Opinion: Let’s keep social housing in London

As the ‘housing crisis’ debates continue and all political parties table motions to attract voters for the 2015 elections, we in Hackney Downs feel it’s time to raise our campaign which is in support of social housing in London.

Our bold online petition is calling for London Local Authorities and Chief Executives to publicly declare their non-attendance and to actively refrain from selling our public land for housing at the property fair in October 2014 and thereafter.  The host boroughs have already done so and it is time the remaining boroughs follow.

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats must stand up for the Welfare State

Welfare reform is an incredibly important discussion and one that we, as Liberal Democrats, must keep re-visiting to ensure we’re upholding those core principles we hold closest to our hearts. The Liberal Democrats are the only party that offered a home to champion the values of promoting a level playing field and protecting the most vulnerable, ensuring they fulfil their potential through equality of opportunities. After all, these are central tenets of a civilised society fit for the 21st Century.

I am proud that our party has largely blunted the blade with which the Tories had brandished to slice our safety net, the treasured welfare state, right in half. But we  must go further. We must ensure that our manifesto comprehensively deals with the issue of welfare. We must be certain the most vulnerable in society are not enslaved by poverty.

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Tory welfare plans are anathema to Liberal Democrats. We should not miss any opportunity to condemn them

I suspect most Liberal Democrats will have what we in Scotland call “the dry boak”when they watched Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne outlining plans to impose even more cuts on those people who can least afford to take the hit. A two year freeze for those who have least, including those who are working. Restricting benefits for young people. The benefits cap was a bad idea in the first place, but reducing it further is really wrong. But by far the most egregious of the measures announced yesterday was Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to introduce benefit cards instead of cash to bank accounts. Talk about illiberal. Talk about creating stigma.

What is very clear is that all these things would be being done now if the Liberal Democrats were not there to stop them. It’s a horrible glimpse into single party Tory rule. We can’t subject people to that.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 14 Comments

Opinion: Liberalism Unlocked: After the Coalition

On the eve of conference, a major new book on Liberalism is being published. “Unlocking Liberalism: Life after the Coalition” is a book of essays exploring what Liberalism should mean today, and how it can be taken forward after the 2015 General Election.

With a foreword by Charles Kennedy, the book starts with a masterly essay on the philosophy of Liberalism by Dr Nigel Dower of Aberdeen University, a lifelong Liberal who is a past president of the International Development Ethics Association.  This is followed by contributions from David Steel and Graham Watson, who examine Scotland and Britain after the Referendum, and Britain’s place in Europe.

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 9 Comments

A bit of a howler in the Tories’ press lines…

Sky News have managed to get hold of a Tory briefing document which gives its MPs and media spokespeople the messages they want to emerge from their Conference. It was drawn up in the wake of the Reckless defection and Newmark resignation. Things drawn up in haste can often cause more problems than they resolve and this is no exception. Take, for example, the bit where they say that they are not stating red lines in coalition negotiations before, er, stating one:

Q. Is policy X a red line for future coalition negotiations?

A. We’re not going to answer hypothetical questions about red lines for coalition negotiations. Our aim is to win an outright majority at the next election so we secure a better future for Britain and that’s what we’re working towards.

Q. But what about your Europe referendum? You’ve said that’s a red line?

A. As our commitment to have a referendum would have to be fulfilled by a specific date after the next election, we think it is right in this one instance to confirm it’s a red line.

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The current state of the economy: what Lib Dem members think about it

Economy-in-the-UKLib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 735 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

“The economy is in a bad way, but is starting to show signs of recovery”

That’s the view of the current state of the economy, according to 44% of Lib Dem members.

Posted in LDV Members poll | 4 Comments

Conference Preview 2014: The Pre-Manifesto Debate

libdemmanifesto 2010 wordleI thought it might be an idea to get some discussion going about the key Conference debates which are now just days away.

Arguably the most important of these is the motion on the Pre-Manifesto. It’s our shop window to the country, the cornerstone of everything we say or do between now and May.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 18 Comments

Ashcroft’s poll of Lib Dem battleground seats: incumbency is alive and well but 2015 will be a survival election for the party

Tory peer and pollster Lord Ashcroft has published his latest set of constituency findings. He polled some of the key Lib Dem / Tory and Lib Dem / Labour battlegrounds in the summer – he’s now followed that up by looking at a further 22 seats. Of these, 2 are Lib Dem targets, 15 the party is defending against the Tories, and 5 against Labour. You can see the full results here .

