Lib Dems


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Marking the first anniversary of the coalition Nick Clegg speaking today says that the Liberal Democrats will be more “muscular” in government and our influence more “visible”.

Speaking this morning at the National Liberal Club he says:

“The coalition has shown itself to be a durable, stable government. But it is clear, not least from what we heard on the doorsteps in recent weeks, that people want the Liberal Democrats to be a louder voice in government.”

Actually Nick it wasn’t just in recent weeks, it is what activists have been telling you since late last year, it is what conference was telling you at Spring conference. Maybe it has been the lose of so many good MSPs, AMs and councillors that has pricked up your ears. We are meant to be the party that works for our local people all year round, not just at election time. That is what I have done for 23 years, that is what many of my fellow activists have been doing. We try and get the message that we are still distinct out there to the electorate yet we hear our most senior voices seemingly singing from not just a different hymn sheet but often in some foreign language.

“In the next phase, both partners will be able to be clearer in their identities but equally clear about the need to support government and government policy. We will stand together but not so closely that we stand in each other’s shadow.

“You will see a strong liberal identity in a strong coalition government. You might even call it more muscular liberalism.”

We will see a strong liberal identity??

I thought we’d already claimed to have 75% of our manifesto  included in Government, opposed to 60% of the Conservatives. Surely that should mean that we are already seeing a strong liberal identity.

I may have been a little quiet on the pushing the liberal agenda in a broad sense in recent months, I was pushing for electoral reform, working with other parties, so keeping my own politics on a lot of issue under the carpet. Doing what was best for the referendum and not trying to do what was best for me or the party working with a broad cross section of parties. But I’ll be shouting things from the rooftops again, I know why I’m a Liberal Democrat, I hate being told by people that I’m just a Tory as I know nothing is further from the truth.

David Cameron is denying claims that Lib Dems have “moderated” the Conservative agenda. So Dave, as the Browne report suggested uncapped tuition fees, would the debacle of yesterday where students paid full fees have become a reality for all without Lib Dem intervention? Would this have been brought in without any requirement on the Universities to help the poorer students into Higher Education? Would the income tax threshold have risen so far ahead of inflation, to ease the burden of your VAT increase on the poorest families? Would you have returned pensions in line with earnings, something your party has said for a long time they were against?

The answer to all these and many more is that without Lib Dems you would have made things tougher on the poorest, you know it and yet you claim that this is what you wanted all along. These are the muscles that we have been flexing over the last year, one muscle we haven’t exercised enough has been the one in our mouths to speak about it.

It happened to us in Scotland were over eight years in coalition all the best policies the ones that resonated with the public were being claimed by labour as being their own. By in large most of these has originated in Liberal Democrat manifestos. If we’re seeing the same in Westminster we shouldn’t let the Tories rain on our parade, steal our limelight and claim that all is sweetness and light.

Last Thursday the public punished the moderating force not the ones wanting to cut more. We need to show them that while Cameron and Osborne claim “We’re all in this together” that it is actually the Liberal Democrats who are on their side, fighting for the NHS, for the students, the pensioners, the poorest, the unemployed.

As my picture for this post implies us Lib Dems are strong to the finish, cos we eat our spinach, that spinach being the content of our policies and our manifestos.

>My friend Craig Harlow was being philospohical this morning and remembered this quote from the great Libearal and Lib Dem, Russell Johnson.

“You can stand at the bottom of a mountain, look up and say: “This is so high and precipitous, so rugged and intimidating that I can never dare to challange it.” Or, you can begin to climb. And, if you do, one day you may see the summit. And if you do not, its peak will be forever hidden in the mists of vanished opportunity. Today we can begin to climb…”

Last May as Liberal Democrat we appeared to have reached that summit. But as any mountaineer will tell you occassionally you reach a false peak. The edge of what is a plateau and when you scale that you realise that there is still a further propably more difficult and steeper summit to climb.

We as Liberal Democrats may well have climbed that false peak. It was a hard climb and making that last step unto that peak was a hard decision. We were looking for a foothold, and maybe we slipped in finding it a few times. However we are roped together as a party. We are an experience set of climbers, none of us have reached a summit easily and we all know the hard work that is needed. It mean going door to door persuading people that we do share their values as well as their fears. That we have the solutions and the ways forward.

