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The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

Difficult Choices

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  • The last leg
    Article: Jan 30, 2015
  • Tuition Fees
    Article: Jan 30, 2015
    By Sarah Dougherty in Redbrick - http://www.redbrick.me/ge2015/election-comment/in-defence-of-the-liberal-democrats/

    The Chair of Birmingham University's Liberal Democrat society explains why she thinks you should vote for the party in May

    To quote Nick Clegg, I'm sorry. I don't think a political party should be establishing its appeal to the electorate on an apology, but it seems to be essential when talking about why the Liberal Democrats should get your vote. Consequently, the party finds itself on the backfoot; seeking to defend against critique, rather than forward our own policies. But we can defend ourselves.

    The 2010 general election did not give a single party majority. Obviously. What is less so is why polls didn't reopen. It's fair to say that after 6 weeks of intense campaigning, and many months of establishing hype beforehand, the momentum towards the election was spent. The public would not have appreciated it, sick of empty promises and grandstanding, and anyway, the money was spent too. While the two parties bankrolled by private bankers or trade unions wouldn't have as big a problem replacing it, for smaller parties - including the Liberal Democrats - the money invested in those constituencies to defend and win seats was gone, and reopening the campaign would have simply collapsed due to a lack of staff, a lack of literature, and a lack of enthusiasm by activists who'd already given everything for the first round.

    Entering a coalition was therefore the only realistic move the Liberal Democrats had open, and entering a coalition with the Conservatives the only one with potential for long-term stability. A two-party coalition with a sizeable majority is undeniably easier to keep afloat than entering coalition with Labour and, lacking at least 11 MPs to make it reach the threshold of 326 for a majority, requiring the myriad support of a range of smaller parties from the DUP to the Greens. Such an arrangement would surely generate more disagreement from political minnows who'd demand far greater concessions to their one agenda in order to support bills to which they were diametrically opposed.

    If we think for just a moment, the Conservatives were the only option. With the Tories initially having 307 MPs and the Liberals just 57, the Liberals find themselves outnumbered roughly 5 to 1. We don't live in a country which is democratic in a meaningful sense; these results don't represent the fact that the Conservatives have 36% of the vote and the Liberals 23%, for example, which is why we tried (and failed) to reform the voting system, which would it a little more reflective of the actual spread of opinion and results in the UK. In coalition, it often means that we simply can't torpedo the vast majority of bills, and when we do, it's criticised as "deeply dishonourable" anyway.

    And then there's the elephant in the room. That old chestnut. Tuition fees. As the chair of the Guild's Liberal Youth branch, and the vice chair for two years before, it's fair to say that I've heard of these before. What's less well-known is that in the run up to the 2010 election, there was a report commissioned into higher education funding (which our own overpaid Vice Chancellor at Birmingham was instrumental in) called the Brown Report. Both Labour and the Tories wanted to implement it to the full. When it was published, naturally after the election so neither of them were tied to the unpopular results before the polls opened, it recommended £16,000 fees. In coalition, the Liberal Democrats reduced this high threshold down to a slightly less high one; the £9000 figure we all know and hate. There was also substantive reform of the repayment system, increasing the threshold from £15,000 to £21,000, and several other concessions the Conservatives almost certainly wouldn't have brought in alone. Arguably, we were punching above our weight in this fight. The political realities of the situation meant this was the least bad of a range of undesirable moves, which probably would have prematurely collapsed the coalition to widespread condemnation. Calling it a total betrayal is also unfair, as 21 of our 57 MPs voted against it. It also demands a wilful ignorance of Labour's own dismal record; promising to keep education free in 1997, and creating fees in 1999, then promising to keep them capped in 2001, and then tripling them in 2003. To present them as a "voice for students" is disingenuous; not that anyone would tell you that.

    And then there's the simple fact that everyone was predicting the collapse of the coalition. The scaremongering was profound and widespread; it'll not last for more than six months, we'll have a Parliament marked by rebellions and disloyalty, we'll have a legislative agenda that ranges from incoherent to non-existent. And here I am, five years later, defending its record. That says quite a lot for the stability that the Liberal Democrats can give any future coalitions, doesn't it? I think so.

    Sarah Dougherty is an LGBTQ Guild Councillor and a third year Politics and Philosophy student. She contributes primarily about the Guild.

  • Article: Jan 30, 2015
    By Catherine Royce in Liberal Democrat Voice

    To be frank, as a doctor, I have been underwhelmed by our Liberal Democrat offering on health issues over the years; certainly we are not as strong on health as we should be.

    The almost daily drip feed from the right wing press on NHS shortcomings and failures is demoralising to staff and frightening to patients and designed to be so. It serves no-one except those who want to undermine the public's confidence in the NHS. The service treats three quarters of a million patients every day of the year, and for most people there is no alternative.

  • Stephen Worrall
    Article: Jan 30, 2015

    High Peak Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Stephen Worrall has backed calls for better provision of support for local people in mental health crisis.

    Mind, the mental health charity, is calling for local services to deliver on their promise to improve the support for people who are suicidal, self-harming or in psychosis.

