Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Result: Liberal Democrats London Region Executive 2011

Following a ballot of London Region conference reps, the Liberal Democrats have announced their London Regional Executive for 2011:

EMERSON, Merlene
GREEN, Matthew
JOACHIM, Margaret
TRETT, Adrian
WILSON, Michael
ZULETA, Lorraine

I'm delighted to have been re-elected!

Thank you to those who voted for me.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

In Government for all the right reasons: the David Laws interview

Yesterday I interviewed David Laws, on the day his book 22 Days in May was published. I asked him about the book, his views on the Coalition Government, as well as about the focus of his current work, plus his thoughts on the Ireland bailout.

In the introduction to the book, David Laws writes that its purpose is to “inform those who are interested in this important period of British politics, and to make sure that an accurate account is left of what really happened in May 2010, before memories fade, myths grow and evidence is lost.”

Why have you published this book now? You said you wanted to get matters on the record, but why not write it now and publish it in ten years? That’s the way memoirs used to work, so why so keen to publish after only six months? Isn’t history better judged from a distance?

I think it’s important for us now that people in the country understand how we made the decisions we made in May 2010, and what factors were uppermost in our minds. And also that we nail some of the misrepresentations that have come out from some of the others involved in the talks, particularly on the Labour side, where people have attempted to claim that we went into the negotiations with some sort of preconception about what type of deal we wanted. And actually what the book shows is that if we went in with any preconceptions at all, it was that a coalition with Labour would be considerably easier to deliver if the electoral maths enabled it, than a coalition with the Conservative party.

So I think that the book demonstrates that we went in without some sort of pre-agenda of who we would and who we wouldn’t deal with, and it’s very clear that we were putting the policies in our manifesto and what was right for the country as the key determinants of what we were going to do once we had discovered there was a hung Parliament.

Firstly it's important to get down a historic record, given that this was a very important period in British politics, and having got the time to do it imposed on me in some ways, I have that opportunity.

And I think it’s also important for where we are now in politics, given how controversial the coalition has been with some people that people should understand the decision-making process, and should understand why we did what we did in May.

With cuts on the way, is this an expectation-management exercise, then?

I don’t think it’s expectation-management, but I think it’s fact-management in the sense that some people in the Labour party have claimed that we weren’t serious about the option of negotiating with Labour and I think that what this makes clear is that we did engage in a very serious way over that, and actually if there are any problems in terms of trying to get an agreement or make an agreement with Labour viable, it was really because of the lack of willingness of the Labour party rather than the Lib Dems to engage seriously in a negotiation; their lack of preparedness, the fact that their negotiating team was almost certainly split in their attitudes towards us. And the fact that on the main economic tack, the economic policy issues, that they didn’t make any of the concessions that would have been necessary in order to make coalition a viable option for us.

So the book performs two functions: it can inform the general public about the Lib Dems’ and Tories’ intentions, but it can also rebut the things that Labour are saying about us...

That’s right.

Was it your idea to write the book, or were you getting offers from publishers and newspapers?

No, it was entirely my idea, and I thought from the very earliest time, even while I was still in Government that it was important for us to get our version of this factually on the record. I clearly wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do that if I had been in Government, given how long it takes to do something like this. And I thought about it when I left the Government.

I originally decided that it probably wasn’t the right time, and then, in July when I thought about it again, people said “Yes, this would be useful from the party, and useful to make sure that the public record of all these events is correct.” And so I just used the time that I had, particularly in August, to get the account down.

The coalition negotiations were gruelling. Wouldn’t you have rather had a break before diving in? Many, including the media, were pushing for a quick resolution: what was it like being caught up in the pace of all of that?

I think we were always conscious that there would be a lot of pressure for a quick resolution.

Weren’t you exhausted after the General Election?

I wasn’t, no, because a) the pressures on most MPs are nothing like those on the party leaders – they must have been pretty exhausted, but for the rest of us it’s not the same scale of pressure. And b) undoubtedly there is a bit of an adrenaline rush when you suddenly find yourself pitched into something which is about forming a government and deciding upon which policies should and shouldn’t be implemented.

So I didn’t really find it all that tiring, and I thought that it was inevitable that there would be pressure to do things quickly. I thought that it would be a mistake to drag our heels and insist on doing things very slowly. And while you can’t create a government and sort out a policy agreement overnight, I always thought that if we failed to deliver one by about the Wednesday after the Thursday General Election, then we would begin to face a lot of criticism. And it would be inevitable that we as the third party, and the party with the greater democratic accountability, would be more likely to bear the burden of criticism from the other two parties.

For stalling, perhaps?

Yeah, it was more likely, I thought that we would be the ones blamed for not having a Government, and for any market instability that could follow. And obviously there was a lot of market nervousness and instability around that time, because of what was happening in Greece, Portugal and Spain, so I think we did have to do things quite quickly and not everybody on our negotiating team, as I report in the book, took that view. There were some others who took a different view and thought that we needed to take our time but I don’t think we had that option.

In future, when people get used to the process of coalition-forming it may be that there isn’t the same degree of pressure, but on this occasion, I think it was important to do it quite quickly. And I don’t think that much was sacrificed by doing it in the timescale we did.

You talk about people getting used to the process of coalition-forming – I was interested to read your article in the Telegraph: The Coalition must aim higher than merely balancing the books. I was dissecting it a bit; you keep on dropping in references to judging results over the next ten years: you said that a couple of times, and also talking about “stretching out the era of austerity throughout the entire decade,” I wondered: is that a hint? Are you hoping for or expecting a second term of coalition?

No, I think that’s highly uncertain, but I think that it’s inevitable that the parties will go into the next election fighting as independent parties with candidates in every seat. But my point in the article was firstly that we are doing the process of eliminating the deficit over a reasonably long period. People are saying it’s all rushed, but the fact is we’re taking five years to do it.

It’s hardly a rushed process, and I’m not sure that it would help the country or economic confidence if we were stretching out this process of austerity for 7, 8, 9, 10 years. I mean people want to see some kind of light at the end of the tunnel.

So it’s not with the General Election in mind..?

The reason I refer to 10 years on education and welfare reform was they just are very big pieces of work and if you expect to see some big impact on welfare reform and education, you are not going to see it just in one Parliament. I mean some of the welfare reform stuff won’t start until the end of the Parliament because of the cost of delivering, so that all this can only be judged over time and years. Who knows? In the five to ten year period, who will be running the country is highly uncertain and it could either be a coalition or it could be one party.

I know that overnight change can take five, ten years, and more. But I especially saw your article today as putting a Liberal Democrat stamp on what could have been just Conservative policies. Do you think the input on social policies is distinctly Liberal Democrat? Or do you think that actually the Conservatives are just as keen on the social side?

I think there clearly has been a strong strain of commitment to the social recovery, broken society element of policy in Conservative thinking, but it’s then translating that into the decisions that are made, and the hard commitments.

Later on in the Parliament there will be some choices to make when the deficit is brought back under control, about how we’re going to invest some of the proceeds of growth that there then are that don’t need to go to deficit reduction. All I’m trying to signal is that we then have to be ready to take action to make sure that there is enough money going into education, welfare reform, and the NHS, to make sure that those services are improved.

Do you think that there’ll be conflict further down the line if the Tories want to reduce the size of the State, will we be clawing things back for our agenda, or do you think there’s a will there ..?

I think there is the intention, at least the scope for making sure that the Coalition delivers on those priorities jointly, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when it comes, not least because at the moment everybody is focusing simply on the process of deficit reduction and therefore in a sense it’s almost easier to get both parties to agree on the big strategy.

