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no. 60 December 2011
The newsletter for Liberal Democrats in the North of England
Next stop: Tyneside
Lib Dem Conference at Sage, Gateshead, in March
The next Lib Dem Spring Conference will be held on 9th-11th March and for the first time it will be held in the North East. The Sage, Gateshead, will host the three-day gathering. This will be a great opportunity to showcase the region. “Liberal Democrats in NewcastleGateshead and across the North East of England are delighted to be hosting Spring Conference,” said former Leader of Newcastle City Council, Lord Shipley. And he encouraged members to attend. “This will be the first time that we have welcomed our party conference to this region and we hope you will be part of it.” Online booking is now open at www.libdems.org.uk/conference
Produced, printed and promoted by Jonathan Wallace, 7 Laburnum Grove, Sunniside, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE16 5LY
Promoted and published by Jonathan Wallace, 7 Laburnum Grove, Sunniside, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE16 5LY
Northern Democrat December 2011 Contents
Page 2 Remembering Two Colleagues Page 3 Broadband/Early Years Education Page 4 Stockton competition entry/Autumn Statement Page 5 Regional Conference Report Page 6 Regional Conference Report Page 7 New Chief Exec/Youth Contract Pages 8 Labour debunked Pages 9 Labour debunked
Editorial: please send material for inclusion to the editor, Jonathan Wallace, phone 0191 4883190 or email email@example.com
Northern News December 2011 Remembering two colleagues
Two long-standing Liberal/Liberal Democrat members have sadly died recently, Robert Pinkney (North Tyneside) and Dorothy Allan (Wear Valley). Bob Pinkney was born in Welwyn Garden City in 1937. He joined the Young Liberals in Hampstead where he met his wife Mary. They were married in 1962 at St Martin in the Fields, London. After National Service, Bob taught economics, history and geography in the London area before moving to the North East in 1975 to teach at Newcastle Polytechnic, later Northumbria University. Bob became Senior Lecturer in Politics; he retired in 2006 but continued at Northumbria as a visiting professor. He wrote several books, specialising in African politics. Bob was a keen and active party member. He was a member of North Tyneside Council for eight years and deputy Group Leader. He was also candidate for Tynemouth for a time. He was a keen cyclist and runner, doing the London Marathon and the Great North Run. Dorothy Hail – best known as Dorothy Allan - stood as a local Bob Pinkney council candidate for the party numerous times and held office in the party at local level. She was also Treasurer of the Northern Region for three years. Born in Willington in County Durham, she was the daughter of the formidable Barbara Wilkinson, an Independent district and county councillor who was at one time the only nonLabour member of Crook & Willington UDC. Barbara, who later joined the Liberal Party, was the only person ever to defeat Labour Leader John Richardson in a local election. After caring for her mother in Barbara’s final years, Dorothy moved to Brandon and was elected to Brandon & Byshottles Parish Council. She finally settled in Stanhope in Weardale where she became a pillar of the local church and community. Dorothy had no children, but delighted in her extended family. Her first marriage ended in divorce: some years later she married again and found happiness with her new husband Harry Hail.
Where have you been for the past 8 months?
Apologies to readers for the lack of Northern Democrats over the past 8 months. I have had a rather busy year and unfortunately Northern Democrat had to be shelved for a few months whilst other projects were underway. Northern Democrat is now back into publication and I will be aiming for one edition a month in 2012. Thanks for your patience. Jonathan Wallace, Editor
Northern News December 2011
North East to benefit from broadband billions
The North East is set to benefit from a share of billions of pounds in EU cash aimed at bringing super fast broadband to everyone. The £8 billion investment announced by the European Commission will help eliminate the Internet black-spots which blight parts of the North East. Local Lib Dem MEP Fiona Hall welcomed the news and said it would help create and safeguard jobs in the region. Fiona said, “Despite recent investment, parts of the North East are still stuck in the Internet slow lane. This new multibillion pound plan will ensure everyone has access to super fast broadband, wherever they live or work. “It is particularly vital for businesses which increasingly rely on the Internet. It will allow smaller villages and towns to sustain businesses that have previously been forced to relocate to secure faster Fiona Hall MEP, centre, has welcomed plans to invest in Internet connections. broadband in the North East. “And the work required to roll these improvements out will also help create jobs in the North East. In difficult economic times it is right that major investment is aimed at encouraging growth and ensuring we have the infrastructure to remain competitive in the future.”
