Author Archives: Ruth Bright

Open letter – please reinstate the creche

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Dear Tim

Yesterday you were campaigning in Faraday, my old ward in inner city Southwark. Way back in the 90s I was councillor for Faraday for eight years. Councillors’ expenses were meagre at that point and it took many thousands of pounds to win and keep that ward. My two ward colleagues and I dipped into our own pockets many a time. I can say without any shadow of a doubt that I could not have afforded to be a councillor had I had a family to provide for at that time.

When I was selected as a PPC and with a baby on the way I gave up work to combine my roles as candidate and parent. My husband reduced his hours to share childcare with me and be a mainstay of our 2005 General Election campaign. Our annual income at the time was £18,000 and we put £9,000 of our savings into paying for leaflets etc. In no way is this a personal whinge. My family’s financial sacrifice is not unusual. I knew another PPC who had remortgaged his house to pay for his campaigning.

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 15 Comments

The condescension of Camila

Two years ago I was in acting charge of a London day care setting for the elderly not a million miles away from the fabled Kids Company. My young colleague put together a craft afternoon for our clients. She sent off for £20 of glass beads on Ebay. A lot of elderly people with dementia had a lovely time making jewellery thanks to her. The £20 was authorised by my manager beforehand and accounted for afterwards. Of course it would have been nice to give handouts to our clients, many of them in great need, but we had to vouch for every penny spent.

It was therefore utterly bewildering to watch former head of Kids Company Camila Batmanghelidjh give evidence to a select committee yesterday and admit that large sums were handed to young people just because she and her colleagues deemed them vulnerable.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 17 Comments

Pregnant pause

Ruth BrightHere is a picture of a woman. There is something strange about her. Can you spot it? Well of course you can. She is from a very small and curious minority. She is a Liberal Democrat activist! The bump? Well that puts her in a numerically far more significant group. 700,000 women in this country have a baby each year. Having a baby is a normal thing to do. All the time people are saying that they want more candidates to be “normal” people. But being a pregnant candidate some years ago made me feel that I was in a freak show, the ultimate “elephant in the room”. Sadly I do not think that things in the party have changed very much.

Here are my top 6 clumsy attitudes to my “political” pregnancy:

  • Doing a speech and being told by a former councillor that I mustn’t get too big;
  • Being told by a former PPC’s wife at a party fundraiser that I was “a walking caesarean”;
  • “Oh no not another one”- reaction from a party chair when he spotted my second pregnancy;
  • “I’m afraid I could spot you all the way down the corridor” – party veteran at the Commons when I was 8 months pregnant;
  • “Have you got another one in there?” comment from local treasurer at my failure to shift the post-baby weight
  • Removal of my baby birth announcement from the local party website as it might help my imminent re-selection (!).
Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 26 Comments

Why Lib Dems should support this SNP pioneer

Ruth Bright and childA few weeks ago an SNP MP did something very brave but ridiculously ordinary. Did she:

  1. Eat chips on the terrace of the Commons
  2. Clap instead of saying “Hear, hear”
  3. Say the UK parliament should relocate out of London

No, none of the above. What Alison Thewliss did was tweet a photo of herself breastfeeding her toddler. Ask almost any breastfeeding mother and she will tell you that many people will tolerate cute young babies breastfeeding in public but breastfeed an older child and the reaction is very different. 

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

Opinion: Politics? It’s child’s play

Toys debate politicsPity, poor Tristram Hunt. On the campaign trail the other day he made the classic mistake of asking a young child how he was going to vote.

Child: “UKIP”

Hunt: “Oh why is that then?

Child: “Because they’ll get all the foreigners out of the country”

To adapt the old adage: Never do politics with children and animals!

For a candidate kids are a minefield but as a parent I’ve been struck by how interested my kids (one pre- teen and one mid primary) have been in this their “first” General Election. They even staged their own election debate with toys which of course I enjoyed as much as they did!

There isn’t much help for parents attempting to introduce their kids to politics and political history.

Even really young American children have reading books about the Founding Fathers, Lincoln and the Roosevelts. Imagine the laughing stock a British parent would be if she went into a bookshop and asked for: “Gladstone and Disraeli for toddlers” or “Learn to read with the Tolpuddle Martyrs”

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 12 Comments

Opinion: Cyril Smith – Liberal Democrats should allow scrutiny of all party archives

As late as last year there were people defending Cyril Smith’s reputation on Liberal Democrat Voice.  Well now we know beyond all reasonable doubt that the old Liberal Party had its own Savilesque character – it is just that none of us knew, in fact none of us even had an inkling. None of us could possibly have known and none of us could possibly have had an inkling. Could we?

I joined the party in 1985 when I was eighteen. Of course three decades on I do not remember every earnest conversation amongst my fellow Liberal students. What I do remember though is that in the entirely peripheral and uninfluential party circles in which I moved, “Hanger Smith” was viewed with contempt and wariness for supporting capital punishment and rejecting a woman’s right to choose. I never heard any rumours about him and sexual abuse, but there was a sense that he was an old local government bruiser who was somehow untouchable despite being totally out of sync with the mainstream of the party. 

Posted in Op-eds | 24 Comments

Opinion: In praise of Jenny Willott

Jenny Willott, Ruth and Orla Bright, 2004The Liberal Democrats of course have a dismal record electing women, particularly women with young children. We have, therefore, to be truly thankful to Jenny Willott (and her family) for salvaging our reputation in a single television programme. Last night on Michael Cockerell’s “Inside the Commons” we saw her juggling work and motherhood in a way that has rarely been portrayed so honestly. Seeing her collect her son from the House of Commons nursery (and then having to leave him on the lap of a colleague while rushing to an unexpected vote) might have made parliament seem remote. In fact many parents would have watched that scene and been reminded of their own work/family balancing act.

Posted in News | Tagged and | 10 Comments

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  • User AvatarRoland 5th Feb - 9:54pm
    I do get the distinct impression that UKIP are once again leading the 'debate', it is unfortunate that many in other parties seem to act...
  • User AvatarPeter Watson 5th Feb - 9:44pm
    @nvelope2003 "Why is this ?" A relatively small number of by-elections is unlikely to be a representative sample. More significantly, Lib Dems are not standing...
  • User AvatarWilliam Summers 5th Feb - 9:40pm
    It is ridiculous in my view to (theoretically) promote a privileged woman with, say, a highly paid job and a private education over a man...
  • User AvatarIan Swales 5th Feb - 9:30pm
    Louise, I think you're right about the voters - that they tend not to be biased. You also say "However Lib Dem local parties can...
  • User AvatarGeorge Kendall 5th Feb - 9:12pm
    Genuine question here. If we go for AWSs, someone will have to decide which winnable seats they will apply to. It'll certainly affect areas where...
  • User Avatarnvelope2003 5th Feb - 9:10pm
    There were some substantial increases in the percentage of votes cast for the Liberal Democrats in this weeks local by elections and the party came...