Tag Archives: the guardian

LibLink: Miriam Gonzalez Durantez: How to beat the ticking Brexit clock: let British business leaders do the talking

There are few people in this country who have as much experience in negotiating international trade deals as Miriam Gonzalez Durantez.  In her Made in Spain book published last year, she drops casually into a recipe that she came across guacamole when she helped to negotiate the EU-Mexico trade agreement.

She’s written in the Guardian about the many dangerous mistakes that the Government is making in its approach to the EU negotiations.

She has some scary observations about who is influencing these proceedings:

British business leaders were asked to share the table with the Legatum Institute, a thinktank with unparalleled access to Davis and Theresa May and that seems to have been at the origin of some of the preposterous positions on Brexit taken by the government so far. Its inexplicable presence at that table was the clearest signal that the government has not changed its views on Brexit after the general election even one tiny little bit.

The institute has established a special commission on trade that consists of more than 20 people with different “trade” backgrounds. It is run by a British American director. The Legatum member who has just been nominated the UK’s new chief trade negotiation adviser is a New Zealander. The funding of the institute comes from a foundation that is part of a Dubai-based private investment group. So much for the UK “taking back control”.

The Government invited 33 business leaders to a discussion with this organisation recently. She goes on to show how this institute may have influenced the Government’s comments on things like “frictionless” access to the single market.

Miriam goes on to describe exactly why such an approach is completely unrealistic:

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Vince Cable on Lib Dem prospects: You could come from third to first really quickly

In an interview with the Guardian published tonight, Vince Cable sets out some lofty ambitions for the party:

I ask him what would constitute success for his leadership. “If there is a significant improvement in our vote share, and a sense that we are back in the frame as a serious party being listened to,” he says. He is not looking merely at picking up the odd seat – his age doesn’t permit him that incremental approach – but is more interested in driving up popular support. “You could come from third to first very quickly.” He is encouraged by Emmanuel Macron’s remarkable ascent and the appeal of “radical centrism” in France, and draws parallels with Britain. “The right had become discredited in France, while here the Tory brand is becoming discredited by the day, and there was also a reaction against the Mélenchon left.”

That’s a long way from where we are now, so under what circumstances can we get there? Well, the true cost of Brexit is going to become apparent:

Cable stands by his suggestion that we may never leave the EU. “The Brexit process is going to get very messy. I meet a lot of senior civil servants and they’re trying to be loyal, but their eyebrows rise. They just can’t see how it can be done. The government haven’t taken on board the complexity of unwinding 40 years of regulatory activity.” He says the row over Euratomis a taste of the chaos to come. “The Brexiteers are only just beginning to understand the enormous can of worms they have opened up.”

Does he see any form of Brexit that can work? “I’m increasingly pessimistic,” he says. He thinks there is a 50-50 chance that Britain will get a deal and transition period that safeguard the economy. “That could happen,” he says. “But I think there’s a very high risk of the whole thing falling apart and crashing out, with all the costs associated with it. It’s at that point that the second referendum becomes absolutely essential.”

If you like that kind of thing, there’s a delicious put-down of Corbyn:

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LibLink: Brian Paddick: If we value our national security, we will avoid a hard Brexit

A couple of days before Theresa May’s ill-judged ultimatum in her Article 50 letter over trade and security, Brian Paddick wrote for the Guardian about how hard Brexit could damage our security. That’s right. If Theresa May gets her way, we will be less safe.

He started off by talking about last week’s attack at Westminster in which 4 people, PC Keith Palmer, Aysha Frade, Leslie Rhodes and Kurt Cochran were murdered. How do we balance the need to keep Parliament accessible with the safety of those in and around it?

That security must be balanced with an obligation to keep parliament open to the people. We shouldn’t turn Westminster into Fort Knox, even if such a thing were possible. But we can improve security, for politicians, staff and, crucially, police on the frontline.