What we have taken on in the last year has been a  very precarious part of the climb. We are still the same climbers as we were 12 months ago. Some admitted have left the summit party, some of the support team have felt let down and fled. We know the goal we have in sight. We know we still have a way to go to get to a truly liberal UK.

But as we press on, like Hilary and Tensing to scale Everest the first time, we can look to the fact that once conquered once others will want to come and take a look. Much of what we have done in the last 12 months is lay a number of belays on the slope. Things we have put in place to that the UK doesn’t fall back into illiberal ways. We have also searched out a different route from the one David Cameron the current expedition leader did set out. Our route is easier on pensioners, it lifts many out of taxation, it frees up many people from bureaucracy.

We have failed the student members of our moutaineering party, by letting them fall into the greedy hands of the University Chancellers down below, who all think they are worthy of £9,000 a year to start the expedition of life. Somehow our education system is all exceptional!!! But we still promise them that once we scale this nasty crag of national debt covered in dying red roses we will sort that out for them, we stand by that.

I for one am ready to carry on climbing, my legs may hurt, my heart is heavy and my lungs are gasping because there is still so much to achieve.

Who’s with me?

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When I last saw High O’Donnell at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference earlier this month, he did hint that he was going to take the fight about the way the party was going to the next stage. I told him I’d be taking that fight to Sheffield and the Federal Conference the following week and beyond, but what he hinted at to me then was something more.

Therefore I’m not that surprised to hear of his resignation today, but I am saddened by it. In my opinion the heart and soul of the party has not changed, that was clear from my weekend in Sheffield. Some of those in the heart and soul are determined to fight to maintain that identity of the party they have spent many years working for and fighting to get into the fore of politics. I do think that sometimes our parties leaders at the moment are forgetting that the members speak for the party and not them. I think that the party is trying to speak to the leaders about a number of issues, especially the NHS over recent weeks, yet some of the leaders are choosing the ignore the depth of feeling from there.

As for Hugh, when I first stood for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, he, over a quiet drink, gave me some useful advise about the parts of the constituency that were outwith West Lothian Council but within his region. We through the years have had some serious discussions about the direction of the party and I would have placed us in the same section of the party. Voices like his in elected positions were what we needed from time to time. His was often the voice of common sense, of the common people that needs to resonate within our party. It still needs to resonate through our party some of the rest of us will have to step up and be that voice.

Update Writing in Sunday’s Mail on Sunday Hugh said:

“Instead of fighting for the causes so many of us believe in, [the party leadership] devote their energy to quashing dissenting voices, views, people and policies.”

In regards to the coalition at Westminster he added:

“Since that fateful day, I have watched helplessly from the sidelines as this government at Westminster has attacked every vulnerable group in Scotland, from carers to disabled students to migrants, with some of the most draconian policies I have ever seen in the name of cuts.

“Not a word of criticism from the party leadership in Scotland has been uttered – even though the contempt shown for Scotland and, indeed, the federal structure of the party knows no bounds.”

He was also critical of the way the party was asked to vote at times in Holyrood, in his words being asked to vote tactically instead of on principle. He added:

“This is not the same party I joined, full of enthusiasm, all those years ago.

“I can no longer be party to the control freakery, the ‘image is everything’ attitude, and the dictatorial style of doing things.

“It is a party I no longer want to be part of and neither should other principled Liberals.”

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Those of you who know me ought to be aware that I love a big, fast rollercoasters. I really need to go back to the States and experience some of the new rides since last I was there (1996). However, this year has certainly been one hell of a rollercoaster ride with its highs and lows and switchbacks and unexpected turns.

This time last year I was sitting in Bathgate, looking forward to kick starting the local Lib Dems into the General Election year, then onwards to the Scottish Elections and the council elections beyond. The same old routine as laid out by the election cycles. Or so I thought.

