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Lib Dem Leadership – surely it’s sorted?

By Angela Harbutt
May 10th, 2015 at 11:01 am | Comments Off on Lib Dem Leadership – surely it’s sorted? | Posted in Leadership, Liberal Democrats, Uncategorized

So the discussions on who might be the next Lib Dem leader have already begun. Tim Farron has not ruled himself out, whilst Greg Mulholland has apparently. Not sure about Norman Lamb, but the bookies think he is in with a shout. Mind you, given the numbers, they probably all are (in with a shout that is).

Lib Dem Party President, Sal Brinton, has already written to all Lib Dem members (Friday) telling them that “The Federal Executive meets for the first time tomorrow afternoon to consider the timescales” for the leadership election.

Just to be clear, 28 or so Lib Dems will have sat down in a room somewhere yesterday to work out the “leadership election” process. This may sound ridiculous to outsiders (for crying out loud there are only 7 MPs in the running!) but not to those, like the usually sane Lib Dem Mark Pack, who think this is deadly serious. He has already called for  a “properly contested leadership contest, not a coronation“.

Why? Because “A contest triggers debate and a chance of collectively learning the lessons“. Hmmm…. what the Lib Dems need is yet another post-mortem on why it all went wrong. I don’t think so.

It really doesn’t appear to occur to any of them that this constant navel-gazing which is sending them backwards, not forwards. What did the Lib Dems learn from the lame 2010 GE campaign, the 2011 AV campaign, the (several) Rennard inquiries; the 2014 European elections; the various local council elections? Nothing it would seem, given that the 2015 General Election campaign was every bit as bad as the ludicrous “Yes to Fairer Votes” campaign.

[The truth of the matter is that the Lib Dems never learn, collectively or otherwise, the lessons of any particular failure because they don’t really want to hear the answer – but more of that later today]

Returning to the Leadership Election….

If the remaining eight MPs (assuming they all stay Lib Dems) had anything about them they would dispense with the now meaningless Lib Dem rule book  (which states that any leadership candidate needs 10% of MPs to back them (!) plus the backing of at least 200 party members from at least 20 different local parties). They would  have sat down already and agreed amongst themselves who it will be –  and announced it.

The leader, with the total support of all 8 MPs, would also then tell the 28 person Federal Executive, the 29 person Federal Policy Committee, the 20+ person Federal Conference committee and any other committee found occasionally lurking in the bowels of Lib Dem HQ that in swift order all the current policies/rules books/committees etc will all be put under immediate review with a view to (a) disbanding or (b) drastic pruning. If the Federal party want a conference they can have one, but it won’t be where policy is made. Policy will be made by the 8 accountable MPs, on a system of their own devising, and, in the interests of democracy, put to the membership on a “one member one vote” basis annually. In the Autumn of 2015 the first set of proposals will be put to the membership (on the “one member on vote” system) and include a question on satisfaction with the leader. The rest the leader will sort as he goes on.

I am sure this suggestion will make many Lib Dem’s toes curl at the very idea of by-passing the FE , and making the Federal Policy Committee all but redundant, but surely their time and effort can be redeployed rebuilding the membership of the party. What the remaining Lib Dem MPs – and indeed the wider party membership – surely don’t need is 10 or so committee members for every one MP?

Please someone tell me commonsense will, finally, prevail.


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Greg Mulholland shows his liberal credentials

By Angela Harbutt
February 4th, 2010 at 8:29 pm | 11 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Having given Greg Mulholland a bit of a hard time recently, it’s only fair that I highlight this Early Day Motion (EDM) – also from Greg. Great stuff. This particular EDM concerns the Sec state for health “considering” an extension of the smoking ban to include beer gardens and the outside of pubs. I did not agree with every word in the EDM and would have liked some reference to some of the other measures (such as the possible move to enforce plain-packaging on all cigarette packs) but I did approve of his point that  “there needs to be a reasonable balance between protecting the rights of non-smokers and the rights of adults who smoke”. Nice one Greg. 

It should be noted that NO OTHER MP signed this motion. Not one. I am not sure quite how an MP goes about getting signatures- but, assuming there was not some clerical cock up of some description, where or where are the Liberal Democrat MPs signatures?

You can read the EDM here…

EDM 785: EXTENSION OF THE SMOKING BAN 03.02.2010 ” That this House is concerned over the Secretary of State for Health’s review of the current smoking ban legislation and its possible extension to include beer gardens, outside pubs and designated smoking areas; notes that pubs, bars and other similar venues have already had to make considerable alterations to their premises in order to adapt to the smoking ban; further notes that pubs have already suffered serious economic repercussions since the introduction of the smoking ban by way of lost revenue and the costs incurred by building smoking shelters; observes that smoking has serious health implications and supports measures to discourage it; however believes that there needs to be a reasonable balance between protecting the rights of non-smokers and the rights of adults who smoke; deems that this balance would not be maintained if smoking in an open air beer garden or legal smoking shelter were banned; further believes that pubs play a hugely important function in the communities they serve; fears that if pubs are required to place further draconian restrictions on smoking then people will choose to stay at home and pubs will no longer be able to perform an important function at the heart of the community; and is concerned that if people are forced to stay at home and smoke this may have health implications on family members and visitors, including young children, due to the dangers of passive smoking”

 Update: Simon Clark over at “Taking Liberties”  has echoed our nod to Greg Mulholland. He says.. “Obviously I don’t agree with every single word – the dangers of passive smoking on “family members and visitors” has been greatly exaggerated – but beggars can’t be choosers so congratulations to Greg Mulholland for making a stand on this issue”

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Lib Dem Measurement Fascist strikes again….

