Tag Archives: the times

No, the Liberal Democrats aren’t going to be absorbed by anyone. We have a job to do

Rachel Sylvester writes in the Times today (£) about the need for a realignment in politics. Her piece is pretty much a puff piece for Lovefilm founder, Simon Franks’ new vehicle, United for Change, which will apparently launch in the Spring. she makes an astonishing statement:

It’s too soon to say whether this will become the vehicle for the much needed reconfiguration but there is clearly an appetite for something different. Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former Downing Street chief of staff, is also co-ordinating discussions about a new political party. The Liberal Democrats have indicated that they would happily be absorbed into another party that shares their values.

Excuse me?

The Liberal Democrats have indicated that they would happily be absorbed into another party that shares their values.

Oh no, we bloody haven’t. Let’s be clear about that.

If any senior figure has said such a thing, then they have no right to do so. And they certainly can’t speak for our members who might have something to say about that.

The problem with these shiny new centre parties is obvious from a quick look at United for Change’s website:

Is there anything more vacuous than this:

BRITAIN IS GREAT, ITS POLITICS SHOULD BE TOO.

WE’RE BUILDING A PARTY PROUDLY BORN OUTSIDE OF WESTMINSTER.

Heavens. Donald Trump and Nigel Farage could sign up to something like that. What the hell do they stand for? The best thing I can say about it is that it didn’t put an apostrophe in the its.

The problem is that these sorts of centrist parties tend to be authoritarian in make-up and outlook. A member of such an organisation would have much less power than they would have as a member of the Liberal Democrats, where they could put forward ideas and vote on specific policy. Liberal Democrats are used to having much more say than I expect will be offered to supporters of United for Change.

Although note the similarities. Apparently UFC wants to sign up a whole load of supporters who will then get to vote for leader. Sound familiar?

My two biggest problems with our supporters’ scheme idea are that it’s a processy distraction from what we really need to be developing – our compelling and inspiring narrative of who we are and what we’re about and that it also distracts from the fact that we are a pretty open party that gives our members power.

UFC, from what I can see neither offers their members power nor has any compelling ideas. Two months before the SDP was formed, its four founders, Shirley Williams, David Owen, Roy Jenkins and Bill Rodgers, put out the Limehouse Declaration. It kicked some ass. 

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LibLink: Layla Moran: MPs should not get Christmas off in the middle of this Brexit crisis

MPs should be in Parliament sorting out the Brexit crisis, argues Lib Dem MP Layla Moran in an article for Times Red Box (£). She put up the text on her Facebook page:

It’s time to cancel Christmas. Well, for MPs at least.

I’ve been struggling to put into words my anger and frustration at this clustershambles of a government and this inept official opposition over the past few days.

In the real world outside this Westminster bubble, any company facing such an existential crisis would not allow its executives time off. Let’s not forget that we are less than 100 days away from an event so theoretically cataclysmic in the case of no deal that soldiers have been put on standby to prepare for it.

People understandably expect us to be in the office and sorting things out — Christmas or no Christmas. It is time for MPs to step up and get this national crisis sorted.

Leaving this crisis unresolved until January makes parliament look so inept and out of touch to the voters who rightly expect better. Billions of pounds is being spent by the government on preparing for a no deal and as businesses, the NHS and other public services start to put in place no-deal contingencies, parliament could not look any more out of touch — taking weeks off for Christmas while the fire burns all around us.

Liberal Democrats demand better — by having these debates and the meaningful vote now. If that means we have to vote between Christmas and new year, or even on Christmas Day itself, then so be it.

It is worth saying that claims that the choice is between Theresa May’s deal or no deal are a lie. A no-deal scenario can and will be stopped. We can move to a public vote on the deal at any time and moreover parliament can revoke article 50 if necessary. The government needs to stop trying to hoodwink us into believing that no deal is still on the table.

But to get to that point there are hoops we need to jump through first. Let’s get the inevitable defeat out the way so we can move on and find a way forward.

Let’s get on with the vote of no confidence (if Jeremy ever decides to do some opposing). Lib Dems, SNP, Plaid and the Greens have put down a proper confidence motion compliant with the rules of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. All it takes is for Jeremy to add his signature.

