Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lib Dems say: Take Back Power

[Shamelessly pinched from richardbaum by Frank Little]

Nick Clegg has taken a strong stand on cleaning up Parliament and leading the call for a complete overhaul of our political system. Last week at Prime Minister’s Question Time he challenged Gordon Brown to reform our electoral systems. Now even Brown’s own ministers are echoing Nick’s call.

Nick is making the case to:
- Give people the right to sack MPs
- Stop all big party political donations
- Elect the House of Lords
- Make the voting system fair - so that governments can’t just get all that power and all that money with only a minority of you voting for them
- Put an end to self serving politics and put you back in charge
- But Nick can’t do it all on his own. He needs our help.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Labour councillor misuse of the Web

Before local Labour activists complain too loudly about their opponents making use of World Wide Web pages to attack them, they should consider the activities of David Boothroyd, a Labour councillor in London, who has been using various aliases in a deception aimed at Wikipedia among others. He has now been found out and action taken by Wikipedia. Mark Pack has the story and links.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Liberal Democrat Euro candidates commitment to glasnost

Liberal Democrat MEPs are already the best at revealing their expenses and allowances. More of them, in proportion to their numbers, reveal their claims on their web-sites than any other UK-based party MEPs.

All candidates have now gone one stage further, and made the following commitment:


The Liberal Democrat European Parliamentary Party (LDEPP) is committed to the highest standards of public service.

Each of its Members undertakes to ensure strict observance of the European Parliament’s Rules governing the Payment of Expenses and Allowances to Members (PEAM).1

In addition, they agree to meet a common measure of transparency in order to ensure their accountability to the European Parliament, to the UK Liberal Democrats and to their electors.

This Guidance Note shall be appended to the Standing Orders of LDEPP.

Declaration of Interests

In their official Declarations of Financial Interests, LDEPP Members will declare whether they are members of the Parliament’s Voluntary Pension Scheme.

Members will declare whether they employ as assistants, or pay as service providers or paying agents, members of their family. In such cases, the level of payment shall be shown within bands of € 10,000.

General Expenditure Allowance

As specified under PEAM Article 13, the Allowance is a monthly lump sum intended to meet expenditure resulting from 'activities in their capacity as Members not covered by other allowances'. Inter alia, the Allowance covers the following items:

  • Travel and ancillary expenses within the UK

  • Office management and running costs

  • Purchase or rental of office equipment

  • Telephone and postage

  • Office supplies

  • Purchase of publications

  • Internet

  • IT hardware and software

The allowance may not be used to cover personal expenses or to finance subsidies or gifts of a political nature. It may not be used to contribute towards the Voluntary Pension Scheme.

An annual account shall be made of Members’ use of the Allowance. This account shall be certified by an independent, professionally qualified accountant, who shall have received a copy of this Note and of Parliament’s Rules. The audit statement must demonstrate compliance with the Rules of the Parliament, and will be filed with the delegation's Whip. A summary of the account shall be published on each Member’s website.

Secretarial Assistance Allowance

PEAM Article 14 establishes the rules for the employment or engagement of assistants.

All staff employed by LDEPP Members must have a contract of employment in accordance with the law of a Member State.

The names of assistants and their job titles should be published, with their consent, on each Member’s website.

The names and functions of service providers should be published on Members' websites.

Travel Allowance

Under PEAM Article 10, Members are entitled to an allowance to meet expenses incurred in connection with travel (outside the UK) undertaken in the performance of their official duties. Members shall publish on their website the total claimed in the preceding year.

Daily Allowance

Under PEAM Article 11, Members are entitled to a subsistence allowance for the days or part days on which that they are present in the Parliament. Members shall publish on their website the total amount they claimed in the preceding year.

1 Shortly to be published on the European Parliament's website.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Spontaneous voter endorsement

Thanks to Liberal Democrat Voice for posting the picture of the endorsement which local council candidate David Kendall found when campaigning in Brentwood, Essex. The note begins: "I would rather remove my nipples with a rusty tin opener than vote Labour or Conservative".

A similar message appears to be reaching our people campaigning to achieve a Welsh Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament.

