Minimum wage rise will help millions

September 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Lib Dem Minister Ed Davey has confirmed that, from today, the minimum wage goes up by 13p an hour, taking it to £5.93.

This rise will be helpful to millions of low-paid people across the UK, the latest in a series of incremental rises since it was introduced by the last Government.

It goes to show the commitment Liberal Democrat Ministers have to always having as a key priority helping the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

It goes alongside other positive news, with Mr Davey also setting out plans to extend flexible working rights.

That right is to be extended to parents of children under eighteen from April 18th 2011, helping an estimated 300,000 people.

Both these measures prove that this Coalition Government is and will remain a progressive one.

We can win here in the East Midlands

September 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is an important time for the Liberal Democrats here in the East Midlands.

Our day-long regional party conference is coming up next month in Nottinghamshire.

Sadly, after Paul Homes’ defeat in Chesterfield at the General Election back in May, there is currently no Lib Dem Member of Parliament in the East Midlands.

That is deeply saddening, but there is a great deal of hope for the future.

The stats show that we have a great opportunity to take Westminster seats here in this region at the next election.

In Ashfield, Lib Dem candidate Jason Zadrozny secured the second biggest swing to the Lib Dems in the entire country (17.2%), meaning we very nearly took a safe Labour seat.

Here in my seat of Bosworth, Lib Dems got the biggest swing (6%) against any Tory MP in the country.

Our candidate Michael Mullaney also secured the 9th biggest vote rise in the country, out of 631 seats.

We need to build on those results over the next five years.

That starts by defending the Councils’ we hold across our region at next year’s May local elections and trying to win new seats in more authorities.

I’m hoping to attend the regional conference, which is being attended by current President Baroness Ros Scott and our brilliant Deputy Leader Simon Hughes.

At that event there will no doubt be rigorous debate about policy as well as training on things such as telephone canvassing and ‘Focus’ production.

One thing we must ensure is that this region remains important for the present and future of our party.

There are hundreds of thousands of people across this region who need our party to be strong and to speak up in their interests.

Labour is split on Iraq, civil liberties and the economy

September 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

Labour may have a shiny new leader in (sorry, but I am still going to call him ‘Red’, whatever his protestations) ‘Red’ Ed Miliband but, after his turgid and ill-timed speech yesterday, it is surely clear that Labour is split from top to bottom.

One thing I certainly did agree with Ed on is his assessment of the last Government’s largely derisory record; he was right to say that the invasion of Iraq was ‘wrong,’ and I’m proud that it was the Liberal Democrats who were the only major party, en masse, who voted against it in Parliament.

But, David disagrees with Ed on that (and, no doubt, much else besides), and David told off Harriett and Alistair’s warning Ed, and Alan disagrees with the new Leader on Home Affairs issues and on and on.

What a total and utter shower!

If this is the ‘new generation,’ I’ll stick with what we’ve got thanks very much.

If his performance so far this week is anything to go by ‘Red’ Ed has a lot to learn about leadership.

But, then, he does have five long years to try to get it right.

Five years in which Lib Dem Ministers, as part of this Coalition Government, will be working to make Britain free, fair and green.

Why I’m backing Tim Farron to be our President

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Tim Farron MP

I’m supporting Tim Farron, the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, to become the new President of the Liberal Democrats, succeeding the fantastic Baroness Ros Scott.

I believe he is the right man to do the job; enthusiastic, passionate, committed, caring.

I supported Farron for the Deputy Leadership earlier this year, though it was always going to be a tough call against the ever popular Simon Hughes.

The reason I did so-and am supporting him again now-is that Farron is passionate about combating injustice, especially poverty and we need someone who will ensure the party remains committed to such ideals…whatever the fleeting commitments of the Coalition Government may be.

He is a proven winner, campaigner, strategist and will be a clear and strong voice for the membership and activists right across the country.

In recent months Tim has received some adverse press when he’s dared to criticise Conservatives and even some Lib Dems have said he’s being disloyal; but, remember, he is not a Minister and has an absolute right to stay true to his beliefs and convictions…even if it does mean occasionally attacking our Coalition partners.

But I also know he wants to see Liberal Democrats being a success in Government, pursuing genuine Lib Dem policies.

He’d make a first-class President and I urge you to support him.

‘Red’ Ed could end up pleasing no one

September 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

Reading The Observer and The Independent on Sunday today you could fool yourself for thinking the new messiah had been elected as the new Labour Leader.

Ed Miliband, who got over the finishing line only thanks to the support he received from trades unions, has been welcomed as ‘a breath of fresh air,’ but let’s face it he begins from a distinct disadvantage.

