Tag Archives: new statesman

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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LibLink: Nick Clegg: Bickering brexiteers and teenage footballers

Nick Clegg has been telling the readers of the New Statesman all about his week.

As he attended a reception on mental health at Buckingham Palace, he remembered one of his first appearances as Lib Dem Leader at PMQs:

In the evening, I attended a reception at Buckingham Palace to support people who work in mental health, listening to a good speech by Prince William and a funny and moving one by Stephen Fry. Almost exactly ten years ago I raised mental health at Prime Minister’s Questions when Gordon Brown was at the despatch box as PM, and I was a newly elected Lib Dem leader. At the time, it was considered a “brave” thing to do – party leaders never raised mental health in the Commons. So it’s massive progress that mental health is now talked about openly in parliament, in the media, and even in Buckingham Palace. But the gap between words and deeds is huge. The taboo may have been broken, but the problems of poor mental-health provision still exist.

On a trip to Brussels, he learned something quite alarming about Brexit:

I caught up with some senior European Commission officials in Brussels, some of whom I’ve known for more than 20 years, from the time I worked there. One told me that the most striking moment in the Brexit negotiations so far was when UK officials asked whether the EU could provide Britain with “technical assistance” on how to process and transport nuclear materials, tasks presently overseen by Euratom (the European Atomic Energy Community). “Technical assistance is what the EU provides to some of the poorest countries of the world,” my friend told me. “Now the UK is asking for help like a developing nation. Wow.”

Then he went to see Hillary Clinton at the South Bank Centre and had some observations on defeat:

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Vince Cable calls for end to EU free movement

Vince Cable writes for this week’s New Statesman arguing for the end to the EU’s free movement of people.

He builds on the themes he initially set out on an article for this site just after the referendum – which turned out to be our most read article of 2016.

In the New Statesman he writes:

As a liberal economist, I welcome freer trade and globalisation in general; and as a political liberal I oppose attempts to fence people in. I naturally value the freedom to travel around Europe for business or pleasure with minimal restriction.

But I have serious doubts that EU free movement is tenable or even desirable. First, the freedom is not a universal right, but selective. It does not apply to Indians, Jamaicans, Americans or Australians. They face complex and often harsh visa restrictions. One uncomfortable feature of the referendum was the large Brexit vote among British Asians, many of whom resented the contrast between the restrictions they face and the welcome mat laid out for Poles and Romanians.

He goes on to argue that while there are benefits to immigration, they are not as conclusive as we would like to think for the country. He sets out what he thinks is the way forward:

The argument for free movement has become tactical: it is part of a package that also contains the wider economic benefits of the single market. Those benefits are real, which is why the government must prioritise single market access and shared regulation. Yet that may not be possible to reconcile with restrictions on movement. The second-best option is customs union status, essential for supply chain industries.

I do not see much upside in Brexit, but one is the opportunity for a more rational immigration policy. First, it will involve legitimising the position of EU nationals already here. It must involve a more sensible way of dealing with overseas students, who are not immigrants and benefit the UK. The permeability of the Irish border must lead to a united Ireland in Europe. And, not least, there can be a narrative in which control on labour movements is matched by control on capital – halting the takeovers that suffocate the innovative companies on which the country’s future depends.

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WANTED! Prime Minister for poisoned chalice of post Brexit Britain

I have an article in the New Statesman, asking why anyone would want to be Prime Minister if we vote to Leave. I’d be interested in what you think on this issue, so please do comment below.

If we vote for Brexit, and a Leave campaigner becomes Prime Minister, their every word of reassurance will be repeated back to them a thousand-fold.

As the country lurched into recession, economists would point out that 90% of them had predicted this. Voters would ask the new Prime Minister, why did you say Project Fear was a lie?

If David Cameron remained Prime Minister, and tried to mitigate the damage would be denounced as a betrayal. If he tried to stay in the single market, they’d scream, “We voted to end freedom of movement.” If he delayed invoking Article 50 they’d hound him till he did. And every set-back would be blamed on his “weak and pathetic” negotiating skills.