The big strategy is deficit reduction, but we don’t want to lose sight over the Parliament of the fact that we’re not just in politics to reduce the deficit and to restore good economic management, but that we also want the education system to be improved and to see real social mobility in the country. We want the health system to get better and more responsive to consumers. We want a decent pension system and a welfare system that actually assists those people who want to get back into employment.

All those are very strong areas where there are Liberal Democrat commitments and where the policies may be slightly different from those of the Conservative Party.

After the unhappy events in May, are you still fully invested in politics? Do you hope to be more than a backbench MP in the future?

I leave the speculation for another day, really. I’ve had a difficult year, and I’m just focusing on the job I’m doing as a backbench MP, which I am really enjoying, I’ve got plenty of time to focus on lots of policy issues that I’m concerned about , and can lobby my colleagues about .

When you see the work they’re doing, aren’t you dying to get more involved?

My colleagues are doing a damn good job, so I can’t say that I’m sitting there thinking, “Goodness me, they should have done this, that and the other.”

The big judgements that Nick and Danny and the others are making, I think, are the right judgements. So that is a lot easier than it would be if I somehow felt that things were all going wrong.

Like all Lib Dem MPs I’ve got the opportunity to talk to Nick and others and communicate with them and they’re doing a good job of listening to the party.

What do you think of giving all £7bn we’re saving this year to Ireland, to bail them out?

Well, we’re not going to give it to them, we’re going to potentially advance a loan.

At the moment because the coalition has restored confidence in our economic prospects, we’re having no problems at all raising finance. Our interest rates are incredibly low, even though we have a large deficit, we can’t afford to take that for granted, but it does mean that we’re in a stronger position than we might otherwise be. And I think that the biggest threat to our economy at the moment is not the difficult position that we’re having to deal with within the UK – there are problems and pressures there – but that I think is gradually going to work itself out over time. The biggest threat would be if the world economy and the European economy in particular the people we’re trading with, took a big downturn again, and so stopping the financial chaos and contagion from spreading, I think is incredibly important.

Do you think we’ll have to bail out anyone else, in that case?

I don’t think so, but I think what we learnt from 2008 and 2009 is that if you don’t act quickly to protect big organisations - banks, countries - when these things happen, you can pay a very big price down the line. And so this time I think we are being proactive in not allowing countries like Ireland and the banking system to go down the pan.

We’ve got, as you know, a huge economic network of interests with Ireland and the Irish banks, and if that was allowed to topple over I think it would be extremely bad for our economy and it would then lead to people saying, “Well what’s the next target we can go for?” And that then would be the type of environment where we would risk the economic recovery that we’re now seeing. It’s just essential that that doesn’t happen.

So, however frustrating it is, at a time when we’re having to borrow a lot of money, we’re also having to help other countries. I think it is terribly important that we don’t allow any major country or bank to topple over.

There meme is that we’re overly sympathetic [to Ireland] and that charity should begin at home. Is that just a tabloid construct?

Yeah, and probably more over things like overseas development, whereas over Ireland, it’s not as if the Irish have been crying out for the money - for the best part of the last couple of weeks they’ve been resisting taking these loans from the EU and the IMF.

So I think people can see that what’s been done is not just in the Irish interest but it’s actually been done by all these countries because we think it’s in the European interest, including Britain.

Sometimes you get what you want;
Sometimes you get what you need;
Sometimes you get what you get:
What are you overall thoughts on the way the Liberal Democrats entered a coalition with the Conservatives?

The book shows that there was no great plot to go with one party or the other, that we were genuinely making a decision as a party on what was best for the country and what was most likely to advance the prospects of getting the policies that we stood on in the election manifesto into government, and obviously a lot of people will criticise us for the decisions that we made.

The honest truth is that we didn’t have a great deal of choice. A coalition with the Conservatives not only offered us the best prospect of delivering many of the Lib Dem policies that we regarded as important, but it was probably the only prospect of having a stable government that could deliver for Britain and the British economy.

Had we not been willing to go into coalition with the Conservatives I suspect that there would have been a lot of economic instability. There would have been higher interest rates, there would have been more speculation about the UK. And ultimately there would have had to be a second General Election, which I think would have resulted in us doing quite badly if we were seen to be to blame for there being no Government, which I think there probably would have been.

We would then have had an outright Conservative majority with no Lib Dem voice in it. Which I think most people in the country would regard as definitely an inferior option to the one that we’ve got.

So this is the government that we’ve now formed for all the right reasons, and we’ve got to be active in making it as successful as possible and ensuring that it delivers as much Liberal policy as possible. And if you were going to choose your moment to go into government, not having been in for 70 years, you wouldn’t choose a borrowing requirement of £150bn. But we can’t choose our time. These are the circumstances thrown into our lap and we can only do our best for the country and the party with the hand that we’ve been dealt .

People are giving us some credit for having established a coalition which does seem to be able to make decisions, which is so far viewed by many people as quite successful . The opinion polling seems to suggest that people do believe that Lib Dem involvement has made a difference to the nature of the Coalition in the things we’re doing.

You can order 22 Days in May now from Amazon.

View this article at its original location.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Whose party is really over?

That's the subject for discussion at the Coningsby Club this Thursday night (18 November) where I'll be speaking on the coalition and its implications for the parties. My fellow guest speaker is Jonathan Isaby from ConservativeHome.

Here's the blurb - (and no, I didn't write that blushworthy biography!)

"These are fascinating and changeable political times, and the Coningsby Club benefits from, and must occasionally adapt to, Harold Macmillan's oft-quoted "events, dear boy, events."

We are taking bookings up until Tuesday lunchtime for this week's dinner at St Stephen's Club (please disregard the note on the website about booking time).

Whose party is really over?

With Jonathan Isaby of Conservative Home

and Helen Duffett of Lib Dem Voice

This Thursday 18th November 2010 7.30pm onwards, dinner 8pm

Will the coalition run its five year course? What's the inside perspective on how Conservative members (in Parliament and more broadly) are feeling as the coalition heads into turbulent times? With violent demonstrations over tuition fees occurring even as Nick Clegg stands at the dispatch box answering Prime Minister's Questions, how much longer will the Lib Dems withstand the pain of sharing collective coalition responsibility?

And, lest we forget, one Edward Miliband is now in charge of the Labour party. ....whose party is really over?

Joining us to speak and take your questions are the leading lights in blogging from both sides of the coalition.

Jonathan Isaby is co-editor of leading Tory blog Conservative Home, prior to which he was a political diarist at The Daily Telegraph, columnist for GQ magazine and senior political researcher for the BBC. He is an accomplished public speaker, though we shall have to see if we are treated to his talent for mimicry.

Helen Duffett is editor of Lib Dem Voice and the voice of Liberal Democrat opinion in the mainstream media. A former Lib Dem Parliamentary candidate, Helen is much in demand for speaking and media engagements, unsurprisingly for someone renowned for knowing everyone "from No.10 Downing Street to No.10 Acacia Avenue."

Come and join us for a lively and insightful discussion. In the confidence of the Coningsby's Super Chatham House Rules, our bloggers will be relaxed enough to share that which they dare not write...

Sign up online here.

Dress code: Lounge suit

Location: St Stephen's Club, 34 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AB

The venue is near St James’ Park tube.

Cost:£39, includes a full three course meal.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Have-a-go Hames

Duncan Hames' hero tweet

Duncan Hames, the new Liberal Democrat MP for Chippenham, has spoken of chasing after a man who snatched a woman's bag in his constituency.

From the BBC:

Liberal Democrat Duncan Hames said he had been sitting in his car at traffic lights on Friday when he saw the theft.

