Sunday, September 12, 2010

Say Yes to Fair Votes

We will finally be given our say in the referendum on 5th May 2011. The proposed Alternative Vote ("AV") method of electing MPs builds on the strengths of the current system while eliminating many of its weaknesses.

The official YES campaign (with supporters from all parties and none)is very much up and running-visit the website at: to find out more and to register your interest.

The circumstances may not be ideal but this referendum is a chance to move forwards towards much needed comprehensive political reform.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Into Coalition-my thoughts

It has been quite a month to be a Liberal Democrat-we find ourselves on a journey none of us predicted.

We can be proud of the campaign we fought both on the ground and in the air. We saw the birth of Cleggmania after Nick's superb performance in the televised debates which caught the public's attention and energised the campaign. I think that we all got caught up in the optimism of the moment which came with the spring sunshine. Liberal Democrat hopes and expectations soared. I even dusted my SDP "the time has come" mug! The Guardian urged readers to support this "Liberal moment".

The results came as a shock-the Liberal Democrats polled the most votes ever (6.8million), the highest share of the votes (23%) but just 57 seats-a net loss of 6. It was as diverse as it was unexpected. We held seats in the south west that the Tories had expected to win, but lost Oxford West and Abingdon; gained Redcar but not Watford; Eastbourne but not Islington South; gained Derby South but lost Rochdale. In Norfolk, Simon Wright ousted Charles Clarke in Norwich South, Norman Lamb increased his majority again in North Norfolk and our vote went up in every consituency in the county. Nationally we gained ground and new 2nd places in many seats and fell behind in others. I was especially pleased to see Naomi Long defeat Northern Ireland first minister, Peter Robinson, for the Alliance in Belfast East and old friend Stephen Twigg who was returned for Labour in Liverpool West Derby.

For the first time since 1974, the country found itself with a hung parliament-the Tories gained 90 odd seats but not given the overall majority they had expected months before; Labour lost 90 seats but avoided meltdown and showed resilience in London and the North. The BNP were destroyed in general election and locals.

My first thought was that a progressive alliance was the answer-the traffic light initiative which I dreamed of. However, there problems: the maths did not add up-any progressive alliance would be unstable; Labour in their hearts and minds were turning their attention to opposition and the election of a new leader. Then the big gamble happened-the Liberal Democrats began negotiations with the Conservative. A minority confidence and supply agreement would have left the Tories able to call a snap election when it suited them.

Instead, a full coalition agreement was agreed- including a referendum on AV (not ideal but better than FPTP), other constitutional reform measures; many of Lib Dem manifesto demands were accepted by the Conservatives-along with 5 cabinet and 15 other governmental posts offered.

For me, the special conference showed how united the party was in the face of this unexpected turn of events. It is an opportunity to step out of the comfort zone of opposition, to put Lib Dem policies into action-that is what I went into politics more. The Lib Dems can liberalise the Conservative agenda. It won't be easy but we need to make it work. Maybe the Liberal moment is here after all.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Nick Clegg's statement on the results of the election

Today Nick Clegg Leader of the Liberal Democrats said that the party with the greatest number of seats and the greatest number of votes was the one which had the mandate to try and form a government.

Last night was a disappointment for the Liberal Democrats. Even though more people voted for us than ever before, even though we had a higher proportion of the vote than ever before, it is of course a source of great regret to me that we have lost some really valued friends and colleagues and we have returned to Parliament with fewer MPs than before.

Many, many people during the election campaign were excited about the prospect of doing something different, but it seems that when they came to vote, many of them, in the end, decided to stick with what they knew best. And at a time of great economic uncertainty, I totally understand those feelings. But that’s not going to stop me from redoubling my efforts and our efforts to show that real change is the best reassurance that things can get better for people and their families, that it shouldn’t be something which unsettles people.