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LibLink: Willie Rennie: The Conservatives are fanning the flames of xenophobia

Willie Rennie writes in the Times that the Tories are throwing petrol on the fires of prejudice unleashed by the Leave campaign during the EU Referendum.

Telling doctors from other countries who are here saving lives in our NHS that their position is only secure until we can rush a crop of new graduates through medical school is not responsible. Telling people from other countries who are thinking about moving here to work and pay taxes that their names might be included on a list of foreign workers is not responsible.

If we are publishing lists of foreign workers, we may as well pull up the drawbridge. These policies are not about controlling immigration. They are about demonising immigrants.

The message this sends to foreign students, medical staff, businesses and others is clear. You are not welcome here. As a liberal who has always believed that we can achieve more when we work with those around us, this does not just make me sad. It makes me incredibly angry.

The Scottish Conservatives are just as responsible as their colleagues, he adds:

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A whole world of sexist fail in today’s Sunday Times

It’s hard to imagine how today’s Sunday Times could possibly have got it more wrong.

It trailed that it had a “tantalising secret” about Nicola Sturgeon’s private life.

That turned out to be the fact that, five years ago, she had a miscarriage. What a crass way to headline an intensely painful experience.

And to add insult to injury, the paper accompanied the article with a panel featuring childless politicians. All of them were female.

As ever, women are judged by different standards. The excellent Women 50/50 campaign group made the point visually:

It was the Sunday Times sister paper, The Times, which published that interview when Andrea Leadsom suggested that being a mum meant that she “had a real stake in the future of this country.” Some culture change in that organisation is urgently required.

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LIbLink: Alistair Carmichael: Parliament can not duck responsibility for UK joining Iraq war

As we have a 13-years-too-late mea culpa (but a big boy made him do it) from John Prescott, Alistair Carmichael writes for the Times about Parliament’s role in supporting the Iraq War.

He makes the very valid point that Parliament could have given Blair a much harder time, asking for more evidence, scrutinising every claim made, but they ducked it.

Too many of those who now say, “Of course, if I had known then what I know now …” must be challenged. For the most part they could not have known then what they know now because they were not prepared to ask the questions or to demand the evidence.

Attention focuses on the actions of the prime minister and government of the day and rightly so — they failed to do what they should have done. That is, however, equally true of the Conservative opposition. Where they should have questioned, they acquiesced. Where they should have demanded evidence, they accepted assertions. As a party of the establishment, they could not allow themselves to believe that the various arms of government would be embarking on a war without a sound basis in law.

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Farron: Lib Dems will take on the Tories and deliver the internationalist, economically competent, decent government that Britain deserves”

An article on the Times Red Box website examined the potential for a Liberal Democrat comeback following the EU Referendum.

I spoke to the journalist who wrote it, Natasha Clark, and may have compared Tim Farron to another Liberal leader from across the Atlantic:

They had a dynamic leader who made the case, harnessed the mood of the people with a very simple message. I think we will soon have a majority of people who don’t want to leave the EU, and we will be there to make that case.

Tim Farron was also interviewed and he had a right go at Theresa May:

Farron is, understandably, not a fan of any of either candidate for the Tory leadership, in particular the home secretary, who he slams for her inaction during the referendum campaign.

“Theresa May makes Jeremy Corbyn look like a grafter,” he jeered. “In the sense that she can step into the breach having done nothing to save the country… she may have had more of an impact than if Jeremy Corbyn did. The economy is going down the plughole because of that cowardice.”

In contrast, he made it clear what he and the Lib Dems have to offer:

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Tim and Vince write for the Times on the need for ministers to provide leadership on Brexit strategy

Tim Farron and Vince Cable have written for the Times’ Red Box website setting out what they think should happen in negotiations with the EU and in economic strategy as we face a self-induced Brexit recession.

As Nick Clegg said before the referendum, so called Project Fear was understating the impact Brexit would have. We are also suffering a void of leadership and some very unrealistic thinking from the Brexit camp who, as we discovered, didn’t really have a plan.

We can’t hang about, they say:

Business and investors won’t wait around forever to see leadership.  Many first tier organisations will simply pack their bags and go unless they see a path ahead.  Meanwhile our smaller businesses, and particularly those in high risk/ high innovation sectors will feel the squeeze as bank lending dries up as it did in 2008.

