Watch: Vince’s speech to Lib Dems before yesterday’s People’s Vote march

“We are a national movement and we’re here to stop Brexit.” It couldn’t be clearer. Vince set out our mission for the next few months yesterday as Liberal Democrats gathered in Hyde Park ahead of the People’s Vote march. I’ve written about the day here. Watch his full speech below: He certainly showed why we […]

“We are a national movement and we’re here to stop Brexit.”

It couldn’t be clearer. Vince set out our mission for the next few months yesterday as Liberal Democrats gathered in Hyde Park ahead of the People’s Vote march. I’ve written about the day here.

Watch his full speech below:

He certainly showed why we were chanting “Theresa May’s not strong and stable, exit Brexit with Vince Cable.”

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

WATCH: Raab is “open-minded” about “using a short extension” of the implementation period

The Brexit secretary admits it wasn’t his idea, however, and that we’d have to “know how we get out of it”.

WATCH: France’s Europe Minister says that the ball is in London’s court

Nathalie Louiseau maintains that “on the Irish border issue the situation has be as similar a possible to the current one”.

WATCH: Starmer says “no options” would be “ruled out” within the “option” of a public vote

The shadow Brexit secretary says there is a sequence of potential “logical steps” ahead of us, depending on what happens regarding a deal.

WATCH: Campbell speaks of his frustration at Corbyn’s lack of support for a second referendum

Blair’s former communications director claims it’s the “right wing of the Conservative Party” who are “pushing hardest for this Brexit now”.

WATCH: Braverman calls Chequers a “pragmatic proposal” that “honours the referendum result”

The DExEU minister says she has “a lot of respect” for Davis, but that she’s “here in the government”.

An open letter to the Lib Dem Federal Board ahead of tomorrow night’s meeting

Dear Board Members, In a very friendly way I am writing to suggest that you should not at this stage agree to have a special Party Conference in early January to discuss amendments to the Party Constitution. I am saying this not only after many discussions with Lib Dems in the North West and my […]

Dear Board Members,

In a very friendly way I am writing to suggest that you should not at this stage agree to have a special Party Conference in early January to discuss amendments to the Party Constitution.

I am saying this not only after many discussions with Lib Dems in the North West and my own City of Liverpool but also in places as far apart as Taunton and Cambridge and with fellow Leaders from Local Government.

I have some key questions for you before you make the decision. I am expecting the answers to these questions to be publicised:

Firstly, do you not think that this will interfere in our work for the biggest round of local elections in England? The idea that early January is handy because it is before we start is risible. We started our campaign for next May, last May. We have been out every weekend and a lot during the week since August. This will take activists out of the front line at just the time we need them to be fighting for us and pushing our way into more power and more influence via more votes.

Secondly, do you not think that it sends all the wrong messages. Some people may think that the UK is going to hell in a hand cart and all we can do is talk about ourselves at this crucial time. That is how it will be portrayed.

Thirdly, do you really think that there is a great thirst in the Party for all the changes? 

I personally believe that there is much support for a Supporters organisation. It builds well on what we do locally. I’d love to involve more people in our policy discussions both locally and nationally; I’d love to have a larger pool of people advocating on our behalf; I think it great to have people giving us information about local and national issues. There are some things that need sorting out but these are details. The Federal Board can make these decisions and we can get on with them. In fact, we already are!

Fourthly, do you really think that there is not only a majority but a two thirds majority for the constitutional items needed? I doubt that you have a majority in the Party for your proposals about who should elect the Leader and whether or not the Leader needs to be an MP. 

Fifthly, do you really not think that the idea that a Party can create a movement is naïve. Political Parties can only be part of a movement. Labour is part of a wider labour movement; the Tories are part of a vested interest group; the Green Party is part of a green movement which in many ways includes the Lib Dems.

Sixthly, do you really want to run the risk of a vote that could lead to headlines that will be generated by the Conference such as ‘Leader loses Key Proposals’. That is not the national headline that we need going into this huge round of elections.

