Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas from Southport Liberal Youth

Merry Christmas from all at Southport Liberal Youth.

Wishing you all a wonderful day!

Sarah, Lauren and James

Candidates in the Oldham Byelection

Nominations closed yesterday for the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, due to be held on 13th January.
  • Debbie Abrahams (Labour)
  • Derek Adams (British National Party)
  • Kashif Ali (Conservative)
  • Peter Allen (Green Party)
  • David Bishop (Bus-Pass Elvis Party)
  • The Flying Brick (Monster Raving Loony Party)
  • Loz Kaye (Pirate Party of the United Kingdom)
  • Stephen Morris (English Democrats)
  • Paul Nuttall (UK Independence Party)
  • Elwyn Watkins (Liberal Democrats)
Is anybody else noticing the Labour National Executive Council may have picked their candidate purely on the basis she would top the ballot paper?

To find out how to help the Liberal Democrats win in Oldham please see the post below.

Monday, 20 December 2010

We need to win before Christmas in Oldham

You can help Elwyn Watkins and the local Liberal Democrats to get a better deal for Oldham East & Saddleworth by helping elect another Lib Dem MP in the Oldham byelection. The office is open every day and even a few hours would be appreciated.

To get involved, come along to the HQ any day between 9am and 8pm or contact the campaign HQ by calling 01457 810993 or emailing

The HQ is at Tanner Business Centre, Waterside Mill, Chew Valley Road, Greenfield, OL3 7NH, or find it on the map below.

The nearest train station is Greenfield. There is plenty of parking if you're coming by car.

By car (from the Manchester Ring Road): Leave the M60 at Junction 23 (Ashton). Take the A635 (Wakefield) all the way to the entrance to Tanner Business Centre (just off Holmfirth Road after a mini-roundabout at Clarence Hotel/Pub). You should be able to see a Lib Dem diamond from the roundabout.

By car (from the M62): Leave the M62 at Junction 22 and turn left onto the A672. At the Junctions Inn crossroads, turn left onto the A640 and then immediately right onto the A6052. Carry on over the A62 and follow the A6052 until the roundabout with the A670. Take the second exit onto the A670 towards Uppermill. Branch left onto the A6051 and then turn left onto the A669 (Chew Valley Road). Follow the road to the end to reach a mini-roundabout at Clarence Hotel/Pub. Turn left at the roundabout and Tanner Business Centre is immediately on the right. You should be able to see a Lib Dem diamond from the roundabout.

If you can't make it to the HQ in person, you can still support Elwyn's campaign by making a donation to the Lib Dems using this special link. Thank you.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Social Welfare Reform

Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat Minster of State for Health announced last month that the Government will be changing the way social care is to be distributed.

In his radical plans, a much needed change for the better, there will be a stronger focus on a local level of provision-including early support and prevention and this will work towards the long term aim of allowing people to maintain their independence.

It has been revealed by the BBC in recent days that 1/8 young people are carers, often looking after relatives and parents, and these changes to the system will help them in a way the current system failed.

The new plans have been focused on three issues: personalisation, protection and productivity.

On personalisation, the Liberal Democrats (party policy since 2004) believe that services someone requires should be tailored to their needs, and that they and/or their carers shall be the be the best judge of what their requirements shall be. Therefore, we are introducing a wider roll-out of personal budgets. Currently, about 13% of those in need receive them, however by 2013 we hope that up to a million people who need them will have them. The Department of Health have liaised with local authorities who believe this is possible and in the next year up to £800million will be directed into social care, reablement and prevention.

On the issue of protection, by allowing people to manage their own budget the Department of Health is taking on greater risks, however, sensible safeguards will be put in place to reduce the scope for abuse of the system.

The Government also made a commitment to spend £400,000,000 on provide respite care for carers through direct payments (as in our manifesto), which will provide much needed breaks for the unsung heroes in our society.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Southport Liberal Youth disappointed by rise in fees

Liberal Youth are deeply disappointed at the result of today’s vote on raising the tuition fee cap.

