Jenny Willott on the Twitter abuse she got after Inside the Commons

A couple of weeks ago, Ruth Bright wrote of her admiration for Jenny Willott after seeing her and her family on the Inside the Commons series. I can only echo her sentiments after finally catching up with the programme late last night. What I saw was a happy family eating together, making a difficult work/life balance situation work in a way that suited them. Of course, I did wonder why Parliament couldn’t schedule its votes in a more family friendly manner and, why, in the 21st century, casting a vote requires running across your workplace then standing in a lobby for quarter of an hour, but that’s hardly Jenny’s fault.

I was appalled to see, from her speech to Welsh Liberal Democrat conference, that she’d taken some Twitter abuse after the programme was shown, as WalesOnline reports. 

The Liberal Democrat MP jokingly described herself to party activists as “the one with the child who screamed the place down when I left him in the whips office and went to vote”.

She said: “I’m also the one who got completely vilified on social media for daring to be a woman who wants to both work and have children. It’s absolutely amazing how many people thought it was okay to tell me my children would turn into delinquents, that I wasn’t up to the task of being an MP if I was also thinking about my children, that my children should be taken into social services care… that I was letting down my children and my constituents etc.”

She continued: “It’s extraordinary to think that even in 2015 there are plenty of people out there who think that women can’t be both MPs and have children successfully – I don’t hear any of them suggesting that men can’t be both MPs and have children.”

Ms Willott said her experiences made her “even more determined to show them how wrong they are,” adding: “It also proves to me that we need to get more women elected overall to change attitudes.”

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Julian Huppert writes … We must end indefinite detention for immigrants

Immigration detention
Looking back over the Coalition Government, one of our great successes is putting an end to the routine detention of children for immigration purposes. In 2009, 1,119 children were locked up in immigration centres, nearly 500 of them were under five years of age.

Not only have we ended this practice, but in the Immigration Act we made sure that if any future government wants to undo our reforms, they’ll have to do it the hard way by passing an Act of Parliament.

But the issue of immigration detention doesn’t and shouldn’t stop there.

The UK is an outlier in the EU as the only country that doesn’t have a time limit on how long someone can be detained under immigration powers. Ireland has a time limit of 21 days, France 45 days, Belgium two months and Spain 60 days. Even Russia has a time limit, albeit of two years.

photo by: Policy Exchange
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Joan Walmsley writes … Disadvantaged children should be prioritised in the Early Years, says House of Lords Committee

Childcare Centre

Liberal Democrats have done a great deal in Government to provide more and better early education and childcare. From increasing the free entitlement for three and four year olds and extending it to disadvantaged two year olds to introducing the Early Years Pupil Premium and helping parents with the costs through tax relief, this government has been on the side of young children and their families.

Two things have happened relating to childcare in the last two weeks. Nick Clegg has made some commitments about what Liberal Democrats would fight for …

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Lord Roger Roberts writes…A step towards abolishing the Azure Card

Azure cardLast November I wrote that we must abolish the Azure Card and secured a debate in the House of Lords to that effect.

For those who may be unaware, The Azure Card is a prepayment card provided destitute asylum seekers who require support because they are temporarily unable to leave the United Kingdom. It is a discriminatory and wholly inadequate system of support which the Red Cross – as well as many other refugee organisations have called to be abolished.

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Opinion: Scottish Lib Dems should abandon their suicidal complacency and promise to devolve oil and gas

It seems now clear, after months of polling, that nothing will disengage the Scottish electorate from its preoccupation with its place in the Union.   The latest TNS poll shows the SNP on 46%. Even a fall to below 40% will win the SNP most constituencies under FPTP.

We have heard much about Scottish Labour’s slump in the polls (from 42% in 2010 to 30% now), but the poll shows that their Lib Dem counterparts have collapsed from 19% to an appalling 3%. Lib Dems MPs look like being down from 11 to between 1 and 3.

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LibLink: Kirsty Williams on more power to Wales

Kirsty WilliamsKirsty Williams would ‘”be very happy” to see a Lib Dem Secretary of State for Wales. As she says in an interview with Wales Online, under the Coalition the party has produced three Scottish Secretaries.

Having Liberal Democrats as secretaries of state gives us the best possible chance of wrestling power out of Whitehall and giving it to Wales.

She reflects on the devolution of the NHS Budget to Manchester.

You know, the fact that that kind of responsibility can be passed down without any referendum at all and here in Wales each step of the devolution pathway we have to have a referendum… The irony of that is not lost on me.