Those officers are not armed. Armed support is a distance away. No one wants an ostentatious display of force, which would only increase that sense of alienation many feel about “Westminster”. But this attack shows, alas, that armed officers should be directly behind that frontline. Otherwise lives will be lost that could be saved. In this attack, I gather, it was only because a minister’s armed close protection officer happened to be close by that the assailant was stopped.

While millions are spent on surveillance powers and the security services, over the past six years £1bn has been cut from the Metropolitan police budget. That’s huge.

He went on to talk about how a hard Brexit could compromise our security effort both in cost and co-operation. 

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LibLink: Tim Farron: British voters must have the final say on the Brexit deal

In today’s Guardian, Tim Farron sets out the case for the people to decide in a referendum whether they wish to accept the terms of Brexit or remain in the EU after all.

He sets out what Theresa May is up to:

Theresa May’s tactic is clear: to accuse anyone who dares question her headlong, blindfold charge towards hard Brexit of being democracy deniers. This despite it looking increasingly likely that the result of her reckless, divisive Brexit will be to leave the single market and not reduce immigration – the very opposite of what Brexiteers pitched to the people.

Then he sets out the case for a referendum on the deal:

It was May’s choice to plumb for the hardest and most divisive Brexit, taking us out of the single market before she has even tried to negotiate. That’s why we believe the people should have the final say. Someone will: it will either be politicians or the people. If the people decide they don’t like the deal on offer, they should have the option to remain in the European Union.

This is simply too big to trust to politicians. May wants to hijack David Cameron’s mandate from the general election to deliver hard Brexit. Meanwhile, the recent tough talk from Keir Starmer won’t hide Labour’s feeble deeds: voting for Brexit, failing to stick up for the right of EU nationals to remain, and even now only really threatening to abstain rather than vote against the final deal. I have heard of loyal opposition, but this is craven.

And he points out that the outcome is likely to be far from what people voted for – and that’s going to be the fault of blinkered ministers:

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Labour leaflet: It’s a lie to say Labour opposes Brexit

This is a Labour leaflet being delivered in Stoke. Here they are, trying to out-UKIP UKIP.

“Every major party except the Lib Dems are supporting Brexit here in Stoke”

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LibLink: Sarah Olney: Theresa May’s visit to Turkey betrays our liberal values

Fresh from her meeting in Washington with a man who has extolled the effectiveness of torture, admitted sexually assaulting women and who thinks building walls between nations is a good idea, our Prime Minister heads today to meet the leader of a so-called democracy where human rights mean nothing and journalists are imprisoned.

Sarah Olney has written a blistering article in the Guardian, attacking the PM for betraying our liberal values instead of safeguarding our trading relationship with the democracies on our doorstep.

This tawdry tour shames Britain. This is a defining period on the international stage and we must consider to what extent this new course is safeguarding both our interests and values around the world.

In an age of “alternative facts”, there is no doubt about the realities of the Erdoğan regime. Even before last July’s failed coup, Erdoğan had begun systematically dismantling Turkey’s democratic institutions. Since the coup, he has embraced full-frontal authoritarianism. He is not only locking up journalists, but teachers, professors and policemen – all without due process. Not quite the outfit you’d have in mind for a regime described yesterday as an “indispensable partner” by Theresa May.

>Indeed, turn the clock back eight months and our now foreign secretary was slating the Turkish president. Yet Boris Johnson has fallen unusually silent – refusing to call Erdoğan out on his shocking crimes. There is a pattern here: ministers pursuing business deals on the international stage at odds with Britain’s best traditions and values.

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Tim Farron tops Guardian front page as Carmichael’s “You’re not an opposition” riposte to Thornberry gets biggest Question Time cheer

Last night, Alistair Carmichael took full advantage of the opportunity his last minute addition to the Question Time panel gave him to give both Conservatives and Labour a blast.

Watch him tell off Labour’s Emily Thornberry:

Earlier today, Tim Farron was the top story on the Guardian website as he lambasted Labour’s failure to put up any sort of opposition to the Tories.

In an overt attempt to steal votes from Labour in pro-remain constituencies, Farron said he believed Corbyn had put his party on the wrong side of the biggest political issue in a generation and was struggling because his MPs were increasingly split on how to respond.

