Author Archives: Linda Jack

Remembering Sarah – Thanking Nick

Almost two years ago I arrived home in the early hours from the Children and Young People Awards, to see the lights on. My stomach hit the floor – if my daughter was still up something was wrong. I was right – my sister Sarah had been found dead in her house, suspected suicide. Members in Watford will know Sarah as one of their deliverers, two weeks before she died she was out with me delivering for the PCC elections in Bedfordshire. But Sarah had one of the most painful illnesses known to man or woman – she was bi-polar and schizophrenic. She was also one of the most loving people you would ever meet, a carer all her life, a house always full of children, especially those who she thought needed feeding! However, her illness led to so much misunderstanding and prejudice, and even for someone like me – trying to get her the right care was like banging your head against a brick wall.

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Opinion: A constitutional convention: If not now, when?

As a Jack I owe my life and heritage to Scotland. I totally understood why so many Scots voted yes, but the thought of losing Scotland also filled me with dread. However, whichever side of the debate you sat, I hope we can all agree that the positive outcomes for all of us have been the revitalising of politics in Scotland and the reopening of the question of how as a United Kingdom we should constitute ourselves. We saw graphically the power of having a say in something that really matters. No, the electorate are not apathetic, they are disillusioned and cynical. I don’t think I have ever been out canvassing without at least one comment of “you’re all the same” – to which my reply is generally “if we were all the same why on earth would I be in the Lib Dems?”  We now have a great opportunity to demonstrate that difference, to lead the debate in response to the events of last week.

So, as the call is growing stronger for a Constitutional Convention, I firmly believe this is an issue we as a party should and must take a lead on. Unlock Democracy, the Electoral Reform Society and others including the Labour and Green parties, are  calling for a citizen led convention. In my view such a convention must tackle not only the relationship between our four nations and devolution of power from the centre, but also electoral and Lords reform. This is our bread and butter – our opportunity to kill more than a few birds with one stone! For too long reform has been slow and piecemeal. Despite the clear disaffection of so many, the political elite continue to drag their collective ‘vested interest’ hobnail boots. Remember the man in his 70s who was voting for the first time in Scotland?Despite the clear interest and engagement of the people when they have the chance to vote for something that really matters, the threat that this always poses to those who already have power limits progress.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 42 Comments

Opinion: Reaching out to young people

I’ve just submitted an article for the ‘Youth 100’ for this year. I’m honoured to have been asked to contribute to the publication, still regarded as a national expert on youth issues. Having spent most of my career working with or on behalf of young people I am constantly exercised about how we as a party connect with them. Post tuition fees – how do we once again become the party of choice for young people?

It’s not easy, but I think the popular brands I’ve been reflecting on this week have some lessons for us. Among other things, …

Posted in News | 8 Comments

Opinion: Post Rennard, what should the party do?

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKThe news that Lord Rennard has been welcomed back into the fold has engendered both despair and joy across the party. Those who ‘never understood what the fuss was all about’, those who are no longer sure they want to be part of a party that doesn’t appear to live its values.  Lester Holloway, among others, offers an excellent analysis of the wider implications.

I have made no secret of my disappointment about the way this case has …

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Linda Jack writes… Why I am standing for Party President

linda-jack-6I believe passionately in our party and in spreading a progressive liberal message, so when I recently received a call to be part of a Newsnight panel discussing welfare policy, it was an opportunity to make the most of.  What surprised me was the level of support and number of approaches I then received from fellow Lib Dems up and down the country, asking whether I would consider standing for Party President.

As our party faces many new challenges, the role of Party President has never been more critical. It is essential that our leadership, HQ, members and supporters are all better connected. Our strength nationally is fundamentally dependent on our strength locally in communities across the nations and regions of the UK. I believe sincerely in rebuilding the trust and confidence of our members and supporters in order to deliver the positive vision we hold for society. I believe we CAN reconnect with those who supported us in the past, renew our collective vision for the future and ensure mutual respect between leadership and membership.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 53 Comments

Opinion: Our values and messaging have to match our behaviour

101 Humpty Dumpty, Lindt Big Egg Hunt Covent Garden 26-3-2013One thing about Nick Clegg, rather like those inflatable Humpty Dumpties some of us had as kids – thump him and he bounces right back. Monday seems to be one such occasion. An upbeat, earnest speech, designed, it seemed to most commentators, to speak to the party as much, if not more, than to the country.