Two things need to be done. You get the feeling this was filed before yesterday’s extraordinary events:

The first can only be done by leaders of Leave – those who wish to lead us into the new unknown – and in particular, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.  They must now show his vision for the UK and provide a clear plan for Britain’s relationship with the EU.  To reassure the market they, and other potential prime ministers, need to make clear that membership of the single market is the priority ask for any negotiations.  Businesses need to know that, whatever else, their key relationships will not have to fundamentally change.

It will require real leadership, rather than populist platitudes.  It may mean securing a deal which pleases no one and does not address many of the concerns raised by leave voters about immigration and freedom of movement.  Leading is about making choices, it’s now time for Boris and Gove to tell us theirs.

The second urgent priority must be the responsibility of the current government.  There is now every likelihood of a Brexit recession.  If the government acts now, by abandoning its already unnecessary financial straitjacket and allowing capital investment and stimulus support to flow into precarious parts of our economy, we might avoid the worst impacts on jobs and livelihoods. The economy could be stimulated through the Network Rail Capital Project and local authorities being allowed to borrow to build houses. The £250bn the governor of the Bank of England has put aside could be put into the Funding for Lending and the Regional Growth Fund.

Of primary concern must be our most innovative industries.  Those businesses on the cutting edge are likely to see funding from traditional financial institutions dry up as banks revert to their core business model.  Giving serious financial help and stability to these industries is vital to ensure their long term future in the UK.

The British Business Bank, set up by the Lib Dems in Government, is a crucial part of the support for business that’s needed:

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Catherine Bearder to Nigel Lawson: Pulling out of the EU would mean losing power and influence over our future

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder has written to the Times (£) to respond to Nigel Lawson’s article which argued that the UK should leave the EU:

She wrote:

Sir, Lord Lawson’s argument for EU exit may be eloquent but it is fanciful. It is true that the 19 countries of the eurozone are going to have to move closer together. But that makes it even more imperative that Britain, as the financial capital of Europe, defends its economic interests in the EU’s single market as a whole.

Half of our exports go to the rest of Europe and even if we were

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The Times’ curious use of single quotation marks in headlines

times falconer

Women ‘are not tough enough to lead Labour’

Such was the headline in the Times last Friday, above an article by Lord Falconer. You would be forgiven for tinking that Lord Falconer actually said that women “are not tough enough to lead Labour”. But what he actually wrote was:

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Shirley Williams highlights SNP’s failings in government

SCaron and Shirleyhirley Williams has written to the Times (£) to highlight that the SNP has not been as successful in government as it would like people to believe. She highlights failures on student debt, class sizes, the NHS and, importantly for anyone of a liberal mindset, its many failings on civil liberties.Here’s her letter:

The election campaign in the United Kingdom has been seriously impoverished by the absence of any detailed analysis south of the border of the SNP’s record in government.

Today the Scottish NHS is in crisis, with targets for cancer treatments not being met. More than 1,000 beds have been closed in Scottish hospitals since 2012. Last year, expenditure on the NHS in Scotland fell by 1.2 per cent while in England it rose by 4.4 per cent. Expenditure on training nurses and midwives in Scotland has been cut by 11 per cent.

In education, the SNP pledged to limit primary school class sizes to a maximum of 18 — a pledge it made when it first came into government in 2007. In fact, class sizes have risen in every year since 2010.

University students have been saddled with greater debt because they have to start repaying their loans once their incomes reach £16,500, while the figure in England is now £21,000. Worst of all, part-time college places have been cut by 130,000 — a travesty at a time when the UK needs skilled women and men to get the economy back on track. The SNP has not even met its unambitious target to build 6,000 affordable homes, despite the obvious need.

Additionally, the SNP’s troubling record on civil liberties has been further extended by its efforts to build an identity database based on NHS records. Its creation of a single national police force has been to the detriment of local policing and communities they serve; Highlanders have been aghast at the sight of armed police undertaking routine duties on their streets. It is a bigger insult that local communities’ calls to reverse the policy were ignored.

The SNP now seeks to present itself as a party with a strong interest in the future of the UK. Its own record makes that very hard to believe.