Commenting, North West Chair of Liberal Youth, Sarah Harding said:

Liberal Youth and Liberal Democrat policy remains the abolition of fees. I am saddened that we have been unable to implement this, such is the nature of coalition politics. We must now see the white paper as soon as possible to help influence the new system under which loans shall be paid back.”

Despite this disappointment, Liberal Youth recognise the influence of Liberal Democrats in improving the proposals, and will continue to campaign on this front.

Liberal Youth in final lobby against Tuition Fee rise

Liberal Youth, the youth and student wing of the Liberal Democrats, will today lobby Lib Dem MPs in a final effort to vote down the proposed rise in Tuition Fees.

Explaining the organisations actions, Liberal Youth Policy Officer and Southport Branch Chair Sarah Harding said:

Over recent months Liberal Youth have nationally and locally been working with our Liberal Democrats Parliamentarians to encourage them to vote against increasing the cap on fees.

While Labour have been caught up in rank hypocrisy on this issue, the Liberal Democrats in government have put forward proposals that are better than Labour’s discredited policy. However, Liberal Youth simply do not think it is right that any government asks young people to start their working life in huge personal debt, even under an improved pay back system.

Southport Liberal Youth are delighted that John Pugh MP has already pledged to vote against the proposals, and urge others to follow his lead."

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Opinion: Browne, thanks but no thanks

Labour failed a generation of young people and students in this country. They left them with debt, with unemployment, and with a deficit worth £25,000 to each person. But in their final months they did do something to help.

Commissioning the Browne Review in Higher Education Funding reopened the debate on education in this country; it allowed those interested to have their say, and more importantly be listened to. It gave the Coalition Government the chance to reform the education system.

For Liberal Youth, our primary aim is to represent our membership, to do our best for them, and as such we set up a Post-16 Education Working Group, a committee consulting on everything from FE and HE, to adequate apprentice support. The Working Group’s primary evaluations concluded the vast majority of participants support the goal of universal free education paid for by general taxation. Not free at the point of access and pay later. Simply free.

Objectively speaking, the Browne Review has good intentions; increasing student choice, greater investment and widening access to disadvantaged groups, are all honourable aims. The problem is we disagree with how to achieve them.

Expanding the availability of grants and bursary’s, increasing the minimum income threshold and finding a long term funding solution must happen. Nevertheless, if Lord Browne’s recommendations are accepted, we will fail those who need our help the most; increasing tuition fees and interest on loans are regressive steps, the physical and mental consequences of debt are ignored and some people who deserve to go to university will be priced out of the market. Our aim must be universal free education at all levels.

The worst news we’ve heard this morning is perhaps not the content of the Browne Review, after all, it does not have to be accepted, it is that the proposals are to be rushed through. When all organisations were promised six months to consult their memberships, hearing that it is to be fast-tracked is the worst crime. For people who received a free education to restrict our access to one without talking to us is fairly disingenuous.

The Browne Review is devastating to the long-term goal of education based on ability, rather than the ability to pay. The Student Finance Plan, whilst being a thorough and pragmatic solution to university funding during difficult economic times, does not meet the needs of those who will use it. Its aims are laudable, but it is not the solution.

Parliamentarians work for the people, not for themselves. To all parties; I ask on behalf of Liberal Youth, to work for the students of this country, to find a Plan B, and a step towards our aim. Fight for free education, and honour the pledge to vote NO to increased tuition fees in any guise.

Education is worth more than any price tag.

And Lord Browne? Thanks, but no thanks.

Sarah Harding

Policy Officer, Liberal Youth

Chair, Southport Liberal Youth

Article reproduced from the Times online newspaper

Sunday, 3 October 2010

This is what REAL progressive politics looks like...

