Sunday, 29 September 2013

Who can you trust in Government?

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As 2015 gets closer and closer I'm starting to look ahead to the election and what the various national parties are planning and offering policy wise.

Ed's Labour party have done well in the polls mostly by saying they would not do what the Coalition would
do (but would not reverse it if they got in.) Considering some of the policies that have come out of CHQ (the things we have had to agree with) it is fairly to score points this way.

However it does seem that Labour have been picking at holes and nitpicking at times over successes and playing games with statistics. No one deserves to gain power by using technicalities, there is no substance to this.

Back in 2010 I watched Germany beat England 4-1 in the South African World Cup whilst in Wales. Whilst driving back to England and listening to the fall out on Radio 5 one of the common themes was that players like Gerrard, Lampard, Terry and Ashley Cole - all of whom had played badly, should be dropped from the squad and younger players could get a chance and the FA would not be fielding "Names"

The same is true of the Labour party front bench. Yes Darling, Brown and Blunkett have been quietly dropped but yet Ed Balls, Keith Vaz (who had some hilariously high expenses), Harriet Harman and even Ed Miliband are still leading the fray. these names are still linked to the failures of the Brown administration and hardly inspire confidence or trust.

The same can be said about Ed Miliband. He makes a fair opposition leader but... he seems to be lacking the qualities that would make him a good Prime minister. He lacks the charisma and personal magnetism.

As for the Conservatives... Despite having some really good MPs (like some of Labour) they are a party divided, especially with UKIP pushing into the normal territory and securing Right wing voters who grudgingly supported Cameron as there was no other choice before. Desperate to keep these staunch Tories the party seems to be lurching right.

Social engineering in the form of Marriage tax relief, anti European dogma, refusing mansion tax and reforms to the House of Lords, doggedly holding onto Trident - it is a party trying to move forward but maintaining footholds in the past.

Though Cameron strikes me as more of a leader than Ed. Maybe it is the brash Etonian accent and cavalier way he responds at PMQs but he is definitely more charismatic.

The LibDems however have brought in policies that have directly benefited my family. We have a pupil premium that is helping our local school, free nursery hours which saves us 15 hours a week on little Sophie's bill allowing my wife to go to work, lifting my wife out of income tax altogether and halving mine.

Yes, there is the ink blot of the tuition fees and other things they have gritted their teeth and voted for and despite his great personable charisma, this is something that will haunt Nick Clegg's political career for many years to come and could and will blight him as a possible leader of the country. However my wife, who is non-partisan and she has told me that on this strength alone she will more than likely vote Liberal Democrat in the future on the strengths of the party actually promising to help the people and actually doing it with in the confines of deficit.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Married Tax break - looking backwards?

Firstly I'd like to thank Dave and the Conservatives for bringing in this policy. With the cost of living
(and commuting) rising, my wages at a 1% rise well under inflation and my job looking fairly uncertain after next April any extra pennies are greatly received.

However - it is still bollocks.

I'm not sure what the Conservative high command were thinking about when this idea was floated. Is it a return of traditional values? Is it to try and build up marriage as the stable relationship for bringing up kids? Is it an attempt to return to the golden era of MacMillan? Eden? Or even Baldwin and Bonar-Law?

Society has moved on. With the decline in religious belief and people being more secular and with a lot of people unable to pay for weddings now they cost so many thousands of pounds people are just staying in committed relationships and what really is the difference?

Does the tax break cease if you have a divorce?

My Dad left us when I was Eight years old and my Mum had to bring myself and Gemma up on her own yet would have needed a tax break! Further to that both my Sister and I understand commitment and both of us have families of our own and are married - Not to each other obviously, I grew up in Kent not Alabama!

Many children from "broken" homes grow up to fine by society's standards, in fact no worse than children who grow up with both their parents.

The foundation of family life is not marriage it is commitment between people and that doesn't have to be ratified by a church or the state - after all you can get married and the relationship can break down in a year or two, you can stay a couple and be together until the day you die. In deed I never wanted to get married. As far as I was concerned it was just a piece of paper that sealed what my family and friends already knew - that I loved Sam and wanted to be with her. In deed we were together for five years before we tied the knot and we've been married almost five years and my feelings have not changed for her at all in that time, indeed I would have brought my children up in the same way had we not been married. This thin strip of white gold on my left hand would not stop me from being a bad parent or from being a bad husband or even cheating (was I that way inclined).

But I should be clear to say once again, I love my wife now as much as the day I married her and the day we got together.

But that should not entitle me to a tax break.

It is fairly discriminatory (despite Jeremy Hunt's protestations here). Why should one set of people get it and not any one else in similar situations not? It really does ascribe a certain weight to an ideal too. What of those struggling single parents whose partners have walked out? Or been abusive and they have taken a stand and left them now found themselves cut off?

Relief from Taxation should be based on financial situation not on family setup. Should we hand out tax relief to those who are confirmed in their religious faith as religion traditionally set people up with values for life and let the atheists suffer?

Jeremy Hunt says this is not a judgement... he says Love is love yet unless you get the piece of paper in what the State is now dictating is the only way they accept that you are committed and in it for the long haul - you won't receive the benefit.

Clearly this is not a well thought out policy and the cynic in me says that this is an attempt of the Conservative party to recapture votes from traditionalists and their original core of voters who may have been turned off by the Equal marriage bill.

Oh and Jeremy, if you are reading this, rather than Love is love (which I think I read on a fortune cookie once) I'd like to offer up the German writer and philosopher Johann von Goethe's definition:

True love is love that stays constant for ever, whatever its fortune:
Whether requited or scorned, filled or sent empty away


Without a doubt, the only thing that makes Man's life on earth essential and necessary is love

Monday, 23 September 2013

Cllr Stamp's website is hacked

Yesterday one of our activists sent me a link to a tweet from the Rochester & Strood Conservatives (pictured) with the message to take a look.
As a member of the Exec committee of the Medway Libdems I can categorically deny this had anything to do with any of our current members.

