit ones and many people voting Liberal Democrat who would not have done so a year ago. 

Polling from Lord Ashcroft  since then suggests that many of these voters would follow this up by voting Liberal Democrat in a UK General Election.

The campaigner in me instinctively thinks this is the time to be out and visible, particularly in places where people don’t hear from us very often. It’s one thing for people to vote Liberal Democrat in exceptional circumstances and quite another if it’s followed up by enough contact to mean this is not a flash in the pan. On top of the usual task helping newly-elected councillors to dig in, this is a golden opportunity to recruit members and deliverers. 

But things are not so simple. 

Anxiety on the doorstep

To get a sense of the general temperature, I did some canvassing in Hertford and Stortford constituency shortly before the European elections by knocking on every door in certain areas (rather than just going to those likely to support Liberal Democrats or Remain). What I encountered was a seemingly-small (though often strident) number of people who were going to vote for the Brexit Party, others happy to say they were voting Liberal Democrat, and a smaller number, loyal to Conservatives or Labour, following their loyalty with some unease. But a strikingly-large number of conversations were with people who said they were worried and didn’t know how to vote.

At first I wasn’t sure whether these were supporters of Remain or Leave. On autopilot I took the conversation to Remain United’s advice to vote Liberal Democrat if people wanted to remain in the EU, thinking that I would get pushback if the person supported Brexit. But instead of pushback, these conversations were often ending in the promise of a Liberal Democrat vote.

This experience doesn’t put the Brexit Party in first place and contradicts the voting figures for the district: the Brexit party first on 14,374 followed by Liberal Democrats on 11,090. But the overall turnout was 36.9%. This leaves me wondering how many of those “worried and not sure how to vote” didn’t actually vote.

Connecting emotionally with the “worried and not sure how to vote”

The “Bollocks to Brexit” slogan at last brought some emotion to the foreground on the Remain side and brought a major swing to the Liberal Democrats. 

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The Liberal Democrats are back and the electoral opportunity is huge

I’m not a Lib Dem. I’m Labour and I hope that in voting as I did I will help the Labour Party see sense and do the right thing for the country.

This was Alistair Campbell tweeting about his support for our party on Sunday night, following the European election results.

In some ways history is repeating itself. Through his work in convincing the Blair government to go to war in Iraq, Campbell was also partly responsible for the last great surge of support from Labour to the Liberal Democrats. What we learnt from that episode in our history is that …

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Join the Lib Dems and help choose the next leader

Last night, people were joining the Liberal Democrats at the rate of one every five seconds as our Head of Membership, Greg Foster, said on Twitter.

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Two thirds of Tory members want a no deal Brexit so voting Lib Dem to stop Brexit on Thursday is more important than ever

There are many reasons to vote Lib Dem on Thursday, but sending an indisputable “Stop Brexit” message, showing that the country has changed its mind, is even more important when you consider the recent YouGov poll of Tory members. 

These people, and these people alone, get to choose the next Prime Minister.

And two thirds of them want to visit on us the catastrophe of a no deal Brexit.

84% of them want to deny us our say on the final Brexit deal.

These mostly affluent, older people are quite happy to play Russian Roulette with all of our lives and there are plenty leadership candidates prepared to promise them what they want.

We’ve been saying all along that a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote to stop Brexit. It sends an indisputable message to the Government. It can’t be confused with Scottish independence. And if you want to Remain, why would you even vote for the Brexit Labour Party?

It is worth dropping everything and doing whatever you can to secure a huge Lib Dem vote in your area.

This election is not just about getting lots of MEPs for us, it is about the future direction of our country. It’s about showing that the public is absolutely and irrevocably opposed to the course Tory members want to take.

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Michael Heseltine to vote Lib Dem to stop Brexit

If you have voted one way for almost 70 years, it’s hard to do anything differently. But former Tory Cabinet Minister Michael Heseltine is doing just that on Thursday.

His passionate internationalism and support of the European Union means that he will be supporting the Liberal Democrats.

Heseltine famously fell out with Margaret Thatcher over Europe and it was his challenge that led to her downfall in another Tory fight over Europe.

From the Observer:

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Why I returned to the Liberal Democrats

At the age of 49 and being of a naturally cynical disposition, you would think that I would be immune to unreservedly believing in exciting shiny new things. Well, reader, I have a confession to make – I signed up as a supporter of Change UK. Yes, I believed that they were the future of British politics and yes, I actually believed that they would transform the political landscape, kill off tribalism and usher in a new age of cooperation and consensus. Truly this was the glorious bright new dawn…

However, as we seen the bright new dawn is more like a rainy November morning in West Bromwich. 

