Five party leaders at the funeral of Jeremy Thorpe

Paddy Ashdown, Nick Clegg, David Steel, Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell attend the funeral of former Liberal Party party leader Jeremy Thorpe at Saint Margaret’s Church on December 16, 2014 in Westminster. The eagle-eyed will also spot Tim Farron on the right.

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #403

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 403rd 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 (14-20 December, 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:

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Study shows that voters in Liberal Democrat seats trust their MPs more

Mike Smithson at Political Betting talks about data from the British Election Study that shows how well thought of MPs are in their own constituencies. Liberal Democrat MPs come out well on top, being much more liked even among opponents than their Tory and Labour counterparts. His graph illustrates thus:

LD MPs wider respected

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What does Alex Salmond think he’s playing at?

 

When he saw the writing on the wall and was desperate to get people to vote Yes, Alex Salmond made a last ditch appeal on the Andrew Marr Show the Sunday before the independence referendum. He said that people had a once in a generation or even a lifetime chance to vote for independence and they should take it.

Now, it was fairly clear to me and I expect most other people that he absolutely didn’t mean what he was saying. There was no way that the entire nationalist movement was just going to give up and take up crochet if they lost. Of course they were not. They sincerely believe that independence is the best option for Scotland in the same way that I believe that a liberal approach to our problems is the best way to run a society. I’ll never give up my quest to see a truly liberal world.

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

7 ver 4 fullMany thanks to the 13990 visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

Lib Dem MPs were right not to play Labour’s silly games over the Bedroom Tax (57 comments) by Caron Lindsay

Our worst nightmare? Peter Kellner’s scenario 3: “Lib Dems choose who’s the PM”  (49 comments) by Stephen Tall

Vince speaks out against “devastating and ideologically driven” Tory spending cuts plan (56 comments) by The Voice

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Tim Farron on Murnaghan: “There is massive space for the Liberal Democrats standing up for strong economy, fairness, human rights and civil liberties”

Tim Farron has just been on Sky News Murnaghan programme. Someone on there didn’t do their research. First all, Dermot said that Tim was handing over to “Sarah Brinton.” Yes, that’s her official name, but everyone knows her as Sal. You wouldn’t run up to Elton John and say “Hi, Reg”, now, would you?

Then he asked Tim the equivalent of wasn’t he just a rat deserting a sinking ship, stepping down now. Tim was able to say that this wasn’t his choosing, he had served the two terms he was allowed.

After that easy one, the line of questioning got more conventional. Every Liberal Democrat will be asked the “wipeout” question. Farron answered it well, although he could have got in there that in local government by-elections, the Liberal Democrats have made net gains this year as Britain Elects showed us the other day:

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Time to lambast the economic stupidity of Tory posturing on immigration

 

The main headline in today’s Sunday Times (£) is something of a milestone. (Helpfully, the Murdoch empire make most of the story available on Sky News without a paywall).

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Norman Lamb: Fixing dysfunctional mental health services takes time

Nobody could ever accuse Norman Lamb of political spin. He’s been in his ministerial job for 2.5 years and he’s totally honest about the still poor state of mental health services, particularly for young people. He says what he’s trying to fix it, but the pace of change must be frustratingly slow for him. He (and Paul Burstow before him) and Nick Clegg have done a massive amount in recent years to transform and improve mental health services but it’s more than a one-term job.

Norman has been talking to the Bournemouth Daily Echo about what he’s done and what he has set in progress. It’s clear that the effects of his changes will be felt for many years to come.

First of all, he talked about tackling stigma and getting people to talk about mental health more – partly because that then opens the way to a properly funded service:

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Liberal Youth unveils its General Election campaign plans

LY Cardiff campaign weekend Dec 2014One of the nicest things that’s happened to me this year was when I logged on to Facebook last night and found an invitation asking me to sign up for a Liberal Youth Action Weekend. It’s a long time since I was involved in one of its predecessor organisations, but it brought back memories of the great fun we used to have campaigning in Aberdeenshire under the guidance of party legends like Sheila Ritchie. It was great being at university in Aberdeen because the local party really embraced the students and wanted them to be part of the local organisation outside the university and treated us all like human beings, not just fresh legs to deliver leaflets. It’s no coincidence that that combination helped to lay the foundations for such a strong base in the North East of Scotland. It’s also no coincidence that most of that Aberdeen University contingent are still involved in the party in some way. 