He pulled over, spoke to the woman to make sure she was unhurt and chased after the thief through Monkton Park.

He said a cyclist who also saw what happened managed to retrieve the bag. Mr Hames said he had reported the incident to Wiltshire Police.

"I pulled my car over as quickly as I could, spoke briefly to the lady to make sure she wasn't physically hurt, then ran into the back street's car park to see if I could catch the person who snatched the bag," Mr Hames said.

View this article at its original location.

More results: party committees and interim peers panel

Liberal Democrat Federal Conference representatives have voted for members of party committees for 2011-2012 and members of the panel from which future Liberal Democrat nominees for the House of Lords will be drawn.

The results are as follows:

Lib Dem Presidential Contest: Result

Video also available on YouTube here.

I'm at Cowley Street, at the election count for the next President of the Liberal Democrats.

The count has just been completed and the result is as follows:

Tim Farron: 14,593 votes
Susan Kramer: 12,950 votes

Tim Farron will take up office on 1st January 2011, succeeding Ros Scott.

A total of 65,861 ballot papers were issued and the turnout was 41.9%. 64 ballots were spoiled.

Total ballots returned 27,607.

The outgoing President, Ros Scott, has just emailed party members with this message:

I’m writing to let you know the exciting news that Tim Farron has been elected as the next President of our party. You can find the full result here.

We were incredibly fortunate in this election to have two outstanding candidates for President either of whom would have done a great job. And I’m sure I speak for the whole party when I say that I know Susan will continue to play a huge role in the future of our party.

Tim’s record of campaigning in the party is second to none. The enthusiasm, commitment and dynamism that he will bring to the job will be a huge asset to our party over the coming years. Being in coalition government has brought us huge challenges that we as a party are having to face for the first time in 65 years. And I am certain that Tim – working with Nick Clegg and his Ministerial team – will grab these challenges with both hands.

Being Party President has been both a huge amount of work and an enormous privilege over the last two years and I will certainly never forget the thrilling moments of the closing weeks of the General Election campaign and the days and nights that followed the result. So I’d like to thank everybody who has supported and worked with me over the last two years, especially my family. I could not have done what I have done without them.

I wish Tim all the very best of luck, I know the party will be safe in his hands.

Best wishes,

Ros Scott
Liberal Democrat Party President

View this article at its original location.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Peers call for end of child detention in immigration centres

Following the Home Office's decision to postpone until March the end of child detention in immigration removal centres, a group of peers has written to the Guardian calling for the government to honour their commitment to end the practice.

The group of Labour, Liberal Democrat and Crossbench peers includes Roger Roberts and Navnit Dholakia, as well as Sue Miller, who told Radio 4's Today Programme this morning that the equivalent of four or five primary schools per year are being locked up:

We are really tired of waiting for the end of child detention... We need not to lock up innocent children... it has been about 1000 a year.

[You can listen to the clip here]

The letter in full:

Six months ago today the coalition government promised to end detention of children for immigration purposes. Yet children are still being held in detention, despite clear evidence that this is harmful. We call on the government to fulfil the promise that it made to end the detention of children without further delay and to develop a more humane system for the treatment of families and children who are subject to immigration control.

There is evidence from countries such as Sweden that far fewer families end up facing forced removal if steps are taken throughout the immigration and asylum process to address the barriers that prevent families best presenting their case.

Child welfare and safeguarding must be placed at the heart of any new practice that is developed. We have an opportunity to restore the reputation of this country for keeping our promises and for protecting children from harm. The time for prevarication is over and the time for action has come.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno
Lord Dubs
Lord Dholakia
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer
Lord Hylton
Earl of Sandwich
Bishop Tim Stevens
Baroness Howe of Idlicote
Lord Griffiths
Bishop John Saxbee
Baroness Richardson

View this article at its original location.

LibLink: Tim Farron - Tuition fees are the poll tax of our generation

Over at the Guardian's Comment is Free, Tim Farron MP reiterates his pledge to vote against tuition fees, calling them "the poll tax of our generation" - a reference to the angry scenes at Wednesday's demonstration.

In his article, Tim makes the distinction between the NUS pledge against tuition fees, signed by Parliamentary candidates before the General Election (which he intends to abide by), the Liberal Democrat manifesto (which became a negotiating document) and the Coalition Agreement (which contains 65% of the Liberal Democrat manifesto).

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Liberal Democrat English Party election results 2010

Yesterday the counts took place for the English party elections.

The Acting Returning Officer, David Allworthy, reported the results as follows:

At the close of nominations on 29 September 2010 the following were declared duly elected, unopposed:

Chair of English Party:
Jonathan Davies

Chair of English Candidates’ Committee:
Margaret Joachim

English representative to Federal Conference Committee (1 place):
Geoff Payne

English Candidates Committee (5 places):
Dawn Davidson
Sal Jarvis
Brian Orrell

The following were elected:

English representative to Federal Executive:
Brian Orrell: 46
Michael Wheatley: 32

English representative to Federal Policy Committee:
Dirk Hazell: 10
Geoff Payne: 68

English Executive Committee (12 places):
Nigel Ashton
Stan Collins
Dawn Davidson
Kay Friend
Anders Hanson
Sean Hooker
Sal Jarvis
Steve Jarvis
Brian Orrell
Geoff Payne
Neil Walton
Mike Wheatley

The turnout was 65.5% (higher than the average of recent years).

See here for the breakdown of votes for each stage of the count, courtesy of Colin Rosenstiel.

There will be a ballot in the by-election for the final two places for directly elected places on the ECC. A ballot paper will be included in the EC Final Agenda mailing, which goes out at the end of this week.

View this article at its original location.

Another election in Tower Hamlets: by-election called in Spitalfields and Banglatown

A by-election has been called for 16 December in Spitalfields and Banglatown ward, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The seat became vacant after the election last month of Lutfur Rahman as the borough's first Mayor. He had been one of the ward's three Labour councillors, until his removal from the party by its National Executive Committee in the run-up to the mayoral election.

Rahman went on to stand as an Independent, beating the Labour candidate by more than 11,000 votes.

Dave Hill reports on his London Blog that there is already infighting within the local Labour party over their choice of candidate: some are urging for the replacement of Abdul Alim, who they say was "imposed" and "has very little connection or knowledge of local politics in this ward let alone the ability to win in this complex ward without their support."

Meanwhile, look out for the announcement of a very promising Liberal Democrat candidate...

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Three former Labour MPs face criminal trial over expenses

The Supreme Court has ruled this morning that three former Labour MPs should face criminal trials over their expenses claims.

Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine, charged with theft by false accounting, had previously argued at the Court of Appeal that only Parliament could hear their case.

The three have now exhausted their challenge to an original ruling which rejected their claims to Parliamentary privilege, a 300-year-old immunity from legal proceedings arising from actions within Parliament; however the judge ruled in June that individual expense claims are “not covered by parliamentary privilege and… triable in Crown Court”.

From the BBC:

Former Bury North MP Mr Chaytor, 61, of Todmorden, West Yorkshire; former Scunthorpe MP Mr Morley, 58, of Winterton, north Lincolnshire; and former Livingston MP Devine, 57, of Bathgate, West Lothian, are all on unconditional bail and face separate trials.

All were barred by their party from standing again as Labour MPs at the general election.

View this article at its original location.

Last chance to vote in Lib Dem Committee Elections 2010 (online voting closes noon today)

Online voting in this year's Liberal Democrat Committee elections closes at NOON today, so if you're a Federal Conference Rep who hasn't yet returned your vote, there's still time to get online and do so.

