Friday, 30 April 2010


Tomorrow's Guardian offers a lengthy editorial which offers enthusiastic support for the Liberal Democrats. This is quite a turnaround from a traditionally Labour paper which has in the past often been rather scathing of the Liberal Democrats.

The essential thesis of the newspaper is that the Liberal Democrats represent the progressive choice and they should be supported in seats where they directly challenge the Conservatives - including Henley.

It comments on our policies and philosophy thus:

'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.'

I hope you too will consider giving us your support at this crucial election, when we have a rare opportunity to change politics in Britain for good.


The tempo of the election is being raised daily but the drama of the leaders' debates is now over. The key outcome from those debates is the apparent certainty that the Labour Party is heading for oblivion, rather in the style of the Conservatives in 1997. The two party pendulum swings the other way - or so the Tories will be hoping. Happily (to continue with this analogy a few moments longer) the pendulum is no longer swinging back and forth but round and round thanks to Nick Clegg's performances. Where it stops on May 7th is up to you.

The simple truth is that it no longer has to be this way, no longer do we have to endure a two-party stitch up. Things can change. What we are left with now is a three party fight which will, I hope, focus increasingly on policies and plans to cut the deficit. The Liberal Democrats have been attacked over our policies but this must be taken as a compliment, for at least our critics are considering them seriously. Our policies to address the deficit in year one of a new government, for example, with a comprehensive spending review in June 2010 to identify further savings on top of the £29bn already outlined (the £19bn planned by Labour plus an additional £10bn set out in our manifesto), have been comprehensively picked apart yet no other party has come close to identifying clear, concrete areas for savings, such as scrapping ID cards, introducing fair taxes for plane travel and air freight, cancelling the Eurofighter and stopping the waste on the obsolete replacement for Trident. Where are those Tory savings going to come from? 'Efficiencies'? Do me a favour, this is Whitehall we're talking about!

Our policies on dealing with the problem of illegal immigrants are perfectly sensible, allowing them to earn citizenship after ten years of living here, rather than just talking tough before polling day and then quietly ignoring the problem after May 6th as no one actually knows where these people are. There's the lie at the heart of Tory and Labour attacks: 'we'll get tough on immigration' suggests (i) that they know how many illegal immigrants there are - they don't, (ii) they have the £10bn and huge resources required to find, round up and then deport the likely hundreds of thousands of people involved - they don't.

The Lib Dems are here, our policies are there for everyone to see - and criticise - but we stand by them - I stand by them in Henley - as a sensible programme for action this year. We're not going to disappear to allow the old parties to stitch things up for another 65 years. I hope you will look here at what we propose for our economy, our environment, our schools and our creaking political system and think about giving us your vote on May 6th.

If you want real change, vote for it.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


I read in the papers this morning that Labour 'Trotsky to Gordon Brown's Lenin', Ed Balls, has said that the Lib Dems and Labour could work together to keep the Tories out of power.

I am finding the increased speculation from the two old parties on their futures amusing as they are clearly rattled, with Labour moving rapidly into meltdown and the Conservatives consolidating rather than moving forward but the notion that the tribal Ed Balls could be relied upon to keep to the terms of any agreement is quite laughable.

It is a fool's game to make predictions about elections, particularly now this one has been blown so widely open by Nick Clegg's achievement of putting the Lib Dems at the forefront of the debate, allowing voters to find out about us. However I would speculate on one thing regarding both the old parties: their leaders will not last very long after the election.

If Cameron does not manage to win the election outright he is in serious trouble as the Conservatives do not like failure. Should the Tories claw their way to the most seats but not a majority, they are likely to oust Cameron - which would be unfair given that he has made them contenders again - and get a new leader to find some excuse to call an election as soon as possible. Voters won't like that.

As for Labour, unless something truly incredible happens over the coming ten days, Brown is finished. The images of him with an Elvis impersonator were excruciating and gave the impression of an ageing singer belting out standards in drinking clubs across the country. The sound you heard on your TV was Lord Mandelson weeping on the sidelines.

