Thursday, 9 October 2014
Thursday, 2 October 2014
Thursday, 4 September 2014
Simon Titley passed away this weekend, following the news in June that he had been taken ill. He will be missed terribly by the Liberator Collective, those who enjoyed the Liberal Revue, and many people beyond whose lives he touched by his wit, incisive writing and instinctive, passionate Liberalism.
Originally from Lincolnshire – a heritage of which he was always proud – he went to Keele University, becoming a ‘highly political’ sabbatical officer. For a long time he worked for the Liberal Party’s central organisation, moving to work for the GLC's successor organisations and finally organising Paddy Ashdown's tour for the 1992 General Election before eventually being coaxed away by the lure of PR. He preferred the world of the political backroom, but did stand for Parliament once, in Grantham in 1983; as a local eccentric still shot silent newsreels for the town's cinema and filmed one of Simon's campaign meetings he thought he was probably the last UK general election candidate ever to appear in a silent film. Preferring policymaking (serving on the Europe policy working group until last year) and commentary, his unwavering commitment to numerous personal political causes [Europe and Palestine two constants] always came first, sometimes to the detriment of his career.
Although Simon started to contribute to Liberator in the late 1970s, he was only persuaded to join the Collective in 1985. His close friend and Liberator Collective colleague Mark Smulian describes Simon’s relationship with him and the magazine:
Alarming as this was to such a noted gourmet, it was start of a long friendship. Simon had contributed to Liberator from the late 1970s but became fully involved around 1985 when he found a book review he’d written had been insensitively edited. On being told this was to make room for a picture of a cat, Simon – fond as he was of cats – decided the only way to prevent such future vandalism was to join the collective.
From then on he, without imposing himself, provided much of Liberator’s political direction and its most telling analysis of events…. he despaired of the Liberal Democrats failure to build a core vote and to instead chase transitory grievances and split the difference in the ‘centre’.
Simon was noted for his love of fine food, wine and beer. He was deeply serious about politics, yet a satirist of great ability and the driving force behind establishing the Liberal Revue, which entertained conference goers on and off for 24 years.
He had a vast collection of erudite books on politics and economics, yet his favourite entertainment was the innuendo-strewn 1960s comedy show Round the Horne.
Simon leaves a huge gap not only in his family and friends’ lives but in the party’s resources for thinking about its future.
While the volume and quality of Liberal publications has declined considerably, even more so since Conrad Russell’s departure a decade ago, Simon fought what was almost a one-person campaign to keep the processes of Liberal thought going. His publications included Really Facing The Future [with David Boyle, 2011], a direct challenge to the party’s attempt to set out a policy programme in ‘sterile and detached language’. He contributed to Reinventing the State, the 2007 social liberal response to the Orange Book. His regular contributions to Liberator were supplemented by two periods of prolific blogging on all manner of topics. His 2004-5 foray as the Liberal Dissenter was supplemented by more recent work on this blog.
As Mark says, the culture brought to the Liberator and Liberal Revue teams by Simon was distinctive too. Days out or even occasional weekends away were characterised by his love of the finest food and where possible a visit to the nearest record shop (politics is not the only interest we shared). Simon was unafraid to stand up against tired received wisdom and lazy thinking – or confront those guilty of either. The irony of some of those who whined about his blunt observations joining those mourning is not lost on some of us. However, they are in exalted company. Vince Cable has written this tribute:
He was in Liberator especially a tough irreverent critic of the party establishment and of conventional thinking.
I want to record my appreciations of his insights, originality and sharp wit. I benefitted personally from his advice and what he had to say was always thoughtful, considered and helpful. He will be greatly missed.
As Mark and Simon say, Liberalism and Liberal thought in particular are weaker today.
Monday, 21 July 2014
part due to a substantial amount of work carried out by our in-house designer, which has culminated in the attached branding guide. [Sadly this document has not yet reached us]
Autumn Conference represents an excellent opportunity for us to get our
branding and corporate identity right. I?d ask that you all review your logos and branding, and where practicable, update them so that they are coherent with our new branding. For some of you, such as ALDC this isn't appropriate, given that you have your own branding, but for others, it represents a great opportunity to refresh the look and feel of your logos.
Much as I would like to, I can?t at this stage promise that Steven will be
able to devote any time to refreshing your logo himself. If you have a specific request of him, please let me know, and I?ll pitch it to his line manager (who is off this week). Unfortunately, I don?t have access to the correct fonts to carry out the task myself, but I can send over logos and other materials if that would help. If you have any further questions,
please either get in touch with me, or email email@example.com.
I know that the conference team are keen to make sure that our directory and conference exhibition are as on brand as possible. Thanks in advancefor your assistance."
"Go back to your constituencies, and prepare for a change of font!"
Saturday, 28 June 2014
A series of rows has marred the work of the Lib Dems policy working group on public services, resulting in both an expected minority report and a complaint to Federal Policy Committee chair Duncan Hames about the way the group has been run.
