Saturday, 29 May 2010

Opinion: Where do you find the heart and soul of the Liberal Democrats? Liberal Youth

Back in March we reported on the Liberal Youth conference and the involvement of one of our Birkdale members Sarah Harding. Sarah is now standing for the Liberal Youth Exec and explains more about her ideas:

Why did we join the Liberal Democrats? Because our party is a party of the future.  Because our party truly is a promise of more.

By Sarah Harding, Candidate for Liberal Youth General Executive Member, Candidate for Policy Committee

Liberal Youth exists to give young people a voice within the party. It gives them training, inspiration and a forum to express their opinions. We need Liberal Youth- we wouldn’t have the national recognition we do without them. Liberal Youth has produced some of the voices that now lead or have led our party and they would not be in the positions they are now without Liberal Youth. It’s no surprise and it’s not hidden that Liberal Youth has policies that are predominantly focused on the issues affecting young people- the Green Liberal Democrats and DELGA both do the same- but It has been said that Liberal Youth “have little to say on policy outside of the tuition fee debate” and to that end,  I couldn’t disagree more.
Take the recent spring conference-the most successful in recent times- motions were debated on, amongst others, repealing the abolition of cheques, legalising voluntary euthanasia and a British Space authority. ContactPoint is another Liberal Youth success. At a time when the party nationally didn’t have a policy on this dangerous database, Liberal Youth passed an emergency motion through their spring conference calling for its abolition. Less than four months later, not only did scrapping ContactPoint appear in the party’s General Election Manifesto but also in the coalition agreements.
Liberal Youth is a SAO of the party nationally, and we take that responsibility seriously. We campaign on the issues that matter to us, and if I may say so, do it rather successfully.  Yes, we maintain our position on scrapping tuition fees but on so much more as well. We are unafraid of debate and stand up for liberal principles in a way only young people can. We may have made mistakes in the past, our leadership may not have been perfect but we have learnt from every incident, and are moving forward together under the new executive we will elect in the weeks to come.
We remain unparalleled by political youth organisations for our success and unrivalled in our ability to keep working, and fighting in our constituencies and for our campaigns.
Liberal Youth are Liberal Democrats first, and Liberal Youth second. The party will needs us now, and will need us in the future, and through Liberal Youth we improve our ability to work well for the party and take it forward as we enter the uncharted waters of coalition.
Where would Elwyn Watkins be now if a Liberal Youth member hadn’t reported a Labour leaflet to the Straightchoice? Could John Leach have successfully defended his seat if it wasn’t for the tireless work of Liberal Youth Manchester and have you ever seen such a energetic campaign as in Liverpool Wavertree? Who was there? Liberal Youth.
Don’t tell me Liberal Youth has “disappointed” you. Liberal Youth ensures the party campaigns from the grassroots up on issues that put our very liberalism at stake. ContactPoint and ID card are illiberal, extortionate tuition fees and student debt are illiberal and giving backhanders to the nuclear industry is illiberal. We stand in opposition to the loss of liberalism. Liberal Democrats need Liberal Youth because we are the promise that we will remain the party of civil liberties, of fairness and of a greener tomorrow. Liberal Youth has been, and will continue to be a strong and supportive organisation and I have no doubt that we can improve and that we will. Liberal Youth are the future. Liberal Youth are here to stay.

Sarah Harding is 18 and a student. She has been involved with General and Local election campaigns in Southport and Liverpool Wavertree constituencies and is a candidate for Liberal Youth General Executive Member and for Liberal Youth Policy Committee.

Friday, 28 May 2010


Thanks to Liberal England for drawing my attention to this item. Looking back over the whole career of Phil Woolas as a parliamentary candidate it does seem proper that his behavior should be scrutinised.

As Elwyn says on his website:

Lib Dem to issue legal challenge over Parliamentary election result

The Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Oldham East and Saddleworth at the recent General Election, Elwyn Watkins, is to formally challenge the declared result.

