Archive for ‘Liberal Democrats’

February 2, 2011

Mental health is health

Today, two key Lib Dem figures in the coalition government have announced a major financial injection into mental health services in the UK. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who may have wondered how the Liberal Democrats would deal with this issue in government. One of Nick Clegg’s first speeches as Liberal Democrat Leader was on this subject.

Now Deputy Prime Minister, Clegg said of the decision:

“The evidence is clear: mental health needs to be addressed with the same urgency as physical health. We need to end the stigma attached to mental illness, to set an example by talking about the issue openly and candidly and ensure everyone can access the support and information they need.”

Even if it didn’t bring a penny back to the Treasury coffers, the £400 million investment would still be worth doing. However, it is calculated that this investment will actually save £700 million. Sufferers will require less in welfare, less care, and will be more able to work and contribute more tax. The previous Labour government also woefully ignored the mental injuries endured by returning troops, and so there was the additional announcement of a £7.2 million care package for veterans. This will fund a variety of things, from a 24-7 Combat Stress phone line, to specially trained councillors.

Mental illness is pretty common, 1 in 4 people will suffer from it at some point, and 1 in 100 people suffer from serious mental ill-health. However, it often gets ignored because you can’t always see the symptoms and, as Alistair Campbell pointed out, it’s not really a sexy issue. However, the Liberal Democrats have pushed the government in the right direction, and put mental health on the same level as physical health. A person’s physical and mental health are one in the same, not least because one often affects the other. Public moves like this will also help break the stigma and taboo around mental ill-health, as will Nick Clegg’s attempts to remove the outdated Parliamentary provision whereby an MP who become mentally ill can be removed. No such provision exists for physical health.

Mental health is health, and Liberal Democrats in the coalition have made that point loud and clear today.

January 26, 2011

Instead of paper candidate, Tories put up poster candidate in Wales

Normally VN doesn’t report back on by-elections, we leave that to our exceptionally well informed friends over at Lib Dem Voice, but we couldn’t quite let this go.

After being accused of putting up a paper candidate in Oldham East and Saddleworth, the Conservatives took a different approach in a council by-election in the Marl ward of Conwy, North Wales. They decided to field a poster candidate instead!
Julie Fallon, or ‘Julie from Llandudno’ as she was known in the Conservative General Election poster campaign (below), was off the billboards and onto the ballot paper.
Being a Tory poster-girl didn’t help the Conservative candidate win though. She lost the council seat previously held by the Conservatives to Welsh Lib Dem candidate Sue Shotter. Clearly some people had never vote Lib Dem before but….
January 23, 2011

Nick Clegg on The Andrew Marr Show

>This morning Nick Clegg was interviewed by Andrew Marr on his weekly magazine show. Looking slightly more refreshed since the Christmas break, the Deputy Prime Minister gave a very strong defence of the governments changes to higher education funding. He admitted there had been a problem in communicating the policy, a situation he said that was partly caused by the “counter intuitive” principle that Universities could charge more, but students pay back less each month. He also seems to have had a strong influence in the debate on the replacement on control orders, the outcome of which is likely to be revealed in the next few days.

Clegg didn’t waste anytime laying into new Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. He rightly pointed out that Alan Johnson’s replacement was key in advocating light touch banking regulation as City Minister, and was a key advisor to Gordon Brown as the previous Labour government overspent. The Coalition are clearly going to shine the spotlight on Balls, and his involvement in creating the structural deficit that they are trying to pay back, over the coming weeks and months, and why not?

Perhaps Clegg’s most telling dig was at his Business Secretary, Vince Cable. When asked about the nature of disagreements in government, Clegg said that clearly two parties in government approach a policy with differences, but that he preferes them ‘to be aired in private’. A subtle but real warning for the next Lib Dem Minister to air their dirty laundry in public, and perhaps an even more subtle one for Cable that he might not be unsacakable forever.

No doubt Clegg will receive criticism from some for holding his fire on Andy Coulson. Difficult as many of us find it to believe, Clegg was actually right when he pointed out that Coulson has never actually been found guilty of anything over phone hacking. As Deputy Prime Minister, working directly with the Prime Ministers office in which Coulson was based, it would have been wholly inappropriate of him to say anything else.

The irritation that had crept into Clegg’s demeanour in the run up to the Christmas break seems to have dissipated somewhat. Clearly it has been a very difficult few months personally for Nick Clegg, ironic given the pride he should have felt at being the first Leader of the Liberal Democrat’s to lead the party to government, but now at least he was back reeling off the achievements from the manifesto, and manning the party trenches. It was also reassuring to see a Lib Dem giving a responsible approach to the necessary reforms of the banking system, instead of indulging in cheap bank-bashing rhetoric, and rounding off a good overall performance from the  the Lib Dem Leader and Deputy Prime Minister.