Free early years education for two-year olds in North East – Alan Beith
Free early education will be extended to 140,000 disadvantaged two-year- olds, and parents will be able to access the free entitlement more flexibly, under plans published by the Coalition Government last month. In the North East, nearly 8,000 two-year olds are expected to benefit from the proposals. Liberal Democrat Children’s Minister, Sarah Teather, announced a consultation today on how this commitment will be implemented. The plans include proposals to help parents and children alike by making the free entitlement of 15 hours per week of early education more flexible, so it can be taken between 7am and 7pm across two days instead of the current three days. Sir Alan Beith welcomed free early Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith said, “Helping nearly 8,000 two-year-old children from the years education. poorest backgrounds in our area will benefit them for years to come. “High quality early education is the key to making a difference early on in a child’s life and help make Britain a fairer and more equal society. Improving social mobility is a Liberal Democrat priority in Government and early years education is crucial to achieve this. “Targeting early education at those who stand to benefit most, is an important to achieve this goal. It will be an integral part to disadvantaged children’s healthy development. This means they’re not falling behind before they have even started primary school.” Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg said, “I want us to give every child the best possible start – so free education for toddlers from the most disadvantaged homes will now be a right and not a privilege. “Crucially the extra care will be flexible and easy to access. Parents across the country are bending over backwards to balance work and home. The Coalition wants to help in whatever way we can.”
Northern News December 2011
Stockton runners-up for top party award
Stockton Liberal Democrats were somewhat surprised on the night before members left for the Federal Conference in September. An email arrived asking for their Penhaligon Award Presentation. Hurried communications later and they discovered that the message from Membership Department that they were finalists had “gone astray”. They had just over 18 hours to produce a PowerPoint presentation showing our strategy for keeping our members, and that included a night’s sleep and a morning of commitments! The Penhaligon Award is named after David Penhaligon MP, a formidable campaigner in Cornwall who died suddenly before he had a chance to reach his full potential in the party. It’s usually awarded to the party which recruits the most new members in a year as well as keeping as many as possible of their old ones. This year it was awarded to the party which retained members recruited in the general election “Cleggmania” period and which could show that it had a strategy for building up the party in the future. Stockton’s strategy is best described as “Communication, communication, communication.” If you don’t want to know what’s going on then don’t join the party in Stockton. With over three quarters of our membership using email it’s easy to keep them informed about progress and the remainder get letters about important items as well as the regular member newsletters. During the coalition negotiations there were 2 or 3 emails a day coming from Cowley St to tell party chairs what was happening. They were all forwarded on to our members. Every time there was an important announcement a letter was hand delivered to the people not on email. The coalition agreement went to everyone. Since then, frequent emails and letters have kept people in touch with policy updates, ministerial announcements and so on. Member meetings, though not frequent, have given the chance to discuss such things as conference motions and policy proposals. At the same time, any major developments in Stockton Council are shared with all of the membership. New members get a welcome letter from the Chairman followed by a personal visit from one of the executive. As a result, only a very small number of people have left the party since the general election. A further number are considering whether to renew at this stage, but most have stayed as members. What is more, several new people have joined and one or two have become active. Some established members have taken on new roles and become more involved. The judges liked what they heard, though not quite as much as what they heard from St Albans who won the trophy. Stockton had an honourable mention and are very proud of that. The judges felt that what they had done showed what can be achieved by a small party. They were delighted to be part of putting the Tees Valley and the North East on the map in the run up to the Spring Conference being held up here.
Support for North welcomed in Autumn Statement
Lib Dem Parliamentarians have welcomed the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement which offers support to the North. Measures announced include support for plans to expand the existing Enterprise Zone in the North East to include land around the Port of Blyth, encouraging business investment to the renewables industry. Sir Alan Beith MP has been pushing this proposal with Government Ministers since the announcement by Rio Tinto that the aluminium smelter at Alcan’s Lynemouth plant. Sir Alan said, “I warmly welcome the Chancellor’s support for the plan to extend the North East Enterprise Zone into Northumberland which I put to Ministers last week and to which they have responded very quickly. It is one of the measures which will help to build private sector jobs in Northumberland where we face over-dependency on public sector employment and the potential loss of jobs at the Alcan smelter. “The extension of the North East Enterprise Zone is a direct result of meetings I have had with Ministers in response to the proposed sale, and subsequent proposed closure, of the aluminium smelter at Lynemouth. The Government has been ready all along to help ease the impact on Rio Tinto of carbon targets but the company were simply not interested. The Government has also made it clear that they are prepared to talk to any credible potential buyer, but we do have to prepare for the possibility that no buyer will come forward. “I also welcome improvements to the East Coast Main Line, the accelerated works on the Tyneside Metro and the plans to make finance more widely available to small businesses.” Euro MP Fiona Hall said, “The extension of the Enterprise Zone to Blyth as well as tax measures to promote the growth of industry in the North East shows the Government appreciates the urgent need for support to the region. We desperately need to create more jobs and today’s announcement will help do that. “In addition, the £250m package of assistance for energy-intensive industry will help businesses in the region with high energy needs.”