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The Times: Lib Dem digital operations “closest to Team Obama”

The way the parties approach digital campaigning is examined in today’s Times (£), which is very complimentary about the Liberal Demcorats’ operation, saying that it is closest to the gold standard in this area, the Obama campaign.

Thanks to their strong ground intelligence, the Liberal Democrats have been able to come closest to the “micro-targeting” of individual voters pioneered by Team Obama. Yet data protection issues and lack of money present stumbling blocks for British parties as they try to match his campaign’s success.

Soon-to-be Marathon Man Austin Rathe is quoted:

Closest to the Obama model are the Lib Dems, who have a wealth of data gleaned from a long focus on door-knocking and detailed canvassing. In 2011, the party decided to shell out a “seven-figure sum” on Connect, a voter database used by the Obama campaign. It then paid a data company to identify the Facebook profiles of as many voters as possible. Rather than asking the site to target a broad range of people, the Lib Dems can provide lists of individuals to be targeted with a particular message.

On the day of the autumn statement, the party paid to push a story about a road expansion in front of 11,000 target voters in Berwick. “We will never put out a blanket email or Facebook post,” says Austin Rathe, a Lib Dem staffer. “We will make sure you see something you care about, whether it’s on the environment or climate change.”

What? You mean there are things I don’t see? Definitely in the huff now.

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LibLink: Stephen Tall: Ignore the Liberal Democrats at your peril, and don’t write them off

Stephen Tall has been writing for the Times’ Red Box on Liberal Democrat prospects for the election. He makes the point that although commentators seem keen to ignore the party, we may yet be serious players in the next Parliament.

However, the Lib Dems’ 120+ polls reveal something Ashcroft’s polling has neglected: naming the candidate makes a big difference for the Lib Dems. In seats as diverse as Labour-facing Cambridge and Tory-facing St Austell and Newquay, asking voters to think about whose name will actually appear on the ballot paper is enough to flip these seats into the Lib Dem column.

Even in Scotland, where the SNP surge could flatten all before it, the party rates its chances of holding a clutch of seats, such as Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine. Oh, and anyone betting against Charles Kennedy needs their head examined.

The margins, though, are wafer-thin. On a good day, with a following wind, the Lib Dems could hold up to 40 seats (though few expect the final tally to be quite that high).

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The Times: “Lib Dems are great survivors”

Writing in the Times (£), Philip Collins makes some predictions about the Liberal Democrats’ fortunes. He reckons we’ll be part of a coalition with the Conservatives after the general election. I suspect party members will have a different feeling until we see what’s on offer. Collins also has some fairly unpalatable recommendations for the party, such as ditching climate change.

He reckons we won’t face the wipeout many predict:

The party’s own polling is the clue to the relentless optimism of its senior personnel. Where they have a presence on the local council and the sitting MP, the Lib Dems are competitive. Ukip will help them against the Tories and the electoral system that Lib Dems have always hated is coming to their rescue. There has been a lot of speculation about where Nick Clegg will go after the election. My own bet is Sheffield Hallam, about once a fortnight.

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Tall and Lindsay make the Liberal Democrat “power list”

The  Times (£) today publishes its list of the Top 50 most influential Liberal Democrats which has been compiled by blogger turned LBC presenter Iain Dale. This site’s two co-editors and our Associate Editor are both in it.

At 33, Stephen Tall is described thus:

Last year Tall replaced Mark Pack as co-editor of the hugely successful Liberal Democrat Voice, the must-read site for party activists. A research associate at CentreForum, he is usually more at home with the politics of David Laws than of Simon Hughes, but rarely picks factional fights as a critical friend of the party who prefers to talk up its achievements rather than knock them down.

This is all fine except its not accurate that he replaced Mark Pack. They worked together for several years.

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: We must embrace Putin to beat Islamic State

Paddy Ashdown has been writing in the Times about the need to get Russia onside in the fight against Islamic State.

Russia has so far been excluded from our coalition that is fighting Islamic State (Isis). Why? It has a dog in this fight, too — arguably a much bigger one than we have. Sunni jihadism is roaring away in the Russian Islamic republics of Dagestan and Chechnya, almost as much as in Iraq and Syria. We in Europe may be concerned about jihadis returning from the battlefield. But Russia is one of the battlefields.