Whatever his protestations to the contrary, Ed-having been the choice of so many trade union members-cannot, surely, now turn his back on the Labour Left and head for the safety of the Centre ground (from which vantage point  elections are won), unless he is immediately to become deeply unpopular with those who have given him power.

But, equally, if he doesn’t ensure Labour is a party of the centre-Left and instead remains on the fringes, he may well keep the faith of his trade union supporters but it’s very unlikely he’ll win the country.

Now, I’m a supporter of trade unions at their best and, in my time, I’ve been a member of the National Union of Students and the National Union of Journalists and, of course, I am all for working people being able to organise, and to negotiate and secure better pay and working conditions, and to fight injustice.

But you don’t have to have been alive in the 1970’s to know unions holding governments to ransom does no one any favours, including-in the long run and rather ironically-the unions themselves.

So, Ed is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t…and if I was Nick Clegg or David Cameron, I’d be pointing that out at every available opportunity.

A great week for the Liberal Democrats

September 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

This has been a good week for our party, both the leadership and members and activists.

In terms of our leadership, we’ve seen a number of excellent platform speeches by Lib Dem Ministers, including a fantastic address by our Leader and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

They have spelt out, giving the lie to many of the words spewed forth by the London-centric national media, the good work Lib Dems have done and will continue to do in Government; * restoring civil liberties * taking thousands, if not millions of people, out of taxation all together * creating a pupil premium * helping the poorest people around the world * trashing the ludicrous idea of ID Cards, and on and on.

In particular, the speeches by Nick and Danny Alexander (Chief Secretary to the Treasury) were excellent and made me proud to be a Liberal Democrat.

I’ve also felt proud by the fact that, at our conferences, we have genuine political debates.

Our conferences are not just smart PR rallies, such as those held every four years in the United States.

We openly and without fear or favour debate the issues before us and sometimes the leadership win and sometimes they lose, such as, at this conference, on the issues of free schools where Lib Dem delegates-rightly in my view-rejected the policy of taking schools out of local authority control.

Of course, a defeat at conference doesn’t mean a change is automatic in Government policy, but it does stand as a point of principle for our membership-that it doesn’t support so-called ‘free schools.’

It shows that although we have great respect for our leadership, we are not bound by it; Lib Dem members are fiercely independent.

This week has seen more focus on our annual Autumn conference than ever before (thanks us to now being a party of Government) and our leadership and our activists/members have done themselves proud.

We are a party with clear values and beliefs, many of which are being taken forward in Government.

I agree with Nick, to repeat a now well-worn phrase, that after our five years in Coalition Government-when we reach the next election in 2015-that Britain will be back on a firmer economic footing and ensuring that we are fairer/greener/more liberal.

I believe, with all my heart, mind and soul that this vision will, indeed, become a shimmering reality.

I agree with Nick!

September 20, 2010 § 1 Comment

Today Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made his bid to unite our party behind the coalition and I, for one, believe he succeeded.

As befitting the speech of the Deputy PM it was wide-ranging and, of course, it was meant for two separate audiences: 1) his own party faithful and 2) the wider public.

Having watched the coverage of his speech live on BBC Parliament, it appeared there was a genuine excitement in the conference hall and a great deal of support for Nick.

He rallied the faithful with talk of his continuing belief that the Iraq War was illegal (a belief I share), of the revitalising of the civil liberties agenda thanks to Lib Dems in this Government, and other such popular points.

But the potentially sticky points for Clegg, him defending the need, at this very tough time for our economy and with a massive deficit, for cuts-cuts which he admitted, in an ideal world, he would not want to be making but which are vital due to the dreadful mess Labour left us in after their thirteen years in Government.

As someone on the centre-left of our party I do find these cuts difficult, of course I do, but I also recognise that we cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend that this problem doesn’t exist and leave the debt-always growing-to have to be paid off by future generations.

I believe our Lib Dem Ministers, such as the brilliant Danny Alexander, when they say that they spend a lot of their time ensuring that any cuts that do have to be made are as fair as possible and that the poorest in our country are helped, not hindered, by economic measures.

Those of us who joined the party because of its belief in helping the most vulnerable people in society, will be holding the Government to account to ensure that they do just that.

I have faith in our party leadership, in Nick and Simon Hughes, in Vince Cable and Danny and the rest of our excellent Ministerial team.

I believe they will continue to do the right thing.

Those who doubt that’s the case in our party need to find a bit of backbone.

Now is not the time for a wobble.

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