Sunday, 10 May 2015

Update on how UKIP member counted the ballot paper in Birkdale

As I explained here a couple of days ago, last week's election count in Birkdale Ward was much delayed for one of the most bizarre reasons that any of us could ever recall. This was that a couple of UKIP guests to the count ended up "helping" to sort and count hundreds of Birkdale ballot papers. For those who want to know more, here's my (shortly to be re-elected) colleague Cllr Simon Shaw, explaining in the middle of Friday's count, what had gone wrong:

Facing up to political tribalism by reclaiming the alternative liberal agenda

This Assembly of the Liberal Party, indignantly aware of the grossly unequal distribution of property (wealth) in this country, believes that the greatest possible measure of personal ownership, with the independence and security it brings, should be enjoyed by all. It also believes that the opportunities of a full life hitherto open only to the rich should be placed before all.

It recognises these twin ends as the inspiration of its domestic policy and pledges its whole strength in urging on the nation far-reaching reforms to achieve them

Liberal Assembly, Buxton. ( Guess the date?)

We do not have multi party politics. Britain does not have a culture of coalition. Tribalism is alive and well in politics. Unless and until we have major constitutional reform, including electoral form for Westminister, any strategy which is based upon coalitions will fail.

Just look at how the Labour Party behaved on Thursday. Ed Balls lost his seat whilst Labour activists , motivated by loathing of Clegg spent time failing to unseat him rather than defend Balls. The same happened on a smaller scale in Southport. Labour activists were receiving emails beseeching them to go and help in the marginal seat of South Ribble ( which Labour failed to take) but choose instead to work their socks off in Southport where the only outcome which they could hope to achieve would be to reduce the Lib Dem vote and let the Tory in. Fortunately our ground war was just strong enough to repel them. Lab/Con do not have pluralist bone in their body. Take another example close to home. Southport has its own Health Commissioning arrangements (CCG). There are not, and there never have been, any Labour Councillors elected to our council from the town and yet there are only Labour Councillors sitting on the Health and Wellbeing Board which is the mechanism for the CCG's accountability.

The same is true of the Tories. Look at their behaviour over House of Lords Reform and the AV referendum.

If we are to rebuild we have to adopt a strategy which works under the First Past the Post (FPTP) and settle for nothing less than PR before joining a coalition. It is daft, irrational and against all the available evidence to think that either Labour or Tories will adopt PR. It is not in their interest. They will not do it as long as they can along without it. Forget bleating about unfairness. Was the system changed after 1983 when we got 25.4% of the vote and only 3.5%  of the seats? No. It will only change when we can build up a core vote big enough to win through under FPTP.

David Howarth has written an excellent article over of the Social Liberal website which shares this premise. David goes on to outline a strategy which could take us where we want to go. I urge you to read I, all of it, it gets beyond the anger of the lost opportunities and has a vision that can move us forward.

Central to any strategy is the building up of the core vote. If Simon Titley was still with us this is the point he would be making. It is the point Michael Meadowcroft has consistently made. If people only vote for us because we do prodigious amounts of case work we will all burn out before we achieve or goal and, what is more important, unless we persuade them to share our values we will only borrow their votes for a season. To succeed we need them to vote for us because they agree with us not because they are grateful we have fixed the drains.

It is commonplace to say the public are confused about what we stand for. It is nevertheless true and the incompetence exhibited at the highest level over the last five years has added to the lack of clarity. As David Howarth points out we do not have the luxury of being vague like those who appeal is based upon promoting sectional interests-Labour's identification with class and the SNP with the nation. I can do no better than to start by copying and pasting David's summary:

Some of our values are clear –  internationalism, protecting individuality and non-conformity, hating bullying and the abuse of power,  promoting environmentalism, protecting civil liberties and a love of democracy not so much because we think it efficient or effective but because it expresses a basic equality of respect for all individuals. But some of our values are not clear. Most significantly, what is our view of economic inequality? Do we, like Nick Clegg in his disastrous August 2010 speech, worry only about social mobility, or do we care about inequality of wealth in itself? I think most members do care about inequality of wealth, especially in its gross modern form. But the party is going to need to say so loudly and clearly.

