ALDC’s by-election report, 29th January 2015

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This week once again saw two principal council by-elections.

On Wednesday, the Conservatives held one of their two seats in Purley-on-Thames ward in West Berkshire (UA), with their candidate polling 68.1% to take victory with a comfortable majority of 764 votes. Liberal Democrat candidate Steve Brown finished fourth with 7.6% of the vote.

Two seats were available in yesterday’s by-election in the St Albans (DC) ward of Marshalwick South. The Conservatives held on to both seats with their two candidates collectively averaging 33.5% of the vote. Lib Dem candidates …

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Nick Clegg on The Last Leg tonight

last-leg204Nick Clegg will be appearing on The Last Leg at 10pm on Channel 4 this evening.

I will certainly be watching – in fact, I have been a fan of the programme since it first appeared during the 2012 Paralympics. After tiring but exhilarating days spent working as a Gamesmaker, it was great to flop down and watch this totally refreshing and irreverent take on the day’s events with disability at its heart. It cleared away a lot of misconceptions through its #Isitok feature and the regular joshing between the three presenters, two of whom have …

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Opinion: Open doors and open minds

yellow door ppb

So then, we all saw it, did we? The starting gun for the Liberal Democrats election campaign was well and truly fired on Wednesday with the airing of three different versions of a very similar Party Political Broadcast.

‘Open Doors’ puts a focus on the LibDems as a campaigning force, but importantly for me, it also makes a very clear point about how we operate as a party – we listen to our communities, and we work with them to achieve change. Rather than it being Nick standing around …

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International Office promotes women’s and LGBT rights in the Balkans

Belgrade LGBT training

In the run-up to Christmas, the International Office worked with liberal sister-parties in Serbia and Bosnia to promote LGBT and women’s rights across the Balkan region.

In early December, I travelled to Belgrade with Ed Fordham, a leading Lib Dem LGBT campaigner, to meet with our sister-party, the Liberal Democrat Party (LDP). With our support, the LDP has set up a Human Rights Council modelled on the Lib Dem LGBT+ Group, as a champion of the LGBT community in Serbia.

Ed and I held a workshop with representatives of the Human …

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Liberal Democrats campaign all year round – even in the snow

When I woke up to an icy white blanket in my garden this morning, my first thought was for all those Liberal Democrat campaigners who are out and about in the freezing cold risking life and limb to talk to voters and get our message across.

I will never be one of them. I am a total wuss where snow and ice are concerned.  Or, to be more accurate, a chionophobic. Ever since a fall on ice meant that I wasn’t able to walk for five months, I don’t do snow or ice if I can possibly avoid it.

My admiration for those who do go out in the horrible white stuff knows no bounds. I had presumed if we had snow in the central belt, that the North East would be under feet of the stuff, but both West Aberdeenshire and Gordon reported bak that they were enjoying beautiful weather. However, Christine had posted a photograph of some lethal looking local pavements last Saturday:

Dyce death trap pavements

South of the border, we find our own Joe Otten  out with a team in Sheffield. They looked very happy in their work:

Joe in Hallam Snow

 

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Some notes on Nick Clegg’s Breakfast TV performance this morning

Nick Clegg appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning. He was in Bristol handing out money as part of the drive to give greater powers to communities and cities.

I have a few words of unsolicited advice for him on his performance.

First up, I do get decentralisation. I’m a liberal. Of course I do. I am not, however, that happy about Nick’s rather melodramatic description of what he was doing as “Taking money out of the clammy hands of bureaucrats in Whitehall and giving it to local communities.” It’s the sort of hyperbolic language that we would rightly have a go at if it came from Farage. These people Nick sees in offices in Whitehall every day presumably take pride in their work and have feelings – and votes. The language is slightly reminiscent of the way he used to speak of our friends in the House of Lords – you remember, the “they just turn up and get £300″ line when actually our lot were working their behinds off.  It’s a bit counter-productive. He actually had a half decent line that he didn’t really need to add to:

Every day in government I’ve been trying to end “Whitehall knows best” culture which has been holding country back for far too long.

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A first glance at the agenda for Spring Conference

The outline agenda for the Liberal Democrats’ Spring Conference in Liverpool has been published.

