Tag Archives: london

Pride in the Lib Dems

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of London Pride and Liberal Democrats were right there marching with all the pride we could muster -both as Liberal Democrats and throughout the parade Liberal Democrats were marching with other groups and organisations from the Armed forces to NHS trusts to Sports Groups. It was amazing to be part of this piece of history with 1.5 million people involved! Thanks to every Lib Dem who came yesterday, whether you were marching with the group or elsewhere or supporting from the crowd – and many thanks to our fabulous GLA Assembly Members – Caroline, Hina and Luisa for sharing the day with us.


Thanks to Luisa, Caroline, Hina and all the other Lib Dems
who helped give us an amazing presence yesterday.

Pride has always meant a lot to me – it’s the first place I felt I could be unashamed of myself when I was 16 and had just come out as bi. I’ve seen some of the best moments of solidarity there – adults taking it upon themselves to hide hateful banners from teenagers going past, cis people passionately defending trans people, thousands of people screaming support for LGBT+ refugee groups to give a very few examples I’ve seen over the years.

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Caroline Pidgeon writes…Elizabeth Line: Much to celebrate, but much to learn as well

Today’s opening of the central section of Crossrail is something to celebrate.

The benefits from Crossrail (or the Elizabeth Line as it has become) will be immense.

It will transform travel across London, but also large parts of the South East.  Indeed, it is myth that it is solely a London project. It will cut journey times, provide much needed additional train capacity and encourage people to switch away from making many journeys by car, including in time many people who travel around London by the M25.

Most importantly it will lead to a transformation in genuinely accessible travel.  Passengers will be amazed by the long platforms and trains of 200 metres in length; taking rail and tube travel to a new level.   All 41 Elizabeth line stations will be step-free to platform level, staffed from first to the last train, with a ‘turn-up and go’ service offered to anyone needing assistance. 

 However, whilst celebrating its opening, there is no excuse for forgetting that, as a project, it has fundamentally failed the basic test of being delivered on time and on budget.     

 The central section of Crossrail is opening three and half years late and even then one key station, Bond Street, will not be ready.   Crossrail’s total construction bill is already £4 billion over budget and its delayed opening has drained TfL of much needed fares revenue over the last few years.  The project will have cost around £20 billion on completion, though a good chunk of this has been paid for by London businesses.

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See an Award Winning Movie and Help Ukraine

The Lloyd George Society and Rights-Liberties-Justice are sponsoring a showing of the film Mr Jones at the National Liberal Club on 20 June. The movie tells the story of Gareth Jones, a Welsh journalist and former employee of Lloyd George, who travelled secretly to the USSR to uncover the truth about the Holodomor, the great famine of 1933 under Stalin’s regime in the Ukraine. Jones witnesses appalling conditions, including starving people whose grain has been forcibly taken away for consumption elsewhere, villages whose entire populations have died or just vanished and ‘horrifically, he stumbles across examples of cannibalism. Yet despite his evidence, Jones finds it hard to get the matter taken seriously once back in Britain.

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Election results open thread – Lib Dems biggest winners in England

As Andy has already said, it’s been a good night for the Liberal Democrats so far, regaining control of Hull after 11 years and gaining from the Conservatives in places like Colchester and West Oxfordshire.

ALDC has done a great job in getting many of its staff members elected. Its Chief Exec Tim Pickstone has left Bury and won a seat on the new Cumberland Council. Frankie Singleton, Chris Twells, Alex Warren and Tim Verboven are among others who have won.

Today we wait for results from Scotland and Wales, English councils and the rest of London.  And we are off to a healthy start:

The Tories are expected to suffer substantial casualties in Scotland. They won many of their seats under STV on the first count last time. They might struggle to pick up a lot of transfers if their vote falls. If it falls by as much as it did in Tweeddale West in the Borders, 16%, they are in trouble.

Lib Dems held that seat with a new Councillor, Dr Drummond Begg.

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Strengthening – and extending – London’s yellow wall

In exactly two weeks from today, 32 London boroughs will be holding their four year all-in/all-out elections. (The City of London has already done its own thing).

