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Hustings for President – 3rd November

By Sara Scarlett
October 26th, 2010 at 4:13 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Liberal Democrats

A short message from Helen Duffett:

There will be a hustings in east London for Liberal Democrat members to quiz Susan Kramer and Tim Farron – the candidates in the current Lib Dem Federal Presidential election:

7:30pm – 9pm Wednesday 3 November
Woodbridge High School (Wynndale Hall)
St Barnabas Road
Woodford Green, IG8 7DQ

Chair: Helen Duffett

After a speech from each of the candidates, Tim and Susan will answer questions from the audience.

All Liberal Democrat members are welcome, from around London and beyond, so please forward this email to others who might be interested.

Use the school entrance beside house number 205 St Barnabas Road. Car parking is available on-site. Woodford Underground Station (Central Line) is a 7-10 minute walk from the school.

Map here.

For more details, and to offer or request a lift, see the event’s listing on the Liberal Democrats’ Flock Together website:

The Facebook page for the event is here.

There will be no charge for admission, but donations to cover the cost of the hall will be appreciated!

We hope to see you next week,

Helen Duffett
London Region Liberal Democrats

So if you’re still undecided you know what to do :)


Time to bin ASH before it trashes another part of the economy

By Angela Harbutt
October 25th, 2010 at 4:31 pm | 12 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Apologies for the delay in spotting this one, but it has just come to my attention that the ludicrously well-funded ASH Scotland (which has somehow reversed the Barnett Formula, receiving copiously more than its (also over-funded) English partner organisation… but more on this later) has just published it’s latest list of anti-smoking proposals for Scotland…

On the day that David Cameron has promised the business world a “forensic, relentless focus on growth”  my attention has been drawn to an excellent analysis of ASH Scotlands’ proposals by the Tobacco Retailers Alliance. You should check out the full article yourself, but to summarise, they identify two of ASH Scotland proposals that are particularly insane (my words not theirs!) as far as business is concerned.

1. Govt should increase the cost of smoking by 5% above the rate of inflation every year

2.Govt should look at options for introducing a positive award or incentives scheme for retailers who choose not to sell tobacco.

Both options are likely to result in only one thing – an INCREASE in the amount of tobacco that is sold illicitly – depriving the country of tax revenue (which we desperately need in case ASH had not noticed) whilst putting more money and influence into the hands of criminal gangs.  Do these people learn nothing?

Concerning the second proposal specifically, the Tobacco Retailers Alliance points out that for many small retailers tobacco sales accounts for a third of their trade, so the bill for such a policy to the Scottish Government would be stupendous…. So that, frankly is (almost certainly) a dead duck. At least while the country is broke… But don’t expect the drive to eliminate tobacco retailing to stop,  just because the powers that be have no money right now.  Read this and weep …

“…The idea that retailers should be discouraged from selling tobacco, and encouraged to sell other things in its place, is one that keeps coming up and I expect we’ll hear a lot more of it over the next few years. I once asked an official in the Scottish Government just what exactly retailers could sell in place of tobacco – what product would bring a hundred customers through a newsagent’s door every day, give him a profit equating to four Mars Bars per transaction and drive more add-on purchases than any other product category? After a long pause for thought, she shrugged her shoulders and replied, “Apples?”….

This, my friends, is what we are up against – idiotic dogma and evangelism – with no practical understanding (or just perhaps concern) as to the likely real impact of their insane ideas – all of it funded by taxpayer. And when it comes to ASH Scotland…WHAT FUNDING!!!!!  Simon Clark (Director of the smokers lobby group FOREST) highlighted the cost to the taxpayer of ASH Scotland just last week…

In 2008-09 ASH Scotland received £921,837 from the Scottish Government. In December 2009 they received a further £500,000 grant from the Big Lottery to fund a three-year research project into smoke-free homes in Scotland.

“At a time when governments are reviewing public spending we would seriously question the use of public money to fund a group that employs almost three times as many staff as its sister organisation in England.

“How can that possibly be justified at a time when all taxpayers, smokers and non-smokers alike, are being asked to tighten their belts?”

The Save Our Pubs and Clubs campaign will need to become the Save Our Pubs and Clubs and Newsagents campaign if ASH  & Co get their way…

.. I am hoping it won’t come to this. I trust that today’s rhetoric from the Prime Minister about supporting business will prove not to be empty words and that this coalition will get off the backs of SME’s (and “big tobacco” for that matter) trying to keep this country afloat.