Now we’re in a very fluid political situation with no party enjoying an absolute majority. As I’ve said before, it seems to me in a situation like this, it’s vital that all political parties, all political leaders, act in the national interest, and not out of narrow party political advantage. I’ve also said that whichever party gets the most votes and the most seats, if not an absolute majority, has the first right to seek to govern, either on its own or by reaching out to other parties, and I stick to that view. It seems this morning that it’s the Conservative party that has more votes and more seats, though not an absolute majority, and that is why I think it is now for the Conservative party to prove that it is capable of seeking to govern in the national interest. At the same time, this election campaign has made it abundantly clear that our electoral system is broken, it simply doesn’t reflect the hopes and aspirations of the British people, so I repeat again my assurance, that whatever happens in the coming hours and days and weeks, I will continue to argue not only for the greater fairness in British society, not only the greater responsibility in economic policy making, but also for the extensive, real reforms that we need to fix our broken political system. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Letter to a Young Activist

The frenetic campaigning is drawing to a close; tomorrow we do our democratic duty and as a community deliver our verdict so it seems a good time to pause and reflect. In my politics and ministry, I have always been challenged and encouraged by the following words of wisdom from Thomas Merton's LETTER TO A YOUNG ACTIVIST.

Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the truth of the work itself. And there, too, a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually as you struggle less and less for an idea, and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

You are fed up with words, and I don’t blame you. I am nauseated by them sometimes. I am also, to tell you the truth, nauseated by ideals and with causes. This sounds like heresy, but I think you will understand what I mean. It is so easy to get engrossed with ideas and slogans and myths that in the end one is left holding the bag, empty, with no trace of meaning left in it. And then the temptation is to yell louder than ever in order to make the meaning be there again by magic. Going through this kind of reaction helps you to guard against this. Your system is complaining of too much verbalizing, and it is right.

The big results are not in your hands or mine, but they suddenly happen, and we can share in them, but there is no point in building our lives on this personal satisfaction, which may be denied us and which after all is not that important.

The next step in the process is for you to see that your even thinking about what you are doing is crucially important. You are probably striving to build yourself an identity in your work, out of your work and witness. You are using it, so to speak, to protect yourself against nothingness, annihilation. That is not the right use of your work. All the good that you will do will come, not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.

The great thing after all is to live, not to pour out your life in the service of a myth; and we turn the best things into myths. If you can get free from the domination of causes and just serve Christ’s truth, you will be able to do more and will be less crushed by the inevitable disappointments. Because I see nothing whatever in sight but much disappointment, frustration, and confusion.

The real hope, then, is not in something we think we can do, but in God who is making something good out of it in some way we cannot see. If we can do His will, we will be helping in this process. But we will not necessarily know all about it beforehand . . .

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Values to guide voters

The Norfolk and Waveney Church Leaders have issued a joint statement on the values which they believe should guide voters in the General Election.

General Election - 6th May 2010

A Statement from the Church Leaders of Norfolk and Waveney

On 6th May the people of Norfolk and Waveney will choose our representatives in Parliament at the General Election. Five years ago almost four in ten of those registered to vote did not do so. As Church Leaders in this area we encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote and to do so with the wellbeing of all people in our communities in mind.

The Churches in our area have hosted some of the best attended hustings during this election campaign and have done so in service to the wider community. The same area’s tradition of hospitality is well reflected in this area’s notable history of welcoming people fleeing persecution elsewhere in Europe, sometimes on religious grounds. As Christian leaders in this generation we believe that living together with mutual respect remains the foundation of a civilised society. All human beings are created equally in the image of God. That is why racism is a sin. Christ calls us to love our neighbours as ourselves and in this forthcoming election we believe it is right to be vigilant about any party or individual candidate seeking to use people’s fears for their own wellbeing to stir racial or religious hatred.

Inevitably this is an election taking place when people are anxious about their jobs, finances and future. We pray that the best and most generous traditions of our national life will guide all voters on May 6th.

The Rt. Revd. Michael Evans, Bishop of East Anglia (Roman Catholic)
Major David Jackson, Divisional Commander, Anglia Division of the Salvation Army
The Rt. Revd. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich (Church of England)
The Revd. Richard Lewis, Regional Minister, Baptist Union of Great Britain
John Myhill, Norfolk Representative of the Society of Friends
The Revd. Graham Thompson, Chair, East Anglia District of the Methodist Church
The Revd. Paul Whittle, Moderator, Eastern Province, United Reformed Church

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Guardian is urging readers to vote for the Liberal Democrats on Thursday; reward for a fantastic and inspirational campaign led so well by Nick Clegg in the TV debates and on the ground with a strong team of candidates and growing band of helpers. The tide is turning.