I, along with Sarah H and a delegation from the Southport Liberal Democrats, attended a mega training day put on by Chris Davies our regional MEP. It was a great day, with lots of training events to keep us all up to dat ewith the latest campaigning techniques and messages.

The highlight for me was listening to Andrew Stunell, MP for Hazel Grove and our Minister in Government for Communities and Local Government. He was also one of our four MP's who negotiated with the Conservatives to give us our Coalition Government agreement.

The word 'revolutionary' is often overused in politics, but I think it can truly be applied to the localism agenda that will form a key feature of this Parliament.

Localism is all about decentralising and detaching the strangling tendrils of central Government. Its about realising that different areas have individual needs and priorities and that Whitehall diktats dont work. One example of this was the Regional Spatial Strategies, housebuilding targets imposed from the centre on to communities. These gave no leeway to local opinion. RSS has now been abolished by the new government.

This is relevant to all of us. It will mean that town, parish and local Councils will all be able to have a say about local budgets and local services.

We need look no further locally than the stalemate over the Childrens Walk in Centre for Southport. Its clearly a service that local people want and need, yet nothing is happening.

There is nothing that will invoke electoral apathy more than this sort of situation. You can understand why people are turned off voting if they think that they have no real say or any real possibility of having one. This is even further entrenched if people also feel disillusioned with their ability to enact any change through their votes. Its not hard to see how people then think, ' well whats the point voting, I cant change anything can I?' Or, 'well, i really like that candidate and that party, but they cant win here, so my vote will just be a wasted one.'

A new and progressive politics has to challenge and eradicate the 'whats the point,' and 'why bother' attitudes that the Labour Government certainly didn't tackle. Localism and political reform in the shape of fairer votes, will truly radicalise the political system as we know it.

Next May's referendum on a fairer voting system will be a great opportunity, not just for the Liberal Democrats, but for all those that don't feel they have a voice.

Its time to shout loudly!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

BOTY Awards

As was saying yesterday, Lib Dems like a lot of things, and another of our favourite things (very Sound of Music-eque) is blogging.

So every year around this time, as Conference fever hits, are the Lib Dem Blog of the Year awards. This years shortlists have just been announced and are as follows:

Best new Liberal Democrat blog (started since 1st September 2009)

Jeremy Rowe
Libdem Child by Maelo Manning
Nick Thornsby’s Blog
Spiderplant Land by Lisa Harding
Virtually Naked by Charlotte Henry

Best blog from a Liberal Democrat holding public office (The Tim Garden Award)

A Lanson Boy by Alex Folkes
Anders Hanson
Birkdale Focus
Liberal Bureaucracy by Mark Valladares
Lynne Featherstone MP

Best use of blogging/social networking/e-campaigning by a Liberal Democrat

Bridget Fox for her challenge to the Digital Economy Bill
Daisy Benson for Daisy’s Campaign Diary
Nick Barlow (with Justin McKeating) for the hashtag: #nickcleggsfault
Simon McGrath for the Facebook group Vote Clegg, Get Clegg
Tamora Langley for her online campaigns as 2010 Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham Deptford

Best posting on a Liberal Democrat blog (since 1st September 2009)
An Open Letter To The Labour Party by Andrew Hickey
Considering the Evidence Means You Must Consider Your Position by Alex Wilcock
Day 3401: Memo to the Labour Party – We Hate You Too by Millennium Elephant
Keeping my child safe – an over-anxious mum writes by Caron Lindsay
Ten reasons why, if you’re considering voting Labour, you should think again by Liz Williams

Best non-Liberal Democrat politics blog

And Another Thing by Tom Harris MP
Left Foot Forward
Mid-Wife Crisis by Molly Bennett
Penny Red by Laurie Penny
The Charlotte Gore Blog

Liberal Democrat Blog of the Year 2010

Caron’s Musings by Caron Lindsay
Lynne Featherstone MP
Mark Reckons by Mark Thompson
The Very Fluffy Diary of Millennium Dome, Elephant
Politicomaniac by Joe Jordan

So who are we supporting??

