LibLink: Willie Rennie on St Andrew’s Day – “No Racism: Refugees Welcome Here”

Willie leader launch crouching in front of bridgeThe St Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March and Rally will focus on refugees this year, under the theme No Racism: Refugees Welcome Here.  It will start at 10.30am from Glasgow Green. Willie Rennie has been explaining the importance of this year’s march to the Scottish Trade Unions Congress.

The refugee crisis is the biggest humanitarian challenge that Europe has faced since 1945. Our response to the crisis needs to match the scale of this challenge. And just as we speak out against racism, we need to ensure that we are challenging those who would see us ignore our obligation to help.
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Tim Farron’s response to the Autumn Statement

Tim Farron writes:

This was a deeply political budget from a deeply political Chancellor.  It looks good in the theatrics of the Commons, with Labour divided, weak and inept, but the budget will unravel.

It will unravel in schools next year when they see funding slashed; it will unravel when local councils have to cut services and increase taxes just to get by; and it will unravel when projects can’t be built because of the skills shortage caused by the attack on further education.

The brighter outlook has given Osborne room for manoeuvre, yet he continues an ideological crusade to slash spending and

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Dutch economists & ex-ministers: Brexit so disastrous that Dutch government should campaign against it

Netherlands’ Prime Minister Mark Rutte discusses the UK’s negotiations over EU membership with David Cameron

Two prominent economists who also were Dutch ministers and still are influential “public thinkers” about macro-economic, budgetary and fiscal affairs, have come out in their weekly column for a strong Dutch government involvement in the campaign against Brexit.

write in their Sunday column (15th November 2015) in the biggest Dutch newspaper The Telegraaf, that the OECD may predict a sunny future for the Netherlands, but that uncertainties like the slump of China and others Emerging Economies (see: The Economist) can scupper those rosy predictions.

But a second danger looms on the horizon: a Brexit can also harm the economic and political interests of the Netherlands. Vermeend and Van der Ploeg point out that with a Brexit

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And now for something completely different – Tim Farron is normal


The Telegraph Travel section has interviewed Tim Farron about his holidays in their Celebrity Travel spot.

He reveals some distinctly non-celebrity holiday behaviour:

My wife, kids and I tend to have one foreign holiday a year, either in France or Spain – this year we spent two weeks in Andalusia – to get a bit of sun and spend some time together as a family. Most recently, I spent a few days on the Isle of Arran with my family during the half-term break.

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Your thoughts on Osborne’s Autumn Statement


Before George Osborne steps up to the dispatch box today we already know which Government departments will be protected from the cuts and which will have to take the brunt. The Tories have pledged to protect the NHS, education, defence, pensions and foreign aid, so that leaves vulnerable the police, local government (and just think of the huge number of services they provide), social care, further education (apparently not considered ‘real’ education), renewable energy and, of course, welfare.

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Liblink: Tim Farron on the five things Lib Dems want to see in the Spending Review


Tim Farron has been writing today in the Huffington Post.

The simple fact is that nearly half of the cuts George Osborne will make aren’t necessary to get spending under control. Instead that are motivated by an ideological drive to shrink the state. That’s a big departure from the decisions Liberal Democrats took in Coalition.

He outlines the five things that he would like to see in the review:

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We should be highly sceptical of air strikes against Syria


There is a famous saying by Albert Einstein I am sure you are all familiar; “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

And now we contemplate another military intervention in the Middle East…

Of course the experience of Iraq shows the consequences of getting it wrong. But Afghanistan was also a failed policy. And under our watch in government, Libya too. Yet whilst much has been said about Iraq, little has been said about Libya. Perhaps we have not come to terms of what we did there, and the hellhole that Libya has become?

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York welcomes refugees


From left to right:  Lib Dem Cllrs Ashley Mason, Andrew Waller, Keith Aspden, Stephen Fenton, and Keith Orrell from City of York Council.

In the late 1990s, York offered a place of safety to 90 Kosovan Albanians as they fled conflict in their homeland. They were living in overcrowded camps in neighbouring Macedonia, and our country heard their cries. Today, thousands of Syrians face a similar plight and once again cities like York are preparing to help.

Initially, David Cameron was very slow to react to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. In contrast, Tim Farron was quick to grasp both the seriousness of the situation and the need for swift action. Cameron’s reticence also contradicted strongly with the view of many residents I spoke to in York, including those who I joined on a ‘Refugees Welcome’ march back in September.

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Tim Farron MP writes: We need a holistic approach to eliminate domestic violence once and for all

Today is the Comprehensive Spending Review and all eyes will be on The Chancellor. However, it is also the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, marking an issue that affects all of us in the UK and across the globe.

Here in the UK domestic violence continues to be a horrific, often hidden scar on our society. Websites such as Counting Dead Women are a terrible reminder of the human cost of violence against women. Figures show that one in four women will suffer domestic abuse in their lifetime and two women are killed by partners each week. It is incomprehensible to me that more isn’t being done to eliminate this abhorrent crime.