Our position was made perfectly clear in the Local Medway Messenger by our Chairman, Tony Jeacock, on the letters page the week after the announcement that the former Liberal Democrats who had defected to the Independent group in 2010 had turned coat again and joined Labour. It is something I wrote about at the time (including copying Tony's letter). Some commentators have been critical of the move saying that it was motivated by their own electoral self interest rather than representing those who elected them and not Labour candidates in the first place.

Although they have purged their twitter feed Medway labour accused a “known Liberal” however the person they are accusing has not been a member for several years.
Interestingly, it was Cllr. Jarrett the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group who publicly noted at the last full council meeting that Cllrs. Stamp and Cooper had belonged to three different political groups in as many years and who, jokingly said that there will always be a seat for them within the Conservative Group, a joke which Cllr. Stamp failed to appreciate, something I commented on at the time. 

It would seem to me that both Labour and Conservatives should be looking to clean their own doorsteps before accusing the LibDems of something which clearly we are not guilty.

I must admit though - it did make me smile when I read it, however briefly!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Cllr Tolhurst and Medway Knockers

Cllr Tolhurst
I had the (mis)fortune to sit through the debate on the future of rtochester airport a few months ago. I won't go into the detail of the debate but there was something that sparked an emotion that was not frustration or anger.

It was confusion.

Councillor Kelly Tolhurst (con) gave a very rousing speech in defence of her party's plans, by far the best argument I had heard from any of the Tories that night. Councillor Jarrett had defended the position with all the airs and graces of a bison negotiating it's way out of a liquidiser and Councillor Chitty was as convincing as Adolf Eichman's defence top that of with... sorry I am digressing.

Councillor Tolhurst argued that as a local girl and local business owner she was proud of Medway and of the airport.

There came the phrase that Councillor Jarrett had used in the past.

Those that criticised were Medway Knockers who sought to have a go at any good that was in Medway and undermine my attempt to make it better.

This made me think back to other eras of History where anyone who questioned orders or government decisions were termed "Unpatriotic" "Rebels" or "defeatist" often followed by punitive measures.

It is true that there are those who say No to everything the ruling party say or support - that is the Labour Party.

I was born in Gillingham, I had family here and stayed at my Grandparent's every weekend for many years.

I have lived here since 2007, I was married here, my children were both born here and next year my eldest, Sophie, will go to school here. Hopefully this is enough to qualify me as a resident rather than someone who has just turned up.

However I too was (at least) once referred to as a Medway Knocker for daring to speak out against the City status bid against the Status Quo - Worse yet I, and the party I belong too took action for those who didn't agree with the bid and were ignored by the ruling council.

We were labelled Medway Knockers even though our motivations were for the good of Medway.

The same is true for the Airport. THere are quite a few concerned residents who live near the airport who have safety concerns and others who see the £4.5 Million price tag and balk at the investment whilst services are cut and roads unrepaired. Others are more concerned about the Conservatives "consultation" process - which if it is anything like the selling of the care homes a couple of years ago, will be a simple exercise in futility and because they legally have to do it and their minds are already made up.

Pigeon holing and profiling is sp,etjomg we are all guilty of and at times we can be correct in our assumptions and quietly smug.

It is dangerous and either politically naive/ stupid or deliberately dismissive.

I don't think Cllr Tolhurst is any of these. Her statement was very passionate and angry in the face of Labour opposition so I'd notch this one up to the heat of the moment.

But you should watch out for the Conservative group and their, dare I say it, Liberal usage of the term!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Nick Clegg's closing Conference speech 2013