Washington friends tell me that the reason for this reluctance to draw in Russia is the personal animus between presidents Putin and Obama. If so, get over it. A wider coalition that includes the Russians, actively or passively, could open the way to a UN security council resolution, provide the best means of limiting the spread of the crisis and vastly enhance our horsepower in resolving it.

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Are the Greens to the Lib Dems what Ukip is to the Tories?

image“As Ukip is to the Tories, so can the Green party be to the Lib Dems.” That’s a sentence I wrote here, almost seven years ago, on 3rd November, 2007.

In The Times, Sam Coates has looked at how the quiet rise of the Greens in recent months – the party polled just ahead of the Lib Dems in May’s European elections – might hurt the Lib Dems at the May 2015 general election.

An analysis of the European election results shows the Green vote strengthening and consolidating in the

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Nick Clegg doesn’t want his children to follow him into politics

Nick Clegg in a London schoolThere are a couple of reports today of an interview Nick Clegg has given to the Radio Times. The publication itself, in its teaser, has him saying that, being a protective parent, he doesn’t want to see his children following him into politics because of its tough and hostile environment.

I’m like any parent. The first, most visceral instinct you have as a parent is you want to protect your children, and politics is a very rough business you know. It’s absolutely not for the faint-hearted

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The Times interviews Maajid Nawaz: “I am planning to become a quite respectable Liberal Democrat MP”

maajid-navazToday’s Times carries an in-depth interview with Maajid Nawaz, Lib Dem candidate for the three-way marginal London seat of Hampstead & Kilburn, and co-founder and chairman of the Quilliam Foundation, the counter-extremism think tank. (Readers may have caught Maajid’s excellent performance on BBC1’s Question Time on Thursday night.)

You can read it in full here (£), but here are a couple of excerpts for those who can’t read beyond the paywall:

Maajid Nawaz can understand why two aspirational Muslim brothers from Cardiff have ended up going on jihad in Syria. Born

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Opinion: Did SLF call for leadership ballots in The Times? Er, no.

Social Liberal ForumI do not buy any of Rupert Murdoch’s products as a general rule, and this decision seems to have been vindicated by their printing a fictionalised account of a letter printed in today’s edition, actually the Social Liberal Forum’s first statement on the events of recent days.

Our statement  calls for a serious re-examination of party strategy which many of us feel is the key factor behind last week’s appalling election results. It was agreed by the SLF Council who have a range of views about the LibDems4Change petition. For the record, …

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Gove and Laws write for Times: We are committed to free school meals policy because evidence shows it helps kids achieve more

20120907-FNS-LSC-0544On his various media appearances this morning, Nick Clegg has been asked whether he ordered Michael Gove and David Laws to write an article setting out the background to the free school meals policy. He  said on Call Clegg that he had suggested it to them that they clarify the situation to reassure parents that the policy will be delivered on time.

This comes after a febrile few days when Dominic Cummings, Gove’s former Special Adviser, has been telling everyone who will listen that this was a policy drawn up pretty much …

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++BREAKING: Antidisestablishmentarian Times and Telegraph reveal new danger posed by 150 year-old Liberal pledge for separation of Church and State

times tele disestablishmentIs there no actual news happening today? Sounds a stupid question. I mean, the US has accused Russia of deliberately destabilising Ukraine, affordability tests for new mortgages are going to be toughened, and the state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland has vetoed big bonuses for staff. All important, interesting stories.

Then I looked at today’s Times and Telegraph, both of which lead on whether the Church of England should remain the established state church.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s a diverting issue. A little over five years ago, …

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On Sarah Wollaston’s naming and shaming in The Times of “very aggressive male bloggers”

sarah wollastonBlogging is back in the headlines again today. Dr Sarah Wollaston, the feistily independent Conservative MP for Totnes, has hit back at those online critics who denounced her role in the trial of her fellow Tory, Nigel Evans, acquitted this week on all charges of sexual assault and one of rape.

