Kirsty Williams on building last year’s elections and building an education system that inspires pride and confidence

Kirsty Williams has been speaking to the South Wales Argus about her role as Education Secretary in the Welsh Government. She has great ambitions for the role.

I want to have an education system that the profession are proud of and parents and learners have confidence in.

That is quite a high bar, and she wants to work in partnership with those groups, unlike a certain former English education secretary whose tenure in office seemed to alienate everyone.

I am confident that by working together we can achieve my ultimate goal, which is to have a first-class education system for Wales and one which people around the world will want to come and look at, what were the changes we undertook and what were the reforms we put through that led to that system.

But I can’t do it on my own. I can only do it in partnership with parents, learners and educators.

What was it, though, that inspired Kirsty to get involved in politics as a young woman?

Growing up in Llanelli, Ms Williams cited watching family members working in the steel industry lose their jobs and seeing a lecture by Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Roy Jenkins, later a Lib Dem peer, as one of the biggest influences on her political development.

“I just remember listening to the lecture and thinking ‘I can’t say it in the same words he can but that’s the kind of community and society I want to live in’,” she said.

Being brought up in a family where politics was discussed and debated sparked her interest:

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | Leave a comment

Copeland and Stoke say a little about party politics but a lot about the state of the country

On Thursday, 52000 people went to the polls in Copeland and Stoke on Trent Central to elect their new MPs. Both seats were previously held by Labour. Labour held onto Stoke, but were beaten by the Conservatives in Copeland. People are using these results in order to speculate wildly about the future of various political parties. Labour holding Stoke is a good sign. Labour losing Copeland means Corbyn should resign. Conservatives taking Copeland is a sign of support for May’s hard Brexit. Everyone is very happy that Nuttall lost. And so on.

However, looking at the voting data available, I think there are two far more important warnings to be taken from these results. We need to look at the numbers, which I’ll round out for the sake of easier reading. All stats are taken from Britain Elects so please check there for exact figures.

Firstly, a lot of voters are walking away from this vote unrepresented. In Stoke, Labour won by gaining 37.1% of the vote. In Copeland, Conservatives took 44.3% of the vote. This means that 62.9% and 55.7% of the people who voted are not being represented by the person they wanted. That translates into roughly 30,000 people across two constituencies, against only 21,000 who did get what they wanted.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 1 Comment

New SLF publication on the European carbon market

As Brexit continues to hog the spotlight in the British media, there are still important issues being discussed and votes taking place in the European Parliament that Liberals everywhere should care about.

On the 15th February 2017, MEPs voted on a package of regulations intended to strengthen the proposed reforms to the European Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) and added their own amendments.

Tellingly, the vote was welcomed by a number of high-emissions sectors as well as the European Commission but heavily criticised by a number of NGOs and advocates of carbon market reform, with Climate Action Network, for example, describing the compromise as a betrayal of the spirit of the Paris Climate Agreement. Next week (on Tuesday 28th Feb) EU environment ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss how EU member states will respond to the vote.

The environment and its stewardship have long been and remain part of the DNA of Liberals everywhere.  As part of its series of publications that challenge and progress thinking in a number of policy areas, the Social Liberal Forum (SLF) is pleased to announce the publication this week of “The European carbon market isn’t working – and social liberals should be worried”  by SLF Council Member Edward Robinson

The article looks at the history of the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), analyses why it has not been working in the way it was intended, and looks at possible reforms to the system that would make it more effective at stimulating carbon price inflation and driving the uptake of clean technologies.

As Edward says:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | Leave a comment

The importance of enfranchising and educating 16 year olds

43% of 18 – 24-year-olds voted at the 2015 general election. Clearly, this is evidence of political disengagement in young people, which negatively affects our democracy because it means people aren’t choosing to vote, leading to more unrepresentative governments due to low turnout.

However, all is not lost. The Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014 gave 16 and 17-year-olds the vote and 75% of them turned out to vote with 97% reporting they would vote again in the future according to the Electoral Commission’s post-referendum report. This is evidence that 16 and 17-year-olds want to be heard but aren’t. I see this as a massive missed opportunity.