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LibLink: Tim Farron: Whether you are Leave or Remain, Theresa May just betrayed you on Brexit

Tim Farron wrote a long response to Theresa May’s speech yesterday for the Guardian. Here are some of the highlights;

The new Ukip leader, Paul Nuttall, himself commented that May’s words could have come straight from a Ukip party conference speech. Farage and Nuttall might like to convince themselves that the referendum was an endorsement of their nationalist, populist politics, but that is an injustice to most of the British people who voted leave. Pursuing Ukip’s warped vision will not only have severe consequences on our economy, it will also severely damage our standing in the world.

A reckless exit from the

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LibLink: Tim Farron: The Lib Dems will fight Brexit. Labour is not doing its job

Tim Farron is popping up everywhere today. You’d think that this was co-ordinatd or something.

He’s written for us about his plan for Britain and Europe. He was on Good Morning Britain before dawn, Radio 5 Live, the Today programme.

He’s also gone and pitched a massive great marquee on Labour’s lawn in this article for the Guardian.

Labour, he says, are all over the place.

For Labour, it is still deciding whether it’s even a pro-European party. Owen Smith has made clear he wants it to be, but Jeremy Corbyn’s ambivalence was plain for all to see in the referendum campaign, and he has already made clear he wants to see the Brexit process get underway.

If they can’t or won’t hold the Government to account in the way that is required, the Liberal Democrats will. And if you think that’s unlikely, you might want to look back to the last session of the Scottish Parliament where it was the wee Lib Dem group that scored most forced changes in SNP government policy. Don’t ever underestimate us:

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Clegg in the Guardian: “Why on earth would you not want to try and do s**t?”

We’re going to be hearing quite a lot from Nick Clegg over the next couple of weeks in the run up to his book being published on 15 September.

Today he has a long interview with the Guardian in which he talks at length about some of the key moments of the Coalition. Just to get this over with. I come from the Highlands of Scotland. If any journalist had written about some of the villages I love in the same patronising way that Clegg’s interviewer, Simon Hattenstone, did about Miriam’s home town in Spain, I’d be furious.

Whilst I have often disagreed with decisions that Nick took during the Coalition years, I stand by my long held view that he was often unfairly criticised, too. We can see with ever-increasing clarity that he brought a lot of common sense and stability to government. The minute he and the Liberal Democrats vacated Whitehall, everything started to fall apart. We are suffering the consequences of an arrogant Tory party governing exclusively in its own interests.

Naivety

Any feeling that we might have had that we could have been a lot better prepared for the realities of government is confirmed by the interview. However, the caveat is, of course, that we onlookers have the benefit of hindsight now and detachment at the time. Nick does admit to what appears to be astonishing naivety. It perhaps underlines the fact that he should maybe have had more people around him who had spent years fighting the Tories and knew first hand what they were capable of.

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Guardian obituary of Jonathan Webber

In February, former West Midlands Lib Dem chair and President’s Award winner Jonathan Webber sadly died. His partner Kathryn Ball wrote an obituary for us, with tributes from Nick Clegg, Paddy Ashdown and Tim Farron. Tim said:

His advice and counsel to successive leaders, his energy and his optimism, helped sustain the party in the most challenging of circumstances.

Kathryn has now written a very interesting article on Jonathan’s life for the Guardian. Here’s an excerpt:

After studying drama and setting up a small business as a bookseller, Jonathan worked as a bus conductor in Exeter. There he met a Greek student, Kleio – and later hitchhiked 1,500 miles to Athens to be with her. He spent the next 18 years in Greece, becoming fluent in Greek and working as a literary agent publishing Greek versions of bestselling Penguin novels.

After moving to Thessaloniki, he was asked to run the UK government division of the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce to help stimulate business links throughout the Balkans – and he also started the Thessaloniki Cricket Club.

Jonathan returned to the UK in 1995. He joined the Department of Trade and Industry, helping to promote British exports and advising on trade with Greece and the Balkans, before joining the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, where I met him, and where he became director of international trade in 2005.

