Tag Archives: liberal democrats

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 …

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Breaking the stranglehold of the monoliths

Embed from Getty Images

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?

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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.

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Verdict on Vince’s first year

Yesterday was Vince Cable’s first anniversary as leader – the paper anniversary, so that should encourage us all to go deliver lots of leaflets for our Exit from Brexit campaign over the next wee while.

We undoubtedly have the grown-up in the room as far as British politics is concerned. While the Tories’ toxic civil war leads them to force a catastrophic economic meltdown on the country and Labour stands by and lets them do it, Vince has been tirelessly making the case for us to get out of this mess.

Two years on from the Brexit referendum, if it was all going well, if the Government really was enacting this “will of the people”, we wouldn’t have polls showing significant support for a People’s Vote on the final deal.  We even have polling showing that Remain would win the sort of three way referendum Justine Greening was talking about by the same margin as the Scottish independence referendum was won.

Our arguments are prevailing and our poll ratings are edging slowly towards double figures, but we haven’t had the massive breakthrough we’d all like to see.

Why is that and what can Vince do about it in his second year?

Creating waves

Vince’s piece for us yesterday showed that he has been talking a lot in the past year about issues that matter to people. Housing, health, inequality, public services as well as Brexit.

What we need over the next while is a thread that ties all these things together in a way that shows what we stand for – a radical, bold, reforming party that champions freedom from poverty, co-operation, internationalism, human rights and giving people power over their own destinies. We must do this with vigour and passion and show that we will never settle for anything less.

We need to show how our broken democracy has got us into the mess we’re in and lead the way out.

Vince has a reputation for being scholarly and academic with speeches more like lectures than political orations, but he can deliver the goods and create some waves:

I’d like to see him elaborate on the things that get him this sort of attention like this from Spring Conference:

Too many were driven by a nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white, and the map was coloured imperial pink.

Their votes on one wet day in June, crushing the hopes and aspiration of the young for years to come.

He was absolutely right to say it and we need to hear it more often. We need to hear more of the “young are being shafted on Brexit” and he needs to show that Jeremy Corbyn is just as responsible for what is happening as Theresa May and her Brexiteers.

He needs to take more risks and say more audacious things.

He got a whole load of attention back in February for asking the PM if the NHS would be protected in any trade deal with Donald Trump. He’s not yet exploited the potential of that line and he could do worse than take Willie Rennie’s terrier approach to these things. He just keeps asking the question at every opportunity.

That Lib Dem Process thing

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Vince on how the Lib Dems are transforming British politics – but can we do better?

In an article in the New Statesman, Vince outlines the three elements necessary to transform British politics from its current divisive, dystopian, dysfunctional state.

The first is following the example of the Canadian Liberals who went from third place to Government in just a few years.

Justin Trudeau was the result of a concerted effort to open up the Liberal Party to a wider support base through open primaries for the national leadership and MPs.

He talks a lot about open primaries these days although we’ve yet to see proposals of how this would work in practice and already many of our …

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Who knew knocking on strangers’ doors could be such fun?

“I don’t mind delivering leaflets, but I wouldn’t want to do canvassing.” My thoughts exactly, a few months ago. I joined the Lib Dems in the aftermath of the EU referendum, determined to do something to demonstrate my frustration at the direction the Tory Government was leading us. Delivering leaflets was a positive activity and in the excitement of the 2017 General Election, I felt I was doing my bit. But over time, it has become clear that the task to influence public opinion and make the Government take notice of the 48% is huge. The leaflets were great, but I couldn’t help wondering how many of them went straight in the recycling bin. What could I do that would make more impact with my time?

I began to wonder again about canvassing. Research shows that people are 20% more likely to vote if they have been visited by a canvasser: even a just a smile and a friendly greeting is enough to make a difference. But I was worried about what it would be like. Would I be on the receiving end of angry householders determined to give me chapter and verse of their views, or would there be endless doors slammed in my face? Eventually, I summoned up some courage and went along to an action day to find out.

I was surprised to find how pleasant the experience was. When I arrived, I was paired up with an experienced canvasser and we went to each house together. We only called at houses where previous canvassing had shown that the owners were open to voting Lib Dem, which meant that we had a friendly reception at nearly every house. There was a list of questions to ask, depending on how much the householder wanted to chat: a surprising number were happy to stand on the doorstep and tell us their concerns about the local area and Brexit. It was fascinating to find out what people thought and how they saw the local scene and the national picture. When we found someone who was willing to join the mailing list, have a stakeboard in their garden or even become a volunteer, it was a cause for celebration! At the end of the morning, we all gathered at a pub for lunch and to share our stories. After that, I was keen to have a list of my own to do.

