Author Archives: Caron Lindsay

LDV Members’ Survey on Syrian airstrikes now live

imageThe new LDV members’ survey is now live. So if you are one of the 2100+ registered members of the Liberal Democrat Voice forum, and any paid-up party member is welcome to join, then you now have the opportunity to make your views known.

The survey asks a series of questions related to the situation in Syria and the forthcoming parliamentary vote on whether the UK should be involved in airstrikes against Daesh.

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #441

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 441st 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 November, 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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Liberal Democrats should campaign against benefits “rape clause”

George Osborne’s decision not to impose the cuts to tax credits may be welcome but in many cases is only putting off the agony. As research from the Resolution Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows, working families with children still stand to lose more than £1300 a year, more than £100 every month. Nick Clegg spelled this out when he was in Oldham campaigning for Jane Brophy this week:

He’s just delaying it by smuggling the cuts into Universal Credit. I think we played an important role and a leading role in firstly, identifying the problem and then opposing it unambiguously.

I wasn’t (surprised at the decision). But they’re doing half a beastly thing instead of a beastly thing.

Actually, it’s more of a beastly thing than that. The cap on the childcare element at 2 children remains and, with it, an issue which was first highlighted by SNP MP Alison Thewliss back in July. There is a rather sinister devil in the detail which has not been removed by the Autumn Statement, the so-called “rape clause.”

This says:

the Department for Work and Pensions and HMRC will develop protections for women who have a third child as a result of rape or other exceptional circumstances

Someone sitting in an office in Whitehall has actually thought this, written it down and others have presumably thought it was practical enough to include. I actually despair.

So, how exactly is a woman supposed to prove that she has been raped, given that conviction rates are so low? Alison Thewliss has repeatedly questioned the Chancellor on how exactly this will be implemented, most recently after the Autumn Statement on Wednesday. Osborne replied:

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Making the right decision on Syria

In some ways, the decision on whether to back the Government’s proposals to bomb Syria is one of the hardest the party has ever had to take. I’ll be honest, I don’t think that the case has been properly made in either long term strategy for Syria or in protecting the innocent civilians, many of whom are women and children. That is not to say that I can’t be persuaded. This is no Iraq where for months beforehand I just instinctively felt that it was the wrong thing to do. It’s a very complex set of circumstances and it’s very much a case of making a judgement call on the least worst option.

This piece is not about the rights and wrongs of the situation, though. It’s how we reach our position and how we conduct ourselves before, during and after. There have been things that have impressed me in the past few days, and things that have set off a few alarm bells. Tim Farron has not, I think, put a foot wrong. His reasoned approach with his five tests give credibility and authority and, unlike any other party, has given the government serious questions to answer. He has also been seriously engaging with people on Twitter and offline too.

From what I can see, the Liberal Democrat members seem to be pretty evenly split on whether to support airstrikes. There are sincerely held and well-argued points of view on both sides. So how do we get to a decision we can all live with? There are a couple of things that I think would help and a few things creeping in occasionally that certainly don’t. 

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Liz Barker questions Government on transgender prisoners after death of Vicky Thompson

Last week, transgender woman Vicky Thompson died in the men’s prison where she had been taken to serve her sentence. Ministry of Justice policy is to put trans prisoners in the gender they live as if they have a Gender Recognition Certificate. Obtaining a GRC can be a costly, difficult, bureaucratic process.

Liz Barker outlined some of the issues in an article for the Huffington Post:

In Tara’s case, she was put in a prison with 600 men, many of whom had committed violent offences and was eventually moved after a campaign which highlighted the risk to her safety.

Jonathan Marks, my colleague in the House of Lords and a highly respected barrister, raised this issue in Parliament following the case of Tara Hudson. He pushed the Government to make urgent changes to how they handle trans prisoners, calling for full and careful thought to be given to allocation before sentence rather than after placement. A policy that makes perfect sense.

I am deeply concerned that this wasn’t already common practice, but it is utterly shocking that a few short weeks after Tara’s case came to the public’s attention, action wasn’t taken to urgently review Vicky’s case too. There should now be an urgent review on a case-by-case basis for every trans prisoner in the prison estate to assess their situation

The Minister’s answer was not much more than waffle.

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Tim Farron on Have I Got News for You: 9pm tonight, BBC1

And it looks like it’s going to be a good one. Laurabee was in the audience and this is what she had to say on Twitter:

And there’s more:

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Farron’s five tests to secure Lib Dem support for UK action in Syria

Falling on David Cameron’s desk this afternoon is a letter signed by all current and living former leaders of the Liberal Democrats in which they outline the five key tests the Government must pass in order to secure the party’s support for airstrkes in Syria.