Regional Conference report
Liberal Democrats in the North East gathered in Gateshead on 22nd October for their autumn conference and annual general meeting. New MP, Gordon Birtwhistle from Burnley, was the guest speaker. Most members knew little about Gordon but he gave a rousing, informative and entertaining speech. Various lunchtime events were held including a look at the party’s new database system. L to R Diana Maddock, Alan Beith, David Freeman A Parliamentary Panel answered (chair), John Shipley and Gordon Birtwhistle questions from members. The panel consisted of Diana Maddock, Alan Beith MP, John Shipley and Gordon Birtwhistle. The issues covered included:
Health and Social Care Bill
Alan Beith said many of the concerns about the Bill are not based on reality. The way opponents had conducted themselves caused other important aspects to be shut out of the debate. There are no cuts in the NHS budget but there are currently efficiency savings in place which were brought in by previous Labour Government. These efficiency savings will be ploughed back into the NHS. Diana Maddock highlighted Labour hypocrisy in the Lords. She referred to David Owen’s plan for a committee which collapsed. John Shipley pointed out that a £20 billion funding gap in NHS needs to be bridged. The Bill guarantees access to services free at point of delivery. This needs to be emphasised. The NHS is not perfect. The recent publication of the damning report on NHS care of older people illustrates this. Cancer care is behind European average.
John Shipley said we need to demonstrate fairness as a key factor in our distinctiveness.
The Labour Party
All the panel members referred to the low morale of Labour MPs. They realise they are not likely to win the 2015 election if they don’t sort themselves out. Alan said Labour are more worried about Prime Minister’s Questions than the Conservatives because of their leadership’s poor performance.
The Tory Right
Gordon said there were not enough on the lunatic right to force the government’s hand. The Cabinet steers away from rightwing issues. Generally, the Right is controllable by the Tory leadership
Lib Dem influence
Alan said that Liberal Democrats have rolled back Labour incursions into civil liberty. Gordon explained that the Health Bill had been changed due to the Lib Dems but we need to communicate this better.
Gordon Birtwhistle talked to the Conference about how he fought to be elected. He took Burnley from Labour in 2010 even though they had a 17,000 majority in 2001. Gordon also talked about his view of the way ahead. He was critical of the Labour government for destroying the manufacturing base of country which was 22% of our economy when Labour come to power but only 15% when they left. He said, “We need to get back to making things. That is the way forward. We need to export manufactured goods to sell abroad. We will struggle until we are exporting more. The Government realises this. We need more apprenticeships and relevant degrees. Companies often can’t get qualified staff. For the past 25 years, we have not been training people for the jobs that are available.” He called on Lib Dems to get onto doorsteps to speak directly to the people who vote for us. We need to take up local issues that affect people directly.
Regional Conference report
Frank retires as regional chairman
After three years as Chairman of the North East Liberal Democrats, Gateshead Councillor Frank Hindle has retired from the post.
Frank, who was elected Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Gateshead Council earlier this year, led the campaign to re-elect Fiona Hall as our Euro MP in 2009. He also led the party in the region during the 2010 general election that saw the Lib Dems gain Redcar and hold Berwick. Frank was thanked for his work when the regional party met for his last conference as chairman at Gateshead Civic Centre on Saturday 22nd October. The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also sent thanks. Nick said, “Thank you Frank for all your hard work as Chair of the North East Regional party. You have done a great job in what haven’t always been the easiest of circumstances. “You will be missed as Regional Chair, but I know you will continue to serve the party in so many other ways. “ Party President, Westmoreland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron Regional Party President Suzanne said, “Frank is a true servant of the party - as a councillor, PPC, Agent and Regional Chair. Liberal Democrats in North-East have a lot Fletcher thanks Frank Hindle for his work as Chairman at the recent North East Lib to be proud of and Frank can take a huge amount credit for leading Dem Conference. many of those achievements over the last three years. “
Redcar Local Party won the Alistair Wardlow Trophy for their campaigning activities. MP for the Constituency, Ian Swales, and his wife Pat collected the award.