Seventh, do you not agree that the only way that you can create a movement is by reaching out to other organisations and people. They are created by a fusion of ideas around common objectives. These ideas do not have to be as cohesive as those that come from a single Party but part of a broader stream of consciousness. 

Eighth are you really satisfied that the consultation that you have run is robust? Some of the questions to me seemed to be leading questions rather than a true search for knowledge.

Lastly, do you not agree that rather than have a Party Conference you might have a Party rally to which everyone who signed up to be a supporter or who has joined in the last 12 months might be invited to urge and encourage people from public to supporter; from supporter to member and from member to activist? With the urging not being from people like me but by the people who have joined us since 2015 who have already become party activists, candidates and councillors.

Your Party activists will be watching with interest what you do on Monday night. There will be many thoughts thereafter about how to react to your decision which will not necessarily be positive!

Kind regards,

Cllr Richard Kemp CBE,

Leader, Liverpool Liberal Democrats

Newslinks for Sunday 21st October 2018

May “summoned” to see 1922 Committee on Wednesday, as “numerous” Conservative MPs say she is “on course” for no confidence vote… Read more »

May “summoned” to see 1922 Committee on Wednesday, as “numerous” Conservative MPs say she is “on course” for no confidence vote “this week”

“…numerous Tory MPs said May was on course to face a vote of no confidence this week as all wings of the party united against her. An ally of David Davis, the former Brexit secretary who is tipped as an interim leader, said May was entering “the killing zone”. One who hopes to succeed added: “Assassination is in the air.” The prime minister has been summoned to plead for her job before the back-bench 1922 committee on Wednesday — a process dubbed “a show trial” by one Tory. She is now under attack from her MPs on five fronts as it was claimed that: Up to 46 MPs have sent a letter demanding a contest, two short of the number needed; A “handful” of cabinet members would vote against May in a secret ballot” – The Sunday Times

  • She’s in the “killing zone” and has “72 hours to save her job” – Mail on Sunday
  • It’ll be a “show trial” – Sunday Express
  • She will face a “snap leadership coup” if no deal by Christmas – Sun on Sunday
  • Here’s what happened this week. Is she facing her “political funeral”? – The Sunday Times

Editorial:

Davis sets out “what will be seen as his manifesto”

“David Davis today steals a march on Tory leadership rival Boris Johnson by setting out what will be seen as his manifesto for Downing Street – including adopting a much more militant attitude towards Brussels. With both former Cabinet Ministers on high alert this weekend for the sudden triggering of a no-confidence vote in Theresa May, the former Brexit Secretary uses a trenchant article in today’s Mail on Sunday – below – to slam the Prime Minister for proposing to extend the transition period for withdrawing from the EU by a year. Arguing that Mrs May has ‘managed to anger not just Leavers but ardent Remainers as well’, Mr Davis calls for a change in tactics to a more uncompromising approach.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Meanwhile, Johnson says May is planning a “stitch-up” – Sunday Express

>Today: ToryDiary: Davis waves away at the crown

Mercer: I was deliberate in my choice of words. This administration “cannot function”

“I cannot continue to support an administration that cannot function, to the point where it allows cases such as the one affecting Dennis. For Dennis read Windrush, Grenfell and Brexit. When all is said and done, politics is about people, the lives of real people. It is not a stage to prance around on in London, feigning strength and conviction. It is how it actually feels to the British people. It does not feel right, and the country knows it. We are not an extreme country, and Britain is getting restless with a political scene that does not represent our nation.” – The Sunday Times

>Today: Neil Shastri-Hurst in Comment: McCain in America, Mercer here in Britain. It’s time for soldier-statesmen to take the lead