Sure enough the year started out in just that manner. On St. Patrick’s Night I was selected as the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) again for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, with Charles Dundas once again my colleague in the other seat for the local party, Livingston. In the end I came third once more, was agent to Kieran Leach in neighbouring Falkirk (in which campaign I met some new friends). But I was very disappointed on the night that Kevin Lang in Edinburgh North and Leith and Fred MacIntosh in Edinburgh South had done exactly what the party thought was required to win only to no get elected as MPs.

Well eight days after the General Election I had my CV in to start the selection process for the Edinburgh Central seat  for the Scottish elections next May. So there wasn’t any real rest between the elections cycles as I started to plot and plan just what I would have to do, first for the seat and then for the list. In the end after another solid 2/3 months of planning and canvassing local members it wasn’t to be, but Alex Cole Hamilton had been selected.

So as I started to work for Alex and was settling down to work on the list selection process, which overlapped with the end of Edinburgh Central, I was brought to a sudden halt. Somehow in all the activity of the previous months I had managed to not notice that certain bills were not being paid, kind of major expensive ones. I tried to get finance from the bank but that wasn’t happening. I then felt that the only way to deal with this was to return to Northern Ireland and proposed to work that I could continue to work for them from here. With time running out and me having a letter of notice to hand over if there was no decision on that day I was finally given the go ahead to be a home-worker.

So with that then came the task of packing up 9 years accumulated stuff and with the help of Michael completed Operation Evacuate at the end of August. I’d a week to settle in before I started work, but I was also looking for something a little more permanent over here because work, as close friends can attest, was getting me depressed in a major way, even before I moved over.

There then came an email from a friend saying “Have you seen this job?”, I applied and found myself up against Michael for what were probably the most angst ridden two weeks in either of our lives. Until I finally was told the position was mine within an hour of a Nationwide conference call for Yes to Fairer Votes as the Northern Ireland Organiser. I just had time to talk to Michael before that call, and he has been a great help and support from that time on.

Since I’ve got back I hadn’t been completely politically inactive, along with Michael we as local Liberal Democrats wrote a couple of responses to consultations from government departments. I’ve also been involved in the LGBT consultative forum, help establish Delga within the local party, been back across for Scottish conference. As well as attending two party conferences and meeting with others as part of the Yes to Fairer Votes drive.

This year I attended three Pride Parades Edinburgh, Glasgow and Foyle. Somehow I found the time and a person to fall in love with, though sadly that didn’t go as I’d hoped. I’ve also been elected unto my new local party’s executive committee as well as keeping up my record of being a conference rep, Sheffield and Birmingham here I come.

So what does 2011 hold?

For a start there is an referendum on May 5th, not the campaigning I expected to be taking up every waking and quite a few of the sleeping moments of my life. But there you are I’m working towards that and looking forward to getting back into the phonebank as people carry on talking to people across Northern Ireland about fairer votes.

After May, who knows. I have no idea what comes next.

Last year I felt that I’d love to find someone I could really connect with that didn’t abhor the time I spent with politics and maybe settle down. Seeing as how intermittent my love life has been in the last twelve months it is almost like I am saving myself for that person. Maybe I might get lucky this year and find what I’m looking for in that department. My love life has been a bit of a roller coaster in recent years maybe I just want it to be a gentle punt down life’s river from here on. But then knowing the passion I put into things maybe not.

After May I’ll be looking for a new job. No idea that that will actually be yet, have an idea what I’d like it to be just need to see if there are openings that I can fill, it may mean a move once more, it may mean staying right here, I just don’t know and nobody is able to tell me the answer to that right now. So it looks like 2011 might be another roller coaster year as well.

Stay tuned I’ll return to blogging full time in May.

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There is nothing that a blogger more that somebody giving them stuff to put on their blog. Yes, even if that blogger is as prolific as I can be. Therefore earlier today I received an email from one of my Edinburgh friends and fellow campaigners containing his overview of the American mid-term elections and how it relates to us in the coalition. I am therefore of course happy to share it with you all.

