I have a lifelong affinity with Clacton. It was the nearest seaside resort to my hometown of Sudbury, but more relevantly I was parliamentary candidate for the Harwich division, as it was then called, which included Clacton, in the General Election of 1970 (albeit for Labour – I saw the light three years later!)
On the face of it one should want to forget all about the Clacton results as quickly as possible. But there are some bright spots, and some insights which may be worth sharing.For a start, our candidate, Andy Graham, was admirable. He knew he was on to a hiding to nothing, but he persisted with a positive story about the party and the coalition. What is more, although the time and place were basically hostile to Lib Dems, it was often skin deep and susceptible to fact and reason.
Any interested fellow citizen who was told how the latest recruit to their Parliament was chosen would be first baffled, then outraged. Is it any wonder that there are more electors who favour the complete abolition of the House of Lords than support retention of the existing arrangements?
The provisions for the replacement of one of our hereditary Peers, when deceased, are confusing, complicated and downright contradictory.
The latest election result, announced by the Lord Speaker on Wednesday afternoon, may seem to be relatively simple: our new Liberal Democrat colleague will be Raymond Asquith, otherwise known as the Earl of Oxford and Asquith and descendant of the distinguished Liberal Prime Minister. He was chosen in an AV election, but gained 50%+ on the first count, so no reallocation of the votes of lower scoring candidates was required.
There are, however, two absurdities: First, by one of the many “charming quirks” of the composition of the Lords, the replacement for Robert attracted 13 Hereditary Peer candidates advertising themselves as Conservatives and Crossbenchers, in addition to the two Liberal Democrats. Under a special provision of the cross-party carve-up of 1998/9, they were permitted to stand – and all Members of the House were entitled to vote – because Robert Methuen had been a Deputy Chairman. And yet it was said to be a solid convention that the winner had to be from and for the political group of the Peer to be replaced. Other groups had to exercise a self-denying ordinance in preferring our candidates!
Second absurdity: no complaints at all from the arch opponents of the Alternative Vote system during the 2011 referendum that we have the benefit of it here in the House for internal elections. For them it’s a case of “accept what we say” not “do as we do”.
You can read more about this typical Lords farce on LordsoftheBloghereandhere.
The Earl of Oxford & Asquith is the newest Lib Dem hereditary peer to join the House of Lords following yesterday’s by-election.
The Earl of Oxford has stated that his focus will be foreign and defence policy, foreign trade and commercial affairs as well as farming and environmental issues.
The by-election, to fill the hereditary seat of the late Lib Dem Lord Methuen, saw 15 candidates from across the main parties, standing for a single seat.
Unwritten rules (the ‘Carter Convention’) mean that Lib Dem, Tory, Labour and Cross-Bench peers were all expected to follow convention and vote for a Liberal Democrat candidate.
The result was announced at the end of Lords questions today.
Jim Wallace, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, says:
“The system is far from perfect, but on this occasion it has meant the welcome addition to our ranks of the Earl of Oxford & Asquith, whose knowledge and expertise will be of great benefit to our group and to the House as a whole.”
Three organisations in Wales will benefit from a share of £5 million of funding from the UK Government and industry to develop innovations to solve some of the world’s greatest agricultural challenges such as food security and sustainability, weed control and livestock disease.
Of the thirteen awards being made across the UK, three are being awarded to projects with Welsh organisations at the helm. These are:
Exploring pearl millet variation to produce improved bread products for diabetics (lead by Aberystwyth University)
Decreasing food waste through the control of fruit flies in Asia and Africa (lead by Russell IPM Ltd. UK, Flintshire
Developing rice resistant to two major diseases to help food security in Asia (Bangor University)
This is the second round of funding to be distributed through the £70 million Agri-Tech Catalyst, announced as part of the UK Industrial Strategy for Agricultural Technologies in July 2013. The Agri-Tech Catalyst is designed to support collaborative research between scientists and businesses to springboard projects from the lab to the market place.
The funding has been welcomed by Lib Dem Wales Office minister Baroness Randerson:
Wales has a proud farming tradition and it is wonderful to see that we remain at the forefront of agricultural development. These three Welsh projects benefiting from this UK Government funding are exciting ones which will result in very real benefits for people across the world and, by selling these products worldwide, we can maintain Wales’ position at the heart of global innovation.
This is all part of our plan to build a stronger economy and a fairer society in Wales.
We are very proud to be supporting such worthwhile and innovative ventures.
Lib Dems in the House of Lords have welcomed today’s Government amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill that criminalises the sharing of revenge porn.
The revision, which makes it an offense to publish a private sexual image of another identifiable person without their consent, was tabled by Lord Faulks, Minister of State for Civil Justice and Legal Policy.
The amendment was tabled following a meeting between Lord Faulks and Lib Dem Peers Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, Baroness Grender, Baroness Brinton & Baroness Barker.
The proposal follows a hard fought campaign by the Lib Dems including Julian Huppert MP, who previously highlighted the issue in the commons and campaigned for a change in the law.
The amendment is expected to be debated on 22 October 2014, during the report stage of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill.
Revenge Porn Campaigner Hannah Thompson said: “I am so pleased that after campaigning for so long the Government is now listening.
“I was turned away by the police. I would not want anyone else to go through what I did, I hope that now victims can feel that they can be, as they should always have been, protected by the police.“
Julian Huppert MP said: “I am glad to see the Government has accepted the case we Lib Dems made and have brought forward an amendment to ban revenge porn. It is a great success for all of us and will help to protect victims of this heinous crime.
“I hope that peers will ensure this much-needed change in the law happens.”
Baroness Grender said: “We have made great progress on this issue and I am pleased to see that the Government is now doing the right thing. It is now vital that we work in Parliament to make these changes law.”
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO),has reduced the number paralysed by polio from 350,000 in 1988 to 405 in 2013, and the number of countries where the disease is endemic has been cut from 125 to just 3 –Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. But progress has come to a grinding halt, with Pakistan reporting 174 new cases so far this year out of 193 worldwide.
The WHO says there is a high risk that this highly infectious disease will spread to other parts of the world, paralysing many of its victims.
Three quarters of all cases are reported from two lawless areas of Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwa (KP) and the misleadingly named Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In these provinces terrorists call the shots, intimidating and murdering those who don’t agree with their fundamentalist brand of Islam.
The terrorists and their clerical allies decreed in 2012 that vaccination was a western plot to sterilise Muslim children, and a cover for spies following the use by the CIA of a fake vaccination project to track down Osama bin Laden. A local warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur was ‘persuaded’ to ban vaccination in the tribal region of Waziristan in June 2012, and this was endorsed by the chiefs in other tribal areas and in KP.