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: The child refugee vote brought shame on the government

Alistair Carmichael has written a coldly furious article for the New Statesman about the vote last night when the Government defeated the Lords’ Amendment to the Immigration Bill which would have seen this country do its duty and take a relatively small number of child refugees.

Just last week, we saw the Government feign compassion to draw away attention from the calls for accepting 3,000 children, through their own announcement which completely sidestepped the issue of child refugees in danger within Europe, where Europol has estimated that as many as 10,000 unaccompanied children on the continent have disappeared, and will be spread out over four years to water down an already disappointing figure. They then went one step further by implanting a clause meaning that this will be the last time the amendment to accept 3,000 child refugees can be debated. It’s pretty hard to look away from the simple truth that the Government simply doesn’t care about these children.

We can get disappointed by the many wrong decisions the Conservatives are making, be they selfish, misguided or unproductive, but it’s the decisions like the one taken yesterday which really show the Government at its worst and really make me and so many others across our country downright angry. Like cuts to tax credits or employment support allowance, failing to help these refugees is directly putting lives in grave danger.

Providing a safe home for these children, separated from their families and in desperate circumstances, was easily achievable, he said:

However it’s imperative that, as politicians, we do care and when this year alone approximately 171,000 refugees decided water was safer than land and made the treacherous crossing across the Mediterranean, it’s our duty to provide a sustainable solution to deliver help for the most vulnerable. The amendment which was voted on last night would have allowed a small number of child refugees into the UK, a number which our country could have easily handled. The Liberal Democrats carried out a consultation with experts and charities to provide a blueprint for resettling Europe’s child refugees and the clear evidence showed that it was possible. Members from across the House united to try to save these children, having been profoundly moved by their terrifying ordeal.

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LibLink: Catherine Bearder: The campaign to keep Britain in Europe must be based on hope not fear

Catherine Bearder has written for the New Statesman’s Staggers blog to castigate both sides of the EU Referendum debate for negativity, citing the example of Scotland:

On the one hand, Ukip and the feuding Leave campaigns have shamelessly seized on the events in Cologne at New Year to claim that British women will be at risk if the UK stays in Europe. On the other, David Cameron claims that the refugees he derides as a “bunch of migrants” in Calais will all descend on the other side of the Channel the minute Britain leaves the EU. The British public deserve better than this. Rather than constant mud-slinging and politicising of the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, we need a frank and honest debate about what is really at stake. Most importantly this should be a positive campaign, one that is fought on hope and not on fear. As we have a seen in Scotland, a referendum won through scare tactics alone risks winning the battle but losing the war.

So what’s the alternative?

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Ignore the spin – social housing is still under threat from the Conservatives

Tim Farron has put David Cameron’s new housing policy under the microscope and found it wanting. We should take notice of what he says because he knows a lot about housing, the issue that brought him into politics and has made his number one priority. Writing in the New Statesman, he says:

This is still an economically illiterate and socially divisive policy with devastating consequences, which was flung into the Conservative election campaign in a last minute attempt to grab some votes by invoking memories of Thatcher.

Firstly, selling off housing association homes does nothing to address the national emergency in housing. The huge shortage

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“Soggy Syriza with sandals” – thanks, Danny, for giving Osborne a stick to beat us with

I almost choked on my Earl Grey this morning when I read Danny Alexander’s piece in the New Statesman in which he suggested that there was much to cheer in George Osborne’s budget. I wondered if he had forgotten that May, you know, happened?

The reason we lost so many seats to the Tories is,  at least in part,  that the people who voted for us no longer felt that we represented their values, the sorts of values that had seen us stand up for freedom and social justice. Those people turned to the Greens and Labour. Yes, of course the Tory tactics over the SNP were relevant but we kind of stoked that by legitimising it.

We also made a great thing during the election campaign of talking about our opposition to the Tories’ £12 billion welfare cuts proposals, much of which we had stopped in government. Now Danny suggests that we shouldn’t go out of our way to oppose them in opposition:

Neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats should envisage a future as a sort of soggy Syriza in sandals. I  don’t like some of the welfare reforms in the Budget, but to make it the political dividing line is to fail to recognise the views of most people.

