Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Tim Farron and his Equal Marriage Abstention

This is the email that Tim Farron sent to all Lib Dem members on April 18th 2012 and why I'm so disappointed with his abstention today:

Dear Chris,

One of our fundamental values as Liberal Democrats is our firm belief in equality.

This is why I need you to join the campaign for equal civil marriage.

Our party has always stood for individual liberty and the right to choose how we lead our lives. This is why I am a Liberal Democrat. It's why the party came into being in the 19th century to protect the rights of religious minorities. It's why we led the support for equality for women and why we decided before any other major party that civil marriage should be open to same-sex couples equally.

The Liberal Democrats in Government are now delivering on that. There's an ongoing consultation on how best to deliver equal civil marriage, which will lead to new legislation in this Parliament. The Government consultation asks about the best way to implement equal civil marriage, and our party conference agreed that the best way to do that is in the context of full equality of marriage and civil partnerships.

It's important that you, and as many people as possible, respond to this consultation now.

We've waited to get clarification from the Home Office on some ambiguously-worded questions, which we've now received. LGBT+ Liberal Democrats have prepared a guide to the consultation, what it means, and how to respond to support the Liberal Democrat policy of equality.

Best wishes,

Tim Farron MP
Liberal Democrat Party President 

PS For more detail on our LGBT+ campaigning, please see http://lgbt.libdems.org.uk/ or follow @lgbtld on Twitter.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

2011 Figures

This is a bit late really considering we're well into 2012.

In 2011 this blog received 2,288 unique visitors.

The most popular blog posts were:

  1. Leeds AV 'debate' - About the sham debate organised by the No 2 AV camapign in Leeds.

  2. What happens now? - How will the party move forward after local election defeats.

  3. Street crime figures - Where's my police force?! - My disappearing police force in LS4.

  4. Clegg's visit to Leeds - The national launch of the Yes campaign by Nick in Leeds.

  5. Gay Tory MP speaks at Leeds Pride - Leeds' first Gay MP makes a speech at Leeds Pride.
  6. Where the Yes campaign went wrong - Looking at the issues faced by the Yes campsign.

  7. 2011 Predictions - My predictions for 2011.

  8. Interpreting the Oldham Polling - Looking at some of the polling data from the Oldham by-election.

  9. Latest NUS Protest - The damp squib that was the NUS protest in January last year.

  10. Deputy Lord Mayor to be Abolished - The abolishing of the Deputy Lord Mayor of Leeds.

New year predictions

So I thought I should have a quick look back at the predictions I made at the beginning of 2011. It was quite an unusual year so I'm not holding out much hope for these!

Sorry these are a bit late! I try to do this every year and hear I my ones for 2010. I got quite a good record last year. Wonder how well I will do this year?

1. The coalition will not collapse this year. Personally I think this one is a bit of an easy one but if you were to believe the screaming hordes of Labour bloggers you would think we were on the verge of national meltdown.

Well at least I got this one right...

2. The 'official' student movement will begin to distance itself from the wider anti-cuts movement.
To be fair this has almost started to happen.

To be honest this one is pretty hard to judge because NUS has largely disappeared from the mainstream political discourse last year.

3. Balls will force out another member or members of the Cabinet.
With unconfirmed reports that he had something to do with Alan Johnson leaving who will be next?

To my knowledge this didn't happen but I think with Ed Milibands authority weakened it can only be a matter of time!

4. David Laws will be back in the Cabinet.
Whatever you think of his politics it is clear that Laws is extremely talented. It was a huge shame to see him leave in the first place, especially in the circumstnaces in which it happened.

This didn't happen but it is clear that he is now very much back in the inner circle.

5. Bercow will not be speaker by the end of the year.
Sticking my kneck out a bit on this one. I actually quite like Bercow but it is clear there are people who want to get him out.

All the anti-Bercow stuff seems to have settled down a bit really. There are still many who want to get rid of him but Cameron and the whips are doing a good job of keeping them in cLinkheck.

6. The AV referendum will result in a YES vote.
I think I'm quite safe on this one judging by the response from the public.

Less said about this one the better! (If you do want to read my thoughts they are here)

7. Andy Coulson will release his memoirs this year.
He's said he won't release them soon but I can't see him holding off for too long otherwise they won't be worth anything.

Well I was wrong on this. Guess he has a lot more to say now!

8. Labour will do well in the council elections in May and will take control of a number of large cities.
Worth remembering that we're 4 years away from a general election though.

Unfortunately this one was true. They took control of Nottingham, Sheffield, Liverpool and a number of others.

9. The Lib Dems will win Headingley ward in Leeds with a good majority.
Despite the national projections the Lib Dems have a really hardworking team in Headingley and deserve to hold on with a good vote.

Despite James Monaghan and the Headingley Lib Dem team deserving to win this one they unortunately lost. Let's just hope it's the last time in a while that happens. Thoughts on the local election results in Leeds are here.