Here is the letter in full:

In advance of your statement outlining your plan for military intervention against ISIL in Syria, we are writing to outline the criteria against which we will judge our response to your proposals.

As you will know our party has maintained a consistent position that airstrikes alone will not defeat ISIL in Syria. Deployment of lethal force should never be used simply as a gesture. It has to have effect, and to have effect it has to be part of a wider strategy, especially on the diplomatic front.

We are encouraged by the fact that the Government has at last decided to explain the details of that strategy and look forward to hearing what this is.

The five conditions below give the UK the best chance at having an effective strategy to counter ISIL and make serious progress in ending the Syrian civil war. We call on you to embed them into your plans before they are brought to the House of Commons on Thursday.

These conditions are:

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Banning the Lord’s prayer – how outrageous (if it were true)

The tabloids do love a good moan about how Christians are persecuted in this country.  It’s lost on them that representatives of the faith enjoy a privileged position in our Parliament and national life. So today’s stooshie about the Church of England’s ad, or, even more sensationally, “the Lord’s Prayer”  being “banned” is an early Christmas Present for the tabloid editor.

Except nobody has banned anything as the subsequent prevalence of this short advert proves.. In fact, if the agency who runs the advertising for the three biggest cinema chains had accepted the ad, they would have been breaking their own policy, which is not to accept religious or political adverts. They were a bit burned last year when they received negative feedback after running independence referendum ads in Scottish cinemas and were understandably reluctant to repeat the exercise.

You have to hand it to the Church of England for playing this brilliantly. Without handing over a penny, everyone in the country now knows how to access their advert. It’s embedded into many news articles about the row, it’s on their website, it’s on You Tube, it is everywhere.  They have managed to simultaneously complain about it being banned while ensuring that many more people have seen it than would have done over Mockingjay and popcorn.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 39 Comments

Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #440

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 440th 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 (15-21 November, 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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English Party election results and good news on the Membership Incentive Scheme

There was good news for local parties from yesterday’s English Council meeting .The proposals we told you about to retain the Membership Incentive Scheme were passed. This means:

  • Net growth of between 1 and 10 members will qualify local parties to receive 18% of all their membership subscription fees paid during that quarter. 
  • Net growth of more than 10 members will qualify local parties to receive 33% of all their membership subscription fees paid during that quarter.  

The following results of the English Party elections were announced.

Chair of English Party

Steve Jarvis

Chair of English Candidates Committee

Richard Brett

English Council Executive

Posted in News | Tagged | 4 Comments

A message from Oldham from the Lib Dems there this weekend

imageThe Oldham West and Royton by-election HQ has been busy this weekend as Liberal Democrats head there from all over the country are heading there. Rather than snuggling up on the sofa with a good book and Majorsrise on Twitter (which is really getting exciting at the moment, possibly even more so than when I lived through it), they’ve headed out into the freezing cold to help the old #libdemfightback. Among those there today are our own Paul Walter who went up all the way from Newbury.

But why are they going? This video tells you.

I am so utterly soft that when I watched it, I had a wee tear in my eye.

IF you are wondering what to do with yourself tomorrow, why not head over there? They do seem to be having a great time.

Here’s all the info you need on how to get there:

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Tim Farron responds to UN resolution

Tim Farron has commented on the passing of the UN Resolution 2249, which had the UN Security Council recognise that

Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security,

Tim said:

I warmly welcome United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249. The fact that Russia did not use its veto is an important first step towards creating the broad coalition that the Liberal Democrats have been calling for as the only effective context for considering proposals for military action.

The UK should now use all its diplomatic skills to support the efforts being made in Vienna to assemble an anti-ISIL coalition including Russia, Turkey, Iran and other key states in the region.

At the same time, the Prime Minister must address the questions raised in the Foreign Affairs Committee Report when he presents to parliament the long-term strategy for any military action in Syria. That must include the planning for post-ISIL Syria, which has so far been absent amid the calls for UK planes to be engaged in strikes.

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Lord Bruce of Bennachie of Torphins in the County of Aberdeen takes his seat in the House of Lords

Malcolm & Rosemary Bruce
Malcolm Bruce took his seat in the Lords this week. He was resplendent in the traditional robes.

There was a bit of a negotiation over his title, as the Press and Journal reports:

Lord Bruce previously told The Press and Journal he opted to include the famous Aberdeenshire landmark in his name because it is visible from everywhere in his old constituency.