I well remember that Clegg speech. I met a journalist who contributed to a Right wing periodical. He was ecstatic. Clegg had passed the Rubicon, he foresaw long term cooperation with the Liberal Democrats. Clegg had removed the biggest barrier. It was all about emphasis now not substance.

It is evidence of how far Clegg has shifted the Party to the Right that we have to address this question. We had very few high profile visitors to Southport during this election: Mathew Oakeshott and Shirley Williams we were pleased to welcome. Shirley was on Any Question on Friday (BBC Radio 4) where she was forthright in her view that the economic inequality in our country needs to be addressed.

Just as there is a difference between a citizen and a mere subject, so there is a difference between an employee who is simply hired by his company and one who shares, officially and formally, in the ultimate power to determine the company’s aims and call its directors to account.
(LPD 1962)

I joined the Liberal Party at the end of the 1960's. The signature economic policy of the party was Co-Ownership. The policy held that those with capital were entitled to a 'rent' on their investment but any profit over and above 3% should be shared with the work force. Capital did not have unconstrained rights. There was to be one company register on which shareholder and workers were to be equal. David Penhaligon always maintained to achieve workers' control all that was required was for a worker to buy a single share. This policy derived from what the academic Stuart White has called the alternative Liberal tradition. He explains:

While this tradition endorses both markets and significant private ownership of wealth, its proponents also see a key role for collective action, including action by the state, in determining, for egalitarian purposes, the content of the right to capital and its distribution. I call this tradition liberal because some of its leading theorists, such as J.S. Mill and James Meade, identified as liberals and because the Liberal party in the UK historically drew on and contributed to it.[2] But it is an alternative liberalism to neoliberalism in that it takes a different view of the content of the right to capital and regards rules regulating the distribution of wealth as properly subject to collective determination and an egalitarian conception of the common good.

To bring this up to date there has been much discussion of the writings of Thomas Piketty particularly his book   Capital in the Twenty First Century. White summarises his argument that without  corrective action, we can look forward to a rise in capital’s share of national income and a corresponding depression of the share of labour. This might not be so significant were capital evenly distributed so that all could share in its higher returns. But Piketty shows that the distribution of capital is extremely unequal and likely to grow more so. At the same time, he argues, the share of wealth that is inherited looks set  to increase. Together these trends threaten to produce a society in which a relatively small section of the population comes to claim a larger share of national income through its (increasingly) concentrated ownership of (increasingly) inherited wealth.

To those of my generation this sounds like pure Meade. He was a disciple of Keynes, a Nobel Prize winner (Economics) and advised the Liberal Party. I well remember a meeting of the Party's Policy Committee (or Standing Committee as it was known then) chaired by Richard Wainwright when he tabled a paper written by Meade. Meade also contributed a chapter to David Steel's 1985 book Partners in One Nation in which he argued the case for employee ownership.

As Piketty argued their is a maldistrubtion of the wealth we create, the share being taken by capital is disproportionate and those who only have their labour to sell are getting a raw deal. Liberal argued that the solution was to transfer ownership. Meade wanted, among other ideas,  companies to create extra shares and establish a workers' Trust much like Ed Davey did with the Post Office.

Some Liberal went further as White explains:

 for some more radical liberals/Liberals the idea of co-determination sometimes gave way to the idea that firms ought to be labour-managed. Firms should be run by their workers. To attract capital, worker-managed firms would of course have to offer a return on investment. But investors would not have a right to directly control the firms themselves. A further step along this road, of course, is to envisage workers owning the firm they manage, either in whole or in part

I can well recall Liberal Assemblies where Richard Wainwright argued that labour should hire capital. When you add this approach to Land Tax and a policy of Inheritance Tax which would be levied on the recipient rather that the estate we are well on the road to achieving the Liberal policy of Ownership for All where wealth is diffused rather than concentrated with a commensurate increase in liberty and security .