I also thought that Mr Cameron had called a halt to government departments spending money to lobby other parts of Government..surely Government funding to ASH is all this is ? and should stop now.

And for those that missed it.. and specifically for ASH and other Government meddlars here is a video we highlighted recently pointing out the issues surrounding the illicit trade in tobacco.

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Party President election – vote Susan Kramer

By admin
October 25th, 2010 at 1:00 pm | 4 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Liberal Vision’s Andy Mayer recently interviewed Tim Farron and Susan Kramer, granting each candidate a chance to explain why they should be elected as the new Liberal Democrat Party President. We would like to thank Tim and Susan for their time in answering Andy’s questions. Liberal Vision has thousands of Lib Dem readers, and it’s heartening to see both candidates communicating openly and honestly with the party’s activists.

Even through print on a screen, Tim’s alacrity comes through, and he certainly appears to be an energetic, charismatic media star in the making. Hopefully these qualities will prove to be a great boon for the party.

However, it is a concern that nearly all of the “good” policies that Tim wishes to promote as core Liberal Democrat beliefs involve even greater government intervention – protecting or increasing state spending (housing benefit), the 50p rate of income tax, state control of areas to provide “free” services (“no tuition fees, free personal care, and free eye and dental tests”) and so on.

Liberal Vision does not believe that tax increases are “about asking people for more money for something they know to be right, buying peace of mind and social equity…” As we state on this website:

“…we [Liberal Vision] believe people should be in control of their own lives, and to do so it is essential that they have more control over how they spend their money. We support a reduction in the overall tax burden. Too much of the wealth we produce is controlled by politicians and bureaucrats and not enough by ordinary men and women.”

It is also unclear whether Tim feels that all individuals and organisations should have the freedom to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexuality, or whether this is just a freedom that Christian (and perhaps other religious) groups should be granted.

While policy formulation should not be a part of the President’s job, Tim’s examples suggest that the more interventionist policies are those that, typically, would be championed by him as President, in a bid to “articulate what the Lib Dems are for”, as a counter-balance to the policies of the Coalition.

Susan Kramer, meanwhile, presents herself as a different kind of President – a grassroots campaigner, looking to strengthen the relationship between the party’s hierarchy and its support base rather than using the Presidency to publicly counter-balance the Coalition.

This may be a preferable role for President, yet it would be nice to see some stronger ideas on how it can be achieved. Susan, like Tim, seems opposed to any real structural reform in the party. On ideas like giving all members a vote at conference, and reaching out to more Lib Dem supporters (not necessarily members), there is uncertainty and a lack of resolution or solid alternatives.

On policy issues, some of Susan’s record may concern members of Liberal Vision – the stance against lifestyle freedoms such as smoking and hunting, to take two examples. However, she is “comfortable being seen as an Orange Book liberal” and spoke well about the need for pragmatism in party politics while maintaining a principled stance on core civil liberties (90 day detention without trial, for example). Reassuring stuff, and particularly important while in government (last week a Guest Post on this site demonstrated how principles in opposition are often forgotten once in power).

But most importantly, one gets the feeling that Susan’s political views would not influence her performance as President, during which she would hope to inject energy into the party during its time in government, and ensure that the party as a whole doesn’t simply become a back-drop to the Lib Dem Cabinet members at the top of the pyramid.

Tim Farron’s talents are evident, yet would perhaps be suited to a different role in the near future. For now Susan Kramer appears the best candidate for this position. Her commitment to and affection for the party seems genuine, and hopefully she will get the chance to demonstrate her qualities as the next Liberal Democrat Party President.

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Clegg’s desert island dilemmas

By Andy Mayer
October 24th, 2010 at 11:53 am | 7 Comments | Posted in freedom, Liberal Democrats, Satire

The shocking revelation on today’s Desert Island Discs was that Nick Clegg’s luxury would be a “secret stash of cigarettes“. He has clearly not read the party memo on mention of the ‘evil weed’ being the social equivalent of beating children or driving a 4×4.

Being on a desert island alone of course Nick could do much as he pleased with his stash. But being the Deputy Prime Minister we’re sure he would wish to stick as closely as possibly to the law of the United Kingdom in order, like Robinson Crusoe, to maintain the standards of civilisation and social order that ‘separate us from savages’.

His first dilemma then would be whether to declare the import of his stash and pay tobacco duty. Currency is rare commodity on tropical islands, and the Treasury quite absent. However both can be replicated quite adequately with coconuts and a large hole in the ground.