An estimated “700,000” march for a second referendum

“The centre of London ground to a halt as an estimated 700,000 people from all over the UK marched peacefully on parliament to demand a second referendum on Brexit. It was the biggest outpouring of public opposition to government policy since the anti-Iraq war protest in 2003. The number who descended on the capital to call for a “people’s vote” exceeded all expectations of both the organisers and police. Addressing the crowds, which included dozens of MPs from all political parties, the TV personality and food writer Delia Smith said Brexit threatened to cause “unmitigated chaos”. “The only way we can avoid this total madness and win back our future has to be a people’s vote,” she declared to loud cheers.” – Observer

Comment:

  • Remain has the energy – Will Hutton, Observer
  • The marchers are risking democracy – Tim Montgomerie, Mail on Sunday

Editorial:

  • We’ve already had a “people’s vote”. Back in June 2016 – Sun on Sunday

Raab: I remain confident about a good deal. An indefinite customs union is not acceptable

“…I remain confident we can reach a good deal. At the same time, our no deal planning and preparations will continue. We are building on the 106 technical notices we have published explaining how we will avoid, manage or mitigate the short-term risks of a no deal scenario – and make a success of Brexit. It is natural that our EU partners feel as frustrated as we do with this whole process. After all, it was the UK that voted to leave. And yet through their response, Brexit will define the EU at a critical juncture in its history. Seeking to lock the UK into an indefinite customs union is simply unacceptable. Proposals to carve up the economic regime that binds the UK are doubly irresponsible given separatist pressures on the continent – and are hardly a compelling advert for a political club that stands for European unity. History will not look kindly on the EU if it precipitates no deal on these grounds.” – Sunday Telegraph

EU wants to “stop UK becoming low-tax economy” after Brexit

“Michel Barnier and his negotiating team want Britain to be shackled to EU tax policies after Brexit, a leaked document suggests. The EU’s Brexit Task Force met with the European Parliament’s TAX3 secretariat last week to discuss how Britain will align its tax rules with the EU.   Campaign groups fear this proposal will be used to deliberately undermine a post-Brexit economy. The draft documents, written by the TAX3 committee, state: ‘The intention is that they commit to continue to alignment with EU standards, including for their overseas countries and territories’. ‘The mandate for the negotiating team is to define and create a level playing field, taking into consideration four main areas, of which one is taxation’. Campaign group Leave.EU hit out at the proposals, and said: ‘We voted Leave to take back control of our country, but now the corrupt EU wants to control our tax rates after Brexit.” – Mail on Sunday

Hammond “refuses Javid’s demand” for extra funds for police

“Philip Hammond has dismissed calls for more money for the police, leading to warnings in government that the chancellor risks undermining the fight against terrorism. Well-placed sources said a budget showdown last week between Hammond and Sajid Javid, the home secretary, “did not go well”. Javid has demanded several hundred million pounds in three parts: money for general policing, a new pot of cash to fund counter-terrorism and greater leeway for local authorities facing a crime crisis to raise a local tax called the “precept”.” – The Sunday Times

  • Meanwhile, former police chief blames peace process for preventing justice – Belfast News Letter

Comment: 

Will “compulsory purchase” of discounted land be announced in budget?

“Councils would be able to strip landowners of large portions of profits from the sale of their land, under proposals expected to be unveiled in the Budget, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose. An official review commissioned by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, is to endorse controversial calls for the state to “capture” more of the increase in value of sites when they are granted planning permission. … Downing Street and the Treasury are now believed to be locked in discussions over how radical an approach the government could endorse. Sir Oliver’s final report could go as far as recommending the compulsory purchase of land at discounted prices that exclude the “uplift” in value from planning permission.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Councils to use new powers to build more houses – Observer
  • Over 40 MPs call for extra money for UC – Sunday Telegraph
  • Will the NHS’s £20bn be spent on debt? – Observer
  • Publishers want e-book levy scrapped – Sun on Sunday
  • Minford says Canada Brexit would allow Hammond to cut VAT by 4 per cent in 2020 – Sunday Express

