It’s party conference time again. Liberal Democrats are first to have their major annual get together in an unusually sunny Bournemouth for the time of year. Sunshine was a welcome change after a very stormy night in the UK General Election. As you’ll recall, the Lib Dems entered the election with 57 MPs, and limped out the other end with eight – enough for a people carrier, but a tad short of the 124 MPs their former leader, Nick Clegg, had repeatedly committed himself to delivering.

Many predicted this disastrous performance would spell the end of the party. The Bournemouth conference told a different story. For reasons not entirely clear to outsiders, the party had a very upbeat convention. Delegates were claimed to reach an absolutely party record, and the membership is said to have risen by 20,000 since May.

Why might this revival be occurring? It might be caused by the speedy departure of Clegg from the leadership, and his replacement with activist-friendly Tim Farron. Mr Farron is respected for having taken ‘the long way up’ to power, having served as an activist himself for many years, including as a local Councillor in North West England.

I’ve known Tim since the 1980’s, in student politics. He was impressive. His leadership is certainly one refreshing factor for a party. Another factor could be liberalism itself. Even if a party does badly, the concept of independence and personal liberty is more compelling and enduring than a single political movement. So, while the Lib Dems may have taken a tumble, these ideas still need a home. The increase in membership could represent a flow back into what many could regard as the natural counterbalance to the authoritarian

Farron’s closing speech left the party in apparently good fettle. Nobody under-estimates the size of the re-building task, as the organisation starts the arduous process of repairing the massive damage to its campaigning resources. Yet tThe remarkable resilience of the movement is not to be underestimated.

There was also one notable sign the delegates’ more assertive outlook. A motion to give the leadership more power to veto conference decisions – something Clegg did without such a veto – was thrown out before that particular debate even ended. Conference belle Linda Jack made the conference laugh from the podium by starting her response to this dubious proposal by shrugging her shoulders with her hands in the air, and uttering the simple phrase ‘where to start?!’ Democracy can sometimes express very
strong words, softly spoken.

Below are the first preferences in the London Assembly vote. The final rankings are determined by transfers, so do not represent the position in the rankings. The information that was released with this had an additional comment regarding Merlene Emmerson.

“Candidate with a protected race/ethnicity characteristic and originally placed 5th but elevated to 3rd in order meet the constraints.”

This results in the final order as reported on other sites.

MULLIN, Annabel 103
MATHIS, Ben 47
HALEY, Brian 12
PIDGEON, Caroline 1462
BARNES, Dawn 108
BROOKS, Duwayne 82
DAVEY, Emily 540
RAY, Marisha 60
PLATT, Mark 22
EMERSON, Merlene 148
PEARCE, Pauline 32
BLACKIE, Rob 439
KNIGHT, Stephen 248
LASHMORE, Teena 30
POLANSKI, Zack 211

Corbyn Warnings

There’s nothing odd about spirited electioneering. But the level of attacks Labour Leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn is enduring is remarkable. From being the rank outsider at something like 100-1 he’s now firm favourite. This is despite spirited efforts by old ‘New Labour’ heavyweights – including two former Prime Ministers and other senior politicians associated with the Blair years – warning of disaster should Corbyn win the race to lead Labour.

Some of it has been quite comical. There’s a satirical ‘Twitter’ site called @CorbynWarnings. It appears to be poking fun at the apocalyptic pictures of doom which Corbyn’s detractors have painted should this left-winger assume the reins of power. Here are some of the Corbyn Warnings: Corbyn “obsessed with destroying the moon,” warns MP; Corbyn’s fangs inject a venom which is highly poisonous to humans warns MP; ’’warning about Corbyn only makes him stronger, warns MP; if Corbyn is elected, he will “become more powerful than you can possibly imagine,” warns MP; Corbyn may still be present in Lancashire water supply, warns MP; Corbyn “probably a ghost,” warns MP; and my favourite – Corbyn “potentially full of bees,” warns MP.

It does indeed seem that Corbyn is being accused of powers to evoke some kind of political Armageddon – as if his potential leadership is to be likened to the dark rise of Darth Vadar in Star Wars. But the thing is, Corbyn’s success is in part directly due to those who now criticise him. I’ve been told by one insider that his popularity gains from the reaction of ‘the manicured, sound-bite friendly breed who look and act like professional career politicians. Jeremy’s beard, open neck shirt and understated commentary on life, the Universe and everything has gained traction with people who want someone they can regard as authentic.

It is not for me, or anyone else outside Labour, to proscribe to Labour members whom they should elect. However, the outcome will be a clear barometer of the mood of the party, and, in a sense, the country. The other candidates are perfectly presentable. But if Corbyn wins, it could suggest those who dedicate their lives to being politicians for the love of the process rather than the love of a principle may be losing ground to a more earthy ‘traditional’ sort who, like real ale, fish ‘n’ chips and old MGB sports cars, still have a home in the hearts and minds of the Great British public.

The Labour establishment clearly seem concerned about the possiblilty of a Corbyn victory. Various warnings have appeared from past Labour leaders and MPs about the dire effects of a Corbyn victory.