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Opinion: Parents want a say on school attendance policy

I’ve written previously (here and here)about school attendance policy. Following the hand in of a 127,000 strong petition to the Department for Education (DfE) in October 2013, Craig Langman and I co-founded the independent campaign group “Parents Want A Say” (PWAS). Craig’s petition called for the reversal of the term time absence regulations and has now grown organically to over 220,000. The group is chaired by John Hemming MP, obtained an extremely well attended Westminster Hall debate in February 2014 and is supported by Liberty, such is the extreme nature of some decisions being made by schools under the new rule. We enjoy significant support in the media due to the feedback from audiences.

The DfE continues to misinterpret the statistical evidence base for the policy, as in Nicky Morgan’s misleading statement last weekend. Professor Stephen Gorard of Durham University confirms this. The attendance and attainment debate is far more complex than Nicky Morgan apparently believes and Heads and parents are deeply concerned at this simplistic approach.

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Prominent Tory disillusioned by Big Society, ‘Vote Blue, Go Green’ and Compassionate Conservatism

paul_hodgkinsonAccording to the Gloucestershire Echo, Oliver Cooper was the deputy chair of the Cotswold Conservative Association, chair of the Cotswold branch of Conservative Future and a council candidate. He has given up all those rôles to join the Liberal Democrats and is backing our candidate Paul Hodgkinson (pictured) for the Cotswold seat. Oliver said:

It didn’t take long after the 2010 election for the intellectuals of the centre right such as Steve Hilton, Philip Blonde and Jesse Norman to be dropped from the centre stage and be replaced by the ruthless Lynton Crosby.

Since then the Tories have ditched any attempt to live up to the tag lines of the Big Society, ‘Vote Blue, Go Green’ and Compassionate Conservatism; they have replaced them with a suite of policies that pits the ‘shirker’ against the ‘striver’, proposes to isolate Britain from our closest neighbours and pursues economic growth without any regard for ballooning disparity between the wealth of the richest and the poorest in our country.

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LibLink: Tim Farron on the general election and afterwards

Over on the Huffington Post, Tim Farron talks about the election campaign from his constituency in Cumbria.

People need to believe they are not just going through the motions. We are not just doing it because we hate the Tories or because we like winning elections or because it’s a way of me getting a job. It’s about the things you can do with power.

He confesses that he would like to be a minister in a future Coalition; it was his role as Party President that precluded that, but also allowed him to emerge from this Parliament with a reputation untainted by proximity to Tories.

He was asked about the reports that claim he wants to be Leader, to which he responded:

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Opinion: Struggling with a personal response to ISIS

Independent thinking comes down to trusting your own capacity for an original, personal opinion. For me, it is worth struggling with ourselves when it comes to important subject matter. This is so that solutions have a chance to springing from a place of authenticity and purpose. For me, this is an essential part of offering a responsible perspective and is quintessential liberal.

This video is of ISIS fighters destroying ancient relics. Artifacts that were housed in Iraq’s Mosul Museum. My initial response would have been similar to most people I’d imagine; shock, abhorrence, alarm and repulsion. There is violence in this reaction. But it was a violence that feels as if deliberately enticed by what I was watching.

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Live this evening – Nick Clegg’s “State of Mind”

It’s one of those headings where the speech marks are essential …

Nick says he wants to “lift the lid on what it is like for the one in four people in the UK who suffer with mental illness”. He will be hosting a programme this evening on LBC in which he will interview people with mental health problems and those who support them, followed by a Q&A.

You can watch the programme live at 7pm today.

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Opinion: Thoughts on some Liberal candidates past and present

The first General Election I can remember was in 1979, when as a fifteen year old I was starting to really get interested in politics.

In my village and constituency (Henley) the Tories were well entrenched, but the Liberals had a level of support too.

The Liberal candidate was a chap called Steven Atack and I still remember seeing a poster advertising him as a speaker at a public meeting in the village hall.

I thought they had spelt his name wrong!

My parents who were Liberal voters didn’t go to the meeting, which I suspect was poorly attended and the Tories swept in.

Wind …

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Opinion: Decentralisation to the London Region – the case has yet to be fully made

Before the recent Scottish independence referendum, promises squeezed out of the ‘Westminster establishment’ over more decentralisation of power to Scotland. The independence referendum was a close run thing. Now those in favour of full independence for Scotland are in a majority, and it seems that this will be reflected in the coming UK General Election.