The US midterm results are in, and the results seem bad for Obama. Even though the Democrats held the Senate, many of the Senators who survived the Republican onslaught did so only by standing as anti-Obama Democrats. Joe Manchin, elected Democratic Senator for West Virginia, produced a campaign ad showing him shooting the President’s ‘Cap and Trade’ legislation. But whilst partisans in the US are spinning the results faster than an Ann Widdecombe polka, it remains to be seen what the impact will be for UK politics. However, the lessons that can be learned by the UK coalition government must not be ignored.

Firstly, however, we must put the result into context. Yes, it was a clear bloody nose for Barack Obama, as a galvanised Republican party led a vociferous, and successful grass-roots campaign against him. However, government split between president and Congress is extremely common in US politics. In the last twelve years, Republican and Democrat presidents have had both hostile and friendly Congresses to work with. Indeed, the US public seem to regard a partisan division between President and Congress as a strengthening of the separation of powers.

Although the success of the ‘Tea Party’ should not be downplayed, we should also not read too much in the resurgence of the right in the US, particularly given the relative nadir they reached in 2008. Global trends do not seem to suggest a rise of the right. The French regional elections this year saw a victory of the Parti Socialiste (the Socialist Party), and despite the victories of the right in Hungary and mixed messages in Italy, there does not seem to be an overarching global trend towards the right as there was in the 1980s. In Britain, the inability of the Conservatives to gain a clear majority is indicative of an absence of a rise of right-wing vote.

What must be understood is that many Democrats and swing voters who backed Obama in 2008 feel disillusioned with the President’s consensus-based approach. Despite the passage of health care reform, the President has not used his Congress majority to his full advantage, even before Scott Brown and the Republicans ended the filibuster-proof Democrat majority.

Obama, more than any world leader in recent history was given a personal mandate for boldness. In this he has failed, or at least is perceived to have failed. (In politics perception is nine tenths of the law). As Machiavelli wrote:

it is better to be bold than too circumspect

Obama is guilty of giving the people consensus, when they wanted audacity. He has managed, not led.

The lesson of last night for David Cameron and Nick Clegg is simple: play to your mandate. Cameron and Clegg have exactly the reverse mandate to Obama – in Britain, consensus reigns. The mandate of consensus is a difficult one, although it suggests that policy should be aimed at the middle ground, rather than the core voters. Obama has paid the price for ignoring his core supporters. It is the dilemma which faces every executive upon gaining power – whether to govern for your supporters, or for the country. Ultimately, this is the decision which must be made. Machiavelli again provides the words, “it is better to be feared than to be loved, if you cannot be both”. Obama is neither.

Time will tell for Cameron and Clegg, although the nature of the coalition suggests that they should strive to be ‘loved’. They will underestimate the mandate at their peril.


There is nothing that a blogger more that somebody giving them stuff to put on their blog. Yes, even if that blogger is as prolific as I can be. Therefore earlier today I received an email from one of my Edinburgh friends and fellow campaigners containing his overview of the American mid-term elections and how it relates to us in the coalition. I am therefore of course happy to share it with you all.

The US midterm results are in, and the results seem bad for Obama. Even though the Democrats held the Senate, many of the Senators who survived the Republican onslaught did so only by standing as anti-Obama Democrats. Joe Manchin, elected Democratic Senator for West Virginia, produced a campaign ad showing him shooting the President’s ‘Cap and Trade’ legislation. But whilst partisans in the US are spinning the results faster than an Ann Widdecombe polka, it remains to be seen what the impact will be for UK politics. However, the lessons that can be learned by the UK coalition government must not be ignored.

Firstly, however, we must put the result into context. Yes, it was a clear bloody nose for Barack Obama, as a galvanised Republican party led a vociferous, and successful grass-roots campaign against him. However, government split between president and Congress is extremely common in US politics. In the last twelve years, Republican and Democrat presidents have had both hostile and friendly Congresses to work with. Indeed, the US public seem to regard a partisan division between President and Congress as a strengthening of the separation of powers.

Although the success of the ‘Tea Party’ should not be downplayed, we should also not read too much in the resurgence of the right in the US, particularly given the relative nadir they reached in 2008. Global trends do not seem to suggest a rise of the right. The French regional elections this year saw a victory of the Parti Socialiste (the Socialist Party), and despite the victories of the right in Hungary and mixed messages in Italy, there does not seem to be an overarching global trend towards the right as there was in the 1980s. In Britain, the inability of the Conservatives to gain a clear majority is indicative of an absence of a rise of right-wing vote.