We need to make sure that women feel they can speak out and get the help they need so they aren’t left trapped in their own homes. Women’s Aid have said that on average a woman will have suffered 35 separate incidents of domestic violence before going to the police. We need to ask ourselves why.

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Lib Dem Christian Forum membership doubles in 2015

It is not just the national party that has had a membership boost over the last year. Liberal Democrat Christian Forum has doubled its membership in 2015. Our membership now stands at just over 560 members. We too (like the party) had the majority the of membership boost in the 3 months after May. However are membership has been growing steadily throughout 2015.

LDCF does many events throughout the year, both on this own (such as prayers in parliament and fringes at conference) and with other organisations, such as charities and Christians in Politics. It was great to see so many LDCF members at the Show Up Weekend (6th – 8th Nov), which were certainly representing, with over 100 Christians involved in politics (whether that be as a member, as an activist or working in politics) in Sunningdale, Surrey. We were hit with great talks, great company and a breaking down of political tribes.

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Jenny Randerson writes… The final decision on Heathrow is imminent and Lib Dems are standing firm

It feels as if we have been waiting for a decision on airport expansion for a very long time. And in fact we have been – it was 2012 when the Airports Commission was set up and asked to come up with a recommendation for how the UK can best meet its international connectivity needs. But we finally have the long awaited “Davies Report”, and it is now up to the Government to make the final decision.

They are facing a major political dilemma. The report has a very clear conclusion: Heathrow is the airport it wants to see expanded. But …

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Farron’s five tests to secure Lib Dem support for UK action in Syria

Falling on David Cameron’s desk this afternoon is a letter signed by all current and living former leaders of the Liberal Democrats in which they outline the five key tests the Government must pass in order to secure the party’s support for airstrkes in Syria.

Here is the letter in full:

In advance of your statement outlining your plan for military intervention against ISIL in Syria, we are writing to outline the criteria against which we will judge our response to your proposals.

As you will know our party has maintained a consistent position that airstrikes alone will not defeat ISIL in Syria. Deployment of lethal force should never be used simply as a gesture. It has to have effect, and to have effect it has to be part of a wider strategy, especially on the diplomatic front.

We are encouraged by the fact that the Government has at last decided to explain the details of that strategy and look forward to hearing what this is.

The five conditions below give the UK the best chance at having an effective strategy to counter ISIL and make serious progress in ending the Syrian civil war. We call on you to embed them into your plans before they are brought to the House of Commons on Thursday.

These conditions are:

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Which piece of ground in the UK has had the most parliamentary by-elections?

Tim Farron and Paul Walter in OldhamThat is a convoluted way of crow-barring in an immodest mention of this fact: I have now helped the Liberal Democrats at three by-elections in Oldham:

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Oops! The £92.5bn black hole in’s sums

Anti-Europeans struggle when it comes to numbers. UKIP can’t decide whether it’s thousands, tens of millions or hundreds of millions of foreign nationals who are descending on Britain. Business for Britain’s boast that Brexit would make each of us £1.06 per day better off falls apart even under the mildest of scrutiny. And only last week Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames highlighted the £14bn black hole in Vote Leave’s back-of-an-envelope calculations.

But the clumsiness of Business for Britain and Vote Leave is as nothing compared to If we pull out of Europe,’s chief executive Liz Bilney told Sky News, “we will be better off by £1,000 per person.” She then clarified exactly what she meant: “That’s real money in people’s pockets that they’d be getting back”.

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We must reclaim our Social Democrat heritage

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour party brings back memories. Of when a Labour activist grabbed me by the throat, and a Trotskyist threatened to break my arm.

Few Labour members in the 1980s were violent, and nor are the vast majority of Corbyn supporters. But I have no doubt that the same intolerance and intimidation that I experienced at university is being felt by moderate Labour members today.

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“It’s time to break the silence surrounding male suicide”

Norman Lamb and his son Archie opened up on ITV News about Archie’s depression and thoughts of suicide. In a very moving interview with Mark Austin they say what it is like to live with mental illness.

Archie explains:

It just takes over your head. You can’t think of anything else. When you get into depression you cannot think of anything else apart from the gloom of how you are thinking. In my toughest moments you don’t feel like there’s any escape. … I’ve had those thoughts ever since I can remember. They’re not very nice thoughts to have, obviously. It’s really, really horrible and you feel embarrassed to talk about them. At the time I wouldn’t have spoken to my parents about it, or my friends because it is embarrassing.

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Zoe O’Connell’s Federal Conference Committee report

Federal Conference Committee met at Liberal Democrat HQ on Saturday 14th November for a meeting that had, despite press reports suggesting it was called purely to discuss special conference, been in the diary for some time.

