Tag Archives: vince cable

Today on Lucy Salek’s Lewisham campaign…and why you should go to help her soon

I have a friend who’s heading down to Lewisham for a few days today to help Lucy Salek. She’s travelling 400 miles to work in a by-election in London. Why?

Well, the sooner you get there, the bigger the impact. We’ve had a fair few people out this weekend – 3 figures – which isn’t bad. We need more, though, to show that we are aiming high and taking the fight to the pro-Brexit Tory and Labour parties.

It’s those early days of a by-election where we can lay down a statement of intent. If people get lots of stuff from us early on and we create a bit of a buzz, we have more chance of a really good result. In Dunfermline in 2006, we were able to establish our credentials in the first couple of weeks and went from strength to strength after that.The more we can be seen all over the constituency and the more leaflets people get from us and, most importantly, if they find us on their doorsteps, the bigger the chance of a successful result. So if you possibly can, do get down early and often.

There’s also a purely selfish reason why you should go now – to see what happens in the early days of a big campaign. See if they are trying out any new quirky things, get some samples of early literature to crib from in your campaign.

Oh, and you will have massive amounts of fun too. I’m probably not going to get there in person but I have donated and I will be making calls.

Lucy has been campaigning tirelessly since she was selected. Today she was talking to people at a farmers’ market.

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Vince Cable talks about his mother’s mental illness, his father’s racism and overcoming prejudice in a moving and candid interview

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You probably don’t know that Vince Cable was on Radio 5 Live as the birthday guest on Sunday night because it’s not really been reported anywhere. It’s worth catching up on it though because it’s one of the most open, personal  and moving interviews I’ve heard him give. He’s mentioned the racism he and his first wife Olympia faced as a mixed race couple before but in this

Vince was 75 last week but he said that he was both physically and mentally fit – he was introduced as a dancer and black run skier. His age isn’t an issue, he says. He says he’s well received amongst audiences of young people and derided by older people.

He said there was a period in politics when it was important to be youthful, citing Kennedy, Blair and Cameron but talks about a blend of youthful innovation and experience is necessary.

Growing up in York to ambitious working class parents, he learned about aspiration and ambition. He says he was a bit lonely when his brother arrived at 11. HIs mother suffered post natal depression and spent some time in hospital as a result. He has talked before of the role of adult education in helping her recover from that. His brother was fostered for a while and his father had to look after him.  He said people were quite cruel about it and taunted him about is mother going to the “loony bin.” He says we’ve made some progress with that sort of attitude.

The idea of women working when he was growing up was frowned upon. He sees this as adding to his mother’s loneliness. His father was a very traditional person who had campaigned to stop women teaching and who believed in a hierarchy of races.

He talked of forming a “little liberal cell” in his house with his mum, who defied the instructions to vote Conservative she received from her husband.

It was playing Macbeth in the school play which helped him overcome his awkwardness as a teenager and he spoke of how his involvement in a drama group led to his first relationship – with Lady Macbeth.

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Vince Cable’s message as Ramadan begins

I was standing at the bus stop yesterday morning in already warm sunshine wondering how on earth I’d cope if I couldn’t have anything to eat or drink before the sun went down which, in Scotland is nigh on ten at night. The answer is not very well.

I have nothing but admiration for my Muslim friends who take part in Ramadan every year. For them it is part of the annual routine and they just get on with it, however challenging that might be in our northern hemisphere long days. It’s important to remember that the majority of a quarter of the world’s population will be taking part in the fast.

I found this article on the Everyday Feminism site, about how to support friends during Ramadan, helpful. A lot of it is about asking people what would work best for them.

Vince Cable has recorded a message of support for all those who are fasting:

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Ed and Vince appeal to Sajid Javid to retain people’s rights to access Home Office data about them

Sajid Javid has been urged to dump the controversial Immigration Exemption Clause from the Data Protection Bill when it returns to the Commons next week.

Vince Cable and  Ed Davey have written to the new Home Secretary to urge him to protect people’s fundamental rights when their data is being processed for immigration purposes.

Many immigration decisions are overturned at appeal because the Home Office has made mistakes. But the bill puts at risk the right for individuals to see what information the Home Office holds on them and the Lib Dems are pressuring the government to make a concession on this point.

The letter says:

Congratulations on taking up your new post. As you have acknowledged, the task facing you is immense.

Further to exchanges in the House yesterday, can we urge you to clear the air by publishing any report made by Philip Hammond as Foreign Secretary in 2016 to the Home Office about deportations of the Windrush generation, following his meetings with Caribbean ministers and their representations to him? In the chamber you only said you would ‘consider’ publication in the House of Commons library. We hope you will agree that the House should know whether the Prime Minister knew these deportations were happening and what actions she took as Home Secretary to stop them.

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Vince on Marr – Rudd, race and the need for a People’s vote on Brexit

There must be an election happening or something. We have had Vince on Marr this morning and Jo Swinson is on Peston as I write.

He was quite measured on Amber Rudd. Rather than call outright for her resignation, he said we needed to hear what she had to say to Parliament tomorrow. One of two things is true:

Either she misled Parliament or she was the last person in the Home Office to know about removal targets.

A later comment by Brandon Lewis on the same programme intensifies the case against Amber Rudd.

Lewis bullishly defended the removal targets, saying that we had to get rid of those bad criminals and illegal immigrants, didn’t we? It is very easy to become an illegal immigrant. A tiny error on a complicated Home Office form can mean that you lose your status. You are given no chance to rectify it. Yet the people responsible for an almighty scandal such as Windrush get off with a few critical newspaper headlines.

I actually hope that Amber Rudd didn’t deliberately mislead Parliament because I don’t want her replaced by some extreme Brexiteer like Gove or Grayling. There is nobody in the Conservative Party who is going to give the Home Office and immigration system the treatment it deserves: dismantling completely and being rebuilt in a fair and compassionate manner which inspires the confidence of those who use it and those who advocate on their behalf.

Back to Vince. He said that most people who voted for Brexit did so for legitimate reasons, but that racism was a factor.

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Vince: Supermarket mega-merger must be referred to competition watchdog.

The news that two of the big four supermarkets in this country were in merger talks was greeted with concern with many people.