2010 has a different feel to 1997. In 1997 the voters clearly wanted the Tories out but there was also huge positive momentum behind Tony Blair and New Labour. In 2010, the public wants change again, but there is not the same groundswell of support for David Cameron and his party which may use different words and images but underneath are the same old Tories. I can remember being at school, then a student and for a short while unemployed under the Conservatives and saw at first-hand the consequences of Thatcher's divisive and alienating policies-not the party you would trust to lead us out of recession.

2010 must be an election of real change. Not just replacing a tired Labour Government with an unimaginative Tory one and the same old politics; but real change-of our outdated political system-fair voting, a properly reformed House of Lords, fixed term parliaments, real freedom of information, real accountable localism not top down decree; principled foreign policy and striving for peace not illegal war; protecting welfare services and sound economic policy led by a trusted Chancellor.

The enemies of change from the right-wing press to those who claim a divine right to rule us may want to stop us and try to scare; but I for one will be proud to vote Liberal Democrat on Thursday.

Here is that Guardian leader in full:

General election 2010
The liberal moment has come

If the Guardian had a vote it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats. But under our discredited electoral system some people may – hopefully for the last time – be forced to vote tactically

Citizens have votes. Newspapers do not. However, if the Guardian had a vote in the 2010 general election it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats. It would be cast in the knowledge that not all the consequences are predictable, and that some in particular should be avoided. The vote would be cast with some important reservations and frustrations. Yet it would be cast for one great reason of principle above all.

After the campaign that the Liberal Democrats have waged over this past month, for which considerable personal credit goes to Nick Clegg, the election presents the British people with a huge opportunity: the reform of the electoral system itself. Though Labour has enjoyed a deathbed conversion to aspects of the cause of reform, it is the Liberal Democrats who have most consistently argued that cause in the round and who, after the exhaustion of the old politics, reflect and lead an overwhelming national mood for real change.

Proportional representation – while not a panacea – would at last give this country what it has lacked for so long: a parliament that is a true mirror of this pluralist nation, not an increasingly unrepresentative two-party distortion of it. The Guardian has supported proportional representation for more than a century. In all that time there has never been a better opportunity than now to put this subject firmly among the nation's priorities. Only the Liberal Democrats grasp this fully, and only they can be trusted to keep up the pressure to deliver, though others in all parties, large and small, do and should support the cause. That has been true in past elections too, of course. But this time is different. The conjuncture in 2010 of a Labour party that has lost so much public confidence and a Conservative party that has not yet won it has enabled Mr Clegg to take his party close to the threshold of real influence for the first time in nearly 90 years.

This time – with the important caveat set out below – the more people who vote Liberal Democrat on 6 May, the greater the chance that this will be Britain's last general election under a first-past-the-post electoral system which is wholly unsuited to the political needs of a grown-up 21st-century democracy.

Tactical option

The pragmatic caveat concerns the danger that, under the existing electoral system, switching to the Liberal Democrats in Labour-Conservative marginal constituencies might let in an anti-reform Tory party. So, voters who share this principled enthusiasm for securing the largest possible number of Liberal Democrat MPs next Thursday must, in many constituencies, weigh the tactical option of supporting Labour to prevent a Conservative win.

Hopefully, if this really is the last election under the old system, such dilemmas between head and heart will apply less in future. For now, however, the cause of reform is overwhelmingly more likely to be achieved by a Lib Dem partnership of principle with Labour than by a Lib Dem marriage of convenience with a Tory party which is explicitly hostile to the cause and which currently plans to redraw the political map for its own advantage. The momentum for change would be fatally undermined should the Conservatives win an overall majority. The Liberal Democrats and Labour should, of course, have explored much earlier and more explicitly how they might co-operate to reform the electoral system. During the campaign, and especially since the final leaders' debate, the appetite for co-operation has clearly increased and is increasing still. Mr Clegg's Guardian interview today underscores the potential for more productive engagement with Labour and is matched by fresh, untribal thinking from his potential partners.