To vote by internet, go to: and follow the online instructions.

You'll need to enter your security code, which is printed on your ballot paper.

The counts for the Party Committee and Presidential elections will take place this Saturday, 13th November.

To get the results keep an eye on this site, as well as our Twitter feed - I'll be at Cowley Street, to bring you the results as soon as they are announced.

Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Setting the Independent straight on candidate's defection

The Independent's Andrew Grice has spiced up the story of a Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate's defection to Labour with the help of some figures - which turn out to be incorrect.

Andrew Lewin, who stood in Hertford and Stortford in May, has switched to Labour "in protest at his leader's acceptance of Conservative policies and abandonment of key elements of his party's programme."

The article refers to Lewin:

at 23 the youngest Lib Dem candidate in England at the May election

when in fact the youngest Liberal Democrat candidate was Alan Belmore, who was aged 20 on polling day, when he stood in Hemsworth in West Yorkshire.

Andrew Grice also repeats the claim made by the Labour party -

it has attracted 40,000 new members since the election – a third of them from the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems insist their membership has risen since the election even though their opinion poll rating has slumped.

However, Grice himself wrote at the time of Liberal Democrat conference in September that 4,500 people had joined our party since the General Election.

To have lost 13,000 members to Labour and more than replaced that loss in six months would have been a phenomenal churn! I can confirm that the Liberal Democrats have not lost 13,000 members since May 6; in fact national membership has seen a net rise every month since the General Election.

View this article at its original location.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Nick Clegg's speech on European growth

This morning Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg gave a speech at the Government Leaders’ Forum Europe 2010 in London.

He called for a united response to "a financial crisis that has changed the world" and proposed "four levers for durable, lasting prosperity":

Openness in trade; more flexible labour markets; greater investment in infrastructure; and a workforce equipped to thrive in the green, digital economy of the future.

Towards the end, he touched on UK university tuition fees and outlined the proposed reforms:

The UK is already blessed with a world-class university sector. But we need to secure it for the future...

Read on:

London Lib Dems Regional Conference: online booking now open

Online booking is now open for London Liberal Democrats Regional Conference on 4 December:

Click here to register; it's £25 for the day, or £12 for concessions.

The conference is open to all members - you don't have to be a conference rep. The day will feature valuable training for your local party plus guest speakers, an update on the campaign for Fairer Votes and the announcement of our candidates for the London Assembly List

See the LibDems4London website for more information on Conference and Lib Dem campaigns around London.

Come to Haverstock School, Haverstock Hill, London NW3 2BQ on Saturday 4 December. Map here.

Doors open from 9:30 am

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Cancelled: 3 November hustings with Tim Farron and Susan Kramer‏

Because of the planned 24 hour Tube strike which starts this evening, we've regretfully decided to cancel tomorrow night's hustings with Tim Farron and Susan Kramer.

The event had been due to take place at 7:30pm on 3 November at Woodbridge High School, Woodford Green.

You can still watch last month's online hustings on Youtube here:

Also you can visit the candidates' websites -

Tim Farron
Susan Kramer

Please remember that ballot papers have to be in by 10 November.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes ask: Are you registered to vote?

In the light of today's news that 3.5 million voters are missing from the electoral register, and in view of the forthcoming boundary changes based on the number of voters on the electoral roll as it stands next month, a timely email reminder today to Liberal Democrat members from Nick Clegg and Simon Hughes:
I'm sure you will agree that we as Liberal Democrats need to play our part in helping to ensure that everybody who should have the right to vote is in a position to exercise that right come next May.

Tomorrow we will be debating the third reading of the Parliamentary Voting Systems and Constituencies Bill. As part of that debate we will be renewing our commitment to ensuring that all those who are eligible to be registered to vote are.

And this is an important time of year to make that happen, as the annual canvass process is currently ongoing in council across the country. For most councils that process began over the summer and is set to finish on 1st December.

That means that there is now just under one month left until the conclusion of the canvass. So there is plenty of time for electors to return their household forms, or to engage with canvassers who may come knocking at their doors.

We are sure that everybody who is getting this email is registered to vote, but please do just check! Forms will be currently landing on doormats and resting on coffee tables up and down the country and it is vital that they are returned. Once you have made sure your form is safely completed please take a moment to check family and friends have filled out theirs too. Getting half a a dozen of your friends signed up to vote could make the difference in a tight election next May.

Making democracy work is something all politicians should be committed to, and we are proud to encourage Liberal Democrats to play our part.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg MP and Simon Hughes MP
Leader and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats

PS The next big national election will be the Fairer Votes referendum next May; you can join our campaign here.

View this article at its original location.

Friday, 29 October 2010

This week's by-election results: holds all round

Camden LBC, Kentish Town
Lab 1411 (53.0; +17.7)
LD Nick Russell 715 (26.9; -3.6)
Green 349 (13.1; -4.7)
Con 186 (7.0; -5.1)
[Other (0.0; -1.7)]
[BNP (0.0; -2.7)]
Majority 696
Turnout 26.02%
Percentage change is since May 2010

South Lanarkshire UA, East Kilbride West
Lab 847 (41.4; +0.8)
SNP 571 (27.9; -2.4)
Con 403 (19.7; +5.7)
Green 82 (4.0; +0.2)
East Kilbride Alliance 71 (3.5; -0.7)
LD Gordon Smith 70 (3.4; -3.7)
Turnout 17.44%
Labour HOLD
Percentage change is since May 2007

See here for the breakdown of votes for each stage of the count.

Cheltenham BC, Springbank
LD Chris Coleman 722 (66.4; -2.9)
Con 188 (17.3; -13.4)
Lab 142 (13.1; +13.1)
Green 35 (3.2; +3.2)
Majority 534
Turnout not known
Percentage change is since May 2010

See the article in This Is Gloucestershire.

Great Aycliffe Town Council, West
Lab 388 (46.7)
Ind 286 (34.5)
LD Janine Mawson 156 (18.8)
Majority 102
Turnout 19.19%

For full commentary, and details of forthcoming by-elections, visit the ALDC website.

View this article at its original location.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Tom Brake writes to David Cameron on control orders‏

Tom Brake MP wrote to the Prime Minister yesterday, to push for the scrapping of Control Orders, and for a reduction in the pre-charge detention period. The letter is co-signed by the other Liberal Democrat Co-Chairs of the Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities Parliamentary Party Committee: Baroness Sally Hamwee and Lord Martin Thomas.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

We believe we represent the broad view of the Liberal Democrat membership, both from past policy statements agreed at Conference and set out in the Lib Dem Manifesto, and from current soundings within the Party.

We have been delighted by the Coalition Government’s commitment to re-claiming our civil liberties. You will appreciate of course, that the continuance of Control Orders is quite inconsistent with the thrust of those assurances. In principle, as we argued many times during the administration of the last government, Control Orders should be scrapped.

In practice, in any event, there is no evidence to suggest that Control Orders are effective in preventing terrorism on our streets. Even if a marginal security advantage is gained from their use, it is wholly negated by the adverse impact of Control Orders on Muslims, both individually, and as a community. You will know that we depend on the goodwill of the widest possible cross-section of that community to ensure that the Government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy is effective.

It is our view that a package of counter-terrorism measures - which would be much more effective and have lesser impact on civil liberties - could and should be constructed: the withdrawal of travel rights; more surveillance; unannounced home visits; where appropriate the use of intercept evidence to bring cases to the level where effective prosecution may be carried out through the courts. Other safeguards can no doubt be discussed and developed.