Personally, I feel there are many, many worthy candidates for the coveted titles, but I would LOVE to see Birkdale Focus Blog come out of on top of the pile for the bes blog belonging to a Lib Dem hldig office.

The blog is mainly written by Sefton Councillor Iain Brodie Browne of Birkdale Ward, and contains comments about possibly one of the widest ranges of material i've ever seen. The blog is highly intelligent and is generally good for a laugh. My best advice? Check it out. There's a link above or to the left of your screen.

Also a mention to Charlotte Henry's Virtually Naked blog, great content, witty articles and a slight obsession with Spurs.

Regardless of the winner, the whole thing is #nickcleggfault

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Committees, Raffles and Beer

There are perhaps two or three things a Liberal Democrat likes beyond all others; committees (note the plural), raffles (again the plural) and beer. And whilst I'm not for one moment condoning excessive alcohol intake, I maybe should have said beers.

I, and another LY rep have just returned from a good committee.

Occasionally there are times when you have to say "screw the rulebook, we're going to do what is right", and tonight was one of those nights. The local party executive had to make a decision, not a giant one like 40% cuts or where we stand on academies, but, on whether we could dole out punishment for a problem we only noticed after all was done and dusted and lived happily ever after.

No-one shall be enslaved by ignorance, I like that (paraphrased) line in our constitution. It means we don't hurt others for what they've blindly done to us, and we help them out rather than punish them when they do. An eye for an eye makes us all blind.

So we decided not to punish the gentleman involved, but to help him out- give him a second chance- and pray he's free for delivering the newspaper sometime next week. As a local party we've learnt some vital lessons, but as people, i think we did what was right. After tonight's meeting, I'm proud my local party and of my Lib Dem membership card.

I know I've revealed no details of what happened, and you may be thinking what was the point of this post, but it's simple.

Tonight, I like the Liberal Democrats. Because say what you want about us, we've got a heart.

And with that, I'm off to get another beer.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Greener and Cleaner Futures

Southport Liberal Youth members, Sarah Harding and Lauren Keith had a great time at today's' Green Fayre.

Stalls included the RSPB, the Fair Trade Shop, and local traders and visitors were able to experience free massages and a bee-keeping demonstration amongst other events.

Supporting local renewable energy firm, Alter-Native Energy, we had a fantastic time and it was a innovative way of getting people young and old excited about our energy future and how we can help our environment.

A big thank you to organisers Transition Town who put a huge amount of effort into today's very successful event.

Green Fayre

Concerned about the environment and the future of our planet or just want to enjoy a fun day out ?

Hesketh Park is tomorrow holding a Green Fayre. Alternative energy, eco and Fairtrade information and goods, free municipal compost, bee-keeping display [my favourite-Ed.], DJ, street dance, free massages, health and well-being marquee, and other attractions.

This free event (11am-4pm) is organised by Southport's branch of the national Transition Town environmental movement, which works towards creating a responsible, sustainable future for our area.

It's time to be Greener and Cleaner.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Campaign for Real Ale

*Strictly for over 18's*

For 3 nights only, the 11th Sandgrounder Beer Festival is in action at the Scarisbrick Hotel.

Southport and District CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) have organised this wonderful event which includes over 50 different beers, fruit wines and ciders, and at only £3 entrance (or free for CAMRA members) it's an event not to be missed.

CAMRA campaigns for real ale, real pubs and consumer rights. Their overall aims include protecting and improving consumer rights, seeking improvements in all licensed premises and promoting quality, choice and value for money.

This great event is open noon-11pm Friday and Saturday, and my best advice is go along, support local and independent breweries and most of all, have fun!

For a list of the available beers please see here.

A Potential Year Ahead

Southport Liberal Youth is venturing into exciting waters... Let me explain why.