January 20, 2011

New Lib Dem executive looks to assert its authority

>The new Liberal Democrat federal executive, the third part of the party’s now infamous triple lock system, has already begun to assert it’s authority. In a statement due to be released, and already disclosed by the Guardianianista (where else?) the new executive have stated the Liberal Democrats will go into the next election as an independent party, with no bias as to whom they may form a coalition should the need arise afterwards. They also urged the party to remember it’s social democratic roots, not just liberalism, and that the party should publicly air disagreements with their Conservative coalition partners.

Expect more of this kind of thing in the run up to Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in Sheffield, as some grassroots members try to wash out the blue rinse, and settle their queasy stomachs. VN isn’t convinced this is a particular constructive approach to coalition, but it is not like Conservative members are behaving any differently, they just have less power with which to impose their grievances on the party leadership.

Let the fun and games begin.

January 13, 2011

>Polling day in Oldham East and Saddleworth

>It is polling day today in Oldham East and Saddleworth. The election is having to be re-run after former Labour incumbent Phil Woolas’ election was declared void by a special election court.

Labour have been trying to play up the by-election as some kind of referendum on the coalition, and in particular Liberal Democrat involvement in the coalition. As well as showing once again that a supposedly ‘progressive’ party still can’t get their head around pluralist politics, this is yet another grave tactical error from Ed Miliband and company. With a strong, and clearly popular, local candidate in Elwyn Watkins, and a lack of confidence in a MiliE led Labour party that just won’t shift, there is every possibility that the people of Oldham East & Saddleworth will vote ‘yes’ to the Lib Dems in Government, and give them a 58th MP  today.

The polling data coming that has come out of Oldham East and Saddleworth in recent days still has Labour ahead. Ed Miliband though really needs something to kick-start his leadership. He has hardly set the political world alight since his narrow, questionable, victory over his brother. If the coalition, and the Liberal Democrats, are as unpopular as he would like us to believe, anything other than a substantial victory will show Ed Miliband exactly what people think of his ‘new generation’.

Nick Clegg on the other hand is embattled, supposedly the country’s least popular politician, the great yellow (orange,) hope gone wrong. The Liberal Democrats didn’t win the seat in May, although only just, and the nonsense narrative just laid out, which is being peddled by many, says they shouldn’t win it toady. However, the residents of Oldham East & Saaddleworth will have been shown clearly what the party can achieve locally, and is now achieving nationally. Given many of them supported the party in May, is it not more likely that they will back the Liberal Democrats now that they are actually delivering on some of the things these voters supported? Such a victory, which is very much a possibility, would show support both for a strong local candidate, and for the Liberal Democrats being at the forefront of decision making in Government.

That said, the result won’t be the game changer that some are making it out to be back in the Westminster bubble. It will though give a nice new year kick off to whoever is victorious. A few days nice headlines, a bit of a positive buzz among activists for MPs heading back to their constituencies for the weekend, a slight shift in the narrative, but nothing Earth shattering in reality.

As for the people of Oldham East and Saddleworth, the people that actually matter in all this, who have been caught in the eye of a political storm for the best part of 2 years now, they must just be glad it’s all coming to an end.

December 10, 2010

>"A difficult decision made for all the right reasons" – inside Westminster on Tuition Fees day

>Yesterday was certainly a landmark day in British politics. Not particularly because of what got passed, the way universities are funded will doubtless change many more times, but because of what it signified.

VN Editor Charlotte Henry was in the Westminster cauldron as it all reached boiling point.

Yesterday was utterly surreal. Central Lobby was swarming with jean and hoody clad students, all seeking one last chance to make their MP vote ‘no’ in the impending vote on raising the cap on tuition fees. Democracy in action.

I had the pleasure of meeting Annette Brooke (no), Lorely Burt (abstain), Stephen Gilbert (yes), Jeremy Browne (yes), Simon Hughes (abstain),  and Jo Swinson (yes). All had sincere and genuine reasons for voting whichever way they did. Lovely Lorely also wins an extra prize for providing myself and VN contributor Thomas Hemsley with one of the best cups of tea ever, in Parliament’s ‘Pugin Room’!

Seeing MPs engaging with their constituents was fantastic, and as it should be. The Lib Dems MPs I met rightly pointed out what vast improvements have been made due to their engagement in the process. I don’t like that the government is asking young people to start their working life having to pay off £40,000 worth of debt, but this pay back system should not put people of going to university, and is far better than anything Labour or the Conservatives would have brought in on their own.

The most surreal part of the day came when I was going to comment on the BBC on behalf of Liberal Youth. I was outside Saint Stevens Entrance, so was going to be interview via an ear piece. In the ear piece is a live feed of what is going out live. Moments before I was about to go on air violence erupted in Parliament Square, (I had had to move out the way of the line of police horses who were going towards Parliament Square on my way to the interview.) I stood waiting to go on air for about 40 minutes, listening as police officers were thrown from their horse, protestors were stretchered out, and smoke rose from firecrackers. Hope you understand now if I looked a bit distracted by the time the finally got to my brief cameo!