For the Social Liberal Forum, the immediate reaction to his commitment on increased infrastructure spending was, while welcoming it, to wonder why on earth he and Danny had railed against it to the extent of picking a fight with the party about it until now? But, Damascene conversions, however belated, are to be welcomed. Let’s hope this is the first of many.

I was interested in Stephen Tall’s analysis that despite not saying it Nick was still firmly trying to “anchor us in the centre ground.”

photo by: Martin Pettitt
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Opinion: The Debt Trap

3D Shackled DebtYesterday I attended the launch of the Children’s Society‘s ‘The Debt Trap’ campaign, coinciding with the publication of their accompanying report, produced with Step Change, the free debt charity. Some of its findings are truly shocking and should give us all pause for thought. In one of the richest countries in the world 2.4 million of our children are living in homes with problem debt with an additional 2.9 million families with dependent children having struggled to pay their bills over the past 12 months. …

Posted in Op-eds | 18 Comments

Opinion: Closing the gap

closing the gapYesterday was an important day for anyone concerned about the state of mental health care in this country. It was also an important day for me as not only did I find myself agreeing with Nick for the fourth time in a fortnight (scary but true) but I could applaud a coalition policy.

Just over a year ago I lost my younger sister Sarah, who was suffering from schizo affective disorder.  As a family we had grown up with a bi-polar father at a time when so few of us, or the wider population, understood the condition. With my sister we understood more, but were only too aware of how little others did. I haven’t written about Sarah yet as it is still too painful – that is a story for another day. But, I have always taken a particular interest in mental health and bringing mental health services up to the standard of the rest of the health service. Even for someone like me (who is not particularly afraid to challenge), my interaction with the services has been horrendously frustrating and myself and my family nearly always felt as if we were being totally ignored. Getting anyone to do anything was like constantly banging your head against a brick wall, exhausting, frustrating and painful.

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Opinion: Justice for Simon Hughes

As someone who has never exactly been a supporter, there have been very few bright spots in the otherwise suffocatingly dark firmament which is the Coalition Government.  One was and is the appointment of Norman Lamb as Care Minister who has been doing a remarkable job, also the undoubted achievements of Lynne Featherstone.  So the news yesterday that Simon Hughes has been appointed a justice minister was one of those rare occasions when some of my perennial despair was tinged with just a little hope.

I have a lot of time for Tom McNally and I think he …

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Opinion: It’s time to restate who we are and what we stand for

For those of you fortunate enough to be at the special conference in May 2010, you may remember my visual aid. For those fortunate enough to miss it – my point was that we had had a choice between one clapped out old guy who would never deliver and a bright young thing who was whispering sweet nothings in our ear but before we knew it would have us locked into all sorts of things that would turn our stomachs.  My visual aid?  A pair of pink fluffy handcuffs.

Unsurprisingly my view hasn’t changed, yes Stephen, the bed of roses …

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Opinion: David Jones is wrong on same sex parenting

It’s been a long time since something riled me so much I headed straight for the keyboard but the news of the comments made by Welsh Secretary David Jones regarding same sex couples bringing up children  did it. For anyone who missed it, t he said :

 I regard marriage as an institution that has developed over many centuries, essentially for the provision of a warm and safe environment for the upbringing of children, which is clearly something that two same-sex partners can’t do.

 He has now claimed that he was quoted out of context given that elsewhere he lauded civil partnerships …

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Opinion: What kind of PCC do you want, and why does it matter?

This week the candidate list for Police and Crime Commissioners was published. Given the party’s ambivalence towards the idea we have ended up fielding candidates in only just over half the Police Authorities in England and Wales. The decision to allow local parties to make the decision about whether to field a candidate or support an independent took no account of the fact that in many areas independent candidates have been forced out because of the cost, or the fact that in other areas finding a liberally minded independent may be tough. Sadly only 18% of the declared candidates are

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Interview: What future for youth services in an age of austerity

As a youth worker one of the organisations I have had a long term relationship with is the National Youth Agency, always an important resource and advocate for youth work and young people. They will be hosting two challenging youth work focused fringes at conference, so I took the opportunity to interview Fiona Blacke, their dynamic and outspoken CEO.

Q: How have the cuts impacted on youth work across the country?

A: Young people need access to youth workers and high quality youth work, and that offer continues to be …

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Opinion: 1984 and all that

If you wanted to pick an issue guaranteed to unite the whole party – protecting our civil liberties has to be it. So the last 48 hours have been a frenzy of claim, counterclaim, the candyflossesque spin of internal briefings and Lib Dems across the blogo/twitto/facebooko/forumosphere reaching dangerously apoplectic levels of disquiet.