This election is about serious choices between three main parties which all have something to offer. David Cameron has done what none of his immediate predecessors has understood or tried to do: he has confronted the Conservative party with the fact that it was out of step with the country. He has forced the party to become more diverse and to engage with centre-ground opinion. He has explicitly aligned himself with the liberal Conservative tradition which the Thatcherites so despised during their long domination of the party. He has promoted modern thinking on civil liberty, the environment and aspects of social policy.

Mr Cameron offers a new and welcome Toryism, quite different from what Michael Howard offered five years ago. His difficulty is not that he is the "same old Tory". He isn't. The problem is that his revolution has not translated adequately into detailed policies, and remains highly contradictory. He embraces liberal Britain yet protests that Britain is broken because of liberal values. He is eloquent about the overmighty state but proposes to rip up the Human Rights Act which is the surest weapon against it. He talks about a Britain that will play a constructive role in Europe while aligning the Tories in the European parliament with some of the continent's wackier xenophobes. Behind the party leader's own engagement with green issues there stands a significant section of his party that still regards global warming as a liberal conspiracy.

The Tories have zigzagged through the financial crisis to an alarming degree, austerity here, spending pledges there. At times they have argued, against all reason, that Britain's economic malaise is down to overblown government, as opposed to the ravages of the market. Though the Conservatives are not uniquely evasive on the deficit, a large inheritance-tax cut for the very wealthy is the reverse of a serious "united and equal" approach to taxation. Small wonder that the Cameronisation of the Conservative party sometimes seems more palace coup than cultural revolution. A Cameron government might not be as destructive to Britain as the worst Tory regimes of the past. But it is not the right course for Britain.

If this election were a straight fight between Labour and the Conservatives – which it absolutely is not – the country would be safer in the hands of Labour than of the Tories. Faced in 2008 with a financial crisis unprecedented in modern times, whose destructive potential can hardly be exaggerated, the Labour government made some absolutely vital calls at a time which exposed the Conservatives as neoliberals, not novices. Whether Labour has truly learned the right lessons itself is doubtful. Labour is, after all, the party that nurtured the deregulatory systems which contributed to the implosion of the financial sector, on which the entire economy was too reliant. How, and even whether, British capitalism can be directed towards a better balance between industry and finance is a question which remains work in progress for Labour, as for us all. At the highest levels of the party, timidity and audacity remain in conflict. Nevertheless, Labour, and notably Alistair Darling, a palpably honest chancellor who has had to play the most difficult hand of any holder of his office in modern times, deserves respect for proving equal to the hour. Only the most churlish would deny the prime minister some credit for his role in the handling of the crisis.

Labour's failings

But this election is more than a verdict on the response to a single trauma, immense though it was. It is also a verdict on the lengthening years of Labour government and the three years of Gordon Brown's premiership. More than that, any election is also a judgment about the future as well as a verdict on the past. A year ago, the Guardian argued that Labour should persuade its leader to step down. Shortly afterwards, in spite of polling an abject 15.7% in the European elections, and with four cabinet ministers departing, Labour chose to hug Mr Brown close. It was the wrong decision then, and it is clear, not least after his humiliation in Rochdale this week, that it is the wrong decision now. The Guardian said a year ago that Mr Brown had failed to articulate a vision, a plan, or an argument for the future. We said that he had become incapable of leading the necessary revolution against the political system that the expenses scandal had triggered. Labour thought differently. It failed to act. It thereby lost the opportunity to renew itself, and is now facing the consequences.

Invited to embrace five more years of a Labour government, and of Gordon Brown as prime minister, it is hard to feel enthusiasm. Labour's kneejerk critics can sometimes sound like the People's Front of Judea asking what the Romans have ever done for us. The salvation of the health service, major renovation of schools, the minimum wage, civil partnerships and the extension of protection for minority groups are heroic, not small achievements.

