Lib Dem backbencher right to call for change to benefit cap plans

March 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

Jenny Willott MP

I fully support Lib Dem MP and Welfare Spokesperson, Jenny Willott, in calling for changes to Government plans to cap benefits at £500 per family per week.

As she rightly points out in some  parts of the country, where rent could eat up £400 of that each week, whole families could be left with just £100 per week to live on.

I agree that the Welfare system is in need of root and branch reform, because there are too many families where generation after generation haven’t worked-which is no good for them or for our society, but putting such a cap on benefits will only add to the woes of already hard-pressed families.

There are deep concerns that such a cap would increase cases of child poverty, something this Government said would not be rising due to its policies.

I’m a supporter of and campaigner with the excellent housing charity, Shelter.

It’s Head of Policy, Roger Harding, recently told the Commons’ Welfare Bill Committee that the current proposals could cause more harm than good.

He said: “Analysis at Shelter shows that much of the South East will become unaffordable to three children families, because of the cap.”

Continuing, “For a typical family of two adults-with one or both working-and three children, if both parents lose their jobs they will suddenly face not receiving enough housing benefit to live not only in their town, but in their region.”

We, Lib Dem activists, candidates, and councillors need to be supporting Jenny Willott and other senior Lib Dems, in their call for a re-think on this issue by the Government.

Before it’s too late.

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There is no need to re-name our party

March 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

I'm proud to be a Liberal Democrat

So, according to a report in one of the Sunday papers, there is talk among some Lib Dem insiders (whoever they are) that because, at the moment, ours is not exactly the most popular political party in Britain, we need to re-name it and give it a new symbol.

I personally believe no such re-branding is needed.

Let’s start, firstly, with our symbol. The soaring bird. The phoenix, you could say, rising from the flames.
Yes, I know, it came about as a pictorial representation of the creation of our party (in its modern form) following the Liberal-SDP merger.
But I believe it symbolises much more than just that.
It is, for me at least, a symbol of hope, of opportunity, of a belief that we can pursue a better way and a better world.

So, personally, I’d be against the binning of the soaring bird symbol for something else.

I would, even more strongly, be against the re-naming of our party.
Although we may not, currently, be very popular-in terms of national polling-the fact remains that we are a well-known brand.
People understand what we Liberal Democrats stand for, even if we’re currently having to do things which might be at odds with our party policy because we’re in a Coalition with the Conservatives.

From reading his diaries I know that Paddy Ashdown (one of my political heroes) once tried to remove the word ‘Liberal’ from our party name twenty some-odd years ago.
He failed then and I believe any similar attempt would fail now.
We are ‘Liberals’ first and last; whether we’re social liberals or economic liberals we are, all of us in our party, liberal.
The ‘Democrats’ part of our name is also very important, as that is exactly what we are.

So, we need to remember all the good things we’re doing in Government, remember our long and proud history, hold our heads up high and tell the World:

We’re proud to be Liberal Democrats.

We need our brightest stars to speak up for ‘Yes to Fairer Votes!’

March 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Charles Kennedy

Well, what a slightly ludicrous situation.

According to reports, due to the Yes to AV people apparantly telling Nick Clegg that they didn’t want him to share a platform with Ed Miliband (reports suggest they feel Clegg is now too unpopular and would not be an asset to the effort) Clegg-in turn-then vetoed Charles Kennedy being on a platform with the Labour leader.

This whole thing reflects badly on the ‘Yes’ campaign, in truth.

However, Clegg’s reported reaction wasn’t his best ever decision…and it’s one he had to reverse almost as soon as he’d made it.

The fact is-for the moment at least-our former leader, Mr Kennedy, is rather more popular with the public than our current one.

We need all of our brightest Parliamentary stars to be advocating for a ‘Yes’ vote in May 5th’s referendum.

That includes Kennedy, as well as others-led by the newly appointed Chairman of Lib Dems Yes to Fairer Votes, Tim Farron.

However, I also need to make clear that-as Press Officer for Fairer Votes Leicestershire-this is a people led movement for change…not a politician-led one.

Yes to Fairer Votes is a cross-party effort and, indeed, also has people involved who are of no party.

So, whilst we welcome the occasional intervention by politicians, this referendum will only be won if ordinary people advocate for change.

Will Tim Farron be the next Deputy Prime Minister?

March 16, 2011 § 4 Comments

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Tim Farron DPM?

Tim Farron is my favourite Lib Dem MP.

I was proud to play an (albeit small) part in his run for the party Presidency…I campaigned here in the East Midlands for him to win.

He’s someone who has inspired me to continue to fight for what I believe in…an ending to poverty, a fairer and greener country, and so on.

He’s a fantastic speaker…whether on a platform or on the media.

He also seems like a genuinely really nice bloke, which is a bonus.

So, he is a one of our party’s brightest stars.

Lots of people are suggesting that he could be a future leader of our party.

I am, of course, loyal to our current leader…I think Nick Clegg has been brave in taking our party into Government and is taking some very tough decisions in difficult circumstances…but, without doubt, I’d love to see Tim lead our party at some point.

Which leads me to think about what happens post 2015.

If, and I hope this doesn’t happen, as some are suggesting Nick loses his seat in Parliament we will, obviously, need to choose a new leader.

