Author Archives: Ruth Bright

A time to speak out?

It was in fact the mid-seventies but looking back it seems more like Victorian times. Rows and rows of little kids in red and grey uniform and we chirruped in unison from a hymn we were far too little to understand about how to “master self and temper, how to make our conduct fair, when to speak and when be silent, when to do and when forbear”.

When as Liberals should we be silent and when should we speak out?

Three examples for your consideration:

On the school run I walk alongside a mum, like me, whose family go back many, many years in this town. She has assumed we are on the same wavelength. We make small talk about how the town has grown and changed. Out she comes with: “There weren’t any black people here when we were young were there Ruth?” I hesitated, I admit I hesitated, the school run is not a political occasion but her tone and inference were clear and I replied as gently as I could by asking her if she had a problem with that (ie that the town was now multi-racial). She scuttled back into her shell and waffled about how “it” just showed how the town has changed. She has hardly spoken to me since.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 26 Comments

Time for some Liberal Herstory

British Liberal LeadersTraditional Mothers’ Day treats do not really appeal to me. My gift on Sunday was the new(ish) book British Liberal Leaders (Brack, Ingham, Little et al) and the free time to finish reading it. I love tales of Lloyd George’s derring-do and of Steel’s “going back to your constituencies” as much as the next Liberal. All human life is there in the chapters on each party leader: Asquith’s failings, Ashdown’s verve, Clegg’s self-pity.

Well I say all human life is there but is it? In many ways it is an admirable book, John Campbell’s chapter on Roy Jenkins is a particular treat. There is a catch though. Where on earth are the women?

There are 24 chapters on each of the 24 Liberal, SDP or Lib Dem leaders. All the leaders analysed are men of course. Fair enough. We cannot go back in time and insert Nancy Seear or Shirley Williams as party leaders in a retrospective All Women Shortlist!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 16 Comments

Save Lloyd George!

Some important centenaries are marked in 2016 but for Liberals perhaps the most intriguing centenary of all is the one that marks the start of Lloyd George’s term as Prime Minister.

But Lloyd George’s legacy is in danger because the Welsh museum dedicated to him might soon have to close.

Gwynedd Lib Dem Cllr Steve Churchman and his colleagues have been valiantly fighting the closure due to a loss of grant of a mere £27,000. They point out what would be an incalculable loss to their community. We should surely all support their bid to save a precious slice of Liberal history.

As Cllr Churchman explains:

The museum comprises the dedicated museum building, Lloyd George’s uncles workshop, his childhood house and garden, the museum garden and car park and the riverside grave and memorial. It physically cannot be relocated. Many of the treasures are on long-term loan from family members. If the museum is closed then these artefacts will be splashed to the four winds and lost from public sight forever. We also lose an educational facility used by many of the county’s schools.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 22 Comments

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
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