The UK government has also conceded to a small increase in the powers of the Welsh Government.

On independence and devolution, Scotland has form, of course. But there are more modern reasons for the recent rise of pro-independence sentiment.

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Julian Huppert as you have never seen him before

Well, maybe not the real one – but we thought you might like a late night treat.

LGBT+ Chair was inspired by this on Pinterest. Like many Liberal Democrat activists he’s an admirer of Julian Huppert for the way he’s been such a strong supporter of equal rights for all and the way he’s spoken up for transgender people as well as being a strong, credible expert on matters relating to science.

So he decided to adapt the Pinterst picture as a tribute to the Huppertmeister.

Post by Dave Page

We think there should be badges of this at Conference with proceeds going to Julian’s campaign. Can someone please make this happen?

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Davey and Cable defend free speech at universities from Tory attack

Vince Cable Social Liberal Forum conference Jul 19 2014 Photo by Paul WalterWe know that during the passage of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act, Liberal Democrat peers Sal Brinton and Margaret Sharp tried to amend the bill to strengthen the duty on universities to preserve freedom of speech. Senior Tories couldn’t see why that was so important, sadly.

The Observer reports that Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers, especially Vince Cable, disagree about the planned guidance to be issued to universities about what they can and can’t allow on campus.

In the Sunday

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #413

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our413th weekly round-up from the Lib Dem blogosphere … Featuring the seven most popular stories beyond Lib Dem Voice according to click-throughs from the Aggregator (22-28 February 2015), together with a hand-picked quintet, you might otherwise have missed.

Don’t forget: you can sign up to receive the Golden Dozen direct to your email inbox — just click here — ensuring you never miss out on the best of Lib Dem blogging.

As ever, let’s start with the most popular post, and work our way down:

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LDV’s Sunday Best: our 7 most-read articles this week

7 ver 4 fullMany thanks to the  visitors who dropped by Lib Dem Voice this week. Here’s our 7 most-read posts…

Pauline Pearce seeks Liberal Democrat nomination in Hitchin (0 comments) by The Voice

Willie Rennie MSP writes…You wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of the EU, so you wouldn’t put the SNP in charge of the UK (22 comments) by The Voice

Opinion: Liberal Democrats should support abolishing the monarchy and it’s the right time to do so (59 comments) by David Faggiani

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Independent on Sunday praises Nick Clegg and Ed Davey for “keeping the low carbon show on the road”

Davey Windmills - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsAn Independent on Sunday editorial today acknowledges the contribution made by the Liberal Democrats to furthering the green agenda while in government. They give Nick Clegg and Ed Davey the credit for driving it forward in the face of opposition from our coalition partners, who come in for some criticism:

The IoS has been disappointed with the Conservatives’ record on the environment. We were prepared to give David Cameron the benefit of the doubt when he put a windmill on his roof and when he proclaimed his intention that the coalition would be the greenest government ever, but if Mr Davey is now able to make that qualified claim, it is despite Mr Cameron, not because of him.

The turning point was George Osborne’s “slowest ship in the convoy” speech to the Tory party conference in 2011, when he said Britain would go along with EU plans for green energy but would not be a leader.

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Steve Webb on taking a chance to set pensioners free

Steve Webb, pensions minister, is interviewed in the Observer in the run-up to the big pensions change:

Plans to give millions of people powers to get access to their pensions savings from 6 April are a calculated risk, the minister in charge of the biggest pensions shakeup in decades has admitted.

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Tweets and snapshots from the Campaign Trail

Our Liberal Democrat campaigners have been out and about knocking on doors. The selection of tweets that follow represents a tiny snapshot of the work going on across the country. The Liberal Democrats are bright, bold and determined in the run up to May 7th.

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Opinion: Combined authorities and English devolution

The big news on devolution this week has been the twin announcements of more devolved powers for Wales and that Greater Manchester will be devolved control over the £6 billion health budget for the region.

It’s interesting to see what lessons can be taken from this. One is that ‘Devomanc’ really does appear to have substance, despite initial scepticism from various people (myself included) and another is that talk of English Votes on English Laws is even more redundant now that we face the prospect of Mancunian MPs voting on matters affecting the rest of England which don’t affect Greater Manchester.

A further, more worrying lesson, is that devolution is becoming ever more piecemeal with wildly varying levels of devolution both across the UK and across England.