I would certainly vote for Tim if he stood and would be very happy to campaign for him.

If, as could well happen, Labour becomes the largest party after the next election-but we still have a hung Parliament-who better than Tim, who is a leading social liberal, to lead us into a potential Coalition with the Labour Party?

Of course this is all pure speculation, but is certainly not beyond the realms of speculation.

For the moment, however, he has a very important job to do as our President; continuing to inspire us, be one of our best spokespeople in the media, getting around the country around the country, and so on.

But as for the future…who knows?

A great weekend for Nick Clegg!

March 13, 2011 § 1 Comment

Nick Clegg at conference yesterday

I’ve been quite amused by the portrayal of this weekend’s Lib Dem Conference from much of the Westminster-based media.

It has shown just how wrong they are.

You see, if you were to rely on the Political Editor’s of our major national newspapers and broadcasters for a judgement on the Lib Dem’s federal Spring Conference in Sheffield (which I wasn’t able to get to, due to work and other commitments), you could be fooled for believing that it was ‘war’ between the party leadership and its membership.

The membership delivered ‘a blow’ to the leadership on NHS reforms.

What rot!

I’d like to propose a theory which, to my knowledge, no one else has suggested:

This weekend has worked out perfectly for Nick Clegg and has starkly proven the differences between the two Coalition parties.

In other words, it has been a perfect Conference ahead of the May local elections.

On Friday, Clegg gave a wide-ranging interview to The Independent newspaper…including, I’m very pleased to say, him publicly stating what we all know-that David Cameron has been talking ‘drivel’ in his opposition to a change to the AV voting system for Westminster elections.

Then yesterday, the party asserted its centre-left credentials by supporting the Harris/Williams amendments on the NHS and Clegg spoke out against any privatisation of our National Health Service.

Though, officially, it was a defeat for the leadership actually it worked out perfectly for Clegg…it gave him a reason to set out his stall in stark contrast to the privatising tendencies of the Tories.

Then, this afternoon, Clegg gave a tubthumping speech-from what I saw of it…the BBC cut away after ten minutes!-giving us a reminder of the many things we’re achieving in Government.

For me his best line was: “We’re not left-wing, we’re not wright-wing…we have our own label: Liberal.’

Clegg proved what a brave, passionate, dedicated leader he is.

We’re lucky to have him…and so is the country.

A victory for common sense!

March 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Lib Dems...we love the NHS!

As you may be aware, I’m not at Federal Conference in Sheffield, but I’ve been keeping up with developments today, via Twitter, and am pleased to hear that members overwhelmingly backed the Harris/Williams amendments re the proposed reforms of the NHS.

I’m equally pleased to hear that Nick Clegg has himself said that the NHS must not be privatised.

In a Q&A session at conference the Deputy PM commented: “Yes to reform of the NHS…no to privatisation of the NHS.”

I’m very pleased to hear my leader say these words…but this must be more than just rhetoric.

This must mean a change to Government policy.

I, of course, know that-as part of a Coalition Government-we must accept that not everything we want to see implemented will be done…but, equally, rank and file Lib Dems must not be treated as awkward relatives.

Therefore, we must see some changes to Government policy on the NHS as a result of conference passing the amendments this afternoon.

Today’s vote, along with previous ones, such as that opposing ‘free’ schools, shows that social liberalism still beats strong in the heart of the overwhelming majority of Liberal Democrats.

This is an important signal to our voters to stick with us during these hard times.

We need them now more than ever before.

Is it time for a Lib Dem Foreign Secretary?

March 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

David Laws...the next Foreign Secretary?

So, according to most media pundits, and some un-named Tory MP’s, William Hague has ‘lost his mojo’ and is not long for this political world.

So if, and it’s a big if despite the current media row, Mr Hague was to step down (because Cameron surely wouldn’t sack the man who has been his number two in the party, in all but name, for more than half a decade) who’d replace him?

According to some media reports this afternoon the favourite is Andrew Mitchell, the current Secretary of State for International Development.

But my question is: is it not now time for a Lib Dem Foreign Secretary?

The last Liberal to hold the office is so long ago it’s almost beyond living memory.

At the moment none of the so-called ‘Big Offices of State’ (Prime Minister, Chancellor, Foreign Secretary, and Home Secretary) are held by Lib Dems…if Hague goes, surely a Lib Dem must replace him?

But, I hear you ask, who would that be?

Well, we have plenty of excellent Members of Parliament but, of course, our biggest foreign affairs specialist is former party leader, Sir Menzies Campbell (who, for the record, I interviewed for local commercial radio a few years ago.)

Sir Ming would fit the role of Foreign Secretary perfectly…he has one of the best grasp on international matters in the whole House of Commons.

Two problems present themselves: Has he hijacked his chances by so openly attacking the Foreign Office’s actions on Libya, both in the House of Commons and on TV? And, could he hold office in this Government with it being known he’s voted against other key Government policies?

So, Sir Ming may not be a very realistic option.

What about David Laws? Could he make his Cabinet comeback in the Foreign Secretary?

I don’t know how genned up he is on foreign matters, but he proved himself a very competent minister in his brief period as Chief Secretary to the Treasury and I’m sure he’d soon get himself up to date.

Whoever it is, I believe there’s a very strong case for the next Foreign Secretary to be a Liberal Democrat.

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