Adopting these Radical policies and agreeing that to achieve them the state would need to legislate to compel companies to share profits and to give employees equal rights to shareholders was one of the reasons that led to folk like Arthur Seldon and Oliver Smedley exiting the Liberal Party. They clustered around the Institute of Economic Ideas and acted as mid wives at the birth of Thatcherism. I suspect the some economic Liberals will follow their example today. 

White does not include in the antecedence of alternative liberalism  the Distributist tradition about which David Boyle has written.  The book which launched that movement, written in part by the Liberal MP for Salford, was called The Servile State. This tradition certainly influence Jo Grimond. The book that launched the Liberal Revival proper was the Unservile State published in 1957 and edited by George Watson whose recent sad death left the Lib Dems considerably wealthier .

In the Distributive tradition David Boyle has another way to spread ownership is to give away houses! He writes:

I've come to believe, as a modern Distributist, that the way forward has to be building new homes and then giving them away - on three important conditions:
  • They do not go back onto the open market and fuel house price inflation (ownership need not imply the right to sell).
  • They stay at the same nominal price they were originally sold for, ratcheting down the rest of the market, perhaps for a generation or so.
  • They are built in sufficient numbers to satisfy demand.
Simply giving away social housing also works, but not if it fuels inflation and isn't replaced.  But if the social housing is replaced, giving it away seems to me a more Liberal solution, given that it  provides people with genuine independence.  I've got no time for the idea that, because people are poor, they must be forced to pay rent.

The alternative would seem to me to be more and more private landlords and I am uncomfortable with that because as Boyle says: We are becoming dependent supplicants to the new landlord class, the rentiers which Keynes once told us deserved 'euthanasia'.

In answer to David Howarth's question do we care about inequality in wealth? The answer must be a resounding YES and we have the basis of the ideas to address that inequality.

If the party can agree on its values as out lined by Howarth, including redressing the inequality of wealth, then we have the foundation needed to move forward. It will not be enough to develop a new form of mindless activism we must launch new campaigns that communicate our values and as David points out there are some early opportunities. An immediate example is that we should organise our members to put pressure on MPs and ministers on the snooper’s charter, an issue on which the government’s small majority might easily fall apart. Similarly we will need campaigns to save the Human Rights Act, to preserve Britain’s place in Europe and, though it might be hard to win an anti-NIMBY campaign, against banning new onshore wind farms. We should also be campaigning against the forthcoming £12 billion benefit cuts and more broadly against state bullying of the vulnerable (something we seemed to have stopped doing recently). As in the original ‘dual approach’ to politics pioneered by the Young Liberals 45 years ago, we should be organising resistance both inside and outside political institutions, co-ordinating the two and encouraging citizens to join together to change policies and attitudes.

I would add to David's list opposing the renewal a Trident.

If this dual approach is carried through we can rebuild a loyal core vote and not get stranded when the tide goes out. Nor will we be destroyed again by political tribalism. If this is to be a progressive century and not a conservative one then Radical Liberalism must punch above its weight. We must reclaim alternative liberalism

Saturday, 9 May 2015

John Pugh's Southport Declaration video at which he has important things to say

Southport's winning team and results

After the count was (finally) over we had a group photo taken by young Mr Ashton. One or two folk had gone home or were engaged with running volunteers home and other essential duties.

On the night we won not only the parliamentary seat but the majority of council seats in Southport and lost nothing.

Southport Parliamentary Constituency - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
John David PughLiberal Democrats1365231%Elected
Damien MooreConservative Party1233028%Not elected
Liz SavageThe Labour Party846819%Not elected
Terry DurranceUnited Kingdom Independence Party742917%Not elected
Laurence George RankinThe Green Party12303%Not elected
Jacqueline Anne BarlowThe Southport Party9922%Not elected

Norwood - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
Marianne WelshLiberal Democrats197132%Elected
Stephen James JowettThe Labour Party145924%Not elected
Jeffrey Thomas HughesUnited Kingdom Independence Party130321%Not elected
Anthony Irvine WhiteConservative Party102417%Not elected
David McIntoshThe Green Party4006%Not elected

Meols - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
Nigel AshtonLiberal Democrats206532%Elected
Georgia PactorConservative Party173326%Not elected
Patricia Elaine ShanksUnited Kingdom Independence Party137521%Not elected
Debbie BannonThe Labour Party114117%Not elected
Rick FurnessThe Green Party2374%Not elected