If this goes ahead, the new company would control 30% of the market which is in few enough hands as it is.

Vince Cable basically said that it was a no-brainer that this should be fully investigated before it was allowed. He said:

The grocery market – and the British shopper – already suffers from the mid-market being dominated by just a handful of big players. What the merger of the second and third biggest supermarkets threatens is the creation of

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WATCH: Vince Cable’s speech to Scottish Conference

Here is Vince Cable’s speech to Scottish Conference yesterday. He challenged the SNP to back a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal, saying that their silence on the issue was embarrassing. He said he had been working with them perfectly well on issues like the customs union and he single market and called on them to put the national interest above their party interest.

He also made it clear that the Scottish Conservatives, without whom Theresa May would not be able to form a Government, are wholly signed up to the hard right Tory-UKIP agenda.

He said that he was optimistic about our party’s future, saying that we are on the right side of history. We can stop Brexit, which he said would be a nightmare for EU nationals and said that there was no solution for the Irish Border that didn’t involve staying n the customs union.


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Vince Cable as you have never seen him before

We’re used to seeing Vince outlining his Liberal Democrat vision in typically thoughtful style. Action shots are more likely to be gliding effortlessly across the dance floor in a graceful and flawless foxtrot.

We’re used to seeing Willie Rennie dialling the fun in any photo opportunity up to the maximum level.

When Vince came to Aviemore yesterday to speak at Scottish Conference, he got a taste of photo-ops, Rennie style – and he loved it. He threw himself, quite literally, into the spirit of the occasion when he found himself next to a sign saying “Jump and Smile Adventure Park”

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Why is a parliamentary vote on military action necessary?

I have just come back from a wonderful week in the Highlands with only intermittent connection to the internet. The apologetic note from the housekeeper of our rented holiday cottage saying that the wifi was out of action was unexpected but very welcome. It was incredibly restorative to have a few days when the only thing I had to worry about (and this is not insignificant, I have to say) was the incredibly dim pheasants with no instinct of self preservation whatsoever that would blithely wander into the path of the car on the single track road to the cottage. Seriously, one of the little beasts held me up for three full minutes last night as my dinner was getting cold. Oh, and there was the irony of finding that Scottish Water, who have been delaying my commute with their roadworks in Edinburgh for nigh on half a year were also digging up the village on my twice daily route to the beach. The delays were substantially less, though.

My very grateful thanks and promises of beer and wine at a later date are due to Paul and Mary who kept the site going through mine and Kirsten’s absence this week.

Since we’ve been away, the horrific chemical attack in Syria has shocked, if not surprised, the world. When something like that happens, it’s so important to respond in a careful and considered way, with a proper plan that has the support of key international allies and, in our case, parliamentary approval. I know that we technically don’t have to have a parliamentary vote, but it sends a much stronger message if action is taken with the consent of a majority of members of Parliament. It lends a legitimacy to the proceedings.

Any Government sending our people into active service should have the democratic scrutiny of Parliament behind it. We live in a parliamentary democracy and the government shouldn’t avoid its responsibilities in that regard.

I am still not entirely sure whether I support the attack in principle. Of course anyone who gases their own people needs to be stopped and, frankly, sitting round a table and asking Assad nicely not to do it probably isn’t going to cut it. I think there is an argument for taking out the capability to produce and use these awful weapons. However, you have to be very sure that you aren’t going to make the situation worse for the people who live there.

Vince Cable’s statesmanlike approach to these issues has made me wish he were making the decisions rather than May and certainly the ever volatile Donald Trump. He has been reasonable, asking for evidence, a plan and a parliamentary vote and he’s been explaining today why he thinks that is so important:

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Letter to Vince Cable – UK military action in Syria is not justified

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This letter is in response to Vince’s request for feedback on the Syrian question

Dear Vince Cable,

Thank you for giving we members an opportunity to forward our views to you on the possible military intervention by the UK in Syria.

This is an extremely difficult problem which seems to place us in a lose-lose situation. If we do not intervene we appear to stand by impotently whilst terrible wickedness takes place, including the internationally illegal use of chemical weapons. If we do intervene there is a strong possibility of making a bad situation worse, as has already happened in similar circumstances in Iraq and Libya.

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Vince Cable on Syria

In an email to members Vince Cable writes:

I am certain that you are as appalled as I am about the horrific scenes coming out of Syria.

The use of chemical weapons is barbaric. It is a crime against humanity and it is a clear violation of international law.

The Liberal Democrats are an internationalist, outward-looking party – and part of that is being willing to play our part in upholding international law.

In the next few days, it is possible the Government will ask MPs to decide on potential military action in Syria. This is not a decision we will ever make lightly.

As Leader, I want to be clear with you how I and our group in Parliament will make such a decision.

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Vince Cable on internet regulation

In the years before the 2008 crash, Vince Cable built a reputation for seeing further ahead than most in politics and economics. Vince’s essay in the new Social Liberal Forum book “Four Go in Search of Big Ideas” enhances this record.

Writing before recent revelations about Cambridge Analytica, he identified: “the heart of the worries growing deeper about the data giants: that by filtering the information we receive they can influence not just the goods and services we consume but how we vote and, indeed, what we think”.

Vince sets out the threat to democracy: “Even if the owners of the platforms are benign and well-intentioned, the systems they have created and now monopolise may threaten democracy as we know it”. “Their systems can be used for surveillance by building up a profile of targeted individuals. Elections in many countries often revolve around which candidate has the largest, engaged, Facebook following while the US President’s Twitter following has become a means of short-circuiting the checks and balances built into media coverage”.

Vince’s concludes that “the Internet is being constructed around a handful of companies of immense and growing power, notably Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Netflix, along with their Chinese equivalents, Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu”. “We are dealing with a particular case of regulated natural monopoly. If there are historical parallels it is with nineteenth-century railway companies which dominated the economy and society of the regions they opened up”.

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Vince Cable’s Easter Message

Here is Vince Cable’s Easter message:

I would like to send warm wishes to all those celebrating Easter here in the UK and around the world.