Nick’s first task then would be gather a large number of coconuts and inter them. The exact number would depend the size of his stash and UK-island exchange rate. Local pricing might also be awkward, cigarettes are rare, coconuts literally grow on trees, however for convenience we’ll say 1 packet equals 10 coconuts, of which given UK duty-equivalence, 8-9 need to go in the ground for each import, depending on the brand.

The coconuts in the hole could of course be retrieved from time to time to support Nick’s health and welfare, or the arts if he wants some handy percussion instruments, but many will rot. This is the administration cost.

Despite the hole full of rotting coconuts, or perhaps because of it, Nick is fortunate to attract a second castaway to his island a little time later. Man Alexander is strong, loyal and brave; a handy guy to have around when the cesspit needs draining, or in seeking accommodation with the tribe of cannibals on a neighbouring island.

However the island has now become a public space, and the covered shelter built using husks from the pit, public housing. Nick can still grab a crafty puff from his stash on the beach or in his own bedroom, but the communal food preparation area is a no no, and the covered veranda requires two side walls to be knocked out. Nick is required to ensure adequate fire prevention mechanisms are in place (a bucket of sand), and conduct a full risk assessment before inhaling.

He also has a difficulty in what he can say to Alexander about his stash. Some initial inquiries and a battered passport happily establish that despite appearances to the contrary Alexander is over the age of 18. So he can exchange cigarettes with him for coconuts and need not confiscate any he finds not-so-young Alexander smoking on the public beach.

Although he’s not yet banned from displaying the stash for sale to Alexander, he is certainly thinking about hiding them under his hammock in future, and those that he does display must be done in very precise and limited ways in order not to breach rules on many types of advertising, promotion or sponsorship. The A5 poster he eventually settles on putting next to the communal urinal is factual and 30% of it constitutes a warning about the risks of shrivelled genitals.

This does not deter Alexander.

He eventually procures some of Nick stash and throws some coconuts in the hole.

However due to the previous occupation of the island by a tribe of vegan militarists, who decided to go to war with the cannibals using an arsenal of weaponry entirely fabricated from coconuts, and pay off their reluctant warriors with promises of more coconuts, the coconut supply is quickly running out.

Both have to stop using the stash.

Nick though one day discovers Alexander puffing away behind the fish gut pit using a supply of illicit cigarettes that have washed up on the beach.

Nick has no choice but to arrest Alexander for smuggling, destroy the contraband, and impose a large fine in coconuts that he cannot pay. The economy and tranquillity of the island swiftly breaks down in petty feuding and both are relieved, if only for a short time, to be rescued by the cannibals the following week who have no restrictions on enjoying a cigarette after their meal.

Nick alternative was to treat the island, or parts of it as a private space subject to local rules and come to some sensible compromises with Alexander should he have proved to be a non-smoker. The coconuts might have been managed more efficiently without the help of a large pit. The communication of the product on offer, and associated risks with a little more pragmatism and less zealotry.

But this is all just a desert island fantasy, isn’t it?

Clegg attacks the IFS, but what is fair?

By Andy Mayer
October 22nd, 2010 at 12:37 pm | 2 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Nick Clegg is in the news today, attacking the Institute for Fiscal Studies for their analysis that the comprehensive spending review was ‘unfair’ or regressive. He has described it as “nonsense” only taking account of “tax and welfare and (ignoring) factors like access to public services and social mobility”.

Nick is correct on this point, treating every adverse shift in the distribution of net income at a moment in time as an injustice is ‘nonsense’; access, opportunity, incentives and the freedom to succeed matter as well.

However some of the worst offenders in utilising crude inequality statistics are the Liberal Democrat Party. A frequent attack on Labour in office, for example, was that they allowed outcome inequality to rise. The party’s tax analysis amounts to insisting that the bottom quintile pay more than the top quintile as a percentage of income and that this is unfair. Nick’s own campaign literature frequently uses differential life expectancy between dstreets in Sheffield as a mark of social injustice with no regard to the personal choices driving those outcomes.

Under the last government both the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives bought in wholesale to Labour’s poverty targets and equation of the same with median income. Both regularly used income and outcome metrics to decry each other and the Opposition.

Until then the party or government come up with a more sophisticated definition of what fairness looks like, something perhaps premised around equality of access to good opportunities to achieve your potential, and targeting barriers to that based on real case studies, not a string of impersonal statistics, they are open to these attacks.