Yet, even among those who wish Labour well, the reservations constantly press in. Massive, necessary and in some cases transformational investment in public services insufficiently matched by calm and principled reform, sometimes needlessly entangled with the private sector. Recognition of gathering generational storms on pensions, public debt, housing and – until very recently – climate change not addressed by clear strategies and openness with the public about the consequences. The inadequately planned pursuit of two wars. A supposedly strong and morally focused foreign policy which remains trapped in the great-power, nuclear-weapon mentality, blindly uncritical of the United States, mealy-mouthed about Europe and tarnished by the shame of Iraq – still not apologised for. Allegations of British embroilment in torture answered with little more than a world-weary sigh. Large talk about constitutional change matched by an addiction to centralisation. Easy talk about liberty and "British values" while Britain repeatedly ratchets up the criminal justice system, repeatedly encroaches on civil liberties, undermines legal aid and spends like there is no tomorrow on police and prisons. Apparent outrage against the old politics subverted by delay, caution and timid compromise.

There are reservations too, though of a different order and on different subjects, about the Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats are a very large party now, with support across the spectrum. But they remain in some respects a party of the middle and lower middle classes. Labour's record on poverty remains unmatched, and its link to the poor remains umbilical. Vince Cable, so admirable and exemplary on the banks, nevertheless remains a deficit hawk, committed to tax cuts which could imply an even deeper slashing of public services. Though the party has good policies on equality, it has not prioritised the promotion and selection of women and ethnic minority candidates.

Matched priorities

Surveying the wider agenda and the experience of the past decade, however, there is little doubt that in many areas of policy and tone, the Liberal Democrats have for some time most closely matched our own priorities and instincts. On political and constitutional change, they articulate and represent the change which is now so widely wanted. On civil liberty and criminal justice, they have remained true to liberal values and human rights in ways that the other parties, Labour more than the Tories in some respects, have not. They are less tied to reactionary and sectional class interests than either of the other parties.

The Liberal Democrats were green before the other parties and remain so. Their commitment to education is bred in the bone. So is their comfort with a European project which, for all its flaws, remains central to this country's destiny. They are willing to contemplate a British defence policy without Trident renewal. They were right about Iraq, the biggest foreign policy judgment call of the past half-century, when Labour and the Tories were both catastrophically and stupidly wrong. They have resisted the rush to the overmighty centralised state when others have not. At key moments, when tough issues of press freedom have been at stake, they have been the first to rally in support. Above all, they believe in and stand for full, not semi-skimmed, electoral reform. And they have had a revelatory campaign. Trapped in the arid, name-calling two-party politics of the House of Commons, Nick Clegg has seldom had the chance to shine. Released into the daylight of equal debate, he has given the other two parties the fright of their lives.

A newspaper that is proudly rooted in the liberal as well as the labour tradition – and whose advocacy of constitutional reform stretches back to the debates of 1831-32 – cannot ignore such a record. If not now, when? The answer is clear and proud. Now.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tory business letter writing supporters being rewarded with peerages

It seems an age ago that the opening salvos of the General Election were dominated by arguments, claims and counter-claims over Labour's proposals for increases in national insurance. In response, the Conservatives produced letters supporting their opposition signed by a number of business-people.

Not suprisingly, many of them are known to be long-time Conservative party members, supporters and donors; others Labour claim were "deceived" into signing.

This issue then got diverted by the triumph of Nick Clegg in the first of the Prime Ministerial TV debates.

One thing interests me about these people-I cannot help myself speculating as to how many of these Conservative supporters will be rewarded by peerages and honours. Apparently, this process has already started with news that the appointments of Next chief executive Simon Wolfson and JCB chairman Sir Anthony Bamford to the peerage have been approved by the appointments commission and would be announced 'imminently'.

Over the coming months and years, it will be interesting to see which other business people in the same way. I will report back at regular intervals.