For many Christians, Easter is a time of deep reflection and self-examination, and is an important reminder of the values of forgiveness, compassion and kindness. These are principles that resonate with people of all faiths and none.

At the heart of the Easter story is a message of hope and we see this demonstrated through various faith-based projects across the country, whose work helps to protect the most vulnerable in our society. Thank you to the thousands who continue to give their time and energy for the good of their local communities.

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A year to Brexit – time to remember that we could and should get out of this mess

A year ago, I watched in sorrow and horror as Theresa May triggered the Article 50 process, motivated more by keeping her restless Brexiteers in check than what was actually good for the country.

With just a year to go before we are scheduled to leave the European Union, most of the really difficult issues are unresolved and every day the problems become more apparent. From the Irish border to how we sell and buy the things we take for granted from abroad, to the reappearance of roaming charges to uncertainty over aviation to nuclear safety, we still don’t know how our post Brexit life will take shape.

That’s partly because Theresa May has chosen to pander to the hard right gung ho Brexiteer elements in her own party rather than build support for a more moderate cross-party approach.  The negotiating tactics have been ridiculous, disjointed and devoid of any sort of strategy. They are making this country look very stupid on the international stage which isn’t a good look for our forthcoming leap into isolation.

When you have an international trade war being ignited by a protectionist in the White House, surely you are better off ganging up with 27 of your mates rather than entering negotiations alone and powerless.

21 months on from the referendum, we know that Brexit is much more complex than was at first portrayed and there is little sign of a fawning world queuing up to offer us trade deals that are even half as good as the one we currently enjoy from within the EU.

People are brining up Brexit a lot on the doorsteps. They think it is a really bad idea, but think we are stuck with it. The message from Liberal Democrats today must be very strongly that we can get out of it – and we will. We have to offer tangible hope to people.

Vince Cable kicked off an Easter weekend of intensive Lib Dem campaigning on this issue, saying:

Today the Liberal Democrats are launching our biggest ever campaign outside an election.

Article 50 was triggered a year ago and since then few concrete steps towards a deal. May’s tactic of kicking the can down the road has meant that no tangible progress has been made, and year ahead is overloaded.

In the coming months, the country faces two critical issues. One is on membership of the Customs Union, which we must remain in, as it is essential to our supply chain industries and solving the matter of the Irish border.

The other is that it must be made clear what a ‘close transition’ truly means – at the moment it is just a messy vacuum.

The poorly-handled negotiations and the Cambridge Analytica scandal means that there is, rightfully, a heightened sense that any Brexit deal must be signed off in a test of public opinion. This must include the option of an exit from Brexit.

Willie Rennie said:

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Vince calls on Government to delay changes to mortgage interest payment for people on benefits

In less than 3 weeks’ time, the Government stops paying mortgage interest to for those on certain benefits.

Some bright spark at the Department of Work and Pensions came up with a way to save the Government money – by getting a private company, Serco, to operate a loan scheme. Instead of having payments covered by the state, they will be covered by the homeowner taking out a private loan with Serco in return for a charge on the property. That means that they will have to pay back an unspecified sum of money if they eventually sell their house.

The Government …

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Vince talks to Voice Part 4: Liberal ideas for the modern world – open, liberal, green

Here’s the final part of my chat with Vince Cable just after his keynote speech to Conference on Sunday.

I wanted to know what he meant about having a party “fizzing with ideas”

We’ve got these structures for policy making and they can be a bit clunky but they often produce some good creative stuff.  Instead of this just being confined to the usual small minority of policy wonks we open it up to the wider membership and get much more feedback. The whole point of being more digital is that it’s easier to engage people.

I set out some of the areas in the speech we should be thinking about. There are whole swathes of stuff I didn’t even begin to talk about – what you do about national defence in the new era of Russia. I hinted at tax but that’s a mega area. We’ve got to rethink the principles of it.

I think in a way the principles come before the policy. It’s easy to be geeks about policy but policy is something people in the party care about. I just want it opened up.

You might remember yesterday I was asked about universal basic income. My starting position is that it’s a seriously bad idea but if other people in the party care about it and can make the argument, let’s have that debate?

I asked if we have too much policy and not enough big picture stuff about who we are?

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Vince talks to Voice Part 3: A message of hope that Brexit can be stopped

As you know, I managed to grab 10 minutes with Vince, his wife Rachel and some delicious sandwiches just after his speech on Sunday.  You can also read Parts 1,  and 2

I asked him what he wanted to have accomplished by the time we gather in Brighton for Conference in September.

Well I think there are some very specific areas where good work has been initiated – learning accounts, medical technologies, taxation. that will be some meaty stuff to talk about.

But Brexit is going to be the big thing….

We will have a greater understanding by September of exactly where we are in the Brexit cycle. Hopefully the message of hope that this can be stopped will be clearer but even if it isn’t totally clear we will then have one month to stop it and October may be the crucial month so people need to be prepared that this is the time for the big push and to back up what’s happening in the party and at conference with stuff on the streets. That’s crucial.

We are the only party that is mobilising people to argue back with street campaigns. We need to build up the tempo on that working with other campaigning groups. We’ve already started that. It doesn’t stop at the local elections. It needs to keep going over the Summer as the key decisions will be made in the Autumn. I hope that people’s confidence that this is doable is fortified by some victories in the Spring. If we can get the Government defeated on the customs union, that’ll be a start. It’s not the end but it’s certainly the start.

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Lib Dems respond to the Spring Statement – Hammond ignores the Heffalump in the room

You know, I actually wrote Autumn Statement in the headline and had to change it. Old habits die hard. I’m so used to the Big Budget being in March and that ritual of having to go and fill up with petrol the night before in case the prices went up…

Anyway, here’s what Lib Dems have been saying about Philip Hammond’s statement, starting with Vince:

The Spring Statement was a non-event. The OECD gave us the clearer picture – that the economy is bumping along the bottom of the G20, well behind the likes of Australia, Canada and the Euro area.

The OBR’s fresh forecasts are still a long way behind the figures estimated in March 2016 before the EU referendum.

It is time the government was honest with the public: there will need to be tax increases to pay for the NHS and social care, police and schools.

This is why the Liberal Democrats have advocated a penny in the pound income tax increase for health and care and why we must scrap cuts in Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax introduced since 2015.

