Tag Archives: liberal democrats

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“I’m scared. Please tell me that I’m wrong…”

Brexit will be a disaster. But it’s what comes after that really worries me.

Leaving the EU will be a catastrophe. Many firms will relocate their manufacturing to the EU. The alternative would be to lose easy access to just-in-time supply chains, and to have to store vast quantities of components in warehouses, at ruinous expense. It will mean a loss of control. We will lose our say in setting the regulations of the largest free trade zone in the world. In order to keep trading, we’ll then have to adopt these regulations with no say in how they develop. …

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What do you think of “Demand Better”?

So we have our new strapline. Demand Better.

I like it.

It’s active and aspirational. It tells us that we are not stuck with this crap. We can have a fairer, happier, more equal country and we all have a part to play in making it happen.

Optimistic, from-the-heart vision and ambition is long overdue in politics. Clinton and Obama won with strong messages of positivity and hope. We will overcome the negative, divisive, anti-democratic rhetoric from the extremes and solve problems in an inclusive way.

It’s versatile – Demand better for health, for Scotland, for Petersfield, where our excellent Sarah Brown hopes to unseat Labour in a by-election on 13th September.

And we can also think of it as an inspiration and a challenge for us to always push ourselves to deliver the best we possibly can for people. We will never have solved all the problems of the world. We will forever have to come up with creative, liberal solutions to the problems we know about and can predict or new ones that come along. And we can, of course, demand better of our party processes and, for example, any controversial policy papers on migration that might happen to come along.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 85 Comments

Could you be a local party officer?

The whirlwind of politics isn’t going to stop for very long this year, but you might want to take some time over the Summer to think about how you could become more involved in the Liberal Democrats.

One way you could do that is to stand for a role in your local party. This Autumn, every local party will hold its AGM and elect its committee for 2019. Now is the time to think about whether you could take on one of these roles.

You could choose to stand for one of the Officer roles – Chair, Secretary, Membership Secretary, Data Officer, Diversity Officer, Treasurer or take on a role on the Executive. If you are not sure about what these roles involve, why not have a look at the Members’ area of the website? 

They have some very handy guides to each of these roles and more in the Training section.

It would be really helpful if people who have done these roles would like to write about them for LDV, too, to encourage people to take them on.  Some people can be put off by the idea of being Treasurer, for example. I certainly was when I was asked to be Scottish Party Treasurer. I kind of had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing it, but I stuck around for six years and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would – and that was with the challenges of two General Elections, a Holyrood election, two referenda and two Council elections. It wasn’t just about numbers, it’s about leading the discussion on how we use our all too scarce resources and making sure we get some more.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 2 Comments

35 years on and the fight is more important than ever

Today marks 35 years since I joined the SDP on my 16th birthday. What motivated me then was a desire to turn this world into a kinder, fairer place where all people had power over their lives. My parents thought it was a rebellious phase that wouldn’t last.

Being involved in this party has brought me an extended family, my best friends, some amazing highs – Willie Rennie winning in Dunfermline, Christine Jardine and Alex Cole-Hamilton in Edinburgh for a start. There’s been the sheer joy of working with others on a common cause. You never know how wonderful the highs are if you don’t have lows and there have been many of them – the frustration, the disappointment of defeat and sometimes self-inflicted wounds.

The SDP and the Liberal Democrats have so often been on the right side of the argument, from Iraq, to Vince predicting the economic crash to Hong Kong to the Gurkhas to housing to civil liberties and protecting us from 90 day detention.

In some ways the world back then was very different. We are all so much more inter-connected now. In 1983 there was no internet, no 24 hour news cycle (breakfast tv had started only a few months before), no mobile phones. The other side of the world seemed so inaccessible.

There was injustice across the world with apartheid South Africa being the focus of our fight for human rights. The subsequent release of Nelson Mandela and the leadership he showed in creating an inclusive democracy shows what can be achieved from a seemingly impossible situation.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 24 Comments

Can we please just concentrate on fighting Brexit, not internal party processes

There are not enough swear words in the world to describe my reaction when I read this Mirror story today about Vince’s alleged plan to open up the party leadership to non MPs.

He wants to scrap or amend an obscure part of the party’s constitution which states only an MP can take the helm.

The move, which is likely to be put to the party after summer recess and could be debated at the annual conference in Brighton in September, would mean a non-politician could become leader, scuppering ambitions of Sir Vince’s rivals on the Commons’ benches.

It may or may …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 70 Comments

Breaking the stranglehold of the monoliths

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One of the most distinctive statements we have made in recent years has been that we are not afraid of coalition government; indeed we entered into one in 2010. Now the media see serious divisions in the two apparent monoliths who swap power between them, and ask whether the time is ripe for a new ‘party of the centre’. Vince speaks often of a realignment of politics and implies that the Party could benefit significantly from such a seismic shift. Which begs the questions, in what way and with what objective?

It has become clear that neither Labour nor the Tories are actually monolithic; each contains factions hardly on speaking terms with each other. Applying a simple left/right measure there seems to be a hope that both moderate Tories and moderate Labour voters can be persuaded to fall in behind a moderate, centrist banner, carry the day and emerge as the new monolith displacing one or both of the two current ones. But why on earth would we want a new monolith?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 28 Comments

On Vince, the Lib Dems and this supposed new party

The Sunday Times reports (£) that the reason missed that vote the other night was because he was at a meeting discussing the formation of a new centre party.

A few brief thoughts from me:

First of all, I think that if it is finally going to get off the ground, @libdems need to know about and work with it where it shares our values. It would be daft to stand against each other in an anti-Brexit election.

It may be that we can only work together on the anti-Brexit stuff because @libdems couldn’t work closely with a party that didn’t have a clear strategy to tackle poverty and inequality, tackle climate change, reform our political system & champion human rights & civil liberties.

So it’s very sensible for Vince to be in the discussions. He may be telling them that the best thing they can do is join the Liberal Democrats because we already have the campaign infrastructure and the Commons presence and experience.

If Vince wants @libdems to co-operate closely with any new party – and we’ve heard about lots of these which have never got off the ground – he will have to persuade our Conference to vote for it and there will be some spirited resistance.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 96 Comments
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