Thursday, 29 July 2010

The LDV Friday Five: 29 July 2010

It's Friday, so here's a fistful of lists that sum up the past week on Liberal Democrat Voice:

5 most-read stories on LDV this week

1. The Independent View: Labour and Lib Dems must show a willingness to work together (39 comments) by Will Straw
2. Six Lib Dem MPs rebel on Coalition’s Academies Bill (10 comments) by Stephen Tall
3. Opinion: Lib Dems should abstain or campaign for “No” on AV referendum (65 comments) by Fred Carver
4. Nick Clegg meets … Showing the Lib Dem fight against the Tories is alive and well (45 comments) by Stephen Tall
5. Hughes attacks Labour’s “naked opportunism” in opposing vote reform bill (70 comments) by The Voice

5 active LDV Members' Forum threads

Not standing against Tories?
How are the otherside feeling
Liberal Youth on local executives
New Members pack - ideas needed

5 from the LDV archive

1. Labour: choose the next Prime Minister for £12 by the Founding Editor, November 2006
2. Vince Cable: Silver Power, the force that could save us by The Voice, July 2009
3. How to blog successfully as a councillor by Mary Reid, November 2009
4. London Mayor candidate selection process starts by Jonathan Davies, August 2007
5. Voice Podcasts: Alex speaks to Nick Clegg by Alex Foster, September 2006. Nick talks about First Past the Post and about taking on roles under unpredictable circumstances.

5 top reader search returns to get to LDV

(excluding Liberal Democrat Voice or its variants)

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Census preparations to go ahead for 2011

The UK Statistics Authority has confirmed that preparations for the 2011 Census in England and Wales on 27 March 2011 “will now press ahead with all speed”:

The Statistics Authority is determined that, with the full support of the Government and all the other parties concerned, the 2011 Census will be the success that the country needs it to be, and will provide the information about our population which can only be derived from the full-scale Census, which has now been confirmed.

This came in response to an answer by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Rt. Hon. Francis Maude MP, to a Written Parliamentary Question.
However, the 2011 Census could be the last of its type: the Office for National Statistics says on its Beyond 2011 Project page,

While supporting the need for a 2011 Census, users are concerned that the current approach may not be the best way to collect population data looking forward beyond 2011. It is clear rapid changes in society and greater availability of alternative data about the population are leading to new requirements for population statistics. Data users want a greater range of statistics to be available more frequently, to provide an accurate picture of population change.

The Beyond 2011 project aims to address these concerns and will develop a range of options for the production of population statistics beyond the 2011 Census. It is considering how a number of different data sources could be used to produce the key information needed to support effective decision-making.

The Telegraph reported earlier this month that the Census in its current form is to be scrapped after more than 200 years, as the Government seeks a bettter, quicker and cheaper way of providing data on the population.

By the way, Hansard records that there is at least one Jedi Member of Parliament: Jamie Reed, Labour MP for Copeland. In his maiden speech in 2005, he commented on the proposed Racial and Religious Hatred Bill: the first Jedi Member of this place, I look forward to the protection under the law that will be provided to me by the Bill.

Collators for the last census included a special code to register Jedis after an email campaign to include Jedi as a religion in the run-up to the 2001 survey led to 390,000 respondents listing it as their faith.

Questions for next year's Census will ask about people's households, nationality, faith and marital status as well as the name, sex and date of birth of any visitors staying overnight.

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

How much will coalition change Liberal Democrat conference?

Party conference rumour season is well underway, with more special guest speculation than last month's Glastonbury. But whoever’s doing the briefing, it doesn’t seem to be coming from the Liberal Democrat side.

The story that David Cameron might address Lib Dem conference seems to have originated from the Independent:

David Cameron and Nick Clegg are drawing up plans for closer links between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and senior figures from the two parties will address each other’s party conference this autumn.

The two leaders are keen to cement the coalition and a special meeting of the Cabinet next month will discuss a joint approach to the party conference season, including co-ordinated policy announcements. One option is for Mr Cameron to address the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool and Mr Clegg the Tories in Birmingham. More likely, at present, is that other Cabinet ministers will “change places” and speak at their coalition partner’s event.

The Guardian also ran a similar story the same day: David Cameron could speak at Liberal Democrat conference.

- Well, yes he could,* but here are some things to consider:

  • The Liberal Democrat Federal Conference Committee hasn’t invited Mr Cameron to speak. This decision rests with them alone, they’re elected by the members, and are there to represent our party, not the Conservatives. There’s been no appetite among Lib Dem members to have David Cameron addressing Lib Dem conference, and FCC have received no request to invite him.

  • Nor has Nick Clegg received an invitation to speak at Conservative Party Conference in October, although anecdotally I've heard that Nick would be well-received by many Tory members.

  • Following Special Conference, FCC are well aware of the need for Conference to represent the needs and wishes of party members, rather than the press’s desire for set-pieces. The Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have entered a coalition, not an alliance, and still have business of their own to discuss at their separate conferences.