Read more:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Exploring the Roots of BNP Support

Today (19/04/10) The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) publish an indepth research report, Exploring the Roots of BNP Support

IPPR conducted regression-based analysis to see whether or not high levels of immigration do raise communities’ support for the BNP, or if other variables – such as political disengagement – are important. Their findings suggest that areas that have higher levels of recent immigration than others are not more likely to vote for the BNP. In fact, the more immigration an area has experienced, the lower its support for the far right. Rather, the evidence points to political and socio-economic exclusion as drivers of BNP support.

The report therefore urges mainstream politicians to strongly resist the notion that people have been driven into the arms of the BNP by the harm immigration is causing to their communities. Instead, they must focus on building strong communities and strong education systems, and on rebuilding trust and confidence in democratic politics, so that marginalised people do not feeling so disconnected. This should allow them to both better serve the interests of these communities, and undercut support for the BNP.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Lies, damn lies, statistics and David Cameron's anecdotes

Hat-tip to the Guardian for analysing those anecdotes that David Cameron shared as part his disappointing and lacklustre performance in the first Prime Ministerial debate last week.

Firstly, Humberside police did not pay £73,000 for a Lexus.

Secondly, no-one joins the Navy at 10 years old.

Thirdly, no such murder happened in Crosby.

That clears that up then.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


The General Election takes place on May 6th.Many church and other faith-based organisations have produced useful, challenging and informative General Election focussed web-based liturgical and campaigning resources. These include:

Church of England resources, briefing and prayers:

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland GE policy guides and details of hustings meetings:

The free churches have produced a comprehensive guide to the key issues facing voters from a faith perspective. Read it at:

Christians in Politics:

Ekklesia produce daily briefings at:

Theos discuss faith and politics at:

The Jubilee Centre in Cambridge have produced Votewise 2010- a guide to the election and detailed small group materials:

CARE produce news based briefings at:

The Roman Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have published “Choosing the Common Good” which can be accessed via:

Read the Westminster “declaration of Christian conscience” at:

Faithworks have interviewed party leaders and promote their declaration supporting the role of faith communities in welfare and wider public service provision at:

Several Christian organisations are calling on voters and candidates to support the people fleeing persecution and oppression by promoting the Sanctuary Pledge:

Church Action on Poverty are promoting an accountability pledge for candidates:

Housing Justice briefings can be accessed at:
For those concerned about extremist politics, resources can be found at:

Further local news and information can be found at:
We will continue to publish information including details of Church hosted hustings event in Norfolk at

There is of course no obvious “Christian way to vote” and people of religious faith are actively involved in all parties. Each has a Christian group or forum which can be contacted via official party websites.


This list is by no means exhaustive. For further information or recommendations on other useful resources, please contact Rev Simon Wilson, Diocese of Norwich Social and Community Concerns Co-ordinator via:

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

John Kampfner supports Liberal Democrats in 2010

Today the well-respected political commentator John Kampfner launched the pamphlet, Lost labours, with Nick Clegg.

He comments, "As somebody who has a long involvement with the Labour party, including editing the New Statesman magazine, I have been able to give a frank and honest appraisal of a decade and a half of New Labour. And in it I explain why I can no longer support them, and am instead turning to the Liberal Democrats. You can read a more condensed version in an article I wrote for the Guardian here.

"Alongside one million other voters, I deserted Labour in 2005 in protest at Iraq in favour of the Liberal Democrats, the only party to oppose the war. My decision to back the Lib Dems in 2010 is based in a more fundamental appraisal of Labour’s record together with a positive assessment of the Liberal Democrats’ platform.

"New Labour in office has had one all-consuming purpose: re-election. Since 1997, their every working day was based around the task of prolonging their term of office. It filled in the ideological hollow and justified ever-encroaching authoritarianism and a pandering to the right on criminal justice and other areas of social policy. In contrast, the Liberal Democrat analysis of the failures of the deregulated market has been consistently, and painfully, accurate. Nick Clegg’s tax reform plans, taking four million low paid workers out of tax altogether, are the most redistributive of any party. And the Liberal Democrat approach to criminal justice, human rights, foreign and social policy is close to mine.

People can only for so long be exhorted to hold their nose, to vote for a party they feel has let them down, simply because the alternative is worse. It is deeply damaging to politics to resort perpetually to the double negative. The Liberal Democrats offer a positive, radical and different vision. That is why they have my support."