10. The SNP will lose control of the Scottish Government.
The SNP haven't exactly had a smooth ride and have stumbled their way through four years of government.

I think this sums up a pretty terrible set of predcitions from me really! Ah well, onwards and upwards.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Roger Helmer joins UKIP

So on Friday came the shock news that Roger Helmer, former Conservative MEP for the East Midlands, had quit the tories and joined UKIP. I'm not exactly surprised. Roger Helmer was rapantly anti-European and his contempt for Cameron and his leadership was pretty clear.

What interests me more is Roger Helmer's views on gay marriage and gay rights. Roger is a homophobe who has opposed and continues to oppose virtually all efforts by the coalition to give LGBT people the same rights as everyone else.

It will be fascinating to see what some of the young UKIPers who seem to think their party is some kind of bastion of social libertarianism make of it all. The UKIP leadership seems to have fallen for Roger, perhaps because they know he appeals to their more old-fashioned membership who are still deeply socially conservative. I think I would have to take a long hard look at my membership of a party that welcomed Roger Helmer with open arms.

The last year

So it's fair to say that I haven't posted properly on here for a while. Truth is I've had a pretty busy last year both in and out of politics.

I finally graduated from university with a respectable degree result which, given the amount of time I spent working on elections, I'm quite proud of! I then decided to do something a bit different. I became a Healthcare Team Manager at Boots in Leeds City Centre. I loved that job and was really proud to work with a brilliant team in the Leeds store. I learnt a lot in a very short space of time and made some very good friends too. Boots was a great company to work for and the Leeds City Centre store is really going places with the development of the new Trinity shopping centre.

However in October an opportunity came up to get back into politics and I pretty much jumped at it. I'm now working in party politics and parliamentary politics full time and loving (almost!) every second of it.

So apologies for the lack of posts but now you hopefully understand why. I'm going to aim to post on here a bit more but because of my job and the local elections in May I might be being a bit optimistic there! A lot of my posts are delayed postings too so I'm not writing on here instead of working, honest!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Lib Dem Conference

This weekend I'm heading to Lib Dem conference at the SAGE Centre in Gateshead.

Anyone got any recommendations for any good fringe events?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Deputy Lord Mayor to be Abolished

Tonight I will be attending the annual ceremony in which the mayor is installed at Leeds City Council. For the first time since the position was created in the 1960s there will be no Deputy Lord Mayor.

Cllr Patrick Davey who currently holds the position has said that this will save the taxpayer £100,000. This is great news in an era of public spending cuts. A lot of the discussion in the press in Leeds on the cost of the Lord Mayor stems from a Freedom of Information request that I put in last year.

Good to see the council have finally responded although if the figures quoted by Cllr Davey in the Yorkshire Evening Post are a little optimistic based on my FOI request.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Where the Yes campaign went wrong

Below is a great article by Andy May of the Yes campaign. He talks through many of the issues experienced by those who worked on the campaigns side of the campaign. Andy was one of the central members of staff that got nothing but praise by all the regional staff that I have spoken to. The article is pretty frank but it is dead on.

Yes to Fairer Votes - An Insiders View [published on Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/lgw3Bk]

The aspect that I agree with most was the lack of experience within the campaign. Apart from most of the regional organisers and a select few staff at HQ there was very little experience at actually running an election campaign. Most of the interns and local staff (who were absolutely excellent) had never worked in politics before and most of the staff at the centre often gave the impression that they had no idea what was happening on the ground. When feedback was given from the ground back to London many people felt that it was at best ignored and at worst actively dismissed. The fact is the people working for the campaign who knew how to run elections were kept far away from any actual influence.

Another failing of the campaign was the constant focus on the Guardian reading set. The campaign ignored Farage and UKIP and any possible contribution they could have made until it was too late. Speaking to the Yes campaign staff who attended UKIP conference there was a huge frustration that the central Yes campaign were not allowing Farage to take part in events on a national scale. Con Home also has an interesting article on this.

What is striking is where the Yes campaign won. We won in Cambridge, Oxford and North London. It could not be clearer from these results that this was a campaign run by Guardian readers, for Guardian readers. As one member of staff from the campaign in Leeds puts it: "Everytime I hear the words "progressive majority" I'm a little bit sick in my mouth...".

Monday, 9 May 2011

What happens now?

I decided I would leave it a couple of days after the results to write this post thinking that in that time my opinions may have changed. They haven't.

First a bit about the local elections in Leeds although I am sure what I am about to say will have been felt by Lib Dem councillors and activists all over the country. Especially in the North of England and Scotland. On Thursday night, when we were getting an idea of the scale of what was happening, I was gutted. I have never felt that sick about the results of an election in my life and hope I never do again. We knew we were facing an uphill battle but we were hoping that the hard work and popularity of our local councillors would win through. Sadly this was not to be.

