There has been a very minor outbreak of people using the label “Preamble Lib Dem” to describe themselves.
There are two ways of approaching this. The first is to say that all Liberal Democrat members believe in the Preamble to the constitution and therefore can call themselves “Preamble Lib Dems” if they want to.
The second is to ask why a few people feel the need to call themselves this? It appears to be so that they can differentiate themselves from Lib Dem members who, they believe, do not believe, and/or act in accordance with, the preamble. In other words: “I believe in the preamble, but some others I could mention don’t”. If this is in the absence of actually having spoken at length about their philosophy to the people in question, then this seems to me to be arrogant and sanctimonious.
If people sign up and pay up to be a Liberal Democrat then I accept that they believe in the preamble. They are a brother or sister or friend as far as I am concerned. A fellow party member. There are disciplinary procedures for dealing with members who obviously do not believe in the preamble.
That said, people are at liberty to describe themselves how they feel they want to describe themselves. That’s fine. I don’t seek to stop them or cramp their style. But I am equally entitled to say that I do not approve of it.
I was very impressed by John McDonnell’s performances on Today and at the conference rostrum today. Perhaps it was the ordinary way he spoke. It all seemed to make perfect sense.
Except for two things…
Firstly, he appealed to others to get behind the Labour leadership. This seems a little odd coming from a serial rebel. Why should Labour people get behind this particular leader when John McDonnell failed to get behind a succession of previous leaders?
And, by the way, I then saw that Diane Abbott was calling for everyone in the Labour party to get behind the leader. Diane Abbott!! If I’d had a mouthful of cornflakes in my mouth, I would have spat the whole lot out and redecorated the room! Diane Abbott has carved a long and glorious career out of rebelling against the Labour leadership on a daily basis at breakfast, lunch and supper for decades. Hearing her call for people to get behind the Labour leadership is a bit like hearing Gerry Adams suddenly calling for people to get behind the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.
Back to John McDonnell. He said he will “force” firms like Google and Amazon to pay their (corporation) tax. Well, it’s going to be absolutely fascinating to learn how he will pull that off. If firms are not headquartered in this country, you can’t make them pay corporation tax here. You can re-negotiate the relevant international treaty but I assume that is not what he meant by ‘forcing’ the companies to pay tax. So what did he mean? Would he actually somehow pass a law to stop firms trading in the UK unless they are headquartered here? The mind boggles.
This message from a parish priest in Cornwall, concerning the refugee crisis, is absolutely spot on and appropriate. It puts the Christian message concerning refugees very powerfully and aptly. It is written by Rev. Tony Windross, the Incumbent of the the Benefice of the Week St Mary Circle of Parishes. You can read the article in its original setting here, and I reproduce it in full here below:
We live in interesting times! What is the world coming to, with leftwingers queuing up to join the Labour Party – and the Church saying that it’s on the side of the poor and dispossessed? Maybe there’s finally some sort of groundswell against the Me-First approach that has dominated our country for over three decades? Or maybe it’s just a blip? Only time will tell – but at the very least it shows that another kind of society is a genuine possibility.
And how fitting for the Church to make a stand about this, than in its robust defence of the BBC decision to film ‘Songs of Praise’ amidst the squalor of the migrant camp in Calais? – itself a salutary reminder of the poverty-stricken beginnings of Christianity, as told in the (often sanitised) Christmas story.
The Mail, the Sun and the Daily Express dutifully expressed their horror (it’s good to know some things don’t change!) at yet another example of the BBC wasting licence-payers’ money (not to mention yet another example of the BBC’s left-wing bias).
There’s something deliciously appropriate about it being ‘Songs of Praise’ that’s at the centre of the furore. The very idea of something that is the epitome of English blandness and gentleness, being filmed in such a place! But of course for those who think the essence of Christianity blandness and gentleness – it must have come as something of a shock. Perhaps it will help to bring religion back to where it belongs – which is at the centre of everything that matters. Or maybe that’s just a blip as well.
But what’s strange, to the point of being disturbing, is the way otherwise ordinary and decent people come out with harsh and unfeeling comments about the migrants living in such wretched conditions just across the Channel. Whilst we were still in Kent, the issue was (almost literally) right on our doorstep, with the proximity of the Channel Tunnel meaning that we regularly saw what life in Calais was like for those trying to find some way out of a hellish situation. But instead of sympathy, the overwhelming tone in most of the tabloid press is one of resentment. How dare these people (on the occasions when they’re regarded as people, rather than as insects or whatever else might come in ‘swarms’) try to come to ‘our country’?
Given the massive negativity towards them, and given also the way that (despite the picture the tabloids paint) our welfare system is nowhere near the most generous in Europe – they must be pretty desperate to want to come here. But then almost anywhere would be preferable to living in a place where there was a civil war going on. Or where people didn’t have enough to eat. Or where ISIS religious zealots went round beheading those who saw things differently. But instead of wanting to extend the hand of friendship, many of our fellow citizens seem to find it outrageous that people caught up in such situations aren’t prepared simply to accept as inevitable that their only crack at life has to be spent in a total nightmare.
