Friday, March 31, 2017

Post-Brexit power shifts

VoteWatch Europe reports:

With Brexit process triggered, many observers wonder how the equilibrium of powers in the EU Council would change and who will be most successful in influencing the future EU legislation. We have looked at the voting dynamics over the past 7 years (over 22.000 votes of EU governments) to understand what is likely to happen after the UK leaves.

Our analysis is based on the same dataset and methodology that indicated that the UK was increasingly outvoted in the Council in recent years, thus predicting the centrifugal policy orientation of the British government. These are our main new findings:
  1. Coalition building dynamics seem to favour the countries that promote more EU integration;
  2. France, Italy seem in a better position to build majorities or blocking minorities than Germany;
  3. Poland has drifted away from the core of the EU in the past year;
  4. The Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark lose the most out of Brexit (they were UK's closest partners);
  5. Political affiliations of the governments play a role, hence the results of upcoming elections in France, Germany, Czechia and Italy are crucial for the future direction of the EU
First published in July 2016, this report has been updated to take into account the latest political developments. 

The full analysis is here,

Friday, March 24, 2017

More gains for LibDems in council by-elections

After a first gain from the Conservatives in West Somerset yesterday, the UK-wide picture now looks like this:

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

A reminder about registering

The mood in Westminster

Baroness (Jenny) Randerson writes:

The mood in Westminster is sombre and thoughtful today. The streets are eerily still, with no traffic and none of the usual bustle of pedestrians. The noise of traffic is replaced by the endless whirr of helicopters overhead. The Lords’ Chamber was packed this morning as we held a minute’s silence for the victims of yesterday’s attack and heard tributes from Party Leaders and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The PM’s Statement was repeated. We paid particular respect to PC Keith Palmer who died protecting Parliamentarians and the institution of Parliament itself. But the carnage went well beyond Parliament.

The list of the dead and injured includes Romanians, South Koreans, a German, Irish, Polish, Chinese, Italian, American, Greeks, as well as French schoolchildren and many British. This is the melting pot that is central London – the heart of tourism as well as of our democracy. Terrorism is an international phenomenon and this time it struck in a way that will send reverberations across the world. In his comments Lib Dem Leader in the Lords, Dick Newby, reminded us all how much we depend on close relationships with our European neighbours in order to foil attacks like this.

I have been in Parliament for six years and have been aware that one day something like this was likely to happen. But that doesn’t reduce the shock when it does. I crossed the road into Parliament barely three minutes before the attack started, but once inside the building you are strangely insulated. We were told about it very quickly and rapidly corralled from one area to another in large groups, defended by armed police. We were locked down for over 5 hours. I spent a long while talking to Mark Williams MP for Ceredigion and our new MP Sarah Olney. Then we were moved into Westminster Hall, where I lost track of them but struck up conversations with several new friends.

Conversations were largely seeking news of what was going on outside. Despite the wonders of modern phones, we still lacked a real perspective on events.

As the hours moved on we became weary, hungry and thirsty, and rather cold, but there was never any doubt that we were being efficiently dealt with for our own safety. There were groups of bewildered schoolchildren there, as well as visitors and the staff of the Palace of Westminster. When eventually the area was declared safe, I trecked over to a far flung tube station, as Westminster Tube station was, and remains, shut.

When I got home I realised I was exhausted emotionally and physically – standing up for 5 hours is surprisingly tiring. My mood was reflected in speeches today. Speeches of defiance and determination to stand up for democratic values. In the face of violence and intolerance, there has never been a greater need to face outwards to the world and to refuse to change our values as a society.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Inflation rise hits the poorest

Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor Susan Kramer responding to the rise in inflation announced today, said: “You can’t have a hard Brexit and affordable prices.

“This is proof that the British public are paying the price for Theresa May’s decision to take Britain out of the Single Market, which is causing a Brexit squeeze. With the pound falling in value by 18% since the referendum, the price of imports have shot up and broken the official target.

“Worst of all, the dramatic leap in food prices is hitting the poorest the most, with some producers also reducing package sizes, meaning the real inflation figure is now much higher.

“The fragile UK economy has been kept on life support by consumer spending, but with prices rising, that is now threatened.”

Local Liberal Democrats point out that the BBC reports that prices at the factory gate are also rising quickly, suggesting more inflation is on the way to the High Street. At 2.3%, inflation is increasing at the same rate as average earnings, meaning the average pay rise is being totally eaten up by increasing prices. Public sector workers whose pay is capped are already feeling the effects of rising inflation; now the average worker is going to be worse off as inflation overtakes average wage rises.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Huge Election Victory for Dutch Liberals as Populists Fail to Breakthrough

Liberal International reports:

Dutch Liberals VVD and D66 (LI full members) delivered a huge blow to the march of populism across Europe as the VVD, the party of prime minister Mark Rutte, topped the polls this week for a 3rd consecutive election, while D66 finished joint-third with 19 seats.

The election, which saw the highest turnout of Dutch voters in 30 years amid earlier concerns that the far-right party of Geert Wilders would emerge with the most seats, is seen as a bellwether for the French elections later this year.

LI President Dr Juli Minoves tweeted that VVD and D66 had “stopped populism in its tracks” while LI President of Honour, Hans van Baalen MEP, who leads the VVD delegation in the European Parliament said: "The extreme right wing populists of Wilders took a serious hit from the lead party VVD; this will help defeat Le Pen in France and AFD in Germany. Congratulations to D66 for their very good results. Liberals will shape the Netherlands and Europe in the years to come!"

Leader of D66, Alexander Pechtold, labelled his party’s gains as “historic” as the social liberals gained 7 seats, while Mark Rutte described “an evening where the Netherlands, after Brexit and the American elections, has said ‘ho’ to the wrong sort of populism,” adding that “now it’s important to bring our country together and form a stable government.”

The final membership of the House of Representatives will not be known until Tuesday, after any individuals on party lists are promoted/demoted.

Tim Farron responded:

Well done to our liberal allies and in Dutch elections. Looks like a victory for liberalism over politics of fear and division

Thursday, March 16, 2017

You need to be able to vote

Welsh Liberal Democrat policy

A list of the policy resolutions of the 2017 spring conference held in Swansea last weekend are on a pdf here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Spring conference on TV

The Welsh Liberal Democrat spring conference in Swansea this weekend will be covered by BBC TV, starting with BBC Parliament at 11 a.m.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Liberal Democrat initial response to budget

Liberal Democrats have been reacting to Philip Hammond’s budget which seems to do not much more than stoke the balance in favour of massive corporates as opposed to small business and give extra money to Tory hobby-horses like free schools in England.

Exchequer spokesman Susan Kramer highlighted how the Tories had broken their manifesto promise by raising national insurance for the self-employed:

"This is a tax on builders, taxi drivers and window cleaners, some of Britain’s hardest working people. This hits the gig economy where people are already insecure and facing rising prices and job uncertainty. And on International Women’s Day it will hit over one and a half million women.

"Companies will continue to save money by using workers without giving them the security and benefits of staff jobs. Meanwhile, these workers will have to pay more. This is patently as unfair as it is a tax on entrepreneurship and hard work."

Catherine Bearder MEP writes on Human Trafficking

On a day in which we are all asked to #beboldforchange, I call on us all to fight against the disgrace that is this modern-day slave trade.
Human trafficking is an issue that predominantly affects women. It is happening now, across Europe, under our noses, and we must open our eyes.
Please take a look at my report and join the fight today.