Next year’s local elections are currently still undergoing their final candidate selection process. However, it is now looking very likely that we will see four Liberal Youth members running for Council on May 5th 2011. Cambridge Ward in Southport, Blundellsands and Manor Wards in Crosby and Litherland Ward will all be represented by ‘youthful’ members.

This, I feel, is an opportunity to direct our action and campaign in the coming months. This is made more poignant when considering that 2 out of those 4 Wards are not classed as ‘target’ Wards by the local Party, although I appreciate that this point is perhaps a little self serving (as the candidate for Blundellsands). However, additionally to this there is the scope to expand any campaign to host the inclusion of forwarding the voice for AV reform.

It is therefore imperative that we perhaps begin to start thinking how, as a branch, we can structure forthcoming campaigns, raise funds for unsupported Wards, increase our man power in terms of membership, get out the AV message and other such ideas.

It would be great to have all input – especially for those who may have stumbled upon this accidently and not necessarily from the Southport area – because this forthcoming year certainly has potential.

James Ludley

Liberal Democrat candidate for Blundellsands Ward, 2011.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

An award is for the past; here's to the future.

Eagle eyed readers may have noticed the shiny new button on the left of your screen.

Unbeknownst to us here in Southport Lib Dem towers several Southport Lib Dem blogs had been nominated in the Total Politics poll of Lib Dem blogs and a grand total of 4 made it into the top 75!!!

Southport Liberal Youth made it to 60th in the poll!

The Meols Ward Councillors came 63rd and our Kew ward activists a very respectable 40th.

A special mention must be given to the truly excellent Birkdale Focus Blog, written primarily by Birkdale Ward Councillor Iain Brodie Browne who climbed from a fantastic 39th in 2009 to an incredible 23rd!!

Other noticeable results were Liberal Youth Scotland who came 54th in Lib Dem blogs and 34th in Scottish blogs! And Liberal Youth executive members Matt Smith (Welsh convenor and Liberal Youth Wales Chair) who came 37th in the Lib Dem blog poll, the highest placed young blogger and Vice-Chair Communication Charlotte Henry whose Virtually Naked blog came 46th.

Congratulations to everyone!

This post was edited at 22:10 9/9/10 to correct a spelling mistake.

The door is open

Liberal Youth Scotland today launched their campaigns for 2010/2011 focusing on, among other things overturning the blood ban for men who have had sex with men, voting YES in May’s AV referendum and equality in all walks of life.

Soon, Fresher’s Fayres will be in full swing, canvassing and campaigning will begin again and conference season will be upon us. An action-packed autumn of Lib Dem-ness.

If you live in the Sefton, West Lancashire or South Ribble areas please get in touch with Southport Liberal Youth, and if you live elsewhere they’ll be a local branch you can join.

Liberal Youth can give you a lot of great opportunities- campaigning for fairer votes, an end to asylum seekers being left destitute and some great friends along the way.

Southport Liberal Youth, and Liberal Youth are here for you.

Get in touch, we’d love to meet you!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Speak out. Speak loud.

In doesn't matter who you are or where you're from or what you believe in or what you do. Freedom of speech is a civil liberty.

Liberal Youth are standing up for our civil liberties.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Opinion: Getting rid of ContactPoint – a great day for liberalism

I would imagine Liberals throughout the country breathed a collective sigh of relief this past week when they opened their newspapers or turned on their computers to find the intrusive ContactPoint database was to be switched off at noon on 6th August.

28th February 2010 was the beginning of the end for ContactPoint.

On this day, an emergency motion submitted to Liberal Youth Spring Conference found its way through the ballot and ended up for debate on the final day of our conference. During the debate, we acknowledged the good points of ContactPoint and, whilst we understood its flaws and noted that the intention had been honourable, the fate of ContactPoint – at least in the eyes of Liberal Youth – was clear. We wanted it gone, and we wanted it gone now.