The only question is who replaces him. I have long had an imaginary wager on Harriet Harman, who has demonstrated her ability to cling on to the greasy pole when others are falling off around her, with no demonstrable talent to justify her position there. Having achieved the role of deputy leader she might be in a position to challenge both the Brownites, who will have very little power left, and the Miliband supporters who simply might not have enough support to gain power. Into the void between the two camps might step Harman purely becaue she is neither of the others.

One thing I can be sure of is that Nick Clegg is as secure as our leader as he could possibly be and he's got a united team around him. Now which party do you think would be best placed to weather the budget storm we are still being buffeted by? Would you prefer experience with endless squabbling and a disintegrating party behind him or a new face with a Chancellor, Vince Cable, with a proven ability to identify problems and outline solutions.

Thursday, 22 April 2010


I am gratified that so many people have contacted me about my election communication but I have to rectify an omission. A number of people are asking me about myself as this did not appear on the leaflet. My apologies for this: such leaflets are a very general introduction to your local candidate and they are limited in terms of how much information they can provide.

For the record therefore, I am 41, married with two children, I was born and brought up in London and moved to Oxfordshire in 2002, where I have been a parish councillor, parish clerk and a founding and continuing member of a community shop committee. I am a member of my local church. My proudest achievements in Oxfordshire have been the continued success of the shop, the decision of my parish council while I was on it to call for - and get - more affordable rural housing and the achievement of a playground project which I worked hard on as parish clerk.

I work for Oxford Brookes University and before this I worked for a Council as an adviser to the leader and the ruling group.

My ambitions for Henley are to inject a bit of democracy back into local communities, as, for example, the Henley Residents Group has done so successfully in Henley town, challenging the status quo which many may have taken for granted as they believed it couldn't change. I would like to see decent housing for people on all incomes, investment in schools and increasing control by communities of local services such as healthcare and policing. I also want to see our economy growing sustainably to allow us all to benefit from the recovery from recession.

Henley is a large constituency of many communities which is fortunate in many ways. I want everyone to benefit from all the great things on offer in Henley and Oxfordshire, which is why I am standing as a candidate in the General Election.


The backlash against Nick Clegg has begun today with Tory papers printing stories attempting to smear Nick Clegg and an intriguing story on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning about James 'Sky & the Sun' Murdoch and Rebekah 'Sky' Wade turning up at the offices of the Independent to have a 'discussion' with the editor in chief, Simon Kelner. The inference drawn by that programme was that News International might be unhappy at having nailed its colours to the losing team at this election.

There is now no question that there is now blind panic among Conservative campaigners and supporters.

As a Lib Dem candidate I have received excellent support from our headquarters, including advice to not get too excited and, crucially, to keep on selling our policies to voters, not our personalities, because we are in this campaign to cut taxes, cut the deficit, improve our schools and get our economy working again on sustainable grounds. We know very well that this is not a beauty contest.

That I hope will be the key to this election. When all the fuss and hype over Nick dies down, like the froth on a good pint of English beer, you are still left with something tasty, interesting and enjoyable to the last drop. We have substance, while - to continue the analogy - the others are mere alcopops: fizzy, nice to enjoy but fundamentally devoid of character, taste and lasting impact beyond a sore head the next day.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


The opposition parties, especially the Conservatives, are likely to target us on this issue in coming days as the leaders focus on foreign affairs in the leaders' debate on Thursday. Setting aside my advice to any Tory leader to avoid reopening the European wound that still gapes in the Tory side, let me quote what the Lib Dem manifesto (page 67) says:

'We believe that it is in Britain's long-term interest to be part of the Euro. But Britain should only join when the economic conditions are right, and in the present economic situation, they are not. Britain should join the euro only if that decision were supported by the people of Britain in a referendum.'