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Tribute to Jeremy Thorpe

NPG x167152; Jeremy Thorpe by Walter Bird, Copyright National POrtrait Gallery, London some rights reservedJeremy Thorpe’s funeral was held yesterday at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster. It was attended by around 400 people including all five leaders of the Liberal party and the Liberal Democrats who succeeded Jeremy Thorpe: David Steel, Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy, Ming Campbell and Nick Clegg. There was a gathering afterwards at the National Liberal Club. The following tribute was delivered at the funeral by Nick Harvey MP, and is reproduced here at his suggestion.

It is a great honour to be asked to say a few words today about the political life and times of Jeremy Thorpe, though I do so with considerable humility as many present here witnessed and lived the Thorpe era first hand, whereas I was still at school at the time.

To describe Jeremy’s footsteps as giant ones in which to follow in North Devon would be a huge understatement.

Posted in Obituaries | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 16

Congratulations to George Murray’s ‘Marauding Fullbacks’, who, with an impressive 928 points, continue to lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after Week 16. It’s tight, though: just 12 points separate the top 3.

We’re entering the festive period, a time when you’ve probably got lots of other things to do. But, beware: there’s lots of football action, so, if you take your eye off the ball, you could find yourselves plummeting.

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Paul Tyler writes… In defence of piecemeal

For years Liberal Democrats have made the case for comprehensive reform of our constitution. We seek a fully federal settlement for the United Kingdom; constitutionally guaranteed decentralisation; fair votes; a democratic second chamber; prerogative power curbed other than as expressly given by Parliament; inalienable human rights.

Across the parties, many of us signed up 26 years ago to Charter 88 to realise a full package of these aims. The Charter itself lamented that existing British “constitution…encourages a piecemeal approach to politics”. It called for a comprehensive new settlement.

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By-election update: Gains on the year

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)

Just two principal council by-elections were contested yesterday. The Conservatives held their seat in St James ward in Kingston upon Thames LB, winning 42.9% of the vote. Liberal Democrat candidate Annette Wookey polled 33% to increase the party’s vote share by 11% from the ward’s last election this May.

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Cochrane review: Vaping can help you quit smoking

A review published by the Cochrane Collaboration – which serves to compile and make accessible evidence from clinical trials – has found that electronic cigarettes do help smokers reduce smoking or quit altogether.

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Opinion: Universal Basic Income is the way forward for the Liberal Democrats

Following a post by Nick Barlow a couple of weeks ago, a number of Liberal Democrat members have got together in support of the Universal Basic Income. In this post I wanted to outline some of the reasons UBI can and should become the cornerstone of our party’s welfare policy.

Universal Basic Income is a regular unconditional tax-free payment made to every citizen regardless of their situation. Most models have it varying only with age- the under 21s get less, the over 65s get more- and naturally it replaces the large majority of existing benefits including pensions and unemployment benefit.

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A farewell from Tim Farron as party president

So, it’s a matter of days now before I hang up my boots and pass on the baton to our new president (its important to mix your metaphors at a time like this!). I want to congratulate my friend and colleague Sal Brinton as she takes on the Party Presidency on 1 January and to wish her every success in the role. Sal will be an outstanding President, over the last four years she has been a regular source of wisdom and support to me – and I hope I can return the favour when she takes over.

I also want to pay tribute to both Liz Lynne and Daisy Cooper. They have both ran exciting campaigns which helped to energise the party and raise important challenges.

Posted in Party Presidency | 12 Comments

Morrissey Progress Report – first thoughts

Morrissey Progress ReportAs promised earlier, here are my first thoughts on Helena Morrissey’s progress report which she published earlier today. There is so much in the report that I could go in to but these are the main points I’ve noticed.

The party needed to come out of this well, and show good progress in 18 months. To a certain extent it does, and the people who needed to come out of it most well were the leader, chief executive and president, the holders of most power in the party and who are perceived by the public as its face. They were praised for their commitment and for what has been achieved. It was the lack of progress at regional and local level that concerned Morrissey and she wants to see that changed. In many respects I agree with her. However, those of us who value the say that grassroots members have in this party should make sure that there is no “mission creep”. It may be a temptation to take more power than is strictly necessary to the centre and we need to be vigilant on this point.

Morrissey outlines the solid progress that has been made so far on each of her recommendations but is clear that there is still more to do. She suggests further action on two broad themes – structural reform and specific action to make sure that people are aware of the standards of behaviour expected of them.

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Helena Morrissey evaluates party’s progress on her recommendations

Last year, Helena Morrissey published her Report into the Processes and Culture of the Liberal Democrats and made 9 recommendations for change. Here are Stephen Tall’s and Caron Lindsay’s thoughts on it from then.

