Tag Archives: liberal democrats

Lunchtime Debate: Lib Dems and Trade Unions

Last night my watching of the first Eurovision semi-final was rather interrupted with a Twitter storm created by Liberal Reform, or at least someone with access to its Twitter account. Liberal Reform is a group within the party which exists, according to its website, to

promote personal liberty and a fair society supported by free, open and competitive markets as the foundation of the party’s policy.

So what had they said that wound people up so much?

We need to have a rethink about how we regulate trade unions in the UK.

Far too often, rail union barons are able to cause economic damage

as they retweeted a post talking about the rail strikes this week.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, unions did seem pretty scary to me. My experience was watching mass meetings at car plants where they all voted to go on strike. Even then, I questioned how comfortable you would feel about disagreeing. But I was also mad keen on history, and learning about how important unions were in giving people better chances of making it out of their workplaces alive and in challenging abuse by employers put them in a much better light. There’s not a lot that the Thatcher government did that I like, but their legislation insisting on strike ballots was a good thing. Some of the other Conservative reforms since, including the bill passed last year, have gone way too far and I am glad that we didn’t vote for them.

Every day union reps fight for workers who are being treated unfairly. An effective union rep is one of the workplace’s most valuable assets.

Way back in the mists of time, I was also heavily attracted to the SDP’s policy on industrial democracy, giving people more say in their workplace and I also liked co-ownership models.

I think it is so important that we do all we can to improve workers’ rights, to make workplaces safer, more inclusive and work more enjoyable and fairly rewarded. Unions have a huge role to play in that. We should always be suspicious of and curious of any power imbalances, but it is clear that they often lie with employers.

In terms of the current ongoing strikes in healthcare and rail, I think that we should broadly be supporting the workers, whose requests are pretty reasonable. When you think how people’s earnings have shrunk because of inflation over the past few years, it is not surprising how many are struggling. Added to that, labour market shortages caused, among other things, by Brexit and people being too sick to work thanks to the state of the NHS, have made workplaces so much more stressful.

Our current policy on unions was passed in our Towards a Fairer Society paper in York last Spring. This snippet gives a much more collaborative flavour:

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Lib Dems gain a seat in Salford Quays – and most Council seats in past 5 years

The final results of the 2024 local elections are in and we had a fantastic result on ALDC’s doorstep in Salford. Cllr Jonathan Moore took a seat in Salford Quays. The result was:

Jonathan Moore: 39.2% (+13.1)

Lab: 37.4% (-9.8)

Green: 15.4% (-3.1)

Conservative: 8.0% (-0.3)

We finally have a brilliant piece of media coverage that I suspect we will be sharing far and wide between  now and the General Election. Someone at HQ has crunched a lot of numbers and discovered that we have gained more Councillors than anyone else over the past five years. From the Guardian:

The Lib Dems have added more council seats than any other party over the last parliament, gaining more than 750 in the last five years, largely in the south-west and south of England.

As Ed Davey’s party won more seats than the Conservatives in the local elections last week, the Lib Dems said Tories would be “looking over their shoulder terrified” as the general election approached.

Data analysis by the party shows that the Lib Dems have gained 768 seats, Labour 545 and the Greens 480, while the Conservatives have lost 1,783.

That is pretty impressive given that Labour and the Conservatives are much better resourced than we are.

Whitehall Editor Rowena Mason writes:

The party’s strong gains in local elections suggests its strategy of focusing on building up votes in key strongholds could help deliver seats at the election

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Lib Dems need to practise what we preach on Federalism

Did you get excited when you got the Party’s email about our manifesto? How we are going to save the environment, based on our core values and vision? I did.

Then I made the mistake of actually reading it and I discover that our environment stops at the Scottish Border. 

I’m not naïve. This is a “sound bite” email. I don’t expect us to do into the nuances between the water company Scottish situation and that in England and Wales; that most of our sewage discharges don’t require to be recorded, as Neil Alexander has been highlighting in Moray; that  Scottish Water is publicly owned. After all, we still pay ludicrous bonuses to the top men (yes; they are men) and no-one seems to try to hold the Scottish Government to account for the failings of “the top water company in the UK”

But then we get to the specifics…

We will

double the size of the Protected Area Network 

The Protected Area Network is the creature of Natural England. There is no equivalent here.