I joined the Party in November after leaving the Labour Party in a mixture of disgust, guilt and embarrassment. The Liberal Democrats seemed ideal for a centre Left socially liberal person like me, I really liked the policies and every one was so nice (if you want to see not nice, attend the average CLP meeting and criticise Jeremy Corbyn). Great, here was my new political home. But then came TIG. 

TIG looked wonderful; a happy gang of pragmatic modernists drawn from all parties and none. They hung out at Nandos and seemed like regular guys.  So I wrote to Lib Dem membership to cancel my membership, signed up to Change UK, became a group admin and started spreading the word on social media. 

Then reality intruded into my centrist idyll. It became apparent that Change UK seemed to mean radically different things to different people. This non-party (no members, no structure and no policies) was simply a blank canvas on which anyone could project their ideal political party. CHUK had all the solidity and depth of one of those old 2D Hollywood film sets. The groups I was in were full of well-meaning, enthusiastic, idealistic people campaigning for ‘change’ but with no clear idea of what that ‘change’ actually might be and no direction from CHUK high command. I could not fault their commitment to the cause but I did not actually know what the cause was and, truth be told, neither did they.  I had made a mistake. 

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Lib Dems target Labour remainers

So we’re doing the sensible thing and going after the votes of Labour voting Remain supporters in the next few days.

We have the help of numerous actions and comments by senior Labour figures over the past three years, most especially Bailout Barry himself. You haven’t been allowed to forget that Labour Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner told Tory Minister James Cleverly that Labour were trying to bail the Tories out on Brexit.

Just in case it has slipped your mind for a nanosecond, here is the actual clip:

The Huffington Post reports that candidates and campaigners will be stepping up their efforts to persuade Labour supporters to back us in this election:

The eight-page document is being sent to candidates and grassroots activists as Vince Cable’s party aims to convince “increasingly soft” Labour votes.

The document, which is to be issued with Labour attack leaflets, collates pro-Brexit quotes from Labour’s frontbench MPs, including from supporters of a second referendum, such as Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry.

It also outlines in detail the party’s voting record on a second referendum and soft Brexit options, underlining that Corbyn’s MPs were whipped either to abstain or to vote with the Tories on 29 key Brexit votes.

Pro-EU Labour activists reacted with dismay when Corbyn refused to back a remain stance in the party’s Euro elections manifesto, with the leader sticking to the line that a second referendum would be “an option” if cross-party Brexit talks fail.

The local elections, meanwhile, saw the Lib Dems win more than 700 seats, leaving Cable confident of gains in the May 23 EU-wide poll.

They have a quote from Ed Davey:

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ICYMI: The Lib Dem Lowdown for new members

Welcome to the 1300 people who have joined the Liberal Democrats in the last day or so since our local election gains surpassed all our expectations.

It’s actually been really heartwarming to wake up every morning for the last few weeks and see a whole rush of “I just joined the Lib Dems” posts on Twitter.

Every so often I roll out this post, which is basically a rehash of an article that I first wrote in May 2015 when many joined the party in the wake of the General Election result. I thought it might be useful to tell you a little bit about how our party works and give you a bit of an idea of the opportunities open to you. If you are not yet a member, if you like what you read, sign up here.

What do we believe?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of organisation, the best statement of who we are and what we’re about can be found in the Preamble to our Constitution which underlines how we believe in freedom, opportunity, diversity,  decentralisation and internationalism. Here’s a snippet:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity. We champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, we acknowledge and respect their right to freedom of conscience and their right to develop their talents to the full. We aim to disperse power, to foster diversity and to nurture creativity. We believe that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to attain these ideals, to contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives.

We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely. We believe that each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long term continuity of life in all its forms. Upholding these values of individual and social justice, we reject allprejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation and oppose all forms of entrenched privilege and inequality.

We have a fierce respect for individuality, with no expectation that fellow Liberal Democrats will agree with us on every issue. We expect our views to be challenged and feel free to challenge others without rancour. We can have a robust debate and head to the pub afterwards, the very best of friends.

Obviously, our priority at the moment is to stop Brexit, but there is so much more to us than that. That bit about no-one being enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity shapes everything that we do.