It was initially rejected on the grounds the hill is not a “habitation”, but a lengthier form – Baron Bruce of Bennachie of Torphins in the County of Aberdeen – was later accepted.

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Listen to Paddy in conversation with Andrew Rawnsley

If you’re heading to Oldham, or elsewhere out on the campaign trail, you might want to download this wee gem from the Guardian. Just imagine being out in the cold with a bundle of leaflets with Paddy’s ruminations on life, the universe, and everything helping you on your way.

It’s perfect delivery round length, at around one and a half hours’ long.

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Jim Wallace’s inaugural Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture: Charles’ legacy should be a call to refresh our radicalism

Five days before what would have been Charles Kennedy’s 56th birthday, Jim Wallace, who entered the Commons on the same day as Charles in 1983, delivered the inaugural Charles Kennedy Memorial Lecture in Fort William. Seeing Charles Kennedy and Memorial in the same sentence still freaks me out slightly. It feels very wrong.

Jim has very kindly provided us with a copy of his lecture so that those of us who couldn’t make it up to Fort William can hear what he had to say. His subject was Charles, the legacy he left of internationalism and an example of always conducting his politics with respect and how his values were shaped by his highland background. He talks about the challenges we now face as a party and how we can learn from Charles as we deal with the challenges we face.

Here is the lecture in full. It’s long, over 5000 words, but, do you know what, every single one is worth reading. Go make yourself nice cup of tea, put your feet up and enjoy.

In keeping with many public lectures in the Highlands, albeit of a somewhat different nature, I start with a text: from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, chapter 51, verse 1 –

Look unto the rock from which you are hewn.

It is an enormous privilege to have been asked this evening to deliver the inaugural Charles Kennedy memorial lecture; to speak about one of my closest friends in politics, Charles, and how his politics were shaped by his roots in this Highland community, and the Highland Liberal tradition.

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Tim Farron to go on Have I Got News for You

Way back in June, Tim Farron said, in his Commons tribute to Charles Kennedy:

Charles was successful because he was himself. If any hon. Member is ever invited on to “Have I Got News For You”, my advice is, “Say no, unless you want to be made out to be a prat or unless you are Charles Kennedy.”

But a quick glance down his Twitter feed reveals that he’s going on the show himself, “in a couple of weeks.”

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Bullying destroys lives and needs to be stopped – we all have a role in that

Every year in Anti-Bullying Week, I share a post I wrote five years ago where I wrote about the hell of my secondary school years and the very long shadow bullying cast on my life. It may be lazy to share the same post year on year, but even 30 years on, I don’t want to put myself through writing it again.

During the first three years of high school, I was primarily known by two names, neither of which had been given to me by my parents. In English one day in first year, we were taking it in turns to read out a scene from a play. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what it was but as fate would have it, the line I had to read was “I want a yak.” Quick as a flash, the boy in front of me yelled out “I always thought you were one……” Cue the entire class, including the teacher, to collapse in laughter. That spread like wildfire, and before long it became my name to the entire pupil body.

If we’d had Google images then, I might have discovered pretty quickly that yaks are really kind of cute, but I never really saw it that way at the time and I really don’t think that the name was an affectionate one.

The other name came from the fact that, yes, I do have weird eyes. For that reason, people would hiss like a cat when they saw me coming, and spit out “Cat’s Eyes” as I passed.

I’m sure that doesn’t sound like much, but when you hear one or other of those things round every corner every day, you do feel less than human.

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“The Lib Dems in the last Parliament were far and away the most effective opposition of my lifetime”

British writer Edward Docx has taken to the pages of the Guardian to praise the work the Liberal Democrats did in the last Parliaemnt and how this will become very clear when George Osborne announces his Autumn Statement next week.

The 20,000 people who joined the party in the wake of our election meltdown know that, as do the voters who are turning back to us.

Docx made several key points about the Liberal Democrat actions in the coalition years:

There were two oppositions in the last parliament: Labour and the Liberal Democrats. And, this week more than ever, it is worth saying that only the latter made any difference to the real lives of real people. Why? Because they were in government.

Refuse, in other words, to allow Osborne’s self-serving narrative to present itself as the only story. And, of course, this is exactly what the Liberal Democrats were doing day-in and day-out during the last parliament on behalf of the majority of reasonable and none-ideological people who did not vote Conservative.