Saturday, February 06, 2010

G7 nations pledge to cancel debts with quake-hit Haiti

The G7 group of the world's leading industrialised nations have pledged to write off the debts that Haiti owes them, following the devastating earthquake last month. At least one million people currently need aid in Haiti after the Magnitude 7 quake and more than 50 after-shocks. Latest estimates show that the disaster has killed more than 200,000 people; 300,000 injured have been treated; more than 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged; Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced, homeless, orphans, in temporary shelters or been moved to huge refugee camps; Looting and other signs of chaos. Final figures may never be calulated.

This G7 decision comes as a result of broad-based, interational campaigning involving faith communities, trade uions, local action groups and relief and medical providers. in schools and colleges along with a huge range of other campaigning organisations including, Christian Aid, Oxfam, Save the Children and Red Cross.

Oxfam has urged the writing off of about an additional $900m (£557m) that Haiti still owes to donor countries and institutions. Oxfam have prouced a wide-ranging yet concise, set of recommedations relating to the reconstruction of Haiti, which can be downloaded here.

Reconstruction of this proud nation will be a huge and expensive challege and must include infrastructe, houses, transport links, commercial sector, medical and security issues, ameities and sanitation meeds, and reconstructio of rule of law and functions. It is important that internatioal organisations and goverments do not attempt to imposeb one "size fits all" solutions from outside. This opportunity to engage, empower, equip and encourage must start at base community grassroots. Whether now or in the future, rescue recovery and reconstructioh must never be or felt to be a military occupation.

All this will take time so it is important that we make a loger term commitment to Hiati. Otherwise, when the next disaster or significant world event emerges in media, priorities and resource allocation will be under pressure and slow dow. That is why the reconstruction of Hiati must meet local needs. In partnership with local people and most of all, be sustainable.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Iain Dale: Churlish or Rattled?

Iain Dale, failed Tory candidate in North Norfolk last General Election, frequently uses his EDP column to attack the Liberal Democrats (no sour grapes of course!). In particular, he has often tried to score political points by drawing attention to the fact that since April Pond was selected to fight the Norwich North by-election, the Lib Dems have been without a PPC in the neighbouring and nominal target seat of Broadland.

It is no suprise then that to date, Dale has failed to acknowledge in blog or column that the Liberal Democrats have selected well-known local campaigner Dan Roper to be the party's PPC. Dan will bring vigour, freshness and radicalism to the campaign. His commitment to local communities and alertness to the needs of the wider county of Norfolk make him a tough opponent for suprisingly low profile incumbent Tory MP Keith Simpson. Iain Dale has proved that sometimes he can be a pundit above party politics. Dan Roper's selection provides the opportunity for Iain to show his support for high quality local people offering themselves for the noble calling of public service. Not to do so could be seen as being churlsh or rattled..

There is still much to play for in the coming months-the public dis-satisfaction with the Brown Government which seems to be running out of time and ideas,has not translated into an upswell of public popularity for Cameron's Conservatives. This is not 1997. A hung Parliament is a distinct possibility. The Lib Dems in general and Nick Clegg in particular, are gaining in confidence and appeal. The choice in Broadland? Another Tory MP from the past or Dan Roper, a man for the future? Norman Lamb in North Norfolk shows what a difference a Lib Dem MP can make to county and community.

It will be a privilege to campaign for and vote for Dan Roper. A genuine choice and positive campaign should engage the public and make the first battle to elect an MP for Broadland a memorable one.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I promise to Vote

I have today answered Premier Radio's call to pledge my promise to vote in the 2010 General Election.

The UK Social Attitudes survey released this week show a marked decrease in those seeing voting as a civic duty (now just 56%) so it is time for us to remember and recommit ourselves to the political process as a vital part of what it means to be a cohesive and caring community.

This pledge to vote is a good first step.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Drop Haiti's debt

Drop Haiti's Debt: Sign the petition online now

Christian Aid is responding to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, they have launched an emergency appeal and are working with their partners in the field to deliver aid.