Three years ago – nearly three and a half – I walked into the Cabinet Office for my first day as Deputy Prime Minister.
Picture it: history in the making as a Liberal Democrat leader entered, finally, into the corridors of power, preparing to unshackle Britain after years of Labour and Conservative rule. Only to arrive and find an empty room and one shell-shocked civil servant promising me we’d get on with things shortly – but first he had to get us some desks.
You saw the calm bit in the rose garden. What you didn’t see was the utter chaos indoors. To say the Coalition caught Whitehall off guard is a massive understatement. The Government machine had no idea how it was going to handle power sharing – and not just the furniture, this was going to need a complete overhaul of how decisions would be taken and departments would be run. And – while no one really wanted to admit it at the time – the truth is, no one was quite sure how it was all going to work.
Here we were, this anti-establishment liberal party – which hadn’t been in power for 70 years – smack bang in the middle of Her Majesty’s Government: a Government machine built to serve one party, with only one party leader at the centre, now suddenly having to answer to two parties and two party leaders. Alongside us were these Tories, who we had been at war with for the past month – well, actually, more like the last hundred years.
The country was deep in economic crisis, in desperate need of stable Government. And the whole thing was set to a soundtrack of pessimism and naysaying: the Liberal Democrats had signed their own death warrant. The Coalition would fall in a matter of months. Britain would be the next Greece.
So let’s just stop and think about where we are now: The country’s economy growing stronger by the day. Stable, successful coalition – something that seemed impossible now accepted as the norm. And the Liberal Democrats proving that we can be trusted with the biggest responsibility of all – fixing the economy.
I know how hard it has been getting here – facing down all the vitriol from our opponents. Trust me, there were days I thanked my lucky stars that my children were too young to understand some of the things that were written and said. But every insult we have had to endure since we entered Government, every snipe, every bad headline, every blow to our support: That was all worth it – because we are turning Britain around.
We haven’t won over every critic; we’ll be tested a million more times. But the big question mark that has always hung over the Liberal Democrats – could we handle Government, and handle it when the going got tough? – that question mark is now gone. This recovery wouldn’t be happening without us.
We have made sure the deficit is being cut at the right pace. We were the ones who said you don’t just get growth by cutting red tape – Government also needs to invest in things: infrastructure, apprenticeships, regional growth.
So I want you to feel proud today. Feel proud that the country’s fortunes are turning. Feel proud that, when we were under pressure to buckle and change course, we held our nerve. Feel proud that we are right here, in the centre of Government and the centre of British politics, standing up for the millions of people in the middle.
I have talked to you before about our journey from the comforts of opposition to the realities of Government – but not anymore. Liberal Democrats – we are a party of Government now. And just think of what we have achieved in three short years.
For the first time ever, our schools get given money – our Pupil Premium – to stop children from the poorest families from falling behind – the first time ever. More than a million men and women have started training as apprentices – record numbers. Businesses across every region are being given billions to help them grow.
We’ve made the biggest investment in our railways since the Victorian times. We’ve created a bank devoted to clean, green industry – a world first. Elderly people will no longer have to sell their homes to pay for social care because we’ve capped the crippling costs. Mothers will no longer be worse off in retirement because our new simpler, fairer state pension recognises the value of raising a family.
Fathers will have the choice of staying at home once their children are born because we’re transforming parental leave.
All parents will get free, extra childcare, paid for by the state, when their children turn three or two for the families who need it most. We stopped ID cards. We’ve taken innocent people off the DNA database. We’ve ended child detention in the immigration system. 0.7% of national wealth spent on aid for the world’s poorest – our party’s policy for years. Not to mention getting the banks in order and helping create over a million new jobs.
And, one last one: at a time when millions of people are feeling the squeeze, when every penny counts, we’ve cut income tax bills by £700 and taken almost three million people on low pay out of paying any income tax altogether.
The Tories like to claim credit for that one now, don’t they? But do you remember the TV debates? David Cameron turned to me, in front of the whole country, and said: ‘I would love to take everyone out of their first £10,000 of income tax Nick, but we cannot afford it’. Well, we can afford it. And we did it. A stronger economy and a fairer society too.
Actually, just one more, and my new favourite: just a few months ago, our Government – our Government – passed a law that will make Britain a place where we finally celebrate love and commitment equally between couples whether they are gay or straight: Equal Marriage. Three years. Three years. We’re not even done yet.
Can you imagine what we could do with five more? You should be able to –we’ve spent the last five days talking about it. This whole week has been about looking forward and one thing is very clear: the Liberal Democrats don’t want to go back to the opposition benches, because we aren’t done yet.
Because here’s what’s at stake at the next election: The country is finally emerging from the biggest economic crisis in living memory. The absolute worst thing to do would be to give the keys to Number 10 to a single party Government – Labour or the Conservatives.
All of the sacrifices made by the British people – the pay freezes, the spending cuts, the lost jobs, the daily grind of austerity – all of that would be for nothing. Labour would wreck the recovery. The Conservatives would give us the wrong kind of recovery. Only the Liberal Democrats can finish the job and finish it in a way that is fair.
In 2015 the clapped out politics of red, blue, blue red threatens everything we have achieved. But, back in Government – and next time that will mean back in coalition Government – the Liberal Democrats can keep the country on the right path.
Imagine the next round of leaders’ debates everyone watching to see who agrees with whom this time. David Cameron will say to Ed Miliband: you’re irresponsible, you are going to drive the economy to ruin. Ed Miliband will say to David Cameron: you can’t be trusted to help everyone, your party only cares about the rich. For once, I will agree with them both. Because they’re both right: left to their own devices, they’ll both get it wrong.
But, Liberal Democrats, we have learned a lot since getting into Government, and one of the main things I have learnt is this: If we’re asking people to put us back in the room next time round, if we want them to know why it’s better to have us round the table when the big decisions are made, they need to be able to make a judgement about what we’ll do there. And that’s as much about values, character, background as anything else.
They need to know who we are. Who I am. Why I’m a Liberal Democrat and why I’m standing here today. So, let me start with this: I was part of a generation raised – in the 70s and 80s – on a constant diet of aggressive, us-and-them politics.
I have so many memories of my brothers, my sister and I watching television and asking our parents why everyone seemed so upset. Angry, shouty Labour politicians. Union leaders gesticulating furiously, next to pictures of rubbish piling up on the streets. And later: stand offs between crowds of miners and rows of riot police.