Mark Pack, in his inimitable unflappable style offered an informative briefing via LDV – taking the optimistic view, reassuring us that “what the Home Office proposes is not the same as what Parliament will legislate. No matter how flawed the initial proposal put to Parliament by Theresa May are, they put the RIPA rules on the table – giving the opportunity to get them changed to meet what a liberal approach should be – as little intrusion as possible, only for the most serious of offences and with rigorous, independently verified safeguards”.

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Why Liberal Left?

My good pal Gareth Epps asked the question last week………..so I thought I would answer it for him. We are at a hugely important juncture as a party – nearly two years in – with little prospect of the Coalition not continuing until 2015 and what appears to be the start of the leadership’s “differentiation” campaign.  Nick Clegg and his aides are spinning the line more and more that we are a “centrist” party – a clear desire to move us from the centre left position we have erstwhile held and which has served us well

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 88 Comments

Opinion: What price democracy in the Lib Dems?

Over the past 21 months I have had many moments when I have felt close to despair about the behaviour of our parliamentarians. Sometimes, like voting in favour of tuition fees, they can rightly point to the Coalition Agreement – endorsed overwhelmingly – as Nick Clegg observed at the time – by a North Korean like Special Conference. Other times, like voting against party policy on Legal Aid and Welfare Reform – there is no such defence. Last night calls into question the fundamental values and principles of our party, not just in terms of flying in the face of …

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Opinion: A bright new year?

For me, this year is starting as it is for millions of our fellow citizens – dealing with a complete change, having found myself redundant.

I am though, one of the lucky ones. I don’t need to worry about getting a new job for a while. I have the luxury of taking my time and hopefully finding something that suits me rather than being forced to take something, anything, to keep the wolf from the door.

But most don’t have that luxury, for our young people coming out of school or university with all the enthusiasm and aspiration of youth finding themselves …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 9 Comments

Opinion: A real opportunity to Make Justice Work

One of the highlights of conference for me was the breakfast roundtable organised by Make Justice Work. As conference goers and fringe organisers will know, getting one MP along is a challenge, managing to attract three must be close to a record! So it was a demonstration of the commitment our party has to reforming the criminal justice system that Justice minister Tom McNally, chair of the Justice Select Committee Alan Beith and member of the Home Affairs Select Committee Julian Huppert, all attended.

For those of you who don’t know the organisation, it was founded by Roma Hooper to …

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Linda Jack writes: My solutions for improving public services

Yesterday I had my say about the concerns I have about the whole scale marketization of public services, so you are quite entitled to ask what would my solution be to the undoubted challenge to improve them?

Firstly – electoral reform coupled with a duty for local and public authorities to engage more meaningfully with the communities they represent. Involving service users as of right, in the design and delivery of services. I want to be able to elect both local and national politicians in a way that improves both their accountability to me but also their interest in doing …

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Linda Jack writes: Public services – open for whom?

It seems extraordinary to me, that hot on the heels of conference having, so recently, resoundingly rejected the marketization of the NHS and the concept of outsourcing to “any willing provider” – Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander yet again embrace an approach to delivering public services in the Open Public Services White Paper that flies in the face of Lib Dem policy and values. What is deeply shocking to me and I am sure many of you, is the assertion in the introduction that:

We are not the first government to realise the power of open public services, others have

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 39 Comments

Youth Justice day: thanks and farewell

A final thanks to all those who have contributed to today’s focus on Youth Justice. I trust, dear readers, you have found the debate enlightening and challenging and those of you heading for Sheffield will join us for the debate on Saturday afternoon. We have a fringe event on Friday evening at 8pm in Suite 5 in Jury’s Inn. Peter Oborne will be chairing a debate with Tom McNally, Simon Hughes and others on Youth Justice in an Age of Austerity.

In the midst of all that I personally find unpalatable about the Coalition this is one area where I have …

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Youth Justice: Linda Jack’s guest editor day

At Spring Conference we will finally get the opportunity to debate our Youth Justice policy – we have taken a “muscular liberal” approach – recognising that the present system fails not only some of our most vulnerable young people – but more importantly, society itself.

Other countries, even the most unexpected, have a far more enlightened approach to youth justice, recognising that punishment and rehabilitation have to be combined with meeting welfare needs of children and young people who have often been badly neglected.