Motions to Council

It seems that Rhondda Cynon Taf ruling group does not like too much expression of views across the chamber at full council - when, of course, the press is likely to be present. Non-Labour groups will henceforward be restricted to only two motions per year, reports Cllr Mike Powell.

There is no such restriction on questions and motions* to Neath Port Talbot council, but perhaps our ruling Labour group, basking in the glory of so many quango-written congratulatory reports, feels more secure than the embattled RCT people.

*Constitution, PART 4, RULES OF PROCEDURE 9. and 10., if anyone wants to check.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Telegraph now on dodgier ground

Frank Little writes:

Apparently, the Telegraph is now trying to pin charges of misuse of expenses on Liberal Democrat MPs Sir Alan Beith (because he has declared he is interested in the Speaker's chair) and Jo Swinson (because she is in the forefront of moves to modernise Parliament. According to Stephen Tall on Liberal Democrat Voice:

Sir Alan Beith

The Telegraph’s story about Sir Alan relates to a rented flat in London he shares with his wife, former fellow Lib Dem MP [and former president of the party] (now a Lib Dem peer) Baroness (Diana) Maddock. You can read the story here. I assume the Telegraph is publishing now because Sir Alan is one of the early favourites to occupy the soon-to-be-vacant Speaker’s Chair.

The couple point out that they have tried to stick to the spirit and letter of the expenses rules by Sir Alan claiming only half the rent, and Baroness Maddock claiming only half her Lords allowance. She notes: “We have tried to claim half and half. I have always claimed half of what I could claim for and Alan only claims for half the rent. It isn’t an exact science. We tried to solve the rent issue by claiming for half in a system that isn’t perfect. We could have sat down and we could have worked out the half much more accurately perhaps, but we did our best. We have always been in favour of everything being out in the open.”

More to the point, at least as far as I’m concerned, this is a rented flat - so any improvements made will not benefit them financially, a stark contrast with some of the Telegraph’s genuinely serious allegations.

Jo Swinson

There seems (at least to my eyes) to be even less of a story here, as featured in the Express. Apparently some cosmetic items – for which Jo did not claim – appear on receipts alongside other items for which Jo has made expenses claims. This is all the excuse the Express needs to make the usual casually sexist swipes about Jo being “known at Westminster for the attention she pays to her appearance”. As Jo has long published her expenses in full on her website, I think we can safely file this story in the file marked ‘Desperate’.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Statement by Lord Rennard

First, I’d like to thank all members for everything that you are doing to
help our candidates in the European and local elections (if you have local
elections in your area). I am sure that they appreciate your support at a
difficult time in politics. If you are standing yourself, then obviously
I wish you the best of luck!

My reason for writing is that I have decided to make the current election
campaigns my last as Chief Executive. I discussed this with Nick some
time ago and I have given notice to the Party President that I will stand
down as Chief Executive at the end of the Summer.

I want to be able to work more flexibly in future whilst of course
continuing to help our party advance. I believe that I will be better able
to do so without the administrative burdens of being Chief Executive and
running the party's day to day organisation.

For family and health reasons, I have needed to change the way in which I
work. My wife Ann has supported me enormously in all my work. But since
she retired a few years ago after more than 35 years teaching, we wanted
to have something of a more normal life outside the Westminster bubble.

This has become more important to me as I have struggled to maintain good
diabetic control with the rigours of a very demanding lifestyle. This has
proved to be increasingly difficult whilst carrying out the role of Chief
Executive at HQ and around the country.

I decided that this Summer would be the best time for me and for the party
to make a change. I am letting the party know this now, so that it can
take the necessary steps to appoint a new Chief Executive in the Autumn.

My major work as Chief Executive in recent years has been to help create
new structures for the party organisation and help to recruit an extremely
strong professional team to work for it. The role of Chief Executive has
therefore changed significantly since I undertook this role six years ago.

By the Summer, we will have had crucial local and European elections and I
believe that we will do well in them. I am also confident that Nick Clegg
will prove to be the most successful Leader that we have ever had. I am
immensely proud of the roles that I have played so far in securing the
steady advance of the Liberal Democrat cause. Our values and beliefs have
never been more important than they are today. I will, of course,
continue to support the General Election campaign, but not as chair.