Hammond relations with McVey “so bad” he “wants” Truss to replace her

“A bitter row has erupted between Philip Hammond and welfare chief Esther McVey over claims of a £2 billion black hole in the Government’s flagship benefits reform. Relations between the two are said to be so bad that the Chancellor wants Miss McVey sacked and replaced with his deputy, Liz Truss. One Treasury source even took aim at Ms McVey’s immaculate hair, saying: ‘The only thing she knows how to do well is a blow dry.’ But allies of Miss McVey accuse Mr Hammond of lobbying for her removal because she stands up to the Chancellor and gets more cash for her Work and Pensions department.” – Mail on Sunday 

Williamson “backs Trump” on Russian nuclear pact criticism

“Britain stands “absolutely resolute” with the United States, the UK defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, has said, after Donald Trump’s announcement he would pull out of a decades-old nuclear weapons pact with Russia. Williamson blamed Russia for endangering the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which was agreed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1987, and called on the Kremlin to “get its house in order”. “Our close and long-term ally of course is the United States and we will be absolutely resolute with the United States in hammering home a clear message that Russia needs to respect the treaty obligation that it signed,” he told the Financial Times.” – Observer

  • Meanwhile, May plans “electoral law overhaul” to “block foreign spending” and “stop interference” – Mail on Sunday 

Hinds to ask private schools to share their pools

“A bid to get more school children to take the plunge and learn to swim will be launched today. Education Secretary Damian Hinds will unveil plans to boost youngsters’ swimming skills by getting more private schools to share their facilities with those in the state sector. The move comes amid concerns that although swimming is compulsory in the national curriculum, almost half of primary school pupils are unable to swim the required 25 metres by the age of 11. Mr Hinds acknowledged last night that many private schools already shared their pools, but called for more to follow suit. He said: ‘As a parent, I want my children to enjoy swimming as part of an active lifestyle, and as Education Secretary, I want to make sure our children grow up safe and water-confident.” – Mail on Sunday

More criticisms of Bercow after he “berated stunned aide” at airport

“Commons Speaker John Bercow berated a stunned aide in an airport check-in queue, it was claimed yesterday. Stunned passengers looked on as he flew into a rage at his private secretary over a travel documents mix-up. Officials told of Mr Bercow’s “fiery temper” as he faced calls to step down over the bullying and sex pest row sweeping Westminster. One said: “He has a short fuse. I’ve seen him storming down corridors, slamming doors and swearing. “He can be quite scary when he loses it. He once hit the roof with a private secretary and humiliated her in front of a line of other passengers.” A former Commons clerk who quit over bullying accused Mr Bercow of belittling her because he couldn’t lay his hands on an envelope.” Sun on Sunday

  • Commons staff could strike over “culture” revealed in Cox report – The Sunday Times

Comment:

  • Bercow’s “not fit for public office” – David Leakey, Sun on Sunday

Dwan: It’s easy to feel as if truth is in decline

“Nonetheless, it’s easy to feel worried that truth’s empire is in decline. George Orwell was one of truth’s Cassandras, but he tended to relate the rise of authoritarianism not to a dogmatic objectivity, but to the advance of relativism. Nazis were the worst sinners: “Nazi theory specifically denies that such a thing as ‘the truth’ exists. There is no such thing as ‘science’. There is only ‘German science’, ‘Jewish science’ etc.”  Incoherent as it may be, Orwell worried that relativism was fed by the great “modern disease” of nationalism and the subdivision of the world into discrete and hostile units. “Indifference to objective truth,” he complained, “is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another.” Despite China’s best efforts, this type of isolation is hard to effect in an internet age. Yet as we have seen, the fragmentation of news sources and the rise of social media have produced new forms of collective solipsism in which lies are circulated with alarming speed.” – Observer

  • Gender identity has been pushed “centre stage” – Melanie McDonagh, Mail on Sunday
  • Few people oppose trans equality. That’s not what this is about – Iain Macwhirter, Herald

News in Brief

Newslinks for Sunday 21st October 2018

May “summoned” to see 1922 Committee on Wednesday, as “numerous” Conservative MPs say she is “on course” for no confidence vote… Read more »