At school I was being taught all about the Cold War – the backdrop to all of this; I even remember a history teacher telling me and my petrified classmates that we probably wouldn’t make it until Christmas because there was bound to be a Soviet strike. So the world I grew up in was all about stark, polarised choices. Us vs them; East vs West; Left vs Right.
An incompetent Labour Government had been replaced by a heartless Conservative Government. All anyone seemed to care about was whose side you were on. So I steered clear of party politics.
Then, one day, when I was 22 and studying in America, the phone rang and it was my mum. She had just heard on the News that the Berlin Wall was coming down. So my flatmate and I tuned in our radio, and we sat and listened for hours to reports of people coming out of their homes in the middle of the night and literally hammering away at this symbol of division and hate.
And I can remember so clearly the sense of optimism and hope. Anyone here who’s my age will understand: it really felt as though the dark, drab days of angry politics and conflict could now give way to something better. But, in the weeks and months that followed, when I looked to the Government of my country, the British Government, to see if they were raising their sights to help shape this brave new world.
All I could see was a bunch of Tories too busy tearing strips off each other – embroiled, surprise surprise, in rows about European Treaties and widget directives. It was so totally dispiriting: everything I’d come to abhor about the politics with which I’d grown up: insular, petty, polarised.
And if that had been the end of the story, I doubt I would have entered politics at all. But it wasn’t. Enter Paddy Ashdown. I met Paddy, for the first time, when he came into a dingy, grey, bureaucratic office I was working in in Strasbourg. It was the middle of a major trade dispute between America and Europe.
He marched in, everyone instinctively stood to attention, and in what seemed like the blink of an eye: he ordered a cup of coffee, instructed the room on how to solve the world’s trade wars, issued a series of action points that should have been delivered yesterday, reassured us all it would be alright, and then swept out.
This was the first time I’d seen a British politician talking with passion and conviction and without defensiveness or fear about the challenges in the world and the leadership Britain needed to show. The Liberal Democrats seemed so outward looking and forward looking, compared to the tired, old, introverted politics of Labour and the Conservatives. For me, that was it. That’s how I found our party.
So I know what it is like to look at the old parties and want more – to want a party that speaks for big, enduring values. And what the Liberal Democrats gave me 20 years ago. Showing me there was something better than the tired choice between Labour and the Conservatives is something I want us to give to people across Britain today.
What do you think Britain would look like today if the Tories had been alone in Whitehall for the last three years? What would have happened without Liberal Democrats in this Government? I haven’t said enough about it.
It’s a bit old fashioned, but I always thought it was better, in politics, to tell people about the things you’ve achieved not just the things you’ve stopped. But people do need to know how coalition operates and what we do day in day out inside Government.
Ultimately it’s up to the Prime Minister and me to make this work; where there are disagreements, we try and seek compromise, and by doing that we’ve cracked problems that single party Governments have struggled with for decades: social care, pension reform, reducing reoffending, and so on.
But sometimes compromise and agreement isn’t possible and you just have to say “no”. Inheritance tax cuts for millionaires - no. Bringing back O’ levels and a two-tier education system - no. Profit-making in schools – no. New childcare ratios – no. Firing workers at will, without any reasons given – no, absolutely not.
Regional pay penalising public sector workers in the north - no. Scrapping housing benefit for young people – no. No to ditching the Human Rights Act. No to weakening the protections in the Equalities Act. No to closing down the debate on Trident. Had they asked us, no to those ‘go home’ poster vans.
No to the boundary changes if you cannot deliver your side of the bargain on House of Lords reform. And if there’s one area where we’ve had to put our foot down more than any other, have a guess. Yep, the environment.
It’s an endless battle; we’ve had to fight tooth and nail; it was the same just this week with the decision to introduce a small levy to help Britain radically cut down on plastic bags.
They wanted to scrap Natural England, hold back green energy. They even wanted geography teachers to stop teaching children about how we can tackle climate change. No, no and no – the Liberal Democrats will keep this Government green.
I don’t pretend it’s always easy to say no. Sometimes I’ve had to wrestle with some genuinely difficult dilemmas – not just Tory party dogma.
With the Snoopers’ Charter, I took months listening to Home Office officials, the IT experts, the security services and the police because, as much as I am in Government to protect civil liberties, I also have to go to sleep at night knowing I did my bit to keep people safe.
Government ministers, loud voices in the Labour party, the securocrats and Whitehall were all adamant I should say yes. But, when push came to shove, it became clear that the surveillance powers being proposed were disproportionate: they would have massively undermined people’s privacy, but the security gain was neither proven nor clear. It was right for the establishment, but wrong for the people. So I said no.
Obviously, we haven’t been in coalition with Labour. I could give you a hypothetical list of bad ideas the Liberal Democrats would have to stop – but that would involve Labour producing some actual policies. Who here knows Labours plan for our schools? Or welfare? What would they do for the NHS? For industry? To cut crime?
Well, Labour may not have an economic strategy, but fortunately we do. A bold plan for growth agreed by conference two days ago, built on sound public finances, with house-building, infrastructure and lending to business at its heart – Liberal Democrats turning Britain around.
The truth is, Labour haven’t set out any kind of vision for Britain because they didn’t think they needed to. They have spent the last three years lazily assuming austerity would drive voters into their laps. For them, 2015 is all about the coalition parties losing rather than Labour having to actually try and win. And that tells you everything about why they act the way they do: their deliberate decision to put tactical victories ahead of long-term reform.
Remember the AV referendum? Not a happy memory for the Liberal Democrats, I accept. But do you remember that AV was in fact in Labour’s manifesto? Yet it was Labour figures who were most staunch in the defence of the status quo – just to score points against us. Lords reform – something they historically believe in. Yet when they had the chance to vote for it they found excuses not to – just to score points against us.
Even when we hear good news about the economy, they’re miserable – they’d rather it be bad, just to score points against us. So I have a message for Labour today: you can’t just duck responsibility for the past – refuse to spell out what you’d do in the future – and expect people to give you a blank cheque.
You can sit and wait for the British people to come back to you, but don’t hold your breath. And if there is one area all of the parties need to put politics aside, it’s Europe, and Britain’s place in it. The Conservatives have this bizarre view that we can turn our back on Europe and still lead in the world.
As if we’ll be taken seriously by the Americans, the Chinese, the Indians, all the big superpowers when we’re isolated and irrelevant in our own backyard. But the truth is we stand tall in Washington, Beijing, Delhi when we stand tall in Brussels, Paris and Berlin.
I know it because I worked there; I have seen with my own eyes what can be achieved for Britain by engaging with our neighbours and building the world’s largest borderless single market upon which millions of jobs in our country now depend.
