The newsletter for Liberal Democrats in the North of England

Democrat

The Northern

no. 51 May May 2010

New politics in action
After a difficult delivery, the new politics Liberal Democrats campaigned for has been born

1st UK coalition for 65 years puts Lib Dems in government - now we must demonstrate that partnership, co-operation and the new politics are good for Britain

Britain’s last coalition government ended in 1945. Since then, we have had a succession of single party governments that have alternated between Labour and Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats have argued that this old system of one-party rule is bad for Britain. Most of us came into politics to change the old system. We have argued for partnership and cooperation in government. Though it is the old system that has given us a Parliament with no majority for any party, the outcome is that of the new system we want to introduce: coalition and co-operation should be the norm under our reforms. As Liberal Democrats we now have a duty to our country and to our party to make the coalition work. But more than that, we need to make it a success. A strong Lib Dem element should make this a liberal reforming government. It means a culture shock for our party as we will need to defend our governmental record. Out must go Lib Dem Ian Swales swept to victory in Redcar on 6th oppositionism. In its place must be May, overturning a Labour majority of 12,000 in a seat responsibility and a campaigning edge to which Labour previously treated as theirs by right. Full the Lib Dems that puts positive story on page 3. achievements at the core of our Produced, printed and promoted by Jonathan Wallace, 7 Laburnum Grove, Sunniside, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE16 5LY message.

Swales sails to victory in Redcar

Northern Democrat May 2010 Contents
Page 2 Contents/Thirsk and Malton election Page 3 Gold Rush in Redcar as steel town goes Lib Dem. Chris Abbott explains the background to the Lib Dem victory in the constituency that saw a 21% swing from Labour to Lib Dems Page 4 Lib Dem/Labour coalition “hostage to Labour’s old guard”. Jeff Reid warns that Labour’s very unprogressive element would have destroyed a Lib Dem/Labour coalition in a matter of weeks Page 5 Lib Dem policies agreed by the new government: A Fair Start for Children Fairer Taxes and Economic Reform Page 6 Lib Dem policies agreed by the new government: Fair Politics A Fair and Sustainable Future Page 7 Lib Dem policies agreed by the new government: Pensions Civil Liberties Page 7 Members’ newsletter service Page 8 Was a deal with Labour possible? Northern Democrat Editor Jonathan Wallace explores the possibility and concludes a deal with Labour was a non-starter

Thirsk and Malton election
Just when you thought it was safe to go back out. You’d put your feet up to let them recover from the election. The polling day suit had gone off to the dry cleaners. The Coalition agreement announces no general election for 5 years (hooray!) and then another election comes along. Thirsk and Malton in North Yorkshire is a hangover from the general election which simply didn’t take place in the constituency. The cause of this was the death of the UKIP candidate after the close of nominations. Howard The election is now taking place in this seat which was anotionally Conservative in Keal 2005. Howard Keal is Lib Dem candidate. If you can help, contact Di Keal on 01653 694546 or 07593682402 or Betty Denton on 01347 811162 or j.denton18@btinternet.com or Mike Beckett on 01653 691402 or cllrmichaelbeckett@yahoo.co.uk If you can’t come but can canvas by phone, contact Stephen Preston, letting us know your experience, on 01653 695788 or mr.s.preston@btconnect.com 2
Northern Democrat is published and promoted by Jonathan Wallace. The publication is independent, but supportive, of the Liberal Democrats. For more information, email jonathanwallace@compuserve.com.

Gold rush in Redcar as steel town goes Lib Dem
By Cllr Chris Abbott Redcar result Gosh, I am exhausted! Had I not been so tired I Ian Swales (Lib Dem ).. 18,955 - 45.1% would perhaps not be so bothered about the Vera Baird (Lab)........ attempts by some sections of the local, regional .. 13,741 - 32.7% Steve Mastin (Con)..... and even national media to brush off the Lib . 5,790 - 13.8% Dem’s spectacular victory in Redcar as a protest Martin Bulmer (U KIP)... 1,875 - 4.5% against the closure of Corus steelworks. Kevin Broughton (BNP ) 1,475 - 3.5% This victory was achieved as a result of years of Hannah Walter (TUS C). 127 - 0.3% hard work by a dedicated and united campaign team that has been largely ignored by the local media but not by the residents of Redcar constituency. The story of how we won Redcar deserves to be written sometime and perhaps it will be but here is a brief summary. Lib Dems in Redcar have been making progress in local government for more than twenty years. In 2003 we began a four year stint as the largest group in a three party coalition, with the Conservatives and East Cleveland Independents, taking the Council from a two-star rating to four-star excellent. We felt we were doing well but clearly needed that extra something to make a real breakthrough at both local and Parliamentary level. That came the day when, out of the blue, Ian and Pat Swales walked into a monthly meeting of Redcar Lib Dems. Ian was a founder member of the SDP but his high powered job at ICI Wilton had prevented him from being active in the party for many years. Ian had recently taken early retirement from ICI and wanted to become more active in the local community. It was like we were waiting for him to turn up and very soon Ian was selected as our Parliamentary Candidate for the 2005 General Election. He had energy and enthusiasm and he reinvigorated those of us who had got bogged down in the running of Redcar & Cleveland Council. Ian transformed our organisation and we became much more focused on meeting aims and targets. At the 2005 General Election we were a much better organised team than we had previously been and this resulted in us overtaking the Tories and moving into second place, albeit Nick Clegg with Ian Swales during an election visit to Redcar. 12,116 votes behind Ian took Redcar on a swing of 21% - one of the highest swings Labour. of the general election. 3