Now that commitment will not be popular to many people but it is a clear, unequivocal statement of where we stand. Two key points must be made, in bold, below:

1. We do not plan to do this any time soon. It is NOT a manifesto commitment, merely a statement of our beliefs.

2. We have clearly promised a referendum on this or any other major change to our relationship with Europe.

Can the Conservatives in particular be this clear?

For those of you still reading, as this is not a topic of major interest to most voters who have given it a second's thought, allow me to remind you that the Conservatives took us into Europe without a referendum, the Conservatives signed the Single European Act - committing us to joining a single currency in the future - without a referendum and the Conservatives signed the Maastricht Treaty establishing the larger European Union without a referendum.

Liberal Democrats are clear and open about our commitment to Europe. Are others?


I am delighted to read in today's Independent that Nick Clegg is as opposed to any deal with Gordon Brown's Labour Party as I am. As Nick said, a vote for the Liberal Democrats is just that, a vote for the Liberal Democrats.

A separate article from Matthew Norman, which I haven't linked to as it is rather bad-tempered, interestingly points out how David Cameron has failed to present a modern agenda for change, instead focusing on old arguments like supporting First Past the Post, a system which might see him do well in terms of votes but poorly in terms of seats, or in defending a weapons system for a past war rather as French Generals backed the Maginot Line which invading German forces simply went around.

Labour have run out of steam, the Conservatives haven't changed. If you want real change, please vote for it on May 6th.

Monday, 19 April 2010


The Independent has commissioned a survey of businessmen by ComRes which has revealed an improvement in Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg's standing. The proportion who have confidence in him has doubled from 20 to 41 per cent in the past month, which is way above the 28 per cent rating for Mr Brown. Unsurprisingly the Tory leader gets a higher rating as this might be regarded as his natural constituency but the numbers are all going our way.

Perhaps more of a worry for the Conservatives is that the number of businessmen who believe the shadow Chancellor George Osborne "lacks experience" has risen from 78 to a record 80 per cent. That is a terrible figure for a man who wants to control the country's purse strings.

The survey of 170 business leaders shows that the number who detect the "green shoots" of economic recovery in their sector has risen sharply in the past month from 49 to 61 per cent, rather putting the lie to Tory claims of a 'Broken Britain'. There can be little doubt that we are a difficult situation but I object to the Conservatives' attempt to write off the country. What kind of message is that for a party which wants to rule to send out to voters?


Here we go again, Lord Mandelson has spoken publicly of the possibility of a coalition with the Lib Dems, mentioning the need for constitutional reform again. The answer to this is quite simple: not on my watch, mate.

To repeat what I have said several times before but it bears repeating: I will not support a coalition with either party as I do not believe they can be trusted to do what is best for the country. I am fighting the Henley election to win, so that I can implement Lib Dem policies: lower taxes for almost everyone, a higher state pension, the abolition of Council Tax, action this year to cut the deficit, more police on the streets paid for by scrapping ID cards.

Would either the Tories or Labour allow us to honour these pledges?

Sunday, 18 April 2010


Following Nick Clegg's peerless performance on Thursday the Liberal Democrats are now being targeted by the old parties. One of these attacks claims that we will give an amnesty to all immigrants. This is a lie.

There is a large number of immigrants in Britain, most of them working hard to support themselves and their families. There is no possible way that any government could afford or manage to deport every illegal immigrant so what we propose is to allow those illegal immigrants who have been in Britain for over ten years and who speak English to earn citizenship.

This is not an amnesty: it is a tough measure which recognises reality, rather than pandering to tabloid headlines. If only our opponents had such a clear, practical policy then might be in a position to cricitise. They don't so they can't.


Can I first apologise for the length of this post but the detail is crucial to destroying the latest Conservative attack on Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.

The election campaign has a hard but enjoyable slog but it was still nice to have something to genuinely laugh about this morning as I heard on the radio that the Conservatives have attacked us over our stance on Europe. We must remember that this is the issue which effectively destroyed the Conservatives in the 1990s and from which they are only just emerging.