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LibLink: Julian Huppert If you’re pro-science, you should be pro EU

There’s not enough Julian in these parts these days, sadly. In May just under 700 votes kept him from continuing as MP for Cambridge and one of the Commons’ few scientific experts. Today, though, he’s written for the Guardian’s Science column, saying that if you are pro-science, you really need to vote to remain in the EU.

Cambridge is massively pro-EU, for many reasons, but he highlights one in particular

The answer I think lies in another special feature of Cambridge: its world leadership in science and technology. We see this in the huge number of Nobel Prizes amassed here, 92 and rising; biomedical success, such as Humira, the Cambridge-developed anti-inflammatory drug that is currently the highest-selling prescription drug in the world; and technology leadership, such as the silicon chips designed by ARM, which now power almost every mobile device in the world. Last year there was as many ARM chips shipped, as there are human arms in the world.

All of this success, from pure research to the most applied technology, from huge global companies to tiny start-ups, benefits from our international connections, and particularly our role in the EU. We get large amounts of funding from the European Research Council – well above our expected share. Overall, about a quarter of the University of Cambridge’s research funding comes from the EU. Our students go on Erasmus exchanges, experiencing life and study elsewhere, and we get many students coming here from around the EU, benefiting from the free movement of people, enriching our cultural, academic and social lives – and spending their money in our city.

It’s not just Cambridge who benefits, though:

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Farron: Don’t train people from countries with bad human rights records at Sandhurst

Tim Farron has called on the Government to stop taking money from states with poor human rights records to train their military officers at the elite Sandhurst training college. He said to the Guardian:

These Sandhurst sheikhs are sitting in our military academies, learning from our best and then taking these things back to regimes that repress their population and trample all over human rights. People will look at this and think why are we selling weapons to Saudi, training Bahrainis and then sitting there while they oppress their population.

Shared military training with our allies is a fantastic resource, but it is time to stand up for the values we talk about so much – democracy and human rights. British forces provide some of the best military training in the world, but the privilege to train with our top class troops should be reserved to those foreign armed forces who share our values and our strict adherence to humanitarian law in combat. I believe we need to end to the training of overseas royals from regimes with terrible human rights records at Sandhurst.

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LibLink: Catherine Bearder: There will be no 12 days of Christmas if we lose the turtle dove

This year the turtle dove officially became an endangered species. Psssionate conservationist Catherine Bearder MEP, who’s been made the dove’s species champion by the RSPB, has written tot the Guardian about what we stand to lose:

Hunting is affecting turtle dove populations across their European breeding grounds. Every spring, hunters in Malta shoot and trap thousands of migratory birds as they fly over the island. Malta is now the only country in the EU that allows spring hunting of turtle doves. EU conservation laws ban the killing of endangered birds, but Malta still has a derogation to do so during the spring period. Several other countries also allow the hunting of turtle doves in the autumn.

Ever since he took office, I’ve been piling the pressure on the EU’s environment commissioner Karmenu Vella to demand that laws protecting turtle doves from illegal hunting are strengthened and properly enforced. These migratory birds belong to the whole of Europe. That is why we need strong EU laws to ensure they are protected at each stage of their journey. So I’m pleased that following this pressure the EU is taking Malta to court for breaking rules that protect birds.

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Paddy Ashdown on snoopers’ charter: Politicians in a democracy must guard our freedoms

Paddy Ashdown took part in a Guardian Live event the other night, talking to Andrew Rawnsley in Bristol. The subject of the new Investigatory Powers Bill, son of Snoopers’ Charter, came up. Paddy knows about this kind of stuff. He said:

We charge the intelligence services with keeping us safe, so of course they want the maximum amount of power. But the job of a politician in a democracy is to be jealous about giving away those freedoms, and to do so only when it’s necessary. You have to make judgments as to how much infringement of the liberty of

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LibLink: Ed Davey: The Tories are trying to kill off our renewable energy boom

Former Lib Dem Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey has condemned the way that the Conservatives governing alone are trashing all he did to create a boom in clean, planet-saving renewable energy:

My experience as energy and climate change secretary – in the months I spent battling George Osborne over the budget for investment in low carbon, and in the daily attrition with Eric Pickles over onshore wind – was that many Conservatives simply regard their commitment to climate change action as something they had to say to get into power. With some honourable exceptions, most Conservatives I worked with seemed to view Lib Dem green energy policies as part of the political price they paid for the coalition.