 Strengthen the Office for Environmental Protection and increase funding for the Environment Agency and Natural England. 

Not a dickie about Environment Standards Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency/Scottish Water or NatureScot.

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Why it’s time for the Liberal Democrats to take back the mantle of freedom

The topic of freedom in politics is highly contested. For the Conservatives, in recent years,  this has centred around economic freedom. Is this still really relevant today?

Back in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher’s programme of economic liberalisation saw an explosion in economic freedom – more people were able to purchase their own council houses and stock market novices became rich overnight following the countless moves to privatise various public utilities.

Despite regular musings by Conservative MPs that they remain the party of low taxes, personal freedom and individual responsibility,  the facts tell a different story. A recent poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that only 14% of voters believed the Tories had a reputation for lowering taxes.

Personal freedom has also become a significant grey area for the Tories. The majority of the parliamentary party backed vaccine passports in 2021 – something that the Liberal Democrats firmly opposed, with Ed Davey labelling the scheme at the time ‘a grotesque misuse of government diktat’.

While the Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly  required great vigilance and government intervention, any party that holds a belief in liberal values and is a carrier of the torch of freedom should understand the importance of not enforcing schemes on the populace that could be a precursor for revolt. Whilst vaccine passports were introduced, they remained deeply unpopular for their time in existence.

Any discussion about personal freedom would not be complete without the attack on the Human Rights Act by the government. Prior to its introduction in 1998, if an individual wanted to challenge a government act as unlawful, they would be required to invoke our ‘common law’ tradition of the rule of law. Essential rights were established on a case-by-case basis, regardless of the right being discussed.

With the passing of the HRA, the UK constitutionalised the common law – and gave more power to the individual to secure protections guaranteed by the state. No longer were people subject to the whims of the particular case. Human rights were now universal and guaranteed legal certainty.

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Martin Bell to be Lib Dem candidate in North Shropshire? Don’t hold your breath

The Sunday Times (£) reports today that veteran journalist and anti-sleaze campaigner Martin Bell has been approached by the Lib Dems to be our candidate in the North Shropshire by-election.

The article by Caroline Wheeler and Gabriel Pogrund says:

One thing that may fill older MPs with dread is the symbolic spectre of Martin Bell, who ran against Neil Hamilton on an anti-sleaze ticket in 1997. On Friday, the 83-year-old was called by the Liberal Democrats, who offered him the chance to be their candidate.

This report prompted me to look out my copy of Purple Homicide, the account of his first foray into politics, in Tatton, in 1997, written by then Observer political correspondent John Sweeney. Disgraced Conservative MP Neil Hamilton was allowed to continue as the Conservative candidate after being implicated in the cash for questions affair. The title comes from his description of trousers worn by Neil Hamilton’s wife Christine to an encounter on Knutsford Heath as “a homicidal purple.” The Lib Dems and Labour stood aside to give him a better chance of unseating Hamilton.  The book is well worth reading if you can get hold of a copy.

Martin Bell’s victory over Neil Hamilton was one of many bright spots in the 1997 election. Often dressed in a white suit, he used his time in Parliament to argue for higher standards in public life. Bell stood against Eric Pickles in 2001 over concern about the influence of a local pentecostal church on the Brentwood and Ongar Conservative party but lost heavily. He had promised the voters of Tatton that he would serve for one term only and honoured that promise despite calls for him to stay. His departure paved the way for the election of George Osborne.

I don’t know if the Sunday Times report that we have approached Bell to be our candidate is true. But let’s look at what might happen if it was. I certainly wouldn’t mind him representing us, but I would not hold my breath. I like Martin Bell. His distinctive voice is one of the first I can remember as he reported on the Watergate scandal in the early 70s when I was a small child. I can’t see him entering a contest when Labour are not standing down. I also can’t see him agreeing to enter a contest that could end in him taking a party whip. I suspect he is probably unwhippable, even though our views are probably in alignment on many issues. That, by the way, is not in my view a flaw on his part.

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Isabelle Parasram: Time… well spent

Liberal Democrat Vice President Isabelle Parasram announces her move to Social Value UK.

Almost everyone I know has experienced a defining moment during lockdown.

We now recognise the value of so much we’ve taken for granted – green spaces, our freedoms, key workers, our loved ones… even the air that we breathe.

