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May 21, 2008

Parties make final bids for Crewe and Nantwich voters

Parties make final bids for Crewe and Nantwich voters

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The late Gwyneth Dunwoody (above) had held the seat of Crewe and Nantwich since 1983 with a majority of 7,078 at the 2005 General Election.

UK political parties are making their final bids for votes in the Crewe and Nantwich constituency, where a by-election, due to the death of Gwyneth Dunwoody MP, is to be held tomorrow.

A YouGov poll has suggested that the main opposition party, the Conservatives, are ahead at 45%, the incumbent Labour Party 18.8% behind on 26.2%. Polls from the newspaper The Independent and Populus and ICM have also put the Conservatives ahead. However the bookmakers Ladbrokes have deemed the Conservatives “unbackable”, with odds of just 16/1.

Crewe and Nantwich by-election
Party Candidate
Monster Raving Loony The Flying Brick
Labour Tamsin Dumwoody
Independent Gemma Garrett
UK Independence Mike Nattrass
English Democrats David Roberts
Liberal Democrat Elizabeth Shenton
Green Robert Smith
Cut Tax on Diesel and Petrol Paul Thorogood
Conservative Edward Timpson
Independent Mark Walklate

The Labour campaign in Crewe and Nantwich has branded the Conservative candidate Edward Timpson, a barrister from the wealthy Timpson family, a “toff”, calling their candidate, the late MP’s daughter Tamsin Dunwoody, “one of us”. Conservative leader David Cameron called the Labour campaign “class warfare” which is “backward looking”, “out of date” and “divisive”. The Labour Party has received endorsements from soap opera Coronation Street‘s Elizabeth Dawn (who plays the character Vera Duckworth) and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

The Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem) party have sent party leader Nick Clegg, party president Simon Hughes and deputy leader and the party’s shadow chancellor Vince Cable up to Crewe and Nantwich to campaign alongside their candidate Elizabeth Shenton. Mr. Cable told BBC’s Newsnight that “what’s very clear is there is a lot of support draining away from the Labour Party – an enormous amount.” Nick Clegg claims that the by-election is a two-horse race between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.

The UK Independence Party’s candidate Mike Nattrass has been touring Crewe and Nantwich in a converted London Routemaster campaign bus and handing out leaflets. He said “UKIP has never stood in Crewe and Nantwich before because Gwyneth Dunwoody was Eurosceptic and we agreed with her.” Party leader Nigel Farage has also attended a meeting in the constituency.

Polling stations will open from 07:00 BST (06:00 UTC) until 22:00 BST (21:00 UTC) on Thursday. The result is expected by Friday afternoon.



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October 15, 2007

United Kingdom\’s Liberal Democrat leader resigns

United Kingdom’s Liberal Democrat leader resigns

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Menzies Campbell during a visit to Brent, England in September 2006.
Image: Martin Tod.

Menzies Campbell, leader of the United Kingdom’s Liberal Democrat political party, has resigned.

Simon Hughes, the President of the Liberal Democrats, and deputy leader Vincent Cable announced the resignation outside the Liberal Democrats headquarters in London, saying that he had made the decision “in the interests of the party”.

Vincent Cable will become acting leader while a leadership election takes place. Home Affairs spokesman Nick Clegg and environment spokesman Chris Huhne are considered to be possible candidates.

Campbell, 66, was elected leader in January 2006 after Charles Kennedy stood down. Since then he has faced criticism over his leadership and poor poll results.

In his resignation letter, he wrote: “It has become clear that following the prime minister’s decision not to hold an election, questions about leadership are getting in the way of further progress by the party. Accordingly, I now submit my resignation as leader with immediate effect.”



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July 16, 2006

Labour peer tells Blair to step down as Prime Minister

Labour peer tells Blair to step down as Prime Minister

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

The current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is Tony Blair. He leads the Labour Party and has been in office since 1997.

Lord Hattersley, the former deputy leader of the Labour party, has said Tony Blair should stand down as British Prime Minister in September.

He said the party would be damaged if Mr Blair remained in Downing Street after this year’s Labour conference, which will be held in Manchester in two months’ time.

“The Prime Minister ought not to announce he’s going at party conference – he ought to go at party conference,” he told GMTV’s Sunday Programme. “The longer he stays on, the more damaging it is for him as well as the party in my view.”