As for pre-charge detention, we are convinced (as is the stated view of the Home Secretary) that 28 days pre-charge detention should be reduced to 14 days.

We believe a maximum of 14 days pre-charge detention gives wholly adequate time to bring charges, even in the most complicated cases of multiple attack. We will regretfully advise opposition to the introduction of draconian bail conditions, which would seek to impose restrictions equivalent to Control Orders as they currently exist.

We look forward to your response on these issues.

Yours sincerely

Tom Brake MP, Baroness Sally Hamwee, Lord Martin Thomas

View this article at its original location.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Making short political videos: three top tips

Candidates and councillors find videos a real complement to their other campaign methods and, done well, they can be a powerful way for voters to get to know issues and personalities. They're especially useful in internal party elections where candidates may not be able to meet all of their large electorate in person. They're also great for campaigners at a local level, where there's usually a lack of good quality information on hyperlocal matters.

Recently I've noticed a surge of interest from people who are keen to try it themselves, so here are my top tips for making your own short political videos, and they all begin with "V".

Your videos should be:
  • Valuable: Video should add something to your message. So don't just sit at your desk reciting something you could have written in a blog post. Have a reason to head out - a successful campaign, a grot spot, a special event, a look behind the scenes. Make sure your video is a must-see, adds value, shows something that only video can show. If your video doesn't add value, it's probably not worth the effort.

  • Visual: i.e. not just a static talking head shot. If you're talking about the new children's playground then go there and show it. Sounds could also add context - traffic, a carnival, etc. Heatmap studies have found that viewers' eyes wander very quickly away from the video box on the YouTube page if the video just features a speaker's head and shoulders. People either start reading the rest of the page or look at another window that they've got open on the screen. Make it interesting to watch and keep their attention.

  • Visible: Make sure it gets seen or no-one will watch it. It sounds obvious, but you need to put your video about. Embed it on your website or blog, and encourage others to do the same. Link to it in your local emails or on Twitter. Add relevant tags to help it to get picked up in YouTube's search results and related videos.

  • The good news is that videos don't have to be long, in fact three minutes feels epic and one minute or just under is ideal. You don't need fancy effects or equipment. Keep it simple, with one strong point/message. Remember (as with Twitter) to put a short biography on your YouTube profile and a link to your website.

    This is how Sir Archibald Sinclair did it in 1945, and while informative in its day and delightful to watch, his formal style wouldn't set YouTube on fire today:


    Click on the image above to watch the newsreel clip, also available at British Pathe here.

    Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

    Monday, 25 October 2010

    London Lib Dems! Come to the party presidential hustings in Redbridge

    There will be a hustings at 7:30pm on 3 November for Liberal Democrat members to quiz Susan Kramer and Tim Farron - the candidates in the current Lib Dem Federal Presidential election.

    All Liberal Democrat members are welcome, from around London and beyond.

    I'll be chairing the meeting, and after a speech from each of the candidates, will take both written questions and questions from the audience.

    The hustings will take place in Wynndale Hall at Woodbridge High School, St Barnabas Road, Woodford Green, IG8 7DQ.

    Use the school entrance beside house number 205 St Barnabas Road. Car parking is available on-site. Woodford Underground Station (Central Line) is a 7-10 minute walk from the school. Map here.

    For more details, and to offer or request a lift, see the event's listing on the Liberal Democrats' Flock Together website.

    Woodbridge High School was the scene of another high-profile political visit in 1952, when Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the crowd in front of the Mallards Building of the then St. Barnabas county secondary (modern) school.

    Click on the image below to watch the newsreel clip, also available at British Pathe here.

    You can see the new Broadmead Road Viaduct in the background, as well as the backs of the houses on St Barnabas Road, and rough grassland where Scoter Close was later built.

    Sunday, 24 October 2010

    Floella Benjamin - I want to be judged on my actions in a political place

    Today's Independent on Sunday features an interview with Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham - Floella to the rest of us - which ranges over a variety of topics, from Floella's childhood, her work on stage and TV, her charity and campaigning work, to her future ambitions.

    Some of the stories featured in Floella's recent maiden speech in the House of Lords, but there are some unfamiliar ones, which she has included in her new book about her teenage years Arms of Britannia:

    Any treasures in Nick Clegg's Desert Island Discs?

    Nick Clegg appeared on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs this morning, and revealed his eight essential tunes, as well as a book and a luxury item with which to be marooned.

    You can listen to the whole programme on iPlayer here but for the record, here's Nick's list:

    1. Chopin's Waltz in A Minor (played by Idil Biret)

    2. Sunday Morning Coming Down (Johnny Cash)

    3. The Cross (Prince)

    4. Petit Pays (Cesaria Evora)

    5. Street Spirit (Radiohead)

    6. Life on Mars (David Bowie)

    7. Waka Waka - the theme to the 2010 World Cup (Shakira)

    8. Schubert's Impromptu No.3 in G Flat Major (played by Alfred Brendel)

  • Book: The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

  • Luxury: A stash of cigarettes

  • As guilty pleasures go, it's a pretty safe list; Desert Island Discs is a chance for famous people to judiciously bury treasure for the listeners to find, and from there to form their impression.

    Kirsty Williams on what the Comprehensive Spending Review means for Wales

    Kirsty Williams AM has written a piece for WalesHome on the implications of the spending review for Wales:

    THE CSR settlement means that for the Welsh Government, revenue expenditure will be down by less than 2 per cent in real terms each year, less than the three per cent they were planning for. Overall, the budget will be reduced by 12% over 4 years; the Government were planning for 16.5% over 3 years. Despite the obvious glee with which ministers have been playing the victim card, Wales has a better settlement than the UK overall.

    This week, we have seen crocodile tears from a Labour party that is in denial both about the mess they created and the measures needed to get us out of that mess. It is pretty clear that the Welsh Government had decided what its response would be before the announcement was even made. Now it needs to get on with making the best of it in the interests of the people of Wales.

    The next five years will be tough, of that there is no doubt. But this is not the doomsday scenario that many were predicting. It is three years since Labour’s Finance Minister admitted that cuts would be coming. WAG’s own plans would suggest that they have considered more substantial cuts than they now find necessary.

    The First Minister now needs to show some leadership and ensure that his Ministers concentrate on making the savings required, in a way that minimises the impact in Wales.

    Kirsty goes on to push for more efficient spending and an end to gimmicks at election time - what she calls "happy meal politics".

    She also stresses the need for the Welsh government to show that devolution can work in advance of the referendum next year.

    Read the full piece at WalesOnline.

    Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

    Saturday, 23 October 2010

    Video: Susan Kramer and Tim Farron's online Presidential hustings

    Tim Farron and Susan Kramer took part in an online hustings this week, taking questions from a live and online audience. Play the video below to watch the two candidates explain why they want to be Party President and discuss what they would do in the role.

    Video also available on YouTube here.

    Susan and Tim also answered questions on retaining a distinct Liberal Democrat indentity, on youth and diversity matters, as well as current issues facing the party.

    You can watch the rest of the clips on YouTube here.

    Ballot papers were despatched by second class post on Monday 18th October. Don't panic if yours hasn't arrived yet, it should be with you shortly. If your ballot mailing hasn't arrived by next Monday (25th October) and you are sure that you were a paid-up member on 28th September, please email Remember to include your name, postcode and membership number (if you have it) in the message.

    Make sure you return your completed ballot by Wednesday 10th November.

    Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

    Wednesday, 20 October 2010

    Crossrail gets the go-ahead in Comprehensive Spending Review

    Today’s Comprehensive Spending Review includes the announcement that Crossrail will go ahead.

    Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, said:

    This is good news for London and Londoners. When difficult short term decisions are having to be made in so many areas it is excellent news that long term plans to improve transport in London have not been compromised.

    Crossrail is needed to provide improvements in London's transport capacity. It will play a critical role in helping London's economy to continue to grow and it will ensure that London remains attractive for international investment for many years to come.

    Just as importantly it will play a key role in regeneration of some of London's poorest communities, including Thamesmead and the East End of London. Crossrail proceeding is good news for London and Londoners.

    Tuesday, 19 October 2010

    London Liberal Democrats announce GLA shortlist for 2012

    London Region Liberal Democrats have announced the candidates for the London Assembly top-up list for the 2012 election. The shortlist is now final and London members will now be issued with a ballot to place the candidates in order of preference.

    The candidates, in alphabetical order, are:

    Jeremy Ambache (M)
    Steve Bradley (M)
    Emily Davey (F)
    Merlene Emerson (F)*
    Bridget Fox (F)
    Stephen Knight (M)
    Ajmal Masroor (M)*
    Caroline Pidgeon (F)
    Marisha Ray (F)*
    Nick Russell (M)
    Shas Sheehan (F)*

    Those marked with an asterisk are Black and Minority Ethnic for the purpose of the ethnic preference rule.

    There will not be a ballot for the Mayoral candidate for the time being. Nominations for the Mayoral candidate have been postponed.

    Helen Duffett is Membership Development Co-ordinator for London Region Liberal Democrats

    Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

    Expressive traffic lights

    Video also available on YouTube here.

    I spotted this recently in Kentish Town: someone (possibly motorist rather than pedestrian) has added their editorial on some pelican crossing lights on Kentish Town Road, London NW5.

    There's a similarly-adorned set of lights on the A406 North Circular Road.

    A smiley face for the green traffic light, and progressively sadder ones for amber and red. From the pedestrians' point of view, the red and green man remain as enigmatic as ever...

    Online presidential hustings this week: send in your questions

    This Wednesday the two candidates for Liberal Democrat President will take part in the official Federal online hustings at party headquarters in Cowley Street, London.

    Susan Kramer and Tim Farron will answer questions which have been submitted online, and a video of the event will be posted afterwards on YouTube for all party members to refer to.

    I'll be chairing the hustings, so please submit your questions via email to by 5pm Wednesday.

    If you'd like to attend in person, a limited number of places are available. It's on Wednesday 20 October at 7pm. Please contact Johnny LeVan-Gilroy at to register.

    Otherwise keep an eye on Lib Dem Voice for a link to the video afterwards.

    Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

    Monday, 18 October 2010

    Tube maps with a twist

    Video also available on YouTube here.

    I spent a gloriously geeky afternoon last week, helping Geoff Marshall (former world record holder for travelling around the entire London Underground system in the fastest time possible) make the above film about psychologist and designer Max Roberts.

    Dr Roberts' exhibition of alternative London Underground maps is on until the end of this week (Friday 22 October 2010). It's free and is a must for tube and map fans, as well as anyone interested in usability.

    Underground Maps Unravelled: Explorations in Information Design explores the use of Beck’s basic design rules: replacing chaotic, twisting routes with straight lines, horizontal, vertical or diagonals at 45 degrees only. The exhibition explores the usability of schematic network design. Using the London Underground map as a framework, it explores why traditional design rules help people, whether they are adequate for today's complex networks, and whether we can improve design by taking fresh approaches, breaking the rules.

    The exhibition presents a selection of Dr Roberts’ own work: maps that break all the rules, maps that are easier to use, maps that teach us about good design, maps that challenge our preconceptions, and maps that are just intended to be decorative.

    He explained: “With today’s emphasis on using public transport, and the ever-increasing complexity of networks around the world, it is vital that designers create the best possible maps. All too often, the general public is faced with designs that are poor quality, off-putting, and perhaps barely useable. We need to take a good look at whether fresh approaches are required.”

    Still plenty of Thames-less Tube maps left; will they become collectors' items, like Frost Fair programmes?

    Londoners have made it clear that designers tinker with the Tube map at their peril. There was outcry a year ago when the Thames was removed from the Tube map (see photo above) in an attempt to declutter the design, and it was hastily reinstated.

    However, it's the familiarity of Harry Beck's iconic Underground map that makes it a great place to experiment and challenge accepted design ideas. It's led to parodies such as Barry Heck's anagram tube map and Simon Patterson's Great Bear.

    Should the Tube map take a radical new turn, and could it change the way Londoners and visitors perceive the city itself?

    Underground Maps Unravelled is on at Scott Brownrigg architectural practice, 77 Endell Street, London, WC2H 9DZ until 6pm Friday 22 October 2010.

    Saturday, 16 October 2010

    London Liberal Democrats postpone Mayoral candidate selection

    London Region Liberal Democrats have postponed the Mayoral candidate selection, possibly for up to a year - although it's hoped that nominations will be reopened much sooner.

    The Local Government Chronicle said this week:

    A selection had been due this autumn after which the party hoped it could get its candidate well enough known to take on incumbent Boris Johnson (Con) and Labour's Ken Livingstone in May 2012. But regional chair Jonathan Fryer said the process had been halted because an insufficient number of approved applicants were available to put before party members.

    "There will be a reopening of nominations in about a year's time," he said. "Obviously that means we will be fighting a different kind of campaign over just over six months."

    Mr Fryer said the party would go ahead this autumn with choosing a list of candidates for the London Assembly.

    "We will be focusing on the GLA list and I am delighted with the both the quality and diversity of the candidates we have for that."

    London party members will vote this autumn to determine the order in which these candidates are ranked.

    The shortlist of 11 candidates for the Liberal Democrat GLA top-up list has been finalised and is expected to be published early next week.

    Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

    Wednesday, 13 October 2010

    Tory leaflet shocker: someone who isn't the candidate doesn't support the local football team

    This comes courtesy of the Conservatives in Kentish Town, where there is currently a by-election.

    Kentish Town resident and Lib Dem blogger Rocky Lorusso writes:

    "I recently received through my door an astonishing first – a locally-focused Tory campaign leaflet.

    There’s a by-election campaign underway in Kentish Town in another close fight between the Lib Dems and Labour, so the fact that the Tories made an effort to get something out this time is very novel indeed. However, their lack of campaigning experience in the area is noticable from the poor quality of their leaflet.

    Most bizarrely of all is this odd section on Ed Miliband’s apparent betrayal of North London football..."

    Rocky reproduces a snippet of the leaflet which says:
    LOCAL BOY ED MILIBAND NAILS HIS COLOURS TO MAN UNITED. So much for Ed Miliband's links to North London. Which football team does he visit in his first trip after becoming Labour Leader? Manchester Utd. Maybe singing the Red Flag went to his head...

    As Rocky points out, "I mean, that always come up on the doorstep. Definitely. All the time."

    Liberal Democrat candidate Nick Russell knows the real issues much better, having previously been a councillor in the ward.

    See Nick in action around the ward here on YouTube.

    For more on how to help the campaign to elect Nick, see his Facebook page here.

    Tuesday, 12 October 2010

    Essential blog for global election geeks: Who Rules Where

    Who rules where is a fascinating new blog by my friend and sometime colleague Fred Carver, which will become an essential resource for election geeks around the globe.

    Fred says:
    "This is a forum for discussion of the politics of the world. If you have strong views on the elections in the Philippines, or feel that Bingu wa Mutharika could be doing a better job then this is the website for you."