Here are the headline findings:

  • Of the 20 Lib Dem-held seats polled, the Lib Dems would retain just 6.
  • The Tories would gain 7 and Labour would gain 4. The other 2 would be a tie (though actually a further 5 are statistical ties within the margin of error).
  • The Lib Dems would win neither of their two targets.
  • Posted in Polls | Tagged , , , , , , , , , and | 33 Comments

    Team Science wants YOU

    AldesAt the last general election, support for the Liberal Democrats was buoyed by more than just Cleggmania: the party enjoyed particularly strong support from scientists and science commentators. Much of this was on the strength of Evan Harris’s foregrounding of evidence-based policy and support for reform of the outdated libel laws that saw author Simon Singh sued by the British Chiropractic Association. In the run up to the election, the party was endorsed by Richard Dawkins, and polls by Nature and Chemistry World revealed a majority of their readers saw our party as those most likely to table science-friendly policies.

    Mark Henderson (author of The Geek Manifesto), wrote:

    The Lib Dems have so far made the strongest case for the science vote. The extra detail that Clegg has now provided reinforces the view that they have most to offer.

    photo by:
    Posted in News | Tagged and | 2 Comments

    The Independent View: The Coalition Government’s economic strategy – time for a rethink?

    Credit: Freefoto.com

    The global financial crisis of 2008 has left Britain facing one of the most difficult periods in its economic history, as characterised by falling real wages and deepening poverty amongst the poorest members of our society. The actions taken by the Coalition Government since taking office in 2010 have arguably done little to tackle the social consequences of the economic downturn and have, in fact, exacerbated these problems, casting doubts on the validity of the government’s economic strategy as a whole.

    Business groups have expressed a lack of confidence in the Coalition’s shambolic handling of the economy during much of its time in office. In November 2012, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation awarded the government 5 out of 10 points in its record on creating jobs and opportunities, noting that the government’s decision to cut back on work experience in schools and careers advice could reduce the prospects of young people entering the workforce, while a senior Conservative politician in April 2013 accused George Osborne of caution and timidity by not taking bolder measures in restoring the country’s economic health. The Coalition’s economic strategy also came under fire a year ago from the IMF, which drew attention to the country’s lacklustre economic performance, with output 3% less than it was in 2008.

    Posted in The Independent View | Tagged | 41 Comments

    Opinion: Islamic State – it’s a conundrum

    iraqI see myself as a small time politician who has an opinion on everything. But the proposed bombing of ISEL / ISIS (IS) worries me as I am conflicted as to what the right answer is. Does the term ‘We’ve been here’ before resonate?  And how about ‘We can’t just stand back and let these atrocities continue’?

    Our record of being involved in the Middle East is very poor. On the last two Gulf wars we have demonstrated our military might but not foresight. We have demolished the perceived threat (although we still haven’t found weapons of mass destruction) excused ourselves out with ‘Now the right people will step up and do the right thing’. In each case we have failed to note that the population has been devastated by the wars. Ironically, we in the west have continually failed to recognise that the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent, if given the choice, much prefer the Western way of life. But if you have just been battered in a war, and those you hope would ally with you have done this, you turn to what is familiar and away from what you may have once aspired.

    photo by: The U.S. Army
    Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

    Lib Dem members on intervention against ISIS: 59% back air strikes, 49% support sending troops

    Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 735 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

    Support for British intervention in Iraq and in Syria to stop ISIS

    MPs voted on Friday for limited British intervention in Iraq to combat the threat posed by the terrorist group Islamic State/ISIS. According to our survey of party members, that action has the backing of most Lib Dems. By a more than 2:1 majority – 59% to 27% – Lib Dem members approve of the RAF taking part in air strike operations.

    Posted in LDV Members poll | Tagged , , and | 7 Comments

    Opinion: Education issues at conference?

    student_ipad_school - 175What are your current concerns about education policy?  Please do raise them in the comments to this post.  I’ll be meeting with the Liberal Democrats Education Association (LDEA) committee on Sunday and will be able to quote them in discussions where appropriate.

    Personally I’ll be focusing on two issues at conference.  I’m very disappointed to see that my policy for reform to public sector regulation and in particular to Ofsted is not in the pre-manifesto. I’ll be attempting to ensure that is addressed at the public sector reform debate on Sunday afternoon.

    photo by: flickingerbrad
    Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 10 Comments

    Opinion: In London, community politics must be less about geography and more about life choices

    bicycle route signOn September 22, my friend and London Region Lib Dem colleague Anthony Fairclough wrote in excellent fashion on these pages regarding the particular challenges, and hurdles, that are dampening the party’s prospects in many parts of London.