Liberal Democrats, building on a long tradition of internationalism, are of course pro European but we are also highly critical of a creaking institution which - let no one forget - the Conservatives took us into without a referendum.

Let's review that proposition for a moment. Britain joined the 'Common Market' in 1973 under Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath and he certainly didn't allow voters a real say on this major issue. A referendum on membership was only held in 1975 under the new Labour government.

The embarrassment doesn't end there for the Tories. In 1986 Margaret Thatcher's government signed up to the Single European Act - once again without a referendum. The Tories will tell you that this Act improved the efficiency of Europe and was thus a major step towards the 'trading bloc' which they profess to favour. However, one detail they won't own up to is that the Single European Act also signed Britain up to joining a single currency.

Let me repeat that: the Thatcher government signed Britain up to a single European currency without a referendum in 1986.

The embarrassment for the Tories continues when we jump forward to 1992 when the next Conservative government signed us up to the Maastricht Treaty - without a referendum - which created the new 'European Union', among whose innovations was a common foreign and security policy and greater powers for the European Parliament. Effectively, you could say that 'Europe' as a self-supporting entity came into existence in 1992 and the COnservatives signd up to it.

As many people will be aware the aftermath of the Maastricht Treaty was the near-extinction of Conservatives over years of in-fighting and argument, culminating in the 1997 Labour election victory.

Now the policy detail. As I mentioned, Liberal Democrats are completely committed to the European Union but we also want to make significant changes which the other parties have ducked for decades:

* We want to stop the pointless and hugely expensive monthly movement of MEPs and their entire offices between Brussels and Strasbourg purely to satisfy the French. Why haven't the Tories or Labour done this before?
* We want to remove trade barriers to help create green jobs, benefiting British businesses and helping to address climate change across the Union.
* We will stop the 'gold plating' of European directives, whereby British Civil Servants add extra aspects to European laws, making them more onerous and putting the blame on to Brussels.
* We will use the European Union to work for stricter international regulation of financial services and banking.
* We will keep the pressure up for reform of the outlandish agricultural subsidies to give farmers, consumers and taxpayers a fair deal.
We will seek continuing reform of the EU budget to make sure your money is only spent on things the EU really needs to do.

Britain is a small island off the coast of Europe. The so-called 'special relationship' is so one-sided that it is not a real relationship at all. We are a very successful international actor in most forums across the world but this is increasingly because of our cooperation with our European partners. Britain is a European country and has been for all but about 150 years of its existence, when it looked outwards towards the empire.

We must work towards a better, reformed Europe which serves our interests and those of our partners. We won't achieve anything if we cut ourselves off from the debate. I hope the Conservatives think long and hard about this attack on the Liberal Democrats. To say they have left a flank open is an understatement of continental proportions...If they do wish to pursue this I trust Nick will show them no quarter.

Friday, 16 April 2010


If you are concerned about climate change and you are not sure who to vote for to address your concerns, you might consider the following quotes on the Lib Dem manifesto.

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: "The Liberal Democrats have set out the most progressive environmental policies of all the major parties, and they now have a real chance to make them count...This party could establish red lines on issues like Heathrow and coal power, and focus instead on developing the clean technologies that will define the 21st century."

Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins said the Lib Dems had shown the environment "can be at the heart of policy-making". He continued: "Their environmental policies have been woven into their economic recovery plans, recognising that building a low-carbon future will create thousands of new green jobs and business opportunities for Britain," said Friends of the Earth executive director Andy Atkins.

This strong endorsement from two of the pre-eminent environmental groups in the country contrasts rather starkly with the news this week that the Conservative Environment Spokesman has opposed plans for two recycling plants planned on former industrial sites in his constituency. David Cameron's task of convincing voters that his party has changed is under increasing pressure.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


The Telegraph headline on their website is 'Clegg 'wins' Election Debate'.