  • The Liberal Democrats need to hold their own ministers to account – so the final day of Conference will be rounded off with a "Cabinet Q & A" session. This will take place just before a closing speech by party President Ros Scott. (Nick Clegg will be representing Britain at the Millennium Development Goals summit in the UN in New York that day, so will make his Leader's Speech on Monday September 20.)

  • David Cameron’s wife Samantha is expecting a baby around the time of Liberal Democrat Conference, and although due dates are difficult to predict accurately, it’s difficult for a dad to make firm diary commitments around a baby’s due date. Thus it's even less likely that David Cameron will make the trip to Liverpool.

  • Security at Lib Dem conference will be tighter this year, and if any Conservative ministers attend as well, that will add to the cost. Meetings have taken place between Merseyside Police and members of the Federal Conference Committee to discuss security arrangements, but details will not be made public.

  • Notwithstanding the last point: fringe events are a good place for speakers from other parties to appear; this has been done before, and plans are certainly afoot for this to happen again (watch this space for details).

  • From the policy point of view, the Liberal Democrats will continue to debate policy at Conference, with party members debating and voting on motions. The least ambitious way to look at Lib Dem policy formation at the moment is with a view to feeding it into the 2015 manifesto. Traditionally that's what we've done. The interesting question is how to get Conference-grown policy to feed into Government policy.

    So, plus ├ža change? It will be fascinating to witness the biggest Lib Dem gathering since the General Election, and the first Conference since the Special one on 16 May. No doubt the Coalition will be keenly discussed on the Fringe, as well as in the Hall, and Lib Dem Voice will be there throughout.

    * just as the Lib Dem Voice Ukulele orchestra could do a turn at Glee Club with Diamonds are Forever...
  • Labour to oppose voting reform legislation

    The Labour shadow cabinet has decided to vote against the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, insisting that it should not be given a second reading.

    From the Press Association:

    Labour is to vote against legislation paving the way for a referendum on reforming the voting system.

    The shadow cabinet decided to oppose the Government's Bill because it also includes provisions for equalising the size of constituencies.

    The move sets the stage for a major test of the coalition, with Labour MPs lining up alongside rebel Tories in a bid to derail the proposals.

    The commitment to a referendum on switching to Alternative Vote was a key concession obtained by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg as part of his deal with David Cameron.

    But more than 40 Conservative MPs made clear they are against holding the poll on May 5, 2011 as scheduled, because it is the same day as local elections.

    Nick Clegg said yesterday at Deputy Prime Minister's Questions,

    About 84% of voters in England will be voting in any event next May. In Scotland and Wales everybody will be entitled to vote.

    About 39 million people will be anyway invited to vote next May and it seems to me, instead of asking people to constantly go back to polling booths to cast separate votes, it is perfectly right to say on a very simple issue, yes or no, to invite them to do so at, by the way, lower cost to the Exchequer - it saves around £17m - on the same day as other elections.

    Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said last week:
    Our priority is making sure that everyone who goes to the polls on 5 May can cast their vote safely and easily whether it’s in an election, a referendum or both.

    It is possible to successfully deliver these different polls on 5 May, but only if the risks associated with doing so are properly managed. We’ve set out what we think these risks are and will make it clear during the passage of the Bill if we do not feel they have been adequately addressed.

    Read the Electoral Commission's paper: Voting at different polls on 5 May 2011 here.

    Tuesday, 27 July 2010

    Dee Doocey challenges Met Police Commissioner over treatment of photographers

    Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson has said that although the Met has issued guidelines to officers about people taking photographs in public places, he cannot guarantee that officers will interpret them correctly.

    His remarks came at a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority at London City Hall on July 22, where Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Dee Doocey asked him,
    Are you confident that your officers are aware of the law when it comes to members of the public taking photographs in a public place?

    Stephenson replied,

    Monday, 26 July 2010

    Joan Ruddock MP submits wholly notional expenses return

    Election expenses from the Joan Ruddock (Labour) campaign in Lewisham Deptford 2010
    The Londonist reports that Joan Ruddock, the Labour MP for Lewisham Deptford, has taken the unusual step of submitting her election expenses return without attaching any invoices or receipts, instead listing all expenses as "notional":

    Rogerson and Teather: pupil premium will help all children

    Today the coalition Government announced that plans for a Pupil Premium will go ahead, targeting funding at schools that take pupils from deprived backgrounds.

    The premium, a key part of the Liberal Democrats' 2010 election manifesto, will provide additional per pupil funding on top of the existing funding provided to schools, and will be spent as individual schools choose.

    Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Committee for Education, Dan Rogerson said:

    Labour’s unequal education system left too many children falling behind.

    The Liberal Democrats made clear during the election campaign that a Pupil Premium targeted at the most disadvantaged pupils was an absolute priority.

    This will allow schools to help all pupils in the way that they see fit, which could be reducing class sizes or providing more one-to-one tuition and catch-up classes.