    Anthony made many well informed and cogent points, but the one I wish to pay particular heed to is his reference to our party in the past assuming that we would win votes because we are the party of local campaigners, the party which gets casework done.

    Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 21 Comments

    Chris Fox writes … My primary aim will be to promote engineering in the UK

    House of Lords chamberChris Fox – Lord Fox, of Leominster in the County of Herefordshire – was one of six new Lib Dem peers announced in August. 

    When I walked off the street and joined the Liberal Party in Leominster on my way home from school my aim was to help Roger Pincham in his campaign to win a seat in Westminster. With two elections that year we had plenty to do, and came so very close to winning. At that time, 40 years ago, Parliament seemed a world away and I would not have believed that today I would be preparing for the honour of taking a seat in the House of Lords.

    Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 8 Comments

    Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #391

    Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our xxxth weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the seven most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (21-27 September, 2014), together with a hand-picked quintet, you might otherwise have missed.

    Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

    As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

    Posted in Best of the blogs | Leave a comment

    Conference Preview 2014: The Training

    Conf 14 Training GuideEvery year, a few days before Conference, my brain goes into complete meltdown as I try to juggle all the competing demands on my time. There are usually at least 37 things going on in each time slot that I want to go to. Actually, that’s 34 things that I want to do and 3 that I have to do. No wonder I look at Hermione Grainger’s Time Tuner in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabahn so jealously.

    I shall try over the next few days to give you a flavour of what’s on offer in Glasgow this year. There’s so much, in the debating hall, in the training rooms, bars and on the fringe. And all it takes is meeting a long lost friend by chance in a corridor to put you off course because you end up talking to them for ages.

    Sorting out our timetables has been made much easier in recent years with the smartphone App. It was supposed to have been ready yesterday, but according to Neil Monnery, there’s been a problem at Apple’s end and it won’t be ready until Monday. That company really hasn’t had a good week, has it? Next thing they’ll be announcing that Ed Miliband is their new CEO.

    Anyway, let’s have a quick look at the training on offer. This is always an important part of Conference, but even more so in the run-up to a General Election. For a start, campaign teams need to know the legalities because the last thing we need is for an election agent to end up in jail. This year there are courses on election law and the new defamation law designed to keep us out of trouble.

    There are courses for every conceivable aspect of the campaign from leaflets to social media to fundraising to membership. It’s worth your local party sitting down and splitting people up between all the sessions or if there aren’t enough of you, teaming up with others to pool the notes.

    Posted in News | 2 Comments

    LDV’s Sunday Best: our 7 most-read articles this week

    7 ver 4 fullMany thanks to the 16,100  visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

    English devolution – with maps (95 comments) by George Potter

    Salmond’s bizarre public dig at critical commentator Torrance shows Scotland had a lucky escape (22 comments) by Caron Lindsay

    Paddy Ashdown warns of national civil unrest as gap between Westminster elite and people grows (61 comments) by Caron Lindsay

    By-election update: 47.2% swing in Guildford (45 comments) by ALDC

    Posted in Site news | Leave a comment

    Caron’s Sunday Selection: Must-read articles from the Sunday papers

    sundaypapsHere’s my selection of articles to inform and infuriate from this week’s Sunday papers.

    First of all, David Cameron tells the Sunday Times (£)  he wants to lead a government “unencumbered by Liberal Democrats.” He can take it from here, he says. We all know what that means. Demolishing human and employment rights, more welfare cuts, a crazy EU renovation which probably won’t give us the right to vote on what we have already but on a package of opt-outs, if such a thing is achievable which sees us with fewer protections in law than we have already.

    His plans on welfare for young people, which aren’t a million miles away from Labour, put the Liberal Democarats in an awkward position come any future coalition negotiations. We surely can’t ever agree to anything like this:

    Our ambition is to abolish youth unemployment and make it the case that it’s simply not possible any more to finish school, leave home, sign on and get a flat through housing benefit. That should not be possible in the future.

    Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 16 Comments

    New campaign aims to give women equal representation in Scotland’s parliaments and councils

    A cross-party campaign aimed at ensuring gender equality in the Scottish Parliament has been set up. The idea comes from Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale and Green MSP Alison Johnstone and has the support from MSPs across the political spectrum including Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes.