Underlying such a reaction must presumably be some strange sense of entitlement – according to which it’s more fitting or appropriate that people like ‘us’ should have a vastly greater than average share of the world’s goods (which include the benefits of living in a secure society) – and people like ‘them’ do not. If that’s the thinking – isn’t it nice the way things seem to have worked out so well for us?
Or maybe it’s not like that at all – and maybe it’s sheer chance that we happen to have been born where and when we were – and that we don’t, in fact, have any greater moral claim over such things than anyone else?
If that the case, common decency should surely prompt us to enquire how things might be evened up a bit? And whilst there are obvious logistical issues involved, a good start would be to try and ensure that (in our presence at least) the issue is discussed in terms that recognise the desperate and needy as fellow human beings, rather than members of some strange alien species.
The ‘keep-em-out-at-all-costs’ brigade have a Fortress Britain kind of mentality that sees ‘otherness’ as a threat. There was plenty of that about in the 1930s, which is why there was such a niggardly (and belated) response to the plight of the Jews fleeing Nazi tyranny. Many of those who were sent to the death camps could have been saved – had Britain been more generous (and speedy) in its response. That is a permanent stain on our national character – and our response to the current crisis is in danger of becoming another.
The bottom line is that we really have to treat people (and that is) as if we’re all equally important. And that’s because we jolly well are. There can be no half-measures, no fudging: it’s all or nothing.
Either others matter to us – or they don’t. And if they don’t – then we really need to stop claiming to be Christians (or even half-civilized). Because that’s not what we are any more – if indeed, we ever were.
So, through the miracles of the smartphone, the BBC and the car auxiliary connection point, I listened to Tim’s speech on the way to work this morning.
I therefore had a chance to test how the speech came over via audio only on the M4 in Berkshire. Were all these rave reviews coming from people in the hall yesterday mere hype? The result of mass hysteria which would not catch on outside the immediacy of the hall?
Tim Farron, with Rosie Farron, awaits the cue to deliver his first conference speech as leader at Saturday’s night conference rally.Photo by Paul Walter.
Pssst. Let me tell you a little secret which you may not have noticed if you haven’t attended Lib Dem conferences. As we went through the coalition years, the numbers of members attending conference dwindled. No doubt someone is going to dispute this and quote detailed numbers. But it was pretty obvious and, towards the end, feintly embarrassing.
While the numbers of members attending conference went down, the numbers of media, police, security guards and sycophantic business people buzzing around soared. Continue reading →
Liberal Democrat Voice hosted a very stimulating conference fringe meeting yesterday evening. Our editor, Caron Lindsay chaired the session discussing how we forge a liberal foreign policy in these challenging times. The panel consisted of Hannah Bettsworth, Julie Smith, William Wallace and Nick Tyrone. My photo above shows the panel while Hannah was speaking.
Thank you to the panel for each providing extraordinaryly thought-provoking inputs. Thank you also to the representatives who came along and asked excellent questions or made superb points. Continue reading →
The quote above came from Lorna Dupré at the policy making process consultation
On Saturday morning, conference got off to a flying start with a consultative session on the party’s policy-making process. This followed the publication of this document.
The session was organised and led by the Federal Policy Committee, which is the leading body for policy making in the party. Tim Farron is the chair of this committee.
The session was chaired by Julie Smith, with Gareth Epps and Jeremy Hargreaves heavily involved in facilitating the discussion. Duncan Brack also spoke.
These “consultative sessions” are, I think, an exciting part of conference. They allow members to input ideas into the formation of processes and policy before working groups have started to write a formal motion for conference. So, it is an excellent way for members to influence things. Continue reading →
A new format hit conference yesterday. At the end of Saturday’s session, we had a “Policy Pitch” section. This is a new idea whereby members submit ideas to the conference commitee and three of those ideas are accepted for discussion at the conference.
The chosen members gave a short speech outlining their policy proposal. Then they sat down in a comfy chair on stage with three “assessors”, who were: Julie Smith, Jeremy Hargreaves and Willie Rennie. There was then a little interviewing of each proposer from the three assessors. Continue reading →
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Immigration is perhaps the main debate area where terminology gets very confused. The Express and Mail get people very wound up about “immigrants”. But what are people exactly getting wound up about? Illegal immigrants? Asylum seekers? Legal immigrants? Or people who were born in the UK, and who perhaps have several generations of antecedents who were born here, but just look different to themselves? We have to be very precise about terms or we get into a very emotionally-charged muddle.
In an LDV article entitled “Don’t talk to me about migrants” Caron noted on here last month that words matter in the reporting and discussion of the refugee crisis. I’ve read some correspondence between a complainant and the BBC from last month (and I’m sorry I can’t find it at the moment) where the BBC were adamantly sticking to the word “migrant” to describe the current movement of people across borders.
So, I couldn’t believe it when on Wednesday night on the ten o’clock news on BBC1, a BBC reporter actually referred to “refugees”. (I know it’s not the BBC, but Ben Shephard on ITV also referred on Thursday morning to the “refugee crisis”.) And a quick search of the BBC website for the last few weeks shows that they have been frequently using the word “refugees”. But they still use the word “migrants” in many blanket headlines. Continue reading →