But England the lessons are particularly interesting. Those of us living outside of major city regions like Greater Manchester and Merseyside have been wondering how exactly we can get our share of devolution and it now looks like we have an answer.

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Tim Farron talks coalitions with the New Statesman

The New Statesman has published extracts of an interview with former party president Tim Farron. Their headline suggests favouritism for a coalition with Labour, but that’s not quite what Tim said. He was talking about having to play the hand the electorate dealt us, just like we did five years ago:

Last time round, us plus Labour was 11 short of a majority of one, so a majority where we’d have had to rely on Jeremy Corbyn voting through the Budget, things like that, for instance, so 11 short even of that level of a majority, so it wasn’t an option.

He added: “I think the same thing will be the case this time round, almost certainly. We will not have a choice. We will be presented with an arithmetic by the electorate and all parties must be grown up enough to accept it and not say, ‘well, thank you for your opinions, we didn’t like it, tough’. Whatever the electorate give us through this fruit machine of an electoral system that we have, we have to be big enough, grown-up enough to make sure it works.

“The fundamental promise we must make to the electorate is that we will respect the outcome of the electorate and we will ensure, do everything in our power to ensure, stable government straight after the election, whether we are part of it or not.”

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What does the Twitter “sarcasm detector” tell us?

They Say sarcasm detectorJohn Rentoul told us in yesterday’s Independent that he had found a tool which analysed what was being said about party leaders on Twitter, taking into account whether the comment was sarcastic or not.

I spoke to Karo Moilanen at the company about how “sentiment analysis” works. He told me the algorithm detects positive and negative sentiments associated with the leaders, and can even recognise a double negative as a positive, for example, “kill bacteria”.

What about sarcasm, I asked, thinking about how Twitter works. “We have a rudimentary sarcasm detector,” he said. “There are patterns which tend to correlate with sarcasm.” But how accurate is it? “Sarcasm is hard for people to detect. Human accuracy can be as low as 40 per cent.”

TheySay “trains” its computer programme by feeding it texts that humans have marked as being sarcastic. “Algorithms can hence learn that sarcasm tends to involve cases in which someone likes something negative,” said Moilanen, “or conflicting or abrupt changes of sentiment between strongly positive and negative words and phrases.” He said that computer algorithms can detect sarcasm between 55 and 95 per cent of the time, depending on the study, with an average of 77 per cent.

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Kirsty Williams: Liberal Democrats have been the positive story of this Coalition

rally kirsty williams 1It’s Welsh conference today and Kirsty Williams is giving her keynote leader’s speech. In it she will emphasise what the Liberal Democrats have done within the coalition, saying that we have been the good news story of the last five years. She will say:

We have been the good news story, the positive story, the shining light that has come from this Coalition

It is Liberal Democrat policies that are making the difference.  Whether it is raising the tax threshold, revolutionising the pensions system, or introducing equal marriage, we have

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Vince Cable: Labour’s tuition fees plan is “fraudulent”

On the BBC’s World at One yesterday, Vince Cable was interviewed by Mark Mardell. You can hear the interview by clicking on the box below, and the full transcript follows:

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IFS: Labour fees plan will not make any difference to repayments by the poorer half of graduates

Interviewed by Mark Mardell on the BBC’s World at One yesterday, Paul Johnson, Director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies made these comments about Labour’s tuition fee plans:

photo by: schwglr
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LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 26

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Money saving expert Martin Lewis on Labour’s fees policy: ‘Poorer students will subsidise city investment bankers’

Here’s part of what Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, said on the BBC’s World at One today:

This is the worse type of politics for me. It is the politics that may appeal to people on the surface but it is financially illiterate…If any other party was launching a policy that effectively meant that poorer students would be subsidising city investment banking graduates, which is what this does, there would be protests in the streets and it would be led by the Labour party. I simply don’t understand how they’ve launched this.

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Institute of Fiscal studies: Labour’s tuition fees plan would “benefit higher income graduates”

In a detailed report, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, on Labour’s higher education funding plans, the Institute of Fiscal Studies concludes:

The reform to HE funding announced by Labour on 27th February would:

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Vince Cable: Labour’s tuition fee plan is “financially illiterate”

Commenting on today’s announcement from Labour, Vince Cable has said:

Labour’s policy is based on a soundbite, and as a result, is completely financially illiterate. It will do great harm to universities and create a costly black hole in the national budget.

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    Paul Walter - Can we but hope to see that fine tuning before the general eletion so that fairness can be demonstrated .
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