    Scotland on Sunday has the details:

    With Lord Smith of Kelvin’s newly established commission examining the transfer of more powers to the Scottish ­Parliament, the group of six MSPs believes control over equality legislation should be moved from Westminster to Edinburgh.

    This would allow MSPs to introduce legal quotas to achieve a 50/50 ratio of females to males at Holyrood, in local government and in the ­Scottish Government’s public bodies.

    Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 17 Comments

    A bad day for the Conservatives, Brooks Newmark and journalistic ethics

    Well, that’s not a good start to their Conference for the Conservatives. Their MP for Rochester and  Strood Mark Reckless lived up to his name and defected to UKIP, leaving the Tories another £100,000 out of pocket as they defend the second by-election to arise in these circumstances.

    Then their Civil Society Minister Brooks Newmark resigned when it emerged that he’d sent a fairly lewd photo to a male Mirror journalist who had been posing as a female activist. When I first saw the details, I tweeted that I wondered what went on in the heads of these public figures  who think that they can send photos like that over social media and not have them exposed. I mean, they might as well cut out the middleman and send them straight to the editor of every tabloid. I did also say that it wasn’t right that the picture had been publicised and that I did feel sorry for Newmark.

    Posted in News | Tagged , and | 45 Comments

    Liberal Democrats have coalition “wobble”

    highlands tmThat got your attention, didn’t it?

    The Liberal Democrats nearly walked out of the coalition this week.

    That would be the Coalition that runs Highland Council, where we are currently have 13 Councillors and share  power in a rainbow coalition with 31 SNP and 8 Labour members. This week, there was a possibility for a while that we would walk away from that Coalition and form a new one with the independents, with whom we had been in power before the previous council election.

    Liberal Democrat Group Leader David Alston explained to the Inverness Courier what it was all about:

    Posted in News | Tagged and | 3 Comments

    LibLink: Sam Ghibaldan: Time to end constitutional quirk

    england-flagEnglish votes for English Laws has become the great rallying cry of the last week ever since David Cameron decided it was appropriate to use the exact moment that almost half of the 85% of Scots who voted in the referendum said they wanted to leave the UK to pick a fight with Ed Miliband over what has been traditionally called the West Lothian Question. Sam Ghibaldan was Special Adviser to two Liberal Democrat Deputy First Ministers in Scotland and he has some advice for Ed in an article in today’s Scotsman.   He urges him to stop prevaricating and embrace the potential change.

    First of all he sets the context:

    In the 18th century, of course, the whole political system was largely corrupt and the rotten boroughs provided yet more opportunities for bribery. The West Lothian Question does not do that, thankfully, but it is nevertheless a serious democratic aberration, pushed back to the top of the political agenda by the independence referendum.

    The concern is something we British like to think of as our own: fairness. Why should Scottish – or for that matter Welsh or Northern Irish – MPs, vote on English issues, when their English counterparts cannot vote on Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish ones?

    The answer to that – they shouldn’t – is so obvious that most Scottish voters, let alone English ones, oppose their MPs voting on English issues. It is one of those rare constitutional questions that chimes with the electorate, appealing directly to their inherent sense of justice.

    Posted in LibLink | Tagged , , , and | 21 Comments

    Opinion: Why the Lib Dem membership should strongly oppose the UK’s new Iraq-Syria ‘bombing war’

    iraqBeheadings, women buried alive, executions for being in the wrong tribe ? This is not the democratic peaceful Iraq promised in 2003. But just 3 years after the US withdrawal, they went back again in early August with a bombing campaign, and now the UK is joining them.

    The Prime Minister’s intent to bomb Syria as well as Iraq is the subject of apparent disagreement between the Foreign Office and Downing St. The flaky legal justification is that Syria is unable to prevent fighters from crossing the (unmarked) desert border into Iraq. However, since the US has declared the Syrian regime illegitimate and has supported anti-government rebels, it has contributed to that ‘inability’. That explains the Foreign Office reticence.

    photo by: The U.S. Army
    Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 46 Comments

    Josh Mason selected for Redcar

    Josh Mason RedcarRedcar Liberal Democrats have selected their local party Chair and Deputy Leader of their council group Josh Mason to fight the seat at the General Election. Current Liberal Democrat MP Ian Swales announced in July that he was standing down.