Kew - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
Mike BoothLiberal Democrats184232%Elected
Janet Catherine HarrisonThe Labour Party132923%Not elected
Philip Jeffrey CantlayUnited Kingdom Independence Party125122%Not elected
Jordan Thomas ShandleyConservative Party100417%Not elected
Neville GrundyThe Green Party3396%Not elected

Birkdale - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
Simon ShawLiberal Democrats221633%Elected
Poppy Elise JonesConservative Party137421%Not elected
Allen FergusonUnited Kingdom Independence Party136021%Not elected
Ged WrightThe Labour Party135120%Not elected
Tony YoungThe Green Party3185%Not elected

Friday, 8 May 2015

Lib Dems storm home in Birkdale despite counting farce-

The count for Birkdale was much delayed and for a while we couldn't understand why until a super sleuth journalist got to the bottom of the story. Apparently a couple of UKIP guests to the count had arrived, and it being their first count didn't know the procedure. They proceeded to sit down at the Birkdale table and for some time helped to count the votes. Upon discovery we had to start all over again and had the equivalent of four recounts as they struggled to reconcile the votes.

This count had the tightest 'security' I have ever encountered: letters, passes, and photo ID's required to get in. It goes to show that all the petty bureaucratic procedure do not add up to security-rather like ID cards and DBS's . A sound dose of common sense is required rather than relying on officious procedures.

Anyway when the wait was over and accompanied by the noise of tables being dismantled we finally got the declaration it was worth waiting for a big Lib Dem win for Simon Shaw

video by Samuel B Shaw

Birkdale - results
Election CandidatePartyVotes%
Simon ShawLiberal Democrats221633%Elected
Poppy Elise JonesConservative Party137421%Not elected
Allen FergusonUnited Kingdom Independence Party136021%Not elected
Ged WrightThe Labour Party135120%Not elected
Tony YoungThe Green Party3185%Not elected

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Nasty anti semitic smear by local UKIP candidate.

News reaches us of a nasty anti semitic smear from a local UKIP candidate standing in West Lancs

.Jack Sen, who is standing in West Lancashire, sent the tweet to Liverpool Wavertree candidate Luciana Berger.The post reads:

"Protect child benefits? If you had it your way you'd send the £ to Poland/ Israel."

This is just another example of why we have to confront UKIP and the prejudices that fuel their support. Locally we have had more than our fair share of vile nonsense. Readers may remember Southport UKIP's chair outburst. Ferguson is still in post and he and his son are high profile candidates for Southport. I wrote about the incident and the full text of Mr Ferguson's letter is here

Friday, 1 May 2015

Sun shines on Shirley's Southport visit

Shirley Williams with John Pugh on Chapel St
It was great to see Shirley back in Southport this morning supporting John Pugh's re-election campaign. The sun shone on us as Shirley sat outside at a pavement cafĂ© in Chapel St.

In Southport we don't usually bother with high profile visitors-to be frank they can be a distraction-but we were all delighted to make an exception for Shirley Williams.

Shirley has a full programme planned for the day and I will post later with some details.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Sefton’s £4,500 a year “pay for no work” deal with Labour's Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson comes under attack

 The deal in which Liverpool Labour boss Joe Anderson was paid £4,500 a year by a Sefton school for doing no work came under attack from Lib Dem councillors at Thursday’s meeting of Sefton Council.

When the school, Chesterfield High School in Crosby, ended the arrangement, Mayor Joe Anderson took the case to an Employment Tribunal.  When he lost there he appealed and lost again, with the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal being widely reported last week:

At the Council meeting in Southport Town Hall, Birkdale Lib Dem councillor Simon Shaw led calls for an Inquiry into ‘all aspects of Sefton Council’s involvement in this matter’.  However Bootle Labour council leader Peter Dowd turned down the request in what is expected to be his final appearance before being elected MP for Bootle in two week’s time.

In calling for the Inquiry Cllr Shaw quoted directly from the words of Judge Serota who blasted the deal in his written Appeal judgement.

