Letter from Bassetlaw – July 17th 2016

2016-07-17 17.25.38For once, we have had good weather for our Bassetlaw & Sherwood Liberal Democrats Summer Barbecue.  In the past few years we have had to cancel as the weather turned against us but today we had glorious sunshine as met up for a few hours of chat over burgers, sausages & some drinks.

Being in the Lib Dems is not all about elections (both for public office & internal positions) and earnest policy discussion.  While we never lose sight of the serious purpose behind what we do, making the lives of those around us better, we also know that if we are not having fun being Lib Dems, then we won’t have members and volunteers willing to give up their time and energy to help us achieve our aims.

One of the features of our current spectacular growth in members has been the number of “Lib Dem Pint” (or variations on the theme) events that have been held across the country both to welcome new members and to re-enthuse existing members.  Our barbeque today was along similar lines as will our own Lib Dem Pint next Saturday afternoon (23rd July) at The Admiral Rodney in Calverton, come and join us for a drink and a chat.

In this summer of political surprises one amazing fact is that in Tim Farron, the Lib Dems now have the longest serving Leader of any national political party.  Not only do we have the doyen of party leaders, but we also have a united party, with a definite idea of what we want to achieve (keep the UK in the EU) and lots of new members engaging with us to help do justthat.

Who would have thought that after leading his party to a surprise win at last year’s General Election, David Cameron would be gone within 15 months?  Last year I published a post here on what happens after unexpected election wins (The unintended consequence of election surprises) and nothing that has happened since May 2015 has made me change my mind.

I wish Theresa May well in her new job, trying to find a way through the impasse the Brexit Referendum has left us in will be difficult.  Will she invoke Article 50 to start the 2-year countdown to leaving the EU, which will almost certainly cause a deep recession in the UK or will she find a way to renege on the Referendum decision? Either way is fraught with problems and dangers.  Perhaps the best way is to call a new General Election and get fresh mandate from the public when she has a better idea of what terms we may get if we leave the EU.

Meanwhile, Labour seem intent on pulling itself apart, with its members intent on keeping a leader who not only cannot command the respect of his party’s MPs but is just about unelectable as a potential Prime Minister.  The divide in Labour is getting deeper as each day passes and looks like it will end in a split with both sides fighting to be the ones who can keep the name & organisation of the party.  Meanwhile, they ate leaving the country with a disorganised official opposition that is not holding the government to account.

Finally, a few words about the massacre of innocents in Nice on Bastille Day.  Yet again we have witnessed an attack on people innocently enjoying themselves.  I don’t know what was in the mind of the person who drove the truck, just as I can’t know what compelled the former soldier who shot 5 policemen in Dallas a couple of week ago do what he did, or the “quiet, retiring” gardener who murdered Jo Cox in Birstall last month.  All I do know is that such violence solves nothing and only causes more hurt.

When I hear of such events (and they are occurring far too often in recent months all around the world) I often turn to a song by Nick Lowe sung by David Broza on his album East Jerusalem / West Jerusalem, called (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding.  The video explains much of why this version of the song means so much to me with my connections to Israel and to the village that David Broza’s grandfather, Wellesley Aron, helped found in the Judean Hills near to the Kibbutz I lived on 30 years ago, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salem.  The song’s title says it all, what is so funny about peace love & understanding?



Letter from Bassetlaw – July 3rd, 2016

EaMiLD Conf 15-A 1So a week has passed since the Referendum and, to be absolutely honest, we are no nearer working out if we should trigger Article 50 of the European Treaty or not, whether once they have been selected, the new Tory PM should call a General Election to secure their mandate or not, whether the Labour Party’s MPs is going to depose Corbyn or not or, in the event of a Brexit, the Scottish Government will trigger a second Referendum of their own to take Scotland out of the United Kingdom and into the EU.  Even UKIP seem to be on the cusp of expelling its only MP because he has had the temerity to disagree with Farage.

There seem to be two certainties in British Politics at the moment, firstly that we are in for a few months of uncertainty as to what will happen over the possibility of Brexit and secondly that there is only one national party that has a leader the party is united behind, only one party that is clear on what should happen next and only one party with the courage to stand up and say what needs to be said.

The Liberal Democrats under Tim Farron have shown the principled leadership needed at a time of crisis.  While respecting the result of the Referendum and those that voted to leave the EU, we also recognise that the Leave campaign sold the British public a false prospectus, full of misinformation, and downright lies, which is now unravelling.  It would be a dereliction of our duty to the British public is we did not carry on pointing out the perils of Brexit and demanding a General Election before triggering Article 50.


One effect of the vote to leave the EU which is disturbing is the rise in anti-immigrant abuse both vocal & physical.  The attack on the Polish Community Centre in West London is especially disturbing to me as it is in the area I grew up in.  The Polish community there dates back to the Second World War when many Polish airmen contributed to the war effort (there is a famous memorial to their contribution next to RAF Northolt) and were not able to return home after the war.