    This is vital if we are to give all children the fair start in life that they deserve.

    Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said:

    For too long social background has been a deciding factor in a child’s achievement and future prospects. In a fair society, it’s the Government’s responsibility to close the gulf in achievement, where the poorest children are almost three times less likely to leave school with five good GCSEs than their richer classmates.

    That’s why I’m delighted we are today announcing a new pupil premium, which will give extra funding to schools to help them tackle the inequalities that have been a part of our state system for far too long. Thousands of children will finally be getting the extra support they need to succeed.

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

    Revealed: the AV referendum question

    The wording of the question that voters will be asked in next May's AV referendum has been published:

    Do you want the United Kingdom to adopt the 'alternative vote' system instead of the current 'first past the post' system for electing Members of Parliament to the House of Commons?

    The wording of the question is contained in the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, published last week. (The question will also be made available in Welsh.) The Electoral Commission is statutorily required to consider the intelligibility of the question, before reporting back to Parliament, who will consider the comments and have the final say after Recess.

    The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill will also reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and establish boundary reviews to create more equal-sized constituencies.

    The Fixed Term Parliaments Bill, which was introduced on the same day, provides for general elections to occur every five years on the first Thursday in May, removing the power of the Prime Minister to call an election without Parliament’s consent.

    Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said,

    With the introduction of these Bills, fundamental reform of our politics is finally on the way.

    The Coalition Government is determined to put power where it belongs – with people. You will decide how you want to elect your MPs. By making constituencies more equal in size, the value of your vote will no longer depend on where you live, and with fewer MPs the cost of politics will be cut. And, by setting the date that parliament will dissolve, our Prime Minister is giving up the right to pick and choose the date of the next General Election – that’s a true first in British politics.

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

    Lib Dem Blog of the Year Awards 2010 - nominations now open

    BOTY 2

    The Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year Awards, run by Lib Dem Voice, are back for their fifth year. As usual, they’ll be awarded in a budget lavish ceremony at the party’s autumn conference in Liverpool. (There's further information on the event over at the Lib Dems' Flock Together site). Click on the following links to see last year's Shortlist and the Winners.

    This year’s awards are as follows:

    The internet and the 2010 election: putting the small ‘p’ back in politics?

    Just to let you know that I'll be speaking at an event in Parliament this Thursday organised by the Hansard Society.

    It should be an interesting discussion, and there's still time to register (plug, plug).

    The Hansard Society is a political education and research charity which aims to strengthen parliamentary democracy and encourages people to become more involved in politics.

    One of the ways it does this is by putting on an interesting and varied programme of events to promote debate on the topics connected to their work.

    I've taken part in lots of these events, either online or in the audience, so I'm delighted to have been asked for the first time to join one of their panels:

    The internet and the 2010 election: putting the small ‘p’ back in politics?

    Described variously as a non event, the dog that didn’t bark and a flop, the UK’s first net election shocked all but the wise and sober in failing to refashion the landscape of British electoral politics

    That was Stephen Coleman talking about the 2001 General Election in the Hansard Society’s Cyberspace Odyssey: Elections in the age of the Internet. Nine years on, has much changed? Twitter, Facebook, blogs: 2010 was supposed to be Britain’s first ‘internet election’, but, in the end, it was the televised leaders’ debates that really captured the public imagination. There was no pivotal moment at which we entered the age of internet politics but the 2010 election shows how the internet has become a ‘business as usual’ space for people and, with this, for politics and campaigning.

    Join the Hansard Society and our panellists for an interactive conversation about what really happened online and behind the scenes in the digital election.

    Thursday July 29 2010 6.30pm to 8.00pm

    Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament

    The panel includes:

    Andy Williamson, Hansard Society (Chair)

    Rachel Gibson, University of Manchester

    Matthew McGregor, Blue State Digital

    Helen Duffett, LibDemVoice and former LibDem candidate

    Register for your place here.

    Friday, 23 July 2010

    By-election results: Victory in Torbay and holds everywhere else

    Cause for celebration this week with a good set of by-election results:

    Liberal Democrat Andrew Baldrey won St Mary's with Summercombe (Torbay UA) from the Conservatives with a huge swing:

    LD Andrew Baldrey 801 (52.7%;+16.4)
    Con 365 (24.0%;-23.9)
    Lab 195 (12.8%;+12.8)
    UKIP 159 (10.5%;+10.5)
    Turnout 26.2%
    Percentage change is since May 2007

    Elsewhere, the Liberal Democrats held all the seats that we were defending: the principal elections were Kidlington North on Cherwell District Council; Nethermayne on Basildon District Council (the seat previously held by Ben Williams who stood down to become a special advisor to the Government’s deputy chief whip) and Thatcham South and Crookham in West Berkshire.

    We also held seats on Lewes and Thatcham Town Councils.

    In London, we maintained second place behind the Tories in Frognal and Fitzjohn's (Camden) and Holland ward (Kensington and Chelsea).

    See ALDC for full details of this week's by-election results.

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