Liberal Democrat Newswire #2 is out: realignment to left, realignment to the right…

Liberal Democrat Newswire #2 went out earlier this week. Fingers crossed, but the early feedback and click through rates look good, as does the bump in people on the email list. So it looks like the newsletter is starting to meet an interest many people have. You can read #2 in full below.

If you would like to receive the next edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire direct to your own inbox, just sign up here. It’s free! You can unsubscribe whenever you want using the link on the bottom of all the emails, and I won’t pass your email address on to anyone else (except if required by law).

Mark Pack

News about the Liberal Democrats…

Thursday 3 February 2011

Dear Friend

Welcome to the second edition of my new monthly email newsletter. Many thanks for all the responses to the first one, which confirmed my belief that there is a gap in the sources of information which this newsletter can try to fill. Welcome also to the many new subscribers over the last few weeks; please do also let me know your views.

The AV referendum
House of LordsThe Yes campaign continued to pick up steam during January. Not only do most pollsters (all except for YouGov) give the Yes campaign a lead, but the Yes campaign – including its 50 volunteer phone banks around the country (yes, 50) – has a strong lead in grassroots organisation. Even more promising, the No campaign has taken to attacking the Yes campaign for having a couple of generous donors – which suggests the No campaign isn’t doing that well at getting big Tory or union donors to open their pockets for them!

The No campaign has also been hit by a series of basic blunders, claiming that various Labour MPs were backing it who in fact have come out in the last few weeks as being Yes supporters.

At times it seems as if Labour supporters of electoral reform have spent the last two decades always coming up with an excuse at the last moment to walk away from actually backing electoral reform. From John Smith’s talk of a referendum in the early 1990s through to Tony Blair’s manifesto promises that were never kept and on to the current Labour Party’s sudden hostility to having a referendum on the same day as other elections (even though that’s just what Labour did for the London Mayor referendum), it’s always been a case of “Yes, but…”. However, the Labour Yes campaign is also making good progress, with a big majority of Shadow Cabinet members likely to say Yes and even Labour MPs more generally may well split 50/50.

A detailed study by the IPPR published in January showed how badly first past the post is now performing in Britain even when judged by the yardsticks of its supporters, whilst Chris Rennard and Paul Tyler have detailed the absurd lengths Labour’s filibustering has got to. You can follow the progress of the efforts to improve our voting systems via Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform.

The economic outlook
Factory production lineThe surprise shrinking of the economy in the last quarter of 2010 was not a good start to what is likely to be a very tough year economically. However, so far for nearly every economic indicator which has had  one shock poor result, the subsequent months have brought much better figures, leaving the shock result looking the exception. This was previously true of exports, which had one very poor month last autumn but have since been growing strongly, and of the size of the deficit, which had one month much poorer than expected but has since recovered.

One part of the economy that has done consistently well  in the last few months is the manufacturing sector, with strong growth, fast rising exports and healthy bank balances across the sector. Ironically after years of Labour talking about the importance of manufacturing, it is the recovery from the recession since the last election which is seeing the economy be rebalanced.

A set of figures that have been consistently poor is real wage growth – or rather the lack of it – and it does not look like that pattern will alter in 2011, even if growth returns. That is likely to keep any political benefits from the government’s economic policies to a minimum for a long time yet.

The next scheduled big economic event is the Budget, where we will see what further progress can be made on core Lib Dem policies such as raising the basic income tax allowance to £10,000. As part of the run-up, the IFS has reviewed the impact of the tax changes due to come in for April and concluded that the richest will lose out the most.

Realignment to left, realignment to the right…
Scottish ParliamentWe may be less than a year into a five-year fixed term Parliament but already there is plenty of speculation and theorising over possible future political and electoral arrangements. Most immediately, the Scottish Parliament elections may serve up a Labour / Lib Dem coalition in Holyrood which will act as a day-by-day contrast to what is happening in Westminster.