I am sure most people will join me in condemn this hatred towards people who have come to live and contribute to society here.  This makes the headline story in the Worksop Guardian this week “IMMIGRATION: LET’S MANN UP” (sorry not up on their website yet) all the more disturbing.  I have written a letter in response which I hope will be published in next week’s edition but, given the Worksop Guardian’s record on publishing letters from me, I am not hopeful.

I am reminded of the lines Martin Niemöller, a German pastor wrote just after World War Two

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

If we substitute in immigrants, for one of these categories, then the danger in the current wave of anti-immigrant hatred, and especially when some in the establishment continue to (falsely) blame immigration for problems in our county, become apparent.  We all must stand up and raise our voice against it.


Finally, a few words on the current problems in the Labour Party.

I am fed up with the cowards who make up most of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

If they want rid of Corbyn, do the deed and trigger a leadership election or simply shut up and let him get on with his job.

To me, as an outsider, it seems that they want Corbyn to go but don’t want to be seen to push him out. Instead, all they are doing by dragging the attempted coup out interminably is making the Labour Party a laughing stock and showing that it is unfit to be an opposition let alone a government.

We need a strong voice in Parliament and out of it to oppose the Tory party, especially at a time when they look to be ready to elect a new leader who will take the party even further to the right.  If Labour are not up to the job (and the evidence is that they are not) then it fall to the Lib Dems to to do it.



Letter from Bassetlaw – March 13th 2016

CroppedIt has been a lovely sunny weekend, dry warm (after the early morning chill has gone) and a great time to be out admiring our countryside.  However, I have chosen to spend most of it in a stuffy overheated hall in York at the Lib Dem Spring Conference.

As ever, Conference gives me a chance to meet fellow Lib Dem members from around the country, including some who I have spent years talking to on line but never met in person, and to recharge my enthusiasm for working to promote the Lib Dems here in Bassetlaw.

The highlight as ever was ever Tim Farron’s speech to close the Conference.  He was funny, inspiring, challenging but above all, passionate in his liberal vision for the United Kingdom (you watch it here, Tim’s speech starts at 3:13:00, or you can read the transcript).  He reiterated that it is only the Liberal Democrats that stand up for ordinary people, reminding everyone that Lib Dems “stand for election, not to be someone, but to do something!”  If you want to do something for your community, then come and join us, you can do that here.

The main role of Conference is to make policy for the Party and on three issues, what we decided in York has a direct bearing on the people of Bassetlaw.  These issues are Fracking the regulation of Cannabis and protecting tenants of Private Landlords (full details in the Agenda are on line)

On Fracking, I am delighted to say that we succeeded in getting a motion passed that was unequivocal in calling for an end to Fracking (see P43 in the Agenda) in England.  I wasn’t called to speak from the platform for this debate as I only got an “intervention” spot so could only give part of the speech I had prepared (you can read the full speech here) but never mind we won overwhelmingly and now opposing Fracking is the Lib Dem position.  (You can watch the whole debate on YouTube, it starts at 1:55:00, my contribution is at around 2:26:00.)  We in Bassetlaw now know which of the major parties active in our area are working to support the people in getting the drillers stopped.

Straight after that debate (so carry on watching the YouTube video, page 45 in the Agenda), we debated “Regulatory Framework for Cannabis”.  Another great, well informed & intelligent debate with an overwhelming majority for legalising, regulating & education about Cannabis.  The debate included the memorable line from former senior policeman Brain Paddick the “the police are wasted on cannabis!”.  Again Conference voted for a liberal comprehensive solution that looked to support people and not make them criminals.  By breaking the link between the illegal drug dealers (who also push harder, more dangerous drugs) and cannabis, we will help combat these gangs that blight these lives.

Finally, this morning we debated giving better protection to those renting homes from private landlords (Page 61 in the Agenda, at 2:16:00 in this YouTube video).  This is an issue that affect many not just in London or other big cities, but also in smaller towns like Worksop & Retford.  Many of us either know the issues first hand, or through the experiences of our children or because we live next to house being rented out and not being cared for.  The Lib Dems have taken a big step in driving the issue up the political agenda and the proposals in the motion will help those needing the rent (and the good private landlords) get the protection they need.

Obviously, there was much more at Conference than these three debates, training sessions, fringe events, even an unscheduled trip to A&E to support a young member who had damaged their knee falling down the steps at the Barbican Centre (and no, no drink was involved) but these three debates show that Lib Dems, far from being a spent force, are looking at how we can put people before vested interests, how we can make a difference rather than just hold office, how we can help build communities not just protect self-interests.

Conference for us is all about putting flesh on to the dry bones of our principles and our weekend in York did not disappoint.