The Labour peer said Mr Blair should highlight the successes his party has achieved since gaining power in 1997. “Then he should say the time has come to pass the torch on to somebody else and thank the party for what they’ve done. … If we did that I think he’d go out on a high note in the party. I think that’ll ripple out through the country.”

Lord Hattersley, who was the former MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook, added that Scottish chancellor Gordon Brown was the best heir to Mr Blair. “I think Gordon Brown increasingly becomes the ideal next leader of the Labour party,” he said.

“I think what the Labour party needs to win the next election is a solemn, serious, if you like, son of the manse.”

“Somebody with visibly and almost ostentatiously contemptuous of spin who wants simply to say it as it is,” he added.

But Mr Blair, who is currently in St Petersburg for the G8 summit, said he would be Prime Minister when the gathering is held again next summer.

“I’ve made it clear all the way through that I’ll carry on doing the job,” he told BBC One’s The Politics Show today.

Liberal Democrat party president Simon Hughes said: “Roy Hattersley’s call for the prime minister to go this year just piles on the pressure.

“Every month that passes looks more and more like the end of the Blair era. The chosen date for going is, of course, a personal decision and principally a Labour party concern.

“But good government for Britain and our reputation abroad requires a prime minister with a future not a past, and a prime minister who commands authority in his party as well as the support of the British people.”

Cash-for-honours

Lord Hattersley also said in the interview that recent cash-for-honours claims were “deeply damaging” to Labour.

The party’s chief fundraiser and Middle East envoy, Lord Levy, was this week arrested and bailed by the Metropolitan Police over allegations he was nominated for a peerage after lending money to the party before the last election.

But Tony Blair has said there is nothing wrong with peerages being given to party backers.

“Nobody in the Labour party to my knowledge has sold honours or sold peerages,” Mr Blair told The Politics Show.

“The fact that is sometimes excluded from the public’s mind in relation to this debate is that there are places in the House of Lords that are reserved for party nominees for their party supporters.”

Police are also investigating the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats to see if they have given peerages in return for money.

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April 17, 2006

British National Party to tempt voters in May local elections

British National Party to tempt voters in May local elections

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Monday, April 17, 2006

In the run up to the UK’s May local elections, attention has again been drawn to the British National Party (BNP). Party spokesman and councillor candidate for the Fulham Broadway area of London Steven Tyler stated “Now we are a party with sensible policies which have made us much more electable than in the past,”

The BNP local election manifesto of April 14 outlined the party’s commitment to environmental and tax reforms, with a focus on a zero-tolerance campaign against anti-social behaviour and the removal of what the BNP sees as preferential treatment of asylum seekers.

The party has said it will field a total of 365 candidates for local authority seats in the May 4 elections. Currently the BNP has 15 councillors across England and stated at its campaign launch that it intends to add “another 15 or 20” seats.

Research undertaken on behalf of The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust has indicated that up to 25% of people have said that “they might” vote for the BNP. MPs from mainstream parties have admitted that they need to face the challenge presented by the BNP in the May 4 election.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat members have suggested that disillusionment with the government is to blame for the current findings of the report.

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith told BBC radio 4’s Today program that the BNPs message was gaining headway in disadvantaged areas and identified that “What we have picked up in these very difficult communities is the collapse in the quality of life for so many people”. Duncan Smith went on to say, “The whole sense of the quality of life in these communities has become a rich feeding ground for people who want to stigmatise others as being the cause of this.”

“If voters are unhappy with conventional parties, one of the key reasons is because successive Tory and Labour governments have failed to provide enough affordable housing where families wish to live,” commented Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes. He added that voters should not be taken in by the “simplistic promises” of the BNP.


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February 27, 2006

POWER inquiry calls for radical power shift in British democracy

POWER inquiry calls for radical power shift in British democracy

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Monday, February 27, 2006

The Right Honourable Helena Ann Kennedy, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws QC, chair of The POWER inquiry

The POWER Inquiry, set up in 2004 to examine participation and involvement in British politics, today published “Power to the People”, its final report, making 30 key recommendations designed to “save British democracy from meltdown”.

The recommendations include decentralising power, from central government to local government, replacing the first-past-the-post electoral system with a more responsive one, reducing the voting age to 16, and giving citizens the right to initiate legislative processes.

The Independent newspaper covered the story with a front page splash titled “Blueprint to give power to the people”. The paper has been “campaigning for democracy” ever since the 2005 general elections, in which the Labour Party won 55.2% of the seats with just 35.3% of the votes. The newspaper ran a petition urging the Prime Minister to institute urgent reform of the voting system.