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Catherine Bearder MEP doesn’t need men telling her what’s important

I have to say that I am incandescent with rage at a profile of the only Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder which has appeared in the New Statesman. The implied conclusion of both the journalist and the several Liberal Democrat sources quoted seems to be that Catherine is a lightweight who needs the back-up of a group of men. She’s criticised for not pursuing their agendas and her own concerns, on massive issues like wildlife and human trafficking are dismissed by the journalist as pet projects.  Yes, that’s right, protecting vulnerable people from the brutal exploitation of modern slavery somehow is a niche issue? Not in my world.

The thing is, despite the drip-drip of patronising criticism that comes through the article Catherine comes out of it really well. What I get is an impression of a politician who, heaven forfend, is well-connected to her constituency and the people she represents. Heaven forfend! It’s hard to do that across a single UK Parliamentary seat. Across a region? That’s more challenging and Catherine does it well. That is just as important as legislative achievement.

Dave Keating, the journalist laments that the lack of political heavyweights:

The Liberal Democrats lost their Brussels heavyweights like Graham Watson, Andrew Duff and Ed McMillan-Scott.

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LibLink: Catherine Bearder MEP: How can Britain celebrate Magna Carta and contemplate leaving ECHR in the same year?

Catherine Bearder MEP has co-written an article for the New Statesman on the Conservatives’ plans to abolish the Human Rights Act. She said:

Fundamental rights, the rule of law and democratic principles are frequently violated in nearly all EU member states. In some cases, the violations are serious and systematic.  The current Hungarian government is one of the most egregious offenders. In recent years we have seen critical media gagged, the electoral law changed to secure an absolute majority for the governing party, opposition parties weakened and the independence of the judiciary undermined. But there are many other examples across Europe: the anti-gay laws in Lithuania, the deportation of Roma people from France, the inhumane treatment of underage asylum seekers in the Netherlands and the collective disregard shown for the law and civil liberties in many countries’ counter-terrorism policies.

We lose our moral authority if we tolerate torture, secret prisons, abduction, and indefinite detention without fair trials. These ugly blots tarnish Europe’s status as a shining beacon of freedom and human rights in the world. EU governments must be held accountable for these crimes, including and especially those committed in the name of defending democracy.

That is why we need legal instruments to uphold our common values, even if this means that sometimes national authorities are overruled.  EU member states have voluntarily signed up to these supranational laws and conventions for good reason.  It is the essence of democracy that those in power are bound by laws and their powers are limited.  That may sometimes be awkward, but these checks and balances are the vital safeguards which protect us against abuse of power by the state.

These principles are not left or right-wing, nor are they alien to British culture. Quite the opposite: safeguarding citizens’ rights and the rule of law have their roots in that ancient, famous document that we are celebrating this year.

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Tim Farron on “wicked” Tories, Nick Clegg’s integrity and making people’s lives better

Tim Farron Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterOn Saturday, we brought you the New Statesman trail for their interview with Tim Farron. The main feature has been published today. They headline it “The Lib Dems’ Leader-in-Waiting” which is probably inevitable but annoying nonetheless.

Asked about potential coalitions, he set out why the Liberal Democrats would be much better performers in Coalition than any other party:

Do you want, this is the real million dollar question here, do you want the party that is second in the next coalition agreement to be some separatist or nationalist wrapped in a Union Jack or a Saltire? Or do you want the next party that is the junior party in that coalition to be sane, sensible, moderate and progressive? And if you want the latter, because the former is terrifying, you have to vote Liberal Democrat.

He was interviewed after his campaign launch in his constituency which was addressed by Shirley Williams. Thirty years ago, it was a book by Shirley that got Farron involved in politics. I had the same book and remember timidly approaching Shirley at the 1986 SDP conference to get her to sign it:

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Tim Farron talks coalitions with the New Statesman

The New Statesman has published extracts of an interview with former party president Tim Farron. Their headline suggests favouritism for a coalition with Labour, but that’s not quite what Tim said. He was talking about having to play the hand the electorate dealt us, just like we did five years ago:

Last time round, us plus Labour was 11 short of a majority of one, so a majority where we’d have had to rely on Jeremy Corbyn voting through the Budget, things like that, for instance, so 11 short even of that level of a majority, so it wasn’t an option.