Spring Conference outline agenda

 

On Friday, a series of policy consultations, and a consultation on the plans to take forward One Member One Vote take up the afternoon before the rally.

On Saturday, there are speeches by Danny Alexander, Vince Cable and Jo Swinson with a question and answer session with Nick Clegg. Policy debates include mental health, the manifesto (surprisingly titled Stronger Economy and Fairer Society), green laws and workforce rights.

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Opinion: Time to dump the 4 hour A & E target

To be frank, as a doctor, I have been underwhelmed by our Liberal Democrat offering on health issues over the years; certainly we are not as strong on health as we should be.

The almost daily drip feed from the right wing press on NHS shortcomings and failures is demoralising to staff and frightening to patients and designed to be so. It serves no-one except those who want to undermine the public’s confidence in the NHS. The service treats three quarters of a million patients every day of the year, and for most people there is no alternative.

So I am  relieved that at last we have something distinctive to offer with Norman Lamb’s ideas on mental health; parity of access and delivery, more  research and funding. This is important, and we need to ‘own’ it as Liberal Democrat policy.

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You can’t really imagine Ed Miliband and David Cameron joking with each other over Twitter…

Normally on a Thursday morning, Scotland’s political leaders are thinking of how they will tackle the gladiatorial environment of First Minister’s Questions.

This morning, Andy Murray, playing in the Australian Open semi-final, provided them all with a distraction. Tory leader mentioned it on Twitter and look what happened next:

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Opinion: Housing – yes, we can

It is probably (I am sticking my neck out here) the belief of most councillors that the power to build council houses was abolished by Margaret Thatcher. This, coupled with right to buy, has led to a crisis in social housing which governments fail to tackle and councils can’t.

But a report commissioned by the Government as part of the Autumn Statement in 2013 has challenged local councils to have more confidence in what they can already do.

The Elphicke-House Report (pdf) published earlier this week, following a review by Natalie Elphicke, chair of Million Homes, Million Lives, and Keith House, Leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, contains 30 recommendations to both Government and Councils.

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Opinion: Insulation not fossil fuel subsidies

Earlier this week parliament overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to the Infrastructure Bill calling for a moratorium on fracking.

The challenge that the UK faces is that we are particularly dependent on natural gas. The vast majority of us have gas boilers and heating makes up much of the gas used in the UK. Weaning ourselves off gas boilers isn’t easy. There are renewable alternatives such as heat pumps but these only work in very well insulated homes. And there’s the rub. Around 70% of homes in the UK are still not well insulated, and a good portion of those have solid walls which are difficult and expensive to insulate.

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Open Doors: All 3 versions of the first Lib Dem broadcast of the year

The Liberal Democrats’ first crack at the General Election broadcasts is being shown as you read this.

With the theme of Open Doors, it’s about listening to voters and majors on how the Liberal Democrats would make a difference compared to Labour and the Conservatives.You may not be surprised to find that the phrases “stronger economy”, “fairer society” and “opportunity for everyone” feature.

Here is the English version. The Scottish and Welsh will follow below when they are available.

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Liberal Democrats winning here……or at least….erm….purring here

Billy 1

This is the real Billy. The Purr Minister! Ah! What a cutie!

Fantastic news straight from Battersea Dogs and Cats home!:

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Opinion: Achievable electoral reform for 2015

Securing an initial cross-party agreement is rarely enough to deliver constitutional reform. The dilemma for proponents of proportional voting is that such a fundamental change will always require a lengthy period of consultation. This time is a boon for the backroom operators in the big parties looking to backpedal, backstab, and poison the water. Ask Labour or the Tories for proper voting reform and what you will get is a long-term commitment that is lukewarm and effectively worthless.

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Sal Brinton: “We aren’t dead”

Sal @ Crohns & Colitis Rec _2 CROPPED Nov 13
New Statesman carries an interview with Liberal Democrat President, Sal Brinton. It’s wide-ranging discussion, with Sal in upbeat mood:

The key message is, if I talk to a candidate or other senior people do, make sure that you pass the word on. It’s like handing a torch on to say, ‘actually we aren’t dead, there’s a lot happening, there’s a lot good that we’ve got to talk about in government, and yes there have been things that have been very difficult for us’. But if people only hear about the bad side, and the side that the other parties want you to hear about, we will be missing a real trick.