May “summoned” to see 1922 Committee on Wednesday, as “numerous” Conservative MPs say she is “on course” for no confidence vote “this week”

“…numerous Tory MPs said May was on course to face a vote of no confidence this week as all wings of the party united against her. An ally of David Davis, the former Brexit secretary who is tipped as an interim leader, said May was entering “the killing zone”. One who hopes to succeed added: “Assassination is in the air.” The prime minister has been summoned to plead for her job before the back-bench 1922 committee on Wednesday — a process dubbed “a show trial” by one Tory. She is now under attack from her MPs on five fronts as it was claimed that: Up to 46 MPs have sent a letter demanding a contest, two short of the number needed; A “handful” of cabinet members would vote against May in a secret ballot” – The Sunday Times

  • She’s in the “killing zone” and has “72 hours to save her job” – Mail on Sunday
  • It’ll be a “show trial” – Sunday Express
  • She will face a “snap leadership coup” if no deal by Christmas – Sun on Sunday
  • Here’s what happened this week. Is she facing her “political funeral”? – The Sunday Times

Editorial:

Davis sets out “what will be seen as his manifesto”

“David Davis today steals a march on Tory leadership rival Boris Johnson by setting out what will be seen as his manifesto for Downing Street – including adopting a much more militant attitude towards Brussels. With both former Cabinet Ministers on high alert this weekend for the sudden triggering of a no-confidence vote in Theresa May, the former Brexit Secretary uses a trenchant article in today’s Mail on Sunday – below – to slam the Prime Minister for proposing to extend the transition period for withdrawing from the EU by a year. Arguing that Mrs May has ‘managed to anger not just Leavers but ardent Remainers as well’, Mr Davis calls for a change in tactics to a more uncompromising approach.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Meanwhile, Johnson says May is planning a “stitch-up” – Sunday Express

>Today: ToryDiary: Davis waves away at the crown

Mercer: I was deliberate in my choice of words. This administration “cannot function”

“I cannot continue to support an administration that cannot function, to the point where it allows cases such as the one affecting Dennis. For Dennis read Windrush, Grenfell and Brexit. When all is said and done, politics is about people, the lives of real people. It is not a stage to prance around on in London, feigning strength and conviction. It is how it actually feels to the British people. It does not feel right, and the country knows it. We are not an extreme country, and Britain is getting restless with a political scene that does not represent our nation.” – The Sunday Times

>Today: Neil Shastri-Hurst in Comment: McCain in America, Mercer here in Britain. It’s time for soldier-statesmen to take the lead

An estimated “700,000” march for a second referendum

“The centre of London ground to a halt as an estimated 700,000 people from all over the UK marched peacefully on parliament to demand a second referendum on Brexit. It was the biggest outpouring of public opposition to government policy since the anti-Iraq war protest in 2003. The number who descended on the capital to call for a “people’s vote” exceeded all expectations of both the organisers and police. Addressing the crowds, which included dozens of MPs from all political parties, the TV personality and food writer Delia Smith said Brexit threatened to cause “unmitigated chaos”. “The only way we can avoid this total madness and win back our future has to be a people’s vote,” she declared to loud cheers.” – Observer

Comment:

  • Remain has the energy – Will Hutton, Observer
  • The marchers are risking democracy – Tim Montgomerie, Mail on Sunday

Editorial:

  • We’ve already had a “people’s vote”. Back in June 2016 – Sun on Sunday

Raab: I remain confident about a good deal. An indefinite customs union is not acceptable

“…I remain confident we can reach a good deal. At the same time, our no deal planning and preparations will continue. We are building on the 106 technical notices we have published explaining how we will avoid, manage or mitigate the short-term risks of a no deal scenario – and make a success of Brexit. It is natural that our EU partners feel as frustrated as we do with this whole process. After all, it was the UK that voted to leave. And yet through their response, Brexit will define the EU at a critical juncture in its history. Seeking to lock the UK into an indefinite customs union is simply unacceptable. Proposals to carve up the economic regime that binds the UK are doubly irresponsible given separatist pressures on the continent – and are hardly a compelling advert for a political club that stands for European unity. History will not look kindly on the EU if it precipitates no deal on these grounds.” – Sunday Telegraph