Of course the European Union needs reform – no one is saying it doesn’t. But we cannot allow the contorted confusion of the right, the outright isolationism of UKIP, to jeopardise millions of British jobs and diminish Britain’s standing in the world.
Liberal Democrats, it falls to us to stand up for the national interest: we will be the party of In. I am an internationalist – pure and simple; first by birth, then by marriage, but above all by conviction. We may be an island nation, but there’s no such thing as an economic island in an age of globalisation.
And Britain is always at its strongest and proudest when we are open to the world – generous-spirited and warm-hearted, working with our neighbours and a leader on the world stage. That’s the message I will take to New York next week, when I represent the UK at the United Nations General Assembly.
There are some in the world who seek to present us as pulling up the drawbridge, following Parliament’s decision not to consider a military intervention in Syria – but they will hear from me that they are wrong.
My views on Syria are well known: I believe the use of chemical weapons – a war crime under international, humanitarian law – should be stopped wherever possible.
But I understand why some people are wary of another entanglement in the Middle East – Iraq casts a long shadow – and we now have the opportunity to work with the UN, the Russians, the Americans, the French and others to put these heinous weapons beyond the reach of Assad’s regime.
What matters now is that we are clear that this nation is not heading into retreat. It would be a double tragedy if the legacy of Iraq was a Britain turned away from the world.
Others look to our values and traditions for inspiration. Democracy, peaceful protest, equality before the law. That, in itself, confers a leadership role on us. Not as some military superpower. Not out of some nostalgic impulse after the loss of empire.
But because we believe in the virtues of law, peaceful dissent, political stability and human rights as enduring liberal values.
These are values that my own family – affected by the wars and conflicts of the past like so many other families – never took for granted.
And Miriam and I try to teach our sons that they shouldn’t take these values for granted either. After Spain moved to democracy in the 1970s, Miriam’s father was the first democratically elected Mayor in a small agricultural town in the middle of the countryside.
He single handedly brought better schools, more jobs and better housing to his community. He was hugely proud of being the first Mayor to serve his community through the ballot box. He sadly died some years ago, and there’s a small statue of him today outside the church in Miriam’s village.
Our small boys see that statue every holiday and Miriam tells them of the wonderful things he did. And they always ask about why he was elected and no one before him. We teach them that democracy and freedom are a fragile and recent thing in many parts of the world.
We teach them – just as my parents taught me – that rights and values should never be taken for granted, and if you believe in them, you should stand up for them.
And that is the United Kingdom that I want my children – all children – to grow up in: a United Kingdom that defends and promotes its values – our liberal values – at home and abroad.
It is now a year to the day until the Scottish people decide whether or not to leave the UK. The independence referendum. I unambiguously, unequivocally want Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom. The nationalists don’t have a monopoly on passion in this debate. I love the way the UK is made up of different peoples, different traditions, different histories.
I’ve sat in rugby grounds shouting my head off for England while the Scottish fans have shouted back just as loud – and it is a very special thing when good natured rivalry can flourish side by side with a feeling of affinity and closeness that comes from being a family of nations. And on every single level we are stronger together than we are apart.
We live in uncertain times, in an uncertain world - these are not days to build walls. They are days to bring them down. The decision in a year’s time does not need to be between breaking the bond or keeping the status quo – that’s a false choice.
‘No’ does not mean no change.
A Scottish decision to remain within the UK family can and must give way to a new settlement for this nation. The Liberal Democrats have always fought for more powers for Scotland – and Wales and Northern Ireland too. In Coalition we have overseen the biggest transfer of financial freedoms in 300 years. And, from Gladstone to Grimond to today, we continue to believe in home rule.
Ming Campbell has recently produced a superb report setting out how we think home rule will work in the future. Our vision is of a proud and strong Scotland, within the United Kingdom, in charge of its own fate but part of a family of nations too. This is a vision shared by many Scots and, increasingly, the other major political parties.
That is why – once the issue of Scotland’s continued participation in the United Kingdom is hopefully settled next year – I want to see a new cross party approach to the next advance in Scottish devolution.
Willie Rennie has signalled his willingness to work with the Scottish Labour and Conservative leaders ahead of next year’s vote – and I support him.
Delivering Home Rule is a tantalising prospect that is now closer than it has been for a generation.
So let’s get out there to win the referendum in favour of keeping our nations together – and then work with others to deliver the future Scotland wants.
I had the pleasure of meeting one of Scotland’s finest this summer - Andy Murray. It was at a reception in the Downing Street garden the day after his stunning Wimbledon victory. David Cameron, Ed Miliband and I were all kind of fluttering around him, trying to ask clever questions about the Djokovic match, when Andy Murray suddenly interrupted with: ‘you all seem to get along now, why can’t you always be like this?’
A good question that was met with an awkward silence and the three of us shuffling our feet. He was right, it’s true: we can get on. We’re never going to be mates, but I’ve got nothing against them personally – politically, yes, personally, no.
That’s why the constant, breathless speculation about how different party leaders get on kind of misses the point. I’m endlessly asked who I feel more ‘comfortable’ with – David Cameron or Ed Miliband? Wouldn’t our party be more comfortable with Labour? Aren’t we more comfortable with our present coalition partners? But I don’t look at Ed Miliband and David Cameron and ask myself who I’d be most comfortable with, as if I was buying a new sofa.
In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to work with either of them because I’d be Prime Minister on my own thank you very much – and I’d like to think I’d do a better job too. So the best thing would be to put all of the predictions and personalities to one side. Whether or not we have another coalition is determined by the British people – not me, not you, the people.
And if that happens, only their votes can tell us what combination of parties carries the greatest legitimacy. Our job is plain and simple: to get more Lib Dem MPs elected.
A liberal commitment to genuine pluralism – genuine democratic choice – starts and finishes with the wishes of the public, not the preferences of the political classes.
That’s one of the reasons why I’ve never shared the view that the aim of our party should be to realign British politics by joining up with one of the other parties.
Roy Jenkins – someone I admired very much – believed that if we aligned with a modernising Labour party we could heal the divisions of the centre left. But, for me, joining forces for good with another party simply reduces democratic choice. The Liberal Democrats are not just some subset of the Labour or Tory parties – we’re no one’s little brother. We have our own values, our own liberal beliefs.
We’re not trying to get back into Government to fold into one of the other parties – we want to be there to anchor them to the liberal centre ground, right in the centre, bang in the middle. We’re not here to prop up the two party system: we’re here to bring it down.