I’ve always dreamed of being at the helm of an organisation that creates grassroots change. I’d put that dream on hold for years, believing what I’d been told – that it would take years of applications and competition would be too fierce. I was also content to postpone my dream, because my roles within law, education and politics were extremely fulfilling. I felt I was already making a difference where it mattered.

However, during this pandemic period, I lost a member of my household. This was not due to COVID, but to a tragic set of circumstances. Something shifted. This was a defining moment. I rediscovered the value of my time that I can’t get it back or create more of it.

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Wanted – a bit more dissent!

The last piece I contributed to Lib Dem Voice appeared a couple of years ago in August 2018 and was entitled Why Aren’t We Doing (Much) Better? That posting (which does seem, at least in part, to have been vindicated by subsequent events) was prompted by a critical analysis of party performance in The New Statesman: this one, which could reasonably be accused of being “Why aren’t we doing (much) better 2”, is prompted by a critical analysis of party performance in The Spectator. Not, interestingly, from The Spec’s ever-growing army of cultural warriors of the libertarian right, but from that pillar of Europhile liberal Toryism, Matthew Parris.

Mr Parris is saying that we Liberal Democrats haven’t said one new or critical or penetrating thing since the last Election. Who can reasonably disagree with him? The scars of 2019 (and 2015, and 2017) go deep within our party, and there has inevitably been an extended period of introspection. Both ourselves and the Labour Party are now in the very uncomfortable position of recognising that in the autumn of 2019 the majority of active party members wanted to take positions on Europe that proved politically disastrous. Those wise older LibDem hands who warned against the Revoke position lost the relevant conference vote by a landslide, with consequences that grew more apparent everyday: as a party we were unquestionably tough on Brexit, but on the (politically more resonant) causes of Brexit we were, and arguably remain, absolutely nowhere.

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Liberal Democrat electoral and policy pact with Labour, or not?

The party has been buzzing with pro and anti ‘pact’ debate, and some parliamentarians have been espousing contrasting views.

On 11th December the Guardian featured an article ‘Starmer Urged to Start Co-operating with the Lib Dems’ on the necessity of a pact for Labour. A Liberal Democrat branch of the ‘Compass Group’ has been formed.

Here I have a stab at synthesising the two Liberal Democrat arguments. The party as a whole needs to decide. Which view do you support?

View 1

The lurch to the right of the Conservative Party has changed the landscape for the Lib Dems. Since the Tories adopted the tool of encouraging anti-immigrant sentiment to undermine Labour in its heartlands, and since the rise of the SNP, it has become very difficult for Labour to achieve a parliamentary majority on its own. This is true however popular Keir Starmer becomes.

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A century since the birth of Roy Jenkins

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The 11th of November is the 100th anniversary of the birth of a political giant who helped form the modern Liberal Democrat party.

Roy Jenkins made a huge political impact, firstly within the Labour party as a reforming Home Secretary in the 1960s bringing in reforming legislation on decriminalising homosexuality, modernising divorce laws, and liberalising censorship laws. Then as one of the four founding members of the SDP that was to merge with the Liberals to form the Liberal Democrats.

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Keeping Young People in the Liberal Democrats 

We all know losing can be disappointing. As someone who was heavily involved in the Vote Layla campaign, it might not come as a shock that I was disappointed in the result of the leadership election. It goes without saying that I will rally behind our new leader, but I will make no bones about it: addressing the biggest issue facing our party for the last 10 years will be considerably harder.

The issue we face is a mass exodus of members that are disillusioned and disenfranchised, particularly younger members. When campaigning in the leadership election, I encountered countless people who had already cancelled their membership or were about to, because they saw our party as irrelevant and uninspiring. On top of that and more specifically, over the first 24 hours of the announcement of the new leader, I witnessed a number of previously active young people in the Liberal Democrats cancel their memberships and look for other political homes. 

This trend doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. A poll recently showed that the Greens are ahead of us in terms of young people voting intention. As the party that used to be the home of students, of the alternative voice, of the anti-establishment and of the progressive, it is imperative that we return in some way to this narrative, or risk fizzling out of existence.

Luckily for us, being low in the polls gives us a chance to do exactly this. Yes, we do need to be relevant to ordinary voters by returning to speak about policies people want to hear, not just policies Liberal Democrats like to hear. But I argue that, in the long term, it is more vital we stay relevant and inspiring to young people if we ever want to be competitive to other parties.