    From Ian Swales’ website:

    Local man Josh, who is chair of the party, has worked very closely with Ian for the past 4 years supporting his campaigns for jobs, on flooding, against intrusive wind turbines, saving post offices and for better use of Redcar Hospital. Josh also sits on the board of Coast and Country Housing, is a local school governor, and represents Redcar’s Zetland Ward as deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats on Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council. Josh has spent the last four years campaigning hard against council waste. He has led calls to freeze council tax for the last three years and called for George Dunning’s resignation. Josh strongly opposed the council’s Draft Local Plan and has repeatedly campaigned for action to be taken on TunedIn, the council’s failing new youth facility.

    Ian Swales described 26 year old Josh as “an outstanding talent of the next generation.” He has represented Zetland ward on the Council since 2011 and  is currently the spokesperson on culture, leisure and tourism.

    Posted in News | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

    By-election update: 47.2% swing in Guildford

    colin crossIn Guildford, Colin Cross swept to victory with 63.4% of the vote for the Liberal Democrats (an increase of 49.1%) to gain a seat from the Conservatives. The Tory vote tumbled to come second with 25.7% (-45.3%), UKIP came third with 7.2% and Labour were last with 3.7%.

    Posted in News | Tagged and | 47 Comments

    LibLink: Alison McInnes: Better late than never for views on armed police to be heard

    policeThanks in no small part to the efforts of Scotttish Liberal Democrat spokesperson Alison McInnes, the Scottish Police Authority has finally launched a retrospective consultation  on the decision of Police Scotland to allow Scottish Police to carry arms on routine duties. This has caused huge consternation in highland communities.

    Alison McInnes writes about this consultation over at the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ website:

    Posted in LibLink | Tagged | 8 Comments

    ISIL Debate Open thread

    House of Commons. Crown Copyright applies to this photo - http://www.flickr.com/photos/uk_parliament/4642915654/The recall debate in the House of Commons is about to begin. This is the motion that has been tabled

    That this House condemns the barbaric acts of ISIL against the peoples of Iraq including the Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Christians and Yazidi and the humanitarian crisis this is causing; recognises the clear threat ISIL poses to the territorial integrity of Iraq and the request from the Government of Iraq for military support from the international community and the specific request to the UK Government for such support; further recognises the threat ISIL poses to wider international security and the UK directly through its sponsorship of terrorist attacks and its murder of a British hostage; acknowledges the broad coalition contributing to military support of the Government of Iraq including countries throughout the Middle East; further acknowledges the request of the Government of Iraq for international support to defend itself against the threat ISIL poses to Iraq and its citizens and the clear legal basis that this provides for action in Iraq; notes that this motion does not endorse UK air strikes in Syria as part of this campaign and any proposal to do so would be subject to a separate vote in Parliament; accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government, working with allies, in supporting the Government of Iraq in protecting civilians and restoring its territorial integrity, including the use of UK air strikes to support Iraqi, including Kurdish, security forces’ efforts against ISIL in Iraq; notes that Her Majesty’s Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; and offers its wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty’s armed forces.

    On twitter

    Posted in News | 64 Comments

    Opinion: Lobbying, campaigning and pressure groups – a need for transparency

    These three words conjure a variety of connotations, more often than not, negative ones. Taken together the mix is considered to be a cloak and dagger approach to getting deals done and policies made.

    It’s no secret that many people are disillusioned with the way our political process works. Politics isn’t about decisions made behind closed doors, but must be an open and interactive dialogue. I want to make sure constituents have the opportunity to engage in the issues that matter most to them. Politics should be an inclusive process that encourages public participation.

    That’s why I have decided to publish my conference schedule.

    Posted in Op-eds | 5 Comments

    Call Clegg: Nick robust about need to act on ISIL

    Nick Clegg LBC squareHere’s today’s Call Clegg. There were some lively exchanges about the rights and wrongs of air strikes in Iraq against ISIL.

    I was quite surprised that so many people thought that everyone should just sit down and talk to ISIL. They have shown no sign so far of being “get round the table” sort of people. There will eventually have to be a political and diplomatic solution, but is that really feasible right now? And how best to help the people who are being so brutally tortured and murdered by them. Nick explained that as he saw it, we were part of a broad international project to tackle ISIL in several ways and we were just one part of the jigsaw.

    Asked whether he’d have notes when he made his conference speech, he said he would “be speaking with the trapeze safety of an auto cue system.” That has conjured up a mental image I don’t think I’m going to get rid of very quickly.

    Posted in News | Tagged and | 11 Comments

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