My upbringing was privileged: home counties; private school; Cambridge University. I had a lot of opportunities. But I also had two parents who were determined that my brothers, my sister and I knew how lucky we were. On both sides, their families had experienced huge upheavals.
My Dutch mother had spent much of her childhood in a prisoner of war camp. My dad’s Russian mother had come to England after her family lost everything in the Russian Revolution. So our home was full of different languages, relatives with different backgrounds, people with different views, music and books from different places.
And my mother and father always told us that people’s fortunes can turn quickly – that good fortune should never be assumed and misfortune can occur suddenly, without warning.
I think because of the traumas their parents had been through, while they wanted to give us everything, it was so important to them that we didn’t take things for granted.
My brothers and sister and I were always taught to treat everyone the same, not to judge people by their background. We were raised to believe that everyone deserves a chance because everyone’s fortunes can change, often through no fault of their own.
And now, as a father with three children at school, I have come to understand even more clearly than before that if we want to live in a society where everyone has a fair chance to live the life they want - and to bounce back from misfortune too - then education is the key.
The gifts we give our children – self-confidence, an enthusiasm to learn, an ability to empathise with others, a joy in forging new friendships – these are instilled at an extraordinarily young age.
That’s why I made social mobility the social policy objective of this Government – and I will want it to be the same for any Government I’m in. It’s why so much of my efforts over the last three years, and so much of the money available to us, has been invested in those crucial formative years:
The £2.5bn Pupil Premium that I first wrote about 10 years ago. The 15 hours of free pre-school help for all three and four year olds, and now two year olds from the homes who need it most. Shared parental leave; new rights to flexible working; tax free childcare. These are the measures I’ve spent more time on than anything else in this Coalition.
If you want to know what I really believe in you will find it in these policies. Using the muscle of the state to create a level playing field when it counts most – when boys and girls are still forming their views, their characters, their hopes and their fears.
That’s why I’m delighted to tell you that we are now also going to provide free school meals for all children of infant school age.
From next September we’ll give every child in Reception, and Years 1 and 2 a healthy lunch every day – saving families more than £400 per year, per child.
And, for the Liberal Democrats, this is a first step: my ambition is to provide free school meals for all primary school children. Another reason we want to get into Government again next time round.
The Conservatives, on the other hand, have made it clear that their priority is to help some families over others, with a tax break for married couples. A tax break for some, funded through the taxes of everybody else - that tells you everything you need to know about their values.
We, however, will help all families in these tough times, not just the kind we like best, by helping their young children get the best possible start in life – and that tells you everything about our values. Providing this kind of help, Liberal Democrats, is now, the most important thing we can do.
Aside from anything else, that is how we restore people’s faith in our politics: by delivering for them in ways that are relevant and real. By talking to people about the things they care about, not what the political classes are talking about.
It’s so easy to lose sight of those things when you’re stuck in the Westminster bubble. And I want to be honest with you: keeping a balance between politics and normal life isn’t straightforward.
Politics these days is a roller-coaster ride of 24 hour news, breathless headlines, lurid tweets, endless polls, constant gossip about who’s up and who’s down. And you have to be really disciplined with yourself about keeping one foot in the real world to keep things in balance.
Miriam and I chose not to live behind the Government battlements in Whitehall, so we live in the same home we’ve been in for some years. We try very hard to keep our family life normal and private – we keep our children away from the cameras. We don’t pretend we’re a model family – we are who we are. We try to make sure that Westminster doesn’t take over our lives.
I know I won’t be in politics forever. What I will be is a father, a husband, a son, an uncle to all those I love in my family for good – just like anyone else. So, the longer I spend in this job, the more and more I cherish the human, direct and unstuffy way we Liberal Democrats do politics.
Our zeal for knocking on doors, making ourselves available, speaking like human beings – we must never lose that. And, as much as I’m always telling you all to embrace Government, I’m forever looking for ways to try and get out of Whitehall myself.
Taking answers on the radio; fielding questions in village halls; trying to help my constituents out when they come to see me in my Sheffield surgery; going out on regional tours; or, when I can’t get away, answering your questions online.
Doing things differently must always be part of our identity. I want us to stay in Government – but I also want us to show that it is possible to be a party of Government without behaving like an establishment party.
There was this wonderful moment on the day of the last vote on Equal Marriage. Some of us put pink carnations in our button holes and Alistair Carmichael and I were invited to go outside to meet some of the campaigners. Little did we know that they had set up an impromptu wedding ceremony – cake and dancing ‘n’ all – outside the Palace of Westminster.
And we found ourselves standing side by side – if not quite hand in hand – in front of the exuberant London Gay Men’s Chorus, singing Abba’s Dancing Queen for us at the top of their voices.
Meanwhile, inside the House of Lords, dinosaur opponents of the Bill were having a final go at killing it – declaring that gay marriage would be the end of civilisation as we know it. And, awkward though I think Alistair and I must have appeared as we lamely clapped along to Abba, at that moment we were exactly where we belonged: on the outside, welcoming in reform.
Liberal Democrats, three years ago I told you that we had an opportunity our predecessors would have given anything for. To govern. To turn our liberal principles into practice. Today I tell you that an even bigger opportunity awaits. The cycle of red, blue, blue, red has been interrupted.
Our place in this Government has prevented the pendulum swinging back from left to right. We are now where we always should have been: in power; in the liberal centre; in tune with the British people. And every day we are showing that we can govern and govern well. That pluralism works. And if we can do this again – in Government again in 2015 – we are a step closer to breaking the two party mould for good.
In the past, there were people who would only support us when the future of the country was not at stake. Now there are people who will support us precisely because the future of the country will be at stake.
In the past the Liberal Democrats would eke out an existence on the margins of British politics. Now we hold the liberal centre while our opponents head left and right. I have spent my entire life watching the other two mess it up.
We cannot stand idly by and let them do it all over again. We are the only party that can finish the job of economic recovery, but finish it fairly.
The only party able to build a stronger economy and a fairer society too.
Liberal Democrats take that message out to the country. Our mission is anchoring Britain to the centre ground. Our place is in Government again.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Vince Cable's Speech at Conference