The result, declared in the late morning of Friday 7th May 2010, ended in a wafer-thin majority of 103 for incumbent Labour MP Phil Woolas, following two recounts.

Under rules governing the conduct of election candidates and campaigns, Mr Watkins has submitted his Petition for a hearing of a rarely-convened election court, based on an alleged breach of Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act (1983).

Specifically, part one of Section 106 states:

"A person who, or any director of any body or association corporate which-

(a) before or during an election,

(b) for the purpose of affecting the return of any candidate at the election, makes or publishes any false statement of fact in relation to the candidate's personal character or conduct shall be guilty of an illegal practice, unless he can show that he had reasonable grounds for believing, and did believe, that statement to be true."

It is the contention of Mr Watkins that Labour campaign literature, published and distributed with the consent of Mr Woolas and his election agent, Joseph Fitzpatrick, constitutes a breach of this provision.

Mr Watkins said, "It is clear that Labour literature circulated within the Oldham East and Saddleworth constituency, specifically 'The Examiner' newspaper, an edition of the 'Labour Rose', and a full-colour 'Election Communication' leaflet, contained numerous misleading and erroneous claims regarding my personal character and reputation, and that of my campaign.

Southport's Tony Dawson fought the seat last time round and Chris Davis was the MP and so Lib Dems have been well aware of the nature of Labour's campaigning in the area for some time.. One to watch...

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Impressive first appearance-stern, unbending Gladstonian Liberalism

1987 and all that..............................

I noticed in the list of  political advisers employed by Lib Dems in Government was Duncan Brack's name.  Duncan is a leading light in the Lib Dem history group and I was recently checking up on the 'official' history of the SDP/ Liberal policy statement of 1987. Duncan wrote the key document recording the incident thus:

Steel's undoing was his habitual disregard for policy detail, leading to the disastrous farce of the 'dead parrot' draft of the founding policy statement of the merged party, a poorly thought-through sub-Thatcherite document which he should have known would have been unacceptable to the Liberals, and indeed to many Social Democrats. Although the document was scrapped and a new one prepared, Steel's position was fatally undermined, and he could not have hoped (and in any case probably did not want) to become the leader of the new party when merger was eventually approved by a majority vote of both parties in January 1988.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Southport Tories in Private Eye

My colleague, David Tattersall, has the story over on the Meols Ward blog. 

Pity Conservative parliamentary candidate Brenda Porter.  Not only did she have her campaign billboards defaced, but local paper the Southport Champion began its report on the vandalism by describing her as "Southport paramilitary candidate."  Not quite the image the touchy-feely Cameronite Tories wanted to project.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Just how radical was 1832 anyway?

I was interested to read Nick Clegg's assertion that his package of government reform was the most radical since Lord Grey's 1832 Reform Act. Paddy Ashdown made the same claim when speaking to students at KGV college in Southport during the general election.

The 1832 Reform Act certainly did away with some obvious and indefensible aspects of the franchise.  The rotten boroughs like Old Sarum which had hardly any electors were abolished and new townships that had no MPs were enfranchised.

Nevertheless lots of people lost the vote. All those who lived in potwalloper boroughs had pretty well universal male suffrage. Anyone who had a hearth on which they could boil a pot could vote. This borough wide franchise existed in Preston up until 1832 and all  those who lost the vote then didn't get it back until 1883. I seem to recall that overall there was an increase in the number of voters but  a uniform property qualification  took away the vote from those who didn't pay an annual rent of £50 or were freeholders.

Monday, 17 May 2010

A Grand Coalition?

Writing in yesterday's Independent Chris Huhne argued that we were in the midst of a national crisis and that a national coalition was the proper reaction to the situation.

