Keep on keeping on

The talk of the Blitz spirit in London can become a bit mawkish at a time like this. A family member of mine went through the real Blitz in 1940 and 1941 and she told me that all was far from the myth. Class still pervaded all – for example, many looked down on those without a shelter who hid from bombs in the tube. Not everyone sang “Roll out the barrel”; not everyone cooed with gratitude as Queen Elizabeth wafted by in chiffon. Looting was a common occurrence. Horrible things were covered up by the authorities.

And yet it was also a time of extraordinary solidarity. The resilience of the East Londoner was not made up. Grandma talked matter-of-factly about being bombed out, of losing home and possessions – not once but twice, as if it were a minor inconvenience.

When I was a child in the seventies I was taken to see the Christmas windows at Selfridges. Not far from where my Grandma worked throughout the Blitz. Selfridges was bombed later that day (the IRA gave a warning and there was enormous damage but no loss of life). Twenty five years later the office where I worked received damage when a nail bomb was left in Brixton market. My colleagues and I were lucky. It was a weekend and none of us were in the building but many Saturday shoppers suffered horrible injuries.

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Lib Dems gather for March for Europe

My Twitter and Facebook timelines are full of people heading to march for Europe today. Tim Farron and Nick Clegg are speaking at the march in London. Tim Farron is on second and the Cleggster is on last. Alex Cole-Hamilton is speaking for us, as he has done so movingly on so many occasions, in Edinburgh.

It’s such a poignant, emotional day. It’s 60 years since the Treaty of Rome was signed. It’s the Diamond Jubilee of a real diamond of international co-operation and collaboration and partnership. In just four days, Theresa May will set in train the process of us leaving it. That absolutely breaks my heart. And, in time, it will cause real hardship for everyone in this country, but most of all, the poorest, who mainly voted Leave.

In London, Lib Dems will be meeting at 10 am at Marble Arch. In Edinburgh, meet at Waterloo Place at 1pm.

Tim Farron will touch on the tragic events of Wednesday before going on to talk about Brexit.

“The unspeakable outrage that happened in this city on Wednesday will not defeat us, or silence us or divide us. Democracy continues, free speech continues, our way of life continues. Terrorism will not win.”

He will then move onto Brexit and will say:

“We respectfully say that Parliament is not enacting the will of the people, it is interpreting the will of the people.

“Theresa May could have chosen a consensual Brexit… she’s chosen the most extreme version… divided the country.

“Departure not destination. The choice is who should decide the final deal. Should it be politicians or the people? The Liberal Democrats say the people.

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A safe haven for Labour migrants

If politics is a numbers game then evidence is gathering which shows how misguided the Labour party’s attempts to straddle the electoral fence truly are.

A Labour party intent on waving Brexit bills through parliament in a misguided attempt to preserve the notional ‘will of the people’ at the expense of principled opposition is now leaking members. The dramatic surge of Corbynista enthusiasm which saw party membership top 500,000 last year is now looking more like a freak high water mark than a prolonged shift in progressive politics as has been claimed.

A report in the Guardian details how Labour party membership is on the decline as record numbers of members fall into arrears whilst others simple don’t renew when the time comes.

For the Liberal Democrats, these internal fluctuations of a rival’s fortunes matter enormously. Those people who are leaving Labour in disillusionment are the people who will help us continue our fightback. These former Labour members either are, or were, politically engaged and likely to hold views that can be broadly defined as progressive. While accepting that these are wide generalisations, the trends of the last 2 years which saw the surge in Labour party membership would seem to support them. You have to be engaged to sign up to any political party and the Corbyn revolution was publicised as a progressive one, no matter what one’s views on the validity of such statements. 

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Why politicians should tread carefully before using Quantitative Easing to build infrastructure

At a time when politicians grapple with how to use the tools at their disposal to reduce inequality of opportunity and outcome, quantitative easing {QE) can seem like an easy option.

To those blessedly unversed in the intricacies of the monetary policy tool that has dominated more than anything else the economy of the UK since the financial crisis, QE sounds like, ‘printing money and spending it on infrastructure.’

If only it were that simple. QE is a policy of central banks to buy the bonds  issued by their own governments, the aim being to push interest rates down and drive capital into assets more likely to make the economy grow.

So the first problem with any idea of using QE to increase government spending is that, well, the government doesn’t have the power to do it, Politicians can issue the bonds, the Bank of England can choose not to buy them, and the Bank of England is independent of government. 

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Nuclear fudge on the Lib Dem stall

Bismark is quoted as having said that “politics is the art of the possible” and in perpetuating a nuclear defence policy that can never be realised, the Liberal Democrats  have succeeded in stepping out of the debate on nuclear weapons.  The policy of having a part time submarine which probably isn’t carrying any nuclear warheads is neither possible nor deterrent.
 
This position is the sort of contingency that is adopted by fence sitters who do not expect ever to have to implement the policy that they have adopted and quite frankly for a party that aspires to government it is an entirely unsustainable policy.
 
There are in fact on the nuclear debate only two main questions, do we want a nuclear based defence policy or not?  If the answer is yes then the policy of the Liberal Democrats is not that policy as it means in reality that we leave the warheads at home until after war has been declared.  If the answer is no then the policy of the Liberal Democrats is not that policy as it retains the warheads.

Fundamentally we are saying that we want to negotiate away warheads that we will never use and will never have the opportunity to use and so we have taken our warheads out of any possible multi-lateral agreement.
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Thoughts on York

So, what was the most enduring memory of the York Liberal Democrat Spring Conference? Tim Farron taking on the Tories in a rousing final speech, or Nick Clegg in blistering form on Brexit? The feisty debate on faith schools, or the brief flirtation with unilateral nuclear disarmament, cunningly timed to coincide with England’s Grand Slam decider?

Or was it York itself, magnificent in the spring sunshine, giving us the perfect backdrop to the #libdemfightback?

Well, for me, the abiding memory is being a part of a vast hopeful army of conference newbies, who, like me, had chosen to get up off the canvas of 2016′s despair and do something- anything- to stop the world lurching into hate-filled extremism.

You can’t bottle “essence of York spring 2017″. But if you could, you might be intoxicated by the scent of a new libdemmery. One that had a heady dose of optimism, energy and hopefulness. But also a hint of something bloody, a visceral sense of patriotism that Tim Farron captured by announcing “I want my country back”.

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Joan Walmsley writes…Taxing patience and taxing patients

In order to “incentivise employers to think differently about their recruitment and skills decisions and the balance between investing in UK skills and overseas recruitment” (Lord Nash in the Lords on Tuesday) the government has decided to introduce an Immigration Skills Charge, a tax of £1000 per employee, per year, paid in advance by an employer wishing to recruit a skilled worker from outside the European Economic Area.

It does not apply to everyone, of course. Exceptions have been made for a variety of post-graduate scientists (including social and humanities scientists), research and development managers, and higher education teaching professionals.

Two groups that have not been exempted are professionals in health and social care. We know that both of these sectors are heavily dependent upon recruiting professionals from all over the world. We know only too well, from report after report, of the dire financial straits of the NHS: three quarters of NHS trusts are in deficit; nearly every A&E has limped from crisis to crisis this winter; we are short of nurses and retention is awful; hospital doctors’ rosters are unfilled; and GP practices can’t replace retiring doctors. The staff have become the shock-absorber for the NHS.

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    My problem with this debate is that sincere people on both sides of the debate tend to repeat arguments that only make sense to those...
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    The Liberal Democrats should not become Labour Lite. Lib Dems have fundamental differences with Labour. Lib Dems are pro free markets and competition whereas Labour...
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