EU wants to “stop UK becoming low-tax economy” after Brexit

“Michel Barnier and his negotiating team want Britain to be shackled to EU tax policies after Brexit, a leaked document suggests. The EU’s Brexit Task Force met with the European Parliament’s TAX3 secretariat last week to discuss how Britain will align its tax rules with the EU.   Campaign groups fear this proposal will be used to deliberately undermine a post-Brexit economy. The draft documents, written by the TAX3 committee, state: ‘The intention is that they commit to continue to alignment with EU standards, including for their overseas countries and territories’. ‘The mandate for the negotiating team is to define and create a level playing field, taking into consideration four main areas, of which one is taxation’. Campaign group Leave.EU hit out at the proposals, and said: ‘We voted Leave to take back control of our country, but now the corrupt EU wants to control our tax rates after Brexit.” – Mail on Sunday

Hammond “refuses Javid’s demand” for extra funds for police

“Philip Hammond has dismissed calls for more money for the police, leading to warnings in government that the chancellor risks undermining the fight against terrorism. Well-placed sources said a budget showdown last week between Hammond and Sajid Javid, the home secretary, “did not go well”. Javid has demanded several hundred million pounds in three parts: money for general policing, a new pot of cash to fund counter-terrorism and greater leeway for local authorities facing a crime crisis to raise a local tax called the “precept”.” – The Sunday Times

  • Meanwhile, former police chief blames peace process for preventing justice – Belfast News Letter

Comment: 

Will “compulsory purchase” of discounted land be announced in budget?

“Councils would be able to strip landowners of large portions of profits from the sale of their land, under proposals expected to be unveiled in the Budget, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose. An official review commissioned by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, is to endorse controversial calls for the state to “capture” more of the increase in value of sites when they are granted planning permission. … Downing Street and the Treasury are now believed to be locked in discussions over how radical an approach the government could endorse. Sir Oliver’s final report could go as far as recommending the compulsory purchase of land at discounted prices that exclude the “uplift” in value from planning permission.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Councils to use new powers to build more houses – Observer
  • Over 40 MPs call for extra money for UC – Sunday Telegraph
  • Will the NHS’s £20bn be spent on debt? – Observer
  • Publishers want e-book levy scrapped – Sun on Sunday
  • Minford says Canada Brexit would allow Hammond to cut VAT by 4 per cent in 2020 – Sunday Express

Hammond relations with McVey “so bad” he “wants” Truss to replace her

“A bitter row has erupted between Philip Hammond and welfare chief Esther McVey over claims of a £2 billion black hole in the Government’s flagship benefits reform. Relations between the two are said to be so bad that the Chancellor wants Miss McVey sacked and replaced with his deputy, Liz Truss. One Treasury source even took aim at Ms McVey’s immaculate hair, saying: ‘The only thing she knows how to do well is a blow dry.’ But allies of Miss McVey accuse Mr Hammond of lobbying for her removal because she stands up to the Chancellor and gets more cash for her Work and Pensions department.” – Mail on Sunday 

Williamson “backs Trump” on Russian nuclear pact criticism

“Britain stands “absolutely resolute” with the United States, the UK defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, has said, after Donald Trump’s announcement he would pull out of a decades-old nuclear weapons pact with Russia. Williamson blamed Russia for endangering the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which was agreed by the US and the Soviet Union in 1987, and called on the Kremlin to “get its house in order”. “Our close and long-term ally of course is the United States and we will be absolutely resolute with the United States in hammering home a clear message that Russia needs to respect the treaty obligation that it signed,” he told the Financial Times.” – Observer

  • Meanwhile, May plans “electoral law overhaul” to “block foreign spending” and “stop interference” – Mail on Sunday 