Happily, the Conservatives cannot undo much of what the coalition achieved: from the trebling of the UK’s renewable power capacity to the 27 contracts I signed in March for more renewable power plants to be built over the next few years, the Lib Dems’ green legacy stands. I have heard that the chancellor has asked if he can get out of the contracts I signed. But he can’t. So I’m looking forward to Conservative ministers opening onshore and offshore wind farms that I commissioned.

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Ten Lib Dem council leaders call for borrowing powers to build council houses

Terraced housing
Ten Liberal Democrat council leaders, including the party’s local government spokesperson Watford Mayor Dorothy Thornhill, have written to the Guardian to call for the government to allow councils to borrow money to build council houses to deal with the “national emergency” in housing provision:

As Liberal Democrat council leaders we are outraged at the government’s short-sightedness in selling off council homes to pay for the right-to-buy extension to housing associations (PM warns councils over housing provision, 12 October). We have a vast shortage of affordable homes, which constitutes nothing short of a national emergency, and yet the government is seeking to make quick financial gains by disposing of properties that could provide much-needed homes for generations. Forcing right to buy on housing associations was the wrong policy before the election and it remains the wrong policy now. Shifting homes from one tenure to another without addressing our failure to build enough homes overall is like rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship.

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Farron tries to kill off Immigration Bill completely

Tim Farron will try and kill off the Government’s flawed Immigration Bill during the Second Reading debate on Tuesday.

From the Guardian:

The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, has challenged Labour and the Scottish National party to back an amendment he will table to the government’s immigration bill that would stop it becoming law.

Farron will table a reasoned amendment – a device used to offer reasons for rejecting a bill – when the government’s proposals are debated in parliament on Tuesday.

Tim is quoted as saying:

It is simply ridiculous to have a bill that ignores the biggest humanitarian crisis of our generation – the growing numbers of refugees in southern Europe who need us to act now,” he said.

That is why I have tabled an amendment to block this inadequate bill. I am calling on Labour, the SNP and all Tories with a conscience to back our amendment and force Theresa May to listen to the British public when they say ‘Refugees Welcome’.

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Vince Cable co-authors anti Trade Union Bill article with TUC chief

Well, there’s a turn-up for the books. A former Business Secretary teams up with the head of the TUC to warn about the draconian effects of the Trade Union Bill introduced by the Government.

In an article for the Guardian, Vince Cable and Frances O’Grady say that the Bill is trying to resolve a problem that doesn’t exist. Anyone who was brought up in the 70s would surely find it hard to argue that today is even remotely as bad as it was then. They say:

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Lib Dem digital guru Rathe talks to Guardian about internet communications

The Guardian has taken an interest in the deluge of emails being sent out by the Labour Party recently. Our head of Members and Supporters Austin Rathe is quoted in the piece explaining the difference between Labour’s approach and ours.

Most of what is being done by both party’s has been poached from the Obama campaigns.  But while Labour have been more indiscriminate in their approach, the Liberal Democrats have sought to build relationships with people. All those emails with pictures of cute babies that the Labour Party use to harvest your email address are not well used. Over to Austin:

They knew nothing about you except that you’re an email address,” says Rathe. “And they just throw everything at you. It’s a sledgehammer approach – it’s watching what went on in the States and learning all the wrong lessons, just thinking that you just have to send a lot of email. But you’ve got to talk to people about things they’re interested in, it’s got to be driven by that.” Rathe’s party uses email more to focus on achievable local goals than the big national picture. “We build relationships with people on issues that they care about,” Rathe adds. “And we give local campaigners the tools to do it themselves.”