At a time when Haiti has been hit by the worst disaster in its history, it needs long-term support as well as emergency financial assistance, not loans with strings attached, if it is to ever rebuild.

Please join their call for the full cancellation of Haiti's debt of $890m, and for all emergency and development funds to be given not loaned.

Drop Haiti's Debt: Sign the petition today

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Greens show true colours

The Conservative Home website is running the somewhat suprising story that the Ian holman, the Green Party Candidate for Great Yarmouth is standing down in favour of his Conservative oponent, Brandon Lewis. The Green Party leadership may posture to the left, but clearly some party members march firmly in the other direction. This move may cost them hard in their nearby target seat of Norwich South.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Nick Clegg New Year Message 2010

2010 will be an important year in politics and it is hard to predict where we will be at the end of it. It is more than possible that we find ourselves in a significant realignmet (or hit the political re-set button) in UK politcs, under which, the Liberal Democrats may well find ouselves in a position of real power and politics.

I am impressed by the big picture and small picture thinking and strategy outlined by Nick Clegg is his new year message which I am pleased to reproduce below.

"I have a confession to make, 2009 tested my belief in politics to breaking point.
I remember once looking round the House of Commons during another Punch and Judy session of Prime Ministers Questions. In the real world, youth unemployment had just reached its highest level ever, our brave soldiers were facing extraordinary dangers in Afghanistan, the bankers were still gorging themselves on bonuses, and the economy was in the middle of the worst recession in generations. And what were the politicians doing? Yelling and guffawing at each other as if the world outside didn’t exist.

So I don’t blame anyone for feeling a sense of despair about our clapped out political system. You are being taken for granted by the people in charge. Big money is hollowing out politics with some rich donors not even bothering to say whether they pay full British taxes or not. And to top it all the expenses scandals exposed some MPs as spivvy property speculators and tax evaders rather than public servants.
This whole set-up has to change. That’s what 2010 should be all about. Big, permanent change for the better.

People’s faith in politics may be dented, but I still believe in our ability to learn from the mistakes of the past, and set things on a new course.
2010 must be the year we press the political reset button.
But that will only happen if we do things differently. More of the same won’t produce anything new.

Of course both Labour and the Conservatives have learned to parrot the language of change. But where’s the proof they mean it? Despite all the hot air about fixing politics they have both voted against giving people the right to sack MPs who’ve seriously broken the rules. Both have refused to clean up the rotten system of party political funding. Both refuse to give you your say by introducing fair votes to the House of Commons. And both refuse to shake up the City of London, so that bankers can never again play Russian roulette with your savings.

Some people say, what’s the point of voting when the same old parties always win? I say: vote for what you believe in. If you like what the Liberal Democrats stand for, vote for it. If you want real change, not phoney change, vote for it. If you think things should be different, vote for it.

At the end of the day, politics should be about what you believe. What kind of Britain do you want to live in? What kind of world do we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in?

So as the countdown to the next General Election finally begins, I have a simple question for the other party leaders: what do you believe, really believe?
People don’t want leading politicians clinging on to power for its own sake, or just telling people what they want to hear. There’s got to be more to it than that.
I have one belief above all others: a belief in fairness. Under my leadership the Liberal Democrats have been working on new ideas to make Britain the fair country I believe most people want it to be. We want to raise standards in all of our schools by giving specific help to the children most in need, and by making class sizes smaller. Soon we will be publishing new ideas to turn our economy away from its over dependence on the City of London to a new, green economy where hundreds of thousands of new jobs will be created as we rebuild our transport, energy and housing infrastructure. Above all, we are now the only party with a detailed plan to make taxes fair – removing all income tax on the first £10,000 you earn, paid for by asking people at the top to pay a bit more.

If we as Leaders want people to turn out to vote at all at the next General Election, we have got to show people our convictions, not just dividing lines, our beliefs, not just soundbites.

I hope in the coming months even more people will get a chance to find out what I believe in, and the beliefs of the Liberal Democrats. If enough people share our convictions, our beliefs, then 2010 really can be the beginning of something new.