And this is what it looked like in 2018:

As you can see we do have our own yellow wall in the southwest corner of Greater London where Lib Dems control the three adjacent boroughs of Richmond, Kingston and Sutton, all with substantial majorities. In Richmond we currently hold 39 seats out of 54, in Kingston 37 out of 48 and in Sutton 32 out of 50. All three are Tory facing.

Our first priority is, of course, to retain control of those Councils.

I spoke with Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council, and this is what she told me:

Things are going well in Sutton. After 36 years of running the Council, we’re quietly confident (but never complacent!) that we’ll reach our fourth decade, We have exciting plans for the future and are determined to ensure we can see them through. We have lots of new, enthusiastic and diverse council candidates and we can’t wait to see them elected to Sutton Council.

There will be some media attention on Kingston, given that Ed Davey’s constituency of Kingston & Surbiton lies with the borough.  (It’s confusing but Kingston functions both as the name of a London borough and also as one of the old towns within it, alongside New Malden, Surbiton, Tolworth and Chessington). But we also want to extend outwards and develop new patches of yellow in other parts of the capital.

For example, Merton Borough is adjacent to Richmond, Kingston and Sutton, and has a lively local party who are keen to develop.  They currently hold 6 seats out of 59. They face Conservatives, Labour and Independent Residents in different wards.

Hina Bokhari is a councillor in Merton and also a London Assembly member. She told me:

There’s no denying there’s plenty of excitement in Merton for a good result here for the LibDems. I have had Conservative voters so utterly appalled by the government and Johnson that they cannot bear to vote for them anymore.

And as it was reported recently in the Guardian, Tory activists have had a “a bit of a disastrous reception” at the doors here in Merton. Voters are very aware of what happened here in the 2019 General Election. Even Labour Party members are telling me that “Labour can’t win here”.

Over in Bromley the local Lib Dems are looking for a breakthrough – at present the Council is dominated by Tories, which presents them with a number of opportunities to (as Paddy said) “Pick a ward and win it”. Wendy Taylor told us how her father Brian did just that and won the first ever Liberal seat in Bromley in the 50s.

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Long-serving Lib Dem Legend Flick Rea steps down as Camden Councillor

Camden’s longest serving Lib Dem Councillor Flick Rea has decided to step down.

Flick, who was elected 35 years ago, is now in her 80s and her decision to resign as a councillor was in part motivated by the Government’s insistence that local Government resumes in-person meetings.

Camden Lib Dems celebrated her time at the Council on Twitter:

From Camden New Journal:

“I’m ok but not great,” said Cllr Rea, who is in her 80s and has had problems with her eyesight.

“Being asked to go to Mornington Crescent feels too much for me. It’s a hard break for me and I will be sad to be leaving, as I’ve always tried to be a voice for my constituents. They want to know somebody will listen to them.”

The article looks back at her long record of service:

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London Liberal Democrats launch manifesto to Take London Forward

Luisa Porritt has launched her manifesto for the London mayoral elections on 6 May saying:

“London is a liberal city. I’ll offer the progressive alternative to Sadiq Khan’s poor record our city needs. What would have been ten years of steady change has been accelerated in a year by the pandemic.”

Luisa is pledging to introduce a flexible travel card, block the Silvertown Tunnel and make the streets safer.

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Luisa Porritt and Geeta Sidhu-Robb to contest London Mayoral selection

This week, London Lib Dems announced their shortlist to be the Liberal Democrat candidate to be London Mayor. This is taking place after Siobhan Benita took the difficult decision to stand down at the end of July. They have chosen former MEP Luisa Porritt and Geeta Sidhu-Robb. We have invited them both to write for us so you will hear from them soon on this site.

From the London Lib Dems website:

Luisa Porritt is Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Camden Council and a former Liberal Democrat MEP for London.

Geeta Sidhu-Robb is CEO and founder of health and wellbeing company Nosh Detox, and former Vice-Chair of the People’s Vote Campaign.

The winner will be announced on Tuesday 13th October.

London Liberal Democrat Party Chair, Ben Sims, said:

“We are excited to start this contest to select our candidate for the London Mayoral Election in 2021. The Liberal Democrats are determined to offer Londoners hope for the future and, with two fantastic candidates, whoever wins will be ready to champion our vision.”