The Times says 'Nick Clegg seizes his moment in historic TV debate'

These papers are not natural supporters of the Lib Dems. The Telegraph has been described as the Conservative Party's in house journal. I think I am justified in feeling extremely pleased tonight with my leader, my party and my ability to be the only candidate for Henley who can argue for a clear, costed programme for the next government. Well done, Nick.

I hope residents in Henley will consider this when they cast their vote on May 6th. The Tories sound reassuring but what are they actually saying. For many years on a less moderate blog I have pondered the simple, six word question to be raised with any Conservative candidate: yes, but what will you do?

Their leader, David Cameron, was found wanting this evening. I feel their party will be in the weeks to come.


The fire at Cherwell Valley Services is a huge blow to the local area, as well as more than 200 staff who face some uncertainty over coming weeks. This is a significant local business and a major facility for the M40. It is reassuring that the owners of the site, Moto, have pledged to open temporary facilities within a few days and I hope that is successful giving comfort to motorists and ensuring the future of employees.

The emergency services must be commended for successfully completing a major operation safely and effectively and for keeping open the M40.


I'm obviously biased but that aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the leaders' debate which has just ended on ITV. Most importantly it was a useful discussion between the leaders and I trust that anyone watching the programme would have got a very good idea about what the three parties stand for.

I would compliment Gordon Brown for his performance. Mr Brown is not a natural communicator but he acquitted himself well and he landed a few good blows on David Cameron. It was gratifying, if perhaps a trifle embarrassing, for any Lib Dem to see how much Mr Brown sought to align himself with Nick Clegg, suggesting regularly, if rather disingenuously, that Nick agreed with him, rather than Gordon Brown having become a late convert to many Lib Dem causes such as an elected House of Lords and a fair voting system. Mr Brown had the most to lose and I imagine he will be pleased with his performance.

Mr Cameron is a confident speaker and he was naturally assured in his demeanour but his performance was fatally weakened by the lack of detail the Conservatives are able to offer in their election campaign and manifesto. The Conservatives will doubtless claim victory on behalf of Mr Cameron but I doubt he will have persuaded many voters with this display.

It was quite exciting for a Lib Dem candidate such as me to hear Nick Robinson on the BBC making much of Nick Clegg's performance and noting that the comment he noticed the most came from both David Cameron and Gordon Brown saying 'I agree with Nick'. I am entirely partial but I am very pleased with Nick Clegg's confidence, his knowledge of the issues faced and his ability to engage with the audience. And so, it seems, are many viewers and commentators.

However, the overall conclusion must be that the naysayers have been proven completely wrong. This was good, intelligent, useful television with everything to recommend it. I hope it was watched widely and I hope the subsequent two debates will be as successful.

SUPPLEMENT: BBC Question Time is considering the leaders' debate and Nick Clegg is getting a resounding thumbs up from commentators and - crucially - the audience of great British voters.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


The Conservatives have launched a manifesto pledging to give parents the power to open their own schools if they are disappointed with local provision. The Conservatives promise that the process will be made easy for these parents but it won't be easy, will it?

Setting up a school will inevitably be a bureaucratic nightmare as the state will need to ensure that the appropriate checks are made on staff, that staff are qualified to do their jobs, that buildings are found or built and that they meet the required standard for access, size and local services. If the Tories really plan to 'free up' parents to do this, they face two outcomes:

* either these proposed new schools will be set up exclusively in areas where more affluent families can devote the time and resources to do this, leaving areas of families who don't have the time to commit to new schools with the same choice of one school;
* or the plans for parents to set up schools will be made so easy that the new schools will in effect be local authority schools anyway in which parents have a titular role, making the organisation of local provision by education authorities much more difficult and increasing costs for everyone.

There will be no revolution in schools provision, instead there will simply be patchy examples with one or two winners and a lot of losers.