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Lib Dem peers challenge “outrageous gerrymander” by Tories

The Government has ignored Electoral Commission advice and brought forward changes to the way we register to vote. Individual electoral registration was brought in during the last Parliament, but electoral registers would have contained existing data until 1 December 2016. They have now moved this forward to 1 December this year.

Liberal Democrat peers didn’t miss this announcement sneaking out as MPs and Peers head off for Summer recess and they have laid down motions in both houses of Parliament to try to defeat it.

The Guardian has the details;

The Electoral Commission had advised the government in June to spend another year transferring voters on the old household-based register to the new individual register, but ministers want to short-circuit the process so that it is completed by December 2015, and not the end of 2016. The commission says there are 1.9 million names on the household register that are not on the individual register

The cleaned-up register will form the basis of the parliamentary constituency boundary review to be conducted before the 2020 election that will both reduce the number of seats and see a redrawing of the boundaries in favour of the Conservatives.

Although this is clearly an issue for the Boundary Review, surely this will also drop nearly 2 million people off the register for the European Referendum if it happens before 1 December 2016. Might that give an advantage to one side or the other? Given that it’s most likely to be young people who drop off the register, it could minimise the Yes vote.

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LibLink: David Steel: Tim Farron is a man of conviction and a risk taker – that’s why he got my vote

David Steel has written in the Guardian about why he backed Tim Farron and what he thinks he’ll bring to the party:

That level of deep commitment which Farron obviously has, combined with his organisational skills and northern public persona, has all the ingredients of a successful leadership. I speak as one who sat in a gloomy Commons party of six after the 1970 election debacle, three of us clinging to majorities under 1000. It took time, but we turned that round, and went on both to increase our numbers and form the significant Alliance with the SDP and eventually the new united party, which at elections under Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy and Clegg reached new heights of public support. The same can happen again.

A colleague said to me during this contest: “But isn’t Farron a bit risky?” I responded that that may be so, but what the party needs at this time is a risk-taker, not afraid to revisit more traditional Liberal policies – on Trident, on Europe, on industrial democracy, on land value taxation, on the pursuit of a more just society, and on the need for a federal constitution including a new upper house.

It will be a long and at times painful journey, but with Tim Farron inspiring and leading it I see grounds for real hope and optimism.

 You can read the whole article here. 
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Two points about the Guardian’s analysis of Labour’s campaign

Patrick Wintour has written a long analysis of Labour’s General Election campaign. It outlines strategic misjudgements, disagreements and errors by Ed Miliband and makes a very interesting read. Before anyone says it for me, a similar account for the Liberal Democrats would also be enlightening. Most of us could write it ourselves and I suspect that there would be remarkable unanimity about the ineffectiveness of our national messaging, our positioning as a “none of the above” party and the very odd “stability, unity and decency” message of the last few days.

Two things particularly strike me about Wintour’s article. The first is that women are pretty much invisible. Lucy Powell, Labour’s campaign chair, is mentioned only because of a letter she wrote to the BBC complaining about coverage during the election. Harriet Harman, the Deputy Leader, only seems to come in to the picture when she’s waiting for some shred of good news in studios on election night. All the key players seem to have been men. This is exactly the same as it was during the Brown era when Harriet Harman was treated pretty much as an irrelevance. I’m not saying that they would have won the election had they listened to the women, because there is no indication that the women were getting it either. Of course, the ease with which Yvette Cooper seems to be distancing herself from everything Labour said during the election campaign is interesting. Did she put her views forward during it and have them rejected by the cabal at the centre of the campaign?

Similarly in our campaign, men seem to have dominated the decision making. Olly Grender was certainly there doing great practical ground war stuff, but it did seem sometimes as if Clegg, Alexander and Laws were just making stuff up on the bus as the campaign went along and the rest of the operation was playing catch-up.