Many topics were discussed, as the November meeting is one of the few where members get to kick about ideas and discuss new developments rather than focusing on motion and amendment selection. Even after a relatively short time on the committee, these feel to me as if they are standing agenda items – many FCC members are keen to keep up work on better use of funds to improve conference accessibility and financial inclusion, investigate remote voting, use of new technology, timing of conferences and so on. FCC rarely decides anything concrete at this point, but members are often tasked to go and consult with other groups such as, for example, talking to DEG and LDDA about some aspect of accessibility or funding that has arisen.

I generally refrain from reporting discussions-in-progress on these topics, as I feel it right that groups representing members who have most to gain (or lose) from changes should get the first say. There are three areas that deserve special mention, however:

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We shouldn’t bomb Daesh in Syria even with a UN resolution

It looks like there could be a vote to bomb Syria within a couple of weeks. Whilst I too was horrified by what happened in Paris 10 days ago, I am not convinced that the UK should be joining this mission.

Most defence commentators agree that the purpose of an air campaign is to prepare for a ground campaign – air strikes alone are not enough to degrade Daesh. So who are the ground troops? The Kurdish soldiers will certainly take back some land currently occupied by IS but will stop at the borders of their desired future …

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Banning the Lord’s prayer – how outrageous (if it were true)

The tabloids do love a good moan about how Christians are persecuted in this country.  It’s lost on them that representatives of the faith enjoy a privileged position in our Parliament and national life. So today’s stooshie about the Church of England’s ad, or, even more sensationally, “the Lord’s Prayer”  being “banned” is an early Christmas Present for the tabloid editor.

Except nobody has banned anything as the subsequent prevalence of this short advert proves.. In fact, if the agency who runs the advertising for the three biggest cinema chains had accepted the ad, they would have been breaking their own policy, which is not to accept religious or political adverts. They were a bit burned last year when they received negative feedback after running independence referendum ads in Scottish cinemas and were understandably reluctant to repeat the exercise.

You have to hand it to the Church of England for playing this brilliantly. Without handing over a penny, everyone in the country now knows how to access their advert. It’s embedded into many news articles about the row, it’s on their website, it’s on You Tube, it is everywhere.  They have managed to simultaneously complain about it being banned while ensuring that many more people have seen it than would have done over Mockingjay and popcorn.

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Farron on Defence Review: We need more flexible forces and better co-ordination with Europe

Tim Farron has been commenting on the Strategic Defence Review. He said:

Only this government could create a ‘rapid reaction force’ and will take 10 years to react.

The Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) has some good points, especially the new maritime patrol boats and extra frigates.

The world is more dangerous and uncertain since the last SDSR and that is why we need more flexible forces and greater coordination with allies in Europe. For all the Prime Minister’s bluster, that piece of the jigsaw is sadly missing.

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Farron: I don’t want British weapons used for human rights abuses

The Guardian reports a Liberal Democrat call for stricter controls on arms exports so that weapons could not be sold to regimes which have poor human rights records:

The Lib Dems tightened the already strict criteria while in government, delivering on a manifesto commitment to secure the first international arms trade treaty, limiting the sale of weapons to dangerous regimes. More than 150 licences granted by the Labour government were revoked as an immediate reaction tot he Arab Spring.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, said: “Human rights should not be pushed aside in a headlong rush to profit. We currently sell weapons to a series of regimes that have terrible human rights records. I do not want British weapons or equipment being used to commit human rights abuses.

“We do have a strong regime of safeguards, some of the strongest in the world, but they can be strengthened.

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Lib Dem Lords’ maiden speeches: Lorely Burt on Trade Unions

Last week, Lorely Burt made her maiden speech in the House of Lords. She spoke in the debate on trade unions. Here it is in full:

My lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech today.  I feel enormously privileged to be here, and I hope to make a productive and positive contribution to this house. I am grateful also for the welcome I received from noble lords and ladies at my induction and for the enormous support, courtesy and patience of parliamentary staff in the way they prepared me and helped this particular ‘new girl’.  I have found the politeness and helpfulness of all the staff in this place without parallel. However, I’m sure it will take me a while to get used to the ways and customs here, so I feel now is a good opportunity to apologise in advance for any faux pas I’m likely to make as I feel my way! Now I have been told that one’s maiden speech should be relatively non-controversial. My lords – I’ll try!

Having been bruised and battered many times in the fray of the Other Place I have been impressed by the politeness and civility I’ve witnessed here, in this chamber.  It is refreshing and I hope to measure up to the standards you maintain here. Politics, in my past experience, has been a brutal game.  I have served in local as well as national elected chambers – as a local councillor in Dudley (Lenny Henry country) and for ten years as MP in the rather more genteel Solihull, overturning a 9,400 majority in 2005.