I live in a village with a plethora of volunteer groups, including a community shop which I am involved in. These community groups tend to attract the same small groups of people who do most of the volunteering, leaving the great majority of people to enjoy the clubs and services provided with little or no input. That is normal and entirely reasonable for a community wood society, a toddler group and an 'evergreens' club for older people but it will not be sufficient for a school. That's my fear with the Tory plans: the idea will be welcomed with acclaim in a local community. Residents will come together and organise meetings and plan and slowly, over several months, the numbers of people involved will dwindle, leaving fewer people to run what will be a huge undertaking. This is normal for voluntary groups and most are quite comfortable with such a consolidation but for a school - a key part of the life of local children and families for years - will this be sufficient or will local authorities be asked increasingly to step in and take over schools set up in haste, having played no part in the planning of local education.

Instead of this bureaucratic and divisive nightmare, what about simply pledging to improve existing schools by investing £2.5bn in the education of the least well off pupils AND giving more control back to existing schools and local communities to manage their own affairs, since they know a lot more than Whitehall what their priorities are. Would you support a party which proposed that straightforward solution to problems in our education system? If you would, please vote Liberal Democrat on May 6th.

On the other hand, if you want yet more experimentation with our education system with inevitably varied results across the country, vote for the Tories.

Sunday, 11 April 2010


It was very encouraging to watch Martin Tod, LD candidate for Winchester, on the BBC's Politics Show today proving himself to be significantly better briefed than his Conservative or Labour opponents when debating with young people. What most impressed me during the discussion was that Martin repeated the simple message that we will reduce taxes for all people on average incomes, including young people, which crucially will give them more control over their own finances rather than having to rely on state handouts.

He also made the excellent point that a fair voting system would be a major assault on the sleaze which has engulfed Parliament since the worst examples of abuse of the expenses system have come from MPs in the safest seats, where they are most confident that they can remain whatever their performance for residents.


Plans for tax breaks for married couples are in the news again as the latest Conservative push for votes. The Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, has decried this proposal as 'Edwardian' and rightly so. As a married man with small children I would - like everyone else in my situation - welcome any tax cut but I can also recognise that we are not living in the world of Dixon of Dock Green with old ladies cycling to church and cricket on the green, as a Tory leader of yore famously put it. The simple truth is that society is - and has always been - a bit more complex than some parties would like to make out.

Where is the tax break for the widower bringing up children on his own? Where is the tax break for the woman who has escaped an abusive relationship to protect herself and her family? Where is the tax break for the cohabiting couple which has decided to adopt? Where is the tax break for the grandparents who have taken on parenting responsibilities to help out their children? Where is the tax break for the two loving parents who want to do the best for their children but whose marriage has ended through nobody's fault?

As ever, Conservative proposals throw up more questions than answers. Policies designed to win votes have not been thought through in terms of our wider society and the next five, ten or twenty years.

Why not simply provide a tax break to every person on an average income who is working? Why not raise the tax threshold - the level of earnings at which we start paying taxes - to £10,000, improving the lives of most people in work and in particular those on lower incomes, some of whom will stop paying taxes altogether, allowing them to invest their own money in their families instead of getting costly and bureaucratic handouts from the state.

If you think that's a good idea, have a look at, because we're the only party promising to make taxes fairer from April 2011 - in other words legislating for such a change this year. And the proposal is fully costed by our Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable so it is affordable now, not at some indeterminate date.

If you want real change, vote for it on May 6th.

Saturday, 10 April 2010


I was amused to hear the other day that, after 60 years of trying, the best idea the Conservatives have for dealing with young people is 'national service'. Now this idea is not necessarily without merit and could be developed but it is hardly new and coming from the Conservatives it does rather smack of desperation - after all, the notion could have come from any Tory leader from about 1930 onwards. Coming from a supposedly progressive leader who supposedly represents change, it seems simply mistaken.

Like Conservative economic plans for uncosted 'efficiencies' to tackle the gaping deficit, their proposal to introduce national service for young people relies on rather too many 'if's, such as if voluntary organisations will be willing to join such a scheme, if there will be appropriate funding for such a scheme and if young people will be persuaded that it is in their interests to participate.