He added: “I think the same thing will be the case this time round, almost certainly. We will not have a choice. We will be presented with an arithmetic by the electorate and all parties must be grown up enough to accept it and not say, ‘well, thank you for your opinions, we didn’t like it, tough’. Whatever the electorate give us through this fruit machine of an electoral system that we have, we have to be big enough, grown-up enough to make sure it works.

“The fundamental promise we must make to the electorate is that we will respect the outcome of the electorate and we will ensure, do everything in our power to ensure, stable government straight after the election, whether we are part of it or not.”

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Without the Lib Dems, there would be nothing to stop the Tories neglecting the environment

Tim Farron has been writing for the New Statesman about what the Liberal Democrats have done, despite the Tories, to protect our environment.

He says we can look to Europe to see the sorts of things they would be doing without us to propel them with some force towards the door marked “green”.

 But we’ve come a long way since the days of trips to the Arctic and hugging huskies. Cameron now openly talks about “getting rid of green crap,” while Tory minister Michael Fallon has said the Tories would stop the construction of onshore wind farms if they win in 2015. As we near the general election, the Conservatives are rapidly abandoning any pretence that they care about the green agenda.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the European Parliament, where the Tories are completely unrestricted by the constraints of coalition government. Time and again Conservative MEPs have shown their true colours when it comes to EU environmental measures, and they are definitely not green. They voteddown EU measures to restrict the destructive practice of deep-sea fishing. They’ve opposed efforts to reduce plastic bag use and tackle the scourge of plastic waste in our oceans. And they’ve repeatedly voted against efforts to strengthen the EU’s carbon emissions trading scheme, Europe’s landmark policy for fighting climate change.

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LibLink: Ibrahim Taguri: Immigration – do you want the truth or something beautiful?

Brace yourselves. Brent Central Liberal Democrat candidate has written a hard-hitting and heartfelt article for the New Statesman on immigration. He expresses his anger at what passes for debate on the issue:

This country has been built on the blood, sweat and backs of immigrants. This is the story of immigration in this country. It’s about time the political establishment recognised this. Not make us feel like foreigners in our own country.

The disenfranchised working classes are being whipped up over the issue and after being long abandoned by Labour are turning to Ukip.

Our country is being betrayed by politicians who are too weak and too self-serving to make the positive case for immigration. Instead it’s a testosterone fuelled race as to who can be hard, harder and hardest on immigrants.

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LibLink: Ibrahim Taguri: It’s time for the truth: it’s time to publish the Chilcott Inquiry

Brent Central Liberal Democrat candidate Ibrahim Taguri has called for the speedy publication of Sir John Chilcott’s report into the decision to go to war in Iraq. “How can we have trust without truth?” he asks in an article for the New Statesman. He asks how on earth we can contemplate taking military action (a decision he is not happy with) again in that part of the world without learning the lessons from last time:

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Lessons must be learned from the Jo Swinson speculation

jo swinson by paul walterOn Thursday, George Eaton of the New Statesman blogged that Jo Swinson was about to replace Ed Davey in the forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle.

Today, the Guardian’s Nick Watt says that this is not the case and Jo is expected to become Secretary of State for Scotland in September after the independence referendum.

Nick Clegg, acutely conscious that the five Liberal Democrat cabinet ministers are all men, is expected to promote the business minister Jo Swinson to the cabinet. But she is expected to succeed Alistair Carmichael as Scotland secretary after September’s independence referendum in September if, as expected, the pro-Union side prevails. Carmichael would be praised for his role in the victory as Swinson took charge on introducing greater devolution to the Scottish parliament.

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Jo Swinson tipped to replace Ed Davey in Cabinet reshuffle…

Jo Swinson Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer AffairsInteresting speculation from George Eaton in the New Statesman that Nick Clegg may have been listening to Stephen Tall and is about to reshuffle the Cabinet, replacing Ed Davey with Jo Swinson. Jenny Willott would take over Jo’s job at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

The report says:

A senior party source suggests that Jo Swinson could replace Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, in the party’s top team. Swinson, who recently returned from maternity leave (she is married to fellow Lib Dem MP Duncan Hames), has long been regarded as the strongest female candidate to enter the cabinet. She is a Clegg loyalist, a strong media performer, and has impressed during her time as a business minister.