Hinds to ask private schools to share their pools

“A bid to get more school children to take the plunge and learn to swim will be launched today. Education Secretary Damian Hinds will unveil plans to boost youngsters’ swimming skills by getting more private schools to share their facilities with those in the state sector. The move comes amid concerns that although swimming is compulsory in the national curriculum, almost half of primary school pupils are unable to swim the required 25 metres by the age of 11. Mr Hinds acknowledged last night that many private schools already shared their pools, but called for more to follow suit. He said: ‘As a parent, I want my children to enjoy swimming as part of an active lifestyle, and as Education Secretary, I want to make sure our children grow up safe and water-confident.” – Mail on Sunday

More criticisms of Bercow after he “berated stunned aide” at airport

“Commons Speaker John Bercow berated a stunned aide in an airport check-in queue, it was claimed yesterday. Stunned passengers looked on as he flew into a rage at his private secretary over a travel documents mix-up. Officials told of Mr Bercow’s “fiery temper” as he faced calls to step down over the bullying and sex pest row sweeping Westminster. One said: “He has a short fuse. I’ve seen him storming down corridors, slamming doors and swearing. “He can be quite scary when he loses it. He once hit the roof with a private secretary and humiliated her in front of a line of other passengers.” A former Commons clerk who quit over bullying accused Mr Bercow of belittling her because he couldn’t lay his hands on an envelope.” Sun on Sunday

  • Commons staff could strike over “culture” revealed in Cox report – The Sunday Times

Comment:

  • Bercow’s “not fit for public office” – David Leakey, Sun on Sunday

Dwan: It’s easy to feel as if truth is in decline

“Nonetheless, it’s easy to feel worried that truth’s empire is in decline. George Orwell was one of truth’s Cassandras, but he tended to relate the rise of authoritarianism not to a dogmatic objectivity, but to the advance of relativism. Nazis were the worst sinners: “Nazi theory specifically denies that such a thing as ‘the truth’ exists. There is no such thing as ‘science’. There is only ‘German science’, ‘Jewish science’ etc.”  Incoherent as it may be, Orwell worried that relativism was fed by the great “modern disease” of nationalism and the subdivision of the world into discrete and hostile units. “Indifference to objective truth,” he complained, “is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another.” Despite China’s best efforts, this type of isolation is hard to effect in an internet age. Yet as we have seen, the fragmentation of news sources and the rise of social media have produced new forms of collective solipsism in which lies are circulated with alarming speed.” – Observer

  • Gender identity has been pushed “centre stage” – Melanie McDonagh, Mail on Sunday
  • Few people oppose trans equality. That’s not what this is about – Iain Macwhirter, Herald

News in Brief

Compulsory Voter ID – sensible security measure or deliberate disenfranchisement?

Did you know that the Government has a manifesto commitment to bring in compulsory ID for Parliamentary elections?  They plan to require us to show some sort of ID before we are issued with our ballot paper in a polling station.  The idea was piloted in five Boroughs in the recent council elections, and the […]

Did you know that the Government has a manifesto commitment to bring in compulsory ID for Parliamentary elections?  They plan to require us to show some sort of ID before we are issued with our ballot paper in a polling station. 

The idea was piloted in five Boroughs in the recent council elections, and the Government is now looking for pilot sites for next May’s elections. The Cabinet Office and the Electoral Commission have both published evaluations of the pilots. There is also an excellent report from the Electoral Reform Society setting the issue of voter ID in the context of other priorities for electoral reform.

I took part in a project, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd, to find out how voters experienced these pilots.  We contacted Lib Dem and Labour campaigners in the five Boroughs and asked them to survey their residents and to give us their own views. We received responses from 21 campaigners and 329 residents from four of the five Boroughs (Woking, Bromley, Watford & Swindon). We also held a fringe meeting at Federal Conference, where Peter Taylor, the Liberal Democrat Mayor of Watford, spoke about the Watford experience.  