Instead of exhuming 'national service' for an easy headline, what about improving opportunities for all young people through free university education? What about properly funding paid internships with employers? What about ensuring that no young person claims Jobseeker's Allowance for more than three months without a right of access to training, apprenticeships, work experience or specialist advice? What about making the minimum wage - which the Tories opposed - the same for everyone, so that young people can afford to work for a living?

In another example of our Conservative opposition borrowing ideas, I was flattered to be told by a resident in Thame that my photo (see left) in front of the bridge at Henley clearly inspired the Conservative leader, who decided he would copy it for his election campaign launch opposite Parliament. Praise indeed!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010


At last the election has been called and pretty much everyone welcomes the chance to finally deliver a verdict on the tired Labour government. Perhaps the only group nervous about the coming campaign is the Conservative Party, which has slipped badly in recent months and which has found itself on the back foot as the lack of anything to say has been exposed under media scrutiny. David Cameron wants people to vote Tory because they aren't Labour but that's just not enough.

So, in the spirit I intend to hold to during this campaign I want to set out simply why a vote for the Lib Dems is not only the right thing to do but is the only choice if you want real change, not just a change of image promised by David Cameron.

The Lib Dems propose four steps to a fairer Britain:

1. Fair taxes that put money back in your pocket
* The first £10,000 you earn tax-free: a tax cut of £700 for most people
* 3.6 million low earners and pensioners freed from income tax completely
* Paid for in full by closing loopholes that unfairly benefit the wealthy and polluters

2. A fair future creating jobs by making Britain greener
* Break up the banks and get them lending again to protect real businesses
* Honesty about the tough choices needed to cut the deficit
* Green growth and jobs that last by investing in infrastructure

3. A fair chance for every child
* Ensure children get the individual attention they need by cutting class sizes
* Made possible by investing £2.5 billion in schools targeted to help struggling pupils
* Give schools the freedom to make the right choices for their pupils

4. A fair deal by cleaning up politics

* Put trust back into politics by giving you the right to sack corrupt MPs
* Restore and protect hard-won British civil liberties with a Freedom Bill
* Overhaul Westminster completely: fair votes, an elected House of Lords, all politicians to pay full British taxes

There is no question that Labour have run out of steam and that the Conservatives represent 'more of the same'. If you want real change, vote for it.

I hope you will consider voting Liberal Democrat on May 6th and I am proud to represent the Lib Dems in Henley constituency.

Thursday, 1 April 2010


A recent press release sent out in response to a bizarre invitation from local Conservatives to support them. I had difficulty writing this as I was shaking with laughter so much.


South East Oxfordshire Liberal Democrats have ridiculed overtures from local Conservatives to support them. Conservative claims to stand for Liberal Democrat principles are as empty as Tory policy pledges.

Responding for South East Oxfordshire Liberal Democrats, spokesman Andy Crick said: “I am gratified that local Conservatives are worried about the election – they should be. I am confident that Lib Dem voters know better than to trust Tory promises. David Cameron tried this ploy when he became Tory leader in 2005, it fell flat then and it has now.

“Why would Lib Dem supporters support a party which centralised most of our local services in the 1980s and which hobbled Councils with the hated Council Tax in the 1990s – a tax the Conservatives still support but which penalises pensioners and people on lower incomes disproportionately?

“Why would Lib Dem supporters vote for a party which has opposed measures such as the Human Rights Act and which voted enthusiastically for the war in Iraq, a war which has set millions of people around the world against our country, threatening our safety?

“Why would Lib Dem supporters who care about the environment vote for a Tory Party in which 9 out of 10 candidates don't even believe climate change is man made?

“I am confident that Liberal Democrats in Thame, Oxfordshire and across Britain will resoundingly reject the Tories who have failed to convince voters that they have changed at all and instead seem to be relying on 'not being Labour' to try to win the election. As the countdown to polling day continues, the Tories are increasingly exposed. They have nothing to offer people worried about our country, our economy and our environment. If residents want real change for Henley, Thame and South East Oxfordshire, I hope they will give their vote to the Liberal Democrats.”