This result came as an enormous surprise, not only to the ruling party but also to many in my own party!  At least one colleague on election duty with the media that night asked them to double check the result before they would discuss it on air! But although it was the street-fighter from Dudley who originally won the seat, I chose Solihull for my peerage title.  Because today I am a silhillian – live there, love it and love the people I’ve served these 10 years.

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week?

Scottish Parliament 3What are our MPs, MSPs, MEPs and AM’s going to be talking about this coming week?


Women will be a key focus of the Scottish Parliament this week with a debate on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women on Wednesday which starts 16 days of activism lasting till Human Rights Day on 10 December.

There is also a debate on how welfare reform affects women on Thursday.

On Wednesday, controversy about the SNP Government’s decision to tender for the contract to run Clyde and Hebridean ferry services will be highlighted in a Labour Opposition Day Debate. No doubt Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott will want to mention the fundamental unfairness which has seen the Scottish Government cut ferry fares for islanders off the west coast, but not for the northern isles.  

The Senedd

AMs will be debating affordable housing, with North Wales Lib Dem Aled Roberts tabling some radical amendments calling for the planned rate of housebilding to be doubled. 

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Baroness Ros Scott writes…Up for the new challenge

Liberals from across Europe have been meeting in Budapest for the annual Congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe,  including a sizeable delegation of Lib Dems led by Party President Sal Brinton.

ALDE has 55 member parties from across the continent,  49 members of the European Parliament, 5  European Commissioners and 7 Prime Ministers. There’s also a local government group in the shape of Committee of the Regions, and a network of Liberal Mayors.

A recent decision to trial an individual membership scheme has gone from strength to strength, with over 1,500 joining up already.

On Saturday, after a intense campaign, I was lucky enough, and honoured, to be elected as one of the new Vice-Presidents of ALDE,  which means serving as a member of governing body, the Bureau.

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Andrew Wiseman writes…Changes to Spring Conference registration

We are trying something new at this year’s Spring Conference. The Autumn Conference saw a record-breaking members’ attendance with more first time conference attendees than ever before and we are keen for even more members to come to conference and actively engage with the Party’s policy making process.

The Spring Conference in York will be the first conference under One Member One Vote and in light of this we reviewed, amongst other things, the current registration system. At our short weekend Spring Conference we will now only be offering a full Member’s registration option so that everyone attending has the right to speak, vote and receive conference papers. This means that we will no longer be offering day visitor passes at Spring Conference.

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A real opportunity at Oldham West and Royton

I spent the weekend helping Jane Brophy’s campaign at Oldham West and Royton. Here are some of my observations in random order:

  • Jane Brophy is an excellent candidate with a proven campaigning track record.
  • There is a fantastic, young and enthusiastic team running the campaign – working extremely hard.
  • We are fighting in what is a “development constituency” for us – which means there are great gains to be had in terms of new members and supporters to be recruited.
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Monday morning cheer – better than David Laws and Pingu

I hate this time of year. I do not like getting up in the dark, nor do I like it being dark before 4:30 pm. Cold weather, slippery pavements, driving rain, wind and all sorts of Winter nastiness conspire to make me want to hide away for 3 months, or run off to sunnier climes.  Maybe one of these days, I will.

To cheer you up this Monday morning, here is a picture that is guaranteed to make you smile. It’s even better than this old favourite:

David Laws and Pingu


Here’s Willie Rennie getting up close and personal with one of Canine Concern Scotland’s wonderful therapets. 

These therapets visit places like care homes and hospitals so that people who can’t have a pet full time can experience the companionship and comfort a dog can give.

Willie Rennie caught up with one:

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #440

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 440th 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 (15-21 November, 2015), 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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LDV’s Sunday Best: our 7 most-read articles this week

7 ver 4 fullMany thanks to the  13,300 visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

++Special Conference is triggered. All members will be able to attend (117 comments) by The Voice

++Chris Rennard’s statement as he steps down from the Federal Executive (54 comments) by The Voice

++Breaking…Tim Farron calls on Chris Rennard to step down from the Federal Executive (33 comments) by The Voice

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Alison Suttie writes…Why shouldn’t 16 year olds vote in the EU Referendum

In the wake of the House of Lords voting to give 16 and 17 year olds the vote in the EU Referendum, Alison Suttie wrote about the debate for the Huffington Post.

It’s fair to say she was unimpressed with the Tories’ arguments against the measure:

Some of the arguments we heard from Tory peers against extending the franchise for the EU referendum last night were truly absurd and were the sort of patronising arguments and attitudes that would not have sounded out of place in the House of Lords a hundred years ago in debates about giving women the right to vote. 16-year-olds are mature enough to work and pay tax. They are mature enough to join the army or get married. Suggesting that they are incapable of understanding political debate is patronising in the extreme.

As a Scot, Alison knows only too well the positive impact 16 and 17 year olds had on the referendum.

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