Today a number of fellow Lib Dems express their professional and personal views of what our response should …

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Linda Jack writes: Nick Clegg – demonstrating what he’s for

Yesterday evening, at an event to celebrate the “ennoblement” of Lord Qurban Hussain I was reminded of the heady days of the leader’s debates when Nick Clegg totally caught the imagination of the country. The Chiltern Hotel in Luton was packed and there was a palpable sense of excitement and genuine warmth towards Nick. Those from minority communities in this country understand the integrity of Nick’s position when he talks about multiculturalism- no fancy words – just a history of putting his money where his mouth is.

Earlier in the day Nick had chosen Luton as the place to make …

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Blessings and Challenges from a day on Lib Dem Voice

Well, that’s it then. First lesson to anyone else thinking of following Mark and me in guest editing LDV – it’s not really the day you are doing it you need to take off… it’s the day before!

Ideally you need to have your contributions done and dusted the night before. In my case, so close to conference, yesterday was what you might call a challenge. I had a normal day at work, extended because I had been out of the office for nearly a week.

I had then booked to meet fellow Tweeps for a #tweetup, thinking I wouldn’t …

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So how was it for you……..the highlights and lowlights?

As I mentioned earlier, conference is always a mixture of emotions, but none more so than this year. I thought it would be fun if we could do a meme in the comments thread and answer the following questions:

  • The funniest moment
  • The saddest moment
  • The most embarrassing moment (OK, so I know its only me has them!)
  • The most challenging moment
  • The moment I will remember most
  • And please feel free to add to the list.

    My answers? You’ll have to wait until the end of the day for those!

    And to start with I’m tagging Helen Duffett :-)

    Posted in Conference and LDV meme | Tagged , and | 9 Comments

    Simon Says – So what did our Deputy Leader make of Conference?

    Simon Hughes has been walking an oil sodden, slippery, wobbly tightrope since he took on the role of Deputy Leader. I have to say I have been impressed at the way he has managed to rattle equally the right and left wing press while managing the balancing act with aplomb! It is a frighteningly difficult task and one that is crucial to get right. I may not always agree with him but I am hugely grateful and reassured by his being there. I think one of his undoubted attributes is to be able to listen and take back concerns, whether

    Posted in Blogger Interviews | Tagged , , and | 1 Comment

    Making LGBT History – An Interview with Adrian Trett

    Adrian Trett is Chair of DELGA, the person responsible for the Equal Marriage motion and someone I am proud to call a dear friend. Following the success of the motion I interviewed Adrian about his feelings about conference in general and the motion in particular

    Q: What was your overall impression of conference?

    A: I was really pleased, I thought it was exhilarating, everyone was so enthusiastic. On the way to conference I thought there may be arguments, but I found it to be a pleasing atmosphere and was thrilled to be there.

    Q: How did you feel when you left?

    A: I left …

    Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments

    So how was it for you?

    Well fellow Lib Dems, Bloggers and Tweeps… what did you make of conference then? Having been granted the honour of being “Guest Editor” (quaking in me boots it has to be said!) I thought, given the timing, it may be an opportunity to reflect on the last week in Liverpool.

    What I want to do is to try and get a feel from members across the spectrum of our party, has conference left them feeling uplifted, confused, motivated, anxious, hopeful, proud?
    I hope what follows today, especially for those of you who weren’t there, will give you a bit of …

    Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , , and | 27 Comments

    “Ignore us at your peril!” – Linda Jack reports back on the Lib Dems’ first post-coalition Federal Policy Committee

    The Lib Dems’ Federal Policy Committee (FPC) operates under the Chatham House Rule: you can repeat what was said, but not who said it. But often what happens at FPC goes completely unreported.

    In some cases this is understandable, people throwing their toys out of the pram isn’t something we really want to report (oh not that often, honest!), and sometimes it is just because we are discussing issues (such as the manifesto) that we quite rightly want to keep under wraps until it is launched.

    But someone (who of course will remain nameless) made the point at last week’s …

    Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 26 Comments

    Opinion: what the Lib Dems should be doing about child poverty

    As the dust begins to settle, some of us holding our collective breath in anticipation of a Boris-run London – and Gordon licks his wounds and wonders if this was all to do with the abolishing of the 10p rate – I thought it may be a good time to start thinking about notions of equality. I wanted to start by looking at the commitment all the main parties have made to ending child poverty.

    Last Monday I attended the 4 Children/Barnados conference, addressed by, among others, Nick Clegg (Lib Dem), Michael Gove (Tory) and Stephen Timms (Labour), where a pamphlet, …

    Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | 55 Comments
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      Paul Barker will be surprised; ostensibly, at any rate.
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