Danny Alexander has taken some stick in his time, some of it deserved, but he was able to hold the Tories back:

For every fiscal decision in the last government, the Liberal Democrats (through Danny Alexander) asked for a distributional analysis so that they could see where the pain of cuts would be felt – whether on the richer or the less well off. What this meant in practice was that every time the Tories attempted something that placed an unfair burden on the poor, the Liberal Democrats first illuminated the policy for what it was and then either blocked it (often repeatedly) or insisted upon a reciprocal burden being placed on the better off.

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40% of Liberal Democrat MSPs win awards

Last night the annual Scottish Politician of the Year Awards took place in the opulent surroundings of the Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh.

Predictably, and deservedly, Nicola Sturgeon won the top award, Politician of the Year. However, it was great to see Willie Rennie and Alison McInnes both won. That means 2 out of the 5 Liberal Democrat MSPs finally got the recognition they deserved after a gruelling 5 years holding the SNP to account and winning significant policy changers.

Alison McInnes has done more than anyone else to force the SNP to change their minds. On stop and search, on armed police, on highlighting the many problems with the centralisation of Scotland’s police, she has been a true liberal champion. She won the Committee politician of the year.

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News on the Membership Incentive Scheme

Three years or so ago, Austin Rathe, sadly soon to be leaving Lib Dem HQ and his position as head of Membership, and I were having a curry in Edinburgh and talking about how local parties had no incentive to grow. What Austin developed out of that conversation was a scheme which actually did a classic liberal thing and put our resources back at local level, giving those parties that grew their membership a fair old whack of their members’ subscriptions.

If a local party grew by between one and ten members in one quarter, it would get 20% of subscriptions back and if it grew by 10 members, or more it would get 40% back. That’s a sizeable sum to invest in local campaigning.

The English Party had been concerned that the scheme was costing them too much money and had talked about doing away with it.

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Tim Farron’s full speech on the economy: the radical gems that weren’t in the extracts

In days of yore, 6 months ago, if the Liberal Democrat leader made a keynote speech on the economy, the journos would be there in force. While there was a bit of coverage on the Guardian and BBC, it was nowhere like it used to be. So, I guess that means it’s up to us, and by us I mean all Liberal Democrats, to get the word out. The first section of this piece has some commentary on the speech and the full text is at the bottom.

The trails sent out last night in my opinion missed out the best bits of the speech. The whole thing covered a huge amount of ground from entrepreneurship to mass migration to climate change to inter-generational fairness to massive investment in infrastructure to housing. There were also some key elements that weren’t there quite as strongly as I’d have liked, for example on the living wage and tackling poverty and inequality. He spoke of these things in his Beveridge Lecture to the Social Liberal Forum two years ago.

He cast the Liberal Democrats as the party of small business, innovation and creativity, while the Conservatives were the party of corporatism:

The fact is that the Tories aren’t really pro-free market capitalism at all.  They are pro-corporate capitalism.

They are there to fight not for entrepreneurs, not for innovators who oil the wheels of the market, but for the status quo.

In recent years, a common criticism of the Liberal Democrats is that we have been way too establishment. Tim Farron sets out that we are no such thing, likening us to entrepreneurs as the insurgents:

So I say “let the Tories be the Party of huge complacent corporations”

The Liberal Democrats will be the Party of Small Business, the party of wealth creators, the insurgents, the entrepreneurs.

And there’s a good section about challenging power, government or corporate:

We are in politics for precisely the opposite reasons to the Tories: to challenge orthodoxy and challenge those with power, while they support orthodoxy and established power – in business, just as in politics.

Because here is the truth – it doesn’t matter if it is big government or big business, the fact remains, too much power in the hands of too few people means a bad deal for everyone else.

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Invest in infrastructure, back enterprise and think long term: key principles in Tim Farron’s first major speech on the economy

In just over an hour’s time, Tim Farron makes his first major speech on the economy at the IPPR in London. We’ll have coverage of the whole thing later, but here are the key principles he’s setting out. He also sets out a challenge to Labour to support the Liberal Democrats in stopping the cuts to tax credits, not just putting in transitional relief which would do nothing to help new claimants on low pay.  I suspect that the stuff on venture capitalism shows the influence of Susan Kramer and her professional knowledge in the field.

Here are some of the key points he will make:

The Liberal Democrat economic principles

So today I intend to set out the three principles that will govern Liberal Democrat economic policy for the next five years. They are:

Invest now in infrastructure
Back enterprise
Take the long view

It’s a clear prospectus – just ten words – but it sums up very simply where we need to take this country and how my vision for the future differs from those of George Osborne and Jeremy Corbyn.