Now a ‘laugh out loud’ spoof Twitter site with Corbyn warnings. Amusing and worth a look.

I’ve known Tim since his student days in Newcastle-upon-Tyne back in the early 1990s. He was one of the University’s liberal ‘live wires’ – a trusty and enthusiastic activist of the classical ‘doorstep politics’ variety. I warmed to him right away. Over the years I’ve worked with him in many political spheres. I also played a small part in his election to Parliament in Westmorland and Lonsdale.

Tim is well placed to begin the long and arduous process of reconstructing the Liberal movement from its devastating election disaster in 2015. He’s the opposite of the former leader, Nick Clegg who had none of Tim’s ‘grass roots’ campaigning experience. Farron is also hugely likeable; a natural liberal who understands the needs of a nation desperately seeking politicians with a common touch.

Will he be able to undo the damage wrought during his predecessor’s unpopular reign? I think so – but it will take time. The party has been so considerably reduced in its campaigning strength that there are no easy fixes. It will take patience and dedication to win back hearts and minds – and even then the time line for such a recovery is indeterminate.

All the same, Tim’s election marks a turning point in the fortunes of the Liberal Democrats. It’s likely many former party members, put off by Clegg’s ineffectual antics, will be motivated to re-join now a more authentic liberal voice is at the helm.

With just one MP remaining in Wales and the same lamentable tally in Scotland, Tim has his work cut out. But there’s an ocean of good will to help him. He worked his way up from the bottom and made numerous friends along the way.

It’s a funny thing, politics. The fortunes of parties and people rise and fall like the tide. When I was leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, I presided over a Parliamentary team of four MPs – the largest number in the Welsh Lib Dems’ history. That’s half the size of the ENTIRE Liberal Democrat party today.

I’m confident that under Tim’s leadership the party will start healing. I also trust that systems will be created to ensure the liberal movement can never again be hijacked and harmed by selfish actions of an inept elite.

July 30, 2015

Conservative 286 [40.1%; -19.2%]
Hykeham Independents 180 [25.2%; +25.2%]
Labour 161 [22.6%; +22.6%]
Green 64 [9%; +9%]
LD Candidate Diana Catton 22 [3.1%; +3.1%]
[Lincolnshire Independents [0.0%; -40.7%]]
Majority: 106
Turnout: 19.1%
Conservative gain from Lincolnshire Independents
Percentage change from 2013

The North Kesteven where the Conservatives won a formerly Lib Dem held seat illustrates some of the issues for the party in local elections which do not seem to have been recognised

One of the factors which does not appear to have been recognised is that during the Clegg era Liberal Democrat councillors in rural areas were standing down as Liberal Democrats are winning their seats again as Independents. The North Hykeham Mill by-election brought this issue into focus because the candidate who was a LIb Dem in 2007. Thus when the party was reporting huge losses in the period 2010 – 2015 what was not being recorded was that some of these seats were being won by former Lib Dems standing as Independent, and therefore the losses were not as great as might be thought.

The reasons are not clear and each candidate made their own decision, however one possibility could be that candidates felt that the Clegg leadership had made them unelectable as Lib Dems. It could simply be that they felt that the party was no longer one they could support. Readers will need to draw their own conclusion. The scale of this has not been assessed, and should be, because a concerted effort to reach out to Independents could be a way for the party to harness support in these areas. The experience of the reporting on this site indicates that it is quite significant, including in Wales, and that it represents an opportunity for the party.

The England Elects website provides the following

“Caused by the resignation of Lincolnshire Independents councillor Jill Wilson on health grounds.  First elected to the district council here in 2007 as a Liberal Democrat candidate, she retired in 2011 but returned to the council in May’s ordinary election.

“The Conservatives have consistently held one, but only one, of the two district council seats in this ward.  In 2007 the other seat went to Jill Wilson, the single Liberal Democrat candidate, who topped the poll.  Wilson stood down in 2011 and her seat was won by independent candidate Helen Clark in a close three-way result.  The 2015 election saw the Tory slate opposed only by Jill Wilson, standing for the Lincolnshire Independents, who defeated the second Tory candidate by eight votes.  At county level almost all of the ward is within the Skellingthorpe and Hykeham South division, which has been Lib Dem-held since 2009…..

There is an independent candidacy in the shape of John Bishop, a former Lib Dem district councillor for another North Hykeham ward who lost his seat in May; he is standing under the “Hykeham Independents” label. ”

This local election result appears as a poor one, with only 22 votes, however Lib Dem Future had a report last week from the by-election and there was a campaign in operation on the ground run by excellent and committed party members. This seat is unquestionably within the grasp of the party, however it will take some effort to show that the party can reach out to former Lib Dems who now have experience winning as Independents.

Below is the candidate list for the 2015 local election.