Finally, I would just like to thank all members personally for all the
support that I have had whilst working for the party and I look forward to
continuing to work with you in future.

With all best wishes,
Yours sincerely

Chris Rennard

PS I thought about letting you know this after the current round of
elections, but having taken the decision and informed the Leader and
President, I wanted you to hear directly from me and to fully understand
why I have been trying to make lifestyle changes and will make an even
more significant one later this year.

Gurkha success

The BBC story is here. Presumably the fulsome praise for the Prime Minister and Home Secretary was the price Joanna Lumley had to pay for making the announcement.

Ms Lumley has been a splendid ambassador for the Gurkhas, but let us not forget the sterling work which was done by Peter Carroll of Shepway Liberal Democrats before Ms Lumley came on board. (See also our previous posts starting here.)

Euro event & Vince Cable at Hay Festival

We have just had the following letter from William Powell of the Brecon & Radnor party:


Tomorrow evening at The Guardian Hay Festival, there will be a Euro Election Hustings, sponsored by the European Movement in Wales and attended by Wales' only MEP to recontest her seat~ Jill Evans of Plaid Cymru. There will also be the Conservative No 1 candidate Kate Swinburne, Labour's No 2 Lisa Stevens and John Bufton of UKIP.

However, as Alan Butt Philip has spent a lifetime studying, learning and teaching about Europe and has the best chance ever of leading the Lib Dems to claim one of the Welsh Euro seats, I thought that you might like to have your chance to show your support. The event starts at 7:30pm at the Guardian Stage on the Festival site, which is located on a tented village on Brecon Road, Hay on Wye.

And, with a bit better notice, you might be interested to know that the Liberal Democrat European Group is sponsoring a talk by Vince Cable on the last day of the Festival, Sunday, 31st May at 1:00 pm. His sales have been surging and he has now been reallocated to the largest of the Festival venues- capacity 1,200 - The Barclays Wealth Tent, where past and future speakers have included Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Desmond Tutu, Gordon Brown, William Hague and Kirsty Williams. As this event is said to be heading for sell out, you may wish to book via the Festival website.

Very best wishes,


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Change of leadership of council group

Councillor Keith Davies was elected as leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council for the year 2009-10. His deputy will be Frank Little.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Speaker Martin to go

13:05 BBC News is announcing that the Speaker is to announce his retirement this afternoon. No doubt Peter Black who has for some time said that the Speaker should go will comment in due course.

One thing (which I have commented elsewhere) needs saying: that the pressure on Michael Martin to go has been building up for some time, and the fact that he has defended the present system of MPs expenses is only the final straw. He must not be a scapegoat for that; the demand for reform of paying MPs continues.

For me, the expenses issue in itself was not the deciding factor. It was his denigration, publicly, of Kate Hoey MP and, particularly, Norman Baker MP for taking a principled stand on the matter. Before that, he had failed to defend the rights of an elected member, Damian Green, against an invasion of his office in Westminster by police.

At no time have I joined in the snobbery of some Conservative members over Michael Martin's origins as a working man from Glasgow. Let us not forget that this showed itself over previous Speakers, George Thomas (a working man from South Wales) and even one of their own, Bernard Wetherill, who was a tailor before he became a full-time politician. Though there were occasional suggestions of minor partiality on the part of both, neither lost the confidence of the House. Snobbery was not the reason for the widespread dissatisfaction with Speaker Martin among MPs, and it is disingenuous for Labour to suggest that it was.

Frank Little

Monday, May 18, 2009

Open Letter to the Speaker From Lib Dem PPCs

It is not just sitting MPs that are being affected by the fallout over MPs' expenses and the Speaker's poor handling of the whole scenario, it is also those that are seeking to stand as an alternative.

Therefore the letter that follows from 56 Lib Dem PPCs in an election year is unprecedented, but shows that we need to clear this whole shambles up now, or as soon as possible, so that those who will be standing in the next General Election are not being tarnished by the sins of their forebears.

Dear Mr Speaker,

As Parliament continues to be dragged down by the allowance system, and
its rules, the role of those in public service across the country is
being undermined.