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Updated: Votes at 16: Paul Tyler’s speech in the Lords debate – and Government defeated 293-211

The Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords have done some fabulous work. It’s not just the tax credits vote recently, but the work they did in very difficult circumstances during the last government to challenge terrible Tory ideas. Add to that their campaigning work in the run up to the General Election and their constant visits to local parties (over 100 since the General Election) to help with the #libdemfightback.

Today is no exception. They are playing a blinder in the EU Referendum Bill debate arguing for votes at 16 and as such showing themselves to be far more in touch with reality than their counterparts on the government benches.

Update: And it worked! The Government was defeated by 293 votes to 211.

Tim Farron commented:

The Liberal Democrats have been fighting for this for decades, and we are winning the argument.

This is a victory for democracy, we will give over a million people a voice on their future.

In Scotland 16 and 17 year olds proved that they have they not only have the knowledge but also the enthusiasm to have a say on their own future. Taking that away now would do them an injustice.

The Government must now listen and act, Cameron cannot turn his back on 1.5 million young adults.

Paul Tyler led for us today and he added:

We cannot deny interested and engaged young adults such an important vote. This is a say in their future, and with Cameron ruling out future referendums, they won’t get a voice for a long time coming.

Today I am proud that we have taken a small step to improve our democracy following a campaign that the Liberal Democrats have led for decades.

Some of the arguments made by Tory peers were beyond ridiculous. Adolescents’ brains were still developing apparently. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the arguments about women’s brain size during debates on votes for women.

It’s up to the Government now to decide whether to keep this in . If it’s removed when the Bill goes back to the Commons, our peers will call a vote to reinstate it. If there is a stalemate, then the bill could be delayed by up to a year.

Here is Paul’s speech in full:

In Committee I thought that one of the most persuasive contributions – made from the Conservative benches opposite – was from the Noble Lord Lord Dobbs:

“ … the question I am struggling with is; How can it be right to allow 16 and 17 year-olds to vote in a referendum on Scotland but not in a referendum on Europe? There has to be some sort of consistency.”

And he rubbished the official explanation that the extension of the franchise in the Scottish independence referendum did not originate with Conservative Ministers: “… although the coalition Government and the Prime Minister did not specifically approve votes for 16 year-olds, they did acquiesce in votes for 16 year-olds.”

He and others – notably an increasing number of Conservative MPs – have warned that we cannot pretend that Scottish young people are somehow more mature, well-informed and capable of exercising common-sense than their English, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts. I dare the Minister to repeat that absurdity.

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Help get the Oldham postal vote out

Half of people in Oldham West and Royton get their ballot papers in the next few days. Can you encourage them to cast their votes for the excellent Liberal Democrat candidate Jane Brophy?

National Campaigns Officer Steve Jolly explains why you should:

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Crucial day for Votes at 16 as Lords debate EU Referendum Bill

One of the best moments of the Scottish independence referendum last year for me was in the late afternoon on polling day. I was outside a polling station in Corstorphine watching streams of engaged 16 and 17 year olds, some of them still in school uniform, coming in to cast their votes. At the time, I thought how cruel it would be, after they had been such a positive part of the referendum, for them not to be allowed to vote on their UK Government 7 months later.

However, when it comes to the Scottish elections next May, my 16 year old will vote for the first time, for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

I’ve always believed in votes at 16, but the case for voting in the referendum was stronger than ever. The country was making a decision that would affect it forever, not just five years. It’s exactly the same with the EU Referendum, yet the Conservative Government refuses to give these young people their say. The House of Lords could change those plans today. It goes without saying that the Liberal Democrat peers will be supporting votes at 16. The case to do so is compelling. Joanne Ferguson, who’s 17, is a Liberal Youth member who voted for the first time in the referendum. She’s written for the Common Weal site to explain what that vote meant and has led to for her:

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Top of the Blogs: The Lib Dem Golden Dozen #439

Welcome to the Golden Dozen, and our 439th 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 (8 -,14 November  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:

Posted in Best of the blogs | 1 Comment

Towards a family friendly House of Commons

There was a Commons debate this week on making the Houses of Parliament more family-friendly. We’ve already covered the breastfeeding angle but it’s worth looking at some of the other issues raised.

Jo Swinson, in an article for the New Statesman, talked about what she thought was necessary to make Parliament more accessible for parents.