Your rights as a member

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An enthusiastic, proud, grassroots attempt at values-based campaigning

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of participating in some conversations, on a dark corner of the internet, about values-based campaigning. Over the last few days I’ve had the delight of seeing this break out of the dark corner, when Henry Wright (candidate for Cherry Hinton, Cambridge) shared what he’d been creating and why he joined the Lib Dems in the first place:

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Liberal Democrat MEP candidates must be clear: Now is Europe’s moment

From Whitehall to Warsaw we see populists on the march – they decry the European idea which so many have fought for over the past century. The dilemma? They’re right to.

Tim Martin, the pro-Brexit Wetherspoons boss, told crowds in London that the European Union was undemocratic. The reality is (and bear with me) that he’s not far wrong – the EU has long faced the idea of a democratic deficit. Our MEPs in the European Parliament deserve more power as the voice of 500 million people. We deserve the right to choose the President of the European Commission, an effective figurehead for Europeans who’s directly accountable. We can explore similar ideas for the President of the Council, such as their election depending on a weighted vote of national parliaments. The answer to the democratic deficit? It’s not to leave the union, it’s more union. We must stop tip-toeing around the idea of Europe and unapologetically bring it closer to the people it serves.

Trying to defend the European Union in its current form won’t work, because even we know it’s broken. What can work is calling for reform, and evoking our friends and allies across the continent who know the same. Europe’s broken, but it can be fixed – it must be fixed.

The UK is slipping down the international rankings of global economies, but the European Union? It still remains $2 trillion larger than the USA and the largest free trade area in human history. In the near future the centre of gravity for global economic and political power will continue to shift, but without more cooperation, it will shift further away from Europe. Successive US Presidents have had their eye move from Europe, Trump’s no coincidence and he won’t be the last POTUS to look elsewhere. Our strategic problem isn’t going away. The answer again is reform.

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Happy Birthday to the Liberal Democrats – let’s be bold, confident and radical

The Liberal Democrats are 31 years old today.

Courtesy of my Facebook memories, here is what I wrote on our 30th birthday last year.

30 years of the Lib Dems today! 30 years of having the courage to stand up for what we believe in.

I think what I like best about us is that we have such an optimistic view of people – our citizens are not to be contained and restrained but given power to run their lives and communities as they see fit with a state ensuring that everyone gets a fair chance in life.

I am proud to be part of this movement. You don’t get to 30 without screwing some stuff up, but we have made sure that we have an international aid target enshrined in law, we put mental health on the political map – easy to forget that nobody except us was tailing about it 10 years ago – and we achieved same sex marriage.

I’ve met some of the people who mean the most to me in the whole world through this party. I love all my passionate, curmudgeonly, stubborn, creative, awkward, kind, curious and loving Lib Dem friends.

And I said on here that we needed to spend our next decade being bold, confident and radical.

Our task for the next 10 years is to continue to be right, to be audacious in getting our message across, to be bold, radical and insurgent. We have fought our way back before. We need to be confident that we will do so again.

We are at heart generous-spirited and optimistic. We see the best in people, we want them to have the opportunities to be the best that they can be. That is a joyful and positive message and it even has substance behind it. All the things we want to achieve have their roots in our belief that “no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”

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Parking the bus or total football?

For those football fanatics among us tactics are something we study closely in our desire to enhance our enjoyment of the beautiful game.

Some of us marvel at a defensive approach where a team plays an unadventurous formation designed to avoid conceding goals and then nicking one at some point in the game to come away with a 1-0 victory. This is often called parking the bus and despite his protestations to the contrary it is the favoured approach of the self styled Special One Mr Jose Mourinho.

Others prefer a purist method, the most advanced version being the one used by the Dutch national team in the past and christened total football by admiring commentators. A number of teams have deployed a variation of this philosophy but few have gained the plaudits earned by Rinus Michels the coach of the legendary Netherlands 1974 World Cup team playing in those fabulous bright orange shirts.

So what does this have to do with politics I hear you ask?

Well as in football, politics is about tactics and for our party the Liberal Democrats the way we deploy our key players will be crucial to our fortunes at the next General Election.

Do we take a cautious approach and look to retain the seats in the House of Commons that we currently hold, extend ourselves a bit by trying to win a handful of target seats or be really adventurous by running campaigns wherever we are able.

There are of course many factors to consider in making a final decision, not least the strength of the opposition and the willingness of members of our team to be deployed ‘out of position’. We also have to bear in mind the fact that politics has become much more unpredictable post Brexit.

Success may well come in some unusual places.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 8 Comments

Lib Dems want a People’s Vote to stop Brexit. Corbyn can’t say what Labour would do

The Sunday morning political programmes can be summarised as follows: Tory psychodrama (Sophy Ridge had three rounds of it), Labour obfuscation and Lib Dem consistency and clarity.