“When you have a judge saying that Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson was ‘party to a misuse of public funds’ and that ‘this arrangement may strike members of the public as constituting a misapplication of public monies’ then it seems to me that there needs be a thorough Inquiry into Sefton Council's involvement in this matter,” said Cllr Shaw.

“For Sefton Council’s Labour leader to pass the buck by saying that ‘the matters as affecting Sefton Council were dealt with in accordance with the appropriate legislation by officers’ is simply unacceptable.”

Lib Dem councillors Iain Brodie Browne and Haydn Preece also asked questions about the deal which the judge had condemned as ‘a reverse form of a zero hours contract, whereby the school was bound to make payment of salary but the Claimant (Mayor Anderson) was not bound to provide any services.’  However they also received dismissive replies from Councillor Dowd.


Details of the questions and answers given at the Sefton Council meeting are available at:

The full judgement from the Employment Appeals Tribunal is available at:

Good to welcome John Pigott to the Southport campaign trail

In a General Election it always good to welcome outside helpers. Last night I had the pleasure of being out in the rain with a team led by Stephen Hesketh when along came John Pigott, past Chair of ALC, to add to our numbers.

All political parties target seats nowadays. The Labour Party are sending out emails directing Southport supporters to go to their 'local battle ground' Ribble South, one of their top 100 target seats.

From their point of view that makes sense. The bookies make Labour 100 to 1 outsiders in Southport and the Ashcroft poll puts them in a humiliating fourth place.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Sefton Labour Leader blocksLib Dem bid for Inquiry into Sefton's conduct over Mayor Anderson

 Question submitted by Councillor Shaw to the Leader of the Council (Councillor P Dowd)

As the Leader is no doubt aware, judgement was handed down last week by the Employment Appeals Tribunal in the case of Mayor Joe Anderson v Chesterfield High School.  Chesterfield High School was, until recently, a school maintained by Sefton Council.

In view of the serious public disquiet over this issue, and having regard to Judge Serota's judgement at the EAT that the Claimant (Mayor Joe Anderson) was "party to a misuse of public funds" and that "this arrangement may strike members of the public as constituting a misapplication of public monies", would the Leader of the Council agree that an Inquiry should be conducted into all aspects of Sefton Council's involvement in this matter?”
Response: The matters as affecting Sefton Council were dealt with in accordance with the appropriate legislation by officers.

Labour Leader questioned about Sefton Council's financial arrangements with Labour Mayor Anderson

Some people wonder why Radicals, progressives and those whose politics are generally considered as being on the Left want nothing to do with the Labour Party. The events surrounding  Labour Mayor Joe Anderson receiving what the judge at an Industrial Tribunal described as 'a reverse form of zero hours contract, whereby the Respondent was bound to make to make payment of salary but the Claimant (Labour Mayor Joe Anderson) was not bound to provide any services.
The disgraceful saga that saw Liverpool Labour Mayor -who worked in a Sefton MBC school - take his employers to an Industrial Tribunal  came up at last night's Sefton Council meeting. The response of the Labour Leadership I have copied below. The tribal loyalty, the sense of the entitlement and the contempt for accountability are the hallmarks for a certain sort of Labour politicians. They sound like the MP's who kept repeating that their expenses claims were within the rules and applied no common sense or moral code. The deal done by Sefton was effectively done in secret. I can find no record of it being reported to the Council or open to scrutiny. When I asked in a written question which elected councillors knew about the deal there was no answer! This process began before the school was an academy .