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LibLink: Siobhan Benita: We can’t afford to let today’s acts of kindness become tomorrow’s memories

Lib Dem London Mayoral Candidate Siobhan Benita writes for Mental Health Awareness Week on her website.

As we went into lockdown in March, the UN released its World Happiness Report. It ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.  As in previous years, Nordic countries dominate the top slots, scoring strongly across all six measures: GDP per capita, social support, life expectancy, autonomy, generosity and absence of corruption.

Reflecting on the success of the Nordic countries, the report concludes that there is no “secret sauce” to their happiness. Instead, there is a “general recipe” that everyone can follow:  non-corrupt, high-quality state institutions able to deliver what is promised and generous in taking care of citizens.

The Covid19 pandemic is a tragedy.  Families and communities have lost loved ones to the virus and fear of contamination, financial uncertainty and social distancing are having a serious impact on the mental health of the nation. At the same time, the pandemic also creates a unique opportunity for us Brits to consider how we can create a better “recipe” for our citizens in the future.

The togetherness and community spirit we’ve seen during the pandemic must become permanent, she argues:

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This time next year, London will be different.  We must be too. 

This morning, Lib Dems should have been out delivering good morning leaflets, ready for the long slog through to 10pm when polls close. Instead, like all Londoners, we are staying home to save lives and the elections for our next Mayor and Assembly have been pushed back by a year.

Nobody knows what the landscape will look like in May 2021, but it’s clear that nothing will be the same.  And that includes politics itself. The postponement gives us a chance to re-evaluate the London campaign.  One thing is very clear – our capital is resilient and dynamic but it will be significantly different post lockdown.  We must be too.

Rory Stewart has announced that he is withdrawing from the race. There’s no hiding from the fact that his presence was challenging.  As our members and activists recovered from an exhausting General Election, Stewart’s energy was attractive to voters looking for an alternative.

But let’s also be clear, from drugs reform and tackling the root causes of knife crime to radical green measures like road pricing and introducing a wellbeing budget for City Hall, we had – we have – the most progressive policies.  Our task, as we help London to thrive post-Covid19, is to ensure that every voter in the capital knows it.

Here are two ideas to help kickstart our revamp.

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Siobhan Benita and team are working full-on in London

This weekend our London Mayoral candidate, Siobhan Benita and her team have been campaigning very hard all over the city:

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Siobhan Benita launches her campaign to be Mayor of London

Today Siobhan Benita has launched her campaign under the slogan “Love London Better”. And what a breath of fresh air she would be in the capital.

As she said:

London dares to be different. It has so far delivered three very different Mayors who have captured Londoner’s hearts and minds in different ways. What could be more different than a Liberal Democrat female mayor? It’s time.

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24-26 January 2020 – the (long) weekend’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats welcome Citizens’ Assembly
  • Liberal Democrats: Sadiq Khan’s mass surveillance roll-out unacceptable
  • Ministers must explain soaring cost of HS2 to Parliament
  • Government must review assisted dying laws

Liberal Democrats welcome Citizens’ Assembly

Ahead of the first meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly on climate change, set up by House of Commons Select Committees last year, Liberal Democrat Climate Action Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse said:

The climate crisis is doing irreversible damage to our planet. The UK must cut its emissions to net-zero, be it by improving how we heat our homes or cutting emissions from flying.

This Citizens’ Assembly could help the government take the difficult decisions

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Siobhan Benita slams London Mayor’s mass surveillance roll-out as a real risk to civil liberties

Embed from Getty Images

Responding to the Metropolitan Police’s announcement on Thursday that it will begin to use automated facial recognition surveillance operationally, Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London Siobhan Benita said:

It is unacceptable for a new form of mass surveillance like this to be rolled out onto London’s streets without proper consultation, regulation or oversight.

Facial recognition technology is hopelessly inaccurate. It is biased against women and ethnic minorities. The evidence that it will make us safer is patchy at best, but there is a real risk that it will erode civil liberties and increase distrust and discrimination.

To make London safer we must restore effective community policing, starting with the re-opening of local police stations, which the current Mayor has shut down.