.......the strongest governments in our own history have been coalitions in pursuit of a clear goal. Sir Winston Churchill's government – the last to have Liberals in the cabinet – saw us through the darkest days of our history to ultimate victory in 1945.
Few can doubt the difficulties we face nor that the public would wish us to lay aside our differences to tackle the crisis. When you realise the breadth of the coalition you recognise that it spans a vast swath of opinion. It is easy to mock those who are outside the agreement as representatives of narrow sectional interests who were unable to put party before country. Like many I would have wished that Labour were ready to join a government at this time but there is ample evidence that they are more absorbed with their own internal issues that they are with the nation's needs. 
I certainly don't fear being swallowed up. By the next election maybe the Labour party will have sorted itself out and be willing to enter government with another party-and the leadership able to take its backbenchers with it. The aftermath of the Lib Lab pact demonstrated to many of us at the time the necessity of getting an agreement that was supported by the whole Labour Party and not just by the central leadership. Then like now many Labour backbenchers were not on board and ready to wreck.
I was chatting with resident in Birkdale who observed that the young folk seemed to have no problem with the deal. I reflected that all the old Liberal in the party readily saw the sense of it. Those who had the 'dark night of the soul' were often ex Lab and ex SDP. And so it was that Tony Greaves had to guide Lord McNally  to a clearer vision. We've all spent too long in local government with no overall control to be spooked by such an agreement. We looked at the policy not at the party and recognised it was the best on offer. Anyway as McNally said he has a job working for the Minister of Justice who as far more liberal than all his New Labour predecessors! 

the video that says it all...............

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The curse of Wendy Jones

Wendy Jones was one of the first Conservative Councillors to get the 'Black Spot' from the Porter Parry leadership. She always maintained to anyone who would listen that her deselection was due to her assertion that Debbie Jones was not parliamentary material. Well for the second time running the voters in what is now Sefton Central seem to agree with Wendy. I honestly believed that the Tories would win that seat. I've had a tip off that the curse of Wendy may strike again. You know what they say about vengence-well I'm sure Wendy does.

Bonkers Hall first with the announcement many have been awaiting

Lord Bonkers is better informed even when he is hidden away in Rutland than many who have been looking out for a list of Lib Dem Ministers. This morning he publishes a full list. I'll leave the jokes to the noble lord.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Two jobs Barry -no jobs for excluded Tories?

I'm not sure what the implications of the decisions made at the Sefton Tory group AGM are. We are told that there was a challenge to the Porter Parry leadership and that Mrs Parry sneaked through. I am also told that Cllr Anne Ibbs is their Chief Whip.
The Tories lost seats at the local elections-one in Ainsdale to the Lib Dems and one in Manor Ward Crosby to Labour. As a result the composition of the Sefton Council Cabinet is 4 Lib Dems, 4 Labour, 2 Con, with the casting vote with Lib Dem Council Leader Tony Robertson.

The Tories have given up their Communities Portfolio to Labour. The position had been held by Brenda Porter the defeated Tory Parliamentary candidate in Southport. Logically you would have thought that she would have been dropped from the cabinet, but instead she has elbowed Barry Griffiths out of his Health and Social Care job. There is general 'gobsmackedness' around this move. Very briefly-at the beginning of last municipal year-Mrs Porter had the Health and Social Care portfolio. She did not last long. As any politican will tell you there are very difficult decisions of rationing to be made in this area. Mrs Porter was faced with one such decision -on the relatively mild end of the spectrum- and swopped with jobs with Barry before the issue got to Cabinet. It is of course entirely possible that this was coincidental.

By way of compensation I see that Barry has got two paid council jobs.(The price of support in the leadership  vote? I'm told it was that close) I also observe that the two Dukes Ward Tories -Sir Ron Watson and David Pearson-are alone in the Tory group having no posts.

When will they ever learn

John Pugh -the full text. 'I am frankly amazed at the concessions the Tories made'.