Christine Jardine got a bit carried away with Winnie the Pooh metaphors:

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Vince explains his ‘blue, white and pink’ remark

Vince Cable was on robust form this morning, being interviewed by John Humphrys on Radio 4’s Today programme. He commented on the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement that there is “light at the end of the tunnel” regarding the country’s deficit.

Vince acknowledged that the government is roughly in balance on its day-to-day spending. He said, however, that the government would be very foolish to assume that they have turned the corner and that there’s no need to worry about the country’s finances. He added that the government should take advantage of its low lending rate to invest in the economy.

Vince explained his speech in Southport yesterday. Humprhys focussed on this statement from Vince, referring to Brexit voters:

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

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In full: Vince Cable’s speech to Conference



Here is Vince’s speech in full.

It’s good to be back in Southport.

I was last here in October.

It was pouring with rain.

The local party was licking its wounds after a difficult General Election…

…and there was a challenging council by-election to fight.

But a week later our candidate, and former MP, John Pugh, was swept on to Sefton Council with a big majority, and more than half of the votes cast.

Congratulations John!

Shortly after my trip here, I went to the North East.

I took in Newcastle, of course.

It’s a former council stronghold with a big Lib Dem tradition under John Shipley and others.

From there, my office had agreed I would go on to visit Sunderland.

Sunderland is a Labour one party state. Brexit Central.

On arrival, my car was surrounded by a group of young people…

…there were face tattoos and nose rings in abundance.

Some might have found it intimidating.

I emerged from the car clutching my mobile phone nervously.

I was greeted by Councillor Niall Hodson who told me this was the local Lib Dems!

They had captured two Labour strongholds, in as many years.

A few weeks ago, they did the same a third time.

They knocked on 2000 doors in a month, and were rewarded with a massive 46% swing from Labour.

Congratulations Sunderland Liberal Democrats!

These local successes are reflected across the country.

Teignbridge and Tyneside. Norfolk and Cornwall. Somerset and Sussex.

In Leave areas. In Remain areas.

Against the Tories. Against Labour.

They show us that there are opportunities to regain and rebuild our local government base which has always been the lifeblood of our party.

And we fight our campaigns at a time when normal politics has disappeared.

We have a Brexit obsessed Conservative Government: a single issue government in a single issue Parliament.

Brexit is sucking the life out of Westminster and Whitehall alike.

Urgent attention needs to be given to the NHS and social care, the housing crisis and homelessness, schools and policing, national defence and much else.

But the political appetite to grapple with these issues isn’t there.

The greedy Brexit machine devours all the political energy required to get the country moving forward.

People were told that Brexit would be simple, cheap and good natured.

Like real world divorce, it is proving complicated, expensive and bad tempered.

There is a temptation to blame everything on Theresa May. I don’t.

I have always rather admired her dogged determination.

But that determination means that she thinks…

‘When in a hole, keep digging…. you might eventually get to Australia… and when you get there there’ll be a shiny new trade deal and a cold beer waiting’.

She is one of a number of otherwise sensible people persisting in a course of action that they know to be foolish, damaging and wrong, saying ‘just let’s get on with it’.

I have myself been on a journey.

I confess that my own initial reaction to the referendum was to think there was little choice but to pursue Brexit: I thought ‘the public have voted to be poorer. That is their right.’

What changed my mind was the evidence that Brexit had overwhelmingly been the choice of the older generation.

75% of under 25s voted to Remain.

But 70% of over 65s voted for Brexit.

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

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

The excuse for this outrage – a vision of a Global Britain signing lots of new trade deals– is a fraud.

Far from opening our arms to the world, we will be tearing up preferential trade deals we already have with 27 countries in the EU and 74 outside it.

There is no more eloquent testimony to the government’s folly about trade, that at a time when the world is descending into Trade War, they put more faith in the Warmonger in Washington than they do in our friends and trade partners in Europe.

It was never a good idea to leave the EU. To leave it now borders on extreme recklessness.

And only our Liberal Democrat team, led by Tom Brake, are making that argument in Parliament.

Old wounds that were slowly healing within the European family are being re-opened.

Ireland. Gibraltar.

I went to Dublin before Christmas to meet business and political leaders.

They are afraid, very afraid, that the Good Friday Agreement and the close economic links with Britain will be trashed to accommodate Brexit hard liners.

The Gibraltarian Government is afraid that their people – our people, British citizens – will be sacrificial pawns in this needless rush for the EU exit door.

And while all these crucial questions are up in the air, we still don’t know which faction of the Conservative Party will win.

There are two totally different views of Brexit on offer. One is to stay as close as possible to the rules of the Single Market and Customs Union to minimise the damage. To be like Norway with a customs union attached. So called ‘soft Brexit’.

This is plainly more sensible economically than the alternative, but it raises the obvious question: why on earth bother to leave?

The other is to diverge as much as possible, causing maximum disruption to manufacturing industry, financial services and creative industries, all in the name of ‘sovereignty’.

What we are left with is incoherence. The doctrine of diverging convergence or converging divergence.

The one certain consequence is that with a divided, confused team of 1 facing a united, determined team of 27, the European negotiators will dictate the terms.

This will, in turn, create the sense of victimhood Brexiteers crave: being under the European yoke.

I would go so far as to say Britain is now mired in a protracted, non-violent civil war.

Allied to the poisonous rhetoric about ‘traitors’ and ‘saboteurs’, and what Theresa May calls ‘citizens of nowhere’…

….we have a toxic brew which fuels the populist right.

What a disgrace that the fools’ errand of Brexit…embarked on to paper over cracks in the Conservative Party has resulted in hate crime on our streets.

Our message is clear: Liberal Democrats will rebuild an open, tolerant, outward-looking Britain.

We want our country back.

And amid all this where is the Leader of Her Majesty’s Official and Loyal Opposition?

What does HE want?

These early days of 2018 have seen Labour has make a few tentative gestures in the direction of sanity. But very few. And very tentative.

To be a member of a customs union. Not the customs union.

And still strongly committed to working with Theresa May to make Brexit happen.