Just imagine that you were the Leader of the Opposition. You’re supposed to be showing leadership on the most important issue of most of our lifetimes. You talk about how you want a General Election, though you haven’t actually bothered to do anything to make one happen.

Then you’re asked what your policy in that General Election would be on the said major issue. Surely to goodness you would have something to tell people. You wouldn’t go on about how it still had to be decided by some party meeting. Surely you would have done that preparatory work already.  I mean, you’ve been going on about this General Election for months.

At least, if you wanted to show that you had even basic competence to run the country, you would be able to say where your party stood. If your policy was coming from principle and value, it would be instinctive.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to imagine any of this. It’s actually happening. The two paragraphs above is pretty much what Corbyn said on Marr this morning. And it’s pretty much what Rebecca Long-Bailey said on Sophy Ridge.

Corbyn did say, though, that if there was no General Election, he’d prefer a Brexit deal to a People’s Vote. He thinks he can go back to the EU and get what are essentially terms of full membership without being members. He said he wanted a customs union that enabled us to have a say in trade deals. And a unicorn that poos glittery rainbows. He didn’t say that last bit, but he might as well have done.

No wonder that Tom Brake tweeted:

Compare and contrast with a brilliant interview from Vince. He was incredibly clear and consistent.

  • Lib Dems want a People’s Vote because we oppose Brexit
  • Lib Dems oppose a Norway style compromise because we’d have all the expenses of EU membership but none of the say on policy
  • Cross-party working is happening and essential not just now but after this is all over to bring country together
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Could you head up the new Lib Dem Racial Diversity Campaign?

The Party is finally starting to get its act together on racial diversity. Last week the Federal Board decided to properly set up the new Racial Diversity Campaign which aims to improve Lib Dem BAME representation in our various Parliaments.

So, the party has advertised for a Chair and two Vice Chairs of the RDC. Applications must be submitted quite quickly, by a week tomorrow and the Federal Board will meet the candidates on 28th January and make their choices shortly thereafter.

Here’s some more detail:

The Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC) will be the vehicle within the party which finds, trains and supports BaME candidates through to their selection and beyond to successful election.

Its principal aims are to increase the number of ethnic minority MPs, MSPs, MEPs, Assembly Members, elected Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners and. It would also work alongside ALDC to increase the number of ethnic minority Councillors and Council Leaders.

The Chair and Vice-Chairs of the RDC will be experienced in training and mentoring and have a deep knowledge of the party’s processes for candidates, from assessment through to fighting a campaign.

The successful candidates will be elected to serve until 31 December 2019 on a ‘casual vacancy’ basis. Fresh elections (for a number of posts including these) for a full three-year term will be held after the new Federal Board meets early in 2020.

Applicants for the roles of Chair or Vice Chair must be nominated by two members of the Federal Board, membership of which can be found here: www.libdems.org.uk/federal_board. You should send your nomination to the Party Governance Officer [email protected]

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In pictures: Lib Dems campaigning to stop this Brexit carry on

It’s kind of lucky that this weekend is a national weekend of Lib Dem action. Coming just 72 hours before Parliament makes the most momentous decision of our lifetimes – or not, we hope – it’s great to see that Lib Dems have been out on the streets making the case to stop Brexit by means of a People’s Vote.

Here’s some pictures from all over the country.

Remember how heavily Norman Lamb’s North Norfolk constituency voted to leave? Have a look at this.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 17 Comments

Could you be the Lib Dems’ Vice President BAME?

As part of the implementation of the Alderdice Report which aims to remove the barriers to participation in the party by members of BAME communities, the Party is looking to appoint a Vice President BAME.

They’ve advertised the role and the details of what it entails and how to apply are below:

The Vice President BaME will be a party ambassador and senior Board officer. They will work with various Federal and State bodies responsible for delivering diverse representation both internally and externally. These include Candidates Committees, the Candidates & Diversity Office and the Diversity Committee of the Federal People Development Committee.

The VP-BaME would also support the Racial Diversity Campaign (RDC) and Lib Dem Campaign for Racial Equality (LDCRE) in their work to promote more BaME representation both in internal party structures and externally in local, regional and parliamentary elections.

The VP-BaME will work closely with the Party’s Equalities Spokesperson to ensure that different BaME communities’ interests are represented, to highlight issues, engage ethnic minority voters and campaign for a better deal for them.