We could not believe that the system had been approved in the first place, that the safeguards put in place were not nearly strong enough for a databank designed to house the details of 11 million children and those responsible for them, and that 330,000 unchecked people would have access. It wasn’t reasonable, it wasn’t an answer to the Victoria Climbie case, it was simply a Labour overreaction that would further infringe our civil liberties.

At a time when the federal party did not have a policy on this dangerous database, the emergency motion passed through our spring conference almost unanimously. Soon after, it became Liberal Democrat policy and appeared in the party’s General Election manifesto. Then, to our surprise and delight, scrapping it became Government policy. Now, after a long hard fight – from the party, civil liberties campaigners and the public – we have the result we were always after.

It’s time to say goodbye to ContactPoint and give a warm welcome to the return of our civil liberties.

Liberal Youth have been the leading voice against this system. If it hadn’t been switched off, we would have kept fighting, because we recognised just how dangerous this database was to us and to young people across the country.

Liberal Youth have been referred to, both internally and externally, as the ‘conscience of the Liberal Democrats’ and, whether true or false, Liberal Youth will keep fighting for our civil liberties – at conference, during Freshers’ Week, and as we approach the Freedom Bill in autumn. Expect nothing less from Liberal Youth than our full support for the abolition of intrusive databanks – from ONSET to the Common Assessment Framework to the proposed Communications Database. We believe firmly that our data was never meant to be used against us, and intend to speak out and speak loud on the issues that matter to us.

Getting rid of ContactPoint is a great Liberal Democrat success – our children are safer, our data is protected – we have taken a large step in the right direction. But, now we’ve taken one, let’s, as a party, start running. We can fight for Identification, Referral and Tracking (IRT) systems to be abolished, for Control Orders to be terminated, and for steadfast opposition to extradition to countries where a fair trial cannot be guaranteed or that have not abolished Capital Punishment.

Mark it in your diaries: 6th August, 12 noon. A great day for liberalism, and the day we started getting our civil liberties back.

* Sarah Harding is a General Executive Member and Policy Officer for Liberal Youth. She also blogs at

Monday, 2 August 2010

Money, Money, Money

There is something about summer that always makes me want to take up a hobby. This usually involves taking up a sport, or attempting to learn a language. (Although this never usually gets beyond the 'hello,' 'goodbye','my name is' and 'can I have a coffee' stage..)

This summer I am determined to learn more about how the economy works and attempt to find out what those polished looking men and women in Canary Wharf really get up to.

The recession has suddenly made the world of high finance a bit sexy. I'm sure in a couple of years we will have Hollywood blockbusters detailing the collapse of Lehman Brothers, or BBC dramas about Adam Applegarth's exploits and Northern Rock's collapse.

Yet its worrying that its taken the recession to ignite interest into what is Britain's biggest industry. While we may not all know the technicalities behind putting a car together or mining for coal, we can certainly understand how these primary industries work and how money and profit can be made.

As the crash highlighted, even top politicians and financial institutions couldn't fully comprehend how the complex markets operate.

Its hardly surprising. Since light touch regulation in the 1980's was introduced the industry is constantly being flooded by new products and practices. During the property boom, mortgages allowed to be given to people who could not afford them were being sliced and diced into lots of different packages and sold on, the result of which we all saw. The trouble is money floating round in the ether is just that; the more removed the knowledge about where it came from and its security then the higher the risk of things going wrong.

I read an excellent blog post today by Robert Peston in relation to the new rules being drawn up by the EU to improve banking supervision. He makes the point that the jargon used by the Basel Committee who are writing these rules cannot be understood by anybody outside the committee that wrote it; yet the potential repercussions for getting it wrong could impact us all.

Its very difficult to have a political argument about something like the future of banks and how they should be taxed and regulated without having some sort of knowledge about what exactly is going on.

So, Im off to learn about Credit Default Swaps and the Libor rate. I may be some time....

RECOMMENDATION: Philip Coggan 'The money machine: How the City works'