We are Liberal Democrat candidates seeking to be elected to Parliament
and yet we find ourselves disappointed, and frustrated, at the way in
which this matter is being handled. Every day our residents are telling
us loudly that this must stop and this must stop now.

Three things stand out:

- The resistance to the releasing of these documents and the attempt to
exclude Parliament from the Freedom of Information requirements

- The way in which Norman Baker and Kate Hoey were treated when they
sought to raise legitimate concerns

- The fact that, through you, Parliament could now release the
information into the public domain and cut short this parade of drip-fed
news and empower MPs and citizens through a new transparent relationship.

It is vital that Parliament must become transparent and accountable now.
We call on you, as Speaker of the House, to do everything within your
power to force the full publication of all expenses immediately. We also
call on you to accept the independent review of MPs expenses and
salaries chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly.

If you are unable to do this we then ask you to consider your position.
Time is running out for politicians of all parties to repair the damage
to our democracy.

Yours sincerely

56 Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidates

Ed Fordham, Hampstead and Kilburn
Sal Brinton, Watford
Andrew Simpson, Northampton North
Bridget Fox, Islington South & Finsbury
Duncan Borrowman, Old Bexley and Sidcup
Steve Goddard, Oxford East
Adrian Collett, Aldershot
Adam Carew, East Hampshire
Gareth Epps, Reading East
Sally Morgan, Central Devon
Sue Doughty, Guildford
Rebecca Hunt. Chatham & Aylesford
Sarah Carr, Hereford and South Herefordshire
Guy Voizey Canterbury and Whitstable
Jo Shaw, Holborn and St Pancras
Liz Leffman, Meon Vallley
Merlene Emerson, Hammersmith
Sandy Walkington, St Albans
Richard Burt, West Worcestershire
Caroline Pigeon, Vauxhall
Kevin Lang, Edinburgh North & Leith
Andrew Dakers, Brentford and Isleworth
Andrew Duffield,Hexham
David Kendall, Brentwood and Ongar
Ann Haigh, Epping Forest
Simon Wright, Norwich South
Liz Simpson, Tonbridge and Malling
Sam Webber, Bromley and Chislehurst
Rabi Martins - Luton North
Greg Stone, Newcastle East
Theo Butt-Philip, Bridgwater and West Somerset
Dave Radcliffe, Birmingham Selly Oak
Richard Clein, Sefton Central
Mike Cox, Uxbridge and South Ruislip
Andy Stamp, Gillingham & Rainham
Stephen Lloyd, Eastbourne & Willingdon
Mark Blackburn, Westminster North
Denis Healy, Hull North
Robin Lawrence, Wolverhampton South West
Alex Feakes, Lewisham and West Penge
Andrew Falconer, Brighton Pavilion
Dave McBride, Orpington
Nigel Quinton, Hitchin & Harpenden
Alan Beddow, Warwick and Leamington
David Goodall, Southampton Itchen
Ryk Downes, Leeds Central
Chris Took, Ashford
Peter Wilcock, Saffron Walden
Karen Hamilton, Birmingham Perry Barr
Qurban Hussain, Luton South
Keith Angus, Hackney North and Stoke Newington
Stephen Robinson, Chelmsford
Mike Bell, Weston-super-Mare
Dave Raval, Hackney South and Shoreditch
Fred Mackintosh, Edinburgh South
Munira Wilson, Feltham and Heston
Paul Zukowskyj, Welwyn Hatfield

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Jo Swinson in travel expenses hike shock

Jo Swinson, LibDem MP for East Dunbartonshire, revealed in last Friday's Liberal Democrat News that her travel expenses skyrocketed after a mere year in the House of Commons. But it was not down to troughing. It was just that her young person's railcard expired!

Jo is Britain's youngest MP and was just 25 - therefore qualifying for the railcard - when she was elected in 2005.

Seriously, she reveals some more background to the exposure of Snoutgate on her blog.