2015 May Election

CLARKE Andrea Louise 50 Heather Gardens, North Hykeham, Lincoln, LN6 8RQ Conservative Party Candidate

CLARKE Mike 35 Wellhead Lane, Nocton, Lincoln, LN4 2BW Conservative Party Candidate

WILSON Jill Marie 7 Perney Crescent, North Hykeham, Lincoln, LN6 9RJ Lincolnshire Independents

BATHORY-PORTER, Elizabeth Saffron Green Party 64

BISHOP, John Hykeham Independents 180

CATTON, Diana (Full Name: Diana Elizabeth Catton) Liberal Democrats 22 CLARKE, Mike (Full Name: Michael Roger Clarke) Conservative Party Candidate 286 Elected

DOOLEY, Terence Peter Labour Party 161

May 2015 result C 1478/1005 Lincs Ind 1013
May 2011 result C 495/314 Ind 463 Lincs Ind 458
May 2007 result LD 396 C 315/304 UKIP 157

International insanity

Iran is on the verge of making peace with the world. The United Nations Security Council unanimously endorsed a draft resolution of what’s been called the ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ between Tehran and the ‘P5+1’ group of countries – that’s America, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany. The plan limits Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the removal of sanctions. Already, it had received strong praise around the globe.
However some are campaigning to encourage Congress in Washington to block the agreement. To ease concerns, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter visited Israel, and the Obama administration has been selling the accord to allies in the Middle East – as WELL as to a sceptical Congress. But it is clear lobbyists are exerting great pressure on American politicians to reject the nuclear settlement.
Why are some politicians in Israel and the US Congress opposing this historic nuclear deal? Why are Washington and Tel Aviv the only two capitals where politicians want to keep Iran out in the nuclear cold? These are simple questions, but there are complex vested interests in Israel and the United States. It has been suggested that, essentially, there are people who would prefer Iran to remain an enemy on the outside, rather than become a friend in the inside.
It’s led to some outrageous comments. One Presidential candidate in the United States has drawn analogies between Iran and the Germans in World War II. Another senior US politician has said he’d rather have a nuclear stand-off with Tehran. Israel itself has hinted at military action.
A vote on the deal is expected in Washington after the August recess. But already the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has called on Capitol Hill to reject it. While the rest of the international community has warmly welcomed the nuclear agreement, these few seek to derail it. This historic deal can only IMPROVE international relations. Yet leaders in Tel Aviv and some Congressmen in Washington sound as if they’d rather see the deal fail.
Peace needs patient negotiation and the setting aside of old scores. Mature politicians such as President Obama know this. Iran’s acceptance in the international community is in the interests of the world and it’s time for sceptics in America and Israel to play a positive part. Those in a position to do so in Britain should use the ‘Special Relationship’ to make this point loud and clear to their colleagues in America. It is in the centuries old liberal tradition to take an inclusive, internationalist position towards stabilising our relationship with Tehran. Trust but verify perhaps, but trust all the same.

This weeks by-elections seem to reflect a change in the mood of the electorate. It is always dangerous to read to much into a single weeks results, however after the stunning results for the Lib Dems last week this week shows a different picture. What is apparent is a sharp fall in support for Labour. This could be linked to a feeling by the electorate that the party is heading in a new direction with a potential Corbyn leadership. This was seen across the country in a wide range of different sear in Aberdeen, in Consevative and in Labour areas.

This seems to have helped UKIP more than the Lib Dems, although UKIP remain weak. It is crucial for the party to beat UKIP everywhere in local by-elections to establish ourselves in second position everywhere. The Conservative votes rose this week and this could also be a result of a fear of Corbyn, although this is speculation.

There is, however, much to be positive about. The party seems to be getting better organised and stood in every seat. Additionally there is an opportunity to resolve issues with former Lib Dems who are now Independents. If this is the case we could see more seats being won in rural areas. This was seen in North Kesteven where a former Lib Dem seat saw a Lib Dem vote of 22, possibly as a result of Independents standing.

July 30, 2015

Conservative 495 [52.2%; +8.3%]
Labour 175 [18.4%; -3%]
UKIP 171 [18%; -2%]
LD Rory Roberson 108 [11.4%; -3.4%]
Majority: 320
Conservative Hold
Percentage change since 2015

Figures from the ALDC website

This by-election was held in an area of Conservative strength. In this election the conservatives saw an increase in their vote in a pattern that appears across the country. Labour also saw a fall in their vote, again in a pattern seen elsewhere. UKIP took second place as they did in a mirror image of a similar by-election in the North East.

July 30, 2015

Labour 508 [69.5%; -21.2%]
UKIP 102 [14%; +14%]
LD Candidate Andy McGregor 82 [11.2%; +11.2%]
Conservative 39 [5.3%; -4%]
Majority: 406
Labour Hold
Percentage change since 2013

Figures from the ALDC website

This election was held in a seat not fought by the party in 2013, and it is a great credit to the local party that they beat the Conservatives in the seat. UKIP also stood, however the results in local elections show that the Lib Dens are the third party of local government. Although UKIP came second it is likely that with a new leadership and a rise in party support that we could see Lib Dems in second in these types of seat in future. In the long run it will be helpful to the party to win second places in these areas for a potential challenge in future. The use of ‘xxx party can’t win here’ showing the Lib Dems as the challenger will be helpful for our long term growth and to pin down Labour activity in their held wards, so it is to be hoped that these types of seats can be challenged strongly.