Liberal Democrats do not want London to become a city where innocent people feel as though their every movement is being watched. The fact that Sadiq Khan has given the go-ahead for this undermines his recent claim to share our liberal values.

If Londoners want a liberal mayor with a positive vision for a safer, greener, kinder capital, their best option is me.

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Traditional Tory voters in London are coming across to the LibDems

Siobhan Benita, our London spokesperson and 2020 mayoral candidate (right), has been campaigning for LibDem candidates all over London. Yesterday she spoke to me about how things are going. This was her assessment:

I think it is going really well. We’re definitely seeing, in some of our key target seats, what we’ve heard here (in City of London and Westminster), which is (that) especially traditional Conservative voters, are (coming across to the LibDems). (This is) not just about Brexit – what we were hearing in Kensington yesterday, for example with Sam’s team, and a lot of the older voters there who have only ever voted Conservative, were saying they don’t associate with Boris Johnson’s Conservative party – they don’t like him – they don’t like the lies he is saying – and for the first time ever – some of them had already postal voted – they’d already given us their vote. So I think we are definitely seeing that across the capital. The nice thing for me, I think as well, is that I know we are obviously strong in parts of London – say south-west London – we have traditionally been strong. I’m definitely getting that sense in the north as well, in Finchley and Golders Green it’s going to be really really exciting there too. So I am hoping that we can – you know – change the map across London and that we’ll be seeing yellow pockets across London, other than the south-west – but I think we’ll grow there as well.

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July meeting of Liberal International in London

You might have been so be-dazzled by the London Pride parade back in July that you missed the 202nd Liberal International Executive Committee meeting which took place on the same day at the National Liberal Club (and which incidentally gave perfect grandstand viewing of the parade in the streets below) .

I’ve only recently started going to these international political meetings (since I retired and now have the time!) but the dynamic is quite different from UK political meetings and very energising. There are many younger participants and many, many more women to offset the usual pale, older males, and where else could I sit next to the Foreign Minister of Somalia? -and very interesting he was too.

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Siobhan Benita says she can be London Mayor

Lib Dem London Mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita has been talking up her chances of winning the capital’s mayoralty in an interview with City AM.

She takes the fight to Sadiq Khan, criticising Labour’s equivocal position on Brexit:

Benita says the Lib Dems are now perfectly positioned to capitalise on votes that would have otherwise gone to Labour. “The fact that Sadiq has stayed in the Labour party that is facilitating Brexit is a huge thing against him,” she says.

“For Sadiq, it’s going to be about how is he going to continue to justify being in a party that is keeping us in this mess?” It is not enough that Khan has spoken out against anti-semitism, another issue that is hurting Labour, or has campaigned for a second referendum, she says.

She was less hopeful of a Remain Alliance with the Greens:

Benita said she was “very open with working with the Greens but they have made it clear they are not”.

“I’m really disappointed in Sian,” Benita says. “She has really attacked the Lib Dems and has been fighting old battles about the coalition. She sees us as a real threat in London and is still blaming us for austerity. But Brexit is a much bigger and more immediate risk.”

And she had some interesting ideas about freedom of movement post Brexit:

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Caroline Pidgeon writes…Who is the real Boris Johnson?

Just who is the real Boris Johnson? 

Is it the man who for eight years was the Mayor of one of the world’s most multi-racial cities, or instead the man who in his 2002 Daily Telegraph column included racist insults against black people, citing “regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies” in the Commonwealth and referring to “the tribal warriors… all break out in watermelon smiles”.

Is it the man who now argues in favour of a no deal Brexit, or instead the Boris Johnson who declared in his Daily Telegraph column: “It is also true that the single market is of considerable value to many UK companies and consumers, and that leaving would cause at least some business uncertainty.”

Or indeed the Boris Johnson of 2012 who stated that whenever he considered the prospect of Britain leaving, he always came down “narrowly” in favour of Britain staying.  And the Boris Johnson who took full advantage of the cheap lending from the European Investment Bank to fund London’s transport infrastructure.

Within a few weeks Conservative party members will be making a decision on whether they want Boris Johnson as their leader. They have to make a decision over a man whose views over the years have had more twists in them than a corkscrew.

