Bi-Visibility Day – How Lib Dems can make a difference

Today is Bi Visibility Day. This is the day that the B in LGBT+ is emphasised. Sadly, it is too often the only day when bisexual people are even thought about.

It is wonderful to see Stockport Town Hall lit up to mark the occasion:

This did not happen by accident. It was Lib Dem Councillor Lisa Smart who put a motion to Council earlier this month. She said:

As a society, we have definitely made progress on LGBT+ Equality over the past few decades but there is still a distance to travel. On Thursday evening we will be talking about the barriers still faced by those members of our community who are bisexual.

More than one in four bisexual employees hide their sexuality at work, compared with one in six among gay and lesbian employees. Bisexual people are more likely to experience mental health problems in general and are twice as likely to experience depression and/or anxiety.

Often in the council chamber we can have robust debates and strong disagreements about issues. My hope is that we can unite and come together to support the bisexual members of our community, take some steps to celebrate the bisexual community and let them know that they are valued in Stockport.

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Vince Cable’s message for Black History Month

Over on the Black History Month website, as they gear up for the 30th year, Vince Cable has sent a message for this year’s Black History Month which starts next week.

Since its inception in 1987, Black History Month has given us many inspiring stories, reminding us of the tireless efforts of those who have fought for equality in the face of adversity, hate and indeed danger. They did so selflessly, so that future generations would enjoy the freedoms and opportunities they were denied.

I am really pleased to once again extend my support to this annual celebration of culture, identity and community in this its 30th year in the UK. As I think back over British history, I am overwhelmed by the remarkable legacies of BAME diaspora communities, whose contributions have transformed the political, economic and cultural landscape of this country for the better.

Undoubtedly, though, there is still so much more to be done. Levels of hate, prejudice and discrimination remain worrying and by some measures are on the increase, as evidenced in the recent Lammy Review. It is our duty to tackle this head on.

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Lib Dem Conference highlights – the Universal Credit Debate

On of my highlights of Conference was the debate on the emergency motion on delaying the rollout of Universal Credit because it is turning into a disaster for the people who are forced to claim it. People have to wait 6 weeks or longer for money. Imagine what that is like if you have no savings to get you through – a situation many people on low incomes will face.

The idea of Universal Credit is a very good one. It aimed to end the poverty trap which stopped people on benefits from getting work because it cost them to do so.

I made a speech from a Scottish perspective, outlining the principles of accessibility, fairness and confidence that were in our manifesto on social security and observing that Universal Credit meets none of them in its current form.

Other speakers gave some pretty harrowing examples of how people could lose their homes and have to rely on food banks to get by.

I am really hopeful, though, that we really are going to take this stuff to the Tories and try and get things changed.

The reason for my optimism is our new Department of Work and Pensions spokesperson Stephen Lloyd. Remember all that energy he put in to regaining his Eastbourne seat? He seriously never stopped campaigning after 2015. Well, that energy and determination is going in to opposing the Tory Government and building alliances across the Parliament to force the Government to think again. Here, in full, is the speech that he made in the debate:

The Tories’ reputation for competence is an oxymoron of epic proportions. This is a party who have politicised our police force with their ridiculous introduction of police and crime commissioners, prevented councils from building new council homes from the receipts of Margaret Thatcher’s huge council house sell-off programme decades ago, which is a direct cause of today’s appalling housing shortage – and then today the complete shambles of what they’ve done with Universal Credit. Competence is not a word which springs to mind!

The original concept of UC was ‘to make work pay’ and when we supported it in coalition it would have done. Since then though, over £3bn has been taken out of the programme. The work allowance, for instance, an amount people on benefits can earn before those benefits start being reduced, has been slashed to the bone. In some cases – to zero!  And the taper rate, which determines how much people get to keep of their benefits for every extra pound earned, has also been cut to ribbons!!

This has rendered the entire principle behind universal credit – to make work pay, something I and the Liberal Democrats passionately believe in – utterly worthless.

Universal credit is no longer a progressive, reliable policy; it is a complete train wreck. And the Conservatives are responsible!!

It gets worse. Housing payments made directly to the tenants; something I fiercely opposed at the time when I was on the Work and Pensions Select Committee – telling the ministers that it would lead to a shocking rise in rent defaults. And I remember so clearly the then Secretary of State chiding me for ‘not trusting that tenants would pass the money on to their landlords’….

The result?, and this is even before the full national UC rollout-out, have been every bit as bad as I feared; if not worse!

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TfL’s Uber decision is no victory for liberalism

The decision taken by Transport for London to revoke Uber’s licence undermines a key theme of Vince Cable’s speech from just a few days ago, a belief in competitive markets. Whilst the company has only operated in the capital for a relatively short time, the benefits it has bought to London’s transport market for both Londoners and tourists alike have been numerous. Uber not only provides a cheaper, more accessible transport solution to its customers, but it has also forced its competitors to innovate, an example being black cabs now accepting card payments, freeing their users from having to carry large amounts of cash. If the Liberal Democrats are to be a proud champion of enterprise, the party should feel no shame in its support for companies such as Uber, which provide choice to consumers in what is otherwise a monopolistic market.

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Lib Dems react to Theresa May’s Florence speech

Vince said that it was no wonder the Brexiteers were terrified of giving the people a say on the deal:

Both the Conservatives and Labour have now essentially converged on the same position, which is to kick the can down the road and simply delay the economic pain caused by an extreme Brexit.