By Angela Harbutt
January 28th, 2010 at 3:24 pm | 22 Comments | Posted in Uncategorized

Greg Mulholland clearly has “Measurement Mania”.  Having sought to ban the word “regular” from our coffee shops last week, he has now gone on record welcoming the law requiring pubs to serve small (125ml) glasses of wine alongside larger measures.

EDM 737  27/01/10

“That this House welcomes the introduction of the law, within the Mandatory Code of Practice, requiring pubs, bars and other similar establishments to offer the choice of a 125ml measure of wine alongside larger measures; notes that this follows campaigning since the introduction of the Sale of Wine (Measures) Bill in 2008 and a campaign by the Good Pub Guide also supported by a number of other organisations; believes that obliging venues to offer 125ml size measures gives consumers greater choice by allowing them to order smaller as well as larger size glasses of wine; further believes that this will help standardise wine measures so that it would be better understood that 125ml is a small measure of wine, 175ml medium and 250ml large; further notes that this will mean people will have a better idea of how much they are drinking at any venue; further believes that this is a simple and effective method of increasing alcohol awareness amongst wine drinkers; further notes that this measure need not mean using 125ml sized glasses of wine but that this measure can be dispensed in a 175ml glass with a measure; and looks forward to the implementation of this policy so that consumers everywhere have real choice of wine glass measures everywhere they go”.

This statement refers to the Home Office Mandatory Code Of Practice for alcohol retailers which will, subject to Parliamentary timetable, introduce the following mandatory licensing conditions for pubs, clubs etc: Banning irresponsible promotions;Banning pouring drinks directly into the mouths of customers;Ensuring free tap water for customers; and Ensuring that all on trade premises offer small measures of beers, wine and spirits to customers.

The last of these measures – the one that Greg Mulholland commends to the House – will have no meaningful effect on drinking levels in this country nor on the takings or profits of the pubs. 

Even so it’s annoying and pretty absurd that yet again this Government is telling people its not their fault if they get rat-faced, but somehow the retailers. And I cant see for the life of me why the Home Office thinks that the minority of people hell-bent on going out on a Friday night with the sole aim of getting legless will somehow now desist because there is a mandated option of a small glass of wine on the menu. As for stopping drinks promotions in pubs, that will simply result in people drinking copious amounts away from the scrutiny of responsible landlords. Then go to the pub! The world has gone barking mad. 

Speaking of which, the bit that intrigues me in Greg Mulholland’s EDM is the bit  I highlighted in blue (above).Arrgh!!!  Does anyone know where,when and why an otherwise bright, sane Lib Dem MP turned into the Measurement Facist of old London Town?

Chris Huhne was talking last week about the swathes of needless legislation that has been introduced by this Government over the last decade when current laws exist already to deal with the issues raised? So. If it is true as the Home Office says “The majority of alcohol retailers behave responsibly, but a minorityconduct irresponsible promotions or practices – the mandatory code will stop these where they take place.“, then Councils already have the power they need to stop the irresponsible few – withdraw their licences. End of.. Why the need for MORE legislation? And why is Greg Mulholland praising something that Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary must surely condemn?

Methinks someone should take Greg to a quiet corner and give him a chill pill.

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Now we want to ban the word “regular” in coffee shops!

By Angela Harbutt
January 25th, 2010 at 2:36 pm | 16 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

you-call-this-liberal ?

Like all bad habits, it started as a occassional indulgence and has grown into something approaching an obsession. Reading Early Day Motions that is. I wonder if there is a Govt dept that can help me with this addiction?

I do however commend this activity to you. It provides an interesting insight into MP’s real concerns and motivations. It also throws up some shockers.

Take this one from Greg Mulholland, Lib Dem MP for Leeds Northwest. EDM 620

“That this House supports the Plain English Campaign on its attempts to prohibit the use of the word regular in coffee shops and cafés; notes that this term is a meaningless description creating confusion; regrets the Americanisation of the English language in this country; commends the Plain English Campaign for its efforts to promote clear language in public life; and calls on all coffee shops and similar establishments to use English terms and one standardised and universally understood system of measurement, such as small, medium and large.”

PROHIBIT the use of the word “REGULAR” in coffee shops?

Oh come on Greg. What is that all about? The word “regular” is confusing? Just do what the rest of us do and ask to see what size cup you get for a regular, or ask for your coffee in “one of those big fat mugs” or point at a cup and say “that sort of size”. And to say that coffee shops should be forced to use “English terms” – whatever that means – is frankly worrying.

Supposing its an Italian or French cafe? And even if it isn’t, so what if its a pretentious American cafe that prefers the word “Venti” to big or huge? A Starbuck’s venti is, in actual fact a twenty ounce coffee drink (about a pint) – from the Italian word for twenty (at least that’s what they told me when I asked many moons ago). Strikes me thats far more descriptive than “large”, which means (to the common man at least) “bigger than average” . How does that help anyone?

In any event I dont think its my place, and certainly not an elected MP’s place to start telling businesses what to call their products – no matter how silly. If customers dont like the word “regular” they will soon let them know. 

Putting this mini rant into context, only 14 others joined Greg in signing this motion –  7 Labour MPs and 4 Lib Dems (only 1 tory). Hmmmm. And we are supposed to be the home of liberalism? This sounds more like a sketch from Little Britain.

To be fair, Greg did redeem himself to some extent a couple of days later (20th Jan) with EDM 666 calling for the House to support the second reading of the Live Music bill (which will create an exemption from licences for small venues such as pubs).  Getting rid of bureacracy and needless red tape..that’s more like it.

Overall however, could do better.

UPDATE: In response to an email – the Lib Dem MPs that signed the banning of the word “regular” in coffee shops were: Mark Hunter, Mike Hancock, John Leach and Stephen Williams.

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