Yet examining his contradictory and insulting statements on so many issues only gets us so far.  In contrast the actual record of Boris Johnson is clear cut.  

As someone who witnessed and scrutinised his activities at City Hall for eight years I have a clearer recollection of events than the Conservative MPs now scenting the chance of a ministerial post.

When examined in the round, his record was one of inactivity, missed opportunities and an immense waste of public money.  Always putting himself before anything else. 

Yet his supporters, such as Jacob Rees Mogg and James Cleverly are now peddling the idea that his record of Mayor of London was that of unbridled success and huge achievement.

It is said that a lie can get half way around the world before truth has even got its boots on.   

We now run that risk with some of the fanciful claims being made by Boris’ supporters will start to be believed.  We cannot allow that to happen.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games

Incredibly some people seek to credit Boris Johnson with the overall success of the 2012 Games.  His contribution to their success was in fact minimal. The hard work and the groundwork at the Olympic Park started long before he arrived at City Hall.  London won the bid for the 2012 Games in July 2005, three years before he became Mayor. There was a huge amount of work undertaken in preparing our bid in the years before that.  His biggest contribution was waving the flag at the opening ceremony.

Crime 

It is claimed during his time at City Hall that great progress was made in tackling crime. The reality is that there was serious rioting across the capital in the summer of 2011, wrecking many high streets and small businesses. His supporters also overlook the fact that knife crime was increasing in the last two years of his office.

Housing

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London gears up for 2020

London may be the smallest English region geographically, but in LibDem terms it is top of the league, with around 20,000 members, many of whom joined following the 2016 EU Referendum and subsequent general election. Small wonder, then, that Brexit will figure large at the London LibDems’ regional conference tomorrow .

Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton & Wallington and the Party’s national Brexit spokesperson, will be leading a session on the impact of Brexit on the city, chaired by former MEP Baroness Ludford. And in one of a number of fringe meetings, sponsored by the Alliance of European Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), Arthur Griffin, Vice President of our Irish sister party, Fianna Faíl, will give a presentation on Winning That First Preference Vote.

LibDem Leader, Sir Vince Cable (MP for Twickenham) will provide the opening keynote address in the impressive surroundings of Canary Wharf, whose CEO, Sir George Iacobescu, will give a welcoming speech, alongside one of the party’s newest recruits, Tower Hamlets Councillor Rabina Khan.

Tower Hamlets is something of a success story in increasing diversity within the Party and given the fact that one in three Londoners were not even born in the UK, diversity is a key preoccupation of London Liberal Democrats. This is splendidly reflected in the team that has just been selected by the membership to fight the 2020 London Mayoral and GLA elections.

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How to join the Lib Dems at the People’s Vote march on Saturday

I will be up long before the crack of bloody dawn on Saturday to begin the long journey to London to take part in the People’s Vote march. Although make no mistake, our intention is not just to secure a vote but to stop this Brexit nonsense.

Lib Dems will be meeting at the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park at 12 noon.

This country’s membership of the European Union has brought this country so much social and economic benefit. Our sex discrimination laws, maternity leave, workers’ rights, environmental and health and safety protections started there. And we didn’t have them imposed on us – we were one of the most important voices at the table shaping them.

Being part of something larger than ourselves, something that has kept the peace on this continent for almost three quarters of a century, which has championed human rights and democracy, is such a good and healthy thing.

I don’t generally feel comfortable around national flags. I’d never wave a saltire or union jack. They symbolise selfishness and insularity and isolation to me. However, I feel completely comfortable wrapping myself from head to foot in the European Union flag because it is a symbol of togetherness and common purpose and co-operation. 

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Caroline Pidgeon writes…Boris Johnson: Has the mask slipped?

Boris Johnson seems to be rarely out of the news.

Whether it is his comments about the burka or taking part in a photo opp mocking Theresa May’s running through fields of corn – there seems an insatiable media interest in him.

And if he puts forward a proposal, such as building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland, his comments are extensively reported, irrespective of how feasible the policy is.

His treatment by the media is unlike almost any other politician, past or present.

His profile, combined with his immense ambition, has even fed speculation that he will one day be the Prime Minister.