National News December 2011
Lib Dems appoint new Chief Exec
Liberal Democrats have announced the appointment of Tim Gordon as the Party’s new Chief Executive. Tim will take up this position on 9 January 2012. Tim brings to the role a lifetime of commitment to the Party, as a volunteer, campaigner and candidate, but also a strong commercial background and clearly demonstrated leadership qualities. Tim has been a Party activist since his teens, when he first volunteered for the SDP “Yes to Unity” campaign, and has since campaigned in every major election. He stood as parliamentary candidate in Rotherham in 2005. He worked as a researcher for David Steel when he was Foreign Affairs spokesperson, and has been a member of several policy working groups over the years. He is currently an active member in Islington. Tim’s professional career has been shaped in the world of strategic business management. He started at the Financial Times, before working at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and most recently as Group New Chief Exec Tim Gordon Development Director at European Directories, a large European media company. Through this career Tim has demonstrated strategic thinking, use of online technology to deliver change, fundraising ability, an understanding of internal organisation dynamics and experience of building alignment around common priorities. Tim takes over from Chris Fox, who leaves to take up a new role as Director of Group Communications at a FTSE100 engineering company.
Lib Dems launch Youth Contract
On 25th November, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched the “Youth Contract”, a £1bn programme to get every unemployed young person earning or learning again before long-term damage is done. When Labour left office, they also left behind nearly one million unemployed 16-24 year olds. The economic slowdown has resulted in that figure rising now to over over 1 million.
Main features of the Youth Contract
There will be 160,000 job subsidies available worth up to £2,275 each for businesses who take on an 18-24 yearold from the Work Programme. This is more than enough to cover an employer’s National Insurance contributions for a year and exceeds the recommendations by the CBI in their recent report on youth employment. An extra 250,000 Work Experience places over the next three years, with an offer of a Work Experience place for every 18 to 24 year-old who wants one, before they enter the Work Programme. At least 20,000 extra incentive payments worth £1,500 each for employers to take on young people as apprentices, taking the total number of payments available to 40,000 next year. Extra support through Jobcentre Plus in the form of weekly, rather than fortnightly, signing-on meetings, more time to talk to an adviser and a National Careers Service interview. The measures differ from previous schemes over the last decade, as they are focused on equipping young people with the skills and opportunities to gain long-term sustainable employment in the private sector. Speaking at the launch of Youth Contract, Nick Clegg said, ”Young people have been hit particularly hard in the recession, but even in the boom years, Labour failed to tackle the issue. During Labour’s 13 years, youth unemployment rose by 40%. “With Liberal Democrats in Government, we won’t allow the children brought up in the boom to bear the brunt of the bust. The next generation must not pay the price for my generation’s mistakes. So the Coalition Government won’t sit on our hands and let a generation fall behind.”
Labour debunked - the so-called “Five Point Plan”
At Labour’s Conference, a so-called “Five Point Plan for Jobs and Growth” was launched. This pulled together some statements previously made by Labour on economic policy and it now forms a key feature of Labour’s message. The policies are, however, riddled with contradictions, uncosted spending commitments, proposals they previously rejected when in Government and would lead to a major loss of confidence in Britain’s ability to tackle the debt crisis. This section of the Northern Democrat analyses the Labour proposals - use them to argue against Labour if they are campaigning on the so-called “Five Point Plan” on your patch.
Labour’s “Five Point Plan”
1) 2) 3) 4) A £2 billion tax on bank bonuses to fund 100,000 jobs for young people and build 25,000 more affordable homes. Bringing forward long-term investment projects (e.g. schools, roads and transport) to get people back to work and strengthen our economy for the future. Reversing of the Government’s damaging VAT rise now, for a temporary period. This will give a £450 boost for a couple with children, giving immediate help for our high streets and for struggling families and pensioners. A one-year cut in VAT, to 5%, on home improvements, repairs and maintenance – to help homeowners and small businesses. A one-year national insurance tax break for every small firm that takes on extra workers – helping small businesses to grow and create jobs.