As is the way with Southport politicians John Pugh opened his heart to John Siddle of the Visiter:

ON Tuesday, British politics changed in a way none of us could have imagined and which most of us have barely grasped.
It was very clear to all of us during the election campaign that voters liked the idea of politicians working together and that they were tired of 'Punch and Judy politics’.
It was obvious that following the election results the only stable, lasting arrangement would be a coalition either between Labour and the Lib Dems or the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.
It became obvious during Tuesday that there was considerable opposition to a Lab-Lib coalition – partly from within Labour but also not helped by the fact that Labour and the Lib Dems would not be a majority in the House of Commons.
Major figures in the Labour party signalled their hostility to a Lab-Lib coalition, undermining negotiations.
Had success been achieved in forming a Lab-Lib Dem coalition though, the Scottish Nationalists, Conservatives and Unionists would have been able to out-vote such a government.
Given all that, the Lib Dems and Conservative negotiating teams therefore tried to conclude their attempt to get an agreement and did.
Much as I find it both strange and difficult to imagine Lib Dems and Tories working together in a coalition, I also note that the coalition agreement includes huge chunks of the parts of Lib Dem policy that appeal to most voters and drops parts of Tory policy that are unacceptable.
I am frankly amazed at the concessions the Tories made.

A prisoner of conscience

If you talk about the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons to almost any Arab politician one of the things that they cannot understand is why the West ignores Israel's nuclear arsenal. Mordechai  Vanunu ( a convert to Christianity) blew the whistle -if I remember correctly via an article in the Sunday Times. Craig Murray reports his rearrest and his adoption by Amnesty as a prisoner on conscience

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Pugh expresses concern

John Pugh has expressed his concerns about the coalition to the Liverpool Daily Post.

MERSEYSIDE MP John Pugh became the first Liberal Democrat to throw doubt on the new coalition government – warning he was "very concerned" about being tied to savage Tory cuts.

The left-leaning Southport MP urged his colleagues to pursue "a distinctive path" to ensure the poor did not suffer when spending cuts are speeded up, as promised by Chancellor George Osborne yesterday.

Dr Pugh also declined, twice, to say whether he voted in favour of coalition at the crunch meeting of Lib Dem MPs late on Tuesday night. Seven MPs did not – although most were thought to be absent.

And he said: "I'm very, very concerned that efficient public services will be targeted and I will argue the case to ensure they are not.

"I'm very aware that everything hangs, not on what happened yesterday or today, but on the tough decisions around the corner, when we have to address the deficit and what areas are to be cut.

It is going to be an interesting five years

An alternative view comes from a leading person on the Left of the party Simon Hughes reported on  Lib Dem Voice Writing in the  Independent today, Simon is not worried  about a coalition with the Conservatives

Whatever the difficulties of leading Britain out of the recession, reducing the deficit, growing our economy and reversing our headstrong irresponsibility as stewards of our planet, our philosophy, traditions, principles and values remain rock solid. Political parties do not exist to debate or advise; they exist to implement, to deliver and to change. Thirteen years of Labour and 65 years of red/blue politics has left Britain with too few liberties, reduced equality and frustrated opportunity. Our ambition is nothing less than a more equal and free society, where the poor are protected and supported and the better off much more generously shoulder our responsibilities.

Stunnel-Flaky Labour

Having sat on Cheshire County Council whilst it was a 'hung authority' and seen it deliver exceedingly well for its residents I have had a ring side seat at negociations involving Andrew Stunnel. I can't always claim to have agreed with him but I formed the opinion that he was honest, straight forward and effective. I was therefore interested in his reflections on the negociations with Labour. Politics Home reports his take on those events:

I formed an opinion that some of they may have been serious but they seemed not to even acknowledge the fact they'd lost 91 seats.

"We had absolutely no problem having a big reforming programme with the Labour party but had doubts over whether they would deliver it because that's what happened in '97.

"I have to say there was a distinct lack of engagement from the Labour team or realisation that just carrying on with the current direction of the government just wasn't good enough.

"They couldn't even promise we'd have enough votes for a referendum on AV. Labour - who have got the alternative vote in their manifesto - were more flaky than the Conservatives."