The Lib Dems and the people of Leeds lost some truly amazing public servants this week.

Terry Grayshon (MBI, Morley South), an excellent Councillor for the Morley Borough Independents, was heavily involved in Leeds Pride and was a great moderate voice for the Leeds LGBT community in the council chamber.

Brenda Lancaster (Lib Dem, Moortown), would have been Lord Mayor of Leeds 2011-12 had she retained her seat. She was a hugely popular figure within the Lib Dems and locally in Moortown. She worked tirelessly for her community for years, often just getting on with it and rarely seeking thanks or praise for her efforts. Her selection as Lord Mayor Designate was thoroughly deserved and was fitting recognition for her years of work. It is such a shame that she will no longer get to do that.

Steve Smith (Lib Dem, Rothwell) has been a great friend during his time on the council and has represented Rothwell, Carlton, Oulton and Woodlesford superbly at council level as well as doing a sterling job as an Exec Board member. He was often a voice of moderation within the Lib Dem group and I hope he will continue to be from outside the group. Also I should say sorry to him for my phone call towards the end of polling day!

Finally James Monaghan (Lib Dem, Headingley). I have a huge amount of respect for James. He was one of the first politicians I ever met and he was the first one I ever voted for when he stood for Headingley in 2007. I campaigned for him when he was selected for the Lib Dem Yorks and Humber Euro list in 2008 and again in 2009 in the Euro elections. I was over the moon when he got onto the council exec board and he did a really great job in tough circumstances, standing up for Leeds in a way the Labour Party never have. When James stood in Morley in the 2010 general election I was his agent. We ran the biggest campaign in our history in that ward, managing to get at least some literature to every single voter. Our vote rose by 6.7%. James was (almost!) a model candidate from start to finish, and took a lot of the pressure of me (I was working for the party full time whilst also trying to do my degree during the election) by dealing with the huge national media interest in the seat thanks to Ed Balls. James also played a huge part in the fantastic victory in Leeds North West and supported our candidates across the city.

The reaction of local residents to our team in Headingley was great but many were saying that they just couldn't bring themselves to vote for the Lib Dems. Privately the Labour candidate was telling Journalists that he thought we had done great things for the area. Unfortunately in this election that just wasn't enough. Devastated doesn't even describe what I felt like when it became obvious that we had lost Headingley.

Also gutted for Kate Arbuckle who was standing for the Lib Dems in Horsforth and David Hollingsworth in Burmantofts and Richmond Hill who both lost through no fault of their own. Our vote share actually rose in Burmantofts.

So what happens next? It is clear that things can not continue as they have been. If they do then the Lib Dems will be almost non-existent in the North and Midlands at the next general election. I think it is also clear that Clegg's call for 'a louder Lib Dem voice' in government, although admirable, simply doesn't go far enough. People on the doorstep like us locally but they, rightly or wrongly, blame Clegg personally for the mess we are now in. Their anger will not go away if we shout a little about how we have slowed down the NHS reforms.

I admire Clegg personally but the time has come for him to step aside. We will not be able to start again as a party until we have a new figurehead. After the fees debate and this overwhelming defeat in the elections we also need to take a long hard look at our exit strategy from the coalition. We cannot sustain these losses for four more years and we cannot lose many hundreds of good people because of the actions of a few in London.

Writing this with a mixture of sadness and disappointment. Feel absolutely gutted at the moment but I, and many others involved in local elections, feel deeply let down.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Regional conference

This weekend the Lib Dems held our Yorkshire and Humber regional conference in Headingley at St Columba Church on Otley Road. The event was really well attended by lots of enthusiastic activists, old and new, 2 of the regions MPs and both of our MEPs.

For anyone who has never been to a regional conference before then I would thoroughly recommend it. It is like a mini more localised national conference. There are some very good training sessions on offer, there are debates on policy and speeches by regional party officials. Most importantly however is the opportunity to meet with lib Dem activists from around the region and to listen to some of the issues they are having and hopefully be able share solutions.

During the day I spent most of my time encouraging activists from across the region to get involved in the yes campaign. I helped run a session to answer people's questions on the yes campaign and how we can link up with local Lib Dem campaigning that is already taking place. I also chaired the motion debate which called for the regional party to formulate a strong regional vision fir growth and then communicate it to the government. After a great debate with plenty of new ideas the motion was unanimously passed.

On if the key themes of conference was the difficulty of communication between ministers, MPs and activists. The party is acutely aware that it can and must do better in this area. But the key message to come out of conference was "where we work, we win". The coalition had made virtually zero difference to this. Labour and the far left will do and say anything they can to keep us off the doorsteps between now and May because they know this is true too. The experience of people who have been out on the doors since may is almost universally positive despite the doom and gloom media portrayal. So between now and may get out knocking on those doors and remember: where we work, we win!