They will work with LDCRE to reach out to BaME communities, to enthuse them about the Lib Dems and attract them to become members and activists.  They will champion inclusion, and work with these recruits to help them empower each other and gain the knowledge and skills they need to be meaningfully involved.

The VP-BaME will listen to BaME communities’ views and work to ensure that they are reflected in Liberal Democrat policy making.

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2018 – a year of missed opportunity for the country and the Liberal Democrats

This year was the year when hugely dramatic things should have happened. Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition should have gone. A referendum on the reality of Brexit, with an option to remain, should have been scheduled for early in the New Year and we should be celebrating a new feeling of hope and optimism as our politics changes for the better and starts delivering for the people who are really struggling and who have been let down by successive governments for decades.

Instead this was the year that media and the internet got very excited about Impending Drama, but that drama rarely delivered. Theresa May was supposed to be deposed in every season but she survived the post Chequers and post deal resignations. The greatest irony of the year has to be Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigning in protest at a deal he helped to negotiate.

The Liberal Democrats have had some electoral success with decent local election results and a net gain of 18 seats, more than any other party in by-elections. We’ve seen modest increases in our national polling and our leader is often the least unpopular. We would have hoped that as everyone came round to our way of thinking on Brexit, we might have reaped more of a dividend, but there hasn’t really been a national election to test that yet.

We should be doing better, though. We have diverted too much time and energy into developing a supporters’ scheme that we haven’t been able to capitalise on the thing that will get us the supporters and members in the first place – a strong message. We’ve done some good stuff on that with the new Demand Better strapline but we need to take it further. Our campaigns staff have excelled themselves with the Exit from Brexit campaign, too, but our overall story needs a lot more heart and soul in it. Paddy is so much in my thoughts at the moment, and I’m reminded of his very direct “Join us if you want to put an end to poverty and inequality” pitch. That is what we need.

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No Vince, I don’t want a “Gina Miller-type figure” parachuted in to be our leader (and it’s not worth a special conference)

Norbreck Castle hotel (northern section), Blackpool - DSC06518
The Norbreck Castle Hotel, Blackpool. It was here in 1988 that a special Liberal party conference was held to decide to merge the party with the SDP*

One of the frustrating things about the debate over Vince’s two constitutional proposals** is that I am yet to hear Vince come out and actually outline why they are needed. This is maddening. It is especially maddening because I greatly respect Vince and normally he is very good at articulating ideas and proposals.

Instead, we have vague “smoke and mirrors” mutterings about somebody out there circling the political scene with a vast shedload of money which they want to chuck at a “centre movement”. We have got to pull up our socks and be part of this “movement”. And we only have two months to do it, because otherwise we’ll miss the boat and the shedload of cash will go to someone else. We’ve got to be like Justin Trudeau and the Canadian Liberals. We need to allow someone like Gina Miller to come in and lead the party so that people see us as a new centrist movement.

Well, this is all vague nonsense. Vince, or someone, should come out and be specific about all this. Who is this person (or people) with the money? What do they want? Name the people who could be our leader outside of the House of Commons – not just now – name anyone in the last fifty years outside the Commons who could have had a shot at being our leader.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 37 Comments

Corbyn is right about inequality

Corbyn is clearly right to highlight the ‘grotesque inequality’ in our society. Wage growth has stagnated. Continued cuts are hitting the poorest hardest. And this generation is on set to be the first on living memory to be poorer than their parents.

Even if you try and ignore the unfairness, the evidence shows it harms productivity and creates the sort of ‘asset bubbles’ that caused the 2008 financial crisis.

But I have one question. Where are Labour’s answers?

At first glance the most radical is renationalisation. But this is nothing more than a recycled plan from the 1970s. It just tinkers at the edges of inequality, and carries significant risks for our future economic and energy security.

Next comes Labour’s big ticket spending item. Abolishing tuition fees. Our higher education system is far from perfect, but how many better ways could we spend £7.5 billion a year? What amounts to a tax cut for the middle classes does absolutely nothing to tackle inequality.

Most significantly, we have some Labour economic doublespeak –  ‘borrowing to invest’ in public services. While the NHS, for example, clearly does needs to be better funded, ‘invest’ falsely suggests that we get an economic return on borrowing for public services. That it will all be fine.

And this, maybe even more than Brexit, is the big danger of a Labour government. The government is already, as the Prime Minister admitted last week, spending more on paying interest alone than the entire schools’ budget. Labour’s borrowing plan would mean future generations would have to pay higher taxes and spend even less on public services.

We demand better. The Liberal Democrats have a genuine, radical plan to combat inequality.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 56 Comments
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