  • Option 1 Two Unitaries
    Article: Jan 30, 2015
    By Cllr John Marriott - Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on the Lincolnshire County Council

    We need to make local government work better for us all

    We all owe local councils, large and small, a great deal. Their existence, since Victorian times, strengthened by the Local Government Act of 1894, has brought us many things we take for granted today, such as clean water, sewerage, gas, electricity, social housing, education and much, much more. These services exist largely thanks to the efforts of generations of elected members in cities and towns up and down the country whose effectiveness only really started to wane after the Second World War. At one time cutting your teeth in local government used to be seen as a good grounding for a career in national politics. Not many aspiring national politicians have chosen this route in recent years and no wonder. Thanks to successive governments of all colours over the past hundred years grabbing ever more power for themselves, local government is now a poor shadow of its former self and this lack of public esteem is often reflected in the poor turnouts in local elections.

  • Bite the Ballot: National Voter Registration Day
    Article: Jan 29, 2015
    By Lord William Wallace in Liberal Democrat Voice

    February 5th will be Bite The Ballot's 2nd 'National voter registration day'.

    Last year this NGO, with a number of companies and schools in support, succeeded in sharply raising the number of young people registering. This year, in the run-up to the general election, they aim to add more than 250,000 to the register. You will find details of what they plan, and how they plan to manage it, here.

  • Tim Farron with the next generation
    Article: Jan 29, 2015
    By Alexander Britton in Nottingham Post

    Ashfield is "one of the most interesting seats in the country" ahead of this May's general election, a senior Liberal Democrat MP has said.

    Former party president Tim Farron was visiting the area on the campaign trail in support of candidate Jason Zadrozny.

    And he said he felt Mr Zadrozny could "buck the trend" and deliver a result for the Liberal Democrats in Ashfield.

  • Mark pack
    Article: Jan 28, 2015
    By Mark Pack

    Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today, David Cutts, Ed Fieldhouse, Justin Fisher, Ron Johnston and Charles Pattie with data from the British Election Study on the impact of contacting voters.

    Our analyses of the 2010 election, using data supplied to us by the individual candidates' agents, found that the more people canvassing for a party in a constituency - both members and volunteer non-member supporters - the better its performance there. Canvassers having conversations with potential voters apparently wins them over.

    Other evidence sustains that. The 2010 British Election Study questioned some 19,000 people at the start of the official campaign in late March-early April. It asked how they voted in 2005, whether any of the parties had contacted them in the preceding months, and how they intended to vote in May. It also asked how the contacts were made: was it by telephone, by a leaflet, by a meeting in the street, by a visit to their doorstep, by email, text, social media or what.

    Of that large sample, we look here at the 4,294 who voted Labour in 2005: 2,441 intended voting Labour again, and a further 580 were leaning towards a Labour vote…

    Those contacted by Labour during the preceding months in one of five ways (very few were contacted by email, text, or social media) were much more likely to intend voting Labour again than those ignored by the party…

    Just getting a leaflet increased the percentage intending to vote Labour again from 48 to 57 per cent; 79 per cent of the small number who got an email were going to remain loyal, compared to 48 per cent of those who didn't; and there was a 15 percentage points difference in loyalty between those who did and didn't receive a home visit.

    The British Election Study interviewed those individuals again immediately after the election, asking them if they voted, if so how, and whether the parties had been in contact during the last month of the campaign. With those data we can see whether contact with the 2,590 individuals who intended to vote Labour when the campaign started a month earlier, plus a further 640 who were leaning towards a Labour vote (not all of whom voted Labour in 2005), made a difference…

    It did. Most of those who intended to vote Labour did so, but there was a difference of up to 14 percentage points between those contacted by the party during the campaign and those who were not: 97 per cent of those visited at home voted Labour compared to 83 per cent of those not visited. Labour lost around 16 per cent of those who committed to it in March-April but whom it failed to contact during the heat of the campaign.

    Some 40 per cent of those leaning towards Labour changed their mind during the campaign, but many fewer if the party contacted them then. Home visits were especially helpful in shoring up potential support. Only 66 received one, but 79 per cent of them turned out for Labour, compared to 58 per cent who were not visited. Even delivery of a leaflet helped: 65 per cent of those who received one decided that they would vote Labour, as against 56 per cent who didn't.

    We also looked at those undecided who to vote for when the official campaign started. Again, contact mattered: those with whom the party's candidates and canvassers engaged during the next few weeks were much more likely to vote Labour than those who received no contact. Among the undecided, 40 per cent who received a home visit from Labour voted for its candidate, for example, compared to only 19 per cent of those not visited.

  • Article: Jan 26, 2015
    By Stephen Worrall - Parliamentary Spokesperson for High Peak

    Horizon 2020 is not a lemon! Stop squeezing it!

    High Peak Liberal Democrat PPC Stephen Worrall is appalled at the possibility that money promised for research in the EU could be siphoned off for "quick win" projects rather than being focussed on long term research for Europe's future.

    EU Commission President Juncker has announced that money will be diverted from Horizon 2020, the EU's successful research programme, to an as yet undefined project as part of the European Fund for Strategic Investment.

  • Nick Clegg pointing
    Article: Jan 26, 2015
    By John Fletcher in The Huffington Post

    The General Election campaign is starting to heat up and, as it does, commentators increasingly can't agree on what's likely to happen. This is the most volatile election for decades and for the first time since the 1930s neither of the big two parties are managing to poll even above 30%.

    In the midst of all the uncertainty there is only one point on which everyone seems united; that the Lib Dems are going to get a drubbing. This is obvious both in the polls, where they are routinely below both Ukip and the Greens, and in the news cycle where 'the fall of the Lib Dems' has become a routine talking point.