However, could it be the case that his mask has now fallen off?   That perhaps some people are seeing him for what he really is?

That might seem a startling claim but there are some signs that this might be the case.  

Take for example all the media hype about his attendance at the Conservative party conference. 

The reality is that his base within the Conservative party, especially amongst those that know him best (Conservative MPs) is diminishing.

As the respected political commentator Paul Waugh said:

“He just can’t help himself, but can he help his party?

“Boris Johnson’s scripted spontaneity achieved his aim of dominating the headlines for much of the week.  Yet in the process he has alienated many of the key selectorate he needs to win round more than any other: Tory MPs.

“True, he has a small, loyal band that includes newer backbenchers like Ben Bradley and Andrea Jenkyns, plus slightly older hands like Conor Burns. That won’t be enough to get on the ballot paper in any future leadership contest.”

The views of his former boss at the Daily Telegraph are also worth noting:

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Three ways Brexit is hitting London

At May’s council elections in Sutton, I was proud to defeat the Tories’ deputy leader, not least because he proudly backs Brexit. I’m a born-Londoner who’s lived in four different boroughs, and I’m not sure how you can claim to have London’s best interests at heart when you back a major event that will hit our city.

Here’s how Brexit is already hitting London. You may find these useful talking points when you’re on the doorstep making the case for a People’s Vote:

1. Risking our NHS: London is twice as reliant as the rest of the country on EU nationals …

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Winning in London in 2020

It’s little over 18 months before the Greater London Authority and London mayoral elections. Doesn’t time fly? This time they are more important than ever. Not only are these critical elections for London, they also garner national media attention, so a good showing will help deliver a stronger national performance for the Liberal Democrats at the next general election.

That means now is the time to do some serious research so we can devise our strategy on how we can win in London in 2020.

This is why I have helped commission and fund a full professional, programme of polling. I brought in Populus to undertake both qualitative and quantitative research in London to identify potential switchers, who they are, where they are coming from, where they live, and what issues are important to them.

Without giving away too many secrets the research confirms the recent surge in Liberal Democrat support, and demonstrates that pushing the Tories into third place in the capital is an achievable if challenging goal.

The Tories in London will undoubtedly have a pro-Brexit candidate. As they retreat having a relevant offer for the majority of the cosmopolitan, culturally diverse and tolerant voters of London – who voted heavily to Remain – it seems likely that the Conservative candidate’s votes will be restricted to the party’s core of right-wing supporters.

In line with other recent research the polling also revealed a large group of unaligned voters, with high intention to vote and open to considering the Liberal Democrats.

All of this indicates that a strong strategy focussed on the switchers, their concerns and priorities will gain a strong positive response. The challenge as always will be to demonstrate our values through relevant and distinctive policies (not the other way around) on crime, housing and the environment.

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Why Heathrow deserves a more thorough debate

It is now August and a good time to reflect, especially on those issues which have received insufficient attention.

Although Brexit has understandably dominated politics for many months, it is worth noting that just six weeks ago Parliament made the decision to back a third runway at Heathrow airport.

The vote – by 415 to 119 – approved the National Planning Statement (NPS) that paves the way for the £14 billion construction project. Peers did not get a vote.

Some people, whatever their past thoughts on the pros and cons of a third Heathrow runway, might think that the issue has now been …

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Caroline Pidgeon highlights Oyster “cash mountain”

So, Transport for London has £321 million of our money and is keeping quiet about it. Lib Dem Assembly Member and former Mayoral Candidate Caroline Pidgeon has made the headlines by uncovering the fact that TfL is sitting on this vast sum of money on Oyster cards which haven’t been used for over a year.

From the BBC:

Ms Pidgeon, chair of City Hall’s transport committee, put the “soaring” figure partly down to the number of people switching in recent years to making contactless payments with their bank cards.

She said: “TfL never stops bombarding us with advertisements and information campaigns,

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Let this be the last first past the post election in London Boroughs

On 3rd May all the Borough Council seats in Greater London are up for election, which happens every four years. The Borough I live in is typical and has 18 3-member wards. Each voter votes by putting up to 3 Xs on the ballot paper. In each of these wards the top three candidates in terms of Xs on the ballot win. Hence F3PTP rather than FPTP (First Past The Post).