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Southport's worst Tory result since at least 1885

Time for a little historical reflection

I  can confirm that the Tory's have set a record in Southport. Their 35.8% of the vote was
marginally worse than Matthew Banks`  35.9% in 1997 and you don`t need
me to tell you what an awful year that was for the Tories !
Interestingly the Tories have not polled as much as 40% of the vote
since 1992. In the last four elections they got 35.9, 36.5. 37.0 and
My detailed records only go back to 1885 but I think it is fair to say
that the Tories performance in Southport was almost certainly their
worst ever despite Lord Ashcroft`s  funding.

On the local election front we have highlighted Haydn`s
incredible swing. I can think of nothing to equal it. Without looking up
the record books I would suggest our 6 out of 7 wins was better than
anything  we have achieved previously. The year Alix Farley won
Cambridge may have also coincided with us winning Ainsdale but I think
not. Back in 1962 we won 9 of the 10 seats we contested but all but one
were straight fights against the Tories.

Thank to Michael Braham for the research -you can learn more by looking at his History of Southport Liberals available online at our website

Disgruntled at the Labour party

I noticed that the 'disgruntled radical' has summed up the feelings of most of us when he reflected the behaviour of the Labour Party.

The antediluvians of the Labour Party have wrecked any chance of a progressive alliance, confirming what an archaic, conservative force Labour is. David Blunkett and Jack Straw, two of the worst Home Secretaries ever, can't cope with the idea of a government that actually represents the majority of people instead of their own prejudices.

There are many others he could have added to his list of Labour wreckers not least another reactionary Home Sec John Reid. It is amazing that Hurd and Whitelaw turned out to be better Home Secretaries than most of the New Labour holders of the office. I mean Charles Clarke.....

David needs to do some work on his photo shop skills but not withstanding that his picture does make the point.

Polly Toynbee makes the same point in today's Guardian:

So what made the Lib Dems sniff at the feast and walk away? The company at the table was not enticing, as the worst of the old Labour party, the knuckle-dragging neanderthal tendency, emerged to roaring opposition to the guests. David Blunkett, John Reid, Jack Straw, Diane Abbott, now unleashed from government, reminded the world how backward, how unprogressive, tribal and sectarian much of the People's Party still is.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

24% Swing in Ainsdale -How we won Southport

Ainsdale Ward 2010

Haydn Preece (Lib Dem) 2936   (43.3%)
Mark Bigley    (Con)       2703    (39.8%)
Labour Party                     668    (9.8%)
Others                               476    (7.1%)

Ainsdale Ward last time
Brenda Porter (Conservative) 2,903 (67.8%)
Pauline Collier (Liberal Democrats) 986 (23.0%)
Frank Warner (Labour) 223 (5.2%)
Bryan Leech (UKIP) 168 (3.9%)

Our hunch is that the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, Mrs Porter, secured less votes in the General election in Ainsdale than she did as a Councillor last time out. More details and background to follow

The Declaration

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Is AV now the guarantee that the Tories are serious modernisers?

I was impressed by Portillo on Newsnight yesterday. He essentially said that if Cameron was a moderniser that he couldn't turn his back on electoral reform. It is clearly not reasonable to expect an agreement on the details of a reform package to be hammered out in the next 24 hrs but we have to be satisfied that it will happen and that we will not land up with just another Speakers conference. In that context immediate legalisation to introduce preferential voting would provide the sort of comfort we seek. In the short term it would guarantee no backsliding. Any dash to the polls under AV would more certainly than FPTP lead to an election result similar to the one we have now. It would allow a period of stable government and an election in due course after a referendum with a new voting system. Not an original thought, I know, but one worth considering.

Some electoral cheer from Southport

Firstly thanks to David Pullin for putting all this together. These statistics are all related to the local government elections in the town-which are very much in line with our excellent General election result. In fact it is very good to note that our local government was less than 1% different from John Pugh's result.

2010 Local
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Eligible Voters

Last thee locals
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