What must be understood is that many Democrats and swing voters who backed Obama in 2008 feel disillusioned with the President’s consensus-based approach. Despite the passage of health care reform, the President has not used his Congress majority to his full advantage, even before Scott Brown and the Republicans ended the filibuster-proof Democrat majority.

Obama, more than any world leader in recent history was given a personal mandate for boldness. In this he has failed, or at least is perceived to have failed. (In politics perception is nine tenths of the law). As Machiavelli wrote:

it is better to be bold than too circumspect

Obama is guilty of giving the people consensus, when they wanted audacity. He has managed, not led.

The lesson of last night for David Cameron and Nick Clegg is simple: play to your mandate. Cameron and Clegg have exactly the reverse mandate to Obama – in Britain, consensus reigns. The mandate of consensus is a difficult one, although it suggests that policy should be aimed at the middle ground, rather than the core voters. Obama has paid the price for ignoring his core supporters. It is the dilemma which faces every executive upon gaining power – whether to govern for your supporters, or for the country. Ultimately, this is the decision which must be made. Machiavelli again provides the words, “it is better to be feared than to be loved, if you cannot be both”. Obama is neither.

Time will tell for Cameron and Clegg, although the nature of the coalition suggests that they should strive to be ‘loved’. They will underestimate the mandate at their peril.

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Reproduced below is the Open Letter as sent to Vince Cable (Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills) and responsible for the implementation or not of the Browne Report. It has also been sent to every single Liberal Democrat MP. It is signed by myself and other key influencers, I’ll try and provide as many links as possible from the signatories. (I know there are more links I will add them when I can)

Dear Dr Cable,

On the 12th of October, Lord Browne published the findings of his report into higher education funding, which contained some good points and some very bad points.

One of the bad points was to remove the cap on tuition fees meaning that some courses could end up leaving a student in debt by over £36,000. This is an utter disgrace and cannot be allowed to happen. Vince Cable himself has said the level of personal debt is too high. Why should we force students to take on this kind of personal debt before they even buy a house?

The Liberal Democrats have, since 2001, pledged to scrap tuition fees. And while we are aware that this is not a Liberal Democrat Government, it does not warrant an abstention. We urge you to honour your pledge to fight any increase in fees.

Our party has always been one of fairness, but judging by Mr Clegg’s and Mr Cable’s responses to the suggestions it appears that we are moving away from that.

Please support us and help to retain the party’s identity within the coalition.