One particular example of us doing the opposite to the above was the issue of the environment. In the 2019 GE, it was such a hot topic and such a unique moment for us to reinspire young people nationally, especially when we had caught their attention on the Brexit issue. Instead, however, we ended up looking out of touch because we had a carbon neutral target that appeared less ambitious than our rivals.

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How the Party is managed – can you be democratic and efficient?

As something of a governance geek, and a veteran Party bureaucrat, I tend to take an interest in how my Party is run and led. Policy is interesting yes, but you can tell a lot about any organisation by whether how it operates is in accordance with its declared values.

The “problem” with that is, if your values refer to democracy, transparency and accountability, you might not achieve optimal efficiency, if efficiency is defined as “getting things done”. It is a more pressing concern if you want to change things, and most, if not all, Party Presidents are elected on a mandate of changing things. The catch is that there are very few levers that a President can pull that actually do anything – they rely on people skills to persuade those who actually have operating authority to act as they wish them to.

Posted in Op-eds, Party policy and internal matters and Party Presidency | Also tagged and | 19 Comments

New party director of strategy appointed

The Liberal Democrats have appointed Mimi Turner as the Party’s new Director of Strategy, Messaging and Research.

Mimi started her career as a journalist, and has since worked across PR, brand and strategy roles for digital and media organisations.

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Last year I left the Liberal Democrats. Here’s how a new leader could win me back

It’s never easy leaving home. Prior to last year I had been a Lib Dem my entire adult life, but I made the decision to leave the party following changes I had seen build up over a long time. We used to advocate radical ideas, but we had become too comfortable with campaigning to uphold the status quo.

However, my vote is still winnable for the Lib Dems. And frankly, left-leaning young people like myself are going to need to vote for the party again if it is ever going to build an electorally viable voting base. The experiment over the past decade of trying to attract liberal, ‘small c’ Conservatives has proven to be an unmitigated disaster, as well as having blunted the party’s radical edge.

So, what kind of policies and ideas could a new leader bring in to broaden the party’s appeal? For my money, there are three key targets which need to be hit in order to make the party an electorally desirable entity across the centre-left. I know these may make for uncomfortable reading for some in the party – but when your comfort zone is three disastrous elections back-to-back, a little discomfort can go a long way.

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A longer read for the weekend: Where now for the Lib Dems?

The Liberal Democrats find themselves lost at sea, rudderless, without sail or paddle, and devoid of compass. Famously, Odysseus spent ten years afloat after the Siege of Troy – “long adrift on shipless oceans”, as Tim Buckley sang in Song To The Siren – but there’s every chance that the Lib Dems will spend much longer than a decade wandering the political oceans if they don’t sort themselves out, and quickly.

Of course, the party does realise it’s in trouble post its catastrophic performance in the December 2019 General Election, and Baroness Thornhill’s after action review has addressed some of the perceived problems. To be fair, her review pulled few punches but arguably is a bit light on solutions or suggestions for radical change. I have no intention of going through her paper point for point and leave it to you to read it should you choose to so do, but I would recommend it.

It’s an old army saying that there are no bad regiments, just bad commanding officers, and this adage probably applies to political parties too. Thornhill notes that Jo Swinson’s short period of leadership was pretty disastrous overall, leaving the party with only 11 MPs at Westminster and she losing her seat and resigning shortly thereafter.  Personally, I don’t blame Jo Swinson – I voted for her in the leadership election – but with hindsight she was probably too young, too inexperienced and perhaps too naïve to be leader of a political party. And she was either completely stubborn or very badly advised by those around her, of which more later. Suffice to say that whoever thought “Jo for Prime Minister” was a good idea needs their head examined.

What is completely unforgivable, though, is that the party has yet to elect a replacement leader and will not do so until August at the earliest. I am well aware of the arguments put forward in favour of this timescale but I’m afraid they just don’t wash. A new leader should have been in place within a fortnight, and that the party hierarchy thought, and still thinks, that an eight month hiatus is acceptable beggars belief, interim leaders notwithstanding. No serious, competent organisation in any of the private, public or voluntary sectors would deem this acceptable.

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Party changes we need now – or it could be “game over”

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Being a Liberal Democrat member since 2014, I have unfortunately seen the complete collapse of the Liberal Democrats in respect of having any real continuous identity.