Liberal Democrat MEP calls for energy diversity and security

Graham Watson, ALDE leader and editor of Making the Green Energy Switch at a Time of Crisis, a cross party policy pamphlet published in February 2009, has warned European leaders against not developing green energy sources in Europe. “Energy diversity and energy security must be Europe's goal, and that means there are real benefits to new gas routes…” said Mr. Watson on the eve of a meeting in Prague between the Turkish Prime Minister and the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Georgia. “A European super grid supplied by solar, wind and tidal power offers Europe the chance to wean itself off dirty fossil fuels.” The promotion of competitive, clean and secure energy and the liberalisation of energy markets and the completion of the internal market for energy have always been key objectives of ALDE group. Graham Watson ( is also running for the Presidency of the European Parliament, following the upcoming EU elections from 4-7 June.

Liberals in European Parliament defeat Internet censorship

Under the initiative of the ALDE Group, on 6 May, the European Parliament rejected legislation that would have restricted internet access of users without adjudication. Marking a clear victory for those who advocate free access to the internet, this ruling has marked a clear division in the hegemony of the Socialists and Conservatives in the European Parliament. Liberal co-rapporteur Alexander Alvaro (FDP-Germany) said 'Internet users must not be denied access to what is today one of their main sources of information and social interaction.” The parliamentary majority blocked a wide-ranging reform of EU telecom laws by rejecting an earlier compromise with member states over the protection of Internet users' rights. Many members of the ALDE group have also added their names to the “Stop Internet Censorship” Campaign, a cross-party initiative. With their statues at the 3rd largest force in the European Parliament, the Liberal group remains poised to add their voice to legislation that advocates the fundamental liberal value of safeguarding individual freedoms.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

MPs expenses: Nick Clegg's proposals

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has published his proposals in full here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Expenses: the LibDem shoe has fallen

Andrew George is the only LibDem MP in the Geoff Hoon class, it seems, though Nick Clegg himself, Menzies Campbell, Chris Huhne, Lembit Opik and Julia Goldsworthy are all fingered by the Telegraph. Most of these involve minor amounts compared with the wholesale troughing of Tory grandees and Labour ministers previously revealed by the Telegraph. (I can't see Glyn Davies getting too hot under the collar over Lembit's £40 fine, for instance.)

Nick Clegg announced tonight that he will require our MPs to repay to the taxpayer any profits made on sale of subsidised homes. He thus joins Tory leader David Cameron in taking a hard line against abuse of the system.

We know about Alex Salmond's food bill and Sinn Fein's use of expenses. Are there no skeletons in the cupboards of the other nationalists, or have they just slipped under the Telegraph's radar?

Frank Little

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Plaid, we can't hear you on the Gurkhas

Our local nationalists have been keeping their heads down over the Gurkha issue.

We know that there is a long-standing anti-British Army streak in Plaid Cymru, evidenced recently in Neath at the ceremonial march through the town centre by the Royal Welsh Regiment, when only the leader of the Plaid Cymru group and one other councillor represented the nationalists. There was no sign of the Plaid Cymru AM nor of the candidate for the Neath parliamentary seat. They also criticised Charles Kennedy for supporting our forces in Iraq, even going so far in some quarters as to call for a mutiny.

The nationalists want to dismantle the very thing that the Gurkhas fought for and
hold so dear - the British state! Where would an independent Wales leave the Gurkhas, and their hopes for settling in "Britain"? We remind Plaid that the Gurkhas have strong links with Wales, especially with Brecon and the Neath valley. There is mutual respect between Welsh and Gurkha soldiers.

At least the Scottish Nationalists backed the call for settlement.

What happens if nationalists have their way over independence, and what is left of the "UK state" (i.e., England) continues to follow a restrictive policy? Does this mean that Gurkhas in Wales and England can rely on settlement in Scotland?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Euro candidates Q&A

Stop Climate Chaos Cymru has organised a hustings event next week. From their Web pages:

Stop Climate Chaos Cymru invites you to a question and answer session with some of the candidates for the European Union Parliament elections.

Tuesday 12 May at 7.30pm
The Environment Centre, Pier Street, Swansea (near the Marina)


  • Evan Price (Conservative)
  • Lisa Stevens (Labour)
  • Alan Butt Philip (Lib-Dem)
  • Jill Evans, MEP (Plaid Cymru)

Phil McDonnell, former Environment Centre Manager and now independent environment consultant.