So what’s wrong with that? Five national parties are contesting the borough election, plus around four parties with Residents’ Association in their name, who are active in their own patches. Usually, a party sees its whole slate of three elected, but sometimes one candidate impacts more on the electorate, positively or negatively, and the result is a ‘split ward’. But I have seen nine candidates from three parties having each around 30% of the vote, but only one party gets the councillor seats. Natural justice suggests that they should have had one councillor each. With three councillors of one party, we KNOW that they were NOT the first choice of 70% of the electorate; at worst, the three victors could be the LEAST favoured candidates of 70% of the voters.

It gets worse. Some parties are so entrenched in certain seats that the others have given up. A friend of mine expressed it as ’If you put up a feather duster for XXXX party in YYYY ward, it would get elected.’ Two national parties contest all 54 seats, but the presence of the parents, spouses and children of local party worthies on the ballot papers gives a strong hint of what they think. The voters in such wards show what they think by not turning up to vote for the council, which, more than any other body, delivers government services to them.

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WATCH: The #LiberalLondon Rally

Last night, London Lib Dems launched their campaign for May’s elections. One of the many things that is fantastic about having Vince as leader is that he gets local government. He gets why it is important as an end in itself. He’s been there – as a councillor in another city, Glasgow, back in the 70s. Hackney Heroine Pauline Pearce talked about the scourge of knife crime. Caroline Pidgeon talked about winning in a safe Labour seat. The amazing Ruth Dombey, leader of Sutton Council, talked about their investment in mental health support among other things.

You can watch the whole event here.

And here are some of the Twitter highlights.

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TfL’s Uber decision is no victory for liberalism

The decision taken by Transport for London to revoke Uber’s licence undermines a key theme of Vince Cable’s speech from just a few days ago, a belief in competitive markets. Whilst the company has only operated in the capital for a relatively short time, the benefits it has bought to London’s transport market for both Londoners and tourists alike have been numerous. Uber not only provides a cheaper, more accessible transport solution to its customers, but it has also forced its competitors to innovate, an example being black cabs now accepting card payments, freeing their users from having to carry large amounts of cash. If the Liberal Democrats are to be a proud champion of enterprise, the party should feel no shame in its support for companies such as Uber, which provide choice to consumers in what is otherwise a monopolistic market.

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Caroline Pidgeon writes…Brexit demands greater devolution – a new deal for our regions

Back in 2013 I wrote an article for Lib Dem Voice setting out the case for London and other cities to have more financial control.

The vote to leave the EU makes the case for devolution and fiscal devolution more urgent. Whatever Leave voters felt they were voting for, it was not ‘business as usual’. It was not an endorsement of centralised power, simply removing it from Brussels to Whitehall and job done.

The referendum result not only affects the country as a whole but also within our nations, regions and cities.  The uncertainties from Brexit may well be better managed at a local level, with local and regional government able to respond more effectively.

At present, virtually all taxation in the UK is determined by central government. Only council tax (and in England from April 2013, a proportion of business rates) can be seen as local taxation – and even this is subject to cumbersome controls, including referendum rules set by central Government.  When you compare this internationally you realise what control Whitehall holds.

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Impressive free public access to our Supreme Court

The main courtroom at the Supreme Court, from the perspective of the Presiding Judge.
This week I wanted to visit a court in London, to get a feel for the proceedings. I didn’t fancy the Old Bailey – its case list is a series of stabbings basically. Not nice. I was about to make the journey to the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand when I remembered the more recently opened Supreme Court.

The United Kingdom Supreme Court resides just opposite Parliament in an impressive building previously occupied by Middlesex County Council and the Middlesex Courts.

When I visited, there were only a few people milling around inside. The staff were very friendly and helpful. I was whisked through the security scanner and then the receptionist explained what I could do in the building. The public are able to wonder around the three court rooms (when there are no cases ongoing) and take photographs. Then there is an interesting exhibition area about the history of the building, the Supreme Court, the Magna Carta and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That latter entity is the final court of judgment for a number of territories overseas.

Posted in London and Op-eds | Also tagged | 3 Comments
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