The Judge at the Tribunal concluded :

It seems to me as though the Claimant (Labour Mayor Joe Anderson) has simply not given sufficient attention as to how the arrangement he made with Sefton and so continued with the Respondent might look to outsiders. The Claimant was entitled to receive almost £80,000 per annum from Liverpool for his role as elected Mayor, yet also procured a payment (£4,500 plus pension) from public funds for which he provided, and was not expected to provide, any service. It was, more likely, considered to be a reverse form for a zero hours contract, whereby the Respondent was bound to make payment of salary but the Claimant was not bound to provide any services. It is certainly fairly arguable that this arrangement may strike members of the public as constituting a misapplication of public monies. I asked Mr Morgan (Anderson's lawyer) on several occasions what benefits there might be that accrued to the Respondent for the payments and for preserving the Claimant's post for an indeterminate period. The only answer that I received was that it gave "kudos" to the school to be associated with the Mayor of Liverpool. The full report can be found here

1. Question submitted by Councillor Brodie-Browne to the Leader of the Council (Councillor P Dowd)
“(a) Will the Leader inform the Council who it was who authorised/signed off the deal between Sefton MBC and Liverpool Elected Mayor Joe Anderson in respect of his pay and pension as notional 'Mentor' at Chesterfield High School and also inform the Council which Sefton MBC elected councillors were informed of this arrangement both before or after the deal?


There was no arrangement between Sefton MBC and Mayor Joe Anderson. Chesterfield High School was an academy and therefore any arrangement was agreed by the school.

(b) What has the Leader done to have this money repaid to the Council for what the Judge in a recent Appeal Tribunal described as a "reverse zero hours contract"


The Council did not fund the arrangement with Mayor Anderson and therefore there is no money to be repaid

(c) What was the total cost to Sefton MBC of this deal, including pension?”


There was no cost to Sefton MBC of the school’s arrangement with Mayor Anderson

Is Cllr Dowd dancing on a pin here? Clearly Anderson was paid £4,500 a year plus pension  for doing nothing. Certainly during this period the school became an Academy and was forced to make redundancies but someone funded the agreement that Sefton made-an agreement that was for an indefinite period. Para 22 of the Industrial Tribunal report clearly states: Sefton had agreed to fund some of the cost from the supply teacher budget and again at para 19..... Sefton  is currently covering the cost of the (Joe Anderson) secondment .

You may consider that these replies are  not open and transparent.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Pugh backs plan for Public Sector Pay rises


John Pugh, having helped scupper Tory plans to introduce lower pay in the NW, backs a plan to ensure public sector pay rises. ‘This is the minimum that is acceptable’ Pugh told Southport electors.


Workers across the public sector have made enough sacrifices. You have done your bit to help get the country back on track.

That’s why the Liberal Democrats believe it is time to end the era of pay restraint.

Under our plans, we will give all public sector workers – from teachers and nurses to social workers and police officers – pay rises that at least keep pace with the cost of living every year.

No more pay freezes or below inflation pay rises. We can do this because with the Liberal Democrats, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

For two years pay in the public sector will, at the very least, keep pace with prices. After that, we will make sure it rises above inflation – giving millions of workers a real terms pay rise for the first time in years.

If you are a public sector worker worried Tory cuts threaten your job, or Labour’s refusal to deal with the deficit means another year of pay cuts, then only a vote for the Lib Dems will guarantee you a fair pay deal.

Where the Tories’ first priority is to give the rich a massive tax cut, the Liberal Democrats want to see the people who deliver our public services rewarded after five years of austerity.


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Pugh on the Tories Regional pay plot

Pugh Warns Tory Regional Pay Plot Will Hit North West Teachers and Nurses

John Pugh, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Southport, warns teachers and nurses in the North West will be paid nearly £1,200-a-year less under Conservatives plans to introduce local public sector pay rates if governing alone.
John Pugh led the Lib Dems in blocking Conservative attempts to smash uniform national pay rates for state workers – and would do it again.
Dozens of Conservative MPs and candidates want salaries of public sectors workers in the North West cut in a bid to make them fall in line with local private sector pay.
Pugh, who is defending the seat of Southport, strongly believes that there is no way teachers in the North West are worth less than teachers in other areas of the country. Public sector workers deliver top class services in the North West and do not deserve to be paid less just because they live here.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Pugh adoption meeting video

Photography by Fred Weavers

I wrote recently about John Pugh's adoption meeting. Well now I can bring you the video highlights courtesy of Pughtube

In these extract John talks aabout what Lib Dems stand for, the alternatives and drawing on an old Liberal Party poster that is stuck up on his office wall he outlined the Liberal way

More information can be found on the Pugh4Southport website