Neither are prepared to fight to keep Britain in the single market and customs union or to offer people a chance to exit from Brexit

Voters were promised £350m a week for the NHS, instead Theresa May is admitting the UK will have to pay a hefty Brexit bill worth billions of pounds.

No wonder the Brexiteers are terrified of giving the British people the final say through a referendum on the facts.

Willie Rennie said the “delinquent’ May was trashing our relationship with Europe.

Theresa May is kicking the can down the road. Sixteen months on from the Brexit referendum this delinquent Prime Minister is trashing our relationship with Europe.

She seems incapable of deciding what kind of relationship she wants with Europe and that prolonged uncertainty is causing economic damage.

We were promised Brexit would be an easy negotiation and that £350 million each week would be invested in the NHS. Neither are true.

This makes the compelling case for a Brexit deal referendum even stronger.

Yesterday, the Lib Dems laid out seven tests for Theresa May’s speech. Tom Brake said that only one of them was even slightly met. 

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Mathew’s Musings 22 September 2017

I’ve been to the vast majority of both spring and autumn party conferences since I joined the Lib Dems back in March 2010 and I can honestly say I enjoyed the one that ended in Bournemouth, on Tuesday, the best.

I think I’m finally starting to work out the ebbs and flows of conference; when best to put in a speaker’s card with a chance of actually being called; when to take time out with friends and not fill your whole rota with yet another fringe meeting (as good as they almost always are); how to network with like-minded fellow travellers to push a cause/campaign, and so on.

Like many of us, when I first went to Conference (Birmingham, Autumn 2011) I was overawed by seeing MPs (we had more of them then) and Ministers (yes, we had them too) I’d only previously seen on TV…and you could actually go up and talk to them (and the nicer ones would even reply.)

I was pleased, in Bournemouth, to grab a few words with Tim Farron in the Conference bar on one of the evenings.

I told him how sorry I was that he’s no longer our leader and that he’s a good man with much more to contribute to our cause.

His ex-leader’s platform speech reminded me (though I didn’t need to be) just what a talented orator he is

And, yes, as ever with a Tim Farron speech, I shed some tears whilst in the hall listening to it.

Tim has the ability, when speaking, to touch people’s hearts…that talent must continue to be put to the good of the party.

Vince Cable’s speech didn’t make me cry, but it was statesmanlike, full of vision and direction, but also with a clear economic message which-unique among our current Commons team-Vince is perfectly placed to provide.

There is always a danger, especially for us, that our Conference sees us talking to ourselves but getting little to no coverage beyond the Conference walls.

I hope Vince’s speech, at least, got and gets a wide airing.

It is a message that will inspire liberals and social democrats across party lines and those with, currently, no party affiliation.

The road back, for us, is a long one…but, with Vince at the wheel, we have steady hands and a sensible head to take us along the next part of the journey.

And, the bad news…<

After such a great party conference, it was disappointing to see our latest Party Political Broadcast.

I know some members like it…and it may play well in hipster London, but in vast swathes of the country, I venture, people will be left untouched

The whole appeal of Vince Cable is that he’s a serious man for serious times.

We should be redoubling on that message at every opportunity, not seeking ways to ‘promote’ what he’s not.

He’s not (particularly) hip or ‘down with the kids.’

He’s serious, he’s statesmanlike, he’s an ideas man.

I’m all for ensuring voters know about the rounded personality of leaders…such as Vince enjoying dancing and skiing, but basing a whole PPB around the hat that Vince wears, I personally think is just a bit naff.

That we (I assume) spend not inconsiderable amounts of money for ‘professionals’ to  come up with such guff, really does make you wonder.

The new PPB is like a clique which most people don’t belong to and end up just feeling alienated against.

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It’s up to all of us to prevent hate crime

There is one childhood memory which will always stick in my head. Aged 8 or 9 our headteacher at primary school sat us down and told us about the first black child to enter our school. We were given a pep talk us that this boy was no different to the rest of us and that we were to treat him as an equal. This was middle class Surrey in 1982.

What I have seen and heard since the referendum in various parts of the UK has made me thing that in some ways we have not moved on when it comes to dealing with hatred and bigotry.

A French friend of mine was told last November to “F..k off back to France” after having his head beaten badly by youths in Hampshire, near where I went to University. A Polish schoolgirl committed suicide in Cornwall after being bullied earlier this year. A Spanish man was badly beaten for talking Spanish in Bournemouth last year. MPs have reported Polish children being spat at in school. There are more examples one could cite of the impact of the referendum vote has encouraged bigotry and hatred against EU citizens.

Daniel Hannan and Tory MEP and arch-Brexiteer has protested that the country has not become more racist since the referendum. There is no problem it would seem, all is well. No problem of course unless it is your Dad who was the one who was beaten up, or your daughter who ended their own life. One person’s statistic is another person’s loved one.

So what can we do?

Quite simply we need to challenge racism and xenophobia at its core. At a recent family event I was told that “we didn’t need foreigners”. Someone else told me that parts of Lincolnshire have an “immigrant problem”. A local Tory association in a part of my constituency was last week re-tweeting Katie Hopkins. Last year after leaving a Comments through the door of a local house, an elderly lady spent twenty minutes ranting at me. We need to send all black people home she snarled. Like my best friend who has a PhD and works for a big bank I enquired ? Yes she replied. It turned out she was a retired Geography teacher.

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