Lib Dem/Labour coalition “hostage to old guard”
A LEADING Liberal Democrat in Northumberland has welcomed the creation of the Coalition Government and warned that an alternative Lib Dem/Labour coalition would have been destroyed within weeks by disgruntled, old guard Labour MPs. Jeff Reid, Leader of Northumberland County Council, said, “Our country needs strong and stable government. The economy is in a mess and the deficit has grown alarmingly.

Redcar goldrush
(continued from p3)

Northumberland Couty Leader Jeff Reid - Labour old guard would have wrecked Lib Dem/Labour coalition.

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“The people spoke in the election and decided to give no party a majority to rule by themselves. The politicians had to take note of when the people had said. “The creation of the Coalition, with an agreed programme that takes the best of the manifestos of both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, means that the mess left by 13 years of Labour government can start to be cleared up. “We have seen in Northumberland the sort of mess left by Labour. For two years now we have been putting Northumberland’s house back in order. Labour have sat on the sidelines playing petty politics in that time. “That’s why I am convinced that a coalition between the Lib Dems and Labour was a non-starter. The number of MPs for each party would have meant such a coalition was on a knife edge. “It would have fallen prey to a hardcore of reactionary Labour MPs more interested in posturing and having a slanging match than actually giving our country the strong and stable government it needs. “We have seen in Northumberland that Labour preferred to abdicate responsibility for clearing up their own mess rather than joining a partnership with other parties to sort out the problems on the Council. “It was clear that a large part of the Labour party felt the same after the general election. Had a deal been put together between the Lib Dems and Labour, some Labour backbenchers would have attacked it right from the start. The old guard would have destroyed it within weeks. “Now that the Labour party has opted for navel gazing and no influence in opposition, the Coalition can get on with the job of reforming our economy and politics.”

At the 2007 Council Election we held all 13 of our seats in the Redcar Constituency part of Redcar and Cleveland Council and received 35% of the vote, to Labour’s 37% and the Tories 13% in the same area. Ian Swales plan was to work hard, initially with the aim of reducing Labour’s majority at the 2010 General Election to make Redcar a marginal seat. We were more than willing to look at what has worked in other areas and in particular we listened closely to people like Carl Minns and Dave McCobb over in Hull. Then in the autumn of 2008 a series of Council byelections in the constituency, over an 18 month period, led to three spectacular wins in previously ultra-safe Labour wards of Kirkleatham and Dormanstown, a near miss (88 votes) by my lad, Steven Abbott, in South Bank, one of Labour’s safest wards and a huge victory in Lib Dem held Ormesby Ward. Ian Swales hard work inspired a huge army of helpers and in spite of the local media reminding us that a 12,116 majority needed a 15% swing we actually achieved a 21% swing, with a majority of 5,214. This is probably the largest swing to the Lib Dems in the land this time.
Article first appeared in chrisandglynisabbott.blogspot.com

Lib Dem policies agreed by the new government
One of the most remarkable points about the creation of the Coalition Government has been the extent to which Liberal Democrat policies have been agreed should be implemented. Though we have not had everything our own way - on Trident and free schools for example building a coalition is about compromise and partnership. We have listed below the key Lib Dem policies that will form part of the programme of the new government.

A Fair Start for Children
• Introduce a Pupil Premium to give all children a fair start.

Fairer taxes and Economic Reform
• • • A substantial increase in the personal allowance from April 2011 with a longer term policy objective of further increasing the personal allowance to £10,000, making further real terms steps each year towards this objective. Reform of the banking system, ensuring a flow of lending to businesses and a Banking Levy. An independent commission on separating retail and investment banking. Capital Gains Tax reform

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Lib Dem policies agreed by the new government
Fair Politics
• Fixed-term parliaments and a referendum on electoral reform for the House of Commons. A power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP was found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing. A wholly or mainly elected House of Lords on the basis of proportional representation. Giving Parliament control of its own agenda so that all bills are properly debated. Enacting the Calman Commission proposals and a referendum on further Welsh devolution. A statutory register of lobbyists. A limit on political donations and reform of party funding in order to remove big money from politics. Radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups.

• • • • •

A fair and sustainable future
• • • • • Establish a smart electricity grid and the roll-out of smart meters. Establish feed-in tariff systems in electricity A huge increase in energy from waste through anaerobic digestion. The creation of a green investment bank. The provision of home energy improvement paid for by the savings from lower energy bills. Retention of energy performance certificates when HIPs are scrapped. Measures to encourage marine energy. The establishment of an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped with sufficient CCS to meet the emissions performance standard. Establish a high-speed rail network. Cancel the third runway at Heathrow and refuse additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted. Replace the Air Passenger Duty with a ‘per plane’ duty. The provision of a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits. Make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence. Promote green spaces and wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity. Reduce central government carbon emissions by 10 per cent within 12 months. Increase the target for energy from renewable sources.