Make no mistake about it, Conference:

Jeremy Corbyn is letting down the very people he claims to defend…because:

You cannot speak up for the poor and be complicit in making the country poorer.

You cannot claim to love the NHS knowing that Brexit will starve it of cash.

You cannot be an advocate of strong rights at work, and stand by while your country walks away from the organisation which has most stood up for workers.

The Labour Party has imported into politics the principles of quantum physics where an object can be there and not there, at the same time.

They believe you can be for Brexit it and against it.

But politics is not physics.

Jeremy –

The time has come to decide.

There is no ‘jobs first’ Brexit.

But there is a new way to inspire those young supporters you won last year, and to make a real difference.

Join our campaign.

Together we can win an Exit from Brexit.

One likely consequence of the coming Brexit confrontation is some kind of political realignment.

We must be open to working with people in other parties, and with other parties.

In my own borough I have encouraged an electoral understanding with the Greens for national and local elections.

This approach may not be feasible everywhere in the UK. But it signals the value of an inclusive and collaborative approach to politics.

I am determined that we Liberal Democrats should lead a new groundswell for political renewal.

Our sister Liberal Party in Canada, under Justin Trudeau, leapt from third to first in a ‘first past the post’ system every bit as unforgiving as ours.

I have turned to them for advice on modernisation on how we can apply their successful model here.

The Canadian liberals engaged all their registered supporters – their voters – as well as their members in leadership elections and candidate selection.

They became a new party; a movement.

Building on our own traditions, we must address how we in the Liberal Democrats can become a movement for those who are alienated by the Conservatives and Labour.

I want to see a movement fizzing with ideas…

…and the vehicle for a practical programme for government …

…driven by the need to drive down inequality between the generations,

…facing up to the challenge of climate change by investing in renewable energy and green transport

…and preparing our country for a future when technology be harnessed to the optimism of opportunity rather than the pessimism of job destruction.

So as a party I want us to think big.

To be as radical and forward-looking with our ambitions for the party as we are with our ideas and our policies.

Central to that must be an effort to reflect better the society we want to serve.

We celebrated the centenary of women’s suffrage this year, and International Women’s Day last week, with a better proportion of female MPs in our House of Commons group than we have ever had before.

We are, still, very male but…

… thanks to the work of Jo Swinson and Sal Brinton, along with our other women parliamentarians, councillors, and others…much less so than we were.

But to be frank, we have an even bigger challenge to address.

Looking around the auditorium, we are very, very white.

We must prioritise making our party more ethnically diverse.

John Alderdice has shown us the way in his recent report.

I raised a mixed family in Britain.

I have seen prejudice first-hand.

Where it is outright or outspoken, it is easy to call out. And I know everyone in this room would do so right away.

It is subtle, unseen prejudice which is harder to counter.

It exists in every organisation, but I want us as Liberal Democrat to commit at this conference to rooting it out.

Theresa May once said of the Conservatives that they were a ‘nasty party’.

We are not a nasty party.

But sometimes we have been a complacent party.

Under my leadership, that complacency ends.

Progress in building a big, modern, diverse party requires help from every one of you…

….so I ask each of you to leave Southport today thinking about what you can do to make our party a welcoming home to people of every age, ethnicity, gender identity and sexuality.

And in making that effort, I want to arm you with our vision of a new, Liberal Democrat Britain.

We must answer the question: if not Brexit, then what?

We have to start with an economic model which works, delivering good jobs, freedom from want and economic security for everyone.

For many British people the collapse of the banking system a decade ago

…and the austerity and inequality which followed in its wake destroyed their faith in the system of free-wheeling finance and light-touch government.

To build a fair society, we need an economy which harnesses the energy and innovation of the private sector but where government is not afraid to intervene to deal market failure, or the arrogance of monopoly.

A Liberal Democrat economy would be one which welcomes entrepreneurs…

…which rewards profitable, risk-taking companies…

…which embraces new technology….

…and which sees active government.

We would tax pollution and unearned wealth, while promoting work, innovation and environmental protection.

And on tax we are the party, unlike Labour, which will be honest with the public that spending on our priorities – the NHS, schools, policing – has to be paid for:

A penny in the pound on income tax for the NHS; reversing the tax cuts for the rich of the last two years.

And government borrowing would be for investment not for day-to-day spending.

We would build a Britain where finance serves the real economy not the other way round.

And we do need competition authorities to be strong and tough enough to withstand bullying and tax dodging by giant global monopolies like Amazon and Google….and if necessary, to break up concentrations of economic power.

At present the European Commission does just that.

In contrast to the feeble British competition authorities, Europe helps us ‘take back control’ for citizens in the modern, digital world.

There is a huge risk that Brexit Britain will lose that control, surrendering real sovereignty for fake sovereignty.

The technological revolution also poses a different kind of challenge.

We do not yet fully understand the impact on jobs of Artificial Intelligence and the spread of automation from manufacturing to professional and other services.

I believe we should welcome the advent of new technologies and the opportunities they bring.

But we must anticipate that those without adaptable skills could be badly hurt.

The answer – the only answer – is massive investment in education, skill training and retraining: schools, FE colleges, universities, lifelong learning, remote and college based.

The Tories will not do it because they do not believe in public investment.

Labour will not do it because they are still fighting the old political battles and their main education policy is to provide a large subsidy to highly paid university graduates.

We must not forget that 60% of young people do not go to University, and 80% of the British population never went.

These are – mostly – the people least prepared for the disruption of technological change…

…and who have been left behind by Britain’s scandalous neglect of vocational education and skill training.

I know about the value of life long learning from my own experience, growing up in York, as my parents strived to climb the economic and social ladder through further and adult education.

And I was one of the first generation of Open University tutors.

Then, in my two years of exile from Parliament, I worked with the President of the National Union of Students on a project all about giving students in FE parity with universities.

To build on that work, I want to develop further the idea of individual learning accounts – a cash fund to spend on training and career changes through your life.

I have asked Rajay Naik, an education entrepreneur with long experience at the Open University, to lead a Commission on Life Long Learning.

Because these coming years will be more than important than ever for giving adult education the priority it deserves.

We need to educate people for the jobs of tomorrow.