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LibLink: Vince Cable: Charles Kennedy: he was left of Labour maybe, but always a true liberal

Vince Cable has been writing about Charles Kennedy for the Guardian. He mentioned Iraq and was honest about his own role in confronting Charles towards the end of his time as leader. It was this passage on Charles’ ideas and philosophy that caught our eye, though.

In the early Blair-Brown years, when Labour successfully colonised the centre ground, Charles took the Liberal Democrats into territory described as “left of Labour”. This reputation was underlined when we were joined in the run-up to the 2005 general election by a defecting leftwing Labour MP, Brian Sedgemore, and others with similar views.

But this was also the period when the Orange Book, edited by David Laws, to which I contributed, was produced as a counter view, with more economically liberal arguments.

As our party’s shadow chancellor at the time I had doubts about the wisdom of promising a range of free things – university tuition and personal social care, for instance. But it is wrong to portray Charles as a socialist. He had come into parliament as a social democrat and remained one. Like me, he joined the SDP in the early 1980s when Labour was anti-Europe, anti-Nato and was looking back nostalgically to the era of state control and trades union power. For those of us who were attracted to the ideals of social justice, and wanted an alternative both to Thatcher’s Conservatism and to what Labour then offered, the SDP then the Lib Dems offered a way forward.

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Five Liberal Democrat ex-MPs turn down the ermine

Honourable mentions for Messrs Cable, Laws, Alexander, Baker and Hughes who have, according to the Guardian, turned down or said they are not interested in offers of peerages in the dissolution honours:

Four senior Liberal Democrat politicians defeated in the general election, including former business secretary Vince Cable, have turned down offers of a peerage from Nick Clegg in the dissolution honours list. It is understood that David Laws, the former education minister, Simon Hughes, the former justice minister, and former Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander have also decided to reject a chance to sit in the House of Lords.

The Lords is likely to be a battleground for the government since the Conservatives do not have an overall majority in the upper chamber, even though in practice there are strict limits on how far peers can resist central planks of legislation agreed by the Commons. The Liberal Democrats currently have 101 peers, Labour 214, the Conservatives 178 and crossbenchers 224.

Hughes, a former deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, who lost his Southwark and Bermondsey seat to Labour, told guests at a recent birthday party: “I don’t believe in an unelected second chamber. When you see the list I will not be on it. I am not going there.”

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So, the Guardian finally recognises the usefulness of the Liberal Democrats, years too late

The Guardian Building Window in London

The Guardian has spent the last five years spewing poison in the direction of the Liberal Democrats. Now, a week into a majority Tory government, they finally realise what good we did. I suggest that this is not entirely a surprise. A cursory glance at the Conservative manifesto gave an indication of what would happen. David Cameron’s pronouncement, back in 2012, that he’d govern like a true Tory if it wasn’t for the Liberal Democrats, went unignored.

Here’s what they had to say in an editorial posted last night:

…yet it is true too that the Lib Dems were frequently a moderating, and on occasion a truly positive, force within the coalition. Even in social security, a field in which they ultimately proved disappointingly willing to fold, they postponed the serious Conservative assault for a couple of years. On the core liberal territory they proved more determined – defending human rights, seeing off the snooper’s charter and rallying to defend equality laws. It has taken precisely one week of majority Conservative government to remind Britain why, in the absence of a liberal party, one would have to be invented – and indeed, why one will now have to be reinvented and rebuilt.

They then acknowledge that Liberal Democrats are needed because their precious Labour party can’t be relied upon to stand up for civil liberties.

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Clegg: Lib Dems bring conscience and stability to a Coalition

As the Lib Dem manifesto is launched, with a headline of giving opportunity to kids, which is much more inspiring than the Tory extend right to buy in middle of housing crisis caused by right to buy and Labour waffle on deficit, Nick Clegg has been talking to the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour. His theme is that we know that the election is not going to give anyone an overall majority, and asks who people want to be walking into Downing Street with Cameron or Miliband.

the looming question in the next phase of this campaign is whether there is to be a coalition of grievance, or of conscience. The last thing the British economy needs is the instability and factionalism that those coalitions of grievance of right and left represents

He talks about UKIP and the SNP offering the “politics of grievance”. Though he uses the same theme of Labour being forced to dance to Alex Salmond’s tune, he stops short of the ridiculous things being said by the Tories on that. He also makes a very important part about the failures of the Labour Party:

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Caroline Lucas: Vince Cable could make you think eating babies was ok

It’s fair to say that this is not a headline I ever thought I’d be writing, but there you go.