*The Conservatives abolished metropolitan authorities and the Greater London Council in the 1980s. They reduced powers for local authorities, cut the amount of money Councils raised locally and introduced a range of new QUANGOs to run local services, taking decision-making away from local residents.

*The Conservatives introduced the Council Tax in England and Wales in 1992 (1991 in Scotland) to replace the disastrous Poll Tax. Council Tax was designed by Michael Heseltine as a stop-gap measure until a better system could be introduced. Neither the Conservatives nor Labour have any plans to abolish Council Tax, which takes up a far higher proportion of the incomes of those on lower incomes. Liberal Democrats have called for a fair local tax based on the ability to pay.

*A Populus poll of Conservative MPs and PPCs in February 2010 found that 91% do not believe in man made climate change.


News that science writer Simon Singh has had his appeal against a libel action brought against him is welcome if you support free speech. Mr Singh criticised the claims of some chiropractors about the range of problems their treatments can help and he was subsequently sued for his comments by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA). Today's Appeal Court ruling found that the comments of Mr Singh were 'opinion' rather than 'facts' so the claim of libel was not correct.

I have used a chiropractor in the past and I am very happy with the treatment I received so I would not seek to damn a whole group of health practitioners. The fault here lies with the BCA and the judge, Mr Justice Eady, who ruled on the original claim against Mr Singh.

Today's ruling is quite simply a defence of free speech and the right to question, criticise and condemn. This is a cornerstone of a free society and the original decision was an assault by an over-mighty legal system against such freedoms. The worry with all such libel cases is that individuals and journalists will be increasingly silenced in the face of threatened actions by organisations with deeper pockets. Mr Singh was lucky to be a high profile case who received a lot of support from a number of groups and people in the science community (apologies to any Private Eye readers for this phrase) but others might not be able to call on such support.

The law must defend citizens, otherwise it is not fit for purpose. It has succeeded today in righting a wrong but a question may be asked about how many other cases of free speech being threatened have not been so successfully resolved.


There is a striking piece on the BBC news website in which former US Presidential candidate Howard Dean says he believes that Nick Clegg could win the election on May 6th. Well, that's pretty much why I'm doing what I am doing so it is wonderful to hear such an endorsement from someone with a good political pedigree who is outside of the debate. Dean compliments Clegg as a 'young, dynamic leader' and says he believes that there is such uncertainty that the LDs could come out on top at the election, especially if Clegg is boosted by the televised leaders' debates. For this reason I expect the love-in from David Cameron and Gordon Brown to abruptly come to a halt during these contests as they turn their fire on the candidate with the most to gain and the best policies by far.

This endorsement from Howard Dean echoes the simple, undeniable fact that the LDs got more votes than Labour at last year's Council elections and that 1 in 4 voters support us. If we can increase that number to 1 in 3 we're on the way. Plus, the poll rating for the two old parties has see-sawed for months but ours has been a pretty constant 17-20%.

Things are looking good for us. As Dean says: "I know the Liberals, I know Nick Clegg very well, and he intends to win this and I think they could."


There was a good interview on the Today programme this morning in which Conservative leader David Cameron gave as good as he got on the issue of budget cuts and the National Insurance proposals from the Tories. This was one of those interviews which was well balanced and Sarah Montague is to be congratulated for addressing Mr Cameron's responses rather than simply continuing with pre-prepared and lengthy arguments which some of her colleagues tend to resort to.

Two points struck me about this interview. First, Cameron's quote from last year, read back to him, that 'efficiencies' were not a serious proposal for anyone considering savings was quite simply unanswerable. Mr Cameron did well but he was forced to defend a 180 degree handbrake turn, which is never easy.

The second, damning point was that it was David Cameron defending Tory budget plans, not the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne. Why could this be?