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Tim Farron disagrees with Nick on minority Government

Tim Farron MP speaks at the rallyNick Clegg has been saying a lot recently that it’s coalition or nothing – the Liberal Democrats aren’t interested in propping up a minority Government because we’d get all the blame and none of the chance to do any actual good.

I can see the logic to that point of view, certainly. However, Tim Farron, in an interview with the New Statesman has directly contradicted Nick, saying that we shouldn’t rule anything out:

When you go into negotiations with another party you have to believe,

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LibLink: Vince Cable: Baroness Shirley Williams, the Lib Dem peer who defined British public life

Over at the New Statesman, Vince Cable has been reviewing Mark Peel’s new biography of Shirley Williams.

He starts off by expressing annoyance at the conclusion – and quite rightly, too, given her major contribution to national and international life over 6 decades:

She is, of course, approachable, informal, engaging and whatever else “nice” means. But “niceness” is also a dismissive put down, as in William Hague’s comment in an Oxford Union debate (quoted as the punchline of the introduction): “In politics, Mrs Williams, it isn’t enough to be nice.” And it misses the essential point, that she is an extremely interesting

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“The EU has provided us with the best Europe we’ve ever had”

That was the claim in this very interesting essay by Robert Cooper – a visiting professor at the London School of Economic and a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations – in last week’s New Statesman. In it, he mounts a staunch defence of parliamentary democracy as the best way of deciding such matters rather than referendums:

The sovereignty of parliament is a good principle because it allows maximum space for political decision-making and maximum opportunity for debate on issues that are always complex.

It was his three reasons for continuing to support British membership of the EU which …

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What’s with the Nick Clegg/Ed Balls love-in?

This is an article I didn’t expect to be writing.

Ed Balls is not a man known for his particular liking of Liberal Democrats in general and most especially not Nick Clegg. You could generally have assumed that there was not a lot of love lost. In fact “Ed Balls’ prawn cocktail charm offensive” is a fairly standard Clegg bingo drinking game item. Both had insinuated that the other would not be welcome in any future coalition cabinet.

But strange things have been happening over the past wee while.

During the Call Clegg Christmas Special, Nick was asked how he persuaded people. …

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Clegg opens up his “fairly thick Black Book” of Lib Dem plans blocked by the Tories – but is it enough?

Last week, David Cameron revealed he’s keeping a “little black book” of Tory ideas he’s desperate to implement which have been thwarted by the Lib Dems. This prompted an impressively swift imagining by Lib Dem HQ of what that black book might contain – you can read it here.

It also prompted Lib Dem blogger Richard Morris pointedly to ask at the New Statesman, ‘Where is Clegg’s “little Black Book” of Lib Dem policies blocked by the Tories?’

… thinking back over the last few years, Lord’s Reform and the Mansion Tax aside, it’s hard to think what Lib

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Opinion: Russell Brand – a turgid mess of a manifesto

On Friday this week I was challenged by a friend to read Russell Brand’s article in the New Statesman, after I went on Facebook to casually eviscerate his interview with Jeremy Paxman. I cursed my friend for making this request, which seemed too reasonable to refuse yet to tiresome to enjoy. Below is an edited version of my response.

I have now read the piece and I think it is self-referential to the point of narcissism. Brand’s intellectual ambitions literally reach for the stars. But his self-congratulatory ignorance is exposed by his failure to provide evidence beyond …

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Tim Farron says our manifesto must be 100% Liberal Democrat with nothing pre-conceded

After the cockroach incident in March, you might be forgiven for thinking that you might have to read Tim Farron’s pre-conference interviews from behind a cushion. And the headline in the New Statesman is quite mischievous. It screams:

Exclusive: Tim Farron interview: I really like Ed Miliband, I don’t want to diss him

They make out like Tim just gushed about Miliband. But let’s be clear, Tim isn’t known for being horrible about anyone. He is not going to slate Miliband in the New Statesman or anywhere else.