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We must deliver upon the Alderdice Review

Before I discuss this report I want to put it into perspective:

  • An article in the Guardian, some time ago now, stated that there were 159 seats where the winning margin in 2015 general election was lower than the number of Muslims in the constituency;
  • Of Sikhs and Muslims, over 70% of them vote Labour;
  • Newspapers reported in the elections following the Iraq war over 20% of the voters originally from Pakistan and Bangladesh voted for the Liberal Democrats and in 2010 and 2015 general elections Runnymede points to this same voting group going down to 2%;
  • In the 1960s 13% of the

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Two cheers for Liberalism: Thoughts from Torbay

What will 2018 bring for my party? That’s a question every local party Chair has probably asked themselves already, as we paused to reflect on the turbulence and mayhem (no pun intended) of 2017.  Local elections will be on many party officers’ minds, as it is in my neck of the woods, where work on finalising our pool of candidates for 2019 is already underway.  The prospect of another General Election- seen by the bookies as more likely in 2019 than 2018- will never be far away.  And Brexit will muddle on while the contradictions of the process become ever plainer to see.

In my Christmas stocking was Nick Clegg’s “How to Stop Brexit”- a gift from someone who truly knows me well.  No sooner had I read it then a new hero emerged to back the Lib Dem call for a referendum on the Brexit deal – in the unlikely form of Nigel Farage.

If ever you wanted proof that the wheels are wobbling on the Brexit bandwagon, look no further.

Farage, (somehow overlooked in the New Year’s Honours…) has spotted something that most Brexiteers have yet to grasp: the need to prepare for Parliament rejecting the government’s Brexit plans on the deal.  He sees, quite rightly, that there is every prospect of Parliament taking back control and refusing a deal that would leave Britain bound by rules it could no longer influence, with reduced trade and uncertain co-operation on everything from nuclear safety to counter-terrorism.

And we know his simple solution- no deal and the disaster of rupturing access to our biggest export market overnight.

That’s why 2018 has to be the year we fight Brexit.  As David Davis said “A democracy that cannot change its mind ceases to be a democracy”.  Plenty of folk thought that taking back control of our fishing grounds, ending payments to Brussels and having an extra £350m a week sounded like a good deal.  As these turn out to be delusions, we should be brave enough to say let’s let the nation think again.  

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Why you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the newspapers about the Lib Dems

It’s the annual “Trash the Lib Dems” day in the national press with gloomy analyses in both the Times and the Guardian. When the papers do SWOT analyses of us, they do tend to omit the strengths and opportunities and focus on the weaknesses and threats.  We can quite often do that about ourselves, too, and talk ourselves down. There is no doubt that we face some pretty intense challenges in 2018, but there are signs of a plan coming together to meet them and also that the political environment is changing.

The Guardian tells us that we are facing a “fight for our political future”. People have been writing us off for pretty much the last century and we are still hanging in there. I’ve lost count of the times in my political lifetime that we have been told we are doomed right through from the disastrous election of 1979 to the present day.

Jessica Elgot talked to senior grassroots figures, academics and anonymous party sources about the party’s future. They cite our low poll rating, low staff morale, the departure of senior staff and the enormity of the political task ahead to regain seats as the main challenges facing us.  They didn’t mention some key positives such as Vince being absolutely everywhere. He is doing so many broadcast interviews, and going to places you wouldn’t expect, like Nigel Farage’s show where he did a good job. He is breaking out of the echo chamber and positioning himself where he needs to be when the Brexit thing falls apart.

The Times has an article with similar themes (£) suggesting that Vince has failed to spark the Lib Dems into life.

Sir Vince, 74, has struggled to turn his political experience into increased support for his party, which is polling at about 7 per cent, according to YouGov.

An attempt by Sir Vince to encourage the party’s 11 other MPs and 100 peers to engage with each other to devise fresh policy ideas has yielded lacklustre proposals so far.

The “clusters” initiative, which refers to grouped areas of policy, has been nicknamed the “clusterf***s”. One insider remarked: “Like most things Lib Dem, there’s a lot of talking, but nothing ever comes out of it.”

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On leaving the “best job in politics”

It is with a heavy heart that after nearly a decade working for the party in one form or another, I am finally moving on. I started as a press officer a few months into Nick Clegg’s leadership and since last summer I have had the privilege of serving as the party’s Director of Communications. In that time I have managed to clock up three General Elections, three referendums, three party leaders, four chief executives, 18 spring and autumn conferences, nine TV debate ‘spin rooms’, two crucial by-election victories, one Glee Club (I walked out and vowed never to return), one Daily Mail hatchet job, and snuck references to Milton Keynes (#cityofdreams) into two party leaders’ conference speeches. I even met my wife Thais at a Lib Dem conference.