It was always intended that Helena would come back and evaluate the party’s progress on implementing her recommendations. Her progress report is published today and can be seen here.

This is what she has written in the foreword:

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Lord William Wallace writes…Evidence shows EU serves Britain well

European FlagIf you’re interested in the evidence about UK interests at stake in EU membership, it’s now available: over 2000 submissions, to 32 government reports.  And the overwhelming evidence, from small business and large, from legal bodies and service providers, is that the EU serves British interests well, above all in the regulations that underpin the Single Market, but also in fighting cross-border crime and providing a multilateral framework for UK foreign policy.

Eurosceptic Conservatives hoped that this exercise would demonstrate how Brussels regulations cramped British enterprise and undermined English common law.  Four rounds of consultation over two years, on topics as diverse as fisheries policy and police and criminal justice, have concluded that the current balance fits British companies and public services well.

photo by: rockcohen
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Lib Dem MPs were right not to play Labour’s silly games over the Bedroom Tax

Twitter has been full of Labour types slating Liberal Democrat MPs for voting against Labour’s parliamentary motion on the Bedroom Tax. When longstanding critics of the measure like Tim Farron and Julian Huppert vote with the Government, then there has to be a good reason. In fact, there are three.

1. This was just a Labour stunt

It was a parliamentary game to go along with a data gathering exercise Labour have been doing over the past few days. Social media has lit up with a link to a site in Liberal Democrat colours asking people to sign up to stand against the Bedroom Tax. All they wanted was the excuse to put on a leaflet that the Liberal Democrats had voted to keep the Bedroom Tax. Of course, it won’t mention that they voted in favour of Andrew George’s Affordable Homes Bill which made proper, actual sensible changes.

This is not a new tactic. I dare say we’ve used it ourselves plenty times in the past when in opposition. The SNP used to do it all the time when Labour and the Liberal Democrats were in power in Scotland. This may be a good moment to remind people that they (that’s most SNP MPs) never turned up to support Andrew George’s Bill. That’s an aside, though. What happens is that the opposition puts up a motion that even opponents of the measure in the Government couldn’t possibly vote for so that they can make political hay.

2. Labour’s motion did nothing for private sector tenants affected by similar measure introduced by…Labour

Yesterday’s motion was not about actually making anyone’s life better. It had no chance of helping those who are struggling with the Bedroom Tax. Nor did it to anything for those who are stuck in overcrowded accommodation. Even if their motion had passed, it would not have been binding on the Government, nor would it have tackled the hardship faced by people renting in the private sector. We forget that Labour brought something very similar to the Bedroom Tax in for private sector tenants in 2008. Yes, it’s slightly different in that it didn’t apply to existing tenancies, but there is much greater turnover in private sector tenancies, so it’s been causing real difficulties too. We shouldn’t ignore that. Funnily enough, Labour’s motion did ignore the problems they had caused.

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Baroness Sally Hamwee writes…Localism and liberalism, urban and rural

You have to admire the energy and determination of Lucy Hurds and the Lib Dem team in Hereford and South Herefordshire. When I went to Hereford the other day, I found I was the most recent of a gaggle of peers and MPs (is that the right collective noun for Parliamentarians?) whom Lucy had persuaded to trek westwards.

Going to rural seats always reminds me how different it is campaigning in the countryside. In my neck of the woods, the challenges are from entry phones and gated developments (how does anyone ever get in, or – as happened to one colleague who did achieve that, get out?) In other parts of the city it’s tall and too often liftless blocks. Lucy whispered to me that two members to whom she introduced me delivered a village every week.

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Fifa World Cup row: Lib Dem members say no to Qatar but split on 2022 boycott

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what our sample of Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. 747 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Yesterday, Fifa’s independent ethics investigator Michael Garcia quit in protest over the handling of his report into bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. Here’s what Lib Dem members had to say about Fifa in our latest survey…

Do you think the 2022 football FIFA World Cup should go ahead in Qatar, or should it be hosted elsewhere?

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Vince’s Royal Mail privatisation: independent report concludes “the right decisions were made”

An independent report by Lord Myners published today has concluded Vince Cable and the Government made “the right decisions” during the process of selling off Royal Mail.

royal mail sell off

The BBC explains the background:

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LibLink: Tim Farron – CIA report shows we should fight even harder for liberal Britain

Writing in New Statesman, Tim Farron argues that liberalism is not a given, is under threat and we should fight for it:

We cannot continue to take liberalism for granted. We need to articulate our liberal values loudly and clearly to stop a creep into authoritarianism built on a currency of fear.