    It has sections on recognised states (United Nations), de facto states, colonies and dependencies, as well information on all the upcoming elections. Fred has started blogging each country's political system and issues in a detailed yet highly readable way. He'll be working his way through the list over the coming months.

    Visit the website at

    You can also follow whoruleswhere on Twitter here.

    Monday, 4 October 2010

    Jeremy Ambache joins the race to be Lib Dem London Mayoral candidate

    A third person has come forward in the contest to be selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London in the 2012 London elections.

    Jeremy Ambache, who was fourth on the top-up list for the London Assembly elections in 2008, has launched his campaign website: Jeremy Ambache for London.

    Jeremy joins the two other candidates who have so far declared: Duwayne Brooks and Lembit Opik.

    Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

    Ingrid Chetram to stand for Lib Dems in Lewisham

    Liberal Democrat campaigner Ingrid Chetram has been selected as the party's candidate in the Ladywell by-election, Lewisham on 4 November.

    Find out more about this inspiring woman: check out her Facebook page here. Also, visit her website, Ingrid for Ladywell.

    Ingrid has lived in Ladywell for over 20 years. She was born in what was once British Guyana in South America. After a childhood defined by poverty, where her richest asset was her loving family, she started work as a teacher.

    Ingrid arrived in the UK initially to further her education and settled in Ladywell, which she now regards very much as her home community.

    Ingrid has worked as a Counsellor for 2 Drug and Alcohol agencies in Lewisham (supervising work in rehabs across the Borough and particularly 2 Supported Houses in her ward). She has also managed a Homeless Crisis Day Centre in Deptford, worked with groups of young people/gangs/prisoners, ex offenders, victims and perpetrators of domestic violence/sexual abuse and now work with mental health residents who are in supported housing.

    Ingrid says:

    My work experience has taught me how degenerating communities can implode and how individuals can become delinquent, abuse substances and become criminal, which in turn can create victims.

    I am also a realist and know that services have to be paid for from what we can afford. The issue is to get our priorities right and this requires local consensus.

    If selected and voted in as Councillor for Ladywell Ward, I believe that my knowledge, experience and judgement will enable me to serve you as your local community representative.

    For more information on the Ladywell by-election, see the Lewisham Council website.

    Video: Nick Russell campaigning in Kentish Town

    I had a great day campaigning in London on Saturday: in the afternoon I was back in Tower Hamlets with John Griffiths, the Lib Dem candidate to be the Borough's elected Mayor. (I was thrilled when a number of people there told me they had come to help after reading my blog post on Friday.)

    Before that, there was just time for a trip to Camden and a delivery round in Kelly Street, one of Kentish Town's prettiest streets. I also caught up with Nick Russell, the Lib Dem candidate for the by-election, who also showed me some of the local landmarks.

    He's campaigning to save one of them, the grand Pizza Express building on Kentish Town Road, which is under threat from developers. You can sign Nick's petition here.

    To keep up with campaign news, and to find out how you can help elect Nick Russell on October 28, visit his Facebook page here.

    Friday, 1 October 2010

    Nick Russell to stand for Lib Dems in Kentish Town

    Liberal Democrat campaigner Nick Russell has been selected as the the party's candidate in the Kentish Town by-election on October 28.

    The Liberal Democrats have previously won two by-elections in this ward, one of which Nick won in 2008. And in May 2010, our two top-placed candidates were only 101 and 196 votes behind Labour.

    Visit Kentish Town Lib Dems' own blog for local news.

    If you're a Camden resident you can find your polling station by entering your postcode here.

    For more information on the Kentish Town by-election, see the Camden Council website.

    Lib Dems! Come to Tower Hamlets tomorrow

    Campaign HQ is buzzing in Tower Hamlets as volunteers from all over London come to help John Griffiths' Mayoral campaign.

    Tomorrow (Saturday 2 October 2010) there's a big delivery day with the help of Sarah Ludford MEP (2pm) and Susan Kramer (11am), who is one of the candidates for Liberal Democrat President.

    To meet them, as well as Lib Dems from all over London, come along tomorrow:

    1a Peel Grove, London E2 9LR (a short walk from Bethnal Green Tube, map below)

    You can keep up with Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats on Facebook here and follow Liberal Democrat candidate John Griffiths on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

    View Larger Map

    Friday, 24 September 2010

    Kentish Town by-election called for 28 October

    From Camden Council website:
    Following the death of Councillor Dave Horan, an election is to be held for ONE Councillor for the Kentish Town Ward.

    Nomination papers may be obtained, during normal office hours, from Electoral Services, Room 11, Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, London, WC1H 9LZ. They must be returned to the Elections Office by 12 noon on Friday 1 October 2010.

    If the election is contested, the poll will take place on Thursday 28 October 2010 between the hours of 7.00am and 10.00pm.

    Camden residents can apply for a postal vote: you can download the form here.

    Councillor Horan, who died last Saturday, had regained the seat for Labour in May after losing it to the Liberal Democrats in 2006.

    The Liberal Democrats haven't selected a candidate yet, but they have an excellent set of campaigners to choose from, including former councillors for Kentish Town.

    For news from the area, check out Kentish Town blogger Rocky Lorusso, Kentish Town Liberal Democrats and local paper, the Camden New Journal.

    Do Tweets win seats? – Micro-blogging and politics

    This is my chapter for The Total Politics Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2010-2011, which is available from Amazon.

    It's arrived: I are an author! (Total Politics Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2010/2011)

    Politicos use Twitter to communicate with voters, activists and the media. It’s sociable and fashionable. It’s useful but it has its limits.

    And if this was Twitter I’d stop there, for the paragraph above is a 140-character summary of the popular micro-blogging service and its emerging role in politics. Having the luxury of a whole chapter, rather than a couple of lines, I can expound a bit. But sometimes I relish Twitter’s brevity and the way it gives me both the discipline and the excuse not to write at length.

    Twitter was to the 2010 General Election what blogging had been to the previous one: novel, topical, conversational, personal. Blogging, in long and short form, is good for quickly spreading campaign messages, news and rumours and it’s freely accessible for anyone with an internet connection.

    When I first subscribed to the service a couple of years ago, few news outlets or political candidates were tweeting, although the three main parties were already using it to link to party information and election results.

    Over the past year, Twitter has been increasingly taken up by MPs and councillors, bloggers and journalists, even government departments, but crucially by thousands of people who are none of the above, but want to converse with them on an equal footing.

    The parties continue to tweet, but now candidates, MPs and party leaders themselves are using the medium, with varying degrees of skill.

    Conference needs claptrap

    Clegg Speech 19
    Image by Alex Folkes/Fishnik Photography

    Max Atkinson blogs some interesting stuff about the nuts and bolts of public speaking and presentation.

    This week, he's covered Nick Clegg's and Vince Cable's speeches to Liberal Democrat Conference - noting in particular the audience's physical response in the form of clapping.

    He talks about the way that applause was sometimes delayed during both Clegg's and Cable's speeches and wonders whether that was a sign of audience dissatisfaction with their messages.

    See Max's blog for more on this, including Claptrap the movie, which explains the devices (including applause hooks) which politicians use to build rapport with their listeners.

    When making a political speech, it's vital to establish a physical connection with the audience - after all, it's a physical performance. People have chosen to gather in a speaker's presence rather than read the words in an email or pamphlet. Easier to move hundreds of hands with the right words than it is to go round shaking every single hand in an auditorium.

    One way I do it in my own speeches and training sessions is to open with a question: "Hands up if you've ever..." and make it one which most people will respond to with a "yes." Often, a chuckle follows and there: the audience are moved. Literally.

    A keynote political speech should be like a song: it should strike a chord, pack a memorable hook, and have the audience humming your tune on their way out.