The most memorable moment for me came a few minutes after the first ITV Leader’s Debate in April 2010. I was in the spin room at the Manchester Hilton when all the journalists in my eye line started rushing to the back of the room. I turned to see that Peter Mandelson had wafted in, with a swarm of cameras, Dictaphones and shorthand notebooks forming around him within seconds. I edged a little closer, in time to hear the opening words of his no doubt carefully crafted response: “Nick Clegg won”. The full sentence was “Nick Clegg won on style but Gordon Brown won on substance”, but when the Dark Lord of Spin acknowledges in any form at all that your guy won, you know you have stepped through the looking glass.

That night changed the course of our party’s fortunes, but it also changed my life. I had joined the press office of a party that hadn’t been in national government for decades, with no expectation that would be changing any time soon. A few short years later I would be working in 10 Downing Street. And five years on from that fateful night in Manchester, I would be sat at two in the morning in the smoky front room of Nick Clegg’s flat in south west Sheffield, as the scale of our 2015 collapse began to become apparent, helping him to write a resignation speech. 

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Membership matters: Are Lib Dems really ahead of the Tories? And if so, is that good enough?

One of Vince Cable’s stated aims as leader was to overtake the Tories in terms of party membership. We knew that that was a reasonably tall order, as the last known figure for Tory membership was around 149,000 three years ago. That aim was going to take a wee while to fulfil, we thought. However we were looking at it in terms of us growing. It sounds like we’re already there because the Tory membership has sunk like a stone over the Summer.

David Hencke reports on an interview with a key Conservative campaigner who puts membership at around 100,000 – below our figures:

John Strafford, chairman of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, in an  eve of conference exclusive interview  on the Tribune magazine website, says the real membership of the party has plummeted to around 100,000- way below the 149,500 figure and 134,000 figure used by the party in 2013.

Mr Strafford said: “The party is facing oblivion. If you take the fact only 10 per cent of the membership is likely to be very active they will not have enough people on the ground to fight an election – they won’t even have enough people to man polling stations on the day.

“They are keeping council seats because often the families of the councillors are campaigning with party members to get them re-elected. They simply don’t have the local resources to do this in a general election.”

The Tories have been notoriously secretive about their party membership. Unlike us, the don’t publish the number in their annual accounts as we did even during the bad times. However, this House of Commons library report published last month gives some interesting facts and figures about trends in political party membership. Over the last 70 years or so, the Tories have had the biggest fall.

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Compassion and compromise – to get things done Labour has to work with the Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party are two parties that historically have had many things in common. The birth of the Liberal Democrats stems from a splinter section of the Labour Party joining with the Liberals. Therefore, whilst the two parties are further apart than they ever have been in their histories they both share a common history of social justice and a willingness to oppose the Conservatives.

Given that we are once again in a Hung Parliament it is more important than ever for Labour and the Liberal Democrats to work together to ensure that Britain gets the best possible deal out of Brexit and that positive legislation is passed to ensure that Britain can continue putting forward radical, innovative and game changing legislation despite having a Conservative government. This may certainly be a difficult task – whilst the Conservative’s majority is practically none existent even with the help of the DUP they still have a majority – but it is not an impossible task. If Labour and the Liberal Democrats alongside the SNP can work together Brexit can still be held accountable.

Similarly, though the most extreme elements of the Conservative’s manifesto won’t be implemented it is not impossible that they will not try to pass legislation which is ultimately detrimental to the people of Britain. Attempts at the restriction of privacy or the failure to check where British weapons are being sold are not something that either Labour or the Liberal Democrats wants to see or can allow to happen. Therefore, neither party can stand idly by in the Houses of Parliament and let the Conservatives turn Britain into a free for all, allowing any unscrupulous private investor to buy up companies, property or landmarks of British culture without proper investigation and examination of their motives. It is vital that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats come together and force these issues to the forefront of debate in the House of Commons. 

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Vince Cable on Lib Dem mission to reduce inequality

For me, the Liberal Democrats have always been about reducing the inequality that poisons our society, that holds people back from opportunities.

We have always talked about it, but perhaps in the last few years the language has been a bit different. I was really chuffed when Vince talked about the need to tackle inequality so explicitly in his leadership manifesto. Today, his first major speech since becoming leader is on this issue and you can watch a clip here.

The full text of the speech is below. It’s thoughtful, serious stuff as you would expect.

Yes, under his leadership we’ll be looking for the exit from Brexit, but our main mission as a party is to do something about this inequality.  That works for me.

Politicians talk at length about fairness and unfairness. Verbal confetti. Bland. Something almost everyone can relate to emotionally. And it can be defined in so many different ways that it can be applied in almost every situation, for about every audience. Inequality narrows the subject down a bit but, again, has a wide range of definitions and meanings.

Putting aside the health warnings and the academic qualifications there is however, in the UK in 2017, something stirring around the idea of inequality: something new and worrying. It starts from the observation, or the belief, that inequalities of income, wealth and opportunity, between classes, regions and generations, are getting worse; that Britain is becoming relatively as well as absolutely unequal when we look at comparable countries, especially in Europe; and that this inequality is not merely offensive to the sensibilities of progressive minded folk but is doing serious damage to the wider society and economy.