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Opinion: The power of the media for good or ill

The existence of a free press is one of the hard-won aspects of our society, that makes it what it is. Added to this is the existence of a free broadcasting system and the internet, some of which features other countries are lucky enough to share.

Of course, there are problems associated with a free media, including the issue that it is largely profit-driven and can therefore occasionally overstep the mark of what many ‘ordinary’ people consider to be acceptable behaviour. Delving too deeply into the private lives of those who are not in a position to defend themselves is one example of what can go wrong. On the other hand, revealing the depths of corruption in various public bodies is something for which we should thank them.

It is therefore with a degree of diffidence that I wonder whether some of the 24 hour a day coverage we see is actually a bad thing. Take for example, recent events in Sydney, Australia.

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Fixed-term parliaments: 56% of voters support them, finds YouGov

I’ve written before about the fact I like fixed-term parliaments: In praise of 5-year fixed-term parliaments. You may remember that a few years ago, former Cambridge MP David Howarth tried to introduce them. Then in the Coalition Agreement, they became reality.

YouGov has asked the public what they think about them, and you can see the result below courtesy the New Statesman’s May2015 polling website:

yougov fixed term parliaments - 1

photo by: garryknight
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Civil partnerships can now be converted into marriage

As of last week, couples in England and Wales have the choice to convert their civil partnership into marriage, concluding a historic process of changing the law to give same sex couples the right to get married.

The Liberal Democrats were the first party to support same sex marriage and have delivered our promise to couples to allow conversions into marriage to take place. There is now no reason in the law why two people of the same sex cannot be married.

Liberal Democrat Minister for Equalities Jo Swinson said:

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Opinion: Torture – taking back control of the debate

Following the publication of the Senate report into the CIA’s treatment of detainees during the ‘war on terror’, David Cameron said ‘Let us be clear. Torture is wrong, torture is always wrong’. This is undoubtedly a powerfully attractive view for anyone of a humanist disposition, concerned to condemn all violations of basic human rights.

But there is a nagging problem – the British public seem not to be so sure. A survey by Amnesty International in May this year showed that 30% of Britons believe that torture can sometimes be justified, and that 44% believe we should not rule out its use altogether – more than in Russia and China, countries where torture is endemic.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 34 Comments

Opinion: London’s house clearing and what the Focus E15 campaign tells us

The introduction of the Benefit Cap and Housing Benefit changes is adding fuel to the gentrification of our urban centers, throwing out many small businesses that can just afford the London Living Wage, and pushing micro urban economies into a transition that will inevitably see the marginalized and low income workers evicted from London’s salubrious centre zones.

Local Authorities (LAs) are already reconfiguring their homeless departments which, if pursued to their natural conclusion, will see changes in their service delivery because officers will have to eventually move out with their service users – starting the same homeless process all over again in the outer areas.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 13 Comments

Devolution must go beyond Westminster

Yesterday in parliament, William Hague announced four options to address the “English votes for English laws” issue. They are:

  1. Barring Scottish and Northern Irish MPs from any role in English and Welsh bills and limiting England-only bills to English MPs
  2. Allowing only English MPs, or English and Welsh MPs, to consider relevant bills during their committee and report stages, where amendments are tabled and agreed, before allowing all MPs to vote on the final bill
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarSadie Smith 22nd Dec - 10:46am
    Thanks for putting it on LDV. I had a chatty account from Fran Oborski who went. And somewhere I read a Thorpe/Wilson anecdote which brought...
  • User AvatarTony Rowan-Wicks 22nd Dec - 10:31am
    I think we all know that the losses the party will receive at the GE will be written off as the price to pay for...
  • User AvatarDavid Howell 22nd Dec - 10:31am
    What is Alex Salmond playing at? I would have thought that was obvious . . . He's positioning himself to lead the next grouping of...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 22nd Dec - 10:10am
    Julian, The Conservatives were asked for very few real concessions last time and they gave even less. That was weak leadership. This time both Labour...
  • User AvatarMartin Land 22nd Dec - 10:04am
    @RC Their hostility is not tiresome. it's what you will meet on the doorstep and it's important to learn how to deal with it. You...
  • User AvatarBill Le Breton 22nd Dec - 9:27am
    Agree with Charles about the lessons from the Corn Laws and Imperial Preference . But that may cause some problems for Radical Liberalism when the...