Lots of positive suggestions were put forward in the debate, including better scheduling of Parliamentary recesses to coincide with school holidays, more predictability of debates and votes, a drop-in crèche facility to complement the nursery, introducing maternity cover for MPs and compassionate carers’ leave for staff facing family emergencies. Rightly, the debate included family responsibilities beyond parenting, whether for elderly relatives or for partners who become ill. Professor Sarah Childs, the respected expert on gender and politics from Bristol University, is currently preparing recommendations for reform of Parliament to make it more accessible to people from under-represented groups, so it was a timely discussion.

She talked about the history-making change that had made a real difference to her and her husband when their son was born:

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What Twitter tells us about Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference

The Welsh Liberal Democrats met in Swansea for their Autumn Conference yesterday. Here are some of the highlights from Twitter.

Like the Scottish Kickstart which also took place yesterday, the event opened with a minute’s silence for the victims of the Paris atrocities.

Sal Brinton also mentioned the events in Paris in her speech:

Was some awkward squad rebellion going on?

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Last chance to submit your thoughts to the Governance Review – deadline is noon tomorrow

The deadline for submissions to the party’s Governance Review is noon tomorrow. If you have strong opinions on how the party is run, you need to get them in by then. The Federal Executive will be discussing them at an away day on 5th December and proposals will then be drawn up for consultation at Spring Conference and regional and state conferences. Here’s what I wrote in September about why it’s important to contribute:

I often think that if any executive body wanted to do some real power grabs, it would circulate them in a document entitled “Governance review” in the hope that nobody would actually read them and work out what they meant.

Actually, you don’t get away with that in this party where we have been known to have quite a bit of an obsession with constitutional geekery and process. I often feel that we get too tied up in the wording of tiny parts of the constitution and not enough in its practical application and the culture we need to foster to make the party work well. In a party that values openness, transparency and accessibility for government, we don’t have nearly enough of them in the way we run our party.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 15 Comments

Who runs the World?

I had an absolutely brilliant day on Thursday at the first ever national Scottish Conference organised by the Women 50/50 Campaign and Engender entitled Who runs the World.

Women from all over the country gathered in Edinburgh’s MacDonald Hotel to discuss politics, the media, getting involved in councils and public appointments and ensuring that all areas of our public and political life had at least 50% women running them. There was a keynote speech from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who said that the Women 50/50 campaign was one of the most significant campaigns in Scotland today.

I’m going to write in more detail about some of the sessions later but here are some of the highlights.

How sexism stops women fulfilling their ambitions

There were two panel sessions during the day. The first, in the morning, discussed participation in and portrayal of women in the media. One of the journalists on the panel, Gina Davidson, told us how she had wanted to the crime reporting job on the paper she was working for. She was turned down for that and given health. Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon had come into Parliament desperate to get on the Audit Committee. Her request was denied by the leadership and she ended up with health, a subject that she knew nothing about. Having said that, she has developed quite an affinity with it – she intends to spend her retirement volunteering for a mental health project. Even so, women are often directed into areas traditionally seen as theirs.

Working across parties

It’s great when women from all parties get together. We find out that we share a lot of the same frustrations and come across the same behaviours across politics. There was some talk on whether there should be a formal Women’s Caucus at Holyrood, something that the MSPs there thought could be useful. There are already examples of cross party working. Labour leader Kezia Dugdale talked about having a quiet word with then Employment Minister Angela Constance (also on the panel) after she’d noticed that all the photos on the construction page of Skills Development Scotland showed men wearing hard hats. Angela went and got it changed.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 19 Comments

Recent Comments

  • User AvatarGlenn 30th Nov - 1:29am
    Little Jackie Paper. I don't know about Dennis Mollison, but I do sometimes wonder if our meddling in the ME is just the latest manifestation...
  • User AvatarToby Fenwick 30th Nov - 12:48am
    @Jonathan Brown - yes, Johnathan, I almost completely agree. I wouldn't rule out a NATO ground force at some point in the future, however.
  • User AvatarToby Fenwick 30th Nov - 12:45am
    @John Roffey I'm completely with you on the COP negotiations. But we can (and should) be capable of doing more than one thing at once.
  • User AvatarGlenn 30th Nov - 12:25am
    Little Jacky Pepper, Democracy develops around institutions. Our conception of it was arrived at over centuries Universal suffrage wasn't even part of it until the...
  • User AvatarBen Jephcott 29th Nov - 11:47pm
    I am a little perturbed, as the five tests set out by Tim on whether to back air strikes made sense. ISIS must be defeated,...
  • User AvatarDavid Evans 29th Nov - 11:19pm
    Very disappointing. Too many binary questions and only one that asks for views, opinions and comments on the matter. I fear it is missing an...