Looking further into the future, some Conservatives – such as Nick Boles MP – have been assiduously pushing the idea of future Conservative / Lib Dem agreements, including electoral pacts. He’s received an almost universally frosty response from Liberal Democrat ranks, though the policy ideas he laid out in his book last summer indicate many areas of possible future agreement. However, those areas – such as civil liberties and the environment – are also the very ones that are often talked about as grounds for possibly future Lib Dem / Labour agreement, as you can read about in more detail in my review of his book.

So far, in other words, all options look to be very open, though the party’s triple lock mechanism for decisions such as the one to go into coalition is in need of updating for the party’s changing circumstances.

And in other big stories…
Nick CleggPaul Burstow put fingers to keyboard to explain and defend the government’s health reforms saying that, “The NHS will always be free at the point of use and fair to all who need it. By trusting patients and carers to make the best choices, we will make the NHS focus on delivering high quality. Our goal is simple: we want to free the NHS to innovate, to liberate the talent, experience and dedication of NHS staff to deliver the right care, at the right time in the right place”.

Meanwhile, Elwyn Watkins slightly increased the Lib Dem vote in the Oldham East & Saddleworth by-election Tim Farron has reported the Daily Telegraph to the Press Complaints Commission for its sting operation on Lib Dem MPs, the Liberal Democrats are looking to move out of 4 Cowley Street to a large open plan office in the vicinity, there was also good news on libel law reform and expanding freedom of information and there was a very mixed reception from Lib Dems to the government’s anti-terrorism review, with much support for changes such as cutting back on the power of councils to spy on people and reducing the maximum period of detention without charge, but controversy over the new Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures.

Nick Clegg also gave a major speech on civil liberties, promising “the restoration of every day liberties; counterterrorism measures that uphold liberty while protecting security; free citizens able to see into, and speak out about, the organisations that affect their lives. It is a liberal approach to freedom; a British approach to freedom. It forms an important part of our programme to rebalance the relationship between the state and its citizens. Our Labour predecessors will be remembered as the government who took your freedoms away. We want to be remembered as the ones who gave them back”.

Which ministers to Lib Dem members rate best?
My Lib Dem Voice co-editor Stephen Tall recently carried out the latest Voice survey of party members, asking them how well they rated the performance of different Lib Dem ministers. The top five were:

  1. Chris Huhne +65%
  2. Steve Webb +46%
  3. Lynne Featherstone +37%
  4. Lord (Tom) McNally +28%
  5. Norman Baker +27%

Forgotten liberal heroes
Being a historian by training, and someone who likes the forgotten byways of history, I’ve often been intrigued by the haphazard way in which some politicians are remembered and become heroes whilst others, who may have been as prominent, popular or successful in their time, become forgotten figures. As a result, I’ve been writing an intermittent series about some of the liberal figures who deserve to be remembered but are now largely forgotten.
One of them is Margaret Wintringham, the first female Liberal MP, a campaigner for many causes that sound familiar to the more ear such as equal pay and an early exponent of the belief that getting elected to your local council is a good route to becoming an MP. You can read about this path-breaking Liberal MP in the brief biographical sketch I wrote of her.

Meet the blogger: Caron Lindsay
Scottish blogger Caron Lindsay was the subject of one of the blogger profiles on Liberal Democrat Voice last month, answering questions such as what made her start blogging, which blog post she most enjoyed reading in the last year and what her favourite YouTube clip is. You can find the answers to all these questions and more in the profile.

Lembit Opik, as was
Many years ago Lembit Opik made a very popular and effective video to encourage membership recruitment work by Liberal Democrats. Has it aged? You be the judge:

Lembit Opik training video screenshot

Simon Wright becomes 31st Liberal Democrat MP on Twitter
In January Simon Wright, Liberal Democrat MP for Norwich South, became the 31st Lib Dem MP on Twitter when he started up @SimonWrightMP. You can follow all them in the one Twitter list at https://twitter.com/markpack/lists/libdem-mps.

Can you help spread the word?

Please do also share this newsletter with other people you think may be interested. You can share it via Facebook or Twitter. Or perhaps if you are a blogger you could blog about it and point people at the email list sign-up page?

Best wishes and thank you for reading,


Other links of interest

Election Law news

Useful Lib Dems sites

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