    And that was what struck me after Nick Clegg's speech to Liberal Democrat Conference on Monday - it didn't sing. Something to do with governing in prose, perhaps?

    Nick gave us the reasons, the rhetoric, the record of action. It made a very interesting read when I got my copy at the press briefing beforehand.

    But in its rendition I felt it was a cautious speech; neither passion nor Powerpoint. I was informed but not inspired. Of course, the real rousing happened at the Rally - the extravaganza that opened Conference - while party President Ros Scott spoke at Conference's close.

    Nick's speech, unusually, came in the middle of Conference. "Stick with us," he said as he popped off to represent Britain at the UN in New York. An interim briefing before getting back on with the job.

    As with Conference, so with Coalition - there's more to come. He listed the four fairness pledges from the Liberal Democrat manifesto: on tax, children, the economy and politics, before looking ahead: "The destination is the right one but getting there is going to be hard."

    Here's what I said to BBC World Service afterwards:

    Video also available on YouTube here.

    Thursday, 23 September 2010

    Nick Clegg's speech at the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit

    Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is representing the UK at the United Nations Millennium Development Goals summit in New York.

    Lib Dem blogger Jonathan Calder is also there, with an international group of bloggers put together by Oxfam to report on the summit. You can read his take here.

    The BBC's Laura Trevelyan writes fulsomely about Clegg's diplomatic experience and linguistic skills here.

    Meanwhile, here's his speech:


    It is an honour for me to address the General Assembly today for the first time as Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
    And it is a privilege to be here with you to discuss how together we can reach the Millennium Development Goals;
    To make the necessary commitments towards eradicating the problems that blight the world we share:
    Poverty, hunger, disease, and the degradation of our natural environment.

    This week we are reviewing progress, assessing obstacles, and agreeing a framework for action to meet our targets.
    These are the technocratic terms in which governments must necessarily trade.
    But let us be clear: behind the officialese of summits lies our single, common purpose:
    To uphold the dignity and security that is the right of every person in every part of the world.

    Development is, in the end, about freedom. It is about freedom from hunger and disease; freedom from ignorance; freedom from poverty. Development means ensuring that every person has the freedom to take their own life into their own hands and determine their own fate.

    The last decade has seen some important progress.
    That progress has, however, been uneven, and, on a number of our goals we remain significantly off track.

    Britain's commitment

    So my message to you today, from the UK government, is this - we will keep our promises; and we expect the rest of the international community to do the same.

    For our part, the new coalition government has committed to reaching 0.7% of GNI in aid from 2013 – a pledge we will enshrine in law.

    That aid will be targeted in the ways we know will make the biggest difference.

    And I am pleased to announce today that the UK will be stepping up our efforts to combat malaria.

    In Africa, a child dies from this disease – this easily preventable disease – every 45 seconds. So we will make more money available, and ensure that we get more for our money, with the aim of halving malaria-related deaths in ten of the worst affected countries.

    The UK government is also proud to be boosting our contribution to the international drive on maternal and infant health. Our new commitments will save the lives of 50,000 mothers and quarter of a million babies by 2015.

    The case for development

    The UK makes these commitments at a time of significant difficulty time in our domestic economy.

    The new government has inherited a £156bn budget deficit, so increasing our international aid budget is not an uncontroversial decision.

    Some critics have questioned that decision, asking why, at a time when people at home are making sacrifices in their pay and their pensions, are we increasing aid for people in other countries?

    But we make this choice because we recognise that the promises the UK has made hold in the bad times as well as the good – that they are even more important now than they were then.

    Because we understand that, while we are experiencing hardship on our own shores, it does not compare to the abject pain and destitution of others.

    Because we take seriously the fact that the new coalition government is now the last UK government able to deliver on our country’s promises in time for the 2015 MDG deadline.

    And because we know that doing so is in our own, enlightened self-interest.

    When the world is more prosperous, the UK will be more prosperous. Growth in the developing world means new partners with which to trade and new sources of global growth.

    And, equally, when the world is less secure, the UK is less secure within it.

    Climate change does not somehow stop at our borders.

    When pandemics occur, we are not immune.

    And when poverty and poor education fuel the growth of global terrorism, our society bears the scars too.

    Twenty two of the thirty four countries furthest from reaching the MDGs are in the midst of or emerging from violent conflict.

    Fragile spaces – like Afghanistan – where hate can proliferate and terrorist attacks can be planned, where organised criminals can harvest the drugs that ravage our streets, where families are persecuted, displaced, pushed to seek refuge with us.

    So we do not see the Millennium Development Goals just as optimistic targets for far away lands; they are not simply charity, nor are they pure altruism.

    They are also the key to lasting safety and future prosperity for the people of the United Kingdom, and of course, for people right across the globe.

    On what we expect of others

    We welcome the General Assembly’s agreement to annually review progress made against the commitments agreed at this Summit.

    The UK will stand up to that test.

    Today I call on others to show equal resolve.

    The Millennium Development Goals must be a priority for each and every nation present in this room. Developed nations must honour their commitments.

    And developing nations must understand that they will not receive a blank cheque. Developing countries and donors must work together – as equal partners – towards securing our common interest.

    They will be expected to administer aid in ways that are accountable, transparent, and responsible - creating the conditions for economic growth and job creation.

    Prioritising national budgets on health, infrastructure, education and basic services.

    Managing natural resources, particularly biodiversity, in an environmentally sustainable way.

    Improving the lives of women and girls: empowering them; educating them; ensuring healthy mothers can raise strong children. There can be no doubt that women and girls hold the key to greater prosperity: for their families, for their communities, and for their nations too.


    If we each step up, we can meet the Millennium Development Goals.

    We can liberate millions of people from daily suffering, and give them the resources to take control of their lives, and their destinies.

    So let future generations look back and say that they inherited a better world because – at this critical moment, at this difficult moment – we did not shrink from our responsibilities.

    Let them say that we rose to the challenge, that we kept our promise.

    Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.

    Liberal Democrats Abroad launches today

    The Liberal Democrats have today launched an organisation to communicate with the party's overseas supporters.

    Liberal Democrats Abroad aims to keep members and supporters in touch with the UK party, to encourage supporters to join, and to register to vote in the UK.

    So, who's eligible to vote?

    British citizens who live overseas but were last on a UK electoral register within the last 15 years can vote in elections. If you are abroad but not on the electoral register, you'll need to contact the council for the area where you last lived in the UK.

    People who were under the age of 18 when their parents moved abroad can also vote once they reach 18 - for up to 15 years from the time when their parents were last registered in the UK.

    There's already a Brussels and Europe local party, and more branches are planned soon.

    Nick Clegg (who is himself abroad today, at the UN in New York) said:

    In response to requests from our many supporters overseas and reflecting the Party’s internationalist outlook, we have decided to set up a new organisation called Liberal Democrats Abroad to connect with our members and supporters living overseas.

    Our aim is to ensure that Lib Dems living overseas can stay in touch with the Party in the UK and make certain that, in return, the Party understands the concerns of its members overseas.

    We will also encourage our members and supporters to register to vote in the UK.

    To this end we will set up a network of Lib Dems Abroad branches in as many countries as we can. We will then give them our continuing support.

    Both the Conservative and Labour parties also have international organisations, and with 2.5 million Brits abroad, there's a significant number of votes to be harvested.

    For more information, including how to register to vote, visit the Liberal Democrats Abroad page on the party's main website.

    Crossposted from Liberal Democrat Voice, an independent, collaborative website run by Liberal Democrat activists. Helen is a contributing editor at the site.