Sometimes an event crystallises this feeling. The Grenfell Tower disaster wasn’t just a horrific accident with a large loss of life but illustrates in a graphic way that relatively poor people were not listened to by those in authority and attracted a casual approach to life threatening risk. And close by geographically, but light years away socially and economically, lived London’s super-rich.

What motivates me personally and politically is the way this this new Britain contrasts with the more egalitarian culture and mobile society that I grew up with: parents who progressed in 20 years from being factory workers living in a terraced house with an outside loo to being part of the professional class living in a detached house; from parents who left school at 15 progressing though ‘night school’ to a son at an elite university. There were of course ‘posh’ people in post-war Britain but they were few and largely inconspicuous; and there were poor people on the council estates but they were distant relatives or friends and we played and watched football together. A provincial British city, even today, does not have the jarring contrasts of London; but my sense is that even there, big differences in living standards and opportunities have opened up.

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Lib Dem Chief Executive Tim Gordon steps down

Tim Gordon has stepped down as the Chief Executive of the Liberal Democrats.

In a statement today, he said:

It has been an honour to work for the Party for the past half decade. These have not been easy years but I am proud to have worked with both Nick Clegg and Tim Farron who so clearly and eloquently articulated the Liberal voice that Britain needs.

We now have a great new leader and deputy in place and after the challenges of the past few years this feels like an appropriate moment for a change. There are other opportunities that I have delayed pursuing for long enough and I want to give my successor as much time as possible to prepare before what could be yet another snap General Election.

I am extremely proud of what my team has delivered. After decades of decline we are now well in to our fifth consecutive year of membership growth and are on track for our fifth consecutive year of fundraising growth, beating Labour’s non-union donations in most sets of quarterly returns. Both have benefited from our investment in new systems and digital communications; online fundraising has increased over 40-fold. HQ’s diversity has improved: both the director team and salary levels are now gender-balanced. Critically, we are again winning electoral battles – even if there remains much to do. I am incredibly grateful and frequently humbled by all those across the Party who have worked so hard for the fightback that is now underway.

The Party under Vince Cable is now well positioned to move forward. We have the right approach to Brexit for both party and country. And I intend to keep on helping the Party in the ways that I have always done: knocking on doors and delivering the odd leaflet.

Senior figures thanked him for his five years at the helm of the party:

Sal Brinton, our Party President said:

On behalf of the party I want to place on record a huge thank you to Tim for his all his amazing hard work over nearly five often gruelling years.

He has run the party machine during extremely demanding times, with the Liberal Democrats in coalition government, then two general elections and the EU Referendum.

After the setback of the 2015 general election, Tim immediately set out to make sure that the party’s finances were secured, and provided the structures that have allowed the party to recover. In the last two years our membership has doubled, we have won many council by elections and the Richmond Park parliamentary by-election and in June this year increased our MPs. He leaves at a time when the Liberal Democrat fightback is well-underway and we wish him the very best.

Vince Cable added:

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Bob Geldof: Lib Dems are the only party with the balls to oppose Brexit

Bob Geldof entered the campaign today with a robust announcement of support for the Lib Dems. He helped us win Richmond Park in December. Here’s hoping that his influence can help us to a good result in our key seats on Thursday.

Here’s what he had to say:

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Could Rachel Johnson stand as a Lib Dem candidate?

First of all, Rachel Johnson, writer and journalist, welcome to the Liberal Democrats. Every media outlet is telling us that she has joined and some are even suggesting that she will be a candidate for the Liberal Democrats in this coming general election. The Guardian is feverishly speculating:

Johnson’s decision to join the Lib Dems is expected to infuriate her brother Boris, who has had a relatively marginal role in the post-Brexit negotiations so far.

She could not be reached for comment, while a spokesman for the Lib Dems declined to confirm her membership, citing data protection rules.

With just nine MPs,

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Moving towards a progressive alliance

General Election campaigning has got off to a flying start across the country and it is exhilarating to be ‘back in the saddle’. Oxford West and Abingdon was hard fought at the last election and it looks like it will be again. Like many seats, the Tory incumbent increased her majority here in 2015, yet this still feels like a marginal, and we are campaigning to win.

We were knocking on doors yesterday and what struck me was just how different this election feels compared to 2015. The political sands continue to shift beneath our feet but the wind is very definitely no longer against us. This constituency voted strongly to remain, yet the local MP flip-flopped and is now totally behind a Hard Brexit. This, combined with a weak Labour party nationally, has meant that local Labour and Green voters are more open than ever to lending us their vote to beat the Tory this time. And we are going to need them to do it.

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