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Lord William Wallace writes… Make national voter registration day part of your campaign

February 5th will be Bite The Ballot‘s 2nd ‘National voter registration day’. Last year this NGO, with a number of companies and schools in support, succeeded in sharply raising the number of young people registering. This year, in the run-up to the general election, they aim to add more than 250,000 to the register. You will find details of what they plan, and how they plan to manage it, here.

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Opinion: A good reason to vote LibDem in May

This post is reserved for new and infrequent commenters. “Infrequent” is defined as having post less than five comments in the last month.

Following the start of the 100+ day election campaign, I cannot help wondering what it is the Lib Dems need to do to recover what appears to be a significant dip in popular support. The problem is that we do not appear to be benefitting in the opinion polls from our many achievements in government. This is a shame, because there are so many of them; despite some comments on Lib Dem Voice, which could easily have been written by our political opponents in an attempt to demoralise supporters.

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Our next post will be for new and infrequent commenters

Happy hump day*!

We have two cheery photos for this morning.

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A quiet word in defence of Alex Carlile

alex carlile2 from bells yard
I fully support the decision of my friend and colleague Caron Lindsay, Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, to initiate a debate on the actions of Lord Carlile in connection with the Counter Terrorism Bill and an amendment (which apparently is still hanging over parliament like the sword of Damocles) which would effectively bring in the Communications Data Bill (or “Snoopers’ Charter”) by a back door/shoe-horn.

I strongly disapprove of those actions, taken by Lord Carlile and a few other peers.

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Is there any chance you might have noticed that there’s 100 days till the General Election?

So far today, the election themed correspondence and social media from the Liberal Democrats has involved 3 separate emails, a poster on social media, a silly but scarily compelling and satisfying game and a fabulous video.

One thing in all of that that the party has missed is that this whole 100 days to go thing is a bit novel. We’ve known the date of this election since late 2010 when fixed term parliaments were introduced. Before then it was up to the Prime Minister to pick the date, usually at the time of maximum political benefit to their party unless, like Gordon Brown, they simply ran out of time – although, to be fair, he could have nabbed another month or so in No 10. It was the one piece of useful political reform that we managed to get through.

We’ve already brought you the lovely poster that was released this morning. I’ve had emails from the Scottish Party, Malcolm Bruce on behalf of Christine Jardine and LDHQ. My favourite was the last simply because of the fantastic video tour of our Party’s Central London HQ, chatting away to the staff. They seriously only filmed it yesterday. It was great seeing people like the excellent Wassim from Member and Supporter Development, Robert the fantastic guy on reception who never fails to make me smile (ask him about the litter of puppies on Eastleigh polling day) and digital whizz Bess Mayhew. If you haven’t watched it, do so now.

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++ Tessa Munt quits as Vince Cable aide over fracking

Tessa Munt photo by Keith EdkinsBBC News reports:

Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt has resigned as a parliamentary aide to Business Secretary Vince Cable after voting against the government on fracking.

Ms Munt defied the party whip to support a rebel amendment calling for a moratorium on the extraction technique.

The Wells MP initially said she intended to remain in her role

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Catherine Bearder writes… 100 days to stop the Tories or Labour neglecting the environment

The countdown starts today. Just 100 days left to ensure that any future government has a strong Liberal voice in it. That means a strong voice for social justice and economic responsibility, ensuring that we finish the recovery and do so fairly. But it also means a voice that will continue to stand up for a radical approach on issues like drugs policy, indiscriminate snooping and constitutional reform. Crucial issues, but ones that both Conservatives and Labour would happily sweep under the carpet and forget about altogether if they were given the chance.

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‘Open up!’ – Digital democracy in the House of Commons

Digital DemocracyOpen up!’ was published yesterday and is the report of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy. Liberal Democrats should pay it some attention, even though, sadly, we do not appear to have had any representation on the Commission itself.

Its remit was to explore how to use digital technology to improve parliamentary democracy in the House of Commons, and increase democratic participation, which is surely something that we care about deeply.

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Julian Huppert writes… Clamping down on Tax Dodging

Tax dodging is plain wrong. There can be absolutely no justification for the wealthy not paying what they owe.