The final report credited the use of proportional voting elsewhere in Europe with both a reversal of declines in voter turnout and the formation of flexible, responsive coalitions,

“[I]t is significant that most European countries have proportional systems which should provide a wider choice of parties from a more diverse political spectrum who all stand a good chance of winning places in Parliament or even in a governing coalition. This therefore raises the question of whether this factor can be treated as a genuinely significant cause. We feel it still can. Firstly, because it is such a commonly cited factor in all the expert and public evidence received by the Inquiry. And, secondly, because there is recent research to suggest that proportional systems have, on the whole, limited if not halted election turnout declines in comparison to Britain.”

The POWER inquiry is funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Limited, and the inquiry is holding a conference on Saturday, March 25, 2006 to discuss their findings, before formally ending.

Chair of the inquiry, Helena Kennedy challenged politicians to “rise above their party ranks and start treating democratic reform as a non-partisan necessity – not a political toy”.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said that the report dealt with many issues, which were all matters to be debated within parties and between parties, adding that the report had added to the debate.

Oliver Heald, Shadow Constitutional Affairs secretary for the Conservative Party, welcomed the call to give more power to MPs, but opposed the plan to drop the voting age to 16. The Liberal Democrats acting president Simon Hughes welcomed the report, saying “British Democracy is in crisis whatever the Government pretends – most voters are ignored and most people feel they have no influence”.



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January 14, 2006

Liberal Democrat leadership contenders address party members

Liberal Democrat leadership contenders address party members

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

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Four declared contenders in the Liberal Democrats leadership contest today addressed party members at the London School of Economics. The contest was initiated after Charles Kennedy admitted in a press conference that he had previously sought professional help for an alcohol problem. Initially, Mr Kennedy had stated that he intended to run for re-election in a leadership contest. However, after 25 MPs said they would refuse to serve on the front bench under Charles Kennedy, he resigned immediately and said he would play no part in the leadership contest.

At the meeting today, which had been organised before Kennedy’s resignation, the four candidates – Sir Menzies Campbell, Mark Oaten, Simon Hughes and Chris Huhne – were permitted to make 12 minute speeches outlining their vision for the party. The speeches were broadcast live and unedited on BBC News 24, with clips from them appearing in news bulletins later that evening.

The current acting party leader, Menzies Cambell, the first to declare his intention to stand, said that he wanted new thinking to tackle poverty and social injustice, new thinking to underpin a modern constitution, and a radical democratic revolution. He suggested that international cooperation was the way to make poverty history, and spoke against the decision to invade Iraq. He stressed his “experience” as being a key quality needed for a Liberal Democrat leader.

The MP for the Winchester constituency, Mark Oaten, praised the success of previous leader Charles Kennedy. He pledged to do all he could to defeat attacks on civil liberties in coming months, and stressed that it was important to try and defeat the identity card bill due to be voted on next month. He suggested that the party “needed to be more progressive, ambitious, and optimistic” and should avoid talking about politics in terms of ‘left’ or ‘right’. Speaking about the environment, he said that the solution was not to “dictate how people should lead their lives” but offer positive measures enabling people to take their environmental responsibilities seriously.

The current party president, Simon Hughes, who unsuccessfully ran for the London mayoral position in 2004, promised a consultative leadership and said he wanted the Liberal Democrats to be the “party of fairness”. He attacked Prime Minister Tony Blair as having ‘failed’, with the poorest paying a bigger propotion of their income in taxes than the richest. He said that there was a need to tackle inequality, and promised to stick with the policy of taxes to tackle inequality. He also supported greater decentralisation of power, and stressed the continued importance of environmental policies.

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Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2006

Former MEP Chris Huhne focused on environmental issues, questioning the government’s lack of conviction to the Kyoto targets and the panicked response to the fuel protests. He spoke against David Cameron’s lack of environmental conviction and suggested that only realistic means of tackling carbon emissions was through taxation, which could help change behaviour. Higher eco-taxes should be combined with lower personal taxes for those at the bottom of the economic scale, he argued. He also promoted greater powers and accountability for local authorities.

The nominations for leadership candidates close on 25th January, with candidates needing the declared support of at least 7 MPs and 200 party members from at least 20 different constituencies. No other candidates other than the four above are expected to stand. The vote closes on the 1st March, with the result due to be announced on the 2nd March.

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