Jobs which will build a confident Britain, complete with new infrastructure including…

…a 5G superhighway;

…and fast rail links across the north of England, Wales and the South West.

…new tidal lagoons for low carbon energy;

…big advances in carbon capture and storage;

…and all the opportunities offered by offshore wind, which Ed Davey promoted in Government, and which today is reaping great rewards for our country.

This forward looking vision of Britain stands in stark contrast to what both big parties offers.

We are used to thinking of Labour and the Conservatives as polar opposite. They are actually very similar.

What they share is nostalgia.

In the case of the Tories, the seriousness with which a Rees-Mogg premiership is now being taken says it all.

A man steeped in the values of Downton Abbey… a world where the working class consist of servants and nannies;

…where women have babies but no vote;

…and charities suffice to meet the needs of the deserving poor.

Corbyn’s nostalgia is a different one.

But it is just as backward looking.

A world where the Health Minister decides how much cod liver oil each five year old should enjoy or endure each day.

Where the Minister for Prices sets the price of a loaf of bread.

And the Royal Mail was the envy of the world, before those modern contraptions – internet and email – destroyed its business model.

If Britain still had a stagecoach industry, John McDonnell would be demanding that it be saved by taking it into public ownership.

Neither of these rose-tinted visions of the future make any kind of sense.

The Liberal Democrat vision of Britain is built on a commitment to properly funded public services, consumer and citizen choice, and honesty about taxation.

For example, as we ask people to contribute a little more to the health service, with a penny in the pound on income tax, we promise a better, more flexible service in return.

The principles of the NHS are as strong today as they were when the service was inspired by a great liberal, William Beveridge.

But if Beveridge were alive today, he would see a service whose ambition of universal free health care, free at the point of use, is in danger of foundering as costs inexorably rise.

So just as we’d protect that service for the long term with a dedicated NHS and social care tax.

Liberal Democrats will also work with nurses and doctors to develop ideas that could save billions and improve the patient experience too.

Let me give you some examples.

Isn’t it time that when you need to be referred to a consultant, their calendar is shared electronically with the GP, so you can arrange a convenient slot right-away without a lengthy exchange of letters?

And social prescribing – which I saw in action campaigning with Lisa Smart in Stockport – can divert people from medication to exercise and other healthy activity, as part of a ‘prevention’ approach to healthcare.

And we need to revisit the principles around sharing patient information, as in the blockchain experiments in Leeds, where new technology provides enhanced security for data sharing.

Crucially, we need to build on the work Norman Lamb did in government giving priority and enforcing firm targets for mental health treatment.

Liberal Democrats insisted on targets in coalition, but now those targets are being missed.

The human effect is shocking.

It is simply not good enough that children suffering severe psychosis – sometimes suicidal thoughts – is left languishing on a waiting list.

There is a growing crisis in child mental health with as many as 20% of teenagers in my local schools needing help.

In a Liberal Democrat NHS mental and physical health will be put on an equal footing so that every taxpayer – every citizen – gets the care they need.

When I won back my seat last June, the number one issue on the doorsteps wasn’t Brexit, as it happens, but school funding – or the lack of it.

We would reverse Conservative cuts to schools.

Under the excellent stewardship of Layla Moran, Lib Dems would democratise education once again, by returning control to local authorities over places planning, exclusions and special needs.

Locally, many of us see the chaotic and wasteful consequences of having free schools and academies engaged in dog-eat-dog competition.

And we see wasted time too, as teachers are forced to keep a look out for the traffic wardens of the education system – Ofsted – waiting around the corner ready to slap a ticket on those who haven’t ticked the right boxes.

Liberal Democrats will bring in a new independent inspection regime, which values the overall wellbeing of individual children and the culture of learning in the school.

We want a wider curriculum reversing the current exclusion of performing arts and languages, and introducing life skills like first aid and personal finance.

A Liberal Democrat education system will prepare our children for the future, and consign tickbox testing to the past.

By making ourselves, once again, the party of education we commit to redressing the imbalance between generations…

Nowhere is the sharp generational divide in Britain greater – and more bitterly felt – than in the housing market .

My generation, or at least those of us who own property, have been enriched by house price inflation.

It is that same house price inflation which has priced the majority of younger people out of owner occupation and created Generation Rent.

For the last two decades, under successive governments, housing supply has been allowed to fall well behind demand…

This scarcity of supply, together with lax credit for the already well-off, and subsidies like Help to Buy, has caused prices to spiral to dangerous and socially divisive levels.

Like Brexit, this shortage is not inevitable.

House building isn’t rocket science. Even the Babylonians knew how to do it.

I am confident that Britain under the Liberal Democrats would do it.

I recently revisited my old haunts in Glasgow, where I served as a city councillor in the early 1970s in one of the most deprived wards in the City.

We built houses, houses, and more houses.

Quantity sometimes triumphed over quality and amenity.

But the lesson was clear: that a determined, ambitious, public authority, using compulsory purchase powers or publicly owned land can get houses built at scale.

The Government needs to do that now.

I know the Conservative Party finds it difficult.

But if Donald Trump can meet Kim Jong Un, surely the Tories can deal with the psychological shock of having councils build…. council housing!

Private housing, social housing, self-build and shared ownership are all part of the mix Britain needs.

And as we build that stock Liberal Democrats would say ‘goodbye’ to ‘Right to Buy’.

I have spent some time in recent months, engaging with charities who work with rough sleepers.

Those at the bottom of the pile – the homeless street sleepers, hostel dwellers, and sofa hoppers; the young families being pushed from one short let to another – are not just homeless.

They are largely voiceless.

Many do not vote.

They are at the sharp end of disengagement with our failing democracy.

A broken democracy which gives too much power to the privileged and too little voice to the people.

…an unelected second chamber;

…a funding regime desperately in need of cleaning up;

…a system of local government often run as one party statelets.

…an unfair voting system, where so many votes don’t even count.

And now the next big extension of the franchise, to 16 and 17 year olds, is being resisted by Conservatives whose power base is in old folks’ homes.

So how do we secure a new forward-looking country for the next generation.?

Our recent election successes show us something.

Not that winning is easy, but that winning is possible.