More than any other party, we know how important it is to have a fair tax system. Before the last elections, we pledged to lift the income tax threshold to £10,000. We have surpassed this by raising it to £10,600, lifting more than 3 million low earners out of paying income tax altogether.

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BAME Training Weekend offer

The Liberal Democrats have always strived to create an inclusive society regardless of background, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or any other different part of an individual’s identity. And at the Lib Dem Diversity team we work hard all year round to ensure that our party reflects this diverse and inclusive culture that we believe in.

That’s why on the 7th and 8th March the Liberal Democrat Diversity Team are hosting a free BAME training weekend at the Liberal Democrats Head Quarters in order to reach out to young people from BAME communities. Successful applicants will get a chance to develop professional skills and engage with senior Liberal Democrats, including Simon Hughes MP and Baroness Floella Benjamin. Some of our brilliant Parliamentary candidates such as Michael Bukola, Ibrahim Taguri, Amna Ahmad and Yahaya Kiyingi will also be there doing training, panel debates and question and answer sessions.

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Clegg calls for gay victims of the Nazis to be remembered in national Holocaust memorial

In a Pink News exclusive, Nick Clegg has called for gay victims of the Nazis to be included in the planned national Holocaust memorial – the “first senior politician” to do so.

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The left cheers Syriza while Miliband equivocates

The victory in Greece of anti-austerity party Syriza (in coalition with a hard right junior partner) has been warmly welcomed by anti-austerity commentators here.

Perhaps jumping the gun a little regarding the difference between voting to end austerity and actually ending it, Zoe Williams in the Guardian talks of a “a successful, transformative movement”.

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100 Days until polling day

Today, 100 days before polling day, sees a new poster launched by the Liberal Democrats, offering a straight road between the reckless borrowing offered by Labour and the reckless cuts of the Conservatives.
General Election Poster 270115s

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Norman Lamb writes … Tackling conversion therapy in the NHS

It may seem hard to imagine, but until 1992 the World Health Organisation classified homosexuality as a form of mental illness. Academic studies have shown an extraordinary prevalence, not too long ago, of therapists seeking to ‘convert’ gay people to become heterosexual – treating people’s sexuality as an illness rather than an inherent part of who they are.

In recent decades, society and the medical professions have fortunately come a long way. Most people now recognise that this as dangerous nonsense.

But there remain a few counsellors who still believe in the “treatment” of homosexuality to combat same-sex attractions.  I said nearly a year ago now that, although there was no evidence to suggest that such practices were taking place in the NHS, I wanted to do all that I could to put an end to them once and for all.

As Liberal Democrats it is incredibly important that we work to create a society which is not only more tolerant and open, but also one in which people are able to access support which helps rather than harms them when they are struggling with issues like their sexual orientation.

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Julian Huppert writes … On shoehorning the Snooper’s Charter into the Counter Terrorism Bill

To my shock and dismay a small group of unelected peers are trying to shoehorn the Communications Data Bill (known as the Snooper’s Charter) into the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill as an amendment. This is a bad idea, and also an abuse of process. It would mean that neither the Lords nor the Commons would get a proper chance to discuss the details of what is a massive infringement of people’s privacy.

I served on the Joint Committee Nick insisted on, and we spent a year scrutinising it – and tearing it to shreds. Yes, we need the intelligence services to be able to do their job, but in the words we agreed unanimously “the draft Bill pays insufficient attention to the duty to respect the right to privacy, and goes much further than it need or should”.

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    @Tim Hill "I don’t understand those whoa re relentlessly negative." In this instance, so that when a once great party gets driven onto the rocks...
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    @Stephen Campbell "But the unpopular, unwanted NHS reforms (which both Lib Dem and Tory told us was not on the cards) was when I said...
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    @ChrisB: " Give it a try, you’re telling lifelong Lib Dem members and activists, like yourself, to “shut up and go away”." Thank you for...
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    @Rabi Martins "speaking from my perspective as a Chair of Planning Committee I have seen nothing but a steady erosion of the ability of local...
  • User AvatarJudy 30th Jan - 2:08pm
    Great article - so important to talk about the 4-hour A&E target which, if it applied too rigidly, is clearly putting unnecessary pressure on hospital...
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    @Tim Hill >sometimes I feel I just have to say something in the hope they’ll shut up and go away. I think Tim represents what...