FPC set it up with a unwieldy brief to examine education, health, transport and ‘cross cutting public services’, each of which could probably have sustained a working group in its own right.
There was a dispute right at the start when the chair was awarded to Jeremy Hargreaves, a long-serving denizen of the party’s policy processes, and not to former Romsey MP Sandra Gidley, who is viewed as unsound by what many refer to as ‘the Clegg children’.
They do not of course mean his actual children but rather the coterie of academically bright but politically clueless young advisers with whom he has seen fit to surround himself.
Most prominent among the dissidents is Charles West, a general practitioner who fought Shrewsbury and Atcham at the last general election.
In is complaint to Hames, West has noted: “You may be aware of the fact that a number of us in the policy working group discussing public services have been seriously concerned about the way in which the group has functioned.”
He went on to set out concerns that Hargreaves had acted autocratically and rejected input with which he disagreed, and that votes had not been held on contentious matters.
West has elaborated on his concerns and it now looks like the Glasgow conference in October will be presented with either a lot of options or amendments.
Hargreaves told Liberator that disagreements had arisen over West’s wish to commit the party to ending the purchaser/ provider split in health. He said the rest of the group had simply not agreed with West.
It was quite usual for FPC to be given differing views by a working group but Hargreaves said West had suddenly called for a vote on the split long after the group had rejected the idea and this had not been taken. He described the group’s work as “very consensual”. How consensual will no doubt become apparent at Glasgow.
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Wednesday, 18 June 2014
John Swarbrick’s lesser known cousin Dave is one of the few people who have had the dubious pleasure of reading their own obituary. But if ever a man deserved to hear good things said about him it is Simon Titley so, while there is still time, I want to write this living obituary to one of the great Liberals and one of my best mates.
Many of us have been devastated by the tragic news that our life-long chum and Liberal colleague Simon has a massive,inoperable brain tumour and probably doesn’t have long to live. Some of us have been worried about his health for some time but, like many stubborn men, he didn’t get it checked out and he was stuck down while enjoying Sunday lunch with his family. Now, Simon likes his food and you may think that if you have to go, there are worse ways than tucking into a Sunday roast. But, and for me and I’m sure for many of you it’s a big but, we hadn’t quite finished with him.
He’s a human being and so he is infuriating and severally flawed, but he is quite simply one of a very few people on the planet who just gets it – all of it. His sharp wit; his radical liberalism; his excellent taste in music; his hilarious sense of humour; his love of great food, good beer and fine wine; whatever it was Simon enjoyed it and for the most part he got it right – spot on right. For those who have enjoyed his company and his writing over the past four decades will know, although a stubborn bastard at times, Simon had one of the best brains in the party – his ability for clarity of thought and his skill at putting that succinctly in writing was a talent to be prised and revered. There is a manifesto’s worth of good ideas out there and I hope they can be collected together for future generations to appreciate and for the party to fully understand what it has missed.
Simon’s contribution to our sense of fun has been as great as his contribution to our beliefs and understanding. It was largely his idea in 1984 to start the Liberal Revue and for many years he wrote and directed shows that had hundreds in stiches with some of the sharpest satire anywhere in British politics. Senior journalists from Vincent Hanna, to Elinor Goodman, to Michael Crick would seek him out for comment because they knew he would not just have his figure exactly on the issue of the day, but he would say it in a pithy, witty and memorable way.
Of course like most great Liberals Simon’s mind was ahead of its time and often out of step with what some might call mainstream thinking. But for those who have followed his many contributions in Liberator over the years know he has been proved right time and again and the party would have done well to have listened to him more often.
Sadly he will write no more and we will have to learn to think for ourselves. Laughter will seem a little hollow for a while and even favourite songs may sound off key. Simon, before you go, I want you to know that I and many, many others hold you in great regard – a friend and a brother, greatly loved and respected – you will be sorely missed you old bugger.
Friday, 23 May 2014
As the results continue to come in from the local elections a clear pattern is emerging. In our held seats, where we have strong and established campaigns, we're seeing some very good results.
In Sutton, where we have two MPs, we have gained seats. In Birmingham Yardley we won nearly 50% of the vote and beat Labour into a distant second. Here in my own constituency we gained a seat from the Conservatives which pushed Purbeck District Council into no overall control. In Colchester we won 7 of the 8 seats and in Eastleigh we comfortably held the Council and drove the Conservatives' vote share down to 12%. There are too many examples for me to list them all.
All of these results tell the same story - in many of our strongest areas we are winning elections.
Of course many of our fantastic Councillors and candidates worked incredibly hard in these elections and didn't get the result they deserved. I hope each and every one of them will get their names back onto the ballot paper as soon as possible.
We're now less than a year away from the General Election and these results in our held seats show that we have everything to play for. Your efforts made the difference this time, as they will next year.
Annette Brooke MP
Chair of the Parliamentary Party