Our “identity” today is a remembrance of the broken Brexit movement, and, like most voters, it is questionable to say what the Liberal Democrats really stand for apart from bitterness.

Yes, we did do very well in terms of our opposition to Brexit and I, like many others, fought hard for us to Remain. But Brexit itself, as an argument, is finished. And it’s time for the Liberal Democrats to go through a series of real reforms to produce something which our next leader must push.

Our new leader of the party has to be somebody who is strong and who is willing to put through needed, long-lasting reforms. These reforms, whilst many, can be summarised by coming from three different areas – policy, branding and local parties.

Posted in Op-eds | 66 Comments

Looking over our shoulder?

The statue of Lloyd George in Parliament Square

As a relatively new member I’d like to share an observation. I’ve come to suspect that there’s a propensity for retrospection within our party, a tendency to look back to days gone-by, to times of greater influence and power, to reminisce of beloved leaders of a bygone era.

A sense of shared history can help any group of people to bond, to define the group identity. It can provide a sense of comfort and continuity. It can even provide hope. Yet there’s a subtle difference between that and a common outlook, a shared purpose. One looks back, while the other looks forward.

Posted in Op-eds | 32 Comments

Lib Dems bid to pave the way for safe street cafe culture in Scotland

Scottish Liberal Democrats have proposed an amendment to the latest coronavirus emergency legislation to help pave the way for more cafes, restaurants and bars to use closed roads to enable social distancing between customers, once they are permitted to re-open. Alex Cole-Hamilton will lead on this when the vote takes place on Tuesday.

The amendment confirms that it shall not be an offence to place tables and chairs in the road outside a premises, provided it is done with the local authority’s consent and doesn’t cause an obstruction to disabled people.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will also ask the Scottish Government to publish advice to alert businesses to these possibilities and help local authorities prepare their own plans for the reopening of these businesses when the time comes.
This comes as Lithuanian capital Vilnius is to be turned into an ‘open-air cafe’, with businesses allowed to use nearby plazas, squares and streets free of charge.

Australia this week allowed restaurants and cafes to open but have initially limited the number of people dining inside to 10, causing some to reportedly say it isn’t worth their while to re-open at this stage.

Alex said:

Once it is safe and they are permitted to reopen, it seems inevitable that cafes, restaurants and bars will need to operate at a much reduced capacity to enable social distancing.

Embracing a new street cafe culture with more covers outside could for many make the difference between their business being viable or not.

Temporarily allowing these businesses to use nearby streets and other open-air spaces would help them lift the shutters when the time is right, protecting jobs and keeping people safe.

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These are the conditions of liberty and social justice …

Earlier today Adrian Sanders mentioned the Preamble to the Constitution of the Liberal Democrats. That’s quite a mouthful – and sounds deadly boring – but all party members can read on their membership cards a short extract from this document:

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.

In fact, this is the first sentence of one of the most beautiful pieces of political writing in English. When people ask me what Lib Dems believe I always point them towards it.

Recent posts appearing on Lib Dem Voice have demonstrated some of the turmoil within the party following the General Election and Brexit. We could all benefit from taking ourselves back to our fundamental values before seeking a way forward.

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An update on Lighthouse – our new Local Party Management tool

Happy New Year!

Over Christmas and New Year, a team of HQ staff and almost 60 volunteer testers from across the party as well as the team at Prater Raines have been hard at work testing Lighthouse, the party’s new Local Party Management tool.

The feedback from those users has been really encouraging. They’ve found the system really intuitive and easy to use.

It’ll also work for all parts of the party – from branches up to state parties and will solve a number of other long standing issues as well (thought not all on day 1!)

Of course, launch day is fast approaching – and you’ll all soon be able to get your hands on it.

This is how we’re planning to roll out Lighthouse:

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | Also tagged | 6 Comments

What have the Lib Dems ever done for Britain?

What besides leading the campaign against Brexit have the Lib Dems ever done for Britain?

John Stuart Mill, a Liberal MP, was the second of his House to call for women’s suffrage, in 1832. He also warned against tyranny of the majority against minority groups, and advocated both for necessary individual rights to be protected as well as constitutional checks to enforce those protections.