I know many of the longer-standing members in this room got pretty fed up with hearing a particular slogan during the Coalition years.

‘Where we work we win’, was a mantra. But in truth for many years too many Liberal Democrats did work – very hard – and still didn’t win.

I know, I was one of them! I know the pain of losing. And I know the satisfaction of fighting and winning again.

It can now be done.

Those local successes in Sunderland and elsewhere were not coincidences, and though our party is building its social media capacity, it wasn’t about new technology either.

It was about talking to people, on their doorsteps – just as it always has been.

Friends, we have celebrating our thirtieth birthday.

And we do so at a time when the old forces in British politics are so distracted by settling scores on Europe and on socialism, that they have forgotten about the country.

We have a big task ahead of us.

I want us to be able to look back in another thirty years (or, I want you to be able to, anyway) and see 2018 as a turning point.

The year, when from a low base of support and against the political odds, we showed Britain a new and different path…

…the promise of a new government acting and speaking for the vast majority of decent, tolerant, hardworking people, whom the other parties had forgotten…

…A beacon of real hope, in a political sea of fantasists and dogmatists.

The Liberal Democrats:

A modern, diverse party – winning again …

Winning an Exit from Brexit.

Protecting our public services.

And giving young people the start, the voice and the hope they deserve.

There’s no time to lose.

Let’s get out there together and win.

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What can we expect from Vince today?

Vince has a couple of jobs in his keynote speech today. First of all, he has to continue to stake our claim to be the Party that wants to stop Brexit. The Party is stepping up its anti-Brexit rhetoric. Tom Brake explicitly told Conference yesterday that Brexit was such a disaster for the Country that we would be doing all we could to ensure that people got a say on the final deal. Catherine Bearder MEP said that “the Emperor is stark naked.”

But that is only half the story. This Conference has made some key proposals on other issues that voters care about – dealing with the housing crisis by giving local authorities radical new powers to build more houses, reforming schools by replacing OFSTED and abolishing SATS to reduce stress to pupils and teachers. Today we’ll have some serious proposals to give the NHS the investment it needs. This is part of building a programme of policy that looks to tackle inequality and poverty in this country. Expect Vince to talk about that.

We can also expect him to really have a go at Labour. We’ve seen a it of that already at the Conference. Yesterday, Simon Hughes highlighted Labour’s huge failures on housing which let a whole generation of young people down. He’ll also highlight Corbyn’s complicity with the Tories on Brexit. 

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Vince: Lib Dems are going forward

Vince has been talking to the Evening Standard ahead of Spring Conference. He emphasised our unique position on Brexit and how we are going for the votes of EU Nationals in the local elections in May.

“We are going forwards, the question is how fast,” he said. Brexit might  provide their way back. “I think the Government is making a terrible pig’s ear of it. It’s proving to be far more complicated, far more difficult than people were led to believe. Theresa May’s biggest mistake was probably hubris, making these commitments to red lines on the single market and the customs union that she is now having to slither out of.” His first test will be the local elections on May 3, when the party will bring out videos and social media campaign material in 21  European languages in a bid to harness the votes of a million EU citizens in Britain. Lib Dem campaigners have already contacted 300,000 more than three times each, he revealed. “Our main appeal is to British voters but the  European nationals are people having things done to them. They didn’t have a vote in the referendum, they didn’t have a vote in the general election, but they do have a vote in local elections.”

I suspect we’ll see the hardline Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn together a lot in the coming months:

He remains committed to stopping Brexit altogether. “I don’t think the soft Brexit is obtainable any more,” he said. “Maybe with good organisation and a bit more courage from the Tory backbenches they will stop her leaving the customs union… but that’s not enough in itself to get to a soft Brexit.” He branded Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “a fairly hardline Brexiteer” who had held open the door for the UK exit and opposed a second referendum.

He also talked about his commitment to make the Lib Dems more diverse and have a BAME candidate in London:

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LibLink: Vince Cable: Tories must ditch red lines for the Rock

In this week’s New European, Vince Cable says that the British citizens on Gibraltar must not be sacrificed in the Brexit negotiations.

Clause 24 of the EU 27’s joint negotiating position, published in April last year, included a Spanish veto over the application of any deal between the EU and UK over Gibraltar. Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said it was “plainly obvious” that such a veto would be part of the EU’s negotiating guidelines. Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, described clause 24 as “discriminatory and unfair”.

A footnote to the draft legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement published last month confirmed that this veto would also apply to the transitional period. The Gibraltarian government has rightly pointed out that “by its very definition, transition is a continuation of the existing European Union legal border” and therefore this veto cannot apply.

Spain’s claim to Gibraltar is fatally undermined by the statistic that 98% of Gibraltarians want to remain British and there is no sign of that view changing. The Conservatives’ first act in response to the publication of the joint negotiating position should have been to insist on the removal of clause 24 – instead they gave us a general election that further weakened the Prime Minister’s bargaining power in Europe, because she ended up losing her Parliamentary majority.

Fortunately, Spain’s hard-line stance has slightly softened. Foreign minister Alfonso Dastis has been clear that he doesn’t want a border closure, which last occurred under General Franco in 1969. Such a move would be mutually damaging: disastrous for the 13,000 people who live in Spain and work in Gibraltar and leave the Rock with a staff shortage.

But the veto remains and Gibraltar’s politicians have sounded out legal opinions that would see them take the European Commission to court over clause 24.

Moreover, Spain continues to demand joint control of the Rock’s airport, which is, after all, British infrastructure on British soil. This might seem a reasonable suggestion for a post-Brexit relationship, but this should be seen in the context of even the seemingly reasonable Dastis pointing out that “sovereignty is something we aspire to, that we are not renouncing”.

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WATCH: The #LiberalLondon Rally

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

You can watch the whole event here.

And here are some of the Twitter highlights.

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LibLink: Vince picks out Shirley Williams as the female parliamentarian that he most admires from the last 100 years

Embed from Getty Images

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the UK, House magazine have done an article where prominent MPs pay tribute to the female parliamentarian they most admire from the last 100 years.