The Five Pilots

The five Boroughs piloted different approaches: Woking, Bromley and Gosport tested various forms of photo ID requirement, although in Bromley and Gosport two forms of non-photo ID were also allowed; Swindon and Watford piloted a requirement to bring a poll card which was electronically scanned, with Watford also allowing other ID in the absence of a polling card.

Voters Turned Away

The Electoral Commission evaluation states that, according to the Returning Officers, 1,036 people attempted to vote without the correct ID, and that between 326 and 350 did not return later in the day, an average of 0.23% of all polling station voters.  The “did not return” rate varied between councils, with 57% of those initially turned away not returning in Woking (where the ID requirements were strictest) and about 27% not returning in Bromley and Watford. 

Campaigners in our survey gave some examples: 

“A gentleman  with a Surrey Senior Bus Pass was refused a vote because his Bus Pass had two names and apparently his name on the Electoral Register contained an additional name”. (Campaigner from Woking)

“I heard of …one person turned away despite having a digital copy of a bank statement, he was told to go home and print the statement out.” (Campaigner from Bromley) 

Voters put off due to the need for ID

In our survey, we also asked about voters who were put off, and never got as far as the polling station. 88 people (27%) said they had been, or knew someone who had been, put off from voting because of the need to provide ID. This was higher in Woking and Bromley where photo ID was required than in the “poll card” pilot areas. Examples of comments from residents were: 

“I didn’t vote because I left my house without the correct ID and instead of being turned away, I simply didn’t go to the polling station. First time I haven’t voted in 20+ years.” (Bromley)

I am a resident of over 20 years and was unable to vote as I don’t have photographic ID and don’t have time to go through the lengthy process of getting it. (Woking)

The Electoral Commission survey found that, overall, 2% of respondents who did not vote said it was because they did not have the right identification. This also varied from Borough to Borough, with no respondents in Watford or Swindon (the poll card pilots) giving lack of ID as the reason for not voting. (This compares with 27% of people who said they were too busy, 23% not interested or didn’t know who to vote for, and 12% on holiday).  

Awareness of the need for Voter ID 

In our survey, fewer than 4% of respondents were not aware that they needed to take ID with them to vote. However we received some comments which indicate that those with disabilities, the elderly or who already find it difficult to vote were less aware. A campaigner from Swindon said:

Yes problem with partially sighted people who had failed to be made aware of the scheme. I have advised the person to get a postal vote”

Implications for 2019 Pilots

Firstly, we saw some indications that compulsory voter ID was more off-putting for those with disabilities, the elderly or those who already find voting difficult to vote. The Cabinet Office should test this further in any 2019 pilots.

Secondly, the different types of ID had different impacts. Woking trialled the narrowest range of acceptable photo ID and those without it were required to apply for a special card. Voters in Woking reported more difficulty across a range of issues than the other areas. Next year, the Cabinet Office should test an even wider range of acceptable ID, such as verifying signature and date of birth. 

Is Voter ID a good idea? 

In our survey, 58% of respondents said they thought ID for voting was a good idea. Of these, 63% said it should be photo ID.  In Watford, the Electoral Commission interviews suggested that 15% of people thought that electoral fraud was a problem or a serious problem in January 2018, which dropped to 9% after the elections in May. 

Conclusion – towards a Liberal Democrat policy

As Liberal Democrats, we believe that every vote counts, and that everyone should have confidence in our electoral system. We know that there is much to improve, and voter ID wouldn’t be our top priority for electoral reform. The 2018 pilots have highlighted some issues that need to be addressed in any further round of pilots – we will see if they are. 

But if the Government decide to find legislative time, we’ll need to be ready. Public opinion is generally in favour, and the pilots have indicated where the pinch points might be.  As far as I have been able to find out, the Liberal Democrats don’t have a stated policy position on the issue.  It would be good to start by having a debate.

* Janet Grauberg is a Lib Dem campaigner in Camden, north London, and a freelance consultant.