In an interview with The Times, Dr Wollaston was keen to stress that she was in no way challenging the verdict in the case, adding that she empathised with Mr Evans and his ordeal. She confessed, however, that the

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The verdict of Philip Collins, chief speech writer for Tony Blair, on Nick Clegg: “the Deputy Prime Minister should be applauded by all liberal voters”

Nick Clegg Q&A 19Philip Collins uses his column in today’s Times to write something not often written on that paper’s pages (or anywhere else for that matter): praise for the Lib Dems in Coalition. Here’s the paywalled link, and here’s a glimpse behind the paywall of what he has to say:

It is therefore a serious defence of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats to commend them for things that would have happened had they not been there. It is in the nature of things that have not happened that we

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What Jeremy Browne did – and DIDN’T – tell The Times about the Lib Dems

the times browne pointlessLib Dems ‘are pointless’ – that’s today’s Times front page lead, reporting an interview it carries with Lib Dem MP Jeremy Browne.

You might imagine, therefore, that Jeremy Browne had at some point in his interview said the Lib Dems “are pointless”. But if you read the article you’ll be disappointed. He doesn’t say it. That a newspaper with the reputation of The Times should put in quotation marks made-up quotes is quite something.

However, the headline isn’t based on nothing, even if one of the words attributed to …

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Times reports Lib Dem “infighting” but misses out David Laws’ dismissal of their “highly misleading” story

Yesterday, the Times reported that the Liberal Democrat leadership were preparing to ditch policies from our manifesto which wouldn’t get agreement from either the Conservative or Labour parties. I wrote of the dangers of such a move, arguing that our manifesto needed to be brimming with liberalism.

David Laws, who chairs the manifesto group, wrote on the party website that the Times story was highly misleading.

The latest example of this is the highly misleading article on the front page of today’s Times (18 February) under the headlines ‘Lib Dems Axe pledges for coalition deal’ and ‘Lib Dems seeking policies to

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Nobody else will speak up for liberalism, so our manifesto has to be brimming with it

lib dem manifesto tax cutI find myself bemused by this report from today’s Times (£) which suggests that Liberal Democrats would steer clear of any policies that both the Conservatives or Labour disagreed with in our manifesto for next year’s General Election.

The article reports a conversation with a Liberal Democrat source:

He conceded that the party was not going to win a majority at the next general election, but said it was vital that it left open the opportunity of working with either of the other two parties. “We need to

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Quilliam Foundation to sue after Maajid Nawaz’s and other staff members’ personal information went up on government website

maajid-navazThe Times reports (£) that in the week when Liberal Democrat candidate Maajid Nawaz was subject to death threats after tweeting a cartoon of Mohammed, the Department of Communities and Local Government erroneously published his personal mobile number as part of a response to a Freedom of Information request:

It has now been revealed that in the week following the tweet — as Mr Nawaz received daily death threats and a bounty was declared on his head in Pakistan — the Department of Local Government and Communities (DCLG) posted his personal

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How can we do politics better?

There’s been a spate of articles and comments by Liberal Democrat politicians which, at a guess, isn’t co-ordinated, but they all address the same themes – the problems with the way that we do politics and lack of trust in politicians and institutions.

Paddy Ashdown told the Times (£), reported also for free in the Guardian that public faith in British institutions was “crumbling into dust” with some very harsh words for the BBC and NHS:

The BBC is revealed as an organisation which can’t manage its own affairs, misspends public money and seems to have been complicit in aggrandising

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Times: “The increasingly confident and powerful Mr Clegg”

Anyone who watched Prime Minister’s Question Time or listens to Call Clegg regularly will know that Nick Clegg is often in relaxed, confident mood these days. He answers questions with ease and authenticity.

Writing in today’s Times, Alice Thomson writes about the “increasingly confident and powerful Mr Clegg” in a way that makes you think she doesn’t really like it.

But the bizarre paradox is that the more scandals they have overcome and the worse the Lib Dems do in the polls, the more confident their high command has become.

She doesn’t really take into account that national polls don’t really mean that …

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An engagement is announced…..

From today’s Times (£):

Ed and Russell Times cropped

Mr E T Fordham, of course, is  better known to us all as Ed, vice-chair of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats who, along with many others from that organisation, took pride of place in our Equal Marriage Roll of Honour.

We knew of his and Russell’s happy news already, of course, because Julian Huppert had told the world about it during the Commons’ final passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and been told off by the Speaker. The exchange is recorded forever

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