Liberal Democrat Newswire #9 is out, featuring banking reform, the House of Lords, changes at party HQ and more. You can now read it in full below.
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Lib Dem news – summarised
Monday 4 July 2011
Welcome to edition number nine of my newsletter about the Liberal Democrats.
As usual, I’ve scoured newspapers and blogs to put together this concise summary. I know many people appreciate it in the battle against information overload, so please do help spread the news about this newsletter’s existence – such as by forwarding this email to your local party email list or by liking the newsletter on Facebook.
I personally read all the feedback to these newsletters, so if you have any suggestions or want to make any comments please do get in touch. And with that, on with the show…
Financial reform, the Liberal Democrat way
Nick Clegg pushed two distinctively Liberal Democrat pieces of financial reform in the last month – for councils and for the banks.
Speaking at the Local Government Association conference, he outlined the government’s plans to give local authorities control over business rates once again – shifting a huge degree of financial control from Whitehall to town halls.
He has also been pushing for the British public to be given shares in the nationalised banks as they are returned to private control. The trickiest part of this policy is its counter-intuitive nature. A give away of shares may sound like the government will miss out on funds that could instead be used to help pay off some of that national debt the government so often talks about. However, compared to the government selling shares in the traditional privatisation ways, the share give away generates good capital gains tax revenues, has much lower administration costs and the details of the scheme avoid the depressed sales price that so often bedevils privatisations where the market knows large numbers of shares are coming and so marks down the price.
But it has taken me one long paragraph to explain – and that is without getting into the details to properly explain the points behind why it wouldn’t result in huge missed revenues for the government. That usually is not good news for a policy trying to win public approval.
Thoughts are also turning in the party to what tax policies might feature in the next general election manifesto, something I featured in more details in a piece for Liberal Democrat Voice:
“More economically competent than Labour, fairer than the Conservatives – that’s what many at the top of the party hope the message will be come the next general election. If the economy is not doing well at the time of the next election [insert post-watershed phrase of choice]. However, if it is then the party will need the right combination of economic policies to support that proposition.
“That is why people such as Danny Alexander are starting to sketch out possible tax policies for the next general election which will involve giving tax cuts to the least well off, paid for by taxing the richest more.”
As readers of the letters pages in Liberal Democrat News will have noticed, Lords reform continues to be a major issue for many in the party – and in particular there is growing anger over the number of peers who were happy to be ‘Liberal Democrats’ when it came to getting appointed to the House but now want to drop the party’s long-standing policy of elections for the upper house.
Liberal Democrat peer Paul Tyler has however been one of those vigorously arguing the case for reform:
“All in all, though the Labour Party is hopelessly divided (see an extraordinary spat between Sir Stuart Bell and his frontbench), and there are detractors in both other parties too, the political weather for progress is set fairer than at any point since the passing of the 1911 Parliament Act. So don’t listen to the doomsayers. A new chapter in this long story has begun, ending the decades-long hunt for an elusive, all-encompassing consensus. The Government’s solution may not delight any one single person in the reform movement, but it should please everybody who believes that the time has come to bring down the curtain on heredity and patronage as a source for seats in Parliament. It is time for merit and for mandates to have their day.”
Paul, along with Ros Scott and John Thurso (the ex-hereditary peer who is now an MP), makes up the Liberal Democrat team on the Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament looking at the government’s proposals.
An example of the opposition they face from outside Liberal Democrat ranks came from the House of Lords debate on the subject, which saw such as arguments as one peer saying that “I do not believe that elections are the only form of democracy” and another wishing for the return of hundreds of hereditary peerages.
A grassroots Liberal Democrat campaign for Lords reform has been launched, particularly aiming to persuade Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians to stick with the party’s policy now that finally there is a chance to implement it.
Meanwhile, two Liberal Democrats – Angie Harris and Rupert Redesdale – are amongst the six candidates to be the next House of Lords speaker.
30 things every would-be politician should do this summer
As has become a summer tradition, I’ve produce a list of 30 things any would-be (successful!) politician should try out this summer.
It ranges from books to read, films to watch and meetings you should witness through to a little trick involving paperclips…
You can read the list here.
Labour: they’re not Liberal Democrats
There have been three particular reminders in the last month of the gulf between Labour and the Liberal Democrats on many issues.
When it came to turning environmental words into action, the Coalition Agreement secured support from Conservative MPs for the government’s carbon budgets – but Labour MPs managed to split three ways on the topic.
The Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform – herself a Labour member and former councillor – attacked Labour’s “shameful” stance on prisons reform and Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper decided to attack the government’s record on immigration and welfare – for not being right-wing enough for her tastes.
All reminders of how often progressive rhetoric about civil liberties and green action from some figures on the left runs into the reality of what so many Labour MPs actually do and say.
London Mayor selection
Lembit Opik, Brian Paddick and Mike Tuffrey and the three declared names so far in the race to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London.
Postal ballots will go out to London members over the summer.
Silliest political attack of the month
The prize for silliest political attack of the month goes to the Conservative Party press team for having a go at a Labour MP who provided his office staff with toilet paper to use in the office toilet.
You might think that was a basic necessity, not to mention normal office behaviour, but in Tory eyes it was an unnecessary luxury…
Campaign tip of the month: take boundary changes seriously
The next general election will be fought on new Parliamentary constituency boundaries across the UK. The impact of boundary changes can often be over-stated and Liberal Democrats who ‘pundits’ have assured the world are destined for heavy defeat in fact often win.
However, that is no reason for complacency – and the way the new rules work, it is necessary for the party’s views to be coordinated across English regions (and Wales and Scotland) in a way quite different from previous reviews where local parties often could get on with it on their own.
If you do not know who is coordinating the reviews in your area, let me know and I can put you in touch with the right person.
My other email lists
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New Liberal Democrat central campaigns teams announced
Following a major reorganisation of the party’s (federal) campaign staff, the new staff teams have been announced, working under Hilary Stephenson (Director of Elections and Skills):
Campaign Development Team
Ground Communications Team
Strategic Seat Operations Team
The major task for the Campaign Development Team is the party’s switch from EARS to VAN for our election database package. VAN is used by the US Democrats (including Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign) and by our sister party in Canada. Councillor Iain Roberts was one of those who saw a demonstration of it a few weeks ago, concluding:
“The other parties have not only caught us up but also overtaken us on the IT front. The Federal Party decided it was time to look at the options, and concluded that VAN was the best option.
“I had the chance yesterday to get a good look at the new software, and it’s certainly a step forward. As someone who spends a significant portion of my time using EARS as a campaigning tool, VAN seems to me to be a good choice.”
And finally… Simon Hughes on Top of the Pops
The big political question of the month: is it true that Simon Hughes once danced on Top of the Pops?
Alas footage of the dancing does not seem to have survived.
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