1)Labour’s proposals for a tax on bankers to pay for 100,000 young people to come off the dole whilst building tens of thousands of houses don’t add up. The proposals would cost 3 or 4 times the funding allocated to it. Labour are playing at being Merlin the Magician, conjuring up money from nowhere and waving a magic wand to create instantly an army of skilled workers. Alistair Darling, as Labour’s last Chancellor, argued that the bank bonus tax would only work once as the banks would find a way to avoid it. That’s why Labour themselves introduced it as only a one off, windfall tax in 2009/10. Labour have failed to explain their calculations as to how they have arrived at the figure of £2 billion they claim this tax can raise. Many Labour members argue that the bank bonus tax can pay for any cut or favoured spending proposal. Keep a record of spending commitments your local Labour MP or candidate claims can be paid for by this tax and send it to Northern Democrat editor Jonathan Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if £2 billion was raised by a bank bonus tax, it would struggle to provide 100,000 jobs because: Sharing £2 billion amongst 100,000 employees would mean only £20,000 per job. This would have to cover pay, employers’ NICs and pension contributions. This would mean pay would be less than £16,000 a year for highly skilled workers. Once the 100,000 jobs had been funded (at a low wage level) there would be no money left to buy any building materials. Labour claim that 25,000 houses could be built under their plan. The cost of building materials for a single house would be about £40,000. That’s £1 billion for the full number they can claim to build. Where is that money to come from? Labour does not explain. There is no explanation as to where the land for these 25,000 houses would come from. Is it donated by public or private owners, or would it have to be bought? If the land had to be purchased, how is this to be paid for? The biggest single element of the cost of a new house is the 2)Labour can be debunked on capital spending plans because: The Government is already bringing forward capital spending plans. Labour are behind the times. The last Labour Government took the decision to slash capital spending by two-thirds by 2014. 3)Labour can be debunked on VAT as their plans are a vast, uncosted spending commitment at a time when there is an international debt crisis. Labour have failed to say how they will pay for this £12.5 billion a year spending commitment They would seriously harm the perception of Britain as being a nation getting to grips with its Deficit, leading to higher interest rates for the Government which would lead to an even bigger squeeze on public spending. The claim for what a typical household would save are an enormous exaggeration.
Labour debunked - the so-called “Five Point Plan”
To save £450 a year, a family would have to spend £18,000 on goods that are fully rated for VAT. That’s £1500 a month. This is far in excess of what the overwhelming majority of households spend on such goods. Labour have illustrated their policy with the savings made by a family with a gross income of around £50,000, well in excess of what most households earn. Most households spend more on non-rated or low rated goods such as mortgage, gas, electricity, newspapers, children’s clothes, much of their food, rent, bus or rail fares, books etc than on goods that are fully rated. There will be no VAT reduction on these products - which form a higher share of expenditure of lower income households. Amongst the biggest beneficiaries of Labour’s tax plans would be the wealthy buying high value goods. For example, someone buying a new Porsche currently costing £120,000 would save £2,500. A temporary reduction in VAT would not lead to a reduction in important basic items such as gas, electricity, bus fares, children’s clothes and so on but form a larger part of the expenditure of people on lower income. A VAT reduction will benefit the better off rather than struggling families. Labour give no explanation whatsoever as to how long a “temporary” VAT reduction would last. A reduction of 2.5% in VAT would cost £12.5 billion a year. A temporary reduction in VAT until the end of this Parliament would cost £40 billion. Labour do not explain how this lost revenue would be covered. It is therefore a massive, uncosted commitment on the public finances. If Labour believes that the lost revenue should be made up from borrowing, the effect of such a massive increase in the Deficit would lead to a loss of confidence in the UK’s willingness to reduce its Deficit. The result would be an immediate increase in interest paid by the Government on new borrowings, therefore requiring cuts, tax increases or further borrowing. Labour planned to increase VAT to 19% if they won the General Election last year, not decrease it. 4)Labour can be debunked on reducing VAT on home repairs because: The proposal was rejected by Alistair Darling when Labour were in office in in 2009. It is completely uncosted and Labour have failed to say how they will pay for this cut. What other services will be cut or taxes raised to pay for this commitment? Businesses that are registered for VAT will get no direct benefit as they will simply reclaim any VAT they have paid, regardless of its rate. 5)Labour can be debunked on reducing employers’ National Insurance contributions because: The last Labour Government had approved plans to increase employers’ National Insurance contributions. This was an increased tax on jobs, making it more expensive to take on staff. One of the first actions of the Coalition Government was to scrap Labour’s employers’ NIC increase.
Keep reminding people about the mess Labour left behind
The Labour Government ran out of money. Liam Byrne, Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury, left a note for his Coalition successor saying “I’m afraid there is no money.” Labour Minister’s note to the Government Alistair Darling admitted before the General Election that Labour’s cuts would be “deeper and tougher” than “I’m afraid that there is no money left” those under Mrs Thatcher. Planned cuts of £44 billion in expenditure from 2011 onwards National Debt stood at £22,400 for every single person in the UK. £120 million was being paid out every day by taxpayers just on the interest in the National Debt - that’s £2 every day for every single person in the UK. That’s £730 per person per year. A quarter of the money spent by Labour ministers was borrowed - that’s £400 million every day. A million more working age adults in poverty than in 98/99 Income inequality is at its highest since comparable records began in 1961 2.8 million children in poverty Nearly 2 million children grow up in households where no one works (roughly one in six) More children growing up in workless households than almost any other European country 1.8 million pensioners living in poverty (nearly 1 in 5) Unemployment 900,000 higher than it was when Labour came to power
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