They have the Speaker, John Bercow, paying tribute to Eleanor Rathbone. Andrea Ledsom writes about Nancy Astor. Cheryl Gillan and Emma Little-Pengelly talk of Margaret Thatcher. Baroness Smith and Angela Raynor pay tribute to Ellen Wilkinson, while Kirsty Blackman extols Winnie Ewing and Lord Fowler describes Baroness Swanborough (Stella Isaacs – the first female member of the House of Lords).

Vince Cable writes eloquently in tribute to Shirley Williams:

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TUC General Secretary to meet with cross-party leaders to set out Brexit concerns

The TUC’s General Secretary has accepted an invitation to speak to a group of cross-party opposition leaders about the TUC’s position on Brexit.

Frances O’Grady will meet with the Westminster leaders of the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party to discuss the need for a Brexit that protects workers’ rights, jobs and livelihoods of millions of people across the UK.

The General Secretary will also set out why the TUC believes that single market membership and customs union should be on the table for the next phase of Brexit negotiations.

The meeting is set …

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Cable: May allowing Brexit extremists to neuter any chance of acceptable deal for UK

Vince Cable had this to say  about Theresa May’s speech:

Theresa May has once again prevaricated from making serious decisions about our future. Her speech outlined all the reasons why we should stay in the single market and customs union, but she will carry on regardless, driving us out to placate brexiters in the cabinet.

May’s diminished authority is allowing Brexit extremists to neuter any chance she has at getting an acceptable deal for the UK.

With a listless government beholden to hard-line Tories the only way to protect our future is ensure a referendum on the final deal. Surely, If May believes in her strategy,

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Cable, Umunna and Lucas demand Brexit answers from the Prime Minister

As Theresa May prepares to set out her five tests of a Brexit deal, Vince Cable, Chuka Umunna and Caroline Lucas have demanded that she and her ministers live up to the promises that they have made since the referendum, most of which revolve around cake and the eating thereof.

Open Britain co-ordinated a letter which is short and sweet. It’s the appendix in which the words of Ministers are outlined that is useful.

The point of the letter is not so much that they think the Prime Minster is going to take any notice, but more so that they can raise awareness of how far the Government is falling short of its own promises.

Here is the text of the letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

You have been Prime Minister for more than a year and a half and yet it has taken you until now to explain in any detail to the public what you believe the future relationship between the UK and the EU should be. It was your decision to rule out membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union, yet you and the Brexit Secretary have misleadingly claimed we can do this and at the same time retain all the benefits of membership.

Since the referendum, you and your ministers have made a number of promises about our future trading relationship with the EU:

  1. The exact same benefits as today
  2. No hard border on the island of Ireland or across the UK
  3. Fully negotiated by March 2019
  4. No payment for access to the EU market
  5. A complete end to EU rules and regulations
  6. Continuation of all EU trade deals and new deals ready to come into force

Listed below are the promises made by you and your Ministers, in your own words.

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Vince focuses on housing as he visits his old Council ward

Vince Cable is up in Scotland this weekend. He’s speaking at East Dunbartonshire Lib Dems’ dinner tonight. It’s the local party’s first dinner since Jo Swinson was re-elected as MP last June.

He took a nostalgic trip to his old Council ward in Glasgow Maryhill first. He was a Labour councillor back in the 70s. When he was a councillor he and colleagues got tenements refurbished and saved a community from dispersal.

He said:

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The Bus Oxford tried to ban comes to Edinburgh

It was freezing cold in Edinburgh this morning but that didn’t stop a crowd of people gathering to welcome the Is it Worth it? bus. Remember when Boris traversed the land with a bus with a big fat lie on the side of it during the EU referendum? Well, anti Brexit campaigners have funded a bus tour with the truth, as outlined in the UK Government’s own analysis, emblazoned on the side.

The bus spent an hour parked in the historic Royal Mile. In fact, it was parked right outside the City of Edinburgh Council’s City Chambers.  This is a very different attitude than Oxfordshire’s Conservative Council which has decided to stop the bus parking in the centre of the city on Monday. Apparently they can’t have political messages on the highway.  Does that mean that anyone having political posters in their cars will be banned from parking in the city centre during elections? I suspect not. Layla Moran spoke out against this ban. From the BBC:

Oxford West and Abingdon MP, Layla Moran, said the bus should be allowed and the ban “can only be seen as a politically motivated move”.

She added that both Conservative and Lib Dem buses had visited the county during the election.

The SNP’s  Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry said that she personally saw the arguments in favour of a “second referendum.” However, we should not assume that the party would vote for such a measure in Parliament as there’s a catch. She said that the party would be seeking a guarantee that if Scotland voted to remain in the EU, that the wishes of its citizens would be respected. As a federalist party, some might argue that we should have sympathy with that argument. After all, in the US federal system, Rhode Island has the same sway on issues like this as California. We want to bring the country together, though, not pursue yet more divisions. On the other hand, of course, all the arguments about the Irish border would be duplicated about the Scottish border. It is clearly to the advantage of the whole UK to stop Brexit.

If the SNP insists on this condition, it’s effectively a wrecking one because it is unlikely to get the support of otherwise sympathetic MPs from other parties. We need to get a majority of MPs to vote for a referendum on the deal in the Commons. It would be pretty outrageous if the SNP deprived the whole country of a parachute from this Brexit disaster.

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Recent Comments

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    Thanks to contributors. A few thoughts on people's comments, although if LDV will allow me, they may come in several tranches: Phil: You're right, of...
  • User Avatarexpats 23rd May - 11:25am
    David Raw 23rd May '18 - 10:44am...........According to the Guardian, “The EU has leapt ahead of the UK in the pursuit of free trade deals...
  • User AvatarNeil Sandison 23rd May - 11:20am
    Anyone who has been following Grenfell could not fail to notice what happens when communities become dislocated from those who have authority over them or...
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 23rd May - 10:59am
    Lord Greaves - The current position is that there are no rules on maternity leave for candidates. This led in my case to me having...
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 23rd May - 10:51am
    Gordon - thank goodness. A piece which is the perfect antidote to the totally uninspiring "parish magazine" school of FOCUS.
  • User AvatarRuth Bright 23rd May - 10:47am
    Thank you for sharing this Elizabeth.