It is a special pleasure to speak to Conference in the city where I had my political baptism of fire.  Glasgow is a great city and Glaswegians are warm, hospitable and humorous.
But Glasgow has experienced one party, Labour, rule for decades. And I was part of the Labour political machine here in the 1970s.  On one level it worked.  Insanitary slums were razed to the ground. We built 30,000 new social homes for rent in a decade – 5,000 in one year, a scale unimaginable today.

There was also an unhealthy tribalism and a Tammany Hall political machine in which union bosses had excessive influence in picking candidates and deciding policy.  Judging by Falkirk, and other Labour fiefdoms, nothing very much has changed.

That is one major reason why we must not concede to Labour the mantle of radical progressive politics. We must assert our party’s ownership of that tradition, which in Scotland runs for over a century: from Asquith, Gladstone and Campbell-Bannerman through to Jo Grimond, David Steel, Charles Kennedy, Bob McLennan, Ming Campbell, Jim Wallace and many others.

The challenge today is to reinforce that Liberal tradition which is at risk of being compromised by working with what, on Clydeside, are called ‘the hated Tories’. And that’s when people are being polite.

Like you, I’ve spent most of my political life fighting against those ‘hated Tories’.  But despite that I believe that it was both brave and absolutely right for the party, under Nick Clegg’s leadership, to work with the Tories in an economic emergency, in the UK national interest.

Theresa May once described the Tories, a decade ago, as the Nasty Party.  After a few years trying to be nice and inclusive it has reverted to type:  dog whistle politics, orchestrated by an Australian Rottweiler.  Hostility towards organised labour, people on benefits and immigrant minorities. The list of people the Tories disapprove of is even longer: public sector workers, especially teachers; the unmarried; people who don’t own property.  Their core demographic excludes pretty much anybody who wouldn’t have qualified for the vote before the 1867 Reform Act.

These prejudices can perhaps be explained, in part, by their age profile.  I suspect I would qualify – on age, not ideology – to be a member of the Young Conservatives.

But I think the other reason is deeper: a cynical calculation in difficult times that fear trumps hope; that competence requires callousness.

That is not our kind of politics.  It is ugly.  And we will not be dragged down by it.  That is why our Liberal Democrat message about Fairness is key. We can legitimately claim ownership of fair tax policies which have lifted millions of low earners out of income tax.  It is our policy. Don’t let the Tories steal it. I can remember in opposition bringing this proposal to conference, at a time when George Osborne’s top priority was cutting inheritance tax for millionaires.

And our commitment to taxing unproductive wealth – valuable property – through a Mansion Tax, is economically sensible and popular; but above all, fair. Don’t let Labour steal that either.

Fairness takes us so far – but in my view not far enough. We are not just a nicer version of the Tories.

There are fundamental differences about how to create a stronger economy and more jobs.

We are five years on from the biggest market failure of our lifetime.  Financial capitalism collapsed and was rescued by the state.   Labour was in charge and had fallen asleep at the wheel. They were negligent. The Tories’ friends and donors were at the heart of the greed and recklessness which lay behind that disaster. Today they yearn to return to ‘business as usual’.  Whilst we work with them, pragmatically and constructively, to clean up the mess, we must not allow them to turn the clock back.

In essence, the Tories have a simple world view; private good, public bad.  Labour offers the polar opposite.  As Liberal Democrats we value both public and private sectors.  I support private business, big and small. I also support mutual and employee ownership. And even Tony Benn couldn’t claim to have launched two state-owned banks; the Green Investment Bank – based in Edinburgh- which we promised three years ago has already committed £685 million to green projects.  And the Business Bank, which I launched at Conference exactly a year ago is now mobilising private capital to support new banks, local banks and non bank finance. It is the key to stopping the suffocation of good small business by the big banks.

By contrast, the Conservatives’ spiritual home is in the United States. They have become the Tea Party Tories.  They want to throw overboard any tax or regulation which gets in the way of their blinkered small state ideology. Deep down they believe that there is no alternative to unhindered individual self-interest; that attempts to tackle big disparities of income and wealth takes us down the road to socialist serfdom.

Our rejection of dogma also leads us to an eclectic mixture of markets and regulation.  In government we are rightly getting rid of the red tape which throttles small business and holds back entrepreneurs.  But some regulation is essential.  And that is why I work – with Ed Davey and colleagues – to resist Tory pressure to emasculate environmental regulation, as in their ludicrous war on windmills.

That is also why we have seen off demands from a Tory donor to make it possible to fire people for no reason whatsoever.

Let no one tell you that Liberal Democrats have not made a difference.  Without us in government, we would be ruled by people who think the problem with this country is that workers have too much job security.

Instead, I will act against abusive practices in zero hours contracts, like exclusivity arrangements
which prevent workers seeking alternatives, even when they are given no work. I have secured agreement in government to launch a formal consultation on the best mechanism to tackle abuse.

We have had to take some tough and necessary economic decisions with the Tories.  There is of course common ground on the need to cut the budget’s structural deficit and promote private enterprise. There are welcome signs of returning confidence. But let us not be carried away, and let’s not get sucked into a petty point scoring, Labour-Tory Punch and Judy show on the economy.
It took many years of mistakes to create the financial crisis. It has taken five years to start to dig our way out. We mustn’t now settle for a short term spurt of growth, fuelled by old-fashioned property boom and bankers rediscovering their mojo.  We have seen it all before and there are already amber lights flashing to warn us of history repeating itself.

The Prime Minister says I am a Jeremiah. But you will recall from your reading of the Old Testament that Jeremiah was right. He warned that Jerusalem would be overrun by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar.  In my own Book of Lamentations I described how Gordon Brown’s New Jerusalem was overrun by an army of estate agents, property speculators and bankers.

The problem we have now is that the invaders are coming back.  They have a bridgehead in London and the south east of England. They must be stopped.  Instead we need sustainable growth.
That involves rebalancing the economy across the UK in favour of exports and investment – the central purpose of our government’s industrial strategy.  We should celebrate the success stories of motor vehicles and aerospace, the creative industries and educational exports and the partnership between government and business in all of these sectors.   Manufacturing is coming back through rebuilt supply chains. We are attacking the country’s scandalous neglect of skills through our successful relaunching of large scale apprenticeships.  We have given priority to Britain’s world class science and have created a chain of innovation centres – the catapults – of which there are two in Glasgow, promoting new, business-led, technologies for advanced manufacturing and new offshore renewables.