As the division bell rang I was sitting in Central Lobby. The vote passed and, despite some saddening resignations, the coalition still stands. Don’t believe the hype, no Lib Dem did this with glee. They did it to make the overall package for funding universities work both for the institutions and those that attend them. In typical Lib Dem fashion, many agonised about it almost until the moment they walked through a lobby.

Hopefully the Christmas break will clear the air, and Clegg and company can go on with the good work they are doing in government. Yesterday though will live long in my memory as a day the Lib Dems stood up and made a difficult, unpalatable decision, but did it for the all the right reasons.

December 3, 2010

>Tim Farron – the movie

>Here is the latest video from Liberal Democrat Party President-Elect Tim Farron. Let’s hope more of this kind of work, and regular updates, continues when team takes office.

Tim takes office in the New Year, and succeeds Baroness Ros Scott.

November 17, 2010

>Lib Dem GLA candidates – who to watch

>Last night London Liberal Democrats hosted a hustings event to determine their candidates for the Greater London Assembly elections. All of the 11 candidates are very credible, and there is no reason that a team that includes them can’t campaign effectively in London, and have significant influence when elected. It is nice to see that those running for the GLA take it seriously. 

However, here are VN’s tips on who to watch:

Caroline Pigeon AM: The only sitting Assembly Member re-standing. Has a good media presence, is a good public speaker, and lots of experience.

Bridget Fox: Gave the best answers to questions, and clearly understands how to be a Liberal Democrat candidate while supporting Liberal Democrats in government. She should be an MP right now, but London will benefit from having her in City Hall.

Shas Sheehan: A refreshing new candidate. Articulate, passionate, and likeable, she will engage with people when out and about. Benefits from having a variety experiences away from politics.

Stephen Bradley: A very impressive public speaker. A committed green campaigner with expertise in this field, he also was the most forthright on supporting the Olympics and making sure they deliver a legacy for London.

Nick Russell: Was deeply unlucky to not win back his council seat in Kentish Town. He knows London politics, how to campaign there, and how to hold executives to account.

November 17, 2010

>Motion to ban all Liberal Democrat members using the word ‘values’ when making podium speeches

>No, dear Labour trolls, contain yourselves. This does not imply that such members do not have values. Far from it. In recent conferences, and tonights GLA selection hustings, (more of that tomorrow, try and contain the excitement,) it has emerged that many Liberal Democrat speakers love their values so much that they were keen to remind the audience they had them. Every. Single. Sentence. 

So we get it. There are still things that elected, and wannabe-elected, Liberal Democrats disagree with the Conservatives on. Great. That is why the coalition is made up of two different parties. But the word values in this context has now been rendered utterly meaningless. So do everyone a favour, tell the audience your priorities, indeed tell the audience what your values are, but stop using the phrase ‘Lib Dem values’ ad nauseum. It has no value anymore.

November 11, 2010

>An open letter to the ‘protestors’…from a proud Lib Dem



Dear pretentious student,

A rant aimed at majority of those protesting yesterday. To those of you that have been campaigning genuinely, apologies and ignore the following – but you are in the minority.

One. Dont tell me that because I wasn’t there I don’t care about the future of higher education funding. I’ve been fighting for it long before you have,, as have most Liberal Democrats, and I’m damn sure I’ll be fighting a lot longer for it. One over-energetic march that was probably more fun than anything else does not give you the right to take a higher ground.

Two. The occupation and vandalism was completely and utterly unhelpful to the cause, whatever way you want to spin it. Don’t moan that the media are spinning it. It was criminal damage. It was an illegal occupation, forcing regular people out of their workplaces. It was wrong. If you really believe that “direct” action like that gets you anywhere in politics then you’re even more naive than I thought.

That leads me onto my third point. How dare you compare the “demolition” march of yesterday with great political movements like the suffragettes or gay rights movements. It’s insulting, self-righteous and damn right delusional. The action they took was for a much greater cause, and the sustained suffering and campaigning they had to endure means protests like yesterday are but a footnote in history. You did not make history yesterday.

Finally, about the actual march and higher education funding. I bet the vast majority of the people there could not even tell me what the government policy on HE funding is. If I’d asked I’d get the blunt and insufficient reply that they’re raising fees. It’s more complicated than that. I stand by my belief that education should be free, and oppose in principle any rise in fees, but I’m also constructive enough to recognise that the poorer will be BETTER off under these proposals than the current policy. If I was an MP I would abstain, but I can recognise why Clegg and Cable are willing to compromise, even if I don’t agree with it.

If you want the Liberal Democrats to stick 100% to their policies then I’m afraid you need to help them get elected into government alone. Right now we are 1/5 of government so our say is limited.


Proud Lib Dem

by Bobby Dean

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