John Maynard Keynes, a Liberal peer, saved capitalist economics by contradicting conventional thinking that free markets would automatically provide full employment. Implementation in the United States of his advocacy of …

Posted in Op-eds | 24 Comments

Christine Jardine: Brexit is sucking the life out of our politics

Christine Jardine was on Sophy Ridge this morning talking (among other things) about how Brexit was sucking the life out of everyone meaning that we couldn’t concentrate on the huge issues of the day like Brexit and the NHS.

The amusing thing is that this clip is both being promoted by the party on its social media channels and trashed on Guido Fawkes.

Guido reckons that Christine is saying that Brexit is more important than the union. Which is a cheek given that Brexit as proposed by the Conservatives is more of a threat to the union than anything I have seen in my lifetime.

If we stop Brexit, we strengthen the union.

Sophy Ridge asked Christine about the leaders’ debates.

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Lib Dem campaign launch: £50 bn Remain Bonus

We launch our general election campaign today.  We haven’t yet had time to get fed up of our new slogan –  Stop Brexit, Build a Brighter Future  because it was only unveiled last weeK. We start to talk about what that brighter future might look like – in the form of more money to spend on public services that is directly linked to deciding to remain in the EU.

Stopping Brexit, we argue, will generate a Remain Bonus for the public finances because under Remain, the economy will grow faster than under Brexit, leading to higher GDP and consequently higher public sector current receipts. This adds up to £50 billion over 5 years.

That is there or thereabouts where   the Institute for Fiscal Studies was  in its Green Budget 2019.

Jo said:

The Liberal Democrats are the only party standing up to stop Brexit and build a brighter future for the UK.

Brexit has taken far longer and cost far more than anyone said it would. But any form of Brexit will damage our jobs, our economy and our public services, starving them of vital cash as the economy struggles along.

The Liberal Democrats will stop Brexit and then use the £50bn Remain Bonus to invest in our public services.

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Lib Dems seize election initiative – calling for pre-Brexit poll on 9th December

The Observer’s Michael Savage reports tonight that the Liberal Democrats have a plan to allow Boris Johnson a pre-Christmas election. But it would mean that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill would be taken forward by the next Parliament. Or maybe not. If the Lib Dems win a majority in a December 9th poll, PM Jo Swinson would revoke Article 50.

If the Conservatives lost the election, there would almost certainly be a majority for a People’s Vote so either  way the path to stopping Brexit once and for all would be clear.

This plan is great because it means that Boris Johnson can’t accuse us of being scared of an election. Why would we be when we have the chance to make the biggest gains in our existence?

It also shows up the so-called official opposition who have been less than pro-active in trying to find a way out of this mess.

See Michael Savage’s Twitter thread here.

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The Lib Dems have a new Chief Executive

Mike Dixon, currently Chief Executive of Addaction, a mental health, drug, alcohol and young persons charity, has been appointed Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats. He will start his new role next Monday, 21st October.

He was previously Assistant Chief Executive at Citizens’ Advice.

Mike said:

I’m delighted to take on this role. We’ve just had our best ever European election results and new members are joining all the time, taking us to record levels of membership. Millions of people want the country to stop Brexit and focus on things like the climate emergency, investing in schools and people’s mental health.

I’m looking forward to getting started next week. We’ve got a great team, inspirational political leadership and a thriving, inclusive party. If you want change, join us today.

Sal Brinton added:

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Labour’s own polling suggests losses in London and wipeout in Scotland

I think the Lib Dems need to declare the cost of staging Labour Conference as an election expense

So said a Labour friend of mine on Twitter in deep frustration at his party’s failure to unequivocally back Remain in chaotic scenes yesterday.

I genuinely feel for my friends in Labour who are horrified at what their party is doing. Some, like Alastair Campbell, voted Lib Dem in the European elections. I hope that they will feel able to do so at the forthcoming General Election, even  if they don’t want to say so out loud.

When a party gets it as badly wrong on the major issue of the day, the chances are that it will be punished at the ballot box and two reports suggest that this is exactly the fate awaiting Labour candidates.

And what is more bizarre is that it’s Labour’s own internal polling that is predicting the disaster.