We are building a genuine cross-party consensus around these government interventions so that they endure. But, make absolutely no mistake, without Liberal Democrats they would not have happened.
But if sustainable recovery is to be achieved, we must meet the enormous challenge of house building. Demand growth has been outstripping supply, driving up both rents and prices. Property is simply unaffordable for families without big incomes or access to the bank of mum and dad. Yet we are nowhere near recapturing the house building drive which pulled Britain out of the slump in the 1930s. Barely 100,000 homes a year are being completed, a quarter of what was being achieved in the 1960s. In addition, two million social homes have been sold since Mrs Thatcher began in 1979and no less than three quarter of a million of them were sold under Labour.  Hence the enormous pressure on families trapped by a lethal combination of low pay, rising rents and tighter benefit rules.

The priority right now is increasing housing supply through private and public sectors.
Conference took a strong step forward this morning with the proposal to give councils greater borrowing capacity to get on and build social housing. The country desperately needs delivery of homes not dogmatic arguments over tenure.

I hoped that we would find common ground with the Tories at least in one area: supporting an open, outward looking country.  Indeed we said with one voice: Britain is open for business.
Sadly, that message has changed. Brazilian and other students who would bring economic and wider benefits to British universities are being told they are burdensome immigrants so they go to the United States instead.  Many Chinese tourists and businessmen are so fed up with the hassle and humiliation involved in trying to visit Britain to invest here that they are taking their money to Germany and France.

What they hear is that we are closed for business. That must change.

Moreover, our status as a popular destination for job-creating investment from Japan, the USA and
mainland Europe could be compromised by careless talk from some of my cabinet colleagues – let alone the backbench Bones and Hollobones – about Britain leaving the European Union and the Single Market.  Britain’s future in the European Single Market is being put at risk by the Tories. Yet millions of British jobs depend on our protecting that relationship.

Let’s remember that we voted to join the present Coalition.  We did not vote to join a coalition with UKIP.

Of course, the Tories are frightened by the public reaction to overseas workers.  But there is something deeply opportunistic about people who lecture our workers, and the rest of Europe, about the need for free and flexible labour markets, but then squawk with panic when those free and flexible labour markets bring in foreign workers.

The politics of identity is toxic, and difficult. At times of hardship, those outside the elite of rich and powerful tend to blame outsiders.  But we need to address the underlying problem. At present most workers’ pay is being squeezed in real terms.  This has averted an unemployment disaster in the short term.  But there is no long-term future in Britain being a low pay, low productivity economy.  We cannot just wave a magic wand and make the problem go away but we can be more ambitious in showing the way forward.  I have asked the Low Pay Commission to advise how we might achieve a higher minimum wage without damaging employment.

The deeper lesson is that business has to be responsible as well as profitable.

Three years ago at Conference I said in my speech that we must shine a bright light in the dark corners of capitalism. I thought I was paraphrasing Adam Smith, the sage of the Scottish Enlightenment; but much of the press thought that Karl Marx had risen from his grave in Highgate cemetery to join the Coalition Government. That was before either the Libor or hacking scandals broke; and the revelation of industrial scale tax avoidance by prominent companies. Trust was very badly damaged.

Responsible capitalism is, actually, what sensible business wants. And I have worked with business
amongst other things to achieve binding shareholder votes on executive pay; to make real progress in getting women properly represented on company boards and getting institutional investors to think longer term.  Jo Swinson and I have a lot more work to do to advance family-friendly working and to establish an open register of who owns companies, to help curb tax dodging.  And I am preparing to legislate to make it easier to prosecute and ban rogue directors who repeatedly walk away from their debts and their customers. We Liberal Democrats see business as a partner not an adversary in creating responsible capitalism.

I’d like to end, as I began, in Glasgow.  There is a stretch of the Maryhill Road in the north of the city that connects the ward I once represented with the constituency Jo now represents in parliament. One thing has not changed in all those years.  Despite the efforts of different governments in the UK and Scotland there is an enormous gulf – as Jo said in her opening speech, seven years of life expectancy – between the prosperous and educated at one end and a seriously deprived community at the other.
I want our party to be arguing for the unity of the United Kingdom. But unity is not just about Scotland and England. It is also about north and south. Public and private.  Rich and poor.
In our tribally divided politics, the country badly needs the one party that can bridge these dangerous divides.

This isn’t just a matter of splitting the difference between other parties’ policies but setting out a clear and distinctive vision.

The country needs a party which is competent in office but also committed to fighting prejudice and entrenched privilege.  We are that party.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Decieved by Julie Anne Lindsey - Book trailer

DECEIVED by Julie Anne Lindsey 
Ever since she could remember, Elle has had to hop from town to town to keep up with her dad's demanding career as a corporate insurance agent. Each time, a reoccurring nightmare followed her wherever she went--until the day that the frightening figures haunting her at night became all too real. When news of a serial killer spreads throughout her new school, Elle worries that the Reaper has been leaving her his calling card in the form of cigarette butts on her doormat and an unusual ribbon in her locker. With the help of Brian, a boy she meets at a flea market, she discovers that this isn't her first encounter with the murderer and that her father has been concealing her true identity for the past twelve years. But despite her father's desperate attempts to protect her, Elle still comes face to face with the darkness she has been running from her whole life. Trapped in the woods and with help hundreds of miles away, will Elle be able to confront the Reaper and reclaim the life she lost? 
Available September 18th on Amazon Barnes & Noble Book Depository and more. 

About Julie: 
Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. In 2013, Julie welcomed five new releases in three genres including her newest title, DECEIVED, a YA suspense from Merit Press, and her first cozy mystery, MURDER BY THE SEASIDE, book one in the Patience Price, Counselor at Large series from Carina Press (a digital imprint of Harlequin).  
Julie is a self-proclaimed word nerd who would rather read than almost anything else. She started writing to make people smile. Someday she plans to change the world. Most days you'll find her online, amped up on caffeine and wielding a book. 
Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Sisters in Crime (SinC) and the Canton Writer’s Guild. 

Find her online: 
Tweeting her crazy @JulieALindsey 
Soothing her book obsession on GoodReads 
Pinning the pretty on Pinterest 
Tumbling lamely on Tumblr 
Blogging about books and writing at Musings from the Slush Pile