The Guardian decided that it might be a good idea to take ten politicians and send them on a “blind date” with someone from a different party. They didn’t exactly push the boat out with this. The MPs met in the cafe in Portcullis House which is ok, but I prefer the public one off Westminster Hall. It’s always a joy to see what food combinations they come up with. They had an Earl Grey cheesecake one time I was there, which was a bit lacking in flavour, if I’m honest.

Probably the closest match politically was between our Vince Cable and Green MP Caroline Lucas. Afterwards, each MP had to say what they thought of the other. Caroline was generally very positive about Vince but made a bit of a strange comment:

My overriding feeling about Vince is that he’s so reasonable and so plausible that he could make eating babies sound an entirely rational thing to do.

The only thing is that Vince is generally right about stuff. If she thought that what he was saying about things like tuition fees and austerity was rational, it’s because it was. I was a bit miffed on Vince’s behalf by the baby-eating comment. She could have chosen a better analogy.

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Opinion: Getting things out of proportion

Finding things to complain about in The Guardian is hardly difficult, but here are two little blemishes that bleed deep:

First we have a quote from editor Alan Rusbridger in 2013, touching on the AV referendum:

They came up with such a weak version of proportional representation that they could not get anyone excited or enthused.

And second, a report from earlier this year on a Guardian staff ballot:

Staff of the Guardian and Observer have voted in favour of Katharine Viner… using the single transferable vote system… he successful candidate is guaranteed a place on the shortlist of three that will go forward to the next round of interviews conducted by the Scott Trust.

Claiming that AV is a form of PR, or that you used STV for what turns out to be a single-winner election, is incongruous at best, and probably just plain wrong. And, of course, the article doesn’t mention that Labour was the party that “came up with” AV as a 2010 election commitment.

If you want to get technical, it is true that AV is essentially STV-1 (STV electing a single member).  But the two names are used distinctly with good reason. STV-1 is a degenerate case, with less complexity and none of the proportionality of its multi-winner siblings. Important connotations of “the single transferable vote system” do not apply to AV, and vice versa. Even if this kind of equivalence was intended, the bold passages still needed qualification in order to make sense to the Guardian’s general readership. It seems far more likely the editorial process just got it wrong.

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Miriam Gonzalez Durantez meets Miranda Sawyer

There’s an interesting interview between Miranda Sawyer and Miriam Gonzalez Durantez in the Guardian this weekend.

They meet at an Inspiring Women event on sport at the aquatics centre where the Olympics took place and, separately, in Miriam’s office.

Miriam talks about the attitudes in the Spanish village where she was brought up, where people pitied her working mother.

Her mother was the object of some local sympathy. “People felt sorry for her because she had to work,” González Durántez says, “but she wanted to. My mother has taught three generations in the village. I am never going to make so much of a difference.”

Actually, many of the women González Durántez knew had jobs – they just weren’t paid. Both her grandmothers came from rural communities where women laboured in the fields. Her maternal grandmother brought up eight boys (one died) during the Spanish civil war. “She was a tiny, dynamite woman,” González Durántez says. “Always vivacious and positive, a lesson in life.”

Though democracy came to Spain after Franco died in 1975, old-fashioned attitudes took a while to wither. At her school, “when boys did sport, girls did knitting. And boys, when they behaved badly, were sent with the girls.” González Durántez enjoyed reading and music – she played an hour of piano every day (“I say this to my children, who do half an hour a week!”). As the eldest child of the mayor, she was very much part of village life: “I organised things for the little kids, I helped my father in politics, I tried it all. A race or something, there I was. I wasn’t very good at running, but I tried it all.”

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 1 Comment
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