The Scotsman reports that we and the SNP will be the beneficiaries of a Labour wipeout in Scotland:

Across the UK, only 58.7 per cent of 2017 Labour voters would stick with the party under those circumstances. The Lib Dems would take 19 per cent of the 2017 Labour vote, with 7.4 per cent going to the Greens, 3.5 per cent to the SNP, and 0.7 per cent to Plaid Cymru.

The figures are even worse in Scotland, where just 49.2 per cent of 2017 Labour voters would stick with the party. The SNP would take a fifth of Labour’s vote at the last election, with 15% going to the Lib Dems, 6% to the Brexit Party, and 3% to the Conservatives.

And the Evening Standard suggests that we will benefit from Labour’s losses in London:

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In full: Chuka Umunna’s speech to Conference

The Liberal Democrats have taken Chuka Umunna pretty much to our hearts since he joined in June. He seems really happy and comfortable in his new surroundings

Today he gave a keynote speech to Conference.

Watch here:

Here is the text in full.

Conference, it is an honour and a pleasure to be addressing you as a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament and as your Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Now, I’ve been to a few parties and I hope I don’t sound immodest when I say my experience of joining this party underlines that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made since going into politics.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for making me feel so welcome. I could not be more at home in the wonderful Liberal Democrat family.

And the decision to join was not made out of crude self interest…If self interest or climbing the greasy poll is your goal, I would not recommend following my example.

The truth is, all the incredibly difficult decisions I have made on the journey I’ve been on this year were routed in my values and principles. I joined this party out of conviction.

As you know, I am a Remainer and proud of it – we have spent far too long apologising for being pro-European in this country. Because you cannot be pro-Britain and put our national interest first without seeking to put Britain at the heart of Europe.

But, even more importantly, I am a social democrat with liberal values. You see, to be a Remainer is not only to be an advocate of our continued membership of the European Union; it is to hold a set of liberal, internationalist values of which we Liberal Democrats are the champions and defenders in Britain.

In an attempt to smear those of us who have an internationalist outlook, Theresa May said “if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere”. What utter garbage. We are citizens of the world and – just you watch – at the next election you will see Liberal Democrats taking seats from the Tories in every part of the country as so many people are flocking to us, the strongest and biggest Remain party.

Be in no doubt: this is the battle of our time and it goes far beyond Britain’s borders.

What it is to be a liberal

Our party exists to build and defend a fair, free and open society, a 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……That was taken straight from our constitution – as you can see, I’ve done my homework.

In essence, the society we seek to build is one where if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be free to lead a happy, prosperous and secure life free of domination of either the state or the market. And we want to ensure future generations can do the same by preserving our planet for the long term continuity of life in all its forms.

I grew up in world in which we took these values for granted.

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Ruth Davidson and the Dinosaurs

Whereas the thought of being on the road fighting two elections in twenty months would once have fired me up; the threat of spending hundreds of hours away from my home and family now fills me with dread.

So said former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson in her resignation letter last week.

Most campaigners, candidates or MPs will know exactly what she meant when she said those words. Politics can be fun, addictive and all-consuming (especially in these extraordinary times) but we nearly all reach a point when home and hearth tug in a way that canvassing a whole street in the rain certainly does not!

Even 14 years later I am haunted by the words of my toddler daughter when I was a busy parliamentary candidate. Playing with her plastic animals she told her babysitter: “This is Baby dinosaur. This is Daddy dinosaur. But Mummy dinosaur is at a meeting”.

Jo Swinson and Ruth Davidson have been inspiring role models for working mothers. They have both been honest that it isn’t easy. Obviously the pressure on them as party leaders is vastly greater than on us bog standard PPCs. But Davidson and Swinson did at least have two things that pregnant parliamentary candidates do not: 

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Nick Harvey to stand down as Lib Dem Chief Executive

Nick Harvey, who has been the party’s Chief Executive for two years, is stepping down later this year.

He told Mark Pack:

After the heat and dust of an election has settled, we will be at a natural change point. It will be the right moment for me to pursue new paths, and with a new Leader, a new President from January and a new Parliament, time for a new Chief Executive to complete the team to take the party forward for the next five or ten years.

I have given notice so the party can plan ahead, but am here and very much up for excitement, challenge and opportunity of the election.

Nick was our MP for North Devon until 2015 and our own Kirsten Johnson hopes to win that back at the election whenever it comes.

The job ad is up – and has a very short turnaround time. Applications are wanted by a week today with interviews happening the week of Conference.

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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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