Author Archives: Ruth Bright

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

Opinion: Hoping for more women presenting election coverage

Wading through some 1960s election coverage (yes, I should get out more) I was taken aback by a comment from the presenter Cliff Michelmore as he passed onto a colleague: “The girls are much prettier than last time.” He was referring to the typists. The main role of women on these election programmes was to type out the results. Tappy tap tap they went in the background; but theirs was not to speak because it all had to be interpreted by important people – funnily enough all men.

Posted in News and Op-eds | 15 Comments

Opinion: Clegg’s big fat gypsy blunder

Once a week I stay with a relative in South London. I am not talking here about Nick Clegg’s South London (a Putney, Wimbledon or Clapham) but about a very different South London – the border between Camberwell and Peckham. The Guardian-reading euphemism would be that Camberwell and Peckham are “vibrant and diverse” places. The upshot of some of that diversity is that at all times of the night people hang around chatting in the street, especially in the summer. In a ground floor flat late at night it sometimes feels a bit intimidating. I have never talked about this …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 67 Comments

Opinion: You’re not from round here are you?

Some rights reserved by ztephenWas “local”, I wonder, the most overused word in the Eastleigh by-election? Of all the terms in the Lib Dem lexicon “local” is surely our favourite.

A few years ago when the party had one of its periodic embarrassments, it looked like there would have to be a by-election in Winchester. I had a week-old baby at the time and was barely out of hospital when the phone calls started – “Why don’t you stand?”, “Hampshire bred”, “You got a great result in the next

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 21 Comments

Opinion: Three-in-one leader’s speech

Editor’s note: This composite leader’s conference speech was written last Thursday, well before Andrew Rawnsley published a similar piece.

Today we gather in a generic city with a bit of regeneration.

It is good to get out of the Westminster bubble.

It’s hard being outside the bubble.

Some people outside the bubble don’t like us.

Posted in Conference, Humour and Op-eds | 12 Comments

Opinion: Questions for Jeremy Hunt on abortion

The Abortion Act 1967 Act was passed when I was nine months old. Women of my generation have grown up believing our rights were safe and our bodies were our own. Even those who had never heard of a backbench MP named David Steel had reason to be grateful to him for ensuring that women could not be forced by the state to continue with pregnancies they did not want.

Women of my generation and others now have to wake up and realise that the settlement, we thought was so safe, is no longer. Thanks to the Coalition, the Health Service is now in the hands of

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 54 Comments

Conference heroes and heroines

Shirley Williams – for rejecting the title of living deity with characteristic common sense in her Sabbath day speech to conference.

Evan Harris – for cutting through the cynicism of christening motions after national treasures by teasing conference with his “William Beveridge” amendment speech on the Shirley Williams motion. What next – the Conrad Russell memorial welfare reforms or the John Stuart Mill cuts in Sure Start? That’s enough naming stuff after deities living or dead thanks very much.

Pamphleteers Prateek Buch (Plan C – social liberal approaches to a fair, sustainable economy published by Social Liberal Forum) and Jo Ingold (Challenges …

Posted in Conference and News | Tagged , , , , and | 13 Comments

Care – dilemmas for us all

When my grandfather was in his last week of life I was sitting by his bedside in the local community hospital as he dozed peacefully in a morphine assisted haze.

Suddenly, all hell broke loose next door. I stormed into the other room to see a small group of care assistants throwing pillows from one to another and loudly humming the theme tune from Star Trek.

“Do you mind?” I said: “there’s a man dying in there”.  An instant spokeswoman apologised unreservedly but went on to point out gently: “It’s hard for us too and we have to have a bit of …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 9 Comments

Opinion: None shall be enslaved by….maternity?

Nick Clegg bemoans the maleness and paleness of the Lib Dems and his sense of shame that our parliamentary party is 88% male seems genuine enough.

What is it about the culture of Lib Dems that has brought about this striking gender imbalance?

My own experience as a councillor and candidate is that being a (young, childless, solvent) woman is a huge advantage. When I was approved and selected in 2001 you could almost smell the desperation of the party to promote women. The glass ceiling – what was that?

But then I did what women do and I had children and …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 29 Comments
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