All are welcome, tea and coffee will be available.

Organiser: Peter K Jones 02920 353 013 (

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Back Gurkhas now say local Liberal Democrats

Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling for local Labour MPs to support the Gurkhas after they voted against proposals to allow those who had fought for Britain to remain in the UK.

The vote on a Liberal Democrat motion was held in the House of Commons on 29th April and resulted in a shock defeat for the Government. Both Peter Hain (Neath) and Hywel Francis (Aberavon) sided with the Government, despite the overwhelming popular support for the Gurkhas.

“I was greatly disappointed to hear that Mr Hain had voted for thousands of Gurkhas to be deported from the UK,” said former Welsh Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Neath Sheila Waye. “But the Government was defeated because a few brave Labour MPs defied their party bosses and backed the Gurkhas who have so bravely fought for Britain.

“The Government has a moral duty to support those who have put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms and fight for our country. I am sorry that Mr Hain voted the opposite way.

“The Government must take notice of the will of Parliament and bring back new proposals that will allow Gurkhas to stay rather than have them kicked out of the country. I hope Mr Hain undergoes a change of heart and presses the Minister to bring forward new proposals as soon as possible.”

Aberavon Labour MP Hywel Francis has been asked to explain a “shameful” u-turn after announcing his support for Gurkhas to remain in the UK but then voting to boot them out of the country.

Angry Welsh Liberal Democrats are demanding Mr Francis writes to Gurkha organisations to explain his change of mind.

Parliamentary records show that an “Early Day Motion” (EDM) supporting the right of Gurkhas who had served in the British Army to stay in the UK was signed by Mr Francis on 29th April. No debates or votes are held on EDMs but they are used by MPs instead to show their support for a particular cause.

“Hywel Francis sided with the Gurkhas in the EDM,” said former Welsh Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Aberavon Claire Waller. “Then on the same day, according to the parliamentary record, he had betrayed them by voting for the Government’s policy of deporting most of them.

“Dr Francis has performed a rapid and shameful u-turn. He owes the Gurkhas an apology and his constituents an explanation.”

Neath Port Talbot Labour leader election

We are told that there were four candidates for the leadership and seven for his deputy going in to tonight's meeting. Who will be Snow White?

Thursday morning: A little bird tells us that the new leader is the current deputy, Alun Thomas. He represents Onllwyn. His deputy will be Arwyn Woolcock of Brynamman. These are the choices of the Labour Party, so they will be a shoo-in at the annual meeting of the council later this month.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Sustrans doubts Darling's green credentials

Green Liberal Democrats quote the sustainable transport pressure group as describing Budget 2009 as a series of missed opportunities.

Jason Torrance, Sustrans' Policy Manager, said: 'The measures announced in the budget will deepen the nation's reliance on car travel, and do nothing to improve local environments, health, road safety or travel choice.

'The scrappage scheme is a catastrophic knee-jerk reaction to the recession, which ignores congestion and climate change and could amount to nothing more than a large hand-out to car manufacturers overseas.

Sustrans has already suggested alternative ways for the scrappage money to be spent that would bring about substantial, long-term benefits to the environment and health.

These include redesigning public space in ways that encourage people to use their cars less, developing safer routes for walking and cycling, and providing travel advice to make it easier for people to switch to greener, healthier ways of travelling when and where it suits them best.

A £250 million investment in electric cars announced in the budget is equally misguided, say Sustrans, and will further embed car-based travel in our society.

Council by-election win in Tory target seat

Staple Tye ward, Harlow District Council

Thursday 30 April 2009

LD 604 (+ 48) 39.145% (+ 5.971%) John Strachan ELECTED
Con 544 (-304) 35.256% (-15.341%)
Lab 329 (+ 57) 21.322% (+ 5.093%)
UKIP 66 (+ 66) 4.277% (+ 4.277%)
Turnout 30% (-2.26%) 133 less valid votes

LIB DEM GAIN (from Con) - MAJ 60

Local activist Lorna Spenceley points to a massive drop in the Tory vote: a huge blow to the party in one of its very top national target parliamentary seats.

Also significant is the poor showing of UKIP.