They accompany the interview with an illustration of Miliband and Farron out picking …

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Nick, Vince and Danny lead Lib Dem charge to “balance the books, find new ways to create jobs and growth”

Nick Clegg addresses Birmingham Liberal Democrats conference. Photo courtesy of the Liberal DemocratsBe warned: we’re under starter’s orders for the general election. Today, the Lib Dem leadership sets out its plans on the economy for approval by the party conference this autumn, striking a neat balance between a strong defence of the Lib Dem record in government and a recognition that much still needs to be done to get the economy growing.

The motion to be debated in Glasgow in September can be found at the foot of this post. Tabled by …

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A personal guide to the 13 most essential political podcasts

podcastsCommuting is a major part of my daily life, so I find podcasts are an essential way to make use of time I’d otherwise spend staring vacantly out the window or idly refreshing and re-refreshing Twitter. Here, in order of where they appear in my iTunes directory, are the podcasts I listen to most frequently…

The Economist’s podcasts – a good mix of audio recordings of selected articles from the print edition together with brief discussions involving the Economist’s expert correspondents. Slightly irritatingly the sound can vary between recordings, so you …

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Vince on dangers of immigration debate and encouraging women in business – he doesn’t seem to be in the mood for resignation

I thought it was supposed to be holiday season for MPs. Not for our Vince, it seems. He’s been everywhere the last couple of days. Today, the BBC reports, he has been making the point that all the hot air on immigration is going to stop the very people we need to boost our economy will be put off from coming here:

But he warned that the globalised world of university recruitment was in danger of being undermined in the UK by anxieties over immigration.

He said that the “politics of identity” which worried about immigration and the economic need for

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Praise for Nick Clegg and Liberal Democrats from both sides – should we be worried?

I remember hearing Nick Clegg saying that if he was being attacked from both left and right, then he felt reassured that he was doing something right. He may be feeling slightly worried now, as there have been a couple of not entirely unpleasant pieces in the New Statesman and Daily Telegraph in the last few days.

From the left, we have Rafael Behr, the political editor of the New Statesman, arguing that it’s Nick Clegg, not Nigel Farage, who has shaken up Westminster:

For Lib Dems, the distinction is between two styles of politics. There is the managerial one, laden with

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Vince in not-so-coded call for Lib-Lab cooperation

Vincent CableVince Cable published an interesting piece in the New Statesman last month (I missed it at the time): My advice to young Lib Dems — rise above the tribalism.

It’s a biographical reflection on his political journey — from Young Liberal to Mr Wilson’s ‘White Heat’ Labour to the breakaway SDP and finally to the Liberal Democrats, where he joined “some of the descendants of Grimond and Crosland”.

However, it also has a very clear political message. At least, I think it does. Tell me below-the-line if you think I’m …

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Are Lib Dems missing the moral high ground?

The New Statesman’s fair-minded political editor Rafael Behr has written a post-conference post mortem for each of the three parties here. Noting how Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell’s outburst against police ‘plebs’ hijacked the news agenda, reviving the ‘nasty party’ jibes (“Many Lib Dems didn’t seem to mind their demotion down the news agenda and revelled in the Tories’ discomfort”) here’s what he has to say of the Lib Dem outlook from the vantage of Brighton:

Lib Dems miss the moral high ground

Nick Clegg’s strategists

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  • User AvatarJoeB 17th Oct - 12:41am
    I never failed to be impressed by the sheer energy of Merlene and hats off for taking a crack at breaching the edifice that is...
  • User AvatarJoeB 17th Oct - 12:09am
    A wag once commented "It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future." In 1798 Thomas Malthus predicted that population growth would bring famine...
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    Democracy needs more consultation and representation of mainstream opinion.
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    Well yes, Mark, but I was thinking of all the work one person had to do as well. radical idea - post them all on...
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    Suzanne, I entirely see your point, but can see an advantage to having them all in one place, especially for non-Liberal Democrat readers and those...
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    Dear Mark, but if the press office sent to people who asked for them ( and I presume someone at HQ is clever enough to...