Regards

Kelly Panter (8612609) Birmingham Selly Oak)
Christopher Fenton (Birmingham Selly Oak)
Paul Wild (8630704)
Duncan Moore (Oxford East) 8616515
Jonathan McCree (Haringey Lib Dems)
Fraser Nesbitt (Bristol East)
Rachel Smith (Sheffield Hallam)
Dr. Richard Davis (Battersea and Tooting)
Caron Lindsay
Benjamin R Lille (8428808)
Elaine Bagshaw
John Fraser (Westminster South & City of London)
Charlotte Galpin (8271607)
Daniel Sear (Guildford) 8640319
Mike Dixon (City of Birmingham Organiser Lib Dems)
Cllr Chris Ward (Guildford)
Robert Howell – Southend
Stephen Mullen (membership no 6039944)
Chris Wilson (Kingston & Surbiton)
Duncan Borrowman FE member, PPC Old Bexley & Sidcup, former National Campaigns Officer
Susan Gaszczak – Watford
Cllr Fiona White, Leader, Lib Dem Group, Guildford Borough Council
Matthew Doye (Somerton and Frome)
Irfan Ahmed (lead campaigner in the Pendle parliamentary campaign in 2010)
Stephen Glenn (2010 Westminster Candidate for Linlithgow and East Falkirk)
Michael Carchrie Campbell, Chair, Northern Ireland Liberal Democrats; sometime convenor LDYS NI.
Nikki Thomson (2790866) Edinburgh Central constituency
Hannah Arnold (8686785)
Cllr Season Prater, Sandgate, Kent. Former LDYS Exec Officer.
Keith McGrellis (Northern Ireland Lib Dems member)
Darren Briddock (South East Region Chair Elect 2011)
Mr Matthew Burton (8570027)
Cllr Martin Hunt – Colchester
Cllr Nick Barlow – Colchester
Luke Bosman – Preston
Cllr David McBride – Bromley
Simon Green Borough Councillor (LB Brent) and Ex Vice President, University of Leicester Students’ Union 2005-6
Nima chatrizeh – Student
John Doran, ex Surrey County Councillor and deeply ashamed member.
James King Please sign me up as well. Ordinary member in Southport, and student activist in Oxford.
Michael James Yates (Preseton)
Merlene Emerson (Chair Chinese LibDems & candidate for London Assembly 2012)
Cllr Daisy Cooper
Andy Pickwell
Richard Huzzey (Oxford West & Abingdon)
Cllr Sam Potts (6644139)
Martin Hunt (Leader Libdem Colchetser Borough Council)
Craig Brown (8587094)
Colin Ross (4902826)
Kai Page
Lisa Harding
Lynne Beaumont, Lib Dem Group Leader, Shepway District Council
Val Loseby, Shepway District Councillor
Bev Rolfe, Shepway Lib Dem Local Party Chair
Maggie Sheldrake, Folkestone Town Councillor
Bill Sheldrake, Shepway Liberal Democrat Executive Member
James Shaddock
Cllr Stewart Golton, Leader of Leeds City Council Lib Dem Group
Cllr Jim Spencer, Leader of Otley Town Council
Cllr Ben Chastney, Leeds City Councillor
Cllr Jamie Matthews, Leeds City Councillor and PPC for Pudsey
Cllr Martin Hamilton, Leeds City Councillor
Cllr James Monaghan, Leeds City Councillor and PPC for Morley and Outwood
David Hall-Matthews, Leeds Central Member and Chair of the Social Liberal Forum
Adam Pritchard, Leeds North West Member
Chris Lovell, Leeds West Member and President of Leeds Liberal Youth 2008-2010
Stephen Sadler, Chair of Leeds Central Lib Dems
Peter Wrigley, President of Batley and Spen Lib Dems (personal capacity)
Ian Howell, Leeds Central Member
Christina Shaw, Leeds North West Member
Cllr John Cole, Bradford City Councillor and Chair of Shipley Lib Dems
Cllr John Watmough, Bradford City Councillor
Cllr Steve Smith, Leeds City Councillor
Cllr Alan Taylor, Leeds City Councillor
Matthew Burton
Chris Ward
Ramon Chiratheep
Hugh Bailey-Lane
Chris Lovell (Chair of Leeds Liberal Youth 2008-2010)
Chris Gurney
Richard Davis
Caron Lindsay
David MacDonald
David Parkes
Harriet Ainscough
Rachel Olgeirrson
Allan Window
Jason Lower (Secretary, Tonbridge and Malling branch)
Paul Freeman
Jenny Marr
Tim Prater
Kirby Meehan
Alexandra White
Michael Yates
Margaret White
Stephen Mullen
Christopher Leslie
Stephen Rule
Sara Bedford
Cllr Katie Ray
Becky White
Emma Page
Claire Berwick
Cllr Keith Legg
Martin Veart
Gareth Epps
Keith Nevols
Nikki Thomson
Cllr Terry Stacey
Cllr Susan Buchanan
Ramis Azer
Nick Blake
Marie Jenkins
Dominic Mathon
Kristian Chapman
Mark Whiley
Henry Vann
Cllr Ross Carter
Vanessa Hubbard
Sophie Bertrand
Seth Alexander Thévoz
Simon Courtenage
Tim Holyoake
Nick Edgeworth
Andrea O’Halloran
Luke Shore
David Warren
Gary Glover
Will Miéville-Hawkins
Fiona James
Jordan Kleiner
Laura Webster
Hywel Morgan
Christopher Mills (East Hampshire)
Ray Khan

That’s 135 signatures. A thank you from the whole team involved in this to everyone who signed.

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