The future prospects for our democracy can be improved by enfranchising and thereby engaging 16 and 17-year-olds. If this can be achieved, they will become engaged adults who want to vote, leading to higher turnout and more representative governments. 

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Energetic new approaches to stimulating Green Growth in West Midlands

I was delighted to attend a well attended Energy Capital Conference at University of Birmingham recently as part of my campaign for the election of the West Midlands Metro Mayor.

Through work I did at Birmingham City University I got involved with manufacturers first of electric vehicles and then driverless cars. It involved building collaborations and different business models required to lift us into a different future that we can hardly imagine at the moment, a future that’s clean, green and a pleasure to live in.

I see this area as an area we can ‘own’ and take leadership. The Mayor’s role for me is about building on our transport and energy credentials. The link between energy generation and connectivity has never been more vital. The two go hand-in-hand and we need to own and develop these in tandem.

As one of my colleagues has observed:

Electronics in a typical family car account for more than 50% of its value. There are no fewer than 100 microprocessors in the average car today, around 15 million lines of code running a luxury car. There are more sensors and computing power in a midsize car than the Apollo space craft. Additional electronic systems are being introduced with the development of electric and hybrid vehicles, such as battery management, electric motor drives and energy recovery systems.

We have a real chance to lead in production of electric vehicles, in driverless vehicles, in local energy, battery power and renewables production. Worldwide over 1.2m EVs were sold last year however, international climate targets anticipate 20m EVs by 2020 and 100m by 2030.

The West Midlands needs to ensure we have our share of this market. Jaguar Land Rover will be investing £650m in EVs and have been looking for government to invest £450m in infrastructure. It could mean as many as 100k new jobs directly and through the supply chain.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | Leave a comment

WATCH: Tim Farron speech: How a clean energy revolution means Britain can lead the world

This week, Tim Farron gave a speech on clean energy and its potential to boost Britain’s economy.

Watch it here. The text is under the cut.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 3 Comments

Lib Dem Lords aim to kill new Tory restrictions on disability benefits

The Liberal Democrats have tabled a motion to kill Government attempts to severely restrict disability benefits.

The move follows an announcement by the Government that they will be tightening the criteria for claimants of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) which could see diabetics and those with mental illnesses stuck without support. The Government has introduced these restrictions after losing two cases at tribunals.  From the Minister’s statement:

The first judgement held that needing support to take medication and monitor a health condition should be scored in the same way as needing support to manage therapy, like dialysis, undertaken at home. Until this ruling, the assessment made a distinction between these two groups, on the basis that people who need support to manage therapy of this kind are likely to have a higher level of need, and therefore face higher costs.

The second held that someone who cannot make a journey without assistance due to psychological distress should be scored in the same way as a person who needs assistance because they have difficulties navigating. By way of example, the first group might include some people with isolated social phobia or anxiety, whereas the second group might include some people who are blind. Until this ruling, the assessment made a distinction between these two groups, on the basis that people who cannot navigate, due to a visual or cognitive impairment, are likely to have a higher level of need, and therefore face higher costs.

Responding to the announcement Baroness Cathy Bakewell, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 9 Comments

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarFiona 25th Feb - 10:43am
    I agree that much of the Brexit vote was about a resentment, even anger about swathes of the population being left behind. The high turn-out...
  • User AvatarJohn Hall 25th Feb - 10:25am
    The logical solution to the omission of Parliament to stipulate the requirement of a clear majority of ALL the people before embarking on Brexit is...
  • User AvatarJohn Hall 25th Feb - 10:19am
    (Late coming in). John Barret: - Makes a very good point when he says Remoaners would have been satisfied with the tiniest majority in favour...
  • User Avatarmatt 25th Feb - 10:16am
    Sorry should have added "For reasons other than psychological distress" never used to be part of the Guidelines issued to assessors. This changes to the...
  • User Avatarmatt 25th Feb - 10:07am
    @Fiona The question on the PIP relating to this are 13a) "Do you need help from another person to plan a route to somewhere you...
  • User Avatarfrankie 25th Feb - 9:01am
    We all have our niche interests, which can become all consuming passions. Sometimes we have to take a step back and realise they mean little...