• • •

• • • • • • • 6 •

Lib Dem policies agreed by the new government
Pensions
• • • Restoration of the earnings link for the basic state pension from April 2011 with a “triple guarantee” that pensions are raised by the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5%. Phase out the default retirement age and end the rules requiring compulsory annuitisation at 75. Implement the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman’s recommendation to make fair and transparent payments to Equitable Life policyholders.

Civil Liberties
• • • • • • • Scrap the ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the ContactPoint Database. Outlaw the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission. Extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency. Adopt the Scottish approach to stopping retention of innocent people’s DNA on the DNA database. Defend trial by jury. Restore rights to nonviolent protest. A review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech. Safeguards against the misuse of antiterrorism legislation. Further regulation of CCTV. Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason. A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences. End the detention of children for immigration purposes. Advertisement

• • • •

Members’ newsletters - a full service
Members’ newsletters - they often get pushed to the bottom of the list of things to be done and often don’t get produced at all. But they are an important way of keeping your local members on board and encouraging them to get involved. A full newsletter service for local parties is now available: It will be based on an A3 template containing coverage of the Liberal Democrats nationally. There will be space available for local stories provided by you. We typeset, print and mail out the newsletter to addresses you provide. The cost of the basic service is £20 plus 60p per mailing address. View some of my recent newsletters at: www.scribd.com/JonathanWallace

For more information call Jonathan Wallace on 07860 730270 or email jonathanwallace@compuserve.com
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Was a deal with Labour possible?
by Jonathan Wallace, Editor of Northern Democrat Politics is about the art of the possible. Was a Lib Dem/Labour coalition a possibility following the election on 6th May? Very unlikely, is my conclusion. And even if it were possible, there are significant parts of the Labour Party who would have sought to destroy a coalition in weeks. Let’s look at the mathematics of it. Labour’s 258 seats and the Lib Dems’ 57 would have created a coalition of 315 seats, 11 short of what is needed for a majority. However, at the fringes of the overall total, the Speaker can be excluded, as can the 5 Sinn Fein MPs who don’t take up their seats in the UK Parliament. That means a finishing post of 323 seats. That still The removal of Gordon Brown leaves a Lib Dem/Labour coalition 8 seats short. At this point the minor would not have been enough to parties come into play. create a Lib Dem/Labour coalition. Large parts of the The SDLP is the sister party of Labour in Northern Ireland and normally takes the Labour whip. The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland Labour party wanted to abandon government for the is the sister party of the Lib Dems. They won their first ever seat in a opposition. spectacular gain from the DUP’s leader Peter Robinson. The Alliance has a peer (Lord Alderdice) who takes the Lib Dem whip in the Lords. It could be assumed that in the Commons, their new MP will also take the Lib Dem whip. That brings the total MPs on the government benches to 319. Close but not close enough. The arrival of the Green Party in Parliament with their one MP in Brighton could bring the total to 320. There is also an independent MP in Northern Ireland who generally speaking is inclined towards Labour. Total now reaches 321, two short. There are 6 SNP MPs and 3 for Palid Cymru. In effect, they would hold the balance. Prior to the election, they had stated clearly that the cost of their support were they to hold the balance of power was more cash for Scotland and Wales. At a time of cutbacks across the whole of the UK, how would protecting the budgets of Scotland and Wales, paid for by even bigger cuts in England, have played with the English public? Nevertheless, with some will and compromise, a Lib Dem/Labour coalition, supported by the minor parties, could have been possible. This of course, overlooks one major problem: the coalition that is the Labour party. It is likely that there were some in the top ranks of the Labour party who wanted a deal with the Liberal Democrats. Some, such as Peter Mandelson, were likely to have been in favour of such a deal. But the internal Labour coalition contains a whole army of people who do not believe in co-operation and partnership and who are certainly not liberal. The old, authoritarian “socialist” diehard brigade, many of whom originate from Labour strongholds such as the North East and who see pluralism and co-operation as insurrection and insubordination in an otherwise one-party Labour state, were clearly kicking off about the prospect of forming a coalition with the Lib Dems. These people are not progressive. In many ways they are quite reactionary. And it was clear they were desperate to go into opposition. They want to posture from the wilderness, their hands free of the dirt of cleaning up the mess their own party left behind. The political reforms Lib Dems want to introduce have no appreciable level of support from amongst the Labour old guard. Yet a Lib Dem/Labour coalition would have been dependent on them for a majority in the Commons. And the old guard would not have missed the opportunity to bring down the coalition by attacking the most important political reforms to which they are highly opposed. In other words, whilst there was a willingness from some within Labour to put together a coalition, the reality was that Labour could not deliver a coalition because they could not deliver support from within their own party. There is a significant element in Labour who prefer Conservative government than co-operation with the Lib Dems. Labour are not the progressive party they claim to be. Too many of them want the comfort of opposition. Just as the Lib Dems are relinquishing the oppositionist role, Labour are heading for the wilderness to adopt that very role. They are welcome to it.

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